Our Journey

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu

When we go on a journey what are we doing? We’re going from one place to another. How do we do that? We walk, drive, or fly. Each event we go thru is a step on that journey. We experience all kinds of things that bring us joy, sadness, anger, laughter and all other feelings in between. Each experience has something to teach us. Sometimes the events are big, while some are small but everywhere we go, everything we do, shapes our journey. We learn and grow. Quite often, we don’t know we’ve grown or learned anything until we’re past whatever we’re going thru.

My 1st total life upheaval was when the apartment building I lived in caught on fire nearly 13 years ago. There were so many reminders that made me cry for some time. I think it was around the time I was given a possible reason for it happening that I began to heal. That reason was because I couldn’t do what I needed to on my own, so, my Higher Power helped me the best way He knew how. Instead of continuing to mope around, I finally picked myself up by my bootstraps and started to live life again.

Thought for the day: Today, when I look back, I see the lessons learned even tho I may not have thought so at the time. I may look back and shed a tear in my heart over the good memories, I see the lessons I’ve learned and the growth I’ve had because of them.

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Freedom of the Past

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the “stuff” that weighs you down.” ~ Toni Morrison

Everyone has been hurt by someone in their lives. Perhaps someone has hurt us so bad that we harbor a resentment towards them. The only way to get past resentments is to forgive that person – not for their benefit, for yours – so you can move on to the future.

When my husband wanted a divorce, I was SO ANGRY at men I swore I was going to stay single until the day I died. My other best friend, a male, heard me saying this to someone and told me I would change my mind. Somewhere between me saying that and what happened was something I hadn’t expected. A man I’d been friends with for a few years started talking to me more often. Somehow between coffee dates he snuck into my heart when I wasn’t looking.

There was just one problem, my heart, angry as it was, still belonged to my ex husband. I realized I couldn’t go into another relationship with the weight I felt in my heart. I needed to forgive my ex husband for all of the hurt I felt. Forgive, not forget, for me, not for him.

When I began to forgive, I started to feel the weight fall from my shoulders and heart. I even spoke to him in a civil tone of voice. Do I miss the good times? Of course. Do I want to punch him in the nose? Hell yes! Do I miss him and want him back in my life? Definitely not. After a little while my heart healed and I was open for love again.

Thought for the day: We must learn from and forgive the past so we can live in the present and can look towards the future, whatever it may hold.

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The Past

“All mistakes are lessons to be learned and challenges to be overcome” By Unknown

Have you done something in the past that you look back on today with regret? Maybe you zigged when you shoulda zagged, you woulda said this, then this coulda happened. Psst, I have a secret for you. All the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s ain’t gonna change a darn thing.

None of us have lived a perfect life, but fortunately, the past, even tho it hurts, is done and over. This quote tells us that we can learn what to or not to do, who we are or are not, and who we do or don’t want in our lives. We can also learn to live by Spiritual Principles like honesty, integrity and acceptance to name a couple. We can even find what we’re passionate about or what our calling in life is.

Mistakes are a part of life. Having bad experiences, events or situations don’t have to define and describe us or make us victims. Once we can ACCEPT our mistakes and the part WE played or didn’t play in the situation, we can share with others what we’ve learned.

I have another secret for you. The key to learning from our mistakes is to get out of our “self mode”. That’s self mode is when we are selfish, self-centered, and self-serving. It’s when we think of only ourselves and not other people. When we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes and we can understand where they’re coming from and how our mistake affects them. Also when we can do this, we can see our part, our role in the situation.

Thought for the day: Today I will accept that mistakes are a part of life and will learn the lessons that they teach me.

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Unsung Heroes Part 2

Since man first began walking on this Earth, there has always been someone or some group of people who’ve wanted to take over someone else’s land and do with it what they wanted. They wanted to be more powerful and control the people they took over. At the same time there have been others who have fought back against the dictators and tyrants. These warriors have fought to keep their lands and to free the ones who’d been captured or enslaved. Eventually these fighters on both sides became known as armies.

From 1900 – 1945 America had been at war for 10 of those 50 years but the threats of war went beyond those 10 years. The First World War (WWI) was fought from 1914 to 1918 and the Second World War (or WWII) was fought from 1939 to 1945. They were the largest military conflicts in human history and both wars had very high numbers of casualties on both sides. It’s no wonder that American sentiment for another war was unfavorable.

Historically, for the most part, whenever American soldiers have gone to war either here or abroad, we’ve been proud of them. When they’ve come home we welcomed and honored them and even had parades in their honor. We’ve called them heroes. There is, however, one time in American history where our soldiers were very unpopular, disrespected and even spat on by the very people that they went to war to protect. The Vietnam War from Nov 1, 1955 – Apr 30, 1975.

