imagesMD9V91XOTwenty-four years ago today I woke in the morning and my first thought was: ‘I’d rather be dead’. Then, I remembered what had happened the night before. This was the miracle. It was the very beginning of a new life; I didn’t know it then, but I had just been reborn.

imagesFMMAHHCRWhy do I say that the miracle was remembering the horror show of the previous evening? Because, given all my past experiences, I shouldn’t have: I had had a blackout.

I want to explain what this is for the benefit of all those lucky people who have never had one. A blackout happens –sometimes, not always- after a certain amount of alcohol has entered your system and, instead of getting drunk and passing out (which is the other possibility), the memory center in your mind shuts down completely -the movie being projected never reaches the screen- as if suddenly the lightsuntitled had gone out. But the lights do not go out, not for you or for anyone else; the movie continues being projected, but the memory screen in your mind does not receive the images. This may happen untitled3 (2)while you are sipping your umpteenth cocktail before dinner or just as the dessert is placed in front of you on the table. At that moment, whatever it is that, in your brain, receives the movie so it may project it back for you the following morning, shuts down, blacks out, so to say. But you continue functioning as if nothing had happened; you are not aware that the receiver of memory has shut down. You finish your dessert, you converse or fight with someone, you thank your hostess and leave as if you were fresh as a daisy and then you insist on driving home because it is clear that your husband has had too much to drink.

images      The following morning you remember that last instant, say, when they put the dessert in front of you and then nothing, absolutely nothing, until the moment you wake up; there is a black hole in your personal history which you will never fill, a stretch of time during which a chapter in the story of your life is omitted. You have no idea who you fought with, how you managed to drive home, if anyone noticed. There was not one morning after a blackout that I did not awake terrified of asking what I had done the previous evening. Sometimes it was terrible; sometimes –surprisingly enough- no one had even noticed that I was drunk. But even on those luckier occasions, the horror of having a black hole in one’s existence is no less. I had long since given up the hope of ever recovering even a second of that lost time.untitled5

By that morning of the 26th of March, twenty-four years ago, I had been having blackouts for a long time, and they were becoming more and more frequent. On the previous evening, my husband and I were at our own personal bar at home and I was mad at him, so I had decided to get blind drunk to show him (I am not even going to try to explain the alcoholic logic of that thought). The last thing I remember before the blackout was a slow, festering anger and this illogical decision. That should have been all until the following morning, but it wasn’t.

untitled6            Around 3a.m., for reasons I will never be able to explain, I suddenly snapped out of the blackout and saw myself. I was standing on one side of our king-size bed, glass in hand, vomiting insults expressed in the vilest language possible from my mouth. My husband stood on the other side of the bed and I will never forget the pained look of despair on his face as he reached for the gun he kept under the mattress. I ran from the room, locked myself in the bedroom that had been my son’s when he lived with us, and went to sleep.

That was the scene I remembered the following morning when my only thought was ‘I’d rather be dead’. That was the miracle I needed: to wake up and see myself, to see what I had become and the hopelessness of the life I was leading. I felt dead, hollow inside, beaten.

I dragged myself out of bed and called a friend who was a psychoanalyst. When she answered, I uttered the understatement of a lifetime: “I think I have a problem with my drinking”. She set up an appointment with a doctor specialized in addictions who, in turn, called the clinic where I ended up the following Monday the 30th of March. I thought I was dying; actually I was being born.imagesXX3Z5KNF

Today, 24 years later, I can look back on the simple miracle of a moment of memory that gave me new life.





“For an answer, go to the place where there is no thought and listen.”-Katie

The world is what it is, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s not happy or sad; it just is. There is no should or shouldn’t. There is no ‘I would rather…’ It’s either cloudy or clear, day or night, rain or shine and neither is better nor worse than the other. In this instant, which is all there is, that is what is… and you are perceiving it, you are the perceiving. Look, witness, be.


Watch. Be still. Everything changes. By the time you think “now”, it is gone; it is already a story of the past. Remember the saying ‘go-with-the-flow’? That is the only Now: the flow.


Be still, perceive, let it flow in and out, in and out. Sounds, sensations, colors, shapes. Feel, see, hear, smell. Who? What? Who or what perceives? Close your eyes. Find the Perceiver.


