Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Unexpected Miracle, And Hula Hoops

"And we are put on Earth a little space | That we may learn to bear the beams of love."  ~ William Blake
When I learned I was to be a grandfather I was reluctant to accept the banner. Not that I had any say in the matter, this baby was going to arrive on its own schedule no matter my misgivings about taking on the new role. My reservations had little to do with any responsibilities grandfathering might bring. I was simply not old enough to be called "grandpa" by anyone, much less this new person with whom I had no history!

"How's it feel that you're going to be a grandpa?" I was asked, repeatedly.

"Old," would be my response.

This all changed when she was presented to us outside the delivery room, a beautiful swaddled little flower with a head of thick, jet-black hair.

She continues to bloom, this flower, her hair now strawberry blond like her mother's. On that day, June 3rd, my journey would become broadened, richer. On that day the Universe extended it's hands and provided me a gift I would not be aware of for some time. This gift, this miracle would unfold before me as gently and unhurriedly as this baby would begin to grow and embrace the love, the life and the world surrounding her.

We were building a history together. I became a rapt spectator to her every move, each new word she would say, every new song she would sing.

And one day she called me, "Grandpa!" as I was met at her door, she running to me, all her tiny arms, hands and fingers wrapped around my neck.

I was GRANDPA. I had arrived.

I soon discovered the secret to grandparenting stumbling upon this almost by accident. I quickly found myself falling in love with this little blossom through observation, not interaction. I took note of her laughter, glimpses of her interactions with her father, our son, witnessed her meltdowns, pathetic sadnesses as if she had the weight of the world upon her two-year old shoulders. I watched as her parents attempted to redirect her defiance - sometimes successfully.

"This is so funny, observing this," I would muse. "This is so karmic. This is Universal payback for the Sturm und Drang our kids had so generously gifted us during their adolescence."

How small-minded this thinking was. The Universe isn't petty. The Universe isn't interested in payback. The Universe is about learning, it is about doorways to opportunities and awareness as a pathway to growth and happiness.

Time passed and I still wasn't getting it. I began to watch our granddaughter as she, even at age 2, was stretching the boundaries of toddler propriety. I began to keep a non judgemental watch on our son as he attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to reign in one of God's freest and fiercest spirits. I began to realize I was missing the point, I was missing the beauty before me by concentrating on the irony, not the joy of my granddaughter.

One day a friend on a similar journey as ours mentioned a secret that had served her well through years of recovery as a parent of an alcoholic.

"I just stay in my own hula hoop," she shared.

This was like a parting of the clouds revealing a heavenly light of understanding and epiphany. I made the leap from my friend's experience with her son to so much time wasted by not simply revelling in our granddaughter's joyfulness. I had been jumping into our son's parent hula hoop. There was a hula hoop waiting for me, emblazoned with the word GRANDPA.

I now watch our granddaughter in her quest for experience, adventure, love, understanding, not a small amount of independence and joyful laughter. I no longer jump into our son's hula hoop to share what he may be experiencing as a parent of a toddler in constant motion. Nor do I discipline or harbor any thoughts of what I might do when a parenting situation arises. This would require a leap combining 2 hula hoops, or two souls in one, a circus act detour off my journey pathway into a chasm of the absurd. I am able to experience the NOW. I do not insert myself. I simply AM with our granddaughter.

This little blossoming flower has provided a metaphor for us all as we continue our recoveries as parents of children addicted to any substance or behavior. We can choose to remain in our own hula hoops, whatever our expertise or attempt to jump into our son's or daughter's circle. It requires a lot of practice to accomplish this, jumping into our children's lives. We know practice makes perfect - perfect misery. It might even require an enlargement of the hula hoop, an expansion of the vortex into which our children have plummeted.

But now, we know. We know this. We would only be in the way.

We know inserting ourselves into our children's lives is pointless, counterproductive and insulting to their abilities.

We have our own hula-hoop momentum to maintain. It takes enough effort to keep our lives in sync without jumping into the lives of others.

There's simply no joy in it.

Who knows? Perhaps our sons will notice our delicate balancing act as we concentrate on keeping our lives moving. Our daughters may understand it is inevitably up to them to take hold of their hoop and make that first push forward to begin the magical momentum of living life.

