Better Fellas

April 28, 2010

Better Fellas

Better Fellas

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

I was speaking with a friend about the unique quality women have for sharing intimacy. She told me, “Put three or more women together, and there’s healing going on.” I thought it was remarkable. I told her, “There’s another old saying: ‘Put three or more men together, and there’s farting going on.’ ” “Or belching,” she offered.

Other than gastric releases, suffice to say that we men do not open up easily. Why? That could fill many a book (and has), but the short version is: we were trained, and we learned our lessons well. Given my history, I don’t have compelling reasons to trust men. They have these funny habits of beating me up after school, going into the hospital and never coming out, not listening, stealing my money, smacking me when I disappoint them, leaving and not returning, getting drunk or high, turning abusive or violent, correcting me, outsmarting me, borrowing money and disappearing, taunting me in school, hitting me in the face, embarrassing me, stealing girlfriends, defeating me in sports, gloating about it, ripping me off in business, cutting my car off after passing on the right, and even getting sick and dying on me after I have come to love them.

I’ve been to men’s twelve-step meetings, mixed meetings, gay meetings, and even a lesbian meeting once by accident (they said “You can stay,” and we had a nice time—it was California. We had shared interests). Thanks to the traditions, they have by and large felt safe.

Lately, men’s meetings in particular have made a huge impression on me. It’s been incredibly healing to experience men in recovery who are willing to “lead with their weakness” and take the chance to show a vulnerable side. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity not just to take part in profoundly moving recovery with men, but to come to trust them—and myself—enough to socialize outside of meetings, make calls, go to events and activities, share meals and just get to know these amazing, smart, often damaged, willing and honest, always complex and astonishingly brave creatures—men. Which, I guess, includes me. So today I feel especially grateful…

I have meetings with strong traditions that give me the safety to be open and honest.

I have male friends in recovery who are “serious as a heart attack” about change—but haven’t lost their sense of humor.

I have sponsors who have learned pretty much everything there is to know about me, yet haven’t given up and left.

I have a higher power available who sometimes speaks to me directly through these capable, crazy and courageous men.

I have a program that is there to help me change into a better man than I ever hoped I could be.*

Happy trails!

*PS  In the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson tells Helen Hunt that he is going to get the help he needs to get better:

Jack: “I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true.”

Helen: “I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful.”

Jack: “Okay, here I go.” [pause]…  “You make me want to be a better man.”

Helen: [pause] “That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.”

Jack: “Well, maybe I overshot a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out.”

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The Deer Is The Headlights

The Deer Is The Headlights

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

This weekend I found myself—once again—being tailgated. This is an average morning experience in our town, where getting a cup of coffee is a competitive experience. I tried my best to ignore it. As we went on for several miles my resentment started mounting. Soon, I was ogling his front grill in my mirror. I fantasized about locking up my brakes and turning his pretty new Audi into conceptual art.* In frustration, I reached up to set the rear-view mirror to night-time to block my view of his car. And that’s when it happened.

A young buck shot out of the woods from my left on a dead run. The deer raced past my front grill, missed the front of my car by maybe five feet, and raced into the woods on the right and was gone. Over. I didn’t have time to swerve or brake. I didn’t even have time to think the word “deer” much less shriek “Holy Mother of God on a Bicycle.” If this had been a movie set with professional stunt drivers and animal wranglers, they couldn’t have timed it better.

I was in shock, and rolled to the next stop sign just trying to settle the adrenaline down. As I sat there, the majesty of the moment dawned on me. I got out of my car and walked back to the Audi. I wasn’t going to rip the wiper blades off his car. I wasn’t even mad. I actually don’t know what I was doing—I just couldn’t let this moment go unacknowledged. The driver rolled down his window.

I said “Did you see that?” And he said “I sure did.” I told him “I was so busy looking at your car in my mirror, I wasn’t looking where I was going. It’s a miracle I didn’t hit that deer.” He said “Sorry, I didn’t think I was that close.” I said “I have no idea why I didn’t slam into that deer. Then, you would have probably hit me, and we’d both have wrecked cars and one dead deer.” He wasn’t going there. He just said “Wow. He was beautiful. Did you see the antlers on him?”

