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Personal Growth: The First Chapter of My New Book "Stumbling Towards Happiness."

Updated on March 15, 2014
Contentment has been found
Contentment has been found
Happiness is a baseball game at Safeco Field
Happiness is a baseball game at Safeco Field
Re-capturing my love of the outdoors.
Re-capturing my love of the outdoors.
Peace of mind at last.
Peace of mind at last.
A treasure chest of good memories
A treasure chest of good memories

A little over a year ago I began a personal journal of sorts on Facebook called “Sunday Reflections.” There was no planning involved; it was simply a random trip through my mind as I contemplated emotions I was feeling and daily occurrences I was witnessing. Was it an attempt at self-therapy? I suppose that is an accurate description. As I approach the downslope of middle age I naturally find myself in a reflective mood more often than when I was twenty-six and seemingly had no cares. Life was so much easier then; I had barely begun the tapestry of my adult life back then. I had made few major mistakes; I still had dreams of greatness and unlimited possibilities. If the world wasn’t my oyster, waiting for me to shuck it, then at the very least it was a beautiful picture of an oyster in a food magazine. I was educated, athletic, sound of mind and body, and ready to take on the world and see how high I could climb up the ladder of success.

WHAT IT WAS LIKE

As it turned out, life was not nearly as easy as I believed it would be when seen through the rose-colored glasses of youth. In fact, life has not been easy at all. Along the way there was marriage and divorce; there have been three business ventures, all unsuccessful. There has been a constant battle with alcoholism, the thousand-pound gorilla constantly lurking in the shadows of my mind. Self-love and self-respect have been non-existent for years, my confidence was shaken and eventually disappeared completely and there were times I wondered if living was really worth the effort. I lived for a week in my truck, wandered the streets at times in a drunken stupor, isolated from the world completely, and lost all perspective and direction. The twenty-six year old who believed that there was nothing he could not do had become a hollow shell of a human being with zero hope.

WHAT HAPPENED

It all changed in November, 2006. Alone in a hotel room in Anchorage, Alaska, drinking vodka after having been fired from my teaching position for drinking, my health had declined to the point where I had to crawl to the counter for my next drink. For four days I cried, drank, vomited, and drank some more, slipping in and out of consciousness, too weak to seek help and not really caring if I lived.; but help did, indeed, arrive. Friends back home in Olympia, Washington, came to my rescue. One of them flew to Anchorage, put me back together again, brought me home and placed me in treatment. My second chance at life had begun. It was a chance I grasped at as only a dying man can and I am thankful to say that my life is on a definite rebound.

WHAT IT IS LIKE NOW

Gone is the self-pity. Gone are the self-doubts and self-loathings that so clearly defined decades of my life. They have been replaced by love: love of myself, love of others and love of life. It is a success story worth telling, a story of hope and perseverance that so beautifully defines the human spirit. And it is a story of the power of love, that love really can conquer all if it is allowed to grow and set roots within a person. I have survived, and today I thrive, and if it can happen for me it can happen to anyone out there who feels that life just isn’t worth the effort any longer.

Thus began “Sunday Reflections”, the inspiration for this book. What follows is a series of random topics and my perspective on those topics. I have no degree in psychology, no counselor shingle on my door, no qualifications to write this book other than the experiences I have lived through and the secret to happiness that I have found. I hope these musings give you some comfort and help you to visualize a happier life.

CHAPTER ONE:

CONDENSING LIFE TO ITS SIMPLEST COMPONENT

Life really isn’t that complicated, but we do our damndest to make it so. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones to provide comfort, love and understanding. Anything that hinders us in achieving that goal is a negative in our lives; anything that helps us is a positive. I have been accused of being too simplistic in my approach to life. It has been said that I don’t fully understand the seriousness of matters, the complexities of life. But how can that be said? I haven’t lived in some La La Land immune to suffering. I have gone through the worst and then rose out of the ashes of my own self-destruction to sculpt this philosophy of life. I have done this, not to avoid pain through self-deception, but rather to find happiness through the truth. And the truth for me today is that nothing is more important to my happiness than love. Anything else is just a distraction and not worth my time. If that seems too simplistic then so be it. It works for me and that’s all that counts.

