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.

 

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Peace

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.

 

Peace

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Peace

 

Rise

Old Man: “You don’t fear death, and you think this makes you strong.  It doesn’t.  It makes you weak.  Fear is your soul’s strongest message.” Wayne: “I do fear death.  I fear dying in here.”  Old Man: “Then make the climb.” Wayne: “How?” Old Man: “Like the child did . . . without the rope.” –an imprisoned old man telling Bruce Wayne/Batman how to escape from an underground prison through a well leading upward, minus the support of a rope as a young child once did in “The Dark Knight Rises”

 

Conventional wisdom says not to leave a job until another one has been procured.  I swear I don’t do these things just to buck the “system,” but I did in fact leave a job on February 27th of this year without another one lined up.  And I told very few people I was going to do so expressly to avoid hearing “you’re nuts” repeatedly.  In my gut I knew that somehow everything was unfolding perfectly, not per a “plan,” per se, but in a way that’s a bit difficult to articulate, although I’ll try.

I don’t generally believe in a concrete plan for people in general, but I do believe in a sort of “script” that gets modified by the choices we make.  It accounts for that feeling of “deja vu” sometimes, or meeting someone for the first time and feeling like you’ve known them forever – because you just may have. Anyway, as best as I can express it, everything has been falling into place, or as a friend of mine stated a few years back during a particularly fertile period of his life, “it’s raining diamonds.”  It was in early January that I began plotting to leave my job, but not until I actually gave my notice that the tumblers began to click.  A few days after giving my notice (and beginning to sweat a little), I found out that my tax return was going to allow to me to stay unemployed for a while.  For a lot longer that I thought I could, in fact.  During the ensuing days and weeks. there have been very few times when I’ve been anywhere near a panic mode, worrying if anything is ever going to show up for a job.  I’m with several temp agencies, have filled out many applications on line, but have done so in a relaxed fashion.  I have no doubt that everything is not going to be ok, but it already is ok.  I know it sounds remarkably trite, but the more often I’m in the here and now, the more the miraculous seems to show itself to me.

I’m very convinced that the only way I was going to fall into a long period of grace was to literally jump off a cliff and leave everything behind.  The first card in a Rider Waite (and many other) tarot deck is The Fool.  In most decks, it depicts a man with a silly smile on his face . . . and with one foot stepping off of a cliff.  What he hasn’t noticed yet is that there’s a net at the very bottom of the cliff.  When this card shows up in readings it’s often indicative of a new beginning.  That image presented itself often to me just before I left my job.  The new has no space to show itself until the new has been let go of.  Which brings about a pet peeve of mine: how does one “let go?” I finally figured out after many years that it’s basically focusing on something else other than or greater than the problem.  Without going into any depth, the basic I’m talking about is taking a deep breath and becoming the observer of everything in my life.  I am a member in good standing of 12 step groups.  It also took my a while to learn that I cannot practice any of these steps tomorrow. Or yesterday.  I can’t even practice them effectively in an hour.  But for example, if I practice being entirely willing to have Something Else in place of everything that has vexed me up to that point, I only have to practice that attitude for one second.  In fact, that’s all I can do.  And then the next second.  And the next.  I defy anybody to take a deep breath and focus on their body and tell me simultaneously what problems they have.  The worst that will happen is the the problem will still be in the person’s mind: but from an entirely different perspective.  I’m not going to pretend it’s been a piece of cake. I’m still in process of asking help forgiving people and situations over and over and over again, but the fact remains that after a couple of months of practicing this, miracles have started to happen.

During one of my very brief panic modes I jokingly referred to living on the street to which my sister replied “Don’t worry about it ‘Bro.  You can stay here with me.”  A very nice offer from a family member that I guess seems pretty normal.  The difference here is that a year ago at this time my sister and I weren’t even communicating.  This past Sunday my nephew asked me to play in his wedding coming up this June.  Not only have we not spoken in years, my behavior toward him during my drinking years was pretty sordid to say the least.  Apparently all is forgiven.  So one of the bi-products of jumping off a ledge is that somebody added water to my life and grew me a family.  Yes another net that mysteriously appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

I have been cautioned on a couple of counts during my job search: one, don’t accept any low-paying work that I’ll regret having accepted a month or two down the road.  Translation – only accept what you’re worth.  Secondly, be sincere in answering the question “why do you want to work here?”  So far I’ve only answered that enthusiastically once and didn’t get the job.  So be it.

