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.

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.

T. G. I. F. (Tarantulas Grow Insane Fangs)?

Smile

“Life is so weird,” responded one of my coworkers on Tuesday when I told her I was moving onto a full time job after a year and a half of being self-employed and working part-time.  “Life IS weird,” I repeated, “but it’s so good!”  I’ve spent the last month not worrying about the curve ball apocalypse coming at me.  It was one of those times that seriously tested my faith.  I was given the opportunity to either think outside of the box, or to cave in.  I didn’t cave in because I promised myself a year and a half ago (when I took a huge leap of faith and moved to the opposite side of the San Francisco Bay with my daughter) that I was going to “go for it” while I was here.  After two years of being sober, I trusted myself enough to put everything out on the line, and if I failed, I made the decision that I could live with it, because at least I tried.  I least I felt something and got passionate about my life, and followed the vision I have for it.

I recall several years ago when I decided to get sober, I spoke to a group of peers and said, “I want to be the best me that there is.  I’m going to place all my energy into going after what I want in life.”  It occurred to me that I should totally place the persistence I had in my addiction, into something positive.  I mean, drinking wasn’t working for me at all, so why not scoot on over to the opposite side of the spectrum and actually create a life worth living?  There was no way I was doing sobriety half-assed.  That wouldn’t have worked for me at all.  I’m an “all-or-none” type of girl.  I’m not saying that I don’t waiver, because God knows I do that too, but once I make a decision… the sky’s the limit.  This is the opposite side of the spectrum after all.

So the curve balls were approaching.  The roommate bailed.  My son moved back with his dad after four months of living with us.  My daughter began complaining that she also wanted us to move back to my hometown where our family resides.  Work was slow for several months.  Yet, I’m in a lease until September, she’s got school through May, and I feel connected where we are now, plus she’s getting a really good education and the opportunities are endless here.  She’s safe in our town, which wouldn’t be the case in my hometown where there is a lot of crime.  “I don’t feel like moving back there would be the right thing to do,” I told her after thinking everything through.  She was also feeling like we would be too tight on money now that I was paying the full amount of rent.  She was right.  I didn’t come here to struggle or to be in constant survival mode, so I had to do something.  The urge was hitting me pretty hard.  The only thing I could do was surrender (and pray).

“Listen, Universe filled with love and abundance… You know what’s happening right now.  It’s too much for me to handle, so I’m going to let you handle it.  I’m open to receiving whatever comes my way.  If I’m supposed to pack up and go home, then just give it to me straight.  I can handle it, and I’m willing to do that, but honestly, I don’t feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do.  I love it here.  I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.  I trust that whatever I need will be provided, and that you will give me clarity so that I will know which way to go.  You know my needs better than I do, so please take care of us.  I do not want to struggle while I’m here.  I’m tired of struggling.  I’m done with that way of life.  I’m ready to rock and roll.  Thank you for today and for my wonderful life, and for giving me this opportunity to surrender, and for a new perspective.  Give me complete clarity.”

Two days later, a new job opportunity presented itself.  I vacillated, because I was just starting some new ventures with my self-employment.  Business was slowly picking up.  I could have remained where I was and hoped for the best, but then the new job offered more money than expected, and I realized that I could also work my way up there, which wasn’t the case being self-employed.  I got advice from a few people, and sat with myself for a day, but it became abundantly clear that I should take the new position.  It is much closer to home.  I can build a community there, just like I have at the job where I’m at now.  In fact, there are tons of more people working in the new office, and there is so much more opportunity for growth.  How could I pass it up?  I couldn’t.  Sure, it’s scary to start a new position in a busier environment, and to walk away from what I have now, but my fear pales in comparison to my faith.

“Life is only getting better.  I have everything I need and more.  Money is flowing toward me and my life is abundant.”  This is the motto I live by.  I don’t waiver with this affirmation.  It’s been my statement for about a year now, and it’s proven effective.  The truth is, I wasn’t getting along with my roommate.  We had completely different standards of clean, among other things. My son is happier when he’s closer to the entire family, and I knew this was a temporary move for him.  My daughter was merely reflecting a decision I needed to make, and she later came and apologized to me for being doubtful. Work was slow because it was time for me to move on to something more challenging.  There are always arrows pointing us in the right direction.  The question is, are we aware enough of our vision to notice the arrows pointing us toward our vision?  If life is left up to us to simply trot along without direction, most of us would feel like we are lost in a maze.  The universe puts things along our path to wake us up to the path.  It’s easy to see once you recall the vision you have for your life, even if that vision is merely to remain sober.  I had to ask myself, which direction would most likely keep me sober?  And the answer was “the path of least resistance.”  Surrender and open yourself up to whatever comes your way.  Recall the direction you wish to go, and get on board with whatever is presented to you, even if it feels like life is coming against you.  Be open to receiving whatever it is you need right now, even if it doesn’t look like it’s what you need right now. When the curve balls come, look around for the bat.  TGIF (That’s God Invoking Faith)!

