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The truth about patience

Isn’t it always the way when things aren’t moving along at a pace we’d like or situations don’t exactly fit an image or expectation we might have, someone will come along and tell us that patience is a virtue?

I expect that is true.

I also remember when I was very young in sobriety I had a sponsor who suggested that I pray for patience at night.  When I did I had a realization that all around me things were happening to “test” my mettle and provide me with the opportunity to practice the patience I had been praying for.

I stopped those prayers.

I am not saying that I cannot or will not be a patient person, that could not be further from the truth.  I am, however, looking at the concept of “being” patient as a practice and then recognizing it (along with so many other things we encounter in life on life’s terms situations,) as a crossroad for change or a sign for taking an action.  This isn’t to say there is no time for simply being patient.   Life doesn’t always need to be about instant result.  What it does indicate is that patience can sometimes be a method for avoidance and procrastination, or even giving up, where it is entirely possible the very reason patience has become necessary could be a sign for shift of thought, mind or activity in one’s life.

Now I realize that makes me sound somewhat impatient.  It isn’t very spiritual to proclaim that something taking too long,  not going your way or situations not meeting your expectations are meant for taking up silent arms and pushing forward in new directions.  Radical thinking at best.  This isn’t necessarily always the proper method or way to think.  No two situations are really alike.  There are times when I do very simply need to stop, smile and breathe as the name of this blog would indicate.  Other times, however, not so much.  These other times I may actually benefit from the realization that the patience being asked for is a road sign for consideration of possibility and adjustment towards a different and possibly a better solution.

Patience is also a very important instrument of practice when it is time to move yourself through something that is going on in your life.  I have often learned the hard way that cutting my way out of something when it requires I work my way through it in order to fully resolve is only going to doom me to re-living the process again and again until the lesson it is there to teach is properly and completely learned.

That requires patience.  Sometimes the lesson simply takes time.

But patience can sometimes be the very thing that teaches me that the process of waiting for something could be the very thing showing me I am no longer really in need of whatever it is I am attempting to be patient about.  What if I am to see my mind or feelings change because I am being held back from a result or answer I am waiting for?  Is it not possible the very fact I am not getting what it is I am being asked to be patient about, could be the universe (or my God) telling me that I may not actually need or want it in the first place?

Is, then,  the need for patience, possibly a signal for evaluation and a wake-up call to look at the world through contemplative thoughts and eyes?  Perhaps a nudge to an inventory of the situation or the path I am walking as a whole?

I know, that’s deep.  But is it not possible I am overlooking the very signs I always ask for when I am not paying attention to the point or questions the need for patience is insisting upon?  Isn’t it likely that sometimes the purpose of patience is just to reflect?

My life currently feels as though it is in a hallway (an analogy i’ve both used and heard for years for asking the questions,  seeking a purpose or next indicated step or direction.)  I am cognizant that the hallway IS where I am and I don’t want to second guess current moments with future tripping or wishes for what I believe are things that may “fix” me or help me out of what I seem to be experiencing now.  What I am experiencing is a classroom.  Life on life’s terms.  I am in it and I see it as an extraordinary experience personal growth, betterment and knowledge.  It is not always comfortable to have challenge all around and current terms have been somewhat emotional for me as well.  In all these feelings I seek to find answers and this is where I am reminded that patience is my key.

But in this patience I am also accepting the need to move on.  The patience I am practicing is illuminating the differences from what I have believed or valued up until recently and what I am coming to the conclusion about pertaining to the end of the hallway I am in.  Each day, each moment will be carefully monitored so as not to miss the gifts within them.  In this situation, patience (and all I feel it entails) is most definitely a virtue.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Fear and the future

In the wake of a somewhat surreal turn of events in my sphere I thought it would be a good idea to examine how I react to sudden, and sometimes drastic changes introduced into or around my life and the world around me.

It is also an opportunity to remember the acronym I have come to hold dear for the word FEAR:  False Evidence Appearing Real.

