Shawshank Revisited

“It’s a terrible thing to live in fear.  All I want to do is to be back where things make sense . . . where I won’t have to be afraid all of the time.” – – Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in “The Shawshank Redemption”


When I was about two years sober, I left AA meetings behind for awhile and began attending ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) instead.  While away from AA, I was still quite proud of my sobriety, and I thought rightly so, and thus spoke of it often during my sharing times in small groups.   After my Friday night ACA meeting ended one time, I noticed a woman named Jean, sort of a patriarch of the group, standing a short distance away and shaking her head at me.  I moved to satisfy my curiosity and asked her what was up.  “You really think you’re hot shit with that addiction of yours,don’t you,” she said. I said the first thing that came in to my head.  “Huh?”  Jean then casually pointed her finger and motioned around the entire space of the room we were in and said, “Point out one person in this room who doesn’t have an addiction of some kind.”  Theoretically, I understood what she meant immediately and felt a bit embarrassed.  Experientially, it took quite a few years before I got the full gist of what she was saying.

I first saw “Shawshank” in late 1994, the same year it was released.  Though I know it kinda bombed at the box office, I was intrigued while at a Blockbuster Video and read the back cover of the movie box which described the film as “a movie about friendship.”  Even upon first viewing, I found that description to be aiming a bit low.  Recently I saw an old review by Roger Ebert in which he gives his opinion of the flick as “an allegory about being in a hopeless situation.”  I find that to be more palatable, yet only a beginning.  The prison, quite simply, represents the human ego to me, the rest of the characters thoughts in the mind of the lead character Andy DuFresne, and the escape plan Andy’s ingenious and inspired route to be freed from his egoic and addictive patterns of behavior.  I’m not talking about the usual cop-out of patterns heaped upon us in our childhood so we can blame our parents for our actions.  I”m talking about something much more primal.  Most of us act out of very basic patterns of security, sensation, and power addictions which subtly are used to ensure that the outside world is giving us the “good” feelings we need.  Insidious as these grooves are, I am in no way suggesting that anyone purposely acts like an addict.  What I am suggesting is that as a partial way to maintain the status quo, and peace, many of us (ok, all of us) kiss off addictive behavior as “ok” so as to stave off needing to confront the issue and go through uncomfortable growth work.

“These walls.  First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em.  Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on ’em.  They send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take – – the part that matters anyway.” Thus states the character Red after a fellow inmate puts up an enormous fight to commit a crime while still in prison so that he won’t have to be released into a world of freedom, a world he has absolutely no point of reference for.  As a kid, I remember the number of times dad “lost the paycheck,”  and thus we sometimes went without food.  More often than not we were fed, but were really, really pinched in regard to getting new clothing or going on trips.  My dad got me a used,worn out baseball glove when I was in fourth grade that I somehow managed to make last til I was 14.  We kids grew up thinking this type of thing was normal, and in fact when occasionally confronted by an outsider about Dad’s drinking, any one of us could be heard to say,”It’s not so bad,” or the equivalent.  Of course  it wasn’t so bad.  We were talking about Dad, after all.  Although his behavior hurt us regularly, we defended him to the hilt to the outside world.  Still, carrying out the same primal instincts of protecting my dad and those like it, such as resisting what the “next right thing,” might be for personal growth, I can no longer blame on my parents or family.   My walls are still intact.  On occasion, rather than confront a friend on what may be harmful behavior, or more commonly, when I don’t want to look at my own reflection, I’ll take the path of least resistance and leave things alone.   My walls are very dependable.

I started drinking when I was 12 years old.  I got sober when I was 31.  Inside my 31 year old body was the emotional maturity of a 12 year old.  Make no mistake: when regular drinking begins, emotional growth stops.  Then imagine my surprise when I learn that drinking is nothing more than a symptom.  As each year of recovery has passed, and I’ve inched my way along to at least some semblance of adulthood, I see more and more what lengths I’ll still go to in order to not confront my patterns.  People often have an image of alcoholics as skid row derelicts and are then surprised to find one in their own office.  Speaking for myself,  while still drinking and being in the work force, I can proudly say that I produced superior work.  What I didn’t understand until after I quit was that one of the main drivers of my excellence was my need to ensure that I had a steady supply of money to drink.  Bills somhetimes didn’t get paid, but I’d be damned if I didn’t have alcohol money.

