Wednesday, November 26

Providence


I knew it first as simply the capital of one of the smallest states with not much to claim for fame or glory. A place to pass through on the way to a more desirable location.

In a time of emotional darkness - the physical location of Providence became a personal refuge of love and hope. I gained understanding of independence, and the start of a journey into a new life of spirituality. I learned from someone strong enough to let me go ... as hard as that was ... letting go was the only way to free me from decades of ignorance and a helped to eliminate void that was consuming me.

 In celebrating Thanksgiving ... the compound word of Thanks and Giving.... yes, it is a thanks for giving. It is through giving that we receive the most in life. In the past few days, I have heard dozens of stories of gratitude. All shared the commonality of a deep sense of spirituality - and a different "Providence" ... the protective care of God as a spiritual power.

That pure spirituality requires no buildings, books or bully pulpits. It is freely given to all, if we are willing to accept it - and give thanks by practicing Thanks in Giving. In doing service for others, one learns humility, respect and empathy. A deeper understanding and respect evolves, which promotes tolerance, patience and love.

Living in "providence", the spiritual state of mind all the time is difficult. It is so easy to take back ones own desires, fall to the desires of your own ego, and fall to the influences of the day and be distracted from the path. But when you can pull back, and let go... it's quite the fun and enlightening experience - worldly pressures don't go away, but they become almost comical in the grand scheme of things.

The start of my voyage of discovery I am on now began in Providence physically ... and I hope it ends in Providence spiritually. A nice place to live.  Happy ThanksGiving.

Thursday, November 13

Meet Toxic Pat


Remember that awesome Saturday Nigh Live character - "Pat" - The one you couldn't really ever tell whether Pat was a guy or a woman... Hilarious.

On the dating sites -  you pre-select your gender -  and whatever gender you are looking for - so that takes a little of the guesswork out of the equation - for the most part.

But I noticed some fun things navigating one of these sites recently, looking endlessly for the woman who will tolerate me. It seems that along with the critical information about how many kids you have, and how many pets you love and whether they fly, swim or walk... you also need to indicate just how toxic your life is.

They only list (2) of the addictions found in "Package Stores" ... those stores usually carry all three of the legalized addictive revenue generators for state governments... Booze, Smoke and don't forget Gambling.  Not sure why the dating services don't want to measure those habits -  maybe that's another question elsewhere under hobbies or they didn't have a cool icon for it?

And along with the adjustable icons - you can indicate your personal level of toxicity .. Pat smokes daily - I think there are other levels - pretty rare you see people smoke "Once a Week" ... c'mon - a little rigorous honesty please ... who smokes once a week?

This site lists Drinking as "Never" - Once a Week - Daily - or Special Occasions. Never drinkers are either spiritual and really well balanced - or alcoholics (who have become spiritual and really well balanced). Once a week -  is a little vague - it can be either I have a glass of wine with dinner on Saturday ... or I go out and blackout drink in bars until I vomit on Saturdays ... but only do it "Once a Week".

Daily drinking can be odd - it can be really bad - or it can be that 'one glass' every night to relax... mild low dose toxicity - very manageable - low life impact - and even may be healthy! Then you have the "On Special Occasions" selection -  well for the party person; having a hefty bowel movement is reason enough to celebrate as a special occasion. Funniest are those who select that - and then post 9 out of 10 shots with red "Soho" drink cups or Martini glasses from Disney with the kids to the beach ... I guess life really IS a special occasion -  I think so.

Overall - it just seems odd to me that we as a society find it normal in attempting to find a life partner that we match up certain things ... proximity, children, ages, likes... try to envision life with another via a web site... guys trying to understand ballroom dancing, doing yoga... searching key words like football and fishing when looking for a soul mate. Yet in that match up -  we also try to determine just how polluted the other person is ... if they consume a airborne or liquid addictive substance ... how much do they do - how often -  will it affect my kids - or will my new girlfriend eat my goldfish in that 'Once a Week' blackout stupor?  I suppose you need to know those things if that's the person you are looking for?

