I had lunch with some friends today. It wasn’t sunny, but the view down across the jungle to the ocean is magnificent. We’re not a particularly ‘close’ group of friends. We get together once a month to discuss our writing. So I was surprised when one member of the group shared an ‘epiphany’ that she had just yesterday.

“I had been so angry with the place I used to work because they unceremoniously pushed me out and forced me into early retirement five years ago. I was so flipping mad. I wanted revenge. I wanted to do the same thing to them. And I nursed that anger for the last five years. I had poured myself into my work and my work was good and often praised.  How could they do that to me!”

“Yesterday,” she continued, “I was sitting on my porch overlooking the valley below and I realized all of the wonderful things that had happened to me in the last five years. I now live in a beautiful tropical country, I have met so many new friends, I still write, but in a different way and I have just published a book.  None of these things would have happened without ‘those people’ letting me go. Two days ago I hated them.  Today I love them and what happened because none of this would have been possible otherwise.”

A powerful revelation for my friend. And it’s a huge change in perspective. We discussed how momentous this revelation is in her life. Perhaps she needed the last five years to get to this moment of forgiveness and understanding, and arrive at the shore of the sea of gratitude. I have no doubt that this will change how she looks at so many other twists and turns in her life that she wasn’t happy about.

I can look at my past and regret it. There are plenty of things that happened in my life that I thought would have turned out otherwise. I made some questionable decisions and rash judgements along the way, but here I am! I survived and I have a serenity I wouldn’t trade. Each step along the way was necessary to get to today. Each element is another brick paving the road of happy destiny.

When I am in the thick of it, when I am mired deep in the crap of everyday life, when faced with impossible decisions and doors close in my face, I can turn and run. And who would blame me. Such an impossible choice and terrible circumstances. However, I have another option. I can stand tall and walk forward. Today I am grateful for all events in my past. Today I know that while I may not understand what is happening right now, it is a small piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I don’t yet know what the final result will look like so how can I judge if what is happening is good or bad? This might be that moment in my life when everything changes.

I am grateful that I can trust in something greater than myself and keep putting one foot forward and moving on. I don’t ‘get’ it all, but I know that I too will someday be able to reflect on this and see how intricately the puzzle is cut and the beauty of the final mosaic.

Thank you Carol. You made my day!

It’s Not the End of the World!

How bad things may look right now means nothing.  It’s how good you know they can look with God’s help that counts. Life has a habit of changing itself completely around in 24 hours. Heck, in 24 minutes sometimes. Don’t you dare give up on Tomorrow because of the way things look Today. Don’t even think about it… Neale Donald Walsch

For all of us, times will arise when life seems impossible and difficult and totally unmanageable. It doesn’t matter if we’re in recovery or not. It’s life. It’s how things go from time to time. Regardless, it’s important to keep in mind a few things to help us to get through this challenge.

Whatever is happening, it won’t last forever. Things will turn around and get better. I know that when you’re in the thick of it, time drags and it seems that this will never end. And it will. Don’t quit because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It will appear, it always does. I have learned that I can get through everything that life throws at me: death, ending relationships, depression, a broken leg, accidents, arguments and anything else comes along. The pain of today will transform into the joy of tomorrow.  That break-up seems to cause the whole world to crash down. But it will get better. And the idea of using or drinking again? Really? Is that what’s going through your mind? If you want to make things even worse than they are, drink or use.  That will really drag out your difficulties. Time heals

My perspective is a limited perspective. I can only see one side of anything until I stretch my mind to consider other perspectives. How is this affecting other people? I took to heart many years ago the idea to look at the best possible intentions of others. When someone does something that affects me, say, your boss gives a promotion to someone else. From my perspective, it’s the worst possible thing to happen to me right now. It could turn me into a tailspin if I let it. What’s the best possible intention of my boss? It probably wasn’t to make me angry or make me feel I should quit this lousy job. Your boss was probably looking for the best interest of the company. Were you? Perhaps there’s another, more suitable promotion for me, or perhaps work performance is lacking and I’m not really the best person for that promotion. I need to remember that it’s not all about me all of the time (though my Ego would tell you otherwise). There are other factors and other perspective that come into play.  Look for the best intention of others and even if that wasn’t their real intention, it doesn’t matter. I have a positive or at minimum, a neutral thought about it.

