A particularly beautiful and sunny tree-lined street. A newly painted white wooden fence running along next to the sidewalk. I was encompassed by a crisp, clean and bright neighborhood. My neighborhood. In that same “all the world is right” moment – like the lights being dimmed in a theater before the opera – a shadow fell across the entire scene in front of me. Automatically, I glanced straight up to the sky and saw a dark gray cloud. Where did it come from? The gray cloud, as small as it was, had completely covered the bright sun. How something so small could create such a huge effect baffled me. Without thinking, I pulled my car over close to the white fence and I quickly stopped. The air was still but by the time I grabbed my camera and jumped out of my car, everything all around me started to get bright and clear again. Darkness does pass unexpectedly over all of us at one time or another. No one goes unscathed. I’d say that the good news is that not everyone goes through dark moments at the exact same time. Thank goodness, because this way, like riding a teeter-totter when we were kids, we can help each other and rely on each other. We all have our turn. I’ve asked for help and I’ve given help. Personally, I’d say that the most challenging times of all that I’ve experienced is when I did not tell any one about the challenging time – feeling as though I would just be a burden to them. Or feeling too embarrassed that I might start to cry. When I moved back to California from my 2 years in the Midwest, even though I was living only about an hour and a half drive north of where I lived for 15 years, I learned a painful lesson as to who my real friends were. (And thank goodness!) But I was unaware I had so many acquaintances – who were not true friends at all. My experience is that the most uncomfortable lessons are when I learn my honest to goodness truth. What a blessing to learn who my friends are. And I am the one who has changed. Finding myself in a simple life and finding who my authentic friends are is a powerful and good thing. It is worth every moment of pain and discomfort as my light shines brighter and brighter on my best life. My best self. Interesting that what used to work for me a few years ago, no longer works for me now. Sobriety is not for wimps! Especially with too many reminders that St. Patrick’s Day is 5 days away. Reminders on T.V. commercials. Reminders on displays at the market. A leprechaun or two. A plastic green derby for sale. Shamrocks. That’s when my heart skips a beat. Shamrocks. A four-leaf clover. I remember vividly my grandmother’s charm bracelet. So long ago. She’d tell me a sweet story that went along with each charm, and finally my favorite charm, the silver four-leaf clover. Each time she would gently turn it over where I would see the engraved date 3 – 17 – 55. My brother’s birthday, yep, he was born on St. Patrick’s Day. I would like to know why I miss him so much lately. Is it simply because of the Hallmark Holiday? The pictures of the pot of gold and the mylar shamrock balloons flying above the cash registers at every grocery store in town? Or maybe because my father brought up my brother during our last phone conversation. He confided in me that his hearts breaks all over again every time he thinks of Ryan. But even though my brother had many faults and sadly he lost his way as he drank and got involved with drugs – simply put – I miss my big brother. Why? Because I got ripped off. I was supposed to have a big brother, but that plan was changed when he first became an addict and then disappeared 23 years ago. That’s a bit too long to not know what happened. As if reading a captivating heart-felt book and then realize someone stole the last chapter. Ripped it right out. Who does such a thing? But being an alcoholic and/or an addict is like that – we can get sober or we can die – or worse, we can disappear. Acceptance is a powerful, powerful tool. I chose to practice acceptance. I am a fool if I do not cherish the fun childhood memories with my brother when he was the person God intended him to be. His unique sence of humor. His musical gift. His guitars. His trombone. Watching him play the baby grand piano along with our mother. Sometimes I would find him waiting outside my classroom door just to walk with me. I appreciate what I did have with him. (Except when I’d go in the back yard, he would love to lock me out of the house just so he could watch me scream at him through the locked sliding glass door.) And through the years, I get to have a guy friend or two that have become my stand-in brother when I felt I needed one. There is always a solution. There is always acceptance. A while ago I had a profound experience during a brief conversation about my brother with a stranger – I wrote a post about it a few months back A burger the beach and fog. Priceless. I am going to do something special next week on March 17th to honor my brother. Even if a small dark gray cloud passes over me, or my mother, or my father, I know it will keep moving and pass by quickly, even if the air is still. It will be a good St. Patrick’s Day, because I have plans to make it so. Plus a lot of acceptance.