Surrender

Surrendering to Election 2016: Let’s Move On!


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Election 2016 is nearly in the books. Nervous anticipation hangs everywhere; the words, “I’ll be so glad when it’s over,” are exchanged again and again in coffee shops, at train stops and every other locale where two or more are gathered.

Throw in a stewed  mess of negative campaigning (what an understatement!) that stirs people into an emotional frenzy and I’m beginning to believe that our next president will need a divine intervention to repair the damage done to the collective American psyche.

My Australian friend Patricia says watching the American presidential campaign is like watching the best reality TV ever!

Too, too much!

I find the entire spectacle childish and sad. There’s a downside to living in a time when our culture is seemingly controlled by social media. Don’t get me wrong, I love the connectivity and potential for good that social media affords us, not to mention that I make my living working with social media platforms.

But for months, every sound bite and pictorial moment among the political candidates has become embedded in the global Twitter feed and therefore deemed newsworthy. My journalist’s heart weeps.

In Texas, we can choose to cast an early ballot so last Wednesday I approached the polling booth, not with excitement as I usually do, but with trepidation. I did not want to vote for either candidate. I felt a surge of resentment just as the polling judge announced, “We have a first-time voter!”

The young woman looked so eager and fresh-faced as she waved to the room.

“Bless her heart,” I thought to myself. What an awful, worn out election to be casting her first presidential vote.

Then I found myself wondering who is blessing the nation’s heart.

A Sunday surrender

At church yesterday, I got the reminder I needed of who is blessing us all. As dark as our nation’s time seems right now, God–insert your name for the Divine–always offers light. The beauty of humanhood is we get to choose to walk in the light and to send the shadows away beyond our hula hoop.

With light comes hope and who among us doesn’t want to carry that torch? I was also reminded during Sunday service at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, that choosing to bear the light of hope is carrying the mission of countless other masters of hope and peace who came before us. Certainly Jesus, but also the Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. were saints in that they lived and walked in light and love.

We would do well to emulate them. And we do.

You are an everyday saint when you speak words of hope to another and each time you encourage inclusivity instead of division. You are an everyday saint each time to listen thoughtfully without judgment or derision. You are an everyday saint when you see the world with eyes of compassion and when you touch someone else with your peace.

The votes that we cast in this presidential election are crucial–I’m praying for a future filled with optimism and goodwill among those who win their chosen offices.

But we have a higher calling. May you be blessed with an abundance of hope, love and peace this week, and in your blessing, pay it forward.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile:maryhere

Celebrate Recovery Month 2016


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A friend of mine sent me a text yesterday saying she relapsed with addiction. She asked me to take her to a 12-step meeting–we’re going tonight so she can establish a new sobriety date.

I’m proud of her for reaching out. But why wouldn’t she? If she suffered with food allergies and ate chocolate cake even though chocolate and gluten cause an allergic reaction, would she tell me?

With every other health condition, when we “relapse,” we get the help we need, whether it’s medical, behavioral, spiritual. There is no shame, no blame, no judgment.

Addiction is different.

I’ve often said that if I relapse I don’t know if I could face my recovery support system–my friends, my sponsor, my meetings. Man, talk about internalized shame.

But if I practice what I preach–that shame and stigma should be eliminated from every facet of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery from addiction–then I would hold my head high and say, yes, I did relapse into my disease. The chemicals in my brain rearranged my thinking and caused me to take an action I knew would be harmful.

If I practice what I preach, I would say, although I relapses, I’m here now. I’m grateful that I have X amount of time in recovery, in spite of this relapse. Yes, I have a new sober date but I’m ready to move on.

That’s likely what I’ll say to my friend tonight.

Every day is a miracle day, a day to celebrate recovery from addiction.

If you’re nice to people, do good things for others (including animals–definitely animals!), apologize when you’ve been an ass, treat yourself decently and remember to thank the God of your understanding for your recovery, then addiction stays in the back seat.

Recovery isn’t rocket science; it’s actually fairly simple. But my magnificent, magnifying mind can eff it up in a heartbeat.

