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.
It is not only a new year but also a entirely new decade. As I mark the halfway point of my 5th decade on this glorious spinning ball we call earth I have to say that the last ten years have easily been my most tumultuous and unpredictable to date. It is said that it is better to forget the incident and focus on the lesson. I need to do just that. If I was to take anything away from the last ten years, it is that I have learned a lot of lessons.
In 2010 it was determined that I would need a Kidney Transplant. Without it, dialysis would be my only option. One that I absolutely hated. The lesson was that, despite my remarkable skills of denial and putting on a brave face, it was time to take my health seriously.
2010 also saw the culmination of multiple bad financial decisions and living beyond my means in the foreclosure on my house and a bankruptcy. Despite finally landing a great job in 2008 it was too late to stop the inevitable and my family dragged ourselves to our new home, a small 3 bedroom apt where the rent was as much as our previous mortgage and we were actually tripping over each other. The lessons were many. I learned to curb my spending. I learned to downsize. And as we banged around in close quarters I learned that the smaller the space, the closer the family and as a family we achieved some much needed closeness.
In 2011 a co-worker and friend offered to give me a kidney. Her selfless offer caused a chain reaction at my company culminating in a fundraiser for my medical expenses. I felt like the luckiest man alive and I was blessed with a huge support system. I received my transplant in December. I was grateful and empowered. The lessons were many. I learned that a blessing can come from any source and to be open to it and be grateful. I learned that people are good and plentiful. I also learned that there is a catch to everything. My GM, who coordinated the fundraiser for me was going to play that card to manipulate and attempt to compromise me for years to come.
In 2013 I lost my father to Parkinson’s. It hit me hard to say the least. I still wonder if he died knowing how much I appreciated and loved him. The lesson, and there are many, was to tell the people in my life how I feel about them. I have committed to always leave people as if I am never going to see them again. Regrets are not part of my current game plan.
2013 also was the year I joined the wonderful fraternity of Freemasonry. I found a passion to pay forward my recent gift of a Kidney Transplant and Freemasonry allowed me access to great men who do great deeds. My commitment to be a better man each day than I was before has forever changed my life. The lessons are many. Selflessness, charity without expectation of recognition, love of community and the confirmation that there are a lot of good people in the world, you just have to know where to look.
Professionally, it was a wonderful decade. In 2008 I had fallen into the job that would not only introduce me to a lifesaving donor, but I found my niche in my career. The company groomed me for a couple of years and then gave me a department to build and I can say, without hubris that I knocked it out of the park. My background and personality served me well in our business model and I became a crucial “go-to” team player valued by our customer base and a frequent resource and problem-solver. Every day was challenging and different and I found myself in a position to help people. The lessons were many, chief among them was to listen to those around you and help them whenever possible. Also, be the worker and coworker that when you take a sick day, people miss you.
I would say that 2016 was the worst year of the decade. It began when my kidney failed suddenly in February. I was floored. Upon receiving my transplant I was a new man. I began my recovery immediately and I committed myself to keeping the kidney for at least the 15 years I was told it would last. I worked out hard. I did P90X, I biked and hiked. I took care of myself and dropped weight. When it suddenly failed after only five years, I was angry like never before. Where were my 15 years? Why did I have to find out on my own that my disease was the only kidney disease to return and infect the new organ? I would later deduce the lesson. You never know what the future holds so get out there and live now. If the Dr.’s had told me that I may lose it in 5 years would I have achieved all that I had? No, if I had sat around waiting for the shoe to drop I would never have climbed those mountains and savored the view.
In 2017 the bottom really fell out. My company closed, taking my dream job with it. My health deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t keep another job. When the job was gone so was the money and that was when my marriage officially collapsed. It was inevitable, we had been strangers for years but it hurt nonetheless. I suppose you know the rest. I moved in with my mother. I applied for Social Security Disability. I was denied. I went on dialysis and I am to this day. That’s the bad.
But here’s the good. I started this blog and if you are reading right now then I made a good decision. I also focused on creating and maintaining solid relationships with my children. Today, we are strong and their love sustains me. I also committed to getting along with my ex. I have not to this day experienced the closure, the explanation for the rejection many years ago and the giant wall that formed between us but I remained friendly with her for the children, for us and for the sake of tranquility. I would like to think that I am setting a good example for the kids on how to be an adult.
