Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seasons of the Ranch

Well, technically, fall doesn’t begin for another month, but mornings here on the ranch are met with the steamy breath of cattle as they chill in the morning air, and sweaters, fleece vests, and cargo shorts! Colorado is unique in being one of the few places where a sweater and pair of shorts is considered acceptable ensemble – even in a business meeting.

The ranch hosts a Fall Festival which begins in about a week. All over the farm portion of the ranch, bright orange fencing is being put up to direct motorists as to where to park. Its kind of strange living on a property where 25% of the year we are preparing for a festival, 25% of the year we are hosting a festival. I feel somewhat like a carnie. Very little of this year is typical, however, so this comes as no big surprise – but the point is, its almost fall.

In my life some of the most interesting developments happen in the fall. I used to hang around with some people right after high school, we called ourselves, ‘The Deadbeat Club,’ and it was so memorable. I LOVED that part of my life. Fall always signified the beginning of school, it was usually when I would find a new job, and all of my longest relationships either began or ended in the fall – sometimes both. I nearly died in the fall or became very ill; more than once in my life in the fall. If I am looking for a job, it usually comes around in the fall. I am not sure if it’s a result of the momentum of the summer, or the urgency to make things happen as I face the desolation and loneliness and stagnation of the winter but for whatever reason, this cycle is the part of the year that kind of sets the tone for how I remember the year. And, so I am excited about what will happen this fall.

I came to the ranch in the spring, the snow hadn’t even melted in parts of the campground. On a farm, spring time is obviously a time of planting, planning, it is a time to reawaken the land and rework the soil. It’s a time when animals give birth to new animals. Its iconic that I came in the spring – having survived a desolate winter, that I would come here in the spring – ready to plant new ideas and behaviors and do some work.

Over the summer, I worked, and I learned and I began to blossom- again, on the farm, summertime is awesome. In June, for the picnic, the corn fields hadn’t even been planted and now the corn is almost 9 feet tall. Quick! I also began my addictions classes, I started therapy, I started education, I began to advance through the program, it was great getting to know myself again – it was great to feel the glow, the joy, the LIGHT that I was feeling.

And now in the fall, harvest time on a farm, I am beginning to see the fruits of my labor start to come about. Some of the things I have been cultivating all summer are now being used in a practical sense and are actually working. And this is the cool part.

I saw my family this past weekend and I noticed that my ability to internally adapt to them was greatly improved. The normal family bickering, or off the cuff comments that may have stung before were shrugged off, and I was able to see my family’s motivations much more clearly through a new fresh perspective.

Its strange because old resentments, hurts or wounds did not re-open. It was weird because my new attitude about life in general, and about my priorities and about my goals helped me to see my family in a much more comfortable way. I certainly don’t think now, nor have I ever thought that my family intentionally ever tries to hurt each other, but, as in any family, hurt feelings often happen.

But in changing my belief window and reexamining my principles, I began to see old things in new ways. I am telling you, the exercises I have been telling you about really become instinctual once you map them out on paper. Here’s an exercise. Make a mental note for just one day on all the limiting things you say through the day – a limiting statement is one with a quantifier because when you quantify something, you limit it - Things like, “I always think….”, “You always say…..”, “ If only I could…” “Sometimes you make me so….,” etc. Or its conditional, “If only I could do meet the right person…” “I wish….,”

Make a mental note of which quantifier or conditioners you use most, this statement becomes your limiting statement. These statements are reactive, not proactive. They are in response to things you are not active about. I caught myself using one of these limiting statements on Sunday when my dad and I were discussing some mundane conversation about air conditioning vs gas mileage and I said, ‘You immediately say I am wrong, and you never listen,” – and that was a very limiting statement. I boxed him in the conversation and that set the framework for the discussion – it could have gone down an old path with old scripts.

But this kind of limiting statement is the kind that springboards into a reactive role for the two of us. Reactions are based on instincts, impulse, and old scripts. PROACTIVE thinking required that I change that way to address his disagreement based on my values, my beliefs and my principles. In other words, my principle or my goal wasn’t to be right, to prove I was right, or to prove that he was wrong. My ultimate goal was to convince my sister that she could afford to use her air conditioning regardless of the cost because it was nominal. And that changed the dynamic of the conversation. Where once I would have brewed on it because he ‘always’ thinks I am wrong, this time, I shrugged it off. My belief window had changed. And while this is hardly the only new skill I employed over the weekend, its certainly one of the many I have been harvesting.

But if you apply that skill to addiction, then you begin to see that changing beliefs and principles, that remembering your priorities, you ultimately change your results. And so when you want to drink or smoke or eat or gamble or do whatever you do that you won’t stop - think for a minute about what you’re really trying to accomplish. Is your motivation to have fun? To feel less bored? To get rid of stress? Because if those things are your true motivations then, then you need to change your beliefs on how to accomplish these things – beliefs that do not include getting drunk or high, and suddenly the possibilities of how to avoid these feelings or get these feelings becomes a long list of ‘to do’s’.

