Carrying the Message

Tags

, ,

JM and I were chatting it up over a cup of coffee this morning (status update: I had given up coffee, but then reconsidered, deciding that it was not well thought out!)  when he reminded me of a great old AA story about carrying the message.

Scott R., a long time member from Los Angeles and an incredible example of what it means to thrive in sobriety, used to tell this story (he’s now passed away) about being asked to go down to skid row and visit an alcoholic named Sully who lived down there. Off he goes to carry the message and sits with Sully doing what we do when we’re talking to another alcoholic. Long story short, Sully doesn’t get sober.

But 10 years later (10 years!) Scott is speaking at a meeting somewhere and after the meeting a guy comes up to him and says, I want to shake your hand and thank you for saving my life.

Scott looks him over and he says, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I know you, to which the man replies, 10 years ago you visited a guy named Sullly and sat with him in his room and tried to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to him…do you remember that?

Of course, Scott says.

Well I was under the bed that night, and I haven’t had a drink since then.

It’s impossible to know what impact we are having on those around us.

Keep trudging,

The (un) natural gardener…and other rituals of spring.

Tags

, ,

So, if you live somewhere that’s actually cold right now…I’m sorry.  The ATX is warm and sunny with days in the mid 70s and cool evenings that encourage dining outside with nothing more than a light sweater.  While you may be cursing me now, there will be plenty of time for your revenge when it’s 107 for 93 days in a row.

With the sudden onset of spring (my pear tree is flowering!) came a few musings from the garden, but first let me clarify that my version of ‘garden’ is a perennial failure. Just yesterday I was driven to the backyard in utter despair by weeds that have now grown past my knees.  How does one battle these creeping little succubi while still trying to (quick, get my cape!) save the planet?  JM is adamantly against the chemical weed killer, though he offered little redeeming advice from his perch on the back steps as I was weeding away, ripping crab grass like it was the heart of my dead father’s last wife.  Did I just say that? Okay, I digress.

Anyway, the point is, I have the blackest thumb on the planet, but I don’t let that stop me from engaging in what has become a spring ritual of heading over to the Natural Gardener and spending a TON of money on a bunch of stuff that will die sometime just short of mid-July.  By then I’ve grown sulky and annoyed with the heat, perturbed by the endless swarms of mosquitos trying to suck the life out of me, and generally listless and complacent. In spite of the fact that this has now been my depressing ritual for the past 6 years in Austin, Texas (I miss Cali where you can grow anything…just stick a seed in the ground and walk away, #Done!)  as soon as the gentle gusty breezes of spring appear, I’m like the alcoholic that can’t remember the last debacle.

Yesterday, as I was ripping (weeds) and praying that nothing disgusting crawled out on my hand, I had a long time to muse over this ritual–my past failures and what I’ve learned.

I’m all about forest gardening right now…like, obsessively about it, but since I’ve finally come to realize that not everyone shares all of my obsessions, I’ll leave that conversation at a link (if you’re interested) and move along to the garden muse.

1.  Stop trying to plant things that won’t grow.

This is a great one…and not just for your garden. Regardless of how I love all the fragrant budding blooms gathered attractively at the check-out in the gardening department, the fact of the matter is that a gazillion deer occupy my street, and those precious little buggers will eat anything colorful, and anything that smells good.

Much like gardening, I find that sometimes in my spiritual life, I am still trying to plant things that just won’t grow. Sometimes I do this with relationships. I often do it with skills that I think I should have (but have no natural desire or inclination towards) and I almost always regret it in a big way.  There’s a point in tending to your spiritual garden when you begin to realize that roses aren’t everyone’s choice. Some of us like peonies, dahlias, daisies, whatever. Stop trying to plant roses (unless you like roses, and then by all means, plant away–they are actually incredibly hardy!)

