Meeting Reflections 02/23/2017

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I was found guilty and sentenced to sixteen months in federal prison. My two co-defendants received twelve-month sentences and chose to remain free pending appeals, while I chose to go into prison and get it over. I had learned how to live life on life’s terms and not my own. From somewhere back in my high school days, I remembered a poem that says something to the effect of, “Cowards die a thousand deaths, a brave man only once,” and I wanted to do what had to be done. I was terrified of walking into prison but told my children that I could not come out the back door until I walked through the front. I remembered that courage was not the absence of fear; it was the ability to continue in the face of it. ~ AA Big Book pp.526

 

I’m Josh and I’m an Alcoholic. I was raised and trained to be an alcoholic. The reading discusses responsibility and taking ownership for owns own actions. I did not know how to do that. I never had to.

I don’t know about you folks but I had a shitty childhood. Well not all of it but some very shitty things happened: my parents split, I think I witnessed some abuse, I was kidnapped across international borders (twice)…yeah stuff happened.

My point is that I was kind of given a free ride. If I acted out or misbehaved they let it slide. “Josh has been through so much….” and so forth. If I withdrew (and I did) and cut off and severed my connection with people and reality I was also given leave to do so. I could kind of do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In retrospect I could have gotten away with a lot more shit than I did. I kind of wasted it. But I did get away with a lot. If my girls tried to do half of the things I did they’d be in such deep shit.

Being immune to repercussions led straight into my drinking career and was reinforced by it. I was continuing the belief that I could drink and lie and cheat and do whatever and not have to be responsible for it. I knew I was being an ass so I lied and misdirected and manipulated in order to avoid consequences. And in my experience it is a lot easier to keep doing shitty awful things when you don’t have to answer for them.

Since rebuilding a relationship with my Higher Power, since coming into the rooms and making that decision to hold myself accountable I’ve stopped doing those shitty awful terrible things. Living each day to hold myself accountable for my thoughts and actions prevents me from committing them. Knowing I will not hide behind lies and I will be answerable to my Higher Power, to my friends and family and the people in this room encourages and strengthens my ability to be honest and do the right thing.

And now, I can stand there and look someone in the eye and meet them on even ground. I can stand there and look in the mirror and look myself in the eye.

O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. ~Bahá’u’lláh The Hidden Words

Meeting Reflections 02/02/2017

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   Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking in my kitchen. With a certain satisfaction I reflected there was enough gin concealed about the house to carry me through that night and the next day.My wife was at work. I wondered whether I dared hide a full bottle of gin near the head of our bed. I would need it before daylight.
   My musing was interrupted by the telephone. The cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner, and then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. There was that time we had chartered an airplane to complete a jag! His coming was an oasis in this dreary desert of futility. The very thing—an oasis! Drinkers are like that.
   The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened? I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself.
   “Come, what’s all this about?’’ I queried. He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, “I’ve got religion.’’
   I was aghast. So that was it—last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his preaching.
   But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was Self-evident. It worked! He had come to pass his experience along to me—if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.
                                                                                      ~Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous pp.8-10
This is an excellent reading and there are many topics to choose from and much to be gleaned but one this struck me tonight, the phrase : “He wasn’t himself.”
I had the thought “What if he was? What if he was more himself than he had every been?”
It is my experience that when lost in the delusions and lies I created I was far from the true self my Higher Power wanted me to be. I felt like a lost, alone worthless piece of shit. I was hopeless.
Through the insight and peace granted to me by my Higher Power through many means, including the Program of AA I have learned that I was the one getting in the way I was the one taking my path away from what God intended. I was the problem.
This reminded me of one of my favorite saying from Cervantes in the best novel ever written (ask authors they voted) Don Quixote:
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Who was Don Quixote but a man who led a shitty life and chose to live in a fantasy instead? How am I any different than that? Are my windmills any more real?
In the end Don Quixote forsook his false life and embraced his life on earth as it was and died peacefully. I pray I stay on a path that leads me to the same end.

Time for a Little Slow Down…

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It’s been a while since I last posted. It seems ages and ages actually. Mostly that is just because it’s been a looooooong couple of weeks.

It all started off well. The local Children’s Classes had a little gathering to celebrate restarting after the holiday break. Sledding and hot chocolate and prayers for all!

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The snow didn’t last long. It never does here in ABQ.

I had a number of excellent trail runs. Some foggy and rainy weather made for a nice diversion from all that damn sunshine. I even spotted a few animal friends along the way. The roadrunner has been around for a while but the bobcats in the arroyo are new. They are a bit shy for pics and the one time I got close enough I didn’t bring my camera.

