The Tube

I mentioned in a previous post that I have been beating myself up for watching too much television. Today’s entry in the “give myself a frickin’ break” category consists of digging down a bit on my watching habits.

I mention this because I was getting really rough on myself for spending so much time in front of the TV. From a health standpoint yes, TV is bad because you are sitting on your ass for hours on end. Never a good thing. The last thing my body needs, with all of the healing that needs to be done, is inactivity. But it’s not all bad for the brain. I mostly watch documentaries, movies and shows that at least stimulate my mind a bit. Crime dramas mostly; Criminal Minds, Forensic files, Dateline, ID Discovery. I’m fascinated by the human condition, what people are capable of. Both good and bad. There are lessons to be learned from any meaningful story, even if it is a cautionary tale of what not to do and who not to be. In addition, when I’m stoned (I’ve been prone to more of that lately)I love to watch shows I’ve seen before because I notice integral details more and study the acting of my favorite characters closer. Often, I find myself more impressed with the writing or the acting. And sometimes I get critical.

When my brain is tired at the end of the day I watch silly but tried and true sitcoms reruns until bed. After all, I love to laugh.

Expect some posts on my favorite movies, TV shows, actors and characters. It should be fun, stimulate some discussion and give me something to blog about. Hey, at least it’s not politics, right?

If you haven’t noticed…I NEVER write about politics.

Existing vs. living

I feel like I’m coming out of the funk. I can’t say how long I’ve been in it–too long for sure. It probably happened about the time of the time change in November and the short days. About the time that I was driven inside due to the weather. About the time that I had to put my beloved Harley in the garage until Spring.

I certainly haven’t been the avid outdoorsman that I was in the last few years but I do try to be outside whenever possible doing what I can, despite the limitations that my recent decline in health has allowed. I went from being as active as I was able to a state of vegetation. I stayed in. I slept late. I went to my dialysis treatments and did what I had to do and nothing else. I dreamed of being home whenever I was out.

Home is a nice place to be. My mom is a great roommate. I have a wonderful dog. I have tons of books to read. I have a treadmill, kettlebells, and workout DVD’s to condition my ailing body. I have Tai Chi DVD’s and meditation videos on YouTube. With so many things to keep me company and develop myself physically and mentally, all I did was watch television. Thus began the character trait I hate most about myself.
The self-loathing.
I was in a rut like no other before. I wasn’t living, I was merely existing.

Then I met her. She inspired me to do better. To be better. A pretty little fireball with the vitality of a woman half her age. I wanted her on my arm but I had to build myself up to the point that I could even keep up with her sassy and speedy gait. I trimmed my David Letterman beard, I let her take me shopping for new clothes. I began to work out a bit.
Then I got sick again.
My blood pressure began giving me all kinds of problems. My insomnia returned. I developed a mystery stomach ailment that, in addition to heart problems, has put me in the hospital twice. I felt like God was mad at me. He delivered this gift to me and I wasn’t able to enjoy it. My depression deepened. The old me would have gotten angry, instead I drew into myself.
But she’s still there. Waiting for me to get well. Waiting to give me a future that I thought for the longest time wasn’t an option for me. Waiting for me to get my head and body right.

My recent hospital visit was a bit of a bust as far as diagnoses are concerned but I did get my head in a better place. I came home inspired to recapture the piss and vinegar that people know me for and do what is needed to get it back. I started by turning the fucking TV off. I have been reading. I have been making phone calls. Diving into my role as Master of my Masonic lodge and being the leader I was elected to be.

One thing I know about myself. When I am mentally strong there is absolutely NOTHING I can’t do. I genuinely feel sorry for the person who tells me that I can’t do something. I’m the guy that graduated college because my father told me I wouldn’t. I have defied the odds so many times. I have had 3 near-death experiences and I’m still here. There must be a reason why the Universe has chosen to keep me around. It certainly isn’t to watch TV. That much I know.

Whatever it is that I have to do I am willing to do it again. Time to stop merely existing and start living again. I of all people know that life is fleeting, short and meant to be lived.

Where it all began

As I begin the healing process after yet another visit to the Hospital I find myself motivated to blog more. I found the urge curious, then I realized that, for better or worse, the Hospital is where this blog began.