Likewise, the more embarrassing image to maintain is one that belies what goes on inside consistently in sobriety.  I recently picked up a copy of  “The Handbook To Higher Consciousness.”  Upon reading a few pages, I had that “Oh, my God,” reaction for the first time since I read AA’s Big Book twenty-something years ago.  Somebody wrote a book about me. The difference is, this book doesn’t target only chemical addicts.  It points out dogged lower-level patterns of behavior that ALL of us partake of, those that satisfy the aforementioned needs to maintain levels of security, sensation, and power.  All of them dependent on what other people and situations do.  If a situation or person doesn’t pan out as I want it to, I will notice one of my lower level areas flaring up, and then try to forcefully control the situation to satisfy my need and get back to “normal.”  This is the continuing work laid out not just of addicts, this is all of us.

Imagine the most amazing of everything:  sunsets, sex, money, fame, glory, family, the absolute depth of a mothers love for her child.  Imagine ALL of these things going on in your life all at the same time.  Bliss! And CONSTANTLY! Then add in an astonishing thought: maybe, just maybe, even as amazing beyond description as all of this is, ALL of it is only a SHADOW of what’s possible.  That’s prison.

In Plato’s story of The Cave,  Plato is actually writing about the life of his mentor, Socrates.  As the story goes, a group of men are sentenced to live their lives in a cave, and facing away from the cave entrance.  Thus all they ever see are shadows on the wall, and not having any other point of reference, experience the shadows as the real world.  One day one of the prisoners undoes his chains and escapes.  To his amazement, he sees immediately that there is an entirely different and brighter world outside the cave.  There are real people,  and a warm fire and a warm sun that were actually casting the shadows from passersby that all of the prisoners took for granted as everything that was real and available.  So the escaped prisoner goes back excitedly to tell the other prisoners.  Upon his telling them of the other world, they kill him.  The possibility of freedom from their prison was not only more than the other prisoners could comprehend,  it was far too frightening to be loosed from their metaphoric chains, the only world they were familiar with.  The ego/shadow world is one that we all defend ferociously, and unconsciously so.  “Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on ’em.”  I’m not pouting because the woman I wanted to be with isn’t giving me attention, there’s something wrong with her.  My best friend didn’t just make that big mistake, and even if he/she did it’s no big deal.  In order to placate and satisfy my lower level addictive thought patterns, they need to be defended to stay alive.  If it involves another person who I rely on to supply me with good feelings, the easier the defense.  If it involves a situation that does the same,  I can come up with any number of reasons why nobody else understands that my workplace is Utopia or why the group I hated five minutes ago because I wasn’t their center of attention is all of a sudden the best thing since baked bread because somebody else is attacking them and only I get to do that.  Plus they  just gave me five seconds of attention.  My addiction has been satisfied.  Sadly, my good feeling didn’t come from my heart.  It came from a shadow.

The Andy DuFresne character in “Shawshank” represents to me the spark of divinity in the “right mind” of the human ego that an individual discovers and then fans repeatedly.  Along the way, grisly things might happen, such as the “Sisters,” the sadistic group that repeatedly attacks Andy in the film.  While Andy doesn’t like what’s happening, he comes to accept it as a “normal” part of his prison/ego, and maintains his sanity primarily due the fact that he’s discovered his way out of prison, and is keeping it in the forefront of his mind.  Serendipity surfaces and takes care of the problem for him, again due to his unyielding focus.  This part of the film is so profound to me as those events or patterns, or regular events, or even people in our lives that we accept as ok only because we haven’t discovered another point of reference for the situation or person’s behavior.  We become resigned to what’s going on as an external and “normal” situation, thus giving ourselves permission to ignore the addictive pattern that got us into the situation in the first place.  Andy however, is given the gift of desperation, and nineteen years later, escapes with the assistance of one tiny rock hammer.  One tiny thought.  One second focused away from the addictive pattern and as these newer thoughts mount and multiply, he escapes to freedom.  And the world around him (or us) is altered considerably.  Change isn’t always without casualties.  The warden’s suicide and the sadistic guard being taken away are nicely symbolic of how patterns we thought were just a part of life, eventually fall away.  Even some we may think were in our best interest.  While AA was in its fledgling stage, Dr. Bob Smith was heard to tell his cohort Bill Wilson, “and remember, Bill–the good is the enemy of the best. Let’s not screw this thing up.”