While there is really no way we will ever live without change in this world, it has recently (once again) been suggested that everything happens for a reason.  Each piece of information, every pothole, all successes, failures and every one of the bits and pieces that might otherwise paint a picture of detrimental effect are all there by design.  From it all we are offered a host of opportunity for growth and lessons about ourselves, the people around us, the things we feel are important (or perhaps not important) and the way we live our life in part or as a whole.

What has occurred and continues to weave its result amongst those in an area of my life, is not going to end the world.  It is going to drive myself and anyone else who chooses, to reflect on how we re-think solutions and rebuild workflows that are broken or damaged.  It will allow some of us to consider the fork that has appeared in the road as a means for opportunity, whether to continue in newer and different ways within the parameters of what has been known OR to see this huge shift as the impetus (or final straw?) towards working out a new and different path altogether.

There have been moments during this event that have confused me and others that have stunned me in how personal this all feels.  What is it that has caused the need for the attack on so many who really do not deserve to have been violated as they were?  In some moments I am reminded that this is not about ME  but it may be necessary (if some matters persist) to weigh the importance of it vs. my own mental health or stability.  Do we want to wait for someone to get hurt before it becomes that sort of “real?”

But individuals who (as a result of what has occurred) are stressed out, emotionally challenged and not fully and effectively communicated with are likely going to perceive things in fearful and dramatic ways.  It is hard to honestly gauge what we are up against today, for the rest of this year and moving forward in a world rife with attacks such as what has been experienced here.

What alienates me the most is a lack of clear communication.  I am seeing a lot of a PR mode (although I do understand the need and cannot blame anyone for it.)  It is important that the massive nature of what has happened will not take us down.  But whether or not those in charge are able to fully understand or legally communicate the nature of what has happened to us, the press is filling in on that gap.  Information (real or otherwise) is being disseminated. People are making up their minds and decisions are being made based on what could be information intended to incite or sensationalize something that is not (necessarily) the fault of those attacked, people who will ultimately pay a hefty price for everything that has transpired.

Fear is debilitating.  Communication provides strength and camaraderie.  In my world I know that nothing is insurmountable and everything is a possibility for growth.  I offer my capability for service and solution towards the better end but remain completely open to the possibility that this could spell a shift for any one of us involved.  It is important to live in each moment and not become a part of the incitement of speculation or fear.  Each decision and destination should start with the mantra that I do my best to live by.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Stop. Smile. Breathe. Be Grateful

In the tradition of Thanksgiving I thought I would send a note out to the world about the things I am grateful for.

In day-to-day living it is very easy to forget gratitude.  We are faced with negatives through the media, the facts of life seem a bit stressful and our work worlds (or lack of them) and relationships can overwhelm or confuse us.

This is called living.  This is what having feelings is all about.  It is all in how we react to them that makes the difference regarding how a moment, a day, a relationship, a situation or a life ends up being.

This is the first thing I am grateful for.  I remember regularly that the things that challenge me spiritually, physically, mentally or otherwise are but stimuli.  My reaction (or non-reaction) to them is what makes the difference.  If my world is filled with an overwhelming amount of information or perceived “demands” on my time it is vital I remember that they can be meaningless without my response.  The greatest percentage of what happens around me is not worth the reaction I could potentially give it.  Any reaction is my responsibility and will end up being my cross to bear within my own head (and with whomever or whatever I may react to as well.)

God, I am grateful for having learned that is not necessary.

I am grateful for being a part of the solution.  Although reaction can be problematic I am not of the mind that ignorance, denial or avoidance are paths that provide happiness either.  When I am in a position that might require the reaction I am making sure I understand and craft in a positive way, I am building a strong action towards a solid solution.  I love the lesson to concentrate on the solution vs the problem.  It has saved me on so many occasions.

