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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

JuSt fOr FUn ... uNOfficially, SuMMeR, Though Not Yet Summer, Haiku

"The Earth has its music for those who will listen."  ~ George Santayana

Memorial Day
In multiple shades of tan
Khakis now allowed

When the rains subside
Chamber of Commerce days rule
Late spring in Midwest

The cooling breezes
Deceptive blue skies abound
The fooling low temps

Flowers reveling
Lawns lush, so clueless to the
Summer's heat approach

Peace in pre-summer
Belies its trues treachery
Storms will soon follow

Bluest azure skies
The Great Creator Beckons
Come to me, my loves

Your pathway awaits
Nature's best season welcomes
Take that chance and FLY!

. . . keep coming back

"Adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Fable of THE FEAR

"There's one thing that humans do better than any species we've met. When we're faced with a common threat, we put our differences aside and try to cooperate." Jonathan Archer, Star Trek, Enterprise, "United"
"So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inauguration Speech, March 4 1933
They knew it was coming. They saw it looming, or perhaps as so many would later admit, they should have. The town would soon be besieged, their peaceful existence would become a nightmare of darkness they had witnessed occur in so many neighboring communities.

Some had already been touched or besieged by the affliction. THE FEAR would soon overtake the seemingly tiny little hamlet. Although not an insignificant dot on the map - the town was actually a small city - it was large enough to be a target of the attack yet small enough that word would spread quickly as more and more of the population would be afflicted.

One by one the townspeople began to isolate. They isolated from each other, they isolated from the neighboring towns and villages and even began to withdraw from themselves, from their lives. They had been existing in a state of fear for so long many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly. They knew it was something terrible. It had to be.

It had all begun with a plague, or a similar menace. At first it afflicted the young adults, in equal measure among the boys and girls. There had been rumors about some of the youth coming back from traveling far off to unknown lands to experience something different from what they had known in their little city, only to be racked upon their return by something nobody in the town could explain.

They had been warned about venturing out to experience experiences, live lives and face their worst fears and demons the elders had told them would destroy them.

Others said it began with THEM, a group of outsiders bringing with them the NEW. They seemed to look different, talk differently, even dress differently. They tried to fit in and when the NEW realized the town was too full of THE FEAR the NEW became fearful. The NEW isolated from the townspeople who had already begun to retrench after noticing the effect the NEW was having on the youth. The youth were changing. The youth and even some of the elders were drifting away from everything the community held true and dear.

But it wasn't the NEW, it wasn't even the needs of youth to experience, to live life and sometimes in doing so to stumble desperately and despairingly into hellish vortices sometimes impossible to escape.

It wasn't actually any one thing that contributed to the crumbling of the town's culture and cohesion but once the divide began, THE FEAR saw an opportunity to pounce.

Many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly.

Now those who were directly affected saw the other townspeople moving away from them, friends would reach out but would soon grow tired of the drama THE FEAR brought with it. The families struck down were the first to feel the brunt of the effects of THE FEAR.

The rest of the city dwellers were committed to fighting the scourge. They decided they would begin an attack of everything unknown, anything odd and mostly things that would threaten what they would consider important to their values.

Even though many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly.

So they fought what they were perceiving. They began by increasing the commitment to isolation. They built walls - walls around the town, around their homes, businesses, schools. These were the walls of brick and mortar and of thought and mind and soul. And as the walls continued to rise these constructs fed THE FEAR.

Soon, on the coattails of all this, THE ANGER entered the small city and that moment, as many of the townspeople would later remember, marked the point of no return - or so they thought.

All the isolation led to disconnectedness, division, further divides and distrust among the dwellers. A dark cloud settled above the city and refused to leave. The sun never shone, the moon no longer blanketed the town with its ethereal comfort. Ideas were forgotten, imagination gave way to constant dread and consternation. The safe way became the only way - the status quo, maintaining one's current station was the only goal.

THE FEAR was winning. The townspeople became united in self interest.

This continued for months until one day one of the children of the small city began to cry. Nobody had cried since even before the dark cloud's arrival, nobody dared to. Crying meant that you cared. Crying would signal discontent regarding the current state of affairs. This would be anarchic and rebellious. Crying would signal a desire for something different than the current existence was allowing. Crying would signal a profound longing for something NEW.

Then, the crying of the child stopped. There was a silence upon the silence forced upon the city for many months, perhaps even years. This silence was one of those deafening stillnesses portending a momentous change. The wind even seemed to take a breath. The air stopped, chilled a bit. A small sliver of sunlight seemed to pierce the seemingly never-ending cloud canopy. Everyone in the town listened for what they knew would be a sign of a worsening of the darkness. They listened, and from the tallest bell tower in the town's center, they heard the words of the small child whose crying had stopped just hours before.

