The Muse

October 26, 2009

The Muse

The Muse

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…

Do you ever get the urge to create—a work of art, a dance, an invention—a solution to a problem? Have you had trouble capturing an idea and giving it life? Been unable to start, or move forward—or finish? Perhaps it might shine one day, and suck the next? It’s an interesting process, isn’t it?

I’ve been sending out these “happy trudgers” writings (and, lately, drawings) for some time now. Sharing these has been helpful for me. I hope folks enjoy them. Creating these stories can be a challenge—even painful (“Think how we feel,” some might say). The “committee” of voices clang away in my head, ranging from self-centered pride when I hear “You should turn these into a book!” to nagging doubt and hopeless self-loathing, especially when someone emails and says “Take me off this list.” Inflated ego and low self-esteem, once again doing battle on the wet fields of one’s spongy little brain. I’d sell tickets, but who would come?

I’m learning to experience the changing nature of this process through the prism of personal change: in short, to “come to believe” that the creative process is a way of connecting to you, to myself, to the universe and the forces that surround and permeate everything. Note that I wrote process, not product—I’m not claiming my stories are the channeled word of God. Believing that could pose real problems. For instance, what if it turns out they’re the channeled word of Gary, a personal trainer from Lodi, New Jersey? What if I later learned that I’ve been manifesting “The Word of Gary”?

How embarrassing would that be?

Whatever the source, suffice to say that for me there is delicious mystery involved.

If you want to explore the terrain where creativity and spirituality flow together* (and let’s not restrict creativity to “the arts”) I want to recommend a funny, touching, inspirational and (for me) transformative talk by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) at the legendary TED (Technology, Education and Design) conference. Fifteen minutes that changed my day but good.

Have a cup of tea, sit back and relax, and as they say, “Wait for it…”

Happy trails!

J.

* PS If you’re interested, you might also want to check out http://www.artsanonymous.org, a twelve-step recovery group that focuses on the connection to creativity in every aspect of our lives.

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Sharing Crazy

October 22, 2009

Sharing Crazy

Sharing Crazy

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road to happy destiny“…

What’s your problem? Have you got it figured out?

I love to share my problems. Well, actually, I love to share stories about problems I’ve already solved. The funnier the better. Add in a dose of clever, poignant and insightful, and I’m a happy camper. Just don’t ask me to talk about the problems that might still be killing me.

This morning, I happened upon a 2-for-1 sale: I read something* that really spoke to me. Then, just in case I might have “missed the memo,” a friend called and asked permission to read something to me: of course it was the very same passage. I already had the book open on my desk, so as I was thinking, “Huh… I wonder if this really does pertain to me…” I followed along.

The reading was about (I’m paraphrasing here) how many of us resort to storytelling rather than share our experiences from the heart — reveal our struggles, and the very real pain we might be in. The conclusion of the reading was: “It may feel like an enormous risk, but talking honestly about the situation is the key to healing.”

It was a great reminder that although I may have grown up in situations where being honest and open wasn’t safe, and perhaps being entertaining, clever, satyrical or ironic was, and most treasured of all was having the answer to the question, I finally have places to go and people to be with who allow me to be safe even when I’m crazy, or dead wrong—recovering with my brothers and sisters on this “road of happy destiny.”

I’ve heard it said that sometimes people whose share things that might sound really crazy may be the very ones who are growing and changing the most. So… does that means that if I sound really crazy, you’ll be really impressed with my progress? No, not quite. I think it means that, just for today, I’ll ask for some willingness: the willingness to be honest and open—even if I’m feeling pretty nuts—if that’s what I need to do to get better. So, nuts to both of us!

Happy trails!

J.

* PS “The paradox of self-honesty is that I need the help of others to achieve it. I need their support to explore my feelings and motives, and to see that others have benefited from taking this great risk.”

Rose-colored Glasses

October 14, 2009

Rose-colored Glasses

Rose-colored Glasses

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road of happy destiny”…

I had a blessed day yesterday: a great meditation, a lovely meeting, some healthy reading, I got together with pals, had genuine heartfelt communications, enjoyed a warm fire and shared some music and laughter. I enjoyed the company of a dear friend who loves life, and tries to live it as if “looking through rose-colored glasses.”

Today I woke up feeling scared, overwhelmed and tired, and found myself wondering why. The “tired” part may be easily solved—strapping on a feedbag of M&Ms at nine o’clock at night isn’t an act of pure genius—unless you consider alphabetizing your underwear at 12am time well spent. But I digress…

Why, when I get a taste of the miraculous joy, freedom and connection that comes from shedding old patterns and building new relationships, developing healthy habits, feeling useful, needed, respected, and getting excited about things to come… why would I screw with that? Why stop doing “the next right thing”? Why do I so often find myself lost—again—in compulsive cleaning, silly distractions (YouTube, that includes you), brain-dead fiction, eating when I’m not hungry, mind-numbing television, even the wrong work project or tackling the bottom item on my To-Do list?

