Thursday, October 12, 2017

Signposts, Angels and Gratitudes

"When we are lost in the woods, the sight of a signpost is a great matter." ~ C.S. Lewis
"I'm trying to shut up and let the angels speak to me and tell me what I'm supposed to do." ~ Patrick Swayze
Sometimes the Universe can try and try to get our attention and we just don't get it. We become too immersed in ourselves and overly fixated on the pathway. Yes, this can happen. Life as we know it as parents of addicts and those in recovery can be hard, with current times and events exacerbating feelings of despair and discouragement. As a result just when we think we're turned on and tuned in, all we've really done is to drop out of life.

In the end The Universe just can't take it anymore. It will never give up on us any more than we will give up on our children, and it just might get impatient, even annoyed.

Yes, after multiple attempts to draw us out of ourselves and back to the life we need to live to survive, the Universe, our Great Creator, might throw a barrage of positivity and inspiration our way just to see what happens.

Will this snap us out of our self absorption or just piss us off?

It is, as with everything else, up to us, is it not?

This happened to me recently. Not that I had succumbed to despair or hopelessness. I had simply ... stalled.

Recently, over the span of a couple of days I noticed The Universe had had just about enough of me and my inactivity and complacency. It came after me with an annoyed persistence. Even I couldn't help but notice:

Day One: I had finally scheduled the doctor's appointment I had been putting off and very very early the day before, I stumbled into the clinical lab to have my blood drawn. The phlebotomist was cheerily welcoming, almost off-putting. I wasn't there for a morning coffee with friends after all. I was there to have someone stick a needle in my vein and draw blood for the full range of tests my doctor would need to confirm I was operating on all cylinders.
Digression warning: I love that word as it is associated with blood tests. There's no drawing involved here, no crayons and paper are provided. They're sucking, siphoning, pulling, four vials of my essence from my arm - but I digress ...
To put it mildly, this draw-er of blood was my first hint that something special was afoot for the next two days. This was a Dickens-like "you will be visited by three ghosts" moment. The woman was spiritual in a walk-the-walk sense, so much so I actually thought to myself, "Normally I would say, 'thanks but no thanks' but this time, let's hang in here and see what happens."

I can't even remember exactly what she said, but her messages, her signposts, were originating from somewhere outside the little room where countless arms had been presented for piercing and countless souls had been given the choice to receive or ignore this woman's grace.

"Are you a minister?" I asked.

"No, I get that a lot," was her response.

I left the lab a bit lighter of hemoglobin, red and white blood cells and platelets, but buoyed and receptive to what The Great Creator would soon place squarely ahead of me along my pathway.

Day Two: My first visit would be in the form of our lead marathon trainer, coach and sensei, who is a brilliantly buoyant motivator and angel-mentor for all of us crazy enough to think we can actually train for a marathon much less finish one. Each week she posts a video of our instructions for our Saturday long-slow-distance (yes - LSD) runs. She reminds us of important things like at which park or trail the run is being held, the mileage, how to pace ourselves and the importance of these slower weekend events with 250 of our closest friends. This time, she threw in a zinger. She mentioned the importance of writing down at least three gratitudes each day in a notebook or journal.

Are you kidding me?

Of course, a proper mindset is key when attempting to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon, whatever your goal or ability. I've seen how negative attitudes can destroy a runner half way through a long run or even worse on race day. But I hoped her ah-ha-moment-like endorsement of something as Zen-ish as this didn't fall on deaf ears. It certainly didn't for me. Her reminder [directed by The Universe squarely at me] was a message meant to shake me out of my complacency. It was totally unexpected, but knowing this person as I do, I should have seen it coming.

I have since been hyper vigilant about writing down my gratitudes.

The doctors appointment went well. My counts were all better than good, each one a signpost telling me to continue on my journey to eat better, train better, live and love better. And this time my internal medicine doctor didn't tell me not to run. She seemed pleased, almost delighted by my health. [Signpost saying "CONTINUE ON =>".]

The last angel I was given witness to on the second day was one whom I had met months before but hadn't seen in quite a while. She is a third-grade teacher in a local school district who can infuse a room with positivity as soon as she enters. This gift from the Great Creator walked up to me and gave me a huge hug - never did THAT before - I believe, simply to ensure I had not only gotten the message, but that the message had been received, internalized, and not leaking out of me somewhere.

