Decision Tree

This is a pretty simple concept. When I was in fifth grade all of the kids in the neighborhood decided we were going to steal alcohol and cigarettes from our parents and throw a little party. Needless to say, my best friend and I were the youngest, 9 and 10, while the other kids were almost in high school. Because they were much older, the told us we should bring the beer and cigarettes. If I remember correctly, I volunteered to bring the cigarettes and my friend stated that he would bring the beer.

Later that night, we met in the middle of the cul de sac, our loot in tow. We ventured out to the woods and began to have our party. I think we might have lit one cigarette and shared a fourth of one beer before a parent found us and the party was busted.

Being the my parents had recently divorced, but continued to always parent on the same page, my mother called my father. Later that night he showed up. I don’t remember much about what happened that night but I do remember sitting on the steps in our entry way talking to my parents. Although I cried the entire time, my parents were not harsh or bitter, only asking me to be as honest as possible about the activities of the evening and who decided what was to be brought to the party.

I didn’t know it at the time, but every other kid involved lied and placed the blame of the evening on me. Apparently I was the one who came up with the idea. I was the one who volunteered to bring the beer and the cigarettes and I was the only one who drank or smoked. Funny…I didn’t remember it that way?

My parents asked me only once, “Are you sure that’s the truth?”, and I answered yes. “If you say it’s the truth, then I believe it’s the truth.” My father said. “We raised you to be honest and I believe we did our job.” There was some discussion about what I thought my punishment should be and then I was dismissed while my parents sat on the front porch and talked about the incident…while drinking a beer.

For the rest of that summer, all of the kids in the neighborhood were unable to play with me because their parents had termed me a “bad influence”. They would ride up and down the street and shout “smoker, smoker” and “drinker, drinker” at me, knowing they had been part of the party as well.

I was 10. During that same summer, my friend and I had been caught by his father dressed in drag in the front yard of my house. My mother took a picture of us, every bit the Kennedy clan in wide brimmed hats, smoking tree twigs as cigarettes. His father had been furious. My mother laughed as our neighbor hauled my friend away while tripping on his long gown.

When I was in high school I got in trouble for another drinking party. While talking to my father over dinner he brought up the incident from the summer of my tenth year. “You know, I was always very proud of you for that night.” He said. “The other kids were rewarded by their parents for lying because those parents couldn’t deal with the fact that their children could possibly engage in such behaviors. They received new hockey equipment and shoes while you were punished for your involvement. Their lies will haunt them.” He told me.

“In life, there is a decision tree. The tree grows into a trunk which supports the rest of the tree. This is the foundation of your morals and values given to you when you are young as well as any of your genetic makeup. Next, we have the branches. Each branch splits in two eventually. Each branch represents choices you make in your life. Each choice leads to two or more choices and so forth. As you grow, your decision tree grows and all of your choices compound on top of one another. I wish I could show you my decision tree, and explain all of the good and poor choices I made in my life so that you could live your life to the fullest based on my experience. Unfortunately, you have to grow your own branches. Your mother and I always understood that which is why that evening, whether you had been telling the truth or not, we knew your choice would ultimately affect mostly your life. One lie would lead to another lie and to another lie. As life moves forwards, those kids who lied that not will display similar behaviors but you will be a finer human being for telling the truth and moving through difficult choices.”

And then he patted my back and the lesson was over.

I won’t bore you by telling you I became one of the most prolific liars this century has ever seen or that I had countless arrests and addiction treatments. I won’t bore you with how I treated people horribly, felt that I was owed something from my family and blamed other people for all of my mistakes. I won’t bore you with the countless drugs I did or how much alcohol and cigarettes I used over the years. I definitely won’t bore you with details about how I didn’t care about others’ feelings for years and only, selfishly, thought about my wants and needs.

But I will tell you that because of those years, I do not behavior in any way like that today. In fact, I attempt to live such a right life by the standards I set for myself that I am completely offended when others challenge these values. About a year ago, a business associate accused Alex and I of lying about how we had witnessed an event and reported it. I won’t dredge up the past because, as I stated, I’ve learned from those behaviors and don’t react the same way today, therefore we are friends again and both apologized for hurting each others’ feelings.

