Good days, Bad days

Adjusting to life on dialysis has been a challenge to say the very least. At the beginning, when I begrudgingly began treatment, I found the schedule harrowing and highly inconvenient. Commute time, prep time, getting on the needles and setting up the machine, 4 hours in the chair (which is surprisingly long and uncomfortable to stay still for that amount of time), coming off the needles with the accompanying pain and bleeding and then being evaluated as fit to leave…it’s at least 5 hours per day. It’s almost a part time job when you add it up and a big chunk of my day 3 days a week. But I got used to it. The problem I found was that I, not unlike every other patient, was washed out and tired rendering me essentially useless for the rest of those days.

It’s been a year and a half now and not much has changed. There has been some progress on some fronts. I have a potential donor, which I normally don’t get excited about because every person to date that has offered didn’t take the next step when asked. The next step is calling my team and inquiring about the process. Nobody to date has done it but him.

He was told to lose 30 lbs when he called and I found that to be unacceptable. What if I was dying? Would they put me on life support until he lost the weight? At that point I wrote him off, only to have him text me that he was down 12 with 18 to go. That is a glimmer of hope and I will leave it at that.

I’m officially on the transplant list. Finally. I received a Pager in the mail on Friday that I am to wear in the event that a matching kidney becomes available. The wait time is 3-5 years with a credit for time on dialysis so I’m basically halfway to it, the only obstacle is that I have a bunch of antibodies that I picked up in a transfusion when I almost bought the dirt farm last year. This series of good events has inspired me to step up my fitness. Although I am in decent shape, according to my dialysis nurses I’m a fine specimen by their standards, I really want to go into this in the best shape possible. So despite my frequent walks, calisthenics and overall attention to my diet, I have begun an actual workout routine. To solidify my commitment I joined a fitness center.

In my area of NH there are no Planet Fitness or Work out Worlds. I would have joined one a long time ago. I discovered this place quite by accident. My mother started doing Physical Therapy for a leg injury and she told me about the place. As it turns out, a place that I have been driving by for years is not just for PT but is an actual fully equipped Gym complete with every machine you need, free weights and a crossfit room with my favorite accessory…the heavy bag.

I joined immediately.

The challenge is how many times a week I can go. I’ve gone on a few dialysis days and I always go on the off days. Essentially, I go when I feel up to it. I have been really working hard and it seems to be paying off. In addition to feeling stronger, many people have told me that my physique has changed a bit. That my chest is prominent, my shoulders pop through my shirt, my gut is smaller, my arms look bigger. All that is fine and good but the bigger picture is that I am doing something that seemed unrealistic and unattainable.

But I’m doing it. All of the people that have told me what my limitations are or should be are eating their words. They can’t define what I can and can’t do. They are simply not me and they need to understand that.

I have good days and I have bad days. Lately the bad days have been more frequent and I find myself at home feeling like a giant shit burger and I get mad at myself. I then remind myself of what my real limitations are, that I am doing the best I can, that I am not just accepting my lot but instead fighting it. But the realities are there, the other voice tells me that it’s ok to not feel great all the time. It happens. Still, I continue to feel that I am not the typical dialysis patient and that I need to push myself. On those occasions I get down on the floor and do pushups or I go to the club and I move as much weight as my body, on that allotted day, will allow.

3 years ago when my kidney failed I thought that it was something that I could work through and I foolishly joined a gym. With bloated legs (water retention was brutal), a very overweight and out of shape body and very little stamina I worked out to the best of my ability 4 times. The results were not good. I was weak, washed out, bloated, sicker than I wanted to acknowledge. On my last exercise of my 4th workout I was on the weight bench. On the bar I had a weight that I used to warm up with. Not much at all. I got pinned under it. I actually had to have a good Samaritan pick it up off my chest. Embarrassed, I immediately left and never went back. That feeling stuck with me.

Today, I tried the same weight on the bench press that buried me. To my amazement, I benched it 10 times.

Today was a good day.

Life happens fast and we are all dealt a hand that we must either fold or play. I’m playing mine. It’s the results accomplished on a good day that are going to carry me through those days when I’m mad at myself for not being able to climb a set of stairs without needing to sit down. Those are the bad days.

We all set goals. I have adjusted mine to simply work my ass off to ensure that, until my miracle happens, I have more good days than bad.

