Monthly Archives: September 2018

Back in 1989 or1990 (it predates when I started my Excel running log, so I don’t have the exact date on tap) Ethel – who, at the time, was just Kim, not having gotten the rest of her names – went with a bunch of our friends on a white-water rafting trip on the Ocoee River.

She came home with a T-Shirt that said “Paddle Or Die!” – it wasn’t this graphic, but this is the idea:


The notion, see, is that once you get on the raft, everybody has to paddle together, following instructions as to which direction to paddle, or the raft will hit the rocks too hard or capsize.

You don’t get to decide not to paddle in the middle of the river. You can’t get off the raft, and you can’t get out of the river – you’re going downriver. You’ll either go on the raft, or in the water, where if you don’t drown, you’ll break all your bones on the rocks.

Paddle or die.

I’ve lately been using this as a metaphor for the Third Step.

STEP THREE: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

A lot of the time, in meetings, I hear people talking about “taking our will and lives back”. That’s a curious phrase – it sounds, to me, like more folklore.

There are a couple of reasons for why I don’t believe that we can “take our will and lives back”. The first is the simplest – it never, ever, mentions anything about this in the Big Book.

To me it seems that the Big Book, being a manual designed to give me precise instructions on how to work the Steps of recovery, is verbose on milestones – almost every action Step has “promises” which really means “this is how you know that you did it right”. And many of them have warnings – saying “don’t do this” or “if you do this wrong, this bad thing might happen”.

Never, ever, at all, in any way, does the Big Book ever say anything at all about us getting our wills and lives back – or being able to take them back. It just ain’t in there.

Secondly, there IS a warning at the end of the paragraph with the Third Step prayer on page 63:

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.

Not too long ago, Ethel and I were considering getting a radio-collar fence for the husky pups; living in a condo, we don’t have a fenced yard, and we were tired of having to put them on long leads every time we let them out to go potty. We wanted to be able to just open the door and let them out.

In reading the write-ups on the most promising product, it sounded okay, but the cost seemed quite high – however, then I saw this line in the “returns” policy:

“If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it within 45 days for a refund of your purchase price.”

Oh, okay – gee, that’s easy. No reason not to try it, right?….No real risk….so we ordered it, and it didn’t work for us, and they refunded our money most riki-tiki.

Notice how the website did NOT say – “Think well before ordering this product, that you can, at last, abandon yourself utterly to keeping it and losing your money“.

The Big Book is telling us that, when we do this, we are abandoning ourselves utterly to Him. No return policy.

We think of the First 100 as early members of Alcoholics Anonymous – but they weren’t. They didn’t have the name “Alcoholics Anonymous” until AFTER the book was written. In the early days, most of them were members of the Oxford Groups – a Protestant evangelical group. And the instruction is to say this prayer with another person.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”Β  – Matt 18:19

There’s a belief there that asking for this to be done means that it will be done. Couple that with the fact that what’s being asked for is, indeed, God’s Will, and it’s a slam dunk.

So I don’t believe that we can “take our will back”. The way the model works for me is this – once I say that prayer, with somebody else, understanding it and meaning it, then it’s cast in stone.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I can’t believe that I can still run my own life; but, again, I sorta suppose that trying that, after I’ve made this decision, means that those events are nothing but teaching opportunities πŸ™‚

But I hold the belief that once we do this, we then are in God’s hands. He’s going to help me work the Steps if I do that. If I “decide” that I’m going to do something else, that’s just fine too – because He’s going to keep pushing me back to a path towards Him. What looks like my “decision” to not do it is just another part of the plan.

Perhaps, before I do this prayer, there might be random chance in my life – but once I take the Third Step, random chance is no longer a factor. Now I’m being taken back to God – helped and supported, or kicking and screaming, but I’m going to God πŸ™‚

It’s like the Ocoee River – as long as I’m on the shore, I can dither and waffle and hem and haw – but once I get in the boat. I am going down the river. I might follow the guide’s instructions and paddle correctly, and have a ball and yell with my raftmates and wave joyously to the people I see on the shore as I pass.

I might balk at the guide’s orders, maybe only following the ones that I want to follow. It won’t go well, but I might get to stay in the raft.

Or maybe I decide not to listen to the guide, and think that it’s okay if I throw my paddle down and just try to hold on to the handle. This might get me thrown out of the raft – and who knows? Maybe my life jacket will keep me afloat long enough to get back into the raft in the next calm spot.

Or maybe I’ll drown, or bash my head against a boulder, and die.