I wrote that on October 10, 2010 as I approached my sixty-second birthday. I had been thinking about something my dad told me when I was thirteen. My memory fails me when I try to think of the particular even that spawned my dad’s anger; suffice it to say that something bad had happened and it evidently didn’t affect me the way my dad thought it should affect me. I remember him pulling me aside and telling me that evidently I was too damn dumb to realize when things were going bad and maybe I should think about taking life a bit more seriously. Those weren’t his exact words as my dad had a rather colorful vocabulary when he was upset, but you get the point. It was my father’s opinion that life was pretty darn serious and it would swallow me up and spit me out if I didn’t pull my head out of my posterior and get a grasp on reality.

CHOOSING TO BE HAPPY

His words stung me that day, and evidently they had quite a hold on my psyche, considering the fact that I still remember them all these year later. And in truth I have to admit I believed those words when alcohol became my constant companion and best friend. I have learned, however, that my dad was just plain wrong. Today it is not that I don’t understand when things are going bad; I just choose to not wallow in the negativity of those things or events. Make no mistake about it, I am talking about a conscious choice. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, man is the only member of the animal kingdom who can choose to be happy or choose to be sad, and today I choose to be happy. For decades I looked over my shoulder, not only waiting for the next bad thing to happen but expecting it with every fiber of my being. That is a miserable way to go through life and I choose today to terminate that behavior and just be thankful for all the gifts I have been given. One could call that a simplistic outlook. I really prefer to consider it completely focused on what is truly important.

POSITIVE KARMA

A former student of mine was born with spina bifida, a crippling birth defect that left her wheelchair-bound for her entire life. When I first met her I was instantly captivated by her smile, her laugh, her positive outlook on life. There was no remorse, no bitterness, nothing to lead you to believe that she considered herself cheated. That was when she was twelve years old. Thirteen years later she is still the same remarkable young woman. She went on to college and today is a high school counselor and a continued source of inspiration to anyone who knows her. She is an excellent example of the people I have in my life today. I made a conscious decision five years ago to eliminate from my life anyone who wasn’t compassionate, positive, nurturing and loving. During that same process I met and formed friendships with people who believed as I do, that love is the most important thing in this life. They give me a safe environment through their understanding and empathy, and hopefully they would say the same about me.

It is a wonderful life I have today. I do not look back at the difficult years and wonder why, nor do I consider them a waste of part of my life. It was through those dark times that I was able to forge a philosophy that brings me great happiness today. Simple really is better!

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    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      This is so awesome. You went through some terrible ties but you have pulled yourself up and have grown and refuse to be negative anymore. this ia a wonderful Hub. My granddaughter was born with spina bifida..and she has a wonderful smile..she is so wonderful to be around..

      You are in my prayers.

      i voted up

      Debbie

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      How inspiring! Thanks for sharing this, billy. I like the part about "getting rid of people who weren't positive, loving and nurturing". I'm thirty-two and I've come to that realization. Perhaps it's because I grew up in a nursing home (boy, I could tell some stories there!), or perhaps I've seen the scars that life can leave on people (more stories there). But, the truth is, since life is so short and it goes by so fast, I feel like why spend it with people who bring you down? I won't be "mean" to people or anything like that, but I left a teaching position 1400 miles away because it was so negative, so political -- icky. Maybe that's terribly "right-brained" of me, but when life throws you those lemons, I like to think I dodge them and catch the sweet ones. The rest, well, they can go in the compost pile. So keep on keepin' on, enjoy this short life and keep spreading the word that might, indeed, help another to pick him or herself up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deborah, thank you for the comments and of course for your prayers. I truly do appreciate your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      cclitgirl...lemons in a compost pile? I had never thought of that but great image. Thank you as always for your support and your comments. I'm a big fan of yours and I appreciate you following along on my hubs.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      billy...a positively stunning snippet from your memoir. Quite honestly, it took my breath away. Your words are so profound when you tell of your transformation & enlightened journey from empty to so fulfilled now.

