I Don’t Know Sh*t

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In the seaside town where I got sober, there was a different gay meeting every night of the week at various church basements, rec centers and the like. When I say it’s a ‘gay’ meeting I mean for LGBT folks but everybody was welcome. They didn’t check your musical theater knowledge at the door or anything, Typically, the same group of folks floated from meeting to meeting every week. During my first year, I went to all of those meetings almost weekly and that’s where I made some of my best friends on the planet. One member of our little nomadic gay sober tribe would share, week after week,”I don’t know shit!” First off, to be thrilled about not knowing anything was a weird concept to me. I always thought of myself as the slower, less brilliant member of the bunch so proudly saying it out loud was something I wouldn’t do. Secondly, I knew some things, didn’t I?

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Sure the basics I knew: name, age, where I was born. I won’t include height and weight because I lied about those things for so long it wasn’t until my first doctor’s appointment in sobriety that I knew the true numbers. Which were both disappointing and nowhere near what I had been telling people, by the way. But how to have healthy relationships? How to go to brunch without drinking? How to show up on time for things? How be honest? What I wanted to do with my life? All mysteries. So maybe my friend from the rooms whose drug combo platter of choice was “Crack & Jack” was right! Maybe I don’t know shit.

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There could be something to this not knowing thing. After all,  Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” And he didn’t even go to a 12 step program or, to my knowledge, smoke crack.  Maybe being open to not knowing makes me willing to learn more? Or at the very least plants a seed of humility that perhaps I don’t have all the answers. How little I actually know was pounded into my head several times this week. I was certain I needed to do all of this stuff to get what I thought I needed. What I got instead was a series of “No, thank you”s. Turns out i didn’t know what I actually needed or wanted. These ‘nos’ became yeses. So this part-time job thing turned me down. It was a bummer.  Or was it? See, I also this week I got word that I’m teaching a series of workshops on creativity and writing! Wait, talking about what I love, helping other people get inspired and making a little money? Sign me up! This opportunity would have been hard to wrangle had I gotten the part-time gig.

So yeah. The moral of the story is I don’t know. I don’t the future. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what’s best for other people.  I don’t what’s gonna happen. And it’s fabulous. I trust the universe/God/something bigger than me has already set the best possible thing for me in motion. What’ll come next, how will everything turn out and what’s going to happen five years from now? Well, I’ll let magic 8 ball answer that:

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Keep Coming Back, Mike Tyson & Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are, Lamar Odom.

Not surprisingly, I’m not much of a sports person. Yet I’m a news and pop culture person so clearly I’ve seen the Mike Tyson story unfold like the rest of the planet. From unbeatable boxing champ to certified hot mess, Tyson’s story is a difficult one but really not that different from any we in recovery hear of or lived through ourselves. It is hard not to roll your eyes when the press sensationalize the adventures of celebrity drug addicts and drunks. Things like arrests, hospitalization, criminal charges and bar brawls are sort of the norm for non-famous addicts. But when celebrities do this things, it winds up on the front page. Over the weekend, Mike Tyson railroaded his own press conference to confess that he’s been lying about being sober.

The press called these “startling revelations” but really this another day at the office for your run of the mill alcoholics and addicts. This isn’t to minimize Tyson’s struggle however. Tyson, like the estimated 60% of people who enter drug and alcohol recovery programs, is a chronic relapser. And Tyson, like myself in my disease, is a bullshit artist and a liar. That’s just kind of how we roll.Yet just like me and the thousands of others who tried to get sober over and over and finally did, Tyson stands a chance. He seems pretty beat down and fucked up which are good signs, even if they don’t sound like it.  Near the end of the press conference Tyson told reporters, “I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die.” From my experience, that’s an excellent place to start.

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Also over the weekend, Lamar Odom was reported missing for three days. Tabloids reported that the NBA star had vanished and his family was concerned he was on a “Crack binge” (you know, as opposed to using crack in social setting like tea party or at an ice cream social). His family now says he wasn’t missing and brushed the whole thing off. Whether he was or wasn’t on this crack binge, this kind of behavior is also par for the course with addicts. In addition to relapsing and lying, we like to hide out and disappear. I bring all of this up today because the more I stay sober the more I realize it’s all the same. No matter who you are or where you go. Addiction and alcoholism doesn’t care what you do for a living or if you’re on a reality show. It just wants to kill you.

