Don’t Shoot the Messenger (They May be Yoda in Disguise)

Message in a bottle

I’m getting to really understand how everyone around me plays a dynamic role in my life.  I have this almost thirteen year old daughter who is challenging me with her constant negativity toward nearly everything I say.  “Just do not say anything at all if it’s going to be negative,” I tell her.  “Just don’t talk.  I don’t want to hear negativity.”  Instead of fighting with her, I simply let her know that I’m not getting sucked into that way of thinking.  She gets it too, which is good, yet without her knowing – I do listen to her.  Later when I am alone, I think about where she is coming from, and it gets to me.  From her point of view, she cannot see the big picture of things like I can.  I have a vision for where we are headed, and she gets caught up in the bumps along the way.  I don’t like being reminded of the bumps because it distracts me from my vision, but then I recall what my treatment counselors used to tell us when we were being confronted by our peers in group.  “Look for a morsel of truth in what people say about you.”  Even if ninety percent of what a person says about me is garbage, there is probably ten percent of truth in their words.  “Listen to that,” the insistent counselors would say.  It’s beneficial because most of us have a blind spot (or many) when it comes to ourselves.

We tend to disregard when people confront us, but I’ve learned to tune in to everything that people are saying, even when they are being completely negative.  There is usually a fraction of truth in there somewhere, especially when I’m feeling challenged or resistant.  These days when people challenge me, I open my ears and heart and seek something that I may be overlooking.  I have grown tired of being delusional.  It’s good to know all sides of a coin and to embrace the value as a whole.  There is value in my daughter’s negativity.  She’s got a very clear message for me, and for once in my life, I’m listening.

Thinking positive is terrific, and it will get you incredibly far in life.  I know this from experience, but sometimes we spin circles about which direction to go, and we need a bit of resistance from the world and the people around us in order to get us focused.  I’ve spent several months trying to “figure things out” for my life and I’m looking around noticing a lot of dead ends.  Still, I try opening doors that will lead me down unfulfilling paths, just to realize that I’m opening doors that will lead me down unfulfilling paths.  I pray an awful lot, requesting direction and clarity.  As much as I want Yoda to appear in the forest when I’m hiking, to give me profound answers about my life (George Lucas lives in the next town over from me, so this isn’t far fetched), often my clarity comes in unexpected places, like from an argument with one of my children, or from me just standing there with absolutely nothing to offer of value to this world except for one single thing, and then I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to move forward with that one single thing.  Duh.”  But I don’t disregard critics, or haters, or negativity from my children.  I tend to look at the world with rose colored glasses, and I know this about myself, so I very much value the people in my life who ground me with their sinister attitudes.  I appreciate them now, although when they first come at me, I have to admit that I’m quite resistant.  It gets under my skin and angers me a little, but again, all of that is valuable because it points me toward something that I’m probably missing.  If people are negative toward me and it doesn’t get to me, then it’s an indication that I’m centered and in a good space.

Everyone plays a valuable role in my life.  I don’t care who they are.  I try not to disregard people’s opinions anymore when they are directing them toward me.  They most likely (and offhandedly) have something of value to offer along my journey.  People outside of me fill in the blind spots.  If I want clarity, I need to see everything from all points of view, regardless if it’s uncomfortable (especially if it’s uncomfortable).  Those offhanded comments are often the arrows pointing me in the right direction.  If it were not for my daughter’s negativity this weekend, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the focus that I woke up with yesterday, and I know I’m being vague here, but the details don’t really matter.  She snapped me into focus and I suddenly realized that I need to cut out all the garbage, stop being wishy-washy and just go for the one thing I have to offer in this world.  The other stuff I was considering is just filler.  I’ve got to cut the crap and hone in on one thing and one thing only.

I want to make it very clear that I didn’t buy into the negativity that my daughter relayed.  I simply searched for the truth in myself through her discouragement.  I felt something strong about what she was saying, but if I were to get sucked into her negativity, I would have just given up altogether.  Instead, I opened myself up to her expression, grabbed that morsel of truth I needed for some real insight, and cut away the bullshit.  Mine and hers.  Damn, it is clear to me now what I should be focusing on, and I’m grateful to that uncomfortable feeling she offered me, because it set me straight.

I always remind myself that the truth hurts.  If someone says something that hurts, it doesn’t mean that they are 100% right, but it does point me back to myself, where I can go inward and discover the part of me that is not centered enough.  It jolts me back to myself where I can do some serious reflecting.

People say and do offhanded things all the time, and we tend to disregard them.  Sometimes I even find myself being the one doing the pointing of fingers toward others, and I’m like, “What has gotten into me?”  But then I realize that there is an urge inside of me to speak that offhanded comment, and I understand that I’m simply playing a role in that other person’s life.  I don’t like being the critic, but sometimes it just comes out of me.  If that person I’m criticizing would only grab onto the morsel of truth I have to offer them, they would gain some real insight.  It’s none of my business what people think of me, because I trust an overall big picture that is unfolding for others and for myself.

I don’t disregard people in my life experience any longer.  They are there as guideposts.  I am in their experience as a guidepost in return.  We need to tune in a lot more, and recall what we’ve been asking for in our lives, especially when people throw us off.  If what they say pushes us into proving them wrong, then be grateful for them.  In that regard, they have been of great service.  Without them challenging us, we may not have tried at all. Tune in to the truth, rather than tossing the whole of what people say.  Typically, when we are requesting guidance and clarity, it is not going to come in the form of Yoda.  It’s going to come out of the smart mouth of a thirteen year old who probably doesn’t realize she is your greatest teacher along your path.  

What Path of Treatment is Best for You?

Path toward Mt. Tam

Each time I go to an AA meeting with a speaker who says they got sober in AA, and they have several years sober because of AA, and they are living it up (thanks to AA) – I stir in my seat.  AA works for a lot of people.  That rigorous honesty thing and sponsorship is the answer for many.  It also doesn’t work for many because some of us are too clever for our own good.  I remember often wanting a drink after some of those meetings.  It takes a willingness beyond the desire to drink in order to do the work and to surround yourself with people who can support you along the way.  It takes discipline, and that’s a word I couldn’t relate to back then.

