Honesty or Hypocrisy…does it matter at this point?

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“I’m sorry Dad, I must have a bad connection. Did you say that you are at Church?” I could visualize my daughter’s confused face as she was driving. She was on her way to see us.

“Yes, you heard me correctly. Your grandmother and I are at Church but we’ll be back before you get here” I said. This is going to be discussed at some point I thought to myself. She has never heard me say that before.

I can’t put a finger on the date but for some time now I’ve become increasingly Spiritual. It has been a gradual process. I once considered myself an atheist but I opened myself up to the fact that I was actually opposed to organized religion.

I am a very cut and dry fellow, it has taken me a long time to recognize and overcome this trait. It used to be easy to say that things are either this way or that, nothing in between. I rejected the Church at a young age. I rejected all of it. I had some bad experiences at my church and I saw some brutal hypocrisy that turned me off to all of it. The Alpha-male in me took over. If I’m rejecting religion then I must be an atheist. Regrettably, I tried to be a good one.

I was committed to it. I even went so far as to hire a Justice of the Peace for my wedding. We were to be married in a Hotel and the JOP was instructed not to use the word GOD once. It actually worked out well on some fronts because my wife is non-practicing Jewish and the families were pushing for their own traditions.

As the kids grew we allowed them to make their own decisions. They were not baptized, bar mitzvah’d or bat mitzvah’d but we didn’t discourage them from believing. We celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah. I offered to take them to church if they wanted. They tried it and were not into it. We often talked about God and Religion and they marveled at my lack of belief. I was perfectly fine with the notion that once you die, you are gone. What remains is your legacy. I’ve always tried to be a good person so that was fine for me.

What my children didn’t know is that I was coming around a bit to Spirituality. I recognized that it was organized religion that I was rejecting. There had to be some driving force in the universe. I opened myself up to it but I never told my kids. It is pretty sad but I was embarrassed that I had changed my mind about something I had been so sure about. Of course, it is even sadder that I was even worried about coming clean. I felt like a presidential candidate who had flip-flopped on raising taxes.

We were enjoying a nice meal that night when my daughter says “Sooooo Dad, Church, huh?” I caught my mother smirking out of the corner of my right eye.

“Here we go,” I said. “Yes, kiddo I go to Church sometimes now.” The conversation I had been dreading for a long time was upon me. Having my mother in the room made it more interesting because she has always the one telling me that it was religion, not God that I had a problem with. I hate it when other people are right.

I explained to my daughter that I had to re-evaluate. That I had rejected religion but was seeking meaning in the world, in my life. I told her I started seeing God in nature, meaning in small things, that chronic illness and personal struggles had opened my eyes a bit. That I was not a bible thumper yet, that in fact, I was a bit of an oddity at church. I don’t sing, I don’t recite and I don’t engage in rituals like communion. I’m just not wired like that. I explained that when closing my eyes for prayer, I don’t necessarily feel what I think I’m supposed to but I take the opportunity to think good thoughts and wish good things for other people. I explained that I enjoyed the positivity of this particular church and that it can’t be a bad thing to take a few hours a week to think about others.

She listened patiently, I don’t know if she was thinking I was a hypocrite, if she was bored but putting on an interested face or if I was actually making sense. My mother certainly enjoyed it. I guess it doesn’t matter what she got out of it. Telling her was as much about me as it was about her. I needed to come clean. I feel like a small weight has been lifted. Being honest with my family outweighs being right at this point in my life.

Day 9…A letter to my parents

A letter to my parents

This is a difficult letter to write. Mom, you are here to read it. Dad, you don’t get to hear this but I sure wish you could. If what I have been raised to believe is true, that spirits live on, then maybe you are aware of the things I have said to your stone. You know, the things I wish I had said when you were alive.

I have no complaints. Dad, you would laugh at that and say “oh good” but hear me out. A lot of people my age complain about their parents. They say they wish they had gotten more of this, less of that, etc. This comes in many forms; they wish they had more money, more TV’s, more vacations. They wish they had less curfews, rules, siblings, after-school activities. The list goes on. And this gives a foundation for blame. Did you know that I grew up lower -middle class? Well I did. And I didn’t know it and I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I had another friend’s house, dinner, Television or car to compare it to that I even gave it a thought. Those are just things. All I know is that I never needed anything. If I was to compare it to what my children had you would think that I was poor growing up. In reality I was just fine.

