Friday, September 22, 2006

Sharing the Road

Sometimes a minor life experience can be a major lesson in living life.

When I worked in North County part of my drive to work was a two-lane, winding road, about ten miles, where it was mostly double yellow line – no passing. Every so often there was a sort of turn-out where one could move aside and let another car past, and it was my habit to do that whenever someone who was driving faster than I was caught up with me.

Some drivers went slower than I did and they usually made use of those turnouts to let me by. We all cohabited on that road quite comfortably. Well, there was an occasional speeder and once in a while a wreck, but…

One afternoon on my way home I caught up with a guy driving a jeep and followed along awaiting an opportunity to pass. He seemed to feel that I was following too closely and started tapping his brakes and giving me gestures to tell me that I was “number one,” all of which I thought was rather silly. I didn’t think I was all that close, maybe two car lengths at 25 mph, and I wanted to be close enough that I would be able to use a passing opportunity when it arose.

When we got to one of the turn-outs he didn’t use it, forcing me to continue following him. He also continued to make gestures, waving and making “pushing” signs, tapping his brakes, flipping me off, etc. The more frantically he attempted to get me to move away from him, and the more turnouts we passed without him allowing me to pass, the more amused I became.

Do I need to tell you I did not increase my distance?

By the time we got to the end of that road he was practically foaming at the mouth and I was actually laughing out loud. There had been numerous opportunities for him to get me “off of his tail” by allowing me to pass, but he had failed utterly in his efforts to “do it his way.”

In addition to my amusement I was grateful for the moment, for I realized it had solidified for me an important lesson.

If I try to secure my comfort zone by controlling the behavior of others I am doomed to a life of frustration, anger and disappointment. When I simply “share the road” with others, life is really good.

That seems too simple to be valid, but it really does work. It not only works, it is an absolute monster of a stress reliever. It’s effective in the workplace, in social settings, and even in dealing within a homeowners association (where it’s often really essential in order to maintain any shred of sanity).

It works in my marriage too, although it does require that we sometimes work together on how that “road share” is going to be accomplished. It is important for me to remember that we are talking together about how we are going to share the road, and that me telling my wife what I need from her is only one small part of the discussion, that it's not about me getting her to change her behavior to make me comfortable.

Sharing the road. It’s not just for cars.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Power of Faith

Joe said to me once, “Believing in God is easy. I can do that with the thinking part of my mind. Trusting God is harder, because trusting God requires faith.” I asked him how I could get that faith and he smiled. “I would suggest,” he said, “that you ask God to give you that gift.”

You see, faith is not something that we can do for ourselves. We cannot think ourselves into it, create it with discipline, or have it by wearing the team shirt. Faith comes by being in the company of those who have faith and allowing that faith to flow into us through them.

That company might be a twelve-step group, or a church or whatever. The source of faith is ultimately God and the people through whom we receive it are but the instruments.

And faith has great power.

I was channel surfing one night many years ago and don’t know why I stopped to watch this preacher, I never watch that sort of thing on television. This guy had a kind of cheerful expression, though, and looked like he was enjoying himself.

He was talking about faith and asked, “What is faith?” Answering himself he went on “Webster,” he said “defines faith as ‘belief without proof’.” He then got a puzzled look and allowed as how that didn’t tell him much about faith. “What role does faith play in my life?” he went on, “What does it do for me?”

He took out a bible in which he had marked passages and turned to one of them. He named the book, chapter and verse and then quoted,

“Faith makes us certain of realities we do not see.”

That powerful statement has been a guide for me from that day to this, and I have quoted it often.

The guidance and direction that God offers to me on a daily basis, the strength to live my life, are realities. They are not figures of speech. They are not metaphors that are written in books to make me feel good. I cannot see them or touch them but they are realities, and it is faith that makes me certain of them.

Certain not only in the sense that I know they are there now, but certain in the sense that I know I can rely on them, I can trust that they will be there tomorrow.

Certainty that says that with guidance and strength from God as my constant companions I can live my life free from fear.

That is the power that faith has.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Introducing Myself

As implied by the text below my profile, I have been sober a bit over twenty-four years. That's not a big deal, it just means that I haven't taken a drink and I haven't died. I've done it one day at a time just like everybody else. In the early years the "taking a drink" part was a close call a few times, and the past few years the "dying" part has been a little too close for comfort once or twice with emphysema, heart problems, strokes and a couple other issues.

But I'm still here, giving joy to some people and headaches to others. Some people are glad about that, some disappointed, but few are ambivalent. I'm not the kind of guy about whom people tend to be ambivalent. One friend told me the reason I'm not dead yet is that I'm not bad enough to go to Hell, but God doesn't want me in Heaven stirring the place up with a stick.

I have been known, you see, to voice opinions on this and that. I have also learned, these past two dozen years, that mine is not the only opinion, and that my opinion may very well be wrong. But, as another friend told me, "You sometimes tick people off, Bill, but you tend to make them think."

That, however, is for another time and another place; giving voice to opinion is not really my purpose here. Some opinions may creep in, but my purpose here is to share the joy that I have experienced in the spiritual growth that has been, for me, the process of recovery from alcoholism.

Someone asked me once about the "spiritual part" of the program of recovery, but for me there is no "spiritual part." My take is that recovery is a process of spiritual growth, and the closer one becomes to God and his fellow man the farther away one moves from alcohol. Recovery is not about drinking or not drinking, it's about learning to live. It's about shedding an old life and embracing a new one. It's about becoming a different person. Joe once told me "I don't want you to learn how to deal with your alcohol problem, I want you to become a person who doesn't have an alcohol problem." If you don't understand the difference, perhaps we can shed some light on that as we travel on this journey together.

I'll say this once. The program of recovery in which I gained sobriety is Alcoholics Anonymous, and I sincerely believe that I would not be sober without that body and its members. That said, this blog is not about AA and I do not speak with any authority for or about that organization. I will not say whether or not I am still a member of AA, and you will not see any references in this blog to meetings of that organization or any other.

Welcome. I don't know where we're going, but we're on our way.