Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When the Rain Falls

Reminiscences from a Midwest deluge, written in July 2015...
"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It has been an unusually rainy early summer here in the U.S. Central Midwest. It has rained uncontrollably while forest fires rage in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. This contradiction has not been lost on us and as if to punctuate the schizophrenic nature of weather patterns the jet stream one day brought the fires' combustion our way, coloring our skies an eerie Dijon-mustard yellow brown before more rain came to wash away the haze. We all were asking ourselves, "What the hell is next?"

We have had more rain than Seattle. I've begun to imagine I have been temporarily transported to the birthplace of Grunge, the home of coffee as a birthright and the Space Needle, though I've yet to find a farmer's market nearby where salmon are tossed like rugby quancos for the enjoyment of the tourists. I have learned to relish the rain as it arrives, often in sheets followed by steady, soaking downpours.

I've never been to New Zealand but I imagine our region looks much like the land of Kiwi Russell Crowe, that is, except for its mountains, coastlines, fjords and imposing rock faces.

Much of the Central Midwest has been transformed to a verdant sea of green - and only green. Our flora eagerly await the sun for rebirth, blooms and petals having been struck down by the torrents of the past few weeks. It is as if a swarm of locusts have descended upon our gardens to strip away the succulent colors we anticipated during the grays of winter. It has been a season of contradictions, flash floods here as we watch the news of our neighbors to the Northwest battle against devastating firestorms. Nature, as Nature will, deceived us with Fall-like weather in June followed by these buckets-full of H2O to take GREEN to new and spectacular levels of so many shades, virescents,  glaucous green, jade, pea, a pantone-matching-system color wheel of emerald delights.

It has rained and poured, for days over days over days. Fed by tropical storms, the eternal battle of north-south weather patterns, front against front, high pressure versus low, Mother Nature has us imprisoned in a seemingly eternal vortex of wet and wetter with no escape in sight.

This is when I notice my recovery journey kicking in.

I accept the rain in my own way, envisioning as I trample through puddles I am transported to a far-off land of everlasting rainfall. Walks taken between storms, especially through wooded areas take on a mystical aura. I am noticing things previously ignored, like the gaps and clogs in gutters I had been so conveniently disregarding for who knows how long.

We in the Midwest are facing a stress test of our resolve to remain positive, to adapt, perhaps change, and keep moving.

Many are being tested beyond human endurance, beyond what one could imagine any human spirit can withstand. There have been levies failing, lives and homes uprooted. For these, the metaphor of mystical places and transportation to exotic locales is unfelt. For these the rain has brought with it a struggle for survival.

Does any of this sound familiar?

As we approach the midpoint through July the rain has gone, dark clouds have been replaced by blue skies, the long-awaited blooms are once again atop previously naked stems. We're anticipating midwestern summer normalcy: heat alerts, drought-like conditions, occasional pop up summertime thunderstorms.

The front has moved eastward toward Kentucky where the governor has issued a state of emergency for the Bluegrass State. I am certain aid will be on its way from those just weeks away from enduring the storms. It's what we do as a society, as humanity. Deluge is a shared experience we cannot ignore.

I've learned a lot about rain as a parent of a child whose life has been overtaken by addiction. Rain is inevitable, and brings with it The Good, as well as The Bad. We can learn to SEEK and SEE what is positive when the rain falls. We can choose to see puddles as inconveniences or splash through rain's imprisoned issue like our three-year-old granddaughter as she runs through her "muddy puddles". We can watch in awe the majesty of curtains of moisture released from the heavens rather than cursing the interruptions to our daily lives the rains bring. We do not ignore the decimation constant downpours may bring. We just don't, and can't obsess about it.

The rain will move on to bring new challenges and vistas - and so must we. The rain will leave us so we may experience new dawns and renewed possibilities. There is beauty, wonder and splendor in the rain along with the destruction and sorrow it can bring. The rain can devastate but it can also cleanse and purge preparing the way for new growth, magnificent colors and best of all, hope and rebirth.

When the next front approaches and our lives go into Storm Mode we can become shuttered and isolated or watch and learn about our ourselves and the world around us, We can no more stop our children's missteps or further dives into The Addiction than we can an approaching storm front. [Visualize that absurd image for a minute.] By looking to the beauty of our children and not blaming them for what The Addiction has brought them to we just might see once again the majesty of our boys and girls.

We can learn to look past the deluge to find those muddy puddles of joy, still and deep within our children. We can move on as the storm will - eventually.

There's blue skies - comin' our way!

... keep coming back
"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Let It Go, Let It Happen

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. ~ Thomas Merton
The following was written in stream of consciousness - sort of - one draft, no edit ... 

Today we buried my mother in law which elicited a whole slew of feelings and reminiscences not the least of which is the memory of hearing my mom had died by a phone call from the bank. You might say this explains a lot if you knew me better than you do. You all know me from these pages and that is all. I am happy to say I am a bit deeper than what you witness here, the sum of my parts do not begin and end with the My Parent Depot postings but a lot here points you to how I got to where I am today. 