"I can't live like this anymore!" she called out in a low yet piercing voice that projected throughout the town.

The sight of this young soul and her courageous outpouring of a truth nobody had dared to voice began to have an effect on the people of the small city. Some too, began to cry. Some buckled in their tracks, both exhausted and relieved that someone had finally given voice to a truth most were afraid to even think about. Some smiled for the first time in many months, perhaps even years. The people of the town began to emerge from their homes, from their isolation. They began to wander, to enjoy the town's sites, the parks, beautiful still though in disrepair after the long neglect. Almost mindlessly they began to see each other for the first time in anyone's recent recollection. The NEW apprehensively peered out from their homes and saw the townspeople beckoning to join them.

You see, many of them had forgotten what they had been afraid of, exactly.

On that day there was a joining of souls for the soul purpose of living life, experiencing what is out there to be experienced, not to be avoided. The cloud lifted, and THE FEAR, with nobody engaged in devoting energy to hate, prejudice and intolerance, THE FEAR left the town.

Slowly, with not a little trepidation, the townspeople began to embrace THE NEW and a new life devoted to learning and yearning for the adventures that living life to its fullest brings. They began to trust that without depending on THE FEAR to control their lives they could survive, missteps and all. They took plunges into the unknown, leapt into new ventures and adventures, took chances, smiled, laughed and cried. They experienced victories, defeats, setbacks and breakthroughs.

They trusted in life and in each other, yet they knew THE FEAR could re-emerge at any time if they did not remain vigilant in their desire for joy, life and happiness.

In the town square stands to this day a statue commemorating the little girl who had the courage to cry out and declare she wanted more from life than any dark energy would allow. The Statue of the Crying Girl with the one tear descending her left cheek stands as a reminder for the townspeople to remain steadfast in their pursuit of both life's joys and desperations.

And with its new-found courage and commitment to embracing THE NEW, the unknown and unfamiliar, the small city never again witnessed THE FEAR enveloping their lives. The dark cloud never settled above the city and refused to leave. The daytime sun always shone with its comforting warmth and the nighttime moon forever blanketed the town with its ethereal, loving comfort.

. . . keep coming back

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." ~ Madame Marie Curie 
"Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the real path to freedom." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes


"The Jews taught me this great word. "Schmuck." I was a schmuck, and now I'm not a schmuck." ~ Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged
We all change as we progress through what we believe to be a linear timeline, as we experience our lives on this wonderful blue ball circling a bright yellow dwarf star year after year. It doesn't require an astrophysicist to measure these transformations, nor does it require catastrophic life events to trigger them. Many of us progress from uptight to laid back, conservative to liberal and back, critical to accepting, closed minded to politically correct without any massive roadblocks thrown our way such as deaths in the family or other tragedies like addiction.

It's the maturation process that comes with living life. It is a natural progression we all endure in different ways base on life lessons learned or ignored. Normally this is a slow progression played out over decades.

Those of us who have experienced the blight of addiction in our lives and our families have learned this progression must be accelerated.

Keep moving, or die.

Like many of you I was a rager. Many people who know me now find this hard to believe. I fought The Addiction toe to toe, broadsword to broadsword until exhaustion would curtail the battle so the war could be continued at another time. Not realizing my energy expended to end the rule of The Addiction in my son's life only intensified its power over him I battled in our home and even on the streets in plain view of terrified onlookers. I disposed of paraphernalia and pot, physically forced drug tests on my addict son and engaged The Addiction in order to fix my son, all the while not knowing our baby was crying inside, overtaken by the vortex.

For the longest time I didn't know I had to change to live, even when this realization was placed directly ahead of me on my journey, I had no idea I was traveling on a pathway deeper and deeper into the abyss.  I chose to ignore this. The signposts were invisible in the fog and cloud forest of my creation. I was pushing my wife, my family, my life, away. I was so angry at my son for upsetting the family applecart and hurling it over the precipice, I began to fight everyone who might help me find a way out. I resisted every offer of assistance ignoring angels sent by the Universe. Fortunately for me, for all of us, The Universe doesn't give up easily. The Great Creator smiles on us as we struggle, knowing our time will come.

I had nowhere else to go. I gave up, stopped fighting The Addiction on its own terms and like the first collection of cells that crawled out of the primordial soup countless millennia ago I began a journey for which I had no direction, no goal. I just knew there was life out there for me if I only trusted what I couldn't understand.

Move or die.

