Codependence Day

July 4, 2010

Declaration of Codependence

Declaration of Codependence

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

This weekend we celebrate Dependence Day, in remembrance of the time our forefathers* gathered to ratify the Declaration of Codependence. It’s a terribly stirring holiday for me: It’s so healing to have my codependent behavior affirmed by this noble document. It shows that even 200 years ago, some of the greatest minds in literature, government, philosophy and the law came to the same brilliant conclusions I have about how to manage the alcoholics in our lives.*

It may be hard to read the little tiny script, so I’ve transcribed the first few paragraphs—I consider them among the most spiritually moving of the entire Declaration:

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one person to take over the management of a relationship which may have connected us with another, and for us to assume, among the powers of the earth, the superior station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle us, a grudging respect to the opinions of lesser men requires that we should declare the causes which impel us to this domination.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that while it may indeed be all our fault, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Compulsive Self-Reliance, Manipulation, and the relentless pursuit of Control. — That to secure these rights, some of us are instituted among Men, deriving our just powers from the obvious haplessness of the afflicted, — That whenever any of their behaviors becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of Us to alter or to abolish their rights, and to institute new Management, either through passive-aggressive behavior, displays of temper, the use of The Silent Treatment, or whatever occurs to us at the time, thus laying the foundation of these principles and organizing our powers in such form, as to us shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness, nevermind how any of this leaves us feeling. After all—we’re fine.”

Amen! I hope you use this inspiration to handle the lives of others to the best of your abilities, always following the Codependent’s Credo:

Figure It Out,
Your Way is Best,
Don’t Bother God.

Happy trails!

* PS  By a quick and rough estimation consulting short biographies of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (the real one) and a list of the most significant “forefathers” of the United States of America, over half of these men (and yes, they were all men) were either alcoholic or had a serious problem with alcohol in their lives.

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

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

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.

From the Desk of…

April 22, 2010

From the Desk of...

From the Desk of...

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

How’s 2010 shaping up for you so far? I’ve been having a challenging time of it. It may have to do with my avoiding some “Good orderly direction” I received some time ago. It was gently suggested to me that I might want to write a “Letter to God” [Shorthand for: a Higher Power as I may or may not understand him/her/it].

I thought to myself, “Yes! I must do that! Right after I finish reorganizing the basement, and get that root canal taken care of.” Nonetheless, having been told that the answer to suggestions from our caring guides should be “yes,” I went about it. Guess what: it only took me five minutes. Well… give or take five hours. Er, five weeks, I should have said. Okay: it took me months. Months and months. I’ve lost count how many months. What can I say, postal delivery to God is quite slow in my case. Thoughtfully slow: apparently I tend to do a lot of editing and rewrites, where God is concerned.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when—lo and behold—God wrote back! The response arrived faster than my letter went out. It was suggested to me that I keep the letter from God close at hand. You’re close at hand, aren’t you? So, here it is—and hey: I’m showing you mine—feel free to show me yours.

Happy trails!

PS  Today’s Quiz: What’s the first thing one should say to God? Answer: Good morning.

Here’s the text of the letter in the image above

Thanks for writing. I know it wasn’t easy. I know you find it difficult and embarrassing to ask for help. I am touched that you reached out.

You work so hard. You expend tremendous energy.  The intensity of your struggle takes so much of your life force to keep up. Holding on to those grievances, to your losses, to the familiarity of emptiness, to predictability instead of delight in surprise, to putting compresses on painful old wounds using those remedies which stopped working years ago, just because they’re the only cures you know how to apply on your own… it must be exhausting.

You wake up feeling such weight. Your heart cries out that you are alone. You feel angry and hurt. You feel shame and regret. You feel you have kept people away who love you. You are astonished and dismayed at how you’ve squandered gifts you’ve been given.

Sometimes, instead of facing your day with gratitude and resolve, you face it in woundedness, in the victimized patterns you grew up with. You mindlessly march down an old road, echoing the chants of voices from deep in your past: “Life is hard, and then you die,” “I’d rather just be by myself,” “Relationships are just too difficult;” instead of openly acknowledging that you deeply need others, and want to feel needed by them as well.

