#what if…we turned our thoughts upside down?

I sold cars for a long time. I was very successful, a top performer every month.  My customers appreciated my honest, straightforward and knowledgeable approach. I actually had a customer tell me that I changed the car-buying experience for them, that I was the “anti-salesman.” I have never done a job that came more naturally to me than selling cars. It was almost gratifying. Some people treated me like a schmuck, which is tough for the alpha male that I am, but I’m not a schmuck and I handled them like I did everyone else. With courtesy and professionalism. One of my fellow salesmen nicknamed me “the magic man” because I kept turning the impossible customers into the possible. It’s not a Vulcan mind trick, it’s a matter of reading people and controlling your body language.

Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives. The income was very up and down, paying monthly bills could be challenging if you were living check to check. You have to be a strong saver. My wife hated the ups and downs, which eventually drove me to seek more “stable” employment. Loosely translated, she would rather have me make less money but know what the envelope contained as opposed to letting me earn more, which I was certainly capable of. I’ll never understand that mentality.

Another negative to car sales, and I won’t list them all, is controlling the green monster we all know as envy. Much of car sales is luck, sometimes you meet a guaranteed sale, sometimes you meet one that if you work hard enough it may happen, and sometimes you get a giant waste of your time. Having been one of the top dogs in the dealership I rarely had a bad month. I had the occasional dry spell and I would like to tell you that I weathered it well and remained positive. But I would be lying. There were times when I couldn’t catch a break. It almost always worked itself out but it feels like an eternity until it does.

I genuinely want people around me to succeed. I also feel bad for people, at least those that try but need help. I was always willing to share a sale or hand one off to someone who needed it more than I did. I was never greedy. I offered to help new or struggling employees to make them better. I genuinely was in tune with those around me. And some of them absolutely hated me, for no other reason than that I was good at what I did. To those that aren’t successful, a slump is frustrating and when someone around you is killing it, it’s easy to be jealous. Even wish for them to fail.

At my last job, before I became really ill, I took another position selling cars. I was not successful. The reasons aren’t important, there were people and forces that would make it impossible for me to succeed, but it had nothing to do with my personality or technique. I struggled badly, began to doubt myself and began to feel hostility towards those who were doing well. I didn’t want those around me to fail, but their success angered me. I was facing a side of me I didn’t want to and had to ask myself Am I a hypocrite? As the saying goes, I  needed to “check myself before I wrecked myself” and change my mindset. But I was alarmed.

Hence today’s “what if?”. What if we turned our thoughts around.?

If I had to decipher the energy I feel around me I would say it is overwhelmingly negative. Social media, the news, late-night talk shows, talk radio and Network news are flooded with hate, bias, and vitriol. We are hopelessly divided, all sides wishing for the others to fail. Each telling the other how wrong they are.

We wish failure on those who disagree with us. We treat them as enemies and engage them in a war. We are so very well versed in what we differ on. Yet we know little of what we share in common. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on what we agree on or have in common? Isn’t it better to stand in unity than to sit in protest? Isn’t the sharing of ideas the basis of growth, or has remaining silent and holding back because it is not “along party lines” the new protest?

We can want what we want without wishing bad things on others. Our success lies in the number of people we can unite, not alienate. Promotions should be awarded to the most qualified, games should be won by the team with the most heart, respect should be given to those worthy of it, and we should wish the best for each other. Things will inevitably go the way it should. If you can’t wish someone a nice day then wish them the day they deserve. And let Karma sort that shit out.

“Be kind to those that you meet, for each is fighting a hard battle.” I live by these words, I regret the times that I have waded into that pool of negativity. I will never again. I wish everyone well and I want everyone to succeed. The road to happiness is not paved with the broken dreams of my fellow man. As I try to live this way, I have an inner peace that is practically struggling to burst from my chest.

I wish you well, because you deserve it. This is who I am now, and this is what I do.

 

 

 

 

 

The elephant in the room

 

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It’s time to address https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/26/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-26th-2018/ the 800-pound elephant in my living room. This Superman shit is getting out of hand. It’s a real thing (obviously, it’s the name of my blog), and it’s getting in my way and clouding my judgment.