I couldn’t even get mad, it was all too perfect. I drove away looking up (I’m not sure why that’s where I look) repeating to whoever might be listening, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…”

So, just for today, I get it. Just when I think my Higher Power has pulled a disappearing act, I am reminded in a blessed way that whenever I’m really really busy paying attention to what someone else is doing wrong, the chances are very good I’m not paying attention to where I’m going. I’m also not seeing what’s right in front of me—or behind me. And sometimes those things, which might at first glance seem like objects of stress, worry or fear, are instead messages of incredible beauty, examples of pure truth that can bring understanding and connection. And, reminders that my Higher Power doesn’t always find it necessary to hit me in the head with a frying pan to make sure I find some gratitude. It’s often dependent only on my point of view.

Or, as I’ve heard it said “We get a daily reprieve based on our spiritual condition.”

Happy Trails!

PS  I once read an insurance company report on accidents that surprised me. Can you guess what the study reported as the number one cause of aggressive driving and road rage that led to accidents involving serious damage, injury or death? It was people leaving their home ten minutes late.

From the Desk of…

April 22, 2010

From the Desk of...

From the Desk of...

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

How’s 2010 shaping up for you so far? I’ve been having a challenging time of it. It may have to do with my avoiding some “Good orderly direction” I received some time ago. It was gently suggested to me that I might want to write a “Letter to God” [Shorthand for: a Higher Power as I may or may not understand him/her/it].

I thought to myself, “Yes! I must do that! Right after I finish reorganizing the basement, and get that root canal taken care of.” Nonetheless, having been told that the answer to suggestions from our caring guides should be “yes,” I went about it. Guess what: it only took me five minutes. Well… give or take five hours. Er, five weeks, I should have said. Okay: it took me months. Months and months. I’ve lost count how many months. What can I say, postal delivery to God is quite slow in my case. Thoughtfully slow: apparently I tend to do a lot of editing and rewrites, where God is concerned.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when—lo and behold—God wrote back! The response arrived faster than my letter went out. It was suggested to me that I keep the letter from God close at hand. You’re close at hand, aren’t you? So, here it is—and hey: I’m showing you mine—feel free to show me yours.

Happy trails!

PS  Today’s Quiz: What’s the first thing one should say to God? Answer: Good morning.

Here’s the text of the letter in the image above

Thanks for writing. I know it wasn’t easy. I know you find it difficult and embarrassing to ask for help. I am touched that you reached out.

You work so hard. You expend tremendous energy.  The intensity of your struggle takes so much of your life force to keep up. Holding on to those grievances, to your losses, to the familiarity of emptiness, to predictability instead of delight in surprise, to putting compresses on painful old wounds using those remedies which stopped working years ago, just because they’re the only cures you know how to apply on your own… it must be exhausting.

You wake up feeling such weight. Your heart cries out that you are alone. You feel angry and hurt. You feel shame and regret. You feel you have kept people away who love you. You are astonished and dismayed at how you’ve squandered gifts you’ve been given.

Sometimes, instead of facing your day with gratitude and resolve, you face it in woundedness, in the victimized patterns you grew up with. You mindlessly march down an old road, echoing the chants of voices from deep in your past: “Life is hard, and then you die,” “I’d rather just be by myself,” “Relationships are just too difficult;” instead of openly acknowledging that you deeply need others, and want to feel needed by them as well.

First off, you don’t need to do this alone. I have more than enough energy for both of us.

Second, what have you got to lose? You don’t have to trust. You don’t have to have faith. All you have to do is ask. Ask for trust. Ask for wanting to trust. Ask for faith. Ask for the willingness to receive faith. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for wanting to forgive. If you don’t “want to” forgive yourself or others, then ask for wanting to want to.

Ask for directions. Tell me what you want. I’ll show you how to get it. The signs will surround you. They will be unmistakeable—if you are watching and listening, and feeling.

Stay sober in every sense of the word. I really want you to live a sober, meaningful life — it’s not a moral question for me. It’s a question of sight, of vision. If you’re not living in a sober and serene manner, you’ll have blinded yourself. If you’re blind, you’ll miss all my directions, guidances and messages of great beauty and love. You might find yourself down a wrong path again—and at that moment you’ll turn to me and ask, “How did I get here?” Make your spiritual condition your most important job.

