Take a day off.

When was last time you actually took the day off? I don’t mean one where you had a day off from work and you got caught up with all your chores. I don’t mean a day where you were doing yard work that exhausted you. I don’t mean a day where you had to spend it with people you don’t like. A day off from paid work that you spend working on your own things that exhaust you isn’t a day off. It is a day of work that you don’t get paid for.

I mean a day that you actually did what you wanted to do. I mean a day that you got to eat when you were hungry, get up when you felt rested, and take a nap when you wanted to. You got to watch the shows you wanted to or watch nothing at all. There was no schedule and no agenda. A true day off is one where you get to have fun and really relax.

I believe that many of the diseases that we are seeing these days are because people are not taking a day off. They’re not taking any time for themselves. They are trying to multitask and do too much. Multitasking is newspeak for screwing three things up at once.

Our bodies are like oil lanterns. They are fragile, and the fuel gets used up. We can shine our light for only so long before the fuel runs out. We recharge our lanterns by resting and eating healthy food. You can’t short-circuit it by using caffeine and sugar. The proliferation of energy drinks is a symptom of doing too much.

How about instead of doing more, we do better with less? Instead of propping ourselves up with energy drinks and pep pills, we take a day off and really rest? Instead of burning the candle at both ends, how about we take a day once a week where we don’t burn it at all?

What if instead of having to “do all the things”, the only thing you had to do was not do anything at all? Many of us are frightened of a whole day of doing nothing. We’re frightened of not having anything on our to-do list. Having a day off doesn’t have to mean you’re alone. But it does mean that you have to take time slowly and carefully.

Some suggestions – Turn off all electronic devices – no TV, no computer, no tablet. Color in a coloring book. Paint for fun – not for a project. Don’t complete anything. Don’t do any chores. Take a nap. Go for a walk.

The only thing on your to-do list is to be.

God said “Be holy, like I am holy.”

God named God’s self as
“I am what I am”
not
“I am what I do”,
or
“I am what my job is,”
or
“I am how much money I make”
or
“I am how big my house is.”
but
“I am what I am.”
So just be.
For one day.

Pray too late

I can’t make myself pray for people who have put themselves in a hole. They say “I need a miracle to help me get out of here”, and I say “What is the point?” You didn’t fall in. You climbed in, knowingly, for a decade.

It isn’t an accident that they have lung cancer or clogged arteries. Smoking cigarettes and eating poorly and refusing to exercise are choices. They chose to get sick, one bad decision at a time, over and over. So why pray for healing?

I know a guy who was slated to have heart surgery to clear up a blockage. They had to stop the procedure when they realized that the 30% blockage was really a 90% blockage. They’ll try again later. I’ve gotten emails and private messages asking me (and hundreds of others) to pray for him. The problem is, he weighs over 300 pounds. He put himself in this situation. Why pray? Why ask for divine intervention?

When my Mom got lung cancer after smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for 20 years, she was surprised. No amount of praying was going to undo that damage. No miracle was going to happen. When we came back from the doctor’s after finding out the diagnosis, she asked me if she could smoke. She’d thrown out her cigarettes when we were going to the doctors. She had an idea what was going to happen. The cigarettes were still in the house – but in the trash can. I told her that I would refuse to help her get better if she continued to smoke. Why waste my time?

There were plenty of people who would stand outside the cancer doctor’s office and smoke a cigarette before getting their treatment. What a waste. What stupidity.

I remember reading about how money is tight in England, and with the state-funded medical insurance program, they have to be very mindful about their resources. An overweight, elderly smoker who needs a heart transplant is likely to get passed over in favor of the younger person who doesn’t smoke. They take the time and money and spend it on someone who is likely to get some use out it. Why waste resources on someone who is going to waste it? I remember Americans being all up in arms about this. “Dignity of human life” and “How dare they” and “That isn’t fair” and all that, they said. Nonsense. Why put forth the effort when the person isn’t putting forth the effort?

Why pray for the person to be healed when they aren’t doing anything for themselves? Too late. The horse has already left the barn.

