“Some for the Road” is now available!

cover of SFtR

“Some for the Road” are meditations and milestones on the road of recovery, in a reading-a-day format. It took me two years to edit and assemble, and two years before that to write. The paperback is 484 pages, in a very readable 11 point font, and costs $25 if you order it from Amazon. The Kindle version is $9.99 to buy, free with Kindle Unlimited.



What can you do?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

Once the marches are over – the real work begins. Volunteer. Serve. Help. Find something you feel is important that is threatened and work for it. It is time to stop expecting the government (or anyone else) to help. It is our time to act with love, with unity, and with focus on making our neighborhoods, our country, and our world a safe, loving and healthy place for everyone. This happens only with love – not with protesting the bad but by working for the good. It is not a time of numbness or fear, but of building, and rebuilding.

Jesus says to love our enemies. Love. Not protest.

Marching in protest doesn’t build. It says what you are against, but not what you are for. If all you do is focus on the negative, then that is the only thing you are giving your energy to. Life is too short to be angry all the time. Do something positive.

Teach a child from another country how to read and write in English. Learn Arabic or Spanish so that you can welcome the stranger. Donate your time to a women’s shelter.

Buy land and keep the trees on it so it is a haven for wildlife, and produces air for people to breathe.  Or donate to the Nature Conservancy to do the same thing.

Worried about the Department of Education?  Go to the library.  Read non-fiction.  Learn as much as you can.  Encourage others to do the same by teaching a class on what you learned.  Start a group (sometimes known as a salon) where you all share your knowledge.

Worried about the National Endowment for the Arts? Start your own creative co-op.  Paint.  Draw.  Have a play.  Recite poetry.  Have a concert.

You don’t need a special place for these experiences – you can rotate using member’s homes.  You don’t need a permit.

The biggest thing is to focus on what you can do.  Not on expecting anyone else to help or support, or protect.  The props are gone, or are going.  We don’t need them anymore. We can walk on our own.  We are stronger than we know.

Build bridges, not walls.  You.  Yourself.  Don’t worry about the government. You can’t control them.  Focus on yourself – what you can do.  It is time to stop being passive about your life. It is time to stop being co-dependent.

Worried about access to birth control?  Research natural rhythm methods.  Practice abstinence or non-penetrative sex until you are ready (mentally, emotionally, financially) to have a child.  Learn different ways to be intimate with your partner other than having sex.

Unexpected time

Lillie had all the time she wanted to read now, but it wasn’t how she wanted it. There is nothing but time to be had in the ICU waiting room. It was a good thing she’d brought her library book with her, but it wasn’t an accident. She always had a book with her.

She’d even figured out how to read on her daily walks to visit James, just over 2 miles away. They lived off the main roads, so there wasn’t much traffic. It was easy to hold a book up and read while on the way. Of course, it slowed her down a little, so it took close to an hour to get there, but she didn’t mind. It was that much more time to read.

Her parents frowned on all her reading these days. They’d encouraged it when she was a child, even made a big to-do about her getting a library card of her own as soon as she could write her name. But now she was reading darker things, things they didn’t approve of. Long gone were the days of Junie B. Jones and Winnie the Pooh. Edward and Bella were more like it, or at least they were a few years ago. Aliens, zombies, and conspiracy theories filled the bill these days. There wasn’t much else for a young person to read anyway. It was either creepy supernatural thrillers or crummy romance novels, and Lillie wouldn’t be caught dead reading one of those.

Of course, now wasn’t the best time to be reading an unusual book. Strangers shared the room with her, this strange room filled with dull grey lumpy armchairs and hard plastic tables covered with last year’s magazines. The only new magazines were medical ones, designed to make you worry about that slow healing spider bite or sell you some prescription drug you didn’t need. It didn’t take the other visitors long to run out of things to read, so they decided to make conversation. Anything was better than sitting still in silence, waiting and worrying until they were allowed back in to visit their loved one, who was often too sick or too drugged up to noticed they were there.

“What you readin’?” the gruff voice asked Lillie, just loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to have to pay attention to, she decided. Perhaps she could pretend she was deaf. Just because she was sitting in the same room as someone else didn’t mean she was obliged to chat. They may think it was rude of her to be silent, but she thought it was rude of them to not be. Surely he understood? Surely he could see she was reading – he’d asked about her book. So why would she want to talk? She was already in the middle of a good conversation with the characters in her book. She wasn’t interested in starting a new one with this person – this untried, untested character. He was probably dull. That was an easy guess based on the fact he didn’t think to have a book with him. Well, that and he was wearing denim pants and a flannel shirt. How boring! Plus, she didn’t want to explain her book. Too many people judge you based on the books you read. She’d taken to bringing “safe” books with her when she had to go to her own doctor’s appointments.

