Sunday, April 30, 2017

24. Time Takes Time
The next day I was staring at my laptop when a petite woman in her late twenties knocked on my open door. I stood, but didn’t stand shake her hand. We smiled and waved at each other even though she stood less than ten feet away.  I motioned for her to sit in the chair closest to the door.

Without makeup, her hair pulled in ponytail sticking out the back of her cap, wearing a sweatshirt that hung to her knees, and baggy jeans, she would still turn heads wherever she went.

“Good to see you Anna,” I said.

“I saw Cindy and the other Ken on the way in,” Anna said, smiling.  She held out her hands, palms down for me to see. “Getting better.  I just wish it all worked faster.” When I had first met Anna she washed her hands so frequently her knuckles bled. They weren’t even cracked that day.

Anna had thought when she got sober, her other problems would fall away. Almost a year into her recovery, she still struggled with anxiety and OCD.  She was getting better, but slowly. Every now and then, she stopped by my office to hear how impatient and I had been about the slow pace of recovery.

“Believe me,” I said, “People wish diets worked faster, cigarette cravings went away sooner, broken hearts healed quicker.  It’s human nature to want things to get better much faster than they got bad.”

“I know the slogan you’re gonna quote. Time takes time.”

Today I will try to be patient: time takes time. 

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose

Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Thursday, April 27, 2017

23. I Can’t See What I’m Saying
After Austin left, I read and re-read a speech scheduled for that afternoon.  I had put together a booklet outlining my speech, but I looked at my laptop as I practiced.  My laptop was set to magnify my documents to 130% of their original size.
That afternoon, lawyers, union representatives, and people from industry who didn’t typically attend my trainings and speeches made up the audience.  I wanted to impress.
As I came to the podium, I realized I couldn’t read the small font on my handout. I held my notes at arm’s length until someone handed me their reading glasses. They didn’t seem to help.
I laughed, explained why I couldn’t read my own booklet, and gave the speech from memory. My delivery wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but I was prepared. 
Today I will prepare and roll with the punches if things don’t go according to plan.
Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

22. Living in the Past
“What’s the third reason to look back?” Austin asked.
“To live a little,” I said. “To tell the people, places, and things that had hurt you to kiss off, I’m still here! Maybe say out loud to the world, ‘you hit like a little girl,’ even if you felt beat and battered at the time.” Austin touched the scar below his ear.
I added, “To relive the good times. The more independent my kids get, the happier I am about the time I spent with them when they were little.  When Blondie talks about choosing a career, I remember her choosing what we’d watch.  I really started to hate the Olsen twins and their sappy movies. Brat Boy operates a car, but I remember when he’d get so excited he couldn’t work a fishing reel.  He’d walk backwards until the fish was almost on dry land so I could take it off the hook.  I don’t live in the past, but every now and then I do pay it a visit.”
Today I will live a little, in the past.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

21. Pebbles in my Shoe
Austin said, “With all the time you’ve been sober, you must have cleared away all the resentments and misunderstandings and bullshit from your head.”
I laughed. “No, I haven’t.  When I talk about recovery with you guys, I’m presenting the ideal.  Nobody lives up to the ideal.  I may have cleared away some of the boulders of my resentment, but there’s a pebble or two in my shoe.”
“Like what? Got an example?”
“In second grade, Miss Fry gave us a sheet of paper with three rows of three dots. We had to connect the dots with four straight lines.  I was the only one to figure it out.  She gathered all our papers, looked them over, and with this smug smile said, ‘Nobody got it right!’ I ran to her desk, looking for my paper. She yelled at me.  I found my paper anyway, held it up and said ‘see!’ showing her and the girls in the front. She snatched the paper away, pointed to one of my lines, said, ‘It bends.’  Now it did bend slightly.  But I knew I had solved the problem and she couldn’t admit it.  Instead of basking in a moment of second-grade triumph, I got shoved into a corner and threatened with a paddle. It still bugs me.”
 “Whoa Ken, how long ago was that?” Austin said, laughing and snorting.
“We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary,” I said. Maybe it is time to let it go, shake that pebble loose.”
Today I will get a pebble out of my shoe.
Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Monday, April 24, 2017

