These five words are my undoing. None of them long or particularly meaningful on their own but together in that order they are deadly.
I learned these words in recovery. “Let It Begin With Me,” is one of many 12-step slogans. Slogans are the easy to remember snippets that carry a far larger meaning in the context of the program and are meant to help someone on his/her recovery journey.
Let It Begin With Me is the one slogan I have battled with during my entire decade in program. You see, I don’t want it to begin with me. I really want it to begin with you, or my husband, or my boss, or literally anyone else other than myself. Beginning with me means I need to do the hard work of uncovering flaws, asking for forgiveness, making amends, and most importantly coming to terms with my own humanness. Truthfully, it’s a bitch. The work is labor intensive, time intensive, and most often emotionally intensive.
It’s no surprise to me that I have spent a decade reading about this slogan only to end up in therapy and have my counselor say quite literally the same thing. He ascribes to a different program, though the outcome is the same: change your thinking, change your life.
Those are kind of shitty options if you ask me; choose to change or don’t. If you do, the work must be put in. If you don’t things remain the same and the hurt, anger, frustration or sadness that runs your life will continue, perhaps blossoming into rage or depression.
But when you are staring down at the life you have and hoping to live happy, joyous, and free, what other option do you have?
My roadblocks to letting things begin with me are largely based on safety and security. If I allow things to begin with me, by changing the ways I do things or respond to others, I am opening myself up wide to all kinds of hurt or criticism. When I am criticized or my efforts are not perceived, as I would like them to be, I feel unsafe, as if I can actually feel the world tilting. The truths I stand on shift uncontrollably and my immediate reaction is to hide. Literally.
I find the smallest, most cozy corner in my house and wedge myself into the space until I am surrounded on all sides by the firmness of walls and furniture and floor. Once in that space I breathe deeply letting my emotions settle back into place. I often stay in this space for quite awhile, drifting in and out of subconscious talks with God. It’s like napping, but my brain is actively engaged in conversation, questioning how on earth did me going first lead to such and incredible crash and burn emotionally.
Despite the frequent the emotional crash and burn immediately following a new way of doing things, the results are clear. Continuing to go first, letting new and healthy patterns of living begin with me has proven its worth.
As I’ve struggled to practice healthy responses in moments of conflict, the people around me have taken notice. That noticing didn’t happen overnight. See above emotional crash and burn.
But, it did happen. Opening my hands, replying with kindness, being vulnerable, they all made a difference, little by little.
Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t want things to begin with me. Letting things begin with me is still really difficult and still requires a lot of time and energy. I would much rather follow, than lead the charge in new, healthy ways living.
But seeing the results for myself: being happy, joyous, and free, and knowing others can see the effects of the work, that is worth it; worth the hours, worth the tears, and worth letting it begin with me.