I’ve been working with “Handbook To Higher Consciousness” for a few weeks now.  So difficult are it’s principles that I’ve already put it aside three or four times and told myself “Nah.  This isn’t for me.”  Of course not  It’s challenging everything within me that I’ve come to know as true.  Oddly, it’s not giving me cause to shout off the rooftops.  It is instead giving  birth to a different type of compassion than I’ve ever felt before.  I’m sure not tooting my own horn:  my friend Judy once told me, “Living on the razor’s edge doesn’t make life easier, it often makes it harder.”  What I’m noticing is that everyone else’s addictive patterns are becoming more evident to me . . . I’m finding out how alike we all are.  All of us in the same “Shawshank.”  On occasion I’ll balk, go back to my corner and meditate on what an a-hole the other person is.  Such are the ways of progress.  If I didn’t make mistakes, I wouldn’t be learning.  What’s emerging, with great difficulty, is an entirely different view of the world.  It would appear that my rock hammer, like Andy’s, has also been worn down to a nub.  I’m finally heading home.  Aspiring to a spiritual life includes so much more mundane day-to-day work than I ever imagined.  Keeping the final outcome of “Shawshank” in mind, with Andy escaping, “crawling though a river of the most shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine,” then  Andy going from bank to bank collecting his dues.  Yeah.  I like that imagery.  It will offset the mundane. And it all started with the lead character chipping away a tiny piece of his prison wall almost by “accident”, a wall much more fragile than he ever thought possible.  I can do that.  “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  That’s goddamn right.

“I find that I’m so excited I can hardly sit still or hold a thought in my head.  I think it’s the excitement that only a free man can feel.  A free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.  I hope that I can make it across the border.  I hope to meet my Friend and shake His hand.  I hope that the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.  I hope .. .” – – “Red”




Diamonds On The Water

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers.  The original meal has never been found.”- – Calvin Trillin

I have a rather fond recurrent memory of my Mom, one that stands out among all of the others.  I was thirty years old, visiting her, and she decided to lay this absolute bombshell on me.  I’m the youngest of 7 kids, 6 of us born in consecutive years, then “poof” – – I showed up four years after my sister Barb was born.  Mom tried in her gentlest tone to advise me that I was unplanned.  I honestly tried my darndest to keep a straight face, but given the stand-up material that was just delivered I started giggling and had to leave the room.  Such was the mark of the level of innocence my Mom managed to maintain throughout all of her years, though: she honestly thought she was unveiling a profoundly deep and shameful secret on me.  The good news was that since I obviously took it all as a great big joke, Mom considered herself forgiven.

There was much unintentional comic relief in my home that for whatever reasons (being active in an addiction might be one) I never really grew to appreciate til Mom was gone. I remember hearing about the version of forced marriage that her soon-to-be husband was brought into when my uncle Joe, Mom’s brother picked up the man who was to be my Dad, started driving, and as the story goes within seconds said, “Well, are you going to marry her, or what?”  So I guess technically since no weapon was produced, this wasn’t a shotgun wedding: let’s just call it a “threat-wedding.”

So my folks followed the good Mexican Catholic old school rules and cranked out one kid after another, until apparently Dad got tired of the whole deal and started seeing his mistress, an alliance that went on for years and years.  Mom also played the dutiful long-suffering stay-at-home mom role to the hilt, a role her genuine meekness made her a natural for.  And truly, what person needs to be subjected to cheating for years?  The huge difference between then and now in Mexican culture is that it is now looked upon with a little more favor to leave the cheating party after telling them in no uncertain terms where to go.  Mexican culture as I know it, still has a long way to go in this arena, at least to my knowledge of my extended family.

