Every so often, someone asks me to write something about whatever force it is that keeps our inner selves held together. But then comes the caveat, "You can mention spirituality, just don't mention God." It happens a lot.
In the past, I'll admit, I was a little more than motivated by a paycheck and would twist myself sideways trying to figure out how to talk about a divine source, but never refer directly to God. It didn't hurt that I used to think everything was about me, anyway.
I was more than happy to help everyone take some of the credit by espousing blather about empowerment and making sure you say "no" enough of the time, and the importance of boundaries.
Frankly, what I was really saying was, I finally found a way to say "no" to the things I didn't feel like doing and still look like the nice girl. It was all a lovely justification that came with a paycheck. To me, that meant I had to be doing something right, or why would someone be willing to give me good money to write it?
I saw God as fire insurance, anyway, to be used at a later date, post mortem.
But, put me in a tight corner, like staring down a recession and a dwindling paycheck, and I was more than happy to build a nice little wall of resentment that God didn't keep me from all of this worry. It would be crazy to believe in some force that let me down so often. Everything that I have that is any good, I earned from the sweat of my own brow. Well, maybe not.
I had everything backwards.
I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and then blamed God when it didn't work out the way I had already decided it needed to. I'd follow that up with a retrospective analysis at how I could have done it differently to not be in such a jam, and then work even harder, generating more work and end up at the same spot –– again.
It wasn't until I finally wore myself out completely that I took the time to stand still and listen.
That's when my life took on a new rhythm that had less time devoted to work, where I tried to get more of what I wanted and more time for service, where I showed up just because it was the right thing to do. That added up to less personal empowerment, more time being present with a sense that everything is actually alright.
Now, here's the strange part. The less I did to try and build a bigger career for myself, the more success found me.
And, every time I showed up to sit with someone else's mother in the hospital, so they could take a break, or took a two-hour train ride to show up for a baby shower, everything else that I thought needed to get done, still got done. There was a lot less plotting, maneuvering and manipulating on my part to get to a result I thought I needed, and even less yapping about why I just couldn't be of service to you.
The results that have materialized were better than I expected and easier to obtain than all those years of hard work.
It's not that life hasn't still had its hiccups, but I find it much easier to accept what is, do what I can about it and just move on without all of the mental gymnastics or phone calls to others to lament.
My new style is to let go and giving God a chance, one day at a time.
Nothing else worked, and in my 50 years, I tried every other kind of self-help out there, before trying the simplest method of all.
Now, imagine handing out advice to anyone else and stripping out the one element that made it possible for me to find peace, joy and gratitude on a regular basis.
I can do that and say what someone's decided you want to hear, or I can say what I've found to be the truth, and let you decide for yourself.
I have a little more faith in you as well as a Higher Power, and I think you can handle it. God and spirituality are all wrapped up in each other and there isn't one, without the other. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." www.MarthaRa.