September 30, 2010

Happy is Okay!

Things are going well lately. Consistently I have been recognizing the richness I have been given. I continue to work diligently toward stability and health. The curriculum I started is coming together and I anticipate a spring completion. The book I began some time ago has once again been abandoned but this time for something I am proud of. I began brainstorm writing two weeks ago and have gotten twenty pages into the possibility of a new direction.

The thought entered my mind, “how long until it comes to an end”? That isn’t a productive embrace of the goodness so I shan’t poop on the happiness today.

And of course, my therapy-mindedness turns to wonder about how one might pursue and keep happiness more. This is what I have managed to decide:

Eliminate or reduce stress: Lighten up a little! Not everything is serious. Life is a terminal illness, right? Why not enjoy it more? And that message is brought to you by a chronic worry wart!

Smile a little more at other people! I once heard that if you answer the telephone with a smile on your face the person calling can hear it in your voice. I also think of that insurance commercial on television where a good deed is paid forward all day… what if we smiled at someone else? I think our impact on others is greater than we ever realize.

Stay even: I guess the truth is that it won’t always be good. Some days are better than others. Without anxiety of the future perhaps taking the good with the bad is a decent approach. We can’t expect everyday to be the best, but we certainly can’t expect everyday to be the worst, either. Even on the bad days we can be grateful for the things we do have and less miserable about what we don’t.

Love who you are: When we aren’t happy with who we are we are over-critical of others. If you find yourself believing the world is stupid and people are idiots….that just might be about you!

And my all time favorite topic…..Find and work toward your passion and purpose.

Work daily on that purpose!

September 27, 2010

Lifetime Memories

A million thoughts in my head.
Many voices on my mind.
So many memories of the past.
But most of them were kind.

Which to cling to and
which to toss away?
Holding to hope of promises for tomorrow
without ever disregarding those of yesterday.

September 21, 2010

Your Purpose: Part Three

And the final part.....

While in the transition to change and experiencing the discomfort I find it important to keep in mind the gifts that come with grief, the positives that come from pain and the signs in the struggle.

Grief is tiring. Oftentimes, it envelopes you entirely and it can be different for all of us. Each time we experience loss we have a grieving time. For some it can go quickly and for others it can last what feels like an eternity. This is a place that we cannot compare ourselves to others. Grief takes as long as it takes and what we need most during transition is to surround ourselves with loving people who will hold us up and provide us the loving but honest feedback necessary to move forward. The aforementioned addition that comes with loss is something to keep in focus when working through loss. Daily, when involved in grieving loss, I remind myself that things aren’t the same as they once were. While that is regularly a cheerless reminder it also helps me remember the gifts that are to be had.

There are positives that come from pain. While working through tough times and making difficult changes I have seldom done so without sorrow; however, I adhere to the idea that often it is the painful experiences that produces some of the greatest lessons. Perhaps, human nature is responsible, but many people change only from feeling that twinge of hurt that accompanies consequence. While it sometimes can feel like torture, frequently, I hear people talk about how much they learned in the toil of growth.

Finally, there are signs in struggle. Because I believe we all have a purpose for inhabiting earth, I also believe there is a power greater than me who provides me with great signs toward that purpose if I will only follow. My vision of this is that the power greater than me sits atop a mountain watching my journey. While I can only see the road in front of me, I am provided a map, compass, and signs at every turn. It is my choice to look up and follow them or ignore them completely. And when I am honest with myself I admit that sometimes I see the signs clearly but divert from the path anyway.

Each day is an effort. Each day when working toward your purpose it is important to remind yourself of the big goal. Focus on the small signs and the short-term goals but keep the bigger picture in mind as you work. There will be a reward at the end and there will be small gifts to keep you moving forward to the destination.

Trust your purpose.

September 16, 2010

Your Purpose: Part Two

What next?

