A World of Miracles

The more I investigate, the more I realize that what we know is only a scratch on the surface of truth, of what Einstein called the “persistent illusion” of reality. When I open myself up to even just the ‘possibility’ of there being something out there greater than myself, I also open myself up to perceiving the wonders that surround us always but that we don’t always notice as we make our busy way through life.

A friend at a meeting this morning talked about going for a hike with his brother to a water fall. The trek was much more arduous than they had expected. When they finally arrived, it because a mystical experience for one of them. As they drew closer they heard the sound becoming more and more intense until the cascade slowly revealed itself through the undergrowth of the trees.  My buddy saw how the sun was beaming light down through the trees and the mist rising from the water as it hit the rocks on the way down to a blue pool below. He felt the spray, watched the butterflies and took the whole thing in as a Higher Power moment. For his brother, it was a nice waterfall, but it held nothing of the spiritual aspect. Two people, two points of view of the same experience.

Our experience of anything depends upon our perspective and past experiences. Perhaps it’s my bias, but I believe that those of us who have been through difficult times and are making our way through recovery have to, perhaps, work harder than others to see the beauty of things and the wonders of the people and the world around us. Perhaps it’s because we were so wrapped up in ourselves, our ego and our disease that we couldn’t see it before. Perhaps we’re no different than anyone else. But it is important to take the time to look outside of ourselves to stand in awe and appreciate what is happening around us at any particular time. And even if you don’t wish to attribute what you see or what happened to you to your Higher Power, you can still appreciate the ‘miracle’ of it all.

During this time of year, we tend to see more positive things happening around us because our perspective has changed around the holidays and we expect to see the miracle of Christmas. I believe that these things are always happening around us. Every day there are wonders and sights to behold that will cause us to pause if we look for them. If you want to take the magic of Christmas with you through the whole year, then take this attitude with you. Miracles don’t only happen one day a year, or on 42nd Street in NYC or in Bedford Falls with Jimmy Stewart realizing that he’s the ‘richest man in town’. They around around us all the time. But we have to look for them.

From a sunny and hot Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, (don’t be too jealous), I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ¡Feliz Navidad!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

– Shakespeare, Hamlet


Building Dreams

I recently read a book that lead me to watch a documentary on the building of Sagrada Familia, the famous cathedral being built in Barcelona, Spain. As I looked at the structure, the columns, the soaring spaces within and the pinnacles without I couldn’t help but wonder what might the thoughts of its creator architect, Antoni Gaudi, have been as he was dreaming it up. Did he imagine when he was first putting his pencil to paper that the building would take well over a century to complete? That he would never live to see it done? That the plans would be destroyed along the way and others would have to interpret how he intended it to look? That money would have to be raised not from within the church but from private funding in order to build it? If he had focused on that, the first shovel full of dirt wouldn’t have ever been removed. Is the end result of the cathedral, which is scheduled to be finished in 2026 going to be exactly like Gaudi envisioned? No. Along the course of construction materials had to be changed, technologies changed and innumerable things had to be reinterpreted. That doesn’t make the results any less spectacular. Even in its unfinished state, it attracts millions of visitors every year who marvel at the results of Gaudi’s vision.

It’s so easy to be negative, a pessimist, or a party-pooper. I can always look around and find things that are wrong or aren’t going well. I’m not sure why. When someone is positive and bright about the possibilities of the future there always seems to be someone who will say they ‘aren’t being realistic’. Why do we consider that the negative result of something we’re working toward is more real than the positive? Why is failure more ‘real’ than success? Why do so many people think that it’s unrealistic to have an attitude that things are going to work out?

I think it has to do with expectations. In life there are many variables and few guarantees. The pessimist loves to focus on those, the things that ‘might go wrong’, the people who will ‘let us down’, and all of the possible things that might fall short of the ‘perfect’ result. I’m coming to learn that it’s the ‘process’ that is the important part of anything we do, not the results that matter. Another way of looking at the saying: “It’s the journey not the destination that matters.” Life consists in meeting the challenges and solving the problems that we face, not lamenting that the path is uneven and rocky.

We need dreams in order to move forward. We need to focus on our visions of what can be and work toward those things. We live and work in the present to make those dreams a reality. The pessimist and the party-pooper often don’t even begin a project because the results might not be exactly as they expected they should be. Push ahead. Today’s dreams will only ever become tomorrow reality if I work toward them.

Living the Dream

Happy New Year. It’s like my mother said, as you get older, time moves more quickly! That seemed like a quick trip around the sun. But it was a good trip; a trip filled with lots of lessons and learning. I know it is just another day, but it’s the day of new beginnings for many. I am sure the rooms of recovery programs will again see an influx of newcomers. (My sponsor calls January the ‘prime recruitment month’.) I wish them well on their path to recovery.

A question came to my mind today: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you be doing today? There are variations of the question out there. What are you knocking off the bucket list for this year? Are your affairs in order? Are you living your dreams?  For me though, it begs the question: So why aren’t you doing that now?

I’ve learned that life is full of twists and turns, just like the river. I don’t know what is around the corner. And yes, tomorrow may be my last day. Memento mori is the latin term for the practice of remembering our mortality: Remember that you have to die, is the translation. Life will not go on forever. It can end at any moment. This reminder could lead one into a blue funk, but for me it is a reminder of how precious life is. Each moment that passes I can be grateful for. Memento mori urges me on to live my dreams, to make a life and not eke out a living. I don’t have to build a castle, I can visit many castles.

It’s not always been easy, but I have been living a life that is different from the norm. I haven’t had a typical job for over thirty years: part-time, contract, seasonal, freelance. Some people say to me that they wish the could have my life in the tropics. I usually tell them that they can have this life too. Then I hear about responsibilities, and mortgages, and pensions and more excuses. I don’t argue but I do know from living the results, that everyone can stop having dreams and start living them.

This Christmas was the 23rd anniversary of my father’s death. He was only 63 and it marked me deeply. It taught me that life is a gift with an unknown expiration date and then  I too, will have to die. Life is for living. These thoughts follow on with the big lesson of 2017 for me: I will survive everything that comes my way, until I don’t.  There is so much to experience in this life. Step out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Live your dreams. Memento mori reminds me life is short and I will be dead for a lot longer than I lived on this earth. And I remember the movie Auntie Mame: “Live! That’s the message. Yes, life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

This New Year’s Day, if you must make a resolution, make one to live your dreams. Paint if you’ve always wanted to be a painter. Write if you want to write the greatest novel of the 21st century. Go on that retreat you want to go to. Don’t focus on the results. Forget about what people might say. Instead, focus on the experience. Live your dream. Dine at that banquet of life today and every day!