Imagine having something going crappy on any given day and not doing anything to counter it mentally or spiritually.  Then the next day something else happens and again I’m dormant.  Now I have two things to contend with.  Then the next day a third thing gets caked on and I’m off to the races with a nasty habit of not taking care of myself internally.  Now imagine letting that habit continue for two years.  That’s the hole I left myself in.  All of it started due to a single incident that happened in a moment when I was feeling unworthy.  We all put obstacles in front of the Dvine because we think we’re unworthy.  The word for that is “insanity.” It’s also the human norm.

In retrospect it’s quite obvious to me that reaching a breaking point at my job and feeling frustrated and angry beyond belief had infinite purpose I was only able to surface skim the meaning of two months ago.  Yes, I needed to get out of there and find new employment.  It was much more about scooping out entire layers of false garbage about myself.  When Michaelangelo was asked how he came about sculpting his David, he said “It was easy: I just chipped away at everything David was not.”  Even after so many years of recovery I forget sometimes that there’s layers and layers and layers of crap to unearth,and every now and then one of the layers is bigger than a mountain – – and I need to ask for help! So far, I couldn’t ask for more.

I’ve reached a point where I’ve occasionally painted disaster fantasies all the way to being homeless.  I’m quite surprised at how unruffled that thought makes me.  I know that even that would have a purpose.  If often think of a scene in The Ten Commandments when Sephora is warning Moses/Charlton Heston not to go back to Egypt because he’ll be immediately murdered and Heston (who apparently hadn’t become head of the NRA yet because he didn’t say “Over my dead body.”) just says simply, “If it be (His) will. More often than not I’m ok with anything that happens on any given day, save for lapses into to an old grudge here and there.  I am in fact a work in progress.

I have never felt so cared for in my entire life.  There is a presence that I’m feeling most of the time that somehow feels incomplete unless I find a way to share it. I feel excited most mornings because I can’t wait to see what surprises will happen, or who I’ll meet or get to talk to.  Magic events seem to happen for me every day, and I’m once again remembering through experience that miracles are normal – it’s when they don’t happen that something has gone wrong.  I am not financially wealthy this second, but I feel a wealth growing consistently that is far more valuable than money.  I’ve yet to find full-time employment, and I still have not doubt that everything will work out exactly as it supposed to and when it’s supposed to. I sure am not encouraging everyone to quit their job without another in sight.  But I do know for sure that  I needed to make the climb this time without the rope.  Like the child did.

 

Peace

How Sweet The Sound

“Grace??? She died over thirty years ago!” – – Aunt Bethany in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

 

Looking for some fresh reading material this past December as a means to work myself through yet another “funk” caused me to walk out of Barnes & Noble with a copy of “Attitudes Of Gratitude” by M.J.Ryan.  It proved to be a light and breezy read with a combination of what I considered flighty ideas and very practical down-to-earth ways to practice gratitude as a way of cultivating more joy in one’s life.  I was hooked. So, with the end of the 177-pager approaching a few days later, I decided to go back for more.  My next score was “The Gratitude Jar: A Simple Guide To Creating Miracles” by Josie Robinson, a rather newly published writer and also a Minnesotan.   She chronicles the 30-day trek of she and her young boy putting a slip of paper into a gratitude jar each night with something they were each grateful for.  In Josie’s case, she also gives account of some of the amazing miracles that coincided with her gratitude jar practice.  Yes, I started a gratitude jar.  Some mighty suspicious coincidental events have happened (more on them a little later) but I stopped at 21 days due to some pressing circumstances. Translation: I got lazy.

