I have been away for a long time. I don’t think anyone really noticed, my readership was at a all time low despite regular postings. It was about the time that I started telling my story. Admittedly, it wasn’t riveting stuff and I should have storyboarded it first. I’m still writing it but I haven’t been posting it. As they say, eventually you realize that nobody gives a shit. But it’s ok. It goes both ways. I’ve been too busy to read my faithful followers and I can do better. And I will.
I have had a crippling case of writer’s block, despite being extremely busy. My health has been spotty, I feel pretty weak and lack motivation most days. But I have tried to stay active as possible and I have managed to maintain my detailing side business.
Masonry has largely consumed my time. I was elected Master of my Lodge last year and I was put in office at a critical time, we had been given one year to make adjustments and improvements or they would close us. I’m happy to report that we saved it in a big way and we roared back to full functionality by September.
The rest of my time, when not detailing cars and recovering from dialysis, has been spent on my new Harley. I broke down and bought a 2021 Road King. It is just a beautiful piece of workmanship and my smile is evident as I ride down the road. It is a reminder of what is good in life.
Of course, the main reason I’ve been away is I’ve been wallowing in reflection and searching for answers after my near suicide attempt a few months ago. The event was bad enough, the soul-searching that followed was worse. I have been questioning every damn thing about my life after it, it rattled me to the core.
All of these things will probably become their own blogs, for now I’m just trying to condition myself to blog again.
I hope all of you are doing great and killing it at life
Often when I take a break from blogging it is because I can’t think of a topic. Sometimes it’s just laziness. Sometimes I just get busy, I’m pretty active for a guy with nothing to do. Then other times I just don’t know where to start.
Last week I suffered so many slaps upside the head that I just couldn’t sort my thoughts. It started with the death of a dear friend, then another old friend of the family passed, and then to top off the shit sandwich that was my weekend I found out that my best friend in the world and his young daughter had contracted the Covid-19 virus. I was floored both metaphorically and actually. I didn’t know where to begin.
The death of my friend, a elderly Freemason whose company I have enjoyed so often and so greatly was not a shock. He was elderly and in declining health. Quarantine issues made it difficult to visit him and he wintered in Florida but I had no excuse not to talk to him more frequently and I am feeling guilt even though I don’t feel that there was anything unsaid between us. It is the worst part of losing someone, wondering if you knew where you stood with them. It is THE reason that I endeavor to always leave someone as if I will never see them again, on the level (as we Masons say) and free of anger and resentment. He was my buddy, regardless of our age difference and I feel that I am a better person for having known him. I miss him terribly.
The family friend was less of a blow. He was 92 and passed peacefully. But he meant something to me as a memory of my childhood. My parents used to Square Dance (mock away I won’t resent you) and they met many solid friendships through it via conventions at Campgrounds every Summer and retreats in Winter. I can think of 5 or 6 families that I met on those occasions and the many lasting friendships with their children that I cherish now. Frank was one of the ones that stands out in my mind the most. A father of 5 awesome kids and a all-around wonderful family man, he represents an era gone by to me. I was so upset that I wasn’t able to go to his funeral. Not being able to attend funerals is one aspect of the Pandemic that is hard to reconcile.
The news that my best friend in the world contracted Covid absolutely floored me. The news may have numbed us with all of the constant talk and actual people can fade into just statistics but by now most of us know someone who has contracted it. Sadly, many of us have lost someone to it. We always hear about those people in the high-risk category. My friend is in it. He’s a big, strong man but he’s overweight. He has a heart condition. He is always tired and his immune system is vulnerable. When I heard the news, I won’t sugarcoat it, I had some very bad thoughts about worse case scenarios. And for his daughter, whom I love like my own daughter…her diagnosis scared the ever loving shit out of me. Fast-forward to today, everyone is on the mend. That is a huge relief. But I was scared.
If you are reading this, I want you to know that I care about you and I hope you never have to endure a weekend like I had last week. Tell those close to you how you feel. Make phone calls. Send emails. Don’t put yourself in a position where you know that you could have done more. We’re social creatures and we need each other more than ever.
I’ve always been a lover of the “footprints” meme above. It was shown to me early in life and the message resonated with me. It’s a nice idea. The whole Jesus thing. Walk beside me, keep me company and hey, while you’re at it can you carry me through the rough terrain? The problem is that I am not really a big “Jesus guy.” I am not going to go too much into the religious and spiritual beliefs of Billy Mac. I’d done it in previous blogs and I just can’t do it again. I will give a brief synopsis for the sake of understanding what exactly the fuck I’m trying to say in this entry, but that’s it.
