Heart Connections

Everybody Has a Verna

My 12-step group has suffered a major loss of one of its old-timers, a grand lady who impacted each person with decades of sober strength and wisdom.

Many of the “younger” group members are really struggling with the grief of her death.

I knew her only a couple of years–since I moved to the area and made the group my new home–but I received multiple blessings of serenity and satisfaction from her.  She exuded a peace that only comes from the comfort of being where she was.   Charla had a way of combining gentle tact with no-nonsense recovery.

She had quite a history of substance abuse–including clinically dying–that only the truly hard-core users can claim but all of us can understand.  Her allure laid in caring not at all whether a recovering person was a gutter bum or a society matron; if that person had a desire to be sober and wanted to sit in a 12-step room, that was all that counted.

I loved her for that belief.

Charla sponsored and mentored many women of all ages and stages in recovery.  While I was not one of those women, I do have the pleasure of seeing her legacy of recovery living on in the lives of her girls, many of whom will be stricken with sorrow for a long time to come.

I can relate to their sorrow because I had a Charla once.  Her name was Verna and she was the Grand Dame of my old home group in Missouri.

Verna and Charla were opposite in their drinking stories.  Where Charla was rough-and-tumble, Verna was a genteel lady.  Both, however, were tough as nails and had hearts as big as the number of newcomers they could hold.

Verna was my grand-sponsor, meaning she sponsored my sponsor. 

She was mother, grandmother, friend and confidante all rolled into one and when she died as so many of us do, of lung-related illness, my world cracked.

My group didn’t know how it would go on without Verna sitting in that chair on the wall, right underneath the Princess phone. I lost count of how long that chair sat empty meeting after meeting out of respect for her memory.

But we did go on, especially after other old-timers reminded us that Verna wouldn’t stand for hero worship.  Yes, she had been around for decades, had touched hundreds of lives, but in the end, she died no better or worse than the rest of us.

It may take a bit for that reality to catch up with these good folks in Texas.  Charla’s passing is too fresh; their grief too raw.  For many–and rightly so–Charla was family and there is little worse than losing a close family member.

I suspect that Charla would agree with Verna that hero worship has no place in 12 step rooms.  Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to help in learning that lesson.

After all, that is the experience, strength and hope that I have to share.  While I don’t have the history with Charla that all my other group members do, I did have my Verna.

Sooner or later, if we stay sober, everybody has a Verna.

Do you?  How did he or she impact your life?

Five Ancient Methods of Self-Protection

This morning’s attitude could go either way.

I could easily carry forward some of yesterday’s emotional exhaustion and run with it to continue to let the pissy people walk through my today.

Or, I can make a decision to do two things:

1) Let the conversations from yesterday stay in the past, and 2) Wear protective armor today.

Remember the scripture about the armor of God? While I don’t normally make it a practice to quote the Big Big Book, as some folks call it, Ephesians 6:11-18 is one of my favorite passages.

I love the first line which speaks about putting on the armor of God. The metaphor gives me a choice and grants me responsibility for whether I put it on. When I do, I am shielded from the slings and arrows of the world outside of me.

Isn’t that a beautiful image?

A shield that protects my inner core–my heart and what I feel, my lungs and what I breathe, my abdomen and how I process all the stuff I take in.

These words give me the option to clothe myself in spiritual fabric so that I may release control of solo-fighting the battles I perceive. With that release, I receive strength. Another one of life’s conundrums.

I like knowing I’m protected–when I choose to be–and like so many other points in my life, all I need do is make a decision.

On this Mindful Monday

I encourage you to take this beautiful vision from Ephesians and let it work for you each day this week. I’ve broken it down into five parts, but you’re always welcome to use them in total all week. There are no rules except the ones you choose to live by!

1. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

2. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

3. Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

4. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

5. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

I’m reminded that I must be ever vigilant.

My ego–which means Edging God Out–is oh-so-patient. And while the doing-battle imagery may not be politically correct, and I’ve struggled with it in the past, it is a fact (for me) that I’m often at war with my own thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Go forward this week in strength, my peeps. Blessings to you as you fight your good fights.

B Well & Present,

Give These 5 Easy Gifts and You’ll Feel Gifted

Has anyone else noticed that things are kind of tense right now?

Weather, politics, personal (and U.S.) finances, relationships, our animals, our jobs, the aging of our parents (and our kids), whether we’re going to earn enough to keep our houses and vehicles and buy food–these are some of the extreme tensions plaguing us.

Is it just me, or is it hard to stay serene and mindful while your feet are planted right in the middle of a whole bunch of crappy tension?  The crappiness might not even involve you directly, but isn’t it incredibly difficult to keep it from sticking as it flys by?

