Veiled Opportunities

notexitThere are all these signs. On the walls, on buses, on TV, in the papers. Some good ones, some better ones, some crappy and misleading. And many deep ones, many that make you think and wonder. I saw a new one at the work place weeks back.

“Things don’t happen to you. Things happen for you.”

Talk about deep ones, hey. How does that wise vase work?

Crap happens. Loss takes over. Tragedies crawl in and linger. Abuse of all that feels good and/or should stand strong and untouched breaks through and demoralizes. The dark suffocates the light and there seems to be either no end of misery or no sense of why would it ever happen, whether to the good people, or to the people in general.

Really, why? Well, hell knows, someone would say. Shit just happens. Or…

One very smart, but not very happy German said once “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Then a fictional villain extraordinaire paraphrased: “what doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger.” But whoever posted the “happen for you” sign was way ahead of these two, or simply learned from them. Isn’t it more smart to be positive about things that wallow in infinite grieving and self-pity? Yes, grieving is important, but to keep swimming in the black lake, never allowing yourself to come on shore? I don’t think so.

So… things don’t happen to you. OK, I understand that some things do happen to you, disasters and death of loves ones, that seems too much and too great to see anything positive in, but still… things happen for you. To overcome. To learn something. Maybe not right away, because the pain is too much. Yet still, you and I and them, we learn how not to give up, how to stay on and not exit, how to cope, and a mass of time may pass and then we look back…

Yes, we look back and we see the wisdom, sometimes harsh truth, but if we take it for what we saw it before, that sharp punch of doom that knows no mercy, then we will learn nothing but that gods hate us. And if we did try to overcome, if we wanted it, and we looked for a better time, if we (important word) allowed us to have a better time for ourselves, then we will see the things for what they are, the possibly veiled opportunity to benefit from. And we will learn even better. From a mistake, or from a tragedy that wasn’t caused by us, or from a strange event that made no sense, and we will move on. And we may get way better. The crap that happened has done so for our good. I know you don’t like that perspective. I used to dislike it a lot, and who knows what else is coming my way. And yet, it is usually all good. I just have to give it time to see it in a different light.


the front image was copied from https://www.homedepot.com/p/12-in-X-8-in-Plastic-Not-An-Exit-Sign-PSE-0091/206873504 and altered by me. thank you

Lonely Not Alone

crowdJohn looked for an easy way out

Steven looked for love, too embarrassed to say a word to display his need for it

Mike waited for a stranger to say “hello” first

George had the want that overpowered the need and couldn’t tell the difference

John, and Jack, and Mike, and George are the same person

But he is too frustrated with the mediocrity of his life to be just one self.

He became aware of the limitations and failures

But wouldn’t act to improve the condition.

He became lonely way before becoming alone.

He blamed others for something that was only in his power to alter.

He sees life as survival and living as existence,

Joy is being flushed out.

He’s feeling deserted in a crowd of people

With no hope in sight on a sunny day

He listens to the air move around the room,

Concentrating on breathing,

Thinking that meditation is key to happiness,

That communicating with others is too much work.

He starts doubting self,

Starts reading self-help books.

He met a girl, bored her to running for her life

So, he committed himself to a mental hospital.

Four walls feel friendlier than life with responsibilities.


the image was copied from https://www.flickr.com/photos/127972570@N06/34202407680 thank you.

Rain People

rainSo, I changed jobs recently and now work directly in the field with people who have serious mental issues and because of that their independent life is limited to zero. It’s a challenging job, even compared to what I used to do before, which was similar, but now the level is more acute. It’s a good challenge for me to stay objective and caring in the face of the intensity of the issues these people experience on 24/7 basis.

Some of my patients are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and this is something I have never worked with / faced before, except for hearing some stories about family members of one or two of my friends or classmates. And then there was this movie.

I watched Rain Man for the first time when I was 13, I think. And I thought it was funny. Well, up to about ¾ of it. And then it started to get more emotional, and I thought it was a great drama. It challenged something in me, and it felt good. But when I watched it again, I thought it was funny, again. The way Ray acted/behaved, it was hilarious. It became one of my favorite movies.

“Are you taking any prescription medication?”

“What?!”

“That means he likes you.”

Up to that point I watched the movie and for many years after I haven’t met people with any kinds of mental disorders, and I never heard of autism and of what it does to people. I had no family members who had a mental illness. I knew no friends who had it either. If I saw a person on a street or on a bus who was exhibiting a strange behavior, which was rare back in Russia, I just told myself they were “not all there,” and I just stayed away and didn’t make eye contact.

