Tag Archives: Al-Anon

Look At Me

Hanging out with a three-year-old the other day, I was reading a magazine while he attended his own mysterious business. Suddenly, he clambered up beside me and, clasping my face between small, absurdly warm, moist palms, turned my gaze full upon his own.

I started praying the St. Francis Prayer about nine months ago, using a great meditation tape by a man named Andrew Harvey. Taking each line of the prayer and meditating deeply on each word, then applying each line to my particular situation or frame of mind at that moment, provides me with a tether of sorts. The familiar words weave a connection to my Higher Power and a link to my beloved human family too. I can call on those words anytime; in fact, they are beginning to develop the power to rise up within me unbidden, yeast for a potent salve. Harvey says praying it regularly installs it like an operating system, and that’s what I need to be running on my hard drive.

“The innermost — what is it?
if not the intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.”

–R.M. Rilke

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” Most days, my attention is like an overstretched rubber band, snapping off wildly in every direction. Even after a quarter-century of regular meditative practice, I find myself with a toothbrush in hand when I mean to be sitting still with my eyes closed, or, worse, slipping from meditation into those endless loops of imagined conversations justifying myself to my brothers and sisters. Right in the thick of doing that, I picture myself, awkwardly and with great effort, climbing up into an oversized lap.

Lord.” Tugging. Small, inconsequential. Oozing with need, sticky hands. Desperate courage welling up, I struggle through the fear to clasp the Beloved’s face in my hands. Hot, importuning. “Lord, make me…” Make me pay attention to you. Shape me, turn me, make me gaze deeper within.

A miracle: the Beloved turns to me, locks eyes with me. I am sinking into an infinite gaze, until nothing else is, only deep cobalt sky and stars. Rilke wrote “The innermost – what is it? if not the intensified sky, hurled through with birds and deep with the winds of homecoming.” 

Yes, that, for an eternity that snaps into an instant and suddenly I cannot bear to sit another moment and jump up to take a pill, make a phone call, a cup of coffee.

The shape of my life frequently feels unbearable since my cancer diagnosis. Besides the physical pain, setting aside even the emotional pain, there is my cursed imagination. The turmoil in my bowels often bears a distressing resemblance to the shifting, turning, inside-out sensation of a near-term baby in the belly. Early in my diagnosis and even now if I work to attain it, I can revel in super-saturated sensations of taste, color, smells, just like I did in pregnancy. There is a waiting, an expectancy. My body is changing shape; the surgical hernia surges out from under my ribs, now larger than my breast. I wear a pregnancy belt to contain it. But what rough beast is slouching to be born?

Lord, make me pay attention to you. Take my thoughts and fears and yes, my imagination. Use me, play me, shape me, melt me down and cast me, into an instrument pouring out endless songs, an implement of peace that is itself intrinsically at peace. I clamor for that, I cast about and thrash wildly in demand of that, I wear myself out with these childish tantrums. But even that, even those struggles which appear pointless, damaging, serve a purpose: they force stillness on me, and eventually, with smeary eyes and snotty fingers, I can reach out again. Beloved. Turn your gaze to me.





Good Book Upstairs, Big Book Downstairs

The tension between writing what interests me and writing what makes money has been a constant in my career. I’m delighted to report that my decision to write about recovery has resulted in my first publication in a national, glossy print magazine. Thanks be to God!

I picked out the photos, too. (Boasting now)

Take a look, I’m proud of it:

upstairs-downtstairs

God’s Grace In Neon Letters

Clear Creek in God's Back Yard
Clear Creek in God’s Back Yard

by Anonymous

with Karyn Zweifel

From Recovery Campus Magazine, Summer, 2015

I am no stranger to the disease of alcoholism. I have two aunts with many years in recovery and a brother still struggling. So when my husband and I visited our oldest son, Andrew, during his first semester of college out of state, I was very concerned about his behavior.

“…now I understand how the stigma of addiction and mental illness causes so much pain. Parents need to be more open, be willing to say ‘I’m really struggling,’ and get help for themselves and their children.”

He’d joined a fraternity, and during our visit, my mother’s intuition kicked in. I could tell it wasn’t just the normal college drinking experience. Andrew was secretive, and what we saw at the fraternity house was alarming. Andrew did not do well academically that first semester but convinced his dad to give him a second chance.

Continue reading God’s Grace In Neon Letters