Pandora’s Box

“Death has a cruel way of giving regrets more attention than they deserve.” – – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


My brother Joe passed away on Monday, July 8th.  I got the news as I logged into my computer at work at seven a.m. and gave Facebook a quick glance.  After the proverbial double-take at my sisters post saying farewell to him, I messaged her.  He had indeed died just a few hours earlier after a years long bout with colon cancer.  I was stunned.

I was not particularly close to Joe, just as there is distance between myself and my other siblings, but I have fond memories of us as kids.  He was the one who got me interested in writing, as I published a one page neighborhood newspaper at his cue.  It was also a nice way to earn five cents.  It was Joe who got me interested in drawing cartoons.  And it was definitely Joe who inspired my interest in music, the less mainstream the better.  I had forgotten the depth of his influence on me until the day he died.  Still, there was more going on inside me that I couldn’t quite put a finger on.

Irritability has been my companion for much of my days since his death.  Considering that I work in a call center and take over one hundred inbound calls a day, irritability and my work make crappy bedfellows. Even with an awareness of my unease, it wasn’t until this past Friday that the full brunt of grief hit me.  A few of my calls were recorded and played back to me during a coaching session.  I was only a little surprised that I sounded as enthusiastic as Eeyore while talking with my patients.  I miss Joe.  And his passing was the trigger that made me release the hold button on all of the losses I’ve not fully grieved.  There is a heaviness inside that takes very few breaks.  I feel like doing little more than sitting in a chair all day once I get home.  Or moving around just to move around. Depression rules.

There was the possibility of a reconciliation with someone that I flat out slammed the door on a few years ago.  We had gone our separate ways, and in our absence from each other I did little to dissipate my accumulated anger from our cat vs. dog last few months.  All I saw was rage when I thought of her.  When I had finally worked though a large portion of it, she was nowhere in sight. She is among my incessantly repeated “what if” scenarios.  I also really miss her, and yet she too is a symbol.  A symbol of my history of short-lived relationships or those that never got off the ground, several of them in the last ten years.  It speaks as much to my fear of intimacy, but that’s another article for another day.

My best friend ever, Paul McGee died in 1983.  My dad passed in 1991, and mom followed in 1993.  In between, my sweet friend Susan died in 1992.  I dated my first sober love in 1991, and in 2004 she committed suicide.  In 2005 my sister Rose died, largely from liver failure.  Her husband followed two years later.  Throw in middle-age and still never having really pursued writing as a career, and I echo Henry Blake’s sentiment on a M*A*S*H* episode after someone stole his beloved desk from his office: “I’m sitting right inside the middle of a great big empty.”  But I’m not in a sitcom.  Or am I?

There have been frequent periods the last few days when I’m unable to focus on any single thing for more than a few seconds at a time.  While I’m taking brief comfort here and there reading up on Kubler-Ross’s “Five Stages Of Grief,” my apartment looks like a cyclone just hit.  Laundry is undone.  There is no pile of dirty dishes, probably because I’ve been eating so little.  And my primary mood is fluctuating between anger, sadness, loneliness, and just plain feeling afraid.  My friend David used to be a fire chief.  I remember him telling me how he counseled one of his firefighters, including telling him “sometimes you just stack the bodies.”  Indeed.  Losses in whatever form do add up.

I have so far been spared anyone telling me to “cheer up.” For that I am very grateful.  Grief has its own life, and I’m not about to tell it to leave prematurely.  I have been in Al-Anon meetings and listened to someone talk out their own Pandora’s Box of grief, only to have the next person start off their share with, “if it makes you feel any better . . . ”  Fact of the matter is that person is not being compassionate.  They’re trying to shut down the person in grief so they don’t have to feel their own reaction.  It is not only much more civil (and much more boundary-respecting in a meeting setting), but also more loving to let a person have their own grief space.  Expressing condolences can be done without the knee jerk reaction of caretaking that is the norm.

My boss took me aside for a chat after we went over my calls on Friday, and I brought up Joe, explaining that I was not trying to make excuses.  She wanted an explanation for why my conversations  with patients, some of them in dire need of help, seemed so lifeless.  She had forgotten about my brothers death.  I had not forgotten it, but had slipped into a deeper and deeper denial, somehow knowing there were many things to grieve behind the door.  My emotions are in charge much of my days, and are often erratic.  Grief can be a very unpredictable, dark tunnel. I will continue to do the things that keep me upright – going to Al-Anon and AA meetings, using my phone, writing.  And while doing them I will remember the statement I forgot to tell my boss during our chat: I’m exactly where I need to be.

















Would You Rather Be Right Or Happy?

“They say that as you get older you gradually lose your mind. What they don’t tell you is that you probably won’t miss it very much.” – – unknown

I had a dream a few months ago in which I was clutching a copy of A Course In Miracles. I suspected I knew what it meant but took no action on my hunch for a few weeks. It was then that I started reading the text and doing the lessons. It is a lifetime process, comparable to the twelve step groups that saved my life. Indeed I have often said that A Course In Miracles is the Big Book on steroids so, I think it’s content can be summed up in one line: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”

Step three suggests that we made “a” decision, not “the” decision. I read an estimate years ago that the average human has approximately eighty thousand thoughts per day. To me that’s eighty thousand opportunities to work step three. When I think of will it is not in the vein of “What does God want me to do? I honestly don’t think my actions play a large part of what I’m seeking with this step. What I think the step is telling me is to focus my attention on God, or ask to see something through God’s lens, then the proper action will follow. As St Augustine put it, “Love and do what you will.”

A Course In Miracles says that everything is either an expression of love or a call for love. What I’d like to tie this to is Eckhart Tolle suggesting that the need to be right is a form of murder. Throughout any given day I can be prone to a number of upsets – a rude customer on the phone, getting cut off in traffic, etc. In each of those cases I more often that not perceive an attack on me. It is precisely at this point that I choose between looking at this “attack” as an expression of love or somebody asking for love. I’m an infant to this concept. I’d rather be right.