But this was different. She was here for James, not herself. He called her late at night, saying his stomach hurt. It had to be bad if he was telling anybody about it. He said his parents were on their way to pick her up so she could stay with him in the hospital if necessary. They both were too busy to take time off from work for something as inconsequential as sickness. They didn’t even take off when they were sick, so they certainly wouldn’t for their son. Lillie was ready before she’d even gotten off the phone. She was always ready. It was part practicality and part preparedness.

Sure, everybody should have a go-bag in the event of a disaster, whether natural or not. But Lillie’s life was a disaster. She never knew where she was going from day to day. Mom sometimes picked her up from school and took her home. Dad sometimes told her to walk over to his girlfriend’s house. Sometimes she took the bus. Sometime she stayed after school to work on her homework rather than risk her books getting damaged at home. Sometime she slept at school, around the back, under the pine tree. Nobody seemed to notice her or keep track of where she was. It was better to have whatever she might need in her backpack at all times, just in case.

She always wore the same kind of clothes so nobody ever noticed that she didn’t go home every day. She’d been irritated when the school shifted over to a school uniform, but soon saw the advantage of it – nobody would notice her. Her parents were pleased because black wasn’t on the list of approved colors. She soon learned that she didn’t have to wear black. Angry and lost and frustrated could be expressed even in a khaki skirt and light-blue collared shirt. Seething wasn’t limited to black.

James was sick and the doctors didn’t know how or why or what. Not like they cared about the why, not really. All they were interested in was naming the symptoms and treating them, not the reasons for them. But his symptoms were troubling. High fever. Pain on his left side. Sensitive to light. His blood was full of antibodies, so there was some infection somewhere. The doctors told Lillie everything they learned. James’s parents had said it was okay. Sure, there probably should have been forms to sign, but this wasn’t the first time the doctors had treated him. They knew how hands-off his parents were, and how devoted Lillie was.

But since the doctors didn’t know anything, it was time for Lillie to consult her own sources. Others in her group would use runes or crystal balls, but Lillie had long ago learned something better. Those were the kinds of tools that people noticed in the wrong kind of way. Lillie was all about simple and easy, so she used a book. No, nothing as complicated or obvious as a Book of Shadows. Her book was whatever she had in her hands at the moment. The dictionary would do in a pinch. Words were good, but sentences were better.

She’d learned that it was very simple to get a reading with a book. You just held the book in front of you, one hand on top and one on the bottom. Then you pulled in your energy, focused on your question, and opened the book to a random page. Then you read whatever your eyes fell upon. Whatever was there was what you needed. If you needed more insight, then repeat until clarity comes. Sure, she had to read between the lines a little sometimes, but it always worked.

The only problem right now was this book wasn’t exactly safe to have out in public. Sure it came from the library, but it still was going to raise some eyebrows here in the Bible Belt. The title was “Blood Infernal”. If the title didn’t draw attention, the cover certainly would. It was bright red, like fresh spilled blood, with a profile of a crow. Perhaps it was perching on a gravestone, or maybe a skull? It looked like a satanic book for sure, but that was all most people were likely to see. They wouldn’t take the time to learn it was about the Holy Grail, and banishing the forces of darkness back from whence they came.

Most folks who would judge a book by its cover would do the same to a person. They would decide she is damned, and turn away. Little did they realize that such people with the very ones who needed their friendship the most. A doctor heals the sick, not the well, after all. Jesus had sharp words for anyone who thought they had it all figured out. Lillie knew this, but most folks wouldn’t think she would. They’d judged her just like they were told they shouldn’t. Maybe if they spent more time reading the Good Book instead of thumping it, they’d know better.

It was time for Lillie to consult her own book. She made her first flip through. Her eyes lit upon a passage about blood. Another flip, also about blood. Well that was to be expected, as it was the subject. But maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe he had an infection in his blood. Maybe the blood itself was damaged somehow. But how was this possible? He’d not done anything unusual recently, hadn’t needed a transfusion. But then she remembered! He donated blood, specifically plasma. It was a simple way to earn money when times were tight. Go to the clinic in the strip mall in Madison, fill out some forms, hang out for an hour and a half and get paid about $30 twice a week. It wasn’t enough to pay a car payment or rent, but it was something, and after all, he was saving lives doing it. At least that was what all the brochures said.

