Life is a Joke and God Wrote It

Jerry Stanecki

 

A REVIEW BY Stefan Meyer

for The Spiritual Traveler

June 2001

 

In Life is a Joke and God Wrote It, Jerry Stanecki has written a book that covers all the essential aspects of living the spiritual life.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a famous Detroit news hound, or a recovering alcoholic.  The important thing is that he has absorbed the most important of life’s lessons, processed them, and internalized them so that they are simply part of his nature.  He impresses you as a man who lives his spirituality in a no-nonsense manner, from day to day, and from minute to minute.  He also knows how to tell a story with a clear spiritual point in a highly economical manner.  His message is profound, but delivered swiftly so there is no mistaking it.  He’s like fastball pitcher who serves straight down the middle.  As readers, he’s simply challenging us to keep our eyes on the ball.

The first thing that impressed me about this book was Stanecki’s statement, on the first page, that alcoholism is a “thinking” problem.  As someone who also once involved in a 12-step program, this was also the conclusion I came to.  In fact, not only addictions, but also all neuroses, compulsions, aberrations, illnesses, complaints, and dissatisfactions have their basis in a person’s thinking pattern.  In the 12-step group I attended, there were people who were convinced that their addictions and compulsions were emotional in origin, and that they were addicts for life.  I felt strongly at that time, as I do now, that stopping at the emotions leave an individual’s neuroses intact.  It’s necessary to go farther, and address the fundamental thinking and assumptions that are the root cause of the individual’s behavior.  And that requires a degree of honesty that not all people in these types of programs possess.

Stanecki’s honesty, his willingness to look at himself, and most importantly, his ability to adjust his thinking rapidly are his most outstanding qualities, and I can think of none that are more ‘spiritual’.  Spirituality does not come from uttering the word ‘God’ in a pious fashion, prayer, or quoting scripture.  It comes from living one’s life in harmony with the most fundamental principles of Life-that God IS, that life is in this MOMENT, and that what we are seeking is HERE and NOW.

Jerry describes himself as an extrovert, a type-A personality, a risk-taker, work and success oriented, a tough guy.  And his path to spirituality was clearly determined to a great degree by his personality.  He had to be stopped in his tracks before he could slow down.  He was used to always being needed, always being indispensable, and in a state of action.  It must have been devastating for such a person to be humiliated, to be fired, to be unemployed, to be looking for work, and to find himself in limbo.  For someone addicted to chaos, it must have taken a complete change in attitude to be comfortable with the mere sound of his own heartbeat or a bird chirping in the woods.

Other people will come to the same point via a different path. You may be an entirely different type-an introvert, a loner, averse to risk, without any experience of success in life.  If you’ve lived a humdrum existence, Jerry’s experiences even in the throes of his addiction may  sound more exciting to you than insane.  But it doesn’t matter how he got to where he is, or how you got to where you are.  The important thing is the commonality of viewpoint when we get to the point of no return.  Some people are addicted to chaos, others to order. Some people feel safe in the eye of the storm, others by staying entirely out of its path.  Some discover their fear in a burst of revelation, while others live quietly in full consciousness of their fear for years before they can find the impetus to do something about it.  But whatever the tendency of our personality, the root of our dissatisfaction is the same.  If the fear is familiar to us, that doesn’t mean it’s any less frightening, but only that it has been consciously endured for a longer period of time.

What I really like about Jerry Stanecki’s book is that he doesn’t provide any pat endings to his stories.  The stories I like best, in fact, are the darkest ones.  He tells the story of Fenkell Street Harry, for instance, who lost his sobriety, and eventually his life, because he was late for the bus one day.  And the one about Larry, who poured out his resentment toward his father on the latter’s deathbed, only to see him stubbornly cling to life much longer than anticipated.  These stories work because they illustrate the problem of resentment, the habit of blaming our problems on everyone or everything else, instead of examining ourselves. And by illustrating the problem, they suggest the solution more effectively than any amount of preaching could do.

Of Stanecki’s personal stories, one of the best is entitled “Great Revelations-Not All At Once.”  In it, he tells of the fearful job of making phone calls for prospective jobs.  On this particular day he had five numbers on his list.  After four calls, he had four rejections.  The fifth call left him thinking,  “Well, here’s a possible maybe for sure.”  The story doesn’t attempt to supply some kind of ‘uplifting’ ending.  Jerry’s point is not that due to his faith, his prayers were answered, and he got the job of his dreams.  His point is that the real success lies in the process, in our day-to-day, minute-to-minute attitude toward life.  If we hang all our hopes on a particular job, connection, relationship, or situation, we will only be disappointed in the end.  Life is always changing.  The real security is being able to adapt to whatever comes along.

Life is a Joke is filled with aphorisms that are more than witty or true.  They represent ideas that a serious reader can’t push aside.  For instance, he notes that “Perfection, or the illusion of it, made my life painful.  In fact, perfection almost killed me.  That’s when I decided to work real hard at being UNPERFECT!”  This is not a realization that is relevant only to people who are perfectionists, obsessive-compulsives, or addicts.  It’s applicable to anyone who is interested in developing spiritually.  We tend to equate spirituality with perfection, when in fact it is about anything BUT perfection.  To devote our lives to being imperfect-now there’s a worthy goal.  Having a goal like that can help us develop such traits as humility, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, detachment, candor, and sincerity-all the spiritual virtues, in fact.