Recognizing that I’m projecting my anger (most common emotion for example) onto someone else is actually step one of the ACIM forgiveness process. You’re attacking me. I’m pissed. What I can do at that point is the dynamic of the forgiveness process – bring my attention from outside of me (from the object of my ire) back inside, and ask for help in looking at my own projected anger differently. That’s step two. At that time God can step in and ease or erase whatever my dominant emotion was. That’s step three, in which I have no hand. This at least temporarily stops the “attack/defense” cycle I work every day. Most of this is subtle. I can coolly say “No, I’m not upset – I’m just making my point” as a response to a social media post for example, then add a lengthy addendum to explain what I was saying. That I’m right and you’re wrong. To my credit I have refrained from this lately. But even citing my non-participation is an attack. I’m basically saying I’m not like the people who do so. I’m better than them. Plus I’m right. They’re wrong.

My ego, like anyone else’s can be pretty clever. I have begun working the forgiveness process and it may be the most difficult mind exercise I’ve ever attempted. I have no clue how anyone can say out loud “Oh, I did this step” in referencing step three. To me it is hardly a one and done. But to each their own. A Course In Miracles says that the forgiveness practice is all-inclusive, and that any kind of upset is grist for the mill, because as it also says, a small annoyance is actually “a veil for intense fury.” Most of us aren’t aware of the mountain of anger we sit on. My need to be right is insidious. The amount of healing my mind needs is beyond comprehension.

There is one insane example that I’m embarrassed to say I still put into play even after thirty years in AA/Al-Anon. I take my turn and state confidently that “God’s will” has nothing to do with my actions, that in fact God will is something I align with, or as in step eleven I marinate in for awhile, and afterward intuitively my course of action. God does not want anything from me, as want implies lack and God already IS everything. So how can God “want” anything? Thus God will not be happier if I’m a fireman or flipping cheeseburgers for a living. Then the next person takes their turn and goes on and on about how they don’t know what God wants them to do about their car, or which job to take, or how to discipline their child and when will they get a sign. So I sit and stew because they did’t let me brow-beat them into my viewpoint. Don’t you know I’m right, dammit? That may or may not be true. But I’m sure not happy.

Within my mind lies a right minded Self (leaning toward forgiveness) and a wrong minded self (pure ego). In the middle lies my decision maker, often symbolized by the late Ken Wapnick as a tiny dot dwarfed by both sides. Every moment of every day I’m making a decision for either side. Inspiration or memory. Past or present. Looking at the sum of self forgiveness I need to do (through others)is staggering beyond comprehension. I prefer to think of it as job security for being human. And I truly have come to believe that someone with “good self esteem” still is in the same boat as the rest of us. Self esteem fluctuates. I believe there is a massive untold story of self loathing lurking in all of us unconsciously, just waiting for daily projection onto others.

I have a visual of the aforementioned forgiveness process. I see a miles high stack of paper detailing the contents of my mind, and each time I practice forgiveness a single sheet is removed. I feel more peaceful when it happens, and I feel hopeful every time I can conjure that image. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’d rather be happy.


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.


A Tale From The Darkside

“The past is never where you think you left it.” – – Katherine Anne Porter

Another Cinco de Mayo celebration has come and gone in St. Paul and elsewhere, with my body and unconscious mind conspiring to prevent me from being there for yet another year – plantar fasciitis rules out going very far on foot, and I managed to spend myself broke this week.  It’s no secret to those close to me that I’ve had difficulty reconciling my Mexican heritage with the contamination it combined with in my youth – a huge dose of alcoholic dysfunction and insanity. But that’s another story for another article. I didn’t go largely due to the memory of my last time there over twenty years ago. I remember walking around by myself for awhile and then feeling as though someone was watching me. I turned after a while to look and saw the person who had been sitting at a table a block or so away from me, staring at me for who knows how long. It felt sick, and my whole youth seemed to relive itself within a few seconds at my recognition of the man at the table. It was my oldest brother Paul.

Let me say right off that the being an untreated paranoid-schizophrenic, alcoholic, body-builder can make for a very intimidating combination in an older brother. Somehow, I managed to defend myself rather admirably if I may say so myself, during some truly crazy episodes with my brother Paul. As the years went on and the two of us went in and out of living in my mom’s house periodically due to our various successes/failures, we both managed to survive each other til I was in my early thirties. And then came a turning point.

At four years of sobriety I was in a vastly different place emotionally and boundary-wise than I was during the years of my brother’s constant abuse. I was not alone – he terrorized the entire family. Including my mom. And in an old-school Mexican family, you don’t get help – you just deny what’s going on. And so it happened one day while visiting mom that I found out he had been making visits at two or three in the morning to her house (he would come seven miles or so on foot), waking her up and then laying into her with verbal abuse for whatever reason struck his fancy. I felt my blood boiling as I listened to yet another episode played out by my mom, and coincidentally the phone rang about ten minutes after she got done. It was Paul. I listened quietly as he told me how he and his wife were hit with hard times again and thus they had decided they were moving into my mom’s house. They didn’t ask if it was ok, they had just made up their minds. In retrospect, as I was fresh off hearing my mom vent about him for a half an hour or so, I’m quite surprised at how calmly (albeit feeling just a tad angry) I replied slowly and calculatedly, “the fuck you are.” After a couple minutes of calling me names and denying he ever mistreated my mom in his life, I heard him hang up the phone. I then found my mom and told her I’d had one too many years of hearing complaining and that with or without her, I was heading down to city hall the next day to get a restraining order.