First take a look at who you really are today. This is not easy for some. Actually, it is my estimation that 70% of Americans live unconsciously. When I use the term unconscious I simply mean that they are unaware. Unaware of whom they really are, of their impact on others and of what they truly want out of life. This manifests in many forms. Some are running so fast in the routine of their lives that they simply fail to breathe in reality and explore their true desires. Others are victims who daily use statements such as, “I have no choice” to explain away the reason they cannot reach a goal that might be their passion should they awaken their spirit long enough to acknowledge it as such. Finally, there are others that are so caught in the sad state of moving ahead with material possessions that prove their worth and value to others.

I do not have any heart burn with someone who owns nice things and desires to get ahead financially. I simply am heartbroken with someone embracing financial wealth or gain as the only thing that defines them as successful. Should someone prosper from living their dream that is merely icing on the metaphorical cake because they are probably also full with their life vision. I am a fan of anyone who, at the end of each day, can truly say without hesitation that they have been satisfied with themselves, all they accomplished and the life they are living. I am not a judge of what that life looks like.

Looking into a mirror of honesty is not an easy endeavor, but an imperative one to change. Once all of who you are today is examined it is then important to compare who you are today to the person you want to become. The vital concern here will be to determine how big the incongruence between who you are and who you want to become. For it is in this contrast that the work takes place.

If you have already established why you are who you are, who you want to become and the person you are currently you will be ready to put action to your purpose and passion. Because we use routine to guard against change it will be important to be daily aware that the process of change is not always comfortable. Actually, when in the process of change it is imperative to embrace the idea that uncertainty is the only certainty. And know on the front end that with any change comes loss. When you make a commitment to your purpose and passion, don’t be surprised when others aren’t in full support of your new ideas. Others objective for your life are not always your own. However, I believe this kind of loss actually results in addition (I was never good at math). I believe there is much more reward in a loss of this nature.

At this point focus on the incongruence and the nature of the changes that will need to take place to work toward living your purpose. The world is your oyster.

More to come…..

September 14, 2010

Your Purpose: Part One

While walking through Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, a thought crossed my mind. What do our lives mean, anyway? What is the significance of having lived if one day we will all be gone nonetheless? And when I said this out loud, the friend with me said, “you make it count”.

You make it count. Our lives, our legacies, our purpose must be decided and pursued with passion and determination. Each one of us is on this earth for a reason, in my opinion. As I have discovered, determining that passion and purpose might not be the hard part.

Typically, when speaking to this subject I find the best question is: “What would you do if you could do anything”? The only two stipulations, unfortunately, is that we cannot make someone love us who doesn’t and we cannot bring someone back from the dead. Those are two things beyond our control. So, answer this: If I waved a magic wand and granted you your wish, what would it be? That is as close to the purpose and passion of your life as you will get at this moment. And if you are disappointed in your answer, that is an entirely different issue!

The next step to living that dream is to find out how to become that! If you want to be a surgeon you can’t simply walk into an operating room. I don’t really know what you have to do to become a surgeon, because that isn’t my dream. But, someone knows. Maybe a medical school or someone who is already a surgeon would be a great place to start. Sitting around saying you have a dream and delving into the process of actually working toward that dream are two very different animals. I find a great deal of dissimilarity between wanting something and wanting it enough to make it happen.

After you find out the “how to” the next step is putting that how to into action. Making a plan, a map, or a vision board is a powerful tool to turn a dream into an actual purpose. For myself, I need daily reminders in front of me of my objective. I need to be reminded of the BIG goal and the smaller steps each day in order to see (because I am rewarded visually) the events unfolding before me.

Not dissimilar to housekeeping for me is large goal accomplishment. I need it broken down into parts. I am not one to clean my entire home in one fell swoop. I clean a bathroom, then the kitchen, then the living room. I have discovered that I feel remuneration in bits and pieces. Some people like to take on the whole house and receive their prize at the end of the entire task. That is something only you can determine for yourself. You know how you operate best.

This is not the final step, of course. There are two more areas to rummage through….but as all good writers do…I will leave you wanting more! I shall return to this idea soon….

Determine your purpose!