Life’s a Garden baby. Dig it.

A Dog's Purpose

The other night, while strolling through the 179 channels of nothing that we pay too much for, I came across the movie A Dogs Purpose. I’d heard of it, in particular, that it was sad. I’ve wanted to watch it but I learned my lesson with Marley and Me after I barely recovered from the ending of Old Yeller some 45 years ago.

An aside, I can watch the worst horror movie jam packed with gratuitous sex, entrails hanging from the rafters and enough blood to fill a swimming pool and I will sit, unflinching as I munch popcorn. There is no limit to the depravity I can view and call it entertainment. But I lose my mind if an animal is harmed, especially a dog.

Curiosity prevailed and I selected it and sat back in my recliner. An hour and a half later I sat transfixed as the credits rolled. It was worth the watch, in fact it was wonderful. There were a few scenes that made me tear up, including the ending but it was a joyful brand of tear-jerker.

If you’ve seen it please indulge me, this is not a movie review but instead a homage to the lead character, the beloved dog.

In short, the movie is about a dog who experiences reincarnation. It is narrated from the dog’s POV and the story takes us through about 30 years, starting with a young Golden Retriever that belongs to a young boy in the 70’s. Most of the movie occurs with this character as he loyally stays by the side of the boy as he grows into a young man. It is an extraordinary relationship and the scene when the Dog (Bailey) gets put down is indeed a tear-jerker. It didn’t help that I stood in such a Dr.’s office less than a year ago as we watched our beloved Brandon draw his last breath. The movie unfortunately nailed the pain and grief of the moment and I was impressed but sad. By sad I mean bawling like an idiot. But the movie brings the viewer back to smiling as we see Bailey emerge as a new puppy, one possessed by the knowledge that he was “back” and had the presence of ,mind to remember his past life. We are walked through several incarnations of Bailey; a German Shepherd Police dog that gets killed in the line of duty, a Corgi that dies of old age under the love of a married woman that he had been with since she was in college, and finally a Mutt that has a miserable life at the hand of an abusive owner. But the owner sets him free (cruelly, by just pulling the truck over and kicking the dog out) but our hero turns it into a blessing when he reconnects with (by the power of the wet nose) a woman from his first life. This woman was the girlfriend of his first owner and they had broken up as teenagers. Amazingly, he reunites the two, who fall in love again and get married thanks to their 4 legged matchmaker. The movie ends as Bailey miraculously manages to convince his former owner that he is indeed his old dog in a new body. It is a beautiful, tender moment and a wonderful ending to a movie.

Thus confirming what I have known since I buried my first dog as a young teenager.

A Dog’s Purpose is to form a completely unique and unbreakable bond with us, make life unimaginable without them and then leave us too soon with a enormous, smoking hole in our very souls. If we value friendship, and most people do, we are left feeling as if we have lost our best friend.

I don’t know how the chain was determined, how it was decided which animals are chosen to be beasts of burden, which are food and which become domesticated companions. The line is further blurred as we see species never before regarded as a pet; reptiles, goats, pigs, miniature horses, cows and even “wild” animals such as big cats and bears showing up on cute FB videos as “pets”. As refreshing as these friendships are none are as special and, let’s face it, as natural as the relationship between the dog and man.

I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life. In fact, I have often felt that I have experienced more than my share. I’ve been to a staggering amount of funerals. Dear friends in HS at the hands of tragic accidents. Family members. The loss of my father to name a few. Sadly, I think I am more “over” all of them then I am my first dog. Am I saying that a mere dog meant more to me than my father, family and friends?

Of course not.
It’s just not the same. The hole left to fill is as big as a Black Hole. Friskie, my first dog, was my earliest memory. He was a pure breed Brittany Springer Spaniel, gun shied at a young age and rendered useless as a hunting dog. We found him at a shelter when I was about 5. He became my constant companion, my shadow, my best friend. As a child with few friends, we were especially close. He even saved my life. Twice.

We lived on the bottom of a hill that was the main route to get to the Middle school. One day, I was playing by the street and my football got away from me. I followed it into the street and suddenly found myself being tackled. It was Friskie, who ran across the street from the other side. A school bus nearly missed him as he knocked me to the ground. We were both nearly killed. As he sat on my chest, he looked into my eyes and I swear at that moment that I was staring into the eyes of a kindly, wise old man. He was never “just a dog” to me.