When I first started going to AA, I had no idea how self-centered I was, and I was one of those who worked my own program.  I thought I was being honest with my sponsor, but in retrospect I see that I had my own agenda.  Some people realize early on in their drinking (before several multi-car train wrecks) that they need help, and they are smart enough to get their ass straightened out before it gets rock bottom embarrassing.  Not me.  I wanted to see how far I could wrestle with my affliction of alcoholism before it took me to places that I wouldn’t dare confess to a priest (although I’m not Catholic, but they supposedly hear a lot of terrible things in those little booths).  I had to scrape my ass on the rocky bottom of the hole that I dug myself into (not once, but several times over).  It was a seven year rock bottom for me.  AA was the piece of cake that I ate during those seven years, which kept me briefly sober.  In other words, I needed something more intense than a meeting once or twice a day.  My self-destruction and self-loathing was beyond those thin walls that displayed posters of steps and helpful sayings.  I know I’m not the only one here.

I had no idea that there were several treatment centers in the Bay Area (where I live) that were county funded.  If I had known it during those seven years of my toilet bowl spiral, I would have most likely got the help I needed a lot sooner, but I may have not been so desperate for help then, to choose the most intense treatment center of the bunch (besides Delancey Street in San Francisco, which is two years of militant rehabilitation).  I may have gone for easy-street and chosen a program that let me do whatever I wanted, which was mostly sit around and watch tv, eat garbage and drink coffee.  I know a lot of people who go into treatment for a sabbatical from life.  That doesn’t work.  I went to a sixth month program that ripped my head out of my ass and slammed it into the mirror until I saw my bad behaviors around my drinking so clearly that I pretty much left there licking my wounds.  I was chastised and humbled and awakened.  Reality slammed me in that program like madness into the Hatter.  I woke up to myself and saw what I was, which was a piece of shit.  But six months of that, plus ten months of sober-living and aftercare, brought me to complete wholeness in myself.  I know a lot of people who go to 30-60 day treatment programs and come out of it feeling refreshed and alive, just to discover that they can’t cope in the real world.  You’re safe in those programs, you see, and then suddenly you’re exposed to reality again.  When I graduated from New Bridge Foundation (in Berkeley), I not only coped in the real world, but I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted in the real world, and I knew how to go after it, sober.  That’s the place I wanted to be, so that’s why I chose a behavior modification program as opposed to a cushy institution with TVs and endless pots of coffee.  I was willing.  When I first got into New Bridge, everything was weird and regiment.  The clients wore slacks and button down shirts.  There were a thousand rules to follow, and a hundred plastic red chairs.  The counselors kept saying, “hold onto your red chair.”  It was confusing at first, and everything got under my skin.  I was angry often, and bored, and annoyed, but I kept sitting in those red chairs, and standing in their infamous mirror, and eventually, I “got it.”

Here I am nearly four years later, and I know beyond the shadow of doubt if I were stuck on a deserted island out in the middle of nowhere, by myself, with a shit ton of fermenting fruit surrounding me, and there were no AA meetings to speak of, I would not get drunk.  That’s the place I wanted to be in my sobriety.  More than anything, I just wanted to trust myself, so I guess the question you have to ask yourself when choosing a route of sobriety is, where do you want to see yourself at the end?  What kind of sobriety do you want?  Do you want to live your life to the fullest, or do you want to struggle for the remainder of your life with your affliction?  Do you want to know how to live a fulfilling existence sober, or do you want to just get by?  Because it really is your choice.  I don’t go to many AA meetings.  I go hiking.  I go to the beach often.  I write as much as I breathe.  I meditate and listen to positive speakers on YouTube.  I spend a lot of time with my family.  I surround myself with people who are filled with integrity and who love me dearly.  I laugh often.  I go to meetings sometimes to recall what it was like.  I do a constant inventory of my life, and when I’m wrong, I admit it as soon as possible.  I know a lot of people go to meetings to give back to Newcomers, and I think that’s amazing.  I try to give back to the world everyday I’m in it.  I do my best with what I have.  I put up a lot of boundaries with people, even if it means pissing them off, because it keeps me centered and sober.  I stay spiritually connected and surrender to things I have no control over, everyday.  That’s what treatment did for me, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way, even though it sucked much of the time.  I’m eternally grateful for that place.  I still have friends from New Bridge, and most of my graduating group is still sober and very strong as a whole.  That’s pretty incredible right there.

If you are trying to figure out how to stay sober, you’ve got to be willing to do the work.  It isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do everything at once.  You get to do it one moment at a time, and there will be a lot of support around you during the process.  Whether you choose AA, NA, or a rigorous program like I did, do it willingly and with discipline.  Do it to the point that you get to a place where you completely trust yourself.  Because until you completely trust yourself, you are a slave to your drug of choice.  So ask yourself exactly what it is you want, and then go the distance.  There are so many resources and programs that are county and state funded.  If you are worried about leaving work behind, and leaving your family during treatment, think of how not-present you are for your job and family now.  Ninety days or six months of treatment is a drop in the bucket.  When I got out, I found a job immediately and my family was happier than ever to see me.  They rooted me on throughout the entire process, and they supported me going in there because they were tired of my shit.  I have a friend who’s job was waiting for him a year later.  The universe will fall into place for you when you get the help you need.  It truly will, so do whatever it takes, and do it as intensely as you went after your high.  That’s the way to go, and if you have any questions about my journey, please feel free to write them in the comments below, or email me at ArticulatingMagic@gmail.com.

Getting Past the Physical and Emotional, Into the Eternal

Path of Light

Over the course of a couple of years, I keep running into parallel situations where I am confronted with circumstances beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  The circumstances are stressful beyond measure.  Two times, I could barely get out of bed because of the weight I harbored, but I reached out to my friends or family each time, who helped me find the strength to trust in the outcome.  What am I asking for in my life?  I have to reflect on this, knowing these situations are created by an inner desire for something.  I am of the understanding that I am the creator of my own life experiences.  The answer is that I want to move past some of my old ways of thinking, especially about money.  For years, I have “never had enough,” and in each of these situations, I’ve been stretched and pulled and contorted into a place where I’ve finally had to let go and trust that there would be enough, and there always has been more than enough in each of these situations, although in the moment, I would have never guessed that I would be even better than ever, if I merely looked past what was right in front of me, and how I felt at the time.  The one thing I did not do was go down a dark path of thinking.  I acknowledged my fears, but did not get caught in their trap, and I know now, that this is key in overcoming the most difficult situations.