20. With Improving Hindsight
“What’s another reason to look back?” Austin asked. “You said there were three.”
“Look back if the way you see things has changed,” I said. “As I’ve gotten older, I see the world a little differently, including the past.  Now I don’t beat myself up so much for mistakes I made when I was younger. I have a better understanding of all my parents’ worries.  I see some of the people who were toughest on me really wanted the best for me.  I see people differently too.  When I look back now, I get a clearer picture, and I learn a little something new.”
Today I will look back with a changed perspective.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Sunday, April 23, 2017

19. Nothing New to See
After group, Austin stopped in my office. He said, “I’ve been thinking about the day my brother cut me.”
“Why?” I asked. Austin looked surprised by my question.  “The way I see it,” I added, “there’s three reasons to look back on painful events. If you have new information, then by all means look back. Do you have any new information?”
“I don’t,” Austin said.   
“Then there’s nothing new to see. Why torture yourself?”
Today I won’t look back if there’s nothing new to see.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

18. Annoying Shadows
Austin flipped back to the page where he’d drawn his brother.  He added the shadow of a man to the right side.  “I’m coming bro,” he said softly.  
Jameston, who had been looking over Austin’s shoulder, said, “The shadow is wrong.”
“I know,” Austin said. “I’m not going for realism, just trying to express my thoughts.”
“The sun is in the west.  The shadow should fall left to right.”
“Got it.  Like I said, I’m not going for realism.  Just trying to catch an idea.”
Jameston turned to me and said, “He’s doing it wrong.  The shadow can’t be where he’s drawn it.”
“Let it go,” I said. “It’s Austin’s drawing.”  Twenty minutes later when The Other Ken arrived, Jameston was still arguing about the shadow with the rest of the group.  Most of the group saw Austin’s talent, and the love Austin felt for his brother.  Jameston only saw the shadow. 
Today I won’t let minor ‘flaws’ prevent me from seeing the bigger more beautiful picture.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

17. To the People Who Refused to Give Up On Me
I pointed to the cane in the corner.  Daphne shook her head and limped off to get coffee.
The artist’s name was Austin and he asked if I could sit for a minute. He turned a page in his notebook and began sketching me as we talked. 
“Do you mind if I ask how you got that scar?”
He said, “I found my brother in a bar outside of Toronto. We had a few beers.   I told him he looked terrible, and needed to get help.  We had a few more and he started getting angry.  Said I didn’t understand, all I did all day was draw shit in my stupid notebook.”
Austin looked into my eyes, erased something, and started drawing again.  A long moment passed. He said, “We sat there for the longest time. Out of the blue he grabbed my shirt, said I’d ruined his life, and threw me to the floor. Called me a piss poor Van Gough and tried to cut my ear off.”
“And you still want to help him,” I said, wondering if I’d do the same.
“Not ready to give up on him yet. Gonna get stronger myself, a little smarter about when I talk to him, and see if I can’t reach him.”
I thought of all the people who refused to give up on me when I was struggling.
Today I’ll try to be one of those people who doesn’t give up on others.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

16. Me First
Daphne and I walked into the group room together.  A young white man with long black hair who looked like he might be in his late twenties sat hunched over a notebook.  He was drawing in stunning detail a man in camo boxer shorts kneeling and looking north.  A set of drum sticks sat atop a neatly folded uniform. The sun set over his left shoulder.
“My younger brother,” the man said without turning to see who was behind him. “Last we heard he was in Canada.” 
“He was a soldier?” I asked.
“He wanted to be in the Marine Corps band.  Tough guy, patriot, musician – that was my brother.”
“What happened?”
“He fell and hurt his shoulder.  The doctor prescribed ibuprofen, but I talked him into taking Percocet. He fell in love with painkillers. Now he’s a roadie, bouncer, dealer, whatever keeps him close to his drugs.”
“And you?” I asked.
“In between drinking and smoking weed, I give music lessons and take classes.  I do just enough to keep my parents from kicking me to the curb.” He turned to look at me. A jagged scar ran from behind his ear halfway down his neck. “I want to get clean before I go after my brother again.”
Today I will put my house in order before I try to help somebody else.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Monday, April 17, 2017