2019 served as a year of tying things together and trying to formulate a plan going forward. It was a year of many setbacks and achievements. After nearly dying in September 2018 I emerged from a medically induced coma with a “bucket list” mentality. I focused more on what I could do and less on what I couldn’t and in the process found that I could do a lot of things my detractors said I couldn’t. One of them was buying a motorcycle. Everyone said no, as had my wife and family for many years. But it was in my blood and as an homage to my father I was on two wheels again. The freedom and love of the open road has changed my life and, second to my children, is a thing that keeps me going on those dark sleepless nights when the pain is so bad that I consider the darkest of thoughts…ending it.
My greatest achievements of the 2019 was the transformation of my entire attitude. I like who I am. Finally.
It is true that a man has to hit rock bottom, with nowhere to look and go but up, before he truly discovers what is truly important. Brutal self-examination led to self-improvement. Physical challenges awakened the fighter in me. Having nothing to lose empowered me to rise from the ashes and shine my light instead of lurking in the shadows. It was then the lessons became clear.
For every high there is a low. People do not suck. Life is to be lived not viewed out a window from a recliner. The words “no” and “can’t” are to be treated as a personal challenge. Sometimes we all need help and that’s when we discover who our friends are. Pain is temporary while regret is forever. Be charitable to a flaw with your time if not your wallet. Only look down on a man if you are helping him up. Be nice. If you can’t do that then be quiet. Don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t do. Make every day count as if it were your last.
In closing, I hope to be around long enough to do another one of these ten years from now.
I heard a radio host yesterday asking people to call in and define 2019 in one word. “Tumultous”and”chaotic” were used frequently. Myself, I choose “disappointing”. I am disappointed in our lack of respect for human life as first responders are targeted for death, people are beaten and killed over the color of their skin and innocents are being slaughtered over failed political and religious ideology. I am disappointed in the pursuit of money, power and belongings at the sake of character, integrity and morality. I am disappointed in our fascination with celebrity without merit, gossip without respect for boundaries and the idea that bad behavior is acceptable if it accomplishes your selfish agenda. On a personal note, I am disappointed in myself for losing the optimism I once had so much of, that I let life get to me this year instead of customarily plowing through the pile of horseshit looking for that pony that must be in there somewhere. I hope that next year is better, if nothing else that people stop being ugly to each other and we start treating each other as brothers and friends we have yet to make. And I hope that I get back my power to create my situation instead of being defined by it. And I hope that anyone who suffered through this post has a great 2020.
I am really looking forward to seeing 2017 limp out the door Sunday night at midnight. I hope that it was a wonderful year for anyone that sees this, but for me, it is one to be forgotten. I won’t dwell on the bad stuff if you are a reader of this blog, you already know what I have been dealing with. I am encouraged that, after self-evaluation, I am still able to look to the future as an opportunity for better things and new opportunities.
My son last night told me he is glad that I am optimistic after this last year. I explained to him that I had, in fact, lost it for a while but now have it back. I explained a boxing analogy to him. A good fighter can take a good shot to the chin, shake it off and come back swinging. For years I was able to do that. This year, this fighter took a devastating series of blows that I couldn’t shake off. I fell to the mat and was down for the count. But I’m back now and I want a rematch. As I tear a page from my daily planner, underneath is a fresh day.
One thing I am very happy about in 2017 is this blog. I have always dabbled in writing but never had the time to commit to a blog. Now, for better or for worse, I have nothing but time. I have committed to working on this blog every day. It has done wonders in helping me to exorcise my demons, to express myself, and to unburden myself of the excessive emotional weight of the events of my life. And I am so happy to have readers.
I have almost 40 followers. A paltry amount to many but a big deal to me. As an aspiring writer with a story to tell, you give me the motivation to continue to write, to explore my boundaries, to share my story and in the process, free my soul.
I follow so many of you, I enjoy your posts and admirable writing styles. You give me feedback, hope, and encouragement and you have become a part of my life.
I hope all of you have a wonderful New Years Eve and a fantastic 2018 full of pushing forward towards your dreams.
My car has a big windshield and a small rear-view mirror because what is behind me is not nearly as important as what is ahead.