At Home with Alcoholics Anonymous as Told by Robert Frost


As far as I know, Robert Frost was not an alcoholic.  When it comes to poetry, I am a true philistine but Robert Frost speaks to me, I get him.  One of his poems could easily be adopted by AA as its signature piece.  The name of the poem it “The Death of the Hired Man” and it follows here.  In there you will find he says,  “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.”

That is an absolute truth about all AA meetings.  I welcome you home.

The Death of the Hired Man

By Robert Frost 1874–1963 Robert Frost

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. ‘Silas is back.’
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. ‘Be kind,’ she said.
She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
‘When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I’ll not have the fellow back,’ he said.
‘I told him so last haying, didn’t I?
If he left then, I said, that ended it.
What good is he? Who else will harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
So he won’t have to beg and be beholden.
“All right,” I say, “I can’t afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.”
“Someone else can.” “Then someone else will have to.”
I shouldn’t mind his bettering himself
If that was what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, there’s someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,—
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.’
‘Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,’ Mary said.
‘I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.’
‘He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe’s I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognize him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
Wait till you see.’
                          ‘Where did you say he’d been?’
‘He didn’t say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.’
‘What did he say? Did he say anything?’
‘But little.’
                ‘Anything? Mary, confess
He said he’d come to ditch the meadow for me.’
‘Warren!’
              ‘But did he? I just want to know.’
‘Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn’t grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times—he made me feel so queer—
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember—
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He’s finished school, and teaching in his college.
Silas declares you’ll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On education—you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun,
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on.’
‘Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.’
‘Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn’t think they would. How some things linger!
Harold’s young college boy’s assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathize. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harold’s associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold’s saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it—that an argument!
He said he couldn’t make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong—
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay—’
‘I know, that’s Silas’ one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds’ nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He’s trying to lift, straining to lift himself.’
‘He thinks if he could teach him that, he’d be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.’
Part of a moon was falling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw it
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,
Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,
As if she played unheard some tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’
‘Home,’ he mocked gently.
                                       ‘Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he’s nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.’
‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’
                                      ‘I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’
Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
‘Silas has better claim on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt today.
Why didn’t he go there? His brother’s rich,
A somebody—director in the bank.’
‘He never told us that.’
                                  ‘We know it though.’
‘I think his brother ought to help, of course.
I’ll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to—
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If he’d had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
He’d keep so still about him all this time?’
‘I wonder what’s between them.’
                                                ‘I can tell you.
Silas is what he is—we wouldn’t mind him—
But just the kind that kinsfolk can’t abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don’t know why he isn’t quite as good
As anyone. Worthless though he is,
He won’t be made ashamed to please his brother.’
I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone.’
‘No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldn’t let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there tonight.
You’ll be surprised at him—how much he’s broken.
His working days are done; I’m sure of it.’
‘I’d not be in a hurry to say that.’
‘I haven’t been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He’s come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn’t laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon.’
                                      It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned—too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
‘Warren,’ she questioned.
                                     ‘Dead,’ was all he answered.
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And God Spoke to me……


I get a kick out of people who love to quote the Bible and take particular pains to tell me exactly where what they are saying exists in the Bible, like that John 3:11 thing that pops up all the time.  And so, to find out what exists there, I dug out my handy dandy Catholic Bible.  It made me laugh, not because of what it said, but because whoever wrote the passage seemed to think that it must be put in quotes.  By definition, the use of quotes in such circumstances means you are relating the exact words which were said.  And so  you ask me, what’s wrong with that.  When Jesus was wandering about Palestine no one was writing down a single thing he said.  If they did, well, it got lost because not a single text of that sort exists anywhere in the world today.  Now that does not mean Jesus did not say words to that effect, but I find it a real stretch to believe that it is in fact a quote.

The four gospels were written no earlier than 37AD but more likely close to 100AD.  But even at 37AD there exists an obvious problem.  How good was the memory of the writers and who were the writers.  Now here comes the real problem.  In 2012 scholars made a claim they had found the oldest surviving text of the four gospels.  It dates to around 125AD but it is just a small portion of the Gospel of Mark.  The oldest for Matthew dates to 100AD, for John 137AD, and for Luke 200AD.  Worse, none of these gospels is complete.  They are fragments, literally.  Scholars have had to rely on more recent, circa 400AD manuscripts to compile a single Gospel.

The next problem is equally significant.  All four writers of New Testament Gospels were present with Jesus during his life.  And yet, you can easily find time and again a passage in one which seems to disagree with its complement in another Gospel. There exist other Gospels by other writers which the Catholic Church has never accepted.  One of the Gospels is the Gospel of Mary.

Did you ever see the movie “The Life of Brian” done by Monty Python?  It is a parody, not meant to be taken seriously or to be offensive.  There is one portion where a man, Jesus, is speaking to a large crowd.  A second man is standing at the rear of the crowd, is a bit hard of hear, and is constantly asking the man standing next to him what was just said.  Invariably  the man repeating Jesus’ words gets it wrong.  And that is in the moment!

