Love

Heartache for Paris–and for Humanity

parisThe ache in my heart for the people of France–and for humanity–simmers in sleepless, early morning hours following the horrific massacre in Paris.

How, or maybe more importantly, why, do terrorists attack? The devastation among families must be so immense. The city must be bereft with grief as it begins each new day following Friday night’s tragedy.

The “why” is not important

Anne Lamott wrote on Facebook that asking the why question is not very useful, “that we are an extremely vulnerable species, that Cain is still killing Abel.”

Aren’t you just bouncing off the walls with fury? My head is silently spewing every swear-word combination imaginable.

I want justice. Like with Sandy Hook, Aurora and especially 9/11, we can whip out our pointing fingers faster than you can say “heinous crime” because we have to blame that which we can’t comprehend.

Blame gives us a place to dump our nervous fear. Otherwise, we’re a skittish mess, anxious eyes darting like hummingbirds back and forth among red-tipped flowers. Only the red tips for us are like potential bloody traps.

We never know. It could be our loved ones next time. It could be us.

Assailants died in Paris, which probably played well in the hearts of many revenge seekers. Not so much for those of us who profess love and peace in our hearts, however. I still don’t understand.

Before their suicidal bodies hit the ground, more stepped into their cowardly shoe prints. At Career Day, did the killers check the application box that read willing to die if I get to blow up innocent people?

My God, there is so much hate in the world. Again, my mind begs for the answer to the why now question. But as Anne reminds us, the response to hate is so much more important than the why.

This much I know–and this is just for me. I cannot meet hate with hate. As much as I deplore what happened in Paris on Friday night, the 13th of November, every time I show up with hate, death advances on me just a little bit.

Let your response be love, light and peace

Fortunately, most of the entries on my Facebook wall reflect the best of humanity. My friend Ann wrote, “LOVE! Love with all your heart, soul and mind! Let love permeate everything you do, think and BE! Let your words Not be about ugliness, murder, meanness…. ONLY LOVE! Stand FOR….not against!”

My friend Sandra Pawula wrote on Facebook, when asked about how she confronts the idea of terrorism, “Violence comes from confused or painful thoughts and emotions: pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, greed, and anger. So I practice mastering my own mind and emotions, and I try to help others learn to do the same.”

Another friend posted this picture:

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Anne Lamott gives us instructions. She writes, about the days after Sandy Hook:

Talking and sticking together was the answer. It honest to God was. We were gentler, more patient and kind with each other. If people are patient and kind, that’s a lot. It means something of the spirit is at work. For me, that is grace made visible. 

I have no answers but know one last thing that is true: More will be revealed. And that what is true is that all is change.

All is indeed change. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” 

How Your Thoughts Impact Your Recovery

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Courtesy of Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page. http://buff.ly/1VK7cj1

 

I read something recently that turned my day around completely and allowed me to start over. Who says a 24-hour period begins at midnight?

Recovery often presents itself as an insightful opportunity to choose mindfulness and reclaim your sense of self-worth, which, by the way, never left you. Your thoughts simply caused you to temporarily misplace it.

From the mind of Jon Kabat-Zinn

“It is a big step toward reclaiming our lives when we realize that, no matter what their content, good, bad, or ugly, we do not have to take our thoughts personally.

“When we don’t automatically take them personally, or believe the stories about reality that we build from them, when we can simply hold them in awareness with a sense of curiosity and wonder at their amazing power given their insubstantiality, their limitations and inaccuracies . .

“Then, in that moment at least, we are already free, ready to act with greater clarity and kindness . . . ”

~ Mindfulness for Beginners

Think about the stories you tell yourself, often repeatedly, on any given day. As a storyteller, I usually have multiple versions of each story and lots of drama involved with mine!

What happens when you stop and tell yourself the story is nothing more than a script you’ve written? What happens when you step away from being the person writing the script or telling the story and become a spiritual being watching the person with the story?

Recovery grows sweeter again.

Here’s what happened to me over the weekend

I stopped. Just stopped the story.

I clearly saw the story’s insignificance, even its untruths. And, as an observer, I saw without judgment so that I began to loosen the ropes of self-condemnation that often tighten around me.

The last part of the above quote, “ready to act with greater clarity and kindness,” are true action words, like one long verb. As I reflected further, I remembered that I’m not hanging out in this world to accumulate things or to get what I think I deserve.

No, I’m here to give–kindness, charity, comfort, compassion and love.

