On Surrender

Hearing the word invokes an image in my mind of a person on the ground with a hand up, holding a white flag with one hand using whatever energy they have left to wave it. It also reminds me of many times as a kid playing board games with my brother Mario where one of us was winning so far ahead of the other that the loser decided to surrender, to not waste any more time playing a “losing hand”.

 

The word always felt like defeat to me, but now I see it differently. I view the word as honesty, truth, and innate beauty. 

 

As I described it above, surrender can also mean not wasting any more time. Surrender can mean being honest about what isn’t working and accepting what really is. Why waste time doing what isn’t working? Why not be honest about the situation and go from there? 

 

I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. Each week is themed. This week’s focus is on Spirituality and Addiction. Today’s meditation is about surrender. In it he writes “Surrender is the strongest, most subversive thing you can do in this world. It takes strength to admit you are weak, bravery to show you are vulnerable…”. 

 

There were two days earlier this March where I “surrendered” and literally felt a physical shift due to a change in my mental thoughts. A shift so powerful that it tangibly exhausted me. 

 

The first was a day while I was living alone in East Haven and coming to grips with a pending divorce and newly achieved sobriety. I picked up a Dialectical Behavior Ttherapy (DBT) workbook that I hadn’t touched but owned for a few years. I decided to do some exercises in this book each day. I was a few days in when I came upon the term “radical acceptance”. I was performing the radical acceptance exercises and was challenged to fully accept my current situation. I looked around and cried. I didn’t want to. I could NOT accept where I was at that moment in time. But I wanted very badly to experience radical acceptance, as there were so many benefits to doing so.

 

I closed the book and contemplated this. It felt like an angel and devil on my opposite shoulders as my mind shifted back and forth about whether or not to accept my situation. At some point about ten minutes into a mix of contemplation and crying, the angel suddenly made perfect sense when she said “But it’s where you are!”. 

 

It occurred to me that whether or not I accepted it, it IS where I am. Why am I not just accepting that this IS my reality at this moment in time? Whether or not I accept it, it doesn’t change a single thing. 

 

I’m going to write that again – Whether I “accept” it or not; it doesn’t change a single thing. 

 

I’m still where I am. So why not surrender to accepting my actual reality? When I realized this; if there was a visual of two parts of me that were in conflict; one literally faded into oblivion while the other filled in what just left. In the next minute or two I began to feel whole; lighter, and open. A physical shift materially took place once I changed my mind and surrendered.

 

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson says, “Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.” 

 

The next moment for me was about a week later. It was a dark early evening on a Sunday night when I just had to get out of the apartment where I was staying. I left – with nothing but my wallet and phone and drove off. It was cold and I didn’t know where to go. I suddenly had the desire to just write. I drove over to Walgreens and purchased a notebook. I grabbed a pen from my glovebox and a blanket from my trunk and sat on the town green with the light of my phone. I put the phone on airplane mode and just started to write. And write. And write.

 

I wrote about “poor me”. I wrote about how my kids and husband would tell me these things about myself that “weren’t true”. I stopped. I thought about what I had just written and I thought about radical acceptance. Again, I had an angel and devil on my shoulders in conflict. What they said was not true, I thought, but should I accept it? I remembered surrendering the week before to my reality and thought about surrendering to this. I cried. I didn’t want to, but this time it was easier to imagine just accepting this, to explore it completely, and perhaps write about it. 

 

So I put pen to paper and shifted my thoughts to how this was their reality and wrote. And wrote, and wrote, and wrote… Until it occurred to me that there was truth in what they were saying. Whether or not I liked it didn’t matter. This is what they experienced and it was true despite why or how it came to be. The explanations didn’t matter- it all happened. I radically accepted this. 

 

It happened, and whether or not they want to accept what my reality was or why, I needed to accept my part in it wholly. And I did. In a very distinct moment I didn’t care anymore when, why or how; I understood them and understood it all completely.

 

At the time my son was off from his job on paid leave because of a COVID outbreak at the place he works and was staying with my husband. I decided to write him a letter explaining that I understood him and understood everything he has told me 100% inside and out. I wrote my heart out. I wanted to write a letter to my husband too but my energy had waned, so I decided to just rip out the pages that I wrote and share with him my thoughts and how they had shifted to an understanding of him. I added a few lines to explain why I was sharing and made the decision to drive the letters over and leave them in the mailbox.

 

By this time it was fairly late in the evening. I felt so amazing. Lighter. Freer. I went into Stop & Shop to buy them some cookies I was obsessed with at the time and I drove over to my old neighborhood. I saw the trash and recycling bins out front since it was Sunday night, and for the briefest moment I felt jealous that I didn’t live there and wasn’t part of putting out the trash. But more so I immediately felt radical acceptance that I didn’t live there and I imagined a world where I’d be in a new place with maybe a different trash pick-up day; and alone and even dare I say… happy? 

 

I was able to surrender. I was able to accept my circumstances. And you know what? I was really ok with it! 