Mom really was quite uneducated, unscholared, and socially extremely awkward and shy.  I believe she made it up to fourth grade reading level when America called, offering her the opportunity to diss her education in favor of working in beet fields for slave wages in order to help support her family.  One of my saddest memories of her is her unabashedly announcing every now and then to anyone who would listen, “I’m stupid.”  I’m not sure what purpose this served to her, but I know it made me really uncomfortable to hear her talk about her self in such an abusive way, although I didn’t have the terminology to place on what I was feeling at the time.

There is no question in my mind that Mom felt trapped her entire married life.  Dad had a habit of picking places to live that were absolute dumps, effectively ending any dreams that Mom had of living in the palatial style that she would sometimes try to describe.  Luxury to her would have been a dishwasher: she was certainly not asking for the moon. Dad in turn validated her “stupid” status frequently while heaping on other abuse whenever the spirit moved him.

And so Mom resorted to whatever she could to make herself feel good.  She was a huge fan of soap operas.  Heaven forbid my getting hungry at 12:30 in the afternoon, because quite frankly, for Mom, the whole world stopped for “As The World Turns,” a show she got a belly laugh out of any time she heard Carol Burnett refer to it as “As The Stomach Turns” in her evening show parody.  After her first viewing of the Burnett show, Mom took to referring to her favorite soap very simply as “Stomach,” as in, “I can’t do that right now I gotta watch ‘Stomach.'”

One area that I continue to view with considerably less humor is the fact that mom had a number of JFK pictures strategically placed throughout the house, I’m assuming so as not to be without her fantasy partner if she could at all help it. I also believe that Mom was really quite lonely during her married life.  Parenting skills were obviously not there, and when I got into various recovery groups in the early nineties, I began hearing phrases like “they did their best, and their best wasn’t very good,” or things like “they were never ready to be parents.”  While those phrases were definitely fuel for recovery in those days, my question today is whoever is ready to be a parent? Nobody gets a manual.  I’ve yet to hear a single person say that parenting is a piece of cake. Not much of her life lived up to any of her fantasies as far as I could see.  I don’t think she had any idea what effective parenting might entail.  She could only know what she was taught.

I never considered myself particularly close to either parent.  Still, as I got sober I drifted further and further from mom, really beginning to resent a symbiotic relationship that had been enforced on me due to my Mom’s need for the proverbial “little husband.”  It’s not like Mom was the first person to ever do such a thing.  I remember a friend once telling me she had a tarot card reading in which the reader advised her that her mom was having an affair with a much younger man, something my friend protested because she knew her mom to hardly ever leave the house.  She then put two and two together to figure out that mom was “married” to her little brother.

As I began to find my own internal resolution to my patterns, I gradually let Mom back in.  It became a juggling act when I began dating someone, and Laura won out with my time.  When Laura and I broke up, however, I began to be a bit more dilligent in attempting to resolve our differences, and I do believe I made much headway.  The humor re-entered.  I used to absolutely love it when my sisters took Mom out to a movie and then after she would struggle to tell me the title of what she saw.  Mom was still heavily accented, and when she tried to tell me she had just finished seeing “Beaches,”  per her phonetic capability it naturally came out “Bitches.”  I think my all-time favorite was when the girls took her to see “Poltergeist” and she excitedly told me a few days later that they took her to see this really scary flick called “Pocket Full of Guys.”  The conversation usually ended with Mom snorting a “shut up,” as I laughed hysterically.  She was indeed a card, and miraculously, through all the misery that was visited upon her during her years, she somehow managed to hang on to and nurture her innate ability to laugh at herself.