I was at Tufts Medical Boston in 2017 for severe edema. My transplant had failed suddenly in 2016 and I had been plagued with ailment after ailment for months. One of the symptoms was retaining fluid in my legs. After retaining so much fluid in my legs that I couldn’t get my pants or a shoe on. My blood pressure was out of control and I was on the verge of heart failure. I would find later that they removed 30 pounds of fluid from me in 5 days. You read that right, 30 pounds.

When I had my transplant in 2011 I left the hospital like the Tasmanian Devil. I was back to work in 31 days, which was unheard of. As soon as I was able I hiked, biked, screwed, climbed, walked and hit the gym regularly. I had my health for the first time since I began failing badly in my 30’s. The expectation I was given was at least 15-20 years of health before maybe needing another Kidney. When it failed after 5 I was livid. I was mad at the world, mad at my Dr. for not telling me that my particular disease was known to stay in the body and attack the new organ. I felt betrayed, let down and without hope. I was miserable.

My Dr. came in on my third day and asked me if I had any interest in talking to a team of interns. His concern was that the current batch of students were adept at medications and protocols but lacked good ol’ bedside manner. In short, he felt their people skills sucked. He felt that my story would be a good one to share. I wasn’t going anywhere so I said yes. As he was leaving he turned to me and said, “Don’t just spill it, let them pull it out of you.”

Several hours later 5 interns entered my room. They pulled chairs and gathered around me. They asked me several questions and, while following my Doc’s advice, I let them pull it out of me. Over the course of an hour they heard the tale of Bill. Bankruptcy, foreclosure, lost job, divorce pending, behind on rent and a insidious and debilitating disease. One of them actually wiped tears away from her face. I don’t need to be told how it went, they left changed by the experience.

I sat back in my bed that night and it occurred to me that maybe others may benefit from the shitshow that is my life. I knew that one platform was a blog. I had blogged before to mixed results. I wasn’t consistent in my theme or my frequency and I let it die. But this time I was inspired. I wanted to tell my story anonymously to the world just to get it out and relieve the weight on my shoulders. Ok, I asked myself, what is the name going to be? Immediately I recalled an argument I had once had with my wife in which she was haranguing me to be honest and open with our youngish children about the severity of my disease. She was mad that I sucked it up and faked how badly I felt in front of them. That was what I did, it kept them happy. I also hid it from my employer as long as I could for obvious reasons. As the argument peaked she yelled at me, “OK Superman I guess you’re fucking bulletproof!” and stormed out of the room. It hit me.

“Superman can’t find a Phone Booth” was born.

I knew that it was a dated reference. Many of my readers have never seen a phone booth or the old reruns of Clark Kent running to a phone booth and changing into his suit and saving the day. It was a perfect metaphor for how I felt. In the face of evil, in this case disease, I was running out of ways (phone booths) to find a suit of strength to combat my disease.

I swore that I would pull no punches. It would be what my early readers (some of you are still around and I love you for it) would describe as raw, visceral, inspiring and brutally honest. I told my story. One reader commented that it was the best blog she had ever read and posted about it.

There was a time recently that I thought that I was done telling my story, that it had run its course. But now I know that Superman is back. I managed to remove that Kryptonite necklace hanging around my neck. I found a phone booth and my suit is back from the dry cleaner.

Expect some more raw, some more visceral, some more brutal honesty as I continue to tell the tale of the shitshow that I call my life.

Refreshed

It’s good to be home.

5 days in the hospital and no diagnosis why my BP is out of control and I keep experiencing spontaneous nausea and vomiting. They made a small adjustment to one of my meds for the BP but overall every test on my gut came up Negative. Oh well, it’s not the first time I’ve defied medical science.

Believe it or not I got some rest. Yes, you read that correctly, I got rest in a Hospital.

I’ve been really, uncharacteristically lazy for so long. My illness has really beat me down. While I actually have very little to do, I have been having a hard time doing it. I was almost out of Spoons. (If you are not familiar with the Spoon theory here you go) https://wordpress.com/post/goodtobealivetoday.com/5461 . On top of all of it I’ve been beating the ever-lovin’ shit out of myself mentally for being so lazy. It was a constant, vicious circle and I was exhausted.

