No Car? No Problem!

Waiting to depart Manchester with my trusted partner

I spent more than half my life living in the United States, in the state of Nebraska. Farm country. Where towns were separated not by a five minute walk but rather a ten mile car ride. Until the last six years of calling Nebraska home, I live in small rural communities. No gas stations, no grocery stores, and no jobs. Everything was a commute to the city to get necessities for everyday living.

To do this, a car was needed. And being married meant that two cars were needed because usually both spouses worked, or even if they didn’t, the one needed transportation in case of emergencies. In my case, having two cars wasn’t enough. I had an emergency third car, for the unforeseen breakdown or flat tire. What money was saved living out in the country as far as taxes, was quickly eaten up by transportation expenses.

When I moved to England, I was in for a shock I had never experienced. Besides the cultural differences between our two countries, I was surprised that a car wasn’t considered a necessity. Next to London, Manchester is the largest city in England and has every method of transportation available.

My first experiences with mass transit was with buses. It got me everywhere I needed to go and I became quite comfortable knowing when buses would arrive and also what bus would get me to where I wanted top go. To go shopping locally? 358, 383, and 384. Hospital? 375 and 192. Manchester? 192 and odd 200s. Cancer Centre? 42 and 42A. Within no time, I could watch a bus approach the stop and know with certainty if it was the one I needed.

The bad part with buses is it stops so often that a 15 minute car ride could take a half hour by the bus. When I got a job in Manchester, taking a bus could mean being on the bus for an hour, depending on traffic. So, I was introduced to trains. They were the fastest method of travel available and could get me to my job quicker than a car. The only downfall was that it took me 25 minutes to walk to the train station. So, my daily commute before getting on the train was nearly an hour.

So, the next step in transportation was a bicycle. You can take bicycles on trains, so it was a way for me to cut down on my daily walk. A 25 minute walk has turned into an eight minute bike ride. The bicycle is an electric one, so I really don’t use much energy pedalling it.

At my job, I walk close to ten miles a shift on average, so this has helped save a little bit of my energy. When I was shopping around for a bike, more than one company said that an electric bike wasn’t an alternative for a bicycle, but rather it is an alternative for a car. Granted, I can’t go on long distant drives with it, but I can get groceries and other essentials with the rake that was provided with it. As far as taking up space, this bike is a folding one and can fit in even the smallest places.

Having not ridden a bicycle in over 40 years it took awhile for me to get my balance and confidence back, but now I just cruise the streets like a pro!

England has it all for transportation and I continue to explore the different ways to get from Point A to Point B. I’ve been on a propeller plane to get from Northern England to the Southern part. A whole half-hour flight! And the most enjoyable mode? River taxi’s. In London, on the River Thames, there are taxis that travel up and down the river to various points.

With the ease of using mass transit will I ever own a car again? I won’ say never but I really doubt it.

10 Minutes Has Led To 27 Years

A new chip for sobriety clock

On September 4, 1994, I had placed myself on a crossroad between life and death. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic but it was the truth at that time and remains the truth today. Though I had full-time employment, I owned a house, a couple of cars, and all the luxuries afforded to me at that time… yet I was homeless.

The court system had thrown me out of my house. Notice that I didn’t say home instead I use the term – house. The reason being a terror filled place of existence could never truly be a home. I was evicted from this residence because of my drinking. While the wife and kids could stay there I could not. What happened was a daughter had told a school official that she was scared for her life. That I was a violent out of control drunk.

I knew that if I wanted any chance of a healthy fulfilling life, I needed to quit drinking. It was upon this realization that I had placed myself in the loneliest place in the world. I couldn’t imagine a life with alcohol, yet I couldn’t imagine a life without it.

I was scared to quit drinking. At nights, I went to bed, with a six pack of beer on the nightstand. In the mornings, I drove six miles to work, drinking a can of beer every mile. And also having a 12 pack hidden in the car for when I could sneak outside for a quickie. Everything I did involved alcohol. When we went out to dinner as a family, places like Burger King or McDonalds were never visited because they didn’t have beer. Often we’d go to Pizza Hut. Order the pizza and get a pitcher of soda for the family and a pitcher of beer for me.

For the short times I didn’t have alcohol in me, I’d get violent shakes, become quite nauseous, and continually sweat. Though my personal life was totally out of control, or as the Big Book says self will run riot, my work life was still functional to a degree. I believe people knew I drank to much, but I don’t think they realized the full extent of that drinking.

Finally, facing a very uncertain future, I decided to try one final time with sobriety. I had been sober for over five years (1986-1992), but decided that maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic and went back to drinking. Anyway this time was worse.

My first sobriety I did basically on my own. I had a small support bubble but nothing that would now be considered strong. I had no lifeline. This time, I would do it the AA way – by using the 12 Steps.