When I start thinking about my needs, my plans, my desires, I’m screwed. Maybe not today. Maybe not even next week. I might be able to get away with grisly behavior for a few days, but not much more than that.

Did I run my needs, plans and desires by God? Did I pause when I was agitated or did I say the first asinine thing that came into my head? Who exactly has been in the front seat driving my MINI?

Lucky for me those errors in judgment that make me and those around me crazy have not sent me back to alcohol or other substances. I don’t know why I’ve been spared that hell on earth while others around me die every single damn day from addiction.

It could be me tomorrow. Or my beautiful love. Or my father. Or my friend.

But today, please God, let us be sober. Let us feel your power and your love, feel it surging through us like water surging at Niagara.

Then, let us turn to our brothers and sisters who struggle, to their families, and figure out a way to help them find peace. Show us how to reach out, how to open our hearts and our minds to help another who suffers.

Let us do what you would do if you were here. Let us love unconditionally as if our lives depended on it, because, in fact, they do.

Happy Recovery Month.

Champions of Change, Survivors of Storms


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In and around the Texas Gulf Coast town of Rockport, there are magnificent centuries-old oak trees that grow nearly horizontal to the ground.

We saw them recently, on a few days respite from life in suburban Dallas. I was astounded by these incredible examples of God’s enduring strength, these champions of change and survivors of storms

There’s a lesson here about learning to lean where I’ve previously stood flat-footed and braced against the storms of life.

You can learn to lean and not break

There are times when the winds of this world threaten to snap you into  two pieces. I really don’t think I’m the only one who experiences the destructive nature of howling winds that slash at my metaphorical windows. They screech at you until, in your anguish you just know that you’ll be ripped from your moorings. Life as you know it will be finished.

Remember: those bent oak trees are still beautiful in their bentness. And you, no matter how storm-battered, are still beautiful too.

The trick to withstanding the storms of life is learning to pause, assess and respond without reacting.

How to get onPAR (Pause, Assess, Respond)

It’s okay to take deliberate steps away from crushing news. Lord, I can see how people become surly and jaded. When I’m exposed to nonstop news, including the diatribe on social media, I tend to sink into quicksand of sarcasm and criticism.

At those times when I find myself overwhelmed by life’s grittiness, I’m trying to pause (I’m not always successful!) before getting sucked into the grime.

I assess the situation. Do I need or want to play? Is there an option to walk away and not participate?

Once I determine my part, then I respond instead of reacting (the former being a proactive stance).

Here’s an example: Say there is some sort of work drama that affects my department or my piece of the work plan. I can’t walk away but I can choose to sit quietly and keep my mouth shut!

That’s only one example of two trillion.

I’m fortunate that as a contractor, I work alone in my home office. I don’t get pulled into the vortex of office life. But that doesn’t mean my world is always peaceful! Here’s what I do when faced with daily vicissitudes:

I take a break. I write. I pray. I take the dogs for a walk and I deliberately notice the stillness of the water in the lake. Peace, be still.

I breath and I bend, grateful for my flexibility.

One day at a time, I lean toward flexibility and fluidity searching for a profound sense of grace and fortitude. All will be well because all IS well.

So long as you bend but don’t break.

A Fat Tuesday Impulsive Decision


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Fat Tuesday, the day when folks let the good times roll before some sort of abstinence begins on Ash Wednesday and (hopefully) sustains itself through Easter, was kind of weird.

I’m not a regular churchgoer so I seldom tie anything of real significance to Lent. This year, however, I felt the need to shore up my relationship with God a bit. Why not give God a good 40-day commitment?

I jumped online and found a great book called 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond, by Reverend Phil Ressler.

Each day, Rev. Ressler writes about giving something up, like negativity, apathy or complaining. He ties in scripture and suggested actions.

