Straight to the bone

Beauty is only skin deep. But ugly goes straight to the bone. – Fred Sanford


Charlotte dragged me kicking and screaming to the 8:00 Sedona meeting today. I have yet to find my niche in the program, but I am certain that God has His plans. People were genuinely delighted to see me, and I got many warm hugs. Since I didn’t bring my writing board, I just smiled as best I can these days and nodded goofily. It’s a struggle letting go of my need to be witty and pithy.

The trip to Detroit is scheduled, but for a number of reasons I have elected to come home as soon as the speech prosthesis is placed (or “the thing” as I will refer to it for the sake of brevity). I plan to work with my speech pathologist (SLP) at Mayo as soon as I get back. I am not getting my hopes up. As the SLP in Detroit reminded me, people who have lost their tongues have a much tougher road than simple (?) laryngectomies. As usual, Charlotte’s hopes are higher than mine, but she handles disappointment better so I can live with that. My motto is “no appointment, no disappointment.” I would rather that “life on life’s terms” exceed my expectations.

The topic of the meeting turned to the joy of sobriety. For as unhappy as I have been feeling lately, I have never lost my joy. Happiness is based on happenstance. Joy is based on the love of God that underlies everything. I have never lost that. To paraphrase Mr. Sanford, “Happiness is skin deep. But joy goes straight to the bone.” How anyone can live a joyless life is incomprehensible to me. I couldn’t do it. It might be argued that my faith in God arises out of a deep need to find purpose and meaning, but that just begs the question. If God draws me to Himself by making me keenly aware of how bereft of joy life would be without His love, then He has achieved His purpose. As I once said to an early AA mentor, “If this is a myth, then it is the most benevolent myth imaginable.” I recently saw Jordan Peterson responding to the question as to whether or not he believed in God, and after a couple of attempts to express it, he said simply, “I act as if God exists. Now you can decide for yourself whether that means I believe in him, so to speak.” A page out of our book, to be sure.

Lest any of you think that the preceding implies a wavering in my faith, let me be quick to reassure. I have always been a skeptic and doubts have always crept in. I had to build a faith that could encompass doubt or it would be no faith at all. One thing I can say with absolute certainty: I made a decision at the age of thirteen that God did not exist, and twenty years later my life could be charitably described as a heap of stinking, smoldering rubbish. So at age thirty-three, I made a decision to “act as if” God existed. Thirty-seven years later the results continue to affirm that living my life on that basis is overwhelmingly the better of the two. I see no reason to reconsider. Neither would Pascal.

So I face this new year with the same profound joy that has brought me this far. I may or may not be “happy,” because I can’t predict what will “happen.” But I can say with certainty that my joy will carry me through, as it always has. So to each of you,  I wish you a joyful new year. Let’s live it to the bone.



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4 Responses to Straight to the bone

  1. Donna Okray Parman

    Your honesty is like a breath of fresh air. Yes, I’ve known you to be a very joyful person, and that will continue, for the reasons you’ve written. Stephen, I’m not sure how often you hear this, but you really are a heroic person. You are looking to the Lord for your strength, and letting the things of this earth fall where they may. That is strength beyond measure, after all you have been, and still are going through. I like that you are giving so much thought to your recovery process after your surgery, and making decisions you feel are best for you, not blindly accepting the plan of the professionals…well intentioned as they surely are.

    I’m glad you wrote, and I love getting the notification that you’ve written. I always wait until there are no distractions to sit down and absorb what you’ve said. I often read it aloud to Bruce. He then shakes his head and says, “I don’t know how he does it.” Well, your strength is a testimony, without the words. I’m so proud of you. I know I couldn’t have done this, at least not nearly as gracefully as you. Keep up the good work!

    Love from us.

  2. Steve

    Your words are too kind. If I can say something that encourages even one person, then it is a worthy activity.

    Actually, I don’t know how I do it, either. But God shows off most in the areas where human effort are insufficient. So I guess that’s how I do it: allow God to show off. And it is when we lift up Christ that men are drawn to him.

    “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10

  3. Pat Schultz

    How I love the statement about “Joy going straight to the bone.” I always have felt that as well. There have been a few times when my joy seemed to have deserted me, it wasn’t an easy road to gain it again – but yes, when it is there life is so good and you can move through some pretty tough challenges. To me, having the joy also means there is peace in my heart. That may be different for some, but it is from the peace in my heart where the glow of joy emanates. It is a blessing I am every grateful for and the support of friends and family seems to be what sustains it. So may all we know move us forward w/joy in our hearts, may it be a blessed New Year.

  4. Anonymous

    Even though my joy is rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ, you are correct in saying that we each find that joy in our own way. Gratitude begets joy, and a grateful heart is certainly a glad heart.

    May 2019 be the best ever.

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