Books Can Be Dangerous

The city where I live is blessed with a huge used book store that now occupies the majority of a strip center.  Gardner’s is a funky throw-back to another time.  The store has earthy feelings like something from the late 60’s or early 70’s.  A part of the fun is finding things in the cluttered and barely organized manner of the store.   

One of the great things about a used good book store is I become interested in books I might never have noticed in a mainstream retail establishment.  I can’t even begin to list the number of books that came into my life through Gardner’s, but half or more of my favorites were discovered at the store.   

One example is “The Search for Serenity and How to Achieve it” by Lewis F. Presnall.  When I first looked at the plain light blue soft back book, I found it was published in 1959.  My initial impression was I would get little from a 50-year-old book written primarily for alcoholic recovery.  After thumbing through the pages and reading parts highlighted by a previous owner I realized I had incorrectly judged the book by its cover. 

Here are some of the jewels of wisdom I found in the first two chapters of Presnall: 

No one can learn to be at home in his own heaven until he has learned to be at home in his own hell.  

The search for serenity begins with a willingness to discover and honestly recognize the areas in our own lives where we did not quite grow up. 

Crisis brings… a choice:  Emotional growth and survival, or continued stagnation and eventual death.  As long as we continue in a series of unbroken successes we are not apt to obtain the humility necessary to recognize our own conspicuous immaturities.    

Any type of living, any philosophy of life, which adds to inner conflict, is incorrect for the individual who harbors it.   

Every one of us indulges occasionally in self-pity, but no one likes to admit it.  Self-pity is the emotion of covering up.  It is a method we often use to cover up our feelings of aggression and our feelings of guilt.  It is our excuse for failing to face life objectively – an alibi for inaction.  …In the isolation of aloneness, self-pity becomes an easy antidote or compensation for both insecurity and guilt feelings. 

We sometimes confuse niceness for goodness.  

Happiness is not achieved by a frantic search.  Peace of mind eludes us when we pursue it with struggle and tension.  The art of graceful living, the art of mature living, is largely that of learning to utilize both the good and the bad in a positive way.  

From the time of birth… the human organism it subjected to emotional pressure.  Awareness of the external world begins to affect the functioning of the body.  If physical, mental and emotional growth progress together harmoniously, the individual will retain the innate ability to maintain physical health.  It is when the mind and the emotions fail to keep pace with physical development that the body’s functions are deranged or disturbed by a lack of harmony. 

As I look around my office were I sit writing this morning I see books on my desk to the left and right of me, books on my credenza, books in the shelves behind me and across the hall is my library filled with hundreds of other books. Many of them came from my favorite used book store: Gardner’s.  Their prices are downright cheap on most books and many a piece of wisdom has been gained through my purchases there.  I have much gratitude for the store and the staff who run Gardner’s.  To an even greater degree I am thankful for the large amounts of knowledge I have gained and will yet gain through the books I find there. 

Books can be dangerous.  The best ones should be labeled “This could change your life.”  Helen Exley

Highest Form of Thought

After being in Colorado for a good part of the week, this morning the drive home begins. I’ve had a great holiday visit with my son and am grateful he is healthy and well.   The twelve hours home will be a good time to “count my blessings”, which are many. 

From “I’m Grateful For” by a Writer Unknown 

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours–
because it means I am alive.

For the taxes that I pay–
Because it means I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party–
Because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.

For the clothes that fit a little too snug–
Because it means I have enough to eat.

For my shadow that watches me work–
Because it means I am out in the sunshine.

For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing–
Because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government–
Because it means we have freedom of speech.

For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot–
Because it means I am capable of walking and that I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill–
Because it means I am warm.

For the lady behind me in church who sings off key–
Because it means I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing–
Because it means I have clothes to wear.

For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day–
Because it means I have been capable of working hard.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  G.K. Chesterton

Future’s So Bright…

A time of personal evolution began for me fourteen years ago and the catalyst was a promotion/job transfer.  Left behind was a comfortable position of eleven years and a city known well after eighteen years of living there.  Familiar surroundings and old-friends quickly became something a thousand miles away from where I relocated.  While a son finished out a school year that just began, I lived by myself for eight months in the new city with visits back to my family around every 4 weeks.  Here began real awareness that something was definitely wrong in my life; with me.