The next book that intrigued me was “A Simple Act Of Gratitude: How Learning To Say Thank You Changed My Life” by John Kralik.  The common bond between Robinson and Kralik is that each had a life in shambles when they began their process.  Serendipity took over for both of them, and granted, both of them had to move their feet a little.  But for the most part it seemed like their miracles began appearing “out of the blue.”  Kralik was a lawyer in deep debt who started handing out and mailing “thank you” cards for sometimes simple, sometimes complex acts performed not only on his behalf but also on behalf of others that he had the privilege of witnessing.  So about a month ago, I too starting handing out and mailing cards.  The number of things I’ve taken for granted in my life is staggering.

So, since I started the various processes (I’ve resumed the gratitude jar from day 1 again) I’ve been graced with the following: On New Year’s Day, two days after my gratitude jar began, I was at an AA meeting next to a young lady whose seat had just been inadvertently taken from her.  The only other available chair was next to me.  We chatted and got to the point where I told her I was going to start looking for another job, to which she replied by casually reaching into her purse and handed me one of her cards.  She’s an employment recruiter.  Score! She finds jobs for IT folks, which is not me, but she eventually referred me to one of her cronies at another agency with whom I’ve since met and have become quite confident will be the source of my next employment.  That’s not all.  The name of the woman at the meeting sounded so familiar.  It was later that night that I looked at her card and finally placed her.  I’ve actually been getting emails from her for the last two years through another agency she used to work for.  Yup – it is indeed a small world after all.

Lastly, anyone who’s read this column is likely well aware that I aspire to be a writer when I grow up.  (Hopefully before then).  So one night I sent a Facebook response to the beautiful poem posted by a friend of mine, and I suggested that she go to magicianstouch.net and check out my work too.  High praise was given me, and my friend asked if I wrote for a living, and if not I ought to consider it.  It was what she wrote after that sent a chill up my spine: “Take it from someone who’s spent her whole career in publishing.”  Wow.  So we met a few weeks later and she’s armed me with resources to act on and hopefully get my writing viewed by a larger audience. I’ve know her for ten years and I didn’t even know she was in publishing. Hardly a guarantee of success, but it seems that assistance seems to be dropping into my lap left and right.

Lastly, a miracle has been quietly developing as I’ve gradually practicing moving out of isolation.  I went to an open AA meeting last night and accepted my medallion for 27 years of sobriety.  In all of the years I’ve been sober, I’ve never been in a room where I’ve known so many people.  It was essentially the same group of people I see every month, I’ve just let them in now. A miracle is being presented to me just for the fact of my showing up.  And the greatest part of that is something that I didn’t even notice until this morning: that lonely feeling that constantly gnawed at me whether I was in a crowd or by myself until about two months ago – – it’s not there any more.  I don’t feel like doing cartwheels all day, but I feel a sense of contentment growing at it’s own pace.  All of this started by saying “thank you.”

I vaguely remember the opening scene of a movie in which a man is walking down the street, obviously wrapped up in his own little world as one heavy object after another drops around him, each narrowly missing his body, yet he’s totally oblivious to all of it.  I won’t say that’s how miracles work for everyone, but I will say that it aptly describes my last two months or so. I’m convinced that “miracles are normal, (and) when they’re not happening, something has gone wrong” per A Course In Miracles.  The “something gone wrong,” at least in my case, is forgetting that they’re already there.  They’re all around me.  Always. All ways. It’s just a matter of shifting focus.  I have life-situations that give me fits.  When I can take a deep breath, and notice again and again that Life is actually inside of me, (“The kingdom of God is within you.”) I remember that life situations and Life are not the same thing.  Whichever one I focus on will outpicture.  So, note to self (or Self): please keep focusing on what you really are.  Oh, yeah – and show up. And say “thank you!”

Peace

The Pony In The Dung Heap

“Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” – – Irish Proverb

 

I remember hearing a story once about a child celebrating his birthday, a child who badly wanted a pony. He had opened all of his presents and then disappeared into an old barn, and was found digging into a giant dung heap.  His astonished parents pulled him aside and asked him what in the world he was doing, to which he replied, “I know there’s just gotta be a pony in here somewhere.”

The recent worldwide events parallel what’s gone on in the world for centuries.  Media scrutiny, amazingly advancing technology, and a federal government more than happy to use world events as a diversion from more devious goings-on allow us to see these events for extended periods of time, and to look over and over again at the tragedy of it all.  At the expense of possibly being called crazy, I’d like to introduce the pony in the dung heap, the “silver lining.”

