Saturday, December 11, 2010


I was having a rough time a few weeks ago, and a sticky-note appeared in my office, scrawled in my co-worker signature chicken-scratch:


Later that day my co-worker provided the explanation.

H-A-L-T the acronym for Hungry, Lonely, Angry, and Tired is commonly cited in recovery programs and in 12 step meetings. These are emotional states to be wary of, and avoid, where possible, as they lead often to poor decision-making. "When I start to act irrationally or get in a bad frame of mind I stop(halt) to ask myselfe if I'm experiencing any one of these: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. And, if so, what can I do about it?" The numbers reference pages in the "Big Book": a reading on acceptance and a reading on forgiveness.

While the reading on forgiveness is a good reading, I particularly relate to and appreciate the one on acceptance.

(The page numbers vary by volume, but the words are the same).

"Acceptance was the Answer":

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation -- some fact of my life -- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment [emphasis added]. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me an in my my attitudes.

...I'm better off if I don't give advice, don't figure I know what's best, and just accept life on life's terms, as it is today -- especially my own life, as it actually is....

...When I focus on what's good today, I have a good day, and when I focus on what's bad, I have a bad day. If I focus on a problem, the problem increases; if I focus on the answer, the answer increases....

...Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of Max and other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations.

...For my serenity is directly proportional to my level of acceptance. When I remember this, I can see I've never had it so good.

Since reading "Acceptance was the Answer" I have had a few moments here and there when I've been able to really embrace life on life's terms. At these times I'll say, "I am exactly where I need to be at this moment."

My tendency, of course, is to want immediate gratification and to refuse to accept what's in front of me at this moment. I am trying to learn to be patient. It is hard work, and I'm not good at it yet. Lately, I read this chapter almost every day.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"A Man Said to the Universe"
by Stephen Crane

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blast From the Past

For Thanksgiving I went back "home" to Charlotte for our traditional Thanksgiving gathering. Thanksgiving tends to be pretty low key and enjoyable, usually consisting of my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, and myself.

My trip to Charlotte was great. One of my favorite parts was mulling around in my room and finding a stack of diaries I had forgotten about. They were at the top of my closet, seemingly untouched.

Apparently there are 9 volumes of my diary (Each volume is a 70 pg spiral ruled notebook). I started writing in 7th grade and finished all 70 pages (front & back) of Volume 1 before 7th grade ended. My junior high writings always make me laugh.

Here's a particular favorite from 8th grade:

(This was the year when we all needed to have "boyfriends." I had already tried a few times, but all I got were rejections. Even with my platform shoes, I was shorter than every kid in the 8th grade, except for this one kid with a funny British accent named James. I knew nothing about him except that he was in Ms. Oelhafen's English class with me, had a British accent, and, Most Importantly, was shorter than I was. So, I asked my friends to ask James if he would go out with me.)

"Today Jackie D. and Nandi wanted to see me after school. They told me they had Bad news. They weren't sure if they even wanted to tell me or not. I told them I could not see them after school. I was leaving before 8th period to get my braces taken off. Finally, they called me up, & Jackie told me on the phone. She and Nandi had asked James to go out with me. The conversation was like this:

Nandi & Jackie---Will you go out with Mandy?
James---You mean the girl with the mile-high shoes?
Nandi & Jackie---Yeah.
James -- I don't know.
(He leaves with his friend, and his friend, Jeff, comes back.)
Jeff---James says he doesn't know who she is.
Nandi -- Well, tell your friend that he's an asshole! Okay?

(end of conversation)."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Heaven & Hell

My friend Ian shared this wonderful parable with me.  Thanks, Ian


A Rabbi was asked to explain heaven & hell, and he explained it with this story:

The Rabbi went to visit both hell and heaven and saw that the set-up appeared identical in both locations: long banquet tables full of food and residents seated at the tables to eat.

In Hell there is great suffering; those seated at the table are unable to bend their elbows and can not reach the food. They are tortured sitting in front of all of the sustenance and going hungry because they can not reach it.

In heaven, just as in hell, there are large tables of food; just as in hell, the residents of Heaven are unable to bend their elbows to eat the food in front of them.

In heaven, however, everyone is happy and satiated. They do not go hungry. Upon further observation, the Rabbi learns why. In heaven, each resident extends his arm to feed his neighbor across the table. His neighbor thanks him and returns the favor.

The Rabbi pities the residents of hell and returns to hell to suggest this strategy. The residents respond with spite and distrust of their neighbors, stubbornly refusing to feed those around them. Every one starves in hell.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I don't like it when they change my furniture!

For at least a year of my life, Josh and I lived happily in a small basement apartment in Chapel Hill. Josh had a particular affection for cats and described certain of my behaviors as "kitty-like."

As he pointed out, I tend to wander off in mid-conversation without announcing my departure. I tend to very quickly jump up and run out of rooms for no apparent reason. I am hyper-sensitive to environmental cues, can be skittish at some times, and sociable in other instances, mostly when I want something like food.

Most notably, Josh said, "You're just like a cat. You don't like when your furniture changes." I denied being this way, of course, until my furniture actually did change.

While I lived in the basement apartment, I slept on a vintage orange couch adjacent to the window. I was comfortable there and refused to sleep elsewhere. I could wake up with the sunlight, staring at the plants on the window-sill and the woods outside the window.

One day our landlord had the audacity to replace the couch with a newer sleeper sofa. I am not a furniture snob, but I had gotten so comfortable with my couch that I actually cried a few tears over the loss. Josh tried to console me by convincing me that the new couch was way better than the old one and that I would grow to love this one as much as the old one. It had fold-out capabilities afterall! Well, remarkably, Josh was right. I grew to love the new couch.

Since our time in the cozy little Chapel Hill apartment, my furniture has not undergone too many changes, but it seems like nearly everything else in my life has.

If there's one thing I'm trying to work on, it's my tendency to try and cling to what's ephemeral.

Change, for me is scary. Of course, I remember my 9th grade English teacher telling me (prior to my big move from Charlotte to New Orleans) that "Most things worth doing are scary."

I got offered a job in Asheville today. So, now I sit here freaking out, as I tend to whenever good things start to happen in my life. Opportunities mean choices. Choices mean potential wrong choices. Often walking through one door means closing off another door.

I don't like changing furniture, but sometimes change just has to happen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Daily Reflection from "Days of Healing"

Yesterday (June 28), I found this meditation from “Days of Healing”, part of the Hazelden Meditation Series:

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create that fact.

-William James

Many adult children learn that rejection and abandonment are part and parcel of being alive. We are so used to feeling as though things won’t work out, that fear – like a shadow – is always lurking behind us. Usually there’s something specific to be afraid of – that we won’t have enough money to pay our bills, someone we love will die, or our children won’t do well in school. And always there’s the generalized fear that events will overwhelm us in spite of our best efforts.

We need to be careful about creating what we look for. Regardless of the frightening experiences of the past, we need to believe that other results are possible: All loved ones don’t leave, all risks don’t end in devastation, and all efforts aren’t dashed on the rocks of defeat. New consequences are possible when we believe they’re possible. The brave new world that each of us seeks stands on the shoulders of that belief.

I am sick and tired of being fearful. Today, I am confident that positive efforts will yield positive results.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

If it aint broke...

"What's wrong with me, and how do I fix it?"

I've been asking that question for a long time. I've studied psychology, read a whole lot, gone to dozens of therapists, even become a therapist, trying to answer that question. I've acquired many different answers from many different sources.

The most useful answer I have comes from Josh, my ex-boyfriend.

"What's wrong with you is that you are looking for answers to the wrong questions. You can fix that problem by asking different questions."