I find myself almost laughing today because here I sit with another circumstance that has me mentally contorted.  My roommate is basically bailing on her responsibility for the remainder of our lease.  We have seven more months on our lease and rent where I live is not cheap, which is why I got a roommate in the first place.  I can’t exactly get another roommate because of the way our apartment is set up.  It would have to be with a close friend or family member because of the space.  My roommate was like family, so it worked out okay, but I cannot replace her, nor do I really want to at this point.  My children and I need our own space, and none of my family lives near here, so it’s not like I can offer anyone close to me a place to live.  I’m on my own now.  Suddenly.  Just got an income increase two weeks ago, and a week later, my roommate tells me she can’t pay the rent.  Kind of ironic, and yes it’s a blessing about the income increase, but how incredibly scary and frustrating.  I was going to buy a laptop with that extra money so that I could work from home. Now I’m spending that extra money (and some) to pay the rent.  So much for the laptop… (but, wait)…

Yesterday I was riding with the Realtor I work with as his Transaction Coordinator.  We were going to look at a historic house that is going on the market with the two other Realtors I work with, as their Transaction Coordinator.  During the drive, he asked how I was holding up with the “roommate situation.”  I told him that I was bummed because I needed to buy a laptop with the extra money, so that I could work from home.  He knew that I was looking at laptops just a week prior. The device that I was using was a tablet, and it was quirky with some of the online systems we use, so it was taking me several hours to do what would normally take a half hour on a PC.  We were on the way to his house to grab some signs.  He just bought a device like mine, but newer, so he mentioned that he had a laptop just sitting around collecting dust.  He grabbed it when he got to his house, bag and all, and plopped it on my lap.  “Here you go.  All you need to do is erase all my crap.  It’s a good laptop.”  I opened the HP and was surprised to see that it was in great condition.  I’m using it now and it’s faster than my device, plus much more convenient.  It is everything I need to work from home, and it has all the bells and whistles that my device doesn’t have.  Sure, I would love to have a brand new system, but I didn’t have to pay a dime and I got something handed to me faster than I could have done research on what to purchase.  This is how life unfolds for me.  What I need is provided.  When I ask, I receive.  When I let go, things fall right into place.

I don’t exactly know how I’m going to manage the next few months without feeling overwhelmed, but from experience, I know that it will all work out.  My roommate situation wasn’t exactly convenient like I had hoped anyway.  There were several issues, and I wasn’t happy the way things were, so having her move out is a very positive thing, emotionally.  Usually when you remove negativity from your life experience, it makes way for more positive things to come into fruition.  I’ve noticed that when I am emotionally tired, or stressed or frustrated, it is difficult to write, but when I am at peace, the writing flows.  Other things flow better too, like money, and good relationships with like-minded people.

One of my very close friends got really angry in empathy for me when I explained what was going on with my roommate.  I was too drained to take on any anger at the time, nor did I want to sink into my frustration like that.  It just takes too much energy, but it also reminded me that I’m no longer caught up in the physical appearance of things like I used to be.  I am aware that something greater is unfolding for me and my children.  It isn’t apparent yet, and it is scary as hell, but I truly have no control.  This is all beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  After my friend had his fit of anger (which was really entertaining, btw) he told me something he had told me once before a couple of years ago while I was going through something similar.  “The universe won’t let you fall,” he gently said.  This was after I mentioned that if I couldn’t make it, I would be okay.  It isn’t the end of the world if I have to start from square one again, but he assured me that the universe won’t let me fall because I’m doing everything I can to take care of business and keep a roof over our heads.  I knew he was right, so I relaxed into the couch (thank god it’s mine) feeling very grateful for his affirmation.

We all want life to be a certain way and to unfold at a certain time.  From tons and tons of experience with sudden changes, my life rarely goes according to how I want it to go, or in my timing, but I have also grown incredibly strong and wise during my journey.  I don’t have control over most things, but I certainly have control over myself.  I have control over how I think, what my vision is, who I hang around with and how I respond to circumstances.  I have control over what is important to me and identifying those things that are not a priority.  My journey has been more about me than it has been about the outside world.  In the meantime, I’ve grown closer to my children, my friends, and my family, and I have a very good working relationship with the several Realtors I assist.  I am so incredibly fortunate to live in the area I live, collaborating with down-to-earth people, and that I have a positive outlook, rather than a negative one.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and I can improve in many areas of my life, but I know that when I focus on that which is beyond the physical and the emotional, the knots in my life work themselves out.  If I need help, I ask.  If I need a friend to talk to, I reach out.  If I need support, I go to a meeting.  If I’m overwhelmed to the point of feeling paralyzed, I turn it over to the great HP and focus on being of service to another human being.  There is an eternal place with an abundance of grace.  This is where I go when the skin meets the pavement in my life.  This is the space where I am set free from the burdens of everyday uncontrollable circumstances.

Dealt a Bad Hand of Cards? The Good News Is… We All Were

Hand of Cards

A friend of mine was telling me about a woman who died of heartache after her son committed suicide.  He placed part of the blame on her in the note he wrote before killing himself.  Sadly he was in such a poor state of mind, that he probably didn’t realize his words would destroy his mother.  Even if he did do it intentionally at the time, it was not an act of good reasoning.  He wrote something and reacted to life during the moment it was eating him alive.  I don’t know anything about him, but I know from experience that life can feel like it’s swallowing you whole at times, especially if you are suffering in addiction or with mental illness.  I don’t know if this young man was, but he certainly felt like a victim.  His mother, in turn, succumbed to his victimization.