There is good Superman. Like the time I was driving my daughter’s friend home. She and my youngest were in the back seat, we were in traffic and when the light turned Green the horns started blaring. Cars started going around the lead car and I realized that the car was stalled. My youngest elbowed her friend and said “watch this’ as I opened my door, in traffic, ran over and helped push the disabled car to the side of the road. After I knew the driver was all set for a tow I got back in the car. I asked my daughter what she had meant by her comment and she said: “I knew you would help that car.” I pointed out to her that no one else did and she said, “Dad, it’s a good thing.”

There have been many of those. I won’t apologize for them. Then there is the “bad” Superman that takes on too much and sacrifices his own health in the process. I have been guilty of that as well. Would you believe me if I told you, and I can’t be more honest than I am at this moment, that I really don’t think about what is good for me? I’m not looking for a cookie like some deadbeat Dad on Springer. I really don’t care what happens to me. The only pleasure I get out of life is helping others.

When my health was deteriorating severely pre-transplant I managed to put up a serious fight. To not worry my kids, to keep my job and continue to support my family I pushed myself too far. My boss praised me, my wife chastised me. Bad Superman was born. I like how it worked out. Denial wasn’t just a river in Egypt, it was a great way to get to the end zone. I found mental strength in the absence of physical.

As I came out of the fog of anesthesia post-transplant, my eyes strained to see a doctor hovering above me. He asked me when I had last worked. I asked what day it was. Tuesday night? I responded that I worked until noon the day before. He asked if I knew the criteria for dialysis (which I stubbornly refused to do). I did not. He informed me that I was ten times over the limit for dialysis and he was amazed that I didn’t have a heart attack. That explained a lot but I didn’t really care, I was alive now right? The doctor left the room shaking his head. He wasn’t impressed. He thought I was just an irresponsible jagoff. He was probably right, but again, it worked for me.

On recovery, I was consumed by the need to get back in shape and pay back the gift I had been given. In that order. I worked out like crazy, I even did P90X. My Transplant surgeon said, “Kidney transplant patients don’t do P90X”. I said, “they do now.” Once I felt good, I began to help other people. I volunteered, I led kid’s mountain bike expeditions. I joined the Freemasons to really put a stamp on my commitment to be a better person and help others. I was a better father, friend, coworker and overall person. I tried to be a better husband, but that ship had sailed already. In the midst of this quest for purity of the soul, I got lazy about my medications and I had a rejection episode. A hospital stay and enough prednisone to kill a stampeding Rosie O’Donnell later I was down about 15% kidney function. Bad Superman. Lesson possibly but not likely learned.

Here and now, in the present, I have found a day that I can’t save. I’ve finally found my true Lex Luthor. My wife. Since we agreed to divorce, she has been noticeably depressed. Her best friend, who my wife famously “picked” over me as her confidante and number one, is telling me that something is wrong with her. While highly tempted to tell her, as the anointed yin to her yang, to fix it herself I am instead terribly worried. Her living situation really does suck. She lives with the best friend, the household is a real disaster. Between the lack of privacy, the new and increasingly frequent arguments with each other (which my wife is completely unequipped to handle), and lack of money she really is slipping into a depression. I saw just how bad it was Wednesday night. At my daughter’s 16th birthday of all places.

Instead of a “sweet 16” party she deserves, with a hundred guests fawning over the wonderful, sweet, caring and amazing girl that I would actually die without, we had a small gathering at the aforementioned house of horrors. I hate it there but I gladly drove 2 hours there. I wouldn’t miss it. My 2 oldest were unable to make it and I walked into a true shit show. My wife was livid, she was fighting with her friend and for some reason barely talking to me. I managed to get her alone for a minute and stupidly asked her if she was ok.

“Fucking great, living the dream.”

I fumbled a bit and then told her that I am used to her not being happy, but I’d never seen her depressed. I told her I was worried about her. She told me that there is nothing that I can do.