 

I put the letters in the mailbox and sent my son and husband a text. I drove home in an almost bliss-like state. I felt light, tired, and hungry. Really hungry! I saw a McDonalds sign and craved a Big Mac! I hadn’t eaten meat in a very long time, but my body was just spent and I just wanted something highly caloric and comforting.

 

Surrendering never tasted or felt so good.

 The first of the 12 Steps of Recovery is to admit we are powerless. I first learned of the 12 steps on a spiritual Podcast around 2014. The speaker convinced me that every single one of us is addicted to something (drugs, drink, tv, shopping, money, obsessive thought patterns, etc) and that the first step is to admit powerlessness. Is that really different from surrender or radical acceptance?  

The moment I let go and opted to understand, somehow it gave others around me permission to do the same. The universe knew what needed to be done. When we admit where we are and our part in it, miracles happen. The happiness behind it just pours out because there is nothing, not a single story, holding it back. It’s acceptance of the present moment. Radical acceptance. It’s surrender.  Surrender changed everything and every important relationship in my life. 

 

Fast forward several months down the line. Daren and I have never been more understanding of one another. We renewed our vows a few weeks ago. We wrote our own to one another. I referenced the song “Moment of Surrender” by U2 and read out loud the portion 

 

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

 

10 years before on our wedding day we were like two robots going about in the world doing things that adults do because it’s what adults do. As the years passed I started to spiritually wake up and perhaps took him with me. We are now so aware and conscious of what our biases were; how they played a role in our history and what we do in the present moment. 

 

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are” Stephen Covey

Don’t we all perceive things based on our own knowledge and circumstances? Couldn’t it perhaps do us good to know what our biases are so when we assess a situation we know our perspective and can imaginatively consider ways others see this same thing? The only way to do this is to surrender to the knowledge that we have biases in the first place. We are attached or addicted to the way we think or want something to be. Accepting it is freeing. Don’t we all want to be free and feel ok with life as it is? 

Later in U2’s song the lyrics state: 

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
And to the rhythm of my soul
And to the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

 

Our bodies want that freedom. Once you experience surrender it’s hard to come to grips with that fight in you anymore because you know what is on the other side and it’s so much better to just let go and accept life as it is. If you fight this and you are aware of yourself, as Bono sings, you can actually feel your body begging to get back to that open good place where love and the soul accept life on life’s terms. The Marianne Williamson quote above is from A Return to Love. Because surrendering brings you to love.

I will not pretend that I don’t forget this a lot. But I can tell you that once you do, you know freedom and once you do, it’s far easier to do it again and again. I’m not saying this is easy, but I can promise you it is worth it.  

 

I’m going to end this blog with the refrain (below) which reminds me of the Safire Rose Poem “She Let Go”. Only you know when you surrender. The world goes on. The moon shines, and you – you are FREE.

 

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

 

 

Namaste

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On Holidays, Divorce & Surrender

The holidays are a tough time for so many. Freshly divorced or uncoupled individuals are no exception. There are many others who suffer too – those who lost loved ones or have a loved one in a dangerous situation are two that come to mind. There are so many ways to not feel merry and bright this season, but for this blog I’m going to focus on divorcees. This is my 10th holiday season as a divorcee and I only wish I understood some of this a little sooner.

 

I would like to begin by stating that the holiday season does not have to be difficult for those who have recently split or are still reeling from a separation 10, 20 or 30 years later. Accepting what is, and your part is one of the key components helping yourself, your ex-partner and any children or loved ones enjoy what everyone once did.

 

Good marriages go bad. Why? Because they are not great marriages. Great marriages do not go bad.

 

The loss of prior hopes, dreams, and shared traditions leaves a hole that cannot be easily filled. If there are children involved, regardless of their ages, it is a change that makes things all the more difficult and all the more painful for a long time to come.

 

Most of the pain is caused by one or both of the previous spouses not being able to let go of their negative feelings toward the other and not accepting the changed circumstances.

 

This month the theme of my yoga classes has been Surrender. Surrender meaning

 

Giving up what we think should be happening

For What is Actually Happening

 

This is simple advice but often difficult to follow. But surrendering heals. We must accept what is and even take it a step further to realize there is shared blame. When we let go and accept responsibility, we can go as far as getting along with our exes. Once that happens, the situation isn’t as new.

When we get along, cooperate and are even perhaps evolved enough share the holidays with our prior spouse; our family, children, friends and loved ones all reap the benefits as well.

 

Daren and I are watching the Netflix series Versailles. We just finished Season 2 on Sunday night. This is an excerpt from that show:

 

“I made you who you are. I made you complete and I cannot live without you.

You cannot live without me”.

“That was true once. But not now, without you I am myself”.

~Season 2, Episode 10 of Versailles

 

This happens. Couples end up together for a myriad of reasons, sometimes for what they believe is love, sometimes lust, sometimes insecurity and wanting to be in a couple, and sometimes the feeling that  time is running out and being in a couple is the next step in life. Sometimes it’s prearranged. And yes – many times it is actually love and compatibility.