My brother’s retaliatory gesture was hardly unexpected. And the impact of how nauseated I felt after hearing about it has dissipated, but not so much to the point where I’ll be inviting him out for lunch any time soon. I didn’t find out about it until a couple of years later when one of my sisters relayed to me what he had done.  Paul placed a lewd call to my middle-sister, disguised his voice and said it was me. Like I said, his behavior was hardly surprising. And considering my family history I could have been a little less surprised by the response I got from not only the victim of his little prank, but from all three of my sisters. They all believed it was me.

My sister Rose didn’t speak to me for the last twelve years of her life. My sister Barb told me just a year ago the specifics of what my brother said on the phone. I was still dumbfounded, but had matured into recovery enough to know that 1) my family is nuts and nothing is out of the question regarding insanity and 2) it’s really not my business what anyone thinks about me. I’m the only member of what was once a nine person family in recovery. Setting boundaries with my brood is a lot like trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun. So I don’t go there. Things have truly improved between my youngest sister and I, but I still am wary enough to remind myself it’s perfectly ok in the name of self care to make a quick getaway if I need to. I see my sister and her boys only occasionally.

My sister Rose died in 2005. She had contracted Steven’s Johnson’s Syndrome, a skin disease so little was known about at the time that when I googled it all I came up with was a slew of pages about law suits. She died in terrible pain. As she was taking her last few breaths I was asked to administer Reiki, which I gladly did. And then right or wrong, I took the opportunity to lean over and whisper in her ear, “It wasn’t me.”

As I said earlier, the whole story of my turning my back on my heritage is for another day, another article. Or two. Or three. I’m writing more lately, and while I only get about fifteen or twenty hits each on my articles, I’m all for the healing power of “putting it out there.” Maybe I’m just channeling my inner David Carr (see “Night Of The Gun”). Or maybe my my inner Charles Bukowski (for that one, sit on a bar stool for a few decades). Whatever reason it may be, I still have the secret hope that it will help someone, that they’ll know that they’re not alone.

Cinco de Mayo will happen again next year, and I learned long ago that recovery is not linear. All events happy or sordid will pass after living their own life. I know my heritage will wait patiently for me.


Send In The Clones

“For me, to ‘drink responsibly’ means don’t spill it.” – – unknown


There is an active drunk in my apartment building.  And he seems to be living by the old Stephen King credo, “I work until beer o’clock.”  I don’t know of anything else that he does when he’s here.  He’s loud and obnoxious even when not drinking, and thus these traits are magnified when he’s inebriated.  I have complained about him multiple times to apartment management, and have called the cops several times.  So have other tenants.  “He’s such a nice guy when he’s not drinking” and “I know he doesn’t mean to harm anyone.”  are statements I hear about him. My favorite direct from the apartment manager was “He promised me he would stop.”  Does any of this have a familiar ring?

I have at least loosely tried to live by the “projection makes perception” mode from A Course In Miracles so at it’s absolute best, I’m being given a history lesson by my neighbor on behavior I’ve not forgiven myself for.  And fortunately at this state of sobriety it can be pretty comical.  When I told a friend yesterday about the “he promised” line that was given to my landlord, he burst into a belly laugh. What person who has ever been associated with an alcoholic hasn’t heard a promise or two before?  As I heard that my neighbor promised to stop his loud partying via a voice mail that was left for me, I was unable to advise that he probably forgot about what he said in less than five minutes.

I sat next to a group rep at an Al-Anon meeting a few weeks ago as she was sifting through some papers, stopping at a flyer with a heading of “Are You Affected By Someone Else’s Drinking?”  When I saw the flyer I shouted out “Yes!” I was supposed to have been at an Al-Anon event the previous Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m.  Thanks to falling asleep at about, oh, five a.m. courtesy of my neighbor’s bender into the wee hours, I didn’t make it, thinking better of driving and then showing up at the assembly feeling like I’d been through a meat grinder.  I had explained my dilemma to the group rep next to me, the same person who had actually recruited me for service at the Saturday Al-Anon gig.  So as soon as I shouted yes, she also burst out laughing.

The shoe is on the other foot right now, and for whatever reason I’m being treated to a refresher course on how I impacted other peoples lives while I was drunk.  It’s not pretty.  And while I had empathy abounding a couple of months ago when this all started, I have graduated to the aforementioned complaining to management and calling the cops.  Enough is enough.

My neighbor has been asked to leave, and to avert eviction he is being worked with so as to allow him to find a new home voluntarily.  One of the conditions is that he behave quietly while he’s still here.  Since I heard him loudly proclaiming as he walked through the hallway yesterday “I’m going out with a bang!” I think something may have been lost in the translating of his conditions.  The bottom line is that all of this has provided me with an epiphany for the taking.

Everything I’m hearing about how nice this guy is, how he promised to stop, how he’s harmless, also sounds familiar.  I don’t recall offhand how many millions of members AA claims in the forward to the fourth edition of the Big Book, but I would venture to guess that those characteristics were attributed to most if not all.  A line I hear frequently in the rooms of AA is “we don’t shoot our wounded.”  I agree.  I also think a person can be given only so much rope.  The previous quote has been replaced for me by the philosophy of an old supervisor of mine, who used to have a sign outside her door that read “Have a nice day somewhere else.”

A drunk is a drunk.  Nobody is responsible for me, but in the larger scheme of things, it behooves everyone to have a certain degree of self-care.  To me, that would include telling me that my drunken behavior is not welcome.  We alcoholics are all alike on so many counts its downright eerie.  In the fourteen years I’ve lived in this building this is the first person I’ve been impacted by due to alcohol directly.  Another one was an active drug addict who was evicted (imagine blood-curdling withdrawal screams at 4 or 5 in the morning), and a third a person who was five years sober, but who was still prone to vacuuming his unit at 11:30p.m. and was apparently incapable of closing a door without slamming it as hard as he could.  Management caught on to him when they were notified that he would often start parties at midnight.  Okay, so it takes a few years for behavior to be changed too.  I think this reiterates my point. We’re all pretty alike.

