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!

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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.