“Some For the Road” is now available in print!

cover of SFtR

“Some for the Road” are meditations and milestones on the road of recovery, in a reading-a-day format. It took me two years to edit and assemble, and two years before that to write. The paperback is 484 pages, in a very readable 11 point font, and costs $25 if you order it from Amazon. The Kindle version is $9.99 to buy, free with Kindle Unlimited.


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Notes from yoga class

A yoga class is kind of like a cab ride.  You need to tell the driver where you want to go.  If it is a basic, gentle class and you get a substitute teacher, you need to let her know what you expect.  If she is working you too hard you may end up hating the class and the teacher.  You don’t need that kind of energy at any exercise class, but especially a yoga class.

There is something amazing about yoga.  It improves you physically and emotionally and mentally.  It is about acceptance of your body as it is and about working on it to get better.  It teaches physical and mental balance.  There is something about twisting your body that unwinds your mind.

People who do yoga often become vegetarians.  They are often interested in organic food and recycling. The exercise is like an adjustment for your soul. It becomes a way of life that you take off the mat and into the world. You want to make everything more natural and healthier.

Yoga teaches that you need to claim your class, and your life. If it is too much, either ease off or ask the teacher for a modification.  The teacher doesn’t know that it is too much for you, or that you’ve broken your arm twice, or that you are pregnant. You have to speak up or the problem will continue.

It is amazing when I’ve spoken up about a problem in yoga class, or at work, or at school, and other people will chime in that they agree.   Only then can the issue be addressed.  Otherwise we would all continue to quietly suffer and become resentful.

The other people weren’t brave or confident enough to mention that there was a problem.  Think of all the pain they could have saved themselves and others just by speaking up earlier.  Perhaps they weren’t quite awake yet – they were suffering but didn’t know what the cause was.  Perhaps they were just used to taking it, used to feeling bad.  Perhaps they were taught by teachers or parents that their voice didn’t matter and they stayed silently enduring.

What are you being silent about? What is broken, or doesn’t work, or is a problem, that you’ve just decided to accept?  Are you waiting for someone else to speak up?  What if everybody else is doing the same?

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In the room

Just enduring is hard. It is living, but not being alive. It wears us out. The more we endure, the more we get closer to the edge.

You don’t have to be suicidal to get help.  You don’t have to be standing on the ledge. Just being in the room with the open window is enough.

It might help to call and talk to someone who knows how to hear what you are going through in a way that can help. You can’t lose anything by calling – and you might gain a lot – like a new perspective. The person on the other end of the line might know of something that you could do or some resource that will open things up.

Here is the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-8255.  There is someone available to listen all the time. It is free and confidential. Please call.  You are important.

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I like to play the piano.  And when I say “play”, I don’t mean perform.  I like to do something I call “noodle doodle”.  I don’t have a particular place to go or a particular song I’m trying to re-create.  I just enjoy moving my fingers around on the keys and listening to what happens.

How do songs get created?  Just like this.  Not by trying to perform other people’s compositions.  Instead of re-creating Beethoven’s music, I’m creating Betsy’s music.

There is something interesting about how music is taught these days.  We are taught how to play other people’s music rather than discovering our own.  We are taught the basics of how to operate the instrument and then given sheet music (another skill to be learned) in order to perform someone else’s music. There are several skills that have to be learned before you can even begin to make music.  Then there are the dreaded recitals, where you must perform in front of others.

Writing isn’t like this.  We don’t expect writers to learn how to hold a pen and then have them copy out the text from “Dick and Jane” as a warm-up.  We don’t have recitals where they handwrite or type some famous author’s work in front of an audience.  With writing, you write what is in your head and heart.  Playing a musical instrument should be the same.

For many people, a musical instrument inspires “blank page fear”.  They see it and don’t know what to do.  Where to start?  Then what happens next? How will it sound?  One way around that fear is to play when other people aren’t in the house so they can’t hear what you are doing.  Another is to use headphones with an electric keyboard.  You can delight in your discoveries all you want without worrying that other people are hearing everything, including the parts that don’t sound too great.

Playing music is like driving on a road without a map.  You are guaranteed to find new places that you like.  But you are also guaranteed to find a few dead-ends too, and you’ll have to back-track to get out.  This isn’t a mistake – it is part of the process.  Give yourself the permission to play and discover your own song.

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Master and servant

         Who is the servant? The technology, or the person who owns it? The phone rang one morning while I was in the middle of painting. I have only one special ring and it is for my husband. This was not that ring. I considered stopping what I was doing but that would mean not having enough time to finish my painting. It might also mean that my phone got covered in paint.

