First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work.
I always felt thankful for friends who shared their journey of recovery. The concepts and slogans were timely, good, healing. (The above quote is from AA.)
A friend who was in program once said that when a woman gives birth, the process of letting go is underway. When you're a controller or a people pleaser, that concept is spooky, but when you're a mix of both, it's bizarre. I thought of it when I gave birth to our son and went to the store alone for the first time.
Fast forward to second grade when Greg was in the backseat, lamenting his latest gym activity. "I hate square dancing!" he said. "Why do we even have to do that? It's so stupid!"
Somebody else might have let that go, but I had a fix for it! It so happened my father and his companion, Dottie, raved about square dance, and they attended a lot of local dances.
So using Dad and Dottie's feelings as a template, I'd coax, inspire and coerce him to see that square dance was a macho, fun activity.
"Really? You hate it? I'm surprised," I said. "Grandpa and Dottie loooove square dancing." (So just think, in sixty-plus years, you can love it, too! Isn't that great?)
I observed his face in the rear view mirror. Was he relieved?
Greg smirked. "Mom, when you tell me how Grandpa and Dottie feel, it's like you're not even listening to me."
My exuberance sank. That little bundle of pinchability in the back seat had identified my greatest interpersonal challenge. Dagnamit. When communication skills are incubated in a household of eleven people, there's a lot of nodding, but not a lot of hearing.
Gawd, I didn't want to do that to my son or anybody else. I didn't have to be the god of his gym preferences, just a good listener.
I hadn't changed my son's thinking about square dance. In the kindest, most eye-opening way possible, my little boy delivered a precious concept: respect.
In his final year of college, he met Julie. And as he spoke about their relationship, I knew she became somebody special in his life. At the end of the semester, they faced their first dilemma: distance. But before Dad passed away, they were engaged.
As the wedding planning began, my non-serenity prayer to the gawd of perfection kicked in: "Gawd, help me to do everything I am supposed to do as a mother and future mother-in-law. In short, help me to not to screw anything up!"
While that little prayer may sound fair enough, it is a set up for a grizzly nightmare of disappointment. If I define success as not doing anything wrong, and only doing everything right, at best, I am transformed into the Cowardly Lion, cowering and pleading to the Wizard of Perfection, that little, nagging judge that sits inside my head. Fortunately, I caught myself and realized that the more I worry, the less my action is about love.
So the Serenity Prayer really came in handy for the moments when I wanted to fix, or do things "right."
One week ago Saturday, Greg stood on the altar and waited for Julie.
My heart was full. It had been a long journey, filled with anticipation and exciting moments (that's just counting the prior four days), including the one in which the heel of my shoe tore through the front of my gown as I stepped into the chapel. Now that was fun.
Everybody was in position, and I thought about the purpose for our presence -- the relationship that grew between Julie and Greg since they'd met. They complimented one another, shared in everything from a taste for Cuban food to creating a synchronized exercise routine. Whether in person or by telephone, they chattered nonstop and made each other laugh. They shared and enjoyed entertaining their friends. Their mutual support and admiration was apparent.
As Greg watched the entranceway and I was reliving the sound- and heel-through-the-dress sensation, somebody leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Why isn’t Greg smiling?”
It was a reasonable question for which I had no answer. I knew that Greg stated he wanted to marry Julie. I heard.
Then the double doors at the entrance swung open, circumventing any possibility for a Vulcan Mind Meld, Julie appeared with her Dad, absolutely stunning. Greg's whole countenance transformed, his shoulders relaxed, and he smiled in a way that made everybody cry. It was the smile of a man who knew how he felt and made his own choice.
Let the wedding bells ring!