What do you do?

How do you manage to stay centered, focused and sane under those conditions?

I had an idea the other day.  What if we, as a form of coping with the abundance of tension out there, were to:  a) stop bitching about all the things that are tense in the world, and b) learn to get out of ourselves.

I know.  You want to throw something at me.  Sometimes I make my own eyes roll when I say stuff like that.  But hear me out because I think this strategy could really work.

Take a look at these five suggestions (by now, you know the deal:  implement one a day if you like, or tackle them all each day this week) and by the end of the day this Friday, September 23, I defy you to tell me you don’t feel at least a bit better about living in this tense world.

Suggestion #1:  Call Your Friends

Yes, I know, in this day of texting, picking up the phone seems old-fashioned.  Pick a day–or try it each day this week–and phone several friends with whom you haven’t spoken in awhile.  Using the land line is best and if you have a corded phone, you get extra points.

Try really hard to not talk about yourself.  Ask questions about what’s been going on with them and then really listen.  Ask follow-up questions.  Inquire about family members, about their work.  If they want to carry on and get tense, listen without corroborating or chiming in about your own similar circumstances.

Be an attentive friend.

Suggestion #2:  Mail Cards

Again, the point here is to skirt electronics and connect in an old-fashioned way.

My sweetie sends five to 10 cards each week (some people in her life get weekly cards).  She does the usual thank-you and feel-better cards, but mostly she sends notes for no reason. She’ll find a pre-printed pad of Post-its and put them in an envelope.  Or maybe its a tiny tub of lip gloss or a sheet of stickers.

Be a spontaneous communicator.

Suggestion #3:  Send Gift Cards Anonymously

This one is so much fun!!  Go to any major grocery store or pharmacy and you can find rack after rack of cards for any retailer and many services in denominations as low as $5.  These are great pick-ups for your peeps who are down on their luck a bit (think gas cards or restaurants or groceries) or because you just want to do something a little special for someone when they’re not expecting it.

Stick the gift card in an envelope, put the person’s address in both the TO and FROM lines and then drive across town to mail it so it doesn’t come from your postmark.  This is anonymous, people!  Extra points for mailing from another state.

Be an anonymous giver.

Suggestion #4:  Do Something Nice (or several things) For People You Don’t Know

Several years ago, I rose early and walked a big loop around my neighborhood of single dwelling homes.  One day I got the idea to pick up the morning paper from my neighbors’ drives or curbs or wherever it was tossed, and place it by their front door or right next to the garage.

I never once got caught and the thrill-seeker in me had a heck of a good time.

You could do something similar by holding the door for shoppers at a department store for 30 minutes.  Or hanging out in the buggy area of your grocers and having the carts unstuck and ready for the next shopper. Or picking up trash around your apartment complex.

Be a considerate neighbor.

Suggestion #5:  Let People Be

Sometimes one of the best gifts we can give to the people we care most about is the gift of time alone.  Practice dropping your expectations that your evenings and Saturday afternoons will always include your  significant other.  Let them breathe!

My sweetie was having a tough time yesterday and said she was going to go run some errands, stuff we usually do together.  Suddenly, I had the bright idea that she might enjoy the time alone even though I kind of wanted to do a couple of the stops she was making.  So we hopped in separate cars and did our own thing for a couple of hours.

Be a thoughtful, non-expectant sweetie.

All these suggestions have one thing in common:  You/We are paying attention to someone besides ourselves.  In the space of time when we are planning our fun, we’re not watching the news.  We’re not tuned into the stock market.  We are not worried and we are not tense.

So what do you think?  Are you up for the challenge?  Let these suggestions be guides because I would love to hear how they sparked your ideas for creating easy and effortless gifts that ultimately gift yourself.

B Well & Present,

Remembrance and Redemption

Thanks to my San Diego soul-sister, Cathy for inspiring this Thursday Thread!

Angel StatueRemembrance and Redemption are two words that when linked together create a sweet montage of feelings for me.

Several years ago, my good friends Ralph and Becky gifted this beautiful statue to me as a housewarming present.  It’s called Remembrance and Redemption.

The gift was presented to commemorate the start of life in a brand new dwelling and to acknowledge the journey of the heart—how we are redeemed when we surrender the mistakes of our past by remembering them, forgiving them, and letting them go.

Letting go is sometimes the toughest part, isn’t it? 

Oh but there is such freedom in letting go!

My friend Cathy and I talked last night about how we can use the uglies of our past to transform our present.  Whew, what courage that takes!  Often we discover that when we really look at those dark nooks and crannies—Remembrance—we realize that we’re different today as a result of what happened to us then.

Today, different is good. Different helps us forgive. 