Why would I stop trusting in my routine, in my program, in you—in my Higher Power?

Is it just that it’s unfamiliar? I’ve always said that some of us in recovery would prefer a hell we know to a heaven we’d have to get used to.
Is it that more will be expected of me? Do I have doubts about my ability to meet those expectations?
Is it that the ground beneath my feet feels as if it’s moving? Does that trigger childhood feelings of disquiet, being ill-at-ease, being “the new kid”?
Does it feel like a masquerade, when I have to tackle untried skills in my new life?

It occurs to me as I write this that having days where faith and trust are accompanied by doubt and misgivings isn’t unusual for any of us. One day at a time, I might have a miraculous day, a good day, a mediocre day, a bad day, or even a tragic day—but it’s moving forward with the right course of action—in spite of the fact that I have doubts about it—that’s what’s needed to get better. We undertake, as I’ve heard it said, “a series of actions that don’t look they will work… until we try them.”

Maybe my rose-colored glasses don’t feel like a perfect fit. Maybe I’m worried that as my vision changes, I’ll miss something. Maybe I’m worried I won’t look good. Maybe if everything is in the Pink, I’ll miss the chance to see Red. Maybe I’ll miss being Green with envy, or have everything seem Black. Or maybe I’ll miss resenting with a Purple passion, or wallowing in the Blues. Orange you relieved I couldn’t think of a colorful expression for Orange?

So, just for today, I’m going to remember what Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Happy trails!

Admit One

October 12, 2009

Admit One

Admit One

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road of happy destiny”…

I heard a talk by an amazingly gifted speaker this past weekend. This wonderful speaker’s honesty reminded me that the “admitting” I do in recovery about powerlessness, “admitting” my character defects, the “admitting” of harms I may have caused, promptly “admitting” when I’ve been wrong—these all involve “admitting” a force larger than myself into my heart and mind.

Just for today, I’m going to admit the only power that has released me from the self-centered fear and craziness that almost destroyed (and ended) my life. And by the way—that power (a true master of disguises and accents) manifests himself, herself, itself daily, for me, in YOU.* So thank you!

Happy Trails!

*PS A tip of the Hatlo hat for the inspiration for the “ticket” art to RF

Dead But Still Right

October 10, 2009

Dead But Still Right

Dead But Still Right

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road of happy destiny”…

Lately, I’ve been growing weary of these so-called “Twelve Steps” everyone keeps talking about. I don’t like being “told like it is” by wise, knowing advisors, well-wishers and “guides” in my spiritual life (sometimes referred to as “sponsors”). Man, sometimes the catchy slogans they offer up like candy just make me want to retch! That’s why I was so relieved to stumble across this new offer, which I’m very excited to share with you:

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Imagine a program that involves NO READING! NO WRITING! NO DEADLINES! Perhaps best of all, you’ll never have to share WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON—with ANYONE!!

At Rent-A-Sponsor, half-measures are our specialty. Just look at some of these features:

  • No constant references to annoying books or steps that don’t look like they’ll work anyway!
  • At Rent-A-Sponsor, we accept all your excuses and rationalizations, with a smile!
  • Work only the Steps YOU want, in the order YOU choose!
  • Our new EDS (“Extended Denial Support”)* is now available (additional monthly fees may apply)
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Why “walk the walk” when you can just “talk the talk?” Why save your ass at the cost of losing your face? At Rent-A-Sponsor, we already agree with everything you have ever thought or said! After all, “It’s better to LOOK good than to FEEL good.”

We believe your plan for living is the best plan we’ve ever heard: just look at you! You look great, and we think you sound great, too! We want to hear all about it, so be sure to explain your philosophy of life to us, over and over again, in excruciating detail! (additional monthly fees may apply).

If you act now, we will include our “Fourth-Step Writing Service.” Yes, at Rent-A-Sponsor we take your inventory for you! WE share it with a God of OUR understanding. WE share it with another person—one you never have to meet! (additional monthly fees may apply). We mail you your Fourth Step in a plain brown wrapper. You can share it with yourself—or not—in the privacy of your own home!

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If you order before midnight tonight, you’ll receive a free copy of the pamphlet “Recovering on War Stories Alone!”

Happy trails!

*PS The preceding was a paid promotional announcement by River-In-Egypt Accomodations Inc.

