The Responsibility of Being Human

Responisbility

The very moment I woke up and realized that I was completely responsible for my life (not Jesus, not God, not my parents, etc…) I was thirty-eight freaking years old.  Kind of an old bag by then, to have understood such a simple concept about being alive on this planet.  I don’t know why it hit me so hard at that time.  Most likely it was my gay Atheist roommate who made no excuses for any of her problems.  She was mature, responsible and incredibly whole in herself.  She was also dynamically present, which was quite noticeable, because most people are not.  Most people have a million things going through their heads and they get dragged around by those thoughts like they are some sort of puppet being held hostage by their thinking process.  My roommate was all up in the now, without having even read an Eckhardt Tolle book, or having God as a crutch in her life.  She was like, this is my one chance as a human being and I’m going to give it my all.  I am going to be who I am and do my best while I am here.  If I make mistakes, I’m going to clean up my mess.  I don’t have time for nonsense or bullshit.  This is it.

Although I don’t share her belief about this being the only chance I get to do it right, I certainly had a big shift (wake up call) while I lived with her.  I was standing in the mirror, cleaning my dresser when it hit me.  This was right after a dream I had where I stood in the mirror.  Reflected back to me, was Christ in all his white light glory.  Incredible dream that I won’t get into right now (it was for me), but when you have a vivid dream about standing in the mirror and seeing Christ, let’s just say that it sort of has a profound impact.  In real life (after the dream), I was cleaning, and suddenly overcome with the notion that I had no excuses – that I was responsible.  Let me back up a little bit… Prior to the dream, I had lived with the belief that Jesus was going to be coming back someday soon to remove me and all the other “believers” from the messed up planet.  Because of this belief, I was lackadaisical about being here.  It was always in the back of my mind (you see) that I was entitled to not worrying about the planet because God was going to destroy it anyway.  OMG I could go back and slap myself across the room for being so ignorant back then.

The moment I stood there with my dusting cloth, and as I looked into the mirror – what I saw for the first time ever was a perfectly capable human being who had no excuses but to be responsible for myself.  I even considered the fact that Jesus may not be coming back in the literal sense of the interpretation of the Bible.  I mean, I had grown up with this image in my mind of a trumpet blowing and Jesus appearing in a cloud.  He was going to scoop up all his people and whisk them away before things got really bad here, but the thing is – things are really bad here now, and I stopped blaming Satan a long time ago.  People are assholes – selfish, greedy, and lacking a sense of personal responsibility to their surroundings.  I was one of those people to some degree.  My excuse was never really Satan (once I became an adult), but it was my addiction, and some of the trauma I endured.  My excuse was always that I had an out at some point when Jesus came back in those clouds for me, but then it hit me that my roommate didn’t have the Jesus excuse, and also that dream was so powerful – basically placing me in a state of knowing that right here, right now is all we have.  I am what I am always seeking.  There is no separation of “when Jesus comes” and right this very second (which is all there ever is).  So all that future grandiose thinking on my part, was a hoax – a trap really, to keep me in a state of yearning.  It was the very component that makes up suffering.

We suffer because we long to be out of this moment.  We long to be removed from our pain.  We suffer because we don’t accept what is, right now.  We want something other than what we are feeling, what is occurring, how the moment is unfolding, etc, but the entitlement we uphold, is that someone is going to come along and save us from it.  That’s a lie.  That’s a big, fat fricken lie.  I recall the moment I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’m the one who has to save myself.”  Shock.  Desolation.  Fear.  Terror.  All of these awful feelings seized my heart, but that’s exactly when I knew that I had been completely irresponsible (and delusional) for myself and for my own life.  If I was afraid to take complete responsibility for myself, then (so help me God), I hadn’t been responsible for myself for thirty-eight years.  I had been waiting for a pie in the sky savior.  I know without doubt, that the savior is never apart from me.

That year, I stop daydreaming about a future Earth and began being present for the earth that was my own human body, which is the only thing I have control over.  I became aware of what I was doing, how I was acting, what I was putting in my mouth, what was coming out of my mouth, and how I responded to the world around me.  Other people became more important than my hair (and make-up).  I finally realized that this was it.  Perhaps I will have another chance to get it right in another lifetime, but all I ever have is right now – right this moment, and right this moment, all I have control over is me.  So dammit, I’m going to give it my all while I’m here.  I may mess up at times.  I may forget once in a while.  I may have bouts of anger or days of pain, but those moments belong to me and I’m going to embrace them.  I DO embrace them.  I certainly do.  I have a fire burning in me like never before – a passion for life – an inner power that burns with the moment.  I’m excited to be alive, and open to making a difference, but the difference I’m making isn’t that I am trying to change everyone else.  I’m simply changing me to be the world I want to see (thanks Gandhi).  I have a deeper love for my environment, the people around me, and also for myself.  That moment when I woke up and decided to take responsibility for my life was scary, but since then, my life has been a series of small miracles (some bigger than others).  Because I have a grip on reality now, I understand that I am creating it as I go along.  That sense of wonder is stronger than ever, and I’m no longer pining for someone to come along and change it up.  If I want change, I know (for a fact) that it begins with me.  And in the profound words of someone else (I don’t know who said this)… “We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS,” meaning, stop trying to DO something, and start BEING someone while you’re here.

