The first time I heard that the definition of insanity was repeating the same behavior, over and over again, expecting different results; I knew my name had been called.  I simply had never known I could make an entirely new choice in how I interpreted what others were doing or saying.  Nor did I understand that I could choose a decidedly different response to the data presented to me.  My learning curve was steep, I must say.  How lucky I feel that my journey was to include the 12 step path.

It’s nice to be able to acknowledge that I have grown with the help of thousands of 12 step meetings over the last 35 years.  Thank goodness I have grown.  But the work is never done. And I actually cherish the idea that the work is never done.  Were it ever done, many of us would quit showing up to help others on this journey that saved our lives.  Giving back that which we “acquired” from others is what keeps the insanity at bay.

There are so many simple tools I have learned in the “rooms” that have changed my understanding about the possibilities for seeing life and the many people encountered in a new way; thus responding in a new way too.  Learning, as I have, that anger is always masking fear has allowed me to look at so many others differently.  Learning, as I have, that the expression of love is always the pathway to peace has changed my life immeasurably.   Learning, as I have, that doing an inventory of my past and making restitution where and when appropriate, removes the barriers that keep us isolated.  The list goes on.  And on.  The tools are simple but the changes in one’s life, if the tools are used, are profound.

I am committed to continuing on this path because I want sanity.  I want peace.  I want connection with others.  And I want to be the best example for change that I can be.  Are you content with the example you are setting?

And it’s from


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 returned from a week end in Chicago with fourteen dear friends from high school.  There are so many sweet memories running through my mind that I don’t know which one to savor first and longest.  Starting with my roommate is no doubt a good beginning.  Ellen is her name and we hadn’t been particularly close in high school but we were in the same group.  We called ourselves “the Superlatives.”  We were certain then, that we were, and deserved to be, the envy of all the other girls in the school.  Needless to say we made a few enemies along the way.  But it’s now nearly 55 years later and we have mellowed.  Thank goodness, we have mellowed.

Life has a way of humbling you.  We have all had our crosses to bear, our barriers to full acceptance in one arena or another.  But we are survivors.  With a sense of humor, we have survived the troubled times.  And this  brings me to what I want to say about my roommate for the week end, Ellen.  Just a couple of months ago she lost her husband to alzheimers.  Because he was young, having just retired a few short years ago, it was devastating to her and their children.  But putting one foot in front of the other is what she and they have had to do.  And they have done it.  They have been courageous and comforted by the knowledge that nothing stays the same and that all is well despite appearances, sometimes.

As mentioned earlier, Ellen and I had not been particularly close in high school. There were 21 of us in the group and most had 3 or 4 whom they drew closest too.  She had hers and I mine.  But for the week end we had each other and the time was perfect for two women with very different life experiences to grow in appreciation of one another.  My journey into alcoholism and drug addiction and then recovery is a far cry from the journey she has been on, but it was evident that the details of the past were not as important as the pleasures we were experiencing in the present.

That’s how it should always be.  Let the past be past.  Sink your teeth into the present.  It’s the “gift” we have been given for the moment.  Ellen shared many tender moments about her husband, Bud.  And I listened with intention.  That’s the proper role always, for every one of us.  Being each others’ witness is the kindest offering we can make.

The encounters with all the rest of the women, plus two of their husbands, sent me home with a renewed spirit for the work I am “assigned to” at this very moment.  Knowing, as I do, that our paths have been selected for us, our experiences too, allows me to breath easily on this lovely afternoon.  On every afternoon, as a matter of fact.  We are not accidental friends.  We are, each one of us, threads in the tapestry of life that 21 women have been spinning for seventy years now.

Thanks be to God.

I find great relief in this idea.  I guess it’s because I have had many experiences throughout my early life that made little sense at times.  Simply putting my “unbelief” in the idea aside, as was suggested to me by a woman much wiser than myself a few years ago, opened the door to a whole new way to experience life.  Now I feel great waves of peace just knowing that whom ever I need to meet, I will.  What ever I need to learn will come my way.  That the life tapestry I am weaving is divinely ordained.