In the meantime, stay in your own hula hoop. Close your eyes and hear the swoosh-swoosh of life in recovery. It is a sweet sound to behold.
"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." ~ Deepak Chopra
... keep coming back

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Letting It Happen - Becoming the Human Beings We Can Be - A Travelogue

"Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you." ~ Aldous Huxley
When I penned Part 1 of the Letting It Happen reflection my wife and I were preparing to send our youngest on his next great adventure - his entry into university as a college freshman. Feeling compelled to share how this hand off and our subsequent trip to the Smoky Mountains had so dramatically changed my life, I was surprised to see I had laid the groundwork for this travelogue post months before. In this adventure I would stretch personal boundaries, overcome negativity and one somewhat scary fall to move further along my own recovery pathway.
There are no coincidences, simply a universal synchronicity we MUST surrender to.
During my mired years I would never have entertained the possibility of letting go of the struggle to enjoy a quick side-trip to a far off land such as the Smokies, a realm as foreign to me as the Midwest might be to a Central African. A life-long flatlander - as I was called only once, thankfully - I would have presented a long list of reasons for not going. This list would include money, time, work considerations, self loathing, the perceived need to be there for our child, money, and a sincere belief that the "F" word, FUN, was not only unattainable, but disallowed.

A parent mired with The Addiction has neither the time, nor any entitlement to FUN.

Thankfully, this has all changed. We are, my wife and I, well along on our recovery journeys. Though moving along separate pathways, we are, again thankfully, on the same path, though often separately diverted along our way from time to time. We are human after all.

A trip to Gatlinburg after dropping our son off at his university was the perfect getaway, a five-day adventure at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We immersed. We threw ourselves into the beauty, the wonder and the splendor of the town and its surrounds almost to the point of exhaustion. My wife's exhortations to take full advantage of our brief time in the mountains became our battle cry and a frequent source of comic relief.

This trip became a metaphor for our recovery and a joyous, reflective and often lighthearted reminder of why we continue. Thankfully we were both in training for a half marathon. Gatlinburg can kick your ass. Gatlinburg is uphill, both ways.

I allowed my first impression of this new world to be be uplifting in so many ways. Gatlinburg is a very inclusive town, surprisingly so at least to me, nestled as it is in the north central region of the bible belt. The area folklore is all about stills, moonshine and bootlegging, the surrounding hills and valleys having provided perfect nook-and-cranny hideaways for the mostly eradicated grain alcohol industry. The vibe, however is more about inclusion than intoxication. Southern hospitality is everywhere inviting all to partake of a true slice of Americana whether you be American, European, Middle Eastern, African or Asian. We were among Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians. The word is out, Gatlinburg is world-friendly and embraceable, whether out of necessity or the very nature of the character of the residents. Gatlinburg is what all of us can be when we are at our best.

This was Letting Go life lesson number one learned from the hill country.

Everyone is in the same boat when existing between 1300 to 6700 feet above sea level - depending upon how much one is inclined to "embrace the climb." All of us were together in this no matter our backgrounds, journeying up and down the elevations, breathing the same rarefied air and battling gravity in measure equal to our individual wellness and fitness. Gatlinburg with its hills, ridges, slopes and vistas is the great equalizer and a gentle taskmaster to humankind!

As I mentioned previously this mini vacation was an encapsulation of where our recovery journeys have taken us. We left the exhilaration, sadness and trepidation of dropping off our youngest at university to embark on an adventure of self discovery. We pushed boundaries, explored and experienced.

On our first hike to 6600 feet, in our first mile as we began a downslope and I transitioned from the previous constant uphill I became complacent. I clipped a protruding rock with my boot and performed a headfirst slide that any major leaguer would be proud of. After being called "safe" by my wife I continued, bloodied, but better for it, better for the fall.

Thankfully, I fell on a hard bed of pebble gravel, not the baseball to SUV-size rocks and boulders we would soon be navigating. You see, the Universe will never give us more than we can take and for some reason, after my stumble the Smoky Mountains became more magnificent and joyous than I was previously willing to acknowledge.

We rode horses, not my thing, but the six-foot perch atop my selected mount provided a perspective of the ridges to the higher elevations I may never have experienced. Our second hike, twice as long as we had planned, became a lesson learned in letting go - letting go of exhaustion, negativity, resentment and competition. Limits reached for both of us on the downhill return leg of our 5-1/2 mile trek, we both gave in to the beauty of our surroundings in the misty confines of the mountains. We slowed our decent, accepted and beheld what the Great Creator had presented to us that day. We allowed other travellers, more adept at mountaineering than we, pass us by. There were those we overcame, possibly newer to the journey.