         I don’t have the kind of life where people have to get in touch with me every second of the day. It is important to me that I have my life like that. If people are having an emergency they can call 911, not me. I am not a manager and I am not a parent. I am not a caregiver to anyone. I am not anyone’s AA sponsor. I believe each person should take care of themselves and not have emergencies that I have to take care of.

         So when the phone rang my instinct was to jump up and get it, just because society tells us we should do that. But thankfully I ignored it. Training can be broken. How many of us think that we have to jump the moment the phone rings? If we are driving we feel like we have to answer it. Or we feel like we have to answer that text. The phone rules us, not the other way around.

         There was a lady who was changing at the Y and her phone kept going off with texts. She looked very frustrated. Every time she would reply, her friend would reply, and then she would have to reply again. I said to her “Just put it down.” But she said “No, if I don’t answer immediately they begin to worry.” I said “Tell them you are changing at the Y and it can wait.” There is a no-cellphone policy in the changing room but either people don’t think the policy applies to them, or they are slaves to their phone.  They don’t get that they can turn it off.  We don’t have to be connected all the time.

         Perhaps we are addicted to our technology. While our cellphones makes life easier, in a way, they have made life more difficult. While they have in theory made us more connected to each other, they have made our lives more disconnected and we are more disconnected from ourselves.

         Is this what we want? Who is in charge, the technology or us? We have to decide it is okay to turn our phones off. You don’t have to have it on while you’re driving. You don’t have to discuss all of your life’s business while you are walking through Walmart. We did just fine before we had cellphones, and we’ll do just fine again without them.  If the technology isn’t serving you, then you are the servant.


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Meditation: on snake charming

         There are several people I’ve had the misfortune of working with who complain and gossip every day, all day. If they are saying anything to anyone who is not a customer, they are complaining.  It is very difficult because I can’t escape it.  I’ve told them repeatedly to not do this around me because I don’t like listening to it and it isn’t productive.

Gossip is displaced communication.  When you don’t feel safe talking to person A about your issues with them, you talk to person B.  Meanwhile, the problem still exists between person A and you. Also, person B now looks at person A differently.  You have just spread your negativity to them.

If this was any other environment, I could walk away.  But I’m stuck with these people for 40 hours a week, every week, for what feels like forever.  I’ve told them that their negativity is bringing me down, and one of them agrees.  She said she’d try to do better, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I had an epiphany somewhere in the midst of one of their rants once.  I remembered the story where Jesus says that if you are doing God’s will then snakes and poison cannot harm you.  I also remember in pastoral care class that you can’t fix another person’s problems. Your goal is to just let them vent.  Let them talk it out.

Perhaps this is part of the plan. I need to be able to endure this.  I need to learn how to stand in the middle of the storm. I need to learn how to be Daniel in the lion’s den.  I need to be calm and with God in the middle of this, and not let their poison affect me.  Their poison isn’t directed at me.  I’m just a captive audience.  Maybe it is healing for them to vent.  Maybe they’d be better off going to a counselor or a therapist.  Maybe they already do, and it isn’t helping.

However, I can use this as a pathway to healing for myself.  I can learn to pray and meditate during their rants.  I can learn to stand there and not really be there, because they don’t really care what I think about their complaints.  They just want to complain.  I can see every time they complain as a reminder to ask Jesus into the situation, to be there, with me and with them, in that moment, in that painful time.

Why do I call this snake charming?  Because their rants, their complaints, their gossip is poison to me.  It is like sitting down at a park bench to enjoy your lunch, only to find out that stick next to you is a snake.  I actually wince when they come up to me because I expect another tirade.  But using this time as an opportunity to pray transforms that snake back into a stick.  It is yet another reminder to seek God in all situations, and to try to see God in all people.

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True healing

People grow into the shapes we make for them. They are what we expect of them. They repeat behaviors we encourage. Whatever we think they will be, they become. Each one of us shapes the other.

This is how Jesus was a healer. He saw in kairos time. He saw the lotus in the person. Not the mud, but the flower that comes from it. He saw the completed, the potential, actualized. He saw the all, not just the right then, or the past of that person. And people’s mirror neurons reacted to that. They awakened to who they were meant to be, who they are in God’s eyes.

He couldn’t heal the righteous, because they thought they weren’t broken. They thought they were whole. There was no room for growth, healing, improvement.

To heal, be opened. Just like in AA, you have to admit that you need help before you can heal. Jesus would ask people how he could help them and they had to name their illness. He could see what was wrong, but the real healing came when they could see it too and ask for help.

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