I am a very ritualistic person. I always have been. I like structure. Rituals and structure have always made me feel safe. But since I got my eating under control, one of the things I had to learn was to create rituals and structures that allow me to feel safe when my rituals and structures get interrupted. Because life will be life. And sh*t will inevitably hit the fan. Maybe not today. But some day. And life will keep moving forward. And it will take me with it.
When life used to move forward, it took me kicking and screaming. I insisted that it drag me. There was a kind of heroic martyrdom to it in my twisted eating disorder brain. I was going to be unhappy on principle! It was how I showed that I was principled. That I was dedicated. It really did occur to me as noble to be so stubborn. It never registered for me that I was dedicated to my own unhappiness. And to making other people unhappy by my drama and complaining.
And I took everything personally. I took the weather personally. I felt like anything that didn’t go the way I intended, or really even just the way I wanted, was a slight from whatever poor schmuck happened to be involved. And if nobody was involved, it was a slight from God. I was incredibly self-centered, in case you hadn’t gathered that by now.
So now I have a very important ritual that I do every morning. I call it my morning meditation. And sometimes I do actually meditate. But the point of this ritual is very specific. It’s a time when I be still and remember that life is going exactly the way it is supposed to. That there is only one way for life to go, and that is the way that it is going. If there were any other way for it to go, it would be going that way instead. (I know. For someone who doesn’t spend much time actually meditating, it’s a very Zen philosophy.) There are a few different ways that I do this. But I do it every morning. Because it helps to keep me from martyrdom, panic, resentment. You know, all the things that make me want to eat a chocolate cake.
Sometimes I make a promise to God that whatever happens that day, I will honor it as His will. I don’t promise to like it. I just promise to honor it. To accept that it is what it is. And that if it’s yucky, or upsetting, or painful, to not take it personally. That life is not always easy. That it’s like that for everybody.
And that includes everything. Train delays, people being rude, losing things, spilling coffee on myself, making mistakes. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes people are a**holes. Sometimes I’m one of them.
The making mistakes/being an a**hole thing is the hardest for me to deal with. Since I have gotten control of my eating, I find it relatively easy to be philosophical when I have done my best to plan and prepare, to do good work and be a good person, and things just don’t work out anyway. But it’s not so easy for me to be calm about things going wrong when I have fallen short on my end. My first reaction is still to look for someone else to blame, or to torture and shame myself. But when I agree to honor whatever happens as God’s will, my only option is to accept it, fix it as best I can, and move on. To let it be and let it go. I am not always good at this. But by making this promise to God in the morning, I give up the right to get all dramatic about it. I’m not saying I never do. But I give up the right. I agree that there is no justification for resentment, martyrdom, or self-pity.
Sometimes I say the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. There are a few versions of it. But this is the one I say:
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace – that where there is hatred, I may bring love – that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness – that where there is discord, I may bring harmony – that where there is error, I may bring truth – that where there is doubt, I may bring faith – that where there is despair, I may bring hope – that where there are shadows, I may bring light – that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted – to understand, than to be understood – to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.
The reason I like it is that it reminds me that if I want peace (and I do want peace), I have to bring the peace. That it’s my responsibility to bring the good stuff. Not to sit around and judge everybody else for not doing it. Not to try to micro-manage the world and point out how everybody else is doing it wrong. It is not “Lord, make everybody else peaceful so I don’t have to deal with their bullsh*t today.” It’s “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. That where there is hatred I may bring love.” Again, I don’t always succeed at this. But when this is how I start my morning, I have a better chance of bringing something worthwhile into the world.
And sometimes I just be quiet and trust that God is taking care of me. And remember that God has always taken very good care of me when I have let Him. When I have stopped fighting, resisting, being angry. I remember that when I don’t insist on being dragged, kicking and screaming, there’s no dragging, kicking, or screaming. That there’s peace. And that I lead a pretty sweet life.