Needless to say, in being called a liar I explained that I was completely offended because that challenged the foundation of my sobriety and my values. If I am a liar, then the rest of it is a scam true; my recovery, my relationships…all of it. I might be a lot of things. But I am not a liar. Those behaviors of yesteryear were my picking the wrong branches to climb. Today, I choose different branches because I’ve learned…and my dad was right. In looking at his choices and the choices of others, and learning from one another, I’ve been allowed to live a better life.

While dissecting your life, ask yourself, Am I happy? Are there things I want to change? Are there things I believe are out of my control? What would I change today that would make me happier?

Now look at your choices!

You have many choices. The fact is not that you don’t have choices. The fact is that you don’t like where your choices lead. Many of us don’t like our choices, but sometimes choices we didn’t want to take led us in the right direction. I had no intention of staying in treatment on December 17, 1994 but by going I’ve been allowed to have the most amazing life possible. While working in treatment, I was adamant I was not going to participate in a new family group therapy program that had been designed, but after making the choice to participate rather than be fired, I learned I loved working with families. I was also forced to do an internship in an inner city elementary school. I begged and pleaded with my dean to let me do another internship, but due to my lack of planning, it was all that was left. During that internship, I met my mentor and had some of the best life change experiences ever!

It is easier to let go than to resist.

That branch was my most important.

My parents were very wise. They knew how to raise me with enough liberty to become the person I was meant to become while guided enough to have the values and morals they had learned would further me the most in this life. They were wise because they never allowed me to see them argue, with the exception of a few occasions, and they never spoke poorly of each other. They never made parenting decision without consulting one another. They did this because they loved me. They were the best parents any kid could wish for in life.

My mother was very, very wise. She never threw anything away in fear of possibly needing it again someday. Downstairs in our basement, right on top of her old Smith-Corona typewriter, sits a gorgeous photograph of the Kennedy sisters, both draped in beautiful dresses, wide-brimmed floppy hats shading their faces as they drink lemonade and smoke cigarette tree branch twigs.

I might post that picture someday…hell, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Thoughts on Turning 40…Fear and Change.

I really hate when people say they get me or they understand. They don’t. They don’t understand what I’m going through just like I can’t necessarily understand what they’ve gone through with their life experiences. It is the pivotal differences between sympathy and empathy; neither of which I want. And I desperately don’t want pity. Not about turning 40…that’s a good thing.

It just so happens that I’m turning 40, an epic age, at the exact same time I’m going through a major transition in my life. For those that don’t understand transitions please let me define. I’m not talking about leaving a relationship or quitting a job. While those are perfectly fine transitions, I’m talking about something much, much deeper.

Have you ever been driving around town, running errands, listening but not really listening to the music and all of a sudden you realize you’ve ended up somewhere you never meant to go. Maybe you completely forgot you were on your way to the grocery store. Have you ever sat on the front porch and watched the stars overhead and wandered what your life would be like if it were different. When it is different. There is a great scene in Texasville where Jeff Bridges walks in on his wife, played by Annie Potts, laying on the bed. He asks her what she’s doing and she answers, “thinking”. When he asks what she’s thinking about she explains that women think millions of things in a day and go through millions of changes in a day. Well, I don’t think this is just women…I think all of us go through similar changes. But we perfect our lives in a way that we become accustom to these changes and don’t challenge what we really want in our lives, because, we are too afraid.

In the last week, all of my friends and family have asked me on a pretty consistent basis what I want to do for my birthday and the answer is that I’m not really sure. I’ve never been a party person so I know I don’t want a party. We’ve just spent the last week celebrating Alex’s birthday at numerous birthday dinners, so I don’t really want to go out to dinner. We were supposed to go to Vegas, but have decided to wait when we can spend a little bit more money. I thought about driving to Chicago for the weekend but we were just there for a bachelorette party. I entertained the idea of renting a lakeside cabin and taking the dogs for the weekend but after processing the packing, etc I realized we have a pool here and my dad lives on a lake, so we might as well stay home. Nothing seems right for my birthday.