I was a teenager when he died. Despite him being an older dog that lived a full, wonderful life I was crushed.

For years I missed him. We got another dog, which I loved. Mom and Dad had a few after I went out on my own and I loved to visit them. Their household always had a dog, my parents were in agreement with me that despite how crushed you are, no matter how big the hole they leave, another dog is the key to recovery. Not that you ever get over that particular dog, you simply need to fill the hole in your life.

When I moved in with my mother 3 years ago her dog, which she shared with my father before he passed, was healthy and thriving despite his advanced age. A year later that changed. I hated to go through it again, I wasn’t ready. But I put on a good face and I tried to love him through the concerned looks and worry. I believe that it is imperative to love a senior dog as much as you did the puppy and be there when they are in pain and to always be there when it is their time to shut their eyes forever. We owe it to them and that is just what we did. It was terribly painful but I have no regrets. Other than our four legged friends not living forever that is.

We got another dog. We had to. Ours is a dog home and we are dog people. Our dog is not a guest, he is welcome on our furniture and people who don’t like him or his fur are welcome to stay outside. Our new dog, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel pup named Sammy (Samuel L. Spaniel, his favorite human word is Motherf@#ker lol) is a pure destructive delight that brightens our house in ways that I can’t even count. He sleeps on my feet. He follows me when I leave the room. He is happy to see me in the morning and sorry to go to bed at night. He doesn’t judge me and is perfectly satisfied to have his big ears scratched. He’s like our other Spaniels in many ways and in others he is completely different.

And that’s ok.

Sometimes, when I look into his eyes, I have to wonder. Beyond what is he thinking and what his particular need is at the time, and wonder if it is possible that we have met before. That behind his young eyes is the wisdom of an old dog. One that has met me before and is as glad to be reunited with him as I. Then I remind myself that reincarnation is not real, that it is impossible. That what I am feeling is just unconditional, pure and unfiltered love.

For to love me more than it loves itself; to only think of and need me alone when I sit preoccupied with the events of my day; to devote its entire life to being there for me…THAT is a Dogs Purpose.

The man who said no

Have we met? I’m easy to remember. My favorite word is no.

I don’t know when I became that guy. I’m pretty sure I hate that guy. So how did I become him?

That’s rhetorical I suppose. I know how it happened. I have a little “Noid” on my shoulder. Remember the Noid character from the Domino’s commercial?Mine sits on my shoulder, not unlike the shoulder of everyone with a chronic illness. This particular Noid gives little to no shits about the timing of your pizza delivery, he only cares about your energy level and ability to live a normal life. His biggest role consists of listening in on your life to see what invitations and opportunities arise and as you are considering attending he leans in and whispers in your ear. “Nooooo.”

I vowed to never listen to that Noid. I was different than others with Chronic Illness. I was more optimistic, more determined, stronger than others and I would continue to thrive. It is becoming more apparent daily that it is an illusion, I’m no different than the rest. At least not anymore. Now, my Chronic illness has the ultimate and final say in what I commit to.

It’s not that I don’t want to go out and do things. In fact, sometimes when I get an invite I mentally envision myself there, doing it, rocking it even. Then I remind myself of the harsh truth that only those with a Chronic Illness will understand.
“Yes, I feel ok now but how will I feel then?” That is the big question. And, while I can only speak for myself, it leads to a lot of no’s.

The Noid looms in the shadows. He doesn’t hide, his presence is known. For the longest time I knew that I had his location narrowed down, confident that he would stay where he was, that he wasn’t coming for me.

Not anymore.

It happened real fast. I went from bouncing out of my chair after dialysis. I got up early and went to bed late. I was working out. People invariably were surprised when they learned I was sick. I was fooling everyone. Even myself. Then I started showing it. My walk went from a confident gait to a slow but determined straight line. I was slow to get up. My legs were constantly cramping. My complexion paled. I knew it was happening but I was powerless to carry on the charade. People began to ask me in earnest if I was ok.

When I said I was fine…those who knew me didn’t believe it. I still refused to open up about it because I just don’t do that. They grew frustrated with me. They don’t get it, it’s not their journey it’s mine. It’s not their story to tell, it’s mine. I will tell it again but right now I’m too tired.

