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Composers, Comparisons and a Light bulb

Photo by elkojote

Photo by elkojote

One of my favorite movies of all time is Amadeus. In my essay, “Music and Beer, (p. 60)” I talk at length about being taken to see that movie by my music teacher when I was a young child, and how the movie began my love affair with classical music and my adoration of the brilliant composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. To this day, I feel love anytime I hear any of Mozart’s music or play one of his pieces on my flute. I have told family members that I want Mozart’s Requiem in D minor (the “unfinished” death mass featured at the end of the movie) played at my memorial service after I die. Yes, my love of the man, his music, and the movie Amadeus is intense.

As a child, seeing that movie, I could only process the music, the wild interpretations of the man, Mozart, his flamboyance, arrogance, brilliance, and genius. But there was a bigger picture to this movie that I did not discover until I became an adult.

Although certified as one of my favorite movies of all time, it had been awhile since I really sat down and watched Amadeus all the way through. I recently decided to revisit this movie, popping in the DVD with popcorn and peach pop; a southside Chicago girl’s only way to visit the streets of Vienna–city of musicians. Once again, I became obsessed. But surprisingly enough, not with the man, Mozart, or the music, but with the underlying emotional and psychological themes that I was unable to extract from the movie as a child.

With all of its historical accuracy, the movie, Amadeus is largely a work of fiction. Based on the play by Peter Shaffer, the movie bears the name “Amadeus,” but Mozart is not necessarily the main character. It is Antonio Salieri; a part fictional, part nonfictional representation of Vienna’s court composer and Mozart’s “nemesis,” who is at the forefront of the movie (and the play–I recently saw the play as well, and it was a wondrous event). Salieri despises Mozart for his brilliance, genius, and his ability to compose the most “miraculous” of musical works with what seems like little effort. This composer-envy (albeit one-sided) builds throughout the movie and ultimately turns into complete hatred toward Mozart on the part of Salieri; for Salieri believes that Mozart is “God’s muse” and that his music is the very “voice of God.” Salieri only just wants to be a great composer, praying to God to “enter him” to create one piece of true music.

It was a battle between “mediocrity” and excellence.

But here’s the truth. Salieri was a good composer. He was just unable to recognize his own worth and his own beauty as a composer, because he was wrapped up in his comparison with Mozart.

Comparison. Thief of joy. (paraphrased quote by Theodore Roosevelt)

This is something that we are all guilty of doing.

The character of Salieri felt that there was this intense competition with Mozart and constantly compared himself…and this whole competition and comparison took place in Salieri’s head. It ultimately crippled and consumed him, and led him to the point of emotional destruction.


I started to reflect. How many times have I been so wrapped up in what others are doing; what they look like; what their accomplishments are; what their lives look like; how their lives are progressing?

This analysis of this movie is not new. But revisiting this movie as an adult put my own personal struggle with comparison into perspective. As mentioned before, the character of Salieri was a fine composer in his own way; he had his own unique style, and for goodness sake he was blessed by God to know music! How many people do not even know how to write one note? As I was watching his destruction unfold, I thought,

What a pity. If Salieri could have just focused on his own authenticity, instead of his own perceived inadequacy, he could have been great.

Damn. Sometimes it takes awhile for the light bulb to come on, and sometimes it comes on like a flash. I said to myself,

Michele, if you could just focus on your own authenticity, instead of your own perceived inadequacy, then you can be great.

And there it is.

What’s funny is at that at the top of my goal list of things to let go of for 2014 is comparison. Be careful what you wish for. You never know what route your Higher Power may take to get you to where you need to go.

Jesus Loves Me…Oh Yes He Does


“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

This is Holy Week. For many Christians, it is a time of reflection and solemness about the amazing sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins. I will make it personal, since I know all of my readers are not Christian…I am reflective this week about the amazing sacrifice that Jesus paid for my sins. I respect other religions, but I know in my own life, that because I am not perfect, filled with shame and guilt about so many things, I just need a Savior. That’s just me. I didn’t know that I could have a real relationship with Jesus, or that He even wanted to have a real relationship with me until about two years ago. I didn’t even know what that meant, and it’s still very hard to explain. But the more I get to know who Jesus was, specifically through His word (The Bible), the more I love Him…and I not only Love Him, I just simply like the guy. I really wish more people knew the real person of Jesus…or at least would be willing to try.