I recall a time in my life when I felt like I was dealt a hand of shitty cards, and was pissed that I was stuck with them.  Instead of playing them, I threw them down and ran away from the table (a.k.a. life – myself).  I had no idea at the time, how strong, sharp, courageous, or creative I was.  I also had no clue about something very significant, that I understand now.  I was not only the player holding this hand of cards, but I was also the dealer.  Everyone sitting around that card table of life, was me in another form.  Everyone at the table is playing a role and most of us are bluffing without even knowing it.

When we’re born, we immediately wake up in this plane of reality surrounded in circumstances.  Some of us are lucky to be born in a loving home under a nice roof in a country that’s basically free, while others are not so lucky.  Either way, it’s how you think about things that determine your experience.  There are self-destructive addicts that come from a loving home in a free country, and there are brilliant people who are changing the world for the better, who have derived from poverty and abuse.  It’s not the circumstances that mold the outcome of your life.  It’s how you think and how you respond to your experiences that create your life.  If something terrible happened to me today, and I was thrown in prison, I could either go in there as a victim and mold myself into the negativity, or I could make the best out of the situation and remain a positive influence on the other women.

We always have a choice in life.  It’s not just a hand of cards that we are dealt.  It’s knowing that the hand is an opportunity to be strategic and willing to play the game.  Any of us can fold at any given time. Most of us carry on and hope for the best, but what if you knew something that other people don’t know about the game?  What if you realize that you are the one dealing the cards, and you understand that this whole experience is all a bluff?  What if you wake up one day with the same shitty hand of cards and you pay more attention to your anger about the cards, than dwelling on the cards themselves?  What if you look at the cards you are dealt, along with the smirks on the faces of the other players, and you suddenly know your agony?  What happens then? You wake up. You realize the game is a farce.  It’s a set up.  It’s set up to piss you off, to make you feel like a victim, to break you down, and to finally turn you inward.  It’s here to make you figure out something beyond the game.  There are hints along the way, but we get so caught up in the game that we completely lose ourselves.  We forget what we are constantly dealing with, which has nothing to do with other players, or the cards (the circumstances).  These are all merely reflections of something greater.  When you get this, you can either continue playing the game with a smile on your face, knowing it’s all a bluff, or you can stand up at the table (life), take a bow for your performance in the game, and move on with the understanding that you can now create whatever it is you want from here on out.  You aren’t stuck at that table.  You have a choice to move along to new experiences, but first you must recognize yourself in every aspect of each experience you are having, and in each person you meet.  Then an only then will you understand that you have never been a victim of a bad hand of cards.  You were simply the dealer disguising yourself as a frustrated player, in order to wake up and realize that you are truly the dealer.

I know a lot of people that succumb to an idea that life is filled with adversity in order to remind us that there is a god, and that we can count on him.  That’s part of it.  It’s always good to know that there is a bigger picture, but it’s better to know that you have a responsibility while you are here.  If you throw your hands to God and decide to suffer because you think it’s “His will,” then you aren’t fully getting it.  The idea is to overcome your suffering by understanding that this whole gig is a set up to discover your freedom.  The suffering is like a bad hand of cards.  When you notice your suffering, rather than the bad hand of cards, then you are getting somewhere.  That somewhere is the place that you came here to discover.  It feels like home, because it is.

There is nothing outside of yourself that is more brilliant or better off than what you’ve brought to the table.  No one else’s hand of cards are better than yours.  It only appears that way so that your frustration emanates something very clear.  When you realize what you’ve brought to the table, you understand that the cards were merely a tool along your journey of self-discovery, and you’ll get up and thank all those players in your life who were bluffing to show you the way to yourself.  Most people remain caught up in the game.  Let them be.  Now that you know, you are set free.

How Far Would You Go to Protect Your Freedom?

Protect Your Freedom

Whenever I watch movies about war or think about what would happen if shit hit the fan in America, and the government tried imposing stricter laws, I question what I would do to defend my freedom.  The answer is, I would do anything.  In my flesh and bones, I’m a raw American, who will wrath with passion the instant my freedom is compromised.  Insanity will take over my calm soul, and I will fight with guns if I have to (although not a big fan of guns, but this is how innately American I am).  As a born and bred American, I will fight.  I will literally, with my own two woman hands, wage war against those that try to relinquish my freedom.  It’s not only me though.  Try to mess with any American’s freedom or rights, and all hell will break lose.  There is no way the people in this country will stand to be subordinate to a government or superpower.  And the government knows this just as well as you and I do.

Have you asked yourself this question?  Do you ever think about how you would respond to tyranny in this country?  I know all my readers are not American, but it’s a good question to ask no matter where you are.  If you are American, I bet there is no limit in how you would respond to an imposition on your rights.  I bet you would go psycho just like me.

It’s ironic though – many new laws have been imposed since the “Attack on America” in 2001, but we haven’t risen up at all as “the people.”  We’ve unknowingly relinquished a lot of our freedoms in the face of fear.  Think about the scrutiny in our airports, the tighter gun laws, the imposition of government health care, the way we’re constantly being tracked and monitored.  Surveillance is occurring all around us.  If you so much as say the wrong thing, it is possible that you will be arrested, questioned and tried as a terrorist.  Do you know how many Americans are sitting in prison because of drugs?  Rather than offering treatment, they are filling our prisons with people who are not true criminals.  This is all occurring, but because we have the illusion that we are “free,” very few people are stirring in their chairs.

I just wonder what it’s going to take to get me to say “Uh-uh.  No more.”  I know one thing, I am constantly thinking about how I am completely exposed in this world.  Everything I Google, everything I text, all that I write and how I move about a building, and my phone conversations can be used against me in a court of law at some point.  That shit should get under my bones, and it does to some degree, but I’m just waiting on edge.  Push me to the point of having to fight, and the savage American will emerge.  That day may eventually come, but because this has been an extremely slow and subtle process, I doubt it will come in a way that we are aware of it.  Think “natural disaster” or “mass epidemic.”  It’s going to take something like 9-11, where great fear is induced, that we will become victims of subtle tyranny.  We’re already seeing it with the militant police raids.

