Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Practice Presence.

On a recent road trip, I swapped stories with six other sober women as we wound our way south, out of Rhode Island, to New Jersey for a regional service assembly. Some of us have known each other for years; some of us were getting acquainted for the first time. Invariably, the conversations turned to livelihood, life, and balance, and I was happy to share some details about my creative life (I don't call it work.) One friend has a pent-up desire to write; she is talented enough to be a participant in a locally respected writing program, but she can't seem to find the time to write. Time. How many essays, poems, novels, and memoirs have gone to the grave, stories untold, musical scores unorchestrated, canvases left blank, because the writer/composer/artist thought she lacked time? You have time. Trust me. All it takes is practice.

Before I leave my apartment every morning at 6:30, I sit and meditate for five minutes. Five minutes may not seem like a significant slice of time, but over time, my practice has deepened, and has had a profound effect on my ability to be, peacefully, in the world. 

I write everyday. Coined Morning Pages by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, I scribble three pages, longhand, on a pad. I don't worry about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. This writing is not for anyone else's eyes, but by laying down tracks everyday, I give writing a place of honor in my life.  Divinely given, who am I to deny it?

I save a few dollars every week. At the top of my home budget/spreadsheet, I have a line item for savings. Allocating funds is non-negotiable. My mortgage and utility bills get paid, and my savings account receives a percentage of my weekly earnings.  

Thus, I practice meditating. I practice writing. I practice saving money.

The upshot of showing up for my breath every morning, the benefit of showing up for the muse daily, the financial rewards for setting aside a little, is that by practicing, by becoming a better mediator, I am less judgmental. By practicing writing a weekly blog, I have become a more consistent writer. And by saving money, I am less fearful about my financial future.

Practice doesn't mean perfection, it means being fully present in the world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fall In Love.

I learned a lot about love last year. I learned that my love of self has to come first, that in order to find love, I have to give love. I learned that my love can't save anyone. No matter how much I love other sick and suffering people, I can't want their wellness more than they do.

I fell in love over and over again last year. I took a 30-day, solo, cross country trip around the country, and each time I checked in to a new room for the night, I fell in love. I fell in love with my hosts, their families; I fell in love with the people at meetings in halls, and church basements; I fell in love with the hills, valleys, mountains, oceans, lakes, and mesas of this great country.

And I fell even more deeply in love with myself, with my courage, my strength, my laugh, my heart, my mind, my God.

So, it matters little this year that I don't have one person in my life to love. I have hundreds of men and women all over the country to love, and they, blessedly, love me back. If you are in a relationship, love deeper. Dig in. Let go of your petty resentments. Something missing? Try providing it instead of waiting for it.

This Valentine's weekend, instead of sitting home, feeling sorry for myself that a relationship ended last year, and another one crashed and burned on take off earlier this year, I am picking up carnations, donated by a local grocer, signing dozens of my Earth's School of Love greeting cards, and joyously distributing all these to the residents of long-term care at a nursing home in town.

You taught me that to keep my sobriety, I have to give it away. It works the same way with love.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone ~ <3 ~

Monday, February 2, 2015

Live and Let Live

Over the years I have learned some valuable interpersonal skills. One of those tools, and the one I use the most is, "Don't pick up the rope." Another favorite encourages, "Restraint of pen and tongue." The goal for me, as a recovering woman, is to maintain emotional balance. I can't do that if I show up for every fight I'm invited to. Truth be told, I rarely get invited into other people's drama these days, and I am grateful that I surround myself with people who'd rather do the right thing the first time, than have to go back and make an amend later for misbehavior.

This morning, however, I came face-to-face, literally, with a bully, a retired woman who lives, with her husband, in my apartment building in Rhode Island. I like this woman. We have broken bread together. We have shared intimate facts about each other's lives. I believe she is a good woman and strives to lead a peaceful life. But this morning, she came out shooting bullets because I chose to leave my car parked in our lot rather than move it to a municipal lot up off of the perilously steep Church Street. Normally, I would have been long gone by 6:30 am, and well on my way to my home group in Providence, but due to the parking ban in the city, the meeting was cancelled.

When the private plow driver arrived, I offered to move my car into the first available plowed section of the lot. No problem. Within minutes, the young driver made a few efficient passes, gave me the thumbs up to slide my car over so he could finish his task, and story over. Not. My neighbor stomped out, finger-pointing, shouting, and commanded me to move my car to the municipal lot. I managed, for the next several minutes, to stand my ground, continue cleaning off my car, and patiently wait for her to blow off her steam. The last thing she said to me, after conferring for several minutes with the plow driver was, "We will send YOU the bill for the extra time this is taking." I wanted to say, "It was YOU who just bent this guy's ear for five minutes. I'm part of the solution, not the problem." I didn't. I minded my own business, and she finally went back inside.

It's raining now. What little snow we got, the thing that precipitated the whole episode in the first place, is becoming slushy. Plows are the only vehicles attempting to navigate the treacherous Church Street. At some point, in the days ahead, I will formulate a clear, level-headed response to the parking and snow removal matter out back. For today, however, I am grateful that recovery has given me valuable tools for consensus-building rather than bullying and forced compliance.