The real news, in my mind, isn’t that these things happen. The stories that save lives are the ones of survival are the afters, not the befores or durings. I’m inspired when I see famous addicts (Matthew Perry, Robert Downey Jr. Kristen Johnston) transcend the normal behavior and fight their demons head on. But as longtime media watcher and pop culture fan, I also know those kind of stories don’t sell as many magazines either.

people like us

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There’s a line in recovery literature which says, “we are people who normally would not mix.” There’s also references to folks in recovery being like survivors of a disaster.

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From my experience, both statements happen to be true. I’ve been to meetings with high-powered attorneys, Hollywood stars, hipsters, homeless people, all gays, mixed and everything in between. I can’t be sure how this is possible but when all you want to do is stop trying drinking or using, all prejudices fly out the window. For the most part, considering they’ve all come back from the brink of death, this assorted group of nuts is usually a pretty happy and welcoming bunch no matter what meeting you go to. I’ve been thinking about the people I’ve fought this battle with lately.  And the book I juts finished reading 90 Days talks about the power of these people too. The people who I was lucky enough to have save my ass on several occasions and in a couple of different States (both mental and geographic). It took a village to lift my glitter covered self out of the gutter. By just showing up and saying, “Hey I feel like shit over here and I need some help” they helped me. Or by sharing that their life was really challenging and they felt like drinking and using. Or whenever I just heard someone say “I’m _______ and I’m an alcoholic.”  I felt less freakish and less alone. I felt like I had the support of these people who were nothing like me.  And I wanted to help them too.

End-ceremony-star-wars-a-new-hope-12500053-820-444These misfits, these people who I wouldn’t normally mix with are the people I like being around the most. They get me. We speak the same crazy language and have the same fucked-up thoughts. And we’ve fought the same battles. As a result of this recovery deal, my life has gotten amazing and wonderful and big. The odd thing is that sometimes this life makes it hard for me to get to meetings and spend time with my fellow warriors.This week was really busy and I only went to one meeting. Well, by today I was pretty much a complete lunatic. I think I actually floated to my meeting that’s much I needed to go there. As soon as I sat down and exhaled, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was home– again.

That’s what’s so incredible about this blog too. “My People” read this too and I read their blogs and so on and so on. This experience with UrtheInspiration has been so powerful and so much fun I figured why not make it even bigger? So I’m happy to announce that I am finally fast-tracking the book proposal for a book based on this blog and I’ll be featuring guest bloggers, this fall too. But more on that later. For now, thanks for being my people. I couldn’t do this without you.

glamour junkie

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The small child on the left is my younger brother while the child in the dress getting arrested is none other than yours truly. The bearded guy behind us is Jesus. Although my policeman dad did rock a similar beard when he worked in vice, which by the way, was not the inspiration for this game we’re playing in the picture. At least as far as I can remember. These kind of crossdressing shenanigans were just sort of the norm in my childhood. I mean, when you wear a plastic Wonder Woman outfit in kindergarten for Halloween, its all a downhill trot in mom’s Candies platforms from there on out.  I never knew why I loved award shows, old movies, Barbies and the Miss USA pageant. I just did.

Over the years as I’ve listened to transgendered friends share about feeling like they were trapped in the wrong body, my heart breaks for them. Living with that sort of inner-turmoil must be a real challenge especially in childhood. While my attraction to sparkly things was hard to explain or accept for straight kids in Denver in the 70’s and 80’s ,I never went through anything as difficult and heroic as that. I was just a kid who liked fur coats and Jaclyn Smith. Girls, in my mind, were more glamourous than boys. A vagina? No, thanks. Glamour is actually what I wanted. Obsessed with celebrities and magazines, I daydreamed about growing up and being fabulous. I had no idea what I’d be or how I’d get there but my life had to be glamorous. I remember looking at Enquirer when I was a kid and there was picture of Elizabeth Taylor getting out of car in a fur coat and it said, “Liz Back from Rehab!’ and I thought whatever she was doing looked pretty glamorous.  At age 10, I didn’t know she was a drug addict and an alcoholic. Turns out old Liz and I had more in common than I thought.