The first thing I learned was to just be sober for today. Which was an insane thought for me. For over two years, every waking moment had me with a beer in my hand. There was no way I could stay sober for a day. No way! So I came up with a plan. I believed I could stay sober for 10 minutes. So, that is what I’d do. I’d watch that clock and figure out when my next 10 minute anniversary was and shake and sweat my way to it.

When the celebration of a ten minute sobriety was over, I’d start a new ten minute count. I did this for the first week of my sobriety. The highlight of my day was when I could go to bed because I would wake up the next morning having celebrated 48 sobriety anniversaries in my sleep.

During my second week, I increased my time to staying sober for a half hour. After a month, I was up to an hour. It wasn’t till my second month that I began looking at sobriety in terms of one day at a time. Can’t stay sober for one day? Then why not try staying sober for ten minutes. If I can do it, I know you can! Because of my ten minute sobrieties, a miracle happened. In fact, many miracles happened and continue to happen all because I quit drinking.

I would have never written a book, if I was still drinking. I never would have created musical CD’s if I was still drinking. I would have never saved a penny if I was still drinking. And most of all, I never would have found my Higher Power if I was still drinking.

Hidden Blessing: End of the Big 12

The one thing that I have enjoyed throughout my life is American Football. For most of my life, I’d just say football. Yet, now that I live in England I realize “true” football isn’t what Americans call it. They use the s-word to describe what the rest of the world calls football. Anyway, starting to drift away from what I wanted to write about.

Growing up in the New York city area my love was with pro football – first the New York Giants, then in my late teen years my love changed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. My thoughts never ventured far from the world of pro football, mainly because I live in a major metropolitan area and college football seemed kind of like pro wrestling event with cheerleaders, bands, and the fans seemed fake with all the enthusiasm they shared.

My thoughts began to change when my brother played football for Iowa State University. With my parents, I got to see some of his games in person. This wasn’t like a high school game – this was big time. The stadium was bigger, more people, more traffic, more of everything. For a college game, it seemed quite professional.

Though my love was still with the Steelers, I began to see college football in a new light. Then when I went to college in South Dakota, my love for pro football left and I was hooked on the college game. Being a neighbouring state of Iowa’s it became easy to follow Iowa State and Big 8 football. Then when I moved to Nebraska, it was real easy to follow them because Nebraska and Iowa State were in the same conference.

Living in Nebraska and not being a fan of the Cornhuskers was a challenge. This was in the mid 90’s till 2010. During the end of the 90’s Nebraska was THE team. Three national championships, which some would argue could have been four. While they were on top of the mountain, my beloved Cyclones were one of, if not, THE worst program in college football. Yet, I still loved them and still followed them enjoying their occasional upset.

2010 is when college football began to change. Conference realignment destroyed regional conferences, as well as 100 year old rivalry games. The Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia – GONE. The Border War between Kansas and Missouri – GONE. What seemed to be the annual Big 8 Championship battle between Oklahoma and Nebraska – GONE. And not on that large of a scale The Telephone Trophy between Iowa State and Missouri – GONE.

When the realignment nightmare started, I admit I wasn’t concerned about these rivalry games, I was more concerned if my beloved Iowa State Cyclones would find a place at the big boy table. The reality was that the football team wasn’t good. The facilities and stadium, if possible, were even worse. Without being in a conference that was consider a “power conference” the thoughts of ever competing on a national scale would disappear forever. Luckily when the dust settled, Iowa State remained in a power conference, mainly because they were a founding member of the conference they were in – The Big 12.

This time though is different. Iowa State has a stadium and facilities as good as any of the power football teams. The Cyclones, will start the 2021 as a Top 10 team, with a head coach that everyone can’t stop talking about. They have become the Cinderella sweethearts of the upcoming season.

To me, the best outcome for Iowa State would to end up in the Big 10 Conference (BIG). There are some Cyclone fans who hate this idea. Mainly because they will be in the same conference as their main rival – The University of Iowa. Many Iowa fans feel the same way, in fact, many Iowa fans hope that Iowa State will lose their status as a member of a power conference.

This is where short-sightedness and stupidity have me shaking my head. The population for the State of Iowa is extremely small, yet to have two major universities is something which should be cherished. The annual football game, which right now, is simply for bragging rights because they play in different conferences would have a more intense feeling if they were in the same conference. For Iowa State, their annual paycheck from the Big 12 is roughly $38 million. In the BIG it would grow to over $54 million.

All of this is great, yet one thing is seldom mentioned when talking about ISU joining the BIG and it has nothing to do with sports. It has to do with academics. To be a member of BIG, you must be a member of the American Association of Universities (AAU). There are only 64 universities in the United States and 2 in Canada that are in the AAU. These schools are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to scientific progress, economic growth, and security.

