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.

Taking the FUN Out of Dysfunction

Just saw U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent on Morning Joe talking about the latest Trump insane rants and the accumulative effects of his instability-laden speeches and actions, and dysfunction.jpgCharlie shook his head and said “President Trump has taken the FUN out of dysfunction.”

Yep, definitely NO FUN there now.  But then I can’t remember when it actually WAS fun.

Yesterday Trump expressed his usual campaign pigswill at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree (“a gathering of tens of thousands of hitler boys.jpgyoungsters from around the world eager to absorb the ideas of service, citizenship and global diplomacy.”–Wikipedia) which was so chilling because it was reminiscent of Hitler addressing his Youth Squads who were specifically groomed to idolize der Fuhrer. (Oh my, even the uniforms are similar.)

With a captive audience of 30,000 mainly impressionable kids of all ages, Trump delivered a propagandistic diatribe on everything dredged from the depths of his own darkness—all his insecurities, all his inadequacies, all his fears, all his malevolence, all his vindictiveness, all his mental incoherencies, all of his negative character deficiencies for which he is best known—ALL of it, he delivered primarily to pre-teen and teenage males looking for good, solid role models that Scouting is meant to represent for them.

But instead of providing those Scouts with a reputable model for “service, citizenship, secs of BS.jpgand global diplomacy,” not to mention a shining example of the best possible adult character and behavior, they got him—the worst living example of what wielding a position of power can mean.

Unbelievable.

Hello Congress people out there who represent the last possible salvation for our future: Why are you allowing this ludicrous, dangerous, top-administrative insanity to continue?

Do your jobs!!!

Can’t you see that his malignant dysfunction is now being promoted onto our youth?

You want to start offering a Scout Badge now for mastering the skills of bigotry and scout badge.jpgracism?

And the other thing I want to know is when was his aberrant dysfunction ever FUN?

 

Vestigial Appendages

While reading a novel I ran across a humorous sentence—the main character was describing his boss’s mindset against treating others with basic human dignity.  “He viewed doing so as a vestigial appendage”—meaning it was similar to wisdom teeth and the appendix in human anatomy—an unnecessary present-day function and a left-over remnant from an vestigial.jpgancient time.

I chuckled at the reference, thinking it worthy enough of further consideration to have written it down on the napkin beside me. Those two words inspired memory flashes to my ninth grade Biology class—possibly a test question using that same mouthful, multi-syllabic, moniker for “the appendix” that I would eventually have removed forty years later.

In our current world, we deal with society’s vestigial respect dignityappendages all the time, but I wouldn’t call treating people with dignity and respect as one of them. Unfortunately in the last decade, our society has devolved into this particular mindset. We don’t respect others—we don’t respect differing opinions—and we don’t respect those who think differently than we do.

When a presidential candidate, and now The President of the United States, calls people that he wants to demean or diminish by childish, hurtful, disrespectful names, it lowers social mores in general to the level of street-slang and playground taunting.

Hearing a candidate for president doing so is disgusting, but hearing the chief representative of the American people doing it daily is appalling and unacceptable.

The problem, in my humble opinion, is that there are too many other adults who enjoy the childish nature of disrespecting others—too many people in our nation who like to put others down just to feel better than them—too many people who like to feel superior or separate from others for cliques.jpgone fleeting, delusional moment in time and alternate reality.

It’s like reliving junior high all over the nation—with mean-girl cliques and popularity trumping group camaraderie and compassion for all others.

Grow up people!  We are better than this!

Treating people with basic human dignity is NOT a vestigial appendage.

As the Senate now shows its take on the health care bill to the rest of us and many responsibilityviewing it aren’t surprised at the Medicaid cuts to people who need the most help, or the abundant tax cuts for those who need it the least, this situation is simply representative of a far deeper problem: How do we view ourselves in relation to all others around us?

Societies are only as strong as their treatment of the weakest among them. If some members of a society are considered expendable and not worth the rest of our time or expense, then how do you make the determination of where each of us rank in that same scenario?

hands of societyAre we already expendable now or perhaps will we be in another decade or two? Is there an age limit to caring about others? Are others too old, too young, too challenged, too needy, or just too much trouble?

When other people’s problems aren’t presently MY problems, how will I feel when suddenly life flips like it often does and I suddenly need help, and now MY problems aren’t something anyone else wants to deal with?

What we are seeing right now are the warning shots of a aree to respect.jpgGreat Society in peril of losing its sense of humanity—of losing its premise of basic human rights and dignities—of losing compassion for others, or failing to recognize that by one nasty twist of fate, you or I could be on the wrong end of someone else’s refusal for social responsibility.

This is a certainty: That social pendulum has to swing back to center soon or it is just a matter of time before we ALL will be considered vestigial appendages—easily removed from public consideration by a surgical slice—or the slash of a pen.

Do you want to find yourself on the operating table this year or maybe the next?

I know I don’t.strong together.jpg

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.

When UP is DOWN

That’s the bad thing about constant chaos—it destroys your sense of normalcy.

When illusions shatter like fine crystal smashed against stone, what remains is the broken glassreality of hand-cutting, glass shards left to gather; and that seems to be what we are doing most of the time now—constantly collecting the broken pieces of established Presidential protocols.

Critical mass was reached last week in the continuing saga of our Democracy under siege by a self-proclaimed “change-agent” who admires dictators.

