Legacy

Here’s an intense topic for Tuesday.
Legacy.
What will people say about me when I’m gone is something I think about often. Now, before I continue, it needs to be said that I don’t care how many people show up and how many “likes” the inevitable FB post about my passing may get. I just want to be a fly on the wall and see if five words are used in conversation:
“He was a good guy.”
That’s it, that’s all that I want. It seems that after all of those years of keeping up with the Jones’s, trying to climb the corporate ladder and make obscene amounts of money, and being a high-profile member of the many fraternities and groups that I belong to, it seems that my only goal now is to be a good person.
OK, so where is this going you ask? It is an extension of my earlier conversation on identity. I have come to realize that your identity is not a singular entity. It has many components:
Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you doing to achieve that purpose?
What do you stand for?
How did you make people feel?

If you can be consistent with all of these concepts, you will have achieved a legacy to be proud of. You will be remembered well.
Be someone that is remembered for the right reasons.
Be someone that is known for accomplishment, and serving a purpose.
Be remembered as a person that risked something to serve that purpose.
Stand for something so meaningful that you may have died for it.
Be someone who is not only remembered, but someone who will be missed.

As a fly on the wall of my own funeral, if I don’t hear the words, “he was a good guy”, then at least I hope I don’t hear, “he was a useless asshole”. There, I have opened up what may end up being a very big can of worms.
Brace yourselves.

The Horseshoe

I’m a fortunate man. Things seem to fall in my lap sometimes. S0 often in fact, that I began to believe an idiom that I used to scoff at,”Everything happens for a reason.” I was always a shit is random kind of guy. But so many things, series of events, and happenings have occurred for it to be random. Tonight’s tale is the latest.

I clean cars for people in town. It has become an illustrious little enterprise for me and, in three years, has netted some much-needed disposable income and also some great relationships. One such relationship is Ellen, a Nurse who lives in a Condo development in town. I dropped off her car early this summer and she waiting with a check and a cash tip. As I pulled into my driveway I noticed that she had given me two 20’s. I called her and asked if she meant to. She hadn’t, the bills were stuck together. I brought her the money back. She was very impressed with my honesty and told me that in turn, she would spread the word about my services in her development. I thanked her of course, but that wasn’t why I did it.

Last month I got a call from a woman in that development, referred by Ellen. I gladly cleaned her car for her and when I dropped it off she was quite talkative. She had heard through the grapevine the story of Bill’s health journey and she wanted to know if I was ready to go back to work. I told her about my Insurance license and the position I had committed to. She told me that her company was hiring. She is a therapist at a Drug/Alcohol Recovery center. Undeterred by the fact that I told her I was about to be employed, she continued. I was intrigued and told her that if the Ins gig didn’t work out, I would reach out. I drove home excited, working with people in recovery is something I have mentioned many times as a career choice. But I was committed so I put it out of my mind.

Then the Insurance thing didn’t work out. I immediately called her. She gave me a contact to call. I told my mother and she immediately recognized that I had expressed interest in that field before but I had moved on because I didn’t have a Social Work License. As it turns out, the available Case Manager position doesn’t require one. I made the call and it was requested that I fill out an online application. I did it that evening. The next day I got a call and ten minutes later I had an interview for the following day.

The interview went great. I was prepared and dressed to the nines. Interview equals suit to me, my dad would roll over in his grave if I showed up to an interview without it. I made the right call. The interview was great. I wish I had the confidence I have now in what I bring to the table twenty years ago. I explained my reasons for wanting to work with people in recovery. Wanting to help people is paramount of course and that was the central theme. I came across as humble, genuine, caring, and compassionate. It wasn’t an act, I don’t state those qualities, I exemplify them. I knew the role of Case Manager in and out and made sure they knew that. They repeatedly emphasized how hard the job is. I wasn’t phased. They even admitted that they try to talk people out of it to see if they are intimidated. It didn’t work. I like to work hard.
I left excited and I knew that they had seen the real me.
That was Thursday.
I got the call today. I was offered the position.

I did a job. I went the extra mile to the point where someone felt the need to help me. That effort resulted in meeting a person who had access to something that I have always wanted to do. At a time when I most needed it. That is not a coincidence. I have a lucky horseshoe lodged in my ass and I will leave it there.

It is definitely bringing me luck.