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In my twenties, my crossdressing morphed mainly into clubwear in the 90’s but I’d occasionally take get gussied up with my best friend and hit the bars in drag. Connie Lingus was my alter ego. I know. Subtle. That’s how I roll. And chasing the glamour bus was something I did for years and years in Los Angeles fueled by endless supplies of liquor and drugs. It was glamorous for a little while.  But addiction and alcoholism were anything but glamorous for me in the end. It was just sad, repetitive and really fucking lonely.

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I guess I’m thinking about this today for a few reasons but mainly because of the photo at the top of the page. My niece sent it to me and it made me laugh hysterically. We were such imaginative kids who routinely escaped into fabulous worlds. The more I stay sober, the more my creativity slowly returns to that state I had back then.  There’s a fearlessness and strength in my childhood imagination and love of glamour that I want to channel in a healthy way into my work today. I smile when I look at myself in that photo. And I’m so proud of that crossdressing misfit who no matter what was always his own person, even if that person was wearing mom’s high heels.

thanks for letting me cher

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In a misty Santa Monica park, on top of a green hill, with the sound of fog warnings coming from the beach and dogs barking, there’s a rec center. In addition to what sounded like some pretty spicy dance classes, this center also has meetings of the 12 step variety. Meetings I needed very much when I first moved to the beach in 2009 in hopes of turning my shipwreck of a life around.  My first time there I peered in the window and saw all these happy smiling people. Well, this certainly couldn’t be a meeting for drunks and drug addicts. Where was the crying? Where were the hobos with the red bandana knapsacks and pork pie hats? Where were the junkies in wheelchairs on death’s door? Being convinced I was in the wrong place, I quickly got out of there before anybody noticed me.  What I didn’t I know was that was the right place and I would be spending a lot of time there in the months to come.

12 step meetings are crazy ass places. Drama. Laughter. Breakdowns. Breakthroughs. Bunnies. No, really, there was an actress from the 80’s who used to bring her pet rabbit to the meeting. Maybe the bunny had a drinking problem. It’s all the stuff people watch reality tv for but without the commercials. Unlike those televised travesties, meetings actually save people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure how but people who go all the time usually stop doing drugs, drinking, gambling screwing everything in sight or whatever else might ail them. Again, this magical juju is beyond my comprehension. Sure I can tell you the names of the kids on Full House or the order of the singles released on Madonna’s True Blue record, but mysteries of the universe are beyond my comprehension. What I did notice about these gatherings is the folks who shared about their struggles and the solutions to said struggles and did so on a regular basis managed to stay sober. One day after a gathering of these brave people, my heart was full. I left the meeting and as I walked down the fog covered hill, this song started came from the SUV of one of the people leaving the meeting:

I started laughing. Not only because of the song’s goofy jingly-jangly intro or the lyrical parallels to attendees of the meeting, but because it’s Cher. Diva, icon and former spouse to someone who used drugs and alcohol like I did, Cher is everything. I love Cher for the camp factor, for her music and because as a gay man in his forties, it’s the law. Cher is also the ultimate symbol  of survival. Ain’t no Equal commercial or bad movie gonna keep her down!  Just when we think she’s done, she comes back. With a few months sober and back from the brink of self-destruction, I could kind of relate.  I could go on with the Cher metaphor (“I was once a ‘Dark Lady’ and now I ‘Believe”) but I won’t. What people like Cher, Madonna Cyndi Lauper and Boy George represented to me as a kid was individuality and strength, things I so desperately wanted. Meetings were the first place I felt like I could be myself. The real version. I could say, “hey, I’m not feeling good.” or “I need help” without giving a crap about what people thought. I soon began to find my life but bigger than that I learned I didn’t have to do any of this alone. And thankfully, my road to individuality and being able to share my problems was one that didn’t require headdresses or assless pants.

