As I've traveled around the country, I've run into the custom where some AA communities and central offices call their AA meeting lists the "Where and When" We're not as creative in Colorado - I think I've only heard them called "meeting lists" here.
For some peculiar reason, the idea of "where and when" just sort of resonated with me today.
Yesterday here it was bright, sunny and at or near 70 F. degrees. Tonight we're in the 30s with up to a foot of snow predicted. It doesn't even stick for a day with the ground and roads as warm as they are now but it still makes a mess and everybody has to grumble some.
I have a few sponsees who are going through tough patches now. I have been too so I've not been real sympathetic to their particular dramas but, increasingly, I'm struck by my sponsor's principle of being simpatico. It seems they're all wrapped up in variations of the drama of "...I don't get what I want, when I want it."
My whole life seems to be about getting to where God wants me to be there when I am needed to be there, and then really being there when I'm there.
Where and when - if I can be "here", "now", my life is a whole different experience.
OK - I have 3 minutes to upload a blog article to explain my absence (this time for both reading and posting) and the only thing that comes to mind is:
"I've been sick..."
OK - that doesn't work for me either, but it's the closest to the truth that I can find today.
No, I'm not in ill health (thank God!) - what's been going on is:
a new job (thank God!)
lots of work on commitments that have fallen behind
a deep seated ego-illness that has decimated my spirit
judgments by myself and others around me
OK - I think I can see what I could eliminate to regain some of the vast amount of time that I used to enjoy sharing on this medium.
From my own life, that of sponsees and virtually every direction I've turned to over the past few weeks, the message has been all about: "...what is it you're really committed to today? Life on a spiritual basis or dying from the disease of alcoholism?"
Today, I ask God to remove my fear and direct me to who he would have me be.
I spent the day yesterday walking around Stepping Stones in Bedford Hills, NY. Walking around under blue skies with 75 other AA and Alanon folk and looking into another life and time - in Bill & Lois's life, our fellowship, and all of it.
It was serendipitous that William Borchert, author of When Love is not Enough, happened to be there at the same time. Turns out, he was a neighbor of Lois in her later years and collaborated on this project with her for some time.
As wonderful as this time was (and it truly was), the thing I got clear from all of the evidence of their lives (and there is much there), Bill and Lois were fallible human beings thrust into lives that were way beyond anything they could have imagined.
Last week, I had a visitation by a spammer. It must not have been a particularly skilled spammer in that he/she left comments on about 20 old articles of mine (where no one would probably read) in Chinese characters that most people would probably not be able to interpret on a blog where I can barely write and read English. It offered links to what I presume was a porn portal (I couldn't read it but the pictures were pretty clear).
From being in the business, I know that what really did me this wrong was not a real person but a piece of software that someone is convinced will drive more traffic and revenue to some part of the internet.
Annoyed and tempted to leave the comments in place, I was sitting here this morning and decided to just go back and delete them. While I was there, I glanced through what I'd written. I think this was the first time I'd ever done that (just randomly leaf through my own blog).
I was surprised.
Having done this (blogged) for over a year now, I have no illusions that what I'm creating here is great literature, great art or, great entertainment. There are many more skilled and disciplined than I that do blogging better and more consistently.
On the other hand, some of what I've written was, well, worthwhile. A few of my own articles brought me to tears as I thought back on where I was when I wrote them. Some of them were more readable than I'd remembered them - they came off pretty well.
I guess I need to thank that spammer (person or software) and invite them back sometime.
I'm back in NYC for 10 days. It was a gorgeous day yesterday and it's supposed to be better today.
It's a delight for me to be here.
I used to get to NY/NJ fairly often when I worked for a company that was based out here. When I was laid off from my job, I had sort of presumed that I would never be here again. This is the second trip I've been here this year.
Goes to show you about my plans and ideas and all...
Anyway, I feel I should say something about my post on Saturday, given that a re-reading of it after several comments made it look like I was in some sort of whiny mood around blogging again. I guess, in part, I was. I'd like to believe that I'm above asking for my readers' affections but I don't think that's true either. In he process, it felt like I was in judgment about me for not blogging daily and perhaps readers for their expectations of me.
