People Fear What They Do Not Know

tarot

While I was growing up in the shadow of religion, I recall being told that things like the Tarot were evil and that they were a doorway for negative spirits.  I was interested in the Tarot, however – drawn to it by curiosity, but I stayed away out of fear because I did not want to be followed by demons, or whatever it was that was going to happen to me if I allowed someone to read my cards.  As I became older, I began following my curiosity, and had a few readings done.  Some of them were interesting, while others were a little airy fairy.  If people tell you they can read your future, they are probably a little “out there,” but I was discerning when I was young, and now.  The cards can be “off-putting” if you don’t know what they mean, and also, I was never aware of anything other than what I was taught, so for me to go way out beyond the limitations of my beliefs, was considered a bit like being a lost sheep.  What I know now from my “straying” is that I was doing exactly what we should all be doing… following our gut (intuition) instead of listening to outside banter.  Once you have information from doing your own research, you discover that either something you feared is completely harmless, or you realize (on your own) that it is to be avoided.  We all have an inner compass leading the way for us.  If I would have bought into the fear about the cards, I would have been ignoring my intuition which drew me to them.

About two years ago I dated someone who was very Tarot oriented, which was interesting to me because I had always been fascinated, but never took the time to learn what the cards meant, or from where they derived (no one knows, btw), but just like a deck of playing cards, they are genius.  Without getting into the different symbols and what they mean, the actual readings themselves are a bit like reading poetry of a person’s moment and time.  The Tarot is nothing more than a tool used to guide people back to themselves.  Now that I have been learning more about the Tarot and doing readings myself, I have discovered that many people are curious, but have been told the same thing that I have about them being evil.  The cards themselves are not evil, but a person can be.  So of course be aware of the person behind the cards.  Some people make money reading Tarot.  I would rather sit at a farmers market or something and read for people without taking their money, just to give them some intuitive guidance with the assistance of the cards, which merely depict facets of the human experience and archetypes (or roles) we play out as we move through our lives.  I’m not saying that making money reading Tarot is wrong, but I enjoy the art of the Tarot, and how a reading can help someone without me benefiting or taking something away from the person for whom I’m reading.  The Tarot is a gift, and now that I have learned about our subconscious minds and how we resonate with symbols on an emotional and spiritual level, I see the cards as a breakthrough into a person’s deepest part of themselves.

I have read the Tarot for many friends and family members, and they walk away from my readings with a broader sense of clarity.  Sometimes people text me and ask me to read for them because they are facing adversity and they need some clarity.  Honestly, because I have learned to tap into my own intuition and can read people just as well as I can read the symbols of the cards, I do not necessarily need the Tarot to give advice or direction, but they are a valuable tool, and I love the art of the Tarot.  The more readings I do, the more I resonate with the cards I’m using.  I love art in any form, and this is what the Tarot has become to me – a form of art.  I’ve had some beautiful readings done for me that have been beneficial in helping me let go of negativity and move with the flow of my life.  In a society that is so weighed down with noise, chaos and focused on material, tools like the Tarot bring people back to the undercurrent of themselves so they can understand what’s really going on.  Because everything in life is so innately connected, and we influence the outcome of our experience by how we think and by what we are feeling, the cards easily reflect the person asking a question.  There is no “magic” in the cards (although there is magic in the universe).  The magic is that we, as human beings, influence the cards by attracting them to tell us what we are asking of them.  It’s a science really, and nothing more.  If you’ve learned anything about the law of attraction, you realize that we create our own life experience.  The Tarot is amazing for bring a person right back to how they think, what they are feeling, and the way they are navigating in their lives.  There is nothing scary about that.

We fear what we do not know.  There was a time when I was afraid of religions like Buddhism because I was told it was evil, but when I did my own research, I realized that Buddhism wasn’t a religion at all, but a wonderful and beautiful lifestyle that had more to do with nature than some idolized character sitting in the lotus position.  Of course, people do worship the Buddha (which he would have never wanted), just like people use the Tarot to “fortune tell.”  Man is always twisting things up and creating weirdness out of very basic stuff.  Tarot to me is poetry.  Tarot to someone else can be something else.  Don’t be confused about the various arts and religions out there.  Discover for yourself what they mean to you and go from there.  There is nothing wrong with following your curiosity.  People are freaking crazy, but usually what they are into is nothing more than a guidance system of some sort, created for the purpose of bringing people back to themselves, where the answers all are anyway.  We are the walking talking version of our source.

If I was on a deserted island with nothing but my gut and my voice, I would have to listen to my intuition, which is the place we should all be tapping into, regardless of our circumstances.  We have an internal source of wisdom right in our own bodies.  Forever, we have used tools to remind us to go within, including the Bible, the Torah, etc.  People write them – we read them to help us remain on track emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  The Tarot is nothing more than one of these tools, although instead of words, it uses symbols.  Someone who has the wrong intentions can read the Bible in an evil way, just like someone who gets behind the Tarot and says they can read fortunes, is probably not the right person to do a reading for you.  Listen to your gut and go from there.  That’s all I’m saying, but don’t shun something merely because you’ve been misinformed.  Discover life for yourself and make your own decisions.  People judge when they are not informed.  I used to do this too, but now I am open to learning about something before I go and judge it.  It’s always the person behind the thing I’m looking into that I need to worry about – not the book or the cards themselves. People who have used the Bible to control the masses are more evil (in my book) than some kook behind a deck of Tarot cards. Lets get real. I mean, there is wisdom in every single element of life… not just one source of truth. There is a lot of ancient wisdom in the Tarot, and there is a lot of Astrology in the Bible (and numerology, although most people overlook this), but in the wrong hands, many tools we use can be used for evil rather than for good. Just like sex can be both life-giving and also destructive, there are two sides to every coin.

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.

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)!

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.

How Far Would You Go to Protect Your Freedom?

Protect Your Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.