Anxiety

In my last post, I referenced view here that I am vulnerable to going down the Rabbithole of anxiety. It being a positive post, I touched on it only briefly, limiting it to the issues I had with negative thinking while using Marijuana. In short, I stopped using it when I noticed it started to enhance, rather than subdue my anxiety. Now I feel the need to delve into the bigger picture, which is the recent revelation that not only do I have an abnormal level of general anxiety, but that I have had it forever, and that it is undoubtedly the greatest obstacle I face in my life in the way of finally moving forward and reaching my full potential.

I don’t know how many people my age are focusing as intently on self-improvement as I. I suppose that many men my age are on the “back nine” of their lives and their careers and find themselves in a decent, at least acceptable place in which a take me as I am or leave me alone attitude is the rule. Perhaps they are too settled in their ways to seek and elicit change. Most likely, a lot of men my age are settled into good habits because they made good decisions that have resulted in a satisfactory life. That is not me. I am ALWAYS trying to make change for the better in all aspects of my life, personal and vocational, because I did not make good choices in my life and I am not at all in a place in which I am willing to accept it as “it is what it is”.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that I am completely unhappy with myself. I am comfortable with many aspects of my life. Certainly, the obstacles I have faced have taught me strength, and positivity and have given me an outlook that I could never have attained otherwise. But I know I am capable of more. Unfortunately, I will not be able to grow outside my metaphorical terrarium because my anxiety has boxed me in.

How did I not recognize until now the blatantly obvious fact that I was not just “in my own head”, but instead suffering from crushing anxiety for most of my life?

My Social Worker at the Transplant center is a wonderful resource and I consider her a friend. I generally don’t believe in therapy but her services are part of my monthly visit. At first, I merely accommodated her, but 11 months later we have in-depth conversations and she really knows me. She has observed that I am one of the most self-aware people she has ever met. That is to say that I know everything about myself and I know what to do, my only problem is actually doing it. I agree. I trust her judgment. That is why I place enormous value in her evaluation that if I don’t make serious and sincere efforts to control my general anxiety, I will never get to where I want to be.

The first step was to recognize that I have it. That wasn’t difficult. What I didn’t recognize how bad it really was. Now that I do, let the healing begin.

the tattoo

I recently got my first tattoo. I’m not sure why I waited so long.

When the heavily tatted and pierced young lady at the tattoo parlor learned that it was my first she was genuinely surprised. I suppose in her world; her job, her generation, etc., it may be a bit late but if she knew anything about my generation she would be less surprised. I am the last of the boomers, by that I mean I’m the cutoff age, and my generation was plagued, or blessed I suppose, with “‘cations” as I call them. Ramifications, Identifications, advocation, dedication, indication, and if your parents or peers really got fed up with your shit then you were cursed with abdication, which of course means disowned by your parents or social circles. By this somewhat pedantic rant what I am really saying is that my generation was judgmental as all hell. Tattoos were one of those things that drew criticism and scorn and had social implications (oops I did it again baby). So, in the interest of presentation and reputation, I refrained from inking my body.

But as I have aged and my concern about what people think of me has sharply declined I decided that at age 56 it was time. The question became a matter of what and not when. I decided that my passion, my driving force, the thing that has influenced my life the most in recent years has been my involvement with Freemasonry. It has been the driving force behind most of the improvements I have made in my life that have resulted in me finally liking myself. If you know me at all, that was no small feat. So I decided that the Masonic credo of “Faith, Hope, and Charityā€¯ would be my first, prominently displayed on my right forearm. It means “Faith in God, Hope for eternal life, and Charity to all mankind”. I live by it and I now wear it.

My children have been having a blast with me over the word Faith tattooed on me. You see, it was not long ago that I was a pretty strong agnostic, if not a borderline atheist. What can I say, I’ve had a change in position.

Hey, people change.

It was Freemasonry that brought about the change. One of the only requirements for membership, besides a documented history of good character, is a belief in a higher power. No particular denomination or definition of deity is required. You just have to believe in something as the driving force of the Universe. I struggled at first when I researched joining. I disliked the notion of joining a fraternity based upon good character on a falsehood. So I took a hard look at myself. I was one year out of life-saving transplant surgery. Over my lifetime I was a cancer survivor, had flatlined for 2 minutes after contracting a staph infection, walked out of the hospital after I was told I might not walk again after a motorcycle crash, and had suffered a severe head injury as a child. Yet there I was, still standing and still kicking. I had to ask myself, did I survive all of that just on my own? Or did I have help?