Trust the unknown. Follow the signposts, believe in and listen to the angels you find along the way. Don't be afraid to accept the gifts that are there for the taking if you can only believe you are never alone in your journey. Accept that you can change. The transformation that awaits you is nothing short of a miracle. Actually, it IS a miracle.

It's a lot more fun than being a schmuck. Believe me, I know.

. . . keep coming back

"For that one fraction of a second you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping the stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence."  ~ Q, to Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation, "All Good Things, Part II"
"The louder our world today is, the deeper God seems to remain in silence. Silence is the language of eternity. Noise passes." ~ Gertrud Von Le Fort

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Minutiae

"Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." ~ Chuang Tzu
Spring brings with it the smallest of nuances, the most gradual changes and spectacularly slow transitions. It can be the most subtle of seasons. Spring teaches us to pay attention and if we don't, we'll miss it altogether and suddenly summer will be upon us.

We have many parks and trails where I live and on a most recent run I turned off the main pathway to a nature loop through a wooded area. When in its fullest majesty this detour can only be described as the U.S. Midwest's answer to a European medieval greenwood. The last time I had entered the loop I remember wondering to myself when the rebirth would begin. This time I was greeted to an explosion of emerald, hunter, sea, moss, shamrock and a million other sub-shades of green.

I am grateful to have been struck by the wonder of the renewal, that I was not so concerned with pace or how each of my muscles, tendons and ligaments were feeling that I totally missed the show. The next act will be the return of blooms of blue-purple across the expanse of green creeping foliage.

It will be a sight to see. I will make it a point to take in the eruptions of colors and sounds of life renewing.

I will make it a point to take in the minutiae of these moments. We can all share these with those on similar journeys, especially with our children who are trying their best to find any way out of the vortex of The Addiction.

This post was actually prompted by three helium balloons in a coffee shop - really! I am certain I had walked past this display dozens of times without noticing. We have become overcome and numbed by such marketing calls to action. This time I was struck by the oddly bizarre simplicity of this attention grab, three sealed vessels of acetate painted with retro blue, pink and yellow flowers and held aloft by lighter-than-air helium. This attempt to portray coffee as a harbinger of Spring provided an early morning chuckle, something we all need from time to time. I assume the designers of the display didn't have this result in mind but I am grateful for their efforts.

Sometimes our heads can be spinning with so many thoughts and worries and hurries, fears and forebodings we forget to look around to take in this crazy beautiful world manifested for us by the Great Creator. Our attention can be so wrapped up in the immediate, or what we believe to be of greatest concern we ignore the small gifts and oddities surrounding us.

Seeing the minutiae of the world, taking the time to dissect the cacophony of the sights and sounds all around allows us to see our world in entirely new ways. We learn then to wait with anticipation for the next surprise, miracle or gift to come our way. We learn to pay attention, to SEEK and SEE, to listen rather than speaking, to accept the immediacies the Universe is ready to bestow on us to take us to our next level, that new plateau, the progression we are meant to take to becoming more REAL than we ever thought we could be.

Here's to seeing what we see every day in multiple contexts, observing beyond the obvious and accepting the gifts in plain site and masterfully concealed as signposts along our way.

Those little blue flowers are just one rainfall, a bit of sunshine and a turn to some warmer weather away.

I can't wait. Can you?

. . . keep coming back
"Pay attention, don't let life go by you. Fall in love with the back of your cereal box." ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Feeling The Sadnesses

"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens." ~ Khalil Gibran
We've just about had it about the sadnesses, haven't we? We've had enough of pain, suffering, the recollections of the might have beens, the if onlys. We've experienced in our lives as parents of addicts more pain and suffering than one person should in a lifetime, yet we have persevered and broken through the barriers, of our own creation, to happiness. Even so, we often look upon our children in the thrall of The Addiction or even our children in recovery and feel their pain, our pain, once again.
Etymological side note: Thrall is derived from the Old English thrœl, meaning "Slave."
It's our first inclination to push these sadnesses to the side, not in ignorance of them but to feel, briefly, the pain and immediately fahgetaboutit. Their pain is not our pain we have learned. We have learned to replace the pain and catatonic state The Addiction would have us wallow in with an undying love for our children and a constant motivation to keep moving, living our lives to our fullest potential.

The sadness never happened.

The pain won't get us anymore.

This, like our instinctive reaction to The Addiction's siren calls can become our go-to response to any of life's challenges or even minor, troubling interruptions in our normal routines.