I am grateful for the important people in my life.  My intentions towards those I love, admire, share or spend time with is honorable.  I no longer allow anger or resentment to be a driver towards how I think or what I decide to do or say.  The people in my life will know how important they are by my behavior and actions towards and around them.  My presentation of self has changed in order to meet new people and expand my horizons with people that could enhance my time here.

I am grateful for an open mind.  It  has allowed me to grow in so many ways I would have never considered.  To learn that the judgment I sometimes feel is normal,  but not correct (fear as motivation) has allowed me to to look at others behaviors without requiring I drag myself down to the way others may think.  I do not condone negative behavior, but I do not feel joining in as a ‘retaliation’ is going to solve how I feel.

I am grateful for my opportunities.  Everything I have done, am doing or will do moving forward is a lesson.  I am privileged to be in this classroom.  Each and every step is meant to be a possibility for growth and knowledge.  All of my growth and knowledge is leading me towards better life experiences and a fulfilling journey in the world I inhabit.  Not every day is going to be perfect, but even the days that give me pause are likely to provide me steps into better thinking, more opportunity and richer, more complete relationships.

I am grateful for my talents.  One of the hardest things I have had to learn was the acceptance of the many things I am capable of.  We are often our own worst critics.  I have success because I have humility.  I have humility because I have learned that I am only as good as I allow myself to be.  There is nothing I cannot do if I allow myself the belief in myself and the walk through fear to take action.  With this I am armed for happiness and then more happiness.  I am given the means by which I can handle the world as it is revealed to me.

Finally, I am grateful for the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which over 23.5 years ago gave me my life back.  I am grateful for the willingness to have embraced this change and all the changes that followed it.  I am grateful for the shift in my thinking that allowed me to understand the true nature of giving and service, tolerance and forgiveness.  I am thrilled that I learned as a result of this program to look at myself differently in order to be able to look at others with easier, softer eyes.

I am thankful today because I am blessed with intelligence, love and family.  I am surrounded by talent, trust and beauty.  This is not something I will soon forget, but in the moments that I do I have means, methods and people to remind me and put me back on my better path.

To those who read my blog, and to the world at large I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and the wish that gratitude become a part of daily thinking.  With it the hope is enormous, without it we have only the evening news.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

My name is Mark and I’m addicted to control

Please don’t call me a control freak.

I have long held an awareness about my issues with control, or the unconscious fear of losing control, but I work with this daily and the intentions from within are honorable and heartfelt.

This is a key character defect for me.  I look back on my life up until now both in and before my sobriety and see there has always been the need to control.  Over the years with my awareness this has become a much more manageable defect, but it does not (and probably will not) go away completely.  Although I have made my peace with its existence (some things will not completely subside and are best accepted with management,) I do realize that the attempt to completely move out of this state of thinking is always going to be a goal.

As a child I found myself creating worlds of my own.  I had my own country, my own movie studio filled with stars, I built my own world of music and Top 40 charts filled with original songs and re-created tunes that lived on the real charts.  It was all very authentic.  It was also the beginning of my need to control my environment.

Where does my need for control come from?  Fear.  When young I felt like an outcast for a number of reasons and because of it needed to create a place that I could feel comfortable.  This need for “safety” or fear of losing control became the catalyst to the early adoption of alcohol and drugs into my life.  They offered me solace, comfort, a quieting or numbing effect on the over-active thinking and, beyond anything else, the courage to face a life that scared me from deep down inside to the obvious surfaces and outer realms in every social or human level experience I was a part of.

For years I have wondered whether it was my fears that pushed me unconsciously to try and control the situations I faced or if the habitual actions of control resulted in the fears I found myself always handling.  It would seem that no matter what the level or type of control I was issuing I would invariably be trying to protect something that I thought I was going to lose or insure somehow that I would be getting something that I really wanted (or thought I wanted at the time, it has been proven far too many times that I am not always the best “judge” for what it is I believe I want or need.)