So, Ray The Rain Man was funny. To me he wasn’t one of thousands of people in the world afflicted with a debilitating disorder. He was just one unique fellow from a movie. Good story. Funny movements and peculiarities.

“Hey Raymond, am I using you? Am I using you, Raymond?”

“Yeah.”

“Shut up! He is answering a question from a half hour ago!”

Time passed. I finished school, changed work places, battled addiction, and came to work at a downtown city homeless shelter where I witnessed people behaving in every way imaginable. There was addiction, grief, loss, behavioral issues, and there was mental illness at all stages experienced by people from near all walks of life. I worked at that field and some other similar ones for over ten years. Around the time I started that journey, my brother started experiencing serious issues which were eventually diagnosed as the bipolar disorder.

Now, as I said earlier, I changed jobs again and now work with folks, among whom there are people diagnosed with autism. And though it hadn’t happened before, on the second day of working there, I recalled Rain Man movie. The scenes from it started jumping out at me. I was amazed how little I knew about something that I was directly dealing with. So often I had no idea how to be of help to my patients, sort of glad that I was not a nurse or a doctor.

“What is the issue?”

“He lives in his imaginary world.”

“OK, but are there any issues?”

So, I went and bought the movie to watch it yet again, because it’s been a long while. Had a great time watching it, but it didn’t feel the same. I mean, it was still fun, but it wasn’t hilarious anymore. Now that I have experienced, from a spectator and mental health worker point of view, the tiny bit of what people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder go through, there wasn’t as much roaring laughter out of me as it used to be. I then knew he was not a peculiar funny guy. He was one of so many rain men and women who were terrified of the world around them if one small thing was altered, rules changed, new people appeared. Ray as played by Dustin Hoffman was the person with a high functioning form of autism, but in my eyes, he still suffered, which is something I didn’t realize for a very long time.

“Raymond, do you know what autistic is?”

“Yeah.”

“You know that word?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you autistic?”

“I don’t think so. No. Definitely not.”

Still, I had a great time watching it and telling my partner who watched it with me about my few experiences at work regarding the behaviors Ray was exhibiting on the screen.

This time the movie has taught me something else about mental health and people. We’re all vulnerable. We are imperfect, and we hate to show it. We can be affected by events out of our control so often and so quick. And this movie, although I didn’t realize that for a long time, showed me that. The fragile sides of human personality. The sides that push away our inner desire to be caring for others. And that when we don’t understand something, we laugh at it. That laughter can be endearing, but it could be hurtful, especially if one misunderstood stranger is faced with a group of the ones not in the know. Now because I know how addiction affects mental health, I can understand how people can feel when they are ostracized, laughed at, shamed, and persecuted for something they have no power over.

Thank you yet again, Levinson/Hoffman/Cruise team. I learned something again. And thanks for the laugh again, but with no roar this time.

“Well, Raymond, aren’t you more comfortable in your favorite K-Mart clothes?”

“Tell him, Ray.”

“K-Mart sucks.”


Quotes used in the post are from the movie, tracked by memory or copied from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095953/quotes/?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu . Front image was copied from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095953/?ref_=tt_mv . thank you.

 

old life

life-doesnt-get-easier-you-just-get-stronger-me-now-3675925Somebody at the meeting said they heard others being regretful and remorseful, talking about wanting to have their old life back, before they started getting in trouble. The response to them was: “Why would you want your old life back? Clearly, it didn’t work!”

That is such a good insight. Change is something we all go through, and I think I won’t be the only one to say that not many people love change. Change brings stress and vulnerability, new challenges, just as much as it brings change in vision, new friends, and a promise of fresh start. Lots of anxious times, even if half the time positive.

As for old stuff, like a suitcase full of decrepit clothes and no longer relevant ideas, it needs to stay in the past. And not only it deserves to stay there, we deserve a life in which the old stays exactly that way, old.

There are some things you don’t want to forget. Your grandparents, the memories of childhood friends, and first love. And the recollections of making through what you thought you’d never be able to do. And the reminders of how badly you can mess up if you don’t keep yourself in check. Those are not to be forgotten, because it made us what we were once, and they can still teach us something.

At the same time, the relationships that didn’t work, behaviors that didn’t help, dreams we didn’t work for to make real, – all those belong in the trash or in the fire pit. There is no use for them. Let them go.