I got the impression after this last encounter The Universe was no longer impatient with me. I got it, finally. The annoyed persistence had paid off.

I am back now. I saw - no I SEE!

And just in time too. I've got things to do, including a marathon to run next month.


. . . keep coming back
"Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." ~ William Arthur Ward
"It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become." ~ Theodor Seuss Giesel 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Perhaps We Are the Journey

"When you do things through your soul, the river itself moves through you. Freshness and a deep joy are signs of the current." ~ Jalaluddin Rumi 
"Most people focus on doing things as the way to make a difference. What they don't realize is the most powerful way to make a difference doesn't require you to do anything at all! You start by changing YOUR world. You end up changing THE world." ~ Aman Motwane

So often, there it is, right in front of us - the answer. We are getting better at recognizing the pathways to recovery by noticing the obvious and the not-so-obvious signposts pointing the way. It is certainly the Great Creator, God, the Universe and not us, positioning the clues in strategic positions for us to find. We're simply following along as best we can, trying to keep up.

But have you ever felt something deep inside, some sort of receiver through which we can sort through what is true and what is bullshit to reach our most REAL we can be. Some call it instinct, others intuition or even street smarts.

Perhaps there is something within us that goes deeper than learned behavior. Our hearts and souls have been sorely effected over the years by The Addiction and what it has done to our babies. We have been changed to the core. What has happened to us has caused a fundamental shift in our thinking and way of life.

At some point we transcend being mere spectators in our recovery journeys, simply following the loving and caring lead The Universe provides. At some point we begin to understand the journey is more than a passive reaction.

At some point, we will, or have BECOME our journeys.

What exactly does this mean? It means we internalized The Good that comes our way and have built-in defenses against The Bad. We surround ourselves with exuberance: people, places and things, and eschew the negative. In fact we find ourselves running like the wind from negativity. As I've mentioned before this doesn't mean we become the village idiot who plods along dum-dee-dum as the world around us turns to the shit. Yes, shit happens. We simply stop looking for it, expecting it and subconsciously hoping for it because at one point along our pathways the shit had become our comfort zone, our way of life we settled into with our children.

We learn our greatest gift to our children and ourselves is to embrace the journey we have become. We truly become that beacon that shines through the ingrained pessimism The Addiction pours over our babies to conceal from them The Possibilities. When we recognize that we have become our journey our lives are then infused with a muscle memory that encourages us to SEEK and SEE our grandest vistas and horizons.

When we recognized we have transcended to a plane of existence different than what we may have lived under the thumb of The Addiction we want that feeling every day and guard against slipping again into the vortex of lives poorly lived.

It's inside of us, our Journeys. There it is.

Go for it!

. . . keep coming back

"There is a force within which gives you life - SEEK that. In your body is a priceless jewel - SEEK that. Oh wandering Sufi, if you are in search of the greatest treasure, don't look inside, LOOK within and SEEK THAT! ~ Jalaluddin Rumi 
"Face your own complexity." ~ Mark Gerzon 

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Fable of The Beangstieg

"If we stay where we are, where we're stuck, where we're comfortable and safe, we die there. ... New is life." ~ Ann Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

The cave, with its muted darkness dimly lit in the daytime by sunlight bounding through its narrow opening and small cracks in the rock face, and by night, with oil lamps he found upon his arrival and the moonlight illuminating, gently blanketing the cave's interior with its ever-searching moonbeams became the perfect safe haven for the man. He had travelled so far in not a small amount of time. His journey had taken him from the abyss.  The life changing, life-saving passage had given him so much, had given him his life back, yet had taken so much out of him.

It was a courageous, exhausting, long, strange trip. He was tired, and frightened.

The Beangstieg, his nemesis, was still out there - he knew it. He had defeated the Beangstieg but not vanquished the beast.

"I will stay here, for a while," he thought. "I must. I must wait out the Beangstieg."

The Beangstieg was a fearsome beast with its vile anger and hypnotic spell it had cast on him and all who dared to engage the monster in battle. Fighting and at the same time for some reason embracing it had overtaken his life. Somehow the Beangstieg became his focus, a dance that had consumed him and led him away from his family, friends and his future.

Of course he had to flee his former life. Otherwise the Beangstieg might sink its teeth into those the man held dear.

