Electing to Receive

July 1, 2011

Accepting Help

Accepting Help

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of Happy Destiny”…

Lots of folks have asked “What happened? Where’s the Happy Trudger?” The answer is: mending.

After the bad accident in January [see previous post], about everything that could possibly go wrong did. After multiple surgeries, two months in and out of hospital, a hospital-borne infection, two months convalescing as a shut-in on enough antibiotics and pain meds to kill a football team—The Happy Trudger is trying to bounce back, and hopefully the missives will resume.

In the meantime, some expensive lessons learned:

1. If I need help, I’ll ask for it.

2. If help is offered, I’ll receive it.

3. All I need say in return is “Thank you.”

That’s it!

Happy Trails!

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“That Happened…”

January 12, 2011

"That Happened..."

"That Happened..."

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of Happy Destiny”…

I’m ordinarily a big fan of blizzards, but today this Happy Trudger isn’t at his happiest.

Day before yesterday, I slipped on some black ice beneath some snow in our impossible driveway, and down I went — hard. The moment I landed I thought “God, I’d love to rewind that tape about five seconds or so, please…”

I lay there waiting for the incredible explosion of pain in my right shoulder to subside enough to see if I could get up. A 911 call and a trip to the hospital later, it turns out that the bones in my shoulder did not fare so well — multiple breaks of the shoulder, including fracturing the main bone of my upper arm into ten pieces. In case that wasn’t enough, I’m right-handed.

I’m gathering myself for surgery tomorrow morning. They’re going to be doing quite a patch-work job, complete with steel plates and screws. The pain from this injury is intense. I gather the post-surgical picture is a long and painful one: I’m taking medication for pain as prescribed and they’re barely making a dent. If it weren’t for Dragon Dictate, no way I could write this post, and I’m really not sure when I’ll be able to write the next one.

As tempting as it is to become lost in the sea of pain, fear, anxiety, shame and resentment around serious injury and medical trauma, I feel strangely accepting about these circumstances—and I don’t think it’s the pain killers. It’s as if a voice was saying to me “Well, that happened.”

I’ve received blessings from friends and family expressing love, prayers and generosity. I’m very fortunate to have good, caring medical professionals around me — I was treated to my first 911 ambulance ride, which was pretty exciting. My business clients have for the most part been understanding and patient as well, at least up to now.

I’m impelled by hard circumstances into a graceful acceptance that I am powerless over so much, but that I can ask for help when I need it, and the help — in often unpredictable form — will arrive. I’d rather move forward in acceptance and grace than in fear, resentment and self-pity, and I’m getting plenty of practice.

Happy salted and sanded trails!

PS Monday was 01.10.2011, a pretty interesting date. It’s also the binary way of writing the number “27.” What 27 has to do with any of this, I’m still waiting to figure out — but you can bet I’ll be counting!

Queen for a Day

December 20, 2010

Queen for a Day

Queen for a Day

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of Happy Destiny”…

Are you old enough to remember the TV show “Queen for a Day?” It’s my front-runner for “sickest game show of all time.”

On air in the 50’s and 60’s, it was hosted by one-time carnival barker Jack Bailey. The female-only contestants took turns telling the live audience their life story. Typically, each tale was one of unspeakable woe, complete with paralyzed children, finacial crises, dead spouses, health disasters and impending doom in general.

Afterward, Bailey would hold his hand over each woman’s head and ask the audience to clap for the one who had the most moving, wretched account of misery and tragedy. The “Clap-Meter” would register who got the loudest applause and that woman would be crowned “Queen for a Day.” The Queen would then be crowned, wrapped in fur and seated on a throne by scantily-clad models. Prizes included wheelchairs, appliances, hospital beds, and hundreds of other sponsored products.

And no, I am not making this up.

I LOVED Queen for a Day.* I still play it! I might take turns with a friend, competing over how many awful things have happened to us so far that day. If I hear a stranger complain in a store, I might see it as an obvious invitation to top it with worse grievances. When some well-intentioned poor soul asks “How are you?” I might forget that in most cases, it’s a rhetorical question. I’ll grab the opportunity to spin out my “Injustices of the Week” candidates.

And so on. No cash or prizes, really, other than a look on the other person’s face that says “Wow — it must suck to be you.” Yay — I win! That, and the feelings of justification over the mountains of resentments or self-pity I’ve accrued.

It’s a hell of a way to live, folks.

So, I’m boycotting today’s episode of Queen for a Day. I’m skipping over sharing Prayers of Pity, practicing Sympathy-Sucking 101, or writing the screenplay to The Never-Ending Bummer.

Instead, I’m going to do what has been suggested to me by people who appear to be far happier than I am: I’m focusing on Acceptance (of what is), Gratitude (for what I have), and Humility — (sadly, AGH is not a great acronym) which I currently define as “doing the next right thing, with grace.” If I run into you, I’ll let you know how the day is going.

Happy trails!

* PS  According to Wikipedia, as was customary practice for networks of the time, the films for the series Queen for a Day were destroyed. Only eight episodes are known to have survived, including one special segment (guest-hosted by the actor Adolph Menjou) which allowed a “King for a Day” to finally get in his fair share of kvetching.

The Serenity Flowchart

November 5, 2010

The Serenity Flowchart

The Serenity Flowchart

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of Happy Destiny”…

Most everyone has heard of The Serenity Prayer.* It’s used to help calm ourselves down before we go and do something incredibly stupid. Everyone seems to agree it works well.