September 11, 2010

Friendship & Laughter

Dinner at Palomar; Arlington, Virginia

In the Metro Station; Washington, DC.

Airplane! No snakes on the plane.

Advocacy in Action!

Dinner on Dupont Circle

Washington, DC

I just returned from an advocacy trip to Washington, DC. My colleague and I made 12 visits in the House of Representatives and Senate. Key issues addressed during the visit:

· Support to increase funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block (SAPT) Grant administered by SAMHSA within the Department of Health and Human Services.

o The SAPT Block Grant is the single largest funding stream for treatment programs and the most important program that affords addicted individuals treatment.
o The SAPT Block Grant serves our nation’s most vulnerable, low income populations.
o The funding for the SAPT Block Grant has been stagnant for the last several years, yet demand for services continue to rise.

· Support to make addiction providers eligible for HIT funds in HR 5040, the Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services act of 2010 (HITECH).

o Most providers of addiction and mental health services were not eligible for the health information technology funds allocated through last year’s stimulus bill.
o HR 5040/S 3709 would make providers of lifesaving addiction and mental health treatment services eligible for these funds and strengthen for cost-effective, quality care.

· Support by Congressional members in joining the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and the new Congressional Caucus on Youth Drug Prevention.

· Support of workforce development and potential loan forgiveness programs could promote job growth in the addiction counseling field. The field is losing professionals every year. In 2008 nearly 10% of Americans (23 million) had treatable addiction. As this number continues to rise there will continue to be a great need for professionals in the field.

If you are in the field or a friend of the field, I urge you to contact your Representatives and Senators to ask them to support these issues. Treatment and Prevention work. I see the results every day. I have devoted nearly half of my life to assisting people with addiction. I hope you will speak up for these and all the other issues that are important to you. We do have a voice. Many of these matters will be decided between now and November 3.

Speak up!

September 07, 2010

An Event

I have been reading a great deal lately about the Tao Te Ching. More than two years ago a co-worker began talking about it and it sounded intriguing. A little less than a year ago he gave me a book for my birthday that had Tao messages woven throughout. This summer I picked up a book by Eckhart Tolle that had been recommended by another friend years ago. And finally, the book that took me to my knees a month ago smacks of these ideas.

I am not converting religious beliefs or giving up my clothes for a saffron robe and shaving my head. I am simply beginning to see something about peace that I had not the eyes to see in previous times. Were one to spend a week, perhaps less, with me they would see that one of my biggest hang ups is worry. I worry about the past, I worry about the future and I would worry about the present moment if I allowed myself to be in the present moment for a moment! I will pat myself on the back in acknowledgment that it has diminished from the enormity it once was, but it creeps out now and again.

The Tao Te Ching has been studied, dissected and written about, so I don’t for a moment pretend that I know enough about it to even consider myself educated. However, the gist of the message I am receiving is of the possibility to incorporate peace into my hectic life. Perhaps in time even do away with “hectic”. There are many other lessons but the one I am clinging to is currently related to the power I give events.

As I understand in the most recent book I am reading (and mentioned several times throughout the previous), I give events too much power. While I have long believed that there aren’t good and bad things, only things, this idea is much more profound. The idea of not giving an event power would free my mind and heart to so much conformity. Conceivably more than I can even comprehend today. This speaks to me on a core level. The idea of how diminished, if not expelled from thought completely, any guilt or shame attached to decision making overwhelms.

Most recently I sent an email to someone hoping for a particular response. Before sending it I even thought about the possible responses. I weighed the pros and cons of both positive and negative reactions. And for me, the most negative of all…the possibility of being completely ignored (which for me is an equivalent of soul torture and something I am certain to blog about in the coming weeks). I decided instead of fretting about the possible outcome and whether I should have even sent the email, I would apply this new principle.

I sent the email. And sending an email was an event. It is over, it has passed. The outcome is out of my control. Furthermore, the result does not reflect in my worth or value. No one event, no one choice, no one consequence culminates in who I am. Who I am at this very moment is simply who I am at this very moment. And at this moment I chose to be pretty spectacular.

