Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not Self

Hi all!! The photos are from Fort McPherson national cemetery. The top one is George, who was a much loved figure in AA and the bottom one is my dad's.

This isn't a post about the Buddhist concept of Not Self in a traditional way. I don't have enough experience or knowledge of the concept to really explain it. I focus on the concept on occasion but it isn't ingrained in my mindfulness quite yet.

When I think about the people in my life, I think about their influence. Their influence is a part of me. By them being a part of me, then there is no true or original me. Scott is a mixture of other people, some are ancestors I never met, others are the authors, artist and world figures who's lives and words have had an effect on me and then there are those I have had direct contact with, like George and my dad.

George was a character. He was an older bachelor, not the most hygienic person which was part who he was. Most people remember George for his grunting, he would grunt while talking. He was also a chain smoker, back when you could still smoke at meetings George usually had a cigarette lit. George was a chronic alcoholic, he was on of those guys in town who was hired for oddball jobs because during his active alcoholism he couldn't be counted on for long periods of time, unfortunately this stigma followed him in recovery, he didn't mind but others thought he got ripped off on occasion by locals hiring him to help roof a house or other things. George was old enough when he got sober, I seriously doubt he cared much about having a steady job, he enjoyed being able to go have coffee in the afternoons. George always took the time to greet people at meetings, especially new comers, always a friendly smile and a warm hand shake. He love the ladies and liked to tease them, he wasn't a perv, he was sweet and nice in his affection without being overbearing or dangerous. When I moved back to Nebraska in 1992, I use to go and have coffee with George and one armed Bill in the afternoons. George and Bill where a team, Bill use to get upset with George but loved him like a brother. These old boys would sit and tell stories of their lives, it was fascinating to listen to, my drinking career was nothing compared to theirs. Neither really talked the Big Book, although Bill was fairly intelligent, George not so much but they lived the Big Book. They know what it was like to hit rock hard bottom and find a new freedom and life. They really cared about others and showed it in the most basic way, by just talking and listening. George never talked bad about others even when the rest of us might be doing so, George would add comments about hopefulness towards the person. George left an imprint on my life and a lot of others, we talk about him lovingly now and then. I was back out when George died and along with my friend Burl, these are the 2 guys funerals I regret missing because I was drinking again. I know they would be happy for me now and understand I needed to go through what I did to get to where I am today. George's stone is a short distance from my dad's, so every time I visit dad's grave I visit George's, pour some coffee on it and leave a cigarette.

I have written a lot about my dad. Yesterday I visited the grave because I was in the area. I stopped poured some coffee, left some flowers and did a mediation of thanks and remembrance. My dad wasn't the best father, he was physically and emotionally abusive towards us growing up. When we got older I feel he was better equipped to deal with and relate to his kids. It was in these years I grew to know and love my dad. His imprint on me is in how I treat others and carry myself in public. My dad was a bit of a bigot and prejudice against those who where different but if those who were different showed him courtesy he would do the same in return. If a long haired biker or person of dark skin held the door open for him, he would thank them, same goes if they served him. He insisted we have good manners in public. He was born and raised for lack of a better word Hillbilly but he learned to rise above his hillbilly roots. He wanted to be on equal ground with everyone else and by showing good manners, people never know his background. Dad taught me about hard work, both in words and action. My job maybe very hard on my body some nights but I know I can deal with it and would never quit without a job lined up, this I owe to him. The same goes for doing work around my house or helping mom, he instilled in me my duty to keep my house and things I own in good repair if at all possible and to do it as soon as possible. He hated laziness and unfortunately my intolerance for laziness comes out too, one of those defects of character I have to always work on. My dad gave me my love of gardening and also I inherited a portion of his mechanical aptitude.

There are others who make up me also. My mom of course, hers is my gentleness and unfortunately a genetic trait for anxiety, her family has a long history of anxiety problems. Thankfully I have learned to use spirituality to keep anxiety in check and to move past it in as short as time as possible. Mom is also like dad when it comes to manners, respect and working hard. As for my siblings, if nothing else we have a history together and experience no one else would understand because they didn't live in our house with our parents.