Hospitals are not known for letting you sleep. Nurses wake you at all hours of the night for blood and vitals and DR’s traipse in all day long. I’ve ended many visits more tired than when I went in. It’s been anything but quiet and restful. This one was different. Because I told no-one that I was hospitalized and visitors were prohibited due to COVID, this visit was very quiet. Consequently, I had a opportunity to do some extensive mental, emotional, character, are-you-the-person-you-think-youare inventory. Long story short I came home mentally refreshed.

The biggest takeaway is that I need to give myself a break once in a while. I am conflicted by my resolve to act and feel normal and the knowledge that I have increasing physical limitations that simply won’t allow it. I need to listen to my body when it tells me “nope, ain’t happening”. Beating myself up does nothing to help how I feel. I think if I can do that, forgive myself for moments of weakness, I can get back to the old Superman. For now, I need to take it slow.

Baby steps, Superman. Baby steps.

the dynamics of hope

“Have you ever thought of harming yourself?”
My favorite question of the Hospital admitting process by far. In the many times that I have been asked this, especially lately, I have answered with a knee-jerk and resounding “no”. Thursday, before I could stop myself I said yes.
My first reaction was to try to backpedal, but then I said Fuck it and went with it. Let’s face it, as little interest I had in talking to a hospital therapist or clergy, I hated the thoughts I had been having more.
The Social Worker entered my glass enclosed room mere moments after I said it and began asking me a million questions. I was guarded and tentative at first about answering. I wasn’t raised in a “talk about your feelings” type of household. I could better describe it as a “suck it up Buttercup” environment. Courtesy prevailed, however, and I endured. Apparently, my answers failed to raise any major red flags with her and after a declined offer of clergy or further discussion she left without incident. I closed my eyes and braced for the next shoe to drop.
“Hopeless”, the nurse exclaimed.
I opened my eyes. “What?”
“Sorry”, he said. “I couldn’t help but overhear.”
“I’m listening”, I said.
“You don’t want to end your life, you are just failing to find things that make you want to keep going.”
Wow, holy crap and WTF. He nailed it. We talked about it until he had to move on to his next patient.

I have NEVER been a suicide-minded person. I have also never considered myself a “happy” person I have perpetually danced on the edge of happiness and what I lack in joy I make up for in positivity and perseverance. I have never hated life and I have a huge problem with the selfish nature of suicide. I believe that if somebody doesn’t want to go on they don’t have to, but I also believe that it doesn’t end the pain, it only passes it on to the living.
But those dark thoughts have been creeping closer lately. The days are shorter. The sunlight is being coy. It’s cold. I’ve been in constant pain and sick more frequently. I live in a touristy area and it is the wrong season. I’ve spent many 3 AM’s sitting on the side of my bed, head in hands, looking for reasons to go on.
I’ve been in a bad place and couldn’t get out of my own head. I’d forgotten about hope.

I need to figure out how that happened and make sure it never does again. Did I just forget that I have children who love me? Friends that want me around? The good times yet to be had? The amazing and beautiful woman that has come into my life when I believed I would be alone forever? The gorgeous sceneries yet beheld behind the bars of my new Harley? Most important, have I forgotten that even if I’m not needed as badly as I, and all fathers I suppose, once was does it mean that I am not wanted around? All of these things are contingent on looking forward to tomorrow with a fresh and hopeful outlook.

I don’t know what happened to all of these things but I’m going to spend this current visit working on that list of things that await me when I get home.

I have NEVER projected hopelessness before and I don’t plan on doing it again. Hope springs eternal, pain is temporary, life is precious and death is permanent. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to refresh my outlook before it was too late.

Suck it up, Buttercup. You’re better than this.


funk

I am easily in the worst funk I have ever been in.

The cold and short windows of sunshine always affect me but this year is by far the worst with regards to being down. I think I’m clinically depressed. I’ve let my appearance go. I hate showering because the bathroom is so damn cold. I’m always tired. I don’t answer the phone when most people call. I constantly call on myself to snap the fuck out of it but I can’t. The visceral reactions I once had to my hyper self-aware moments are just not there. The days in which I feel good no longer outnumber the bad. I reach inside for the strength and it’s not there.

There are so many things that I want (ed?) to do. Bucket list stuff. Skydive. Travel in a RV cross country and embrace my inner Kerouac. Ride my motorcycle, one of the things that makes me happier than anything. At least it used to. Write a novel. Get my own place. Fall in love.