And then I realized the reasonp.

Celebrating my birthday this year is not a superficial surface passing. Celebrating my birthday this year is the coronation of a major transition in my life. A transition of the mind, body and spirit. I have been very sad and unhappy for some time because I have allowed myself to become someone I don’t really know anymore. And with the exception of Alex and probably two or three other friends, I don’t know that anyone else really knows the real Peter either. I put on a very good act.

The real Peter doesn’t give a fuck…but then again he does. He cares deeply about things that matter and pays very little importance to things that don’t. I’ve spent the last several years caught up in drama and ridiculousness that doesn’t matter. The real Peter tells it like it is and isn’t worried about someone’s reaction because typically, that’s what people have learned to love. The real Peter loves the smallest details in life. The real Peter does not change the radio station for anyone because people used to love his singing to country music. The real Peter loves country music…and folk music, dance music and rap. The real Peter will try almost everything once unless it may risk his life. The real Peter takes his recovery and sobriety very seriously and wouldn’t have put himself in half of the situations he’s put himself in over the last several years. The real Peter respects the sanctity of marriage and has very little respect for those that don’t. The real Peter is very opinionated. The real Peter will smoke a cigarette if he wants to smoke a cigarette…unless you kindly ask him not to smoke. The real Peter is comforted with the safety of a clean home, dogs who love him, a loyal husband and does not care for change. The real Peter is terrified by change, which is why is he so resistant to life transitions…but it’s time.

During the last week, I’ve explained to people that starting on my birthday on Friday, many things will be changing in my life. I think they are a little bewildered and unsure what this may mean and how it will affect them. Let me make this very clear…I’m not moving, leaving Alex and making any drastic changes in my surface life. It is what lies beneath that will change. And as I sit on my front porch late at night, typing at my computer in my garden office, I have outlined the next year of my life. The best year of my life…hopefully.

While talking to my best friend the other day, and I say best because she has been the one constant best in my life for the last 15 years, I asked her what she wished she had known at 40. She explained that she probably wouldn’t have spent as much time with people that wouldn’t matter to her on an intimate level later in life. We also talked about my constant need to explain myself…an art I have learned to master only in the last few years. It is these kinds of changes I will be implementing in my life, along with a laundry list of goals, hopes and dreams I will accomplish!

Please follow me over the next year as I write daily posts and do daily videos about my life and the lessons I learn, on and off the couch. Maybe you’ll learn a few things from me. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn a few things from you too…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Gifted With Creative Dreams Accomplished…

Tonight, I fell into bed at about 8pm to take an hour nap but ended up sleeping until midnight when Alex came to bed. Wide awake, I talked to the dog for awhile and then decided to go out for a drive, something I’ve become accustomed to as a way to fall asleep as well as put thought to my current dreams and writing ideas.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been going into my office late at night, throwing in a movie, typically some 80’s adventure movie like Romancing the Stone, dimming the lights and begin working on whatever creative project is current. I have designed a creative lair at my office and every day I add something new. Tonight it was a colorful, beaded Buddha that watches me from the corner of the room.

I always am most creative in the middle of the night, energized by the smell of the dark hours and the taste of mystery in the air. Tonight, I had planned to work on several interviews for our website, but instead I found myself going through a box of books I had brought into the office which had been housed in my basement for over three years.

At the bottom of the box were several blank journals with flowered covers, nothing I would ever use for myself. I laughed to myself realizing they were some remnant of my mother’s “wrapping station” where she kept dollar gifts she would give out at the last minute if someone had a birthday or party and she wanted to bring something such as a candle or a bookmark.

