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I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “it is what it is,” but it fits for so many situations and it’s used by every one.  It’s not surprising to hear television commentators use it with as much frequency as the ordinary citizen.  One reason it resonates with me is that it implies acceptance and surely, there’s much we simply have to accept.  There is very little in our control at the end of the day.

The phrase reminds me of the Serenity Prayer, a shorthand way of saying it, actually.  There are things we can change, for instance: those things that relate to ourselves, and the rest is either for our acceptance or for God to change.  Either way, we have to butt out.  Pretty simple.  If we actually adopted this philosophy, our lives would be much smoother and far more peaceful.

The downside of what the phrase implies is that for some, it can lead to complacency.  We all know people who resist taking responsibility for those situations that are clearly theirs to handle.  Being complacent or lacking the willingness or initiative to be accountable for the work that is clearly theirs to do means that others either pick up the slack or the project gets derailed.  Picking up the slack for others can actually be detrimental to them and the group, if it’s a work project,  because allowing people to “slide,” rather than hold up their end of the assignment is not fair to others.  But it is what is is. And some times we simply have to move on, accepting that others aren’t who we need them to be.

One time the phrase is extremely valuable is when we are getting stressed about a situation that we had envisioned happening one way, only to discover that others had a different idea in mind.  One of the tools of 12 step programs is a slogan, Let Go and Let God.  I rely on this every day.  And in some ways it’s synonymous with “It is What it is.”  They both tell me to walk away.  To not let what’s happening out there control my reactions or judgments or frame of mind.

What’s the most important bit of shorthand you use to maintain your peace of mind on a daily basis?  We all need some thing.  Maybe we can learn from each other.  Share your thoughts in the comment section and I’ll blog about them.  What helps any one of us can surely help many more of us too.

Yesterday was my birthday.  Admitting my age makes me sound far older than I feel.  I was 71.  Yikes!!  And I can honestly say I don’t feel any thing close to that.  In fact, in many respects, I feel younger as the years pass.  I find that curious but I know it’s true for many others too.  Perhaps it has to do with how we are choosing to live our lives.  Enumerating what’s been different in these later years is enlightening.

For one thing, I simply am not bogged down by worry any more.  I am content with the life I am leading and feel as though I have been “called” to do what I do.  God’s will has  become clear, for now.  Second, and this one is  related to the first one, I feel passionate about my work.  Writing and speaking to groups, sharing that which others have so freely given me, makes it exciting to get up each day.  Having passion for any thing keeps one’s mind and body young.  Of this I’m certain.  As an example, having begun this blog site a few months ago has been extremely exciting and I love having a new way to reach like-minded people.

And this leads me to how I approach each day.  Following that first cup of coffee, I am involved with a women’s spirituality group each morning in a conference call.  Some mornings only 3 or 4 call in and other mornings we may have 8.  We take turns sharing a short prayer; we read a section in a spiritual book and then discuss how we are helped by the reading.  We seldom spend more than 20 or 25 minutes on the call but it’s a way to get right-minded before letting the day carry our minds into neighborhoods that aren’t  fruitful.

Four mornings each week I participate in another conference call with some business associates.  While this call leans toward business, there is definitely a spiritual overtone to it.  I feel so grateful to have two infusions of productive thinking in my life every day before I even have time to let my own ego run amuck.

And then I take an hour and a half for exercise 5 days a week.  Work calls to me next, and I move into it happily.  My mind and body have been attended to and for me, that’s key.  Having this kind of routine in my life may seem like too much structure for some but I have discovered, over the years, that routine keeps me on track. Without structure, I feel a sense of ennui too easily.

I  do believe that we each have very purposeful lives.  I have made a commitment to fulfill the purpose that has been assigned to me and I feel blessed.  I hope that you are feeling right-minded today, and if you aren’t, perhaps you can say a prayer for some one you know.  That action can change how we think more quickly than any thing else.  We are in charge of our own right-mindedness.  Are you feeling content today?

I just returned Tuesday night from the 75th AA International Convention in San Antonio, thus my absence from the blog site.  It was a wet, very humid event but filled with great talks, lots of encounters with friends, new and old, and for me, 9 hours of greeting friends and signing books at the Hazelden site in “tent city.”  I was overwhelmed, again and again, by the wonderful conversations with friends and new acquaintances.

