A Scared New World

The world around us has changed in so many ways. Some good. Mostly bad. I’m not being negative, just realistic.

The air is cleaner. If we dare go outside.
Rivers in major industrial areas around the world are suddenly blue again. If you dare to go swimming for fear of someone being within six feet of you.
Gas is really cheap. If you have somewhere to go or can leave the house.
People are being kind to each other. A little too late, and only by phone and FB.

I had cats for the longest time. They are wonderful animals for so many reasons, but one thing I always admired about them was their ability to accept their surroundings (house cats, I never let mine go outside), no matter how small and they’d be cool with it. Even rule it in their own way. I would marvel at how they would sit in the window and stare at the outside world as if it were a movie. With the exception of a bird that came too close to the window they didn’t recognize that there was a great big world out there.
They were content to be spectators.

I feel like a spectator watching a game that I can’t follow. A movie goer at a bad movie. It’s just not real. It can’t be. But it is.

We’ve never lived in times like this. The lack of precedent is alarming and confusing.
People are dying while others are making jokes and making it political. I know that sometimes levity relieves stress but again, people are dying. Put the damn politics aside. Love them or hate them, they are the people that we the people voted in and we are stuck with them yet wise to support them.

People are not only risking their own lives but those of others despite teams of experts telling them of the dangers. The Spring Breakers come to mind. Arrogance and hubris have caused a lot of unnecessary death.

Those who dare venture out are as timid, as my grandfather used to say, as “A long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” I was in a small supermarket yesterday and as I ventured down the dairy aisle a lone woman who was intently studying what was left of the egg selection didn’t notice my approach. Despite my attempt at “Social Distancing” I apparently startled her and she actually jumped back. I was taken back and immediately apologized and made my way by her. I wasn’t offended.
It’s a sign of the times. And unfortunate timing at that. At a time when our humanity )for the most part at least, is peaking we are so limited in the ways in which we can express it.
I say hi to everyone. Always have. At times to throw people off because they’re not expecting it in our increasingly antisocial times, most of the time because I firmly believe that a simple hello might be just what someone needed at that particular moment of their life. Now I have to do it at a distance, through a mask. But I have escalated my check ins with as many people as I can because the times demand it.

At least we have a common topic to discuss. The unrecognizable and uncertain world that we now live in.

Time for a change

I think it’s time to retool my blog. Since I seem to have lost almost all of my original readers and I would like to offer something interesting to my new readers I think it’s time.

As you may or may not know, I began this blog as a therapeutic exercise to keep the boredom of my new life at bay. By new life of course I mean moving in with my mother in 2017 after a divorce, the loss of my job and house. All as a result of a Chronic Illness. I had blogged before on various sites but this time I stuck with it.

I initially started out by venting about how the dramatic and painful changes affected my new life. Eventually I discovered that my posts resonated with some people, mostly those with a Chronic Illness of some sort. In turn, their stories resonated with me also. In addition to posts related to the ongoing issues with my health I also told my life story in a manner that was often described as “brutally honest”. Not my words. But they are true. I held nothing back in the way of baring my soul, and occasionally my ass as I enjoyed the anonymity of the blogosphere. The blog has made me many friends and there are many out there that I can honestly say I deeply care about, some I even consider friends. Saying that about someone you’ve never met is really something, isn’t it?

But I think I’ve told my story. I’ve pontificated about major issues. I’ve sprinkled in fiction and poetry to mixed reviews. Lately I find myself staring at my screen wondering what to write about.

It’s time to get back to my roots. Talk about what’s on my mind. Write a journal that’s open on the table for all to read. Just write, casting format, concern about likes, comments, approval and agreement aside. If you like what I write, let’s have a conversation. If you don’t agree offer a different viewpoint. I welcome your comments, in fact I LOVE comments. It means you actually read it.

There you have it folks, Superman is still here. I’m still looking for a phone book. But until I find it Ol’ Supes is going to just talk about whatever comes to mind.

It’s time to loosen up the old fingers, instead of hovering over the keyboard looking for a great idea I’m just going to let them rip.

perception

“It’s all a matter of perception.” Boy, you said it.

I’ll get right to it. I’m struggling a bit with the whole perception thing. But that’s not new, to a degree I have my entire adult life. Here’s the rub, I thought that I had finally come to grips with it and I get a shot across the bow. Not life threatening, not necessarily a game changer, not even a “hurt feelings” moment. I’d like to consider it a chance for growth.
Because that’s what adults do.

Like most great stories, it begins with a girl.