I laughed and quickly threw them into the trash, but something pulled at me and so I pulled them out, dusted them off and put them on my desk. After walking around my dark office for a few minutes I felt pulled back to those ridiculous journals and started thumbing threw them as I sipped a cup of strong coffee. Their clean, white pages stared back at me waiting to be filled.

Sitting down, I grabbed the first journal and quickly printed GIFTED on the first page. Underneath, I wrote instructions for the book indicating that “the purpose of this book is to give back to the world. Have you ever wished you could give a gift you couldn’t afford or seemed impossible? Or change someone’s life but didn’t have the power to do it? Now you can! Be as creative as you want. It’s all yours to give. And all that positive energy of giving is a gift in return. Write anywhere, anything, as much or as little as you want. There are no rules!”

I quickly turned to the middle of the book and wrote a picture of your first kiss. I turned back to the second page and wrote four front row tickets to The Grateful Dead when Jerry Garcia was still alive. And continued to write about ten more gifts. I closed the book, smiling, and placed it in the corner of the desk.

Picking up the second journal, I grabbed another marker and wrote WISHED on the first page. Below it I wrote “Have you ever wished for something and never got it and knew no matter how hard you tried you knew you’d never get it but it didn’t make a difference? The purpose of this book is to give life to our wishes and our dreams. No matter how big or how small. Be creative. Write anywhere, anything. There are no rules!” Spinning to the next page I quickly wrote To be debt free. To own a black Porsche with tinted windows. To have one more Christmas week with my mom in a cabin in Gatlinburg. And somewhere at the back of the book I wrote to finish my book and have it published.

I closed it and placed it on top of the other journal and walked into my client office, placing the books gently on the table, waiting to be filled by my clients.

I poured another cup of coffee, a sure fire way to fall asleep quickly, and came back into my office. I sat down and opened another book I had pulled from the box. SARK’s Make Your Creative Dreams Real. I read through the first 50 pages and closed the book, yawning, even though I was awakened by my immediate excitement. I had suddenly realized that the only thing holding me back from accomplishing my dreams was me.

It’s hard being a therapist sometimes because you often give advice you rarely take yourself even though it sounds so good flowing from your lips. I inspire and motivate my clients daily to accomplish their dreams. A year ago I even published a post about a “Dream Application”, stating that I would see anyone as a client for free who had a real dream, not a life change but a dream, they wanted to accomplish. I stated that I didn’t believe I was the overall master but I could be the guide for someone’s journey and if they were willing to listen to me and my guidance they could accomplish their dreams within a year. I don’t remember receiving even one concrete dream application…still waiting(And I’ll work by phone or Skype if you don’t live in my area!)

Often, I know what needs to happen to make other people happy and fulfilled, but I don’t do those same things for myself. Alex and I run a creative business on the side and we know exactly what we need to do to be successful, but we often become lazy and think too deeply about our next move. Dreams and creativity need to flow like juice from a pear down your neck, much like the wish and gift journals had come to me tonight, quickly and without hesitation.

For years, I’ve told clients, that with the exception of our physical attributes, har har, the only thing different between Tom Cruise and myself is that he showed up for the audition. And there is a lot of truth in that statement. Those people that are most successful in accomplishing their dreams are those that put action to their dreams instead of talking about what they want. Very few of us have dreams that are too big to be accomplished.

My mother always had three dreams she talked about with regularity. She wanted to be a trial attorney living on a houseboat in San Francisco Harbor. She wanted to work on a costume design team for movies, much like Edith Head for Alfred Hitchcock. And she wanted to finish writing a book. Well, she was definitely intelligent enough to be an attorney. She was creative enough to be a costume designer. And she finished writing half of her memoir, Dear Mick or Waiting on a Friend, a personal letter to Mick Jagger about the challenges of growing older as a woman. She could have accomplished any of these dreams. Fear stopped her cold in her tracks. Fear of change. Fear of being different. Fear of lack of acceptance. Maybe even fear of success.

What stops you from accomplishing your dreams? What is your dream? First you must recognize it and begin breathing life back into it’s lungs.