First off, you don’t need to do this alone. I have more than enough energy for both of us.

Second, what have you got to lose? You don’t have to trust. You don’t have to have faith. All you have to do is ask. Ask for trust. Ask for wanting to trust. Ask for faith. Ask for the willingness to receive faith. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for wanting to forgive. If you don’t “want to” forgive yourself or others, then ask for wanting to want to.

Ask for directions. Tell me what you want. I’ll show you how to get it. The signs will surround you. They will be unmistakeable—if you are watching and listening, and feeling.

Stay sober in every sense of the word. I really want you to live a sober, meaningful life — it’s not a moral question for me. It’s a question of sight, of vision. If you’re not living in a sober and serene manner, you’ll have blinded yourself. If you’re blind, you’ll miss all my directions, guidances and messages of great beauty and love. You might find yourself down a wrong path again—and at that moment you’ll turn to me and ask, “How did I get here?” Make your spiritual condition your most important job.

Do all this one moment, one hour, one day at a time… but start in this moment. I have all the time in the world. Literally.  You don’t..

Bee Afraid

April 16, 2010

Fear of Bees

Bee Afraid

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

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I admit it: I’m scared of stuff. As some may remember, underwater weeds pose problems for me. Also, the dark: I’m a big boy, but not a big fan.

But nothing compares with how I feel about bees. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m allergic. I was swarmed by yellow-jackets as a camper — maybe 12 stings on a nine-year-old will do it. All I know is, bees turn my pulse into a jackhammer, I salivate like Pavlov’s favorite dog, and my legs start running without asking me which direction.

I understand, at least intellectually. I have “apiphobia.” I get it. Bees typically only bother humans who disturb them. Bees are blessed creatures. They’re important to the planet, they’re endangered. I like their honey, too. And, I think they’re amazing and beautiful.

Perhaps I could probably find treatment that might help. But that won’t cure all the other stuff that freaks me out…

  1. Fear of going broke
  2. Fear of crashing the car
  3. Fear of getting cancer
  4. Fear of being abandoned
  5. Fear of feeling embarrassed or foolish
  6. Fear of dying alone in a nursing home in a puddle of pee
  7. Fear of being paralyzed from the neck down
  8. Fear of being paralyzed from the neck up
  9. Fear of being misunderstood or falsely accused
  10. Fear of a heart attack
  11. Fear of Fox News becoming “the most trusted name in news”
  12. Fear of having the Red Sox win another series

The list goes on and on. I feel my throat constrict, the hairs on my neck stand up, and chills literally go down my spine. So what’s a boy to do?

I read the other day that there are twelve steps designed to help with fear. I understand that the fourth one (which reads “4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,”) has a special slot reserved for fears: a column just to the right of “resentments.” Huh?!? What’s that got to do with moral inventories? But as I begin to I write them down, I engage in a time-tested process — of change. Maybe that leads to a lessening, or even an end to these fears.

I heard someone once say, “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”

Are these extravagant promises?

[What do you think?]

Happy trails!

One WHAT at a Time?

April 14, 2010

One What at a Time

One What at a Time?

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

I set about this morning arranging how I plan to tackle all of my problems at once. There’s nothing like tackling a tax return to give myself the feeling that all my problems are mounded up into one huge sticky ball that’s about to run me over. I glanced up and saw a little post-it note over my desk. Someone wrote it and stuck it there, I don’t know who — but the handwriting looks suspiciously like mine. The post-it note reads:
“it’s one DAY at a Time”
It occurs to me… if that’s what “It” IS, then what is “It” NOT? For instance, I suspect that “It” is NOT…

One Overwhelming Project at a Time.
One Dysfunctional Relationship at a Time.
One Hell of a Year at a Time.
One Frustrating Diet at a Time.
One Soured Friendship at a Time.
One Time of the Month at a Time.
One Impossible Budget at a Time.
One Empty Marriage at a Time.
One Crippling Exercise Regimen at a Time.
One Impossible Boss at a Time.
One Heartbreaking Divorce at a Time.
One Long Overdue Thesis at a Time.
One Week That Will Never End at a Time.
One Delusional Business Plan at a Time.
One Torturous Job Interview at a Time.
One Unecessary Certification Test at a Time.
One Lousy Homework Assignment after Another at a Time.
One Date From Hell at a Time.
One Unbalanced Checkbook at a Time.
One Overly Long Self-Evident Self-Help Book at a Time.
One Deranged Narcissistic Client at a Time.
One Self-Involved Teenaged Child at a Time.
One Two-faced Co-worker at a Time.
One Diabolical Government Plot at a Time.One More Fine Mess I’ve Gotten Myself Into Again at a Time.
or…
One Tax Return* at a Time.