Things don’t validate the childhood, the “adult you” validates the childhood.

Dad, you came from a hard scrabble background. You were poor. Plastic on the windows and dirt floors poor. You learned early on, unlike your siblings, that hard work was the means to self-improvement and your only way out. Everything you had you worked hard for and you cared for those things and made them last. From you I learned so many things that I carry with pride; to work hard and ask no one for anything, to always remember where you came from, be yourself if people don’t like you it’s their problem, that things always work out. You were a dedicated father and you did everything you could to give me a better childhood than yours.

Mom, you survived a near-fatal childhood disease. Your life was saved by an experimental medication regimen. Your mother was a very proper woman with a too-high regard for appearances and a fleeting sense of humor. Your father a properly grounded hard-working but fun-loving WW2 veteran with a huge heart. Your little brother tragically died at the age of 4. Your mother had a tragic series of miscarriages. You became their whole worldYour mother was overbearing. You feared to do the same to me. I always thought you had high expectations of me to pick myself and dust myself off when I was hurt, I now know that you didn’t want to smother and shelter me like your mother did. Your light-hearted approach to life always kept me grounded. I could talk to you about anything and you were the perfect comic sidekick to Dad’s straight man. Your laugh is still infectious, you are sometimes silly. But you are tough, your ability to bounce back from anything has inspired me.

You were a great team. Your loyalty to each other was unlike any I had seen. I saw the way you looked at each other and I wish that I had experienced a relationship as loving. It still breaks my heart how disappointed Dad was on your 49th anniversary, he was very sick and predicted (correctly) that he would not get to dance with her on the 50th. He cried that day.

I learned so much from both of you and I credit you for giving me something that I see lacking in today’s world. Values. Thank you for being everything that I value in life; honest, caring, and genuine. Let there be no doubt, you did a fine job.

Your loving son

my best thinking

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As part of acclimating to the much slower pace of my new environment, I have set a mental goal of accomplishing something significant, preferably physical, each day. I will not allow myself to be a couch potato watching 12 hours of TV a day and then go to bed mad at myself. A walk, a brief workout, some yard work does the trick. Just an hour of my day and I go to bed feeling accomplished, if only in a small way. It’s part of dealing with chronic illness, keep challenging yourself.

This morning I stepped out onto the deck and surveyed the trees surrounding the yard, Pretty barren. Yup, today I would do the leaves.

I went inside and threw on Jeans, a Henley shirt, and a heavy sweatshirt. I searched for my headphones, grabbed my phone off of the charger and headed outside. It was a cold day but I knew that once I was moving I would be fine. It is sad that I had to even think about that but as my condition has progressed I have grown sensitive to cold. Just another thing to deal with I guess.

As I head to the garage to grab my gear I look back and see Mom in the picture window. She looks happy. Happy that someone is there to help her with the yard since her husband died. Happy that she didn’t have to ask me to do it (she never would) and happy that I motivated myself to go out into the cold. I’ve been moping around the house lately and she knows that I need to snap out of it.

The work went smoothly. Clearing leaves is mindless work. I knew that I wouldn’t get it all done today but I could put a good dent in it. Headphones blasted a Spotify playlist into my ears, quieting the roar of the leaf blower. I barely notice the leaf blower going side to side, as if unaware that I was the one operating it, switching hands periodically to ease the fatigue in my forearms. I became fascinated with small details in front of me, like the random leaf that refused to submit to the onslaught of my blower and clung fiercely to the ground before finally yielding. I began to ease into a familiar Zen-like state where I do my best thinking. It happens a lot during yard work. Usually, my mind races and my thoughts barrage me like locusts on a windshield. In this state, they flowed like lava. As I worked I found my problems were right there with me, waiting to be addressed if I had enough yard to handle them all. I was in the right frame to sort them out. I savor and enjoy such moments, they are so very rare.