I will not say a word about the easiness of letting go, because I often have a hard time with that one myself. But important thing is we want to let go, and we try to do so. Trying it like we mean it – that certainly counts. Change will make its walk through our lives, whether we are trying or not, only when we didn’t, we’ll know. The old have stays in the past for a reason, just like what we have now is for a reason. And if life passes us by, that’s our own fault, I think.


the image was copied from https://me.me/i/life-doesnt-get-easier-you-just-get-stronger-me-now-2305673 thank you.

Poking the Bear

poohWhen you say, “Don’t tell me what to do.”

When you think you know everything, but keep it inside,

Thinking how much smarter you are than the average bear.

When reality stares you in the face

In a manner you cannot ignore,

And you still do things your way,

Which is the opposite.

When you hang out with people

That always led you to a wrong situation and bad health.

When you know what you should be doing

Because you witnessed and felt the benefits of it,

And yet you go for the immediate gratification,

The satisfaction of here and now.

When you walk away and slam the door, knowing you are wrong,

Cultivating your anger

So that you will “show them” one day.

When you are shown a better way to live

And you spit on it

And live the way that always hurt you, –

That is when you are poking your alcoholic bear

Who will wake up and destroy your peace of mind

And raise hell in a manner

That you still haven’t learned

To safely deal with.


the image was copied from http://musingsfromanotherstar.blogspot.com/2014/09/winnie-the-pooh-is-a-redshirt.html thanks.

Eating at the Bar

oSo, we went out for a dinner. Girlfriend felt more uncomfortable than I did.

We had no reservation. We didn’t think we needed one on a Saturday afternoon, figured the place was large enough to fit in all… well, were wrong about that one. The only spots available were at the bar. My girlfriend, knowing of my life in sobriety, turned around to me and said that we could go somewhere else. I said it was not an issue. She asked me a couple more times if I was sure about that, and I said that I was sure. We were seated at the bar. Opposite of us stood a fridge full of booze. To my side – an altar of booze. Right in front of us the bartender was mixing a series of cocktails. I’m gonna be OK, I told myself and to my girlfriend who was twisting and turning on her bar stool and looking way less serene than I was.

We ordered food and then there was not much to do for a bit. We had some small talk. There was a party going on behind our backs. The bartender was fixing a massive jar of a cocktail. I don’t what it was. I used to chug beer and vodka and occasionally a wine, but I never had money for cocktails, so I am rather illiterate in that regard. But it was a captivating sight. So many shot glasses of whiskey looking substance was poured into that jar, I’ve lost count. I was really hoping there would be more than ten people drinking that thing. I was seriously worrying for those folks, whoever they were.

Overhead the TV screen was showing a hockey game. I don’t care for hockey, or sports altogether, but I had to look somewhere but at the booze all around me, so watched the game for a bit. When the commercial of alcohol came on, I had to look away. And to my surprise I realized that besides the alcohol, beers and wines, the fridge opposite us also contained a shelf full of sodas. On the lower shelf stood a four-liter jug of milk. Man, was I happy to see that jug! I just looked at it, and then at my girlfriend, and I felt happy J I wasn’t compelled to drink before that, and I didn’t feel intimidated by the walls of alcohol, my world was not going upside down, threatened by a compulsion or temptations, but the milk certainly provided some reassurance of some kind.

Thinking of it, I recalled several times when I’d head to a show and it would be held at a bar. In fact, those were so many. In the book of our guidance and inspiration it says we should be careful about where we go and if it is at a place where alcohol is served, what is our purpose of being there? And what an alcoholic music fan to do? Well, bang your head, or slam, or sit there and enjoy the slow dance, or what have you, but I never felt threatened by the presence of alcohol, although the people sometimes did cause some trouble under the influence.

However, no, I do remember a couple of times within the first three years of sobriety when I did feel intimidated by the mass of booze in my sight. First time, I opened the door to the club and the bar was right in front of the doors, no farther than two steps! I was shocked for a couple of seconds, but then the person at the door asked me to pay for the entry and was I ever happy to comply!