The BIG grows on the academic side with the AAU status and a consortium between the conference institutions, as well as the University of Chicago. They receive billions of dollars in research funds from the federal government every year.

While I have loved watching Iowa State football go from a laughing stock to a respected football program and hope that it continues in the BIG conference. At the end of the day, the importance of Iowa State remaining a top flight university with their academic achievements while being part of the consortium is more valauble than any conference championship or new years day bowl game.

A Story About Humility

As an alcoholic, I have spent my time in recovery learning. I never want to get to a point where I believe I know it all. How arrogant that would be. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel once said, “Seek those that search for the truth and run from those that have found it.” We all need to be teachable. We all need a sense of humility.

Humility is being teachable. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves but rather it is thinking of ourselves less.” Humility also relies on a strong sense of gratitude. What we have and who we are is directly due someone or something else in our lives. Ultimately all the gratitude goes to our Higher Power, because if it wasn’t for this deity putting someone or something in our life, we wouldn’t be who we are.

Presently, I know a couple of gentlemen who have come into some serious money, not because of something they did, but rather through inheritance. Yet, if you talked to either of these individuals you would swear it was because of their financial knowledge that they have what they have.

One is roughly my age. Since I’ve known him he has struggled to rub to pennies together. In the past he has been very impulsive with money. Very much like a kid in a candy store, he has to have it all. We kind of developed a love/hate friendship mainly because we were very similar with where we were with debt.

The major difference was his debt was self-inflicted. My debt developed through medical expenses. For me, it quickly spiralled out of control. My ex-wife had breast cancer and we were already on a razor thin budget when she started her treatment. In no time at all, my paychecks couldn’t cover the co-pays nor her prescriptions. So I started using credit cards to help pay these bills, which in reality, only made matters worse.

Here I was in my mid 50’s, with nothing to show for it. A house in need of major repairs. Cars that needed to be in top running shape so the ex could make all of her appointments and take me to work, and I had nothing in the bank. No emergency fund. 401-K? I borrowed the maximum I could on it.

At the same time, this friend of mine was using his credit cards to buy couches, stereos, and other junk, that in reality a person in their 50s shouldn’t be so obsessed with. The clincher was his purchase of a towbar for the back of his car. He wanted it so he could haul his boat to the lake to go fishing! All well and good, but he didn’t have a method to haul the boat, in fact, he didn’t own a boat, in fact, in didn’t own any fishing gear! Five years later he sold the car with the towbar! As far as the boat? He still hasn’t purchased one, I doubt he has gone fishing anywhere – from a bridge, shoreline, anywhere!

Just a couple of years ago, he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Anyone who knew him kept telling him this was where he was headed, yet he knew better. For a little while he had a little humility. That quickly disappeared when his mother passed away and left him with just under $100,000. The sad part was that she died with him owing her over $30,000. The debt was forgiven by his two sisters, so in fact, he stole from their inheritance.

A new sense of I’m king of the world appeared and he purchased a home. All well and good, yet I question the logic of a person in their 60s purchasing a home? I just look back at my own home adventures. If you are a somewhat good handyman the costs can be kept at a minimum. But all your free time evaporates managing this investment. If you hire someone to do all these household projects, than you will regain your free time but lose your money.

Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather spend some money on rent and not worry about managing a house. I find it very freeing not to worry about heat pumps or water leaks or anything else. Just a phone call away is the landlord and then it becomes his problem.

I will say the guy did follow a bit of my advice and saved some money. He put it in a long term CD, which doesn’t have the greatest return, but at least he is trying. Yet just a couple of years later and he is moaning about how tight money has become.

Through it all I have never heard a word about paying his sisters the money that is rightfully theirs. Through it all I’ve never heard a word how hard his folks worked to make his life more comfortable. At 60 years old, he is living for the first time without the safety net of his parents money. He has got it all now and when that disappears, which I’m sad to say will happen, I wonder which one of his sisters will support him.

He worries about his legacy, yet he has no humility to try a clean up the wreckage of his past. Humility would have given him the gratitude to see how much he owed his parents. Not just for his inheritance, but also the unconditional love they showed him since his birth. In theory, the humility that started it all would have taught him that he needed to change and rely on his Higher Power for guidance. That the largest enemy to becoming the best version of himself… was in fact… himself.

Forget the illusion of power, forget the competition, forget the material. Instead focus on the growth that comes with humility and gratitude.

Growing In Alone Time

I’ve seen on social media sites a cartoon saying that you know you’re and introvert if the pandemic hasn’t affected your lifestyle. Not only has it not affected me, I have seemed to grow and thrive in it. Yet, sadly I look at others that struggle with the idea of being on their own. For some the idea of being alone is frightening.

