Thursday, April 30, 2015

Living In The Now – An Illustration

I’m not proficient enough to discuss what living in the “real” spiritual NOW means. I can only relate to one of the principle maxims expressed by AA old-timers: One Day At A Time. This is linked inexorably to the truism that I cannot get drunk today if I don’t take a drink today. I just need to get through today by going through today by doing as best I can – without a drink.
After a meeting at my AA home group this week I discussed with a trusted and respected member of the Fellowship the idea of “one day at a time.” As we were talking, I was reminded of an after-meeting discussion I had with a commercial pilot when I was about 6-months sober. It, too, was about one day at a time. He told me how he flew a commercial airliner. He said he really didn’t fly the plane according to his registered flight plan. He said the FAA controlled the flight plan and his air space.
His plane was assigned a space – he called it a shoebox – that was about 2 miles long, 1 mile wide and ½ mile thick. His job, as the pilot, was to simply keep his plane centered within that “box.” As the whole box moved, he moved. If he just kept his plane within that box, it would arrive at the destination airport safely. The only time he was truly flying the plane was during take-off, landing and if an emergency occurred.
He went on to say that’s how he used the principle of one day at a time: Just do the right thing today as best you can (including not taking that first drink and using the Twelve Steps), and yesterday and tomorrow will take care of themselves. Then he laughed and stated: “I’ve learned that most of the things I think about my life are none of my business.”
After about two years of sobriety, I built a scale model of Colvin Run Mill, a historic site in Virginia’s Fairfax County. It was an early 19th Century mill with two-grinding stones. It was large and had very steep stairs that many elderly and small children simply could not negotiate. I was a docent there and was asked if I could build a model of how the gears worked so those who couldn’t tour the whole building could still get a “feel” for the entirety of the engineering that went into making the mill operate.
I said I’d try, but I couldn’t make a model of the gears that were in proportion but still strong enough to have a guest “operate” the mill by turning a crank. So I decided to make a scale model. The powers-that-be agreed.
I spent over 500 hours drawing and building the parts of the mill. There were no architectural drawings of the mill. I had to create my own. It was at a scale of ¼ inch equals 1 foot. It was a cut-away model. Much of the front was missing so people could see the water wheel, gears, axles and grinding stones. It was fun. Many weekends I spent in my spare room cutting, trimming, sanding, and fitting together all the tools, equipment, grinding wheels, gears, chutes, and bins that comprised the original mill.
At one point I realized that I must have made a mistake because a vertical shaft, that went to one of the grinding stones, was going to run right through a 12x14 inch beam that was one of the upper floor joists. I couldn’t get into the mill to double-check my measurements because it was some holiday. So, I notched one side of my beam to allow the vertical shaft to pass. The next weekend, I checked that problem in the mill. The beam there was also notched – but on the other side! I was a very happy camper. I had experienced the exact same issue that the restorers had experienced – although we had notched opposite sides of the beam. The manager of the restoration confirmed that was exactly what had happened.
At a county award ceremony I was presented with an ornate certificate of appreciation. I was asked how I managed to stay focused for so long. I told the audience how I simply worked on my model – doing the best I could – One Day At A Time. By doing each piece (AKA “day”) as well I could, the whole seemed to take care of itself.
Earlier, as I was making some notes for my acceptance remarks, I had recalled the words of the pilot. It was his message all over again. Stay in the box. Stay in the day. That was the message of the pilot. That was the story of my model. That has been the story of my life for the past 28 years of sobriety in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I repeat – when I take care of each day the year takes care of itself. I don't drink. I ask for help - especially from the Holy Spirit.
I’m certainly not perfect. Sometimes I really do want to harbor my anger, frustration and self-pity, so I can focus on anything but today, because these feelings are comfortable and familiar, and they make me feel special and unique. But I do know that if I allow my attention, energy and internal conversation to focus on thoughts that contain words such as should, ought, would, or could, then I am not focused on today. If I am not focused on today – what is right in front of me – then I am not living as I have learned to live.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 May 2015
Copyright 2015

PS: Although I thought I’d be back in time to publish a message last week, it didn’t happen. For those of you that inquired, thank you for your concern.

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