I’ve spent most of my life living in a giant, continuing ‘if:then’ exercise. If I do this, then they’ll do that or then I’ll get this. If I say that, then they’ll say this. On and on and on. Always with the expectations. And for me, it was not always expectations of wonderful things happening; it was often with the expectation of doom. My magically telepathic brain could swivel from delight to doom in nanoseconds.
I’ve done that with people and institutions. I’ve even done that with God. I kept hooker thinking with God for most of my life. I can even fall into it today. (“I’m reading my meditation book and I’m going to meetings nearly every day. You need to keep me sober.” Oh! or, “I’m working with others and doing your will. Why isn’t my life better!???”) It’s that old if:then thing again. If I’m good, then I ought to get a great payoff? If I’m bad, then I get a payback?
I have a friend who proudly announced to her 90-year-old grandmother that she hadn’t had a drink for 3 years; her grandmother’s response? “Well, I haven’t had one for 90 years.” I have had dead-beat ways in my life. It’s one of the reasons I hate the collections part of my job, but it might be karma that the person in the company who makes these calls (me) is the person who’s probably received more calls than most (me again).
When I first got sober, I mentioned to a friend who had been sober for 20+ years that I thought I should get a prize for paying my bills by the 10th. For years afterward, I got an “anonymous email” from my creditors (a.k.a. Dan) that said, “You are so good about paying your bills. We are very proud of you! You win 1st place this month!”
Maybe it’s an alcoholic thing, the desire to be recognized for what other people do on a daily basis as a given. Wanting to be recognized for good behavior has also been a problem for me. (“Aren’t I wonderful?”) My mother had to remind me that what we do in the dark (good or bad) will come to the light in God’s own time. (“Now?) God’s own time. (“What if nobody finds out?”) God’s own time. (“But what if it never comes to light?”) It will…in God’s own time.
Chuck C. wrote one of my favorite books, A New Pair of Glasses, and talked about doing things for “free and for fun.” We do all things in AA for free. But I had a hard time learning the fun part. It was easy for me to resent the time spent late at night or early in the morning. I drove newcomers to meetings and visited with them at all hours of the day and night. And, inevitably, they got drunk. My reaction was often, “This is the thanks I get! After all I’ve done for them!” Looking for the payoff. What a goob!
I’ve been part of AA for awhile and God and I have come to an understanding. I just try hard and God just loves me; sometimes life is terrific and sometimes it just isn’t. I get comfort from that. If I figure that doing the right thing will earn me good things, then I have to believe that bad things happen as punishment for having done the wrong thing. And if you’ve lost a child, you spend enough time reliving every bad thought, word or deed you did that might have “earned” you this pain.
Can’t take the blame or get the credit. Is doing the right thing its own reward? I think it could be. If I pay bills on time, then I don’t get dead beat phone calls and my credit rating doesn’t sound like the poor loser guy on FreeCreditReport.com. When I spend time working with other alcoholic women, I am reminded how I was, how far I’ve come, and how far I have to go. Sometimes the reward comes in ways that I never appreciated when I was singing Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is.” I got a chance to be an honorary great-grandmother for a first grand baby. What grace offers me that gift?
If there’s some cosmic account that I have to pay back or that I get paid from for all the actions I’ve taken in this life, I don’t want to know. I’ll never have enough cosmic currency to enough to pay God back for the gifts I have.