We’re rough, tough and ready for action, right? So why the heck would we EVER surrender to anything?
Surrender brings to mind some whimpering, beat-up thing waving a ragged white flag. That’s not a pretty picture. But neither is the reality you get from fighting something you know you can’t beat. Or having your fingernails ripped out by holding on so tightly to something you would be much better off letting go.
That’s when surrender can work its magic. My own life is peppered with blissful moments of surrender – like this morning’s guided meditation that encouraged me to feel the deliciousness of surrendering to the moment.
That’s on top of two major examples of how surrender saved my life (and my plates).
Surrendering to skinheads
My first real encounter with surrender happened when I was living on the streets of New York City back in 1988, selling dessert plates I had jazzed up with a Sharpie marker. I had found the plates in the garbage (NYC has the BEST! trash), so I cleaned them up and drew all over them.
It was a sweltering late late summer night on Avenue A in Manhattan’s Alphabet City. I was hanging out on the sidewalk, sitting against a building surrounded by my wares, waiting for all the people who ventured out of their apartments at 2 a.m. to buy plates that had been retrieved from the trash and adorned with permanent marker.
They were sure to come, right?
Instead of any customers, however, I got a batch of angry-looking skinheads who came tromping up in their Doc Martens. They surrounded me.
“What would you do if we smashed all your plates in the street?” the tallest, baddest-looking one asked me.
I thought for a second. Then another second. Then answer came to me in a mighty, no-nonsense flash.
“Nothing,” I said, as I met his steely glare with an equally unwavering look.
He thought for a second. Then another second. Then he sat down next to me and asked to bum a cigarette.
The next few hours were spent laughing, joking and chatting with a batch of skinheads that were now my pals.
Surrendering to alcohol
Surrendering to a group that could have smashed all my plates and could have easily beat me to death was easy. The answer just came to me. There was really nothing I could do if they wanted to smash up my hard-earned plates. So I simply said so. But my surrender to alcohol was a little tougher.
For years I thought I could control my drinking. I consistently told myself I was drinking because I WANTED to, not because I had crossed that line and actually HAD to. The choice to drink had ceased to exist. And I wasn’t able to put down the drink for good until I admitted that to myself.
As a groovy line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says:
And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.
As a groovy old-timer in one of my early Brooklyn recovery meetings used to say:
Alcohol is the only war we win by surrender.
I’ll not drink to that!
Addiction was bigger than me, and way more destructive than even a batch of skinheads could be. Fighting it only made it angrier and stronger, more determined to overtake me at every turn.
Once I admitted defeat, however, its power began to deflate.
“You crushed me, alcohol,” I told it. “I get it. You’re bigger and badder than me. But my God is bigger than you.”
POOF. Its power deflated like a slow-release balloon. The craving for alcohol eventually left. After all, it’s no fun sticking around to harass someone if they’re not visibly upset and trying to harass you back.
Surrender: Let go, let God
So instead of thinking of surrender as becoming some whimpering, beat-up thing waving a ragged white flag, think of it as being one of the smartest and most courageous decisions you can make when a thing or situation has you licked.
When you cease to fight, you stop giving away your power. You’re no longer fueling that thing or situation. You’re deflating it. And you’re left with a soothing sense of peace – and a sidewalk array of unbroken art-ified plates.
I help amazingly creative souls who are ready to surrender get their dazzle back so they rock their world.