Maybe something bad happened. Maybe his red blood cells got mixed up with someone else’s. Lillie flipped her book again and the next sentence talked about jealousy and unrequited love. Maybe the tech had a crush on him and was mad that he did not return the interest. Some people heard “I have a girlfriend” (or wife) to mean “try harder”. To them, having a partner meant you were good enough for somebody. It meant you’d passed some sort of test. Those kinds of people weren’t interested in people who were single. They figured there had to be something wrong with them. Of course, they didn’t figure on the raw truth that if you could be enticed away from who you were dating in order to date them, the same could happen again. Cheating was contagious.

Maybe the tech had put a hex on him? She’d have to go to the clinic to find out. She gathered up her things – water bottle, energy bar, book and journal with various pens, checked with the nurses in the unit and hailed a cab. James wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the doctors weren’t likely to discover how to cure him where they were looking. This kind of sickness doesn’t show up on a lab test, but it affects you just the same.

Lillie knew that all too often doctors look for symptoms and not causes. They treat the infection with antibiotics but they don’t look for the source. This was like the insanity of rebuilding your house every five years when you live in a hurricane zone. Best to avoid the problem and live somewhere else. Or perhaps it was like putting a Band-Aid on an amputated arm – it just wasn’t enough. A lot of people live like this, unwilling or unable to notice cause and effect. Perhaps they thought they were being polite. Like how it is considered rude to point out the obvious. Lillie’s Dad had died that way. 20 years of smoking and he had a bad cough. The doctor gave him cough medicine, meanwhile not even discussing the need to quit smoking. It was palliative care trying to soothe, to silence. It wasn’t helpful, or healing. It wasn’t directly harmful, sure, but it was certainly neglect of due diligence.

Lillie knew that now was the best time to go to the clinic because she was moving towards it. It had taken years of prayer practice to align her actions with God’s, but once she found the spot, she knew it. No more acting too soon or too late. Now she waited patiently upon the Lord and acted in the right time and in the right way. She no longer worried about having the right supply with her or having the right training. When she was walking in Christ’s footprints, she always had and knew what she needed.

James didn’t understand this way of being at all. He trusted only what he had control over, what he could do to affect the situation. Once left in other’s hands, who knew what would happen? He was used to being lied to, either intentionally or not. People made promises and broke them all the time. In fact, this was the one thing he could count on – that he couldn’t trust others. They’d proven it to him over and over. He wondered whether they knew they were lying to him, or were they simply just lying to themselves? Self-delusion was a horrible trap. It was better to have someone be intentionally deceitful. At least that way they knew what they were doing. It was bad, sure, but it wasn’t mindless. The mindlessness of self-delusion, of not being aware of your own actions and impulses, would lead to a wasted life. Socrates was right when he said “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

Lillie loved him anyway, and prayed for him that he might awaken. This constant reacting instead of acting was going to get him stuck in a corner he couldn’t get out of within a few years. He wasn’t there yet, but if he didn’t take care he’d be there soon enough. Meanwhile, she tried to help when she could but otherwise stayed out of the way. Picking up his messes would only cause harm to both of them. If she kept rescuing him, he would never learn to plan better because he would never have to fully experience the chaos that he created for himself. Pain is an excellent teacher, after all. To clean up after people all the time cheats them of the valuable lesson of learning how to avoid making that mess in the first place.

Maybe addiction isn’t just for substance abusers

Here’s a rule – if you choose to ignore good advice, you don’t have the right to complain about the results.

If you eat mostly meat and drink sodas, you will get kidney stones. This is an expected result. If you know better and refuse to change then you are stupid. You are not ignorant because you know better. You’re willful and childish. It is crazy behavior.

This is my working out my anger at a friend who repeatedly has kidney stones and complains about them. They are very painful and keep him from living his life. Or perhaps this is the life he wants – a life of pain, of feeling victimized – that this just keeps happening. I realized I was very angry about this behavior of his, and dug deeper.

I realized that part of it is that I’m still angry because my Mom was so surprised that she was dying from lung cancer. She smoked two packs a day of cigarettes for 20 years. Duh. Of course she got lung cancer. She should have known better. So many people act like this.

