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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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!

J.

* 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

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!

Let Me Out of My Way

November 1, 2009

Let Me Out of My Way

Let Me Out of My Way

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

Today, a war story. Some years ago, friends and I crashed a fraternity party at a local university. As the evening’s “designated driver” (back then we called it “the short straw”) it was my job at the close of festivities to herd the primates safely back to The Zoo (our school, a humble institution that couldn’t afford luxuries like frat houses, classes—or grades).

At the head count, I couldn’t find Michael. The last anyone had seen of him, he had mumbled something about being “too hammered,” and wandered off, presumably to catch a quick “Barf ‘N Nap.”

After a brief safari, I found him in the frat house basement. The room was decorated in the style I refer to as “early psychedelic dungeon”—Hendrix and Dead posters, black lights, colored bulbs (the reprise of disco balls being a ways off still), pounding music—and Michael. He was passed out cold in a nastily frayed and stained Queen Anne chair. I yelled over the music, “Michael, we have to go!” but he didn’t budge. I yelled louder and shook his shoulder, still no response. So, I screamed “MICHAEL!!” and whacked him upside the head, us being close and all.

That time I think he heard me. His eyes exploded open, he lunged up and grabbed me by the shirt, flailing his arms around and dragging me with him. I tried to steady us before we went down in a looming puddle of beer, and he turned to me in a fit and shouted…

“LET ME OUT OF MY WAY!!!”

Years have passed, but not much time goes by one of us doesn’t remind Michael of that now-famous line. Lately that idea keeps coming up for me: indeed, please do—let me out of my way.

Whether I use words like “compulsive self-reliance,” “Let Go and Let God,” “Turn it over,” or the hundred other euphemisms I’ve heard for the Third Step in the Twelve Steps of Recovery (“3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”), the message remains the same: left to my very own best thinking, I ended up needing help in more rooms of recovery than I can count on one hand. And I have seven fingers on one hand. Do the math.

Sometimes I’m blessed to get useful reminders—both gentle and not—of some basic facts:

1. I am not the architect of the arc of my life

2. I am not the “director” of this particular production [for more on this see the AA Big Book, “How It Works,” pp 60-62]

3. I am not in charge of you, him, them, it—or anyone or anything else

It is then that I remember that I’m not powerless. I always have the power to resist changing. I have the power to deny that I need help from  you, from recovery, from a Higher Power. I have the power to forget to pray and meditate, to rationalize missing recovery meetings or reading literature. I have the power to indefinitely postpone working on a step. I have the power to refuse to grow up. I have the power to avoid the “hundred pound phone” and isolate when I most need to reach out for help. I am powerful indeed.

I’m blessed to be reminded of these things on a daily basis (sometimes via the “tiny miracle,” but more often via the “total screwup”). I begin to open the door to let powers greater than myself in. From there, I’m more able to receive and accept the direction, strength and hope that leads me to peace of mind, blessed connectedness to you, and great joy in being able to fully experience all of it—the ups and the downs—wherever I am in this most amazing process of change.

In every case, it’s about me getting out of my own way…

Happy trails!