There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making.
Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through.
It is the first great prayer.
— Anne Lamott, “Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers”
I was taught that if I worked hard enough, I could do anything. If things weren’t working out, I needed to work harder. When I started having marital problems, I went into overdrive trying to fix the situation: individual therapy, marital counseling, reading, researching, snooping, obsessing, fixing the unfixable. I lived in a state of constant fear, hyper alert to the tiniest changes in my soon-to-be-ex’s demeanor or routines.
It worked for a while. I was exhausted. I nearly drove myself crazy by trying to control things. I became the kind of person who kept secrets. I carried around so much shame that sometimes my chest felt like it was caving in. But I thought this was all worth it so that my children wouldn’t have to grow up in a broken family.
I didn’t give up willingly. I hit the wall, the rock bottom. The situation was simply not fixable — there was no hope it would change. And ultimately I learned that my soon-to-be-ex didn’t really want to change. Not for me, for his children, or himself. It’s then that I realized that my family was already broken.
Admitting you’re powerless to change or fix someone else. There is freedom in that. You can finally let go. It’s traumatic, like a death. But then you begin to breathe again. The restoration begins.
And you start taking care of yourself. You start looking for a job. Music makes you smile instead of weep . You dance with your kids and know that they will be okay. You have come through, and it feels like a miracle.
- WATCH: What Anne Lamott Says When She Talks To God (huffingtonpost.com)
- Anne Lamott On Coming Back After Tragedy (onpoint.wbur.org)