Me, Against the World

me world.jpgI had someone say this to me once—something to the effect that I acted like it was ‘me, against the world.’

“So?” I asked him back, “You mean it isn’t?”

While I might be able to laugh about it now, he likely had a point that I couldn’t see at the time. However, he also didn’t live in my skin back then to know how the world and everyone in it actually appeared to me.

I think all of us have lived through difficulties either of our own making or we’ve been the recipients of the attempted manipulations or the ill will of others. Yes, there are some genuinely nice, caring people in the world—I do know some, but at the time, they either weren’t in my circle of intimacy or they had stepped back and decided it was up to me to sink or swim by myself.

Back then I felt that I had been betrayed by the people I had called my friends—that I’d even been abandoned by those I cared most about; that they left me to survive alone with little resources abandoned.jpgor options other than by my own indomitable will.

At the worst of the worst, all I knew was that some way, somehow, I had to make it through each day and night, and to do that I needed to muster my own inner fortitude to simply endure the horror of everything that I was experiencing and to keep pushing through the darkness until something in my life changed for the better—until I could actually see the light again and pull myself out of that underworld hell I’d unfortunately been touring.

I could give specifics, but they don’t really matter because it’s all about the lessons we learn along the way. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a challenge that pits them lifes challengesagainst the demons, real or imagined, in their lives. Everyone has the choice to fight for their own existence or to lie down and die, hoping death will free them from the torment (It won’t—don’t try it—your next-life challenge might be even worse.).

So sure, I might do the ‘me, against the world,’ thing at times. That’s fine. I’ve earned the right to do it if that’s what I want to do, because I did survive my personal ordeal to be here right now laughing about some aspects of it with the rest of you.

No one gets out of this life untested in some way, primarily because it’s why you came. You came to be tested. You came to be thrown into the blast furnace of your choosing and then be hammered into strong steel for whatever purpose your present life represents.

That’s why you are here: To learn, to experience the joys and sorrows of life on this dimension of existence.  Sometimes the joys are indescribable and sometimes the sorrows are nearly unbearable, but only YOU can choose to share them with others or face them alone.

myss quoteI know now that I’m not really alone here. I never was.

But those dark nights of the soul that we ALL must face sooner or later only strengthens our resolve to better appreciate the beauty of the light again, once we can pull ourselves out of that damn hole that we’ve stumbled (or jumped) into earlier.

That’s the real choice we make each day: the choice to whine and wallow away in the darkness, or to climb out of that stinking hole and come back into the light.

It’s a choice we ALL have to make.light.jpg

I made mine. I prefer the light.

Being Honest with Oneself

A couple weeks ago I read a man’s revealing blog entry about how his world was suddenly upended by his loving wife dying from a fast-acting form of cancer. He wrote how he simply came apart after her death and spent the majority of his time tipping a bottle. What saved him, he said, was bottoming out, letting everything go, and being brutally honest with himself about every aspect of his past, present, and future without her.

While these words below (inspired by his article) are mine and not his, it was a powerful and hopeful message that needed to be shared—how he slowly rebuilt his life from the ground up by changing how he viewed his role in the process.  I’d like to list his url page of the article here for all to read it directly but unfortunately I can’t locate it again. Sorry. This is the best I can do.

***

Jack, my counselor, told me he had one rule, and that was to be honest in our talks. “Be honest?” I sneered back at him. The only truth I knew for certain was that I was still sinking in a tar pit of pain over my wife’s sudden illness and death that past year—I raged for half an hour at the unfairness of it all to both of us.  “You want REAL?” I told him, “THAT is very real to me—so there Jack, THAT is my being honest with you!”

My counselor then said to use that very real pain as the starting point to feeling what truth is for me—to use it as the gauge of honesty for every other aspect of my life to help determine what I expected from life in general, and even more importantly, what life might actually expect from me—which made no sense at all to me back then. “What LIFE expects from me?” I yelled, “Screw life! What did it ever do but give me more pain?”

He said that if I could just be honest with myself over what I truly felt for my wife before and after her illness, and allowed myself to feel the real depth of my loss over her death, then I could be honest about other parts of myself as well. That honesty, he said, would help me determine how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The booze, he said, was keeping me from ‘feeling’ in general because if I never really let myself feel the pain, then I could never get past the pain to move on from there.