Some of you may think I’m being extreme, or you may call me a “conspiracy theorist.”  I don’t care.  This is something we should all be thinking about.  It’s an important question to ask.  We should be aware of the freedoms that are slowly being relinquished.  Slowly, steadily, done with the injection of fear.  “War on Terror,” my ass.  More like wage against human sovereignty.

I’m just asking a simple question.  How far would you go to protect your freedom?  I’ve fought for my life through the “disease” of alcoholism.  I’ve faced my own demons and sat in chairs for six months experiencing myself in the raw.  I know what it means to be “free.”  I know what I did to free myself from my own fears, and it was a dirty business.  I know who I am on the flesh and bone level, and it isn’t pretty.  I know what I am quite capable of when challenged, and I have been empowered by breaking free from my own prison.

How far would you go to protect your freedom?  Have you asked yourself the question?  Think about it… I bet you are just like me.  It’s just good to know that we wouldn’t stand for our rights being compromised. Because the day very well may come.  That’s the trajectory of our current state of affairs. That’s all I’m saying on the subject. Thanks for reading, and also for asking yourself the question.  It’s important to know where you stand on the subject.

What Begins with WHY and Ends with YOU?

Quick fix

In high school, I recall wanting to lose a bunch of weight quickly, but a doctor told me I would have to eat right and exercise for the best results.  I was angry with the doctor because I wanted a pill to do all the work for me.  Eventually, ephedra was hot on the market, and there I had my quick fix.  I lost the 40 extra pounds I’d been carrying most of my life, and while I took the pills, I remained quite thin.  The worst part about it was that I could eat like a pig and not gain a pound, so I developed terrible eating habits while using ephedra.  Eventually the FDA took the pills off the market because there were a few reported deaths due to heart attacks.  I was more than willing to put my life on the line to take those pills and remain a size four, but I would either have to accept my natural size ten, or figure out a way to keep the weight off organically.  There is nothing on the shelves that will melt the pounds away and keep them off.  Eating right and exercise is the only sustaining answer, so I had to change my mindset.

This last year, after three years of recovery, I have slowly lost weight that I gained while drinking.  It has taken me six months to lose ten pounds.  That sound dreadful, I know, but at least the habit of eating right and a daily exercise routine is something I have been able to maintain, not to mention that my self-esteem has increased, because doing the hard work has made me feel good about myself.  If I can’t look in the mirror and accept myself for what I am right now, then there is a lot more work to do simply than a diet.  More than anything, I want to be healthy, feel good and live a long life.  If it takes me three more years to lose another ten or fifteen pounds, I’ve got the patience now.  I know it will stay off because I’m not using a quick fix, and I fundamentally feel good about myself for once.

This morning I read an article about a vaccine for heroin addiction – a pharmaceutical that will block the cravings.  This is another one of America’s short term answers to a fundamental problem in the culture.  This drug could literally increase the usage of heroin.  I mean, my old addict thinking is like, “Cool.  Now I can try heroin because if I get addicted, I can go to the doctor to stop the cravings…”   (Yeah, that’s how sick I am on an addict level).  There are no sustaing quick fixes in life.  As pioneers, we Americans are also incredibly backwards.  We work ourselves to the bone to maintain a standard of living, and then drug ourselves into zombies in order to maintain that standard of living.  None of it is fulfilling, and there is way too much pressure in our society.  We’ve got to turn this around on a fundamental level.

When I was twenty-seven, I already had been married for six years, birthed two children, and maintained a stressful career for nine years.  I got the children ready in the morning, did all the laundry, kept my house in tip top shape, cooked dinner most of the time, and cleaned up afterward.  I was doing what I thought was “normal,” but I was miserable.  I got through it with ephedra and alcohol.  We all know how that ended.  My husband was fighting his own demons at the time, trying to contort his natural way of being, into a standard American husband model.  We both failed greatly.  I don’t know how most people do it without going insane, especially if they are doing it sober.  All of that keeping up with the Jones’ nonsense, felt like I was twisting my soul inside out and then flushing it down the toilet.  To make things worse, some people made this lifestyle look incredibly easy, and the pressure from outside people, was terrifically constricting.  I didn’t know anything about what I wanted in life, yet I was molding myself into something completely opposite of who I truly was.  I’m an explorer, not a homebody.  I’m creative, not regiment, like my career required of me.  I’m also not keen on committed relationships.  I cried a lot back then.

It takes a lot of courage to discover yourself, and all your defaults of character on a fundamental level, but some of us don’t have a choice.  For some reason (perhaps a deal I made with the gods before I was born), I couldn’t ever drink myself to death, so the only solution for me was to figure out how to live my life sober without being completely miserable.  Nearly four years later, here I am sober and happy.  My lifestyle is nowhere near what it was in my twenties.  It certainly doesn’t live up to the American standards, but I am fulfilled.  I took the time to find out who I was.  I explored myself and the world around me enough to know that I’ve got dreams, and hopes and yearnings.  To ignore those, is futile for me.  I have nightmares of people telling me, “You have a calling to be a pianist in a church…” blah blah blah.  (You might as well stick a needle in my arm and call it a day).  God, the last thing I need is people deciding what’s best for me, yet that’s what I did until my late twenties.  Thank the gods for my rebellious nature.  It eventually did me a world of good.

I truly believe that there are people who have naturally addictive personalities, just like there are those who are naturally hyper.  I call that “excess energy.”  It simply needs to be channeled.  Put an addict to work on something they love, and you will see passion.  That extra energy simply needs to be focused.  Most people who have an addictive personality, are incredibly ingenuitive.  You can’t put a bird in a cage and expect it to forget about flying.  I hate seeing birds in cages.  It’s awful.  It reminds me of a creative mind being forced to learn algebra.  (Kill me now…)

There is no quick fix to a fundamental problem.  We need to teach our children how to channel their creative energy into what they’re passionate about.  If they are drawn to horses, we shouldn’t direct them toward tap dancing just because that’s our dream.  If another family has all their children in sports and your child doesn’t like sports, don’t force them to be in sports.  It’s a dangerous thing we’re doing by keeping up with the Jones.’  If you hate working nine-to-five, find a way to make a living more creatively.  The good thing about America is that we have a lot of choices.  We shouldn’t settle, and we should never stop exploring.  It is not human nature to be stagnant.