This is NOT good. We're not Vulcans. One of our many wonderful characteristics that make us so marvelously human is our ability to feel emotion, truly absorb the effects and then ... learn, and move on. We know we have truly grown and taken those many steps to becoming REAL when we can experience pain, sadness, take it in, recognize its origin and in a way smile at our self realization and our priceless vulnerabilities.

Sometimes the sadnesses don't bring us to our knees or buckle us in our tracks as did the first realizations brought by The Addiction, but are simply felt as loving, emotional responses deep within our core being.

I experienced one of these sadnesses recently just prior to one of my marathon training, Saturday morning long-slow-distance runs (with 250 or so of my closest friends). My wife would be running a half marathon trail race the next day so she would not be joining me in this particular Saturday workout. As I pulled into the parking space I felt an emptiness. I missed my wifey being there. For some strange reason I was immediately grateful for this sadness and even more grateful I was able to feel it. The sadness was soon replaced by a joy born from all we had been through and how our love had prevailed - through it all. This sadness brought me to a higher plane, to a plateau from which I could view my life from a perspective of contentment.

I rocked the training run!

The sadnesses will come and go - give yourself the permission to feel them. You may find yourself confronted with sadnesses seemingly unrelated to your children who have succumbed to The Addiction. Or are they unrelated? It doesn't really matter.

Don't fear these sadnesses as they arrive - feel them without overthinking, embrace them, take them in. There are reasons the sadnesses find you.

You might be surprised where these little awarenesses will take you.

Enjoy the view!

. . . keep coming back


"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."  ~ Thornton Wilder


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Do You Believe In Miracles?

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ~ Albert Einstein
A friend of mine recently FaceBook-shared the video of the last two minutes of the US Olympic hockey team victory over the Russian squad at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. This brief historical playback continues to send chills up and down my spine 37 years later. For those of us around the world who witnessed it, Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" call with three seconds left is an enduring part of our collective, global memory. The United States was firmly embedded in a crisis situation and needed a boost, something to lift our spirits and mend our collective soul.

The boost came from an unexpected source. The boost came from a bunch of college kids with attitude and an average age of 21, the youngest team in U.S. Olympic history and the youngest team in the Olympic tournament.

It was truly a Miracle on Ice.

No one saw this miracle coming. And that's just it about miracles. If we're not careful, if we're not aware, believing in them and SEEKING miracles, they can come and go without us ever noticing. Not every miracle has a world stage on which to play and a world-class announcer to interpret what we're witnessing, what we are living in a moment, as a miracle.

Parents of addicts don't often interpret what they are experiencing as the universal phenomenons meant to move us, miraculously, along our own recovery pathways. We are often embedded in crisis situations from which we desperately need a boost. We need our spirits lifted, our souls mended. We can become blinded to the miracle.

The discovery and acceptance by a parent of an addict's plunge into addiction is a miracle as much as the addict's sincere admission of "I just can't live like this anymore." Every stage along our pathway isn't always concomitant with joy and happiness, the daisies and butterflies or momentous moments we often associate with the miraculous. Miracles can be BIG instants in time or small and seemingly insignificant, or even totally unrelated to our journey - or so it may seem.

I remember after having missed so many miracles along my pathway a friend suggested I consider buying a book on writing. The miracle wasn't the friend's suggestion or the book. The miracle was that I, a life-long procrastinator and self diminisher would for some unknown reason immediately SEEK out this book and dive into a 12-week creativity course, changing my life forever.

So let's get back to the 1980 Winter Olympics and those crazy upstart Americans and their oppressively solemn coach Herb Brooks. It was certainly a miracle that Brooks was chosen as coach, that the players were able to endure his relentlessly endless practices - that gave them an insanely high third period scoring differential - without imploding. It was a miracle they beat a talented Russian team. These miracles were important, certainly, but had the journey ended the day that impossible victory was achieved those miracles would not have been so memorable.

The true miracle is they had to do it all over again the next day - and they did.

Miracles build on themselves. Miracles are not to be taken lightly or when experienced, to be considered a final reward for our attentiveness. Miracles are often accompanied by angels pointing us along our way and reminding us there are miracles beyond our limited realities, to look beyond the immediate. Miracles are a speedway to the next adventure, the next path along the journey. Miracles are that slingshot effect around whatever obstacle we may have been experiencing, whatever roadblock that had previously impeded our progress.

Miracles are are not a final destination but a gateway to our most exciting and beautiful NEXTS!

As Herb Brooks said, "Great moments are born from great opportunities."

We and our children all have great moments to create, great opportunities to embrace and miracles to fully experience, appreciate and utilize as The Universe wishes us to. It's our gold medal for the taking.

Take it. Then keep moving!

. . . keep coming back

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." ~ C.S. Lewis