Always the introspective one I have looked hard at my current mindset. It’s not that I’m unable to do things, I just don’t want to. Anything outside of my recliner is no longer my comfort zone. I know how far the fall is from upright into my chair, outside the house I can’t measure or prepare for the fall. It’s happened too many times lately; I’m out and all of a sudden I just hit a wall and sometimes that wall hurts more than it’s worth.

I’ll get back on that figurative horse someday. I always bounce back. At least I always have before. I can hope. But until that time, I am taking off the Superman shirt and replacing it with a simple black T shirt with a giant N on the chest.

For I am now the man who says NO.

my worth

I never talk about it but it’s always on my mind. I miss working. A lot.

I was always a guy whose identity, and unfortunately sense of self-worth were tied into my job. Not only that I have a respectable job, but also fulfilling and gratifying. I took this notion way too far, I was never able to leave my work at the door when I left. When work was good, I was happy and it spilled over into my home life. When it wasn’t, it affected my entire ability to function. I had heard the term “work to live, not live to work” but it just didn’t apply to me. I was a workaholic in that it permeated every aspect of my life, often with major ramifications.

I rode the roller coaster for years. It seemed to have started when I met my wife to be. I was working at a restaurant. I was merely a laborer making a meager living but I suppose I was happy. Shifting between dishwasher and part-time line cook in training I was recovering from a major motorcycle accident, trying not to think about having recently dropped out of college and making just enough money to drink myself to the point that I was unable and unwilling to think about my problems. Occasionally I reflected on my life just enough to recall my favorite line from Animal House:

But I only reflected on it long enough to get a little chuckle and then I resumed my ways. It wasn’t until I began dating my future wife that I realized, or was told that I could and should do better. It wasn’t until I got Testicular Cancer that I took my vocational career more seriously and as I was recovering from the surgery I filled out some applications. I landed a job at Enterprise Rent A Car. It would require that I work 7 days a week, 2 at the restaurant to keep my health insurance but I did it. The job sucked but they promised that any employer will jump at the name of Enterprise on a resume.

They were right. I landed a job at a Salvage Auto Auction. Everyone in my training class was from Enterprise. This job led me to the wholesale auction industry and it was there that I would stay for twenty years. Sales, Sales Mgmt., customer relations, budgets, administration, team-building and logistics appeared on my resume. By the time I met a guy at a cocktail party looking for everything on my resume I was ready for a amazing position for a change because everything to that point had sucked. My previous jobs had been good enough to keep me balanced at home and I liked them just enoughto keep my self-esteem balanced. But I wanted and deserved better.

The new job would prove to be the one that actually made me feel like an all-around success. I was good at it. Better than my new boss ever suspected I could be. My owner referred to me in front of his high-powered and very successful buddies as “the best in the industry”. I was an appraiser, a master at being a liaison between the higher-ups and my customer base. I solved problems. I saved money. I was busy…

my desk any given day…

I found solutions and implemented systems and just often enough to satisfy the soul…I actually helped someone occasionally. My work life and home life were in perfect balance (except for the fact that my wife was never happy and my marriage was going to hell).

I began to spend more time at work. It was my happy place. I was surrounded by people that made me happy and away from the yelling and the constant demands from wifey that I make more money. Perhaps one of my favorite things in my office was my shrine to my upbringing, the top shelves of my enormous bookcase that held my tribute to the amazing family members that kept me going, with a special nod to my father and grandfather.

The Opus doll, well that’s a no-brainer. Bloom County was always a favorite. The Charlie Brown and Looney Tunes mug, well that’s my childhood in a nutshell. The baseball, my son gave me the game ball after he lined his first double over an 11 year old’s head in Little League. The model cars never failed to make me smile as I am a shameless car lover. The model trucks were a makeshift shrine to my father. The license plate was from 1929 and was once on my grandfather’s first car.

While work was mostly good for me, I often found myself staring at one or more of those objects during the course of the day. They made me happy and provided a little slice of home when I couldn’t be there and a reminder of who I was and where I came from in moments of weakness.

When I lost my job due to illness, packing those items was the most difficult thing for me. I loved my shrine.

Those items now sit in cold storage along with my career and my self-worth. I no longer have my career to give me an identity. My value to society seems somehow less. I no longer make the same difference in people’s lives. Nobody, including my children, seem to need me anymore. Most of the advice I give my children seems unsolicited as they are older and finding their own way. Of course they come to me sometimes but I’m used to being a constant resource at work and home.