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Celebrating Four Years Without a Drink

On top of the world

A life free of alcohol and drugs, is a damn good life.  So much has changed for me in a short amount of time.  For several years now, I’ve practiced not picking up a drink, every single day.  Today, even in the most precarious circumstances, the last thing on my mind is having a drink.  Sometimes I get through difficult situations without thinking at all about drinking.  Afterward, I’m astonished that numbing out my problem didn’t even cross my mind.  The practice of not picking up a drink, is working for me.

What I’ve discovered over these last four years, is that experiencing my life on an emotional level, is so much better than numbing things out, or putting off the inevitable.  I don’t know why I was so scared of pain, sorrow, or loss.  All of these emotions is what makes life so interesting.  Without them, I could not be the artist/writer that I am.  I’ve gone through terrible weeks when I felt the world crushing in on me, and I made it through the other side in one piece, knowing that nothing I feel is eternal.  Life is about what I feel, no matter what is happening in the physical realm.  We are all having different experiences (sometimes in the very same room), so it is clear to me now that my life is about my perception of things.  I have the power to change my perception of my life without enhancing it with a substance.

I’ve experienced bliss beyond measure while I was sober, and heartache so deep that I felt my guts spilling on the floor before me, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for a day at the bar.  I would rather someone rip my heart out, slam it against a brick wall while I watch it slide down onto the cement, then to numb my pain with a drink.  I would rather feel everything as it comes, even in furry, agony and melancholy, because none of those emotions are eternal.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, I get to feel elation, joy, and sometimes I see something so beautiful that it makes my heart ache.  When I laugh now, it comes from my soul, and when I talk to people, I’m no longer flashing them a mask of my images because I am becoming comfortable with who I am in my own regular skin.  The authentic me may not be a comedian, a model or anything spectacular or grand, but I like her as she is in her organic beauty.  The more I get to know myself, the more I love myself, and the happier I am.

I’ve gotten to a place where I think about other people more than I do, myself.  I consider other people’s needs, and wants, and I try to be accommodating.  I’ve made genuine friends, and I’ve become one myself.  I’m closer to my family, my children, and I am reuniting with my brother.  Every day is a new adventure where I let go of yesterday and begin as if my slate is clean.  I don’t hold on to anger, jealousy or other people’s wrongs.  I am present more often than not.  Sobriety has been gentle with me. It doesn’t kick me when I’m down or make me feel worse when I’m having a rough day.  Recovery has given me the strength to walk through my fears, ignore all my doubt, and the courage to go after what I want in life without competing to win.  I’m doing things now because I find joy in them – not because I’m trying to be somebody extraordinary.  In my sobriety I’ve learned that everyone is extraordinary – it is simply up to them to discover their own unique place in the world.  I’m certainly discovering mine, and life for me now is never boring.  It is a gift.  I wake up each morning so excited to be alive.  On days that aren’t so good, I’m still excited to be alive.  I know that my perspective is all I need to change, which places the responsibility of my life, on me.  I like being responsible.  Although it is scary, it keeps me awake to this human experience I’m having, and it is constantly reminding me that I have more control than I ever thought I did in my addiction.

Today marks four years without a drink, and I’ve come such a long way.  I never thought I’d be where I am today.  People trust me.  I have a wonderful career.  I’m taking care of my body, mind and soul, and I am no longer confused.  I’m present for my life and for the people who are in my life.  I’m doing what I love and I have more freedom now than I ever did in my addiction.  I love my life.  I love who I am.  I love being alive.  That’s something I could not shout out four years ago, so if anyone asks me if it has been worth it, I would say, without a doubt!  Today I’m on top of the world (and tomorrow I will be too).

For Those of You Who Love an Addict/Alcoholic/Self-Destructive Person

Loving an Addict

No one is ever going to save an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person from themselves.  I don’t know how many people came along in my life and tried to save me while I was in my addiction, but all they got from the relationship was hurt and confusion.  It wasn’t that I was incapable of feeling love, because I definitely loved people (including my two children), but my self-loathing took precedence over everyone and everything.  I could hide behind motherhood, a career and a meaningful relationship for long stretches of time, but seeping out from behind those images I tried so desperately to uphold, was a deeply terrorized person who lived in a state of absolute fear.  If you don’t know what that’s like, then it must be difficult to grasp the behaviors of an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, because they can be so damn lovable at times, and terribly mean when you least expect it.  That unpredictability is because an addict is a person who behaves according to how good or bad they feel.  If they are feeling high, then you’re the best thing that ever happened to them, but if they are too drunk or going through withdrawal, or needing a drink or drug (or whatever it is that keeps them from feeling the terror within them), then watch out.  Anything you say or do can and will be used against you.