Second time it was a bit more intense. During a show at a different place I was looking around the place, at the crowd, at the stage, and then I looked closer to me and saw the bar. The lady at the bar looked quite attractive and with her, the whole bar seemed to shine brighter than the stage with all the strobes. I couldn’t look away. It was a rather amazing experience. I didn’t see the bartender anymore, just the bottles. Many. Shiny. Shit! I was sober for enough time to know that wanting booze and getting it would in turn get me in nothing but trouble, and I kept telling myself that. So, what I did was slide my gaze along all those wonderfully looking objects and move it up the ceiling. It took some time, but it worked. From there I moved my sight all along the ceiling toward the stage and lowered it to see the musicians rocking away. Form then on, the whole concert went fine without issues. Each time I am at that venue, though, I recall that incident, and I feel better and reassured, somehow, each time I look around and, all of a sudden, saw the bar. No more ‘freeze’ incidents like that occurred.

So, that latest time after being placed at the bar, we ate, paid for our food, thanked the very accommodating and welcoming bartender that served us, and fucked off. Yes, we were both very ready to go, even though the service and the food itself was quite good.

What have I learned from that? If there is a lesson in everything, then “take on an opportunity and respond with your best”, I guess. Man, was I happy to see that milk jar. I think there is always a milk jar somewhere when I go through times I am not particularly happy to go through. Hope it is there for you too.


the image was copied from https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/st-james-place-bar-and-grill-goose-creek?select=lzAQ_f8F996Kn-lkGy9UDQ and messed with by me. thank you.

 

Pretty Disgusting

iphone-umbilical-cord-300x215Controversy

What a popular world lately.

You seem to find it anywhere,

But not under your own nose,

And yet it is there.

At least half of the stuff you eat is bad for you,

And half of the things you do

Or not do

Sends you on the path of regress,

As opposed to what you used to want in life.

All the teachings of the world say

Thou shalt not kill your neighbor,

But no one goes to jail after the war mass slaughter.

Same way drinking alcohol is culturally approved,

But how many look into

How it turns people toward aggression

And lack of responsibility

For their actions?

Instead of questioning those ancient controversies,

We look for something new and “shocking”

On the screens of so many kinds.

Spiritual death

Has been happening every hour of our lives

And we cannot see

How disgusting it is

Because we dress it up

In the pretty clothes of “fascinating” and “new”,

Garments that are not even real.


the image was copied from http://www.fingerclicksaver.com/iphone-umbilical-cord-charger-yep-pretty-gross-if-you-ask-me/ thanks.

Words Of Maintenance 3

'Here's your problem, you guys never chose a level.'There are times you hear amazing things when you least expect them, and half of that time it’s when you really need to hear them. It’s when you are either “losing it” or you’re finding something you really don’t need. I heard many things in AA that have changed my life around and for the better, and it’s getting better still. Wisdom doesn’t run out, and humor is on top of it, as well. The funny way to say things is sometimes the best, because it hits you right between the eyes and a good laughter is what you need often, I think. The joke often carries wisdom, so it’s two wins in one.

I heard a person sharing that he came to AA because of his back problem. There were too many people on his back. At least 90 per cent could agree that AA is the best chiropractic, what do you think?

One of the things that was said and that has struck me the other day was “my ego is not my amigo.” Not only it is witty, it is also so true. How many times I wanted things to be my way, how many times I caressed my wild and selfish inner child to, as a result, hurt someone who didn’t deserve it? Don’t answer that.

Another fella was sharing about people interrupting and cross-talking, that’s when you share, and people argue with you. We gather in those rooms to speak our minds without being judged, and yet we also need to learn how not to communicate. Still though, with all the info we have on communicating with others, we still suck at it. Mostly it happens, I think, because we ignore a lot of things that we know we should be doing, or we just avoid hearing about them in the first place. In my group we had one of those situations a couple of days ago. So, in direct reaction to that, the person said that you can take the horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink, and even if you do, you can’t teach it to scuba dive. I don’t think I could say it better.

For those of us who like to use big concepts, and most importantly hide behind them, there is no mercy for those people. This one witty individual pointed out that most of menacing smart words end with “-ism,” and what is stands for is “I Sponsor Myself”, thus providing for the denial and arrogance to take you into a choke hold. For example, “atheism” could be quite detrimental to the spiritual program that AA is, no?


the image was copied from https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/m/maintenance_man.asp thanks.

Who We Are Not

f874f1a158f05f6ed9a338bf86335e97--adult-humor-pics-funny-adult-humorYou see me.

You make your judgement.

You think you may know

What keeps me going

And what I like,

And why I do the things I do.

And yet whatever and however

I appear to you,

My hair or clothes,

The way I walk and talk

Doesn’t truly reveal to you

Who I am.