This morning at my home group the matriarch of the group Connie, celebrated 35 years sobriety. She has played a big part in my recovery since my return. She sponsors a lot of women in the area, solid women sponsors are limited in this part of the state. She also indirectly sponsors others like me. She is one of my "go to" people, when something is going on in my life I talk to her after the meeting just to get her thoughts. Connie understands and accepts my approach to spirituality. She is one of the few old timers in the area who allow the non-Christian AA's to follow their our own path without interjecting the God of Their understanding. There has been many a time when I have been frustrated with the Christian undertones of old members at meetings, when I have felt alone and isolated from my fellow members. Connie has given me the assuring love I have needed to keep going back, reminding me of traditions and my responsibly to the newcomer. Connie shares about living the steps, not just working them. She shares about the mistakes she still makes after all these years sober. We had a couple of newer members at the meeting this morning, the general consistence shared by all and by Connie was, you get 35 years of sobriety by living sober one day at a time. She made the point of telling the guy with only a few weeks that the one thing we all had in common was we were sober "today". There is no me because Connie is in my life.

There have been many George, Burl and Connie's in my 13 years in AA, 9 years first time around and over 4 this time. All of these people are a part of me. I have also known people in recovery whose way of staying sober I didn't or don't want any part of, they are a part of me also. I have seen people die from active alcoholism and addiction, they are in me. I have seen people die sober and at peace with the world, these are some of my heroes.

My heroes are a part of me. John Lennon, more for the honest way he lived his life and owned his mistakes more so than the great music he gave us. Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. King, Mandela and numerous other voices who stood up for social injustice. Dylan because he taught me about words, word play and poetry. Jackson Browne's music has touched every part of my soul, Jackson is my musical go to person. Music is a big part of me, I don't need an iPod, I have thousands of songs by hundreds of artist in my head. There is no Scott.

The Buddha and Jesus are a huge part of me. Their teachings have become the foundation of my spirituality. There are parts of Native American spirituality, Taoism and Paganism within also but the foundation is cemented in the teachings of Buddha and Jesus. I may not be a Christian but my Christian upbring and knowledge of the teachings of Jesus both biblical and gnostic effect how I treat others and how I live my life. The Buddha has shown me a spiritual path to live by. Through the words of the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hahn and the Dalai Lama, 2 other heroes, I have been given a guideline to living a peaceful life, a way to understand suffering and how to see it for what it is. A way to readjust my briefs when they get all in a knot.

Bill W. and Dr. Bob are a big part of me. Bill was a great writer and able to put down in words all which AA is for the most part. Dr. Bob was the simple realist right up to his death. Bill and Dr. Bob where the Yin and Yang of AA and divine intervention put them together for us. All the good old timers, I am grateful they paved the way so I can reap the benefits of recovery today.

So if my ego gets caught up in the big ME trap all I have to do is think about all the people who have shape what I am. What ever God there is has a big part in this too, just realized I forgot to mention the concept. There is no me, no self. I am made up of others. I also share the earth with all living beings, it isn't here just for me, we share it together and we need to steward it together. We are interdependent beings, we all depend on each other to make the world we live in a beautiful place to live. I may not be able to stop violence and pollution outside of the area of the world in which I live in but I can do my part right here right now, I can make this a beautiful and safe place for you to visit if you ever come my way.

One last thought in reflection. Just as all these people have touched my life, I have also touched peoples lives. I feel I am spiritually responsible to touch peoples lives in a positive way. If I can't always show compassion at least I should do no harm.

Well I need to get busy in the shed. I brought back more stuff from mom's old house yesterday and just throw it in the shed, now I need to put it on shelves and organize it. I also brought back all my firewood, so I have it to stack up.

I hope everyone is doing well!!!

Peace Love and Light
Scott, who ever he is or isn't ;-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Being Dad

Hi all and hope spring is treating you well. I have all my plants planted and in their pots, waiting for the ground to warm up enough for the bulbs to grow, weather has been a teeter totter here.