Always, knowing nods and smiles were exchanged between the fellow travellers.

Each time our return to civilization was a time for quiet jubilation. We had done it! We had travelled beyond our wildest expectations.

Personally, I had stumbled, fallen, and wore a bloody badge to remind me of how I did not, would not quit. My wife and I traversed the same paths up to and back on each of our hikes, but our journeys were markedly different. Footholds were our own, individually to choose. Routes up or down, to the right or left of rock outcroppings were very seldom the same. She, more adept at the downhills bounding down the trails like a pixie, and I more comfortable with the uphills, created an odd dichotomy that kept us both going, uphill as the air became thinner, cooler and more precious, then, downhill as we fought fatigue on the way home.

As parents of addicts it is important to remember each phase of our journey may not take us where we wish to be or where we believe we should be. If we SEEK and SEE what is truly ahead we just might find what we are looking for. We can accept our negativism and dismay, we can succumb to the struggle of the uphill climb that so often is what life brings, and then, we can look around. The splendor does truly await us.

We'll stumble, fall and learn. We'll wonder why we ever took that path, accepted that challenge, until we reach the clearing to our personal Charlies Bunion, Rainbow Falls, Clingman's Dome or return to civilization. 

Our struggles are temporary. They forever become a part of us so we may embrace and internalize what we've learned - scars and all.

Where there is life, there's hope for our children. We'll catch glimpses of each other along the switchbacks of our recovery trails. We can, by persevering, inspire them to take the path less travelled, that next step, to pick themselves up after a headlong dive back to the abyss. We can TRUST as we continue on, they too will reach their higher elevation, look down on rainbows from 6200 feet and feel the elation of seeing, finally, what The Universe has awaiting for them.

Let it happen. Let them push boundaries, explore and experience. Let them win and lose and learn. Let them stumble. Let them fall and soon, just maybe, their eyes will open to the possibilities, the splendor and wonder life can bring.

It's worth the trip!
"Life is simple, everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it, it's just easier if you do. ~ Byron Katie
... keep coming back 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Letting It Happen - Becoming the Human Beings We Were Meant to Be - Part One

"Where there is nothing right and nothing wrong, nothing 'bout weak or strong and nothing left to prove, surrender, oh please surrender, it's only us giving in to Trust." ~ "Surrender" - Peter Eldridge
Our journey is a collective quest for improvement. When we ceased living for The Addiction, so consuming of our children and our families, a void materialized.

"What do we do now?" we asked. No longer fully engulfed in the business of fixing, cajoling and controlling we found ourselves at a loss for ways to fill our waking hours.

It's like the year when my youngest progressed into high school and my coaching days were behind me. Suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands. I was forced to transform from coach dad to something else. What was my new dad life going to look like?

The same was true when I relinquished my role as controller dad, rager dad and enabler dad and began my slow crawl out my own mire I had so enjoyed with The Addiction and my son.

"Now what am I going to do? Who am I, really?" I asked myself.

So began my journey. And so begins the journey of almost all parents in recovery from the toxic relationship with our children's disease. It then becomes our journey, our quest for improvement, our militant resolve to live the lives our Great Creator meant for us. We are soon confronted with multiple decisions and countless paths to explore. The choices are complex and numerous.

Do I dare to be happy? Do I dare to be happy for an extended period of time?

Do I dare?

How dare I? Who do I think I am?

Well, that's the point, isn't it?

The journey is a sojourn to numerous wonders and places. There is no last destination along our pathway - that would be disconcerting!
"Well, here I am. I guess that's it."
As we dare to search for our best selves we may realize perhaps we have never allowed ourselves the inclination, courage or self permission to burst the boundaries of familial, societal or personal limitations. But can we? Can we TRUST in the Universe' plan for us. Can we give ourselves over to a power greater than ourselves?

Can we give in? Can we give in to TRUST?

Remember surrender? Remember how surrender got us to this place where on our knees or even face down in our own crap we reached out, or up, beaten. The triumph of our surrender lifting us from the mire, deep into and out of the vortex with our children we rose to meet a universe of possibilities. We let it happen. We didn't fight it. When confronted with the possibility of a promise from somewhere that there might just be something good up ahead we didn't know what to do. We were perplexed by the chance of the new and wonderful.