I wasn't, exactly.
What all that is really about is that I am once again, face-to-face with the nature of the spiritual malady of alcoholism whereby I really would like to show up in my life differently (better) than I am. I am getting that reinforced from a number of sponsees who are doing this dance of death directly with booze or are trying to manage their lives better by lying and cheating - to themselves and others.
I recognize that because I do the same thing myself.
As I was settling in to bed last night, I realized I had not written a blog article yesterday. I've been very busy and distracted, but I realized that I'd made time to play Freecell and had spent enough time in my head that I could have certainly found a few minutes to dash out an article.
But, I didn't.
...and, I didn't get my lazy butt out of bed and write an article either...
I have a general idea that I want to write a blog every day. You could say that it's been my "intention." I've not been anywhere near perfect, to date, of meeting that intention. In the past 13 months, I've published about 270 articles and at least one of the hiatuses was over 3 weeks long. So, we're clear: I'm not perfect at this or anything else in my life.
As I started writing this article, I searched this blog for the word "commitment" and was, frankly, sort of startled that I'd liked some of what I've written about this in the past. It would seem from what I've written here that I have a pretty good grasp of the principles and the concepts involved.
So it would seem...
The other thing in my head today is that this past week I was stood up by three different sponsees.
One, I fear (real word), has put himself in the precarious position that he's claimed to have finished his extensive 4th step and has failed to show up, as agreed, four separate times to dig into a 5th step. I've seen that lie expressed in an undone 4th step get people drunk before.
Another had a fight with his girlfriend the night before and wound up oversleeping.
This morning, a young man just didn't show up but, well, I've just not heard his excuse yet.
I have really good excuses (actually, some pretty lame excuses too) of why I've not written an article some 90+ times this past year that the day closed without my meeting my intention.
On the other hand, at best the excuses offered (or not offered but implied) by my sponsees express an underlying rudeness and disrespect. At worst, they may be, in fact, evidence of the character defects that are at the core of their alcoholism.
So, I suppose the "right" way to end this article would be to really express my commitment to show up every single day - reliably and as an example of the recovered alcoholic I aspire to be today.
You'll notice that's not here...
Instead, what I will offer is an acknowledgment of my having learned something today and an expectation that you (and I) will probably judge me by my actions rather than my intentions.
It's hard for me to imaging that it was a year ago that I'd written an article on trudging. I was just getting started on this blogging deal.
I think back and I can't imagine the year of trudging that came between then and now. I truly am in a whole different place now than I was then and I can't imagine any other path that could have gotten me from there to here.
And yet, I'm not quite sure where I am.
The seeds for my reflections are pretty obvious - some readings of others' blog entries and the beginnings for me of the annual USA ritual of filing income taxes.
As I look back through the evidence of our journey through the past year, I'm jarred at how much was done, how little was done, and how much more remains to be done. I can hold all three of those at the same time and find myself completely frozen to make one little step forward toward accomplishment that seems like such a small deal.
So, I wait. I pray. I try not to over-analyze or think. On a really good day, I steer clear of judgments and projections. I try to reach way down deep and embrace some little thought like: "What would a grown-up do in this situation?"
And then, a window of grace opens up and suddenly I'm able to make that huge leap - not to conclusion. That would be nice but it seems pretty rare in my world. The great leaps I make are to put one foot in front of another. To pick up and dial the telephone. To place one piece of paper with another. To fill out one line on a form.
And thus, another year passes in this brief remaining time on this path.
My sponsor has assured me for the past several months that all God requires of me in this life is my best efforts. That, beyond that, the life I have is pretty much none of my business.
I think the reason he and I are on this so much recently is that:
I've felt pretty much failed at several endeavors which seem pretty important
There's been more self-pity than I'm comfortable in looking at around some of the circumstances in my life
It just feels like I should be able to be more, do more, have more - there is just a lot about "more" going on in my head these days
Give up? Try harder? Both?
All I can say for me is that the only sanity I get some days is from simple acts of love and service.
