Truth that Mangy Dog

Another story from the Thursday night group.

Grief in Recovery
Or: Why the Truth is a Mangy Dog

Grief in the recovery process has as much to do about the future as it does about the past. It has to do with all the “supposed to bes” of our existence. We grieve the life that we do not have, the health, the success, the love, the dreams we held close to our hearts about what our future was supposed to look like. It didn’t happen that way.

Nothing has turned out the way I had imagined it. My expectations are showing and they are demanding, insatiable really, uncontrollable, I am a slave to my expectations. Nothing will satisfy me until I begin to master my expectations.

Sometimes that means grieving. Grieving the “supposed to bes” acknowledges how powerful they are, that they area important to us. Because they are our dreams, and no one should ever underestimate the power of a dream.

Dreams: this is the way I wanted my life to be. For better or worse, realistic or not, these dreams represent our vision of a tidy world and full of everything we love. Then reality begins to unfold and we are stuck with our mouths hanging open looking at the unedited version of our own lives as if it couldn’t be. Not my life.

We would rather not look. But reality forces us to look, sooner or later we have to take off our expectations and take a good, hard look at what we are and what has happened. It is at those times of insight, of vision, that we come to see how our expectations have hindered us.

“I wanted my dream so badly that I failed to look at what was really happening,” she says to the group. She tells them about her life, about the years spent shielding herself from dealing with what was really happening in her world. “I just couldn’t look at it,” she says, “because it is so different from what I wanted.” Your expectations are in the way now, someone says to her. They are not helpful anymore because they inhibit your ability to deal with reality. They sap your best strength. Only the truth will set you free. Only reality now. Only the truth can set you free now. Only reality will give you back your power.

The truth is a mangy dog, once it is unleashed it respects no boundaries. You cannot set it free on the streets of St. Louis and keep it out of Chicago. The truth will follow you everywhere. You cannot unleash it on your husband and muzzle it against yourself. The truth is a mangy dog, it goes everywhere with you, barking at your heels. You cannot turn it on your neighbor without turning it on yourself. The truth is a mangy dog, and it always comes home.

When we look hard at our expectations, when we grieve the “supposed to bes” that never were, we are accompanied by that lone servant, a human being’s best friend, truth. This is what my life is, not what it is supposed to be. Truth is there with me sniffing out the what it is. This is who I am, not who I am supposed to be.

Truth loves you, of course, just the way you are. You will come to love truth too. You will come to love truth because only truth will set you free from your expectations. When you relinquish the expectations, you relinquish control, and you enter that great cosmic float on the surface of the great sea which is reality. The way it really is is a great sea that ebbs and flows in some ineffable way that has nothing to do with what you do or what you want or how you think it is supposed to be. It just is. This is a sea you cannot swim, you float. When you learn to float, it is so beautiful you wonder how you ever did anything else.

Here we have come to the end of the story, I leave you here: floating on your back on the great sea, up and down the gentle cadence, reliable, infallible, beyond expectations, the beautiful rhythm of life’s ebb and flow, accompanied by that trusty beast, that mangy dog, Truth, who follows you everywhere.

jsg, usa