But this is and should never be about me it is about us and if it ever does become solely about me  - which would make for some terribly boring and tiresome reflections - you have my permission to contact the blog police to put all of us out of our collective misery.

My mother-in-law's funeral and my subsequent same-day decision to write my stream of consciousness blog is not a coincidence. As we all know there are no coincidences in life, simply the Universe' way of directing us to where we should be or who we should be with or avoiding. But this serendipity of my wife's mother's funeral and some time on my hands to begin writing again has a celestial purpose. 

What I learned during the week leading up to the funeral and the two days spent in desperate mourning by the family, my wife, her brother and sister during the visitation and internment was that I have changed

OK, something about ME again, but hang in there - there's a point to this.

My relationship with my mother in law was not necessarily contentious but because I met her only during the last 28 of her 91-1/2 years of life I was a bit less accustomed to her negativity, quirks and tendency to disparage her children especially my wife so I didn't have the history and hence the tools to fight off a personality fashioned by a great depression a world war and a husband who came back from that war with a nasty case of WWII PTSD (read shell shock). 

Funerals are terrible things that families can make even more terrible but not in this case. The three siblings  - all fifteen feet of them ... they're a very short family - took the opportunity provided by the death of their mother to amplify the love they have for each other. The visitation was a time for sharing, our two boys, the son that brought me to this journey and the son who drove both his parents crazy during the three last years of high school were able also to re-establish bonds they had lost when pot and pills took our older boy away to the addiction. Friends and extended family were able to see this love, and the re-bonding it was a beautiful thing to see.

I was told not once but at least three times how I had changed I knew I had but it took more than one person to tell me this truth in the captive setting for me to hear it. The funeral ended with a prayer requested from the three, the sister and sister and brother. They not being particularly religious but very spiritual I was not sure what was coming. This is what followed - the Al-Anon Serenity Prayer:
"God, grant me the Serenity | To accept the things I cannot change | The Courage to change the things I can | And the Wisdom to know the difference | Living one day at a time | Enjoying one moment in time | Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace | Taking as He did | This sinful world as it is, not as I would have it | Trusting that He will make things right if I surrender to His will | That I may be reasonably happy in this life | And supremely happy with Him in the next."
This is the first moment I allowed myself to cry. I cried tears of happiness for years ago finding the courage to lay prostrate on the ground, beaten and begging for someone or some THING to take the burden of my son's addiction from me I cried tears of sadness that my wife had lost her mother after five years of Alzheimer's and a mercifully quick death due to sepsis and other complications I cried for our children and the other grandkids who had lost their last grandparent I cried for the family that had taken me in after not knowing family fully and lovingly in my former life.

We were all reminded by my wife's big sister that grandma had at one point turned to Al-Anon to turn her life around - I had forgotten this. The message was clear from the Universe, God, god, the Great Creator, the universe or whatever power by which we can explain away the unexplainable, the coincidences and the synchronicities of life that can guide and propel us along our journeys to our truest selves if we allow it.

This had all happened for me and can happen for us all if we simply let go and trust, trust that there is something out there that can take our struggles off our shoulders and disperse them across the stars to the heavens and above and beyond throughout the universe to let The Addiction know we will no longer be a hand puppet to its master plan of keeping our children mired and stuck in its stench and stink.

Our lives may not be perfect but we can be happy and grow each and every day to become as close to who we are meant to be as we possibly can and I am certain that our children will see this and want a part of the victories, the struggles, the failures and exuberant finish-line crosses that they see us experience. There are millions of souls along the journey to buoy us along as we let loose of the addiction tether mid flight. Trust we may falter but we will not fail, stumble but not fall, but if we fall we WILL get up.

We can change if we want it. In the words of Elsa In Frozen:
"Let it go, Let it go! | And I'll rise like the break of dawn | Let it go, Let it go | That perfect girl is gone | Here I stand in the light of day | Let the storm RAGE on | The cold never bothered me anyway.
I love that last line  - very deep - think about it. 

It is our liberation we are talking about it is our emancipation and our lives and the lives of our children we are talking about here and I saw it these few days at work as the spirit of a family matriarch rose up to inspire each and everyone of us - and now YOU! - to the greatness we can achieve if we, maybe, just don't try so damn hard.

Keep letting go and ...
... keep coming back 
"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." ~ Benjamin Spock

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Seven Spring Haiku - For You

"Dare to love yourself  | As if you were a rainbow | With gold at both ends" ~  Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

Again Spring teaches
Black skies will turn to azure
We’re not in control

Nature’s class lessons
Fruitless to force the beauty
See it and Be it

Smile at the sunrise
Again as the moon rises
And the in betweens

The moon’s reminder
The NEW moon hiding, present
Mysteries await 

Great Creator’s sounds
Symphony of life living
Take out those ear buds 

Spring’s more gentle side
Example of calm and growth
Do we aspire?