I spend a lot of time with many people in 12 step groups who have been religiously abused, confused about their Higher Power, or have been let down by Christianity and religion for one reason or another. It saddens me because many of these people may never open their hearts to Jesus. Many people have this judgmental, overbearing view of God and they want to be free of that. Any mention of Jesus or God is a joke for them. They want to know where in the world was this Jesus when they were going through their challenges? This is understandable. The God they know demands perfection and imposes severe punishment for being bad. But the Truth is that the heart of Jesus is compassionate, loving and pure. Sure, we all strive to do the best that we can, and make good decisions, but we all miss the mark. There are consequences for our actions, but not necessarily punishments. I have learned that God loves me no matter who I am or what I was, or who I will become. Perhaps it’s explained better by Henry Halley:

“Walking with God does not mean that we are without sin. We have sinned in the past, and we still have sin in our nature. It is not by virtue of our sinlessness that we have fellowship, a relationship, with God, but because of Christ’s death for our sin.”

I had this discussion with some fellow 12 steppers last summer at a 12 step conference I attended. Many of my fellow travelers believe in a Higher Power, but confessed their disgust with religion…specifically Christianity. Their personal journeys have put them in contact with Christians that have judged them and condemned them without mercy. I literally “laughed out loud” when one of my fellow travelers told me,

This one Christian was coming down on me so hard for some stuff I did that I finally told the person, “Look, don’t you know that Jesus hung out with hookers??!!”

Of course this person was referring to Jesus’ friendship with Mary Magdalene. Perhaps I wouldn’t have used that choice of words, but I could totally understand what my fellow traveler was saying. The real person of Jesus was compassionate and loving to those who society did not deem worthy of compassion and love.

And that’s just the kind of Christian I want to be.


Halley, Henry H. (2008-09-09). Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version (Kindle Locations 13839-13840). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

By the way, I almost titled this post, “Jesus Hung Out With Hookers,” but I’m too much of a wimp! <3

I Have Been Sick…and That Sucks

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. -Miguel Angel Ruiz

I am just recovering from a bad cold and sinus infection. There were lots of things on my mind to write, but I couldn’t manage to make it to the computer to type it up. I really hate being 672786_tissue_boxsick. I know, I know, who likes being sick? But for a person that is already super hard on herself and extremely judgmental, when I’m sick, I’m even more hard on myself and judgmental. Lots of negative self-talk going on last week. Lots of emotional inebriation. However, I am grateful that however bad I thought things were last week, they were not as bad as they have been in the past.

I’m celebrating two years in emotional 12-step recovery this month, and its probably fitting that I had this experience of sickness and then reflection about my emotional and spiritual journey. It’s no secret as to the 12 step fellowships that I belong, Codependents Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics. I have no shame about this. These programs have changed my life in so many ways. They have opened my heart up to receive so much love and healing. They have given me so much better perspective for my past and hope for my future. Working these programs has been tricky though. When you are recovering from a substance, you stay away from that substance. But how in the world do you measure emotional recovery? I’m not saying one is easier than the other, but I think that in both cases, you just have to keep showing up…or in recovery language: keep coming back.

There is still so much I don’t understand about my life, but the great thing about being in 12 step recovery is that I know I have a life. That I’m not just some feather floating in the wind. That I belong here and have a purpose here. Whatever that purpose may be.


I may never understand everything fully. But I know there is a Higher Power who Loves me and understands it all.

12 Step recovery has also taught me that it’s okay to have days when you’re sick and can’t do everything. It’s okay to take care of myself. I still need practice on not judging myself and being hard on myself, but 12 step has also taught me “progress not perfection.”

Nothing is perfect, not even recovery. There are lots of rules and guidelines; however, how we heal is ultimately up to us. There are people and trusted counselors and friends that can give us advice along the way, but our emotional recovery is all about us and what we feel is right. We must trust ourselves in this process.

Self Compassion Gets the TKO – Revisiting Gazoo

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“Where is that written contract you signed before birth promising that you’d be perfect, that you’d never fail, and that your life would go absolutely the way you want it to?” -Kristin Neff

Some people call it the devil, negativity, a Gremlin, or the little guy with the pitchfork. I’ve even heard someone refer to it as Norman, Gollum, or the negative committee that meets in your head. I’ve referred to it as Gazoo in my essay The Shrink Who Killed Gazoo. What am I talking about? It’s that part of ourselves that we all have (if you say you don’t have it, I’m sorry, you’re lying) that blocks our self compassion. It’s that part of ourselves that knows every bad thing we’ve ever done; knows every place where we have fallen short, knows every imperfection, and doesn’t hesitate to bring those things to our attention…usually at the most inopportune times. It’s that part of ourselves that tells us we can’t when we try to believe that we can. It’s that part of ourselves that tells us told you so when we fall or fail. And it’s that part of ourselves that tells us that we are not deserving of compassion…and especially not self compassion, when we are at our worst and especially when we are the only ones to blame for our situation.