This is about my daughter Mich and me. Many know during my drinking daze I was neglectful towards Mich. I didn't look after her needs emotionally or financially. I compensated my shame of drinking too much by allowing her to run wild, she was drinking and hanging out with older kids when she was 13. By the time she was 15 she was very resentful towards me; too many broken promises, embarrassment at having the cops show up at our house to take dad away in handcuffs, a rather dirty house house much in need of repair. My recovery started the road to healing but not before her actions as a result of my drunken parenting did its damage. By 16 she was in a girls home for being an uncontrollable youth; 2 Minor in possession of alcohol convictions, public assault, drunk in public, plus guilt by association with a bad crowd which the judge wanted to distance her from. By 16 she was pregnant, barely 17 when Angel was born, ward of the state of Nebraska almost to her 18th birthday. Yet she managed to graduate high school as a teen mother. Once sober I have supported her the best I could, sometimes to the point of serious enabling. When I moved away, my enabling lessened which was good for both of us. She is a very level headed young woman for the most part and a very good young mother, she still drinks on occasion but from what I can tell it isn't out of hand, she also has friends in recovery whom she turns to when she needs grounded advice.

Mothers Day was the shits for her! Her boyfriend, father of Carter baby number 2, who lives with her proved once again how immature and selfish he is. Detail, I dislike the kid because he is lazy, can't or won't find a job, spends huge amounts of time playing the Magic card game with buddies, smokes pot and drinks. If he worked to provide for them and smoked pot and drank, I would be more forgiving. To his credit he is good with the kids. So on Mothers day I am outside doing landscaping and here comes Mich with the kids in the stroller, she had walked 4 miles to my house because BF took her car; the car they drive is hers and I pay the insurance, if it wasn't for the kids I would make them go car less. They had a fight because he made plans to spend all day with his mother, not setting aside any time for the mother of his son, Mich also wanted to visit her Grandma for Mothers day. He took off with the car while she was in the shower, leaving her with a dead cell phone on top of things. Mich has had a hard time with Mothers day in the past because of her mothers death, now with kids of her own, the day once again is special. I was pissed at him needless to say at his immaturity to not realize once you have kids Mothers Day is about the mother of your kids and not about your mommy. I could have sent the cops after him for stealing the car but know deep down inside revenge is not the answer, doing the right thing sucks sometimes! In the end, Mich and kids spent day with me and I took them and my mother out to supper.

Last Saturday morning I get woke up by the dog barking a wake up enough; it was 10:30am and I had worked the night before not getting to bed until 5:00am. It was Mich, I had locked the dead bolt so she couldn't let herself in with her house key. She had checked BF's cell phone from the night before, he had been out very late playing Magic, on the cell phone where text messages from a girl, there was a lot of flirting and talk of hooking up. Mich was pretty upset needless to say, she was also tired and a bit hung over from drinking with her neighbors. So after both of us cleaned up and when grandpa had his coffee level replenished, we took a drive to a bigger town to do some shopping. I wanted to go to a discount store which we don't have locally to check on yard decorations. I didn't find anything special at the store for me but bought toys, books and clothes for kids. We also went to the big dollar store, one of those where everything is $1.00, Mich bought a bunch of basics. We went out to eat and they stayed at my house until late Saturday evening. Sunday Mich and the kids where here once again, she was basically avoiding BF and trying to work things out in her head, she did go and visit a good recovery friend of hers. Mich has been in and out of meetings for a few years, she misses the bond with recovery people but all her playmates drink so she hasn't chosen to change her environment, plus BF drinks and doesn't like her going to meetings.

Monday morning she her and the kids where here once again, she was in tears. She said she broke up with BF and was worried about his actions. I reassured her we can handle anything he throws at us, which would include trying to get custody of Carter. She said she has done a lot of reflecting the last week and realizes this is not the life she wants for herself or her kids. Part of it is no financial security, always behind on bills, borrowing money for diapers, or anything else. She is tried of his laziness, the fact that he said she needs a new battery for the car when in fact dad just cleaned the terminals, lot of built up corrosion on the positive post and the battery was fine added to this. She was tired of the manipulation, he always twist things to make it seem like all their problems are her fault. He never wants to do anything with her family or friends, it is all about his family, they are very close and controlling, sickly so. She has friends who are in good relationships and she wants the same. She wants a healthy relationship, one based on mutual respect, sharing of responsibilities plus security for herself and the kids. I hope she sticks to her guns because this is what I want for her too, what parent wouldn't. She would like to get a job but can't trust him to watch the kids, state won't pay for daycare with him living there and out of work.