2. Do the dirty work

That means weed away. And pull that stuff up at the roots. No cheating!  Weeds thrive on unhealthy soil (god himself only knows what’s in mine) and the best way to kill the weeds (and save the planet…you can thank JM later) is to get on your hands and knees and get a little dirt under your fingernails. The truth is, I always resist yard work, but once I’m out there, I’m generally at peace with what I’m doing. And I realize that my resistance comes from the fact that I think I’m too busy to tend to my garden, or that too many other important things are happening that require my attention. This is BS.

A healthy lawn (garden, flowers, whatever) cannot grow unless the soil is nutrient rich and the garbage is cleaned out. Is this sounding like an inventory to you? Yup! Do the dirty work spiritually.  You may resist it because you think you’re really really busy with you’re really really important life…but it’s BS. You’ll find that once on your knees in the dirt, you’ll probably be at peace with what you’re doing.

3. Educate yourself

I don’t know why, but I instinctively and regularly fail to realize that I need to educate myself about my yard. I sort of assume (and am later annoyed to discover how wrong I am) that I know what I’m doing. I mean how hard could it be for christ’s sake? It’s grass, a rake, a shovel, and a big hole that I’m going to stick something living in before I pile dirt over it.

Well, it turns out that it’s a litte more complicated than that. My arrogance, grandiosity and laziness always have the same result…a dead yard in mid-July. And by that time I’m ready to move back to the city and embrace concrete and glass and call a sky-scraper home. Maybe this is #1 for me.  Maybe I keep trying to plant a gardener in me that just won’t grow. But maybe, I just need to be humble and willing enough to educate myself a little and learn.

4. Patience

There’s not a little old lady with blue curly hair out there growing perfect tomatoes and bell peppers who won’t remind you that patience is the virtue of all amazing gardeners. It doesn’t happen overnight dammit. Like most incredible things, it takes steady work and a lot of diligence and the results kind of happen somewhere in the middle when we’re busy plugging away and not even looking for them anymore.

Happiest Tuesday 🙂

 

 

Monday morning gratitude…

Tags

,

Gratitude is not a natural state of my being. I think I’ve said that many times on the blog. You, dear readers, know I believe in gratitude. In fact, I believe as sober and recovering alcoholics and addicts We owe a debt of gratitude, but it just doesn’t happen for me like that. It takes a little work, a little warming up, a little letting go. You have to get inside of my crazy head to understand me when I say that gratitude lists didn’t do a lot for me for many years. Even now I kind of roll my eyes when I get out that little sobriety notebook and start jotting down a quick list.

Dear God, I am so grateful for:

  • my 2 legs
  • Godiva chocolate
  • the fact that I’m not peeing myself in an alley somewhere
  • thank you for the children and JM
  • thank you for the humble mango, the best of all fruits!
  • for the fact that the neighbor’s dogs didn’t impale themselves on something trying to squeeze their way into my yard.

And on and on it goes. Me (in my head) trying not to just be grateful for the obvious (I need to be way beyond that at 11 years, right?) but trying to make a deeply appropriate admission of gratitude for more than the mundane.  And you know what, my version of gratitude is a little nuts, but that’s okay. The point is, I recognize some things about gratitude:

  • It is impossible to be hateful and grateful at the same time. (BAhahahaha!) I once told a woman in the program that her just saying that made me feel hateful inside.  But as corny as it is, it’s actually true.
  • Grandiosity is the mortal enemy of gratitude. Because when I walk around thinking I’m entitled to it…there’s not any reason to offer any real thanks for it.
  • Gratitude is more than being thankful, it’s about appreciation.  Click here for my take on the difference.