So, just for today, I’ll acknowledge the messengers, miracles, signs and spirits — and post-it notes — that come into my life every day, reminding me that: I’ll be okay. There is enough. I have enough. I am enough. I am loved, and I am worth working it, One Day at a Time.

Happy Trails!

PS. * A quote for the day: “Friends and neighbors complain that taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might the more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.” — Benjamin Franklin

Collecting

March 26, 2010

Tiny Miracles

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

I have a hobby I’ve been working on for years: I’m a collector.

My favorite thing to collect? Injustices. Particularly those done to me. I scour each day searching for instances of my having been wronged, unfairly accused, mistreated, abused, misled, held hostage, ripped off, victimized or made to look the fool. Once found, I retrieve these treasures – often rough little knick-knacks in need of some restoration, some amplification. I bring them back to my laboratory. I carefully clean, polish, brush and preen each one (hence the expression “pet” peeves). I “enhance” them.

Once they’re ready, I include them in my collection. This bag of goodies has a label on it that reads: You Owe Me. I carry it around. It only weighs about three hundred pounds, but it’s okay, I can manage. Just because it keeps me doubled over in pain, don’t worry about it. It’s all going to be part of my upcoming “My Life is Harder than Yours” spring collection.

Given the amount of aggravation and discomfort inherent in Injustice Collecting, you’d think I would “Drop the Bag of Rocks” at some point. But it’s not just any Bag of Rocks. It’s my Bag of Rocks.That’s why, rather than giving up collecting, I was so pleased to hear a friend suggest an alternative obsession: keeping track of miracles. You know what I mean: the tiny ones. Those little miracles that happen every day when we’re “working it.” When I’m recovering to the best of my ability. When I’m taking things one day at a time, one step at a time, or one action at a time. When I’m learning how to live life in “conscious contact” with you-know-who. When I seek to “practice these principles in all my affairs.”

So, just for today, I thought I’d write down the miracles that have happened to me so far. Right now it’s only 8:30 am. So far…

I woke up. That’s One. I was greeted by a insanely cute cat asleep next to me. That’s Two. I said good morning to my wonderful daughter as we got ready to start our day. Three. I made super-tasty oatmeal, on a stove we have that cooks food, that’s powered by electricity (which we have had restored after the storms). Four, five, six. I took a hot shower that felt so good I said “OMG” when the water hit me. Seven. I did my little routine – candles, reading, meditation and prayer. Eight. Put on extremely comfy clothes. Nine. I took my daughter to her fantastic school. Ten. I finished this sketch and am writing this message, using the gifts I’ve been given that allow me to put voice and pictures to feelings. Eleven.

And, somewhere, you, my fellow trudgers on this most miraculous road of happy destiny, may read this today. That’s Twelve.

Pretty good for one morning.

Happy Trails!

Who’s In Charge

March 12, 2010

Who's In Charge?

Who's in Charge?

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

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” — Mario Andretti

I’ve been reading an interesting book* on spirituality, the theory of which is that spiritual change and recovery is, at the core, a control battle waged daily between each of us and our Higher Power.