I met this girl. A friend of a dear friend. To be exact, my buddies new wife’s best friend. I had met her at a gathering they were having. She was with a guy then but in what I thought was a fortuitous moment they broke up that night. A couple of weeks after that we became friends of FB and then began chatting and before I knew it we were chatting by text during the day and talking at night until we both turned in. Every night.
I asked her out.
She was hesitant.
But she wanted to get to know me, and I her.
She said yes.
We went out and had a great time. Being out of the game for as long as I have (I hadn’t been on a first date since 1990) I thought I did ok. I think she did also. It was after that was the problem. I pushed and I scared her off a bit. The second date was not in the cards. To be worse, she told me over the phone, that I had officially entered the dreaded, cursed, never to be climbed out of “Friend zone”.
Face palm.
In the course of the conversation she decided to give me some constructive criticism to help me with my “next one”, despite my still wanting her. Not the next one. But I listened . Among the many criticisms, the one that stuck, and stung, was when she said that I was “full of myself.”
Really? WOW. That was the moment that either denial or growth would need to occur. I think I chose the right one, I went for growth. With that came the inevitable question…am I?

I have struggled with my identity for as long as I can remember. It was as if the key to who I am was a carrot on a string and I kept chasing it but it was always just out of reach. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I realized that the fucked-up, neurotic, good at a lot but not great at anything, heart on the sleeve wearing guy that hated his own reflection was as good as it was going to get. So I embraced it.
Later in life, as I took hit after hit, some my fault and some not, I finally grew up a bit. While I was still the same fucked-up, etc., (see above) guy, I embraced it and changed what I could. I really worked on myself. I looked for the lessons in every setback, I tried to find positivity in negative situations, I tried to put others before myself whenever I could. As the lessons of Freemasonry taught me, I just tried to be a better man than I was the day before. I embraced spiritualism, my compromise to rejecting atheism years before, and tried to embrace my smallness in the universe. When I got sick I adopted a persona, that of a fighter and an optimist. In the words of some, not my own, I was inspirational. All while my ultimate goal was just to be a good guy.
A guy that means well, charitable, fairly interesting and occasionally funny with something to offer the right person.
With her, I don’t think I came off that way.
It’s bittersweet actually, it wasn’t a total loss. She also told me that she thought I was incredible (not sure what she meant but I like it). We still talk every night. I’m not entirely sure where I stand with her but I still enjoy it. And I can’t ask for a second date even if I wanted to because the world is on hold. When and if I ask her out again I suppose I’ll know what zone I’m in.
Either way, I’ll be ok. I just have the one lingering problem. It really bothers me when anyone gets me wrong.

You can’t undo it. There are no redo’s in life. As my late Grandfather always said’ “You can’t put the shit back in the horse.”

It’s all a matter of perception.


misunderstandings

I’m tired
Really fucking tired
of being misunderstood
how do people not see
what I see
when I look in the mirror?
when for the first time
finally
I can look without shame

I don’t love what I see
But I can live with it
and that’s something
I’ve kicked crawled and scratched
just to be
acceptable
presentable
memorable

and of course…
respectable

and to be alive
after being so close to death
in both body and spirit
sick and weary
from trying to be strong
as it collapsed around me
bitter and angry
at the mess my life
my loveless
and unremarkable life
had become

I said to the world
here I am again
do your worst
I know who I am now!
now I’m not so sure

Is it possible that I am not
the man I think I am?

I walk tall so you won’t attack me
I talk clear so that you will hear me
I think of others to forget about me
I thank the universe for saving me
It’s not an act but it is

is it too much to ask
for a little fucking slack
and a chance for a redo
if I don’t show you
the first time
what I’m really made of

I try to be who you want me to be
while I figure out who I am



Not in my town

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

August 29, 2005 2:00 AM

Officer McInerney impatiently directed traffic as he watched the Accident Reconstruction team doing their meticulous work. They will take a week or more to release their findings but Jimmy could save them a lot of time if he just told them the truth. His truth. I fucked up and let a drunk go and now he’s killed people. How do I reconcile this? His next move was unclear. His options were pretty simple, confess to his supervisors or keep it to himself and hope that he can push it way down and never think of it again. He immediately scratched the second one, there was no way that he could do that. He hurriedly waved a Semi Tractor Trailer around the scene. I’ve got to get out of here. I feel like I’m going to lose my shit.