It doesn’t matter – I am still going down the river. God’s Will will be done in me, even if I’m not alive for it.

Paddle or die!


Here are the elevations from our final set of builder’s plans for the house on Vista Drive:


We met with Matt from Stumptown Design and Build last Thursday to go over the estimates and budgets – this much for framing, this much for excavation and foundation, this much for cabinets, this much for plumbing fixtures – once I’d settled back down into a lower orbit after getting the final full number (read: much, much larger than I was expecting).

So now Ethel has her nose stuck into her laptop and tablet, Making Decisionsβ„’ about Important Stuffβ„’ while I sit in the corner and laugh maniacally about how much this darn thing is going to cost.

That’s how I know that it ain’t real yet – when it really settles in and becomes reality, I’ll stop laughing and start shivering in terror πŸ˜‰

The Important Stuff includes such topics as – Siding types and colors. Trim types and colors. Garage door styles and colors. Roofing shingle types and colors. Window materials, brands and features. Hardwood. Carpet. Tile. Cabinet styles, features and placement. Countertops. Plumbing features and placements. Appliances. Hardware fixtures. Lighting. Interior colors. Door styles and colors/stains. Toilet types. Bathtubs, vanities and showers.

There’s other stuff – it starts to all run together in my head. That’s why she’s making the decisions – I would hit decision fatigue the second time they asked me what color something should be.

Looks like we can start to think about planning on scheduling an tentative move-in date for sometime in the time frame of late April; at least, that’s the current mindset. I’m torn between “let’s get this over with” and “the longer it takes to build, the longer it will be before I have to pay for it” πŸ™‚

But at least the dogs will have somewhere to run and play…whups: Sod types. Sprinkler system. Fencing types and colors….

Here’s the lap pool at the Wave Aquatic and Fitness Center here in Whitefish.


My last post mentioned that I’d just have to accept that I have this fear of cold water and would have to work on it with the Tenth Step until it was gone.

Well, “butter my butt and call me a biscuit” πŸ™‚

When I wrote that, they had just shut down the Wave for the annual cleaning – and they close the pool for a couple of days longer than the club, for whatever annual maintenance they have to do there.

Here’s the funny part – when the club opened back up, the water was warmer. πŸ™‚

Now I’m able to jump in without any real hesitation; almost immediately, I’m comfortable, and in very short order, I’m squatting down in the water to stay warm because it’s warmer than the ambient air πŸ™‚

A Course in Miracles says “Now you must learn that only infinite patience produces immediate effects.” The purpose of time is to learn, and once the learning happens, there’s no reason for the passage of time anymore.

Lots of folks who are trying to walk a spiritual path will tell you – it seems that as soon as they really accept something, and don’t even think about it anymore, it changes. It’s happened in my life so many times that perhaps I’ve stopped thinking about it – but rarely has it happened in such dramatic fashion.

Of course, there is the law of Unintended Consequences – now that the water is warmer, some of us are very happy about it. Others, it seems – not so much. This morning in the pool, there were six folks swimming laps, and the split was down the middle – three of us smiling, three complaining.

However, there are other factors – the ones who want the water cooler are also the best swimmers. I suspect that they are more fit, and use more power swimming, and thus they get warmer quicker and need the cooler water to help cool their bodies.

But, as I told the maintenance guy – those folks will swim anyway! These are the types who are going to swim no matter what. They’d swim if there were piranhas in the water.

But the rest of us – ah, that’s where they can make money! We might talk ourselves out of swimming if the water is cold – I’m sure that it’s happened to me.

So the best way to increase their target demographic is to keep the water warm so the weenies will show up πŸ™‚

Maybe I’ll try to help those fast fit folks by quoting A Course In Miracles to them while they are sweating between laps. I’m sure that they will find that helpful….



This is Sand Hollow Reservoir, in Hurricane (pronounced “HER-i-cun”) Utah. At this site, in May of 2014, I squealed like a girl.


The above photo was, as I understand it, taken during the start of Ironman St. George, but I don’t know which year, so I don’t know if I was in that crowd or not. I did IMStG in 2015, not 2014.

In 2014, I was all trained up, and ready to go – I had started tri training the previous October, at the behest of Corch Ian*, and was probably in the best physical shape that I have been in since I made the decision to stop being bad at one sport, and start being bad at three sports instead. I had done rides indoors and outdoors, and runs indoors and outdoors, but I had only swum in the POOL, because, Park City in the winter πŸ™‚

So I got to St George the day before the race, and got everything set up in T1 and T2, and then Corch Ian said “We need to get you out in the open water before the race”. So I pulled on my wetsuit and waded out into Sand Hollow, to swim with my friends.