Reasoning with someone who lives their life in a state of fear is like reasoning with a toddler about why they aren’t getting a cookie that’s already in their hand.  It’s impossible.  You aren’t going to get anywhere except frustrated.  Everything an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person does is out of fear.  Nothing takes precedence over their deeply ingrained fear.  There will be times when they seem clear and ready to make a change, but the fear will always override.  The only cure for an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, is for us to acknowledge our fear and to step directly into it.  We have to do the work ourselves, and many of us are afraid of the work because the fear of facing our demons is overwhelming to a degree that will push us further into our addiction.  This is why the programs of recovery teach us to do things “one day at a time.”  In our addiction, an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is not capable of seeing things the way a “normal” person sees them.  Instead of seeing a mountain as something you climb one step at a time, we only see the whole of the mountain, and feel like it is an impossible journey.

If you are dealing with an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, you may say things like, “Well, they don’t drink/use/behave badly all the time, so I don’t know if they are really “an addict” or if they are just having a hard time in life.  That is something my loved ones told themselves, because the thought of me being “an addict” was devastating to them.  People hear that word and they think “hopeless…”  Normal people have a difficult time digesting that label because it sounds like a person is doomed, but it can be alleviating to recognize this trait in someone who has been abusive and unpredictable, because it gives definition to their strange and hurtful behaviors.  Your alcoholic/addict/self-destructive loved one’s fear is like a boulder chained around their neck.  Sometimes they have slack in the chain, but eventually it is going to take them down.  It is only a matter of time.  Although the chain and boulder is not who they truly are, no amount of love, reason or chivalry will unlock that chain.  The addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is the only one who holds the key.  Helping them out of their addiction is an impossible feat, and it will strip you of your own self-worth.

Loving an addict is like throwing a valuable coin into a well and hoping your wish comes true.  The value in the coin doesn’t guarantee a wish coming true. Your love cannot reach the bottom of the addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person’s fear.  The only way they can move through the fear is to recognize it for themselves, and to be willing to walk through it.  The willingness has to come from a place deep within themselves.  Sometimes it takes several years and many rock bottoms for an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person to become willing.  For me, it took me realizing that I could never die drinking, so I inadvertently decided that I wanted to live my life on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It was my own personal awakening.  No one who tried to save me ever got very far.  I was drowning in my fear of life, and my dread of feeling anything other than high.  I had no idea at the time, that my emotions were temporary and beautiful (like the seasons).  I thought everything I felt (the misery) was eternal, and this is the delusion that kept me drinking and using for eighteen years.  I had to lose everything in order to realize no matter what I went through, and how difficult life was, that I would not disappear. When I was still alive and well, during the great losses of my life, I finally understood how valuable I truly was. Prior to that, no one could love me to that degree of understanding. You cannot love someone to a place of ultimate recovery.  You simply have to know that your loved one is in a state of fear, and it is impossible for them to accept love when love is the furthest thing from fear.

If you can grasp the way an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is, the hurtful things they do and their strange behaviors will make more sense to you.  I know it’s difficult, because when one of us shines, we are brighter than most, and our loved ones recognize that there is more to us than the self-loathing, but that fear will always seep through the cracks of the images we so desperately try to uphold (whether that be a relationship, a job, or our vanity).  The fear blinds us from ourselves, but the one thing you have to know is that we are not hopeless.  We have the key to our own recovery.  Many people can and do recover from this affliction, but no one recovers because someone loved them to the doors of AA, or into treatment.  A person who is living in fear cannot be moved from the outside in.  It has to come from within.

If you love someone who is struggling in their addiction, and you’ve discovered yourself feeling lost, confused and yearning for their love – you are not alone.  Those of us who are afflicted with alcoholism/addiction/self-loathing are some of the brightest people around, who simply do not know how to balance in life.  We are loveable.  We are the kind of people that want to change the world, yet we feel so small in the grand scheme of things.  We cannot see that the only thing we need to change, is ourselves.  We see the mountain, rather than the small steps it take to get to the top.  We have a different perspective than you is all, but in order for us to change our perspective, we have to be willing.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of that person who is struggling with their alcoholism/addiction/self-loathing and love them enough to let them find their way.  Letting go is like having unconditional love for that person and not expecting anything in return.  It sounds awful (kind of like recovery sounds to the addict), but it will set you free.  Letting go doesn’t mean you are giving up on them.  It simply means that you are in acceptance of their affliction, which takes precedence over everything.