San Antonio is a lovely city.  The Riverwalk is bordered by great restaurants and every thing was in easy walking distance, once you got to the downtown area.  But for most of us, food wasn’t the top thing on our minds.  It was listening to great talks about “what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now,” watching the flag ceremony the first night, listening to the “old-timers” the second night, and grabbing coffees with people you had not even expected to run in to.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love AA?  And I would have to say Al-Anon too.  The journey I was on before that fateful day in late 1974 when I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting was not a pretty sight.  My own alcoholism had been out of control for many years but it was so much easier to watch the others I journeyed with.  For sure they were alcoholic too.  I didn’t know if I’d stick a round when I first came into Al-Anon but I have.  Being a “double winner,” doing both AA and Al-Anon is like taking a double dose of vitamin C when you have a cold.  I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s been my personal belief for years that most of us were “codependent” before we picked up that first drink or drug.  The behavior of others easily affected how we felt about ourselves.  For many of us, taking that first  drink was the direct result of trying to lessen the pain of how we perceived others were feeling about us.  It’s a deadly cycle one can get sucked into.  I know.  That’s where I lived for multiple decades.

Being free from that “addiction,” has made a huge difference in my life.  I can see with clarity now.   I can make the decisions I need to make for me.  And I can let others do the same.  That’s the kind of stories I heard repeatedly over the week end in San Antonio too.  Our lives have changed.  And we are in the position of helping others to change their lives too.  What a glorious reason to be alive.

I just got back from a 4 mile walk.  I love the morning walk, particularly when the birds are intent on serenading me.  The sun was warm and the other walkers wore smiles, as did I.  There was an occasional breeze which I appreciated.  I use my walk as a time for prayer and meditation.  My list of people is long, some times too long for much quiet time to hear God’s messages to me.  In fact, today I had a lot of difficulty being quiet.  I have a long list of projects that feel somewhat overdue.  I haven’t missed any deadlines but they are looming. The irony is that I so love my work that it’s not from procrastination that I feel rushed and tense.  It’s simply from the “list” that looms.

If I were honest right now I’d have to say that God couldn’t get my attention for the quiet moments I needed with him because I was rearranging “the list” repeatedly.   I can do this before lunch. . .  and that this afternoon. . .  and after having dinner with friends, I will tackle this. . .  And then tomorrow. . .

I have never failed to miss a deadline actually.  In fact,  I usually get finished ahead of time.  I think I get weighed down more by having a project, any project, undone.  And then when they are all finished, I rest and then get antsy and on the prowl for the next group of projects.  Actually I feel pretty lucky that I approach life in this fashion.  I know many who procrastinate themselves right out of jobs, or school, or marriages.

My approach, which may not work for everyone, is to work a few hours everyday on at least one or two projects.  I don’t sit in my office for an 8 hour stretch.  Not even a 4 hour stretch.  I break frequently, check email, make calls, eat a snack, get a news update.  And then pick up where I left off.  The rhythm I’ve grown accustomed to works for me.  Perhaps it’s one you could try too.

But I titled this blog: tension will mount so I want to return to that in closing.  My tension develops when I am too long away from my work.  As I mentioned in the preceding blog, my family visited for a week and it was a glorious time; however, I didn’t even address my list and it needs attention.  My walk was consumed with the rearrangement of it.  What I need and needed was time with God, not the list.

God got short-shrift when my family was here too.  Putting my spiritual life on-hold puts my well-being at risk.  I feel back on track now that I have written this and I’m grateful.  Thanks for your attention.

I am feeling so very grateful presently because a very dear friend got a good report from her doctor this morning.  We all love her so much and have been walking through this illness with her, as much as we can, but you can never quite prepare yourself for the news, particularly if it isn’t good.  We are all breathing a big sigh of relief, as is she and her family, of course.  But the real lesson here is being able to accept what ever the news might have been.  That’s not so easy. Practicing acceptance, followed by creating a gratitude list on the spot, are two significant actions we can take on a daily basis. Either of them helps us move forward but both of them together promises a leap forward in our level of peace.

It’s not easy to turn our lives over to the care of a Higher Power but it’s possible if we apply a bit of willingness.  It’s that very act of surrendering that allows us to know that God is part of every equation and will walk us through every experience.  One of the significant things about my friend’s experience was that she allowed so many of us to join her  circle of healing too.  She never felt alone and we always felt a part of her healing.  That’s how it should always be for any one facing any thing.