Tonight I filled the wall in front of my desk with inspirational reminders of things I want to do and accomplish for myself and our business to fulfill my dreams. I no longer will allow fear and laziness to keep me grounded and quivering with nothing to look back on but the regrets of things I never attempted to accomplish.

So expect to see my book at your local bookstore soon because I’m writing with a fury. Because we’re on borrowed time as it is…

The Best New Advice for 2011!!!


I haven’t written since October, a realization which is a little numbing considering how many ideas for posts I have jotted down on napkins in coffee shops and on the back of receipts. It seems that some of my best “thoughts from the couch” actually occur in the aisles of grocery stores or, like this morning, listening to talk radio shows on National Public Radio.

Five months is a long time though and my shoebox of writing ideas is filled to the brim with scraps of paper. I had wanted to write about Halloween and the notion of irrational fears versus rational fears. During November, I wanted to write about my mother’s birthday, Thanksgiving and several other small ideas such as how the smallest details in my life, such as the finest cup of coffee or a cheese sample at the grocery store can turn my day to the positive. In December, I had outlined posts for my sobriety date, December 17th, to talk about the week that led up to my entering treatment as well as a few chapters from my memoir I am writing about me and my mother’s recovery’s as family members and how to set boundaries while still supportive of one another. And of course I wanted to write about Christmas. Every year it is important for me to write a piece about some lesson I’ve learned at Christmas with hopes of it being a small gift to my clients. This past year, I was going to write about the last Christmas Eve I spent with my mom on the mountainside in Tennessee, stuck in the middle of the night, while we tried to find ourselves off of the slippery road.

January brought the new year and with every new beginning comes a time for renewal. This year is my year to be my most authentic self, creative and loud, colorful and positive, thoughtful, challenging and risk taking. I had an entire post ready to print and then was criticized for something I had written so I withdrew, which is no excuse, and waited once again.

I’ve asked my readers for tons of suggestions and they have compliantly given me months full of ideas so I really have no reason not to write, but until today, I didn’t really feel it in my soul. Several times when I have been down, Alex has suggested I write, stating that I seem happiest when I am creative and writing, which is probably true. So today I decided to write. I sat here in front of my computer, unsure of what to write, and almost closed the computer with the notion that I would just put it off until later. And then I smiled realizing I definitely had something to write.

There are certain things we know as truths in our lives. I am also a believer that knowing your weaknesses and being willing to change them to strengths can be one of our greatest learning experiences. If you don’t know by now, I believe that everything that happens to us happens for a reason and that life is full of translations and lessons waiting to be revealed.

Recently during a session, a client and I were talking about strengths and weaknesses and he stated, “don’t ever give anyone a reason not to like you.” I smiled and listened as he shared something, which I considered small, which had bothered him. “You are an amazing therapist and I love the insight you have, and being that I have been to several therapists, I know your worth in my life. But not everyone is like me and people look for reasons to not like others. So never, ever, give anyone a reason not to like you.”

Later that day, I thought about what he had said and that day, put into place a policy which would change some of my procedures because he felt it would make my practice better. And then I began looking at the weaknesses in myself that would keep, not only my clients, by my friends, family members, boyfriend, whoever, away from me if they were to focus on those weaknesses.

Earlier this week I made a list of those weaknesses and changed them to positive statements and wrote them on a Post-It Note above my desk which, as I read every day, reminds me of how to turn my weaknesses into strengths and how to grow as a person and be even better than I am already.

My client was so right on with his statement. It was really the best advice I’ve been given in a very, long time. “Don’t give anyone a reason not to like you.” We all want to be liked. We all want to do good work, have close friends and make a positive impact on the world. So, if there is anything that is standing in your way, turn it around, make is a strength and become the person you always wanted to be. Because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Transition Into Your Own Personal Homeslice!


I haven’t written in a very long time, probably almost over a month. I’m not really sure why I haven’t written, especially since I’ve been overwhelmed with material to write about, both professional and personal. I guess I just really haven’t felt it lately; that nagging yearn to throw out there some of my feelings and weave them together in a way that maybe someone will be able to relate. Until tonight. I guess in the last few hours it just kind of all came together for me.