The court-required AA meetings helped because other addicts/alcoholics won’t let you lie about what you do or why you do it. They know. They’ve been there. They’ve said and done the same things, and they call you out on your stuff. You can’t hide it from them. You get that real fast. And I needed that.  I needed their truthfulness to help me uncover my own.

But I wouldn’t call those meetings support as much as I’d call it a mirror held up to your face that you can’t avoid.  There you are—twenty or so different versions of you—all gathered in one room sharing stories, shame, and self-loathing.  And there I was with a bunch of other people supposedly just like me—like being called by some other name to tell something similar to my story, like Jim or John or Lori, …or Frank or Jerry—but they were all different versions of me. “Same brand of ice cream, just a different flavor,” Jack said.

Well I didn’t like how that made me feel, so I told them about it. Said I didn’t belong there.

“Accept it,” they said. “We are alcoholics. You’re an alcoholic—lying is what you do, especially to yourself.  That’s who you are because that’s the most comfortable way to be—at least it always has been. Problem now is that even lying doesn’t work for you anymore.”

They were rough with me at times because I was so stuck in denial—claiming I was the victim here—why couldn’t they see that? One guy even pointed to me and said, “You want to keep seeing this same lying sack of shit staring back at you every time you look in the bathroom mirror? NO? Then change what you’re doing—change what you’re thinking. Because if you can’t accept the living proof of who and what you are sitting here all around you—if you can’t stand to think that you’ve been lying to yourself and to everyone you say you loved day after day for most of your life, then don’t expect your future to be any different. It’s your choice. YOUR choice, man!”

The “Your choice!” repeated over and over in their own stories. It’s always your choice. It’s your decision. “No one makes it but you,” they kept saying. “It isn’t really about life’s unfairness, or how much you miss your wife,” one of them told me. It was about being honest with myself about what I was feeling—what I still AM feeling about it all, and deciding if that’s what I want to feel in the future.

“If you can do that,” my counselor who led the group said, “if you can be honest with yourself, then you can pull yourself together and get on with your new life without the booze. But it’s really up to you.”

And as a parting shot, another guy who looked a lot like my sleezy Uncle Charlie, who was the last person in the world I ever wanted a lecture like this from, told me, “If you aren’t willing to help yourself buddy, don’t expect us to help you.”

Well, a couple years later I can tell you that it wasn’t easy by any means. Some days are still a struggle, but eventually I learned to view that past history of my previous self and life in a different way—what Jack called “in a more constructive manner”—one where I could refocus on how I had survived those painful life lessons, and use that survivor mentality to help me feel good about myself again, …which was far better than feeling so rotten all the time, where I simply wanted to numb myself into la-la land with the booze.

But maintaining the what Jack had named “lesson-filled, boot-camp view” of my previous life which he said I had successfully survived, was a difficult choice that I had to keep making day after day—sometimes every minute of the day for awhile, until I grew more comfortable in my new skin.

And getting to know this new me who thought and acted completely different from the old me, was the hardest part of it, because I finally realized that for 42 years I’d basically been doing nothing more than lying to myself, so I hardly knew what truth looked like, or even what being truthful felt like.

In fact the more I considered it, I’m not sure that I had ever been honest with anyone, let alone being honest with myself back then.

Was everything I’d said and done in my entire life a lie? If so, then wasn’t any part of it real? And what part of me was the real ME who was actually worth knowing? To figure that out, Jack tried to flip my mind again to see WHO it was that I wanted to become, to know how to get there. He said it was like creating an image of the new and better me that I would simply have to GROW into. But how could I do that?

Jack framed it to me this way: If I were the adult parent of a newborn ME ready to be introduced into this world full of challenges and wonders, what kind of parent would I truly need to be to successfully raise baby ME into a solid, well-balanced adult? Would I need a critical, demanding, drill sergeant constantly condemning ME and beating me down for my failings, or a nurturing, caring, coach continually encouraging my daily progress and raising me up to feel good about myself?