Nobody enjoys feeling vulnerable, which is where loving an addict will take you very quickly, but vulnerability is a place of surrender, and surrender is the beginning to your own healing. Acceptance and surrender isn’t only for an addict in recovery like me. It is for anyone and everyone who wants to experience the fullness of their life. It is essential. So when it is all said and done, be grateful to the addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person in your life who brought you to this place of vulnerability. For they have unknowingly offered you a beautiful gift.

Just Be Who You Are (No Matter Who THEY Are)

Be You

The worst thing for any artist (I’m certain) is when you complete something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and you look at it with the sudden realization that it’s crap.  I don’t think there is an artist around who doesn’t have a little voice in their head telling them that they suck, and once in a while taunting them to give up altogether.  It’s even worse if the artist has no other outlet.  Last week when I was considering no longer writing, the only thing that came to mind was to buy a surf board and call it a day.

It’s so weird and awkward to be faced with insecurities out of nowhere when you’ve moved along feeling quite secure.  You followed your gut, and everything felt so intense and right, so you went with it for months at a time, but you were kind of in your own world during that duration, and then you get out into the real world around people who seem to have something that you don’t have, and immediately you’re like, “I’m clueless.  I’ve been delusional this whole time, or naive, or perhaps just foolish.”  You stand there and feel like your legs have been kicked from beneath your torso, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to do with your hands.  I’m always looking around for napkins to shred in these situations.  So you go home and you take it all in, and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do now that I know I’m lacking everything.”  It sweeps over you for a few days, while confusion is poking at you to go down a different path.  I should be more literary and less visionary.  I should be more like her, or after the same things as him…  At middle age, you feel like you’re in high school again and you’re wondering which bridge is closest to home (Richmond or Golden Gate) so you can jump off, but you laugh at yourself for being so dramatic, just like in high school.  I’m just going to buy a surf board, you think.  And call it a day.  I have absolutely no place in this world.  Then you just stand there for a while not buying into the confusion.  By just observing it you realize that it’s really beneficial to see your insecurities, because those pockets of weakness inside yourself need some serious attention.  So you decide to be compassionate toward yourself and to not make any sudden decisions or changes.  There’s something brewing within.  You know it.  And because of this moment of terror, and facing the terror (rather than pretending it didn’t happen), you grow.  You grow stronger, wiser, a little more in tune with yourself.  You become a little more rooted in who you are, because you didn’t sway in the moment of confusion.  You just stood there and allowed it to sweep over you, like an oak tree standing tall and strong in a winter wind.  Some old branches got blown off, and you feel a little bit bare, but you’re still standing there.  Those old branches and leaves aren’t who you are.  They’re simply images that deflect the whole of you.  They often hide you, even from yourself, but when they get swept away unexpectedly, you get a good look at yourself, which is so beneficial, because you’re bigger and stronger than those parts of yourself that wither and die (the images).  You’re something of greater value, and though you can’t put your finger on what that is, (because it’s impossible to identify something so empty of identification) you know it’s significant and that you should spend more energy on that part of you, which is always growing and becoming stronger.  It’s beyond the illusions you put out to the world to help you fit in.  I think it’s good to know that you don’t always fit in, because it reminds you to root yourself into the ground, rather than showing off your leaves.

Artists are faced with doubt more than the average person because many of them are placing themselves out for scrutiny.  Opinions of other people about your work is so subjective, so it’s important to have a vision for where you’re headed and to not get lost in the maze of other people’s standards.  This applies in life as well.  I may work a menial job, which will be judge by certain individuals who have secured themselves a fabulous career, but I also know that it’s incredibly temporary.  I work the job to pay the bills.  My vision for my life goes way beyond the office.  So I can’t get caught up in the disapproval of other people.  Comparing our artwork to artists in a different genre, is foolish.  I mean, I get scoffed at once in a while by literary snobs who don’t think what I write is “real” writing, but half of them haven’t written a fraction of what I’ve written (I’ve prudently observed).  At least I’m putting my work out there, rather than just standing around and talking about my ideas for the book that I haven’t written yet, or making excuses for why I haven’t written anything.  I’m getting better each time I complete a manuscript.  Anyone who’s completed writing a book, knows the struggles, dedication, and hard work it takes to actually finish the job.  Those who have done it usually respect anyone who at least finishes writing a book, no matter the subject.  It’s admirable in any case, especially because you’re basically standing there naked for the world to see you (if they are that interested)… and that takes guts.  I think standing there with your guts hanging out says more about you than your artwork.  Your artwork is the leaves.   Your courage is the tree.