As  I’ve said so many times in so many of my writings, here and elsewhere, our companions have not “accidentally” wandered on to our path.  They were sent. We have an “arrangement” that is beneficial to each of us.  Knowing that makes it easier to invite in to our circle the people who have come.  It also makes it easier to accept the circumstances that have come with them.  Does this mean that when illness strikes, it’s part of God’s equation too?  I am not privy to God’s will in this instance and have chosen to not believe that God visits pain or illness on any one.  But I do believe that his loving presence is always available to us to walk us through whatever is “visiting” us.  And I do believe that the people who are part of the circle are there to serve as angels in skin, as God’s emmisaries throughout the experience.

Being grateful for this belief has made my journey on this planet peaceful, sensible and ever so exciting.  I hope yours feels the same way too.

The blame game has taken over the news media again.  Perhaps it’s always been this way or maybe it’s just because the media is every where now and we get instant 24/7 feedback.  But to be an official in these times, from the president on down, means the opposition will choose to make you the sole person responsible for every disaster as well as the instant fix.  Obviously Obama didn’t cause this oil spill.  His opposition knows this even though their rhetoric suggests otherwise.  BP caused it.  Some even suggest the real cause of the spill goes back a few years to an earlier administration when the regulations were eased for the benefit of the drillers, regulations that still prevent drillers from cutting corners in the waters surrounding other countries.

But this administration is charged with solving the problem, rightly so; and helping the workers who have lost their livelihood; while at the same time, making the waters safe and clean once again for the life that lives in the sea and the fowl that make their homes there too.   Every time a picture of one of the pelicans mired in oil flashes across the screen my heart aches.  I’m sure yours does too. The problem of clean-up seems unimaginably gigantic.

My husband suggested that the administration require BP to immediately hire a”core of workers,” thousands of them in fact,  at $20 or $30 dollars an hour and put them to work on the beaches picking up the oil balls that are accumulating, balls that are still a form of energy that could be converted for every day use by some enterprising entrepreneur.  Unemployment is high throughout the country but down there it’s very high, particularly now.

I’m forced to ask myself, nearly every day, why would any one want to be a public official?  Particularly the president of this great country.  But then again, many of us with far less demanding jobs struggle to get our lives moving forward each morning too.  It’s best to let a bit of wisdom I learned in a 12 step meeting direct me.  Maybe it will help you too.  Just do the next right thing.  No matter where you are on your journey, what kind of work you do, there is “a next right thing” that is trying to get your attention.  I am inclined to think that the successful people in all walks of life are guided by a principle similar to this.  Even President Obama.

And our weather here in MN feels like summer too.  It’s rather nice, actually.  When we left Naples a few days ago the weather was hovering near 90 every day so having it in the 80’s here is perfect.  But what’s important about the holiday is that we are remembering those who gave their lives in service for our country.  The first official observance was in Waterloo, Iowa in 1866 but the previous year, formerly enslaved blacks observed it following the Civil War in South Carolina.

I find it amazing that we can put our differences aside, as is generally the case,  for a holiday such as this one but we encourage them to rear their ugly heads the other days of the year.  I have written about the rampant incivility throughout the country in previous blogs and I only mention it again here because I think we simply must put our differences aside, as a nation, if we want to honestly tackle the problems that are facing us as a people.  Big problems, indeed.  The oil spill is only the latest of them and pointing fingers at who is to blame isn’t really plugging the hole.  Discovering who failed to do what should have been done prior to the drilling will no doubt  be investigated.  For now, let’s all get behind those who are trying, in their way, to perform a service of another kind for our nation.

There are many ways to do service.  Deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan is one way.  But working to make our schools better is another.  Getting involved in the political process by evaluating what the candidates are really saying shouldn’t be overlooked either.  And then something as simple as offering to help some one who is elderly cross a street or open a door or carry groceries to a car are all other service activities of significant importance.

The real message of Memorial Day is get involved.  At some level “show up” in the lives of others.  Let them know you see them, you honor them and you want to lessen whatever pain they may be feeling in this life.  When any one of us does one tiny thing to help some one else, the good is multiplied the world over. Amazing but true.

My winter sojourn in Naples, Florida has come to an end.  My husband and I head to Minnesota today, with a stop in Tampa for me to do the Hazelden Womens Healing Conference, a program that Hazelden has been offering in various locations around the country for fifteen years.  It’s really a wonderful program and CEU credits are awarded for attendance.  It’s always a two day program, a Friday and a Saturday.  Check my web site (www.womens-spirituality. com) or the Hazelden web site: http://www.hazelden.org for dates and locations.