Will I check my email a couple of times today looking for that response? I might. Maybe I won’t. Will I have feelings related to the response or lack thereof? Possibly. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Nevertheless, I will embrace the idea that each thing is simply an event. The behavior or opinion of another does not identify me. And with that thought I can put space around the feelings that are historical for me (the ones I like to refer to as “go to feelings”). And the event will simply be an event. And I will be okay.

Event by event.

September 06, 2010


Our perceptions are colored by our hopes, fears and experiences. Isn't that true! Nearly everything we do is colored by experience.

So, how then can we say we don't judge? How then can we say our hearts are open? How can we say the slate is clean?

And most importantly, how do we move forward with positive attitudes and aspiration?

Colored glasses....

Colorado Trip 2010

September 05, 2010

Shopping Bags

I folded one of those shopping bags yesterday that I used to save for you. You loved them so much. I used to bring them home to you. I don’t know what to do with them now. I learned over time which bags were "the ones" and those that just wouldn't do! There was a right size and right handles.

How much fun we used to have with you carrying those bags and all of the things you used to fill them. Books and magazines were your favorite. And you would come to my house and we would carry them to your room. At night when I would come in there to say goodnight you would have the magazines spread all over the bed and always have a pair of scissors nearby for clipping articles. It never failed that you had an interesting article to share. A clipping about “raising boys” or a helpful hint on stain removal, frequently a recipe to try or a positive affirmation to hang on my refrigerator.

So many trips with those bags we took. We went to the coast, from home to home of your kids, on vacations. I remember when reusable shopping bags first came out. We must have bought them from every store we went to that weekend. Your favorite was from Sprouts and how you loved that store, too. That is where we found your tea tree oil the first time.…and so many other goodies.

I smile to myself now when I pack a shopping bag to take “extra things” on a trip. And every time my sonshine tells me his tummy hurts I bring out the chamomile tea…when something itches I get the tea tree oil. And I smile. Because you live on.

I miss you mom and I am so glad you are still all around me, everyday.

September 02, 2010

Lesson Learned

For one week I committed to simply posting one thing I am grateful for as my Facebook status. As simple as that may sound, I wasn’t certain I could do it for seven days. However, I just posted my seventh day. Seven, actually eight things I was grateful for. And there are so many more. And unequivocally they aren’t all that hard to see….when I use my eyes of appreciation. Blessings are abundant in my life, despite the many losses I still grieve.

Just yesterday I was talking with someone I haven’t seen in sometime. She didn’t know about mom passing away but had heard of my job loss that followed quickly after. She said, “that just isn’t fair”. And the truth? No, it isn’t fair. But it is. And I can’t change what has happened. But, I can change what I look for in what has occurred.

There are so many lessons in life. Even in loss.

With the most recent loss of a friend I experienced a few weeks ago I believe it felt a little different because they moved away from me, they didn’t die (while there is some figurative therapeutic value in that concept). With my mom and the company I worked for that folded, that loss seemed out of my ability to control. I had the idea in my mind that I could somehow control the behavior of my friend. The truth is that I can’t control the behavior or feelings of anyone….ever.

Can I have an impact on others? Without a doubt. My behavior can impact the world around me but it can’t cause someone to change by sheer attempt alone. And I am metaphorically hitting myself on the forehead saying, “uh, duh”! Isn’t that something I became skilled at early on when working with drug addicted clients? Absolutely. So, what gives me the power to change anyone in any other scenario? Nothing. Categorically – nothing.

While I believe in hard work in relationships with friends, family members and romantic partners I do not think it is my job to fix them. I have lost someone in all categories this year alone (wow….maybe something else to look out there…the common denominator issue and all….but not today). And when I love someone I believe It is my obligation to work hard and give to them. But a major lesson learned is that I cannot be the only one giving and working hard. It will never work that way. At least it will not work for me.

Looking for more lessons.