I need to find another way to evaluate what exactly on earth I am meant to do before I die of pure, abject boredom.

Right place, right time concluded

You can find part 1 here.

There was only one person in the waiting room besides myself, a woman sitting patiently in the corner. This particular waiting room is not a very chatty one, it is mostly populated by very sick people. It was not lost on me when I was under their care that I was one of the healthier ones there, I was only getting shots and infusions for anemia and other renal-related issues. Most people in there were getting chemo. I respected them and consequently felt a sense of reverence towards the woman in the corner. I took out my phone and played around for a while.

“Do I know you?” she asked. Startled, I looked up from my phone. I wanted to give my usual response to that question and say “Do you watch porn?” but I restrained myself.
“I don’t know. Maybe.” I replied
We talked for a few minutes and it was determined that she didn’t know me. It was at that time that Lauren poked her head out the door and I politely excused myself and went to talk to her.

Lauren brought all of the ladies of the center out one at a time. One by one they asked me how I was doing and what I had been up to. I gave them all the Readers Digest version and I kept it very positive, I hate to burden people with my problems. I touched on dialysis, some of the issues I have dealt with and my possibility of transplant in my most self-deprecating, humorous, and matter of fact manner. One by one they excused themselves and went back to work. Except Lauren. She stayed. She wanted me to tell her the truth. So I did. But I still did so in a positive way. Then she had to go back to work so we said our goodbyes. I jokingly asked her if she was still married. She laughed, wished me well and then gave me my fourth huge hug of the day. I turned to leave and as I did my sole companion in the waiting room said something to me. I don’t remember what but it was enough for me to go over and sit down.

What I remember was that she commented on what she saw and heard. She was taken back by my positivity and remarked that it was just what she needed that day. I decided that it was a good idea to stick around and talk to this very nice woman.

She told me her story and I told her mine. She was there for treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis. I didn’t have to tell her that I knew how bad that can be. I listened intently as she told me about her RA and how it has affected her life. She was very brave and I knew immediately that like most with a chronic illness she was a fighter. But something in the way she was talking told me that she was wearing thin with it and like most of us, she was looking for a good reason to keep fighting. As the conversation continued I realized that I was right. She actually said it, that she needs a reason to go on.

I don’t consider myself the best listener. In theory I am, I want to hear what people have to say but my problem is that I want to interject, offer advice. All because I want to help. But in this case I just listened to her. She clearly needed to talk to someone. I was momentarily taken back by the similarities in our situation. One big one…give me a reason to feel optimistic. My take on this is simple, looking for a reason to go on isn’t merely to counteract those dark moments, which all people with chronic illness experience, it is much more, it is looking for something that is stronger than the nagging urge to give up.

When it was my turn to speak I seized upon one thing that she spoke of that piqued my interest. Purpose.
“Ok. You noticed how the nurses all knew my situation and commented how well I’m doing with everything? That’s not an accident. It’s my purpose, my role in life. To be the one that makes that caregiver a break from the sad and miserable people. To be the one that shows that attitude matters. And do you know what else, it’s all an act sometimes.”
“It is?”
“Sure, often I feel like absolute crap but I tell ’em that I’m doing great because that’s what they want to hear. It helps people. Some know better but they respect what I’m trying to accomplish. It’s my purpose in this world, unfortunately not a paid position, to offset the negativity. It’s a role I fell into but once I did I realized that it was something that inspires others into being more positive.
“It’s hard sometimes” she said.
“Believe me, I know.”
“Well, I find you inspirational” she said.
“Well, I find you inspirational as well.”

At that time the door opened and she was called in for her treatment.
“Well, it was nice talking to you” I said. And it was at that time that I received my fourth big hug of the day.

Here’s the rub. I shouldn’t have even been there that day. I was there the day before to do my lab work and I hadn’t noticed the caveat about 12 hours fasting before doing it so I dropped it off and went home. So is it a coincidence or destiny that I would come back, foul mood and all, to see Nichole who wasn’t there the day before; Lauren that didn’t poke her head in while I was there; and meet my new friend?

get the reference?

I don’t believe in coincidences and I don’t believe in destiny. I do believe that sometimes things happen for a reason. I got as much out of talking to her as I think she got from talking to me. It was a very good use of my time.