According to Wikipedia, “The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the (Vietnam) war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam…(the aim was to stop) the spread of communism worldwide…Many Americans opposed the war on moral grounds, the devastation and violence of the war. Others claimed the conflict was a war against Vietnamese independence, or an intervention in a foreign civil war; others opposed it because they felt it lacked clear objectives and appeared to be unwinnable.”

What many people don’t understand about the Vietnam War is that while the sometimes violent protesting was occurring here, the war raged on over there, as did atrocities that our minds can’t even fathom, nor have many of us heard. As with other wars, many young soldiers lost their lives, but this one had another type of casualty. Soldiers who went mad after seeing the atrocities and being a part of the annihilation of entire villages and the people who lived in them. A vast number of these brave soldiers came home suffering from PTSD on some level. Out of those who came home, a great many soldiers turned to drugs and/or alcohol as a way to cope with the nightmares they had. There were also many who committed suicide.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know some of our Vietnam veterans. On Veterans Day 2017, I was out to lunch with my cousin and overheard 3 vets sharing some of their stories. After my cousin and I were done eating, she and I went over to thank them for their service. They were just a couple of the many vets who’ve served this country. Two of my uncles fought in that war but we never really talked about their experiences over there. Some of my knowledge comes from overhearing some vets talking about their experiences but most of my knowledge has come from high school textbooks, documentaries on tv or Hollywood movies. That is until recently.

A number of months ago, I became friends with a Vietnam War veteran. He is my reason for writing this. As you continue to read this, you will understand.

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Come back tomorrow to read about a Native American Elder and retired Vietnam War veteran I met who wanted his story told

The Past

“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either learn from it… or run from it.” ~Rafiki(From The Lion King)

This quote is from a kids movie called “The Lion King”. In the movie, Simba, ran away from home after being told he caused his father’s death. He meets Rafiki, a wise but silly baboon. Simba tells Rafiki why he ran away. Suddenly, Rafiki bops Simba on the head with his walking stick. Simba says,“Oww! Why’d you do that?” Rafiki replies, “It’s in the past. Forget about it” Simba then says, “But that hurt!!” Rafiki continues his lesson by saying, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” The next time Rafiki goes to bop Simba on the head he catches the walking stick before it makes contact. Finally Rafiki says something like, “Now you’re learning.”

All of us everywhere has made, still does make and will continue to make mistakes. None of us is perfect and some of us make bigger mistakes than others.

Many people who make big mistakes feel little guilt while others are weighed down it. One thing we cannot, we must not, do is run away from our mistakes. We must do what we can to make amends to those we hurt. If we say we’re sorry, we’ll probably hear, “Yea, you’re sorry alright. A sorry son of a…” To make an amends is to make things right. For example, if you stole money from someone or some place, repay the money you stole. If you broke a window, replace it.

Sometimes no matter what we do, no matter how many hoops we jump thru or mountains we climb, we may not get the forgiveness we seek. It’s up the people we hurt to forgive us. All we can do is make amends, we can change from our old ways. If we’ve hurt someone who’s passed away all we can do is look to the sky and express sincere regret and that we were wrong for doing what we did.

Thought for the day: Even tho you’ve made mistakes in your life, don’t run from them. Say a prayer to your Higher Power, forgive yourself, make it right somehow, and work to be a better version of you than you were yesterday.

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Written August 15, 2016(edited 2017)

“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.” ~ Anonymous

Just so nobody gets mixed up on the definition of acceptance, as a friend of mine says, let’s get out the dictionary. Acceptance has 3 different yet similar meanings; 1) the act of taking something that is offered, 2) the act of accepting with approval; favorable reception, 3) a disposition to tolerate or accept people or situations. Today I’d like to share on the third definition, a disposition to tolerate or accept people or situations.

I’ve been told that if I’m upset about something I’m probably having a hard time accepting it. As I think about why I’m irritated today, I realized what it is that I don’t want to accept. Life. I’m not accepting of how my life currently is – aka life on life’s terms.

For a number of years after I hurt my back I was pissed off because I couldn’t work. Part of my decision to not work was because it was to difficult physically and mentally. Some days the pain was so bad it affected my thinking. I resented myself for the decisions I made that led to the injury and leaving the workforce, rather my reason for leaving. I even resented my Higher Power for not answering my prayers for healing. At the time I didn’t want to accept my reality. I didn’t want to accept that even tho the injury was an accident, I did not listen to my doctor’s advise to take it easy which made the injury worse. I didn’t want to accept that I was disabled at an early age. Least of all, I didn’t want to accept that I would probably have pain for the rest of my life.

Today I have come to accept all of that including the bad decisions I made. I’ve even come to accept that my Higher Power guided me to and thru everything for a reason. Maybe it was a way to set the gears in motion to remove certain people from my life so that new people could come in. It could’ve even been to teach me what I needed to learn so that I’d be able to help others in a different way than I had for many years before all of this. It could’ve even been to prepare me for what I am going thru now.