Tuesday she is over and this time she tells me she freaked out on him Monday night and beat the crap out of him with a tikki torch and kicked him out of the apartment, he called her some pretty rude things. She was scared he would retaliate so she stopped by the cop shop to find out about a restraining order. This has set the ball in motion for her to by charged with assaulting him since she admitted she beating him up and his mom took pictures. Long story short he got his stuff without any problems. Kind of a messy deal now though. What she did was wrong but I feel she just has so much penned up anger she exploded and lost control. She will have to report to jail in a day or so, from there a court date will be set. The cop she talked to said if she reports early enough she should be able to see the judge, post bond and not spend any time in jail right away. She will opt for a Public Defender who hopefully keeps her out of doing much if any jail time, if he explains to the judge the emotional mess she was in. I am not against her going to jail but for selfish reason her going to jail would create problems finding someone to watch the kids.

What has happened over the last few days, months and years between Mich and me is a direct result of me being sober, living the steps and connecting with a spiritual way of life. There are no strings attached to my actions. I try to be here for her and she honestly appreciates what I do for her. Moving back here has given her a place to go when she is down, a safe and serene place. It is like when the chips are down dad is here for her. My being here for her is the best thing I can do. I can't fix the situation. Like a friend says, we have to allow others to experience what they must for their growth. She has to experience every bit of her pain and feel the fear, then and only then is there a chance for her to change. It has taken every experience I have had to make me the dad and grandpa I am now. Every experience has molded my recovery and spiritual life, the good and the bad. I am blessed and grateful we weathered the storm of drinking years and now have the healthy loving relationship we do. I know a lot of people in recovery who's kids are still angry at them or just have a casual relationship with them, they are sad about this and also powerless over changing their kids, sometimes living amends don't work out the way we want them to.

This afternoon I had a BBQ, Mich and the kids where here. We all had a good time and good fellowship. There was a lot of talk about Soberfloat, Soberfloat is when a bunch of recovery people get together for the weekend, camp out and spend the better part of the day tubing or canoeing the biggest river in Nebraska, there is one big potluck all weekend and meetings, big bonfire meeting Saturday night which last until everyone has has a chance to share. This year will be the third one they have had, 3 of us, myself included, have been to the last 2 and are going again. A buddy and I are doing what we can to make sure anyone who wants to go gets to go, we can't foot the $25.00 for the float but we will work out transportation, sleeping arrangements and food, the event is 3-1/2 drive northwest of us. We do it because we love the event and because it is what Dr. Bob would have wanted us to do. Maybe we can't teach someone how to enjoy living sober but if people hang out with us we can show them how to.

Oh yeah and this is cool. We were jamming to Led Zep on the way to G.I. she told me she never realized how great they were! Plus she has started borrowing my Blues c.d.'s. She has listened to this music most of her life and is now maturing enough to appreciate it, instead of it being the old man's music. Hopefully a friend of mine will receive the same warm fuzzy when her kids start enjoying White Stripes and Tool:-)

Well friends this is my tale of late. Work is going alright, I am accepting the things I can't change and keeping do the footwork the things I can. Mom is getting settled into her apartment and really liking it. My aunt, her youngest sister, has really helped her and I think enjoys mom being back in town.

Peace Love and Prayers to all!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not Celebrating

‎"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." ~ Martin Luther King Jr

I for one am not celebrating in the death of Bin Laden. I am not really sure I am glad he is dead, not glad about the way he died. Yes he was a murderous evil man and caused the deaths of thousand, non-Muslims and Muslims, he was the one who is responsible for the horror of 9/11, a tragic day burned into my memory. I have a spiritual belief which deep down inside says killing is wrong even the killing of ones enemies.