Limbo is Only Good at a Party, Not So Much in Everyday Life

Limbo

The one game I am terrible at is Limbo.  Sadly, I’m not limber enough to limbo, but I’m talking of the physical game here, not the mental/emotional one.  I was the champion at the mental one, except it never got me anywhere (um… because the mental/emotional game of limbo keeps you stationary), so there was no true championship.  Reality limbo is like a stagnant river.  Everything just gets swirled into that one place of non-action until it eventually stops the flow, and begins stinking to high heaven.

On my morning run this week, I noticed a new sign sitting up on a chair at this shabby/chic store that I love.  It says, “WAKE UP AND BE AWESOME!”

Wake up and be awesome

I saw this after making the decision that I wasn’t going to waiver any longer when it came to making decisions.  I have spent the last several months wavering back and forth about so many things.  It has become incredibly exasperating.  I’m the kind of person who wants concise answers about things.  Just give me the damn bottom line.  Tell me what to, where to go, who to talk to (how not to pick up a drink).  Give me solid lines, man.  But something has changed for me since I’ve been in recovery.  I’m more about feeling my way through life, rather than thinking my through it, or making decisions based on logic.  And this is a huge shift for me because I’m an “all or none” type of individual, and when you’re feeling your way through things, lines can get kind of blurry.  I think this has been my problem lately.  Logic tells me one thing, and my gut tells me another.  So I’m in limbo, but when I made a decision earlier in the week to follow my gut, and then I saw this sign, it was like the bulb in my head ignited.  It’s not about what I do, really.  It’s about how I feel while I’m doing it.  If I make a decision to “feel awesome” per say (and I have made this decision, btw), then I’m focusing my energy inward, which will project (create) an outward physical reality that is pretty f-ing awesome.

It’s true.   We get caught up in physical reality because it’s solid, but we forget that there is a whole universe occurring right inside of us, which actually projects that physical reality.  If you’re not paying attention to yourself, life seems pretty random, but if you are self-aware, everything that unfolds before you is thoughtfully developed by your well-trained thoughts.  I have literally “thought” people out of my path by not thinking about them at all.  By basically telling the universe that I don’t want to have the experience I’m having with them, I’ve rid negative people out of my life.  I do it all the time.  I just don’t give attention to those people, or I give them direct attention to move it on out, and they go away.  I know I can do this with everything.  If I need more money, I focus on money coming in, rather than dreading what I don’t have right now.  If I want more friends, I open myself up to that experience, instead of basking in my loneliness.  We all have the power to create our experiences by focusing on what we do want in life.  The bottom line (ah… here it is), is that we essentially want to feel good.  In order to feel good, you have to have a positive attitude, no matter what’s occurring.  So what does this have to do with limbo?  Everything.

It’s all about waking up and saying, “I am going to feel awesome today.”  I’m going to put my all into whatever it is I’m doing.  If I made a decision to remain at my job, then I’m going to get focused and work hard.  If I made a decision to be in this relationship, then I’m going to give it my all.  If I made a decision to get out of this relationship, then I’m not looking back.  If I decide to lose twenty pounds this year, then I’m NOT going to screw around with sugar and carbs.  If I do binge out on Twinkies, then I’m going to feel guilty.  My goal is to feel awesome, so screw that Twinkie (do people even eat those things anymore?).

I know this is easier said than done, but if you’re focused on how you feel, rather than spending a great amount of time focused on physical reality results, then the results will reflect your awesomeness.  It truly will.  I know for a fact that I feel amazingly awesome after I finish writing a blog, or while I’m plucking away at another chapter in a book, so why would I study for a real estate exam in order to sell houses because that’s a more “logical” course of action?  For years I’ve gone back and forth with this.  The other day I was like, “You know what?  I don’t feel as awesome when I’m spending my energy on my real estate career, like I do when I’m writing a book.”  The only thing I truly care about is writing books.  Do they make a lot of money?  Not yet.  But I haven’t even given it a real shot because I’ve been in limbo this entire time.  I realize now that I haven’t focused my energy on my writing like I could.  Even if it takes me a decade to make a living writing, it is that worth it to me, because I feel so incredible while I’m writing.  Nothing else gives me that feeling of awesomeness.  You know what I’m saying?

So where am I placing my energy from here on out?  On this thing that makes me feel awesome.  I know (because of extensive experimenting and experience) that once I go for it, my physical reality will unfold to match my alignment with who I truly am.  This is a law of nature.  I may not end up a millionaire, or a homeowner, or a Tesla driver (not right away anyway), but I will definitely be a happier person, and I think I made the point that the way we feel, is so much more powerful than our physical reality (which will eventually reflect the way we feel).

If you’re in limbo about something (or several things), then take a moment and think about which direction makes you feel awesome.  If one way is a gamble, yet you feel exhilarated thinking about taking that chance, and the other way is you settling for less because it’s a much more comfortable decision, then go for the awesomeness.  You don’t have to give up everything on the comfortable side to follow the path of awesomeness.  You simply have to make a decision to place more of your energy toward feeling awesome.  At some point, that comfortable place will become uncomfortable and it will naturally fall away.  It all about where you place your focus, and your focus should always be within (or you will surely do without). (Right about now, my son would roll his eyes and shout, “Mom, stop saying AWESOME…”)

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.