When I got divorce in 2010, I ended up living in a small apartment by myself for six years. It was during this time that I experienced a major growth in my spiritual and emotional life. I learned to love my own company and cherished the idea of pampering myself.

When my day of work was finished, I’d walk to my tiny apartment, relax for awhile and then make my dinner. Chop up onions, garlic, peppers, or maybe peel some potatoes. Do the prep work on the hind quarters of a chicken, or a ribeye, or whatever my appetite was craving. Within the hour my meal was done and I sat at the dinette, turned on the TV to watch some old comedy show and enjoy my meal.

After that, a nice relaxing shower, then wash the dishes, catch up on the days events and make my way to bed. It may sound boring or maybe even a bit lonely, but it wasn’t. In fact, I look back fondly at that time because it represented peace.

It was during those six years that I learned how to manage money and get out of debt. I learned good habits, like washing the dishes, making the bed, and doing my laundry. More importantly, I learned I was worth the effort to take care of myself and not rely on others to do that for me.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need some human contact. Yet, I believe it is wrong to rely on human contact to make our lives whole. It’s codependency and is bound to fail. You can not put another human being on a pedestal, like a Greek God, and expect them to fill the holes within oneself.

I’ve know people that during the pandemic that abused the lockdown rules. They found so many reasons to pop in their car and get things they deemed necessary for their mental health. They’d go to the store to buy a litre of milk, then the next day go back to the store to buy shoe insoles. Then day three go to the post office for some stamps, yet they’d then turn around and order their groceries on-line and have that delivered.

Their support bubble of local friends included a person that was ten miles away. As a resident of the United Kingdom we were told not to travel unless it was for work or medical reasons. Travelling to see a friend and give him a musical CD or borrow his laptop didn’t meet the needs of what the support bubble meant.

When lockdowns first started in March 2020, I was placed on furlough from my place of employment. I didn’t become a total hermit, yet with my medical history, I was vigilant with my surroundings and those near me. I did venture out and got my exercise by walking a mile and a half roundtrip to the grocery store twice a week and playing in my garden. Did some studying on a major investment I hope to make sometime this year. Through my time in that little apartment to this lockdown, I became an expert I entertaining myself, without being lonely or an emotional drain on others.

12 Step Recovery Programs, teach us to share our stories and to find a Higher Power. No matter how hard a person can try, there will be a time when they are left alone. That’s where a Higher Power comes in. It gives us the emotional and spiritual strength to survive on our own.

When AA started, there wasn’t a meeting at the local church every Tuesday, or at the neighbouring town on Fridays. The population was more spread out and not everyone owned a car to get to a meeting (when they could find one). Cell phones were not yet created and no one knew what the word computer meant. The recovering alcoholic was literally on his own. His best chance of survival was finding a Higher Power. This Higher Power would help him learn to enjoy his own company. It would also help him understand that other people can not fill the emptiness within oneself.

The best gift we can give to others is our independence. To let them see that we can entertain ourselves, that they don’t feel obligated to meet our needs. In the end, by learning how to enjoy our own company, we will develop stronger relationships built on healthy wants and needs, instead of needing others to make us whole.

Putting Away Childish Things

It might be naive of me to think that when a person reaches a certain age, they realize that the road they have travelled, may not be a wise path to use for their retirement. With that opening statement, I’ve let you into my world, as far as knowing that I am nearing that magical retirement age. When I was younger, sitting at the end of a bar, drinking my beer, I’d proudly say that I had a three step plan for my future financial security. Social Security, Welfare, and Food Stamps! I said it halfway jokingly but also seriously. Why should I save for old age, when realistically, with the life I was leading I’d be dead before I was 50.

My first “real” step in planning for the future was to admit being an alcoholic and to quit drinking. It was that first step that I realized how I had placed myself in a very lonely spot. I had reached a point in my life that I couldn’t imagine a life with alcohol, but I also couldn’t imagine life without it. This act of surrender has kept me sober for over 26 years.

With every year in sobriety a sense of shame would set in because I had no real plan for retirement. At 50 years old, I was $65,000 in debt, with no savings and a very small 401-K plan. The one thing sobriety instilled in me was that I couldn’t control things in my life, yet I still could control one thing – my word. My debt was mostly self-inflicted. A mortgage, credit card debt, and medical expenses. Some would say that the medical expenses were beyond my control, which to me was an “easy out” for justifying not paying that bill. More than once I contemplated bankruptcy, but those thoughts always brought me back to keeping my word.

By 2010, I started a plan to get out of debt, which was obtained by 2016. It has been over a decade since I decided to “grow up” and being responsible for my financial actions. I live a life that is debt free and now have a respectable savings portfolio.