Once in awhile, however, it doesn’t seem to fit. Sometimes I’m not in a prayerful mood. Maybe my left brain has kicked in with an attack of “S.O.O.T.” (Sudden-Onset Over-Thinking). I may have an unpleasant flareup from the pain and unsightly itch of Agnosticism… or perhaps I’m just having one of those “My-Will- Be-Done” days.

When I’ve amazed myself struggling to change the things I can’t, or wallowed in the misery of not changing the things I can, looking back I see that nine times out of ten before I started I faced a much bigger problem: I couldn’t tell the difference.

From that point of view, one could make the case that the Serenity Prayer is backwards. After all, courage is absolutely fabulous, and I’m a big cheerleader for serenity, but don’t we have to have wisdom first?

That’s why I created the Serenity Flowchart. Using this, I eliminate those pesky “false starts,” getting all worked up over a pointless struggle, or those embarrassing bouts when I watch everything crumbling around me and do nothing. Now I ask for wisdom right off the bat, and I know without wasting time or energy whether to get busy, or to just lean back and chill!

Happy Trails!

*P.S. The Serenity Prayer (in its best-known form) reads: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.” As serenity goes, it has a significantly better track record than the Serenity Flowchart above.

Labor Day

September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day

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

I don’t know about you, but part of me doesn’t like Labor Day* Monday—not one bit. It feels like the “End-0f-Fun-Day.” Labor Day means:

Summer’s over.
No more beach swims.
No more warm nights.
No more fresh-picked fruit.
I’ve got to get a kid off to school.
(Or, worse still: “I’ve got to teach school.”)
Work is going to be a bear tomorrow.
I’ve got to pay a gazillion bills.
I have to get back on a diet.
I better make more money or else.
No more veggies right off the vine.
I’ll be living on canned chili soon.
I have to put away air conditioners.
My back hurts already.
The trees are dying!
My sinuses are acting up.
I’ve got to sort through clothes.
I have to start blowing dead leaves.
I’ve got to get heating oil.
The furnace needs a clean-out, too.
So does the fridge.
Do I need medication for this?
It’s already dark at 8—soon it’ll be 4.

And on, and on… the inside of my head starts to sound like a wood chipper.

When I get like that, it feels like the fun ends promptly tonight at 11:59. Nevermind actual labor—I’m tired just thinking about it.

What if, whenever I get myself worked up into a snit, what if a miracle were to happen? What if I were to see—for instance—a beautiful sunset? It could happen. It could be tonight. Tonight’s sunset might be more perfect than any painting I’ve seen. It could be the kind of sunset that stops everything, reminding me that beneath the surface of this list of overwhelming things I’m powerless to control, perhaps there is beauty, perfection, rhythm, grace and order to all of it.

It might be at that point that I remember: “Oh, that’s right—I’m in a process of change.” I might be reminded that I’m moving from a life of keeping a close eye on what’s wrong, to one of appreciating every moment of what’s right. It could be that this particular sunset might remind me that it’s not my job to stack up every obstacle I can possibly foresee and then conclude it’s all too much.

This perfect sunset might remind me that my job is to turn and face the perfect sunset. My “assigned labor” for this Labor Day might be to let the setting sun wash over and through me. Perhaps, one day at a time, I’ll be shown a way to experience joy and happiness inside, no matter what my external circumstances. After all—tomorrow is just another day.

Maybe I’ll remember my manners and just say, “Thank you, and good night.”

Happy trails!

* PS A little Labor Day history: the holiday was originally created in the 1890’s to mollify enraged labor unions after some 12,000 soldiers and lawmen descended on Illinois (at the bidding of railway owners) to break up a railroad strike. The strike, which turned violent, was deemed by then President Grover Cleveland to be “interfering with the delivery of the U.S. Mail.” They made sure the mail got through, all right, opening fire on the crowd and killing 13 workers and wounding dozens more. Maybe they should have called it “The Mail Must Go Through” Day. Something to bear in mind when I receive Tuesday’s mail—whatever it may bring.

The End of My Rope

August 17, 2010

The End of My Rope

The End of My Rope

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

How are you in a pinch?

I’m pretty good in an overt crisis. Maybe not so good after a long bout of “little pinches.” Give me three, four, six setbacks in a row, and I start to feel like I’m going to lose it. Sometimes at that moment a stranger volunteers to help my recovery along by running a red light and almost killing me. It’s even better if they go on their merry way and never realize I was there. As I am about to reach the proverbial end of my rope, I open up my trusty toolbox of coping skills, and voila: the only tool left is a hammer. And as it’s been said “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Sometimes, though, when life gets on my last nerve and I’m about to bite the head off a chicken, I’m served up with a gentle reminder that there is a different path. The other day I heard a fellow traveler share:

“God is at the end of my rope.”

That hit me in the head, just like a hammer.

Other than being pounded into helplessness, what else could lead me to a different way of living? What else but pain could get me to search for things like humility, honesty, openness, willingness… service! Somehow I don’t think that accolades, wealth, success and adoration over whatever I felt like doing at any given moment would do the trick. Other than complete defeat and surrender, what could possibly force me to acknowledge the mess I’ve made, ask for help, and accept the help that’s offered? *

Powerlessness may not feel great all the time, but I it feels better than madness, chaos and destruction. Just for today, I can accept the help where I find it. I can stay humble and teachable. I can learn to experience joy in accepting life “on life’s terms.” After all, I don’t have to live it—I get to live it.

When I do that—what a ride.

Happy trails!

PS * “We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength. Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.”

— from Step One in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

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.