Do all this one moment, one hour, one day at a time… but start in this moment. I have all the time in the world. Literally.  You don’t..

Bee Afraid

April 16, 2010

Fear of Bees

Bee Afraid

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

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I admit it: I’m scared of stuff. As some may remember, underwater weeds pose problems for me. Also, the dark: I’m a big boy, but not a big fan.

But nothing compares with how I feel about bees. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m allergic. I was swarmed by yellow-jackets as a camper — maybe 12 stings on a nine-year-old will do it. All I know is, bees turn my pulse into a jackhammer, I salivate like Pavlov’s favorite dog, and my legs start running without asking me which direction.

I understand, at least intellectually. I have “apiphobia.” I get it. Bees typically only bother humans who disturb them. Bees are blessed creatures. They’re important to the planet, they’re endangered. I like their honey, too. And, I think they’re amazing and beautiful.

Perhaps I could probably find treatment that might help. But that won’t cure all the other stuff that freaks me out…

  1. Fear of going broke
  2. Fear of crashing the car
  3. Fear of getting cancer
  4. Fear of being abandoned
  5. Fear of feeling embarrassed or foolish
  6. Fear of dying alone in a nursing home in a puddle of pee
  7. Fear of being paralyzed from the neck down
  8. Fear of being paralyzed from the neck up
  9. Fear of being misunderstood or falsely accused
  10. Fear of a heart attack
  11. Fear of Fox News becoming “the most trusted name in news”
  12. Fear of having the Red Sox win another series

The list goes on and on. I feel my throat constrict, the hairs on my neck stand up, and chills literally go down my spine. So what’s a boy to do?

I read the other day that there are twelve steps designed to help with fear. I understand that the fourth one (which reads “4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,”) has a special slot reserved for fears: a column just to the right of “resentments.” Huh?!? What’s that got to do with moral inventories? But as I begin to I write them down, I engage in a time-tested process — of change. Maybe that leads to a lessening, or even an end to these fears.

I heard someone once say, “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”

Are these extravagant promises?

[What do you think?]

Happy trails!

One WHAT at a Time?

April 14, 2010

One What at a Time

One What at a Time?

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

I set about this morning arranging how I plan to tackle all of my problems at once. There’s nothing like tackling a tax return to give myself the feeling that all my problems are mounded up into one huge sticky ball that’s about to run me over. I glanced up and saw a little post-it note over my desk. Someone wrote it and stuck it there, I don’t know who — but the handwriting looks suspiciously like mine. The post-it note reads:
“it’s one DAY at a Time”
It occurs to me… if that’s what “It” IS, then what is “It” NOT? For instance, I suspect that “It” is NOT…

One Overwhelming Project at a Time.
One Dysfunctional Relationship at a Time.
One Hell of a Year at a Time.
One Frustrating Diet at a Time.
One Soured Friendship at a Time.
One Time of the Month at a Time.
One Impossible Budget at a Time.
One Empty Marriage at a Time.
One Crippling Exercise Regimen at a Time.
One Impossible Boss at a Time.
One Heartbreaking Divorce at a Time.
One Long Overdue Thesis at a Time.
One Week That Will Never End at a Time.
One Delusional Business Plan at a Time.
One Torturous Job Interview at a Time.
One Unecessary Certification Test at a Time.
One Lousy Homework Assignment after Another at a Time.
One Date From Hell at a Time.
One Unbalanced Checkbook at a Time.
One Overly Long Self-Evident Self-Help Book at a Time.
One Deranged Narcissistic Client at a Time.
One Self-Involved Teenaged Child at a Time.
One Two-faced Co-worker at a Time.
One Diabolical Government Plot at a Time.One More Fine Mess I’ve Gotten Myself Into Again at a Time.
or…
One Tax Return* at a Time.

So, just for today, I’ll acknowledge the messengers, miracles, signs and spirits — and post-it notes — that come into my life every day, reminding me that: I’ll be okay. There is enough. I have enough. I am enough. I am loved, and I am worth working it, One Day at a Time.

Happy Trails!

PS. * A quote for the day: “Friends and neighbors complain that taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might the more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.” — Benjamin Franklin