Most people of the day were illiterate.  I suspect Peter was definitely illiterate because he was a fisherman and his father probably never saw the need for that sort of education.  I also suspect that was true for most of the other apostles too.  The solution was an easy one and one oft used in those days, scribes.  But scribes cost money and money for Jesus and his followers was probably something they saw very little of.  There existed a second choice, the “story teller.”  The story teller existed right here in North America among the Native Americans.  Most of them did not have a written language and needed their legacy remembered.  And so all tribes had a story teller who would remember events, messages, and everything else in very exacting language.  They would learn it so well that they could pass on these messages, stories, etc. to the next generation in perfect form.  Each word was remember in it precise location and proper meaning.  Such people existed at the time of Jesus as well.  Unfortunately we have no evidence that those who traveled with Jesus were given such a task.  But just to make a point, the Koran is extremely accurate from its most early days precisely because people were tasked with perfectly committing it to memory and passing on the exact language.

Jesus was literate.  The speaking in tongues, as related in the Bible, speaks to his ability to speak not just in the prevalent native language, Aramaic, but quite possibly in Egyptian, Turkish, Mesopotamian, and the dialects of the various tribes he visited.  His was a mission to deliver the “good news.”

Now if you look at the four gospels closely you will find that there are really only a very few principles He preached constantly: faith, love, good works, acceptance, understanding and forgiveness. And so I just ran across this passage, it is from Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 1: “If you want to avid judgement, stop passing judgement. 2 Your verdict on other will be the verdict passed on you.  The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you.”  My take on that, he new who the gay people were and loved them.  He knew who the prostitutes were and loved them.  He knew who the thieves were and loved them.

Consider this, Jesus never founded a church because he was both born a Jew and died one.  He only preached in the synagogues towards the end of his ministry.  I expect he did this because he felt he could reach a lot more people by mixing with them in their daily lives.  We have ample example of that happening.

But the most curious of all statements in the New Testament is where some theologian thought to put the phrase “I have not come to change the law.”  I do not believe for a second Jesus ever said that because that is exactly why he came when he did.  The law was imperfect and needed changing.  He even went so far as to say the “eye for an eye” concept of the Old Testament was changed to the New Testament principle of “turn the other cheek.”  Jesus was a radical, an extreme liberal of his day.  Those Jews who felt offended by His ministry and said such were really just revealing their own guilt.  Jesus ended the ancient Jewish custom of stoning by saying “he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

I believe that Jesus purposefully made certain that no exact record of his adventures was ever made because as he said, “go in peace, your faith has saved you.”  He led by example and showed everyone the righteous was to act hence forth.  In the early days following the death of Jesus, His followers were of course outcasts of the Hebrew religion but the did not know what to call themselves.  The chose to say they were followers of “the word.”  That was good enough and said everything.  The apostles remembered well what Jesus had taught them and went about spreading “the way.”  But it was certainly by the year 100AD that they called themselves Christian for the first time.

I was talking with a priest recently and said to him that it is my belief if Jesus decided to come back, but not in a “second coming” sort of way, He would most certainly visit the leadership of all the various Christian churches to voice his displeasure in how they are acting and what they are saying.  I think he would start with the Pope and ask him why Rome has found it necessary to accumulate such large caches of wealth while millions of followers go hungry each night.  He would also question the need for all the pretense of the Pope and his selected cardinals.  He would certainly question their requirement of tending to the poor, the sick, and the poor in spirit.

He would like remind many of the conservative Protestant churches of what was said in Matthew that I quoted above.  He would ask about their pride in being intolerant and intractable.  We could use a little Jesus about now.  Christians seem to have forgotten what his mission was and have made it into something that serves their desires while ignoring the intent of the words as Jesus spoke them.

God once said to me, “How dare you question my love for any of mine!”  I had asked the question of what to do when I come into contact with those who condemn gay people and state that “God hates fags.”  And in that one little statement a great deal was said.  We cannot know the mind of God as we sit here on earth but we do know his intent, Jesus gave us the words.  God simply wants us to do our best, to be kind to anyone and everyone we meet, particularly those who would quarrel with us.  He wants us to love all people as if they each were a blood brother or sister.  He tells us not to fear sin, but simply to make our amends and change that which took us into that sin.  And God has no preference of religious practice, one is as good as another as far as He is concerned.  No one religion is absolutely right or absolutely wrong.  And to put a point on that, He loves his Hindus, His Buddhists, His agnostics and His atheists.  He gave each person the right to be what he believes to be right.  He knows the best of Catholics or Jews is no better than the best of agnostics or atheists.

 

 

I’m Only 25! How Can I Be an Alcoholic?


Alcoholism is a disease. Alcoholism is a disorder. There are two camps of thought on this be regardless of which you chose, alcoholism is a problem that no one disputes, except the alcoholic of course. The NIH has 11 criteria for alcoholism only two of which need be present:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?But I am speaking specifically to those of you in your teens and 20s. The common refrain is: “But I’m on 25, how can I be an alcoholic?” Because 2 of the examples above are present.

Still not convinced? Okay, years ago Johns Hopkins University came up with 20 questions for those who doubt or think they might have a problem with drinking:

Now remember, you need only identify with 2 of the above to be an alcoholic.

  1. Do you lose time from work due to your drinking?
  2. Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
  3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
  4. Is drinking affecting your reputation?
  5. Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
  6. Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of your drinking?
  7. Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking?
  8. Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
  9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
  10. Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
  11. Do you want a drink the next morning?
  12. Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
  13. Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
  14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
  15. Do you drink to escape from worries or troubles?
  16. Do you drink alone?
  17. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of your drinking?
  18. Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
  19. Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
  20. Have you ever been in a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

And here is what they say if you respond in the positive to any of these questions:

“If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic.

If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.