 

The fate of a marriage may not be as mysterious as it initially seems –

  • When you and your spouse no longer connect something is wrong.
  • If you and your spouse never really connected, even before marriage or your living arrangement – something is wrong.
  • When one person realizes this and recognizes there is a better life either inside or outside the marriage waiting for them, great marriages go from great to good. Good marriages go from good to poor. Often times someone leaves. True fact.

 

Does that mean something is wrong with the person who left??? No.

Does that mean something is wrong with the person left behind??? No.

Does that mean the person who left “gave up”?? Maybe, but probably not.

 

The person who left probably tried to re-connect, or talk, or reach out in some way. If their partner knew them well enough, their partner in theory would have recognized this. If there was an affair or another person involved, the one who stepped out was not getting some sort of need met. The one who was betrayed may have had their head in the sand.

 

I was betrayed. Not by another woman but by substance abuse that went on under my nose for at least two years, and then at least another 1-2 after the first time it came to my attention. I felt betrayed, angry, and hurt. My spouse wanted to leave at times because I didn’t understand him. I blamed him for turning to something else besides me. It’s very hard to accept, but in hindsight now 12 years plus later – I was not listening to him. There were signs but I was purposely blind to them. I was absorbed with kids, work, the condo, getting to church on Sunday, my schoolwork (MBA) and didn’t notice him struggling. We were supposed to be together for better or worse. I put everything but my husband ahead of him. I thought there was time. I thought we could deal with whatever ails him later. We stayed together for 2-3 more years after the first time I found out. When we worked on the ‘betrayal’ we worked on fixing only the surface issue of having him quit substances. And moved on…. But that didn’t fix a thing. Almost 3 years later both our problems were still there. Obviously I had some too, only I had no idea at the time. You don’t know what you don’t know. When I learned about subsequent substance abuse I shut down and lost hope. I blamed him. Around the same time I started to connect with another person outside of the marriage. A person who I felt I could be me around. It was only then that I felt I was also to blame.

 

In most cases divorce is not one person or the other’s fault. There is often no “real story”. How could there be when both parties feel like a victim?

 

When two people no longer connect and at least one person doesn’t get anything out of the marriage it starts to decay. If neither partner notices or cares, those couples will often stay together. That’s a marriage where both people get their needs met. It’s a “Good marriage”.

 

If one person notices and addresses it, and their partner is receptive – they grow stronger. That is a GREAT marriage.

 

If one person notices that they are no longer happy and their partner is not receptive, that is where things often fall apart. That is a bad marriage. It is here where there should really be no surprise when a partner walks out the door.

 

You can bury your head in sand like I did and hope your partner is ok with the status quo too, but the odds are not in your favor. If you really care and notice you or your partner’s unhappiness, it’s time to do something. It’s not easy, but no marriage or great partnership is. There are no shortcuts to get to any place worth going. Marriage included. If you want it to last you have to make it the first priority. There is no family, house, shared income which both people benefit from when there is no married/couple life. Putting the kids, house or a job first just doesn’t work.

 

I’ve heard the argument and made it myself that shouldn’t the unhappy person understand your struggles too? That the kids, house and job are taking too much of your time and we are supposed to stick it through for better or worse, so get over it and stick with me?

 

It took me a while, but no…. No one should delay happiness. Wanting or expecting your partner to do so is no exception if you cannot do it yourself. Our lives are the only experiences we have. We can’t live them for other people. If we committed to our partner for better or worse and one partner or both partners are unhappy; time or no time – the commitment, the pact was to the relationship first. When it’s not first and you don’t commit to it being first and one person wants that – it cannot last happily ever after.

 

I would have never learned this and find it unlikely that after facing my own part in the downfall of my own marriage – that the myriad of other things I’ve since learned about myself would have ever taken place. I very well may have been the same person with the same limited beliefs for the rest of my life. Perhaps it was the only way either of us could have grown.

 

There is no magic. No secrets. If you want a partnership to work, it takes work. If you both don’t care it may also work. However, if one person has an unmet need and the other doesn’t work with them to get that need met – it might last, but you cannot expect it to.

 

Stop the blame and start to love and accept that we are all imperfect. Yes – even you! The holidays can already be stressful for those blissfully in committed partnerships. It’s added stress for divorcees and their children when there is tension. It doesn’t have to be, so why let it be?

 

If both previous partners understand that they own a part of what happened in their life and they take the experience as one to learn from and do… it becomes impossible to be angry or bitter. When you live without the baggage of bitterness and anger your body is lighter. Your attitude is brighter. You are a better parent, employee, member of the community and partner for your next relationship. Give yourself and loved ones the best gift you can give and let any negativity go.

 

The holidays do not need to be difficult for those who have split from a relationship. There are plenty of other things that may make it so. Don’t let this be one of them.

 

Surrender. Trust me on this one. Once I did everything changed in a heartbeat.

 

Surrender is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance

~ Eckhart Tolle

 

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