Now that one I can say happened. But to what end?

My girl is not mine. But I love her. She belongs to another man. Yes, there is a possibility that she will leave him one day. In the meantime I’m hanging around, like a cinder-block around her neck, trying not to influence her in one of the biggest decisions of her life-to leave and start anew. Hopefully with me. The whole thing really is a “hopefully”. In addition to all of her potential adjustments in her own relationship I’m sure at some point she will ask if she needs another man in her life, and more importantly is it going to be me?

The one thought that dominates my psyche is can I be enough for her? I don’t have money. I don’t have my own place. The love in my heart and my dreams of a new and fresh start don’t seem very reasonable when I can barely get out of bed some days.
Sadly, I feel I’ve led her on. Not in the sense that I am not who I say I am. Instead, I feel that in my quest for normalcy I indicated that I was ready for a relationship. I now question whether I can. I can barely take care of myself, can I be enough for her?

All of these thoughts race through my head and I barely have the energy and will to process them, never mind act on them.

I’m in a bad place.

Numb

One of my earliest memories was watching the Resignation of Richard Nixon on TV. My parents sat on the edge of their chairs and assured the eight year old me that this was a momentous occasion that I would remember for years. They were right. I couldn’t believe what I was watching.
Soon after I watched the Saigon Airlift on the news and I was again assured that it would be etched in my brain. It was and is.
Then came the Pan Am 747 that was brought down by terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. I questioned the savagery of human nature.
Then the embassy bombing, I wept for the soldiers and families.
Then there was the Challenger. I was deeply affected on so many levels.
911… Sigh…I wept for humanity.
Mixed in throughout were the years of movies and television bombarding me with gratuitous sex and violence. I saw so many bombings and shootings on TV and the movies it became difficult to distinguish it from the biggest purveyor of blood, savagery, gore and all around bad behavior…Network News.
Fast forward through horrifying after horrifying affront to my sensibilities, by the day that I sat in my office, unable to avert my eyes from the carnage of Sandy Hook unfolding before me, I was borderline numb.
After watching the events of 1/6/2021 unfold before me, the fact that I didn’t fall off my chair tells me that it’s official.

I’m numb.

The mask

People watching is my thing. Many notice how absorbed I can be when out in public. They comment that I’m not paying attention to them, that I’m distracted. Rude even. I’m not really, I’m just studying the people around me. They often wonder what I’m looking at and I know they would be surprised if I told them. If they think it’s all female and I’m studying only the things desired by the typical superficial male, then they’d be wrong. Sure, I like a nice ass as much as the next person but that’s not what I look at. I look at the face.

The human condition cannot be studied only below the neck. With the exception of body language, which is very telling, the face is the great indicator of behavior and the eyes in particular are extraordinarily telling. I’ve always been one to look them in the eye.

It is said that everyone wears a mask of sorts. The face that we put on in any given circumstance is a guise, a facade. It is the embodiment of what we want to tell the world about us on that particular day. Few people in my opinion are comfortable in their own skin enough to wear the same mask each day.

Americans in particular like to pretend. I believe it matters less to some to be happy or successful if they can at least create the illusion that they are. Clothes tell some of the story, the rest is in the eyes and I can tell volumes from them. Consequently, the use of masks everywhere and all the time hasn’t phased me much in the people-watching department. Now that the eyes are all that we see, I’m in my element.

Have you seen someone run into someone and not recognize them because they are wearing a mask? I sure have. I’ve watched people, well-known acquaintances even, not recognize each other when wearing one. It’s never happened to me. I always look people in the eyes so it’s been easy for me.

Now, the eyes are all we have. While it has been one element in making communication harder these days it has created opportunities for the People-watchers among us. Studying the eyes is more than a way of recognizing someone, it is a way of reading their emotions in the absence of other facial tells. In ones eyes we can gauge annoyance, friendliness, irritability, anxiety, fear and even flirtation. Through a mask you can genuinely tell what a person’s reaction to your presence is. It’s all in the eyes, regardless of the mask you choose to wear.

As life continues to get more difficult and society grapples with all of the ways in which to protect ourselves, masks are part of our future. Communication presents more challenges each day. Do yourself a favor while you can.

Learn to see through the mask. It’s all in the eyes.