If you have answered YES to three or more, you are definitely an alcoholic.”

I answered “yes” to 11 of them. But still I did not believe because I was never an everyday drinker. I seldom got drunk. I lost only one job because of drinking. I was never arrested for DUI, nor even stopped. And when I joined AA, I had held the same job for 10 years, always showed up on time and did my job. So how could I be an alcoholic?

Because I, in a moment of honesty, answered yes to 11 of the questions above. Because I was in desperate straits and thought I was on the cusp of total destruction. Because I had almost no friends, my family desired I say away from them and I was a wreck. Anyone who observed me could easily have made the comment “you’re a wreck! You need help!” without ever seeing me take a single drink.

Well, let’s go back to my 25-year-old. First of all, alcoholism does not care what age you are, what your financial standing is, how smart you are, what race you are, what religion you are, or anything else you can think of which would preclude you from being an alcoholic. It simply, like any disease, does not care. Physicians and health care providers are at a loss to predict when any one person will cross that line from being a non-alcoholic to being an alcoholic. But they do know, once you become one, you are always one.

I have been in Alcoholics Anonymous for over 17 years now. But when I had been in A.A. for fewer than 90 days I saw a teenage girl of 15 getting her one-year sober medallion. Age is irrelevant. Alcoholism is so prevalent among teens and 20-somethings in our society, that with A.A. there exist hundreds of meeting referred to as “young peoples meetings.” I went to one once, was invited, and there was a room of about 30 or so young people in attendance. Each had stopped fighting the idea that they had a problem with alcohol. Each had made an honest assessment of their life up to that point and saw that denial of the obvious was a hopeless battle.

Today, five days a week, I go to a meeting in Boston in which there are usually about 6 people under 30. One just turned 20.

It is extremely difficult for a young person to believe that they can possibly be an alcoholic, particularly when they see all their friends “partying” and drinking to their heart’s desire. But the question cannot be about what they are doing and why. It necessarily must be about you and why you are drinking. When I first started drinking I was 19. A late comer who did all he could do to make up for lost time. But more importantly, I wanted to be a person who could party, comfortably. I had no self-confidence that I, as a sober person, could possibly have fun at a party. I would be too shy, too withdrawn, too something to enjoy myself. And so, like when I got a headache and took some aspirin, when I was going to a party I made certain that I drank prior to arriving. Alcohol was medication to me, and it worked! Oh yes, it did indeed work. I had a good old time. But I failed to ask the question, at what expense? I failed to see people inching away from a drunk, me, who was making a fool of himself. I failed to see, even more importantly, that I was using alcohol as an anesthetic to cover over my underlying problems. My shyness was the result of something. My social awkwardness was the result of something, my inability to enjoy myself sober at a party was the result of something. The non-alcoholic addresses those issues and others straight on. The alcoholic decides that there is nothing quite like a good numbing agent.

There is a ton of bad logic in alcoholic thinking. Most importantly, the alcoholic convinces himself through drinking that he can do something he might otherwise think impossible. The bad logic there is simple: sober people who try something and fail either go right back at it again or seek out help in overcoming their problem.

So here we are. If you are still reading this, you are probably struggling with the possibility that you might have a problem with alcohol. I will give you an easy way out. Find an A.A. meeting in your area. They’re everywhere and you can usually find a phone number in the phone book of an A.A. help line. If you cannot, contact me and I guarantee I will find you not one, but a dozen meetings so that you will have choices. And once you attend that first meeting, if you cannot say the words “I am an alcoholic” then simply say “Hi, my name is Joe, and I don’t want to drink today.” That phrase is accepted in AA everywhere around the world.

But go to the meeting with a purpose beyond just seeing what it is all about. Go there with the idea of finding someone who you identify with who you can talk with after the meeting to help you with your decisions.

Now, I have a challenge for you. Imagine that for Lent this year, it starts February 10, you gave up alcohol. Lent only last for 40 days so that should be an easy task. Now here’s the curve ball, you know for fact that on February 13, just 3 days into Lent, there is going to be this huge Valentine’s Day party at which you know there is going to be a ton of alcohol. How likely is it you can attend that even and limit yourself to drinks which contain no alcohol? Oh, and for the record, those drinks which call themselves “non-alcoholic beer” and others like it, contain alcohol. They can claim to be non-alcoholic because they contain 0.5% by volume of alcohol. Therefore, you would be not allowed to drink such drinks either. The non-alcoholic finds such a task laughable because they feel no need. When the non-alcoholic takes on the job of designated driver, she is quite content with drinking coke, juice or even just water. It does not have any impact upon how much fun she will have.

One of the great lies alcoholics tell themselves and anyone who will listen is, “I can stop anytime!” But the truth is they cannot. The police love hearing “I only had two bears” when they stop the obvious intoxicated driver. You see, the “I only had two beers” is an incomplete sentence. The full sentence goes, “I only had two beers when I stopped counting.”

There is no shame in deciding you are an alcoholic. They only shame is denying the obvious or at least the possible. There is no down side to never taking a drink again. If a sober person were told by his doctor that he has this rare genetic condition which will cause death if that person continues to drink. For an instant the sober person might think, “well that sucks,” but to the doctor he will say, “okay” and with the knowledge that his life is in the balance will forever restrict himself from the use of alcohol. For the person who already is an alcoholic, the same is true, his life lies in the balance if the use of alcohol is not discontinued.