I now can see the immaturity in others from my age group that spend money like tomorrow will be the end of the world. One gentleman I know has spent his life living my original retirement plan. Social Security, Welfare, and Food Stamps. When his eyes got bigger than his wallet, he got deep into debt with credit cards. When he no longer could get new credit cards, he “borrowed” from his sisters and his mom. Think about that. A man in his 60’s borrowing from his mom, with no plans of ever paying her back.

When mom passed away, his two sisters and himself, each inherited over $75,000. That does not include the $35,000 he still owed his mom. I suggested to him to just put it in a bank and forget about it for a year. This was his last chance for any type of financial security. He no longer had mom to bail him out. Just live your life like you have, pay your bills, contact your creditors, make payment plans, and above all leave the inheritance alone. I figured if he did this he could see that he could manage money and more importantly that the $75,000 didn’t disappear.

Sadly, he lasted a couple of months and bought a house. He is in his 60’s with his first home. He lives in a major metropolitan area, so he couldn’t purchase a top of the line home. He got a fixit-upper. Remember the movie The Money Pit?

So, what else would a person rolling in money need with a new home? How about a new car? I use “new” loosely as it is new to him. Anyway, why not get a 15 year old Mustang? A gas hog in a major city, another impulsive buy that you would expect from someone in their 20’s or 30’s – not in their 60’s. Now, I’ll sit back and watch this guy head back down the road to destruction. I foresee new credit cards at first, then since mom isn’t an option anymore, borrowing from his sisters.

I look back at my life with a sense of awe because of the things I did, the people I met, and the places I’ve been. Things changed when I quit drinking. I don’t have the money needed for a great relaxing retirement, but thankfully, I’m not broke and I have put away those childish things.

Right now I have one major purchase I hope to make before the end of the year. I’ve worked for this investment for the last three years. Saving every penny I could, as well as using credit wisely to build on my credit score. I could make this entire purchase with cash, but is it wise to do so? My best wage earning years are behind me and what savings I have is it. Now living in the UK, there is added protection by having some of it with credit when making a major purchase.

The one thing the last ten years has shown me is that I can manage credit responsibly and not fall into the mistakes of my past. The major lesson I have learned is that a person can make money work for them instead on money making us for it.

It’s OK, to act young and be young when we are young. I believe when you reach a certain age, you need to quit competing with others. You need to quit having a sense of entitlement and to live within your means. It is quite sad to see someone who had a chance to live comfortably piss it away.

Need Income? Value Your Job

I have mentioned that if a person wants to reduce debt that they have two options. They can either increase income or decrease expenses. Today, frustration leads me to talk about income. How can we generate income. In reality, the more money you have the more opportunities you will have to generate income. For some, that is not an option, so they begin selling possessions to make ends meet. In my younger years, I sold TV’s, stereos, automobiles, and tools. Anything that had any value was a potential target for sale or pawn.

Finally, a third, more common approach to acquiring income is to gain employment. This has been my approach for nearly 40 years. It has been the method which has kept a roof over my head, food in my tummy, and luxuries that many people take for granted. It has helped me get out of debt and helped me build a comfortable nest egg. It has also led to some extremely pain filled nights with a sore back, total fatigue from working overtime, and some stressful nights wondering if the economy would make me redundant in a job that was no longer necessary.

Through it all, it was the job, that gave me a purpose. It gave me self-worth and self-respect. My dreams and my goals were place entirely in my own hands. I wasn’t reliant on any government benefit program to help. Just my own sweat and tears to make my visions come true.

The frustration I mentioned earlier is by seeing people whine and moan about money they need but won’t go the extra mile to make it happen. The extra mile being a good reliable employee. Recently, I witnessed a young married man, the father of three young children, lose his job because he didn’t want to do his job. He liked the money but to do the job he was hired for never happened. Though he charged a company for a full days wages, he often started late and left two hours early. He’d talk on his phone, non-stop, constantly buying or selling things. He reminded me so much of George Costanza on Seinfeld. Mister import/export man! Always talking about how much money he wanted to make. Yet, he devoted no time to the one thing that was a guaranteed source of income – his job.

Let’s face it. In today’s world, with Covid-19 forcing lockdowns and furloughs, no job is safe. No job is guaranteed. So if you have one or get one, then you need to treat it with respect because they are hard to keep and even harder to find. Within three months this young man went from being enthused to having an opportunity to not caring about his responsibilities. Towards the end, the job he was enlisted to do was not done at all. When he was finally let go, he was shocked it happened. Vowing to hire an attorney and file a grievance over wrongful termination, he still won’t acknowledge that he lost this job because of his own actions.