On December 9th, 1991, I stopped off at Mom’s to deliver a care package and visit for awhile.  Mom had suffered a stroke earlier in the year, lived alone,and absolutely refused being moved into a nursing home. As I got into recovery and found my voice and boundaries, clashes with my siblings ensued over what I considered to be unhealthy behavior, situations they obviously didn’t see anything at all wrong with.  Still, at the thought of possibly running into me and being called on some covertly abusive behavior, they began staying away from her house.  Mom was lonely again.  On this visit, at about 7:30 at night, I literally pounded on the door for her to come and help relieve me of some heavy grocery bags I was carrying. We had all pleaded with her to make her bedroom downstairs so she wouldn’t have to climb a flight of steps repeatedly, but she resisted as she did moving.  She finally made it to the door, parted the curtain, and gave me an extremely confused look before she fell backward.   The door was locked, so I sprinted for the liquor store across the street, grabbed their phone and dialed 911.  The paramedics were just around the block, so they broke in through the locked back door of Mom’s house and carted her away in an ambulance.  She was still conscious and reasonably alert. I still remember the doctor at the hospital very patiently trying to get out of me the list of medications and supplements that Mom was taking, occasionally telling me “you’re dolng just fine.”    She had just had stroke number two.

Mom died that night.  Then was brought back and we were told that she was alive but would need some extreme care going forward.  The next morning I got a call from the hospital saying that Mom had suffered a major heart attack,and might not live very long.  I remember the jolt, then straggling, quickly slipping into denial that I was now going to be totally without parents, and slowly made my way to the hospital.  By the time I got there she was gone again.  The doctor told me she had “a massive coronary right at the bottom of her heart.”  Though unintentional, he couldn’t have painted a more morbid, guilt-inducing description.  I immediately began running over and over in my head how long it took me to get to her, and to this day still the the look of what was obviously excrutiating pain that was frozen on her face haunts me.  With no one there to hold her hand.  Like I did for my Dad.  Like I did for my sister Rose.  Today is the first time I’m talking about the guilt that still hasn’t gone away completely.

Not long after Mom passed I saw the movie “Jacob’s Ladder” and considered that my “aha” moment around death.  Dad had also died on the table, was revived, and died again the next day.  I truly believe that they were both given an opportunity to see what lay ahead if they decided to stick around, and opted for what was behind door number two. I’ve tried on several occasions since 1993 to describe the sense of absolute desolation at losing my second parent, and coming to the realization that I won’t be issued any more of these, and have never even come close to putting those feelings of holy terror into words.  And I wasn’t even close to my folks.  I don’t envy anyone who is close to theirs what they have to go through. Just writing out some of this is relieving some of the guilt I’ve carried all of these years, guilt that I’m sure Mom wouldn’t want me carrying.  Guilt at driving the rest of her family away from her because I had become the perceived enemy.  Because I was learning to stand up for myself.  Guilt at not being there to comfort her as she died.  It really overwhelmed me today as I was talking to some friends.  Unlike Mom, I had the good fortune to not be alone at the time.

During the weekend that Mom died, I attended an angel workshop at a church in Woodbury,a workshop in which we were all asked to request angelic signs.  My obvious request was to know that Mom was ok.  Throughout the course of the weekend, not a sign in sight.  I had moved into Mom’s house and was sitting and reading (ironically) A Course In Miracles in preparation for that Monday night’s class at the same church.  It was really very windy outside, and I was sitting alongside a picture window that was taking a beating as I sat and read.  To my right was a  sort of trophy case where my mom used to put her collectibles, including a large Opus doll I had given her, as Opus was her favorite cartoon character.  All of the items were behind glass.  At one point during my reading, I heard this loud “whoosh,” and assumed it was the window taking another blast of the icy wind.  After finishing a page, I looked up and noticed the 12-inch Opus doll standing there.  Outside the trophy case.  I could’ve sworn it was behind the glass.  I had gotten my sign.

Dear Mom: In a practical sense, you came up a bit short in parenting skills.  In a more Universal view, you gave birth to me into a life and conditions that were perfect for setting me onto a path that has never been easy, but more often than not has been rewarding beyond my wildest dreams.  I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you to help you cross over.  My fear got the better of me.  I know you forgave me long ago, but please pardon me if I hang onto my feelings of inadequacy  for just a bit longer – – they’ve just become too familiar for me to let go of all at once.  You know how it works.  I remember the dream I had of you the day after your Opus doll shenanigans: I remember asking you if you were ok, and you giving me that exasperated look of yours and saying, “Oh sure – – they’ve got me walking and walking.”  Yeah, I kinda figured you were busy. I only regret not asking you what movie you had seen up there recently.  Just to hear you laugh one more time.