My insistence on maintaining the illusion of control over my life manifests itself in cunning, baffling and powerful ways. Maybe I just want to help. Is that being “controlling?” If I don’t show up — how is that being bossy? I looked up “control” in a thesaurus — several, in fact. I thought I’d find two dozen or so synonyms (by the way, “to predict” is listed as a synonym for control). So far, I found 123…

administer, advise, arrange, ascertain, assure, be at the helm, be in charge of, be in the driver’s seat, be in the saddle, bind, boss, bottle up, bridle, bully, call the shots, cap, captain, care for, carry on, check, change, choke off, collect, come to grips with, command, conduct, constrain, contain, coordinate, corner, cow, curb, dampen, deal, deal with, direct, discipline, dispose, dominate, domineer, eliminate, ensure, exaggerate, exercise, exercise restraint over, fetter, get it together, govern, guide, handle, head, head up, hogtie, hold back, hold in, hold purse strings, hold sway, instruct, insure, juggle, keep, keep in check, keep in line, keep a lid on, lead, let go, lord over, limit, manage, manipulate, master, mind, minimize, mismanage, modify, monopolize, order, operate, organize, overlook, oversee, pilot, possess, predict, predominate, preside, prevent, process, push buttons, put the brakes on, quarterback, quell, regiment, regulate, reign, rein in, repress, requisition, restrain, restrict, rule, run, run the show, run things, see to, shackle, simmer down, smother, steer, subdue, subject, subjugate, superintend, supervise, suppress, take care of, tend, test, tether, transmogrify, verify, work,

and…

work it! Feel free to post more…

Happy Trails!

J.

*PS The book is Recovery: The Sacred Art by Rami Shapiro.

Things I Don't Want... To-Do List

Things I Don't Want... To-Do List

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

A friend of mine recently emailed about me…

“Below is a list of things I would like to have completed in the next few days which I have proved to myself that, left on my own, I cannot (or will not) do them.

I need help. Will you help me?”

Being far more clear-headed—and willing to share opinions—about anyone’s task management issues other than my own, I wrote back “Sure!”

And so, I got right to work on a “To Do” list pad — a list of things I don’t wanna do.

In my case, unless my “To-Do” list reads “eat entire chocolate cake,” “sit in sun & bake self silly,” “pick out new sports car,” or “catch up previous seasons of Battlestar Galactica,” chances are pretty good that for a number of the items on my list, my plan is simple:

I JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE IT.

Growth and change can be difficult, sometimes painful. I heard a person at a twelve-step meeting say “This program is really difficult.” I thought to myself, “Abso-lutely right—but if you think this program is difficult, try no program.”

They don’t call it work because it’s easy. Who wants to forge into strange and painful territory and poke around in those hurt emotional spots, searching for truth? Who wants to give other people permission to be honest with us—sometimes painfully honest—about our character defects? Who wants to live in a state of discomfort, be challenged, and encouraged to strive constantly forward into fact-facing and fear-facing that can be scary—even heartbreaking at times? Who would want to do that?!?*

*Answer: Anybody who has ever lived in or around addiction or alcoholism—that’s who.

Does it matter if “I don’t feel like it?” Actually, no—not much. I can take note of it, like, “Oh, look—I don’t much feel like doing that. Isn’t that interesting? I’m going to do it anyway.” Perhaps, like my friend, I have to admit I can’t do it—at least not alone. Perhaps I have to face something worse than procrastination: isolation.

So, just for today, I’m can..

1. Make a “To Do” list of things (research suggests 3 to 5 maximum**) I may not feel like doing today, but want to have done.

2. Start each item with “I don’t feel like ______” and fill in the blank.

2.5. Say something like “On my own, this isn’t going to get done.”

3. Ask myself where I can find the help to get it done.

4. Go to the source, ask for the help.

4.5. Receive the help (hint: for some, this is the hardest part of all!)

5. Then, do the thing—whether I feel like it or not.

6. When its done, be grateful and celebrate!

Very important last step there! Once it’s done, I can make a very big deal out of how wonderful that is. You know, tear off my coat. Go running down Main Street like the village idiot. Scream out “I balanced my checkbook!!” or “I wrote the stinkin’ report!!” or “Even though it scared the crap out of me, I told the truth!!!” or “I told my sister to mind her own business!” or whatever. I know that people will be leaning out of their windows, showering me with flowers, chanting “Go! Go! Go! Go!” Grandparents at red lights will lean down and whisper to their grandchildren, “There goes the guy who did the right thing TODAY.” YAAY!!!

Happy trails!