I feel like there are many people who are fundamentally unhappy, and rather than taking the time to explore ourselves, we quick fix it.  Many people don’t have a drug or alcohol problem, but they eat to fill a void.  This is so common.  Other people are chronic relationship chasers.  Listen, we all have an inner void.  It’s there for a reason.  Explore the void, rather than trying to fill it.  It takes less time to enter into that void than it does to fill the void.  You can never fill the void because it isn’t a void at all.  It’s your inner-self needing your full attention, and it gets louder and louder until you acquaint yourself with it.  We need to learn to sit quietly with ourselves, and to be uncomfortable once in a while without trying to numb the discomfort.  We all have traumas and pains and sorrows.  They are there to assist us in our spiritual development, but if we ignore them or numb them, then we end up even more miserable for a longer period of time.

Self-love is the answer to this backwards thinking society, but not on a topical level.  We need to go deep.  It doesn’t take as long as we fear, and the journey is incredible.  The bottom line is that if you’re unhappy, you can turn it around, but you need to do the work.  Admitting it is the first step.  If you can do that, then you’re already brave.  You also need to be courageous and willing.  And if you can’t muster the courage up, think about the end of your life and reflect on what it’s going to feel like if you didn’t make an effort.  If you spend your life trying to impress other people, how is that going to add up in the end?  It’s not worth it.  We are responsible for what we do, who we hang out with, how we feel and where we are headed.  There is no one or nothing that can pump you full of self-esteem.  It takes work, and time, but it’s worth it because the journey is truly fulfilling.  Along the way you realize what you’ve been missing all along, which is incredibly profound.  I won’t give it away, but it begins with Y and ends with U!

Embracing Your Quirks Along with Your Qualities

We all have sides to ourselves that we don’t like.  I don’t want to know or admit that I can be moody, or argumentative.  I want to believe that I am incredibly balanced, super zen, and supremely centered.  The truth is, I can be those things, but I also deal with bouts of anxiety followed by terrible panic attacks.  I grow restless sometimes.  I get irritable.  I still have moments where anger comes up for me, and there is a dark side of myself that doesn’t rear its head often, but it’s undoubtedly there.  I’m human, you know?  And we all are, so rather than trying to rid ourselves of the parts of ourselves that we don’t exactly like, or trying to pretend that we are all that, we should be willing to accept our quirks and learn how to look at them without judgment.

Without judgment?  Yes, without judgment.  There are so many parts of myself that I wish I could change, and I’m constantly working on myself, but I still mess up in life and say the wrong things to people, or get trapped in gossip sessions.  I am not consistently serene.   Every day has its challenges – and people, places and things often pull me in ways and bring out dark parts of myself that I didn’t even know still existed.  I surprise myself at how balanced I can be in certain settings, and also how unglued I can become in other situations, but there is no need for alarm.  If we begin accepting the stuff we don’t like about ourselves, we learn to laugh, rather than scorn ourselves for those things.  Laughter can alleviate the negativity, and it will transform a heavy situation into something more palatable.  Life is life.  It’s difficult.  On top of all of life’s unpredictable nuances, we have moods and stresses that push and prod us, often without our permission.  It’s ok that we are quirky and moody and sometimes unfiltered.  I think the best thing we can do is be self-aware and when we feel like we’ve made a mistake, or when we overstep our boundaries, we simply need to take a step back, re-evaluate and take responsibility.

I think the most difficult situations are when we screw up and we take responsibility, yet another person is affected and does not accept our apology.  When someone else judges us for our quirks, or for our mistakes, it makes it difficult not to judge ourselves, but we still need to learn to let go of what other people are harboring about us.  Most of us are doing our best, and sometimes we are caught off-guard in life.  If this affects someone else and you’ve said your apologies to no avail, then the only thing you can do is let go and move on, and allow that person to have their experience, or to cut you off if that’s what they choose to do.  Beating yourself up never does anyone any good.  Life is way too short to spin out about things you cannot change.  Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, trust that you are unconditionally loved and always being guided.  Let go.  It’s ok.  Life goes on and you’re allowed to make mistakes here.  Earth is a playground of learning experiences.

I read this cute thing online the other day that some people call taking one step forward and two steps back, a “setback,” while some of us call that a “cha-cha.”  I really liked that.  It’s true.  As a recovering alcoholic, I have overcome challenges that I thought I would never overcome in this lifetime, but once in a while that old addict returns out of nowhere and wreaks havoc within me.  I cannot help this.  It’s just part of who I am as a person in recovery.  I am certain that I will deal with this for the remainder of my life, and when it comes up, I have to sit with it and talk about it and stare it in the face, but I can no longer judge it, because it is part of my own humanness.  The one thing I know is that I have beat it before.  I have moved through the cravings and the restlessness and the negative thoughts with flying colors, so when these things arise, I know there is light on the other side.  I don’t hate myself because of my challenges.  I learn to cha-cha with them without resistance.  It’s a fun little dance, you see?  It’s good when these things come up for me because it’s a reminder that I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.  I certainly do not want to go backward, but I am in no way, shape or form at a point of arrival.  We just keep moving forward and picking ourselves up when we fall, and laughing at ourselves for being so human.  Life is not asking you to be perfect.  It’s simply asking for your participation.

Don’t dwell on the negative stuff about yourself.  Just let it be there and observe it, and know that it’s something you can work on, but don’t ever buy into an idea that you’re less-than or not worthy.  Have compassion for yourself and move forward, regardless of how other people judge you.  We all here doing this thing called life, which is not in the least bit easy.  The challenges are set before us for our personal growth.  It doesn’t matter what other people think.  What matters is that you continue moving forward and taking responsibility and trying.  Don’t ever give up on yourself.  Surround yourself with people who care about you, and let go of those that don’t.  You will never please everyone, and not everyone is going to accept you.  The most important thing is that you accept yourself in all of your variations.  Keep the cha-cha in mind, and embrace all that you are.  If you can laugh at yourself, no one else will have power over you.

