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.

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.

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.

listen

It was quite an eye opener for me, the first time someone told me to shut up and listen. I’ll never forget it. At first I was angry and defensive. Then I thought about it. I wasn’t really listening to him, I was clearly waiting for my turn to speak.
That’s not listening. Listening is not waiting for your turn conversationally, it’s giving the person in front of you your full attention. And I wasn’t doing that. Fortunately, I’ve improved in that department.

Today my listening skills were really put to the test, I can’t help but feel that I did ok. Not that I’m being graded, of course. I’m just looking back and I feel that I helped a little. I wanted to do something, anything but as it turns out all she needed was an ear. So that’s what I offered. For 2 hours and 45 minutes.

She is so conflicted right now. Her marriage, her job, her friendships, her surprisingly unsupportive family, and of course her demons are all right there front and center fighting for her attention. She feels alone in a crowded room, that noone understands her and on top of everything else, she feels that she has wasted her best years being good to those who took her loyalty and trust for granted. I can’t imagine what it’s like to question everything in life that I once thought was solid.

Today, as she waited for her ride, she asked me to stay on the phone with her. It was hard for me because I really don’t enjoy talking on the phone. But it was the only way I could talk to her and once her ride showed up I would be without her for a week. At Alcohol detox, the first thing to go is the phone.

She needs it, the week at the clinic. She needs to take a hard look at everything, sort out her demons and start to work on them in a healthy way. She doesn’t really believe she is an alcoholic. Nor do I. But she knows that her recent use of alcohol to deal with the increasingly abusive and insensitive behavior from her husband is not the answer. The week of not being around him and even the conflicting influence that I provide will be good for her.

I’m ok with it. All of it. While part of me knows that the advice she gets from a trusted therapist might not go my way. I fear, yet am ready to accept it if it happens, that she may be told that I’m the variable that has to go. Maybe I’m the straw on her weighted back. She may emerge from this to tell me that I have to go. And while the thought rips the very heart from my chest, I have to be ok with it. Because I’m crazy about her and I will do anything for her to be happy. Up to and including letting her go if it is the right decision.

I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the week. I just know that whatever she chooses to do is fine by me. It has to be. Part of loving someone is wanting what is best for them. She is my friend. My lover. My ray of sunshine on a mostly cloudy day. She has been so good for me, just knowing her has brightened my life. I see a future for us, one in which I finally have someone to really want to live for.

I hope it’s me, I really do. But more than anything I just want her to be happy.

the proud dad

I could go on forever about how amazing my children are. I suppose all parents could. But I do not gush, rave or swoon or bloviate. Instead, I do what my father did. I compare my upbringing with theirs and gauge their “success” based on the metrics that applied to me.
Character? Check.
Integrity? Check.
Compassion, empathy, emotional intelligence? Check check check.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Yes, based on the listed criteria I care more about the quality of the person(s) that they have become over traditional metrics of College degrees, professional status, what rank they placed in their graduation class. I suppose those things are important but I’m a bit simpler on that front. In short, I evaluate people on the Asshole Scale. I am proud to say that I raised ZERO assholes. In that light, they accomplished everything I had hoped for them already.

Once it became clear to me that my marriage and family life was a fucked-up mess and not “normal” at all, it occurred to me that the example that I needed to set was to be reactionary to my worst fears as a parent. I feared, correctly, that I would not have the ability to send them to Ivy League schools. I knew that we were setting a terrible example of what a relationship is and should be. I knew that if I didn’t work at it my children would may hit the road at 18 and I would never see them except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I never cheated, despite how bad and sexless my marriage was, because I wanted to have the respect of my children. The spectre of my ex telling my children that their father was a dishonest man terrified me and she was certainly capable of playing that card.

Well, jumping forward to the present, I couldn’t be more proud of the results. 4 smart, motivated and happy adults who are in monogamous and long-term relationships, solid careers and are just wonderful people all around.

I struggled an awful lot as a parent. My personal demons, lack of maturity at times, financial and marital issues haunted me and I always worried that these would negatively influence my children. Yet I now realize that I have wonderful relationships with them and, while part of me sort of wonders why, I have to just roll with it. Maybe it’s something I did, maybe it isn’t.

But it doesn’t change the outcome, my offspring are great people and I am beaming with pride and purpose because of them.

that look

I was once at a black tie event. As I stood nursing a Scotch a coworker gave me a gentle nudge and she pointed to a man that I did not know.
“See?”, she said. “Look at how he looks at her? It’s like she’s the only one in the room.”
Once she pointed it out it was hard not to notice. In a sea of people, laughing and joking, Tracy’s husband was fixated on her. Every hair toss, every sip of champagne, every polite laugh and smile…he hung on it. Without saying a word, he told the entire room that she was his entire world.

I know the look. As a dedicated and professional people watcher I look for such things. It’s strictly voyeuristic you see. Noone had ever captured my fancy to such a degree. I have always craved someone that would stand out in a crowded room. Not because they are the most interesting and beautiful person in the room, just because they are to me. I never thought that guy would ever be me. Until now.

“I love the way you look at me,” she said. She didn’t elaborate. She didn’t have to, I knew exactly what she meant. I looked at her like she was the best thing to happen to me. I looked at her as if she was the only thing that mattered. I looked at her as if she was the only one in the room when in fact we were in a crowded room. It was strange and wonderfully refreshing to be the one doing it for a change, as I had resigned myself to forever be the one watching another do it. Finally, it was my turn.
I pulled her close, reveling in the surreal moment. Is it luck? Or do I dare say that I deserve her? I don’t know. Just as our relationship lacks labels, it also defies explanation. Just as I can’t explain all of the natural phenomena that go into creating a brilliant sunset on a summer evening, I don’t have to in order to enjoy it.
I can’t explain you. I can’t explain us. I’m just grateful that I have finally experienced looking across a crowded room in pure adulation, wishing I was with you but secure in the knowledge that you will be leaving with me.
They can stare all they want. You’re with me baby.