What he did not notice, or, what he didn't wish to know, is the creature had for a time laid waste to his family and threatened the very fabric of the community of which he had been a part. He had noticed his loved ones had seemed to overcome the Beangstieg, had somehow prevailed and moved on. He had not.

What he had come to realize is the Beangstieg is a being borne of the self loathing and insecurities of its victims, feeding on a diet of those victims' despair, fear and attempts to defeat and vanquish the beast.

"The Beangstieg," he thought as he sat alone in his cave, "might be invulnerable," acknowledging his own self doubt.

Outside the cave, the Beangstieg was waiting, feeding on these thoughts. The monster was growing stronger and unknown to the man was still the overwhelming force in his life. The Beangstieg WAS his life.

The man had seen the fate that awaited others who had ventured out of their protected zones alone. Eventually the Beangstieg would prevail in a final and gruesome battle matching its superior physical and psychological combat skills to the fading and fruitless efforts of friends who naively thought they were a match for it. In the final battle the Beangstieg would enlist allies familiar to the present foe - friends and family appearing to assist would only get in the way, and weapons formerly effective against the creature would vanish into dust.

So the man would stay in the cave, "for a while," he thought.

He soon noticed his thoughts drifting into recollections of the abyss he had fled which now seemed, incredibly, to be encroaching into the space he had chosen, the safe, secluded spot away from the teeth, claws and appetite of the Beangstieg. It became evident, at least to the man, the monster was somehow reaching through the rock as if to say, "if you do not come to meet me, to face your fate, I have other ways to defeat you. I will devour you in your nothingness."

"Am I losing my mind?" the man wondered.

And he was running out of the precious lamp oil, and food.

The man began to ask himself what would be the worst that could happen if he ventured out to recapture the remainder of a life that seemed a lifetime away. He could die, certainly, at the hands of a foe he had once evaded and nearly defeated. At the very least he might plummet again into the abyss the Beangstieg wished for him, caught in an everlasting web of self loathing, where the creature would slowly drain the life from every fiber of his body and soul.

It was then he began to hear the other voice. This was a kind, gentle voice emanating from the cave's entrance. He turned to face this voice and saw an ethereal being, exquisite in its translucent radiance.

"Are you an angel?" he heard himself ask the being.

"I am what you need me to be if you have the courage to accept me as a gift from The Universe. I am now, yet have been in your past and am in your forever. I am but a guide to a future of your own creation if you are only willing to dream, want, seek and see more than what you have now," said the light.

"What do I need to do," he finally said after what seemed hours.

"Write down where you see yourself in your most cherished future," was the reply.

"But I have no pen or paper."

"Write it on the wall. Use the rock of your cave as your pen, the walls of your cave as your medium. Make it real. Make it permanent. Your heart and soul shall lead you along this path."

As he finished the laborious task of carving his dreams for a future he had never before dared to imagine and how he might get there, stone to stone on the far side of the cave, similar carvings appeared covering the eastern portion of the cave in which he had spent hiding. There they were, carved in countless languages, the hopes and yearnings of what seemed to be hundreds who had come before him in that little space.

He asked the light, "Were all these people fleeing the Beangstieg like me?"

He turned around. The angel was gone.

The man looked around, smiled and felt a teardrop trickle down his cheek landing precariously on the corner of his mouth. He knew what he had to do. He had to leave that cave. He now had dreams. He now had somewhere he knew he needed to be and it was no longer THAT CAVE. He had a life to live.

"But what about the beast?" he thought. He reached for his sword which had served him well, but not well enough, in his battles against the Beangstieg. He grasped the hilt and once again experienced the deadly power of the long leveraged blade in his hand and how savagely lethal it felt. He had been a warrior against a deadly foe for so long, battling bravely against certain death. He had prevailed for a time where others had failed.

He placed the sword against the stone wall beneath the carving he had just completed and proceeded to the cave's entrance. He knew he had to devise a new battle plan.

The man exited the cave. As he had expected, there IT was, the beast, the Beangstieg, waiting, its claws deployed, its fangs dripping with anticipation of its next feast. The man could feel the roar of the beast and smelled its putrid breath as he passed closely by. To the man, the Beangstieg was no longer an obstacle. It was now a gatekeeper to his most cherished future. 

There he stood, within a sword's length of the monster and awaited his fate, his transcendence to a life he had never imagined before the angel appeared.