      "Simple" truly is better. I'd say it's BEST. Please, continue sharing your soul with us........Voted up++++

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      fpherj48 Well, where the heck is that sense of humor I had grown to expect? You caught me off guard by being sweet. :) Your words brought a smile to this craggy face...thank you!

    • profile image

      Nita 5 years ago

      You are so easy to learn from my friend. I learned from you and you have enriched my life with your sharing. My mind took notes.. here thy are:

      Love is all that matters and anything else is a distraction.

      Self doubt and self loathing can be overcome by hope and perserverance, which defines the human spirit.

      Condensing life to its simplest component!

      1. Choosing to be Happy. (concious choice to be happy vs. concious choice to be sad)(Abraham Lincoln rocks!)

      a. People who harmed us with negative projections and slander as a young soul were wrong to do so, especially because they were wrong. b.Things will not go well sometimes. Do not wallow in negativity over things or events.

      2. Positive Karma. a. Life has not cheated me. If I am aware of every blessing and I'm willing to share them no matter my current handicap, I will heal myself and those around me. b. Eliminate anyone who is not like minded with loving compassion, and nurturing positivity.

      Love is all that matters, everything else is a distraction.

      You have made my life better Bill Holland

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Well, where the heck, yourself, billybuc! Can't a girl have a sense of humor AND be sweet? Jeesh! Seriously, when was the last time you met a miserable old bitch who could make you laugh??

      Catching people off guard is my strong point!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nita, I am humbled by your praise and so very grateful if my words helped you. Keep walking the path and everything will work out...happiness and serenity will be yours.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      fpherj48...that's better, you had me laughing that time. A sweet miserable old bitch??? I'll have to give that one some thought.

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 5 years ago from Asheville NC

      Well Billybuc, I couldn't be happier for you and I am so, so grateful you shared this part of your life with me. This hub grabbed me and held onto me because it reminds me so much of the depth of feeling that I just recently encountered.

      Keep writing Billy. Keep telling the story because there are so many men out there who feel isolated, alone and unloved, no matter what situation they find themselves in.

      I'm glad I read this hub Billy and I think it's well written and compelling. So much so that I'm sharing it with my followers and facebook family because I think it's an important read, just for the perspective.

      Thanks Billy, and in the words of the Terminator, "I'll be back."

    • sunkentreasure profile image

      BERNARD LEVINE 5 years ago from RUIMSIG, SOUTH AFRICA

      SECRETS OF EXCELLENCE By BERNARD LEVINE

      Be true to yourself - become who you want to be.

      Follow your heart

      to the path of greatness that lies within you.

      Focus your time and energy on your daily priorities.

      Put God's Word first and there will be

      wonderful victories ahead.

      Find a way to serve others and you will be fulfilled.

      Thank God for all His blessings you are receiving today.

      Look for ways to create happiness for yourself

      and for your loved ones.

      Protect your heart with all diligence,

      for out of it flow the issues of life.

      Make God your first choice when you call for help.

      Dream big dreams.

      (c) Bernard Levine

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Born2care....you are the kind of guy I would be proud to share a diet coke with. :) Thank you so much! I have met some incredible people on HubPages and now I can add your name to the list.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      sunkentreasure...true words, those! I love the last line...dream big dreams! Thank you for sharing that and for reading my story of re-birth.

    • poetvix profile image

      poetvix 5 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      This was perfectly timed for me. I very much appreciate the brutal self honesty and the attitude. Life should be about love. It's so easy to tear people down but much more worthy to build them up. I think your book will do well. Like steel, humans are made stronger when they go through the forge fires. It's not fun, but it is true. You have done and survived much. What a wonderful thing that you can share it to the benefit of others. I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the next chapter.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      poetvix...you flatter me and I appreciate it greatly. I wouldn't change a thing about my life; it was necessary for me to reach this point and the journey was so worth it. Thank you...thank you....thank you!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      billy, billy, billy...Don't make me pull this car over! OK, I'll translate: what I meant was, I CAN HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR AND ALSO BE SWEET.