It’s sneaky too. It knows how and when to attack us and the points of attack as well. Sometimes it uses others to do its dirty work. But most of the time, it’s an inner critical voice that we’ve probably had with us since we were little. It’s not going anywhere. It’s not leaving us without a fight. It has been around too long. And even when we think it’s gone, it resurrects itself, creeps back up and devises a new strategy of attack.

Some people can ignore it. Some people speak positive words to crumble it. But I think mine is so sneaky and manipulative, the only thing I can do is pay attention, listen, acknowledge, and then tell it to its face that its a liar.

I know the truth.

Do you ever get an uneasy feeling in your spirit? As if you are not in line with the Universe…not in balance? I’ve come to realize that it is usually during these times when I need to step up the self compassion. This is because the imbalance is caused by the judgmental, shameful, guilt-filled messages that Gazoo (or whatever you want to call it) is giving me. It is important to recognize what is going on within your mind, body, and spirit during these times. In my experience, this is the only way to stop the negativity in its tracks and knock it out with compassion.

The great thing about self-compassion is that we don’t have to wait for anyone or anything external to give it to us. Besides, sometimes Gazoo acts so quickly, I don’t have time to call anyone for help!

If I am able to recognize when Gazoo is rearing his silly little head, then I can quickly (sometimes quickly) battle it out. The interesting thing is that in the past that negativity, Gazoo, or whatever you want to call it would always win out because there was nothing within me to counter it. Now, there is beauty, love, understanding, friendship, truth, and self compassion.

Gazoo doesn’t stand a chance against the depth of compassion I have for myself.

Can You Suffer With Me?

“Compassion literally means ‘to suffer with,’ which implies a basic 876467_tunnelmutuality in the experience of suffering. The emotion of compassion springs from the recognition that the human experience is imperfect.” -Kristin Neff

I don’t know anyone who wants to suffer. But the plain truth is that suffering is an element of every person’s life. I don’t know anyone who is immune to some kind of suffering, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual and everything in between. For some reason though I think that many of us get caught up in this idea that we are not the “ones” who are suffering. That we have it all together. That we are better than or more perfect than others who just happen to be suffering.

That’s crap. The beauty of the above statement from Kristin Neff’s book, Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind is that those of us who are compassionate people are aware that this life isn’t perfect on any level. We are conscious of the fact that all of humanity is fallible in many ways, no matter how smart we may think we are.

I think most people get this. But at the same time, we are out to prove that we make the smart choices and that we always do the right things. For example, I have recently confessed several mistakes to my mom, for which she looks at me with this puzzled, disappointed look, shakes her head and says,

I thought you would have known better. I thought you were smarter than that. I had no idea you were so confused.

Thanks mom.

These days I’m usually able to let comments like these go fairly quickly. But they still hurt. They remind me of my imperfection, and that people “like me” aren’t allowed to make mistakes…specifically “stupid mistakes.”

But what does compassion look like in these instances??

Having compassion means that we share on every level of our suffering…or if you don’t like the word “suffering,” it means that we share and connect on every level of our imperfection. It’s not feeling sorry for another person or saying, oh I would have never made that choice; and it sure as hell isn’t telling someone that they had no idea how confused you were. It’s spending time with someone in their pain, long enough and deep enough for it to touch something within you. It’s about meeting vulnerability with more vulnerability. It’s about showing your heart, not your intellect to another person who is hurting.

With compassion, we have to let go of our egos and let go of everything that we think we should be…and just be.

It Was a Healing, Imperfect, and Surrendering Year


Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I look forward to the new year, I am usually reflective on a theme for the year. For the year 2011, my theme was courage.  I took many brave chances in that year including writing several essays and submitting them for publication; playing my flute alongside many professionals in a symphony; and facing many of my emotional demons. That year, I even took a chance on falling in love.

