(3) Life’s Puzzle

“How are the candidates?” 

My phone laid on the desk in front of me as I typed on my computer.  Marshall asked the question, but it didn’t really resonate with me as I was lost in what I was writing.

“What candidates?” I responded, half-paying attention as I finished the sentence I was working on.

“Can you stop typing for a few minutes and actually talk to me…I mean seriously, I am me after all,” the male voice on phone chuckled at himself. 

Adding a period, I saved the document I was working on and got up.  My youngest son; six years old, was on the couch playing on his iPad during his lunch break.  He was being taught remotely also; so while I ran my class and did what I needed to do he worked at a little make-shift desk behind me.  “Elios pizza for lunch?” I asked walking up to him and rubbing the blonde hair on top of his head.

Not taking his eyes off the screen in front of him, he responded sweetly, “Yes, please.”

The phone in my hand spoke, “What’s up little man!”

Seeing that it was Uncle Marshal my son responded shyly, “nothing.”

My son was not much of a talker, especially with people he did not see in person much- which was becoming an issue with his teacher this year (he was definitely suffering from not being able to be in the physical class.  We were doing the best we could…but nothing was normal, and I knew he was falling behind). 

Marshall- probably recognizing that he’d have to be the one to spark a conversation with him, spoke, “Are you letting your dad date yet little man?”

Smiling, and looking into the phone, my son said, “Daddy doesn’t need a girlfriend…he’s never gonna have a girlfriend!”  He spoke with authority now as this was an on-going joke between the two of them.

“Well…how bout a boyfriend then?” Marshall said seriously, trying to confuse him.

At which point I interrupted, “Real nice M…” 

Ending the conversation between the two children I walked towards the kitchen with the phone in my hand; leaving my son to continue playing on his iPad while I made lunch and talked to my friend. 

In attempt to re-start our conversation M asked again, “The candidates…how are they?”

Realizing now what he was referring to I responded smartly, “Changing the world of course.”

We were talking about my students.  We had jokingly come to call them ‘candidates’ when I found out that I’d only have four students in the class.  It was a reference to my all-time favorite show, ‘Lost.’  

In what can only be reflected on now as what might seem like a drunken conversation, I recall telling M, “This class will be my Oceanic 6….four students, myself, and our readers…out to change the world!”   

Part of the grant that got my program funded required that I periodically share articles on a national blog page that was created to ‘Promote Recovery.’   

When I was first published on this blog it was an honor knowing that over one-hundred thousand followers would read my words.  But now, realizing that most of what I shared was simple noise falling on deaf ears, it felt like more of a burden than anything.  

I had not shared anything with the page for a while so I decided the article I would write for my students this week would serve a dual purpose.  Knowing that my audience would not simply be my students I was racking my brain the last few days trying to come up with something ‘safe;’ all while trying to keep it…“short and sweet-around 1,200 words, something that someone could read in the time it takes them to take a shit.” (A suggestion made to me by the person I spoke with who ran this distinguished blog.)  

It was this article I was working on when M called.  

“Have you told them that you know me yet?” asked my friend on the phone.   

Repeating myself for what seemed like the tenth time I said to him yet again, “I told you I’m not gonna tell them…I want to earn their respect on my own…if I told them about you I’d have to tell them the story.”  

“Jose…it is that story that made me join your little squad in the first place…I don’t know why you are so embarrassed by it.”  

He was being genuine, but I didn’t want to hear it.  

As I opened the oven to put my son’s pizza in, I spoke in a way that I hoped would end this conversation, “My crazy is for me…not them.”

He got it, “Alright J, but your crazy is why we are friends…that has to mean something?”

Recognizing that he was right, I politely thought of a way to change the topic, “They are making fun of my song choices by the way.  Got any suggestions?”

Without a moment’s hesitation he spoke, “Tupac!  Throw them some ‘Changes.’ That shit speaks the truth…you gotta make sure they hear it.”

Laughing at his enthusiasm I asked, “Isn’t that kinda racist though?”

“Shut the fuck up…”  

Covering the phone and mutely telling him to wait a second, I walked into my room so that my son couldn’t hear the language being used. 

He continued, “Why? – Because you’re white – and the fact that Tupac was black means you can’t use his music to help share a message…you gotta stop being a pussy Jose,” explained M; now that we were not in earshot of my son. 

Not offended by the way he spoke his truth I replied, “I’m just not there yet with them M…I will get there…but just not yet.”

