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.

Survival Guide

November 24, 2010

Survival Guide

Survival Guide

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

thanks |θa ng ks| |θøŋks| plural noun
• an expression of gratitude: festivals were held to give thanks for the harvest |
• a feeling of gratitude: they expressed their thanks and wished her well.
|θa ng k|verb [trans.]
• to express gratitude by saying “Thank you”: Robert gave thanks for the meal and left.

giving |giv’·ing| adjective
• to turn over control to someone without cost or exchange; to make a gift of
• to relay | pass along
• to have the tendency to give: Mary was a loving and giving person.

I’ve heard it said that recovery is a three-part process: Thanksgiving*, Christmas and New Year’s.

In order to navigate these minefields I need a “Survival Guide to the Holidays.” My Survival Guide starts with lists. Not the lists of Resentments I have carefully squirrelled away, nor the lists of Grievances I want resolved (or aired!), nor the list of “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” against which I plan to take up arms.

I was reminded by a friend today that holiday sanity starts with observing the name: “thanks-giving.” If I can make a list of Things to Give Thanks For (“gratitudes”), even grudgingly, I feel resentments (real or imagined) start to melt away.

When I list Things I Freely Forgive (whether I mean it or not isn’t critical) I feel my grievances lifting, and I remember the feeling of serenity.

When I list Things I Can Do to Be of Service (including acts that will not be found out), it’s in this giving that I experience the frightened, self-centered person inside of me diminish — as they say, “self-seeking will slip away.”

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! If things get rough, try Robert’s technique above (the final example for the word “thanks”).

Happy trails!

* PS Thanksgiving trivia – although primarily a North American holiday, there are countless other harvest festivals. Here are just a few of them…  Lughnasadh – Ireland [Celtic]; Dozynki (Poland); Guldize (Cornwall UK); Emtedank (Germany); Dongmaeng (Korea); Crop Over (Barbados); Pongal (India); Solung (Himalayas); Ikore (Nigeria); Khuado Pawi (Burma); Mehregan (Iran); Eid Al-Adha (Muslim); Niiname-sai (Japan).

 

Money Money Money

October 18, 2010

Money Money Money

Money Money Money

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

These days, worrying about money seems like the latest dance craze—everybody’s doing it.

We do it in style, too. Some of us hate money, some crave it, some do both at the same time. Some hoard it, others avoid it. We may lie, cheat or steal for it. We may fear a lack of money, or even fear an abundance of it. Some of us judge ourselves by it, or use it to measure others. Some of us pretend it’s beneath us, yet it permeates our secret thoughts. Some of us don’t believe we’re entitled to it, and even find ourselves avoiding it when it’s offered. Some of us live in a constant “state of collision” with others—even our closest loved ones—as we careen about, out of touch, out of balance, and often out of our minds regarding money.

This morning I came across this reflection:

Happiness = Satisfaction ÷ Desires

[Happiness equals Satisfaction divided by Desires]

“Happiness exists when what you want is matched by what you have. If your desires are few, they are easy to satisfy. Are you so obsessed with what you do not have that you miss what you have now? Are your desires so intense that you always have to be striving for more to satisfy them?” *

In the midst of financial fears that blind me to the amazing richness of my life, I can remember that the solution to lack starts with me: building and expressing gratitude for what I have, and building from there. Just for today, I’m grateful to be reminded that:

1. I am rich, healthy, and at peace: I live without war and am in the top 3% for wealth, life expectancy and health among all people who have ever lived.
2. I can breathe: I can close my eyes, take a deep breath and feel peace and life-force flow in.
3. I can see: I can open my eyes to the beauty all around me. I can notice it.
4. I can count: I can ponder, write, meditate, or share a list of positive things I have to be thankful for today.
5. I can give and receive: I can be of service and give to others. If I need help, I can ask for it. If I am offered help, I can receive it with thankfulness and grace.
6. I can decide: I can make up my mind, just for today, right now, to live in gratitude.

