Someone recently suggested that I read Melody Beattie’s book, Codependent No More. On page six of the introduction, she says, “I saw people who felt responsible for the entire world but they refused to take responsibility for leading and living their own lives. I worked with women who were experts at taking care of everyone around them, yet these women doubted their ability to take care of themselves.”
From the time I was little, I held the belief that if I could make my mother happy, that I would be happy. My happiness depended on hers. It is only now, in my sixties, that I am finally letting go of this. My mother will never be happy. Many people have tried and failed to ‘help her’ with this.
In the 1970’s, I immersed myself in the women’s liberation movement. I thought that if all women were free, then I could be free. I lived in a utopian paradise of good intentions and hopeful illusions. When the movement changed course, and left me behind, I thought spirituality would liberate me. I joined an ashram and went through a yoga teacher’s training. I meditated an hour every morning.
I spent a lot of time trying to get what I wanted from something ‘out there’. But happiness, freedom and liberation are not things I can buy. Nor can I absorb any of these things through books, seminars, classes or gurus. While much of what I got ‘out there’, was initially pleasant and satisfying, it was not permanent. It came and went, like clouds floating across the sky.
When I buy things now, it is not to ‘make me happy’, but rather to bring something into my life that I like or need. Most of my furniture is from thrift stores, but the one item that had to be exactly right was my recliner, the chair I sit in every morning to write and reflect. The first one I bought didn’t suit me, so I sent it back and kept looking.
The key to life is defining what happiness is, and based on my own experience, this is different for everyone. I wasted too much time on the non-essentials. What is obvious is that I am not an ‘externally oriented’ person. Like monks in a monastery, I enjoy looking at the same things everyday, beautiful things that I choose and are meaningful to me alone. Rather than buying a ‘designer’ home, I designed my own home.
I looked at cars for years and just when I was coming to the point where I thought I would never buy one, I suddenly pulled into a car dealership and walked right up to the car that was waiting for me and bought it. For two years, money had been sitting in the bank waiting for the right car.
When I was young, it never occurred to me that freedom and liberation would be found in solitude, or that the right things would come to me without effort. I thought I had to work hard to become something that would be acceptable and pleasing to what was outside of me.
This morning I had a craving for pancakes but couldn’t find the right recipe. In a moment of inspiration, I made up my own recipe and the pancakes were perfect. Yesterday, I found a brand new yogurt maker at the thrift store that had never been taken out of the box.
During the past few days, I have been happy. I drive my new car around town, watch foreign movies at the indie theater, stop at garage sales, walk in the woods. My life is simple, effortless, natural. I trust that what I want will appear. I am not responsible for the entire world but only for leading and living my life. I am not an expert at anything, yet I am fully able to take care of myself.
I see endless openings, cascading, one after another, in a shimmery hallway. Finding and embracing pleasure requires receptivity. I am learning to cultivate a garden of optimal moments that will lead to an enhanced awareness of what resonates with me. And when this resonance appears, I will indulge. It is time to boldly say, “I know.” Life happens each moment. I don’t want to miss any of them.
Codependent no more.