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death-defying balancing acts

At about 13 months sober, a teacher in a yoga class in Venice told me, “You have great balance.” With my butt high in the air and sweat pouring down my face, I think I murmured a muffled “thanks.” This was an odd thing to hear and something I certainly didn’t believe. To me, “balance” was always was one those hard to define and impossible to achieve words like “honesty” and “moderation”.

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When you live with a twisted all-you-can snort/swig/suck attitude, balance seems counter-intuitive. I never had “extra wine” or a “fully stocked bar” or “drugs from the night before.”The fact that anybody would, boggled my mind. Leftover drugs and alcohol? It’s not Thanksgiving. Aside from my own system, I couldn’t begin to imagine where one would store such a thing.   Wonder if Tupperware makes a container for half-used baggies of cocaine? At my core, I am a person who likes to eat a whole box of cookies, watch an entire season of a cable show on Netflix and play 14 hours of words with friends in one sitting. Which is to say, I’m an addict, through and through. These days in sobriety, I try to achieve what that instructor, in the teal tanktop who also led us in a sacred Iroquois chant (again, Venice), called “balance.”

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Last week, I worked my face off, went to five meetings, helped some other people who have what I have, cleaned my house and made it to doctor’s appointments. Oh and produced a live show. Cat wrangled 8 actors, picked up last-minute props, talked confused patrons off a ledge and all the other things that go into theater. But here’s the thing- I wasn’t stressed out. Go figure that when you delete liquor and drugs from your playlist, life is suddenly less chaotic. Everything got done and I was really happy. Of course by Saturday morning I was bitch slapped with the realization that I had a lot more stuff to do including marketing myself for new gigs, applying for part-time stuff, organizing a new series of writing workshops and handling my various and assorted diseases and responsibilities. I had a momentary feeling of panic like I was going to slip off the balance beam, crashing head first into an unbalanced hell my new agey teacher would not approve of.

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Not knowing the proper ancient indigenous ritual most effective for calming a bitch down, I relied on my own rituals. I prayed I meditated. I read. I drank a little more coffee. I had breakfast. And then I took care of that list I was sure was going derail my existence. Bigger than that, it felt amazing to look at things that scared me and not run away from them. I when I realized none of it was a big of a deal, I took a deep breath and just skipped happily across that highwire.

Friends, you tell me, how do you keep your life in balance? What is this balance thing anyway? Educate me in the comments section, please!

where are my keys and other mysteries of the universe

At the risk of writing the most boring blog post ever created by man, I can’t find my keys. I know. Call the Miss Marple. Who needs CNN when you’ve got me breaking these kind of headlines? But really I can’t find them. While this nonemergency is annoying, it brought up an old feeling of panic; one that I haven’t felt in a while.

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Back when I drank and used, I was a loser. Not only in “so why don’t you kill me (go crazy with the Cheez Whiz)” sort of way but in the way I’d get drunk and lose things. Phones, wallets, keys– you name it. In general, if I could find all of my belongings after a night of drinking than clearly I didn’t drink enough. I never once lost drugs, though. Priorities, people. Priorities. Sometimes these losses were items temporarily misplaced like your standard cellphone in the refrigerator kind of thing. Other times, these items would fall into the great abyss and presumed gone forever. Although, I did find a few phones in fucked up places in my old apartment long after the service and the chicness of the Motorola Razr had both worn off. I joke but waking up and not knowing if your personal belongings are still with you is a horrible feeling. Even worse is waking up and not knowing where you yourself is. Losing a wallet is one thing but misplacing a drunken gay man in his 30’s is just unacceptable. This lifestyle of calamity, of not knowing where anything is, is awful. I’d crawl out of bed and make sure my wallet was where I left it and then I’d check my phone to make sure I didn’t text anything too awful. Investigating the nightly crime scene of my own drunken existence every morning was an exhausting task. Towards the end, my daily terror wasn’t caused by the things I lost but by the parts of mind that were starting to go missing. I drank to sleep. I drank before, during and after work. I was either riddled with intense anxiety in those final months or living in a delusion that everything would magically get better on its own. Like I said, I was losing my mind and it sucked.