It was the day before Thanksgiving in 2006, and I was very alone and lonely.  I attended a few AA meetings in the days prior, and a gentleman I’ll call “Robert” suggested that I join him for Thanksgiving dinner at Pepito’s, a free event put on for anyone in recovery.  He asked only that I drive as his license had been revoked.  I agreed, still feeling heavy, but conjuring up some gratitude for having something to do on Thanksgiving.  So we went and had our meal and went our separate ways. In the years that followed I learned more about Robert.  I was amazed at his story, and also was delighted to find out what an accomplished pianist he was. The times we hung out together were few and far between, but I really got to enjoying his company, and though my AA meeting attendance was sparse, I always looked forward to seeing Robert as I knew he went to a lot of meetings at the same place I did, (they have about 40 per week) and the chance of seeing him was always greater than not.  At most AA meetings, we read “The Promises,” from the Big Book of AA.  The promises are what are supposed to happen after we work a thorough 8th and 9th Step (of the 12 Steps of AA), and they are truly wonderful sounding.  “We will know a new freedom and a new happiness . . . we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it . . . fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us,” among others.  Toward the end a line reads, “Are these extravagant promises?” and as soon as whoever is reading The Promises that day reads the line the entire group typically says with conviction and in unison, “We think not!” In the particular meeting room I’m thinking about, I will forever have the vivid memory of everyone stating “We think not!” and Robert instead opting for “No way!” or “Uh-uh!”  It usually made me laugh, and even if I was having a tough day, it would at least bring a smile to my face.

Robert entered treatment for alcoholism in 1984.  In 2007, for the very first time in his entire life, Robert reached one year of sobriety.  It took him 23 years of trying to do so.  I wasn’t there, but I heard that at the meeting in which he was presented his one year medallion, a meeting that was approximately two hundred people strong, he was given a standing ovation.  He certainly deserved it.

Robert went back to his homeland of Puerto Rico a few years ago and overdosed, leaving a gaping hole in my heart.  We were casual friends.  I can only imagine what it did to those who were close to him.  I heard over and over again about “Poor Robert,” after his death and I began to respond with what he meant to me and what he taught me, and after another year or two of hearing about “Poor Robert,” I finally threw in the towel.  He was anything but “Poor Robert” to me.  One of the core slogans in AA is “Keep coming back.”  Robert kept coming back.  For sure his death was tragic for all of us who knew him.  Many of us though,  missed the point of his life. Robert kept coming back.  He taught me something by example that I’ll never forget. Sometimes he went three days without a drink and here he was again at a meeting. Sometimes he’d stay sober for nine months, relapse, and here he was again at a meeting. He picked himself up over and over again.  Robert’s life proved a couple of things to me one of which I already knew all too well:  alcoholism is a disease, cunning, baffling, and powerful.  And I finally got to see, over and over again, someone modeling to perfection, not just saying the slogan “Keep coming back.”  No matter how far down the scale Robert had gone, he kept coming back.  Until he didn’t.  And nobody but the soul of Robert knows what his life path was supposed to be. Nobody knows how his life was supposed to end.  So I guess looking at him as “Poor Robert” is everyone’s prerogative.  I’d rather not.  Robert also proved to me a third thing in living color: nobody ever dies.  I’ll never forget him.  His body is just not here.

This past Saturday I attended an AA meeting that Robert and I both used to attend years ago.  As usual, someone read “The Promises.”  As usual, we all grouped together and stated “We think not!” in response to the aforementioned promises being extravagant.  And as usual, in the back of my mind, I heard him shout out “No way.”  I found the pony, Robert.  Thank you.

 

Peace

The War Inside

“For everything must serve the purpose you have given it, until you see a different purpose there.” – – Lesson 128 from A Course In Miracles

 

There is a miracle occurring in me right this second.  I’m missing the beginning of my usual autumn Sunday ritual in order to write, having been affected certainly by the worldwide happenings of the weekend.  Each weekend I sit in front of a screen and watch 22 grown men who have put on pads and helmets and miles and miles of tape, bash the living shit out of each other.  What a wonderful distraction, and free of charge!  I’m sure not about to give up the NFL.  It does provide a form of fun and entertainment for me, but if I’m truly within myself, can I admit that something else might be going on? Might I be seeing an outside picture of an inside condition?  Is it possible that those little figures on the TV screen are actually images of the violent thoughts contained in my own mind?