Hey -  it's personal preference - I quit smoking 20 years ago - drinking 2 years ago -  eventually I will give up dating sites I hope - they don't have an icon for that either.  :-)

Thursday, November 6

The meaning of T.I.M.E.


I play Bass in a band calle T.I.M.E. - an acronym for Together It's More Enjoyable ... To most, we are just a decent slightly beyond middle aged band – playing a few originals, some cool new songs, and some tired dance music from over 30 years ago. Very few know our full stories; almost none know mine.

I heard about the band at an Open Mic at a Recovery Club… I was flipping burgers after six or so months into a walk back from the gates from hell. That cold October night, body weak from weeks of self inflicted malnutrition and intense 24/7 death wish insanity, drinking (self medicating) to ease depression, loneliness and fear. I prayed that night, like so many prayers – God chose not to grant my wish… I lingered and cheated death… barely …and the ambulance came. I lived – another selfish prayed denied by my cruel God.

Thirty five years of partying and what I cam to understand as an addiction and eventually losing everything… were over. Finally! How did it hapen? I don’t know. Why… I can speculate at answers. God let me live that night to mull it over. Near blind, unable to walk, move my arms … 40 pounds underweight that night: now I was at a grill, making decadent fatty cheeseburgers with bacon, doing service work because I knew I needed to. The woman working the counter was droning on of a love lost all night… I was ignoring her until she started talking of a friends departing Band Bass Player too… I was one about 25 years go… I spoke up, and it started – I was given a new chance to touch an old love in my life; music, thank you God for showing me service work... without being there in pain at the grill... doing something selfless... an opportunity would have passed.

The Band's need was urgent ... I had only two weeks to learn about 30 songs, playing on not much more than a friends 3/4 size toy bass, on borrowed amplifier. I squinted through my near blind eyes; nerve damaged from the alcohol… standing on my excruciatingly painful feet… also nerve damaged beyond any hope of repair from the same toxins. The other band members encouraged me … they were healthy, long term recovery folk. I wanted what they had.

First night, walking on a little plywood stage, in front of 200 people and a bon-fire. Carafes of coffee replaced the kegs of beer I knew once. I muddled my way through songs and set lists best I could, my feet seizing up, legs cramping … my eyes tearing at the songs of recovery. Emotions flowed… like I had never felt before. Love, gratitude, joy, serenity… I was not only alive, but I was living again. They talked of “Experience, Strength and Hope” … after we played, people speaking of a strange program. I had only the last one of the three, but hope was enough to give me determination.

Practices and gig load outs were grueling.. I remember well the 25 stairs to our weekly practice spot… 8 the first landing, 17 on the next. I remember because every one was painful, and I would make many trips up and down with equipment, stopping often to rest, my legs were so weak then. I was determined to not feel the searing pain in my feet – play through the pain. I did at every practice … til my feet started to feel better - and my vision slowly returned, my actual sight and my vision for life.

In a few months, I found myself on a stage in Boston, on New Years - supporting a local facility that helps people in recovery. Much strength had returned, I now had the experience of many gigs of pain… and still full of hope. A room filled with young kids in their teens and 20’s … scared, but they had their hope, and like I was – no experience, little strength, terrified of going back out and feeling more pain… looking to us in the band for a few fun hours of sober lyrical escape in song and dance… on a night that promotes chaos and drunkenness, a reprieve from the streets and temptations, surrounded by love, prayers and people who care.

I never felt more important in my life that night … sharing my talents that had lain dormant for decades, with other musicians who had their own version of hell … and survived. Six hours of driving to and from, 5 hours of meeting, performing, packing and praying. I would pay to play in that experience again. So filling, a deep feeling as the saying goes ...money cannot buy.

“So Close” – a song special to me I tear up at almost every gig. I was so close myself to not being here at all… missing on my children's lives ... and so much more. I had survived my first calendar year completely sober in my adult life ever. I had cheated death, fought through pain to crawl up onto stages larger and larger… to share my Experience, Strength and Hope plunking away on my bass in the background.