"Hold fast," a voice within him whispered.

It was the angel.

The Beangstieg in its battle stance saw the man had no weapon. It became perplexed, then enraged at the audacity of this puny being thinking it had any power to withstand the inevitable mortal blow. The beast propelled its claws toward the man's jugular. This would be a simple nick to the artery to begin a slow, weakening flow of blood, bringing its victim to his knees once again before its master.

"This human needs to be taught a lesson," reasoned the Beangstieg.

The claws met their target and the monster felt the brutally satisfying blades-through-butter sensation it always felt when bringing down its victims. It waited to watch for the inevitable buckling of the knees, the look of despairing horror of another brought back under its control.

The man stood, unflinching.

The beast swung again, and again to no effect. Feeling only wisps of putrid air passing across his face the man had no response to the attacks, there was no need. He would no longer be a pawn to the wishes and pull of the beast's enticements. He would no longer feed the Beangstieg's insatiable appetite for other's lives, at least not his own. Slowly the monster tired, and became weak with exhaustion. It's knees buckled, a look of perplexed horror crossed its visage.

The man watched as the beast began to transform into nothingness. At this transformation a black putridity left his body, causing him to lurch. The man fell to one knee, his right-hand fist on the ground, eye level to the dying evil being.

"I am done with you," shouted the man with a strength he had not felt in years.

The monster breathed its last.

The Beangstieg, defeated and vanquished, disappeared, leaving only a small dark remnant on the ground before the man.

"I did it," thought the human, who felt a strength return to his body he had not felt in years. He turned to look toward an unknown but exciting future, an adventure he knew would be both exhilarating and sometimes terrifying. In the far distance he saw what he thought at first was a hallucination. As he walked toward the vision he realized what he was seeing.

"It's the hundreds!" he cried out loud in his amazement.

And leading them was the Angel.

At the feet of the angel were three gifts from those who had gone before: a compass, a walking stick, and, his sword.

As he held the last gift he looked at the angel curiously.

"To make your way through the thick brush and hedgerow should you become lost," the being said with a gentle smile.

The man turned and made his way through the hundreds who began to slowly vanish as they seemed at the same time to follow him. He was heartened to see his family and friends among the multitude, smiling, encouraging.

This would be his journey to embrace but at that moment he realized he would never be alone. As he looked back at the cave, his heart leapt with excitement and a strange sense of melancholy. Returning his gaze to the opposite direction toward which the angel, the hundreds and his family and friends had escorted him, the man took a quick glance at the compass.

"That way," he said.

And so it begins.

. . . keep coming back

"My will for you is not harsh or unpleasant. It is gentle and perfectly tailored to your unique needs. Do  not fear my direction. I am your heart's happiest guide." ~ Julia Cameron, Answered Prayers: Love Letters from the Divine

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hold On Tight To Your Dream

"Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind" ~ Mick Jagger, Keith Richards - "Ruby Tuesday"
Author J. K. Rowling is quoted as saying, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." This is profound insight from one of the most prolific and imaginative authors of our time. When I first read this while preparing for this chapter my first thought was she must be downplaying the power of dreams. When I reread the quotation I hoped she was allowing for dreams, perhaps just not the overly obsessive fixation on these to the extent that one would become catatonic and forget to keep moving.

Often as parents we are confronted with obstacles borne from our children's struggles. One doesn't have to be a parent of an addict to know this. Our children are our greatest treasures, the most significant gifts of our lives. As parents of addicts these obstacles can seem to move with us, a constant in-your-face reminder of the what might have beens before The Addiction planted itself firmly in the path of our babies' maturation.

It's like a hedgerow on rails, or more like an army defending its boundaries.

It can be disheartening at best, at worst, a relentlessly deflating dream crusher.

Our sons and daughters may in some subconscious way wish to be the absolute focus of our lives. We know, of course, it is The Addiction driving the need as it does with so many of our children's priorities. What they don't always realize is much of our attention is, and has been for months, years, or decades devoted to their disease. They just don't always see it  - except for those brief moment of clarity when The Addiction temporarily loses it grip on our babies.

What we don't see, always, is the loosening of our hold on our dreams, our hopes and wishes for ourselves. When we let go of our dreams to devote more than is necessary to fixing our children, rather than what is needed to show them our undying, unequivocal love for them, The Addiction has won, and our children get the message they are incapable - of anything.