As I reflect on 2012, I couldn’t come up with just one theme. And I guess the fact that I couldn’t come up with one theme, is kind of a theme in itself. I bet you are pretty confused right now, so I will just get to the point. :) Although I believe that I was very courageous this year as well, I didn’t see that as an overarching theme. This year I believe there were 3 themes that were prevalent in my journey: healing, imperfection, and surrender.

Healing. The recovery of my emotional self, my inner child, and my outer adult continued, but I stepped it up in a more intimate way. After taking the chance on love and it not working out toward the end of 2011, I was deeply hurt and filled with feelings of inadequacy. But I did something a little different. I reached out to people and was vulnerable with those I could trust. I allowed myself to receive love, albeit not the romantic kind, but I realized that love is just love, and I let it heal my heart. I was truthful about many things that I went through this year, some things were shared on my blog, some were shared with my best friend, recovery friends, and other friends, some with my therapist, but many things were shared in my quiet time with God. The point is that my own healing involved me being truthful about many painful things and feeling feelings that I did not want to feel. This is still a struggle, but I have made a lot of progress, and this has been an essential part of my emotional healing this year.

Imperfection. Simply put, I realized that other people that act like they have it all together…really do not. This year, I became consciously aware of when I’m comparing myself to others and how and when I beat myself up for not being “perfect.” This awareness has led me to utilize practical strategies to reframe my reactions to imperfection.

Surrender. I’ve been learning the difference between surrender and giving up. I have had a lot of crappy things happen this year, and have wanted to check out. That’s giving up. But what I’ve noticed is that when the crappy things happen and I surrender to the experience, I’m less tempted to check out on life. This has not been easy, but I’m learning. Now, I’m not talking about sitting around and affirming positivity in all crappy situations. That doesn’t always work for me. Surrendering to the experience means surrendering to the frustration, discouragement, hurt and pain that sometimes results from our experiences. What I’m talking about is actively praying to my Higher Power about whatever I am going through and finding some comfort in my relationship with that Spiritual Source. It’s about reflecting on what God is trying to teach me in the moment. It’s about understanding how much clarity I have now compared to 5 years ago and being grateful for how far I have come. It’s about truly finding out who I AM and loving all of it.

It’s about saying to myself, I am wonderful, beautiful, and loved, and actually being able to believe the words.

So that’s it. My 3 themes for 2012. I hope my reflections will inspire you to reflect on your own themes. I know I am so tempted to reflect on what went wrong this year, and that’s okay, but it’s not fair to only reflect on the challenges without the victories.

It will be interesting to see how many themes I come up with at the end of 2013! But for now, I will continue to try and take each day, one at a time as this spiritual journey called life continues.

Sort of a Book Review/More Personal Experience: Perfect Daughters

I came across this book called, Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics about a year and a half ago…towards the beginning of my recovery. It’s a book that has been around for awhile and is written by Dr. Robert J. Ackerman. I thought the subject as well as the title was fascinating. The author explores the Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA) phenomenon from the female perspective…or the perspective of being an adult daughter. In my own experience, one of the aspects of being an “adult daughter” is this need to be perfect while simultaneously feeling inadequate. So the book’s title and subject matter was very appropriate for me in my life.

Although the book was obviously appropriate for my journey, I chose to purchase it and bury it deep down on my Kindle reading list. I wasn’t ready for it in the beginning of my 12 step recovery. I had a feeling that the level of connection that I would feel with the author’s research and conclusions would be too much for me to handle in the beginning of my recovery.

I would later find out that I was right…

I recently dusted off the electronic spider webs on the book, thinking that I was much stronger in my own emotional healing and recovery, and thinking that I could handle the book now. I figured I could handle the possible emotional unraveling from the possible spiritual breakthroughs I would have while reading this book now. So I began reading the book a couple of months ago.

It turns out that I could handle it, I just wasn’t expecting the level of emotional baggage I still had to work through. Some parts of this book had me in tears. Other parts brought up deeper discussions in my therapist’s office.

I wasn’t prepared for anything new. I mean, I know that I am an adult daughter. There are certain character traits that I have because of that experience. I mean, an adult child is an adult child. How different could the experience be from the perspective of being an adult daughter? I have exhausted all of the perspectives of that experience…right?


“No experience is ever finished or exhausted. New and fresh meanings are forever in the world and in us.” -Clark Moustakas (1995)

The book, Perfect Daughters is more than an “understanding of the reasons why I am the way I am” kind of book. This book goes beyond that in explaining the reasons why, showing us (adult daughters) the positive sides of our adult daughter characteristics, and giving us hope for the integration of those traits in recovery.