We talked for a while longer before ending our conversation.  

After eating lunch with my son, I sat back down to finish my article.  

Trying to come up with a song to use I did try to acknowledge the truth of M’s statement a few minutes earlier.  Reflecting on his words, I needed to think of a song that would change things up a bit…something that would throw them off my scent…


Week 3- (9.25.20) – “Life’s Puzzle”

Hello World!  Today I am speaking to directly to Y-O-U.  

Under such pressure where should one begin?

I’ve been told starting with a quote is always compelling…let’s try it shall we?

Thomas Jefferson inspired a nation by saying, “all men are created equal.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that all people are not equal.

To realize that there are millions of things that make us different is part of understanding how life works.  In contrast, to appreciate that there are just as many things that make us the same is part of understanding how spirituality works.

It is ok to disagree with this, or to ask questions.  We are human beings after all, it is what we do.  In fact, humanity has evolved in a way that we are becoming experts at disagreeing and asking questions.  I could argue that the world we live in today, with the help of social media, encourages it.  

What is real, what is fake?  Who is real, who is pretending?  When will it get better?  Why will it get better?  How will it get better?  And to me, the most difficult question of them all: “What if it never gets better?”

Unfortunately, for someone trying to live in recovery partaking in the socially acceptable behavior of questioning everyone and everything like this can be toxic. 

Let me be clear, I am not here to tell you to stop asking questions.  Questioning things is important.  I will however warn you that expecting answers without a sense of patience is a recipe for disaster.  Sometimes you just need to have faith that the answers to your questions will come in time.  

But not everyone is trying to ‘live in recover;’ so why should we care about any of this?

Let’s try and tackle this question right here, right now….

First off, it would be helpful to find some common ground between you and I before moving on.  Are you an addict in recovery?  Do you suffer from what others describe as mental instability?  If so, then great, we know each other already, don’t we?  If we do not have these characteristics in common, then how in the world can we relate to one another?

Luckily, in my experiences, I have found one thing all humans across this vast globe have in common.  Can you think of what it is?

To discover the answer let us look at the human experience together; let’s simply call it ‘life.’  

‘Life’ presents each and every person a puzzle to put together.  The pieces of that puzzle are unique, and when we begin building it there is no way of knowing how all the pieces will fit together.  

For some, happiness and prosperity will fit together first.  Building your puzzle will come easy and you will not know how to look for the pieces that represent struggle and hardship because you do not know what those pieces look like yet or where they fit in your ‘life’s puzzle.’  For others, struggle and hardship may make up the entire boarder of your puzzle, so naturally you begin working there.  To you, happiness and prosperity may or may not even exist in your puzzle, so why would you waste your time trying to find pieces that may never fit?

This analogy serves two purposes:

First, both people are in a struggle to put the pieces of their lives together-in that, they have something in common.  The other thing I hope you realize is that there is no definitively right or wrong way to work on your puzzle (though you may choose to argue this point). Some may choose to focus on the easy parts and struggle with the difficult parts later.  Others may choose to do the opposite. 

In life, unlike this puzzle analogy, often we don’t get to choose.  “You get the hand you’re dealt.”

There are millions of tragedies that I have not had to endure in this life.  Because this is true, there is no way I could understand what you have been through in the process of putting your puzzle together.  Similarly, I cannot remember what it was like to be a child without direction.  Dealing with the hardships you are going through.  Managing the rapidly changing world the way you are now. 

While I do not know you, how many years you have walked this Earth, your gender, your race, where you live, who and what you love…if you love…I am comfortable telling you this one truth about me: I have been both blessed and cursed in this life.   

Can you relate?

In this experiment called ‘life’ we all suffer, in suffering we can all relate.   That is what we have in common.  So…. What do we do with it?

We are all recovering from something.  Regardless of age, things are changing so rapidly that trying to cope with change is a struggle in itself.  While I do not pretend to have all the answers, I have learned three key skills in successfully putting my life’s puzzle together, 1) Ask Questions.  2)  Be Patient.  And 3) Have faith.

But, if the desire to change the world still stirs inside you after practicing these three skills then add this final piece to your puzzle…. “Take Action!”

This world needs Y-O-U. 

Week 3- Question for Reflection:

Does this world need you?

(Click here to continue to next chapter of the journey)

Music for Transcending Minds:

“Hey Mama, look at me….”

Highway to Hell by AC/DC

Follow us on Facebook: @SocialRecovery101
Read our story at: RecoveryHighSchool.com

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