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There was a pleasant snowfall yesterday morning though and Lisa and I got out for a frosty hike.img_1434img_1435

That’s all the pleasant stuff. Mostly I’ve spent the last couple weeks dealing with a bad tooth. #3 (upper right molar 2nd from back) had a root canal that has failed. It hit me hard with pain two weeks ago. Emergency dentist visit sent me to the Endodontist for $180 CT scan of my face. Result:I’m still pretty but my tooth needs to go.

A round of antibiotics killed the abscess and the pain and bought me some time to get to the Oral Surgeon. I went in on Thursday and had the tooth pulled. He had to work at it a little bit as the tooth was ankylosed (fused) to my jaw bone but muscle won the day and out came the tooth.

Fun fact: akylosaurus is a dinosaur with a fused bony club at the end of it’s tail. Also not my favorite dinosaur.

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The remnants of my tooth. Top left is the HUGE root!

The bleeding didn’t last long and I was able to eat scrambled eggs for dinner. However I dislodged the clot that was there and started bleeding again. And this time…

It didn’t stop. All night it didn’t stop. I applied pressure with gauze. Then I ran out of gauze and used cotton balls. Then those ran out and I used tampons.

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I had a giant clot clinging to the side of my mouth like green slime (dnd reference there). Technically it’s called a liver clot and basically it just keeps growing in size because the bleeding isn’t actually stopped.

I slept for about 1.5 hrs before I woke up and spit out this giant red slug like Will Byershttps3a2f2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com2fuploads2fcard2fimage2f1964572fslug from Stranger Things. After that I just stayed up. I made my way to the couch and finished reading The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I liked it but I wasn’t as blown away by it as I was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Honestly I think it was over my head for a single read through and I need to go through again. Lots of layers there of things that don’t make sense in my brain. Don’t get me wrong Androids was heavily layered but I think I’m hard-wired for fantasy and Sci-Fi so less difficulty there.

I went back to the oral surgeon in the morning and after lidocaine with epi and some more packing, the bleeding stopped and has not restarted. I went home, called in to work and went to bed.

I woke up having had the horrible dream that I had terrible tooth pain and that Donald Trump had just become President of the United States. Oh how sad I was upon waking. Thankfully the tooth pain has ended.

A Beautiful Game

To end on a happy note though: I got my kickstarter copy of Tak from Cheapass Games. Tak is a game described in the Kingkiller books by Patrick Rothfuss. It wasn’t real but now it is and it’s awesome. If you haven’t read the books yet: What the Fuck?!?! Go read them now. Even so you will enjoy the game. It’s simple to learn but probably impossible to master.

Animal and I sat down together to learn how to play. Though we both picked it up in a few minutes, with every new game we learned just how deep and complex this game is. Complexities and strategies emerged. It is the new chess. Needless to say we had a blast playing and continued to play all this weekend.

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I pray you all have been happy and healthy and that you brush and floss regularly.

What are your favorite boardgames?

 

Meeting Reflections 01-05-2017

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“Deus ex Machina”

The Third Step Prayer:

God, I offer myself to Thee To build with me & to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love & Thy way of life.

 I love the Third step prayer. It is the solution talked about in the Big Book. It is the way out. For some, for many it is the only way out. Turning my will and my life over to God was the only solution. It is deus ex machina. 

For the uninitiated that’s the term from the old Greek tragedies when things get so fucked up there is no way out so they literally send the Gods down in a machine to set everything right. Deus ex machina – God from the machine. For a more timely reference think of the explanation at the end of the Clue movie.

Maybe it was this one:

No wait….

My life was a God-damned Greek tragedy. I had made such a fucking mess out of my life I couldn’t understand who was friend or foe or who to trust. My family and friends were bewildered by my behavior and could not make sense of what was happening in our lives.

There was no way I could fix that shit-storm, hell I caused it. I was beyond my own power and beyond all human aid. I do not think another human could have helped me no matter how much they loved me.

Finally being willing to turn my life over to God (as I understand Him/Her) was…relief. I didn’t have to know how to fix it I simply had to be willing to do what was necessary. I had to do the work not the decision-making. You see Step 3 doesn’t mean I give it all to God and leave nothing for myself. It means I do what God tells me.

It’s a lot like being in the military. If you’d known me before I joined the military you would have never seen that as a good fit for me but in reality I excelled. All I had to do was what I was told. I just had to do the work. The few times I ran into trouble was when I did my own thing and I did not listen to my superiors. That’s how I fucked up my life-I thought I was in control.

