Over and over…

July 5, 2013

Boxing glove and inflatable clown

Over and Over…

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

I’ve heard insanity defined as repeating the same actions yet expecting different results. Like playing Whack-a-Mole,” or pounding an inflatable clown, I can pummel away all I want — yet some problems keep popping back up.

On many a Monday morning I’ve thought “Today, I’m going to dedicate 20 minutes to prayer and meditation, no matter what! And on many a Monday night I realize I didn’t get around to it. I say the same thing on Tuesday, then Wednesday, and finally on Sunday I realize: nothing changed. My solution? Get up on Monday and start the whole thing again — only harder.

Given enough replays of this scenario, there comes a time when I have to admit I may not have the power to change this. If not, perhaps the questions aren’t “What’s wrong with me?” or “What’s all my resistance about?”

If I look at the underlying proposition, it comes down to me trying to change me into a better me, according to me. Now, there’s a pattern. Albert Einstein wrote “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So if left to my own devices, using my own best thinking, I don’t have the power to change something, the question could be rephrased as: “Where do I get some power?

Where do you shop for power when you’ve run out?

Above it all

May 18, 2012

Dog balloon floating over fields

Above it All

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

Sometimes I wish I were a balloon, just looking down, far above it all.

And then a small voice in my head says “Holy shit — I’m all by myself up here.”

“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!

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

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…


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!

Admit One

October 12, 2009

Admit One

Admit One

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

I heard a talk by an amazingly gifted speaker this past weekend. This wonderful speaker’s honesty reminded me that the “admitting” I do in recovery about powerlessness, “admitting” my character defects, the “admitting” of harms I may have caused, promptly “admitting” when I’ve been wrong—these all involve “admitting” a force larger than myself into my heart and mind.

Just for today, I’m going to admit the only power that has released me from the self-centered fear and craziness that almost destroyed (and ended) my life. And by the way—that power (a true master of disguises and accents) manifests himself, herself, itself daily, for me, in YOU.* So thank you!

Happy Trails!

*PS A tip of the Hatlo hat for the inspiration for the “ticket” art to RF