So with that in mind, here’s my Monday morning gratitude list:

  • I’m in awe of my husband and his 15 years of sobriety and the fact that I’m still married after all these years.
  • My children inspire and astound me. They also exhaust me, and I appreciate their enthusiasm for life.
  • I am so thankful that I have the wits about me to work towards changing anything in my life I don’t like.
  • I appreciate that today there is work for me and I will earn a fair living doing it.
  • When I sleep tonight, it will be in a safe house, a warm bed, on clean sheets. This is a simple luxury that was not my story for many many years.
  • Thank you for all the newcomers in my life lately! They are keeping me out of self.
  • I am FREAKED OUT excited to be on this path of looking at my finances (I’m doing this 1 year to an organized financial life thing) and recognizing the areas where I have old ideas and fears that need to go in order for me to grow.
  • I am in such appreciation of my friends today. I was not able to be a friend or have a friend for many years. Today, I am lucky to have a life full of people who will love me through it, whatever it is.

Lastly, thank you for the genius who invented the ‘undo’ button, so that the entire 30 minutes I spent writing this post was not wasted by an accidental delete.

When I get to it (to the real), it always feels good.

Happy Monday!

The Sunday

Tags

, ,

If you’ve made it to the 9th step (or you’re there again) know that it is the place of ultimate freedom!  t’s the place where we have become willing to really admit the wrongs we’ve done and to search for meaningful ways to right them.  That means we’ve picked up a good chunk of humility somewhere and we’re learning to think of others.  The 9th step is what moves us (in my opinion) out into the grander world. It’s what lets us join in.  It takes a completely crumbled addict and alcoholic and makes them capable of being just a person among people, a worker among workers.  It gives us a way to clean up the messes we’ve made, and it gives us a way to keep things clean as we move through life growing and recovering.  It’s such a powerful tool to know that the best of me can be the worst of me.  I have learned a lot through the inventory process. And I have found a solution for the fact that I’m not perfect, and I never will be.  Once powerless, I can now access the power of saying, I was wrong, I made a mistake. And then I can move on.  Because the point is not for us to stay stuck and small in our mistakes. The point is that we are large beyond measure, as the saying goes, and that there’s a lot for us to do here.

Happy Sunday!

 

The Saturday Morning Superpower Archives

Tags

,

Although I detest the word (confess) for all of its negative implications, there are few things more powerful along the road of a healthy happy life than getting real about the dirty.

The simple fact is that we are all human, flawed, and full of quirky little insecurities and fears that cause us to act out in all kinds of crazy ways. An addict knows better than most that for most of us, hurting each other isn’t an intentional thing. But it happens. Because when you come between me and a drink, you’re going to disappear. That’s the power of addiction. It’s also the power of overwhelming fear, frustration, boredom, rage, disappointment, resentment, ect., ect.

So we screw up…a lot! And by the time we get to AA or NA or some place where we run smack into the 8th & 9th step (all about amends) we have a pretty big list of wrongs to try and right.  Those wrongs may cover everything from stealing food from 24-hour grocery stores to leaving our kid alone at home at an inappropriate age while we’re out doing whatever

Hopefully, the people we have chosen to surround ourselves with in the program can give us some healthy perspective on exactly who and how we make amends. It’s a lot more than a casual ‘I’m sorry’ and an ‘all better now?’  To make amends requires a certain humility about the fact that our behaviour has impacted another person’s journey on the planet. And sometimes it’s really really hard, because you can’t necessarily make it right.

For example, I found myself temporarily homeless after I was asked to leave the very posh private university I somehow wormed my way into as a 17-year-old running wild all over Florida, I had a friend who was kind enough to offer me a couch for a month or so while I figured out what I was doing with my life (a revelation which would unfortunately not happen for another 12 years.)  This friend was just doing what friends do. She was reaching out to a person in need and knowing of my troubled home life, trying to create a space for me in which I could be ‘ok’ again.  Little did she know (and we play upon these people when we’re in active addiction) she was bumping into an alcoholic and a drug addict. It was legitimately unclear at the time. We were kids. She drank in a way that was very similar to the way I drank I used. The difference was, she didn’t flunk out of school, and when sleeping on her friend’s couch, she didn’t steal a very valuable camera that had been left to her friend by a dead grandmother. She didn’t take that camera and pawn it and then sneak away in the middle of the night without even a goodbye. She had no idea who she was dealing with.