What I resist will persist. If I want to get through the worst of things, I need to accept it. I stop fighting it, blocking it, avoiding it. I accept it. This doesn’t mean that I like it, or that there’s nothing I can do about it. It means that I acknowledge its presence and that I will deal with it. Here, the Serenity Prayer comes into play. Acceptance allows me to discern whether it is something that I can change or not change. I can’t change people, places or things, but I can work on me. “Resistance is futile,” say the Borg in Star Trek. It is. Once I stop resisting and accept, I can do something about the situation; I stop swimming against the current.

H.O.P.E. Hear Other People’s Experience. When times are bad, it helps to talk to others and listen to their stories. Perhaps they went through a similar problem. Perhaps they have information that could be helpful. Their example will give me hope if I let it. Many times this happens in meetings. We hear something either in the literature of the program or the shares of other members. Often they aren’t even aware of what we are going through right now, but their experience, strength and hope help us along. We all have our Higher Power. Opening my ears to hear other people is also opening my ears to my Higher Power.

Pray about it. In the eleventh step we ask for two things in prayer: to know what our Higher Power’s will is for us and for the power to carry out that will. If I stop putting my expectations of the outcome of things, if I stop telling my Higher Power just how things should be resolved, I have a better chance of hearing what that ‘will’ is for me.

Difficult times come to everyone. It’s life. I love the line from the movie The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel: “It will all work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” Trust yourself, trust your Higher Power and give time, time. I can live one day at a time because tomorrow is another day.  I am grateful.

My Attitude, My Choice

It’s often so easy to fall into negativity, self-criticism and morbidity. ‘Oh woe is me and the world is going to hell in a handbasket!’ If I focus on the news, the dramas around me and what others tell me I ‘should’ know about, then I am liable to fall into this view of life. However, I have discovered that I can just as easily choose to focus on positivity, self-esteem and optimism.

For some reason, focusing on the first, the negative aspects of life, is viewed as having a realistic attitude toward life and looking at the positive is seen as ‘airy-fairy’.  I am being a realist when I look at the war mongering leaders in the world, but rather naïve when I look at the benefits of nuclear energy and nuclear medicine. In one part of the Serengeti the headline reads, “Gazelle brutally attacked and murdered by pack of thug lions!” On the other side of the Plain, the headline is, “Lioness brings food for her family and shares her fortune with others.” How is one more realistic than the other? Both are true. The perspective is what is different.  How can I say that one is more ‘real’ than the other?

I can’t. I cannot know the ins and outs of my Higher Power’s plan for this world I find myself in.  My judgement is inherently flawed because I am unable to see the whole picture of what is going on.  Perhaps I can look at my Higher Power as a drone flying above the city looking down at the car I’m driving.  Right in front of me, a couple of elderly folks are slowly making their way across the street.  She drops her cane and the old man puts his hand on my car to support himself as he bends over to pick it up for her.  I’m late, I have a meeting to get to and these old fogies are making me later.  How bloody frustrating!  Hurry up you old SOB and stop marring the shine on my hood!

Up above in the drone, my Higher Power is looking down.  He sees all of the traffic in the city.  He see that two blocks ahead of me a distracted mother is about to run a stop sign and head through the intersection at a good clip because she is taking her sick child to the hospital.  That car makes it through and, after the people in front of me finally get to sidewalk, I make my way up the street and get to my meeting safely. My attitude, my frustration, my judgement of the people crossing the street wasn’t necessary. I can’t see what’s around the corner. I know my Higher Power can. The wrinkly old dame dropped her cane and saved my life.

I have a very important choice in life.  That choice is where I focus my attention. The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. I choose to focus on the positive aspect. I choose to look at the good, the wondrous and bright things I encounter in my world.  That doesn’t make me unrealistic. That doesn’t mean I am denying the hunger, sadness or poverty in the world. It means that I am not going to allow those things to depress my spirit. The joy I encounter is just as real as the sadness you discover. I am quite capable to discovering your sadness too. Trust me, I have a PhD in depression and used it for many years. The point is, I don’t have to. I can choose to see the glass half full, or half empty. It’s the same reality, just a different perspective.  Or, I can look at that glass as ‘refillable’!  Wow, that’s a whole new concept that goes beyond the half full/empty scenario!

I know that life isn’t all rainbows, unicorns and butterflies. I also know that it’s not all mud and snakes and demons either. Focusing on the first makes me happy. It fills me with joy.  It give me a reason to spread happiness. That is what I want in my life. I know my Higher Power has my back.  I know that I will always be looked after. I know that I will be able to get through everything in life, until I don’t. Meanwhile, I choose to focus on the positive angle. Happiness, joy and freedom are what I want in my life. What do you want in yours?


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