Is all control bad?  Not at all.  There are distinct advantages to the world I built for myself through my willingness to grow, change, learn and build a better world amidst other human beings (and definitely with myself.)  With a good degree of awareness and the right intentions my control of situations has allowed for miracles in my life I would not ever have expected possible.  I have learned control does not have to be a negative, but if held too tight it is likely going to be one.

It is when control begins to hurt me that I must take a long hard look.  If I am holding on tight for reasons that at any point don’t make sense or can be second-guessed the obvious reason is in the motivations behind them.  If fear is present in choices I am only going to end up suffering, wasting precious time, and possibly hurting relationships and opportunities.  This is not conducive to any aspect of my growth.  It takes the opposite effect and throws me into deep dark cycles of shame and holes that I must find help to pull myself out of.

I’m an alcoholic, asking for help is never the easiest thing to do.

The fact that I find myself still looking at this character defect 23 years into my willingness to pursue sobriety and a different way to live this, my only life, is not something I allow to dampen my spirit or judge the the way I handle the world around me.  I look at my behavior and realize that I am worlds better in how I have learned to understand and maintain a spiritual program by working with the imperfections I am coupled with. I am cognizant of my actions these days and proud of the changes I have made throughout the years.

Control is part of who I am, it is part of my personality trait.  This is not an excuse as much as a necessary acceptance.  I am thrilled I am able to know this and continue to work with it.  I have faith in my intentions and in continuing to learn to let it go.

…just don’t call me a freak.

Stop.Smile.Breathe.

Religion vs. Spirituality: stop overthinking

The most important thing I could do while writing about the concept or thoughts behind religion and its many differences or similarities to spirituality is to remember a core philosophy central to each.

They are (or should be) personal.

There is no way to avoid the influence of religion upon people, cultures, societies, countries and, whether we like to see it or not, governments. Religion and its teachings are everywhere and in everything.  Even for those refuting their meaning or purpose they are, some could say, in our face.

It might be best to try and understand what religion truly is and how it has (some could say always) provided a need and shelter to humans on this Earth.  The word itself connotes the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

God, Goddess, Allah, Brahman, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Higher Power, Holy Spirit, Jehovah, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, or any other supreme being are examples of the gods of religion.  It is, however, more important to understand the lines drawn between these beliefs and the idea in that definition of control put forth by the definition’s controlling power.

I consider myself a spiritual man.  What is the difference?  Spirituality indicates a personal “inward” way of feeling or believing.  It is not “organized” as most religions tend to be and doesn’t prescribe to validation or instruction from others or the requirement to be spread and issued beyond the personal holder of the beliefs.

My spirituality comes from many sources but it is not something that I need to make sure you agree with.  It does not require anyone’s approval.  It does not exist for me to be right and you to be wrong.  It evolves within me to keep me on track, to focus, to help me be of service to others, to strive for happiness and a personal sense of right.

Sometimes religion can offer that as well, but the tendencies in weaker minds seeking a structure and fearing the loss of their own supposed integrity or moral situation is that it needs to be forced on others as a correct or only way to think and believe.  It is not enough that the need for individual belief is held, but that all that becomes fearful is forced as a threat to the individual thinker.  In some religion is becomes necessary to tear down others in order to justify one’s beliefs.  A primary difference I see between religion and spirituality is some religion’s belief that everything other way of thinking is wrong.

It is important to note that this is not black and white.  Not all who follow religion do so the way described above.  Some use it as I use my spirituality.  We will, however, always hear more about those who do not.

When practiced with fear religion becomes dangerous.  It provokes war, bigotry, hatred and more fear.  It drives the thinker from the core “spirituality” it could provide and into the need for control that the definition seems to describe of the being “in charge.”  Perhaps the word control is a core issue within the world of organized religion.  Is it not based for most on power and money?  It does not seem to be enough for some religions or religious people within those religions to require that the way they think or believe be the law of whatever land it is they live in.  You will think as they do or you will suffer the consequence through the law, through the hatred or through the threat of fire and brimstone in whatever form their particular deity may suggest is set for whatever it is you are doing “wrong.”