Years ago there was this young woman, Melanie, who was trying to get sober because she knew she needed to. But her participation in A.A. was sketchy at best. One day I received a text from her which read “please help me!” But before I could get to her she was dead. Alcoholism. Four years ago there was another young lady I knew because of AA. She came from an upper middle class family who loved her. She was a graduate from an Ivy League college, a Navy veteran, an extremely popular person with everyone who knew her, she was quite athletic and beautiful to boot! She had it all, that is, until January 7 when she decided at age 31 she still hand another round of drinks in her. Turns out she did not. She is dead.

Medicine is a science within which there is a lot of guessing. It is not that the doctors are all incompetent or inept, but that where every person’s physical makeup is different, so too is their ability to tolerate disease. The only known treatment for alcoholism is total abstinence. That works every time. And once free of alcohol, the individual will sudden find he has time to deal with all the problems which caused him to drink. He will find out through the social interactions with AA that his worries, his shortcomings, his disabilities are very common and that the AA member is usually more than happy to talk about how they overcame those issues without having to use alcohol.

If alcohol is the answer, then it is a sure thing you do not know or understand the question because alcohol is never the answer to anything.

Oh, by the way, AA meetings are not overwhelming older men wearing trench coats or people who are homeless or living in shelters. To the contrary, such a person is the except in meetings. My daily meeting is full of professionals, doctors, lawyers, financial analysts, psychologists, teachers, professors, brick layers, iron workers, policemen, and just about any other profession you can think of. The average meeting is not filled with people over the age of 50. Most meetings have significant numbers of people in the 30s and 40s, not to mentions those in their teens and 20s.

The young person who comes to Alcoholics Anonymous and stays invariably tells the story of the many “miracles” he, or she, has experienced since becoming a sober person. Their wildest dreams have come true and then some. The “and then some” are those wonderful things they experience which had not crossed their mind when they were simply trying to get and stay sober.

The AA Promises

“1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed

before we are half way through.

  1. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
  2. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
  3. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
  4. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience

can benefit others.

  1. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
  2. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
  3. Self-seeking will slip away.
  4. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
  5. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
  6. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
  7. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for

ourselves

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us –

sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84

 

Everyone who hangs around AA long enough and invests the time and energy needed to succeed, will tell you that not only do all those promise come true, but they come true to an even greater extent than initially imagined.

If you need help, the Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, located in New York has a web page at www.aa.org

If you want to ask me a question about anything feel free to contact me directly. My personal email account is: osgoodp@comcast.net

 

How To Know If You Are in a Healthy Relationship


Not every relationship comes to an end but many do. Marriages, lovers, friends, all have a time in their life when they realized what was once a great relationship simply has ceased to exist. The smart person is not afraid to recognize such a situation and do one of two things. First, they can reach out to the other person and after telling that person they believe their relationship has died or is in its death throws but that they want to see if it can be resurrected. Or, they can simply walk away after telling the other person that their relationship is over and they have no desire to fix it.

Of the three above mentioned relationships the marriage reigns supreme, of course. That relationship seldom comes to an end because the actions of one person accounts for 100% of the problems. I believe that most have somewhere between a 60/40 and a 50/50 responsibility. To me that says most relationships, at least within that range, are repairable and with a minimal amount of pain. But then there is that relationship where one party accounts for 70 to 80% of the issues. Still, the partners in such a relationship should seek outside help and get an unbiased assessment of where they stand.

I think it likely that when a relationship hits the 70% plus fault it is probably time to call it quits. For some reason women are predisposed to hanging in there, their usual reason being “for the kids.” To that person I would say, your unhealthy relationship with your husband, or your wife, is hurting your children more than you realize. And by keeping the marriage alive via life-support only exacerbates the pain the children feel.

For the most part, children love both their parents equally and want both of them around all the time. But children are very poor judges of what is good for them. That is one of the reason we are legally, if not morally, bound to the care of our children. And since children are like sponges, taking in everything they see and hear around them. But when those things are negative, they tend to believe that those negative things are the way the world works. That of course is simply not true. That is a relationship that necessarily needs a great deal of work to get it fixed or the couple needs to think of their children and separate.

We tend to take what we learn about relationships we have in our teens and twenties as how things “have to be.” It is my experience that most of those conclusions are not only wrong, but are so wrong the put in jeopardy the success of all future relationships.

The most important part of a relationship is honesty and trust. Now that might sound like two separate things, and they can certainly be taken separately, but in a relationship they must be held as one principle with neither being more important to other. To the contrary, the one relies upon the other for success. We trust people because we know we can count of their truthfulness with us. They are also reliable but that is the second most important factor.

There are two kinds of relatable truths: the easy truth and the tough truth. The easy truth is: “I’m sorry honey, I went out with Jason even though I promised you I would never do that again.” The tough truth is: “I don’t think our relationship is working anymore and I think we need to separate.”  The good news about each statement is that unto itself, each is truthful. The simple truth of each statement should lead to an exhaustive examination of the relationship at that point of time with each party coming to a meeting of the minds.

People who truly care about one another know exactly what little things thrill their partner. That known, they do a good job of doing one of those little things on a regular basis. They realize it a mistake to take their partner for granted.

The good relationship has each party in tune with the other. They instinctively know when their partner is not feeling well, is hiding their feelings, or is troubled in any fashion. They also know they hold a responsibility to reach out to their partner immediately upon the realization of the trouble.