The ability to live with imperfection hinges on three main techniques.  The first is to be proactive.  That is, any time you find yourself stuck, trapped, bogged down, depressed, facing insurmountable odds, or in an untenable situation, the answer is always to DO SOMETHING.  Action is the antidote to worry, or in Stanecki’s words, “action breaks the fear that feeds…procrastination.”  Another aspect of this technique is to simply do one thing at a time, put one step in front of the other.

The second technique is living in the NOW, which Jerry illustrates by depicting his worn-out thought processes: “What about the money you owe?  What about [having to make] the house payment?  What about no guaranteed money coming in?  Freelance work is iffy at times…  What about…

“HEY!  THINK DIFFERENTLY!  I jolted myself out of the negative hole I was digging and did a reality check.  The house payment isn’t due for two weeks.  Do I want to waste today and fourteen more days worried about something that is not a demand of today?”

This is an important point.  As long as we are alive and kicking, there is always something we can do that is more productive than worrying about what is around the corner.  And when we’re dead, we’ll be somewhere else, anyway.

In other one of Jerry’s personal anecdotes, he relates how he was talking to himself one day.  “‘Today, on the money issue you’re OK, you’re not broke today.  Stay in the now, focus on what to write.’  I was trying, but it wasn’t happening.  I got up feeling frustrated.”  True to his form as a writer, he doesn’t provide an account of how he solved his financial affairs.  Instead, he relates how he chose to be proactive that day.  He changed his morning routine.  He went out on his deck, saw some geese flying overhead, took a deep breath, and realized how good life is.  That’s an example of living in the NOW.  He wasn’t dead broke that day.  Maybe the next day he would be, but not that day. So why not appreciate the moment?  Why not take a deep breath and watch the geese fly overhead?

The third technique is to believe that everything is happening for your own good, and that your needs-if not your wants-will always be met.  I suppose this is related to faith, but it’s a different kind of faith than most of us are taught.  It’s not faith that all our prayers will be answered or that all our desires will be fulfilled.  Nor is it merely some kind of ultimate faith that in the end we will go to heaven if we just endure this hell on earth.  It is not even necessarily faith in a personal God that watches over us every moment, although it could be.  But it could just as easily consist of faith in the simple principle everything in life receives that which it requires.

For me, one of Stanecki’s most powerful statements is his comment that “In 1983 I decided that I would try to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted, and see if I could survive…

What’s truly amazing is that without having the security of a ‘job,’ not only have I survived, but [also] the quality of my life just kept getting better and better.  I never had a lot of money, but my needs have been met beyond my expectations.”

I think about this concept of doing whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, and it seems so contrary to what most of us are taught.  We do so many things out things out of duty, obligation, service, a desire for security, or just because we feel we have to conform or fit in with the rest of society.  And we think that in being of service to others, we can’t possibly do what WE want to do, as well.  Jerry Stanecki’s Life is a Joke is an antidote to this kind of thinking.  If everyone followed its principles, we would be living in a different world, a world brimming with happiness instead of discontent.  The irony is not only that life is a joke and God wrote it, but that He wrote it for everyone.  But there are millions of people who don’t get the joke.

 

ABC News reports 50 million Americans struggle with alcohol problems.  At least twice as many more suffer from one form of addiction or another—drugs, sex, food, work, shopping, Co-dependency.

The question is: does alcohol, drugs, sex, food really have anything to do with their problems?  Or, is it a “thinking” problem?

  A new book from Jerry Stanecki shows you how to:  

     

•Understand Fear and Beat It

•Let Go of Resentment and Win

•Accept Imperfections and Turn Them Into Positives

•Realize the Power of Surrender

•Appreciate Yourself

       Stop Stress from Stealing your happiness with:

Life is a Joke and God wrote it

Author Jerry Stanecki was an investigative reporter who charged into mayhem, murder, the mob, riots and terrorists. When alcoholism and the chaos in his personal life surpassed the insanity of his stories, he devoted his attention to recovery and discovered a wonderful new way of living.

          READERS RAVE:

:“This book is a full meal for your heart and soul.”

Tim Allen, Comedian and Actor

 

“Stanecki’s guide to rising out of the ashes, it’s good stuff.”

Elmore Leonard   New York Times Best Selling Author

Jerry’s turned his top notch investigative reporter skills on himself and life. It’s a remarkable personal and professional journey told with humor, insight, and painful candor.”

Dennis Wholey, host of

This is America and author of The Miracle of Change

 

You provide ideas that we can practice right away to make our days richer and more meaningful.

 Christian Belz, Warren, Michigan

 

Jerry Stanecki is a three-time Emmy winning journalist, performer and writer. His syndicated newspaper column of insights into life and spirituality appears weekly in newspapers nationwide. Jerry is a popular inspirational/motivational speaker. He lives in a suburb of Detroit.

 

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