There is a strange release in writing about all of this, in acknowledging being a member of the club, in the grounding of my ego that so frequently invites flying toward the sun.  We’re all in the same boat, and while every now and then I hear statistics like “only one in ten of us makes it,” I don’t agree:  I think most of us don’t make it.  So what my sponsor told me when I spoke of my dilemma yesterday, “It could be you.”  is sobering, no pun intended.  So, My Neighbor, I guess ultimately I’ll say thank you for the reflection.  I’m not just like you. I AM you.  On some level(s) we are figuring this out all together.  A few lost nights of sleep are not the end of the world.  But in the mean time, dammit, have a nice day somewhere else.








The Rope

“What’s sad is that we bring our own unhappiness with us into situations where it’s easiest to blame it on our surroundings and other people.” – – Tara Braveheart


It was a normal looking rope, really.  About six feet long, and just left laying in the lunch room of a busy workplace called The Garden Of Eden.  Nobody even noticed it until one day a young woman came in for her morning shift, muttering to herself – – problems on top of problems: the husband, the kids, no money, seemingly no future.  She would give just about anything for a distraction.  Then out of the corner of her eye she saw it.  “Is that a snake in the lunch room?” she asked herself while she hurriedly passed through on her way to a meeting.  “It’s huge!” She couldn’t be sure, but she thought she’d best tell somebody right away.

The first person she saw was a co-worker from the same department as her.  He had come into work muttering to himself – – problems on top of problems: the wife, the kids, no money, seemingly no future.  He would give just about anything for a distraction.  His co-worker grabbed him as soon as he came into view, excitedly saying, “Look! Look! It’s a snake in there! And it’s gotta be at least twelve feet long!”  The co-worker quickly obliged and looked in horror at the fourteen foot snake.  Soon, the two of them were talking about nothing else.  They hurried out of the lunch room to alert a few others in close proximity, the people they knew best first, about the sixteen foot snake.  Before they could call an exterminator, a short-term fix was needed.  As the group closest to the lunch room scurried about for boards and nails and hammers to shut in the eighteen foot snake, the rest of the room privy to the slithering nightmare went off to warn the remainder of the building not to go into the lunchroom.  The original two (as well as others) didn’t even notice that they were no longer thinking of their personal issues, and wouldn’t for the next eight hours.   Not until they left the building and headed for home again, anyway. We must keep our attention on getting rid of this twenty foot snake!

Finally, someone from the group closest to the lunch room said, “Hey, I know just who to call! Magic Man Exterminator!  I had rats in my house once and he got rid of them all.  He said he didn’t find anything, and that made me think he was nuts, but the thing was – after he left my house they never came back again.”  So the man went off to the front desk to call Magic Man to liberate them from their serpentine dilemma.

He did indeed look like a magic man.  Dressed in a tuxedo, complete with top hat and wand and white gloves, he looked so grand!  He strode in through the main entrance confidently, heading toward the lunch room to survey the problem.  As he removed a few of the boards,  he chuckled to himself and said to those just outside, “Ok, I’ll have this taken care of in no time.  You can just go about your day.  Are you sure you want this resolved though?  Are you sure you’re not too attached to the problem?”  Those around the Magic Man were floored by the question.  “Of course we want it resolved!” shot back one of the small crowd.  “Are you nuts? Who in blazes wants a forty foot snake in their lunch room?”  “Ok then,” replied the Magic Man.  “Done deal.”

He noted once again that the situation was always the same.  He laughed as he calmly picked up the six foot rope.  He’d been to places like The Garden Of Eden before. A few doves fluttered about him as he walked out the door, and those observing him noticed that he moved with such grace and had such a soothing feel about him.  The soothing aura the Magic Man emitted was so opposite the norm in the building it made everyone nervous.  Though the fifty foot snake was gone, they all had it in the back of their minds to keep an eye out for more, just in case. At least they would have something to talk about. The Magic Man easily picked up on the nervousness, then turned around and tipped his hat saying “Thank you for your business, and as with all of my clients, my service is free of charge.”  He exited through a side door and flipped the small rope into the back of his truck.  A few of the doves fluttered about in the back of the vehicle also, gliding into it on the trail of the Magic Man’s warmth.  The Magic Man fired up his truck and looked back at the entrance and smiled, then laughed the soft laugh of a Magic Man as he noticed a large yellow-lettered sign with a big arrow pointing toward the doorway, the same sign he noticed at all of the building’s entrances: “Volunteers Only.”  Then he started  singing a little Magic Man’s song and began waiting for his next call, knowing that it may be a long wait.






But For The Grace Of God . . .

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” – – Anne Frank

I don’t say this to enhance a sense of self-aggrandizement, but I have in fact given money to people on freeway ramps and elsewhere a number of times.  There are however, two times that stand out to me, one of which continues to make me a bit hesitant to “participate.”  One Christmas Eve I was feeling terribly lonely and went for a drive around midnight.  In Roseville, I saw a woman standing by an entrance to Highway 36 and stopped to flip her a twenty dollar bill.  My heaviness lifted upon hearing her repeated gratitude.  The other time I saw a young man in a parking lot at Whole Foods and gave him a dollar.  After he said “thanks” quickly, he added “You know, two would have been better.”  He left it at that when I advised him that a third option was for me to flag down the policeman standing about 50 feet away from us.  That one left a foul taste with me.  So I was a bit surprised at how engaged I became with a family of five Romanians I encountered at a Cub entrance a few weeks ago.