Addiction isn’t just about abusing substances. It is about maladaptive techniques for living life. It isn’t just about using drugs or alcohol. It is about loving pain more than loving being healed.

I’m angry because I got out of my hole of addiction and I keep seeing friends in their holes, wailing. They want attention, but not help. They want to be noticed, to have people feel sorry for them. I have to stop listening because I feel so upset when I hear them like this. It is almost as if they are celebrating their pain. I was obese, addicted to pot, and I smoked clove cigarettes. I got myself out of that terrible place, slowly but surely.

It is possible to get out of the jails we put ourselves in as soon as we admit that we are the ones who put ourselves there. We have the keys.

How are we as a culture so asleep as to cause-and-effect? I’m angry how often people complain “My head hurts” (metaphorically), so the answer is to quit banging it against the wall. We are our own worst enemies. I cannot stand listening to addicts. I was one. I got over it. Grow up. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot spend all your money and still have savings for retirement or emergencies. You cannot have a lifetime of inactivity and expect to be healthy.

Americans are willfully ignorant of cause-and-effect. They think poverty / illness / death happens to other people. Or that it is somebody else’s fault or responsibility. They blame someone else (parents, their boss, the government, for instance) for their being in that situation or demand that someone else (often the same list of people) get them out of it. These are all lies. They are all habits of addicts. It is so frustrating to watch people kill themselves slowly.

It is like we are in an abusive relationship with ourselves, and nobody is willing to tell us. Consider when you have a friend who’s dating a guy who is a jerk. He steals her money, talks bad about her, he makes her feel like she’s no good or makes her feel like she can’t do anything without him. All of her friends see this and yet they don’t tell her because they’re under this collective lie that she’ll just ignore their words. They believe that she has to figure out her problems on her own. But what if she lacks perspective to know that she has value and that there is a choice, that there is a way out?

I think it’s cruel to say nothing when you see someone hitting their head against the wall when the door is right next to them.

I think that it is not the sign of a friend to let someone continue to abuse themselves without showing them that there is a safe way out of their problems.

Now once someone has been shown how to take care of himself, been shown the doorway out of the room that they were trapped in, then it is up to them to take the next steps. You cannot shove someone through the door but it is perfectly loving to tell them that there is one.

Part of the problem of recovery is that not every door works for every person. It is like diets. Some people have to have a raw diet, while some people have to have a macrobiotic diet. Some people need to grow their own food, while others feel they don’t have the time to do it and go to grocery store. Somewhere in the middle are those who go to the farmer’s market. Every person has their own path and it’s important to remember that their path is theirs and theirs alone.

There is a fine line between compassion and codependency, and I don’t know where that is.

So in the meantime, I’ve “unfollowed” a lot of friends on Facebook, rather than hear them complain about their lives. I want to rescue them, to kidnap them. I want to force them to learn how to get better, because I think that will help me get better. Maybe I’ll get “a star on my crown” if I heal them. But I can barely take care of myself.

Care or codependency?

I recently posted a picture of an item I’d bought at Goodwill on my Facebook page. I’m going to use it as a prop for a story I’m writing, but in the meantime I wanted to know what it really was. Several helpful friends let me know that it was a kitchen timer. It looks more like a remote control than a timer, so that is what it will be in the story.

However, one person posted this picture and said “Don’t buy from Goodwill”.

Perhaps it is significant that this is a cousin, from my husband’s side. I’ve never even met him. Perhaps that alone is my problem. Perhaps I need to not “friend” people I don’t know, even if they are family. That is a topic I write about a lot. Boundary lines blur a bit with family.

Here’s my reply to his post (which you might notice didn’t answer my question at all) –

“Too late. I don’t buy from Goodwill with the thought that they will be donating to charity. I am the charity. I benefit because I get to buy something very inexpensive that I need, that I can’t afford to buy new. This is where I buy my clothes. In spite of the fact that the CEO makes lots of bucks – they do provide job training and opportunities to people who normally have a hard time getting a job (those with mental or physical disabilities, or those who are ex-cons). Plus, by their mere existence, they are encouraging people to recycle and reuse – the items don’t go into a garbage dump. Surely these points have to be of value to you. I’ve seen this image before – and I notice that yours does not include the one donation center that does donate a lot to charity and the CEO takes home under $25K a year – and that is the Salvation Army. I’m so tired of messages from people who mean well that say “DON’T do this” but then don’t tell you what is good to do. We cannot live our lives based on fear.”