** PS Productivity research indicates that the average person’s “To-Do” list contains 12 to 15 items. The same research indicates that most people accomplish on average about three (3) of those items per day.

iChart

January 25, 2010

iChart

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

One of my favorite expressions is: “I have enough; There is enough; I am enough.” Trouble is, I’m not sure I believe it.

Why is it so hard to believe? Is it that I’m so used to negative messages?

“I’m not worth it; life sucks; I’m alone; I’ll never work again; my body is terrible; I’m dumb; people are no good; I’m incompetent; I’m not lovable,” etc. I see messages like these. They push me toward a life of resentment, discontent and self-hatred. They drive me toward acting out in all kinds of completely insane ways. It’s a miracle I haven’t ended up pushing a shopping cart, wearing six coats and muttering to myself about how it’s all Dick Cheney’s fault.*

Just for today, I’ll be reminded that messages of self-worth may not be the first things I notice, but I can look for them. I can start (of course) with gratitude for the things I am blessed with. I can stop trying to control things (the things I can’t control might be good starting points). I can ask for help. I can receive help when it’s given.

I can breathe.

As my perspective is changed, I find serenity. As my serenity improves, I find connection. As I become connected, I find an end to suffering. When I stop living in suffering, I become open to a life of freedom, joy, love and peace.

Happy trails!

J.

PS * Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Blennophobia

January 16, 2010

Water

Water

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version IV) is filled with the thousands of mental illnesses, disorders and neuroses currently available. One of the more interesting choices is Lachanophobia, an irrational fear of vegetables. Current research indicates that less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the population suffer from Lachanophobia. The book also lists Blennophobia, the irrational fear of slime. A slightly larger population segment suffers from Blennophobia, about 1/5th of 1 percent of the population. Sadly, I am one of the 1/2000th of 1 percent who suffer from both.

Years ago, my friend Michael and I went out sailing on a very large lake in Wisconsin. We were on a little sunfish sailboat, and it was a very windy day. It wasn’t long before our boat capsized, and we discovered it was great fun getting it right again. Soon, we were deliberately capsizing the boat, trying to pearl the front end to get the boat to cartwheel. and in general enjoy trying to drown one another.

During one of these capsizings, the boat went all the way upside down, rudder-up. It was difficult to right it, and when we got it righted, we saw why: the sail came out of the water hanging from the mast in shreds. Apparently we’d hit a submerged bramble or tree or something.

There was no way that sail was going to work again. There was nothing for it but to swim the boat to shore. Trouble was, we were a long way out. We jumped in, and I pulled on the cleat in front, doing the side-stroke, while Michael pushed from the back, kicking his legs.

This went on for what seemed like hours. We grew cold and tired, our arms were hurting. Hell, everything was hurting, and the shoreline never seemed to get closer. We got pretty crabby, no pun intended.

Suddenly, I felt something brush against my leg. My first thought was: this is not good. I really don’t like touching things underwater—tall weeds, I would have to say, being the worst. A nightmare, in fact. I can’t explain this, but there you have it.

I said “There’s weeds or something down there.” Michael was very concerned for me. He said “Shut up and keep pulling.” Then a bunch of somethings brushed my leg. “That’s it.” I shouted, and I scrambled onto the boat. Michael said “I’m not pushing your sorry ass, get off the boat and pull!” I said “There’s no way I’m going back in the water if there’s weeds. Not going to happen.”

Michael jumped on and moved forward, cursing. I was ready. We grappled and twisted, yelling foul names and pounding on each other. He got me off balance and knocked me into the water. I went in deep, into a LOT of weeds. Very, very tall weeds. “Wisconsin Killer Weeds,” I believe is the technical term. I screamed underwater, and swam back up in a desperate panic. Michael stopped me from getting on board, so I wrapped my arms and legs around the bow, refusing to loosen my grip. Michael kept yelling “You’re totally psychotic!”, trying to pry my fingers apart and using his feet to try and scrape me off the boat like a barnacle.

We argued and fought, screaming and laughing ourselves sick out on that cold windy lake for a long time. We no longer cared about getting the boat back, we were so focused on causing the other person misery. Finally, I heard a sound. “Knock it off!” I yelled to Michael, who was busy gnawing on my knuckles to loosen my death grip. We went quiet and I turned and saw, far off, three men standing on the shore of the lake. They looked like bugs, but we could hear them yelling something. “WHAT?!?” Michael yelled, and we hear a voice across the water calling “Saaam Duuuufff!!!”