With that being said, there are several “gems” that I found in this book (from my own perspective):

  • The fact that this book is written by a male author. For me, the fact that my father was the alcoholic and I received most of the affection growing up from my mom, knowing that many of the loving and affectionate messages in this book were written by a man was very soothing and healing for me. For example, in the chapter on relationships, Ackerman writes, “Your quest for a healthy relationship and being in a positive relationship must always come in addition to your health and not be a substitute for it…Take care of yourself and have a positive relationship with yourself. You deserve it.” ‘You deserve it.’ There is something emotionally healing for me in knowing this statement…saying that I am deserving…was written by a man.
  • The concept of Longing. Ackerman opened up my eyes to this concept of “Longing” from the adult daughter-alcoholic father perspective. He writes, “…alcoholic fathers usually created ‘longing’ in their daughters. Longing is a plea to be accepted and loved. Longing is a hunger, an emotional need that is not met. Above all though, longing is not love.” This concept resonated with me so profoundly. For me, “longing” is a familiar feeling. Until I read this, I’m not sure if I realized there was any other way…especially in relationships. I think I equated the longing with love, all the while thinking that the “longing” was really all there is.

Other positives of this book are:

  • The chapter on relationships.
  • The separation of the adult daughter phenomenon between adult daughters-alcoholic fathers and adult daughters-alcoholic mothers.
  • The integration of the seemingly negative traits (or weaknesses) of being an adult child into strengths or positive traits.
  • Ackerman’s use of the “mixed methods” approach to research gives a more holistic view of the phenomenon.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you are a woman and identify with the adult child experience. You can find this book on

Ackerman also wrote a book called Silent Sons: A Book for and about Men that tackles similar subject matters from a male perspective.

Normal, Unique, & Crazy

Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent. -Sigmund Freud

If you want to know a way to make me really upset, simply respond to any challenge or problem that I’m having with one of these phrases (or something like it):

But everybody has that problem.


We all have that issue.


Everyone thinks that way.

Although this response usually comes from well-meaning friends and family, it triggers something within me. What I realized is that it triggers a “normalcy” wound. I will explain more about my “normalcy wound” in a bit.

When I first started my recovery from codependency and my recovery from being an adult child of an alcoholic, I read a book called The Complete ACOA Sourcebook: Adult Children of Alcoholics At Home, At Work, and In Love by Janet Woititz. The book is a research-based compilation of literature about the ACA phenomenon, and literally talks about the “source” of dysfunction for children of alcoholics and applies the understanding of that dysfunction to our adult lives today. For me, reading this book gave me a sense of “normalcy,” in understanding the possible foundation for the way I am today, instead of just labeling myself as “crazy.” As a result of her research, Dr. Woititz describes several characteristics of adult children of alcoholics that are most likely “carryovers” from childhood. The first characteristic struck me like a bolt of lightening:

“Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is.”

Growing up, I had no idea of what “normal” was. And to some point, I struggle with knowing what it is now. This is why responding to me in a way that “normalizes” my challenge or issue means nothing to me. It triggers my “normalcy wound.” In some cases, it feels a bit dismissive and minimizes my pain.

Of course, for the most part, the intentions of people that respond to me this way are not hurtful. They are just trying to make me feel better in my pain. The assumption is that if you know you are not alone in your pain, things will be better. Or if you know that someone else has it worse than you, then you won’t feel so bad. And knowing this should make me feel better, right? But the truth is that I have compassion and empathy for other people’s pain, and for other people’s stories, but in the end, being aware of another person’s pain, does nothing to soothe my own pain. My pain is still there. And until I deal with it, it will be there.

But on some level, I may need this type of “trigger” in order to deal with what is going on in my mind and to feel my feelings about normalcy. But what exactly are those feelings?

I believe that we are all unique and all have “unique” paths on this earth. We are all special. If we are breathing, I believe that is proof of our Higher Power’s Love for us and that we have a purpose here. I didn’t always believe that. There have been times in my life where I thought I was an accident. The problem with the word “unique,” is that it can also have a negative connotation. It can mean separate, peculiar, different…alone. This negative connotation of the word unique is how I felt growing up because of the dysfunction that was going on in my home.

Go ahead and say it…But every home has some dysfunction.

Yes, conceptually, now I know this. But emotionally, I had no clue.