Not a tough choice, really. I didn’t need to feel any worse about myself than what I’d already been feeling.  What I needed was to feel more loved and supported than I had actually felt throughout most my childhood. Jack agreed. He said what I needed to help me succeed in my new life direction was my own loving guidance and support, not more self-condemnation.

Per Jack’s instructions, every morning now when I look in the bathroom mirror, I ask myself this question: “How are you going to encourage the best from that young kid in you today—how are you going to parent yourself to become a strong and loving person?”

Then I look right into my own eyes and say the words of a speech I’d memorized for doing this daily self pep-talk, “How can I express myself in more compassionate ways—in ways that other loving and caring people want to share in—ways that help them to recognize the goodness of my heart so they want to become more a part of my life?”

“How can I be a good person?”  I ask the ME staring back in all my imperfections. And that’s the goal I set for the day—every day—just trying to be a good person in some way—trying to help somebody or to do something nice for somebody else, because it makes me feel good when I can do that. And the more good I do for others, the better I feel about myself. Funny I know, but that’s how it is.

Well, as you can see, I’m still working on that goal of being a better person. But I wanted others to know that being honest with myself was a key to clearing out the garbage from my life. Think about it: You got to keep taking out the trash to keep from stinking up the house.

And if that ain’t being honest, …then I don’t know what is.

Treatise on Integrity

integrit paper.jpg“Integrity: That which shall be humanly borne and displayed as an essential aspect of truth.”

Well that’s my definition of integrity if no one else’s.

“To live with integrity is to be intimately aligned to one’s truth and core values.”

Again, that’s my take on it.

But I do know from personal experience that if you live your life with integrity and truthfulness, you will never be disappointed in yourself.

There will be others who might not be very happy with you at times, especially when your integrity blocks their intentions, but you will stay true to your own ideals if you maintain your sense of personal integrity and right-action focus.

So what does this mean in today’s integrity-starved world?

For one thing, you will definitely stand out from the crowd—you might even be the focal point of the crowd’s anger, which isn’t the most enjoyable place to be.integrit 2

For another, you will find yourself reaching very deep within for the strength and courage to keep your integrity untarnished amidst the constant deluge of complaints and insults slung in your direction.

Another possibility? You might lose a friend or two during the process of staying true to your own beliefs on the rightness of a situation or an action.

But the really strange thing about personal integrity is that nearly everyone believes that THEIR core beliefs and the courage of THEIR convictions are the only TRUE ones possible, which makes the rest of our efforts to maintain personal integrity questionable to them.

integrit 3As much as I value integrity and truth, and I definitely do value them, I also know that what I believe to be the ultimate TRUTH may not be the same as what others believe it to be. We don’t all think and feel the same.

Furthermore, in my rational mind I know that truth is often the perspective of whoever is holding that viewpoint.

But also in my being I know that what I stand for as a loving and compassionate human being is as strong and unwavering as any army’s professed allegiance to any person, place or belief.

Stubbornness is my finest trait or so I’ve been told, because to me integrity is a core value that is worthy of staking one’s integrit 1personal reputation on and/or career future. Holding one’s personal integrity firm and unbending can define us as compassionate human beings when others around us flutter in the winds of political change and collective opinion.

In the largest sense, our Nation was built on certain fundamental assumptions on rightness and fairness, on equity and justice; and when the integrity of any democratically elected official is in question or fluctuating toward non-democratic ideals, then further exposition and assessment of possible wrong-doing must be allowed to happen. The democracy that supports us depends on the integrity of those who lead it.

If we can’t at least rely on a leader’s integrity to do what is lawful and right as guaranteed to us by our U.S. constitution, then we have little firm ground on which to take a stand.

integ world

As I mentioned previously, maintaining one’s integrity is often a tough and lonely stance to take in the face of tumultuous, self-serving opposition, but sometimes it is the only stand we truly have before we are driven to our knees.

Overload

He should have come with a Users Manual and a RETURN POLICY.return.jpg

And on the very first page of that manual, in large BOLD print, it should have said, “WARNING: Frequent tweets of lunacy can lead to public overload with serious consequences for sanity.”

