April 22, 2005

This Old Jim

Thirteen years ago, at the lowest point in my life, I was in a treatment center. Every morning at the community meeting each person was required to stand and say an affirmation for the day. After the first day another patient, John, a veteran of several weeks, said, “Jim, I have an affirmation for you.” “What is it?” “I’m good enough the way I am.”

I liked it. I repeated it over and over. It was what I needed. It fit. “Thanks, John!”

At the meeting the next day I rose and my mind was blank. I just could not remember that phrase I had been given so I blurted out something else. After the meeting I went to John and asked him to repeat it. This time I said it repeatedly all day. “I’m good enough the way I am.”

For the next two days, the same thing happened. I stood and could not retrieve the phrase. I returned to John for the words and worked hard to remember them. But I could not remember them. Finally, I wrote the sentence down. At the meeting on the fourth day, I rose and read my affirmation, “I’m good enough the way I am.”

I was unable to make that phrase a part of me because I did not believe the words. In my mind I was not good enough the way I was. I could have given you a whole list of reasons. Or maybe you could have just looked at the mess that was my life and known the truth about me.

So I have spent the years since trying to improve myself – trying to create a me that is acceptable to me. Like the houses that are rebuilt on “This Old House,” “This Old Jim” has been under reconstruction. Let’s make Jim newer, stronger and updated. Get rid of his old plumbing and wiring. Put in some new windows and skylights so that he will be lighter and brighter.

How many hours of therapy does it take? How many retreats and workshops? I guarantee that I have already done many more than the average required.

Have you ever lived in the middle of house renovations? If you have you know how wearing they can be. I am tired. I am tired of being under construction. I am tired of trying to get to somewhere else. It is time to live. I just want to live my life.

At what age do you say that this is who I am and I am okay? “I’m good enough the way I am.” How about age 85? Well, certainly by then. How about 75? I am not sure. What about 65? Maybe. 55? Why not? Why not just grab today how I am? Why would I wait another thirty years?

I have given up the reconstruction. What I see is what I get. And it is okay. Please note that I did not say, “What you see is what you get” What YOU see is not important to me. Your approval is not required. That is part of the letting go.

I am no saner today than I was last week, last month or last year. But I am more at peace. I am not searching, grasping and holding on. I am not looking for the next thing to fix a part of me. I am relaxing into what is – reality as is.

I have stopped the fight. The king has not returned triumphant. He realized that the fight was not worth it. Instead he has settled into the forest with his Queen and they are planting gardens and taking naps. He is breathing easier.

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