A rare resolution

I sat down last night to write a blog. I was motivated by the usual, traditional, dreadfully cliche and tired habit we have of waxing poetic about the coming year.
I didn’t really have a plan. I had a few things I wanted to vent about but it wasn’t very linear. But I decided to plug forward and see where it went. As I was composing my tags I held back on hitting the Publish button. I went back and reread. My god, what a dismal, rambling and negative piece of shit. I was taken aback at myself. When did I become this negative?
Therein lies the topic of this blog. Knock it the Fuck off will ya Mac?

2020 was a hard year for everyone. Human beings as social creatures being forced to isolate. A hostile social environment full of civil and most uncivil disobedience. Just plain bad behavior on all sides over an election. Rampant poverty and unemployment. I could go on but you know the story. 2020 was ugly.

I got caught up in all of it. It was impossible not to. In addition, and I’m not alone here, I had to pile a lot of health issues on top of it. My health declined significantly this year and the facade I had maintained for so long began to crumble. I became the sick guy that I had avoided being for so long.

I’m not one for resolutions. Real change happens when it is needed, not when you throw away an expired calendar. But this year I have made one. Regain the positivity.
When I started this blog I was at the bottom of the deepest canyon looking up. Readers said that my story was inspiring. Motivational. Brutally and refreshingly honest. Real (my favorite). Lately I’ve been uninspiring. Morose. Depressed. Boring and uninteresting. Where did I go?

No more. I am getting my edge back even if I have to do what always worked for me. Even fake it if that’s what it takes.

Today, the nurses all said something along the lines of, “you look better today.”
Exactly what I was going for. I felt no better than I did 2 days ago but by throwing my shoulders back into my trademark “Peacock walk” I LOOKED better and felt better.

Last year was one to forget. This coming one may be better but a realistic person knows that it may not. What I forgot in all of the carnage that we call 2020 is that there are as many positives as negatives. I used to be notorious for finding those positives. I need to again.

Happy 2021. I am not only going to hope for it, I’m going to work hard to make it so.

A glimpse

He was awoken by the rain slapping the window. Reaching up to draw the shade, he felt her stir. He placed his hand on her naked shoulder and massaged it in hopes of her falling back to sleep.
“mmmm…what time is it?”, she sleepily asked.
“too early”, he said. “go back to sleep”. All he heard was an unintelligible grunt as she pulled the covers over her, taking half of his in the process.
“Gimme”, he said with a laugh as he snatched the covers, reclaiming what was rightfully his.
Before he knew it she was on top of him. “Fine”, she giggled. “I’ll share your side”. She reached between his legs and found him aroused.
“Well Merry Christmas to me!”, she joked as she kissed him hungrily.

“Well, that was a good start to the day”, he said.
“Yup”, she said. “We should do that again.”
He looked over at the dog, his head resting on the edge of the bed. “Better let him get his piss break first. Mine too, now that I think of it…,” he sprang out of bed and headed to the bathroom. She threw on a robe and let the dog out. He could hear him bark from the bathroom. “It’s a good thing we don’t have any neighbors…”

He walked into the kitchen. She was at the sink, her shoulder length blonde hair disheveled. She was dancing to a song only she could hear, in a half-open robe that she cared not if the world could see. He could smell the coffee brewing…a dog barked outside…

He sat up and looked at his phone. 7:15. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. His body ached. As he sat at the edge of the bed he pondered the dream he had been woken from. Could today possibly be any different than that?
The unpleasant knowledge that he was in the now, and had just experienced a glimpse washed over him. He had had a lot of “glimpses” lately and he hated them. Glimpses of the life he longed for vs the blah reality of the one he was living. He got out of bed and made his way downstairs to pour a cup of the waiting coffee.

Usually the glimpses came in dream form and were washed away with the morning coffee, often to be forgotten. But this one wasn’t going to go away as easy. He pondered it as the talking heads on the TV provided the forgettable background music as a backdrop.
That one could happen…
Yes, that is what was different. This time, it could happen. The glimpse could become reality! He has the girl…
Not yet.

He sat and drank his coffee, the warmth of the mug took the edge off of the dampness of the room. He pondered his situation. Nothing had changed since yesterday. She is there with a man she doesn’t love. He was alone on his sofa. There’s nothing either of them can do about it. This is the way it will have to be for a while.

For now, it was just a glimpse.