I think many of us about now are feeling the weight of not having that RETURN POLICY.

In fact, this whole situation would seem hilarious, if it weren’t so serious.

It would be even be comical, if it weren’t so dangerous.

And as each day mushes into the next, with verbal attacks on anyone and everyone who questions his statements and actions, we sit back—shell-shocked at the realization that this totally incompetent, petulant, moron has control of the nuclear codes that can instantly plunge the entire world into truth.jpgmass incineration beyond human comprehension.

But don’t worry.

Don’t believe the “lying press” who simply record and replay his every tantrum.

 

We know that “alternate truth” will win out in the end.

Murrow.jpg

It did for Hitler,  …..at least for awhile.

Where to Start?

meditate.jpgBreathe…..just breathe.

Close your eyes (after reading this and the next sentence of course) and bring your focus back to your navel area and simply hold it there for a full ten seconds.

Now breathe slowly in to a count of four, …. and then exhale slowly out to a count of four…….

Okay, ….now that you’ve re-centered yourself for the remainder of this posting, I’m sure that you like all of us are wondering ‘what the heck is going on in the world?’

peace.jpgIf you are almost afraid to turn on the television or watch news alerts on your phone, you are not alone. Not that the last two years have been that great, but this has been one horrific 2-month time period for humanity in general everywhere.

And today in America, the Republican National Convention starts spewing more bigoted, inflammatory rhetoric over the airwaves to fan the flames of hatred throughout the world.

So, ……what do we do?

Individually, we refocus, re-center, and pull our energies back to recharge them with the purest and highest frequencies of Divine Love and Light that we can call upon, and then we push those recharged energies back out into the world around us.  We hold our own space!Divine Love.jpg

We literally hold the Light so strongly and powerfully that no darkness can dim us. And there are enough of us now to make a genuine difference in the world’s energies.

This is WHY we came…to do this very thing:  To HOLD THE LIGHT FOR THE WORLD at this tumultuous changeover from the patriarchal, authoritarian rule to the matriarchal, democratic rule.

But it’s not going to be pretty while that change is happening because those in positions of power never let go of that closely-kept powerbase easily or gently—or gracefully.

prayer.jpgHowever, that is what is happening and will continue to happen throughout the world because it is simply the TIME for it to happen.

So don’t despair, …and don’t be afraid. You are a very important part of this major change in humanity.  Most of us won’t even have to fight for the change.  We simply need to hold the frequencies of Divine Love and Divine Light and let those energies create the necessary change around us.

Love always conquers fear. It always has and it always will.

You are okay. We all are.

 

Independence Day for All People

Patriotic music sets the backdrop, with eager crowds growing more restless by the minute, fireworks.jpguntil the first “whoosh” launches upward spraying sparks and colored contrails into the night sky.  After the initial blast, more rocketing whooshes split the night, followed by more booming and banging, and intertwining fingers of phosphorous flame cascade everywhere. The audience’s “ooohs”  and “ahhh’s” to each explosive burst above followed by the squeals of children’s glee.

Happy Birthday America!

While we aren’t alone in celebrating a national day of independence, yesterday happened to be our day. And it was loud and noisy as usual where families gathered together, friends laughingly reunited amidst smoking grills—it was a hot-dog scented afternoon with milling people and lawn tables full of food and beverages.

Yesterday individually, and as a nation, Americans celebrated our hard-won freedom from autocracy; and I do believe that most Americans wish that same privilege for every people of every land.

statue of lib.jpgWe as a group of freedom-loving people wish for ALL people to be able to celebrate their own freedom from oppression and tyranny, because freedom doesn’t come freely—it never has and probably never will be freely offered to the masses.

It requires the sacrifice and the dedication of one generation for the future one to initiate the movement; then it requires that the future generation do the same for the next generation following them. In essence, it’s a continuing process of constantly paying it forward.

I also think that most Americans do understand this generational compact, and that is one reason that most of us are willing to fight to maintain our national liberties and personal freedoms at any cost—even the ultimate cost—by giving our lives to keep ourselves and others free.