Are we justified in our blood lust dance? Does our blood lust differ from his and his followers? Do we have the right to think we are superior or our cause is superior? I personally don't think so. For one thing all living organisms are intertwined, we all require the same air, water and earth for survival. I am the same as you, as the flower, the fish, the bird etc. For another, who I am I to play God or Divine what ever? Do I have the right to say and know who has the right to live and the right to die. There are people in the world who would say I should die or be imprisoned for my beliefs, hell there are people in this country who would imprison or censor me for my beliefs. I can't justify the being happy about the killing of another just because I perceive them to be spiritually or socially inferior to myself or my country.

Bin Laden's death will not stop the killings, it will not end the war on terrorist. No many more innocent people will die. Many more American service men and women will die. As a veteran, who served 20 years, my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters in arms. I never wanted to see them experience the horrors of war to begin with and still want them safe at home ASAP. Some how some way, the world needs to address the underlying cause for all the hatred, hatred which has lead to the senseless killings. The world has been at war since the dawn of time, war is the one thing our heightened intelligence has failed to eradicate.

As I have grown in my spiritual practices, I am more aware of how my own ignorance and prejudices shaped the big ME of self. Bit by bit I chisel away at the views which keep me from showing true compassion and loving kindness. I do my best not to sit in judgement of others, I am not God. I am a simple being among other beings, other living organisms. People laugh at me because I don't kill insects for no reason, granted the mosquito sucking my blood is a goner and an over abundance of flies in the house fall to a swatter but I do my best to leave them alone, we have repellents for such pest. I have a fondness for spiders because they are natures own controllers of obnoxious pest. When I look deeply at the interdependence of all living things, I try and see how we can coexist with each other. When I pull a weed from my garden, the weed decomposes and returns as food for the grass where I throw it. What I am fumbling to say is; I am learning to cherish all life. Yes I still eat meat so I have not given up my selfishness on this, nor have I stopped smoking another act of selfishness.

From the recovery side of justifying the celebration of the death of an enemy I reflect on what the Big Book says about resentments. " It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison."

I can't pick and choose who deserves my anger and who doesn't. A resentment is a resentment, whether it is against a murder, my sister or my neighbor. If my spirit is darkened by resentments then I am blocking out the sunlight of the spirit, sunlight which can be used to benefit others. Could my anger at a world figure cause me not to smile at the sad cashier or the person I encounter who is having a rough day and really could use a friend smile and greeting from a stranger? I believe it can. If my eyes are the window to my soul, shouldn't I do my best to make my soul shine from them, to use spiritual tools to wipe away the grime and smugs of anger and resentment.

I am saddened by all the hoopla and celebration of Bin Laden's death. I read post on Facebook by friends in recovery and people who regularly post pro-religious messages and wonder what part of the message of spiritual living are they missing. I know this is judgmental of me. I am saddened by most of the news articles also. A few of the 9/11 families have written post saying they are not happy about the hoopla either, that an eye for an eye will not bring back their loved ones and are sadden the death of their loved ones has brought only more death and destruction. I am saddened by the message we are sending out to our youth. How can we create a future of peace with more violence? We can't teach love and hatred at the same time, it has to be one or the other. What would Jesus, Buddha, Saint Francis think about all of this? I think I know what Gandhi and John Lennon would be saying, Dr. King is quoted above so there is no speculation about him.

I wish I had some answers for the troubles of the world but I don't. I am not perfect either. I do what I can to humbly voice my simple opinion on issues which trouble my heart and I don't expect agreement. This celebration will pass, like everything else it is impermanent. We will all find another issue to obsess about soon, maybe Lindsey Lohan, Donald Trump or Charlie Sheen will do some more stupid shit to divert our attention away from the reality of world suffering.

Thanks for allowing me to express myself. I wrote this because writing this stuff out brings me a bit more peace.

My prayers to out to all who are suffering tonight. To a special blogger friend who has found it necessary to end her blog, she will be missed but knows she is loved my many.