It’s always with mixed feelings that I prepare for this trip.  I have such wonderful friends here in Naples and I love all the local 12 step meetings.  I’m a regular at AA and Al-Anon five times a week and my life is blessed as a result.  The good news is that I have just as many wonderful meetings and friends awaiting me when I get to Minneapolis.  Those of us who are making this particular journey are the luckiest people alive, I believe.  We are among friends where ever we go.  All we have to do is make the effort to find where “the friends” are.

I have a busy summer ahead of me.  A new book is under way, five fall workshops need to be planned (see my web site for more information) and I have a few trips with my husband thrown in for good measure.  We are flying his small Piper Pacer to San Antonio over the 4th of July for the 75th International AA Convention.  If you have never been to an AA International, it’s an awesome experience.  Simply remembering the two men who made this journey possible for millions of us gives me goose bumps.

So it’s time to close this blog now, throw my computer in the waiting car and say I’ll talk to you again from Minnesota.  Have a safe few days until we “meet” again.  And if ever in doubt about what to do when confronted by a situation, simply ask:  “What would my Higher Power choose for me to do in this situation?”  And then do it.  Blessings on your house.

I can well remember that when I was a young girl, I wanted to blame others for how I was behaving.  “He made me do it,” was my common refrain.  Pointing fingers at others is far easier than looking at ourselves and we aren’t alone in opting for this excuse for our unseemly actions, even though the wise among us don’t buy it.  Some of us aren’t very eager to consider that there might be another way to interact, to interpret the experiences we are having.  It wasn’t until I had been in recovery for a couple of years that I seriously tackled taking responsibility for all that I had ever done or was doing at the present time.  And there’s still an occasional experience where I am slow to accept my part of the breakdown in communication.  We aren’t going to change completely overnight.  In fact, we will never be perfect and celebrating that fact right now frees us to continue growing at whatever our pace is.

Reading a key passage in one of John Powell’s books in 1971 is where I first got the notion that the behavior of others didn’t have to control me.  I could use it as an excuse, and had done so for years, but I was a willing hostage to every one else’s demeanor as long as I didn’t decide for myself who I wanted to be, how I wanted to think, and then behave.  My own choice to live and see differently didn’t change right away.  In fact, it took a few years but the seed had been planted.  Today it’s a joy and extremely empowering to greet the day how I choose to greet it.  Those around me may be angry or sad, and I can certainly express concern, but their drama is not mine to join.

Have you avoided joining some one else’s drama today?  Thank goodness the day is not over.

The rhetoric on cable news has become deafening.  I am reminded of Rodney King’s words a few years ago: “Can’t we all just get along?”  As I’ve said in other posts, I am not intending for this site to be political.  We all get enough of that every time we turn our televisions or radios on.  But I do feel an obligation to respond to the rhetoric with some words of sanity.

Much of my life as a writer and speaker has been devoted to “spreading a message of peace.”  I am only one voice, for sure, but I firmly believe that a lone voice is a beginning.  In fact, I think a lone voice can be like the ripple in the waves when a child skips a rock across the lake.  It does reach the other side, eventually.  Lone voices do get heard by some and the like-minded hearing them can send forth their supporting words in response.  No change comes about easily or very quickly.

Currently some are protesting against that which has recently been passed in congress; others who favor the new law are expressing their support too.  That what’s allowed and should be prized in a democracy, in fact.  However, this can become troublesome when one side of the equation seems to condone violence.  I heard on the news yesterday that a congresswoman from Minnesota said she wanted Minnesotans armed and dangerous.  I think that’s deplorable.  And my personal politics aren’t the issue.  Suggesting that violence is ever a solution takes all of us back to cave man days.

I think we should all be alarmed, frankly, when any elected official or spokesperson for other elected officials, shares an opinion that borders on inciting violence.  There are trigger-happy people in every one’s back yard.  To encourage them in any way can carry all of us down a path I’m sure we don’t want to travel.

I am glad I am a believer in prayer.  To some, prayer may seem a weak response to the rhetoric and potential for violence that seems to be growing, but I want a quiet mind and loving heart so that, at the very least, I can respond respectfully and lovingly to the people crossing my path.  Acts of peace garner strength too.  Let’s combine our efforts in this way.  Now.  It just might make the difference we need.  At least it would allow each one of us who tries it to be the difference some one else sees.

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