The first reaction was to point attention to my childhood, other people and circumstances to explain some of my behavior.  “It was their fault!”  Then came separation, divorce, my son 750 miles away, a new relationship, therapy, a hiatus from affairs, a 2nd marriage, an affair that ended that marriage, five weeks in treatment for depression and compulsions, more therapy, four years spent avoiding love relationships and finally becoming accustomed to being by myself.  A good bit of the cure was overcoming loneliness and learning to be comfortable in my own company, a process that I thought at times was going to kill me.

Frequently I am asked what the “secret” was that allowed me to evolve, grow and change to be the person I am today.  My response is “there’s no secret”.  Trust me, I wish there was a shortcut because I would have taken it long ago.  Getting from there to here focused primarily on four things: 

1) Motivation, 2) Doing the work, 3) Support from others 4) Stop worrying about the future. 

Motivation:  For a day, week or even a full month here and there I thought was stimulated enough to make changes in my life and behavior.  Given time old habits came back.  Only when EVERY DAY I felt change HAD to happen did my behavior evolve positively in lasting ways. 

Do the Work:  Thinking about living life differently is not enough.  Growth takes hard and consistent work; lots of it!  It took reading (tons) about what ailed me to gain understanding.  I had to go to therapy and realize I got as much out of it as I put in. Working a twelve program was very hard, but yielded lasting results.  I had to make amends with those I had wronged, most of all myself.   had to bust my butt and even today that is the recipe for continuing to move forward.

Support of others:  There is no way I could have accomplished my personal growth and recovery without the help of others.  My therapist was a huge help.  The support of a handful of close friends even when they did not understand made a big difference. The support of peers during rehab helped a lot as did assistance an ex-wife gave me then.  Attending help-group meetings at least once a week has been an important part of my work to grow.  Without the support of others, I would not have made it.      

Stop worrying about the future: It was necessary to stop being concerned about the future and instead just take life one day at a time.  The attitude I had to adopt was to just get through the present day.  Sometimes I could stay focused only on the current hour or even the present minute. My behavior always happened in the “now” and could only be addressed in the “now”.  

I had to learn how to feel happiness and allow myself to know joy.  A good explanation comes From a book I read titled “Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow: 12 Simple Principles” by Karen Casey:  Joy is always available to us, moment by moment. But we must keep our minds open and pay attention. A closed mind or a mind filled with fear or judgment will never know joy.  More here:

Learning the power of my thinking and coming to know my thoughts intimately, even the bad ones, was another key to getting better.  I could not truly embrace the good if I did not know those thoughts well.  Nor could the “stinking thinking” be changed unless I knew that thinking well.  From the Wisdom of the Mystic Masters by Joseph J. Weed comes:  Each thought at its inception produces an effect.  There is a vibratory wave, a radiation from the center, not unlike the radiation of a radio wave from a broadcasting tower.  The wave moves outward equally in all directions with gradually diminishing intensity, which varies with distance.  It continues to emanate from the mind of the thinker as long as the thought is held but it ceases instantly the thinking changes or stops.

Sitting here finishing this blog today, I am so happy to be where my efforts have taken me.  Getting here has been damn difficult, but worth every discomfort.  I am grateful to my Higher Power, all those who aided my journey to now and those who will help me stay on my path in the future.

The Future’s So Bright,
I Gotta Wear Shades”
Lyric from a Timbuk3 song

All Evidence of Truth

A fully functional human being has five primary senses:  sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell.  All of us who have those in good working order rarely if ever contemplate life without them. But, this morning I asked myself “if you had to give up one, which would you choose?”

On the surface that seems like a fairly simple question, but as I began to contemplate it I found it took some time to come up with an answer. 

What did appear quickly was the resounding thought “I would not give up being able to see”.  Art, especially well-done photography, is an important interest:  both making photographs myself and enjoying the work of others.  I can’t imagine not being able to take a photograph or being able to admire work of another photographer.  Writing further the realization comes of how much the loss of sight would take away.  No faces of familiar and loved people could be seen.  The colors of a beautiful sunset would be beyond my ability to experience.   Being an avid reader, I suppose I might be able to learn Braille but would sorely miss “seeing” the words.  No, sight would not be my choice to give up.