I had been seriously grappling with faith for many years before that, my whole life perhaps. The conclusion I was approaching is that what I really had was an aversion to organized religion. You will thank me for leaving it at that. But a deity, an unknown power, a driving force if you will is very believable and doesn’t need to be defined. Atheists believe that there is nothing, zip, zero, squat out there. I believe that nobody can say that for sure and the sheer vanity of that alarms me. So by the laws of deductive reasoning, if you don’t believe there is nothing then there has to be something. Mother Nature, the ocean, Karma, whatever strikes awe in you and demands further explanation. It opened the door for me to accept faith. Many call Spirituality a “Cop-out”. It’s not, it’s faith that lacks a precise definition. I still reject most of the tenets of traditional belief but, quite simply, what I do practice makes me feel good.

So I wear it proud. Without fear of reproach from the judgmental ones of my generation, and free from those who know my past belief system. It is just what a tattoo should be. It means something to me. That’s what matters to me. I now have faith, I would love for there to be some form of eternal life, and the goodness that I try to exemplify in my heart causes me to be charitable.

No matter how long I live I will have it. Unlike most tattoos on people today, I will never look at it one day and ask myself “what was I thinking?” At that moment, my heart, my head and my thinking had never been clearer.

the Pilgrimage

I have struggled with the idea of god for most of my life. From a very early age, I was more than encouraged to attend Church. While I respect that to this day, exposing me to something that was wholesome and positive, it never really stuck. I didn’t believe in it, I didn’t understand it, and sadly I felt no need for it. In addition, I found myself highly annoyed by a good number of the people in attendance. Even as a young boy, I had a keen eye for hypocrisy and Bullshit. My church was rampant with both. For every person who dutifully stood and sat on command, recited tired and canned responsive readings, and paid respectful attention to the sermons, there were ten who were all about appearances and acting judgmental. They annoyed me to no end, but not as much as the theatrical ones who swayed during hymns and constantly yelled “Amen” for all to hear to show all in attendance what a wonderful fucking Christian they were. Add in the assholes who raised their crisp 100-dollar bills into the air to examine it and of course, make sure that everyone saw it before they dropped it into the collection plate. I never felt comfortable with any of it, the only redeeming quality was watching my Dad, who really tried to do what I always believed it was all about; cleansing his soul of the awfulness of the past week and spiritually bracing himself for the upcoming one.
As soon as my parents stopped forcing me to go, I stopped. It just wasn’t for me. My Dad was cool about it, my mother was mostly fine with it but she engaged me often over it. She told me that I was unhappy with the people in particular of our church, not religion in particular. I assured her that it was both.
Between the ages of 17 and 46, I never entered another church unless it was a wedding or a funeral.

It wasn’t enough for me to not be a churchgoer. I actually danced on the verge of outright atheism. Shamefully, not only did I not expose my own children to church, I foolishly shared my beliefs of nothingness with them. Kids are impressionable, the Dad’s influence is a powerful thing, and I did them a terrible disservice. Ideally, I should have done what my parents did. Expose them to it and let them make their own decisions. I took the asshole route. I used the bully pulpit of my position as influencer of young minds and abused it.

I know in my heart of hearts that I meant well, I was just the kind of father that taught the harsh realities of life to ensure that my children were knowledgeable about the world as it is, despite whatever hopes and dreams they may have had about what it could be. Along that vein, I felt that religion was a dangerous construct; that more war and death occurred in the name of it than I could justify, and that it was largely a waste of time. In addition, I felt that God was just a nice idea and that the Bible was just a collection of moral lectures that could easily be replaced by actual values, Good vs. bad vs. good vs. evil. I went as far as to share my belief that the afterlife is a pipe dream, that we are mortal and temporary residents of this planet and when we’re gone…that’s all folks. I could argue these points endlessly and successfully with anyone. I feel it is important to point out that I did respect the belief systems of others, but I really had no interest in it all.

Then I had an epiphany. It wasn’t God that I rejected. It was organized religion. Once I embraced that I embarked on a spiritual journey. One that I would love to tell you about if you will indulge me.