Forgiveness relieves us of the burden of toting all those heavy resentments around.  After being stooped over for so many years, isn’t it fabulous to stand upright and feel REDEEMED?

My life today is 180-degrees different from when the Angel Statue entered my life.  I no longer live in that house—I lost it, in fact.  I no longer live in the relationship that the statue was meant to celebrate—I lost it too when I made the decision to move to Texas.

I thought the house and the relationship were permanent in the fabric of my life.

Now I know that the stuff “out there,” the human stuff we create, is never permanent. 

Today the fabric of my life is elastic as I celebrate the one element that is truly permanent—the impenetrable threads that bind me to my God and provide me the opportunity to live at my Highest Potential.

The Angel Statue now resides in my new home.  I look at her with the same fondness as I experience Remembrance and Redemption today.

The difference between then and now is that most days I walk a little lighter—lifted by her wings—and I love a little deeper—inspired by her grace.

Is there a symbol in your life that inspires you to live better?

5 Tools to B U

Forgive me; I’m feeling frisky this morning and couldn’t resist the title.

I think I’m just so damned relieved that the “decade since 9/11” thing is over. I absolutely mean no disrespect–and anyone who knows me knows that’s true–but can we please move on?

I think we’re all ready.

I woke this morning thinking that there are many things I strive to be, do and have. I also realized at a cellular level that I put a ton of energy into contradicting those things.

Poo on me.

There I go, having to be responsible for my life again. Just when I think I have managed to shirk those duties, there is is, eyeball-to-eyeball staring me in the face.

My life.

I am mindful on this Mindful Monday that while I believe there’s a possibility I’ll get to live another life in some way or form when this one is done, I don’t know that for sure. Besides, who’s to say my next life won’t be as a turtle or a nun. It’s doubtful I’ll simply get to carry on with this present incarnation. Don’t know that for sure either, I’m just saying that is probably the case.

I’d better focus on this life.

So, I’ve made a decision prompted by my friend Mastin Kipp who writes The Daily Love (I say he’s my friend although we’ve never met–yet).

Mastin posted this quote on today’s TDL:

“Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them. Look at the sunny side of everything. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Give everyone a smile. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others. Be too big for worry and too noble for anger.”

Christian D. Larsen, the guy who said these astounding words, was a New Thought leader and teacher. Although I consider myself a student of New Thought (Don’t you love that phrase? It implies that certain ways of thinking have become new and improved), I’ve never heard of Mr. Larsen.

But this morning, this New Thought dead guy has helped make my thinking become new and improved.

You’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to the 5 Tools to B U.

Christian Larsen’s words are Tool #2.

Tool #1 to B U is The Daily Love. Like I said, I haven’t met Mastin Kipp yet but he’s a 28-year-old love machine and I can’t wait. His daily dose of tell-it-like-it-is rarely fails to help me look at how I want SO MUCH to be me.

Tool #3 is something else I read today–one of those links within a link within a link. See if you can follow this:

My friend Mary Jaksch (another person I’ve never met, but we have at least communicated electronically and she knows my name) is a blogger extraordinaire, an intuitive entrepreneur and an all-around tremendous woman of substance. Gosh, I hope she reads this post! Even if she doesn’t, Mary’s work, including the new,  A-List Blog Marketing, co-written with Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom and endorsed by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, are all Honorary Tools today–and I mean “tools” in the best of ways!

Anyway, in today’s A-List Blog Marketing post, Mary refers to Sonia Simone who, in her Complete Flakes Guide to Getting Things Done, writes:

“If you need to turn yourself around in a major way, this is how you can do it.
Step 1. Get nice and clear about what you want.
Step 2. Get completely, impeccably, bullshit-free clear about where you are now, with respect to that.
Please note that there is not a follow-up step called “beat yourself to a bloody stump about not being where you want to be.”

So, that’s Tool #3 to B U.

Tool #4 is Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go. Melody’s work has been a part of my life for decades. I know that in order for me to be me, I need to let you B U. Enough said about that.

And finally, Tool #5 to B U is this nifty little Apple tool called WriteRoom. Leo (one of my Honorary Tools) turned me on to this distraction-free word processing software that is completely RAD (that’s a Mastin phrase!). I’m actually composing this post in WriteRoom on my iPad (with the equally RAD Tablet Keyboard for iPad). This tool makes today’s list because it’s fun, it’s hip and it’s simple–all three things I want to be today.

And since this entire post is about how to be me today (and how you can B U), there you have it.

Five tools instead of five quotes on Mindful Monday.

Let me know your tools to B U. I have many more, by the way, and I may just share later.

Make it a Magically Mag Mindful Monday!

B Well & Present,