Almost as quickly as the realization that life without sight is not something I can imagine, it occurs that hearing is just as important.  Music has been such an important part of my life, including my profession, and can’t imagine not being able to experience it.  Nor can I come to grips with not being able to talk and hear in a conversation.  Certainly there are times when the over-abundance of sound in a large city can be a bit much.  Even so, I can’t imagine not being able to hear it all.

The texture and suppleness of a loved one’s skin is as unique as the color of their eyes.  It is beyond me to imagine not being able to touch and feel those I care about.  To not know the difference between the texture of an apple and an orange would be a great loss.  Due to an injury a few years ago, there is partial numbness of two fingers on my left hand.  That little bit of loss of feeling causes me to be clumsy picking things up with that hand and I often drop things. The limited experience with restricted sense of touch causes me to know I would never willingly give it up. 

This brings me to smell and taste and if I remember science class correctly the two are interrelated. Smell is said to be the sense most easily awakened and the one that creates the deepest memory.  Further, smell helps keep us safe and endears us to places, people and things through our memory of their particular scent.  Then there is taste which allows a plethora of food experiences and perceptions of the world that come through flavor, sweetness, bitterness and sourness. Imagine not knowing the difference in the taste of salt and sugar!

Willingly I would not give up one of the primary senses, but if it was necessary to give up one, my choice would probably be taste.  That sure would make meals a lot simpler and I’d probably lose some weight also.  How boring that would be!

What this little exercise did is cause me a bit greater appreciation for my ability to see, hear, taste, smell and touch.  Just imaging not having a sense now taken for granted is an eye opener.

For at least today everything I will see will be a bit more attractive.  Everything heard will be more pleasing to me.  All things touched will be appreciated with a greater awareness of texture and shape.  Foods will be chewed long and savored so I can enjoy their taste more fully.  And no smell will be met with distaste, even the unpleasant ones. 

Imaging being without one of my senses has brought, at least momentarily, a much greater appreciation for them all.  By moving behind the phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” I gain present day gratitude and appreciation.  In all ways and all things, learning to be thankful for what I already have is an easy way to increase affluence in my life.  Gratitude costs nothing, but brings great riches.

All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.  Friedfich Nietzsche

The Only Disability in Life

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players… 

On the stage of life almost twelve months have evaporated quickly and a scant five days remain before 2012 is a year that was.  I look forward to a new start; a new beginning the birth of a brand new year brings.  The attitude I “act” with on the stage of the coming new year is near completely within my control.  I can choose to play a character filled self-encouragement and motivation, or I can act out a part filled with self defeat and pity.  It’s up to me. 

Anticipating the New Year, there is no doubt it will contain new chapters of hard times, hurt feelings, grief, heartache, physical pain and emotional distress.  Life is ALWAYS difficult, but it is ALWAYS GOOD too.   I know 2012 will also contain love, joy, happiness, laughter, friendship, and good times.  .  It is my choice whether what I speak to myself is optimistic or pessimistic. 

The Pessimist” by Ben King
Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes,
To keep one from going nude.

Nothing to breathe but air,
Quick as a flash it’s gone;
Nowhere to fall but off;
Nowhere to stand but on.

Nothing to comb but hair,
Nowhere to sleep but bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
Nothing to bury to dead.
Nothing to sing but songs,
Ah, well!  Alas! A lack!
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back.

Nothing to read but words,
Nothing to cast but votes,
Nothing to hear but sounds,
Nothing to sail but boats.

Nothing to see but sights,
Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we’ve got,
Thus though life we are cursed.

Nothing to strike but a gait,
Everything moves that goes,
Nothing at all but commonsense,
Can ever withstand these woes.

From “Hustle and Grin”– Anonymous
(A Lesson in Optimism and Pessimism)

Nothing to do but work,
Smile, and the world smiles with you;
Knock, and you go it alone;
For the cheerful grin
Will let you in
Where the kicker is never known.

Growl, and the way looks dreary;
Laugh, and the path is bright;
For a welcome smile
Brings sunshine, while
A frown shuts out the light.

Sigh, and you rake in nothing;
Work, and the prize is won;
For the nervy man
With backbone can
By nothing be outdone.

Hustle, and fortune may bless you;
Quit, and defeat is sure;
For there’s no chance
Of deliverance
For the man who can’t endure.