It’s always heartbreaking to me to see people holding a sign at the side of the road and noticing that they have small children with them.  My first inclination was to drive right by on this day, but my car suddenly took a turn into a fast-food parking lot and I brought the family back a few burgers and drinks.  As I drove away the sight of this beautiful little girl who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old stuck with me:  a “slider” in her little hands looked like a massive burger.  I wondered when the last time was that she had anything to eat.  As I drove away I really tried to ignore that strong compulsion to go back and strike up a conversation, but it just wouldn’t leave me alone.  I parked my car nearby and walked up to the father of the family, a small notebook in my hand.  I told him that I’m a writer and asked him if I could “interview” him.  After assuring him that what I wrote was not for public consumption (and that my last post got a whopping 7 hits) he agreed.  They are a family of gypsies.  Getting the courage to beyond my naivete’ I asked him just what was going on in Romania that caused them to migrate.  As I later found out through some research, gypsies have been persona non grata in Romania for centuries.  Hence the trek to America in 2016, not knowing at the time of course what the outcome of our presidential election would be.  He is waiting for a work visa and in the interim told me that he has occasionally taken work “under the table,” which always comes with the built in risk of the employer not paying him.  He of course has no recourse.  The one time he reported the employer to the police, he learned very quickly not to do so again: he luckily ran his complaint by a kindly police officer who said he wouldn’t take any action against my Romanian friend, but that there was really nothing he would be able to do legally to collect his wages.  And so it was that I ran into him on his first day of panhandling.  I do truly feel empathy for anyone who is homeless, and this has been amplified by the fact that I’ve been a hair away from being homeless myself two times within the last two or three years.  This instance made me feel particularly handcuffed and made the immigrant situation much more personal.  I wished my young friend and his family well and went on my way, having stopped by three times in the afternoon to chat and offer some comfort.  They are still with me.

I was graced with further irony when in a moment of boredom I flicked on my television (a few days later) to a syndicated police show.  The topic of the episode? Gypsies and the ridicule their children can be forced to endure.  Just writing this now is bringing some of the heaviness back, a heaviness that I’ve learned really doesn’t do anyone any good, including the family or myself.  As noted in several different of my favorite metaphysical publications, when I think of this family it is best to imagine them only in the highest regard, or highest “light,” I guess.  And I do wish only the best for them.  I assured the young Romanian father that I would stop again if I saw him “hopefully around another payday.”  He was quite gracious in his thanks.  I did not know they came from Romania.  I did not know they are gypsies.  I didn’t notice their race or their lifestyle preference. They just struck me as a family going through a down time and having the courage to ask for help.  I know that anyone can stand at a corner and run a scam.  I remember being a regular at an AA meeting in my first year of sobriety, and a guy repeatedly walking through and disrupting the meeting in his drunken stupor.  He was intentionally trying to be disruptive.  One day when someone finally corralled him for a conversation, he advised that he was unemployed but the previous year had managed to rake in $35,000.00 panhandling. This was in 1989.  Whether or not that’s true, it just reminds that those on street corners are in various states of distress, and yes, some may just flat out be phonies.  No matter.  The best I can serve myself (and them) is to think the best of them.  Even my $35,000 buddy was only reaching out for help in the only way he knew how.  Tragically, the direction this administration is taking the handling of immigration, many are being forced to go back into the unimaginably threatening situations they tried to escape.  All of this goes without saying, I know, but I hadn’t felt it so closely until I met my Romanian friends.  The television show I watched painted a bleak picture of the ridicule and ultimate murder of a helpless young child.  This was a television show.  The possible consequences of going back home my friend told me about didn’t sound like they were scripted by a Hollywood screen writer.  They sounded like a living hell.

I’ve read a few times the last few years that if even a penny on the sidewalk shows itself that one can take it as a sign that “everything is going my way.”  The suggestion is to count even the smallest things as blessings until the thought of adversity looks very different and less restrictive – in fact the objective is to look at everything in the world as a stepping stone.  No adversity.  It is a welcome feeling emotionally to fancy such things even for a minute.  It was made easier for me when not long after speaking with my Romanian family, I went for a run and shortly into it happened upon a bunch of coins at a street corner.  A “reward” possibly for taking some time out for someone less fortunate. I wasn’t done yet.  I ran by a lovely young woman who shouted after me when I ran past her “You’re cute!” (A reminder I guess, that there are still plenty of women who drink in the early afternoon) And finally, a feather on the sidewalk, which I unfailingly take as a statement of angelic presence.  I felt it indeed.  The parents I met struck as genuinely caring, and as a couple who brought their kids over to this country in the hope of a better, safer future.  I can look at is as unfortunate that they picked the current administration to plot and execute their move.  Another way of looking at it is that the miracles waiting to be rained on them may just be proportionate to the obstacles they seem to be facing currently.  I prefer to think the latter.  I was comforted by the father telling me that for the evening at least, they had a motel to stay in.  And the image of a beautiful young child munching on a burger with a look on her face of intense pleasure.  I wished that every thought of hers going forward would bring her closer to heaven.  And then I remembered: she’s already there.











Like Your Life Depends On It

“I hit so many bottoms I thought I was a public toilet.” – – unknown


Those of us in or out of recovery know all too well the up and down and in-between rhythms of life.  I found myself at a low in mid-October of last year that felt devastating.  I felt emotionally crushed and really not very functional – thus calling in to work four straight days and depriving myself of that much badly needed temp pay.  During that time I scurried through about 35 pages of a “Blueprint For Progress” fourth step, prayed my brains out, and just tried to survive and remember to breathe.  I also scoured the internet for books on self-love.  It was definitely a turning point for me.  Fortunately,  I came upon a little book titled “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” by a gentleman named Kamal Ravikant.