To actually stand there and have the courage to admit that you may suck, yet not giving up in the face of defeat, is like rooting yourself into the ground, shedding old leaves and spreading your branches out toward the sun a little bit farther.  When you are faced with these uncomfortable adversities, you’re challenged enough to keep becoming who you are deep down inside, rather than shallowly striving to be like everyone else.  Good for you.  You only spend moments with other people.  You spend a lifetime with yourself, so don’t let the world sway you.  When you feel shaken, root yourself in deeper, stand taller and let go of those leaves that no longer suit you.  Ask yourself if you’re missing something that you may want to work on from here on out.  Trust in the process of feeling confused and insecure once in a while.  That confusion and insecurity is giving you a good opportunity to look at yourself, and to recall your vision, and to see if you’re on track.  I think it’s good to remind ourselves that everyone feels insecure once in a while, but those who are great, strive not for greatness, but to merely be themselves.

Seeking Validation From Others

Seeking Approval

Lately I’ve been following my own advice about giving more of myself than I think I have.  You know, the old getting-out-of-my-own-skin routine.  Life has been coming at me like a curve ball apocalypse and for some reason I don’t have the energy to freak out about it.  I know what I have control over, and what I don’t.  Doing the “next right thing” is the only thing I know how to do.  There is almost too much for me to worry about, so why even go there?  I know everything will work out, because so far, things have fallen into place very well.  If it was going to fall apart at all, I think I would see the cracks by now.  From my experience, the universe doesn’t give half of what you need and then abort mission while you flounder along.  If things aren’t supposed to work out when life comes at you hard, then usually there will be a big sock in the gut that tells you not to proceed.  I haven’t gotten that sock in the gut.  In fact, the green lights are blazing as I step into uncharted territory.  I trust myself and I have an overall vision.  Having that vision is paving the way for me like an unfolding bridge before my feet.

I recall a time when I used to look for validation from others, and now, 3.75 years into my recovery, the closer I get to my genuine self, I’m not concerned about needing approval from other people.  For example, it isn’t easy being vegan around carnivores who have strong opinions about eating meat, but being vegan for me is honoring my feelings about animals.  For years, I blocked out the sadness I felt regarding factory farming, and I got to a point where the feelings were too strong for me to ignore.  It was about a year into my recovery when I decided to go with my gut on shifting my diet.  Like everything else in my recovery, I took things really slowly.  I didn’t overwhelm myself with the changes.  I adapted to the earthy food in a way that didn’t shock my body or make me crave a hamburger to the point of going on a fast food bender.  I did it compassionately, like a ceremony of change.  It’s been a couple of years now and I realize that I’m not so focused on food the way I was before.  Food is no longer the center of my universe, and thank the gods, because we only need food for survival.  I got tired of worshiping food and looking forward to meals.  There is so much more to life.  Also, when I’m at a party where there isn’t a lot of food for me to choose from, I’m more focused on my diet than I am about avoiding alcohol, so becoming vegan has had the unexpected effect of shifting my focus away from alcohol.  I also feel much lighter, and I am closer to who I truly am.

I get off-handed judgments a lot for being vegan, but I’m ultimately the one who has to live with myself.  If I were to give in and eat a piece of meat, as often suggested by others, I wouldn’t feel good about it at all.  It may taste amazing, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling horrible about the abused animals.  Some people may call this being too sensitive, but honoring my innermost feelings takes a great amount of strength.  It would be much easier to simply eat the meat when it is offered. I’m very connected to life, and when people say, “Just don’t think about it,” regarding the slaughterhouses, I think to myself, they’re avoiding their true nature and I don’t want to do that anymore.  Recovery for me has been tapping into the well of myself, rather than living on the surface of my emotions.  I go deep because it keeps me in alignment with who I truly am, and in turn, this keeps me sober.  Perhaps from now on when I get glares about my food choices, I will say, “Being vegan keeps me sober.”

In regards to life throwing curve balls, there is always the suggestion that I go backwards and let go of my vision and just give up.  I have a lot on my plate.  I’m responsible for a lot of things, including two young people.  So I think of what it would look like if I stepped out of my vision and went back to my hometown and took another job that just paid the bills and got a place to live near my family.  It’s not that simple though.  There are so many elements to consider.  None of those elements flow together the way things are flowing now.  If they were, I would take a step back in a heartbeat, but I feel very strongly that I am where I’m supposed to be.  I’ve met amazing people along the way.  I feel connected to where I am.  From an outsider’s point of view, I don’t know what it looks like, but from where I stand, everything feels right.  I’m not forcing anything to happen.  I’m simply following an inner pull that has much more commonsense than it may seem.  I don’t think like most people.  I feel.  I feel my way along (because that’s what keeps me sober).