The Acting US Attorney General assigned a Special Prosecutor to take over the Trump Campaign/Russian Interference investigations because Congress couldn’t be trusted to not be sppolitically influenced in finding the TRUTH, no matter the consequences; PLUS the President himself was directly interfering in the investigation—particularly by firing the FBI Director who had been leading it. (And then moronically admitting it on national television that it was indeed what he had done.)

However even chaos has its own system of dissolution and realignment. In Literary Criticism, which is “the study, evaluations and interpretation of Literature” (Wikipedia), that system of dissolution and realignment is called Deconstruction.

The effect of Deconstruction is like tearing apart a house just to see what it was made deconstructof—meaning you deconstruct it board by board until you have reached the ground on which it once stood. You may ultimately find your answer to the “what’s it made of?” question but you will unfortunately no longer have a structure to shield you from the harsher elements of life.

It would seem that is what is happening to our Democracy at present—Deconstruction. It is being tested by an unscrupulous agent of CHAOS—even in his own mind—who is attempting to deconstruct our Constitution and three levels of governance in favor of his single-ruler, autocratic aspirations.

Dare to cross him? His signature television quote “YOU’RE FIRED” would be his immediate response to you.

The gut-churning question for many of us was: How long autocracy.jpgwould his autocratic governing tendencies be permitted to continue without congress or the judicial system stepping in to stop him?

 

Well, two days ago a counter shot was fired across Trump’s bow to bring TRUTH and FAIRNESS back to the investigatory process. Perhaps a few congress-people awoke to the fact that without restraints on his attempts to seize more power, there could be public revolts that might affect their own congressional lives. Self-survival seems to be the one thing that they DO understand and will defend.

impeach.jpgImpeachment is a common subject for discussion now on news shows, as is the increased mention of Amendment 25 that I posted previously.

We don’t know where this all will lead. I know I have my preferences, but I will be content to see genuine justice served with fair hearings and investigations into abuses and criminal behaviors of all involved parties, no matter who they might be.

Who knows, perhaps in the near or distant future he himself fired.jpgwill hear those words he made so famous on his pseudo-reality TV show: “YOU’RE FIRED!”

I hope so, because this isn’t HIS “pseudo-reality” that the rest of us are living.

Amendment 25

morning joe

Interesting morning on “Morning Joe”—the early-morning news show that I watch.

It’s kind of a-love/hate-relationship-with-politics show that praises/scours those who competently/incompetently play at politics.

This morning’s topic was the first I actually 25th amend.jpgheard the often verbacious commentators use the term, “Amendment 25” during a discussion on the latest lunacy sting of tweets from Trump (of which a couple more tweets came through during the show itself, which further made their point).

For myself, not knowing what Amendment 25 was (although I had a pretty good idea from what they were referring to), I had to look it up.

When these folks start talking “Amendment 25” you know things are serious.papers of pres

Amendment 25 is the “Presidential Disability and Succession” amendment to the Constitution.

Joe and others were saying it is now time to seriously consider this Amendment as the current President’s mental stability and competency are more frequently coming into question.  Here is the entire Amendment which speaks for itself:

25th Amendment to the US Constitution

(The 25th Amendment, proposed by Congress and ratified by the states in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, provides the procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation.  The Watergate scandal of the 1970s saw the application of these procedures, first when Gerald Ford replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president, then when he replaced Richard Nixon as president, and then when Nelson Rockefeller filled the resulting vacancy to become the vice president.  Read more from the Congressional Research Service here….)

Amendment XXV

Section 1.

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2.

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

nixon.jpgSection 3.

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4.

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Taken from Cornell University Law School (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxxv)

When “NOT DOING” Isn’t Doing It for You

buddha quote.jpg

At present this is the conflict I feel inside: the NOT DOING (and not reacting to aggravations and frustrations over what is happening around me) at times feels like a betrayal to my inner fire—the driving force of ME-ness.

The “Why aren’t you out there marching for Women’s Rights to be heard, seen, and respected?” is in conflict with my philosophy of “Be at peace, to spread peace”.

So while questioning myself over this tumultuous, mental agitation I remembered the ultimate example of peaceful protest, Mahatma Gandhi, who not only changed the direction of a continent, but also deeply influenced another of the great Civil Rights icons: Martin Luther King, Jr.

I know that Gandhi raised peaceful protest to an artform; and many of the women’s marches last Saturday were meant to mirror that—a peaceful display of our right to disagree and stand for something greater than ourselves.womens-march

The numbers participating were impressive—far more so than the blatant attempts to discredit and distract from them was, BUT…..numbers alone won’t change anything, nor will standing around NOT DOING anything make the necessary changes.

So I researched a bit on Gandhi and found a few quotes that might apply to the conundrum of my own being at present.

20 Inspiring Quotes from Mahatma Gandhi:

  1. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
  2. “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
  3. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
  4. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
  5. “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
  6. “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
  7. “An ounce of patience is worth more than a ton of preaching.”
  8. “Change yourself – you are in control.”
  9. “See the good in people and help them.”
  10. “Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.”
  11. “Take care of this moment.”
  12. “Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.”
  13. “Continue to grow and evolve.”
  14. “A no uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ uttered merely to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
  15. “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.”
  16. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”
  17. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
  18. “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
  19. “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
  20. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

 

I now thinkgandhi.jpg that if anything can change the world for the better, it is a unified effort designed to do this, believing as Gandhi proclaimed in his own calm way: You can “Be the change that you want to see in the world,” and as such, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Well, let’s start shaking it. My NOT DOING just became DOING.