Present Day

“Heroin mostly. A pretty good dose”, said Dr. Resnick. He, Sergeant Valentine and Officer McInerney were standing in the hallway outside Ruthann Reed’s room. Hospital staff scurried around them like water around a rock in the stream.
Mike Valentine scratched his chin. “Seem like a regular user?”
“The marks on her arm seem fresh. No scarring typically found on a regular.”
Mike’s fists clenched momentarily. Jimmy was studying him. Despite Mike’s notorious penchant for angry, spontaneous outbursts he was capable of staying on point when necessary. This was one of those times. Jimmy wasn’t about to mess it up by speaking right now. “What else?”, Mike asked.
“Ketamine”, the Doctor replied.
“The date rape drug?”
“That’s the one.” The doctor raised his clipboard and took a pen out of his breast pocket. “Can you tell me anything more about her behavior before she passed out?”
“Not really”, Mike said. When we found her she was sitting on the ground. Out of it.”
“The bartender and bouncers all say that she just came in, alone and starting dancing. Said she was falling down and hanging on guys,” Jimmy interjected. “They treated her as a drunk.”
The doctor scribbled on his chart. “That makes sense, given the combination.” He scribbled again on his clipboard.
“Rape kit?”, Mike asked.
“She’s just now lucid enough to do it without causing further distress. Why don’t you get a coffee and give us a little time. When she’s settled you can ask her some questions.”
“Thanks, Doc”, Mike said. He and Jimmy turned and headed for the elevator. As they walked Jimmy studied Mike’s face.
“One to ten. How pissed off are you right now?”
With a straight face and teeth clenched Mike slowly replied, “Modern technology can’t measure.”

Not in my town

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

August 29, 2005 2:00 AM

Officer McInerney impatiently directed traffic as he watched the Accident Reconstruction team doing their meticulous work. They will take a week or more to release their findings but Jimmy could save them a lot of time if he just told them the truth. His truth. I fucked up and let a drunk go and now he’s killed people. How do I reconcile this? His next move was unclear. His options were pretty simple, confess to his supervisors or keep it to himself and hope that he can push it way down and never think of it again. He immediately scratched the second one, there was no way that he could do that. He hurriedly waved a Semi Tractor Trailer around the scene. I’ve got to get out of here. I feel like I’m going to lose my shit.

Present Day

“Heroin mostly. A pretty good dose”, said Dr. Resnick. He, Sergeant Valentine and Officer McInerney were standing in the hallway outside Ruthann Reed’s room. Hospital staff scurried around them like water around a rock in the stream.
Mike Valentine scratched his chin. “Seem like a regular user?”
“The marks on her arm seem fresh. No scarring typically found on a regular.”
Mike’s fists clenched momentarily. Jimmy was studying him. Despite Mike’s notorious penchant for angry, spontaneous outbursts he was capable of staying on point when necessary. This was one of those times. Jimmy wasn’t about to mess it up by speaking right now. “What else?”, Mike asked.
“Ketamine”, the Doctor replied.
“The date rape drug?”
“That’s the one.” The doctor raised his clipboard and took a pen out of his breast pocket. “Can you tell me anything more about her behavior before she passed out?”
“Not really”, Mike said. When we found her she was sitting on the ground. Out of it.”
“The bartender and bouncers all say that she just came in, alone and starting dancing. Said she was falling down and hanging on guys,” Jimmy interjected. “They treated her as a drunk.”
The doctor scribbled on his chart. “That makes sense, given the combination.” He scribbled again on his clipboard.
“Rape kit?”, Mike asked.
“She’s just now lucid enough to do it without causing further distress. Why don’t you get a coffee and give us a little time. When she’s settled you can ask her some questions.”
“Thanks, Doc”, Mike said. He and Jimmy turned and headed for the elevator. As they walked Jimmy studied Mike’s face.
“One to ten. How pissed off are you right now?”
With a straight face and teeth clenched Mike slowly replied, “Modern technology can’t measure.”

Routine speed trap

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

August,28, 2005
A young and idealistic “Officer Jimmy”, as he was then known had been stationed at his favorite speed trap, the intersection of 2nd and main. It was at the bottom of a hill and cars came down it way too fast. This particular intersection was home to a very busy crosswalk and Jimmy, as every other cop in town was concerned about someone getting hit by a speeder. A lot of stops were made there out of a regard for safety and of course revenue generation and many tickets were issued. Officer Jimmy wasn’t big on tickets, he was more about keeping people safe. He believed that “Protect and Serve” was a lost notion, that cops now were all about busting heads and acting tough. Not him. He would never be like that. He always tried to live by his father’s famous mantra, “Always be nice. Until it’s time not to.” He had heard it so many times he might as well have had it tattooed on his forehead. It was his go-to first reaction in almost all situations and it had served him well.