I can lament living many of my past days as a pessimist and cut out more hours of that sort for my life.  Or I can choose the optimist’s path where every day is a good day (even the most difficult ones).   I am grateful to have learned well and practice often what Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote:  Say you are well, or all is well with you and God shall hear your words and make them true.  

The only true disability in life is a bad attitude. 
Scott Hamilton

Notes from the Universe

Two of my friends, one a woman in Kansas and the other a guy in Ohio have over time sent me a “Note from the Universe”.  The friend in Kansas passed along this one last Friday: 

If it’s not yet obvious to you, the real reason for this, and all seasons, is you, James. A more perfect child of the Universe has never lived. Until now, only celebrations cloaked in myth and mystery could hint at your divine heritage and sacred destiny. You are life’s prayer of becoming and its answer. The first light at the dawn of eternity, drawn from the ether, so that I might know my own depth, discover new heights, and revel in seas of blessed emotion. 

A pioneer into illusion, an adventurer into the unknown, and a lifter of veils. Courageous, heroic, and exalted by legions in the unseen. 

To give beyond reason, to care beyond hope, to love without limit; to reach, stretch, and dream, in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity – traits of the immortal – your badges of honor. May you wear them with a pride as great as the immeasurable pride we feel for you. 

Your light has illuminated darkened paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the course of history.

This is the time of year we celebrate James Browning. 

WOW!  That is moving stuff.  Each time one of the “Notes from the Universe” has come my way via a friend the message has touched me. Having seen only three or four and then getting the note above, I was highly intrigued and decided to do some investigation.

A brief explanation  found here:

What started in 1998 as an email sent out weekly to 38 addresses has since blossomed into today’s daily Notes from the Universe, sent to over 385,000 subscribers in 189 countries! These Notes are brief passages written by “The Universe,” personalized with your name (and occasionally your personal goals and dreams), designed to remind you that you have, indeed, been given dominion over all things.

More about the originator: 

Mike Dooley is an international tax accountant-turned-entrepreneur-turned writer for “the Universe.” His “Notes from the Universe” series was inspired by the weekly e-mail list which now has thousands of subscribers. As one of the featured teachers in The Secret book and DVD, Dooley is actively using the Law of Attraction to expand his own business by leaps and bounds. He travels internationally, speaking to thousands on life, dreams, and happiness. For more about Mike Dooley and his seminars, visit  (T.U.T. stands for “Totally Unique Thoughts”).  

If you are interested in signing up to get “Notes from the Universe” as I did a short while ago, here’s the link:

I am grateful for to my friends for turning me on to the “Notes” and look forward to receiving them on a regular basis.  I will report on them again here in about thirty days and share my impressions of getting them every day.

 Happy “Day After Christmas”!

After I signed up for “Notes from the Universe” this is the message I received:

In the face of adversity, uncertainty, and conflicting sensory information, I hereby pledge to remain ever mindful of the magical infinite, loving reality in which I live – a reality that conspires tireless in my favor.

I further recognize that living within space and time, as a Creation amongst my Creations, is the ultimate Adventure, because thoughts become things, dreams do come true, and all things remain forever possible.

As a Being of Light, I hereby resolve to live, love, and be happy, at all costs, no matter what, with reverence and kindness for All.  So be it!

A Short Tale of Many Feelings

Last evening, Christmas Eve, was ‘groovy’.  I decorated my little black convertible with a big red bow on the front grill, evergreen trim in the back and battery-powered multi-colored blinking Christmas lights around the windshield.  A thermos was filled with hot chocolate and a snack of raisins secured in a baggie.  Then my lady and I bundled up layer upon layer to warm us on a 20-something degree evening’s long ride to see Christmas lights.

 The festively decorated car got more than a few waves and car horn honks along with lots of assorted smiles and looks of amusement.  I found myself wondering if some saw the red jacket I was wearing as a hint of Santa Claus.  My nearly all white facial hair and that on my head sticking out from my hat probably added to the suggestion.  While completely unintentional, I like the thought!  What a ‘funky’ Santa I must have looked like!

After about an hour’s sightseeing we stopped around 10pm in a church parking lot to warm up with hot chocolate and snack on a few raisins.  There were cars already in the parking lot and slowly more arrived.  While we never knew for certain it appeared these were early arrivals for some sort of late night/early morning service or pageant.  That thought added a little more to the special feeling of the night before Christmas.  