Here goes…I’m not an atheist because an atheist believes there is nothing. You’re an arrogant bastard if you believe that there is nothing else out there in the immeasurable vastness of the cosmos. Deductive reasoning therefore concludes that if you can’t say there’s nothing then there has to be something. With that in mind, I reluctantly accepted the possibility of a higher power. Sure, let’s call it GOD. As for a bearded guy in a flowing white robe judging and condemning everyone, I’m not so sure. As for his son, I can’t wrap my head around that part. It’s a nice story but it doesn’t fit my paradigm. But again, it’s in the nice idea department in my world.
But back to the Footprints. There was once a day when I would have resented the notion that I would have had to be carried anywhere, by fictional deity or by any man. Strength mattered the most to me and I swore that the day that I couldn’t deal with the weight of my life that would be the day that I would no longer want to engage in this dance. For the longest time I was able to pull it off. It’s getting harder every day.
I’m failing in so many ways. My body is simply breaking down. Sure, there are physiological forces at work, understandable ones, I have a disease. I’ve had it for a long time and I have done a pretty impressive job of fooling everyone, especially my family. Until now, now I’m showing the cracks. I’m walking slower, in need of more recovery from the most basic of tasks, uninterested in making plans for fear of not knowing how I will feel when the day comes, I am becoming what I have always feared. Weak.
This morning I tuned in to my church’s online service. I’m not sure why, I rarely do so. The Reverend, a young family man with a fresh perspective, was just wrapping up the musical segment when I tuned in. He welcomed all of us and said, “let’s talk about Footprints.” I knew exactly of what he was speaking. I put my head in my hands and I listened. It was as if he was talking directly to me. I became emotional. I even cried a little. Why do I feel this way? I don’t want help. I hate asking for it. I don’t want to burden anyone. So why?
I have a great support system, I really do. Great friends, amazing family, my Masonic brothers and the resources of the entire fraternity. But I never ask them for anything. I swore that I would never be that guy. But I’m not in a good place lately and maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I let someone carry me for a couple of blocks.
It might allow me to garner enough strength to go back to trying to convince people that I’m ok when I’m really not. Or maybe I can grow the fuck up and acknowledge that Plan A is just not working.
I don’t need a reason to withdraw from Social Media. Who would blame me when I am overloaded with disinformation, vitriol, hatred and myriad videos of just plain bad behavior? I used to be able to handle it then I realized that handling it wasn’t necessarily enough, it was getting me down and affecting my already tenuous grip on normalcy (whatever that means). Keeping up with friends near and far, combined with cute puppy videos used to do the job on balancing me out but lately it’s not enough. Even my friends posts are starting to bother me.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a people watcher. Not to analyze them or criticize but instead to further my understanding of people and what makes them unique and of course what binds us together. My desire to keep up with friends and co-workers both past and present has always been my primary reason to have FB. I like knowing what they are up to and it is a form of people watching. I watch what they post, good or bad, and how they behave, good or bad. Some of my FB “friends” are having a rough time, those I support the best I can. Others are doing ok, I’m there with a good word when needed. Then there is the ones that are doing great, or at least they make it look so. Those people I have always tried to be genuinely happy for. Despite my lot in life, I always make sure that I am never a victim of the Green Eyed Monster. I don’t envy wealth, possessions, pics of expensive cigars and liquors and cars. Hey, I’m happy for them and will continue to be so if they are good people.
I try to reject the notion that social media was designed for us to compare lives. That would be alienating and not the stated goal of bringing us together.
But I’m thinking of taking a break from Social Media anyway. For a rather unique reason I suppose. I have fallen into a different kind of people-watching and it is becoming destructive to me and my ability to maintain positivity– people watching as a sick guy and comparing notes with my own situation. It’s a terrible habit in which I observe one of my friends doing something outdoorsy such as hiking or biking, and I ask myself questions such as, “I wonder if he can walk more than a mile without his legs swelling into balloons?” “Hey, do you think he can work a whole day without wanting to pass out from nausea?” “Does he have to take a nap after something so minor as food shopping?”
It’s not envy or jealousy. I’m happy for anyone who has been blessed with wealth or success. I just want their GOOD HEALTH.
If you think about it, it’s a well-established sentiment in our society. When addressing a pregnant woman with “what are you having?”, the answer is invariably met with “as long as he or she is happy and healthy.” As if the minimum expectation in life is good health. Trust me, it can be taken for granted amidst the scramble for education and vocation. I’m here to tell you that good health later in life is not guaranteed and without it all of those other things simply don’t matter. Even out of reach.
You don’t need to feel good to be happy. But it sure helps. Stay healthy my friends, it really is the most important thing in life.
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.
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-you–are 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.
“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.
When I first got married my wife and I had a few hobbies. With no kids and a few pets we spent a good deal of time (and money) on tropical fish. It was a fun hobby, we had 3 tanks. A 20 gallon in the bedroom, a 44 pentangular in the dining room and a 55 gallon in the living room which was reserved for aggressive tropicals such as the Oscar or the Red Devil. That tank was beautiful. And expensive. Not just the equipment, the fish also. It sucked when they died.