I met very few people who were open about the dysfunction in their own homes, so I assumed that the only one who had these issues was me. Magical thinking. As a child, how else was I supposed to make sense of the world I lived in? So I dissociated into a fantasy world using television, soap operas, and other things to define what “normal” was.

I know, I know, you wanna say it…but most children do this. 

However, I would like to think that at some point, “most” children let this go. This understanding of “normal” stuck with me, probably until I entered recovery.

So this month, I decided I will explore the topic of “normalcy” or being “normal.” Dr. Woititz says that the adult child of an alcoholic must come to terms with the fact that,

“Normal is a myth, like Santa Claus and The Brady Bunch.”

I want to feel “unique” in a good way, without minimizing my own “unique” experience. Normal…not normal. How exactly do I get there??

**Don’t forget to follow Words of CCK on Facebook! I will see you there!

Let’s Take a Fun Inventory! It’s Good Practice

“Practice having fun until fun becomes fun.” – Melody Beattie

For some reason, I had been struggling with what to write on the topic of fun. Perhaps it’s because I often struggle with letting go and having fun in my own life. So this post will be as much for me as it will be for those who read it. For awhile, I couldn’t figure out what angle to take with the “fun” topic. That is until my Higher Power led me to the Melody Beattie affirmation above:

Practice having fun until it becomes fun.

I realize that having fun (just like with joy and happiness) means different things to different people. Our interests differ as much as our personalities differ. What’s “fun” to me may seem strange to you. But the important thing is that we identify our interests and hobbies and that we define what fun means to us. Once we identify “our fun,” it is then important to put it into practice.

In 12 step recovery, the 4th step tells us to “make a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves.” In summary, it is a written exercise that tells the story of our lives based upon the challenge we face.  I think that for those of us that are “fun challenged,” this may be a good idea to put into practice specifically for the topic of fun. Let’s all take a “fun inventory.” It may be helpful to write down the things you enjoy doing, things you have enjoyed in the past, things you feel shame about having fun doing, and things you want to do for fun in the future. Once you complete your fun inventory, don’t be afraid to share it with others.

I think doing something like this and sharing it with others will accomplish two things. First, it lets people know more about your interests. And second, if a person knows your interests, this may uncover a connection and encourage another to take part in your fun as well.

I have slowly been transitioning into sharing the things that I find fun with others. In my early adult life, I spent much of my time doing “fun things” alone because I thought (or assumed) the fun things I liked were bizarre and weird to others.  Specifically others in my peer and cultural group.

But of course we all know what happens when we assume.

Last year around this time, I wanted to go see the Disney Nature movie, African Cats. I had saw its predecessor, Oceans in the theater by myself. I took a chance and asked a friend of mine if she wanted to come with me and bring along her two kids. She said yes. We had a lovely time.

I’m a fan of all kinds of music. I specifically love rock, and am a fan of several rock bands. A few years ago, there was one of my favorite rock groups coming into town. I figured no one would want to go with me. A black girl going to a rock concert? I took a chance and asked a friend of mine to go (she is also black). She said yes. Ever since then, we try and go to at least one rock concert a year. And we never coward down even though we’re normally the only “brown people” in the crowd.

I happened to see that the musical Cats was coming to Chicago last month. I had always wanted to see it. I know that you have to be a special kind of person to sit through a musical. I had planned to go by myself. But before I bought the ticket, I decided to put it out there to others that I was going, and would anyone like to go with me? I didn’t expect to get a response. But I did. One of my recovery friends said she would love to go. We went and had an amazing time.

These are my own personal examples of “fun and connection.” This may not seem difficult to those who are naturally social, are extroverts, or who often “fit in” to social norms. But for those of us that are loners and have spent a lot of time in emotional isolation, this kind of connection is huge.


So now that we have inventoried our fun things and shared them with others, it’s time to put it all in to practice.

But why should I have to practice having fun? Shouldn’t that come naturally? Shouldn’t I automatically want to have fun?

Not necessarily…

Have you ever been in the midst of a “fun” activity where your mind is so full of anxiety that your focus is only on your problems?

Do you feel guilt when you’re having fun?

When you go on vacation, do you bring your work with you, either mentally or physically?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, my personal opinion is that you are fun challenged. You need to practice having fun.