And the killer to any and all relationships is the answer to the question: “Is your relationship largely based on sex?” If the answer is yes, make certain the other person is in the relationship for the same reason because if they are not, then the relationship is by definition based on a lie. People have purely physical relationships all the time but that is only good when it is mutually agreed upon.

The good and strong has three equally important parts: physical, mental and spiritual. If any of those three are missing, cut your losses and move on.

The Ultimate Guide to Social Success While Enduring Your Teens and Twenties


My last posting, An Absolute Guide to Surviving Your Teens and Twenties, struck me, almost immediately following my posting it, as being incomplete. And then it hit me. BAM! You idiot! You forgot to tell the how to navigate life during their teens and twenties. I would apologize for such a faux pas except that upon reflection, I realized it would have made the first posting too long and most likely, difficult to understand. Therefore, this is really part two to that first posting, just with a different title.

When I was in my teens, and in high school, a deadly duo if ever there was one, I was ruled by fear. That had actually started prior to my teens but my experience as a teen is more than enough to make a point.

Everybody, hopefully, has a first day of high school. Some of you more advantaged people, had a first day of prep school. Me, I started at the first and ended up at the latter. Anyway, there you are with several hundred of your closest friends heading into an auditorium for orientation. Most of you took this as an opportunity to talk to your friend on one side or the other of you. And maybe you talked to both of them. Does not matter! Not listening was by no means a fatal error but it did have a degree of seriousness. That is, some guy stood up on a stage and told you what to expect now that you were joining the part of life known as high school. Had what that person been saying been a guide of how to get from one side of the Amazon upper river, where you presently were, to the other side of the upper Amazon safely, I would be willing to bet that not only would 90% of you have listen, but would have taken notes. The other 10%?   Well, isn’t there always that 10% who just seem incapable of understanding the gravity of what they are about to undertake? I think so.

After the first month or so of your freshman year you have figured out which group of outcasts you belong to. I say outcasts in a coverall way because everyone group, each in its own way, is a bunch of outcasts at least for the time they assemble.

Now you probably think I am going to go on another diatribe about how important education is for you. Nah, I did that in my last post and I really hate repeating myself. This little diatribe is all about social survival. And since for high schoolers the overwhelming amount of socializing happens either within those high school walls or out on the athletic fields, what better place to focus upon!

Now take a second and think about your two greatest fears. Make certain you are being honest with yourself and place them in the front of your mind. I am willing to be that fear is one of those fears.   Sounds rather redundant doesn’t it. Well it’s not! Actually, it is prime to our entire survival.

There is this little talked about part of your brain called the amygdala. It is right next to the pituitary gland which helps regulate everything which happens in your body. But the amygdala has one purpose and one purpose only. The amygdala tells the pituitary gland that your life is in imminent danger and to send out a high amount of adrenaline to put the body into a fully alert state and defend itself. That one goes all the way back to when we were still crawling around in trees and could not communicate with one another except through sign language.

One of the first big social events all high schoolers experience, if they so choose, is the homecoming dance. That is the time when the school’s seniors, and a few choice juniors, celebrate something they really do not understand but since it means showing off with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you go all out for it. For the most of us, it is a time of heightened social fear. Why? Well I am so happy you asked! Because we have decided during that dance that the boy or girl we would really like to have a dance with will reject us out of hand. That is called projection.   It is an irrational fear which decides our next move, or in this case, lack of movement.

At my twentieth high school reunion I sat at a table I call the “divorced table.” I think there were ten of us and we were all divorced. To my heart’s belated delight, most of the women were some of the prettiest and most desired in high school. Now here comes the shocker, are you ready? Each of them agreed that far too many Saturdays passed with them not having a date when they desired one. The crusher for me was when I said to one of the women seated there, “oh I had such a crush on you.” And to my shock she responded, “I had one on you too but you never said anything!” So does that mean all I had to do as a freshman attending the homecoming dance was to walk across the floor, pushing aside my fear of rejection, and asking her to dance with me and I would likely have met with success. Well, if what I have just said is to be believed then the answer is an extremely obvious yes!

I remember thinking, “how come no one ever said anything?” The answer is amazingly simple: because most of us never overcame our fear of rejection to chance acceptance and so we said, or in this case, did nothing.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Odd statement huh? But think about it, was every high school dance you ever attended a repeat of the one prior. Were you doing your own version of “Ground Hog Day.” Most likely! That does not mean you will never get rejected, it just means you need to change your focus. I know for absolute fact that at any high school dance you ever attend there are going to be this rather large group of boys and girls who are dying to be asked!

Now if you happen to be reading this and are also in high school you would probably like to yell at me how there is this group of people who are universally popular! And you know what? You are quite correct. HOWEVER! They are in the minority, and a small minority at that. Which means by default, you are in the majority! The majority always rules but only when it does something.

Oh, and that reminds me, if you are drinking alcohol, STOP IT! Not only is it illegal, actually the least of your problems, but it denies you access to that part of you that will make you a social success. And now you are going to tell me how you become more social when you drink.   Wrong! You just talk more and most likely make a fool of yourself. And if you are a regular drinker, well, you are going through the progression of socially retarding yourself. Is that what you really want? Think about that guy or girl who is intelligent, beautiful, and popular who you would dearly love to date. Chances are they do not drink. But if they do drink, then you definitely do not want to date them because they are a mess inside in spite of any successes they seem to be amassing.