Here’s the most critical part: I must hold myself in the center of givingness. The observing me has a much easier time staying in the middle than my ego does. In fact, staying out of the center is probably the reason why the ego pushes me to stay busy doing.

Just be-ing tends to ruin the ego’s day. The spiritual brat in me loves to stick out her tongue at that thought! Progress, not perfection!


UNITE to Face Addiction update: If you’re reading this early on Monday and you’re still at home, set your DVR to record the Dr. Oz show before you head out. On today’s episode, Dr. Oz will give a behind-the-scenes look the Rally on October 4th. You’ll get to see great clips with the artists and members of the crowd. Don’t miss it!

 

Drop Your Black/White Self–Embrace Gray!

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Originally published in July 2010; reprinted here while I’m on a tiny hiatus this week working on the UNITE to Face Addiction campaign.
In the July edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, Martha Beck describes the either-or, black or white personality type (http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Martha-Becks-Problem-Solving-Strategies-Decision-Making-Advice).You know, the person who, when presented with two options, can make a snap decision and by golly, not be persuaded off the point.  It’s the car buyer who says, “I’ve driven Fords all my life, never had a problem, had 10 of them, why would I buy a Chevrolet now?It’s the consumer who buys the same brand of bread, milk, ice cream or potato chips even when presented with another brand at a lesser cost  because he or she has always purchased that kind.  It’s the traveler who would never contemplate flying to a destination even though driving by car takes a thousand times longer.

Responding to dual-emmas

Republican or Democrat.  Aisle seat or window.  Baseball or football.  Mashed potatoes or baked.

Beck writes that “limiting ourselves to one answer means we often stop seeing what’s actually happening” and that we tend to make these decisions based on our history of always responding in the same way.

I’m usually envious of people who easily make decisions about where to sit on Southwest Airlines or which side dish they want with their steak dinner.  Plus there is a part of me that is hyper-critical of my inability to choose one side of the fence.  It’s the “what if the grass is greener?” syndrome.

Admittedly, I am minimalizing what Beck calls “dual-emmas.”  Her article discusses deeper life decisions, like whether to begin dating two weeks after a major break-up.  There is a camp of people who would emphatically say either, “Life is short, go for it,” or “Are you crazy?  Why would you do that to yourself so soon?”

Gray gives you permission to not be black or white. #BeYou Click To Tweet

Then, there is the camp where I live:  “Uh, I don’t know.  If I didn’t, would I . . . on the other hand, if I did, I think I might . . . but what if I . . . and on the other hand, I think . . .

My problem is I think too much and then I run out of hands.  My life is full of dual-emmas.  I can see both sides of situations and have spent much of my life saying dumb things like, “Let me be the Devil’s advocate here,” only to discover that the Devil doesn’t need an advocate.

Learn to be a both-and person

In recovery, I’ve convinced myself that my old journalism school training of considering situations objectively has become a detriment.  Seeing something from multiple angles can be exhausting.  I’ve often wondered if considering multiple outcomes makes me kind of wishy-washy; just make a decision, for God’s sake!

Now though, Beck gives me permission to not feel pressured into being an either-or person.  I can be a both-and person!

I don’t have to force myself into black or white.  I can be gray!

My friend Cathy Dunn, a very wise woman, says, “Gray gives you permission.”

Now that is a statement of freedom.  All these years I thought the color gray was dull and lifeless.  What an epiphany to realize that gray actually is the direct route to a technicolor life!

Thank you Martha Beck, and to my pal, Cathy, may you be blessed with a rich palette of shades of gray.

Photo courtesy of gamerzero

K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Sweetie

_DSC0862One of my early recovery mentors was a diminutive woman named Shirley Rapp who lived and breathed the 12 steps.

Shirley, who died a few years ago, wrapped her recovery around me when I was new and scared. She’d say, “Now honey, you’re gonna be alright. All you have to do right now is stay sober and God will take care of everything else. Just keep it simple, sweetie.”

An acronym of love

I don’t think KISS–originally known as Keep It Simple, Stupid–is talked about much anymore. I never liked that version of the acronym anyway. Shirley’s version–Keep It Simple, Sweetie, is much gentler and more loving.

When you’re new to recovery, keeping things simple is a really, really good idea (not a bad plan for long-term recovery either!) but attaching a derogatory term like stupid only emphasizes a recovering person’s low self-image and esteem.

Instead, using sweetie eliminates the negative connotation. It’s softer and helps me take it easy on myself.