Don’t know everything.
Life is a Great Adventure
Never to be spoiled

... keep coming back

"Make money and the | whole world will conspire to call | you a gentleman" ~ Mark Twain quotation haiku'd by @Warrior_Prophet

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Doses of Positivity

"We don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is in itself a marvelous victory." ~ Howard Zinn
One recently bitterly cold early morning as I was stumbling into my chosen coffee shop of the day I happened to see a woman I had noticed there on previous mornings. On this day she was addressing in full vigor, a group of women sitting at a large table.

This woman, an educator, was outlining her classroom philosophy. Ebullient doesn't even come close to describing her.

I had to break in: "Are you enrolling? I'd like to be in your class!"

She laughed. The women too. I told her from what I had heard she gives her students the opportunity to learn in a healthy and inclusive atmosphere. She responded by mentioning each day before class she reminds herself that she knows nothing, so each day might progress and emerge as it should.

Sound familiar?

Stunned, I left her with a quote I had picked up years before.

"People who think they know everything are missing the Great Adventure," I said.

We smiled and parted company yet her energy and positivity remain with me.

Sometimes we need doses of positivity as parents of addicts. No matter where we are on our lifelong journey, wherever our children are along their recovery pathways, we need these regular inoculations against The Negative.

Our lives depend on it. Positivity is one of many preventative and proactive measures we can employ to avoid tumbles back to the vortex The Addiction is constantly inviting us to rejoin. Think of Positivity as a vaccine we would no more avoid than the Inactivated Poliovirus schedule administered to our children in the first year and a half of their lives. Positivity is a well-established pathway to fulfillment and self actualization.

Years ago I had asked my doctor if he thought I should get a flu shot.

"You want to get the flu?" he asked.

"No," I responded.

"Then get the flu shot," he counseled, with a smile.

It's that simple, right?

Unfortunately for parents of addicts it's not always so. We are challenged, daily, by the hooks The Addiction employs to drag us back into our children's spiral. We all have the little bastard projectionist in our heads, playing those awful dystopian newsreels portending certain futures that may or may not transpire.

We can learn to SEEK out Positivity so we may SEE The Good The Universe has in play for us. We do not simply avoid the negative. Actively looking for the positive in life, seeking FUN (there's that "F" word again), allows less time for negative thoughts, internalized film festivals and self-defeating actions to creep into our lives.

We don't lead lives as the village idiot, ignoring all of life's travails at the expense of our own well being. This is more a quest for the best in human nature, in society, in friends and family and ourselves as we stay true to our recovery journey pathways. There is a benefit, a logic, in surrounding ourselves with joyfulness, what is life affirming and not soul damaging.

I have become convinced that TV newsrooms have relegated the duties of the assignment desk to the police scanner. It's is easier to cover fires, murders and automobile accidents than to dig deep into the soul of a community to find The Good percolating in spite of The Bad we are exposed to hourly. Television dramas and reality shows have become celebrations of the worst of human nature.

We can pick our media wisely. We can choose our mindset carefully as well. We can even choose our conversations carefully including our self talk. Most of us have more than once, I'm sure, meandered down pathways of negativity. It may be part of our DNA or perhaps a defaulting human genome that tends to move us to a complaining voice. When this occurs we can catch ourselves and imagine ourselves turning around to retrace our steps back to our chosen pathway.

When we find ourselves diverted to The Negative we can feel it. It is a different sensation for everyone whether it's the blood rushing to our heads or the knot forming in our neck muscles (that's mine). Whatever predictor of the foreboding we own it is important to recognize it and know when we have entered a dark pathway. If we allow ourselves to continue down the path paved by negativity we risk becoming lost, again, in the blackness.

Seeking out and finding The Positive is the thing wherein we can keep our journeys true and safe.

Surrounding ourselves with positive people is one sure way to stay focused on our pathways. A quick shot of optimism from one of those infectiously happy souls is an inoculation against Gloom.
And GLOOM, in just a single syllable is such a descriptively negative word. Lugubrious is another. We may not know its meaning, we just know by its sound we don't want to go there. Lu-gu-bri-ous is what we were before we began our journey. 
We can't go back there.

We can catch ourselves when we find we have entered into a negative conversation or when our our thoughts revert to our more negative tendencies.

We can leave those conversations, external and internal. We can stop ourselves when we begin to ramble down the easy pathway to The Gloom. When we do, when we stop, we know we've grown.

Remember also The Addiction is all about maintaining our children in its cocoon of negativity. Their conversation will trend to what sucks, what is wrong with EVERYTHING. Do not engage, do not return the volleys. But when our children do emerge, when they speak of anything that smacks of what is right, good or optimistic with their world, jump on the opportunity.

It is at this moment we must allow our children to catch a glimpse of what we have found. We must allow them to have a Goodness sighting, a view of a vista awaiting them in the light outside the darkness. It may be hard for them to see. The light can be blinding for those who have been in the dark so long.

Eventually they may become accustomed to our Positivity. Eventually they may long for it.

For now the doses of Positivity can be our little secret, our gift to ourselves.

Just take at least two daily, PRN.

... keep coming back

"We can complain because rosebushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." ~ Abraham Lincoln
"When things go wrong, don't go with them." ~ Elvis Presley