Until that night.

Jimmy had been sitting in his car getting caught up on some reports when he spotted the headlights come over the hill. He immediately saw that the driver was operating erratically and speeding. He put his report book on the passenger seat and studied the vehicle’s approach to the intersection. He watched as the car screeched to a stop well over the line. Jimmy waited until the car crossed the intersection, pulled out behind him and hit the siren and lights. The driver pulled over immediately and Jimmy could see him fumbling in the glove box. He approached the car from the drivers side and pointed his flashlight at the driver. A clearly disoriented and intoxicated young man squinted back at him. His pupils were dilated and when he spoke all doubt about his condition was removed.
“Good evening Officer.” His voice was slurred.
“Good evening. License and Registration please.” The young man handed them through the open window. Jimmy reviewed them quickly, put them in his breast pocket and ordered him out of the car. The young man complied. He was wobbly as he stood up and he reeked of alcohol.
“Been drinking tonight?” Jimmy asked him.
“Yessir.” The young man replied. “Do I get points for honesty?”
“You do, but you lose points for driving shitfaced at 11:30 on a Tuesday night.”
“I’m sorry, Sir.”
“Sir?, I’m not a sir. It’s Officer McInerney. And I’m not sure ‘Sorry’ cuts it when we’re talking about public safety.”
The young man bowed his head sheepishly.
Officer McInerney gave him a thorough sobriety test which the young man summarily failed. He knew it. He put out his hands and waited for the handcuffs. Jimmy had another idea.
“This your correct address?” He was holding the young man’s license.
“Yes.”
“That’s two blocks from here. I’m going to follow you home. You’re going to go in your house and you are going to stay there. And you will think twice before doing this again. Got it?”
“Yes, Officer.” The young man was clearly relieved and elated.
“Get in and go. Slowly”, Jimmy instructed.
The young man got in before Jimmy could change his mind. As promised he drove home. Slowly. Jimmy followed him home and watched the young man park his car, get out and walk to the front door. He waved to Jimmy, showed his keys in his hand and went inside. Goodnight Henry James Douglas. He felt pretty good about how he had handled the situation.

Later that night his quiet shift was interrupted by dispatch ordering all available units to a vehicular crash across town. He could already hear the Fire Department and EMT’s sirens en route to the scene. As he threw his Crown Vic into gear and headed out he heard over the radio, “Multiple injuries, possible fatality.”
When Officer McInerney arrived on the scene his stomach momentarily sunk. The two vehicles had collided head on. There was glass and debris everywhere. EMT’S and Firefighters scrambled as they attended to the victims. He immediately recognized one of the vehicles. His heart almost stopped.
He looked around and there was a bloodied Henry James Douglas being pushed into the back of a cruiser, handcuffed. As his head was ducked into the cruiser Henry turned to look at him. They made eye contact. Jimmy momentarily fought off the sinking feeling in his stomach as he rushed to assist the first responders with the accident scene.
This is not going to end well…

The man in the mirror

We live in a vain, narcissistic and selfie-obsessed world. We have all had to step around people blocking sidewalks and paths taking pictures of themselves. We all have that FB friend who posts pictures of every meal and of every stop they make. I know a woman who has no less than thousands of selfies on her phone, she is constantly picking up her phone and snapping a shot. The worse thing is she is over 40 and still making “duck” faces. Ladies, please. You need to know when you are too old to do that.

I never caught the selfie bug. I hate pictures of myself so I NEVER take selfies. In fact, I dive into bushes to avoid being photographed at all. Photos of me are rare because I just don’t like how I look and how I feel.

They’re like mirrors.

I don’t look at them either.

Mirrors are not a marvel of invention. It’s just glass, made from sand. Yet they wield an incredible power. They can force a person who looks into it to not see the whole picture but to only focus on the flaws. The most beautiful woman in the world could look in the mirror and immediately focus on a tiny birthmark on her forehead. And that birthmark troubles her, and brings on an insecurity so powerful that she is rendered unable to see her beauty.

Of course, there is another reason why one might not like mirrors. They just don’t like the person looking back at them.