In spirituality, practiced as it is meant to be, the user is taking care of themselves and passing on their peace as a result.  Attraction, not promotion. Peace comes in forms of non-judgment and service.  Non-judgment is one of the ironies involved in remembering that we should not condemn those who condemn us.  It doesn’t fit spiritually and does not solve anything.  Those who would suggest that I need to live a different way or I might be less of a “special soul” in their God’s eyes would know as much about this as they’ve been taught by other men.  It is no more true than what we would accept in our own minds.  It is a suggestion that is often screamed or taunted.

But my ultimate irony is in how I believe personally in my spiritual program for living.  It has prospered through repetition, and routine.  I am happier when I connect and do whatever it is that has helped me to evolve on this path.  The fact is it could be said I live my spirituality “religiously” in that I am scrupulously faithful or devout to my thinking (and a God of my own understanding.)  The difference is that I don’t want to assign the bigger meaning and compare myself to others to justify or validate who I am or how I think.  In the truest sense of spirituality I am no different than anyone else.

It just is what it is.  I am a better and happier being as a result.  I choose to live and let live.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Being honest with what you feel

I have worked tirelously to change my life, to grow, to develop, to learn and to work with my assets, defects and mistakes.

There are still days… and sometimes extended periods that do not feel like progress is being made at all.  Where I come from this would be called false evidence appearing real (or FEAR) but it is all too real and sometimes can become confusing and slightly dangerous if I do not pay attention and work through it (as I have been taught.)

Depression is a scary word.  It riles the critics and afflicted alike.  It has the potential to be over-diagnosed and over-medicated if not handled with the right methods or people.  It is also dangerous for people like me who are constantly working to make things better by warding off negatives and stigmas that have either been attached to me or lies I have been told to me by myself or others in the past.

Although it is definitely not my personal goal to acheive anywhere near perfection with my steady dose of program and maintenance in my life, I do feel I am continuing to grow by leaps and bounds.  On no day am I going to provide the world with a 100% model of my being, because by nature I am flawed and afflicted.

I have learned to accept and even embrace this.

My fact remains, however, that I have built myself a life by becoming a person who is honorable, honest, real and giving.  Even if to some, the appearances may not always be of this persona, the human being I am most in touch with is all of these things at the core and very proud of it.

In having built this life I also find myself denying certain feelings and possible indicators for growth and change (FEAR.) In every life there are chapters and I sometimes may not be honest with myself about the instinct within me giving me clues and hints that I might very well be better off moving on into a new challenge (or challenges) other than where I have become most comfortable (and successful) up to this point.

What does this mean?  For me it says that I have been feeling depression about a great situation in my life.  Something that I have worked very hard for and excelled in many ways around.  I have struggled, picked myself up, learned, rose above, lived and loved the world I surround myself within for a living, but it is no longer working for me.  It has reached the point where there does not appear to be any further growth and what I do has become taken for granted.  If I believed that there is power involved I am fooling myself not only because it doesn’t really exist, but also because it is not what I really care for in the first place.  There may have been a time, but now it is only about collecting all the complaints and expectations and keeping people who are very seldom seeing what we do as anything creative or valuable in its doing, happy.

It is important here to note that I do not blame anyone here.  It is not about fault even if I came up with such an answer.  It is more about time and change within me.  If I am going to work this hard I want to feel a passion and see a future.  This, for me, is no longer there.

Happy in some places has become elusive  both for them or for me.  As a result I have felt a depression in the loss of meaning to what I do and have felt the sadness of someone “trapped” (which we all know would only can only really come from me.)

