Stirring the Pot

I often–too often–forget that God doesn’t give me more than I can handle today.  But sometimes it feels like he doesn’t know how to tell time very well because I’m dealing with way too much stuff in a single day.

Here’s my aha moment, though:  Let’s say that God presents me with a straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back situation.  But I think I can’t possibly take on one more stressful thing in this 24-hour-period.  I am already maxed out and stretched thin.  I’ve yanked out fists of hair, chewed off all my fingernails and ground my teeth to nubs.  My eyes are the before picture in a Visine commercial.  I am a mess and I tell myself so.

Then what happens?  I become messier, more of what I believe I am.

Just when I think I can’t do any of it anymore, this thought crashes through the mess:  I can shift that last camel thing, or any other thing that is causing stress, to another 24.

God may place all these growth opportunities in front of me but I don’t believe he shares my expectation that each one’s details needs to be dealt with today.  That expectation rests solely on me.

I can shelve one or more of my stressors for a future TBD 24.  I don’t have to deal with everything today.

Centered in Spirit, I am at peace.

I believe this life is about learning how to step around the poop I encounter instead of trying to pole-vault over it.  I don’t need those dramatic responses any more even though my mind tries to trick me into believing I do.

Here’s the thing:  I hang out with humans who do things that cause dervishes to whirl in my life.  I am fully aware than humans have a morbid fascination with stirring the poop pot, but I can choose to step away from the cookstove.  Say, no thanks, not today.  I think I have enough stirring today.  Please check back with me tomorrow and maybe I’ll throw myself into the fire then.  But not today.

The Width of Your Dash

Remember the wise old proverb about living between the dashes of the dates on your headstone?

I don’t remember the story behind the proverb but the moral has something to do with the measure, or the width, of our existence, what we do with the years after we’re born and before we die.  The dash represents our hopes, dreams and accomplishments as well as our failures.  It is the sum of each of our moments and how we’ve chosen to string them together.

I thought about the Dash Story recently when I heard someone express its meaning in a different way.  He reminded his audience that the first sentence, which is actually a question, of Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous reads:  “Who cares to admit complete defeat?”

As hundreds of heads knowingly nodded, he went on to refresh our memories with the first sentence of Step Twelve which reads, “The joy of living is the theme of AA’s 12th step and action is its key word.”

As I listened to the chorus of ahs around me, I remembered the dash.

A guy I used to know named Jim H. had his dash inscribed this week.  Gosh, I hope he is pleased with the way it turned out.  Several of his friends are good friends of mine and I envisioned them standing in the parking lot of the funeral home, before they fired up their Harleys, cussing and discussing his dash.  For Jim, and for my friends, the dash and the distance between the sentences of Steps One and Twelve are synonymous.

I suppose the dash is the final mile marker on the distance of Jim’s journey’s.

As it is for all of us. 

Sometimes, though, I get caught up in a small incremental portion of the dash I’m creating.  During those times, I definitely do not want to admit complete defeat and there is definitely no joy in my living.  I’ve completely cast aside the key word of action.  Typically, I have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired before I holler “uncle!”

I’m ready now, though.  It’s been a wearisome few days and if I keep this up, my dash could arrive sooner rather than later.  I’m ready to let these days go, to surrender them, and get back to the joy of living.  I’m ready to take action.  AA can also stand for Awareness and Action.

Like Jim H., when my journey’s distance reaches its end, I want my spirit to smile broadly, knowing that I’ve chosen the joy of living and created a really wide dash.

Wants Vs. Needs

Via Daily Word Magazine, this prosperity affirmation:  I have all the time, energy and money needed to do what is mine to do.

It doesn’t say I have all the time for what I want to do.  A speaker in a recent 12-step meeting said that she no longer finds it confusing to try to separate her wants from her needs.  She simply prays for what God wants.

I figure that what God wants for me and what I think I need combines to form “what is mine to do.”

At first glance, the affirmation statement seems daunting.  Since I’ve been a person of action all my life, I figure there is something I must DO to prepare to receive the abundance of time, energy and money coming my way. 

Sometimes I still don’t get it.  My rush and flurry of activity is the antithesis of the affirmation.  I already possess all the time, energy and money I need.  My challenge is to accept that it’s in my presence, which requires me to become, well, present.

I mean, seriously, does God (or whatever you choose to call the spirit that guides you) want me to struggle and strain and beat my head against the wall while bemoaning that there is not enough time in the day?

Wringing precious minutes out of a 24-hour period doesn’t give me more time.  In fact, it makes me tired, very tired, thus negating the energy that I’m trying to affirm.

And the money part?  That is blog post material all on its own.

Here’s what I know for sure:  In order to really feel the truth of the affirming words, I have to breathe them into my soul while in a quiet, receptive state.

They do little good when read in the mornings between gulps of coffee while I’m headed out the door.  I am at my best when I sit with the power of the words.  Sit for awhile and then sit some more.

Then, miraculously, the affirmation does become truth as I realize I am not only doing what is mine to do, I am being the presence that accepts time, energy and money.

How do you tell the difference between wants and needs?

Dual-emmas and the Color Gray

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. 

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?”

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.

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, 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.

A God Poem

I returned last night from San Antonio where we (upwards of 50,000 people from all over the world) celebrated the miracles of sobriety and recovery.  I chatted with folks from Australia, Germany, Norway, Canada and Mexico, along with others from too many states to list.  To say that the experience was amazing would be the understatement of the last five years–since the last international convention in 2005.

In honor of all those who traveled the airways and roadways to Texas, and for the thousands we represented, I offer these words.

God is.


A simple thing, really, but one that bounces along the outline of thoughts


Like shiny, silver balls from a youthful pinball machine


Careening against tiles and crashing into glass until unexpectedly,


The ball stops.


Briefly.


But in the two-second interval until propelled motion engages,


In a holy fraction of time, five letters intervene,


Interrupting momentum.


A single space and period join two words that shift the pattern,


Refocus the thoughts, redirect the outline until


B follows A and the complex becomes uncomplicated.


God is.


A simple thing, really.


Easily overlooked in the perpetual pursuit of difficulties


And magnification of mental acrobatics.


Leapfrogging from quip to idea to solution,


Ever striving for that elusive answer.


Here, there, around this corner, under that rock?


Easy to forget that simple thing.


God is.


I am.


We are complete; an impenetrable force field of good,


A design for living that transcends all thought, rises above mere thinking.


God is.