In June my office landlord filed bankruptcy, forcing me to begin searching for a new office space, knowing I was going to have to leave behind the office I began my practice in and start a fresh life somewhere else. The two leasers on either side bailed ship with the first notice of the attorney, but not me. No, I waited until the bitter end, literally begging my landlord to give me a few more days to pull it together and move out.

In July I attended my 20 year high school class reunion. This should have been an incredible experience, which it was, but I was focused on looking back on my dreams and realizing what I hadn’t accomplished, as any good alcoholic or addict does, instead of realizing what I had accomplished. I found myself comparing myself to others; by title, appearance and accomplishment. And in the end, although I had an amazing time interacting with old friends, and making new friends with people I barely spoke to in high school, I walked away from the night realizing I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in my life.

And then the crying began. Out of nowhere, on some random Tuesday afternoon, I was driving down the street listening to an old Stevie Nicks song and the tears welled up in my eyes and flooded my face. Literally. And for the next few weeks out of nowhere I would begin crying and couldn’t stop. Everything seemed to make me sad. I’ve worked enough with true depression to know that this wasn’t it…I was just sad. But I couldn’t figure out why? Alex attempted to be as understanding as possible, trying to be patient and listening to me ramble on and on, but somehow I couldn’t explain it to anyone. I just felt as if one day my mind went blank, the purpose left my blood and I was a walking zombie of emotion. And this just wouldn’t work.

September crept up and finally it was the day of the move. I saw my last client that day, closed the front door and walked back into my office. I sat in my chair and looked around the room. I remembered the night I had moved into the office with my mother and ex painting walls and arranging furniture; my mother mostly scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. “This is filthy! No sane client would want to go to the bathroom in here!” She went out and got us Wendy’s late at night and we ate outside listening to the patrons of the bar across the street stumble to their cars as the whine and whir of the band down the street whistled a summer tune. I sat in that chair and saw all of these actions around me and realized not only was I leaving this office, but I was leaving those memories as well. It was time to move on.

So I wiped away the tears and said goodbye to my office, watching the late afternoon sun fall across the wood floor one last time as I slowly turned the key and locked the door.

I would love to tell you it got better after that, but it didn’t. The next few days were pure hell for me and everyone around me; especially Alex who tried hard to instill upon me that we would have new memories and create a new segment of our lives together, but somehow it didn’t seem real. Even after I turned over the keys to my old landlord as he said, “We had a good run, didn’t we?”, tears welling up in my eyes as I ran off to my car. It didn’t even seem real as I saw my first client in my new office.

But today, after much sleep, feeling rested and alive, I found myself scurrying around my new office, looking for an address I had written in my old office and stuffed in a box. I stood in one of my three rooms, instead of the only one I had before, I looked around, imagining how Alex and I would put our separate business office in this room. I imagined us coming up there late at night after meeting friends in the area, or arguing over interviews, or brainstorming some new ideas as the sounds from the street rose up into our office. I even imagined putting a television in our office to have constant movies playing to get inspiration from while we worked. Suddenly, I found myself sitting on the floor in that office looking around and seeing all the times to come instead of the past memories and just like that…the old ones were gone. They had filed themselves away into a neat little box and stored on a shelf somewhere in my brain to be brought out and dusted off if I ever wanted to look at them This was the new place.

This was the new me.

The reality is that during my 38 years I’ve reinvented myself several times. In fact, a 20 year old client and I were talking about that very thing today and got excited about the fact that we can reinvent ourselves at any time. Change our hair, lose some weight, listen to different music, change our clothing, change our perspective, be kinder or more generous, sleep later or get up earlier, eat vegan or go all out on meatloaf and tenderloin sandwiches…whatever!!! It’s up to us. We’ve only got one life and it’s ours to live.