I have been in a funk lately on the heels of some disappointing medical news. While not normally prone to depression, this news came from so far out of left field that it shook me a bit. And for the first time in a while, I was thinking as if ole Superman had finally gotten himself in deep. I was in my own head thinking about my expiration date. I was feeling bad for myself. But the zest in the crisp Autumn air reminded me of the days when I had unshakeable faith that things would work out. As I worked in my father’s yard I thought of his eternal positivity and envisioned sitting on the wall and talking, like we used to. I thought of my children and how there were so many things I wanted to tell them. I focused on things that I wanted to do, see in my family and milestones to witness. I thought more about life in my years and not of years in my life. I canceled the pity party and committed to change my attitude.

All this from a fall day and a leaf blower? It’s hard to explain. It’s the act of working, which I miss so much. It’s being outside, where I have always been most comfortable. It’s 3 hours of yard work and a significant dent in a huge task. It’s the ache in my muscles. It’s the sense of accomplishment. All of these things showed me glimpses of the kid who stayed outside in the yard, long after everyone else went in. He would stand in the yard arms back, neck back, chest out and let the autumn winds flow all around him. That kid loved life, saw God in everything and knew how to be happy. He would want me to do that again.

Day 8 of the 30 day challenge…a letter to a product/company

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Dear Candy industry:

Please don’t think that I don’t know what you are up to.

You are not doing it for health reasons.

You are not doing it to address the National Obesity and Diabetes epidemic.

You are not fooling anyone.

You are shrinking your product’s serving sizes and you need to stop. The “share size” peanuts M & M’s is what fat fucks like me call ONE serving. And there is absolutely nothing fun about excitedly opening a Snicker’s “Fun Size” and seeing a serving the size of a squirrel turd. What’s next, will we open the package and I’ll get a whiff of chocolate smelling air?

Please, for the love of God remember who made you. Fat kids who wanted to eat their problems away. I will monitor my own blood sugar thank you very much.

I thank you for your consideration in this matter,

 

A longtime fan

Day 7…a letter to a celebrity to despise

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Dear Kathy Griffin:

I just want you to know that you are a despicable celebrity. It annoys me to no end that there might be a person somewhere  that is influenced by you. Your spotlight is undeserved, your celebrity is unearned and your influence is as toxic as it is unexplained.

If you have read this far you are probably knee-jerking your way to dismissing me as a Trump-supporter. You know, the white-supremacist Nazi redneck hillbilly inbred gun-toting bible-clutching toothless moron label that you have attributed to about 61 million people that didn’t vote for your candidate. If you came to that conclusion then you are wrong. I am just a middle-of-the-road American citizen. I don’t fit into any molds, I don’t have an agenda. I just care about right and wrong. And I think that everything about the way you make a living is wrong.

I am a lover of comedy, all kinds. The ability to laugh offsets much of the sadness in the world for many. Those that know how to create laughter have a special gift. You possess no such gift. Your “comedy” consists of mean-spirited barbs and attacks. You viciously attack anyone whose name is recognizable to draw attention to yourself. But once we are looking at you there is nothing to look at. You lack substance, empathy, discretion and sensibility.

It is not all your fault, I partially blame anyone who thinks that you are entertaining enough to dedicate time to. There is no accounting for taste.

I have earnestly hoped that Natural Selection, Nature’s way of eliminating the weak and impure, would have taken you away by now but that was not to be. Instead of falling through the chain of Hollywood, finally being spit out of the bottom of the porn industry like you deserve you again rose to National attention by sporting a likeness of the President of the United States’ bloody head. Yea that’s funny. Regardless of political party, a civilized person cannot find that acceptable or funny.

That was wrong. And you were called out for it. You received tremendous backlash and you begrudgingly gave a bullshit apology that no one believed. But at least you did. I was resentful that people knew your name again but happy you did kind of the right thing.

Until you later retracted your apology, realizing that your fans had no more of a moral compass than you. And for that I will always hate you. It was bad enough that you are talentless and unfunny but you are now a liar who spit in the faces of the people that never deserved your unwanted attentions in the first place.