As I write this, it dawned on me that the way I feel today is how I felt when I hurt my back. Pissed off and depressed because I have little to no control over what’s going on in my life. I hate physically feeling an 80 year old woman in a 45 year body. I forget that I have tools to move from a lousy mood and into acceptance. I can pray to my Higher Power and ask for the strength to accept that He has His reasons and a plan for me. I can also do a gratitude list when life gets to hard. It may not make everything OK, but it does help me to find good stuff within the bad.

I also need to remember some damn sayings that have helped me in the past. I call them “damn” sayings because they remind me of the Spiritual Principles that I try to live by, especially when I don’t want to. Principles like acceptance and perseverance. Slogans like “This Too Shall Pass, Just for Today, and the one that makes me crazy, “Check Your Motives”(simply because I don’t want to do it)

There are the little things that I can do too, like going for a drive, play in the garden and write. I can also remind myself that I have no control over anything outside of myself. I have no control over you, your actions or your feelings. I have about as much control over you or anything else as I do when it rains, snows or if the sun comes out. All I can do is accept what is and let go of the rest.

Thought for the day: If you are having a bad day and you’re feeling angry or sad, look inside yourself to see what you may not be accepting. Try doing any one or all of these things, you may begin to feel better. Acceptance becomes a little easier and your problems don’t seem quite so bad.

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“You’re At Where You’re At…”

“You’re at where you’re at for a reason.” ~Unknown

Have you ever had a time in your life when it seemed like the “stuff” fairy decided to move in? Maybe you had a series of events that made you question the grand scheme of things and you looked to the sky while wailing, “Why me?” I know I have. I did just that after my house fire, when both of my parents fell ill, the days and weeks after my divorce, and other times. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I heard this quote that my thinking changed.

In my early days of recovery, I woke up and realized all the things I said and did while I was in active addiction. I thought of myself as a monster. After my 2nd relapse, I saw myself as a failure. At that time, a couple of dear friends, who were also recovering addicts, lived across the street from me. I often found myself going over there to chat over a cup of coffee because they understood how I felt.

One time in particular, after doing some soul searching work on myself, I went over there. I told them about feeling like a failure and a monster. I told them what I was like before and during addiction and how awful I felt because of the things I said and did. Next thing I know, the one I called my bff put her hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “You’re at where you’re at for a reason.” At first I didn’t understand what she meant but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Can you recall a time in your life when you come across someone who is going thru something you’ve gone thru? Maybe this person is going thru a bad break up and they come to you for guidance. The two of you didn’t go thru the same exact things but there were some similarities. You share with this person stuff that helped you get to the other side of that event in your life. Or perhaps a situation happens in your life that either guides you or teaches you a lesson in some part of your life.

I’m a firm believer that “stuff” happens in our life and people are put in our path for a reason. That reason isn’t always apparent to us when this person enters our life or when we’re up to our eyeballs in “stuff”. However, when we get thru it and reflect on it, we may realize the reasons for our trials.

Since those days, this theory has proven true to me time and again. My house fire was to get me to break certain ties with certain people who were toxic in my life and jeopardized my friendship with another. Other people have come into my life have taught me valuable lessons and people have left to make room for others. My most recent move and the circumstances around that were to help me downsize my life as my health declines. Even my time in active addiction and my relapses have taught me lessons or helped me to help others better.

More importantly all of these experiences have helped me to be more empathic. I can identify with just about anything that almost anyone has gone thru whether or not they are an addict. Those people and situations have helped me to better understand what others have gone thru and I am better able to help another person with their situation. Here are just a couple of examples.

My client that I work for has a lot of fear and anxiety. She recently discovered a spot on her leg that could be skin cancer and has been understandably worried. As an addict I’ve learned that worrying is a lack of faith. I also have learned the importance of focusing on Just for Today instead of projecting the future. I shared what I’d learned with my client to ease her fears.

In my early years of recovery I wanted to learn all I could about addiction so I read a lot of different literature and watched a lot of TV programs on addiction. Because I only used one drug one particular way, I learned what addiction to other drugs and using them other ways was like. This has helped me to understand other addicts I meet and has enabled me to help someone better.

When my parents as they aged and fell ill, I’d learned a lot more than what I already knew about health care. This has helped me to help others who go thru similar situations with their parents.

Those are just a couple of examples of how some of my trying times have taught me experiences that I can pass to others.

Sometimes we look back on our lives with regret. We might regret saying or doing things that have hurt others or ourselves. We might also regret zigging when we should’ve zagged. Instead of looking to the sky wailing, “Why me? Why me?” try saying, “Why not me?“Why me? Why me?” try saying, “Why not me? What is this here to teach me?” If you look at it that way, you might be surprised by what you learn.

Thought for the day: Before moping around full of regret, try looking at your situation as a teaching tool instead of a punishment.

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