If you go through life seeking validation from others, you never truly get the full effect of living your life in such a way that it feels the universe is embracing you.  Getting guidance from people is one thing, but drawing answers about what you should do and where you should go, needs to come from within.  Yesterday my daughter was struggling with a decision about a friend.  The friend is always causing trouble, but she ultimately has a good heart.  She’s simply misguided.  We love the friend.  She has not influenced my daughter in a negative way.  In fact, on the contrary, but my daughter has been given advice from several people to not be friends with her because of her negative behavior.  My advice was to embrace the friend, to bring her over more often, and to make her a part of our family.  Give her guidance where it is needed.  When I said this, my daughter was so overwhelmed with relief.  She didn’t feel right at all about what other people were telling her.  I said, “You’ve got to listen to your own gut.  You can’t expect other people to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong.  You’ve bonded with this person, and you know that she is ultimately a good person.  She just needs to be taught certain things.”  My daughter is wise beyond her years and told me that her friend claims that she can’t help it that she is often “rude.”  My daughter told her, “YOU aren’t rude.  You ACT rude.  That’s not WHO you are.”  I was impressed.  I mean, that’s exactly right.  If her friend buys into that label about herself, perhaps one day she will literally be a rude individual, but we’re not allowing her to buy into that label.  We’re trying to show her that her behaviors don’t define her.  If she begins affecting us in a negative way we’ll put up our boundaries, but for now it seems that she simply needs a little bit of extra love and a lot of acceptance.

Labels don’t define us.  Religious preferences don’t define us.  Political views don’t define us.  My veganism doesn’t define me.  Getting validation from other people doesn’t breathe life into my existence.  I’ve found a way to stand on my own two feet and to draw from the deep well within myself.  I’ve had a lot of curve balls thrown at me lately, and some of them hurt, but they don’t define how I ultimately feel.  Nothing will sway my stance because I know who I am and where I am going.  I will be tested and tried and pushed and pulled, and I will continue standing on my own two feet and drawing from the deep well within myself.  I have to live with me for the rest of my life.  I’m the only person who has to live with me for the remainder of my life (twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week).  So if I’m seeking validation from sources outside of myself, or drawing from someone else’s well, I will never ever experience the eternal joy that continues flowing even while I’m facing unexpected adversity.  I will only have moments of happiness, which never kept me sober.

Living in Blind Faith is the Best High You’ll Ever Have

Miracle

You never know what is just around the corner, or down the street, or who is standing right beside you in a grocery store. That person may be your next best friend, or a mentor that you’ve been waiting for all along. You never know what beauty will transpire after a week of heavy sorrow. Keep tuning in, turning on, and heed to the calling of your soul. Don’t give up before the miracle happens, my friend, but the miracle is not some promise of greater things to come. The miracle is that you have a choice to open yourself up to the moment. This moment could happen to be the one that changes the course of your life, or it could be the one that you didn’t seize because it didn’t appear any different than the last moment. The miracle is always YOU; the brilliant observer of the world. The feeler, hearer, the toucher, the doer, the being that is having a human experience. You have the keys in your very hand to live a life of grace, or an existence of friction. You can live open and willing, or you can completely shut down. You have options to either hold on to the past, or to release that old heavy anchor and be set free in this moment, which is a gift of greater things to come, but you have to choose that. You have to say, “I know that there are greater things to come. I trust that there are greater things to come, so I’m going to keep moving forward and be open to greater things to come.”

A year and a half ago, I had a huge life decision to make for myself and my children. There was absolutely no laid out path for me, yet my soul was kicking and screaming to move across the Bay where I felt like I was supposed to be. I had no money, no car, and no job there. In the words of most people, “Keep dreaming, lady. That’s impossible” was running through my head, but for the first time in my life, I decided not to listen. Instead, I heeded to the calling of my soul. On weekends, I asked my boyfriend to drive me across the Bay so that I could feel if it was right for me to be there. It not only felt right, but we ran into a coworker of his who looked into my eyes and said, “Follow your spirit.” Another weekend we were there, a Realtor happened to mention that she was originally from the East Bay (where I was), and she had no business moving to the North Bay, but she moved her family here simply because it felt right. She told me it was the best move she ever made. BAM. I didn’t have to think twice after running into those women. I began doing what I had to do in order to make it happen.

Within months I acquired a job, found a place to live and moved my faith-filled ass across the Bay. Things have been ok. I’m pretty happy here, but I’ve also been floundering about what to do next. I write books that pretty much flow from my fingers, put them out there, and not much happens. I have no urges to do anything but write, so I continue writing, and waiting, and trusting that something is going to come of it, but I’ll be honest – it’s been a very lonely path. It’s desolate and scary, and often I feel like all I’ve done for myself and my children is create an even more difficult existence for all of us. We don’t have things like other people have. We don’t go on expensive vacations and we certainly don’t have the means to buy a home here, which is about a million dollars or more.  Things go through my head all the time, like – You’re a failure. You have no talent. You should have gone to college because you’re always going to struggle. Your children are going to struggle right along with you and you made a bad decision to try to move into an affluent area. You’ll never be like those people because you don’t have what they have. They have spouses with solid jobs, and greater educations. They know big people. You know nobody. They have trust funds and you have debt. You’ll always be stuck, so don’t delude yourself to think that there is something greater to come. Blah blah blah.