And drugs? A complete waste of time! Yeah yeah, I did a little marijuana and hash in my twenties but to what end? I just made myself into a bigger fool than I already was. In the 1980s there was a saying going around which went something like this: drugs are for people who cannot cope with reality, and reality is for people who cannot cope with drugs. Truer words were never said! So when you are considered doing X, or K, or Molly or whatever else is out there, do yourself a huge favor and opt out. Anything a doctor has not prescribed to you and you take are a roadblock between you and the happiness you so desperately desire.

And so you graduate from high school and find yourself in your twenties. If you are going to school, keep the focus on your studies and make party time tertiary. Third? Yes, because taking care of yourself in body, mind and spirit comes first, your studies come second and your family comes third. Ooops, looks like I just made party time 4th and maybe it should be even lower.

Every state in the United States considers you to be an adult once you achieve the age of 18. Do not be fooled! It is a trick! You are not! Science generally agrees that women mature more quickly than men and it has been my experience that such is exactly the case. There seems to be about a 3 year difference. So guys, this means that when you reach the age of 21 you are probably still acting like an 18-year-old. And just how responsible is an 18-year-old? Not very. It is not their fault. It just the way the maturation process works.

The smart person, for the first half of their 20s, refuses to get into committed relationships. They do this because they are still exploring what type of a relationship they want to be in which means who would make the best sort of partner for them. They will love someone for a while and then suddenly discover they like the person more than love the person. They met a good person, someone who will make a good friend, but who would make an absolutely miserable lifetime partner. Oh, and they do not party much.

But the early twenties are also the time you need to get every mistake you can make out of the way. You will make a lot of mistake just don’t forget what they were because they hold a lot of value for your future. A mistake is the universe’s way of saying, “Don’t do that again!”

A common mistake is a young man or woman finding the person who they think is mister or miss right when in fact that person is simply mister right now, or miss. That’s okay because that is how you learn who will not figure into your future, at least not as a life mate.

Regardless, for those years of 20 to 25 do not worry about all the mistakes you make, just be certain to remember each and every one. It sucks making the same mistake twice. Take that from someone who had done such many times over. Oh, and if you happen to reach 30 and still have not met the right person, fear not, they are close. And let me put one last misconception to bed. It is common said when looking at the people around you, and after being asked why you do not date a particular person, to say, “Oh, we’re just friends.” Just friends? That is exactly the person you want to marry. If you are not considering marrying a person who is also your best friend, you have probably made the wrong choice. Take another look at your friends, the right guy or girl for you may be right there.

There is a quip you hear sometimes: “the secret to life is . . . . “ There is no secret to life. Life means you wake up and you are happy that you did so. Life is enjoying the people around you. Life is a quiet moment watching ducks paddle a pond and seeing how “just being in the moment” works so really well for the rest of the animal kingdom. For some odd reason, man seems to have missed this most salient of all points. Live in the moment. Remember, when it rains on you it is raining on everyone else too. You are never alone. Want to see that work? Next time you come across a friend or are with a group of friends, look for the quiet one and go up and ask, “how’s it going?” And do not let them get away with a one sentence answer. Do not just act like you care, care. You might be the person who not only helps salvage that person’s day, but you will find yourself a happier person, almost like it was magic.

An Absolute Guide to Success for Teens and Twenty-somethings.


I have both a B.S. and a Masters degree, the latter from Harvard University. Now from that simple statement anyone who did not know me would probably think I am a pretty smart guy who did really well in life. Well, truth be told, only one of those statements is true, I am indeed a pretty smart guy. Now comes the “but.” But I miss pretty much every opportunity afforded me in my teens and twenties. I am pretty certain I received a PhD in missed opportunities.

When I was in high school I managed to be so thoroughly distracted, mostly by girls, that I was unable to complete most assignments. From age 14 to 18 I spent far too many hours thinking about the girl of my dreams, which varied of course, when I really needed to be doing my homework.

Did I tell you I am a contradiction in terms? I am! From when I was about 6, I always found a way to earn money. True, most of that money went to buying candy and ice cream but I was happy and satisfied. I had a paper route for about 3 years, ages 11 to 14. When I turned 14 I had a full time summer job on a local farm which I went back to when I was 15. At 16 I worked in one of the local factories, a true sweat shop. Loved it! One of the best educations of my life. And finally, when I was 17 I got a job at Raytheon company as a clerk. Seems I could type pretty well. I earned 5 cents more per hour than a girl my age who did nearly the exact same job I did. I knew I was unfair.

After graduation from high school I was headed for Boston University. I had gained early acceptance, November of the previous year, and thought I was good to go. Well, nothing could have been further from the truth. Before the first semester had ended I knew my college career had ended. Prime reason, I was constantly daydreaming about the girl of my dreams which varied. Oh, and I was not doing my assignments.

By December of that year I had decided that a career in the army would be a good thing. I took their various tests and actually managed to get myself into flight school, no easy task. No one breezes through basic training but once I had completed that I was on to my dream, flight school. In the army that means you are going to rotary wing (helicopter) training which, in those days, started at Fort Wolters Texas and was completed at Fort Rucker Alabama. It did not even take me a month to drop out of that. Still, certain people saw promise in me, enrolled me in the following class, and suggested I take that opportunity, one which was seldom offered. I declined. I had had enough. In truth, quitting seemed easier. Enough said about that save over the next 18 months I received every promotion I was eligible for in the minimum time required.

