Tonight as I was facilitating a support group at the drug and alcohol outpatient program where I work as a therapist, we were exploring the concept of surrender. Many of the 12 steps that are the foundation of AA and NA are about letting go of the substances and the behaviors connected to them as well as the beliefs and attitudes that may have shaped them in the first place. Some of that involves making ”a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” If that ain’t surrender, I don’t know what is.
One of the women asked “How do you know if you have really surrendered?” That one stumped me, since often I have convinced myself that I have let go when in reality I am still holding on the tail of the kite. Confession time: I am a bit of control freak, wanting what I want when I want it, as I want it, but am also still carrying co-dependent tendencies that sometimes have me tap dancing around, so as not to alienate or otherwise displease whoever it is that I am asking to meet needs. I then spoke about the Nestea Plunge from the commercials of my childhood in which someone fell backward into a pool in total surrender mode. I recalled a time when I was walking on the grounds of the psychiatric hospital where I had worked for 11 years, musing about the state of my life, grumbling a bit and Spirit (in a gender neutral voice asked, not for the first nor for the last time) “Have I ever dropped you? Have things turned out better than you imagined in most cases?” Nope and Yup. At that moment, a truck rumbled by bearing the words Guaranteed Overnight Delivery (G.O.D). I laughed at the cosmic coincidence. I can tell when I have surrendered when there is no sense of micromanaging the details of my life, when I can say with all sincerity that I am turning it over for real this time.
One key example is the seeds that I planted 20 years earlier to interview His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I did all I could to prepare, reinforcing the desire, creating the conditions and then letting go of the time, leaving it in the Divine’s metaphorical hands. On July 17, 2008, the dream turned into here and now reality. As much as I wanted it to occur, I knew someday it would, which made it easier to let it go and trust. Would it be that easy in daily interactions with our fellow beings. I know that I have no control over what anyone else thinks, says, feels or does, nor do they have that control over me and my whims and actions. If someone asks what I want, I think, “I want you to interact with me the way I interact with you,” because after all, we know that ‘my way is the right way’ (said tongue and cheek, but don’t we act like it is so?)
Another friend uses a sentence that to me represents the ultimate in surrender. He first encourages preparing and then says “The event will go as the event will go.”
The Serenity Prayer says it so beautifully:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change.
The courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference.