THE FLYING BOY LETTERS: Getting Back to Y’all 30 Years Later

These are excerpts from my forthcoming book. They encapsulate my work with clients, workshop participants and key-notes. Hope you find them helpful.

Letter #7

Dear John,

Sitting in the audience listening to you on that Saturday night at the International Men’s Conference in Austin, I was struck by your voiced desire to simultaneously honor what you are doing/have done and your need to move on into what awaits you. The depth of my response to your seeming paradox was to want to write a letter to you. This is it in your hand.

In my first 10 years in the program I understood recovery to be a process of seeing and owning what had happened and how I contributed to it, making amends and cleaning the house as necessary, and then leaving it all behind to begin life in a new, “recovered” way. Sometime after my 10th AA birthday, which coincided with being in my mid-40s (a cataclysmic combination if there ever was one), I came to understand Recovery completely differently. In the process I began to feel somehow estranged from many of the people to whom I had been the closest. I came to understand Recovery as the realization that the experiences of my life, although I might not wish them upon my sons, were actually the building blocks which had made me who I am. Without them I couldn’t be me. Therefore, the question became not, “What are the traumas of my life and how do I recover from them?” but rather, “What were the experiences/building blocks of my life? What did I learn? What I have I done with the knowledge? We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” took on new meaning. Recovery became owning my own building blocks and who I am becoming.

You probably have very little time and receive lots of letters saying, “Yes! I relate to you and your experience!” While it’s true, and I do, that isn’t the point of my being inspired to write to you. I heard you say a version of what I described in the paragraph above. I haven’t heard many people say it cleanly. I also haven’t heard many people say, in effect, “I am tired of being a guru. It can be nice but it can also be isolating, and I want to change something. It’s time for me to take some more steps.” I quit my job earlier this year for those very reasons. Where does the guru go for release and spiritual and temporal nutrition? Laying down the robes can be tricky.

As presumptuous as it may seem, I am reaching my hand out to you. If you would like to break real or metaphoric bread in person or over the phone with someone with life experience, no axe to grind, and no particular needs for you to meet, I would like the opportunity to exchange value, which is my definition of an adult relationship.

Peace.

Sincerely,

George H S

 

Dear Laying Down the Guru’s Robes,

You say you haven’t heard many people say, in effect, “I am tired of being a guru.”

That, my friend, was nearly 30 years ago. “Guru” is an Eastern Indian term for “teacher.”

I’ve been a teacher now for 45 years, but haven’t been a guru in 39 years, or at least, not thought of myself in terms of “guru.”

I must say that when I wrote my first book, The Flying Boy, I was a struggling, poor graduate student at the University of Texas and a card-carrying New Ager right down to the bone, equipped with long beard, kinky hair, and only wore tee-shirts, jeans, and the official shoes – Birkenstocks way before they became a fashion statement you now see elders wearing to Walmart. I had a leather “medicine bag” with crystals, hawk feathers, and some other stuff I can’t recall. And oh, wait; I had some I-Ching coins in there in case I needed to consult the oracle. I used to be Mr. New Age; now I’m Mr. Old Age. 

I finished that book instead of my dissertation, went on the road giving lectures and workshops thinking I’d be a one-book author and head back to graduate school, finish, get tenure and die on some small campus in Anywhere, USA.

I didn’t go back, and yes, I might have thought of myself as a guru for about 15 minutes only to realize, like a lot of people, I was constantly worried that audiences would see I was an example of the Imposter Syndrome, where any moment, someone in authority would tap me on the shoulder and tell this recovering redneck from Alabama that the jig was up.

You ask, “Where does the guru go for spiritual and temporal nutrition?” Your question suggests that you were a robe-wearing rascal who was ready to look for a new vocation. I trust now, 30 years later, these robes have been given to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. I know that is what I did with my imaginary saffron duds.

Yes, 30 years later, I’m still on the road teaching, but I don’t for a minute, after all the mistakes I’ve made, think of myself as a guru.

Shanti, Shanti, Namaste (just kidding),

JOHN

 

Where Do I Go from Her: Writing Out My Divorce – Part I

In this unusual blog post I am sending out samplings of my new soon-to-be eBook. I am very interested in your thoughts and feelings about this little project. So if you have time and the inclination to leave me a note or email me at john@johnleebooks.com, I’d certainly welcome and appreciate any and all responses. Thanks –John

 

Search and Rescue workers have been trying to tell people for years that when you are lost in the woods just stay where you are and they will come and find you. The main reason folks end up in critical situations is because they are afraid to stay where they are and that no one will find them. So off they go, searching for a way out, and they can’t be found until days, weeks—or never. I’m going to stay here and wait and write my feelings, thoughts, and reflections until someone finds me. I’m going to try and figure out where do I go from her.

PREFACE

When we were gullible kids my friends and I actually thought if we dug hard enough, long enough, and deep enough we’d come out in China. So we kept digging. When we were teenagers, we thought if we wanted to be rock stars badly enough, it didn’t really matter that no one knew how to play an instrument; we just formed a band. When we went to college, we actually thought we could marry the captain of the team or the head majorette, if they could just get past the fact that we weren’t as beautiful as they. When we got married, we actually thought we could stay in love forever—but as it turned out digging a hole in the backyard was really more doable than the subsequent separating, divorce, or death, and then the surviving and moving forward.

I’m writing most of this most unusual memoir at my mountain home in the foothills of the Appalachians. Sometimes I even talk to this mountain, along the lines of, “So what do I do now?” I also sometimes hear a response: “Be silent and wait like I have for thousands and thousands of years.” Dog lovers will not think I’m totally nuts as I speak to my Giant Alaskan Malamute who lays loyally by my feet. “And you? Anything to contribute to this process of letting go?” She always replies the same thing, “Learn to pull something ten times your own weight and then we’ll really talk.”   One night, as I stared at the chessboard my former wife gave me one Christmas, and I swear it said, “Sometimes the king is the first to go.” Novels I’ve read, formerly sitting quietly on several dozen bookshelves, whispered, “Love has no clean-cut beginning, middle, or end.” I told them all their advice was solid, picked up my favorite poet’s book, and randomly opened it to the page that read, “Once you have loved someone you will always love them.” And to that all I can do is say, “Amen.”

INTRODUCTION

I love what I do not have. You are so far…” Pablo Neruda.

It seems to be a fact that loving is so short and forgetting is so Goddamn long. That’s all I need to say most days, but I’ll scribble some more words into this leather-bound journal that no one may read. Hell, like most of my journals it will probably sit passively on shelves receiving dust. So why take the time? Like my journal teacher in abstention, the dearly departed May Sarton says, “Why talk about it? I say, talk about it’ because these are the things we bury and never do bring out into the open. And what is a journal for if they are never mentioned?”

When X first told me about her need to divorce, I left my body, hovering, clinging to the ceiling, certain I’d come back down. Now days have passed and months have passed and even years have passed. I try to re-inhabit my body and make my soul catch up with the fact that while we send pictures of our cats and dogs to each other through email, there are few words between us—a text here and there—and sadness becomes sorrow.

Yesterday my young friend Kat asked, “What is the difference between sadness and sorrow?” I’ve never been asked that question, nor have I felt the need to distinguish the two. But I think of sadness as an emotion that comes naturally, if one allows, and it goes and then it comes again as life dictates. Right now it would seem I am in a permanent state of sorrow, a feeling that will be less, greater, even greater, and less again, but at this moment feels like a river that will never make it to the sea.

Sadness is as transient as joy, lasts as long as laughter or fear, and then disappears altogether with the new arrival of things—good news, a promotion, a book deal, a new love. But sorrow is four seasons long, it is the constant backdrop for the play that continues, though the setting, character, and time changes.

Sadness is, “she’s gone,” and sorrow is, “she’s not coming back.” This is reinforced everywhere you look, felt every time you see the candleholder you bought together or the painting you picked out to hang in the living room of your cottage, felt every time any song from Bach to Beatles is played, no matter how different the setting. Sadness is seeing doors shut. Sorrow is seeing them sealed. But sadness and sorrow can also become the creators of a new life, a new vision, a revived energy, enthusiasm, and guide. But first I had to learn to navigate the uncharted territories of divorce, disease, depression, despair and get to a land where love grows out of the ground of new kind of a sacred, secular faith. This is not the kind of faith of our fathers and mothers and forefathers and –mothers; not written in holy books, taught and told by priests, preachers, gurus, and Rabbis; but more likely referenced by poets such as David Whyte, who wrote, “…When your vision is gone no part of the world can find you…Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong…” This is where I know Faith—or at least this man’s faith—may be found.

I went to my cottage in the pigmy mountains of North Alabama and started unbecoming all I’d been in order to become who I am meant to be. This journey, while still being taken, started with a journal. This is what happened and this is what I felt and learned when my vision, my wife, and my life disappeared.

 

The Flying Boy Letters: Responses and Replies 30 Years Later

This an excerpt from my forthcoming book written with Kat Hrdina.

…I think that an addiction to a person is much worse than an addiction to a drug. My relationship with this man was like a roller coaster ride all the time. We would get close emotionally, so I thought, only to be dumped then taken back over and over again. My self-esteem would hit rock bottom every time… I know you mentioned in your book about letting go, how did you get Lucy [Flying Boy II] and Laurel [The Flying Boy] out of your head, as well as out of your heart? How do you really let go?