Another person I know has had more jobs in the five years I’ve known him than I have had in my lifetime. Everything he does he goes full throttle into it. His recent “job” was being a labourer dealing with medical testing kits. He purchased a lunch box, thermos, and made sandwiches for the whole week. He had to wear special clothing and a mask, which turned out to be a problem for him. He said that after three hours he had to resign from the post. He made it sound like it was a very high class job that he was an indispensable part of. The reality was that after three hours he quit. He found it hard to remove the special clothing to use the washroom and he struggled to breath while wearing a mask. I can’t think of anyone that finds it comfortable to wear a mask. I’ve been doing it for over a year and my glasses still steam up and there are times I can’t breathe getting to the point of being nauseous. Yet, I keep trying. I have to do it. I want a job. I need a job and to do that in today’s world that means taking extra steps to insure my health and the health of others.

I have told my children that anytime they start a new job, they need to stay with it for at least three months. After that time, you’ll begin to learn ways to do the job more efficiently and what once seemed like an impossible task, after three months, becomes routine and no extra special effort is needed. After that time, wait until your one year anniversary to suggest any changes that may make a job easier. There is a reason why a job is done a certain way, even after three months, you may not understand why, so just do it their way and learn. Also long term employees, who are now co-workers, don’t like newcomers who know it all.

When I look back at my working career, I shake my head because I can’t believe how much of a dumbass I was. I made many simple jobs difficult. It took awhile but I always got to a point where I was doing the work, in a way ruling the work, instead of the work ruling me.

In today’s world, it is a special art to become a good employee and a good co-worker. A good employee shows up for work on time all the time. In fact, they are usually early which leads to being a good co-worker.

I work at a job that I can’t leave until my relief takes over. One gentleman shows up a half hour early, which lets me unwind and relax to the end of my shift because I know he is ready to take over. Another person who reliefs me may show up 10 seconds early but usually it’s five to ten minutes late. He’s a nice enough person but not a good co-worker. At times, I relieve both of these people, which one do you think I show up early for? Ironically, which one do you think gets upset when I show up five minutes late?

We need income to stay out of debt. The best way to obtain income is having a job. Not all jobs are created equal, but our attitude towards a job is strictly on us. With a right attitude a job is more than just earning money. It is about self-respect, self-worth, a means to stay out of debt, and an ability to meet people who under any other circumstance would never be part of your life.

2020 is done… but not yet gone

2020 has finally ended, yet the memories of it will become a new reality in 2021. When you look back at all the facts and figures of Covid-19, and what appears to be low percentages of the total population, a couple of aspects can’t be figured in.

How many people do you know that lost a loved one? A child? A spouse? A friend? So maybe less than 10% of the population died, does that matter to the person who is grieving? Does it hurt any less that wearing a mask has become a national debate? Does it help to know that a vaccine is now here to the husband who goes to bed alone?

Covid became 2020 and it will be a part of 2021. That is a reality. How we behave while it is part of our lives is up to us. It should always be remembered that what comes out of our mouths can be extremely painful to someone who has buried their partner.

For those of us who have survived 2020, the future is still uncertain. The amount of lost businesses and jobs is staggering. In America, they’re arguing over a stimulus check of either $600 or $1,200. Let’s face it, neither one will help the average citizen for more then a couple of weeks.

For me, if there was a silver lining on 2020, it was that I was living in England. The government here created a payroll scheme that protected employees from forced layoffs due to Covid. When placed on furlough the government paid 80% of the employees wages, provided there job was guaranteed when businesses re-opened. The employers had the option of topping up the remaining 20% of an employees paycheck but it wasn’t mandatory.

For six weeks I received a full paycheck, yet never worked one minute. I got paid to stay home and protect my health and the health of others. During those six weeks, as an American citizen, I received a stimulus check of $1,200 from the American government, just because I am a citizen of the United States. And if that wasn’t enough I got a pay raise.

Plans and investments I wanted to make in 2020 were put on hold, yet that was OK, because I can have an even better portfolio when these investments are made.

It wasn’t all “peaches and cream” for me though. In May, I did lose my wallet. The nightmare of calling credit card companies and cancelling cards, then explaining which charges were legitimately mine, while stressful went as well as could possibly be under the circumstances. The worst thing I lost was my biometric card, which shows that I have a right to live and work in the UK. Obtaining a replacement card took some work. Yet again, with the lockdown rules in effect, under the circumstances it went better than expected.

At the end of the day, 2020 wasn’t to bad for me personally. I still have a job. I still have a home. After spending six weeks together, locked up in our home, my wife still loves me. The amount of time I spend on mass transit – buses and trains – I’ve avoided the Coronavirus.

I wear a mask, I social distance, and wash my hands. When in contact with someone, I keep it to under 15 minutes and our home has various windows open to keep the air fresh and never settled.

I realize that 2020 was far from a good year for many folks. I know for some it was a year of tragic loses – from jobs to loved ones. How may have lost their homes or the cars? May sound simple but “things” can be replaced. Cherish the memory of your loved one and the time you did have together. Those memories will live forever while Covid-19 will eventually go into our history of things that made us a more “whole being.”