But the most important thing about this hard-won freedom is that it requires us to be respectful of those who have sacrificed prior so that we may enjoy this present. That respect should never be taken for granted or lightly cast aside for personal advancement.camus.jpg

ALL people have the right to be free. ALL people have the right to gather in common cause for support of common goals and societal advancement.

And ALL people have the right to live as free beings with equal and just consideration for their welfare and the welfare of all others.

It isn’t about fighting for the sake of fighting. It’s about fighting for the right to celebrate who we are as people and why we join together in common cause—for the sake of personal liberties and the right to determine our own fates.

Terrorism doesn’t stop freedom-lovers. Nelson-Mandela-Freedom-Quotes.jpgIn fact it is the very reason that FREEDOM-LOVING PEOPLE exist. 

Too bad anarchists and extremists don’t understand that simple key fact. All they are doing with their feeble attempts to destabilize our societies is to substantiate our resolve to maintain them.

Freedom doesn’t come freely—but it burns in your heart forever.

***

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree (the Tree of Knowledge). flag skyAll these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”
~ Albert Einstein

~ Art “Our Banner in the Sky”  by Frederic Edwin Church

 

 

Anger Only Breeds More Anger

Fshirt.jpgor me the message on the sweatshirt says what I’m honestly feeling right now: “I’m practicing mindfulness, compassion and loving kindness so don’t piss me off.”

The latest homicidal lunacy in San Bernardino, California, Dec 2, 2015, conducted by a few misguided and deeply unstable individuals who were trying to find some sense of meaning to their lives by killing others and themselves in the process, is both heart-sickening and totally stupid. I mean, when is homicidal-suicide ever meaningful?

And since I don’t handle intentional stupidity well; especially the malevolent stupidity that brings harm to others, I get angry. But like the shirt mentions: I’m also trying to be loving and compassionate and not allow my anger to consume me, so that inner incongruity creates tension within me over this sad and senseless replay of group-inspired insanity. I’m sure many of us are feeling this same thing.

I mentioned November 16th in the posting on Assessing Terrorism that “Most people fear and powerwho use this “fear” tool are banking on the flight response more than the fight response.”

Do they not yet understand that freedom-loving people everywhere do not flee when threatened? We fight!

When we (who love freedom and the right to make our own choices about our lives) are threatened, we react immediately with anger not fear: Angry words, angry gestures, and anger-based counter threats at those wishing to harm us. Didn’t wars in Afganistan and Iraq show assaulters anything about how nations with epic arsenals react to homicidal attacks?

However sometimes there are those who may over-react to threats of being assaulted and use a very broad rhetorical brush to paint ALL members of associated religions or races for the homicidal intentions of only a angerfew individuals. That is unfortunate and equally stupid, and because I don’t handle “stupid” well, THAT makes me angry—again, the shirt sentiment.

With political campaigns in full swing, there is no excuse when idiots on podiums in front of television cameras use these incidents to inflame their vocal audiences with unified hatred and spewed bigotry.

The problem is that idiots are idiots, no matter the national origin or the party affiliation. And audiences who buy into their political messages of hate are just as malleable as the misguided recruits for homicidal suicide—they only hear what fuels their fears and their anger, because anger makes them feel more powerful.

So lehold angert’s all get a better handle on our OWN anger and let’s make positive changes in our lives and in the world around us. As I mentioned previously, I am far from a pacifist and I tame myself down daily in search of a solid, positive solution to the festering wounds of wide-spread racial tensions, religious intolerance, and opportunity inequality.

My premise is pretty simple: I know that I can’t help spread peace if I can’t hold it within myself, so it is extremely important for all of us to acknowledge our own anger at these senseless and misguided actions of individuals and groups bent on creating chaos and social anarchy.

Don’t allow it. Take a deep breath, and then another one, and say aloud:light

“I am love, I am light that outshines any darkness, and I am deeply at peace within myself as I spread this inner peace throughout the world now. And so it is.”

Don’t give in to your own anger, and for certain never allow fear to cloud your thoughts, but foremost above all else, recognize that only you can decide how you wish to react to any challenge you may face.

peace.jpgMy suggestion is to face it with grace and determination to make this a better and more loving world for everyone. That really is the only rational choice that we have here.