“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
--Alice Walker, The Color Purple
I have spent a great deal of my life seeking perfection. I thought perfection meant a beautiful rose garden in the front of our house, straight As, and my parents would never get mad, that my siblings and I were the model children. I realize, looking back on the days when all of those criteria were met, I still felt we weren’t perfect and that we just weren’t there yet. And I tried so hard to fix it all the time.
I asked myself today why I needed perfection and I realized it was because I wanted to be happy, and feel loved and accepted. I didn’t feel those ways and I couldn’t understand why. I kept trying harder and harder. I thought if I just did enough, said enough, prayed enough, I would deserve to feel that way – that God would grant me those feelings. But that isn’t what happened. The more I tried, the more unhappy I felt.
Finally, I gave up on the idea of a Higher Power or a God because I was in so much pain that I simply couldn’t believe in a Higher Power that would allow me to feel that pain. I used to think “God is a sadist. If not, miracles would have been sent to me every day to save me from this life.”
And I was looking for miracles. So great was my pain and resentment, that I wanted an equally great apology from God. I wanted miracles. Big miracles. I was looking for a booming voice from the skies telling me it would do exactly what I want. But that wouldn’t have helped me at all.
Instead my Higher Power gave me exactly what I needed. Which, at times, included painful situations to allow me to grow into the person I need to be. That was a big miracle in itself to be loved so much that rather than submit to what I wanted, I was given what I needed. I am reminded of parents allowing their child to take their first few steps and fall. And the child would cry from the pain, and while the parents would give love, support, and encouragement, they allow the child to learn to stand up on its own because they know it needs to learn so that it can learn to walk.
I did not realize that back then. I guess I didn’t realize because I was looking for God to make an amends for what I felt that I was put through. I smile at the thought now that I was like a child angry with its parents for teaching it to walk. So, of course I didn’t see it, because my Higher Power never did anything wrong to make an amends. My Higher Power only ever loved me. And my Higher Power tried to show me that constantly. Every time I found a book I loved to read, or an activity that I enjoyed, or a cause I felt passionate about. They were little miracles to make me smile or feel connected with the world around me. In this way, I was given love, support, and encouragement while I learned how to stand and walk.
Today, I connect those moments of happiness with my Higher Power. Anytime I encounter a corny joke that makes me laugh, a flower on my walk, a hug from a friend, a wise word from a Sponsor, or a kiss from a loved one, I remember that it’s a big miracle sent to me to remind me how much I am loved and accepted by my Higher Power, and I am happy.
My Closet, Myself
Several years ago, I looked at my closet. It was a mess, everything in disarray. I couldn’t find anything. I didn’t know where to begin to sort it out. My closet seemed a reflection of me. I was a mess, at a loss. Where and how could I begin to change things?
Then I found Al‑Anon. I began to realize that the clutter in my closet reflected the clutter in my mind. I couldn’t sort things through. At meetings, I learned I didn’t have to do everything at once, whether in cleaning my closet or in straightening out my thoughts.
I could take baby steps. I started with my shoes. There they were, that one great-looking pair. The downside was the pain they caused me when I wore them. I had to give them away. Some people in my life were also causing me pain. Al‑Anon taught me I could rethink those relationships and, in the end, do what was best for me.
Next, I looked at my clothes, many of which were not a good fit. I could donate what wasn’t working for me anymore and keep what made me feel good. I learned in Al‑Anon if a situation didn’t feel right, I could make a change. When I changed the way I looked at things I could make a better decision.
As I cleaned out my closet, I could find things more easily. At the same time, my mind was getting more organized. When my side of the closet looked pretty good, I started to take inventory of my husband’s side, but in Al‑Anon I learned I could only change myself.
Now my closet is neat most of the time. Sometimes I fall back I into old habits and it gets a little messy. I realize that life can be messy; it is matter of seeking “Progress not Perfection.” So, I continue to go to meetings, read literature, practice the Steps and Traditions, speak to others in the program, and do service. By practicing my program, I have found serenity and have a really nice closet as well.
By Arlene L., Florida, April 2017
Reprinted with permission of The Forum
Al-Anon Family Groups Incorporated, Virginia Beach, VA