Michael said to me, “Sam Duff?!?” I was half underwater, clinging to the boat while those cursed weeds were still tormenting me by brushing against my back, but I said “Never heard of him.” Michael stood up on the boat and shouted “There’s no Sam Duff here!” And we heard three faint voices yell in unison, “STAAAAAANNND UUUUUP!”

I unwrapped my feet from the boat and swung them under me and immediately hit soft sand. I planted my feet and stood up — we were in three feet of water.

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version IV) lists another interesting irrational fear: Phronemophobia—the fear of thinking. Now, when I’m lost in worry, I can remember to just STAND UP. Sometimes the water is nowhere as deep as I thought.

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?”


Why I Won’t Be There

November 12, 2009

Please Excuse Me

Please Excuse Me (click to enlarge)

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

Sometimes getting to twelve-step meetings is a real hassle for me. Then, just because I might miss a time or two, it starts—you know, the phone calls. Obnoxious pushy people calling to ask probing personal questions like “How are you?”

I finally figured out what I need: a multiple-choice Meeting Excusal Form. For your convenience, I’ve attached a downloadable version of this handy form* I created. It’s for those special circumstances when life just won’t wait. Like every day. Now, next time you or anyone you know just “doesn’t feel like it,” remember: why go to a meeting when you can just fill out the form, fax it in, and get back to what really matters!

Happy Trails!

* PS  Click on the link below to download a PDF of this handy Meeting Excusal Form!

Please Excuse Me

The Tools

November 5, 2009

Using The Tools

Using The Tools

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

What do you do when you’re working hard using the tools of recovery—and stuff isn’t getting better? What if it’s getting worse? Do you ever “Let Go and Let God”—only to get “Whacked Upside Thine Head“?

Like many a curious soul exploring “The Secret,” and the whole Power of Positivity craze, I’ve been simply bursting forth with notions of Abundance, Prosperity, and damn good Ju-Ju in general. Obviously, I’m not doing as instructed: the universe has been responding with locusts. I love Pima Chodron, but what do I do if I “Start Where I Am,”—and it Sucks Dead Bears? I’ve tried “Being In the Now,” but what does Eckhardt Tolle want me to do when “The Now” bites the Big One? What if I’m “turning it over” and finding dog poop underneath? What is up with that?!?

Family and friends in medical crises, everyone around me in financial free-fall, clients acting like mental patients, serenity-busting nonsense at spiritual gatherings…  there are some mighty unhappy-looking shoppers passing me in the aisles these days. My stomach sounds like I ate a live mole rat for lunch. Did the universe figure out I was faking it? Did the power that created the cosmos decide that a bucketload of bat guano on my head would be good medicine?

I’ve been using The Tools of recovery, diligently working the Twelve Steps.* Okay, maybe in my own unique way, but I think it’s a good approach! For instance, I like to start with the Twelfth Step, and work my way back to the First. What’s that you say? “Hey—you sound so serene, I’m interested!” I’ll just bet!

So, here’s how I’ve been doing it:

12. I start with Step Twelve—bringing the message to others. All others. I reach out to them, whether they have the good sense to ask or not. I give advice I haven’t got time to heed, but it’s always good. Feel free to ask.

11. After that, I turn to Step Eleven—meditation and prayer. I use these to improve my conscious contact with myself. I can almost read my own thoughts!

10. Once that’s done, it’s on to Step Ten, continuing to take inventory. I go over events and replay them until I find I am not at fault. I diligently take personal inventory of others until I can clearly see where they went wrong.

9. Then it’s time for Step Nine, the amends. I’m not proud – I’ll ask for an amends from anyone who has done me wrong. Once in awhile, I’ll apologize to folks in spite of not knowing what it is they dream I may have done to them. Once I’m finished with those amends, I’ll make a list and go to step 8.

8. Maybe in my list, I realize I missed a few. Quite a few, as it turns out. Okay. Well, later for them. I will get to it, but today I am booked solid.