Be open to opportunities to talk with someone who may be down.
Be nice.
Find your purpose.
When you find it…go with it.


Right place, right time

Where were you today?
Me?
Amazingly, inexplicably and entirely uncoincidentally I was again in the exact right place at the exact right time.

Today started as most days. My alarm went off at 445 and I laid in bed, enjoying the snooze cycle that grants me a 9 minute reprieve from the agony of getting up. In order to make it to Dialysis on time I have to be out of the house by 5:10. Of course I got out of bed at the last minute and I didn’t know that it snowed the night before. After removing the snow and ice I was running behind. I was in a bad mood.

As it turned out the clinic was running behind and it didn’t matter that I was late.

It was a miserable treatment. The needles hurt like hell from the minute they went in. The machines seemed to be beeping and pinging more than usual and I was really annoyed. Amazingly I managed to fall asleep but after a mere hour I woke up in agony. I had flinched (spasmed) in my sleep and one of the needles infiltrated my fistula. In laymen’s terms the needle punctured the wall of my vein. It’s excruciating. And it also meant the end of the treatment. They had to take me off so that I could fight another day. I left 2 hours early with a sore arm and a big blood stain on my expensive new sweat pants.

As I got into my truck, fuming, I remembered that I had lab work to do at the hospital. It was up the street so I decided, despite my mood that I needed to get it out of the way. I walked into the hospital, went to the lab and went to the window to make sure that they had my order. They did and instructed me to wait so I sat down. It was then that the door to the lab opened and it was Nicole.

Nicole the lab tech is a ball of beautiful, charming and sweet stuffed into a tiny 5 foot 1 inch package. I haven’t seen her since I started dialysis (the clinic does most of my lab work now) and I was really happy to see her. As it turns out she was happier to see me as she gave me a huge hug.

“Oh my god, we were just talking about you the other day!” she said.
“Anything good?” I replied.
“Only that we were hoping you were doing well. We miss your humor around here.”

She completed filling the 8 (yes, 8) vials of blood for the labwork, walked me to the door and gave me another hug. At that point my day had transformed into a good one.

Then it got better. Lauren from the infusion center walked in.

Lauren was once the topic of an entire blog. Gorgeous, smart, funny…and married. That little detail always left me unfazed and when I was getting my infusions I shamelessly flirted with her. She didn’t mind, in fact I think she enjoyed it. Here she was, discussing a patient with Nicole. As she turned to walk out she instantly recognized me. I was awarded my third huge hug of the day.
“I can’t believe you remember me” I said.
“What? Forget you? Never.”
“Is that a good thing?” I inquired.
Everyone always asks about you.”
“Can I go in and say hi?”
“Sure. I have to go take care of something so wait in the waiting area and I’ll come out when I can to get you.”

I followed her to the infusion center and patiently waited.

to be continued…

the lessons of time

It is not only a new year but also a entirely new decade. As I mark the halfway point of my 5th decade on this glorious spinning ball we call earth I have to say that the last ten years have easily been my most tumultuous and unpredictable to date. It is said that it is better to forget the incident and focus on the lesson. I need to do just that. If I was to take anything away from the last ten years, it is that I have learned a lot of lessons.

In 2010 it was determined that I would need a Kidney Transplant. Without it, dialysis would be my only option. One that I absolutely hated. The lesson was that, despite my remarkable skills of denial and putting on a brave face, it was time to take my health seriously.

2010 also saw the culmination of multiple bad financial decisions and living beyond my means in the foreclosure on my house and a bankruptcy. Despite finally landing a great job in 2008 it was too late to stop the inevitable and my family dragged ourselves to our new home, a small 3 bedroom apt where the rent was as much as our previous mortgage and we were actually tripping over each other. The lessons were many. I learned to curb my spending. I learned to downsize. And as we banged around in close quarters I learned that the smaller the space, the closer the family and as a family we achieved some much needed closeness.

In 2011 a co-worker and friend offered to give me a kidney. Her selfless offer caused a chain reaction at my company culminating in a fundraiser for my medical expenses. I felt like the luckiest man alive and I was blessed with a huge support system. I received my transplant in December. I was grateful and empowered. The lessons were many. I learned that a blessing can come from any source and to be open to it and be grateful. I learned that people are good and plentiful. I also learned that there is a catch to everything. My GM, who coordinated the fundraiser for me was going to play that card to manipulate and attempt to compromise me for years to come.