As an introvert, the lockdowns that have become part of life in the UK, has not affected me. In fact, I’d like to think it has made me more of a spiritual being. There is a Native American saying that describes lockdowns and learning to live with one’s own company. A busy mind is a sick mind. A slow mind is a healthy mind. A still mind is a divine mind.

Enjoy the silence. Enjoy the time learning to love yourself. There is a being inside all of us, waiting to be awaken and when that happens is when our dreams begin to become our realities.

Sci-fi or Reality?

Before I go to far into this writing, I need to put a disclaimer on it right away. I am not a person who believes in conspiracies, not do I claim to be a Democrat or a Republican. The thoughts I’m about to share, are just that – thoughts. They are not intended to be politically motivated, so let’s just say they are thoughts of fantasy or science fiction.

With that out of the way, I will say I love politics. I started this by saying I wasn’t a Democrat nor a Republican. I can also add to that that I am not a Torie nor a Labour representative. While my roots are from the United States political system, now that I live in England I becoming more knowledgable about its system.

With the election of 2016, making Donald Trump the President of the United States, conspiracy theories have risen to the point of being a joke. The fantasy of some stories take on a life that is sinister and represents nothing of what a democracy strives to be. From suicides to pizzagate, everything seems to be hidden in the deep state. With no concrete facts these stories seem to become real with even more conspiracies. And if you don’t believe what a news outlet says it has to be fake news.

Every actor who moves to another country is somehow involved in sex trafficking, while there is a photo of former President Clinton, getting his shoulders rubbed, in an airport terminal, by a 22 year old masseuse, with the headline saying it’s child sexual abuse.

Now that I live on the other side of the pond, it is said to see what has become of the United States. A nation that was once looked upon with envy, is now seen with pity. Which is not what I intend to share here.

Rather, I’d like to talk about very recent events, using the voice of Rod Serling, as we enter The Twilight Zone. The election draws near and civil unrest seems to fill the airwaves. On one side is the religious gun totting fanatics who preach about America first! On the other side is a group that speaks in very liberal ways. They want the well off members of society to pay for the poor. This one issue seems to divide the country to a point that reunification seems impossible.

No matter what the present President does, nor what the challenger says seems to go any further than the base they already have. Things only seem to get worse when a Supreme Court Justice passes away. Both sides believe their candidate should make the choice for a replacement. While the President chirps in the background that the election is fixed. That if he loses he may not relinquish his power.

The President, makes his decision and nominates his choice for a new judge on the Supreme Court and the judge is approved by the Senate, two weeks before the election. With the new judge sworn in, the conservatives have a 6 to 3 advantage in the highest court in the land. Now the Presidents says if he loses he will let the Supreme Court decide who should be President. A judicial system that has turned political, a system that is 33% owned by the President.

On election day, the challenger becomes the 46 President of the United States in a landslide victory. Yet, the now former President won’t concede. The Supreme Court goes into an emergency session and after just three days, come to the conclusion that the election was flawed and the challenger, in fact, lost the election.

A new civil war of unrest between the two factions come to the forefront. President Trump declares marshal law and homeland security agents are deployed to every major city in the country. Because of this unrest, Trump begins the process of eliminating the 22nd Amendment.

With the new political system of judges firmly installed they agree to let Trump run for President for an unlimited amount of time. Halfway through his 10th year as President of The United States, he appoints his daughter Ivanka, to become his successor because of his failing health.

With this Donald Trump feels that the nation, including liberals, owe him a place on Mount Rushmore, because he helped women by letting his daughter become President.

OK, back to reality… just a story. Yet, I do believe that this election will tell which direction the country will go. Not just for four years, but maybe forever. I have the “luxury” of watching from afar. I have the luxury to hear other people’s thoughts on what is going on, as well as interpreting what other news services have to say. People and services that have nothing to do with the United States. I have never met a person that dislikes the United States. They speak in loving terms about it. They speak of the vacations they have taken in the States. While for those who haven’t yet made the journey across the pond, it is usually part of their bucket list. Yet, through all these bright thoughts of America, they are confused as to what is taking place throughout the United States.

In 1987, ABC-TV had a mini-series entitled Amerika. The plot was how the United States became a satellite country of Russia, without a shot ever being fired. Could something like that happen today? I can see it happen. The reason it can happen is because of power. When people have power to run and conceive a country, they want more. It’s like an addiction. When the power of one country isn’t enough, then more power can only be gained by overpowering another country.

The scary part though, is that when two people in power meet with the same goals, one will be a clear winner, yet the loser will never recognize their own weakness. Eventually, they’ll lose not only their own power, but also the power freely given to them by others.