I believe now that during the last few weeks I was going through a transition period in my life. These occur any time we are going through a major change in our lives and our old self is resistant to the change. But change is good. Change forces us to look at things in a new way no matter how uncomfortable it feels to us. Imagine if life were the same every day. It would be a little be like watching a reality show and on day 1009 they’re eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the 1009th time while playing a tied game of tic tac toe. That show would have been canceled a LONG time ago!!!

We will go through several transitions throughout our entire life depending on what our goals and needs are at any given time. We should try to be more open minded to these changes and allow them to come and flood through us instead of feeling as if they are attacking us. We can control these changes and dictate how or what direction we want them to come. I believe now that part of why this transition happened for me was due in part to the fact that several of my dreams which I had envisioned(being successful in my private practice, having a healthy and passionate relationship, working at completing a book, having a successful social business and living a fulfilled life)had been completed or were pretty damn close! Therefore, it was, as Oprah suggests, time to dream a bigger dream. And to do that we must stretch our skin and allow ourselves to grow!

On my worst day possible in the last few weeks I arrived home and found that I had received a message from one of my dearest clients. “You are my homeslice!!! Thank you for making me feel better. I hope at the end of the day you know how important you are to people’s lives, especially mine!!! By the way, Congratulations on your new office–I drove by after our appt today..”

And tonight, Alex brought me home a new bamboo plant for good luck, waiting on our kitchen island to be transplanted to my new office. A note begins, “You don’t need the luck BUT…” Who could ask for more than that?

So you see…life does get better. The tears dry up, the sun returns and perspectives change. And sometimes, even in the midst of your own personal crisis, you realize that it’s all part of something bigger. I mean, who could ask for anything more than to be someone’s homeslice?!!! That’s just…incredible and awe-inspiring!!! Aim that big…because we’re on borrowed time as it is.

Barefoot Dancing…

Sometimes we find the push we need in the strangest places. Yesterday, while on Facebook, I read a poem that my dear friend Erin, who I’ve known for over 20 years, posted, stating that it had been one of her favorite poems and that her mother had it above her desk since she was a child. I read the poem, surprised that I had never seen it before, and realized instantly that the words of it’s song resonated in my heart and pulled me back from the daily troubles and life lessons that had been overwhelming my mind recently. I printed off the poem, making two copies. One to hang of the fridge and the other one to hand above my desk in my office, next to my picture of a remote beach in Antigua.

And today, as I stood in my office, checking off all of the things I had to get done on my list, my eyes grazed over that poem and old Nadine, the poet, spoke to me as if she were standing in that room. Suddenly, I realized that my mother, old friends even old teachers and childhood pets were dancing around me in my mind, reminding me how truly short life is and how I take even the smallest things for granted.

I opened the door and stepped out into the garden behind my office and stopped and stared up at the most amazing azure sky I had seen in a long time. And then I realized that maybe I just hadn’t been looking. I kicked off my shoes and walked into the grass surrounded with yellow and orange flowers…and I danced. Maybe because the images of all of those people from my past haunted me and reminded me that one day I would be gone too! Or maybe because of the poem. Or maybe because summer will be over soon, and then another fall and another winter and time is passing much too quickly for me to grasp on to it’s withered hands.

So I danced. And I smiled. And I imagined the poet, old Nadine Stair, whispering into my ear the words of her poem, almost as if they were commands. And now I whisper them to you! Listen carefully, and head their words, because we’re on borrowed time as it is…

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who live
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments,
And if I had it to do over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

Nadine Stair,
85 years old.

Forgiveness in Oz…

This week I asked my readers to make suggestions of topics they would like me write about. An old friend wrote, “Finding the strength and fortitude to forgive someone who feels no regret or remorse for their actions!” Ahhhh…a tough one!

Or maybe not. Really, it’s just a question of dissecting the real issue. First of all, we all have people in our lives that take no responsibility for their actions. Children, parents, spouses, friends, bosses, coworkers…the list goes on and on. We are powerless over changing these people and their actions. That is key. We can’t do a damn thing about anything they do and how they react to it. Typically we become frustrated because, if you are a control freak like me, you want to make them apologize for their actions and own up to their part. But the reality is that we can’t make them do anything. Alas they are they’re own people…are so are we.