Please crawl back into the pool of primordial ooze that you and your bad dye-job climbed out of. And please, for the sake of all of us just shut the fuck up.

with disgust,

A decent citizen

happiness

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You have escaped me
Or I’ve never really had you
You’re all they talk about
all everybody wants
I craved the sensation you give
kid’s books ended with you
and ever after soon followed
Life is not worth living without you
or so I was told
But I’ve lived without you
so it must be a myth
It must be nice
For those that know you
I’ll have to take their word
Until we finally meet
If we don’t it’s ok
It’s not like it matters
It’s been so long I don’t know the difference
For so many years I looked in the window
My life as it happened seemed like a show
On the outside looking in
Disconnected from the moment
the sad clown behind the painted on smile
I know you exist, I see you in others
Not sure if I need you but curiosity remains
Your name is happiness
I’d like to give you a try while there’s time

Crossroads…

cropped-cropped-lonely-man-by-the-bed1.jpgThe reason I named this blog as I did is that through my life I have been known to push through obstacles, illness and otherwise, and trudge on. My friends and family nicknamed me Superman because I seemed invincible despite everything that was thrown at me. It wasn’t always a compliment, in fact, it was sometimes a snarky shot meaning that I didn’t listen to common sense advice and other earthly notions. That I felt bulletproof. To be fair, they weren’t wrong. But that’s how I deal with things. It runs in my family. It is a good and a bad thing.

Putting on a good face presents well. I may have been sad and sick on the inside but I’m always going to tell you that I’m fine. My doctors gave me hell, told me that I wasn’t taking my illness seriously. I told them to leave me alone, I’m taking my meds and following your orders. You’re just asking me to act sick and I won’t do that. Right up to my transplant I pushed my luck, fought through the symptoms and feigned good health. I like to think that I spared my children from worry. Youth is hard enough without a sick father to worry about.

The downside of putting on a good face is that when the hammer falls it is more of a surprise to those close to you. Something that has been at the back of my mind all along is suddenly at the forefront of theirs. Word spread and the unthinkable happened, people starting feeling bad for me. The exact reason I didn’t make a big deal out of my illness. I hated how the first question people always asked is “how are you feeling?”

I suppose that I always thought there would be a cure. I woke each day hoping that something good was happening in some lab somewhere that was going to keep me off of dialysis. This strategy, regardless of how well it worked for me, was classic denial. I called it thinking positive.

What is so bad about positive thinking? It worked wonders for me. When I visited my Dr’s office I saw a lot of sick people. They didn’t see that when they saw me. I was working out, I was strong, my weight was under control and I walked with my characteristic “rooster strut” (courtesy of my wife, once again not a compliment). I refused to act like a sick person. I was actually told that I was an “inspiration” by a fellow patient. This mentality sustained me until the big day.

Post-transplant I thrived. I virtually ran out of that hospital determined to get my strength back and to make the most of the 15-20 years of good health my new kidney would give me if I took care of it. I bought a mountain bike, I went hiking, I hit the gym and I spent a lot of time outside with the kids to make up for the times that I sat on the sofa watching them play because I was too fatigued to join them. I had proved them all wrong, it was possible to positively think your way to good health. Even my doctors agreed that my way of dealing with it kept me strong enough to breeze through a difficult surgery and complex recovery like a warm knife through butter. I had vanquished the haters.

Then I rejected 4 1/2 years later. Almost overnight I went from feeling like Atlas to a 95-pound weakling. My bubble had burst. What I hadn’t been told is that the disease that had destroyed my original kidneys had could come back. And it did. I was mad as hell, how could they have not told me of this possibility?

Last week I went to see my nephrologist. My overall function is now 30%. In 2 years I have lost about 75% of my kidney function. I had absolutely no idea it was progressing that fast. I’m pissed, concerned and full of doubts right now of what my future holds, in particular, how long will I have what I consider “quality of life”?

I need to find that positivity again. Fast. Maybe even a little of that Superman. I liked it much better when everyone but me knew that I was sick.