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  • For most of my life, I believed I was broken beyond repair and too toxic to be touched. I lived the story I had heard since the cradle. I was not enough. I was a liar and a drama queen. I was a waste of people’s time and attention. As the years went on, I embellished the story. I was stupid. I was a slow learner. I was a bad mother who didn’t know how to love her children. I was unattractive so I could not expect any man to be faithful. Even with a college education, I was lucky someone hired me and I should be ready for my job to end when they became tired of carrying me. The list grew longer and longer. With each telling I became more invested in the back story for the character, the self I was creating. Upon leaving home years before, without realizing it, I packed my parents up, brought them everywhere I went and unconsciously saw the world through their eyes. I carried their fears and insecurities with me, I carried all their unhealthy coping mechanisms, and I carried the image I perceived they had of me. The burden was so familiar that I never realized it was becoming increasingly unmanageable. On the rare occasions I put the burden down, I didn’t feel free, I felt naked and ashamed. Abuse numbed my awareness and stole my curiosity and so stunted any emotional growth.

    One of the many gifts of my son’s death was my decision to stop just hanging on and to live a full life. Emotionally bankrupt, I had retreated into grief and loneliness after his suicide. Thanks to the wisdom and love of steadfast friends, I began to see the turning point I faced. Would I waste the meaning of Jason’s life and death by ignoring the lessons it provided or would I carry his message to others? Would I do the very things I had asked of him, expected of him during his short life or would I trivialize his life by making myself a martyr to his death? I chose to start showing up, one breath at a time. The choice may have taken seconds. I assure you the follow through took place in snail time. A healthy choice did not a healthy person make and even the most mundane tasks were challenging.

    It was at this time I was introduced to a Calendar of Success. It was the foundation on which I built a new identity and I use it still today:

    Every day in countless ways you are a success. You set a boundary, face a fear, keep a commitment, ask for what you need, take responsibility for your actions, make an amends, reach out to another person or do the next right thing simply because it is the next right thing. Sometimes practicing a successful behavior will seem routine and other times you will see your personal choices as the major victories that they are. Whether the success in your day is simple or sublime it should give you cause for celebration. You will begin to see yourself as the capable and courageous gift that you are. And in time, as you look back over your daily successes, you may even begin to see that you make a difference and the world is a better place because you are in it.
    Your calendar of success is a place to record your triumphs. It is nothing less than hard evidence that you have met challenge after challenge and lived to tell the tale. When you are faced with a situation that makes your stomach knot and your mouth go dry, you can flip back through the impressive history of your capabilities and feel confident that you can do what needs to be done by you.
    Just a minute or two of time is needed each day to jot down your accomplishments. It can be a pretty minimal effort. You might just place a gold star or a sticker in the appropriate day with a prompt that will remind you of your successful behavior. Make it fun! Let your day end with a smile. Go to bed knowing what is always true, that you have been changed by what you experienced during your day. You have grown.
    If you're unsure of how to begin your practice of success, here are some questions to get you started. They are from the September 6 reading in the Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.
    What did you do right today? Did you behave differently today than you would have a year ago? Did you reach out to someone & allow yourself to be vulnerable? You can compliment yourself for that. Did you have a bad day but dealt effectively with it? Did you practice gratitude or acceptance? Did you take a risk, own your power, or set a boundary? Did you take responsibility for yourself in a way that you might not have before? Did you take time for prayer or meditation? Did you trust God? Did you let someone do something for you?

    Even on our worst days, we can find one thing we did right. We can find something to feel hopeful about. We can focus find something to look forward to. We can focus realistically on visions of what can be.
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