When our lives have been mostly serious…

When a chunk of our life has been about addiction, recovery, and emotional or physical pain…

When we become workaholics or compulsive debtors, and all we do is work to feel self worth or make enough money to cover our debts, or debt to feel important…

When all we know how to do is take care of others, as opposed to ourselves…

When we have gone through many of the things I have listed above and more…we don’t always know how to have fun. So we need practice.

Practice makes perfect. This is just a saying, and considering I don’t believe in perfectionism, let’s revise…

Practice makes “better.”

Practicing having fun makes us much better at it.

Having fun and connecting with others at the same time is an essential part of living a joyful life.

A side note. It takes courage to reach out and share your interests with others. It takes super-courage to ask others to share in those interests with you. Sometimes people will say no….for whatever reason. They’re busy, not interested, or there’s a better offer. Whatever.

I’m not going to tell you not to take it personally because that is advice that I can hardly take myself. But I will say, if someone turns you down to share in your fun…do it anyway, even if you have to do it alone.

After all, having fun by yourself is better than having no fun at all…

It’s good practice.

Happy happy? or Joy joy?

“The healthiest response to life is joy.” –Deepak Chopra

I usually begin my topics for the month by defining the terms that I will be talking about. But I realized that for the purposes of talking about joy, happiness, fun, and laughter, reaching for the dictionary to define these topics may not be the best thing. Specifically for joy, happiness, and fun, these are things that are as individual to each person as there are individual people. I will, however, share with you some “emotional definitions” that I have found helpful from some recovery/12 step literature. I think these emotional definitions are essential in understanding the integration of the physical and psychological reactions to these types of experiences. But first, a few words on Joy vs. Happiness.

My overall goal in life was always to be “happy.” Whatever happened, I “just wanted to be happy.” This is a main goal for most people in life. Recently I revised this goal. The revision came from a conversation with a friend several months ago where I concluded that perhaps “happiness” or “being happy” shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. In my life these days, the overall goal is JOY.

The conversation I had with my friend (we’ll call her K) was in response to my last semi-serious relationship, and it went something like this:

K: How are you doing?

Me: I’m hanging in there.

K: Don’t give me that, what the hell does that mean?

Me: Well, I just got my heart-broken. I’m so sad about it, but I don’t feel I have the right to grieve. The relationship didn’t last long.

K: Did the relationship mean something to you?

Me: Yes.

K: (Waves her hand as if to say “whatever”) Then you have the right to grieve.

Me: (Sighs) I don’t know. I’m just so sad right now. I just want to be happy.

K: Happiness is fleeting. A given person, place, or thing can make me happy at a given moment. Usually, I try to seek joy. Joy is something that is constant, even in the bad times.

This statement from my friend stopped me in my tracks. I understood what she was saying. My search for happiness would only take me moment to moment, situation to situation, relationship to relationship. But joy is an overarching state of mind. It is a reflection of a spiritual journey, the culmination of our spiritual awakenings that include the good and the bad. It is saying hello to what we are feeling…pausing and noticing what is going on…saying hello to what we believe is deficient (Brach, 2008).

 Joy – “A sense of integration of the survival traits/common behaviors. Coming out of the dark night of the soul with sureness of foot. Divided self reunited. Inner peace. Recognizing the True Self within. Knowing you can trust yourself. Seeing light in self and others. Energy and warmth throughout the body” (Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, 2006).

Now, before you start throwing things at me, this is not an anti-happiness post.

I just think it’s important for those of us who have been through a lot and who are not in denial about a perfect life, or a happy ever after, and for those of us that know that life’s challenges, whether it’s a fight with a cable guy or the murder of a loved one are all part of the process. That in spite of all the bad things or through the bad things, we can still have an overwhelming, overarching joy of living life.

Feelings are our source of joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger.” -Melody Beattie

The “happy” moments serve another “one day at a time” type purpose, which I will explore in a later post. But first, take a moment to think about what it would take to achieve overall joy in your life. Do you already have it? If so, how did you get there? (I really want to know!) Do you think there is a difference between happiness and joy, or are they each on a continuum to living a healthy life?

Love yourself into peace, happiness, joy, success, and contentment.” -Melody Beattie


  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) – Alcoholic/Dysfunctional Families (2006), World Service Organization.
  • Beattie, Melody (2009-06-10). Codependent No More (p. 143). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.
  • Beattie, Melody (2009-12-15). The Language of Letting Go (Hazelden Meditation Series) (p. 143). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.
  • Brach, Tara (2008). Radical Self-Acceptance (Audiobook), Publisher: Soundstrue.
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