Did you find it, the perceiver? Good. Now, who did that? Who or what perceived the perceiver? Find that one. Oh, yes… there it is, found it! Fantastic! But… who or what perceived the perceiver of the perceiver?


Are you beginning to see? Really see? You can never, NOT EVER, see or find the Who or What that you are. The self cannot contemplate the self. The Perceiver can never find the Perceiver. The Perceiver can only perceive what it is not. There is only the possibility of experiencing its presence through what it perceives, through the very act of perceiving.

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Almost 60 years ago, I saw. I was an adolescent. An adolescent knows nothing; an adolescent has so little experience. Perhaps, an adolescent is open to whatever because it knows it does not know and becomes curious. To be curious is to be. So, that night, I turned off all the lights in my room and looked.

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There was still a glow from the street lights. Therefore, I covered my eyes with my hands to shut out all possibility of light. There was no question posed, I was not looking for an answer to anything, there was no goal, spirituality wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I have no idea why I did what I did. Curiosity was alive in me. So, I covered my eyes. Then, with the lights off and my hands tightly blocking any glow, I opened my eyes again and looked. Then I saw, I perceived with an intensity that left no doubt. For an instant, I sat in wonder just looking. And then the mind came in and named it: There was absolutely nothing in between the Cosmos inside and the Cosmos outside.


Of course, by putting it into words, I have turned the pure experience into a thought, but in the instant I experienced it, there was no thought so I knew it to be true.  I told no one about this experience, but I have never forgotten it and that infinite cosmos, inside and out, is a space I can always go to when I believe that reality should be different than it is.



Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…

And as Byron Katie says: “I did: I hated me, I hated you.” That’s it in a nutshell. Obviously, people have focused on the ‘love thy neighbor’part and selfishness has gotten itself a very bad reputation. It is not right to be selfish. No one wants to be thought of as a selfish person. We all learn that very young. “Share your toys with your brother… don’t be so selfish.” “Don’t take the biggest piece of images6AN1O7XXcake, that’s selfish of you.” “You never think of anyone else… you’re so selfish.”

Being selfish and being polite were absolute opposites. I remember being taught early on that, when at the table, if you wanted seconds you had to wait to make sure no one else wanted that last piece of whatever. That usually meant that your father ate it… “So it wouldn’t go to waste”, and you were left with a mouth full of saliva trying not to drool down the front of your dress. No matter if you would have made damn sure it didn’t go to waste; it would have been selfish if you had asked for that last piece of whatever.

Somewhere along the line, being unselfish came to mean ‘always doing what the other person wants, never voicing your own needs, thinking always of the other first, second and lastly’. I did it as best I could, I did it through 30 years of marriage, and I resented it beyond all measure. I did it because I wanted to be loved, I did it because I wanted to do it right, I did it because I expected you to do the same for me, every reason I had for being unselfish was selfish. Big laugh. I actually thought that if I took care of you, you would take care of me… and guess who got taken care of!images2

Then a funny thing happened. I ended up in AA (when you don’t ask yourself what you want, having another drink is as good an activity as any other) and there I was told that most, if not all, of my problems came from Ego, that I was egotistical (read: self-centered, selfish, egocentric, egomaniacal, self-interested, self-seeking, self-absorbed, narcissistic, vain, conceited, self-important, etc) and that I had to fight against the ego. I was told that in order not to be selfish, I had do service for the group, and it was suggested (by the group leader who just happened to be a man) that I should do the imagesZY83PZAYcafeteria (which meant, market for the coffee service, make sure everything was washed up and put away after each meeting and serve coffee to newcomers). Somehow, this sounded just like what I had done during all the years of my marriage and finally, I balked.

“I’ll tell you what” I snapped back; “Seeing as I have been doing cafeteria for at least 30 years, I’ll be leader of the group and you can do the cafeteria.” Needless to say, I didn’t do the cafeteria and neither did he.

But that for me was a moment of change. I began by thinking that AA had been founded byimagesMW1CDPO8 (2) men and that the program had been made for men based on a religion that was basically paternalistic. Men, with women taking care of them, beginning with Mother, then Wife, then Daughter, had developed quite an ego. Women, I believed then, had not developed an “ego” (at least, I thought that I hadn’t), we had not learned to say: I, I, I, me, me, me. So I set about developing my own ego (I was 50, mind you) which in my mind was: learning how to be selfish.

