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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cathedrals


Note to self:

"go check out that whole religious thing" 


Where to begin...?

Well, I was attending a fundraiser dinner a few weeks ago in which one of the speakers (A famous Doo-Wop singer with over 40 years sober) was espousing on how religion had given direction to his spirituality.

For some reason this birthed a new curiosity; if not an out-rite thirst inside of me.

Allow me some background...

I was raised and schooled in the Catholic Church and I was in the choir until puberty hit and my voice changed.

I was also an altar boy until the 1st day of freshman year in high school, where upon walking up to the school entrance I noticed a tall,  redheaded junior-class girl smiling at me.

I got a bit flushed, but managed to summon the courage to say, "Hi" as I walked up. She responded, "Didn't I see you on the altar last week" and laughed at me.

I was embarrassed to say the least. It was immediately apparent to me that if I was to have any chance with the girls, I was going to need to ditch anything that didn't just reek of coolness.

Much to the chagrin of the Jesuit priest that was mentoring me, I withdrew from the altar boy ranks.

It was to be the preliminary round of a gradual withdrawal of my civic, athletic and religious activities over that 1st year of high school. (And yes, I did get the girl).

That priest would often catch me kissing in the hallways and was very adept at detaching me from her by pinching my ear and very assertively reminding me who was Sheriff.

Ah....fond memories.

-So, back to religion.

My parents were both very active in the church and my mother had a very intimate experience involving the Sacrament of Communion when she has young.

It forever altered her life and she has a level of personal faith that I both respect and admire.

Though I thirsted for it, I never had such an intimate experience with my Creator and I eventually came to view "God" as somewhere far off and not particularly interested in my exploits for the most part.

-Let me state at this point how flummoxed I feel when I hear someone label themselves as "Recovering Catholics".

Unless one was a victim of what has become a highly publicized problem of abuse of young boys and men, I have never seen religion as a disease or something that required recovery from.

(One other exception might be that of fundamentalist extremists such as those that send their woman to blow themselves up in the name of God, but there again this is a human condition or sickness and one I believe has little to do with God in all actuality)

-Here's an excerpt from the AA Big Book from page 49 of the chapter, "We Agnostics" that I have found a new appreciation for of late:

"We, who have threaded this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. We have learned that whatever the human frailties of various faiths may be, those faiths have given purpose and direction to millions. People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about. Actually, we used to have no reasonable conception whatever. We used to amuse ourselves by cynically dissecting spiritual beliefs and practices when we might have observed that many spiritually-minded persons of all races, colors, and creeds were demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves."

-Indeed; having attended a local church for a couple of weeks now I do wish I had ventured into the hallowed doorway of God's House sooner, but alas the teacher arrives when the student is ready.

Amazingly enough I wasn't struck by lightening upon crossing the threshold and I was wonderfully surprised by a service in which I both laughed and cried and one in which I felt totally at ease.

I am very aware of the pitfall that many a newcomer has been beset upon by ...that of trading the practical 12 Step journey and fellowship of meetings for the temporary feel-good raincoat of religion.

Quite the opposite; I have discovered that my newfound fellowship and worship dovetails perfectly with my endeavors in AA.

Balance.....hmmmm....perhaps it's not so elusive after all.

Apparently those old-timers knew what they were talking about.

So, I'll leave you with a heartfelt and sincere wish for a blessed Thanksgiving for you and your families; and with a Quote from page 155 of, "As Bill Sees It"

"We give thanks to our Heavenly Father, who through so many friends and through so many means and channels, has allowed us to construct this wonderful edifice of the spirit in which we are now dwelling - this cathedral whose foundations rest upon the corners of the earth.

On its great floor we have inscribed our Twelve Steps of recovery. On the side walls, the buttresses of the AA Traditions have been set in place to contain us in unity for as long as God may will it so.

Eager hearts and minds have lifted the spire of our cathedral into its place. That spire bears the name of Service. May it ever point straight upward toward God."

Crossroads

So...as you may have inferred from my initial posts, I am a recovering person. The substances involved are of little significance in larger scheme of things...suffice it to say that my "lower self" enjoys anything that makes it feel better and wants more of it...and it wants it YESTERDAY!