I was a two-year enlistee who got out and headed directly back to college. I mean, who can fail twice? Ah, but I was head of the curve this time. I had the girl of my dreams, was head over heels in love with her, life was wonderful! And yet, in spite of that, I managed to fail every class in which I was enrolled. And so what do you think I did next? No, I did not go into the army but I did go to flight school.

This flight school was of the fixed wing variety held in Tulsa Oklahoma. And as it turned out, I was a natural pilot. This time I pushed myself just enough so that after 5 hours of flight time, the minimum time required by the FAA before a person can fly solo. I soloed during my 6th hour. Time passed, my flight time mounted up, I took and passed the FAA written test required for a private pilot’s license. Oh, and during this time I held down a full time job as an orderly at a hospital in Tulsa. One day, while driving home from that hospital, I daydreamed for a moment or two but I was exactly enough time that I did not see the person stopped in front of me until it was too late. I managed to total two cars and decided it was time to go back home and do what?

That question got answer just before I left Tulsa when talking with my mother on the phone she asked why the army was looking for me. She assured me she had not told them where I was but I knew the gig was up, again. You see, I was supposed to be going to reserve army meetings for two years following my separation from active duty. I had attended exactly zero.

I bit the bullet, headed for the local army recruiter and confessed my sins. He had a nice laugh on me but in truth I was actually happy to be returning to the army. It was a safe place for me, and I actually liked it. During my first three years back in the army I managed to successfully navigate two years of college education via the local University of Maryland campus. Now a reasonable person would think that within the next three years I would complete that degree and all would be well. That is not exactly how it went. During those 3 years I got married, had a child and allowed just about everything to impede my college education. I took me until 1986 to finally get that B.S. degree. I did not mention this before but I entered Boston University in September 1967. You might say I was just a tad slow, or, you might hold me to a higher standard and say I found far too many excuses for not succeeded while giving not a single good reason.

I started my graduate education at Harvard University in September 1986. That degree took me far too long too, but let me just say, it was more of the same stuff I have already related so why repeat myself.

What does any of this have to do with those of you who are in your teens and twenties. Everything!

I am 66 years of age now, retired and enjoying pretty much everything life sends me its way. But my retirement has also allowed me the time to give my life considerable and very honest review. What I discovered is absolutely appalling. I found that I had missed pretty much every opportunity which came my way from age 11 through 30, a full twenty years! How could that happen? How could a rather intelligent person, which I am, miss just about every opportunity? Simple. I did not see a single one for what it really was.

When you are 18-years-old truly believe that you have this infinite pool of time ahead of you. That is mistake number one, always! Life happens a day at a time and even though at times it seems incredibly and boringly slow, those minutes are just as important as any other collection of minutes in your life.

I really believe that it rare that an 18-year-old had any inkling as to what he wants to be doing come age 40. And why is age 40 so important? Two reasons: first changing professions at that age is extremely difficult and, two, like it or not, age discrimination comes into play. Cry all you like about it being against the law, which it is, but just try proving it! That means that by age 30 you really really need to be doing a job you look forward to and cannot imagine doing anything else. That was not me.

Okay, so what should you do to insure that at age 40 you are right when you both want and need to be? Be on the lookout for opportunities and explore each and every one to the fullest extent possible. Ah, so what is an opportunity?

Failure! Failure is one of the best opportunities of all. Failure, by definition, says you tried something but did not succeed. Failure is the most prevalent opportunity any human will ever experience. Do not quote me on this, but I believe Thomas Edison failed over 200 times before he finally found a filament that worked in his light bulb. It is likely that the incandescent light bulb would have been invented eventually anyway, but it was Edison completing the task because he did not take failure as meaning hopeless. He saw it as meaning he needed to find another way of doing things. And that is exactly how failure becomes an opportunity every time.

It took me two shots at algebra and two shots at geometry to get each right once. Had I carried that forward most, if not all, of my failures could have been turned into successes. But I did not. It was always easier to say why something could not happen than ask the question of how could I make it happen. And this is where you come to a universal truth. Going it alone will probably get you lost. But ask for help and you will probably find the way. And never ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. They probably do not know what they are talking about anyway.

Instead of finding an excuse, find a way. For example, you are getting ready to graduate high school and you happen to notice that your grades are average and that being said by a generous person. But you find, of a sudden, this desire to be a nurse, a lawyer, an architect, the best trumpeter ever, or pretty much anything else. Your first response is going to be that such lofty goals are now unachievable. Bull shit! They are all achievable but you must find an alternate path. That means instead of graduating from medical school at age 27, you might have to graduate at age 30. So what? Start with something you can do. I suggest community college. It is affordable and pretty much takes on all comers. Plus, it is college and its credits are generally transferable to not only the state schools but to most private colleges and universities. But most importantly, once started, do not let anyone or anything stop you until you have reached your ultimate goal. But be warned, your ultimate goal is likely to change while you are attending college. Hell, you may even change career fields entirely but that is part of learning.

If you do not think that is true, pick any highly successful person you know and ask them one simple question: as them what was their biggest failure prior to becoming whatever they are and how they overcame that.

One more thing about your aspiration, find someone who is successful in your field of choice and asked them to tell you in some detail what it took for them to get where they are.