15. Vanity
As we walked into the building, I noticed Daphne was limping.
“Do you want to take my arm?”  I asked.  “I think there’s a cane in the group room you can borrow.”
“Canes are for old people,” she said, smiling. “I wouldn’t want anyone to see me using one.”
“Your vanity is going to cost you,” I said.  She started to argue but I pointed out, “You’d be steadier on your feet if you used a cane, but you won’t.  How much time, money, and pain would falling and breaking a hip cost you?  I remember when you first got here you were too vain to ask for help. You relapsed twice. What did that cost you?”
Daphne shrugged, “If you were me, you’d be a little vain too.”
We laughed, but I wondered what vanity was costing me.
Today I’ll take stock of my vanity.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

14. Seriously
Daphne was smoking in front of the building when I got to work the next day.  A gray haired woman in her early seventies, she had been a client several years earlier. Every Tuesday she dropped in for the continuing care group.
“You still married?” she asked as she hugged me.   “Your wife must be a saint.”
“You’re still not in prison?” I answered.  “You must have friends in high places.”
We traded insults for a few minutes more, smiling and laughing.  Jameston walked past and shot us a disapproving look.
“He’s one of those guys who takes everything way too seriously, isn’t he?” Daphne asked. I nodded.
“Well here’s my five year key tag,” she said, pulling her key chain from her pocket. “Just got it.  Guess I took things seriously enough.”
“You always did,” I said, “without taking yourself too seriously.”
She smiled, ground out her cigarette, and asked, “You get dressed in the dark this morning?”

Today I won’t be any more serious than I need to be.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

13. In the Meantime
“Hey Dad, I have to write an essay on the most important time in a man’s life.” Brat Boy said. “How men make the most of that time and how they screw it up. Whaddya think?”
“The meantime,” I said.
“You really can’t give me a straight answer, can you, Socrates?” he said, shaking his head and laughing.
“Hear me out. A lot of life is defined by what we do while we’re waiting or trying to do something else. My friend Gary knew he wanted to be a doctor the first day of college.  That was gonna take at least eight years.  In the meantime he studied. He didn’t get into any trouble.  In the meantime, he put some of his life on hold chasing that dream. Because he took care of the meantime, he’s a doctor.”
“How do people screw it up?” he asked.
“I couldn’t tell you how many people waiting to go to court for a DUI pick up a second one in the meantime.  Other people put off getting clean waiting for some milestone, or when they're less stressed. In the meantime, they do things to ruin their lives like committing a felony, or wrecking their relationships with broken promises.  Some people die in their meantimes, but more live in endless meantimes waiting for something outside themselves to change.”
“I’m waiting for you to get a second job to buy me a Porsche. In the meantime, I’ll write my essay without mentioning how deprived I am.”

Today I will take care of the meantime.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.
Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Monday, April 10, 2017

12. Predictable, Manageable, Acceptable
“Not sure how drinking can be called a relationship,” Brat Boy said, “but how is your life different?”
I was almost twelve years sober when Brat Boy was born.  He had no way of knowing what my life was like right before I quit drinking. 
I said, “Life is somewhat predictable, in a good way.  I’ve gotten into a healthy routine.  It’s mostly manageable because I’m clear-headed and not doing things to make it unmanageable.  And though I’m sometimes slow to accept things that can’t be changed, once I do, it’s almost entirely acceptable.”
Today I will be grateful life can be somewhat predictable, mostly manageable, and almost entirely acceptable.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Sunday, April 9, 2017

11. I’ll Get Better Tomorrow
When I got home Brat Boy was sitting up on the couch, doing homework.  He looked a ton healthier than he had two nights earlier.
“Feeling better?” I asked. 
“I am,” he said, “But I still think I could’ve gone to school and played in that game.”
“Yeah, but you’d still be sick today, if you had.  Like your buddy who did throw up during the game.”
Brat Boy laughed, snorted, and laughed again.  “I wish I could have seen it.  You ever do that? Play when you were really sick?”
“Once or twice.  Sometimes I still go to work when I should stay home.  It only prolongs the sickness.   At work I meet a lot of people who stay in relationships as they get sicker and sicker.  Relationships with drugs, food, gambling, sex, shopping, people – you name it.”
“Why do people do that?”
“Some think it’s not that bad, and maybe it’ll get better.  Some don’t think they deserve better.  Things rarely improve on their own. Sooner they start taking care of themselves, sooner they get well.”