We tabled it for the moment and went on to celebrate my daughter’s special day. God bless her, she managed to make the most of it. She’s used to being disappointed I suppose. I showed her the blog post I wrote for her the other night (in confidence). She cried, in a good way. In the absence of material things, I made the gesture of words and she appreciated it. When I left, I gave my wife half of the measly earnings I had made this week. She gave me a weak thank you, a half-assed smile and I left.

“There’s nothing you can do” echoed through my head the entire ride home, haunted me in my sleep and was waiting for me when I awoke. The fact is, there is something that I can do. I can go back to work. It is very likely that I will be offered a full-time position in April. If I get a good enough offer, it may be time to cancel the SSDI claim, take care of myself and hope for the best. I would be able to give my wife enough to get a place of her own, or at least make her situation better. I would be doing something, instead of resigning myself to accepting things the way they are. I just have to determine the cost. It could be up to or in excess of the limitations of my body.

I have known my wife for 29 years. Married for almost 23. She raised four amazing children. Despite some notable wrinkles, she has been a good wife for the entire time. I can’t leave her like this. I know I’m not well. but when has that ever stopped me? As a man of integrity, the right way is the only option and I can’t help but feel that I am not doing all that I can.

Is this the true test of my lack of concern for my own well-being? I know that at least one of you out there is going to agree with this…in order to save others, I have to put my own mask on first.

Dammit Superman, what are you going to do now?

Dangerous Thinking

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It is amazing what can be conjured up from the dark recesses of the psyche. So many experiences laying dormant, waiting for the right odor or sound or phrase to bring it to the forefront of your mind. Yesterday, as I was composing what I now realize was a poorly planned but heartfelt post about being passionate, I accidentally triggered myself. In attempting to tell a story, I forced myself to think about her…the one that got away. Now I can’t chase the memories out of my head.

I have stated in previous posts that I have never really been happy. I don’t say this in a please feel bad for me way, I’m not like that. I say it because for the longest time I have felt a bit numb, detached and joyless as if I’m on the outside looking in at my life. I’m there but I’m not present. I now know that I was incorrect, I was happy. A long, long time ago in a Galaxy far far away.

In the mid 80’s I was in college, I had a part-time job, a full head of hair, a motorcycle and a love that comes around but once in a lifetime. That knowledge would have been helpful then, but that’s not how this works is it?

I met her in the library. Cramming for an exam, I look over and I see the adorable raven-haired, dark-eyed girl with the pink sweater giggling with her friends. Glancing up from my book every so often I would catch her gaze every time. Finally, I jokingly told her that if she doesn’t stop giggling I would report her to the librarian. That was her cue to pry herself away from her clucking friends and join me at my table. Her approach seemed to be in slow-motion, walking gracefully in her modest but tasteful clothing, her head bowed slightly indicating a gentle shyness, eyes locked on mine the whole time. When she sat down across from me and I got my first good look at her up close I was smitten. A dinner invitation was soon proffered and thus began a great story. A brief, tumultous story that would end badly and suppressed from memory for a long time.

The last time I thought of her was driving home from Mom and Dad’s lake house about ten years ago. I had the kids in the car, wifey had stayed home that day. We had enjoyed a great day of sun and fun, now they were all chilling as I drove and listened to some music. My son said, “Dad, are you crying?” Shit, I realized that I was. Pearl Jam’s Black was on and Eddie’s lyrics, which I had heard a thousand times before had just bitch-slapped me back to a place I didn’t want to go. Eddie wailed

I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine

I don’t remember how I explained it away but I was able to change the subject. But I thought of her the entire ride home. I accidentally, and unkindly, came up with a term for my wife on that ride, my Silver Medal.

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I was an entirely different person with her than I am today. I was affectionate, I was passionate, I expressed myself without fear of reprisal and I wasn’t afraid of showing my love. Her personality was different. She was quiet and soft-spoken but could speak volumes with her eyes. Her eyes could tell me anything, I know because I couldn’t stop staring at them.