I don’t say “don’t judge”,

Because whether I say it or not,

You will anyway.

That’s the way people roll –

We make an opinion or judgement

Without even realizing it.

But what I will say is

“Keep your judgement to yourself

Until you know for sure,”

Because you may hurt a person who don’t deserve it,

Or infuriate a person you can’t handle (although you thought you could).

I am as unique as you are,

So, don’t be so sure about your talents

Of reading people,

Even if you are psychic, I doubt

You have no weak spots,

For none of us humans is perfect.


the image was copied from https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/334392341068180153/ thanks.

Can’t Hear a Thing

cartoon7151Among things we as humans do, such as move, produce, preserve, and copulate, there is one more thing that we can do really well, and yet often fail at. It’s communicating.

Funny enough, in the world of today where communicating is recognized as vital, and with many different ways of communicating are invented, starting with education of languages and lectures on body language, and ending with phones, faxes, and whatever else they’ve invented lately that I’ve missed, we fail to communicate so much.

And that’s amazing, considering that we communicate all the time. When I write this, you read it, so I’ve communicated to you what I think and feel, and whether you agreed or disagreed with it, you can’t help but receive the information that I’ve shared. When you stand in front of me and talk, I hear you, but I also read your face expressing how you feel about what you’re saying, and I can also pay attention to your hands and the rest of your body reacting to what is being said or what you really thought. We share that information and most of us are inherently good at it.

And yet, so often we communicate and not pay attention to what was communicated to us. So often we listen, but we don’t hear. And so often we don’t even try to listen, just pass by, thinking something else is important. I am guilty of that. I can be so lost in thoughts that I am lost for words when they need to be said. Whether it is to say that I agree, or to say I’m sorry, or to provide an insight, often I just seem to think there are more important things to pay attention to right at that moment, and I ignore others. Or sometimes I am so lost in my thoughts that I miss or misinterpret what’s being said and make wrong judgements of it and come to negative and upsetting conclusions.

I read a story by Chuck Palaniuk, the author of Fight Club, where he wrote that you only get people’s attention when you disclose that you are diagnosed with or dying from some incurable disease. That’s when people start really paying attention to what you’re saying and how you are feeling.

It is at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that we really listen to others. We hear their stories, we think about how it relates to us, we express empathy with our nods and smiles, and after the meeting we talk, we discuss, and often go somewhere to talk about it some more. It is a system that works well for decades. It is not unique though, because people do that on a regular basis. People talk, people solve problems by discussing it. Only in AA meeting we discuss something that, if left unspoken, may literally destroy person’s life. That’s why we make sure we give a word to a newcomer, even if they don’t feel like talking in front of strangers.

The fact that this fellowship exists is a great thing. Over a decade ago it saved my life, just like for the last 80 years it was saving lives of thousands. But I can’t help but wonder if there could be less reasons for AA’s existence if we, the humans in general, could originally communicate better.

What if we could talk without being hurtful so that we wouldn’t cause people to look for a potentially dangerous outlet, such as drugs and alcohol? What if we didn’t produce so much alcohol that we needed to advertise it so rampantly? Remember, advertising is communication too, just as a movie you watched, or a book you read, only TV or Internet ads provide short ideas faster and with a shock value that successfully affects your mental faculties, promising you desires to be fulfilled. A powerful language to present ideas, and dangerous at that.

Could we advertise more ideas of hope and kindness than what to buy, where, for how much, and where it is less expensive and move convenient? Would we improve our lives with more products… or with more hope and understanding that we should care for others? So often I realize that it is not what we say to others, but how we say it that has more lasting effect, negative and positive.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if these questions can be answered. Thus, I focus on what’s at hand and stay sober and go to my AA home group meetings. Communication is power, and AA is based on communication. Without, it AA won’t work. We speak, we listen, we share, we read recovery books, and when we pray, it is communication to, isn’t it?

So now that we are afflicted, since the failures of communication already happened to plague us, let’s try to connect better. Maybe let’s do a better effort to listen to those that need to speak, with our loved ones (especially with them, because we may think we had a perfect connection, but we’re so often take it for granted), with our friends, with strangers, on a bus, on a street, in a group, even if we have no time, or desire to do so. Somebody’s life and sanity may depend on it.

I guess, I have to start with myself. Writing this is only the first step of dealing with it.


image copied from https://www.andertoons.com/speaking/cartoon/7151/know-youre-new-but-its-hear-ye-hear-ye-not-listen-up-people thanks.