7. Next, I like to get to Steps Seven and Six, you know, asking to have my annoying quirks lessened. This is where I work hard at becoming a completely humble person—and I succeed. Plus I’m going to act better, much better, according to me. I apply my own rigorous standards to whatever it is I think I should be acting like. I’ll even ask “How am I doing?”

6. Then I become “entirely ready”—to see how my plan is going.

5. After that, I like to sit down with someone in the program, or maybe a bunch of people in a meeting or something, preferably people who don’t know me well, and share “the exact nature”—well, at least the approximate nature—of my wrongs. And how I feel about it. I don’t bother writing it all down. I’ll remember it later, and if not I can always explain it better in a meeting, preferably one where they don’t time shares.

4. Once that’s done, I’ll do that “fearless and thorough moral inventory” by jotting down a few “defects” (or “quirks” as I call them) I might have missed for future reference. I usually file those under “Things To Do”. My Step 4 is now complete.

3. Moving right along, I’ll “make a decision to turn my will and my life over”—by asking a Higher Power to pitch in. This requires my saying “Hey! How about a little help here?!??” This shows I am willing. I’m not proud! I’m willing to let God chip in when asked.

2. If my polite requests for help go unanswered, I realize I might need a change. I might be asking the wrong Higher Power. That’s when I come to believe. I believe I better redefine my Higher Power. I can start with a new theological philosophy. I’ll use the same approach, different God.

1. Once these steps are complete, I can address that pesky business about life being unmanageable, and that I’m powerless to change it by myself. This is one step that gives me fits! I don’t understand it… I’m working the other eleven so HARD. But I know if I do them again HARDER they’ll work. I read it in The Promises.

So—if you’re feeling the same way, try my approach—practice using just the Tools of the Program by working the Twelve Steps in any order you want! And be sure to let me know how it goes.

Happy trails!

* PS For a complete listing of The Twelve Steps, in the correct order, the entire AA Big Book is online — just Google it.

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!

The Muse

October 26, 2009

The Muse

The Muse

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

Do you ever get the urge to create—a work of art, a dance, an invention—a solution to a problem? Have you had trouble capturing an idea and giving it life? Been unable to start, or move forward—or finish? Perhaps it might shine one day, and suck the next? It’s an interesting process, isn’t it?

I’ve been sending out these “happy trudgers” writings (and, lately, drawings) for some time now. Sharing these has been helpful for me. I hope folks enjoy them. Creating these stories can be a challenge—even painful (“Think how we feel,” some might say). The “committee” of voices clang away in my head, ranging from self-centered pride when I hear “You should turn these into a book!” to nagging doubt and hopeless self-loathing, especially when someone emails and says “Take me off this list.” Inflated ego and low self-esteem, once again doing battle on the wet fields of one’s spongy little brain. I’d sell tickets, but who would come?

I’m learning to experience the changing nature of this process through the prism of personal change: in short, to “come to believe” that the creative process is a way of connecting to you, to myself, to the universe and the forces that surround and permeate everything. Note that I wrote process, not product—I’m not claiming my stories are the channeled word of God. Believing that could pose real problems. For instance, what if it turns out they’re the channeled word of Gary, a personal trainer from Lodi, New Jersey? What if I later learned that I’ve been manifesting “The Word of Gary”?

How embarrassing would that be?

Whatever the source, suffice to say that for me there is delicious mystery involved.

If you want to explore the terrain where creativity and spirituality flow together* (and let’s not restrict creativity to “the arts”) I want to recommend a funny, touching, inspirational and (for me) transformative talk by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) at the legendary TED (Technology, Education and Design) conference. Fifteen minutes that changed my day but good.

Have a cup of tea, sit back and relax, and as they say, “Wait for it…”

Happy trails!

J.

* PS If you’re interested, you might also want to check out http://www.artsanonymous.org, a twelve-step recovery group that focuses on the connection to creativity in every aspect of our lives.

Sharing Crazy

October 22, 2009

Sharing Crazy

Sharing Crazy

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road to happy destiny“…

What’s your problem? Have you got it figured out?