I’m not a bible scholar so I don’t remember what book it’s in, but I very clearly remember reading “there will always be wars,” in one of the books, so I know it’s in there.  I also know that the statement is a metaphor and it’s not only talking about wars in the world, but also in the mind. It also makes me think of Eckhart Tolle stating that “the need to be right is a form of violence.”  If that’s the case I’m in the same ballpark thought-wise as about any terrorist out there.  My point today is referencing the above quote: I think we miss one of the points these awful tragedies point us to – – the real war is inside and the event itself, as terrible as it is, is also a movie of what’s going on inside of us on a smaller (maybe) scale.  The purpose most of us give it is to shake our heads at the insanity of all of the violence in the world, a purpose that without question has merit.  My thought is that it has a dual purpose.  It can also serve to drive me back inside and look at a place unhealed.  Every outer disturbance is a reflection, a reminder if you will, that I have much more healing to do.

I have seen Facebook turned into a memorial for those lost in the last few days and in other wars.  One post after another notes the need for our prayers and thoughts, and sometimes also voices our exasperation at the endless stream of the senseless violence in the world.  I too have prayed, and hold the unfortunate losses in my heart, knowing at the same time that they’re also freed from the bondage and limitations of being human, and freed from a world in which we do these things to each other.  Coincidentally, a healing of my own war has occurred with my increasing awareness of it.  On Friday night a chance meeting led to me apologizing to a friend I had a rift with a couple of years ago.  The very second I saw her I knew what would happen between us that night, but what it had to be preceded by was an admission that I had done her wrong.  That had to be preceded by something pointing to the discomfort the incident I had pushed out of my awareness was causing.  There had to be something outside to remind me that the discomfort and identification were coming from inside. 

I will emphasize once again:  the recent world events are indeed tragic, horrific, and without excuse.  Wanna heal it?  Maybe withdraw a bit and remember there are wars of sorts going on in our own country.  How many people in the U.S. died last night from starvation, domestic abuse, or just plain slept outside under a bridge?  How many of them were veterans who fought in wars to protect us? How about if we get a little closer and look at Black Lives Matter and all of the views we had and what it did to us inside. Get a little closer and remember that homeless person you walked right by without acknowledging, or maybe you didn’t know that they were homeless.  Or get even a little closer to the toughest part: maybe think of the friend or family member you said something nasty to and hurt, or the person you’ve been neglecting, or the unawareness of this or that foible that may be causing grief to people around you.  Are these not wars too? Or maybe think of the things you didn’t do like tell someone how much you appreciate them, or contribute a couple of bucks to a local charity to feed the folks in our own backyard, or maybe preempted your own violence by venting a hostile viewpoint on a friend or family member to discharge another layer inside that might hurt someone or even many if it isn’t first admitted to, and then forgiven. What I’m saying is this: these immense, awful, terrible, tragedies also offer us yet another way to avoid ourselves, to say “the problems are out there,” and not inside.

So again, wanna do something to heal past tragedies and prevent future ones?  So we don’t have to watch this exasperating procession of tragedies happen over and over again?  Hug your child an extra time.  Tell your friends you care about them.  Admit that you’re human and that you maybe have some behaviors that need amending.  Pick up your phone and call, don’t text, that relative or friend you’ve had a grudge against for years.  Look honestly inside, deeply and often, for the “hungry dogs of fear” that instantly want to place responsibility for some deficiency you have on an outside event instead of the loveless places inside. As much as I want it to be, whatever crappy feeling inside is not someone else’s fault. I’ve been fortunate this weekend in that I’ve had opportunities to make amends dropped into my lap.  This is not always the case. Like anyone else, I need to be vigilant for my shortcomings, admit to them, and do whatever I need to in order to heal them.  If we all look at the most recent or any atrocity in history honestly, there is the imperative demand that it is making: it’s an outside picture of an inward condition.  If I’m not careful, the tragedy is also providing me with a way to avoid myself.  It is indeed possible to be compassionate and pray for all of those involved this weekend and also remember that the event is pointing us back inside.  The arrow pointing back at us changes the purpose of it.  So grieve.  Talk with friends and family about these awful things.  Remind your kids that they’re safe and loved.  Yet also remember that we’re never going to stop seeing wars outside until we fix the ones inside.

