My Way

July 3, 2010

My Way

My Way

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

How are you at asking for help? When it’s offered, how are you at receiving it?

Yesterday was a stressful day, and I didn’t feel like asking for help from anyone or anything. As I surveyed the aftermath of my “compulsive self-reliance,” the results were plain: everything was a mess.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was in pain. The house looked like it had been turned sideways and shaken. I had a spiritual awakening. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should ask for help.

As I went about straightening up (with one arm in a sling) I found myself singing the song “My Way.” It’s a deliciously perverse song, and it got me to thinking, “Who the hell came up with this song — and how well did their way turn out for them?”

Being a perfect way to distract myself from my To-Do List, I turned to a reliable source for compulsive procrastinators: Wikipedia.

It turns out My Way was written by Paul Anka. Paul’s life turned out okay, if you don’t count divorces and lawsuits. Apparently these come with the Famous Singer package. But Paul wrote it for Frank Sinatra, after Frank told Paul he was miserable and wanted to get out of show business.

Frank did it His Way, all right: a long and successful career. He also had three divorces and a life overshadowed with untreated depression and mood disorders that plagued him—and gave him a reputation as a very difficult person—up until his death.

Dorothy Squires, a Welsh singer who grew up in carnival caravans, recorded My Way. It was a huge hit in the UK. She divorced English “James Bond” actor Roger Moore, was convicted for drunk driving, and went on one of the most remarkable litigious benders in British history: 30 legal cases in 15 years. She sued newspapers and other performers. She was charged with bribing a radio station producer to induce him to play her records, and with assault on a taxi driver who tried to throw her out of his cab. All done, one presumes, “Her Way.”

Elvis Presley then recorded My Way (a poignant fact in that he ignored Anka’s advice that the song and Elvis were not a good match). He sang it publicly at what turned out to be his final concert. He went home and died from a drug overdose. The song was released and went on to be a posthumous hit.

Next came Sid Vicious, notorious bassist for the punk band The Sex Pistols. Sid did a punk rock version of My Way. He was then arrested for murdering his girlfriend Nancy in the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Sid attempted suicide in jail and got clean, but several months later after being released on bail, his mother arranged to have some heroin delivered to a party celebrating his return. To show she cared, one would would presume. Sid overdosed and died on the spot.

Much as it’s a catchy tune, I’d have to say “so much for My Way.” *

What is this, the burning desire to do things My Way, in spite of the evidence that My Way simply, plainly, obviously—and often dramatically—does not work?

Is it pride of authorship? The leftovers of damaged trust from childhood? A legacy of Depression-era morality? The burden of cultural stereotypes of “being a man,” of being unique and self-contained?

For my purposes, I’m not sure it matters. However I’m driven to recognize unmanageability, and to admit that I can’t change myself or my life for the better without help, it’s the start, and I’m getting there.

Happy trails!


* PS. Englebert Humperdinck, William Shatner, Tom Jones and Luciana Pavarotti and a host of less remarkable performers also recorded My Way to no particular acclaim. Their lives seemed to have turned out okay. Apparently recording this song with no one noticing doesn’t bear any ill effects. So I’d say it’s safe to sing it, just don’t live it. Here are the lyrics:

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes it was my way


May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Memorial Day 2010

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

On this Memorial Day 2010, I light a candle in loving gratitude to the memory of my father. He served in Europe and the Pacific Theatre in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He oversaw weather planning for operations in Japan with Generals James Doolittle and Curtis LeMay. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, and went on to lead a distinguished career as an Air Force officer. He died in 1962.

I light a candle in loving gratitude to the memory of my uncle who served as a Merchant Marine and was killed aboard his vessel during World War II. I light a candle in loving gratitude to the memory of my uncle, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross flying a P-38 over Germany in World War II. I light a candle in loving gratitude to the memory of my uncle who served in the US Army in Germany in World War II and later as a flight instructor in the Air Force. He went on to race P-51 Mustangs and was a daredevil in the truest sense of the word. He died peacefully at home in 1985.

I light a candle in loving gratitude to the memory of my father-in-law, who piloted B-17’s in the Pacific and European theatres during World War II and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. He went on to great accomplishments as a career officer in the Air Force, including commanding a B-52 bomber wing of USAF Strategic Air Command.