Most recently, Keep It Simple, Sweetie has opened my eyes to the beautiful surroundings of working the 12 steps all over again with a woman who reminds me a little bit of Shirley.

Step One: Powerlessness and Unmanageability

Working through the steps with a couple of decades of sobriety is an interesting proposition. For instance, I didn’t really understand that honesty is involved in becoming aware of my lack of power and seeing how my life is unmanageable.

Digging into what honesty means is daunting. Think about this one: Dishonesty includes the delusion of control.

Being honest implies telling the truth which is fairly easy until you begin to consider all the lies we tell ourselves, like: we’re happy when we’re not, we’re satisfied when we’re not or we’re okay when we’re not.

So, are you completely honest today?

Acceptance is the key

The trick is to do this work with no judgment. Any thought I have like, I should know this already with 24 years in recovery needs to exit the head space.

Instead, I keep it simple, sweetie. Go easy, be loving, be gentle. Listen to the words of Melody Beattie as you say then aloud:

We do not move forward by resisting what is undesirable in our life today. We move forward, we grow, we change by acceptance.

And these words:

Overcome not by force. Overcome by surrender.

Just as I never really thought about Step One including honesty, I also didn’t realize that it included acceptance.

I’ve always just plowed through the first step as it’s written: I am powerless over alcohol and my life is unmanageable.

There’s a fairly famous story in the book Alcoholics Anonymous called “Acceptance Was the Answer” (fka “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict”) in which the author describes finally getting to the core understanding of how it is possible to stay sober.

Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

Indeed, acceptance is the necessary response to  all my problems–real or perceived–today.

Now that’s what I call keeping it simple, sweetie.

Photo courtesy of scottsann

Gay Marriage: Yay! Now, Addiction Recovery . . .

file701299029783There’s a part of me that remains awestruck by the Supreme Court decision that makes gay marriage legal anywhere in the United States. I mean, seriously, did I ever think that the law would change in my lifetime?

No I did not.

I want to believe that love always wins but then I see so many of my friends posting on social media that they’ve had to “unfriend” people they knew, were even close to. In the meantime, purported Christians with a pulpit or lectern–let’s be clear that they’re mostly just old white guys–thump their chests and quote the Bible.

“Jesus says you’re a sinner . . . but he would forgive you and so do I.” Can’t you feel the condescension? Then they try to convert you to their brand of righteousness.

Some people are natural-born dividers.

They shove a wedge between themselves and whoever thinks, acts or believes differently from them. Oh, their righteous and religious indignation is impressive, but in the end, they lose.

Why?

Because love does always win.

I’ve lived long enough and have been in recovery long enough to know that no matter what swirls around us, if we want to be happy we have to love and be loved.

Sad and depressed people focus on the things that divide us instead of choosing to see what unites us.

If it were easy, more people would choose love. But setting your sights on love takes commitment, fortitude and a willingness to let shit go. I’m telling you, love ain’t for sissies.

We’re told in 12-step meetings that love and tolerance of others is our code. Tolerance and acceptance of others’ behavior is a problem for a lot of us, especially when our “rights” are trampled.

Don’t get me wrong. I am over-the-moon thrilled that the Supreme Court ruling fell on the side of love. But I have to honest. I’m also jealous.

There is still so much love missing for people with addiction. The LGBT community suffered decades of shame and stigma before the gay marriage ruling. When will people in long-term recovery, their friends, families and supporters get to shed the shame and stigma attached to addiction and recovery?

We don't need a Supreme Court ruling to do right by addiction recovery. Click To Tweet

Will we get a flag of freedom raised after eliminating employment and housing discrimination or criminal justice inequalities or inadequate treatment care options?

Yet people in recovery struggle every day. People trying to get into recovery fight the system’s substandard levels of response every day.

People die from addiction every single day. In fact, one person–typically a young person–dies every four minutes from addiction. That’s the equivalent of a jet falling from the sky with no survivors–every single day.

The time to show love is now.

We’re ramping up to a phenomenal rally on the National Mall in DC on October 4th. Called UNITE to Face Addiction, tens of thousands of people will descend on the nation’s capital demanding recognition of the love that it takes to stand up for recovery.

My sweetie and I will be there. I’ve already told her to prepare for me to be a blubbering mess. I don’t care because on that day, I’ll stand on the Mall as a gay woman with marriage rights and as a person in long-term recovery.

I can almost feel the love now.

Photo courtesy of Arashdeep