When we hold on tight to our dreams and pursue those aspirations we may have put aside to concentrate on perhaps literally saving our children we become sherpas to our children's journeys. When we go for it, when we dig deep and look inside ourselves for those talents, drives and passions we have denied ourselves our lives open to extraordinary possibilities. It's modeling on a grand scale, a lighthouse beacon nobody can be blind to.

Write down what you have been denying yourself for too long. Find a book to set your course (mine was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron), try something you said you could NEVER  - an awful word to purge from our vocabularies - accomplish (mine was the marathon).  Take a pathway the Great Creator, the Universe is beckoning you to try. This may be the greatest adventure of your life. You will awaken a spirit within, continuing that journey to becoming that complete, REAL human being we all strive to be.

And ya' know what? It might just be fun!

"Things are only impossible until they're not." ~ Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard - Star Trek, The Next Generation
"When you get so down that you can't get up... When you're so downhearted and misunderstood ... Hold on tight to your dream." ~ Jeff Lynn - "Hold On Tight To Your Dream"

. . . keep coming back 

Monday, July 31, 2017

El Capitan of Our Children's Recoveries

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." ~ Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks 
We are all on various stages of recovery, from the tar pits, cloud forests and primordial stews of our initial crawl out of ours and our loved ones' vortices, to views from peaks and plateaus of what our lives can be if we continue to SEEK and SEE our own true REAL. Our children too are traveling their own pathways, winding in and out of THE ADDICTION'S grasp, battling with it and their personal demons of self doubt, negativity and isolation.

For our children in recovery, for those who have come to the realization they cannot and will not continue to live lives dictated by THE ADDICTION, their journey may seem almost complete. They are, it would seem, on a path to those vistas we have hoped and prayed they would enjoy someday.

It's a nice thought to believe they're on their way. While I like to think of a parent's journey as one with many uphills, down hills, twists and turns with breathtaking flora and fauna along the way (kind of like a marathon), our children's recovery, once begun, is a shock to them.
"OK, I've made my decision to take back my life, so now what the hell do I do?"
I'm not a trail runner, rock or mountain climber. I do not have the inner ear, or maybe even the cojones for either. So when I was searching for ideas for this chapter I had to research the whole climbing experience from the top down. It was then I happened upon the quotation above:
"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."
"That's it!" I thought. This encapsulates the journey of the recovering addict, or at least what I have seen from a parent's perspective.

Finally getting to that peak exhilaration of life out of the vortex' pull must be to the addict like the adrenaline rush of the mountain climber as he or she ascends to the top of a chosen summit.

But what goes up, must come down, the challenge isn't finished until it's finished. The mountain climber looks down, says, "OK, here I go," and begins the descent. There's no chopper awaiting to whisk him off the precipice, no wings to become grounded, safe and secure from et montem istum to terra firma.

It's daunting, terrifying. Looking down to the relief of solid ground and the steps, possible missteps, slips and unsecured finger and toe holds to get there, it's no wonder many of our children in recovery go clean, then stall, remain stagnant, and pause.

Sometimes they pause for a long time.

Moving down that mountain requires baby steps, a skill their recently drug-ravaged brains don't yet possess in their grey-matter arsenal. We can help with words of encouragement or even by offering a temporary place for encampment on the peak. But temporary is a relative term and can become just another roadblock on the pathway. It's just not safe up there, forever.

There's a storm coming for sure. Get off that mountain - NOW!

Have you seen the movie Everest?

We can step in by asking where they want to be in a year or six months and how they're going to get there. They know, they already have a plan in their heads on how to get down off that mountain peak. They're either waiting for that chopper that's never coming (parent rescue) or are convinced the descent must be immediate, a dangerous impossibility. The baby steps are the oxygen tanks they'll need along the way and the bivouacs for much needed respites on their journey.

They prepared their way during the ascent. It's all there awaiting them, the oxygen canisters, the outcroppings on the vertical cliffs.

It's just that first step that's a doozy, the commitment to value themselves above THE ADDICTION. What they don't realize is that once they begin the descent there's no turning back, and each step will build on the next in a cascade of increasing self worth and self love.

Now, where was that last toe hold?