Dear Ms. Roller Coaster Rider:

You’re absolutely right! Addiction to a person is much harder for some people to deal with than drugs or alcohol. I know it was for me. We NEED people, love, affection, tenderness, and someone to talk to. We don’t NEED drugs or alcohol, but we want and crave them to numb the pain of having needed people in our past like mothers, fathers, mentors, and teachers to show us how to do things like face our fears of intimacy with people we love who don’t turn away from us.

So what do we do if we are in love with the backs of people who keep walking away from us but then make an emotional and physical U-Turn and come back for a little while?

Bustle Image: Pixabay; WiffleGif

I used to be in love with love and with those beautiful backs. I wanted them back, pursued them to come back, or I’d push them away when intimacy became more than I could handle at the time. Sometimes though – I hate to say it – I would push them away, like I did Laurel in The Flying Boy, just to see if I could manipulate them into coming back for another round of our emotional come-here-go away dance.

Occasionally, I was the back that a few women watched walking out the relationship door (including Laurel). I was always hoping, as I headed for the hills, that they would come after me and ask me to come back.

One woman, my former wife, was the only one that came after me after I pushed her away, and I’m so thankful she did. We had about seventeen years of togetherness – not perfect – but we at least met each other face to face, and I felt really loved and wanted.

HD Wallpapers Rocks

Now if you asked me thirty years ago, how did I let go of Laurel – the woman who changed my life and who I wrote about in The Flying Boy, and how did I let go of Lucy, the woman in my book, I Don’t Want to Be Alone (later there was a title change to Flying Boy Book II: The Journey Continues), I’ll tell you the truth – now thirty years later – in a way I wouldn’t have at the time you wrote your beautiful letter.

I did a radio interview years ago and the host said, “How would you describe the central message of your books and lectures?”

Without a moment’s hesitation I answered, “I can sum it up in two words – Let Go.”

He quickly responded, “Let go of what?”

To which I replied:

Everything and everyone that you need more than love. Let go of everything we were taught that wasn’t right or true, and that’s a whole lot. We let go, as adults, of mothers and fathers so we can see and interact with them as flawed people just like we are. We let go of the last stage of life so we can enter the next stage, and the let that one go, and on and on. We let go of searching for happiness outside ourselves, and instead, search for meaning inside ourselves, knowing that it too will have to be let go the more we grow and heal. We let go of all our false selves. All our masks are thrown into the garbage along with all our vanities and needs to be right, important, and famous. We let go of our greed for more and more stuff like houses, cars, and illusions of grandeur, because they are all going to turn to “dust in the wind,” as one of my favorite rock groups, Kansas, said dozens of years ago.

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You see the more we let go, the more we can enjoy everything we have to a fuller and greater degree. I have several great friends, and I try to let them go every day so I can be with them cleaned out and present with them in ways I can’t if my goal is to hold on to them. Letting go leads us into a more eternal now than holding on does because holding on constantly forces us to stay in the future or in the past.

Now, going back to your question, which is substantially harder, “How do we let go?” Well the truth is, I don’t know how either, even though I’ve been working on it for thirty-something years since you first wrote. I think of Laurel every day for a few moments, and Lucy and I are friends who still talk to each other and hang out twenty-eight years later.

I still talk about, and teach people, how to let go of the pain they hold in their bodies from the grief and anger they have swallowed, stuffed and bottled up – sometimes for decades. Yes, I teach about Romance, Love, and relationship addiction – because we only teach what we need to learn. So honestly, letting go is not my strong suit, but I’ve gotten better over the years, and I bet you have to by now.

So, I will let you go and send blessings on you for writing.

John

Asking the Important Questions – Part II: by John Lee

In celebration of my 65th birthday in October, I’m going to post a couple of poems – given that I still want to be a poet when I grow up. Also in October, to celebrate getting Social Security Retirement, I’m going to be more social than usual for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

I will be giving a public reading entitled WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS: SPIRITUAL POETRY FROM EASTERN AND WESTERN TRADITIONS — with a few of my own poems on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Moon Lake Community Library, located at 5866 E River Road in Mentone, Ala. 35984 (256-634-4113). I hope you all will come from the East and West Coasts, or at least the same county, to hear it.

I hope the library attendees, and my readers here, will like the poems.

I will go back to my more helpful posts next time.

Following, you will find “Asking the Important Questions” – Part II.

Thanks for your support.

SUMMER’S END

The sumac announces the truth

with its first flush of red.

In the evening the Canadian geese

say it loud and clear.

canadian-geese-2

The cicada’s mournful singing

announces summer’s end.

Nature tells itself when it is

time to let go.

Lovers should have such clear

changing colors and sounds.

Cold husbands and wives would

know when to head South.

We’d fly in formation right into

the warm wind of the future.