So this dumb, current misplacing of my keys momentarily brought up that panic and terror that I lived in. I tore through my apartment; overturning couch cushions and pulling open drawers.  And still nothing. This frantic looking for my keys started to feel all too familiar and it had to stop. So I had some cookies, watched Community and went to bed. After meditation this morning, I looked for them again and still nothing. I’ll call the coffee shop and see if they wound up there. Follow me on Twitter for more late breaking developments on this important story. I’m laughing about all of this because in comparison to losing my mind and my sanity, keys are no big deal. They can be replaced. My sanity? Well, I’m gonna do whatever I can to hold on to that just so it doesn’t go the way of the Motorola Razr again.

people (insert head shake and deep sigh)

The songstress in the photo below once crooned, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” While the inherent codependency of that lyric could be undoubtedly discussed until my computer exploded, I guess the 1960’s wisdom of ‘needing people’ to express not isolating from others is sweet. Yet seeing what a pain in the ass they are, people who tell other people to go screw themselves might be luckiest people in the world.

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Now relax, I’m not going to launch into a post about how people suck and how wronged I’ve been by the entire planet beginning with my abusive 1st grade teacher(affectionately known as Sister Snake Face) leading all the way up to the cashier at Starbucks from last week who ignored me (affectionately known as “douche waffle”). Sadly, recovery has forever tainted my bitch sessions about others. I’ve been programmed to look at my part first and to have compassion for crazy people and to pray for people I want to kill. Really takes the fun out of the whole ritual. As a drug, people really suck. Next to slamming Robotussin, no other substance provides such an unreliable high and such a flaming hot headache. As former grand marshal of the codependents parade, which never happened on the account of all of our time being spent worrying about each other, people addiction is something I know a little about. Listen, like I said, if drugs or a bottle were available I’d gladly take them first. But people were more like cigarettes. Not a fast high but a habit that would make me sicker and crazier the longer I did it. Just how I like my habits to behave. A year and half away from romantic relationships and some gnarly soul-searching helped me kick my people drug. However, that detox was a slower and more slippery one. I never had normal relationships. Like ever. So sliding into crazyland behavior like trying to control when people call me, not eating in hopes that we’ll go out to dinner together and generally trying to manipulate people into spending time with me was incredibly easy. It took my several failed friendships in sobriety and months of dating hell to realize, I had a long way to go in building a health relationships with these ‘people’ Babs was singing about.

I bring this up today because people as they are known to do, have been a disappointment lately. And by lately I mean since that whole Garden of Eden fuckup. Seriously, my relationships get complicated and that’s a blessing. Really. My relationships these days are real and authentically human with actual people. Which is terrific for somebody who use to refer to friends who he knew from nightclubs as “We Hate Her” and “Snaggle Toe”. The flipside of these real relationships is that always  sometimes people let you down. Again, they’re an incredibly dicey drug. I’d be better off with a pack of Kools and a box of wine if I wanted to check out. Thankfully, I don’t want to check out today. I also know that humans being human is a two-way street. I let people down too. I screw up constantly. And , yes, 12-steppers, I’m usually to blame, at least partially, for whatever issue I have with people is. Sigh.

I heard Barbra say in an interview she always thought the lyric should be that “people who don’t need people are the luckiest people in the world” as it expressed the heartbreak her character in Funny Girl went through. I get it. But it seems like that song turned out okay. I know that if I just let things happens, just forgive people for being people and just be grateful for having the people in my life that I do have, I’ll be okay too.

oh the places you’ll blow

If you haven’t done acid in your grandparents backyard, you haven’t really lived. That’s what I always say. Actually that’s the first time I’ve ever said that. And honestly, your existence is probably okay if you haven’t. Yet as a young drug addict in training whose motto seemed to be “Sure! Why not?” my adventures in narcotics took me everywhere from acid in grandma’s yard to smoking crack in an alley with a now famous music producer. While drinking just seemed to get me into trouble, drugs always had a unique knack of putting me in the strangest of environs.