The book is a mere 57 pages long.  In it, after chronicling his own bitter low point, Ravikant advocates the hard-core practice of three things: 1) bearing in mind the question “if I really and truly loved myself, would I let myself experience this?”
2) find a 7 minute piece of music and listen to it daily, reciting s-l-o-w-l-y “I love myself” over and over, and 3) repeating the phrase “I love myself” over and over and over again until, as he puts it, “it was on my mind more often than it was not.” I particularly practiced the last part with a vengeance.  From early November through about the end of December, it didn’t really feel like a lot was happening.  In fact, I lost my job on December 8th.  Fact of the matter was that at such a low starting point, I was not able to muster the phrase “I love myself” out of me with even an iota of conviction.  For the first week or two, “God loves me” (see “Lessons In Truth” by H. Emily Cady) worked as a substitute.  Though subtle, I did notice a distinct change in emotion when I really began saying “I love myself” in earnest, ironically, the day I lost my job.  It was then that the experience of this book and its suggested practices took a turn for the mystical.

I was unemployed.  And scared.  I went to Al-Anon meetings and talked about my plight.  I was sure not looking for sympathy or a hand-out, just talking about my stuffs and feeling better about it each time I did.  Doggedly keeping to repeating the statement (silently) was the first effect.  Even though things looked pretty bleak, optimism soon followed. More and more situations took a turn for the worse, and I began automatically looking at them as stepping stones.  After all, one of the first things to change upon chanting a mantra of “I love myself” was that I was separated from my job.  Thanks, Kamal. No sarcasm intended: I really, really doubled up on being aware of chanting after that.  One night after a meeting I stood and chatted with a woman who was helping me in my job search.  While we were chatting a gentleman from the group passed by, and tucked what felt like a piece of paper into my jacket pocket and then he left.  After my friend and I got done talking, I reached in to pick out the paper he had inserted into my pocket.  It was a one hundred dollar bill.

A flurry of interviews ensued.  My car battery died and a friend bought me a new one.  Two friends came by to assist me with the battery in weather that would frighten eskimos. I noticed people smiling at me more than usual.  I got a job on January 23rd and things every so gradually began to turn as started to get caught up on rent and a few other bills.  I continued with the chant of “I love myself” and began to sense a much deeper connection – – each time I chanted it became obvious that I was saying that I loved my Self: that it so say the larger Entity that connects us all.  I was synchronizing with the Spirit of everything.  As the author puts it, “as you love yourself, life loves you back.”

One of my pet peeves is going out for a run in the city, coming to an intersection, and a car blocking my path to cross as the driver neglects to look both ways before turning or going straight ahead.  After a few months of chanting, I began running again in early March (I really don’t care for winter running any more). It was then that I noticed a strange phenomenon.  More and more cars were either stopping short of the intersection, or noticing that they were blocking my way, they would back up.  With a smile.  Coincidence? Maybe.  What I really don’t believe to be a coincidence is that I was hired at the temp job I got in January as  permanent employee recently with a huge raise.  I really do believe Mr. Ravikant’s little book is one of the world’s best kept secrets.

In “Love Yourself, . . . ” Kamal states that his entire world changed for the better with miraculous, “out of reach” changes becoming routine in his life within a month.  Wonderful people entered his life.  He got new opportunities by the boatload.  I can’t say it worked in a month for me, or will for anyone else. I can with great conviction state that practiced diligently, chanting “I love myself” even without using the other tools suggested in the book continues to bring about miracles in my life. It just took a little longer for me than it did for Kamal. This past Friday I told a group that I’m feeling out of sorts lately because life has ceased to be as magical on a daily basis as it had been since November.  Nothing going terribly wrong, just that my world has lacked that “zing” of magic happenings on a daily basis that I had gotten so used to.  Complacency is also addressed in the book, and quite frankly I have not been as diligent in my chant as I had been for the previous six months.  I am now. And I really wanted to pass this on.

“The truth is to love yourself with the same intensity you would use to pull yourself up if you were hanging from a cliff with your fingernails.”  That’s intense.  And I’m back to doing that and consequently paring away the normal contrary self talk that I do.  If I don’t take action to say kind, loving things to myself, my ego will gladly fill in the blanks with less flattering content.  We don’t attract what we want, we attract what we are. In order to believe that I am love and live the magical life that is becoming my new norm, I need to practice being Love.  I don’t know a better way than to continuously chant I love myself. My plan is to go higher than I ever have.  My dream is to write, and I’m doing that right now for the first time in months.  Spontaneously. I love doing this.  I’ve theorized it before, but now I’m getting to know experientially that abundance has so little to do with money. Yes, higher than I ever have.  My plan is to soar.  Until looking down provides a spectacular view from where I’m at.  May you do the same.



Dreams Examined

“A dream left unexamined is like a letter from God left unopened.” – – Alfred Adler


This past Thursday I awoke to a dream in which I was in my parents old living room and being told by a familiar voice “I want to see you in brighter places.”  I responded to the voice “I want to see you in brighter places too – – like the mall?”  I then walked across the hall to what apparently was my new living quarters or apartment.  What was curious in the dream was that my parents living room was plenty bright.  What I noticed later in the day in recounting the dream was that I was pulling the arm off of an old phonograph record, as in, I was listening to old recordings and living by them.  “The mall” reference has come more clear since Thursday also: with my tendency to isolate, I was suggesting to myself that I be in more populated places.  Simple, huh?

