Thursday, August 29, 2013

Done Deal

"The best is yet to come!"

I've heard this saying often over the last five and one-half years. It's one of our slogans. It's on the felt banners we hang from walls in halls across this country (maybe it's even printed in other languages around the globe). I've uttered these words of encouragement to many a despondent newcomer. I've written it in countless anniversary cards. But do I believe it? Damn right I do! Do you? Embracing the hope promised in this simple sentence does not mean I can ignore the present moment--quite the contrary.  All I have are the 24 hours in front of me. Nor does believing that "the best is yet to come"prevent the past from sometimes coming back to bite me. It does mean, however, that if I follow a few basic steps (all 12 of them), to the best of my ability, I am promised a better life than the one I walked through the door with. That doesn't mean I'm promised a boatload of money, a bigger house, a more luxurious car. It does guarantee, however, that I will be better; I will become the best version of myself possible as the days of my life unfold. As one beloved member of this fellowship is fond of saying, "It's a done deal."  The deal he's referring to is the one between him and God when he asks him every morning to keep him away from a drink for that day. That's the same faith that reminds me that regardless of whether my kids mess up their lives, my job challenges me in unforeseen ways, my ex drives a deeper wedge between us, my financial situation takes a hit, and/or friends disappoint deeply, NO MATTER WHAT, the best ME will emerge. And that my friends is a done deal.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Begin. Now.

In The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness, Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, tells us to, "Come as you are."  Often, I resist stepping out of my comfort unless I can be sure I have it right, until I can be confident that I'll be a master at whatever new endeavor I am attempting.  But what I've learned in recovery is to just show up, to start wherever I am at that moment.  The magic is in the moment, and in that moment, I can choose to be fully alive and present.  Fear holds me back from experiencing all that this life has to offer.  Fear of failure.  Fear of imperfection.  Fear that you won't like me if you find out how truly inept I am.  Nowhere has that fear had a bigger hold on me than in my personal relationships.  I never knew how to make friends.  I was so sure you weren't going to like me that I went out of my way to make sure you didn't. Once I became willing to remove the chip on my shoulder, and practice being friendly, I gained a boatload of friends.  If I hadn't been willing to bring my imperfect, often socially immature self to the table, I would have missed out completely on experiencing the fellowship of the spirit.  If I'm waiting, busily preparing my mind, my body, and my skill set, then those golden opportunities to be present in the world as the imperfect person I am, pass by.  Last year, a good friend of mine helped me develop my Facebook pages.  In the process, he noticed my reluctance to commit to various suggested action steps. Speaking from experience, he encouraged me to "Just do it. Do something. You can always change it." In essence, he was telling me to just "Come as you are."  Start somewhere.  Take this blog, for example.  I don't understand all the nuances of blogging, but the point is, today, I am willing to come to the page just as I am. Today, it's not about being perfect, it's about being present.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Divine Intuition: Trusting the Universe

At the risk of losing readers, I'm announcing publicly that I am claraudio.  For me, that means that spirit speaks softly to me when I am quiet and open enough to listen.  I believe we all have the gifts of clairvoyance, but the degree to which we avail ourselves of such gifts depends on our spiritual condition.  In fact, the very idea for the creation of my Facebook entity, Earth's School Of Love (ESL), came in such a moment of divine grace and communication.  Over one year ago, I was sitting at my desk in my studio, with an intensely busy day ahead.  Clear as a bell, straight across my right shoulder, came the fully formed thought: Earth's School Of Love: Healing the Planet, One Thought at a Time. I distinctly recall being a little annoyed at the Universe's timing.  I knew, intuitively that I was being given something of great importance, but hell, on that particular day, I was already pressed and the last thing I had time to do was birth a new idea.  Nevertheless, action was required and I called my graphic artist and a logo was born.  Still not knowing what in God's name I was supposed to do with this freshly formed idea, I followed my intuition, dusted off my camera, and began a journey that continues to this day.  Armed with my camera, and a burgeoning belief that only two thoughts exist in the world, I challenge myself, and all of you, to chose each and every minute love over fear.  Try it. Next time you find yourself suspended between two thoughts, choose the loving one, and you will always find that sweet spot within yourself.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Start Where You Are

A very long time ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I decided to start a clothing company.  Aptly named after my firstborn daughter, Katherine's of Kingston, was supposed to be a custom collection of simple, whimsical, colorful dresses for toddlers and little girls designed and manufactured by me and a handful of University of Rhode Island textile majors.  Slam dunk, right?  Could of, should of, been.  What derailed my business plan was my inability to start.  More specifically, my inability to start where I was.  Married to a custom home builder at the time, I convinced him that I needed a bonafide sewing room, and he was only too happy to oblige.  Needs were assessed.  Measurements were taken. Blueprints drawn up.  Trim was fabricated.  Colors were selected.  By the time dozens of cones of serger sewing machine threads were systematically color-coded and arranged in a custom built-in cabinet, I had already moved on to painting floorcloths, and the bolts of fabric I had stockpiled grew dusty and faded.  Distractions diverted me from my primary purpose.  Today, I know better.  Whether it's taking up a running practice, or yoga, or photography, I can just show up as is.  I don't need fancy shoes, mats, the newest equipment.  All I truly need is an open heart and the willingness to be a beginner every day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Tribe