In 2013 I lost my father to Parkinson’s. It hit me hard to say the least. I still wonder if he died knowing how much I appreciated and loved him. The lesson, and there are many, was to tell the people in my life how I feel about them. I have committed to always leave people as if I am never going to see them again. Regrets are not part of my current game plan.

2013 also was the year I joined the wonderful fraternity of Freemasonry. I found a passion to pay forward my recent gift of a Kidney Transplant and Freemasonry allowed me access to great men who do great deeds. My commitment to be a better man each day than I was before has forever changed my life. The lessons are many. Selflessness, charity without expectation of recognition, love of community and the confirmation that there are a lot of good people in the world, you just have to know where to look.

Professionally, it was a wonderful decade. In 2008 I had fallen into the job that would not only introduce me to a lifesaving donor, but I found my niche in my career. The company groomed me for a couple of years and then gave me a department to build and I can say, without hubris that I knocked it out of the park. My background and personality served me well in our business model and I became a crucial “go-to” team player valued by our customer base and a frequent resource and problem-solver. Every day was challenging and different and I found myself in a position to help people. The lessons were many, chief among them was to listen to those around you and help them whenever possible. Also, be the worker and coworker that when you take a sick day, people miss you.

I would say that 2016 was the worst year of the decade. It began when my kidney failed suddenly in February. I was floored. Upon receiving my transplant I was a new man. I began my recovery immediately and I committed myself to keeping the kidney for at least the 15 years I was told it would last. I worked out hard. I did P90X, I biked and hiked. I took care of myself and dropped weight. When it suddenly failed after only five years, I was angry like never before. Where were my 15 years? Why did I have to find out on my own that my disease was the only kidney disease to return and infect the new organ? I would later deduce the lesson. You never know what the future holds so get out there and live now. If the Dr.’s had told me that I may lose it in 5 years would I have achieved all that I had? No, if I had sat around waiting for the shoe to drop I would never have climbed those mountains and savored the view.

In 2017 the bottom really fell out. My company closed, taking my dream job with it. My health deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t keep another job. When the job was gone so was the money and that was when my marriage officially collapsed. It was inevitable, we had been strangers for years but it hurt nonetheless. I suppose you know the rest. I moved in with my mother. I applied for Social Security Disability. I was denied. I went on dialysis and I am to this day. That’s the bad.

But here’s the good. I started this blog and if you are reading right now then I made a good decision. I also focused on creating and maintaining solid relationships with my children. Today, we are strong and their love sustains me. I also committed to getting along with my ex. I have not to this day experienced the closure, the explanation for the rejection many years ago and the giant wall that formed between us but I remained friendly with her for the children, for us and for the sake of tranquility. I would like to think that I am setting a good example for the kids on how to be an adult.

2019 served as a year of tying things together and trying to formulate a plan going forward. It was a year of many setbacks and achievements. After nearly dying in September 2018 I emerged from a medically induced coma with a “bucket list” mentality. I focused more on what I could do and less on what I couldn’t and in the process found that I could do a lot of things my detractors said I couldn’t. One of them was buying a motorcycle. Everyone said no, as had my wife and family for many years. But it was in my blood and as an homage to my father I was on two wheels again. The freedom and love of the open road has changed my life and, second to my children, is a thing that keeps me going on those dark sleepless nights when the pain is so bad that I consider the darkest of thoughts…ending it.

My greatest achievements of the 2019 was the transformation of my entire attitude. I like who I am. Finally.

It is true that a man has to hit rock bottom, with nowhere to look and go but up, before he truly discovers what is truly important. Brutal self-examination led to self-improvement. Physical challenges awakened the fighter in me. Having nothing to lose empowered me to rise from the ashes and shine my light instead of lurking in the shadows. It was then the lessons became clear.

For every high there is a low.
People do not suck.
Life is to be lived not viewed out a window from a recliner.
The words “no” and “can’t” are to be treated as a personal challenge. Sometimes we all need help and that’s when we discover who our friends are. Pain is temporary while regret is forever.
Be charitable to a flaw with your time if not your wallet.
Only look down on a man if you are helping him up.
Be nice. If you can’t do that then be quiet.
Don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t do.
Make every day count as if it were your last.

In closing, I hope to be around long enough to do another one of these ten years from now.

Happy New Year.