What made it dazzling and more complicated is that it came on the heels of a dream I had a few days earlier in which I was with the person whose voice only appeared in the Thursday dream.  I’ve since generalized it to be a sort of “everyman” figure.  In the earlier dream, the voice told me that we were not ready to get together just yet, and so I left the space we were in and drove away, on a road that got increasingly dark as I drove.  At one point my car spun around that I stopped just short of plunging down into a ravine.  Mildly panicked, I went for my cellphone (curiously it was an old flip-phone) and decided that no, I was not going to call for help as I got the strong impression that the person I had just been with was coming after me in her own vehicle and would provide light for the rest of the road, wherever it may lead.  I remember the dark and the fact that that road headed south were symbols that made the dream(s) a bit disconcerting.  However, when I added the two up, I looked back at the end of my Thursday with an astonished sense of wonder:  after having the “brighter places” dream, I walked into the office of my boss at work and basically said that I’d had enough and that I was done.  He said he was reaching the same conclusion:  my existence there hasn’t been much more than  a mass of days complaining, crappy attendance,  and screwing up projects.  I feel totally lost and in the dark.  I have nothing else lined up for income, so I did one of those “who said that” type of double-takes when I spilled out my resignation.  There is one person in particular who has become my absolute focal point and basically my obsession while I’ve been there, and I’ve come to find her presence intolerable.  I’ve described her to others as without question one of the most conniving, gossipy, hateful people I’ve ever met in my life.  Totally out the window for the last year has been my repeated teaching by others the benefit of having such a person in one’s life:  that most difficult person is usually one’s greatest teacher and mirror.  Sure.  Now I figure it out.

For well over a year now I’ve been straggling with getting started and upping my Microsoft Word skills and becoming more marketable in the workforce.  It would appear that at this time I’ve painted myself into a corner and really have no choice.  Either that or get myself a large piece of cardboard and join the fray on street corners every day.  Since Thursday I have sent out many, many resumes, but oddly, the first thing I felt compelled to do when I got home from work on Friday was to start going over A Course In Miracles once again, starting on Lesson 1 and using various supplementary materials.  Since then, though I definitely feel fear about not having a source of income right this second, everything is starting to make sense. In fact, it almost is if its all by design.  I’ve blown more than a few opportunities to let my perception of people in general be changed, and even at that point I know that it’s something that needs to be worked at consistently just like any other recovery modality.  And now I’m being given another chance.

It is said in the text of ACIM that all that is required to possibly improve a situation is “that little willingness” to let the Higher Self take charge.  Why that is so easy for me to forget is mind boggling, but I know I’m in good company.  The vile bitter person sitting next to me is the symbol of the absolute darkest and most resentful self I’ve avoided in me, or really anyone else.  What has also been an added insight is that I find this person particularly unattractive physically – – reminding me how easy it is to kiss off the very same character traits in someone who might “look” different.  What I’ve been shown over and over at the workplace is that the outer package can be irrelevant.  I’ve had relationships with women who bear the very same character but have completely bypassed that fact due to appearance.  The bottom line is we all need to be forgiven.  Any one of us can become that intolerable person at any time.   That opportunity that I let elude me was “forgiving” her on a daily basis, or in other words, to do the three-step process of forgiveness outlined in ACIM and also “The Disappearance Of The Universe:” 1) remember that you’re dreaming 2) “forgive” your dream images and yourself for dreaming them (another way I look at it is to ask God/Jesus/It/Whatever to look at the person with me, so I can see thru its’ eyes 3) Let Spirit take care of the final step.  Losing this particular opportunity doesn’t mean I’m sunk by any means.  The only way I’ll never have another human chance is if I don’t wake up physically one day.  And even then . . .

So yesterday I awoke out of dream in which a woman was standing to my right in a school room filled with bright morning sunlight that was coming thru a west window.  People were saying they had nothing to do and making an early exist.  I know the person who was my boss in the dream, a very gentle person, and I told her “I have plenty to do.”  To which she gently and laughingly replied “No! Don’t have anything to do so I don’t have anything to do either!” Then she walked toward the light. What she was saying was to forgive my illusory self so that I was forgiving hers at the same time.  In either order. We had a rather turbulent past, and she was inferring obviously that once I stripped away all projections I’d made onto her over the years that both she and myself were being forgiven:  freedom at last, and one step closer to One.

The dream ended with me walking out to an alley with houses on either side.  There was near blinding sunlight, so I guess at least internally I’d found my brighter place. I heard a gentleman speak on Thursday at an AA meeting that left our group with a bunch of gems.  I felt a bit disturbed during the meeting  because there were a few folks in the group laughing at him, as he was not the most articulate person in the world.  Regardless, he passed on a beautiful message.  In the dream this same gentleman (a symbol of wisdom and guidance) appeared and told me to follow him.  South once again (or into the deeper recesses of the psyche) but this time in very bright light.  Millions of tiny pieces of dandelion and very small insects playfully reminded me that there were me an equal number of opportunities to forgive millions of “tiny” things from images, to being cut off in traffic, to any other incidents, resentments, people, my own anger, memories, and anything else I could literally think of.  If this all sounds like babbling, it does a bit to me too.  But while my bottom line is that I’m feeling fear because there’s not an immediate source of income on the horizon, something Much Greater has grabbed me by the hand and showing me these very interesting movies very day to guide me.  Sleeping has once again become like watching free movies.  The only thing missing is the $32.00 small popcorn and $17.50 small drink.  Minus the food, the “dream” is its own brilliant Sustenance.  More to come.







Killing Me Softly

“The way of the cross is a complete reversal.  It means that the worst thing in your life, your cross, turns into the best thing that ever happened to you, by forcing you into surrender, into “death,” forcing you to become as nothing . . . ” – – Eckhart Tolle


I was chatting with a young friend last night and basically told him that I’ve sensed a mild oppressive air upon waking every morning since the beginning of the year.  At first I thought this personal, as I have gone through a whole lot of change and often on multiple fronts at a time for the last six months.  But I think there’s more to it than that.  I don’t watch a lot of television as it is, but I’ve watched even less since mass murder and other tragic events have become more and more the seeming bulls eye for the media.  Even Facebook has become a sort of minor battle zone for incessant posts about guns pro or con, and our laughable presidential campaign.   It makes me think lately of what my old friend Jean used to say: “Chaos precedes creation.”  I sure hope so.