I really don’t feel I have the right words for this. I’ve thought about this for years, and I still don’t know exactly how to say it. I’m so frustrated with people waiting to the last minute and doing all the wrong things for their health and then being surprised that they have a chronic disease. Are we so blind as a nation, as human beings, that we think we can get by without paying the consequences? Are we so stupid that we think we should reap when we didn’t sow? Why do we think we are entitled to health when we refuse to create it? Good health isn’t an accident. Will power isn’t for the few. So many people are unwilling to work for their health, and then expect everybody else to feel sorry for them.

Maybe that is the problem. Passive lives all around. We don’t think about how we have to do things for ourselves. We blame others for our own failures. We blame our parents, our genes, our teachers for our own failures. We don’t have someone putting good food in front of us as adults – we have to provide it. Like children, we delight in treating ourselves with snacks and desserts. We pleasure ourselves every day with things that are bad for us, refusing to even try real food. We get a perverse pleasure out of not exercising, saying “you can’t tell me what to do.” We are children, not adults. We are killing ourselves with our childish behavior too.

No prayers. No miracles. We can’t wait for a savior. We have to save ourselves.

Poem – Civil?

Why do we say it is
“civilization”
when we
tear down trees,
dig up rocks,
flatten hills,
evict the animals,
and build
a new subdivision
or a mall
or a freeway?

How is it “civilized”
or even human
in the sense of smart
in the sense of forward thinking
to destroy what is there,
to not live with the land
to remove shade
to remove our source of oxygen
to remove birdsong

to render the colors
into the grey
of asphalt
and the pastels
of house paint?

Why do we have to go away
from our homes
our “civilization”
to feel more at home
in our bodies?

We go to the mountains
to the seaside
to the country
to find ourselves.

We are lost
in the
“civilization”
we created
for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it make
more sense
to live with the land
to live with the
trees and wildflowers and birds and deer and opossum
and not tear it down
to grow our own trees and
plant our own flowers
and bring our own pets?

We say we like nature,
but only if it is on our own terms.
We like it if we can control it
and name it.

We shortchange our souls
to be civilized.

The love of money

What is the point if you make $80K a year if you are miserable? If you find yourself drinking all the time to escape then your money means nothing. If your job doesn’t fit you, if you have an angry boss, if you find that you are expected to go against your beliefs, then it doesn’t matter how much money you make. You’ll spend it all on trying to escape with vacations, therapy, and expensive toys.

What is the point if you have a 25K square foot house if you have to work 60 hours a week just to afford it? You never get to spend any real time in it. You’ll spend a lot of that money in upkeep on it and the grounds.

Who are you trying to impress? What is really important to you? They say that money can’t buy you happiness. Maybe there is some truth in that.

I’ve heard that the best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your pocket. This seems like good advice.

Let us redefine success as someone who is happy with what they have. Let us redefine success as someone who has time to give back to their community. Let us redefine success as someone who is awake, alive, and present to the amazing thing we call life.

A new take on sobriety.

Sobriety isn’t just about being off of drugs and alcohol. It is about being into life. And this is about life as it is, not as you were taught it should be.

It is about being awake, and conscious, and fully present. It is about being mindful of your actions and your life. It is about being truly alive.

It certainly isn’t about having a blissful life. So many people want that. Even if they don’t try to avoid pain by drinking or doing drugs, they’ll try to avoid it by staying in a job or a marriage that they hate, just existing. Or, they’ll try to avoid it by leaving the job or the marriage they hate, eternally trying to find the right something or someone who will make them feel better. Or at least feel. Notice it isn’t about staying or going – there is something in the middle.

In part, it is about accepting life as it is. It is about resetting your idea of what life should be. This isn’t about settling. This isn’t about living with a terrible situation. This is about not thinking that “Happy” and “Beautiful” and “Popular” are normal states of being all the time.

Everything changes. The only constant is change.

Don’t be a zombie. Zombies aren’t alive. You can be one of the living dead and still have a pulse. Zombies just exist through their lives. Even if we don’t self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, we can cease to be alive by watching TV, or by being glued to our computers or cellphones.

Zombies don’t go for their goals. They don’t try to fulfill their dreams. What is it that you most want to do? I don’t mean “make a million dollars” or “go to Paris” or “be famous”. I mean – what is it that you were put on this Earth to do? Is it “write a book about paramecium” or “teach teenagers how to play guitar”? What is your gift that you need to give to the world? What is it that is your special thing that you and only you can do? Do that.