We would fight, no couple is perfect. I took her quiet nature for granted sometimes, or I didn’t read her eyes correctly and I would say or do something stupid and she would let me have it. She was always right. Especially when she said that someday I would take her for granted one too many times. I did, and I lost her. The pretty girl that could have had anyone, but chose me, was done with me.

I would try for months to get her back, she would have nothing to do with me ever again. Her eyes were only angry to me by then. I left her with a parting thought, I told she was my only love. I meant it. I moved on, but I never got over her.

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I would see her again. We were on the same cruise ship. On our honeymoons.

Coincidences like that just don’t happen. I saw her on deck. She looked at me and quickly looked away and that was it. There was nothing there. My wife never knew. I put on a good face for her. But the thought of her on the same ship with her new lucky fucking bastard husband was devastating to me.

I was true to my word, I would never find another that made me feel the way she did. My wife and I had it good for a while but I would never willingly allow myself to be vulnerable again. My wife would become an emotional cripple so in the end, it worked out just fine.

After dredging all of this up, I am thankful that my psyche buried all of this shit. It’s too painful to think about what my life could have been like. This type of thinking is dangerous, for starters I wouldn’t have my amazing children if not for the way it turned out. Aside from that, it is a giant reminder of how stupid I can be.

I am glad that my windshield is bigger than my rearview mirror, I have so much to see that is ahead of me and I can’t be distracted by what is behind me. It’s just plain dangerous thinking.

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – January 5th, 2018

 

the ups and downs of being passionate

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I am nothing if not a passionate man. It is perhaps my greatest, at least my strongest, character trait. I have strong beliefs, a concrete set of values, an opinion on everything and a sincere zest for life. I love to learn, take any opportunity to help another person and get very into things. As a patient with chronic illness, having had several brushes with my own mortality, I do not fear death. I fear a life unfulfilled. I don’t care if I only have 10 years left, as long as I can spend them doing things that I love.

I consequently have a real hard time dealing with people that don’t have passion. I don’t judge, I want to inspire them. I have a great story to tell, and if someone were to hear it they may think like I do.

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I used to be an ardent follower of Russian philosopher Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. She unabashedly promoted that mankind’s sole purpose of being on earth was to achieve his own greatness. She vehemently opposed all things communist, so her ideas came across a bit selfish. If you were to say to her “we are here for others” she would reply

“then what are others here for?”

I eventually broke from her because of her views on charity. She played a little “fast and loose” with who is deserving of charity and who is just a waste of flesh. But I did take away a powerful message of worth and achievement. Some nuggets: nothing is more unacceptable than wasted talent; a man owes it to himself to achieve his best; if you believe something then fight for it and shout it from the rooftops. It ties into my ideas of worth, in other words, I always ask of people (inside my head of course) “what is your joy. What do you bring to the table? How are you making the world a better place by your presence?”

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I know it’s a little hardcore, but do you ever wonder what your funeral will be like? Do you know how you will be remembered? Will you be remembered fondly? Once again, as a person with a lot of health issues, I often think of my legacy. I would hope that the attendees of my memorial would raise a glass and tell a funny story or of something I did for them. My stone will most certainly say

here lies Bill

He really cared

About what I have no idea

That’s passion.

Of course, there’s another type of passion that I am sadly lacking in. In the love department, my furnace is out of oil. Not for lack of interest, but lack of opportunity. I fondly remember being in love. Sadly, it wasn’t with my wife. God bless her, my little Silver Medal. I am speaking of the one that got away.

To say that I was passionate about her is the understatement of the century. The very thought of her excited me. She was my everything. Sex is great, I love it like the next guy, but a mere kiss from this girl would make my feet spontaneously combust. We loved hard and we fought harder and I would still give anything to be with her again. I have never loved like that again, and I’m afraid I never will. After 24 toxic years with the wrong person, it’s unlikely. In that department, I am dead inside. But I want to.

Life without caring is a life unfulfilled. I don’t think I would change my style even if I could. I look at it as you either give a shit or you don’t. People without passion will continue to disappoint me but, like politics and religion, it’s their deal. To me, it’s the only thing that keeps me going.

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – January 1st, 2018