Finally, along the way you are going to run into difficulties, some greater than others. But there are going to be a certain number of difficulties where you have only one choice and that is to ask for help. Do it! Make no excuses for not doing it. Do not project what you think the person you are asked for help is going to think of you. The thing is, it is human nature that we enjoy being asked for help. And, this is important, that first person does not have an answer for you, do not leave without asking if they know someone who might know. And if they do not know that either, keep looking until you find the needed help. And never ever miss an opportunity to nail down your professor and them him or her that you are 100% confused over a point, a concept, or anything else. Those are the things people who do not quit do. And those are the things I failed to do on a regular basis.

Finally, there is this idea of inherent intelligence going around. I happen to know I am a very intelligent guy but it does not seem to have done me a lot of good, at least until recent years. I truly believe that most people underestimate their actual intelligence. If someone looks at your high school record and tells you what your listed IQ is, I recommend that if it is less than what you think it should be, put it off to your having had a bad day the day of the test and that you are in fact far more intelligent than some test says you are. I say this because more likely than not, you are.

Every mistake you make gives you a bit of valuable information. It tells you where you made a wrong turn. Return to that point and make the right turn. Make absolutely everything which happens to you in your teens and twenties learning experiences, commit them to memory, get advice on some of them, and use them to your advantage wherever possible. If your mother wants you to become a doctor and your father wants you to become a lawyer and you want to become a chef, get yourself into that chef’s school. Own you decisions, own your mistakes, never lie, and never quit.

Why Would Gov. Baker Kill the MSDF Which Cost the State Nothing?


Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts recently killed an organization that was entirely voluntary and in its short 4-year existence did cost the state of Massachusetts a single penny. This organization was known as the Massachusetts State Defense Force (MSDF). If this organization is unfamiliar to you that is because of its intentional low profile. The MSDF was one of 21 other state defense forces. In our local region the states of Connecticut and New York each have such a force. The MSDF was organized under Massachusetts state law “General Laws, Part 1, Title V Chapter 33, Section 10.” It existed as a lawful part of the Massachusetts military which includes the National Guard. Such forces exist under Title 32 of the U.S. Code which is also where the National Guards exist.

The primary original mission of the MSDF was to act as a liaison between the civil authorities of the cities and towns of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts National Guard. It was expected that the MSDF would be called to duty during times of emergency; snow storms, hurricanes, floods, and tornados as well as other emergency situation which arise and affect multiple communities of Massachusetts.

The Governor of Massachusetts is the Commander in Chief of all Massachusetts military forces. Directly beneath him is a Major General of the National Guard with the title of Adjutant General. He commands all military forces of Massachusetts which includes the National Guard and the MSDF.

The MSDF was formed January 2012 with a small cadre of officers and enlisted men. With a couple of exceptions, all original members were veterans of the Army, Air Force and Marines. Several had received wartime awards including the purple heart, the bronze and silver star. The members had a diverse background including law enforcement, medicine, human resources, computer technology. Most had bachelor’s degrees and some professional degrees.

At its height the membership was a modest 25 individuals. On a number of occasions one or more were called to State Active Duty to assist during emergency situations. All did so gladly. And even though a modicum of pay was earned, none was ever received but this did not dampen the desire of every individual to serve again when called.

During Hurricane Sandy, the New York Militia, the MSDF equivalent, served for nearly two weeks adding invaluable service to the NY National Guard, NY Emergency Management Agency, NY first responders including police and fire. Most of the 21 states with active defense forces fund their force for purposes of training and equipment. Two, Texas and California, have even separated their defense force into an army force and an air force. The California force is in excess of 1500 members with an annual budget of about $634,000. The Texas State Guard has approximately 2200 members with a $495,000 annual budget. These states and all others with active state defense forces have found them to be an invaluable resource.

Typically, these defense forces do some of their training with that state’s national guard. This helps keep costs down and training uniform. All defense forces wear either the army or air force standard combat uniform. The state defense force is structured exactly as its national guard counterparts.

The federal government for many years now has been reducing the size of both active and reserve militaries. During the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars many National Guard units found themselves lacking necessary personnel to complete the homeland mission. This is where the Military Defense Force filled in. In the case of Massachusetts, several MSDF lawyers assisted soldiers being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with necessary legal matters. And today, more than ever, National Guard soldiers are being called to extended active duty because regular army and air force soldiers are too few in number to complete necessary missions.

Once Charlie Baker became governor his signature on a document was required to continue the MSDF as an active force. For reasons which were never explained, he declined to sign off. The MSDF was summary ordered to stand down (made inactive). Where the MSDF had not cost the state of Massachusetts any funds at all, it must be assumed that some political agenda came to force his hand against its continuation. This was a mistake but a reversible one.

It had become extremely apparent to all members of the MSDF that we were able to provide a valuable link between the various National Guard units and the towns and cities of Massachusetts. It was felt that during an emergency a member of the MSDF could collect the data of the towns in need of assistance and route that information to the military leadership as well as MEMA who could respond most effectively to those needs. The ability of those individual MSDF members to move between towns would allow those towns a certain level of satisfaction that their needs were both being heard and responded to.

I suggest that Gov. Baker reconsider his decision and re-active the MSDF with all due haste. The MSDF is a value added resource for the State of Massachusetts and considering its cost, extremely inexpensive. It does not replicate any existing organizations and used properly, it can in a very short time become a service so valuable one would wonder why the State of Massachusetts has not always had such a group of highly motivated, highly skilled men and women in its service.