Conscious Contact

October 9, 2009

Conscious Contact

Conscious Contact

Greetings, fellow trudgers* on “the road of happy destiny”…

Do you do prayer and meditation? How’s it going for you? Me, I have my ups and downs. Sometimes a little Ravi Shankar helps, some sandalwood incense, maybe start with re-runs of Kung Fu.

This morning in a group meditation, I couldn’t get with it. I tried breathing, then I stopped. Ha ha. I focused on a mantra—but it was so freakin’ repetitive. I tried connecting but “I couldn’t get with the flow, dude—too many negative waves.” It got me thinking how much trouble I’ve had all my life connecting with a Higher Power. Having a personal sense of a spiritual life—one that might be readily available to me—has not come easily.

I felt frustrated. I tried to remain still and kept my eyes closed. I was thinking spiritual stuff like “How soon do I need an oil change?” But after a bit I did drift off. I found myself in a vivid day-dream. I was seeking out a Higher Power. In the dream, I learned that God was in a house. I went to visit the house, a cute little Tudor affair with half-timber and stucco, leaded windows. I thought, “Nice house God’s got. Cute.” OK, so my daydreams come with architectural detailing… go figure.

I went up the walkway to this big wooden door. Solid mahogany, iron strap hinges, cast-brass lion’s head knocker, big brass doorknob. “Say what you want, God is not cheap,” I thought. I knocked on the door. No answer. I rapped with my knuckles again, harder this time. Still nothing. I waited a bit, and then grabbed the big knocker and clapped it down a few times. “Is anyone home?” I called out. No response, no sound at all. “Hello!! Anybody there?” Nothing.

“That’s just great,” I thought. “Nobody home. Another stupid daydream, total waste of time.” I started to get ticked off. I was thinking “Here I am, I take the time and trouble to visit God, and no one even answers the door. How perfect is that?” I stood in front of the door and called out one more time, gave up and headed back down the walkway. When I looked back at the house, it was as still as when I’d walked up.

By the time I reached the sidewalk, I was getting really pissed. Unfortunately I also wasn’t looking where I was going (those two things seem to go together for me). I tripped on a huge crack in the sidewalk, landing on my hands and knees. Now I was mad, and hurt. I yelled “Goddammit!” and I thought I heard faint laughter, but when I listened I could only hear some stupid dog start barking, which only fueled my anger and embarrassment. I wanted to yell “Shut up!” but I figured I’d look even more foolish.

I skulked down the street, fuming, lost in thought about how unavailable God has been to me all my life. All these crummy things that have happened to me, all the disappointments, the losses. Where’s God been through all of that?!? Why even bother…

When I looked up I realized that I was now totally lost. This threw me into an even worse state—a total snit. I’m not great with directions, and it drives me crazy. I stomped along, muttering and cursing. After I wandered around for a bit, I looked up only to find the same Tudor house, but now it was across the street. I’d gone several blocks, but in a big circle. Now I was really mad. I stormed back up the walkway, determined to make something happen in this dumb daydream. I grabbed the big lion’s head knocker and slammed it down. “Open UP!” I yelled. I thought I heard a sound from inside, like muffled laughter. That got on my last nerve, and I reached down and grabbed the big doorknob, turned it, and opened the door. It swung inward, and there, standing in the foyer with his dog, was God.

He was doubled over in laughter. “Ohhhhh, ha-ha-ha, that was too funny! Oh, my ME! O.M.M.!!!” he cried, tears of laughter running down his cheeks. “Get it?!?! OMM?!?” He was really cracking himself up. “The look on your face!!! Ahhaaa-haa-haaa!” He was roaring with laughter, pointing at me and saying “I wish you could have seen your face!! Ohh-ho-ho-haa-ha-haaaaa…”

I was really angry. “Why didn’t you just open the door?!?” I yelled.

He gathered himself together, and walked up to me. “Look at my side of the door…. see?” I looked and the entire inside of the big door was perfectly smooth, no hinges, no fixtures… no knob. With a huge smile (he has very nice teeth), his eyes all crinkled up with glee, he said “See? There’s no knob on this side. I can’t open this door from this side.” He leaned in closer with that big smile and said, “You’re the only one who can.”

So, I came in, we had some tea and a nice chat. I met his dog, who turns out to be pretty nice, too. Really cute, kind of a border collie-mutt mix with an adorable bandana, goes by the name of Puck.

Happy trails!

* PS  Some folks have asked where the bit about “trudging the road of happy destiny” comes from. It’s the last paragraph of The Big Book, (before the stories), page 164:

“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you and keep you—until then.”