After our ten minute break we continued our tour of Christmas displays.  In total we spent about two and a half hours finding delightful do-it-yourself exhibits and having a great time.  Especially enjoyable were the neighborhoods where many families decorated their homes and we drove slowly savoring those particularly.  The highlight was two homes with thousands of Christmas lights synchronized to music that could be tuned in on my car radio.  As others did, I stopped the car and turned the headlights and smiled the entire time I watched the lights jump, jiggle and blink.  The displays were beautiful but not of the caliber of the millions of lights at a local bible college called Rhema does each year.  Tonight we plan to go there for the second look-see this season.  

After the exhilarating experience of being out in the cold for a few hours, we came home, warmed up and realized we were exhausted.  Sleep came soon after and the last I remember looking at clock it was twelve minutes after midnight.  The first I saw of the morning light was a little past 8am when my Sweetie brought me coffee in bed.  She had gotten up about a quarter-hour earlier which was just enough time to make the morning brew.  My first impressions of the day were the smell of fresh coffee, my lady in her robe that is “Santa red” and a warm smile on her face; a wonderful way to greet Christmas morning. 

After sipping coffee for a while soon we were handing out to each other the gifts that “Santa Claus” had left the night before.  Opening was a slow and fun process with her opening one and then me opening one, back and forth until all five presents were opened.  Ironically there were the same number of gifts for each of us.  

Two gifts from my Brother in Alabama arrived several days ago and I choose to wait until Christmas morning to open them.  Both were thoughtful and useful gifts.  One was a type of “emergency hammer” one keeps in the car to break a window in case of an accident.  The other was a cool, tiny “Leatherman utility tool”.  Remarking how much I liked it, I said years ago I received as a Christmas gift the tool’s ‘big brother’.  I was talking about the ultimate Swiss Army knife, the largest one made; so large it had to be carried in a scabbard on one’s belt.  

Wanting to show the comparison to my love, I went to my bedroom and started to look for the ‘big brother’ in my dresser.  First in the drawer I always kept it in and then a second one where it might be.  After going through all nine drawers a third time it became evident the Swiss Army knife was not there.  I have not used it in years. It’s possible I misplaced it, but doubtful. 

Some of my jewelry was stolen about a year ago. The culprit was either those who cleaned my house (although I don’t think it was them), some workman who had access to my bedroom when I was not home or else the movers when I relocated nine months ago.  I will never know where two weddings rings from previous marriages and a diamond pinky ring that belonged to my deceased father went.  The violation has bothered me a lot, but had settled.  Today finding the Swiss Army knife missing reawakened that discomfort and loss.  

Either the ultimate Swiss Army knife was taken with my jewelry or it was accidentally or intentionally mixed into my ex-wife’s things when she packed it all. I was served divorce papers at the airport returning from a business trip and summarily locked out of what had been our home.  She packed almost all my things, hence my suspicion.  I know there are other belongings that ended up with her.  In my mind it is a possibility she has the big knife, but in my heart I would rather blame the thief that took my other stuff.  There has been enough pain caused by the demise of my second marriage.  It is ongoing peace I want most of all for both of us.  In that spirit I will lean on my gratitude for the good times she and shared and thankfulness for the many other material blessings I have.   After all the Swiss Army knife is just a thing and at best I was only its temporary caretaker.  Eventually it was destined to someone else’s anyway.

Most of all this morning I am thankful the spirit of Christmas is acutely alive within me this year.  I am glad forgiveness for anyone who has wronged me is now easy to come by.  At the top of my gratitude list is my love for a special woman who I care about without the complication and dysfunction that troubled all my previous relationships.  In the spirit of the birth Christ-mas celebrates I give humble thanks. Merry Christmas!

Forgive all who have offended you, not for them, but for yourself.  Harriet Nelson

Love Was Born at Christmas

It has been a lot of years since I can remember having the spirit of Christmas alive and frolicking within as I do this year. It could easily be true I have never been this happy at this time of year.  The little boy who lives inside me is enjoying reports of Santa’s progress in my direction.  The grownup within is dazzled by the feeling inside that sparkles and shines brightly like the lights of the season.  My eyes see Christmas. My ears hear the music.  My mouth tastes the food.  My nose smells the trees.  My touch feels bows and wrapping paper.  My heart is soft and childlike, yet touched deeply in mature ways.  Santa is coming.  Christ-mas is near.   