I light a candle in loving gratitude to my uncle who served in combat in the US Navy during World War II. He is enjoying a peaceful life with his family today. I light a candle in loving gratitude to my brother, who piloted an F4 Phantom during the Vietnam war. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. He is enjoying a peaceful life with his family today. I light a candle in loving gratitude to my uncle, who served in the US Air Force during the Korean war. He is enjoying a peaceful life with his family today. I light a candle in loving gratitude to my cousin, who served in the US Coast Guard in the 1970’s. He is enjoying a peaceful life with his family today. I light a candle in loving gratitude to another cousin who served in the US Navy in Cuba and elsewhere in the 1970’s and lost valiant comrades at sea. He is enjoying a peaceful life with his family today.

I light candles in loving gratitude to each of these men: my father, my uncles, my father-in-law, my brother, my cousins. I light a candle in loving gratitude to the patriot Nathan Hale, my ancestor, and to the countless other members of my family who have fought to create and protect this country for almost 400 years. I light these candles to acknowledge all my fellow countrymen who have known dedication and sacrifice beyond my understanding.

I also light a candle in loving memory of my other brother, who chose a different path and instead fought in the streets of our country—with courage befitting a warrior—to help end what he believed were illegal and immoral wars in Southeast Asia. He died in 2008.

I light these candles to acknowledge these gifts I have received: I have lived a life without having to wield a weapon of war, or to have one held against me. I live my life today free from the horror, fear and madness that characterizes all wars.

So, just for today, I honor these brave and unselfish men by choosing to face my life in the fullest way I know: resolved to being mindful and present, accepting of what is, acknowledging my fears with courage, wisdom and serenity, dedicating this day in service to others, and filled with gratitude for the countless gifts I have received from those who came before me.

Happy trails!

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or as a curse.” — from The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Casteneda

Self-Help Library

May 20, 2010

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

As I happily trudge this road, travelers sometimes ask me, “What most inspires you spiritually, besides yourself?” I trace the roots of my spiritual enlightenment to something I found in a Cracker Jacks box, but sadly I can no longer recall what it was.

In the meantime, striving to provide deep and meaningful spiritual inspiration and wisdom to others—or, more likely, the occasional distraction and amusement—this is a burden I grudgingly bear. I felt it was time to share my secret: contrary to some misguided teachings, any of us can become a beacon of spirituality, serenity and wisdom—simply by reading Self-Help* books!

The answers are all there. No uncomfortable “soul-searching,” or embarrassing “confessionals.”  No annoying reminders to surrender what little precious control we have to some amorphous “Higher Power.”

Instead, we can go home, rip out the mailbox, lock the door, pull down the shades, unplug the phone, turn out the lights, grab a flashlight, crawl under the bed covers and read our way to serenity and enlightenment (while we wonder why no one ever calls or writes).

It really works! Provided, of course, we have the right books.

With the growing demand for Self-Help* books, I felt it was only fair to share these titles (soon to be available on the Apple iPad® and Amazon Kindle®) which have given me so much inspiration. They promise to help each of us become the most serene, peaceful and all-knowing person we have ever had the pleasure to know—or at least to give the authors some financial peace of mind. In the meantime, may they help guide you on your journey!

Happy trails!

* PS Two famous quotes on self-help:

“There is “no such thing” as self-help. Anyone looking for help from someone else doesn’t technically get “self” help, and one who accomplishes something without help, didn’t need help to begin with.” — George Carlin
“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” — Steven Wright

Control This

May 12, 2010

Control Chart

Control Chart

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

I’m a list-making type of guy. My to-do list covers things that involve family, health, work, spirit, learning, money, household, creativity, etc. It has colors. It has categories. It is attractive. I spend time on it. I fantasize about managing it. It’s so comprehensive, the only thing missing are check-marks.

This morning I made the mistake of actually looking at the list. There were 200+ tasks. I read somewhere that most people accomplish, on average, about three actual “to-do” list-type tasks per day. That means that, on average, the first thing I do in the morning is treat myself to 197 reminders why I don’t, why I won’t—why I can’t—measure up to my expectations. Ever.

So, I figured, why not rewrite out a list of all things I can actually control, and those I can’t? It turned out that list was a bit lopsided. So much so that it wasn’t even a list anymore—it had to be graphed. That worked! Now I’ve winnowed my to-do list down to the suggested number of items: three.*

To-do Today

1. Ask for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
2. Ask for courage to change the things I can; and
3. Ask for wisdom to know the difference.

Happy trails!

Help Wanted

May 5, 2010

Help Wanted

Help Wanted

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…
For anyone struggling with asking for—or accepting—help from a “Higher Power”, I’ll be happy to share any responses I receive from this Craigslist posting.
Happy trails!

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.”

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.