     In one of my earliest schoolgirl memories (perhaps I was 10 years old at the time), I remember walking down the street to my grammar school.  What always come back to haunt me about that reverie is that I was all alone on my side of the street.  Head bowed, I could hear the other students' boisterous laughs and looking up, shyly, catch their horseplay.  That striving became a metaphor for my life.  HOW, I wondered, could I get to the other side of the street?  HOW could I make friends and have fun?  That deep desire to be part of a kinship, to belong, haunted me throughout my adolescence, and followed me into adulthood.  At 45 years old, after not drinking for 10 years, I was ready to throw away my sobriety in exchange for the fellowship of a neighboring couple who drank heavily, and found me and my non-drinking spouse completely unsuitable for their lifestyle.  It took me 8 long years to find my way back to a life of recovery, and to discover that my tribe, my true friends, had been waiting patiently for me all along. Today, I am a friend. Today, I have dozens (maybe even hundreds!) of friends.  Gratefully, I live, work, and play smack dab in the middle of that pack, and it is where I experience conviviality, camaraderie, understanding, and love.  As a fellow sojourner, Bill W. wrote many years ago, "....join us.  We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny."  Today, I can walk into a room full of strangers, smile, shake hands, sit down, and know that I am in the company of men and women whose deepest desire has been to belong.  We will not remain strangers for long.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


     I wasn't going to write this blog entry.  I hemmed and hawed.  For days.  Should I?  Shouldn't I?  Would the contents spilled here be better left to a private conversation with a friend, sponsor, or therapist?  Yes. And no.  When I made the decision to share the details of my life in recovery here, I did so knowing that I would have to be brutally honest with myself and my readers.  Growing up in public is sometimes painful.
      A male friend of mine shared the struggles he continues to have with relationships this morning in a roomful of like-minded people.  His tearful candor and heartfelt confusion gave me the courage to process my own stepping stones and stumbling blocks to happily-ever-after.  God knows, I stumble.
     After a brief, six-week summer romance, it seems I have stumbled once again.  Lessons and blessings.  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love articulates my pattern of falling in love with illusions better than I ever could.

"I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men.  I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks.  I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching the highest potential.  I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness.  Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism."

     The good news (the blessing) is that my response time has improved.  When I know, I know, and once I do, there is no denying the reality.  To sugar-coat the truth invites hostage-taking and other old behaviors.  The lesson is to continue practicing spiritual discernment.  Suit up.  Show up.  Pay attention.  Be kind.  Be willing.  Love with an open heart, and when necessary, leave with gratitude for having had a chance to fan the flames of hope and optimism.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What We See Depends On What We Look For

Thank God we humans were created with two eyes.

I needed wide-angle, sweeping vision today. As I climbed and winded my way on Route 30 through Vermont earlier, I couldn't take my eyes (a.) off the road, and (b.) off the breathtaking scenery, villages, residences.  Pristine.  Green. Both words came to mind. And holy. Today's journey north felt different than previous trips. I've traveled Route 30 many times in the past: 35 years ago on my first honeymoon en route to Nova Scotia, but that's another story. Again, during my graduate school years in the northern kingdom of the state.  Once on the back of a Harley. Towing a horse trailer with cargo so precious (both human and equine).  Today I come back to East Dorset and the Vermont Summer Horse Show Festival with a different agenda.  No agenda.  No mission other than a refreshingly free weekend for the first time all summer.  And I find what I lost somewhere along the way: deeply buried memories of a headier time when this world of horse showing was my world, my daughter's world. I remember (the in-gate, the wash stall, the ribbons lined up marking each show barn's successes this summer, a young rider's agony going off course, the frustrated trainer, the announcer's voice, the golf carts), and I allow myself to go back in time. As those images play, I touch a wound I've taken great care to exorcise, but it has its way with me anyway.  The tears come, but so does the smile and the gratitude. Today, my only responsibility is to myself, to the rich past I've been blessed to live and survive, to honoring the memories and the grief.

I pick up my camera and pick up where I left off.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Both Oars in the Water

     Once upon a time, I admitted I was powerless over people, places, and things and that my life had become unmanageable as a result of thinking I knew what was best for me and the rest of the planet.  In short, I handed control over to a power greater than myself.  That decision didn't mean I could sit back on the couch and wait for results to magically manifest.  No, that meant I was still responsible for engaging in certain right actions, but that the results of those right actions were out of my control, and all I had to do was trust that the Universe was acting with my highest good in mind.   I still had to row the boat in the general direction of my dreams, and course corrections have required faith.
     So, I'm good.  I'm rowing.  I'm staying the course.  I'm weathering some of the storms out there.  What I'm not good at is keeping things afloat when my fellow passenger(s) who, for one reason or another, decide that rocking that boat is good, fun, normal.  Nope.  None of the above.  Truth is, so long as one person is rocking and not rowing, unless I can get to some spiritual safety, my life is going to be unmanageable as a result.  Tough stuff, this rowing.  I don't want to row alone; it can be pleasant to row in unison, in accordance with a higher calling and purpose.  But when I end up rowing alone, desperately trying to bring another to safe shores, we both end up shipwrecked.  Today, with both oars in the water, I chose to let the other person find his own way (sink, or swim), and I continue to navigate solo.