Sometimes I buy into that garbage, and decide that I can live with this kind of failure because at least I’m living in a beautiful area and my daughter is getting a great education, and there are plenty of opportunities for my son. My children are completely safe when they walk around town, and people here are friendly. For that, I am grateful. But my soul is not one to settle. She is a little tigress who knows better. She doesn’t cave in and shut down and listen to the nonsense in my head. She says, “Keep going. Continue writing. Ask for help. Tune in to the signs around you. Turn on to the possibilities.” Sometimes she drags me along by a thread and makes me get out of bed when I want to hide away under the covers. “Go on a walk,” she tells me. I listen because she’s always right.

“Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens.” But the miracle is not some grandiose thing that comes out of nothing, though it often will. The miracle is the knowing in your heart – the calling of your soul. It’s when you only have a clue and you take a leap because you trust. That’s all YOU. That’s the miracle. The fact that you have an inner guidance system leading you to the right people at the right time, that tells you to keep moving forward. For me it simply says, “Continue writing.” I have nothing to go on but that little voice inside of me that always says, “Continue writing. Don’t stop. Just keep doing it.” I get frustrated often, and I feel like a fool. But a fool can also be brilliant, because she has nothing to go on, yet great things show up for her. She is that open, you see.

The other day I went on another one of my gut urges – you know – the old tigress soul was telling me to do something different, so I did. I didn’t expect much out of it, but I got a phone call. Probably the greatest phone call of my life, although the Oprah show did call me once, but it wasn’t to talk about my books (because I didn’t have any then). It was of a tragic nature. I met Oprah, and sat with her, and informed the world that I was a drunk. That was fun. (Not really). But this phone call last night happened to turn things around for me. It was the one that I’ve been waiting for all along, yet I had no idea that it would ever happen. My own imagination couldn’t have come up with such an ideal offering. Without getting into details, I finally have what I’ve been asking for all along: Direction, a Mentor, support for my books, and an opportunity to get them out there. BAM! One email and the door is wide open for me. Not only did I get direction, a mentor, support for my books, and an opportunity to get them out there, but it all came in one package, through one person who knows everyone. One compassionate soul who wants to help, for no other reason than he heeds to the calling of his soul. The greatest thing is, he is in recovery, and I had no idea about that when I sent that email.  

You never know what is just around the corner, or what this very moment has to offer, but you don’t ever give up. You keep moving forward. You continue doing what you’re doing and trusting that there are greater things to come. You speak aloud what you require to get you through hard times. You ask for help. You do not cave into your fears. You don’t allow doubt to steer you wrong. You listen to your spirit, because she knows something that you don’t know. She knows you’re a miracle right now and she wants to show you something beyond the right now.

Living a faith-filled life is better than any high I’ve ever had in the past.  It’s filled with wonder, grace, surprise, adrenaline, and simple beauty.  It’s scary, and often confusing if you’re not letting go along the way.  It’s magical and fulfilling.  I don’t have what a lot of people have, yet somehow I have more, because I trust that there are greater things to come.  I am not stuck.  I am limitless, and free, and open.  I didn’t quit five minutes before the miracle happened, and guess what?  There is absolutely no stopping me now… BAM!

http://www.amazon.com/J.L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1420729757&sr=8-1

Encouragement for Transformation in the New Year

Trans

And we do not know what we are looking for,

Until we come again to our beginning… 

Robert Lax from Circus of the Sun

There is something significant about feeling lost once in a while. For me, it’s a reminder that I have no control over anything, which is good because when I try to be in control, I’m bound to make a terrific mess. This new year, there was a lot on my mind, and a discomfort that I can only describe as slow inner torture, overcame me to the point that I had to sit unnervingly with it. There the terror emerged, flopped around inside my gut, agitated me to the point of tears, and then gave me insight that wouldn’t have come if I would have carelessly numbed it out with a drink. While I sat with the discomfort, I thought the suffering would never cease, and this was the point at which my fear took over and told me that it was necessary to drink, because there was no other way out of my misery. Thank the gods for that vivid tape I play in my mind of my old self, who used to heed to that mocking fear. She ended up in even worse misery than where she began in the first place. There is no way out of misery except to embrace it. In the words of the beloved poet and sage, Rumi, “The cure to pain is the pain.” Yes, it is true.