Is there an answer to this for me?  Not in the immediate.  But I must recognize that the previously discussed “power” is still mine in my life (as opposed to in a job.)  By recognizing that something must change I am allowing myself the means to move towards it. This does not make it easier, but it makes it more real, more evident.  It allows me not to deny that the feelings are there, which is dangerous and a lie.  It allows me to remember that the life I have built is not taken for granted or in any way at “fault” or marginalized.  I am filled with gratitude for the person I am and have become.  Being that person and all that comes with it does not shield me from feeling depressions (which for me is a warning flag waving for change.)

It’s time for a new spiritual awakening.

Stop. Smile. Breathe. (Change!)

 

The social character: bit parts and major roles

Have you ever been told that you’re not yourself today?

It has occurred to me that this is not necessarily a far stretch for many, if not most mere mortals on a day-to-day basis in the real world.

Granted, that is not to say that we are not (some of us) authentic beings at heart. Sincerity, truth and positive motives are definitely alive and well in a majority of the people I know to exist around the planet. Don’t be fooled by the media focus on those who might tend to rank amongst the cons and artists that are out to pull the proverbial or realistic rug over our eyes (although they definitely do exist…)

I am also not necessarily referring to the planet filled with thespians and aspiring thespians (not that there is anything wrong with that!) There is a difference between creating a character for art and being a character in life.

What I do want to speak of are the roles I find myself playing on a regular basis and sometimes on the spur of a moment in order to work my way through the world I live in.

No, this does not mean I must create characters to survive and manipulate my outcomes… but isn’t that a little bit of what we do, consciously and unconsciously throughout the many places we go and with many of the people we deal with or meet?

For example: I have established a character I feel works best for the workplace in the role that I currently hold. This character is not scripted, nor is he perfect and completely successful. Over the years I have learned what does and does not work with certain people, groups, situations and purposes. Because of this I have formed a role that I have learned to play in these places (again, sometimes I am “on” and somedays I am not paying attention to best practices of the character.)

In social situations I am yet another character. I am, perhaps, a bit more guarded and a little less of what I might feel is necessary in the work mode. When I drank the social character was far more gregarious and outspoken but I retired that piece of me some 23/24 years ago.

With people I work with (in other non-job capacities) I am still another person…. this one closer and more fine-tuned towards the authenticity I have honed over the years. This part of my personality has worked with patience, understanding and a listening ear, traits I have been taught by others in the same sort of role towards me.

With Family, (and this one could range wildly for many of us,) I am still another person. I don’t see them as much and there is no need to really bring in some of the characteristics of the other “roles” I have created in a well-rounded and busy life. For some the “role” with the family may be the least authentic. I can tell you for me this was the case many years ago. Today it is the closest to the chest (outside of the relationship I have with my husband, where I am, hopefully, the definitive character I was meant to be here on this planet.)

Does this mean I have many personalities? Am I confessing to being inauthentic or a fake? No. What I am writing about today is the many different facets our personalities hold and the importance of true intention and rigorous honesty in our relationships for all parts of our daily lives, from the barista in the coffee shop, to the boss, to the casual acquaintances and right down to the lovers, wives, and husbands.

But the social character must also look at him or herself in the mirror and know that the most basic of roles is based in true intention. If I am going to go out there solely to win or win-over, only to survive or protect myself I might be missing the core point of any of the characters I am or can be. Any part of my personality that shines through in any given situation, creating the most appropriate character at that time is going to lose if they are not there to offer at least a part of themselves in service.

I am happiest when I know I am here to give it away.

Not everyday is easy. Not every character is good (it is easy to find oneself inside a darker mood and character that results in loneliness and sadness,) but my experience has told me that every character I am or create is, in part, a sum of the whole and a factor in my overall purpose.

Who are you today? I would love to say that I am one person who is always going to be the same cheerful, loving and honest, magnanimous soul. I know this is not correct. I know I am many different facets of myself from the moment I wake until the time I lay down to sleep at night. Each of these comes from the right place for as long as I am living within my best intention.

There will be no Academy Award for the characters that make up the personality as a whole. Just, hopefully, the satisfaction of feeling better about who I am.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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