So when we get here, we have a big list of this kind of stuff. Some of it is right in the forefront of our consciousness, and some of it is pushed further back into the recesses of our brains. But the longer we stay sober, and the more we pursue the redemption of a spiritual life, these wrongs will be revealed to us. Like the layers of an onion peeling away. Sometimes it makes you cry.

There was little I could do about the missing camera 13 or 14 years after I stole it when I finally had the guts to make amends.  But the point is, I made the amends under the direction of a sponsor and I came clean about the dirty.  Because of that, if I happen to be walking down the street in Orlando at some point and I come face to face with this girl, I won’t have to look away, to cross the street, to duck into an alley. Why?  Because I have gone to her and righted this wrong in the most thorough and complete way I can.  And to this day, if she calls me and asks me for something, if it’s in my power to help her, I will.

That’s how one early sponsor told me to evaluate whether or not I owed an ammends…if you run into the person on the street, face to face, will that feeling of shame creep up inside you?  If you walk into a place (dozens of places !) you stole from or harmed in some way, will you instinctively lower your eyes…will you feel smaller?

Because we have had enough of that in our using lives…that feeling small, shamed, powerless, like an animal. As people on new footing and a new path, it’s time to make that right.  Because the harms we have done others ultimately are harms we do ourselves. And because this step, this honest humble admission of our wrongs is a requirement for feeling like we belong at the banquet. When we can’t say we’re wrong, we can’t heal. When making a mistake threatens our perceived security, we’re not going to be likely to own it.  The best part of being human is being able to say, yes, that’s who I am! I can be selfish, dishonest, critical, cynical. And I can also care too much, try to hard, give in the wrong ways.  I am full of contradictions (as Walt Whitman said) because I am large!  And when you know who you are, you don’t have to own anything you’re not.

All it takes is a little imagination…

Tags

, ,

It’s not easy to get from here to there…and that’s true when you have 7 seconds sober and you’re just trying to figure out how people go to the grocery store without smoking crack and it’ true when you have 11 years and you’re trying to lose fear, ego, attachment to everything you think you’re supposed to be.

What I’m saying is that growing is a process. It’s going from who you are (with what you believe and the tools you presently have for living) to who you want to be. In the middle you are a person who doesn’t yet have the tools (the experience, the patience, the whatever) that you’re going to have when you arrive at your next (spiritual) destination.  So it’s a juicy place full of a lot of emotion and apprehension.  A lot of alcoholics and addicts (and humans for that matter!) just say…forget it. Let me just squeeze into a crevice where I feel safe and the world seems manageable. But for those who want a little more-

It is what we can imagine that keeps us from the (sometimes) brutality of the in-between.  This otherworld, shadowy and thin, and on the edge of everything, exists in a place we’re not sure we can get to.  When we’re in the middle, it’s like we have one foot in who we are and another in who we want to be.  Sometimes it’s hard to know which world we belong to.  But the thing to remember is that our imagination has the power to thrill us, to keep us inspired, and to provide the motivation we need to keep moving towards the place we want to be.  As I heard in a meeting last night: It wouldn’t be faith if we could see every curve in the road.

Crooked roads & the eternal spring

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Remember when I said last Monday that no matter what our head tells us, we know?  Well, guess what? Sometimes we don’t know.  We don’t have an effing clue.  We’re rambling along a perfectly paved (notice I do not say serene…check the path in the picture…it’s smooth and paved, but I’m not sure we could call it peaceful!) road and we just can’t see what’s coming around the bend.

Sometimes I’m really grateful for that. I’m in the best place when I’m at peace with the fact that life is the ultimate space in which anything can happen, But then there are weeks where a suddenly perfect relationship seems to take a sharp left turn into insanity (thank you very much fear, resentment and hormonal flux!), your youngest child morphs into a highly charged pile of meltdowns at every opportunity, your computer decides to stop connecting to Planet E (Internet Explorer), and you wake up and realize you have accomplished nothing and you’re about to be 40 (in 9 months.) Welcome to my ‘last week.’