. . . keep coming back

"Rob, you've gotta get moving. You've gotta come on down." ~ Jan Arnold to husband Rob Hall  - Everest The Movie

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Our Persian Flaws

"Perfection itself is imperfection." ~ Vladimir Horowitz
"Now I ain't saying that I'm perfect, 'cause I'm not. And I ain't gonna never be. None of us are. ~ Wood Harris as Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans
We parents of addicts and recovering addicts are not perfect - none of us. That my friends is a certainty, one of just a few certainties in life that can be counted on to to be testable, provable and repeatable. We have used the scientific method numerous times to test this hypothesis and proven it to be true and without knowing it, have countless time ignored the lab results (life) and pursued more testing to disprove the reality.

We have repeatedly attempted by striving for some sort of state of parental perfection to turn the momentum of oncoming Addiction tsunami.

Look where that got us.

Do you remember the muck and slime of the cloud forest?

Too many times we have pushed ourselves hard to attain some level of perfection as if this might avert continuation of our sons' and daughters' dance with The Addiction. We compared our parenting with others' methods as if there was a correlation between our best efforts as parents and our children's dive into their vortex.

How arrogant we were to think that we might ever become some sort of perfect human beings and by somehow accomplishing this impossibility, control and cure the disease of addiction.

The Persians had it right.

Centuries ago Persian rug makers became known for their beautifully intricate carpets which chronicled their lives, trials and tribulations. Even today this tradition, passed along through countless generations to retain a certain perfection in the weaving and dying processes, produces the beautiful wool masterpieces we can find in upscale boutiques and the most revered museums.

With all the intricacy of these seemingly flawless works of art the Persians believed only God or a higher power was perfect in all aspects. For this reason they would intentionally place flaws into the carpet as they wove.

These carpets would often take years to complete and would require the efforts of many community members. Only the rug makers, or those well versed in the process would know where the flaws resided, how many existed or if, in the minds of the creators, the mistakes diminished or amplified the beauty of their creation.

As far as I am concerned, these Persian Flaws, even unseen, become the true heroes of these carpets. The flaws represent a sense of the makers' awe of everything the Great Creator has bestowed upon all of us and a deep humility even in the face of their seeming perfect creations.

Why then do we believe we have the ability to weave perfection into our lives as we stumble through our own life recovery, or we can through some sort of flawless lifestyle lead our children out of their morass.

Just like the Persian rugs it is our imperfections that make us the beautiful human beings the Great Creator meant for us to be. It is through our imperfections that our true humanity shows through. We know the imperfections are there. Unlike the rug makers we do strive to become better human beings by making small, almost unnoticeable changes to better ourselves, yet many of those imperfections will remain. Couples fall in love with the little flaws in their mate's makeup. Our children struggling with their own feelings of low self worth look to us as beacons of hope for their eventual recovery as we live our lives to the fullest. The last image they need to see is one of some smug, arrogant self-proclaimed perfect being leading the way.

They do not need to see an unattainable goal as their recovery endgame.

They see us, with all our imperfections, living the best possible lives we can, striving to become REAL, and perhaps, never quite getting there.

As we progress along our recovery journeys we know our flaws are there. Surely, some we need to expunge, those knots in our lives that simply get in the way of living, those noticeable recurring, twisted life threads everyone, including us (eventually) can see. Yet as we continue our pilgrimage toward becoming the truest most REAL humans, parents, friends and lovers we can be, remember perfection is best left for the gods and their creations. The quest is the thing. As our children struggle they will notice our journey too includes encounters with our deepest demons. They will see us stubbornly persist, reaching plateaus even we thought unattainable.

They know our imperfections are there. Hell, they've know us all their lives. We can become an inspiration rather than self-righteous preachers of recovery. We are beautiful, flawed Human Beings. They'll see that in us, smile, or even laugh at our expense. And that's OK.

Perhaps then, they will give themselves a chance to feel the same about themselves, breathe, and take those next trepidatious steps toward their own, REAL lives.

Our flaws, like those in the Persian rugs, make us better human beings, more REAL - better, brighter beacons of hope.

So what shall we weave today?

. . . keep coming back

"Lighten up, Francis." ~ Platoon Leader Sgt. Hulka to Psycho, Stripes 1981

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Joy Trail Found

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." ~ Emily Dickinson
By now many of you know I am a marathoner. It's something I am proud of as part of my recovery journey. For me, running and training for a goal race is fun and I will continue this as long as it remains enjoyable and as long as my arms and legs remain attached to the rest of my body.