I also noticed that the behaviors of my family changed; towards me and towards each other. Now, in reality, its entirely possible that the behaviors haven’t changed at all and that I am noticing things through a new reality model, but I see my family differently. I notice a lot less motivation based on personal agendas and lifetime suspicions. I noticed more of a precarious connection and realized there are no negative motives and the often clumsy exchanges we have (that every family has, yes even yours), are have no mal-intent, the comments are not meant to be malicious, and frankly, I noticed that we are mostly just a group of people that really want to be together and even though its sometimes awkward and tough, we’d have it no other way.
And on Sunday, we all got together and met for breakfast. Just us (minus one), and I remember looking around and seeing everyone – we spoke with a comfort and interest that you can only get when you love someone or feel loved by someone. I felt relaxed and I got the sense that, I really do like these people; they were all relaxed too. And this was evidence of the fulfillment of a promise that was made to me.

And I’ll tell you what struck me is the fact that a LOT of promises were made to me when I entered rehab. I was promised that if I could deal with drinking too much that life would get better. I was promised that if I took time to examine myself through a very honest microscope that I would find that I am not a bad person and I do not have a lot of bad things in my life and that I am fixable. I was promised that if I could see the same situations through a series of different lenses then I could manage my life without the assistance of a bottle of booze. I was promised that the things I was put here on this earth to do could be done if I wasn’t detoured and got back on course – not only professionally, but also spiritually and in my contact with the rest of the planet.

And I have to be honest here, I didn’t buy any of this. I didn’t think these promises were possible. I thought that MY way was better. I believed that only I could provide my life’s successes. But somewhere I started submitting to the harmony of my purpose (whether to pull weeds or something deeper) for every minute of my day, the clarity of the spectrum of possibilities began to stretch well past ultra violet and infrared. I mean, these were big promises I was being told – by many sources, but it was the universe, maybe God, maybe just the karmic vibration that guides mankind – call it what you will, but I was promised things that I seriously doubted. But, the promises are being fulfilled and it feels so good to know its happening to me.

And so the more I resisted getting this kind of help, more was taken. Until I had no place to hide, no where to go. Something came after me and grabbed me and put me here at this point in my life. In that weed garden, in this rehab, at that breakfast table, on this computer. And I think that it works like that. I think that’s how God works, I think He gives you a while to try it YOUR way, and eventually he says, “Here’s an idea, how about you try it MY way,” and by doing so, by submitting to what you are intended to do, joy just kind of finds you (notice, I said ‘joy’ and not ‘happiness’). I think we create happiness, I think we discover joy. And things you create can be destroyed, things that are discovered are known forever.

Or you can fight it and fight it and go through the same cycles again and again until you learn your lesson and move on or you die. I’ve grown and harvested a LOT this year. Two months ago I was mortified by the idea that a former co worker saw me on the ranch, but this past weekend, I joked with my cousin Marnie about the blog and the dream I had that she had no hands, I discussed some of the details of the program with an aunt of mine, a friend of a friend who recently started reading the blog told me that he loved what I wrote about addiction. None of these things bothered me. I am not ashamed I am doing this. This is hard to do, and although I make it sound like a real picnic, its not. Its painful to look at who you are, to really see the bad and its hard to be away from people and to leave my life behind. Its really hard to do a rehab – It took my mom only nine months to create me, its taking me thirteen months!

But good things take time. Plants, trees, painting a work of art, your education, raising kids, learning to play the guitar – if its good, it takes time. I think its so you can really make sure you want it.

So, this is my fall. And winter you ask? Well, as winter advances it may appear that what we plant dies. Remember I described winter as lonely and desolate and stagnant at the top of this blog? This would lead you to believe that all this wonderful growth has an expiration date.

But, you see, my new reality model encompasses so many things. Even this. In the winter resources return in the form of snow. Old plants die because they have served their purpose and to make room for new plants. A rose will only grow if its had time to sleep off all the hard work of blooming for the summer. And winter is a time when people have to work together to survive and more important, it’s the time of Holidays, time to spend WITH family, nice sweaters, hot soup, and feeling ‘cozy’. Who the hell feels ‘cozy’ in the middle of July? You see, all if this is a result in a change in beliefs. You can see the same things in a different way and I think this will be one of the hardest winters I’ve spent in a while, but it will also bring the best bounty, the greatest rewards, and I am gonna really enjoy it. Its one I will remember for my whole life, I can almost guarantee that much.

If you think of winter as dark, dead, and ugly, you’ve forgotten the blinding light of the midday sun reflecting off fresh snow; you’ve forgotten that winter is marked by evergreen trees, holly, and other hearty plants and animals that continue to live; you have forgotten the beauty of a snowflake or the icicles on a tree – and you’re probably forgotten the Eddie Bauer winter collection! BEAUTIFUL!

And so this blog isn’t much more than a reminder to myself that change isn’t scary and a change in perspective is absolutely awesome. It’s a reminder that everything in life has a season, and ultimately, its all about growth. It’s a reminder that when the universe promises you something, you are wise to listen because it delivers. And its better than you can imagine.

And the reward for all this could be a simple magnificent moment like spending a Sunday morning breakfast with people you know that you really do like to be with, and embracing the relaxed feeling of just being together.

Oh yea, and this season, I feel good that I am me.

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