If You’re Still Counting

I saw someone on Facebook this afternoon enumerating exactly how many years, months, weeks and days they’d spend in AA followed by another count of how many it had been since they left AA. My comment was, “If you’re still counting, you haven’t left yet.”

Think about it. Consider something you no longer do that used to occupy a lot of your time and interest but has faded from your life. Do you know down to the minute how long it’s been since you last engaged in it? Of course you don’t. Really, if it isn’t important anymore, why commemorate having once done it.

Yes I can figure it if I want to, mostly but not always and I have to work at it a bit. Example. When did I quit smoking? That was before I met Mary Ellen and that was in 2004. But it was a couple of years before that because I’d gained 25 lbs. after I quit, which would have taken at least two years, therefore I probably quit between 19 and 20 years ago.

So what? All that actually matters is that I quit and thereby added 20+ years to my life expectancy.

Whether it’s drinking to excess, smoking, motorcycles, jogging, or any of a thousand other activities or conditions (living in Alaska, married to Carol, moving to California), when doesn’t matter.

In the case of negative activities, those which are life diminishing in either quality or quantity or both, all that matters is that you stopped or managed.

What matters? When did you start life-enhancing activities, move to a life-enhancing place, or add life-enhancing people. That matters enough to spend a little (a little, not a lot) time thinking about and how to expand those choices.

When you start making choices, thinking, and deciding, these matter. Notice too that thinking, choosing and deciding are all anathema to AA and Steppers who join AA precisely to avoid thinking, choosing, and responsibility.

A Completely Irrelevant Thought Where, Maybe, You Could Help Me

Just like you, if I am going to make life changes that fundamentally alter the structure of my day to day life I had damn well better have something in place to replace it. Mary Ellen and I have spent years telling people that you can’t just stop doing something. You, and most certainly I, need to replace it with something which meets most of the same needs, something you like or might like, etc.

If I am going to greatly reduce my client load and my website/newsletter writing then I had best replace those activities which take a similar skill set with comparable rewards.

Happily I have a potential model.

Long ago I was awarded a Bush Foundation Creative Writing Fellowship. The runner-up was Robert Persig who wrote the “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” perhaps the most under-read best seller of all time (yes, I read it and loved it). I only mention that to say that there was a time when I was supposedly a pretty good writer even if I discovered that I couldn’t tolerate either the isolation or the lack of structure which is a writer’s lot.

Some years later, after I’d opted for a Developmental Psychology Ph.D. instead of an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I decided to see if I could write a “Young Adult” novel. To keep me on track I worked with a friend, Dr. Steve Schrader- Davis, and his middle school 8th grade Gifted Language Arts class. I wrote the book, “The Trail to Eagle Rock,” over the course of a semester.

Logistically, Steve and I met on Wednesday evening, hand him the next 2 or 3 chapters, he returned the previous weeks with the students editing, and commentary. At the end of the semester the book was done (I wasn’t going to let down 20 kids) and I did a “thank you” party for the students and talked about the writing process and any other questions they had.

Many people have thought that whole process was terrifying. I didn’t. It gave me structure, feedback (the girls loved the process, the boys the story – surprise, surprise), a deadline and a weekly fix on smiley faces, red lining, and comments for motivation.

In the years since, creating similar structure has helped with other manuscripts such as the mystery Kodiak Island. Kodiak Island was planned as a six book series featuring Ethan McLaren as a burned out 50-something dragooned into playing detective. Originally I had sketched out “Harbor Lights,” “Unorthodox,” “The Golden Anchor” and others but, alas, making a living got in the way.

Now making a living is getting out of the way.

So how do I recreate the structure, accountability and motivation I had all of those years ago?

That could be where a few of you come in.

I read a lot of “beach reads” during Covid and after the 3 operations on my left knee. Each of them cite pages of supporting cast members. I don’t need 100 names. I think I need a half dozen. Maybe a couple of alternates, too?

So…This is an invitation to volunteers. Nope, no pay. You will get free copies of the completed novel “Harbor Lights” and the “thank you” for your help. If you’d like to know more about what you might be signing up for, send me an address and I’ll send a copy of Kodiak Island, one of Trail to Eagle Rock too if you want, no charge and these are in paperback form.

I’ve worked my way through the first 10 chapters and hope to putz along until January then hammer out the rest by my birthday in May. Therefore I’m asking for a couple of hours a week from January 10 – May 6.