Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Triggering Our Anguish

I've been sitting and looking through my bookshelf for something to share this morning. I picked up one book and realized someone else had underlined their favourite bits throughout it. When I lend out books I ask the borrower to please underline what spoke to them. Reading a book and then having no one to discuss it with disappoints me. Those underlined bits feel like a permanent conversation.

I'm listening to the radio as I type. It's almost time for the daily obituary announcements. I feel old when I confess that I listen to those on the radio. Years ago I led a Bible study in a neighbouring community with many elderly women. Women who loved me as I was, in my conceit, and I often worry that one of them will pass away and I won't hear about it. Occasionally there has been a real shock when I hear the familiar name of someone unexpectedly passing away.

I pulled out a tea stained, fading copy of one of my all time favourite books. It's a book that one friend gave to another friend and she eventually gave it to me. There are three different kinds of underlining in it, which makes me smile just to type that. I opened it to this bit which we all took note of:

"Community is caring for people, but of course as soon as we start caring for people, we know that there are some people who will just drive us up the wall. Some we will really like, because they think like us. Then we risk falling into a world of mutual flattery. We are all so much in need of affection that when somebody gives it to us we want to hold onto it. Then we say to the other person, "You're wonderful! Keept at it! Keep flattering me! You know, it's nice." We're like little cats who need to be caressed. We then begin to purr.
But flattery doesn't help anyone to grow. It doesn't bring freedom but rather closes people up in themselves. We are attracted to certain people, and others put us off. We don't get on well with them. They trigger off our anguish. Perhaps they remind us of our fathers and mothers who were too authoritarian or possessive. Some people threaten us, others flatter us. Some meetings are joyful, and others are painful. When we begin talking about caring for people, then we begin to see how difficult it can be.......growth will come as we come closer to people who are different from us and as we learn to welcome and listen even to those who trigger off our pain."(emphasis added)

I have to confess that I am often quite relieved to hear around the tables in AA that I don't have to like everyone. I try to remember that means not everyone has to like me, either. But we are in community together. And it's a whole 'nother thought to embrace what they have to teach me, to welcome it. I tend to want to run the other way fast in a hands-over-my-ears kind of way. Lord have mercy.


Christy said...

I went through my Buddhist phase and used to have a prayer on my fridge that basically said I should (1) wish myself peace (2) wish my loved ones peace (3) wish strangers peace (4) wish my enemies peace.

Not that I had to like them, I just didn't want to resent them--I understood this prayer was for ME.

They would never know.

SO hard.

I'm not sure I grew from just praying (and avoiding!) for them, but in a way, trying to get into their heads and think of what might make them peaceful was a good exercise.

the Mom said...

I remember being a girl and telling my mother that when I grew up I either wanted people to love me or hate me. I just couldn't stand the thought that they would be ambivalent about me because it would mean I wasn't doing anything.

That whole you don't have to like everyone is easier when you're a child, just as the they don't have to love me thing is easier when you're young. Maybe it's because there is a strength in children that only the luckiest of us get to carry into adulthood, or it could be that children are just too sheltered to know what they are really calling down upon themselves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, Hope. A lesson I am learning as of late. Stay warm!

Lou said...

I can relate. Is it wrong to just avoid a few people that will always trigger you? I don't think it is possible to be agreeable with all. I don't mean you should not try to understand others, or not examine your part in a disagreement.

Steve F. said...

Tonight, we had one of those meetings that made me question my own saying about "I've never been to a bad meeting." A men's meeting, 30-plus guys in a room, and absolute dead silence when asked "does anyone have a topic?"

It reminded me of an old-timer who'd been in a similar situation in a meeting he was chairing, prompting to say, "If we have 30 people in this room and no one's got a topic, then the topic should be 'honesty,' because we've got a whole ROOM full of liars here."

My sponsor came from Toledo and spoke at my 5-year anniversary in Kansas, and looking out at the crowd, said, "I've only met a few of you. There's probably a sprinkling of you that I'll like, and a fair percentage of you that I'll tolerate. And I'm sure there are some of you that I won't warm up to, even if we are cremated together."

When the laughter died down, he said, "But regardless of all that, I am called to love you all... because you gave me my life back. And my higher power calls me to love those who have given me great gifts."

Tonight, I added a couple people onto my "even if we were cremated together" list. But I'll trust that I will come to love them, even if I wouldn't necessarily like them.

And, as I'm sure you've heard, "If you like everyone you've met in recovery, you need to go to a LOT more meetings..."