The Point of Being One in the Midst of Seven Billion Others on a Very Small Planet

Universe in your hands

I had a serious moment of clarity last weekend.  Not one with white lights and angels singing or anything.  It was simple, and it about knocked me out of my boots, which were wet from the rain and needed to be removed anyway.  The thought has only crossed my mind once before while I was watching that movie, ‘Adaptation’ a couple of years ago.  It was this powerful scene where Nicolas Cage and Nicolas Cage were talking.  He played the role of twins.  While one of the twins was dying (the less egotistical one), his brother reminded him about this girl whom he loved in high school who didn’t love him in return, and he was questioning his brother as to why he would love someone who pretty much made fun of him behind his back.  His brother was very clear about the whole thing and explained that it was “his love.”  The love belonged to him, and it didn’t matter if she didn’t love him back because it was his own experience.  That love was his, you see.

I was incredibly moved by that scene.  I mean, it really tore me up inside because it is such a beautiful thing to realize that love is not something you need returned.  It is simply something you experience and give, and stand in awe of, because it’s so much greater than you, and it is eternal.  To expect something in return for your love is cutting off the flow of the love.  It takes away from the full experience.

But this post today is not really about love.  It’s about life and how you can easily cut off the experience of it if you expect something outside of the moment to return a favor.  I do this a lot, and it hit me that this experience of life is exactly what it’s all about.  I can go on for years desiring all kinds of things that I don’t have right now, and expecting, rather than just standing in awe of this whole incredible experience, but it’s more than simply being present.  It’s understanding that the whole point of being here is simply to enjoy it. There’s nothing more to it, which makes it so worthwhile.

Let me explain it this way.  I have always felt a fire under my ass each morning when I wake up, to accomplish something, or to be somebody in the world, which is a horrible standard to live by and I’ll tell you why.  Because if I’m not accomplishing something, or being somebody, then I feel like my life is worth nothing.  That’s incredibly depressing.  To be one of seven billion people on a planet that is smaller than a molecule in the whole grand scheme of the universe, is depressing enough, so I’ve asked myself for most of my life what the point is, and I’ve gone out of my way to figure out what the point is.  I’ve even gone so far and been so arrogant as to think that I’ve got a purpose for being here.  And sure – I guess if you want to break it down to having a purpose, then we all can say that we have been given certain gifts or talents to enhance the whole experience, but still, in the grand scheme of the universe, who really cares?  Who cares if I’m a Queen or if I am a beggar for the small amount of time that I am here?  In the grand scheme of the universe, neither of those things matter at all.  It is only in man’s egotistical mind that those things matter, so again – what is the point? That’s where my moment of clarity hit me.  The point is to simply take it all in while I am here.

I am this person who is having this whole life experience that no one else on this planet is having, and so are you.  You are having a whole life experience that NO ONE ELSE on this planet out of seven billion people, is having.  Wow.  Just think about that for a moment.  Now what are you going to do with that?  The best thing you can do is take it all in.  Really.  Take.  It.  All.  In.  Not just the good stuff, but also the heartache, the pain, the sorrow, the confusion, the anger, the traffic and the brown desk that sits there and taunts you and reminds you that you are stuck in a meaningless job.  FEEL that, and know that you right here, right now are the only one having this exact experience.  And then revel in that knowing, because that my friend, is the point.

The point is to feel it all.  To take it all in while you’re here.  To be like, WOW, this is me having this whole experience that no one else in the entire universe is having.  That’s HUGE.  It’s incredibly beautiful, and I don’t know about you, but for the first time ever – it’s enough for me.  It’s plenty.  I’m like – FINALLY!  That’s what it’s all about, and I’m done pining for things I don’t have because, dude, this right here is flippen fantastic.  Me in this body, that I am always wanting to change, and me with this skin that is growing older, and me with these people that I’ve been given (called my children), are no one else’s experience but mine, and that makes me feel incredibly unique and special and worth something.  I’m not just one of seven billion people on a planet that is smaller than a molecule in the whole scheme of the universe.  I’m the sum total of all my experiences while I’m here, and I’m going to take it all in while I’m here, because that’s enough.  It’s plenty.  It’s all I ever needed to know, really.  Now I can finally stop questioning everything, and begin living this beautiful life that belongs to me. Because it’s all mine and there is so much to take in. Wow.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_?ie=UTF8&k=books+by+j.+l.+forbes

Thanking the People in Your Life Who Have “Done You Wrong”

Cover for In Lieu of a Dragon Tale

Abuse comes in all forms, from emotional to physical, and the abuse is passed down from one person to the next.  It is extremely unlikely that an abuser has been nurtured in a balanced and healthy environment.  Most people who are mentally and emotionally abusive are unaware of their control issues, nor do they have any sort of self-esteem because of what has been inflicted upon them and taken away from them, usually in childhood.  We know this when we deal with abusive people in our lives, but how often do we find compassion for them?  It is so much easier to take the stance of a victim and to blame that person for most or some of our “issues.”  I am writing this today because I was walking with a friend yesterday who was terribly neglected by her adopted mother, and even after the mother has passed away, my friend is still harboring a lot of anger from her childhood.

I asked my friend this question:  “Although your mom was abusive, neglectful and caused you pain, what positive influence did she have on your life?  I mean, when people push us to the point of misery, and cause us to want to rebel, often we go to the extremes to prove them wrong in some way, shape, or form.  Their behavior toward us has a direct influence on some of our biggest life decisions.  How did your abusive mother push you in your life, which proved positive?”

My friend considered this for a moment and then relayed to me that she would have never left home as early as she had, and taken several opportunities to travel the world if it weren’t for her mom driving her to the point of practically running out the front door.  My friend has been all over the planet because she refused to remain home in that abusive relationship with her mother.  She has literally seen most everything there is to see out there, in all of her childhood fury.  She went out and found her place in the world because she had no place with her own mom.  How empowering that relationship truly was for my friend.