A friend of mine has said a few times that as her Mom was dying, she told my friend that going forward she was to “Just think of me as the sunlight on the lake.  Just think of me as the diamonds on the water.”   That’s you too, Mom.  In this shadow life I know you thought little of yourself.  From your current vantage point I hope you see yourself reflected on the water often.  You are indeed a whole cache of diamonds of eternity.  I loved you more than I ever said.  And I’m so sorry I didn’t say it more often.  Please know that in my heart I miss you so very much.  Happy Mothers’ Day.


Once Upon A Time


     “Once upon a time there was a cowboy in a bit of distress, as he was walking alone in the dark, unaware of the darkness, and also unaware that he was alone.  Oblivious to the night, he continued walking in the cool desert air for miles until he came upon some train tracks, and in the distance saw the tiny light of a locomotive approaching.  Although the cowboy was unable to identify the inner rumblings he felt as the train drew closer, his best guess for a name for what he was feeling was “concern,” as he also noticed a stage coach perched on the tracks, disabled for whatever reason, and unmoving.  As the train drew nearer yet to the the coach, the cowboy decided to name his next inner disturbance “panic,” as it became more and more apparent that the train was going to strike the vehicle filled with helpless passengers.

    And so it did, and oddly, the train continued to move, eventually fading in the distance, as the toppled coach stayed on its side, miraculously unbroken, but still with passengers inside obviously traumatized by the experience.  As the cowboy hurried to the coach, he noticed first that the coachman was dressed entirely in black, and lay motionless in his seat in front of the carriages.  The black horses also didn’t move, still alive, yet so still it seemed that they were frozen in time.  The cowboy turned his attention to the commotion inside and moved to help what turned out to be a group of four women.

   The first wore a frilly pink dress, and as the took her hands to help her out of the coach, she said through sobs, “There was nothing we could do.”  The cowboy then helped another woman out, then turned to a woman who pushed away his hands, saying “I can do this on my own!” And so he turned his attention to the young woman in the red dress, who was badly shaken by the incident and accepted his help gladly.  As the other women assured the cowboy that they were all right and that help would arrive for them, they urged him to bring the young woman to a safer place, somewhere she could rest and regain her wholeness.  Although the cowboy couldn’t imagine where in the vastness of the dark desert help would be coming from to assist the other ladies, he agreed and picked up the young lady in red, as he had noticed her limping and having great difficulty walking on her own.  

     The cowboy carried the young woman for miles and miles, through what felt like different seasons, from cold air and blustery wind, to the opposite end of the desert’s cruel spectrum and it’s scorching heat.  The pair noticed that, oddly, both they and the group of women in the coach had no food or water to sustain them. They were surviving on their own substance. The two endured, and the cowboy continuously assured the young woman that everything was all right, and safety was in sight, although he was operating solely on something he had decided to name “faith.”  He also felt an odd sensation creeping up on him, one that explained to him that he and the young woman weren’t in fact travelling through various seasons, but only a single night.

    It was at daybreak that the cowboy noticed that he and the woman he continued to carry were still travelling on the train tracks, and as the sun rose, the heat began to envelop them.  In the distance there appeared to be a structure of some sort, maybe a cabin, although the cowboy wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t a mirage.  While taking his eyes off the supposed cabin for a minute, he felt the woman stirring in his arms and heard her say, “You can put me down.  I can walk now.”  She let out a small shriek as he bare feet touched the hot wood between the iron tracks, but then assumed a pleasant, small grin as she began to enjoy the freedom of walking on her own.  