Reeling from a recent relapse; a term that almost understates the calamity of such events for someone like myself, I have again embarked on a journey of recovery.

I have chosen the 12 Steps as my guide...it's been a proven method since the late 30s and it was the stairway in which I claimed into over 5 years of sobriety and which led me into a life I could have hardly dreamed of hitherto.

I won't bore you with a summary of the 12 Steps; that information exists online and in perhaps thousands of books and literature in many languages (and probably much better explained by real writers), but I would like to share some of my journey... And some explanation is required for context, so those of you that are veterans of this experience please bear with me.

So, I find myself at a crossroads on this journey. I'm approximately half way through the formal 12 Steps and am at a place where the focus is turning from inward reflection, discovery, confession, and admission to a more outward look towards the needs of those around me and a closer "walk" if you will, with my Creator.

The 1st steps outward involve cataloging the harms that I have inflicted upon others and becoming willing to set them straight..."to clean up my side of the street". It's a process laden with the land mines of guilt, shame, and false pride and I have been especially prayerful of late.

In preparation for these amends I recently catalogued my list of "character defects"(Step 6); in this case taken from the list of Seven Deadly Sins (Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth) and became willing to have them removed by a power greater than myself (Step 7), it is now time to construct my amends list.

This may all sound like a lot of unpleasant work, but I must say that the revelations about myself and the patterns I have discovered to be woven through my life have been really keen and have deepened my faith in God and my knowledge of myself and the world I live in. The whole process to this point has been shot through with the Grace of God...I have not spent too much time in morbid reflection. I am quick to remember that what I am doing is of no less significance than life and death for me.

It is on this precipice that I now stand...no longer isolated and alone, but once again embracing life and willing to do the work.

As someone I really admire often says..."Onward".



Kittens

I awoke; or more accurately WAS AWOKEN this morning by the din of my housemates going about their 6:00am rituals, which include peeing with the bathroom door open and just generally making as much noise as possible.

So, from the inception of a new day, I'm angry (and a bit lonely, but that's another story). I make my way to the kitchen to get a pot of java going, but am intercepted in the hallway by a rather glib roomy who says something about how I must be tired.

I want to say, "f**k yes I'm tired! Maybe if I could get more than 4 hours of sleep in this house I'd be as bright eyed and bushy tailed as you are...A**h*le!" or even better, just a simple "Piss off mate" in my best cockney accent, but all I can manage is a grunt and I brush by him.

I get the coffee going and by now I'm starting to Seethe as I stand there; one eye opened, listening to the gleeful banter of 2 guys getting ready for a Friday. Thank Goodness imaginary murders are just that...imaginary.

The smell of the coffee brewing snaps me out of my "malice and forethought" and I make it out the front door; cup o' joe in hand (what do you mean why can't I wait till the pot is finished brewing?).

I sit down and light the 1st smoke and take my 1st sip of the day. The coffee tastes great, but I'm not exactly brimming with gratitude. *Noticeably missing in my accouterments are my usual morning meditation books. Quite frankly, at this point I'm just not in the mood. Unnoticed by me at the time was the fact that I had bypassed my customary prayers at my bedside this morning.

So, there I sit imbibing in my 2 other morning customs and generally being a sod...

Just then "mamma cat" (who's been coming around for a few days) appears and lets me know she'd like something to eat. She looks pretty tired and frustrated at that moment also.

As I pet her, she starts to purr and then I sit up to take another sip and all of a sudden her 2 kittens appear. They're teeeeny and unbelievably cute. In an instant my anger and self righteous indignation vanish. I get to play with them for a few precious moments before they decide that a twig is more interesting and they take off.

I look upwards and thank My Creator for allowing me this intimate moment and turn to go back inside with a smarmy grin on my face.

The door doesn't open... It dawns on me at that moment that my interceptor from the hallway has just left for work and locked me out of the house.

I actually laugh as I stand there; thoroughly enjoying the irony. The rest of the day was a piece of cake.

Thank God for kittens... And for roomies.

:)