I know - makes no sense. Life heading in the crapper? Pick up chairs, clean floors, wash ash trays. Hear that flushing sound from being in the crapper long enough? Call all your sponsees - whether you're supposed to or not. Take a new service commitment. Take several service commitments. Have so many service commitments that you can't pay attention to your life? Problem is solved, isn't it?
WARNING: this is not a program for everyone. I wouldn't expect that most people in the rooms of AA are as sick and as needy as I am.
....but, for me, for today, AA works.
....and, it's never felt to me like my efforts are or will be "good enough" - those are just my feelings...
I woke up and wasn't sure what to think about this day and this Easter holiday.
I used to be a Christian and this holiday had huge significance to me in that I believed in and revered both the fact and the symbolism of a resurrection.
It seems peculiar to me that today I truly believe more in miracles and the miraculous (as expressed by a contravention of the forces of nature, space and time) than I ever have. So having set aside my former belief in Christ's empty tomb in my own mind, my head and my heart feel both empty but I have a profound appreciation of what the Easter holiday means for those who believe. There's a small amount of envy felt for those who hold to a faith I once professed.
Hope. Redemption. Love. All great things.
So, this morning I find myself grateful for all those things in my past life as expressed through whatever means they were taught.
And, I'm profoundly grateful for men and women of all faiths and no faith who similarly teach the value of suffering, surrender, humility, faith, hope, redemption and, love.
Mary Louise this morning wrote about character. I still fear that my character will not be strong enough to endure the circumstances that my life holds. I might not have the self respect and the faith sufficient to this life. I guess we never really know for sure until we get through it.
But for today, I am grateful for all the stories and symbols of rebirth and renewal.
It's not at all surprising to me that AA members of old and today borrow heavily from the Christian perspectives of Christmas and Easter. It was much more, in my opinion, than cultural familiarity and convenience. The metaphor for what they were seeing spring up around them in their meetings and their "work" with others could best be described as true expressions of "rebirth" and "miracles."
To Carl Jung, what I see every Saturday night at my home group with more than 100 people could only be called "phenomena." (BB p. 27)
For today, I will attempt to notice, appreciate and honor the miraculous in my life and others and see what I can do to stand with the courage and convictions of those before me. Maybe that's the best observance I can offer this Easter.
...and, also, remember to say thank you, and appreciate that this life is not all about me...
When I drank, I never would have told you that I could not control my drinking.
What happened to me - a lot - was that I changed my mind. Often. A lot.
The insidious nature of alcoholism in my experience wasn't that I always drank to excess (though I often did) - it was that, one day I could quit exactly like I'd intended (and the circumstances in my life warranted) and the next day I would find my self struck drunk.
When I'm talking with folks about the "peculiar mental twist" (BB p. 33) that I find defines the mental component of my alcoholism, I will often tell the story of two consecutive nights now over 35 years ago. Both nights, the plan was to stop for a beer or two with some folks from work, then go home to an evening with my family. Night number one, I stopped off at the bar, had a few drinks, was home for supper and an evening with my wife and kids. Night number two, I stopped off at the bar, had a few drinks, decided to stay on past supper (changed my mind) and meet my wife and kids at the school for a meeting later. I called and made appropriate arrangements. You're probably ahead of me by now - a couple of hours later, I again changed my mind and decided not to go to the school meeting and stayed at the bar.
As they were turning on the lights after last call at the bar, I was reluctant to go home, knowing I'd disappointed my family (again) and before oblivion settled in for the night, I seem to remember thinking that it was peculiar that when I'd left work, I had every intention of going home and showing up where I'd said I would that night.
The Big Book says it (among other places) as: "... If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. ... " (BB p. 44)
The real curious thought of that moment after "changing my mind" did not appear all that remarkable to me until I was sober a while.
I have been told that I'm a strong willed individual. I actually hear words like "stubborn", "obstinate", etc. from those that love me.
Yet, I've never had what it took to make the right choice around alcohol. There are other places that I'm similarly challenged with peculiar mental twists in other areas (e.g. showing up in a relationship, paying bills, etc.). I don't know if those other lapses can be ascribed to my alcoholism or my character defects directly but, well, the same spiritual malady seems to adequately explain them and the same solutions (humility, surrender, willingness) seem to allow me to live and improved version of this life.