I decided to write daily essays based on Rev. Ressler’s topics. They’ve been fun to explore and write and most importantly, my God-shoring is going well! Here’s a portion of one of the essays:

Giving Up Impatience

Sometimes I wish a magician would snap her fingers in front of me and make all the challenges to my character (aka, character defects) disappear. Sigh . . .
I suppose I’ll always pine for the easier, softer way. GUS (God-Universe-Spirit) chuckles every time I pine because there IS an easier, softer way—just not the one I imagine.
It’s called surrender.
Years ago, when I still lived in Missouri, I had a vanity license plate on my car (pictured above). SURNDR. The first time my brother saw the plate, he stood staring at it for the longest time. Grinning, he finally turned to me and said, “I know what it means.”
What? I asked, happy that he figured it out.
“So You Are In Drive,” he said, proud of himself. (You’d have to know my brother to appreciate his sense of humor.)
Isn’t it ironic that surrender for me, a woman in long-term recovery from addiction, and for all the other recovering people I know, is the opposite of “so you are in drive?”
Being perpetually “in drive,” leads to impatience. Just for today, maybe I should consider being in idle.
So how exactly do we let go of impatience on this fourth day of Lent?
Phil Ressler writes in his 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond-the book this writing series studies-that “patience is about love.”
He suggests giving up impatience with God, with yourself and with others. I think being patient with myself is probably the most difficult of the three.
I’ve whined in 12-step meetings over the years that I want what I want when I want it. Each time I say the words, every head in the room nods back at me.
We are an instant fix, instant problem-solved, instant get-from-here-to-there kind of people.
What about enjoying the journey? It’s impossible to focus on being when you’re rushing, pushing and pressing forward.
Breathe. Just breathe.

You can find more essays like this on my Facebook page under Facebook Notes. Please enjoy and share!

See Ya, 2015; Look Out, 2016!


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Are you ready to take the annual leap, the deep-dive plunge into 2016? Not that you have much choice, since the clock ticks the same for everyone, but are you ready?

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and reply, “as ready as I’ll ever be,” and that’s fair. Maybe you’re the sort of person who likes to roll with the flow and see what happens next.

You’ll get no judgment from me. I say go with what feels best for you, but please, let that be a mindful decision.

Be mindful about your beginnings

The final days of 2015 give you a chance to frame how you want 2016 to begin.  You decide what you want to leave behind and what you take into the new year.

It’s kind of like moving from one place to the next. When you’re packing, you pile up things to toss, things to donate and things to move with you into your new space.

Again, let these be mindful decisions.

So, where’s your head these days? Are you rushing to complete an impossible task list? Are you trying to do everything just right so your boss, kids, best friend and significant other are happy with you? Does the word stressed describe you pretty well?

Please do yourself a favor and use today and tomorrow as Stop It days. What are Stop It days? These are times when you raise your right hand to whatever is stressing you, like you would raise your hand to stop traffic.

You are stopping traffic, the traffic thoughts in your head that not only drive you crazy, they eventually crash and burn, taking you down too.

Stop It time is a real solution to hammer home the notion that you have to quit doing some of the things you’re doing. Stop It time gives you a chance to surrender the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that no longer serve you.

Surrender your mental debris by 11:59 pm on Dec. 31 so that Jan. 1 is a sparkling slate ready for… Click To Tweet

Go to your happy place

I’ve had a phenomenal 2015 filled with lots of adventures. Nothing impacted me more than UNITE to Face Addiction on October 4.

The memory of standing beneath the Washington Monument on the National Mall with 25,000 people passionate about addiction and recovery is seared into my soul. Knowing we made history with the formation of Facing Addiction, the nation’s first organization to comprehensively address America’s number one public health issue, still chokes me up.

As 2015 draws to a close and I ponder next year’s possibilities, I’m going to my happy place–the beach!

Yes, my sweetie and I will ring in the new year on the Emerald Coast of Florida. The forecast calls for daytime highs in the mid-50s to low-60s and rain. I’m packing sweats, a rain jacket and a stocking cap.

I don’t care because I’ll be in my happy place, the place where I find release and renewal. It’s a perfect combination to begin a new year.

My prayer for you is a happy place where you feel your own personal release and renewal. New beginnings are the best and I wish only the best for you, my valued readers. I appreciate you and can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for all of us!