So then it all comes down to us. My first question would be why do you have someone in your life who is so careless about their affect on others? Do you really want someone around you that doesn’t care enough about you to own up to their part and show some remorse? I don’t. But I do become consumed with these type of people because I’m not one of them and I just don’t understand how they tick. I’ve realized I don’t have to understand them to forgive them and not have them in my life. It’s really that simple. The act of forgiveness is simple, it just doesn’t feel that way.

The first step is loving yourself more than you love this person. If you did, you would have already taken the steps necessary to forgive them, remove them from your life and move on. These people will never understand their actions until people begin to hold them accountable. Typically, it’s a pattern they’ve gotten away with for years. Do you remember the part in The Wizard of Oz where the Good Witch says, “You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!”
I bet you didn’t know that this movie held so much therapeutic value, did you? Glenda the Good Witch laughs before she says this because she has what many lack…confidence. She is not afraid of the Wicked Witch because she already knows she can’t hurt her anymore. When we realize we won’t let others hurt us, they have no power, thus it is our turn to forgive them, because they know no better.

Forgiveness is really about removing all of the ugliness and bitterness in your heart and clearing space for more beautiful things. How can we possibly live a pure and peaceful life with chaos and ugliness surrounding the corners of our heart? I used to have a really difficult time forgiving people. It took time and practice but eventually I got better at it. Usually, I even give these people six, seven and eight chances to keep stomping on my face before I realize that they probably just aren’t good for me to have in my life. Recently, I had a friend who hurt me and my close friends deeply. We became consumed with this hurt and lack of understanding why this was happening. We just couldn’t get it. It made no sense because we did nothing wrong. And then I was offered the opportunity to forgive this person, which I did, and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. This person will never be my friend again or even a small part of my life, by they by no means consume me anymore either. They have no power in my Oz, so to speak.

Maya Angela once said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” When someone treats you wrong or has no remorse for their actions they are telling you that is who they truly are! They aren’t lying; they’re warning you! The rest is up to you. She also said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain”
There ya go. It’s time. Rid yourself of all negativity and live a pure and joyful life.

I know this isn’t easy and we hold onto anger and sadness much longer than we hang on to joy, but try something different. What do you have to lose. You will never make someone change their behaviors; they have to learn it on their own. We all have our special lessons to learn and maybe, just maybe, they aren’t supposed to learn how to be remorseful. Or maybe they just don’t care. But you don’t have to go along for the ride. And this means no matter who this person is in your life.

When I got sober I was told to remove all people in my life that abused substance and the first person I thought of was my mom. Before I got out of treatment I called her and told her and she said, “Oh surely you can’t mean me?”, to which I told her yes. I didn’t see my mom until six months later when she got sober. It was probably the most difficult six months of my entire life for many different reasons, but I had to love myself enough to give myself a chance and remove any negative influences. I at least deserved a chance. We only get one life, right?

And maybe I’m reading into the question, but I don’t think so. Everything you need is already inside you. The strength is there, you just have to dig it up.

Have you ever been on a road trip and you’re driving on the interstate and you see a horribly, black sky ahead full of rain and hail. Your heart and head tell you to stop and wait it out but you keep going anyway. Once you get inside the storm, it is difficult to see and drive and people are giving up and pulling off of the road, but you keep forging ahead. Eventually, you come out on the other side and see blue skies. In your rearview mirror the black sky remains and all of those drivers who pulled over are still inside, waiting it out…but not you. And you realize, “hey, it wasn’t that bad after all.”

You’re driving through the storm right now. Grip the wheel and keep on going. It’s a tough ride but there are blue skies ahead.

At the end of The Wizard of Oz Dorothy comes to a wonderful realization about herself. “And If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I will look no further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Open your window, my dear, and find the strength that already exists. You deserve it…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!