Category Archives: Personal Growth

Love and Wonder

The following post is from the blog Not Otherwise Specified, an ongoing story of recovery from addiction. The blog is written by the daughter of a friend. The blog’s “About” page explains, “Today I have over eight years of recovery in my program of choice. By writing about my experience, I hope to reach others struggling with all types of addiction.” I admire much about her, including her ability to share her insights. This piece on “Love and Wonder” strikes so many chords with me, I simply must share it, along with the suggestion you visit her site and consider subscribing.


I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the Achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

Unintended Consequences -- -- the good, the bad, the ugly:

A recent post on Facebook told the story of a teacher shopping for school supplies. She was approached by several parents shopping together (who had their school-aged children with them) and subsequently forced to listen to them complain about how much they were spending on back-to-school supplies and how teachers must think parents are made out of money. Apparently, they didn’t notice that the teacher was spending even more money than they. Her cart was full of things she needed and supplies to help out the students she knew would not have what was necessary.

It was an interesting story, certainly. The teacher handled a potentially ugly situation gracefully and sympathetically. I admired that but felt a real kinship with her when she described what she really wanted to say those parents.

Adults often “thing” children. We forget they are there and, more importantly, forget they are watching, listening and learning.  It’s a mistake that’s easy to make. Even teachers must guard against it. We see them as “kids” or “students” and lose sight of the fact they are small people with big brains that are like sponges.

Not only did those parents not notice the teacher’s cart was full, they forgot there were little people watching, listening, and learning.

So the teacher wanted to remind those parents there were little people there and what they were hearing was, “School is not important enough to spend money on, teachers are not to be trusted, they have bad judgment, and learning does not require investment.”

In fairness to those parents, they (hopefully!) didn’t want their children to hear that. We sometimes call this “unintended consequences.”

I watched a child tugging on her mother’s hand as they walked down the street, almost yelling, “Mom! Mom!” Mom was totally focused on her cell phone screen and it appeared not even acknowledging the child. I don’t know what was so important on the phone. I don’t know why the child needed her mother. But I’m fairly sure I know the message the child was getting. I also know that a few simple words and eye contact with the child could have conveyed a very different message.

When it’s back to school shopping time–or school budget time–I believe all adults have a responsibility to “watch our words.” We may be frustrated at the expense while we’re shopping and angered with increasing budgets and taxes but because we’re adults we should be able to express our frustrations and anger in an appropriate manner.

Let’s not teach our kids to disrespect schools and teachers. Let’s be careful we do not devalue learning and education–even unintentionally.

Education is expensive. But it’s also important. Let’s teach our children both of those truths and model good problem-solving skills.

Sometimes unintended consequences can be good. Another time in a store, I heard a young child ask what might have been a fairly simple question–I honestly don’t remember it exactly, but it was relative to why something was where it was.  The parent stopped and looked at it with the child then said, “That’s interesting. Why do you think it’s there?” I didn’t need to eavesdrop on the entire conversation to know that child was learning he and his thinking is important. I also hope to have that child in a classroom I’m teaching some day.

Thinking is not only allowed, it’s needed. Not just in classrooms, but in life.

Maine Public Offers Workshop for High School Writers

Maine Public and the Maine Writing Project are offering a free two-week workshop for young writers to hone their skills, called Raise Your Voice Workshop. The workshop will provide a forum for seasoned writers and teachers to share their experiences with the students. Participating students will develop writing and multimedia that will be featured on the Raise Your Voice! Web page. It also may be aired on Maine Public Radio. The program will take place from July 24-August 4 at three locations including Baxter Academy for Science and Technology in Portland, Thomas College in Waterville and the University of Maine in Orono from 8:30 AM to Noon each day. To apply, go to mainepublic.org under the Education tab, or contact Education Program Coordinator Dave Boardman at RaiseYourVoice@mainepublic.org or call 423-6934.

Just How Busy Are You, Really?

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

David Allen

Well, that quote got my attention! The article it was in was about productivity–something that’s been weighing on my mind during what is traditionally one of my busiest months of the year. The article also mentioned a recent article in The Atlantic  suggesting that being busy may have become a status symbol.

I’m chuckling at the thought I currently have lots of status.

In a more serious vein, let’s go back to the quote. I think it, like most good quotes, gives rise to a number of thoughts and considerations.

I’ve always believed that there really aren’t time management problems–there are priority issues. Too often we are not conscious of what is getting our attention. I recently emailed someone for some fairly simple information I needed. When I didn’t get a reply, I emailed again. This time I received a fairly lengthy explanation for his failure to reply–he explained that he is extremely busy. What I found most interesting about his reply was that he could have given me the information in the amount of time it took for him to explain how busy he was, but he didn’t. Isn’t that interesting? I can accept that my needs may not be a priority, but I’d like a little honesty.

I think his failure to provide had less to do with how busy he was and more to do with him judging my need didn’t make it to his priority list.

Some time management/productivity gurus suggest managing energy rather than time. I’ve found that’s a great way to justify procrastination. “I don’t have the energy right now, so I’ll do something else.” For that matter, it works the same with time. “I don’t have enough time to do that (even though it’s really important) so I’ll wait until…” It’s certainly not hard to find reasons not to do things!Notice, though, procrastination is still about priorities. All we’re really doing is justifying the shifting our priorities.

Notice that procrastination is still about priorities. All we’re really doing is justifying shifting our priorities. That may be okay, but let’s recognize and admit that we’re doing it. We can at least be honest with ourselves.

When we’re less than honest with ourselves–that’s when we end up giving things more attention than they deserve. Anyone who’s ever tried to have an important or urgent conversation with someone who is constantly checking their smartphone and answering text messages knows exactly what I mean. And that’s just an example.

What does have your attention? Is that what’s important to you?

How busy are you, really?

Would three of my friends please…?

This post is appearing on Facebook… almost to the point of going viral. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but my question is a little different.

Would three of my friends please attend a free two-hour workshop that will help you understand some facts about suicide and some very simple steps you can take to help prevent it?

You can do more than just provide a phone number!

I currently have two free workshops scheduled:

  • Thursday, May 11, 2017, at Bangor Grange, 1192 Ohio Street in Bangor, starting at 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street in Guilford starting at 6:30 p.m.

Both workshops are free–all it costs is two hours of your time–admittedly a little more than copying and pasting a phone number, but in return for those two hours you’ll be able to help stem this crisis.  93% of students who’ve attended my class say they feel more confident about being able to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors. 85% left feeling better equipped to help someone might seem suicidal.

And you’ll get a magnet that includes both the National and Maine Hotline Numbers as well as lots of resource material. In order to ensure we have plenty of material, we do ask you to pre-register by visiting our website or calling 343-1842.

Suicide Hotline #

But wait, there’s more! A third workshop is available through the RSU 19 Adult Education Program on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at Nokomis High School in Newport. There is a small charge for this program… for more information or to register, visit http://rsu19.maineadulted.org/ or call 207 368-3290.

And even more! Did you know that you can report Facebook Posts that seem to reflect suicidal thoughts?  Here’s how!


Walter Boomsma is Gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. He is also an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.