 

Peace

 

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.

 

Peace

 

 

 

The Ghost On State Street

“There’s something you don’t see every day.” – – Peter Venkman/Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters.”

 

If I remember correctly, I was only four years old at the time of the incident, and it took a recounting or two for me to really cement down what now feel like details.  Granted, it happened 54 years ago, so my memory may not be 100% accurate.  Also, some siblings now have access to my site, so if corrections or different versions need to be made, feel free to fire away.

It was not the proverbial dark and stormy night, but it was indeed dark and I remember a bit of a nasty breeze.  Mom sent us to the corner store which was, I think, about four blocks away from our house.  So merrily my sister and brother and I went to what we used to refer to as “the milk store,” passing many of the decrepit and sometimes abandoned houses.  The neighborhood was ripe with stories about ghosts and warnings not to enter this or that house, and to certainly stay out of the woods.  The populace was almost exclusively Mexicans and Jews.  In later years, not with my family, but with friends, I used to joke that if you went by the right house you could hear a mixed breed ghost saying something along the lines of “Si – – I am feeling poquito meshugana today.”  I had no idea if what I was about to experience was ethnic specific, all I know is that I was pretty scared.

As we passed an abandoned house with one of the many neighborhood legends attached to it, my brother or my sister, maybe both, advised me to pick up the pace and not to look into the house if I didn’t have to.  After all these years I still remember a chill running up and down my spine as if being afraid on demand.  I do also recall an inexplicably creepy feeling about the place we were passing.  But a four year old has a short memory, and by the time we reached the well-lit store a couple of blocks beyond the abandoned house, I was looking hard to see what kind of toys or candy I could manipulate my brother and sister into buying.  I believe I struck out, and we stuck to the purchase of whatever items mom had requested that we pick up.  So off we went back home, and after a block or so of walking we noticed someone down the street waving at us, a distinctly female figure with flowing hair and pacing back and forth in front of the abandoned house.  Cool. Mom is meeting us halfway home, we thought.  I also remember us wondering out loud about when Mom got an all white coat.  It also seemed odd that her hair looked white, but I think we chalked it up to the weird lighting in the soon to be torn down neighborhood.  As we approached we noticed “mom” duck into the abandoned house, a move that puzzled us.  As we got closer to the place, we were torn between looking for mom and not looking into the possibly haunted place as we had been instructed as kids.  We opted for door number two and rushed the rest of the way home to mom, hoping for an explanation of where she got the white coat from.  I remember that as we got about a half a block away from our house, mom did in fact appear: in totally different garb than she had been wearing while in front of the abandoned house.  How had she changed so quickly – – and how did she beat us home if we had passed her back at the abandoned house? I was the first to instinctively look back toward the abandoned house.  I remember tugging on the sleeve of either my brother or sister, and starting to cry as I looked back at the woman in white waving to us again, and then returning my frightened attention to mom in front of our house.  No tears were shed when we moved out of that neighborhood about a year later.  I never wanted to go back in that direction again.

Our address was 271 State Street in St Paul, not far from 253, where the Recovery Church now stands.  It strikes me as ironic that a center that promotes spirituality now stands where “spirits” used to have their way.  Just about the entire neighborhood was torn down after we moved, most of the houses being a breath away from condemned.  For the most part I feel perfectly safe and at peace when I drive toward the church for an event, but every now and then I still get a little chill up my spine in memory of my Lady In White, and whenever I hear somebody laugh at idea of ghosts existing,  I feel tempted to take them aside and say, “Let me tell you about something that happened to me when I was about four years old . . . ”

Peace

Or maybe “Boo!”

Happy Halloween