Eva K. Logue
A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away;
While quite unselfish, it grows small.

Emily Matthews
From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another
The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other. 

Christina Rossetti
Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign. 

Phillips Brooks
The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on Earth, good will to men! 

Helen Lowrie Marshall
The merry family gatherings –
The old, the very young;
The strangely lovely way they
Harmonize in carols sung.
For Christmas is tradition time
Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years,
The sameness of them all. 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
And etched on vacant places
Are half-forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish,
And loves we used to know. 

Calvin Coolidge
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. 

Augusta E. Rundel
Christmas… that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.
It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.

If only for a day, the world will be just a little safer, a little more peaceful and life will arrive with a little more kindness.  Even the bad guys and criminals are not quite as busy on Christmas.  For every gift ever received I am grateful.  For every hardship and lack that taught to appreciate them I am even more thankful. 
Merry Christmas!

Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that no thing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive.  Robert Lynd

God is Love, Hope, Peace

For several years there was no obvious sign of Christmas in the place I lived.  Little feeling for the holidays was within me either.  My emotions were mostly variances in the range of anguish to numbness.  Such is the way of healing.  

Recovering from grief, heartache and dysfunction is a slow process and requires the time it takes.  No more.  No less.  There is no shortcut.

Last Christmas there began a subdued little glow of Christmas within me.  I bought a little artificial tree and decorated it.  For the first time in years I began to find some delight for the holidays.  

Now just twelve months later it feels as though many multiples of that period have come and gone.  In  the passing of a single year my true recovery from depression has taken frim deep root and life is good; the best ever.  My education includes the knowledge there is no easy way to mend, except to live one day at a time, one step at a time. 

I kept my feet on a path forward even when sometimes that meant learning the lessons taught by two steps forward and one back.  I made mistakes, but did my best to extract wisdom from each one.  I kept going, even when collapsing into sorrow was appealing.  I did the work that recovery requires and sought out support of a peer when I was discouraged.  I faced my demons, destroyed few, but diminished the power of all of them. I made good choices and gave myself credit for them.  

I stopped the constant question “what am I going to do” and made a commitment to settle down in the city I already lived in.  I bought a house and began to live in a real home for the first time in almost five years.  I recommitted myself to the good job I already had and discovered I was better at it than ever.  I met someone special and freed my heart to fal in love.  I made new dear friendships and my relationship with three old friends got deeper. 

A full range of feeling came back and I allowed myself to experience them even when it was arduous.  Despair has largely been left behind me and in its space peace has found me.  I know true happiness and have immense gratitude.  

In the kitchen this morning pouring my second cup of coffee I looked toward the den and saw the view included at the top.  It was striking and touching to the point of watery eyes as I realized the spirit of Christmas was alive within me and evident in my home.  Even now my heart swells in my chest as I look at the photo.  Over time developing awareness of the goodness in my life and gratitude for it has been a substantial portion of the cure for what ailed me.  

In the photo:

First that jumps out to me is the sparkling little Christmas tree.  It is the same modest one from last year and is now known as “the little tree that could” bring Christmas joy back to James’s life.

I see the gifts for friends beneath the tree I can’t wait to share with them.  Other gifts were wrapped and shipped to friends and family earlier enough this year that the packages will reach their destinations in time for Christmas.

I live in a real home now that reflects back to me the warmth of an authentic person.  I don’t feel the need to pretend any longer and I like me… I really like me (well, most of the time).

On the walls is black and white photography I love.  In some frames is my work and others contain images by photographers I respect.

Old clocks are part of the landscape of my home as is the collection of ornamental glass on the sofa table.  I love how the ticking of the clocks and the reflections of the glass bring life to a room.

A  forty-year old Marantz amp/tuner brings me lots of pleasure especially when the music is coming from an LP playing on the turntable. 

Almost out of range visually in the left of the image, but never out of my mind are photos of my son.  No father has ever loved a son more nor been prouder of one.  

There are flowers on the hearth in front of the fireplace.  While a seemingly decadent luxury to some, there always are fresh flowers in my home.  There is never too much beauty in anyone’s life.