I was one of those drinkers (like many) that was on a path to drink myself to death. If I kept drinking and kept behaving in the way I was I was going to die. The kicker is: now that I’m not doing those things now that I’m sober and living clean and right:

I’M STILL GOING TO DIE.

The thing is that the time I have left will be longer and it will be better. It is better. I was a sorry miserable fuck before. I’m happy now and I want to live as long as I can to be of whatever service I can to those around me.

All I have to do in order to make that happen is keep doing what I’m told. Keep listening to somebody else. That’s why I keep going to meetings. That’s why I keep listening to God and to you.

Thank you for being that somebody else.

For the record: I adore Madeline Kahn.

Another 15 Years in Chicago

Last time we left off (a long time ago I know) with Lisa and I visiting the Bahá’i House of Worship in Wilmette. What is in store for our heroes you ask?

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What is the next exciting adventure?!?!

Hamilton! That’s What’s Fucking Next!

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I learned that Hamilton was showing in Chicago only after I planned the trip there. Then I learned that there was a Digital Lottery where you can enter to win tickets for $10 each. I entered as soon as we landed in Chicago on Day 1. No dice.

So I entered again in the morning on Day two. We were at the Temple in Wilmette when the email came through…no dice. I didn’t win the lottery. So I hopped on the web and quickly procured some very expensive tickets and surprised Lisa with the news on the L back into the city.img_1282

The show is fucking amazing. It is worth all the hype. It exceeds all the hype. If you have a chance to go see it. GO SEE IT. If it is even relatively close to you, GO SEE IT.

I woke up with the songs still in my head and have been singing them ever since.That includes the Mixtape which we promptly bought. I will say this about the Mixtape: it is so good it has me listening to rap, which I don’t do. It has introduced me to new artists I want to follow and reintroduced me to artists I knew briefly a while back (looking at you Ashanti and Queen Latifah) but never really followed.

The Mixtape makes much more sense and has greater meaning after having seen the show so if you can wait until after I encourage you to do so but if not, you will still love it.

Saturday

Unlike the Folksmen, we did a little Wanderin for our last day in Chicago. We made it a point to use our feet as much as we could.

After visiting the shiny “thing” at Millennium Park we walked across the street to the Chicago Cultural Center which used to be The Chicago Public Library. It is gorgeous and worth the trip to examine the detail involved in making a building that honors books and those who write and read them.

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No surprise I found a couple old friends there:

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Afterwards we walked through Millennium Park again and over to the shore. What was intended to be a short walk turned into a 9 mile hike around the city and through the Navy Pier. I was able to relive some old CG glory with the Mackinaw and general sailoryness with the Navy Pier in general.

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Red cap of course.

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Being a bit chilled from our long walk we settled into the Crystal Gardens to warm up and snack.

Shortly thereafter we picked up our luggage and headed to the airport. We had some trouble getting home but we were able to do so safe and sound so I call that a win.

Thanks Chicago.

 

15 Years in Chicago

Last week Lisa and I hit 15 years officially married.

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It seems like so many years and none at all. What is really amazing about hitting that mark is that as recently as three years ago it was not a certainty. In fact we were much closer to divorce than we were to anything else.

It has been a lot of work for both of us to get to where we are now. Some of the time it seemed the obstacles we had out in our own path were insurmountable, were too painful.

I’m glad we did the work. I am grateful we waded through the pain. It didn’t lessen the hurt but it taught us who we are and that lead to understanding which helped heal.

We wanted to celebrate that work. Perhaps a bit more so this year because of well, 15 years felt like a milestone. I was in charge of the plans again this year so I decided to go big. I asked my mom for some help because it’s OK to ask your mom for help.

She came into town unannounced. With my mom here to watch the girls I was able to surprise Lisa with a trip to…..

Chicago!

Yeah that’s right. Chicago. We had never been there before other than to drive through. It is a major US city and more importantly it houses the Bahá’i Temple for North America. This was the primary drive for our visit, though as it turns out we took advantage of other opportunities.

We flew in Thursday morning and took the L into the city. After checking into the Talbott Hotel

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Testing out the King.

we headed out for some food. Despite the somewhat inappropriate/tempting name, we opted to bypass Velvet Taco and ate at Lou Malnati’s.

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¡Green chile por favor!

Yes we did the deep dish pizza thing. It was pretty good, but the New Mexican that I am…I wanted green chile. Then it would have been outstanding.

 

After that we walked the Magnificent Mile doing a bit of sightseeing. We ended up in front of Trump Tower…. I don’t really want to talk about that.