My wife and I had a running joke. Don’t ever say “gee, the tanks are doing well. We haven’t lost a fish in a while”. Whenever we did we found a floater the next day. Not one to believe in jinxes, it was there just the same. Apparently, it applies to hospital visits also.
2 weeks ago I remarked proudly to my girl that I haven’t been hospitalized in 2 years. This is significant because dialysis patients typically get hospitalized at least once a year and I was happy that I was an exception to the rule. The next day I went to the ER.
I hadn’t felt well for a while. My energy was way down, my stomach was doing backflips and I was fatigued way beyond the usual. I feared that I had passed the wonderful phase (the whole time I’ve been on dialysis) of feeling good despite the thrice weekly beat down on my body. I was preparing myself for the possibility that I was finally at the stage where I had to resign myself to feeling lousy all the time. But that night was excessive. After barely being able to climb my stairs I went to get checked out. 4 hours later I was being transported by ambulance to another hospital. I had excessive fluid in my lungs and a fairly large sac of fluid around my heart. I was there for a week.
The good news is that they were able to get some of the fluid. The bad news is that to get all of it they would have to stick a needle into my heart and drain it. A very risky surgery. So I have to live with it. As for the stomach, I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection which is very treatable by antibiotics.
I feel great today but it’s been a hard road back. I’m pushing myself everyday to be active and try to regain some of that strength and energy. I think I have my mojo, finally, and I’m going to run with it.
One lesson from this is that regardless of whether I believe in jinxes or not, I am going to be very careful what I say it loud.
Then again, that’s good advice for anyone isn’t it?
One of the benefits of living in your childhood home is the memories, the connections, the triggers that bring back the memories of your youth. Both good and bad I suppose, but since I have grabbed my psyche by the metaphorical balls of late, so to speak, I have been able to focus more on the good things.
A tough realization of late is that I am a big kid at heart. I love playing with small children. I enjoy dumb comedies. I say goofy things and I like to be silly and I still think nothing is more satisfying and fun than lying on the floor playing with my dog. Charlie Brown nailed it when he said, “happiness is a warm puppy.” It sure is, not much makes me happier. Charlie Brown is my hero.
I think it has affected my social life. A funny instance occurred a few weeks ago when I was out on the boat with a female companion. We were moored in a popular spot where the water is shallow for a hundred yards or so from shore. People moor there and hang out, drink or eat and swim in the shallow water. Ducks in that locale are famously used to people and are not shy about swimming up to boats. A family of ducks approached my boat and I instantly exclaimed “look, duckies!” My companion looked at me like I had three heads. “Duckies?” I realized that she thought I was out of my mind or grossly immature. Oh well. “Yes, Duckies.” I said. “Sorry if it seems weird but I’m just a big kid at heart.” I leaned over the bow and made quacking noises at my visitors. I still don’t know if that’s why I haven’t heard from her since.
I’m tired of fighting it. With all the battles I have fought with my health and other matters, my youthful, a nice way of saying emotionally stunted I suppose, outlook has kept me going and I won’t apologize for it. It’s my way of not letting my disgust with the world I currently live in from tainting my desire to move forward.
I actually think it is what my small but loyal circle likes about me and what the core of people who look to me for inspiration (not being cocky, I actually do have some patients and readers who look to me for a lift) see in me.
It’s really quite simple. Before life kicked the everloving shit out of me I was a happy, eager and optimistic kid. Without his spirit, his happy memories and almost Pollyanna’ish approach to life, older current me would be lost.
I don’t just like to be silly and goofy. I need to be. I do not,will not and cannot allow others to bring me down if I allow that inner child to exist within me. I’m the biggest kid in the room.
I’ve never been described as patient. Now, its all I can be.
I want to get out and enjoy Spring. It’s my favorite season. I can go outside finally. But I can’t go anywhere where there are people. This virus is really fucking up my Spring. And maybe my summer and fall. But there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Patience.
I’m officially on the transplant list. The typical wait time is 3-6 years. I have been on dialysis for 20 months. I get credit for those. Still, I have 1-4 years unless I get a donor. Transplants are postponed, like everything else in the world until further notice. Patience.
I met a woman. She’s the total package. Attractive, smart, funny, and fun. We got off to a rough start but I was lucky enough to get a second chance at a first impression. She had me firmly entrenched in the “friend zone” until I clawed my way out. She’s great. But she is hesitant to put a toe in the cold water. I guess I’m the cold water in this scenario. It’s not me, it’s every guy she’s gone out with before me. I can’t say if they are good or bad but I don’t think they did right by her. She needs that and I wonder if she knows what it is like to be treated nice. I’ll show her if she lets me. It will take work. And time. I think we’re going to be great when the walls come down. Until then…