Today I won’t put off taking care of myself.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Thursday, April 6, 2017

10. Lessons from the Scoreboard
The next night I went to see my daughter Blondie’s boyfriend AntiFreeze play lacrosse.  The game started at 6:30.  The sun hung low in the sky. Its too bright light made reading the scoreboard in the eastern end of the field nearly impossible.  I saw advertising signs, but not until darkness fell could I see the score.   I thought of times I had ignored problems because life was ‘sunny day’ good, not facing them until things got dark.
Today I will remember,
I might see the sign(s) on sunny days, but I won’t truly know the score until darkness falls.
Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

9. Setbacks
When I got home, Brat Boy asked me if I could take him to school the next day.  “You OK?” I asked.  He nodded his head, but he looked pasty white. Sweat glistened on his forehead.  “Let me guess. No matter how bad you feel, you want to play in tomorrow’s game. ” Again he nodded.  “What if you throw up during the game?”
“Then nobody will want to guard me,” he said.  “I should score a ton.”
I knew how he felt.  He’d worked hard in practice and deserved to play. Missing a game was like working all week without collecting a paycheck.  On the other hand, playing sick would only make him sicker.  Being too sick to play was an unexpected setback he’d have to accept.
“If you’re not feeling better, I don’t want you to go to school tomorrow,” I said.  I expected an argument, but he just groaned.
Today I will accept setbacks are part of life.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

8. Gratefully Silly Stupid
The chairman called for the readings, and the meeting began. The speaker was a short, tan, middle-aged man in a gray suit. 
He spoke in a soft, deliberate voice, “My nephews weren’t allowed to swear, so they called me ‘A’hole Uncle.’  That got shortened to ‘A-Unc.’ For years I thought they were saying ‘Hey Unc.’”   As he spoke it became clear he’d earned the A’hole Uncle nickname
Near the end of his lead he said, “I used to do sad, dangerous, stupid things. One night I wrecked my car, marriage, and my career.  You never want to get a DUI at 3:00 a.m. with the boss’s daughter in the car.”  He took a sip of water and smiled. “I’ve come a long way. Now I do silly, stupid things, like looking for the glasses sitting on top of my head, or putting the phone down to look for the phone, or sending that ‘I love you’ text to my old probation officer instead of my girlfriend. Like the slogan says, progress not perfection.”

Today I’ll be grateful for the silly, stupid things I do.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Monday, April 3, 2017

7. Different Change
“Something bothered me back then, still bothers me today,” Hilary said. “Heath didn’t tear down that shed.  He dismantled it.  He pulled every nail, unscrewed every screw, and put them in an old coffee can. When he had it all torn apart, he stacked the wood and covered it with a tarp.  About a month later, when he thought the wood was dry enough, he burned it. He buried the ashes and the nails and screws, and planted a tree over them.”
“So what’s the problem?” I asked.
“He was a seventeen year old boy, whose father was taken from him.  Where was the anger? Why didn’t he take a chainsaw to the shed? Why didn’t he smash it with a sledge hammer?  I wanted to.  Sometimes I think he must have stuffed his anger.  Maybe he’s still stuffing it. That can’t be good.”
“People adapt in their own ways,” I said. “You got drunk and angry until you couldn’t get drunk anymore.  Heath grew up, maybe faster than you’d like, but he grew up.   He adapted by being mature.”

Today I will accept people adapt to change in their own ways, in their own time.
Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Sunday, April 2, 2017

6.  Can’t Adapt Without Admitting
“How’s Heath doing these days?” I asked.
“Good,” Hilary said. “Heath still misses his father, but he adapted a long time ago.”
“You’re dating again.  Looks like you’re adapting.”
She sighed and smiled at the same time.  “When his father died, Heath was ten.  He stuck out his chin, straightened his back, and walked through his grief.  He had to.  I sank into my bottle.  Just refused to believe Bill was gone.
“There was an old shed in the back of our yard where my husband tinkered with small engines.  After he died, I just let it rot.  I used to get drunk and pretend he was still out there, fixing some neighbor’s lawnmower.” She wiped away a tear.  “Right before I got sober, the kid next door put his foot through the rotted floor.  He had to get some stitches.  Heath tore down the shed the next day.  I had to admit Bill was gone and get on with my life. I put off adapting until I was forced to admit life had changed.”

Today I’ll remember I can’t adapt to change until I admit things have changed.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com