Flummoxed, we acquiesced.

Remember this first epiphany that early in our journey moved us those first few steps along our pathway. If can TRUST to embrace the courage to let every day happen we just might see more clearly the possibilities of every sunrise. When we stop fighting the positives, the challenges, the joys and despairs each day presents to us we might find our truest selves, hiding, awaiting discovery.

Who might we meet today?

... keep coming back
"To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly." ~ Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Just Get Out Of The Way - Revisited, Part Deux

"This is a guidance for each of us and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word... Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our Journey is ours to explore. We know this intellectually. Whether we detach with love or merely sidestep our children's travails, wherever we find ourselves on our recovery journeys there are often those little voices in our heads warning us of all The Bad that could or will happen to our children, or to us. These are the maddening voices that can keep us overly entwined and engaged with our children or our own self-contructed obstacles and distracted from our true pathways.

We have trampled external barriers and character defects. We have experienced the overarching power of our Higher Power, there with Universal gifts for us when we needed burdens relieved and comforts proffered, ours for the taking when we were ready.

At some juncture in our journey we have demanded this of ourselves and the Universe. We insisted on being. We eschewed the darkness and muck, and sick and tired of feeling sick and tired we branched out, extended ourselves, took roads never imagined and reinvented our thoughts and actions.

We began to believe we'd be OK. We gave ourselves the gift of knowing that we would be OK.

This is one of the greatest gifts the Great Creator has waiting for us. This is the greatest gift we can allow ourselves to accept, a pathway to a life where we are no longer getting in the way of our own recovery. We begin to realize so many of life's obstacles we have overcome were barriers of our own creation, borne from doubts for our future well being. It is almost comical, the roadblocks to our personal futures we have constructed.

Saying the words, "I'm gonna be OK," may be one of the greatest gifts to ourselves we can vocalize. Believe it, know it, own it!

Now imagine this same gift for your son or daughter. Close your eyes, imagine her lost life, see him struggling in your mind's eye. Imagine you are looking at your child, eye contact made perhaps for the first time in a while. Calmly and with true conviction you say, "You're gonna be OK."

Self doubt is a powerful enemy. Self doubt is a strong ally of The Addiction and along with shame these three unite to spawn a daunting foe. The Addiction may be a formidable adversary, yet it is not invincible.

You have given your son or daughter the gift of empowerment and validation of something they've known all along. Only they can unearth themselves from the chasm into which they have tumbled. They have tools, the ability. They've been to wilderness, to therapuetic boarding, to recovery programs. They have received a firm underpinning for life's challenges from you. They are watching you living a full life. They feel your love, even from afar.

It is up to them. Hearing good news, seeing our example of lives being lived, not simply observed, the positives The Addiction would rather keep hidden from them will at first be totally foreign to our children. But this gift, this proclamation of OK-ness has legs. It won't leave them. It will be filed and stored even if we see no immediate outward change in behavior.

They may discount our validation. They may reject the notion explicitly. But you've said it. They have heard it, the Truth of the possibility. The Addictions hates the Possible. It only wants the current, the status quo. Possibilities do not exist within the addicted mind.

The gift of you're gonna be OK  is grounded in the word gonna, the contracted version of going to, a future-tense message of movement to possibilities. Our addict, trained only to seek out the immediate fix may not immediately embrace this message. The Addiction wants our sons and daughters mired, transfixed in its spell.

You're gonna be OK implies change, movement, action. At the very least the gift may foster in our children feelings of dicontentment regarding their current situation. The Addiction loathes HOPE. Hope trumps despair and Hope might just lead our children to a desire to explore what is out there, beyond.

Who knows? It's their journey remember.

You're gonna be OK" is a message for ourselves and our children, a verbalization that we have reclaimed our selves and given our children the empowerment of directing their lives. It is the separation of duties necessary for both parties' growth and contentment.

Although we have trained ourselves to live in the NOW, the possibilities along our journey pathways keeps us moving forward to the next adventure, the next step laid out by the Great Creator to bettering ourselves and living more full and fulfilled lives.

In a quiet time, in a quiet place away from distraction we can close our eyes and breathe these words, "I'm gonna be OK, and he's gonna be OK."

It is a gift we can give ourselves. It is a blessing we can give to our children.

... keep coming back
"Maybe OK will be our always." ~ John Green, The Fault In Our Stars