Today, doctors will give you something to numb the anxiety, which may seem like a perfect answer in the middle of an emotional crisis, but as a person in recovery I have to ask myself if this is the way to go. From a spiritual perspective, life is not always comfortable, especially when inner growth is occurring. The problem doesn’t lie in the discomfort itself, but in the resistance of it. We are a fast food thinking society, conditioned to eclipse our pains and moods with pills, rather than learning a very natural process called healing. What a concept – to heal, rather than to anesthetize our inner conflict. But during the conflict, it is almost impossible to conceive that this is simply a spiritual rebirth, which is terribly confusing and constricting. It takes a great amount of faith and courage to accept the agony, but it is necessary if we are truly in recovery. During these times you just have to know that your soul wants to play its role here, and if it’s not able to emerge, it’s going to make things very uncomfortable. I have to constantly ask myself if I am in my natural state of “being,” or if I’m being bounced around by outside conditions. I am very sensitive, so I must be careful with moving too quickly in the world, or becoming stagnant. Either one of these things will send me into an emotional spiral. I am certain most of you in recovery can relate to me here. We need to keep aware of ourselves, so that we don’t lose ourselves during times of spiritual development.

I got through the agony because I surrendered to it, but it wasn’t easy, and I also know that it won’t be the last time I go through this sort of spiritual discomfort. It’s a good practice to journal during moments like these, so that we can refer to something when we experience it again. We tend to forget that life has its ups and downs and spirals. It is ever-changing and so are we. Becoming spiritually aware and emotionally mature is a bitter process, but it doesn’t last forever. The last thing we should do is numb it out. We should always ask for help when we need it, which I did. I had to lean on friends this last month, more so than I have to in a long time. Today I’m feeling anew after weeks (or probably months) of discomfort. It was worth it to not take a drink. I’m so glad I didn’t, but man, the old alcoholic self really wanted one. What have I learned from this process? That I really need to let go of all the things I want, and trust that there is a guidance system in place for my life while I am here. My soul wants to emerge and shine and play its role here. I do not have a clue as to what that role is. I really don’t, but I know that when I let go of trying to figure things out, clarity comes rushing in, whether it’s through dreams, or from the mouths of my friends. I get to experience the magic of simply surrendering and saying, “Damn, I have no control, and I’m letting go now. I’m giving the universe the reigns of my life because I know from past experience that I will be nurtured, guided and protected during this process. The discomfort is temporary.”

Do what you have to do to nurture yourself when life is difficult. It’s important that you stop everything and just ask yourself what you need, rather than extending yourself even more. I finally did this, and after one day, I feel myself centered again. By simply taking time to honor my own being, I received clarity and balance. I should have done this sooner. The other thing is when you feel lost in the world, or misplaced, don’t try to figure things out. Just surrender. When I did this, some interesting people came into my experience whom I wouldn’t have expected. Two of them told me the same exact thing on the same day. “You need to be your own best friend.” They said this when I told them that I feel like I’m lacking any mentors or support, or guidance in my life. “Be your own best friend.” What a concept. The third person who came into my experience was a comedian and motivational speaker, Michael Pritchard. He spoke at our office meeting yesterday. I rarely go to these meetings, but it’s the beginning of a new year, and I heard he was good. He spoke of happiness and how to collaborate with people, rather than to compete with them. He works with children and inspires them to live from their hearts. While I sat there listening to him, I realized that he’s doing exactly what I want to do. I had been wondering what I wanted to do. Now I know. It’s very clear. He works in my county, so the first thing I did was email his foundation and find out how I can volunteer. There are always signs pointing us in the right direction. You simply have to be aware, open, and willing. Sometimes you’ve got to get out there and talk to people, and ask for help along the way. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s imperative.

So in a very short amount of time I went from floundering, to feeling centered. That’s a huge shift. It was a very transformational new year for me, although it wasn’t anything that I would have planned for myself. It would have been easy to cave and give up. That’s for sure, but I kept thinking about people in life who have it worse, and those who never give up.

Never give up. Continue moving forward. Find a reason to get out of bed, even it is simply to feed your cat. Sometimes you have to push yourself a little bit, or a lot, and most of the time, you need to be your own best friend, your own support, your own motivation, and your own nurturer. If you do this for yourself, the world will follow suite.

My New Year resolution is simply to let go, and also to try new things, meet new people and volunteer somewhere. Sometimes you have to give what you don’t feel you have in order to receive what you need. Life is cyclical. Once you give, you open yourself up to receiving. Usually all we are ever looking for when we feel lost, is ourselves. So if you feel lost, or out of control, don’t go numbing it out with a drink, or distracting yourself through another human being. Simply let go and know that the universe surrounding will return you to center, if only you listen and watch for the arrows pointing you toward the right direction. In time you will see that the arrow is pointing right at you. With love for the New Year – J. L. Forbes

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI