Recently I read a book entitled God’s To Do List by Ron Wolfson as part of a spiritual community read. As part of the excercise we were asked to share our family to do list. When I shared mine, which I put together with my family, I received many comments, calling me and my family inspirational . As it had this effect on this small group, I thought I would share it in my blog in the hopes of inspiring others.
Our family To Do list also reflects a long struggle with alcohol addiction and recovery as well as caregiving and emotional trauma related to an aging parent with Alzheimer’s.
My husband’s descent into the deep abyss of alcoholism nearly bankrupted us, nearly destroyed our family and marriage, and nearly robbed our child of the ability to be happy joyous and free. Things did not get better until we turned to prayer and meditation and recovered spiritually, physically, and mentally. Our life together is a miracle since he has become sober and getting better every day. We have to work hard everyday to keep this miracle alive-and this is where our To Do list is very powerful.
Our To Do list is also very powerful in helping others manage the stress and emotional trauma associated with caring for aging parents and coping with Alzheimer’s. Just today I helped a friend dealing with this stress and directed her to resources that are affordable and can ease peace of mind.
Finally, I could not get my family to sit down and read or listen to me read the entire book so I read the book and gave them the cliffs notes version. We read the heading for each chapter and then the suggested to do list at the end of each chapter. Each of us circled 2 of the suggested ideas.
So here you go-our families to do list in cliffs notes format
In cliffs notes, I always started with the end of the book. The end of Ron Wolfson’s book listed items 100-103. Our family believes they are an excellent beginningTogether they read as follows: Look at every human being you meet, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and heart-to-heart. Recognized everyone’s spark of divinity and smile….In truth this says it all!
This is one of my favorites.
1) Our son is taking guitar lessons and learning to write songs
2) My husband is building a new business doing something he loves
3) I am publishing for my family a series of love letters my mom saved from WWII written by her and my dad, as well as a scrapbook of memories and recollections of the two of them.
4) Dance to the music and allow our spirit to run free
5) Each of us plans to do something daring, outside our comfort zone to tap into a new side of our creativity and thrive
6) All of us are planning to surround ourselves with artistic creative people, environments and experiences
7) Laugh-we all plan to find the humor in life and situations and learn to laugh more.
1) With all the hardships we have faced over the past few years it would seem that it is hard to find blessings in our life. But as a family we have learned that it is the little things in life that are blessings and they are abundant. Some of our blessings includeOur spiritual communities and the fellowship of AA; the town where we live and all the amenities and kindness that is abundant here; true sobriety in our home, our beautiful son; our health; and the miracle we build as a family together everyday. There are always things we don’t have that we want, such as I would have loved to have had more children and of course win the powerball but it is not the card we were dealt today and we are learning each day to love what we have and not what we don’t
2) Ask your clergy for blessings in times of need and thank those who help you: We have asked out clergy for many blessings over the past few years to help with addiction that ravaged our family as well as to help ease the grief of losing my mother. Our son, who is in elementary school, was especially affected by the death of his grandmother. Our clergy, and school psychologist were there to help him make some sense of things before the funeral and continues to be there for him to help him understand bereavement. We are grateful that we asked and that our clergy has been there to give us blessings and counsel and we are glad that we learned how to ask. Asking for blessings is not easy. Learning to do so and receiving the help you need, when in truth you can not do it alone, is powerful.
3) Bless our home.
With all the chaos in our life, our home has not been a sanctuary of peace and tranquility. As our life is changing, our home is becoming more peaceful everyday. This year we will clean house, eliminate clutter, and hang mezuzahs on our doors.
4) Make time for our family everyday…
Share a meal, watch a family movie, play a game together, talk, laugh, listen, hug, love, and help each other be the best we can be everyday. And set aside one day a week as family activity day-each person will be in charge on a rotating basis for planning something to do.
1) We plan to participate in the family dinners at our house of worship this year.
2) Rest when tired, relax in warm bubble bath. Help each other to learn this is OK
3) We have not been able to go on vacation for 2 years. We are planning a long weekend away as a family before the end of the year.
4) Recognize that you can not do everything, do what you can and take a break…then start over again.
5) Make quiet time for ourselves, alone without each other to find our inner peace and learn to love ourselves.
6) I personally have been too busy caring for others and managing crisis to take care of myself. I was given a gift to go away to a yoga retreat for a week…I am going and plan to recharge my batteries and take care of myself.
1) Listen to that voice within us which always tells us what the next right
thing to do is. We all hear this voice within us and all to often do not listen to it. Listen, really listen to the good voice inside of us that tells us what the next right thing to do is, and do it.
2) In this chapter it talks about honoring our parents. I was fortunate enough to really like both of my parents, as well as love them. The book points out that some children end up not loving their parents but that it is still important to honor them. As both my parents have passed away I recognize the importance of honoring their legacy and continuing with the good that they taught me. I have honored my mother by helping others who have eldercare issues and are struggling with Alzheimer’s. And while she was alive I found the magic moments of life, even when her disease was robbing her of her memory. To honor my mom I have answered the request sent out by our house of worship to drive someone that needs a ride. I also hope to practice one of her biggest gifts in all my affairs and teach this to my family. This is to have the capacity to love deeply, see the good in people, believe in the healing power of love, never give upon people and forgive, and to find a special place in my heart for everyone I touch and inspire them. My husband has issues with his parents, as do I. As part of our to do list we are going to learn to honor his parents and do what we can. We will start by calling more as a family on a regular basis.
3) As our family has suffered from the ravages of addiction and is enjoying the miracle of recovery all of us are actively involved in reaching out to help others who are still sick and suffering. My husband, who was out of work for 5 years struggled to find work and now has a job and is in a position to employ others. He seeks out people in recovery who are sober and struggling to get back on their feet who need work, hires them and in this way helps them get back on their feet and stay sober…I am involved with a program that helps the 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 who live in alcoholic households.
4) My family, me especially, are guilty of using too much email to communicate. We will endeavor to call our family more often and check in. This really does make people feel good. We plan to identify a few people we have not spoken to in a long time, and as Ron Wolfson said in his presentation, we will call them just to say hello and see how they are doing.
5) Practice HUMILITY: Learn to ask when you need help and recognize that you cannot do it all. Allow someone else to help you and care for you and give back when you can. Our family had a very real experience with this over the past few years: Our family was recently in a position where we could not afford gas for our car or groceries. We changed up soda cans to buy gas and we were the recipients of those bags of food from the community pantries. I came from an upper middle class family and never wanted for anything. Finding my family in this position was horrible and unfamiliar. But we needed to eat and we did not have work and needed to do whatever was necessary to take care of our family. We asked for help and it was there. This year we helped prepare those bags for others so that they could be filled with food for people in need. We remembered how excited we were to be the recipient of this food when we needed it (of course I would have preferred more whole wheat pasta and healthy food in the bags) and we were grateful to help others.
6) Continue to become part of our town and spiritual community and participate actively.
1) I will continue to to help bereaved families.
2) Recognize when you cannot do it all and ask for help.-learning that it is OK and helping others learn that it is OK. I remember last year sending a meal to a friend and her family when they were in need of help. She did not want to accept this act of kindness. I “pushed” her into it and felt bad for being so pushy. BUT to this day she continues to thank me and has learned to reach out to others.
3) Continue to reach out to families suffering from the ravages of addiction and offer our experience strength and help.
a. Send prayers to those who are struggling or ill...Sometimes this is all you can do.
b. Make someone laugh or smile with a cute story. Recognize the healing power of laughter.
a. Make sure people around you feel loved and special everyday
i. Tell someone they have a beautiful smile or that they made your day or that you appreciate them
ii. Never go to bed angry with those closest to you.
iii. Make time everyday to tell each other and our children we love them and give hugs.
2) Do something anonymously-we all plan to do at least one thing anonymously this year.
3) Love our little family deeply and unconditionally.
4) Really listen to someone else. Let them talk without interrupting them, paraphrase what they say to make sure you understood, and respect their thoughts, even if you do not agree. Learn to compromise, or peacefully agree to disagree.
1) Our family is going to get involved with a “green” group and we use energy efficient light bulbs and recycle.
2) Exercise Compassion: When people do not act the way we would like them to act or appear to be unkind or unreasonable. Recognize that you may not be able to change them and that their behavior may not have anything to do with you. They may have deep rooted pain and baggage from life they are carrying around. Exercise compassion, pray for them and allow them to be who they are.
3) Look everyday for opportunities to make the world better and act on those we can.
4) Say what you mean, mean what you say, but do not say it mean. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself or others.
1) Addiction and bereavement are two very powerful forces to wrestle with. It does not seem fair that we have had to deal with both. Our son has recently asked “Why is God cursing me?” To deal with his we have asked for help, and as stated earlier our clergy has been there to help our son. What I have learned from my wrestling with these issues is to move through them and find the healing opportunities in them. There is a prayer that helps me with this, and I recite it whenever I wrestle with many issues in life that seem unfair. It is as follows
Illness and Disease can be either a fence or a gate.
As a fence, it divides,
Keeping people either in or out.
While protection is important, and may be necessary at times,
There is beauty on both sides.
As a gate, it joins,
Opening up new vistas,
And new knowledge.
Illness and "Dis"ease are not what we would have chosen for ourselves,
But they are what we have in our or our loved ones' lives.
Let us learn to see the gateways it provides
And to move through them
As the truly beautiful
Images of God that we can be.
Our family will help others struggling with addiction and also those struggling with Alzheimer’s and do all we can to help. We also will never forget that God is always with us as we wrestle with whatever issues life brings us. And we will always look for the healing that comes from these lessons. We also will remember that we will not always get resolution or answers and we might not agree with the situation and that sometimes we need to just accept things as they are and move one.
As we have been in a difficult financial situation we have not been able to give monetarily. I have felt bad about this. From this experience I learned that giving my time and talent is just as important in giving and that giving is not just about money. As a family we give of our time generously we do and will continue to do the following
Participate in community activities and committees
Reach out to families struggling with addiction and eldercare issues
Donate things we do not use or need
Learn to identify our passions and what we are good at and act on it-I personally am wrestling with this as I reinvent my career which had stalled
And one we all really liked: Surprise someone with your presence. We are not yet sure who we will surprise but we will think about it.
This is one of the most powerful things on this list for us.
First we are all learning to forgive ourselves. We are not perfect but everyday we
are doing the best we can.
Forgiving others is a wonderful and healing experience. I practice this everyday and it is amazing and very freeing. Anger is a horrible emotion to carry around. It really feels good to forgive and I have learned that we can forgive just about everything.
Ask for forgiveness. For our family this is very important. We have also learned a valuable lesson….not everyone has the capacity to forgive and asking for forgiveness is something we do to cleanse ourselves. For people who do not have the capacity to forgive we practice other things on this to do list, we practice compassion and understanding and we pray for them…THAT is NOT easy! BUT it is part of forgiveness.
Practice compassion: understand that most of us are doing the best we can that day. When people to not act the way we would like them to act or appear to be unkind or unreasonable. Recognize that you may not be able to change them and that their behavior may not have anything to do with you. Exercise compassion and allow them to be who they are.
And our families final item, which is not in the Cliff notes: Accept ourselves as we are, acknowledge our strengths, and work everyday to improve ourselves.
Would love to hear your to do lists...