     The two continued to walk excitedly as they noticed that the cabin was, in fact, real.  As they arrived at the cabin door and knocked, another woman came to the door to let them in.  She appeared to live by herself and was very open in welcoming her surprise visitors.  “There was nothing we could do,” explained the young woman in red to the lady of the house.  As the two continued to chat, the cowboy noticed that he was finding it harder and harder to be a part of the conversation,indeed the two women seemed to not even notice that he was there.  And so the two ladies continued talking of adventures real and imagined, the cowboy looked back outside at the darkness that seemed to be a season long, although he knew better: it only one more single night.,

     And so he walked alone in the dark for miles and miles, covering much desert ground beneath his gradually tiring feet.  As suddenly as the train hit the stage coach the night before, a beam of light came down from the night sky and surrounded the cowboy, leaving him no escape.  The cowboy felt another new sensation: he decided to call this one “pain.”  He did notice, however, a rather enjoyable bittersweetness to the the pain, a sort of melody that sang to him of the rapture of his own soul, while the newly named pain did its work and chipped away at some of the mortar the cowboy had surrounded his heart with,built over years of not exercising all that his heart contained.  And the cowboy continued to walk, until he noticed yet another new sensation, a sound coming from his mouth. He decided to call this one “whistling.”  And so the cowboy kept walking in the night air, looking near and far for those who may need to be carried until they can walk on their own.  Once upon a time there was a cowboy .. . “


     The above is my story version of a “past-life regression” that I had in early 1990.   Since then, I’ve come to “believe” more along the lines of infinite “parallel lives,” something that still is difficult to wrap my head around once in a while.  What I more importantly am trying to illustrate in the above is a sort of exquisite archetype that exists in all of us, including, to my amazement at times, myself.  The events above did in fact happen in real time.  In early 1990 I began dating a young woman who was in fact in some emotional turmoil, and quite often in our early going.  As our relationship progressed, she became more and more independent, she outgrew her need for me, and our relationship, sadly, ended.  While there were certainly other circumstances that brought us to our close, I’m eternally grateful to remember our brief alliance as my first time acting out my “regression.”  I was actually given a transcript of my regressive work by the hypnotherapist and promptly threw it in a closet somewhere.  It wasn’t until long after Mary and I broke up that I rediscovered the transcript, and was awestruck at it’s content.  Mary had indeed been carried by me until she could walk. She frequently wore red.  And she also loved going barefoot, which she did during our first walk together . . . along some railroad tracks in Minneapolis.  

     Who doesn’t need to be carried sometime?    The greater gist of what I wrote above is that we’re all in the process of leading each other back home.  In first acknowledging my own worthiness to carry such a beloved inner working, then allowing it to work through me as others do, I’m given repeated opportunities to have the Divine move through me in order to get to you.  I too have my sources.  I’ve certainly not lived this long without assistance.  Following the story I’ve been privileged to have been given is validation that we all are living our own version of the poem “Footprints,” because as a minister told me once, “People are how God gets around.”  I thrive on the beauty of this process. It is my reason for being. It is why I try not to let a day pass without at least once, mentally, and hopefully otherwise, telling as many individuals as I can “thank you.”  Each and every encounter is an opportunity to heal my loveless places, and when the conversation becomes one of being asked  for a few minutes to be listened to, whatever difficulties I may have had up until then in my day fade instantly in the distance.  You make my day, you bring me back alive.  And there are those of us in 12-Step groups who know what its like to have the same person calling over and over, and over again sometimes seemingly never moving up the next rung of the ladder, until finally that “eureka” moment hits.  Sometimes, whether it be a program person or not, I will hear the person speak about “guilt,” for coming to me a perceived one too many times.  To the contrary.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, every time I’m trusted as a sort or “father confessor,” the rest of my day invariably goes better.  My soul lights up like a Christmas tree.  I get to feel that exquisite beauty of Something I Cant Quite Name moving through me in order to get to you.  In the throes of our own desert disasters, we not only hold each other we up, we carry each other until we’re able to walk again.   For the many times I’ve been privileged to be relied on, there is no way possible I could say “thank you” enough.  I can’t count that high. We are one and the same.  There is indeed a cowboy.  And you are my Once Upon A Time.