What will make you come alive, what will make you be truly sober, is discovering the thing that is your gift, and then giving it. It isn’t about being selfish. Making a lot of money and being famous are about receiving, not giving.

It is about taking responsibility for your choices and decisions. It is about making a choice and sticking with it – not second guessing and waffling. It is also about admitting you were wrong if you made a decision that didn’t work out well. It is about learning from that and trying again.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us in his book “Wishful Thinking : A Theological ABC” that your calling, your vocation, “is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Ferris Bueller tells us “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

It’s that.

Plenty of people are sober, but they aren’t really alive. They don’t do drugs, but they don’t do life either. They sleep all the time when they are off work. They can’t stand being alone. They eat comfort foods and distract themselves with movies and read books to help them escape their meaningless lives. Meanwhile, the problems continue. And get worse. And they continue to escape.

Sobriety is about facing the pain, either head on or sideways. It is about living through it, and with it, and because of it. It isn’t easy, but it is the only sane thing to do.

Live. And live well. Don’t just exist. Be sober, completely.

Expected death

Imagine if you got pregnant, and you weren’t told anything about what was going to happen to you. Or imagine if you were the friend of someone who got pregnant, and knew nothing. Neither of you had been through it or known anybody who had been through it. You’d not read about it even. When the contractions start to happen and the water breaks, it is going to be pretty scary. When the baby is born, you’ll both be freaked out.

But if you know what to expect – if you know that it is normal – then you’ll know what to do. You’ll stay calm and handle it.

Death is like that too. There are certain identifiable things that happen, and they are only scary if they aren’t known. They are different from how things are otherwise, and because they are different they can be unsettling. But they don’t have to be.

We’ve medicalized birth and death in Western society, and it is to our loss. We’ve forgotten what it is to go through these natural human experiences. We used to see birth and death in our homes, because we would all live together as a family, several generations together. We didn’t go to the hospital to give birth or die, with strangers or alone.

There are plenty of fine articles online where you can read up on the signs of death, so I’m not going to repeat their information. I will tell you that the more you learn, the more you’ll make a difficult situation easier.

Not learning about it won’t make it not happen. It will just make it harder when it does happen.

Stuck inside

Sometimes it is about using whatever tools that will work. Say you have a child that is trapped inside a building in a war zone. You want to get the child out but the child is so afraid that he has locked himself inside. He has locked the doors and put barricades over the windows. You will use any tool necessary to get inside.

I think the same thing about mental-health help. I’ll use any tool to get inside. When we are suffering with grief, anxiety, and addiction we are in a war zone. We are so afraid to leave our houses, which are all of our familiar habits. We won’t leave, even if it is the familiar habits that are harming us. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t, right?

So when you are afraid you will retreat to the things you know best. Even if it is the things you know best that are causing you pain. More accurately, they are only relieving the surface of the pain, and not the source. They aren’t addressing the cause of the pain. So the problem just builds and builds.

People who are suffering from grief, anxiety, depression, or addiction all need help, but sadly we think they need to ask for it to get it. We let them struggle alone in silence. The last thing they are going to do is ask for help, because that kind of thinking is beyond them. In fact, thinking that a) there is a way out and b) they are worthy of help – would be the way out. The fact that they think their cause is hopeless is how they got stuck in that hole to start off with.

When people are having heart attacks, we don’t wait for them to ask for help before we take them to the hospital. Why do we wait for people who are having soul-attacks to ask for help?

I envision a place where people can learn how to break themselves out of their own houses. Perhaps we have to slip instructions through the windows. Perhaps we have to play music so they can hear it through the cracks in the walls. Whatever works. If it is a book on child rearing or something from Rumi or Lao Tsu or Buddha or Jesus or AA Twelve Steps, I don’t care. Whatever works to get them out of that house.

Because that house is killing them.

People trap themselves inside addiction and bad habits out of grief. They feel a sense of loss over a divorce, over moving, over a death. Grief comes in many forms. And if not dealt with, it manifests itself in as many forms. You can’t ignore grief and loss. It has to be processed.

But so many of us get stuck inside our grief and we don’t know how to get it out. In fact, we don’t know that we should get it out. We think it is normal and it keeps us safe, while meanwhile it chokes us.

I will use any lock pick, any sledgehammer.
I will cut open the roof.
I will go down the chimney.

We have to free people and teach them how to be alive.