So far, so good.

In February of 2017, I wrote about The Joy Trail. Today I wish to share my story of a joy trail found.

We're in between official training from our last marathon to the next. For most of us who run together our marathon training will resume in late June and finish anywhere from October through December depending on the race chosen. I selected the Memphis St. Jude marathon last year, an early December date involving a long, grueling 5 months of training that I believe left many of us overtrained, but that's not important - again, as I will from time time, I digress. This year wifey and I have chosen a race midway through the summer/fall marathon season, the November 4 Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. It will be fun and certainly less hilly than the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon I completed in May!

During this down time some of us continue to run, less often for most of us, less miles and certainly the runs are done less vigorously. We do this because it is fun for us and quite frankly for me at least, I don't want to show up at the marathon training kickoff meeting looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and I surely don't want my body to forget how to run long distances.

I can't imagine starting the marathon training journey all over again, wondering if I'm up for a long Saturday morning run. Now THAT would NOT be fun!

Running alone is okay but running with people who I've come to know and love through this marathon training thing is the best. Our training team has gotten through a lot and supported each other in victories and defeats, tears and jubilations. We are a tight-knit group of very slow but determined runners. Completing 26.2 miles has that effect on people.

A few weeks ago I began to send emails out to my fellow Lanterne Rouge teammates to schedule Saturday morning runs - if you're not a fan of cycling and don't know what Lanterne Rouge means Google it if you want a chuckle. This is totally out of my comfort zone but as with most everything I have done as part of my journey to burst through my inhibitions and past tendencies, these emails have been a blast. Plus, I've been able to do these Saturday runs with other crazy marathoners!

These are smaller group runs since many of our teammates stay close to home for their maintenance runs, don't necessarily want to start early in the morning as we do when in full-bore training, and many are on vacation.

On a recent 6 miler on Memorial Day morning I and a fellow Lanterne Rouger were completing mile 4 of a 6 mile loop when we approached a group of three walkers on the trail. As I do on these trails I made eye contact with one of the three  - the youngest in this case -  and said hello. My running partner and I were at that very moment signaled by our Garmin watches to begin a one-minute walk interval which we do when training, so we of course began talking to the three - or one of the three to be more precise.

I quickly ascertained the younger man was of Middle Eastern descent and asked the terribly politically incorrect question because that's who I am:

"Where are you from?"

"Iran," he answered. "These are my parents. They just came from Iran to visit me."

"Wow," I said. "Welcome."

"Yes, welcome," said my running partner.

Both of our messages were quickly translated from son to mother and father. Broad smiles followed.

And this would be the extent of our contact with three people from the other side of the world, from totally distinct cultures and ideologies. Our Garmins were chirping at us to resume running.

We explained the lunacy of interval training and bid a fond goodbye to our new-found friends - or so we thought.

As the two of us transitioned to running, we were astonished to see mother and son following stride for stride. We talked about the world, about how David, the son, had lived in numerous countries and states and cities and found our little Midwestern city his favorite. As if we were on a satellite feed we would say something to mom, would wait for David to translate to Farsi and then, receive her response translated to English. These two actually pushed us beyond our planned pace but that was just fine, The magic of this moment surpassed any maintenance training goals we might have had for that day.

At mile 6 we explained we needed to stop, parted company and turned to walk the half-mile to our cars. As we approached the parking lot we passed dad who flashed us a huge smile, something everybody everywhere does in the same way.

We left the park that day buoyed by this magical training run. I added this to the many "reasons why I run" and we agreed, if the world only operated the way this encounter of cultures transpired over the mile and half at this little park in St. Louis Missouri, we would all be better for it.

Privately, I also truly believe both of us were grateful to have allowed this miracle mile and one-half to transpire. On that day we ignored our shared tendency to fixate on the task at hand (training) and let go to let the moment happen. Miracles are happening all around us. They're happening at our workplace, the grocery, the cafe, at home - everywhere.

Take the time, the next time a miracle approaches, or you literally run into it, to recognize it, stop what you're doing and embrace the opportunity.

It' may only be less than a mile and a half out of your way.

. . . keep coming back

"If you smile at me I will understand, 'cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language." ~ Wooden Ships, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Paul Kantner