Does this seem farfetched to you when you look at your own life?  Far be it from me to insist that any one adopt my ideas as their own; however, it’s an idea that has changed my life in significant ways.  I am a seeker of peace.  In fact, experiencing it has become far more important to me as the years have gone by.  As a result, I have adopted many bits of spiritual philosophy that soften the hard edges of life.   And I don’t think this means I am distorting what is there to be experienced.  Rather it means that I am choosing a “quiet” perspective on the myriad experiences that have claimed my attention.  In this way, I can be assured of a peaceful heart and mind.

When my heart and mind are peaceful, I approach all people more lovingly and since every one who crosses my path has “been invited,” this means I am helping him or her to know greater peace too.

I am convinced there is no greater benefit we can offer the world than to be peace-seekers and then purveyors of the peace we cultivate.

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.

My family has been here visiting all week.  There was a time in my life that I’d have been overwhelmed by anxiety over what could go wrong; how discussions could go awry; how to control the always uncontrollable when it comes to other people, the weather, the news cycles that could lead to tension and on and on.

When I face this honestly, in the far distant past (from childhood on) I was always on pins and needles trying to control what could never be controlled.  I still want “to go there” some times, but I have learned that that door is closed! Tight.  And I consider that a blessing now.  For many years I did push against it  but my attempts were futile.  Now I no longer bruise my shoulder even trying.

Isn’t it a joy to simply let things be?  To let God be in charge of the encounters, the outcomes and the relationship developments?  I know I am not always as willing as I sound right now in this blog to follow my own suggestions, but even letting go once a day gives us a few moments of reprieve.

I did let things be throughout this week.  And actually, when I review the week, there isn’t one change I would make.  Laughter filled out home, great conversations were enjoyed, memories were recalled and new ones were made. What more can a week with family provide than that.

I want to reiterate  before closing this blog: there was a time I’d have contributed to making memories that were not so good.  I’d have encouraged arguments that didn’t need to occur.  I’d have reacted to situations that didn’t call for any reaction at all.  My lack of peace would have sent family and friends scampering for cover.  Thank God, literally, that I have had a change of mind.

May your upcoming family experiences be rife with good memories too.

Some of my dearest friends are facing tough situations right now.  Being present to listen, or to hold them in prayer, or simply to serve as a witness while they make the journey that is quite specifically theirs to make is why God has “arranged” our meeting in the first place.  I can still recall how I used to think an idea such as this one was simply too far-fetched to even consider as a possibility.  And now it guides my thinking every day.

Being open and willing the allow new ideas to inform us is part of the necessary journey we are on, I think.  Nearly every idea I hold dear today has been cultivated over these many years I have walked along this spiritual path.

I saw a movie a few years ago that really brought clarity to why we are “here” in one another’s lives.  It’s to serve as a witness.  Being seen, being known, being accepted is what we hunger for and when we can’t find it, we begin looking in all the wrong places.  I certainly sought it through alcohol and drugs, unhealthy relationships, and workaholism.  Then I found the pathway to real meaning through a relationship to a Higher Power and connections to the kind of people who really do “sign up” to serve as our witness.

Being the witness to a friend on our path isn’t a one-way street.  It’s very much a two-way street.  We reap what we sow.  Not a new idea, is it?  Be alert today. Your attention is needed by many.  Start with the person standing closest to you.

Perhaps you are wondering what I mean by rightmindedness?  I think of it as the alignment of our mind with the will of God.  Something that I started doing some years ago was asking myself if what I was thinking was what God would want me to think and if it wasn’t, seeking God’s help in changing the thought. This simple exercise has been quite helpful and it has improved my relations with others.  It really doesn’t take more than a second or two to ask the question, and the answer comes ever so quietly but instantaneously.  My job is to listen.

Making the decision to change our thoughts, making them more loving, changes our behavior and when this becomes habitual, as it will, our relationships will reflect the love we are cultivating in our hearts.  I’ve referred to the wisdom of Mother Teresa on many occasions in my writing and workshops because her words were simple and yet powerful.  To paraphrase her, be kind and start with the person standing next to you.  If every one of us made this choice even once a day, the universe would shift.  Seem farfetched?  It’s not.

The power of one has been referred to by many great philosophers as well as the more ordinary among us. Might you be willing to practice being “that one” today?  Begin with the first person who comes toward you.  Think “God-like” thoughts and then seek to behave only the way God would want you to behave. There is no better work that you could do this day, for these fellow-travelers, and for your own peace of mind.  Be that change you want to experience in this tumultuous world.  And rest-assured, it will be with God’s blessing.

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.

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