When I engage in this process of change and align my desires with what I have instead of being lost in the endless pursuit and worry of aligning what I have with what I want, I start to experience peace, serenity and joy, even in the midst of trying circumstances. I gain clarity about money and business and recognize that they are parts of my spiritual path. I can renew my pursuit of a new life for myself, not out of desperation or fear, but out of a deep desire to live fully, and to give to others.

Happy trails!

*PS – This reflection is part of the Tenth Step work in “A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps” by Dr. Patrick Carnes.

Alligators

October 4, 2010

Alligators

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

Monday mornings are… well, they’re Monday mornings, aren’t they? I could list for hours the components that make up the “up to my ass in alligators” feelings I heap on myself on most Monday mornings.

Luckily for me, I’m blessed to have a wonderful barrier placed between my blessed Sundays and my often overwhelmed or fearful Mondays: a special and intimate scheduled phone meeting that starts every Monday. It’s a rampart, a shield against the “How can I possibly get all this done?” thinking that can pervert and paralyze my best intentions.

In this morning’s conversation a fellow traveler reminded me that it’s not my job to get it all done, or even figure out how. I was blessed to be reminded of the wonderful lines from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love. I call it the “Who are you not to be?” quote… *

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

“Actually, who are you not to be?

“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.

“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Happy trails!

* This quote has been widely misattributed to Nelson Mandela, who was quoted as saying he wished he had said it. Instead, I offer this Mandela quote which I think is also to the point: “In my country we go to prison first and then become President.”

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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.

Warriors

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

Dog With a Bone

January 2, 2010

Dog With a Bone

Dog With a Bone

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

I hope you found joy, connectedness and peace of mind over the holiday season. I did, and I am grateful for it. But I have to add that, personally speaking, it was not easy to do.

Perhaps it’s the pressure I put on myself. Do I think I need to be finding joy, connectedness and peace of mind because it’s the holiday season? Maybe that’s what stresses me out. I wish I could keep things simpler, but that still defies me. However it goes, my favorite part of the holidays continues to be the part where I thank god and say “that’s done for another ten months.”

I was thinking about simplifying things while playing Scrabble. I wanted to spell G-O-D on the board. It didn’t fit, so I had to reverse it, and spelled D-O-G instead. I was frustrated because the D ended up on the triple letter score instead of the G, which led my opponent to gloat terribly.

It got me to thinking about that famous palindrome*, GOD-DOG. I thought, what if a dog were my Higher Power? How bad would that be? Could I learn how to live life happy, joyous and free just by following a dog’s G.ood O.rderly D.irection? I Googled it (of course) and it turns out I’m not the first person to have pondered this. I mashed the ideas I found together, and came up with a new life plan:

If a dog were my Higher Power…

When the people I love came home, I would run to greet them.
I would never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
I would be in ecstasy every time fresh air and wind hit my face.
I would take naps. Lots of naps.
Whenever I’d rise, I would yawn, stretch out, and smile.
I would run, romp, and play every day.
I would thrive on being loved, and let people touch me.
If people touched me in ways I didn’t like, I would let them know.
I wouldn’t bite someone when a simple growl would do.
If I saw a ball – any ball – I would play with it.
On warm days, I would stop and lie on my back in the grass.
On cold days, I would stop and lie on my back in the snow.
On wet days, I would flail around in the rain and not mind a bit.
On hot days, I would drink lots of water.
I would lie under a shady tree.
When I was happy, I’d dance around and wag my entire body.
If someone I love was having a bad day, I’d sit close by until they felt better.
If I were near water, I’d be in the water.
I would delight in the joy of a long walk.
When I walked, I’d hardly be able to restrain myself from running.
I would eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
I would stop when I’ve had enough.
I would be loyal. Incredibly loyal.
I would look the people I love right in the eye.
I wouldn’t be fussy. I’d just make the best of whatever is going on.
I wouldn’t pretend to be something I’m not.
If what I wanted were buried, I’d dig until I found it.
I would always be grateful for each new day.

Happy trails—and Happy Twenty-Ten!

* PS Here’s another palindrome for you: “Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?”