A Higher Power Named Silence

I have often introduced my Higher Power as Silence. There is a lot of power in Silence. Solomon Ibn Gabriol once said that The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening…

Listening and silence go together magnificently. In fact, the letters used in the word silent are the same letters in listen. The greatest teachers, preachers, heads of state, were masters at being silent. When they spoke people listened. They knew that what was said would be thoughts on which they could learn and grow.

Presently, I have a job that will carry me into retirement. If you let it, the job can be physically demanding. No matter how you do the work it will be exhausting. So it ends up being a question of do you do the job or does the job do you?

30 years ago I had the same duty at another job and my supervisor taught me a simple way of making a physically demanding job and easy doable experience. It’s a job that takes place during the cold winter months, so last winter I explained to some co-workers how to do the job quicker as well as easier.

Now that a new winter season is approaching, one rather windy co-worker is already, for lack of a better word, whining about it. He is saying how we don’t have the time to do it all. That it could take 2-3 hours to do it all. I said that it can be done in a half-hour if done the way I suggested and in fact I know it takes a half-hour because I did it last winter.

As I mentioned this person is rather windy. He loves to talk, yet struggles to listen. Why should I repeat what I said last winter when silence is not observed and ultimately wisdom can’t be obtained?

Not just with this person but anyone who can’t give me the same respect I give them by being silent I have walked away from. There is nothing as frustrating when you are verbally sharing with someone and they cut you off in mid-sentence. They act as though they know what you want to say, so they quit listening, abandoning silence, and begin pushing you away by giving their thoughts without acknowledging yours. Making your opinion, your voice, worth less than theirs.

In the old times before the white man came to America, the Native American Indians had a wonderful way of solving disputes between tribes. The five tribes would sit in a teepee and one chief would voice his concerns, needs, and wishes. After he was finished the chief sitting next to him would say what the first chief said. Then the next chief would say what he heard. They would do his until it got around the circle and back to the original chief and he would say that the others understood or go into more detail with what he said and meant. They would continue to go around this way until the original chief was convinced that the four other chiefs understood exactly what he said.

Then the second chief would voice his concerns, needs, and wishes. Once again the other chiefs would say what they heard. Again it would make it back to the chief that started the discussion and he would say that the others understood or he would explain further. After he was happy with what the others said, it would go to the third chief, and so on, until all chiefs were heard and understood. It was because of this unique way of listening and understanding that the Iroquois Nation was conceived.

With sobriety, I started a new life and was told by more than one person to find a Higher Power to help guide my journey. It was refreshing to look at this without thoughts of religion. This Higher Power would be mine, just mine for this realm of existence.

My first spiritual counsellor asked me about prayer. He asked me do I pray? How often do I pray? My answer was that I didn’t pray but I was willing to start if it would help me stay sober. I prayed with the prayers I learned as a child. The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and from recovery, The Serenity Prayer.

As my foundation in recovery strengthened I added prayers from AA – The Third Step Prayer and The Seventh Step Prayer, as well as The Slave’s Prayer. Then it evolved to talking to my Higher Power, sharing my thoughts and feelings about my day.

By personalizing my prayers, I began to wonder what was my Higher Power’s name. First, it was Trust. After all, this Power that had become a strong force in my life was the first Being who I could totally Trust.

In time the name changed to Love. With Trust came Love. 100% total and unconditional Love. Like Trust, this was something I had never experienced in my life. Yes, I was loved, but with conditions. As a child, I was loved if I got good grades, or kept the family secrets, or never brought shame to the family name. Then I was hated, ignored, and abused.

This Higher Power, Love, taught me that I was given the greatest gift – choice. While some of my choices in the past, may not have been healthy, I was still Loved. It was an acceptance that made me want to make healthier choices. With this new revelation I began to see Love as my best Friend. A friend who would never leave me.

As a friend I began to see that I was mistreating Love. While I was doing all the talking Love remained silent. Love never complained and waited for me to make a new choice. A choice to listen instead of speak. It was then that Love evolved into Silence. It was then that we began to share wisdom. To paraphrase Matthew 13:13, “For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.” We can see, listen, and understand through Silence.

When Silence became part of my life my prayers changed. Many nights, instead of speaking, I’d just listen. Hi Silence, then for the next half-hour, hour, two hours, I’d listen to the Silence. I’d just lay still with my eyes closed, keeping my mind focused just on the Silence. Not waiting for anything in particular, just enjoying my communion with Silence.

Try it sometime. Listen to the Silence. Turn off the TV, the radio, and the phone. Just you and Silence. Get back in touch with the real you, the original you, that can only be found in Silence.

When you become one with Silence, you become a better friend, a better co-worker, a better employee (or employer), a better sibling, or a better spouse. All because Silence has taught you how to listen.

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