Together It’s More Enjoyable – for me together is every day, every moment I get to look someone in the eye and smile. Every breath … I am grateful for life itself… and for the opportunity through some music that stirs my very soul, gives me the essential drive of a life ‘TIME’.

When I play now, my feet still hurt a bit, I squint a bit at off lights… my playing chops are back better than ever … Gods gift of hands between my ‘hand’icaps of bad eyes and bad feet I guess? The redundant dance songs from thirty plus years ago get tiresome once in a while… but the opportunity to give hope to people struggling … to work towards that next gig to share what I have found … the opportunity for a life that is healthy, clean and really, really fun an oh so fulfilling… yeah – once more … Play the Funky Music White Boy!  :-)

Follow The Band at www.TheBandTIME.com

Tuesday, November 4

LifeSkule


A friend of mine was going back for an additional degree and a career change after her divorce. She had (3) night classes , and spent many hours doing projects and studying for classes. That made sense to her, but she seemed puzzled by all of my nighttime activities, non official academia ... she is right - I am involved in a lot of different things.

However - when I stepped back to analyze myself as I do often... I realized how similar our lives really were. It's all about learning.

We were both involved in getting educated in aspirations of helping others, Hers is a much more formalized program, designed along a specific goal and career path. Mine... well a lot more ad-hoc.. towards an eventual gradual career change, but when you look at what I am doing as a diverse curriculum of education, it's actually remarkably similar and very positive.

Here is my LifeSkule cirriculum -  5 Classes Right Now
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Advanced Introspection  405
Gain experience from the experienced in this one hour open discussion on life matters. Real life sharing and applications. Course keys off a daily read and an open topic discussion and forum follows after a quick interpretation. Meets Weekly Sunday - 10-11  WRC - Main Lecture Hall
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Criminal Reconstitution  (Lab) 911 
Hands on meeting in a real SuperMax prison facility. Meet real long term convicts, ear there stories of societal pressures and failed systems that left them incarcerated. Hear their acknowledgement of their part in wrong-doing and share in their experience, strength and hope in recovery from addiction of drugs and alcohol and their vision for the future. Meets 1st Wed MacDougal Campus
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Intermediate Social Studies  307
Similar to Advanced Introspection - Shared experienced in this one hour open discussion on life matters. This is more granular, dealing with the day-to-day issues in work and dealing with others in a positive way reflecting on your own actions. Meets M-F 530-630 - Flex Schedule - Suggested minimum 2 classes a week. WRC - Main  Lecture Hall
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Board Meeting Basics and Beyond (Lab)  301
Experience the thrill of being on a Board of Directors in this real life scenario. Be a part of shaping the future of a local support facility, learn the interactions of various members, budgets, goal setting, purchasing protocols, and by-law and grant writing basics. Meets 4th Monday 7PM WRC - Main Lecture Hall
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Music - Performing Arts  Advanced 401
Take your individual instrument and experience the dynamics - musically and interpersonal - in a real life band setting, All aspects from Song acquisition, collaboration, performance creation, to the fundamentals of band marketing, time and people management. Not for the faint of heart. Many long hours and little pay potential in this field ... but the emotional rewards can be staggering in the right environment.  Meets 1x a week ...usually - somewhere - Performances 1-2x a Month - somewhere. Schedule TBD by Members - Good luck with that! 
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I won't get a degree, or make a fundamental career change because of all my 'schooling... but I am happy that I watch very little TV and am enjoying life to it's fullest right now in my LifeSkule, learning so much and meeting so many great people a few nights a week beyond my day job.

Seem like lot?  Not really - well over 2/3 of my nights are free for even more fun and frolic! A lot less than her degree program and NO HOMEWORK - NO TESTS!!

I guess my point is life can be educational (even without a large tuition) and fun if you can turn off the TV and walk out the front door every once in a while! Stay active, stay involved in your communities!