Even as you walk around in this strange netherworld that is posing as your otherwise amazing life…it’s hard to believe it’s actually happening.  You stumble around Best Buy for three days in a row talking to an entire host of darling young kids who smile and nod patiently as they try to explain (first individually, and then they rally in small groups for more support) the various options in the Best Buy protection plan (a plan which I might add is more complex than negotiating a truce between Israel & Palestine.) And you wonder, is this what my sponsor  meant over lunch last week when she said, God wants to thrill you. Why is that so hard for you to believe?

Your AA head (that’s what you’re stuck with for better or worse after you’ve been around here for a while and done a little work) keeps yapping away about what a ‘quality problem’ it is to be buying a new computer at Best Buy when Enrique (of Enrique’s Journey–it’s a page turner!) has been riding trains from Honduras through Mexico up to the border of El Norte for something like three months, exposed to every human horror you can imagine, hungry, cold, beaten, turned away again and again (anyone that says illegal immigrants are lazy clearly has no idea what they go through to get here!)  just to find his mother who left him in Honduras more than 12 years ago to move north in search of work that would allow Enrique and his sister to eat something other than trash and to maybe go to school up through the 6th grade.

Yeah, you KNOW gratitude is called for in this situation, but…

It doesn’t always play out like that. Sometimes you just wind up with tears streaming down your face in the middle of Best Buy, because it’s raining and cold outside and you can’t understand the Best Buy protection plan and you have no godly idea what an ‘i5’ processor is, or whether it’s worth the money, even after it’s been explained to you a dozen times, and your lost connection with Planet E is totally screwing up your very perfectly scheduled week and even in this moment as you stand here with a wallet full of ways to pay for brand new computer…you cannot find a shred of gratitude. Period. #End of story.

Welcome to just being human.  Let yourself fall apart in Best Buy. It’s fine, and the kids that work there are really too young to be permanently scarred from witnessing your break down.  Go ahead and crack.  It’s been a bad week.  Cracking open is not necessarily a terrible response to that. Remember Akhilanda, the goddess of Never not Broken?  The cracks are where the light gets in.  It doesn’t get into that tightly twisted brain that’s beating you over the head with all the things you ‘should’ be feeling (like gratitude.) It gets into the real…what you are really feeling. What’s really going on.  That’s the only place there is any hope of movement from.

And a week from now you’ll be writing something (on your brand new computer…and yes, it appears the i5 processor is worth the money!) and you’ll be thinking to yourself…maybe God does want to thrill me after all.

A thought from the Gita

Tags

, ,

I don’t want to sound sappy, but you’re a miracle! Who knows how you were saved from the despair of addiction, or for what purpose. It’s not really for us to question. We can easily get lost in wondering why we get this thing when someone else stays stuck in the mud. It’s horrible to watch people die of alcoholism and addiction.  Even beyond addiction, it’s horrible to watch people suffer in their own misery.  It’s an experience you’re going to have if you stick around here (life)  long enough.

The point is, like the lotus, you’ve got a chance to come up out of the muddy water.  Lotus-like, you can be untouched by the nastiness that used to be your reality.  When we begin to “offer all our actions to the Divine, and surrender” the true potential of our beauty can evolve.

Be just a dweller today, in your human body.  Observe it with detachment, and love. Realize that minds fire neurons and fixate on things. That’s what a mind does. But we are not our minds.  Bodies go from here to there and back again a thousand times trying to achieve various goals. But we are not our bodies. We are something separate from the world and also a part of it.  It’s crazy beautiful to know this!  The closer we get to our truest self, the more attention we pay to finding a part of us not driven by fear, ego, achievement, ambition, money, sex, love, want, attention, need.  Just look for self, that thing that exists independently from everything else.  Rise from the mud. Let in the light.