I love to share my problems. Well, actually, I love to share stories about problems I’ve already solved. The funnier the better. Add in a dose of clever, poignant and insightful, and I’m a happy camper. Just don’t ask me to talk about the problems that might still be killing me.

This morning, I happened upon a 2-for-1 sale: I read something* that really spoke to me. Then, just in case I might have “missed the memo,” a friend called and asked permission to read something to me: of course it was the very same passage. I already had the book open on my desk, so as I was thinking, “Huh… I wonder if this really does pertain to me…” I followed along.

The reading was about (I’m paraphrasing here) how many of us resort to storytelling rather than share our experiences from the heart — reveal our struggles, and the very real pain we might be in. The conclusion of the reading was: “It may feel like an enormous risk, but talking honestly about the situation is the key to healing.”

It was a great reminder that although I may have grown up in situations where being honest and open wasn’t safe, and perhaps being entertaining, clever, satyrical or ironic was, and most treasured of all was having the answer to the question, I finally have places to go and people to be with who allow me to be safe even when I’m crazy, or dead wrong—recovering with my brothers and sisters on this “road of happy destiny.”

I’ve heard it said that sometimes people whose share things that might sound really crazy may be the very ones who are growing and changing the most. So… does that means that if I sound really crazy, you’ll be really impressed with my progress? No, not quite. I think it means that, just for today, I’ll ask for some willingness: the willingness to be honest and open—even if I’m feeling pretty nuts—if that’s what I need to do to get better. So, nuts to both of us!

Happy trails!

J.

* PS “The paradox of self-honesty is that I need the help of others to achieve it. I need their support to explore my feelings and motives, and to see that others have benefited from taking this great risk.”

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

Dead But Still Right

October 10, 2009

Dead But Still Right

Dead But Still Right

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

Lately, I’ve been growing weary of these so-called “Twelve Steps” everyone keeps talking about. I don’t like being “told like it is” by wise, knowing advisors, well-wishers and “guides” in my spiritual life (sometimes referred to as “sponsors”). Man, sometimes the catchy slogans they offer up like candy just make me want to retch! That’s why I was so relieved to stumble across this new offer, which I’m very excited to share with you:

·····························································

Sick to death of “Good, Orderly Direction“?

Still looking for an “Easier, Softer Way?”

You’re NOT ALONE! That’s why there’s RENT-A-SPONSOR!*

Imagine a program that involves NO READING! NO WRITING! NO DEADLINES! Perhaps best of all, you’ll never have to share WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON—with ANYONE!!

At Rent-A-Sponsor, half-measures are our specialty. Just look at some of these features:

  • No constant references to annoying books or steps that don’t look like they’ll work anyway!
  • At Rent-A-Sponsor, we accept all your excuses and rationalizations, with a smile!
  • Work only the Steps YOU want, in the order YOU choose!
  • Our new EDS (“Extended Denial Support”)* is now available (additional monthly fees may apply)
  • We will teach you the secret of giving it away—before you even have it!

Why “walk the walk” when you can just “talk the talk?” Why save your ass at the cost of losing your face? At Rent-A-Sponsor, we already agree with everything you have ever thought or said! After all, “It’s better to LOOK good than to FEEL good.”

We believe your plan for living is the best plan we’ve ever heard: just look at you! You look great, and we think you sound great, too! We want to hear all about it, so be sure to explain your philosophy of life to us, over and over again, in excruciating detail! (additional monthly fees may apply).

If you act now, we will include our “Fourth-Step Writing Service.” Yes, at Rent-A-Sponsor we take your inventory for you! WE share it with a God of OUR understanding. WE share it with another person—one you never have to meet! (additional monthly fees may apply). We mail you your Fourth Step in a plain brown wrapper. You can share it with yourself—or not—in the privacy of your own home!

Rent-A-Sponsor understands just how UNIQUE you are!

Call today at 1-900-676-6763 (900-O-POOR-ME). Remember, at Rent-A-Sponsor, you’re in charge! Because, after all…

“WHO KNOWS BETTER THAN YOU?”

If you order before midnight tonight, you’ll receive a free copy of the pamphlet “Recovering on War Stories Alone!”

Happy trails!

*PS The preceding was a paid promotional announcement by River-In-Egypt Accomodations Inc.