I thought “How dare he tell me what to do! How dare he try to share his fear!”

His need to “correct” me is a sign of codependency. His way of thinking is the problem, not where I shop.

It reminds me of health book that said to drink lots of clean water – but not from a tap, and not to drink out of plastic water bottles. But what is there other than that? The author didn’t say. So how is that helpful? If all you share is what not to do, you are not helping anyone. In fact, you are making the situation worse. This is part of the current problem our society faces – too many “don’t” and not enough helpful information. We are being lead by fear of everything, with no let up. There is no relief – just more and more fear.

Here are some current fear-based modes of thinking that are going on:

The government is going to take away everything you have.
The government is putting chemicals in your food.
You are under constant surveillance.
Immigrants are going to steal your job and/or kill you.

These ideas are poison, because they don’t offer a cure. They contribute to un-ease, to dis-ease. They are all passive. They are things that are going to happen to you (so they say), rather than things you can do something about. They create fear and disorder.

We are being told we are in a cage and not given a key. The real problem is that we were fine before we were told these lies.

And then I thought more about his message. This was a chance to educate him on the rest of the story. So I shared this picture.

Half information is worse than no information. Whatever we share must be for the good of all. To share mis-information or terror-talk is to BE the problem. Also, it is important to consider before you share anything – are you trying to control the actions of someone else? If so, why? Is it perhaps that You are the one who needs to hear your message – not the other person? Thinking about why you feel the need to control someone else’s actions, even in the guise of caring for them, is a very useful meditation.

Mixed Messages

“People and things don’t stop our pain or heal us. In recovery, we learned that this is our job, and we can do it by using our resources: ourselves, our higher power, our support systems, and our recovery program.” — From “The Language of Letting Go: daily meditations for codependents” by Melody Beattie

I saw this picture recently.
mixed message

The title of the article is “Her tattoo contains a hidden message, and it started an important conversation.” The tattoo is an ambigram – a message that can be read upside down as well as right-side up. In this case, the message is different when read upside down. The normal way it is viewed by others says “I’m fine”, while the way that she sees it says “Save me”.

The article says that she got it as a way of dealing with her depression. It is her way of asking for help. But there is something very wrong about this. It is passive. Help does not come from other people. If you give away your power to others, you will continually feel powerless.

I find it significant that “Save me” is the view from her perspective. Maybe she will finally read it that way – that she is the only one who can save herself.

She is the one who makes choices.
She can choose
to get enough sleep,
eat healthy food,
avoid negative people,
find a job that is meaningful,
learn to speak her truth.

She can choose,
and must,
for her own survival.

Being healthy is a choice, and something each person must do for themselves.

Depression is a symptom, not a disease. It is the result of feeling powerless, disconnected, alone. It is a sign of not owning your own power, using your own voice. The way out of it is not to ask others to save you, but to save yourself. If others have to rescue you, you aren’t healed. They cannot do your work for you.

The giving away of power to others is part of the disease, the dis-ease. Ease, comfort, health, comes from taking responsibility for your own life.

You can ask for help to learn different ways of healing yourself, but you cannot expect others to do it for you. You must own your own power. You must be your own best friend. You must save yourself. This is the cure.

Stop being passive about your life.
Stop expecting others to rescue you.

Seeing people as trees.

I once read a story about a man who had decided to compare people to trees. When he walked into a forest, he saw different trees – some tall and strong, and some bent or stunted. The stunted ones had suffered – their light had been blocked by the bigger trees, or they had grown up in poor soil with not enough nutrients. He realized that the smaller trees were that way because of their environment.

When he went among a crowd of people, he started to see them the same way – some had better upbringings than others and were stronger. He decided to have compassion on the smaller trees and the weaker people in the same way.

Now, this doesn’t mean that it is his responsibility to “fix” the trees or the people. It isn’t his job to cut down a larger, nearby tree to get more light to the smaller tree. Likewise, if you encounter someone who is stunted emotionally – because their caregiver abused or neglected them for instance, have compassion for them.

This also doesn’t mean you have to try to fix them. That is the route of codependency, and steals a person’s power from them. Each person has the responsibility of their own live to take care of. We are each to help each other, certainly, but we are not to take away power from someone by doing everything for them. That will stunt their growth even more.