Day 2

After an relatively late breakfast we took the L up to Wilmette to see the Bahá’i House of Worship. Words fail me. It was just so…beautiful and serene.

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The thought behind this temple was a melding of East and West and indeed you see a lot of Eastern architectural influences in this building including the minarets, which are a favorite feature of mine.

The temple is incredibly detailed and this required new techniques in concrete construction.

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Detail on the House of Worship

 

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Closeup

The surface is a mix of white cement and crushed quarts. I’m told it looks purest white and glitters when in the sun. We wouldn’t know as it was overcast the entire time we were in Chicago, but it was still a beautiful site.

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From the Garden
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Detailed Minaret

The minarets held endless details. If you look from the top down you will find:

  • The Nine-pointed star of the Bahá’i Faith.
  • The Star and Crescent of Islam
  • The Cross of Christianity
  • The Star of David
  • The Hooked Cross of Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions

We spent some time walking the grounds despite the chilly winds. Inside the temple we attended the 12:30 Devotionals and spent a great deal of time simply sitting in silent prayer and meditation. Most of the time I was praying and reflecting.

Some of the time I was thinking about how I could use the layout and design of the temple for a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. I think I did pretty good overall.

It was a very moving experience and I am grateful to have been able to share that with Lisa. Not so many years ago I would have hesitated to admit a belief in God and today my faith is a cornerstone in my life and a roadmap for all of my interactions with the world.

All I had to do was give it up.

After most of the morning and early afternoon we headed back into the city for our evening plans. But I’m going to make this a cliffhanger.

 

 

 

Equality of Men and Women

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I’m currently taking an online course from the Wilmette Intitute, a Baha’i learning organization. Here is one of the readings from the current unit discussion. It focuses on the role of men in gender equality. I just wanted to share.

For more information about the Baha’i Faith please visit: http://www.bahai.org/

For more readings from the Baha’i Faith on this and other topics please visit The Baha’i Reference Library.

The role of men and boys in achieving gender equality

Written Statement Prepared for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women at its 48th Session Item 3a of the Provisional Agenda

New York—1 March 2004

The 1995 Beijing Platform of Action underlined the indispensability of the contribution of men and boys to achieving gender equality. Recent years have witnessed considerable advances in women’s attainment of political and civil rights, but the implementation of full gender equality requires a profound shift in individual values, outlook and conduct, which will ultimately transform the underlying ethos of social institutions, making them more welcoming to women.

The teachings of the Baha’i Faith offer a model of gender equality based on the concept of partnership between the sexes and the active support of men and boys for the achievement of equality. Three basic elements underpin the Baha’i­ approach:

  • Baha’i­s are committed to an evolutionary social transformation of fundamental values, even in regions of the world where cultural traditions impose obstacles to women’s development. Enduring change comes through cooperative activity of men and women rather than through confrontation. Hence, we call upon all members of society to encourage and support women to develop their full potential and to strive for their equality and human rights and we recognize that much more can be accomplished in the long run if men and women work together. Within the family, therefore, boys and girls alike are taught respect for all females and within the Baha’i­ community, programs are conducted to educate men and boys concerning the status of women, and a variety of practical measures are instituted to foster their involvement in promoting gender equality as a shared community goal.
  • The full development of men and boys is inextricably linked to the advancement of women. A society characterized by gender equality serves the interests of both sexes. It enables men and women to develop in a more balanced and multifaceted way and to discard the rigid role stereotypes so crucial to shifting family dynamics, and to accord women full access to the world of work. It also enables both sexes to recognize each others’ needs, building an awareness vital to the resolution of issues associated with women’s health. It also enables the replacement of unequal relationships and tendencies toward domination and aggression with genuine partnerships between the sexes characterized by collaboration and the sharing of resources and decision-making.
  • Baha’i­s view the advancement of women as an ongoing organic process aligned with forces of social transformation and the movement towards the recognition of the oneness of humanity. We recommend making a start, however modest, by educating boys from the earliest stage of their social development in initiatives along the lines of those outlined above, and by engaging the support of men in this process, in order to foster a more conscious awareness that the interests of men and boys are linked to those of women.
  • In light of the experience and contribution of the Baha’i­ community in 182 countries towards the implementation of these principles, Baha’i­s remain optimistic about the achievement of gender equality and the progressive involvement of men and boys in achieving this goal.

Read more at https://www.bic.org/statements/role-men-and-boys-achieving-gender-equality#uGK13aiuueX8aZiz.99