"Can you give some concrete examples of how you've changed, since being in Al-Anon?"
Here's two from yesterday:
I went for lunch with a friend, to a small coffee shop near here. I ordered decaf, a chicken salad sandwich, and a cup of soup. The soup was barely warm, the coffee didn't come until I'd almost finished eating, and I received an egg salad sandwich instead of chicken salad, and you know what? None of it mattered. It was interesting to notice these things, but I had zero emotional response to them, it was more along the lines of "Look at that, egg instead of chicken - lots of mayonnaise, just the way I like it. This soup is delicious, could be warmer, but tastes marvellous. I'm so grateful to have Mary as my friend, she's a treasure. Oh, here's my coffee, that looks nice and hot. Our waitress has a lovely smile and she's so friendly, I like that in a restaurant."
Before Al-Anon, each of those insignificant things would have annoyed me no end. I'd have complained nonstop to my friend, who wouldn't have been able to enjoy her own lunch for my nattering, and I'd have made us both unhappy with my ranting. Before Al-Anon, if one thing wasn't exactly how I wanted it, everything was ruined. I'd have taken those mistakes personally, and I'd have seen them as just another indication of how lousy my life was, how things never worked out for me, yada yada yada.
I was a chronic complainer, and now I'm not. When I was first learning how, I had to make a conscious effort to be grateful: now it comes naturally.
Later, I was out delivering flyers for the business on the beautiful fall afternoon, and as I started up one driveway, a very large dog came rushing out of the open garage, walking with his tail straight up, slightly stiff-legged, and growling a warning. I decide to respect his request to remove myself from his property, and turned to tuck the flyer into the lattice on the front gate. I felt a warm bump on my thigh, and looked down to see him doing that silly little dance dogs all seem to do when they want attention, tail wagging furiously, and quite delighted with himself. I pulled the flyer from the gate, and as I walked up the drive with him, we had a nice little love-in, consisting of him giving me gentle nudges with his muzzle, and then wiggling happily as I stroked his head. As I left him, I told him to "Stay" and he did. I walked down the driveway feeling grateful for all the dogs I've known and loved, and all the ones I've only met in passing, but still enjoyed.
That got me thinking. about the way that many of my greatest life lessons have arrived looking the way that dog did - a little intimidating. When I've heard, respected and accepted the message, instead of fighting or struggling against it, those lessons have moved me forward in great leaps of understanding. With the understanding, has come a greater sense of peace and serenity.
I used to try to control everything, and now I don't. When the dog comes rushing out to say, "This is MY driveway!" I don't try to cut past him on the grass, I raise a hand in surrender, and say, "Your driveway, right, got it." Respect goes a long way in relationships; most of us just want to be recognised and heard, and once we are, we can relax and say, "You can come in, if you want; I'll walk with you."