I went out a couple of hundred yard, happy as a clam, until suddenly I wasn’t – I started hyperventilating, and couldn’t stop!…I sprinted back to the shore, completely freaked out to be in the middle of a lake with nothing at all to grab onto, certain that I was going to die.

On shore, I did my Tenth Step, realized that I was just afraid – but that I had swum many thousands of yards before without stopping, so I assumed it was just being in open water that had me freaked out; so I swam back out again, as far as the swim raft that they had set up…

…and freaked out, hyperventilated, and sprinted back again.

I tried two more times; the same thing happened each time.

That night, I couldn’t sleep; every time I closed my eyes, I would see the dark water below me, and the shoreline so far away, and would feel that awful terror again. This kept up all night long.

I got out of bed around 4 AM and realized that I was not going to do the race. We gave a friend a ride to the start, but I just started getting my stuff from both transitions, and we left at dawn and headed back to PC. I felt like I was skulking my way out of town, full of shame and regret.

When we got home, Ethel started doing the research – what had happened to me was called “cold shock response” and it happens below the level of consciousness; it had to do with the water hitting the nerves on the side of my face, causing that hyperventilation, and once I started panting, the fear just took over.

I’m happy to say that one can condition against that problem, and I was able to do so – and I’ve gone four years now without it ever happening again. I wish I’d’a known before race day, but the experience has helped me to help others understand when it happened to them, and I sorta figure that that’s what I’m supposed to be doing with my life anyway.

However, there seems to be a secondary problem. I am now afraid of the water.

I’m not afraid of bathtubs or hot tubs. I’m not at all afraid when I go swimming in hot springs pools. Snorkeling or SCUBA in the tropics is just fine.

But I now have a visceral, persistent fear of getting into “cold water”. And “cold water” doesn’t mean water in the upper 50s or very low 60s, as Sand Hollow was that day in 2014. “Cold water” means “water that feels cold when I get into it”.

And this manifests this way – every Monday and Wedneday morning, when I am taking my Eleventh Step quiet time and getting my list for the day, I wind up feeling fear in my belly – and the fear is because I have to go get into the cold pool at the gym and swim.

I’m not aware of that being the problem – but I note that the fear persists, at some level, until I am in the water and warmed up after a few hundred yards, or something happens and I decide not to swim.

Every time I swim in open water, I have this fear as well (except in Palmilla Bay in Cabo, where the water is very warm). I can usually overcome it by just getting into the water and swimming, but sometimes the fear works around in me and keeps me from getting to the lake at all. This last Monday was an open water swim across Whitefish Lake, and I was looking forward to it, until I checked online and saw that the water temp was supposed to be 53 F, and then I completely gave up on the lake swim.

(It turns out that the site that I saw that water temp on was wrong, and that the water was fine. But my fear was so deep seated that I didn’t even go to the lake and test it for myself).

Now, I know from experience what to do about this – I once had a fear of large dogs while I was running. I was actually attacked by a pack of dogs when I was 19 or 20 years old. I’ve always loved dogs; never had any real fear of them when I was around them, unless I was running and they started to chase me. This bothered me for some years.

I kept trying to solve this problem in the world– by management. I’d pick routes where I didn’t think dogs would be. I’d yell at the dogs (or at the owner) and try to make them go away.

I tried carrying pepper spray for a while, but never wound up using it except on windy days – which doesn’t work very well.

Then one day I told my sponsor about it, and he said “Oh, that’s fear. We have a Step for that.” And I then started doing Step Ten every time I was out running and had a dog encounter; I would realize that I was afraid, ask God to remove it, tell myself that I would tell somebody about it when I got back home or to the office or from wherever I was running.

Then I would apologize – to the dog’s owner if present, or to the dog itself if not. And then I would turn my thoughts to somebody I could help – maybe I could get the dishes washed before Ethel got home? Maybe I could get that report ready for the boss when I got back to the office?

After some months of this, the dog fear went away, and has never come back – and that was twenty years ago.

So now that I have realized that I am afraid of getting into water that is not very warm, I can institute that practice again; Step Ten every time I am aware of the fear. I suspect it will work. Those Steps have a pretty good track record.



*That picture was taken the night before IMStG 2014; the astute observer will note that I was NOT smiling, as I was already living in the world of “oh my God I’m going to drown and die tomorrow”.