I recently had lunch with a dear friend and the “man (or woman) in the mirror” came up. I haphazardly mentioned it in conversation and my she immediately teared up. Confused, I patiently waited for her to enlighten me as to the cause of her tears. As it turns out when she was younger (pre-puberty) she had Alopecia. Yup, at the age in which kids are the most cruel she was completely bald. This wonderful young lady, I have no reason to believe that she was any less wonderful then because she’s pretty damned amazing now, was so traumatized that she wouldn’t look in a mirror. I let her tell her tale of bullying and general harassment and let her compose herself. Once it was appropriate I offered up that I was speaking more about looking in the mirror and not liking the person you are.

“It was both” she said. The bullying made her not like herself. The bullies had done their damage.

She fortunately grew hair as a teenager but it wasn’t a magic elixir. The scars remain.

The tragedy is that her condition, and the subsequent bullying did far more damage than just mere insecurities about her appearance. It massively affected her entire self image, physical, psychological and emotional. To the point that she didn’t want to look in the mirror. She is mostly over it, but it’s still bubbling under the surface. 0

Despite having blogged about this topic before, our conversation made me revisit it.

For the longest time I made it a strict policy to not look at any reflective surface except the mirror while shaving. Partially due to a fear of a massive blood loss from a shaving cut, also that for the longest time I hated how I looked. All I saw was an overweight guy with several jowls, pale complexion and a flabby physique. I also knew that even if I was able to overcome all of those physical things, I still didn’t want to look at my reflection because I didn’t like who I was as a person. The same with photos, which I would rather dive into a shrubbery head first than be caught by the camera lense.

I believe, hell I know, that there are some seriously morally reprehensible people who have no problem looking at their reflection. I also know that there are plenty of people with physical flaws, some downright unattractive, that can look in the mirror effortlessly. I have never been either one of them. I envy them. I have always been blessed/cursed with a heightened self-awareness masquerading as a moral compass. I had the wonderful skill to be markedly aware that I was not on the right path morally and spiritually yet have no desire to work on it.

Until one day when I forced myself to stand there and take a good, hard look. I did an inventory of what I could change about my appearance and what I couldn’t. That was the easy part. The belly could be vanquished by better choices in food, a gym membership and a little self-discipline. The pasty complexion could be remedied by going outside instead of sleeping until noon. The sunken eyes, well a sharp reduction in my alcohol consumption was all that was required. The receding hairline and bad teeth, well I would just have to live with those. Again, as hard as it was for a person who wrapped in a towel as I passed a mirror after showering, it was still the easy part. Liking the guy that I did see as a person proved to be far more difficult.

Self-examination, if done properly, requires a keen and unflinching eye and you need a goal. You have to be a Forensic Accountant to do it right, for the inevitable outcome is that you are going to find things that have to be brought to the boss’s attention regardless of how well they are going to be received. When I turned my powers of observation on myself I found out more than I wanted and not much of it was good. But I was determined to do a deep dive and really, for once and for all, improve myself and be the person I wanted to be. It was exactly as hard as I thought it would be. But through brutal honesty and an unflinching eye I learned what I had to do.

My behavior, my attitude, my sense of self, my humor and my relationships with those close to me all needed a veritable shitload of work. It started with my children. I stopped fighting with them and reminded myself that I’m supposed to be the adult in the room. I stopped fighting with my wife because I’d have more luck wrestling a spoon from a fat lady at the Cheesecake Factory than I would winning an argument or changing a viewpoint with her. I started being nicer in general to everybody. I became a better listener. I had known all of these things were my Achilles heel and once I started I did it all at once. But it wasn’t until I got really sick and hit rock bottom (around the time that I started this blog) that it all fell into place. No longer the driving force that I once was in my children’s life that I was; no longer the “go-to” indispensable man at work; no longer the breadwinner and backbone of my family I realized that I would have to find a new purpose. I am happy to report that life showed it to me in due time. I have been willingly forced into a life of altruism; volunteerism, charity, Freemasonry and part-time impromptu amateur motivational speaker. I even occasionally serve as an inspiration to someone who thought that they hit rock bottom. Until they heard my story.

I almost like who I have become with a few minor exceptions.

My friend that I had lunch with did have difficulty finally staring at her own image and accepting what she saw. At the end of the day she realized that those cruel, heartless pricks that made her feel bad about herself didn’t have any power over her except the insults. They didn’t know her, the person she would become and how awesome she is. She is now a happily married, independently successful businesswoman and an amazing, funny and caring person. She wins. But nevertheless, she still had to deal with both issues I have spoken of, not liking her reflection over the physical and the emotional.

Me, I had a longer journey than she did, but I got there. The same way we all make major steps forward.

I waited until I couldn’t any longer.

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.