      NEXT THOUGHT= in an effort to help you understand this logic, I was asking if a "miserable old bitch has ever made you laugh?"...which seem highly unlikely for any of us.

      I AM funny & sweet. I am NOT old or miserable. A lot of people call me a bitch, but I'm sure it's always a case of mistaken identity. And there's always the "evil twin" explanation.

      One thing is for SURE. This hub is absolutley Genius & awesome. I read it again.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      fpherj48...we should have met when we were younger; we could have laughed ourselves hoarse and probably clawed each others' eyes out. I like you just the way you are and I totally enjoy that wicked sense of humor of yours...thank you for your kind words and for following along on my personal journey.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      I’m not sure how to leave a comment that will do this justice. Thank you for sharing both your story and your realisations. I think what you write will encourage many people who may be struggling with circumstances similar to what you went through. Love is indeed the only way to heal and I can see that sometimes we may need to love people from a distance if they have not been a nurturing presence in our lives.

      I will be interested to read more of your story to see how you got from where you were to where you are now.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Melovy, it has been an interesting journey for sure and I have only just begun; hopefully I have a few more years to put into practice what I have learned. Thank you for following along and for your kind comments.

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 5 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      I was so stunned of the news today that Whitney Houston died...how could it be?

      i almost forgot this wonderful piece of hub...noteworthy...

      thank you for sharing...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It was sad news that greeted us all today. I appreciate you reading this and for your kind comments. It warms my heart to know that there are those out there who enjoy my writing.

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 5 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      yeah, i'm into personality development myself...i'm going back to my inner self in order to find answers to the questions that boggle me...and this is an opportunity for me knowing that there are also people who are into self discovery...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      raciniwa, I can't imagine not being into self-discovery. To not be is to grow stagnant and that is no life at all. Thank you as always for following me on this journey. I appreciate it greatly.

    • Robin Cristy profile image

      Robin Cristy 5 years ago

      Good luck with your book, billybuc. Your insight will touch many.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Robin, thank you very much. I appreciate those kind words as I stumble along towards happiness....oh, wait, I've already found it. :)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      I've been reading several of your hubs, profiles and blog today trying to find out how to purchase your book. Is it already published or is it in the process of being written and published? If it's out, where can I purchase it?

      Your writing is not only compelling, but it touches my heart and even when you're talking about tough times from the past or the occasional self-doubt in the present, I always go away feeling inspired and reconfirmed in my own belief that happiness is indeed, a choice and one that can be made no matter what our current circumstances are.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy, you are making me beam today. Thank you! About my book...I always warn people that this is a work of fiction and it is nothing like the writing you see me do on HubPages. It is a fantasy and it is crude at times; the message is the same as the message on HubPages but one needs to wade through some silliness to get to the message. Having said that, if you go to www.the1259shuttle.com you will see how to order it....or you can just email me at holland1145@yahoo.com with your address and I'll send it to you. Thank you kindly and I am truly humbled by your words. I would love some day to sit down over a cup of tea and discuss life and choice and happiness together.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Got it! Was able to make the purchase through the www.the1259shuttle.com website. Thanks for the warning but from the synopsis it sounded like I should enjoy it. Congratulations on getting it published.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Happy, thank you very much! I will go find the order and put it in the mail by Friday. I am very appreciative and I sure hope you like it.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      I saw in another comment that you received my order and am looking forward to its arrival.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Gail! Thank you again and I'll have it in the mail today! Have a wonderful day back east!

    • mindful mamo profile image

      mindful mamo 5 years ago from Sooke, BC

      The more of your writing i read the better i feel. You echo so much of what i feel and what i attempt to put into words - you just do it better, and you inspire me to keep on writing and being my best most authentic self.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mindful; I think quite often I acted because pain is the great motivator in my life. Once I hurt enough I'll do something different. It seems I have finally grown tired of pain and so now I lead a much simpler life and it's working. My best to you and thank you so much for your comment.

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