"Eventually I realized that whenever I said someone 'made me angry' what had happened was that our interaction, whatever it was, had revealed the anger and fear I was already walking around with inside; my exchange with them merely revealed anger and fear which was already there."
I can choose my thoughts -- my attitude -- like I choose my food: There is some food that is delicious and full of nutrients. (Obviously) Other food is delicious but basically empty calories. (Again: Obviously. But also: Sadly). There is pleasure in both. Some thoughts nurture and sustain me, others undermine and keep me in fear. There is pleasure in both. (The pleasure in the thoughts that undermine me is that it can be familiar - and thus comfortable - mental ground. Or it can allow me to indulge character defects I am unwilling to release.) I can choose which receive my focus. I may not always be able to choose which show up in a random moment, but I can certainly choose whether to regard or disregard it.
And I can influence how often "junk food" thoughts show up by changing my habitual actions. Again and again (and again, sigh) I encounter the great truth (maybe that should be Great Truth? or is that too grandiose?) that my actions change my insides; my thinking and attitude. I cannot change my thinking with my thinking.
Closing in on three years along, the Skateboard Pup was down to his last amends.
(Well, last one from his original list as we've gone through the 12 Steps in the Big Book. I've never met an alcoholic -- present company very much included -- who couldn't manage to step on a toe or two in the course of any given monthweek day.)
It was the one that had haunted him; spiritually dogged him; since he wrote about it on his Fourth step and shared it with me during his Fifth.
As happens more than is likely to be pure coincidence, circumstances had aligned in a strange and highly unlikely way to present the poor Pup with a perfect and fairly immediate chance to "... make direct amends..." as the Ninth Step suggests.
And although he was trying to convince me -- and thus himself -- that he was game, the fact was, deep down he was having none of it.
Skateboard Pup: I guess what I keep coming back to is... you know... what if it not only doesn't go well it kind of... brings up a lot of other stuff for me.
Mr. SponsorPants: A lot of other stuff. Like... what kind of other stuff.
SBP: Just... you know. I don't know. What if I wind up feeling bad about myself bringing up all that old...
Mr. SP: Oooh. You don't want to make the amends because you're afraid... well, you're afraid it will hurt.
I sat there.
SBP: Well I wouldn't put it that way, but...
Mr. SP: How would you put it?
SBP: I guess... like isn't it bad for my self esteem or something to... I mean I've done all the others and this just seems... maybe I need to pray about it more.
Mr. SP: Did you pray about it already?
Mr. SP: And now [I described the unusual circumstances which came together].
SBP: Wellllllll... yes. I guess.
His agreement was offered with such reluctance I had to struggle for just a second not to laugh.
Mr. SP: So I'm going to call that 'prayer answered' and 'time for action.'
I have seen small children confronting a plate of Brussels Sprouts evince more enthusiasm to get on with it than the Pup seemed able to muster at that moment.
Mr. SP: Gotta say, it feels an awful lot like a problem with willingness right now.
SBP: No, I'm willing.
Mr. SP: mmm. 'We who are about to die, salute you.'
Mr. SP: Skip it. If it's not willingness, as you claim, then it's this... damage to your self esteem you're worried about, after having worked hard to create some, I'm going to (by extension) take as your larger inference.
He was on his guard. For good reason. He knows me too well now.
Mr. SP: So this damage to your self esteem would... hurt you. So it's what I said, you're afraid making the amends will hurt you.
SBP: I still don't think that's exactly... sure. Fine. Yes.
Mr. SP: Well there you go. You have a fundamental misunderstanding at work.
SBP: I do?
Mr. SP: Yes. You do. There is no 'me' in the Ninth Step.
SBP: There is no 'me' in the Ninth Step.
He said it like someone who'd bitten into something and was unsure what they were tasting.
Mr. SP: Come on, man. You know this. The only people we're worried about hurting when we make an amends is the recipient or... well, anyone else. But not ourselves. Amends are both the key to a serious freedom, which I know you've experienced from doing your others...
SBP: Yes, but...
Mr. SP: Please. Don't even try.
SBP: Okay. And what else? The key to serious freedom and...?
Mr. SP: An invitation to the All You Can Eat Humility Buffet. At least for the duration of the amends. Afterwards...
SBP: I know. I know.
This was, after all, his last amends. Not his first. He DID know.
Mr. SP: And so... the time is now.
SBP: You mean like... NOW now?
I shrugged. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again and then closed it more firmly. Between you and me? This kid never fails to inspire me. I felt like I could actually see him go from reluctance to resignation to acceptance to determination in the space of two quelled objections.
SBP: Okay then. Now.
And he got out his phone to arrange a face-to-face.