In a big green glass jar under the end table is a collection of matchbooks that span not only my life but some of my father’s time when phone numbers were something like “Delaware 3-2468”.

In the center of the image is a framed photo of a couple.  It was taken a few months ago on a cell phone by a friend of the woman I love and me at a restaurant. 

The couch on the left of the photo is the one she and I have made out on many times.  My Sweetie says we should always keep it for sentimental reasons.  I agree.

Too small to be focused on just to the right of the fireplace on the hearth are three rocks with words on them.  One rock says “God is love” on it.  My friend and fellow Codependence Anonymous member Doug gave me (thanks Dude!).  There are two others both given to me by my ex-wife after we had gone our separate ways.  One has “Hope” carved into it and was the spirit she wished for me at one of my birthdays.  And the most important rock she also gave me has “Peace” inscribed upon it.  For the eight years we were together when she asked what I wanted most in life I would reply “peace”.  Several years ago during one of the last times we spent several hours together she gave me the “peace rock” saying she wished “peace” for me with all her heart.  Life has moved on.  She has remarried.  We are only part of each other’s past.  Today I know the comfort of a good measure of “peace” and owe her thanks for helping me move in its direction.

God is love. Hope.  Peace. I am exceedingly grateful to have the gift of these three blessings profoundly alive in my life.  And those things are my Christmas wish for one and all.

Christmas gift suggestions:  To your enemy, forgiveness.  To an opponent, tolerance.  To a friend, your heart.  To a customer, service.  To all, charity.  To every child, a good example.  To yourself, respect.  Oren Arnold

An Almost Infinite Capacity

Yesterday day at work I recited to someone an alternate version of a favorite Christmas song he had never heard.  With it fresh on my mind, I tried it out on two others who it turned out had never heard it as well.  So today it is getting shared here for the “betterment of posterity”.  

I have no exact memory of how old I was, but my favorite uncle taught me this alternate version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when I was still in elementary school.  It took him teaching me on and off for a full weekend before all the words were indelibly stamped in my brain where they have remained now for fifty years.  Here goes:

Randolph, the bow-legged cowboy
Had a very shiny gun
And if you ever saw it
You would turn about and run.
All of the other cowboys
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Randolph
Join in any poker games.

Then one day the bank was robbed
And sheriff came to say
“Randolph with your gun so bright
Won’t you guide my posse tonight?”

Then all the cowgirls loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Randolph the bow-legged cowboy
You’ll go down in history! 

There are many alternate versions of Christmas carols and poetry of the season, but none I enjoy more than this slightly twisted version of “Twas the Night before Christmas”.  It is a reminder of what the season is truly about.

Tis the month before Christmas, we’re all going nuts;
With so much to do, there are no ifs, ands or buts.
Buy presents, hang tree lights, pop cards in the mail,
Send gift packs, thread popcorn, find turkeys on sale.

Decorations need stringing up all through the house.
And you haven’t a clue what to buy for your spouse.
School concerts, receptions, open houses with friends,
Long lineups, short tempers, tying up the loose ends.

With all our mad dashing, we’re reeling from shock;
Let’s stop for a minute and really take stock.
It’s crassly commercial, the cynical say;
If that’s true, that our fault… it’s us and not they.

Take time for yourself-though hard as that seems—
Enjoy your kids’ laughter, excitement and dreams.
Take a moment out now, don’t get overly riled,
Instead make an angel in snow with your child.

The shortbread can wait, and so can the tree;
What’s important to feel is a child’s sense of glee.
The holidays aren’t about push, rush and shove;
They’re for friendship and sharing and family love.

Hear the bells, feel the warmth, light up with the glow
Of a message first sent to us so long ago:
Peace, love and goodwill, and hope burning bright.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Now is the time of heightened goodwill, of giving, of loving one and all.  It is a time of celebration of children; the ones we adults used to be, the ones we brought into the world and the one who was born in a manger over two thousand years ago.

Aldous Huxley wrote:  Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.  Without doubt that phrase was abundantly true about me during much of my life.  This year I have more Christmas spirit than I probably have ever had and the reason is two-fold and simple:  I have more love in my life than ever before and my gratitude for living is at an all time high and growing.   

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. 
Charles Dickens