When Life Is a Big Fat Question Mark

What Next

Not knowing what comes next

has its benefits

something greater than me

has my back

This mystery is not a tragedy

merely a vestige to remain

on track

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.

The Answer to Your Problems is “Be of Service”

Be Of Service

When things feel out of control and when life feels like more of a labyrinth than a walk in the park, it can really throw us off.  I had this experience in December and it got the best of me until I stood alone in nature and pretty much threw my hands up to the universe.  “I have absolutely no control, and you know what?  I don’t want control, so once again, I surrender.  Let me be a vessel…”  These were pretty much my words.  I have this convo with God a lot in life (I’ve noticed).  I’m always getting ahead of myself.  My wants and needs become crucial, while the simple things in life get tossed aside and overlooked.  I want everything NOW.  Or at least in my timing, which means that I am way behind in where I thought I should be by now.  Yet when I stop all my whining and nonsense, I realize that all of that chaos is in my mind.  Nothing is falling apart right this second.  Everything is going fairly smoothly.  I feel a little bit raw, and where I want to be is rubbing up against where I am, but to know where I want to go is essential.  It is the vision that will get me there, not the drudging to get there.  I don’t have to drudge.  I simply have to know where I’m headed and surrender to the moment.  I need to trust that I’m being guided along the way, and perhaps the universe moves a lot more casually than I desire, but that’s none of my business.  I’m simply a vessel, remember?

I had a dream last night that all of these people were cramming into one house, and I wasted all my time trying to figure out where I was going to sleep, while trying to keep all my belongings in one place, but it was impossible to control the chaos.  People were arriving and more stuff was being crammed into this one house.  There were animals in cages that were hanging outside of their cages because there was no more room.  It was crazy.  Toward the end of the dream, I didn’t know where any of my stuff was, but it was no longer important to me.  People needed guidance and they kept asking me for direction.  I stopped all my worry and just started helping the people.  When I started being of service, all the chaos happening was no big deal.  I felt centered.  When I got a moment, I decided to do some exploring, and I ended up in the back yard where there was a pride of lions.  There were so many lions – male, female and tons of cubs.  I took a photo of the pride and posted on Facebook, “These lions are right in my own back yard.”  I woke up and realized the power in that statement.

Lions represent courage, strength and power.  I have been dreaming about lions a lot.  In my dream there were male and female, which is yin and yang.  All of these people and animals were inside one house.  Everything in that house represents aspects of myself coming together.  This last month was so confusing to me, and chaotic, but once I surrendered and just centered myself in the moment, everything I needed (strength, courage, power) was in my own back yard.  (Perhaps the pride was a pun for my own pride that has often held me hostage).  There is never anything outside of myself that I need.  It’s all in one place in the here and now.  If we are confused, overwhelmed, scared and feeling powerless, the best thing we can do is surrender to it and be of service to others.  I have been asking the universe what I need to do to be of service, and the answer is right here right now.  My own job is service oriented.  I can be of service to my children and my roommate.  I don’t have to go to a homeless shelter to be of service, although that would be fine too.  If we can practice being of service right where we are right now, it will remove us from our confusion, immediately.

Sometimes we have to go through monotonous days so that we know what we don’t want, in order to visualize what we do want.  Often we feel overwhelmed so that we can re-evaluate our course.  When confusion throws us off, it is a good time to let go and do something for someone else.  Being of service is the quickest way to becoming grounded.  Give what you think you don’t have.  Be what you think you lack.  Know that the answer is always in your own back yard.  You are not separate from what you need, ever.  It may not be clear in the moment, but if you can just remind yourself to be of service to someone else, you will not only forget about the chaos, but you will become centered enough to receive the clarity you need.  It may feel like you are going nowhere, which can be frustrating, but nowhere is exactly where answers to your deepest questions await your awareness.  In recovery, it’s not about reaching the top of the mountain.  It’s simply about being aware of the moment.  We can very well climb that mountain, but when we get there, we will discover it was all a mirage.  There are more mountains to climb.  The journey is never-ending, so the universe laughs when we get ahead of ourselves.  There is nothing to achieve.  It’s all about now.  Who are you helping?  Who are you being?  How often are you letting go and simply being open to receiving?  What is your vision?  Do you even have a vision?  If you don’t, then get one.  With a vision, you will be guided.  Without vision, you will be easily misguided.  We simply need to focus on where we want to be, and then open ourselves up to moving toward that place, knowing that how we get there is none of our business.  That’s where I am today.  I know what I want.  I know what I don’t want, but while I’m feeling raw between the two, I’m going to put my head down and help others, even if it’s simply helping my daughter get ready in the morning because she’s running late.  That’s where it’s at.  I know it sounds mediocre, but to get anywhere, we have to embrace each moment as if it’s the path toward our vision, because it truly is.