Monsanto long ago patented food.  A 135 person or so panel called the Bilderberg group secretly meets once a year in a select country to basically plan world events.  Donald Trump wants to prevent immigration and to begin his own ethnic cleansing program, totally ignoring the fact that some of the worst mass murders in American history have been perpetrated by Americans.  (Anyone ever look up the history of the Sioux? How ’bout Sandy Hook?)  Anyone can go and stockpile military grade weapons and endless rounds of ammo, murder 50 people, then plead insanity at their trial.  A Facebook post I saw recently stated words to the effect that we need to go back to the values that “created and made this country great in the first place.”  So, if I’m understanding that properly, a group of people from some other continent are supposed to invade an entirely new continent and steal land from those native to the turf, make and break treaties they never had any intention of honoring in the first place, then invade yet another continent and bring back the people of that country and treat them to chains, whips, and deprivation and cruelty, then put a select group in power of all of this, and essentially ignore the voice of anyone in that group who has the nerve to suggest that laws be passed that treat everyone equally.  If you ask me, we’ve been operating on the same set of values since 1776 and before.  And pardon me, but the horrors of the world are not now nor have they ever been a solely white vs black issue, or any other singular color issue.  Insane behavior is not partial to any one ethnic group.

Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were both assassinated while they were making plans to disassemble the Federal Reserve.  I regularly take a lot of heat for saying this, but the Fed is not a government agency.   I encourage anyone to look up its history and the adjoining regret of those politicians who perpetuated its operation in the early going.  Most recently, Hillary Clinton had her record whitewashed of activities that have had other people fined and jailed.  Engineers and witnesses who disputed various “facts” about 911 mysteriously either lost their jobs, met with tragic accidents, or suddenly decided to commit suicide.  The majority of the wealth of the world that the approximated 1% of the population controls is not about to be shifted.   The upcoming presidential election result was decided years ago.  Land of the free?  I beg to differ.  And times have changed.   Granted,  in some countries a person can disagree with their country’s politics and face a beheading.  I do recall a time when an American could say about anything and not worry about men in black showing up at their door the next day.  I do feel an oppressive air.  The demonstrating that goes on lately eclipses one hundredfold what by comparison seems like a tea party (no pun intended) of a riot I remember scaring the hell out of me about a mile from where I lived in 1967. It was a long hot summer then, but nothing like now.  Yes, social media compounds matters.  So does mass media.  It’s no secret that major news outlets are controlled by the same people who control everything else in the world.  I’m in no way suggesting we stick our heads in the sand and ignore the tragic events that are now a daily part of our lives in multiple countries.  What I’m suggesting is that heavy emphasis online, in newspapers, and TV news on these same events also provides a perfect smokescreen to cover the doings of those in real power.   This year’s Bilderberg meeting was held in June.  That same week of the Orlando tragedy.  The same week that gun control debates escalated yet again.  Bilderberg got zero attention (the media are not allowed to cover the meeting).  Just the way they like it.

I have nothing but admiration for those who attend demonstrations to peacefully make their point.  I used to have a lot of fun on Facebook but check it out a lot less than I used to because quite frankly, I don’t really need to see a shitload of opinions of people I hardly ever interact with.  The value of something like FB for me right now when I do view it is to use it as a barometer for myself emotionally.  If I’m upset about something I read and/or don’t agree with, I already had the upset inside waiting to pounce on a target to blame for feeling like crap just underneath the surface of whatever face I was wearing at the time.  Likewise with world events.  Tragic though they may be, I’ve let them become an albatross that I don’t need to give anywhere near as much weight as I do.   And carry on, demonstrators, you have my support.  I apologize that those days are over for me.  That’s certainly not to say that I’m ignorant of goings-on in the world or that I don’t care.  There’s more than one way to change the world.

Another friend and I were talking last week and I told him that “sometimes I just meditate like I’m pulling the covers over my head for twenty minutes.”  I usually emerge more peaceful.  Whether we pay attention to “the little things” or not, a small act of kindness can and does start a chain reaction just as much as a shooting does.  The act of kindness is just usually not anywhere as dramatic as the former, and causes a ripple that may not even be seen for a while – – if ever. “Pulling the covers over my head” so to speak puts me in a position to be the person who starts that other kind of chain reaction: the kind you don’t see on the news as much as the violent ones.  Because it’s not as sensational and diverting.  I understand from my own personal experience, believe me, the enormous difficulty of “letting go” of everything around me these days.  Yet, to “pause when agitated” can change so much.  As one who enjoys employing my middle finger on the freeway with some regularity, I do indeed revel in the peacefulness that accompanies refraining from saluting.   The total sum of such restraint by many is likely immeasurable.  It is my way out.

I read a beautiful piece on letting go from an author named Mark Nepo a week or two ago.  In it he describes learning how to float.  “At times like these, I remember learning to float. Mysteriously, it required letting almost all of me rest below the surface before the deep would hold me up . . . that we can’t stay there only affirms that we must choose the deep again and again in order to live fully.” Underneath all of this worldly garbage.  It was not my intent to write a “spiritual” or “religious” treatise.  Indeed, I like that Eckhart Tolle refers to what most call “God” as being, because it seems to evade personalization and conceptualizing much more easily than naming some supreme entity.  It is there though, in all of us, like a very faint memory that only comes alive when given attention.  The more “time” I spend there, the more I truly believe that Jean’s words from so many years ago are true:  we are going through a painfully long transition period before we get to the other side of the bridge.  Kudos to all of us, we’ve come to accept insanity as the norm.  Fortunately, it’s not the same as “reality.”  No, my gut tells me that reality is far beyond thoughts and imagery.  It is eternal.  These sickening world events are not.   There is a place inside that nobody else can touch, and yet miraculously is a part of everybody.  That is peaceful beyond imagination.  So go ahead and kill me softly, world.  Strum my pain with your fingers, sing my life with your words.  Your actions reflect the loveless places inside me that that are the straw being turned to gold.  Each one brings me closer to home.  Thank You.