In my own life, I have recognized other people’s “bad or weird” behaviors as an opportunity to look at my own self and see how I can change (clean up my side of the street) in order to navigate in a balanced way with those people.  Other people enter our lives to show us something about ourselves.  We think that life is incredibly random, but if nature shows us anything, it proves that it is clearly balanced, and it is constantly rebalancing, healing, growing, providing, etc.  When we are physically hurt, our body immediately sends signals to our brain to rush in extra blood so that it can begin the healing process.  It is no different in our emotional, spiritual and mental experiences of life.  The universe always provides people, places and things to offer healing, balance and growth.  If we recognize these people, places and things when they arrive, we will discover that life is not random.  It is incredibly connected and unbiased.

Everyone experiences pain, and everyone is provided opportunities for healing, balance and growth.  It is up to the individual to recognize their role in the ecosystem of their relationships.  If someone is causing you pain, another something or someone will be provided for healing.  Life is certainly not random.  If we are to become conscious of ourselves, we must also recognize what role other people play in our spiritual, emotional and mental development.  Everyone plays a role in our lives, including those who are completely clueless to themselves and how they behave.

If I have learned anything this year, it is that no matter how awful other people’s behaviors are, there is something I can change about myself in order to find serenity in that relationship.  I can find a balance within myself through their reflection of whatever pisses me off or annoys me.  Rather than trying to control them (because I can’t), I take control of my responses, and there I discover that I am way more in control than I previously thought.  When we begin searching for balance within ourselves, we discover how incredibly powerful we are as human beings, and how life is constantly offering us opportunities to heal, balance and grow.  When I heal, rebalance and grow because of those other people’s influences in my life, it is easy to take a step back from my ego and silently thank them for the significant role they played, without them even knowing it.  There is so much to this life experience that we miss if we are not aware of our soul journey while we are in this human form.

I spend most of my free time writing, and this is how I rebalance, and figure stuff out about myself.  I don’t know what else I am supposed to be doing with my life other than raising my two children and writing, so that’s what I’m doing.  I have recently published a book called ‘In Lieu of a Dragon Tale – A Modern Day Fable for the Young at Heart.’  It is about a girl and her unexpected relationship with a dragon.  The dragon represents wisdom and the girl is having a difficult time navigating through her life with this giant beast in a society that does not accept dragons.  The story wrote itself and surprised me in each unfolding chapter.  The ending was especially unexpected.  I’ve loaded it on Kindle for 0.99 and it is also available in paperback.

If you have suffered in your addiction, or if you are trying to make sense out of the chaos,  this story is extremely relatable, as the girl eventually descends into the darkest of places in order to separate herself from the dragon, until she has a powerful moment of clarity.  I am very excited about this book and am asking for some reviews on Amazon.  Here is the link if you are interested:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=in+lieu+of+a+dragon+tale%2C+j.+l.+forbes

It’s Important to Know Your Limitations

Limitations

When you navigate through life with direction and have a sense of self, sometimes you hit a wall.  The wall is unexpected and it can be maddening, but only if you try to break through the wall instead of just standing there in awareness of it, and then accepting that it’s there.  The wall can be anything, but mostly it’s a place where you are reminded that you are not invincible.  After a long run with tons of momentum, the wall presents itself, making it abundantly clear that you need to slow down and change things up a bit.  If you don’t do it, the universe will do it for you, and from experience, I’ve learned that the universe’s way of getting my attention is not usually subtle.  The wall is kind of subtle, so if you’re aware of it when it arises, then you can overcome it without too much of a struggle.

It’s good to know your limitations.  It’s not good to walk around the planet thinking you know everything.  Nobody knows everything.  I don’t care who you are.  Self-awareness isn’t about life always being simple and trouble-free.  It’s truly about knowing the circumstances and how you are feeling and being in acceptance of everything right here right now without trying to outsmart any discomfort that you feel.

Last night I was in a Restorative Meditation class, and the instructor kept bringing us back to our bodies, asking us to feel anything that may not be comfortable.  She kept returning us back to our bodies, although my mind was off in the distance.  Each time she brought us back to our bodies, I felt something I hadn’t noticed before.  We did a stretch that brought pain to the palms of my hands.  It was incredibly uncomfortable, but during that time, I wasn’t thinking about anything else except for the discomfort.  When I directed my attention to my uncomfortable hands, and then accepted that they were uncomfortable, I felt myself relax into the discomfort.  The weirdest thing was that I actually became grateful for that pain because it made me feel alive in that moment, and none of my thoughts had any momentum over that pain.  The pain was a gift because it brought me into focus.  I wasn’t trying to avoid the pain, or turn off the pain.  I simply accepted it and decided that I was not yet strong in that portion of my hands.  I didn’t judge myself for it.  How often do I lay upside down and hold my feet up in straps?  Never.  So, how could I build that muscle if I didn’t allow the pain and discomfort to overcome me while I was stretching that untrained muscle?

What muscle am I stretching right now in my real life?  I’m not certain.  I know one thing is for sure – I’m not comfortable at all.  I’m feeling things in my body, mind and emotions that feel a lot like a wall.  I feel a bit blank because I don’t have answers for myself right now.  I’m at a loss.  The good news is, I know this is nothing more than an opportunity to quiet down and be aware.  I don’t have to have answers, and I’m certainly not going to avoid the way I’m feeling – the rawness, the numbness, the blankness.  It’s not going to kill me.  I know nothing right now, thank god.  I just know there is a wall, and I am standing before it and it’s incredibly annoying.  I don’t have it all figured out.  I’m vulnerable.  I’m human.  I’m fallible.  That’s actually incredibly refreshing.  If I knew everything, life would be dreadfully boring.

We all have limitations.  It’s ok to admit this about ourselves.  There was a time in my life when I pretended to know what I was doing.  That got me nothing but a lot of unwanted wake-up calls.  When you get to a place where you are ok with feeling vulnerable, and perfectly fine with not knowing what the hell is going on, then you’re actually getting somewhere.  I may not feel like I’m getting anywhere right now, and that’s ok.  This is a good place to ask for help, or to accept advice, or to be open to receiving some clarity.  It’s not a time to beat myself up, or to shut down.  Somehow I’ll befriend this wall and the wall will become uncomfortable with my acceptance, so it will shift, and I will gracefully walk past it.  Until then, I’m in a place of not knowing anything, and for once in my life, that’s perfectly alright by me.