It’s not about doing, or not doing anything. We can achieve this sense of detachment regardless of what the events of our day look like. I can be very very interested in finishing the work on the website for my non-profit today. I can center my day and my thoughts and my activities around that, and still be in a state of detachment where I am connected with my source, the part of me NOT driven by fear, ego, achievement, but instead, just the me that’s working steadily towards something without any emotional attachment to what it might look like when it’s done.

This is SO hard, right? I mean, really, does anyone else struggle with this? For one thing, this is not the message I was raised with (to detach from results) and for another, if I detach, how can I be sure that a power greater than me is going to orchestrate everything correctly?

And yet somewhere in me, I am certain that there’s something here for all of us. Because as I dig for my true self (that has no attachment to the website or what it looks like or when it’s done or how it will change my life) as I dig for that self I feel something unusually still and gentle…peace.

Ahhh…love!

How cool is this photo?  This is made out of matchsticks…and I  LOVE that!  Clever and creative.

Deep thoughts on love…um, no. Happy Valentines Day if you’re celebrating it.

For a long time, I just thought it (love) was generally a bad idea.  The risk seemed extreme (mind you, I come from a home where my father was married 5 times) and the reward seemed…meh, mediocre.  I was never the girl who had a problem buying my own chocolates or feeling worthy of a self-indulgent gift now and again.

I didn’t need you to love me. I wanted to be very clear on that when I got sober, because as you know if you’ve spent any time in the rooms, love abounds! Whether it’s the throng of people who quite literally surround you after you say something innocent like ‘I want to slit my throat and die’, or whether it’s that edgy guy (or gal)  in the corner (you know, the one who’s covered in tattoos, has a little twitch over the left eye and looks like they rolled out from behind the Quickie Chicken place) there is no shortage of ‘love’ in Alcoholics Anonymous.

But some of us come harder to fall than others. And it takes what it takes for the ice in us to melt.

For me, I stayed married. “I was not a blushing girl, no innocent dove. It took me a long time to find love.”  I had a lot of ideas about the things I was feeling when JM caught my eye from a bar stool across the room (Yes, I had about 17 minutes sober and was in a bar. I do not necessarily recommend this…I only say it to emphasize that we can stay sober no matter what.) We had a date that lasted about 3 weeks and then I moved in while he was at work one day (I think he asked me too, but it’s still kind of an issue of contention between us as to whether that actually happened or I just imagined it.)

I’ve been married almost 11 years now, and no one is more surprised than I am. Almost everything I know about love is something I have learned along the way, and the trip is far from over. Because learning how to love these people is largely about confronting the part of me that thinks it’s a bad idea to do so. Love opens you up, and that’s uncomfortable sometimes. To feel so much for someone can be really terrifying.

Because I don’t need love, remember?

In the end, the most profound thing we can say about who and what we love is that it reveals what we are willing to open ourselves to. And anything we open to, or anything that opens us, is not a bad thing, because this is the spiritual path. It has been my path.  I am gutted and ravaged. A soft gurgly mess. And I love love love love love. Mostly without fear.

I’m already SO over Monday!

Tags

, ,

No matter what’s going on in our external lives, the fact is, we know (I sometimes hate that…because knowing demands we do things differently than when we didn’t know.)

Sometimes life is full of fear. We may be overwhelmed with the tasks that are in front of us, or worse yet, those that lie dimly in the distant future. But still, somewhere inside, we know. When we close our eyes and settle in (as The Daily Buddha said this morning) and we become present for ourselves, we can focus our breath and our attention on this moment, and usually, in this moment, everything is okay.

So the question for the week is: How can I be present, fully, in this moment where everything is okay?

Love to hear your thoughts on this. Because I’m telling you the truth when I say that I don’t always know.  What I wrote three weeks ago on the blog may totally elude me in my life today. I think this is what being human is like. There are no gurus. No heroes. We are each (no matter how it may appear) engaged in the daily challenge of finding inner ground in a groundless world. And that’s why we need each other so much. Because we aren’t always all falling apart at the same time.