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I guess it’s the whole “because they’re illegal” thing. Or maybe its the very nature of getting high. Who knows. But when you’re laying on the floor of a jewelry designer’s warehouse after doing heroin afraid to move because you’re convinced Jesus has come down and is now an alien who shoots lasers from his eyes, you know your life has gotten pretty special. That was at age 20 and after dabbling in meth for a few horrifying months, I trotted off to Europe with the hope that when I got back my drugcations would be cancelled once and for all. Naturally, I smoked a wagon full of hash and bought ecstasy from the Danish version of Kurt Cobain while in Amsterdam but that was to be expected. It’s like eating pizza in New York or hot dogs in Chicago. I got back and despite a few drug free months, the party was back on and I was once again a hot mess. Hanging out in sketchy all night suburban bowling alleys waiting to buy drugs, doing cocaine off the dashboard of a someone’s mom’s Ford escort, using the Mile High City’s gay bar restrooms as my own party depot. Classy excursions all the way around. In a desperate attempt to pull my head out of my ass, I moved to Los Angeles at age 23. Cause there wasn’t in trouble to get into in LA in 1995. Seeing as my sobriety date in January 2nd 2009, we know how that move worked out.

While drugs and alcohol might have taken me to random places (4am at a Korean speakeasy doing shots with Horatio Sands is the first thing to spring to mind), the one thing they never successfully did was totally remove me from myself. That was one vacation that not even the Priceline Negotiator could figure out. Sure, blacking out was a good way to erase how much I hated the world for a few hours. But it never lasted. I guess I’m blogging about this today because I’m happy with where I am. Yes, I could use a non-drug fueled real vacation. But overall I am okay with where I am– physically, spiritually, mentally. And I’m more than okay that my average, daily adventures no longer put my life in danger. That’s always a good thing. It’s also an incredible gift to wake up and know exactly where I was the night before. I don’t have to search receipts or look at fast food bags on my coffee table to piece together what happened. This isn’t to say my life is boring. Or maybe it is. But at least it’s real and at least I’m no longer trying to getaway from my life. Even though the beach sounds pretty incredible right now. Hold the acid.

listen up

 

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Here’s what happens when you work alone most of the time: you lose your damn mind. I mean you kind of keep losing it and keep finding it. Naturally, you keep coming up with ways to re-find it, over and over again. But yeah you go crazy. And when you’re in the business of creating clever like I am while spending a lot of time alone, it’s easy to believe that you are the king of the universe and pretty darn special. As I sit and procrastinate writing, I usually have all kinds of brilliant things to say to imaginary people in my head or amazing ideas that could change the world if only everyone listened to me. Like I said, you go crazy. When I first started working freelance from home a friend of mine from the program said, “Make sure you get out during the day. After all, you’re spending a lot of time with the person who tried to kill you.”  That was a bitch slap I try not to forget so I’ve gotten better about leaving my house during the middle of the middle to run errands or go to meetings.

Even though, I’m incredibly hilarious and a wealth of knowledge, I find the most powerful thing I can do while I’m out in the world and away from my desk is listen. After writing, programming and listening to continuous broadcasts of The Sean Show, now presented in stereo on radio station KRAZY, all day long my brain needs to hear other stuff. After a particularly long stint listening to my own garbage, I found myself incredibly grumpy and mercifully on my way to a meeting on Friday afternoon. While there, people were discussing meditation. As they talked about the power of the tool and how it can transform their days, it dawned on me that my spiritual life had really taken a crap over the last few days. I got busy. I was stressed. I haven’t felt well. And blah, blah, blah. The meeting continued as I was instantly awakened to the fact that maybe things seem stressful and maybe I feel terrible in part because I’m not meditating. Major lightbulb! One I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t listening.

Some people describe prayer as talking to God and meditation as listening to God so it isn’t a surprise that this topic came up and resonated deeply with me. Later that day, I had a chance to actually listen to a friend whose life has been incredibly difficult. No one-liners. No advice. Just listening. Again, its powerful stuff to practice for the kid who was labeled “Talks to Much In Class” at an early age. It certainly goes against my nature as a loudmouth, joke telling smartass. But listening is something I need to do more of.

So in the spirit of that, I’ll be doing 30 Days of meditation when this 30 days of blogging ends. I have a practice but like my personal writing its spotty. This 30 Day Blog experiment has been a blast and now I can’t wait to implement in meditation. Who’s with me?