I began by asking myself what I wanted: where I wanted to go, what I wanted to eat, who I wanted to be with. In the beginning, all I heard was: Oh, I don’t care or I have no idea, or imagesOOQT3JW5whatever you want. What I discovered was that I didn’t even know what my wants and desires, my likes and dislikes were. I didn’t have the habit of asking myself anything! I was accustomed to ask other people: Where do you want to go? What movie do you want to see? What would you like to eat? But… ah yes, there was a big BUT… I expected other people to think of me first, know instinctively what I wanted, and choose for me. Now if that’s not a Lose-Lose proposal, I’ve never seen one! Fastlane to frustration!

It’s not easy, however, learning what you like and don’t like when you have never done it, so I began very slowly.

Him: Do you want to go to the movies tonight?

Me: Hmmm (silence while I wait for movement inside; inside says: need more info)…1 dose What movie were you thinking of?

Him: Oh, what about… (usually a Bang-Bang, rip-um-up, knock-um-down, blood and gore sort of film).

Me: (long pause while my mind goes over the mental images of intestines splattered all over the screen)…No, I don’t particularly want to go to that one. What about (read title of latest romantic comedy, historical drama, biopic etc.)

untitled 3After about a week or so during which I really checked with myself every time there was a choice, I discovered that I did have likes and dislikes and that some of them were very definite. I also found that when I knew what I wanted it wasn’t so hard to get it for myself or to convince the other to give it to me. I also found that when I had satisfied myself  with what I had chosen one time, it was easier and felt better letting the other person have what they wanted the next.

For a while, I practiced being selfish in everything: I got up at the time I wanted to get up, went to bed idem, prepared the meals I felt like eating, decided to eat out –and where- imageswhen the whim hit me; watched the movies I enjoyed, left the room and went to read a book elsewhere if I didn’t… I was unflinchingly selfish in every possible way, determined to grow a good (male) ego before facing the inevitable chore of undoing it.

Interestingly enough, the more selfish I became the more unselfishly I could act. When I really didn’t care what we ate or what movie we watched or which restaurant we went to, my “whatever you want” was absolutely sincere and I was happy with the other’s choice. I found myself asking the other person where he or she would like to go and weighing their answer against my own desires. If mine were stronger, I learned how to present them as an option I would really prefer without naysaying the other’s choice. I realized that I was willing to negotiate more (me today, you tomorrow or vice-sharing (3)versa).

Something that had always been hard and angry inside began to relax and I started seeing the world as a kinder place and myself as a person capable of making her own choices.

One day, someone said something in an AA meeting that really explained my apparently profound transformation. Speaking of love, he said: “You can’t give anyone else that which you can’t give to yourself”. By then I knew that ‘love’ means care and attention and that was what, in the name of unselfishness, I hadn’t been giving myself during the first 50 years of my life. It wasn’t until I learned how to be selfish that I began to understand that my wants and my desires were my responsibility, and voicing them was my imagesHB8APTB2prerogative. Being responsible for my wants and likes and giving them to myself whenever possible, also opened me to the unexpected pleasure of being unselfish whenever I felt like it, something that suddenly was much more frequent than before.

Perhaps it is a question of using other terms. Perhaps what before had seemed to be unselfishness had simply been SELF-LESSNESS. What seemed now to be selfishness could simply be seen as SELF-FULLNESS. Before I had been Self-less and now I was Self-full: therefore I had something to give. Having discovered that I had a choice, that choice was mine to give to someone else if it gave me pleasure to do so; and in doing that I had also made and given myself my own choice (which was to give the other his or her choice). Wow, it was a WIN-WIN situation through and through.

It was a long and sometimes difficult path, but I finally knew I had arrived one Sunday when the family had gathered at my house for lunch. I cooked, and served and ate the meal with them and then, while they sat around the table chatting and savoring their glasses of wine, I stood up and announced that I was going to an AA meeting.

My son looked at me and exclaimed: “Gosh, Mother, you’ve become so selfish”.

Freedom1 (3)I stood for a moment looking into his eyes and then a very wide smile crept over my face.

“Yes, I have, haven’t I” I exclaimed. “Isn’t it wonderful?!” And waving goodbye, I turned towards the door, leaving them to mull that over as they sipped the rest of their wine.