A much needed reminder

How are you don’t lieInstead of heading straight downstairs to find a seat for dinner I asked my Brother John to save me a seat. I knew many people at the event but I always prefer to sit with close friends at these events and for some reason, one which will reveal itself at the end of this post, I wanted to sit with John. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason, we really click. He agreed and I went outside to clear my head and put on my “everything is fine” face. I knew that I would be asked how I was doing by many. My health history is well known and it is a blessing and a curse that many inquiries regarding my progress are made. I needed to be ready. You see, it is my opinion that for some the greeting “How are you?” is generic at best. But among my brethren they really mean it. And they know me, I have famously said “fine” to the greeting hundreds of times when I was anything but. A true friend would push and ask for the truth. That night, it was going to be difficult to satisfy those people because despite my robust physical appearance, I was bearing the weight of the world. Someone was going to call me on it.

The walls really were closing in on me. I was beating myself up over leaving my first Insurance Job. Three weeks in I was being pushed too hard and trained too little and despite my Herculean efforts to learn and apply TONS of information from Licenses to Certifications they weren’t happy with my progress and we parted ways. It really isn’t a huge deal career-wise. It wasn’t a good fit and I wasn’t contracted yet. Still, I felt like a failure, as I am prone to do. I was miserable. On top of that, I was disgusted and upset that my recently-broken-up-with ex-girlfriend didn’t have the decency to even text me after I drove over an hour out of my way to give back some belongings. Why would she be so childish and angry with me after she dumped my ass? She broke my heart and n top of reeling from that, now I have to wonder about this? I was consumed and my mind was racing. I shook it off and went inside.

I joined John and a few other good friends for dinner. It really was a tremendous set up. The room was full of well-dressed happy people. The decorations were lovely, the food was amazing and the bar was open. As expected, many inquiries were made about my health. I think I fooled all of them. Then John says to the whole table, hand resting on my shoulder, “Bill has the most amazing attitude. He is the most determined, optimistic and cheerful guy I’ve ever met. He’s been through so much and he keeps dusting himself off. He’s an inspiration to me.” Everyone at the table offered up similar sentiments. I gratefully acknowledged them and thanked them profusely.
Then it hit me.
There was the reason I had felt compelled to sit with John that evening. Because I was destined to hear that. Not for the praise, despite how flattering and humbling it was. No, it was a REMINDER to stop spiraling down the drain of negative thinking and remember that I have survived so much big and important shit in my life that I can’t let a couple of setbacks get me down. Somehow I had lost my mojo but John’s words snapped me right out of it. To Hell with the heartbreak, it’s her loss. To Hell with the job, it wasn’t the right company but I’ve still got the license and I will use it. To Hell with negativity in general, I needed to get back on track.

I know this is hard for some people to believe, but sometimes things really do happen for a reason. I was at an absolute low and by the end of dinner, I was actually in a decent place. I can’t begin to understand how it happened that quickly, but I can’t deny that it happened.

Today, I’m not 100%. I still miss her terribly and I still wish the job had turned out better. But neither of them are getting me down. And for now that is good enough.

home bittersweet home

Bill Marshall sat in his driveway with the engine running. It was a familiar routine lately. There was always a detour on the way home. Usually a bar, sometimes a walk. Tonight it was a walk and while he was proud of himself for not drinking (yet) today, he wished he had a snoot full to deal with the pending shit show awaiting him.
He really was in a bad place.
Sales were down. His motivation was shit. His health was in decline. His marriage was a mess. The only thing that gave him any joy was his children but in order to see them, he needed to go inside. Again, sober. How did it get to this, he wondered? When did he become the guy willing to miss the best time of the day with the kids because he couldn’t stand to see his wife? His pattern of late was to get there in time for bedtime. He would help put them to bed and spend a few quality minutes with each of them. Then, in order, he would feel guilty, pour a drink or three, and collapse in his chair/bed. He had been kicked out of the bed years before. He would get an inadequate amount of sleep, get up and out the door before everyone was up, and hit the repeat button.
Tonight it was especially difficult to get out of the car. His encounter with that kid was fucking with his head in a big way. It was as if he had met his younger self. Everything about it screamed impossible but how else could he explain the details that kid knew about him. And it was not lost on him how true everything he said was. He used to be a happy kid. Able to amuse himself, loved nature and being outside. He used to be active and fit. Of course you were, dummy, you were a child then, he argued with himself. Age aside, his lack of fitness was due to fast food, alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, and kidney disease. Still, he knew he could do better. But the healthy and active observations were the least of it. The kid had painted a damn accurate picture of how much his natural cheeriness and enthusiasm had dwindled with age. He had completely lost the love of life he once had.
One element of the conversation ran through his head on a loop.
“Did you ever sit just like this? Playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt until your mother called you? Riding bikes with your friends? You hated to go home, right? Just like now. But that’s not why you don’t want to go home now, is it Bill?”
The kid was right, I don’t want to go home anymore. How the hell did that happen?
He looked at his watch. He had to go in or he would miss bedtime. Tonight, more than ever, he needed to be a part of it. He turned his ignition off and walked up his driveway, past the broken flower bed and the unpainted window sills in front of the house. Yup, in addition to everything else, he couldn’t even afford to make repairs to his house.
He opened the door. Lady, his spastic Springer Spaniel jumped all over him. At least someone is happy to see me, he thought. He stayed with her until she calmed down and then went into the kitchen. She was sitting at the kitchen table, a stack of bills before her.
“Why were you sitting in your car for so long”, she asked.
“I was talking on the phone.”
“Bullshit you were, I saw you out the window. No phone on your ear,” she said. “What were you really doing?”
“Thinking.”
“Well think about this, we’re fucking broke. What are you going to do about it?”
Here we go, he thought. Here we go. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of liquid courage.

A beautiful night for a walk

He stood at the edge of the walking path. It was peak hour to walk the lake and he needed to get out of the way of the bustling foot traffic. He was winded, the pace he had set for himself was too much. Exhausted, he put his hands on his aching sides and tried to catch his breath. His legs were starting to cramp. He looked around and realized he was almost halfway around. Losing motivation, but aware that it’s the same distance back as it is to continue, he started to walk again. His mind was still racing but he furiously tried to control it. The events of his day were racing through his mind and exercise was the only way he knew to work it off, sort things out. As days go, today was pretty shitty on all fronts.

He thought of his late father and his trademark line, “everything will work out, it always does”. He never actually believed it to be true but he loved how his father believed so strongly in it. This shit, he thought to himself, this shit is not going to work itself out.

I wish you were here to talk to right now, Dad. I could use some of that cheerful optimism of yours that I once scoffed at, he mused as he trudged forward. His Dad always seemed to have it together. Sure, he sometimes acted badly in his marriage. He had money problems but he alwaysgot through it. He hated his job, but he always did it with pride and dedication. He never acted like I am right now. I’m a hot mess. I can’t stand my wife, I’m on the brink of foreclosure and my boss is a fucking psycho that I love one minute and hate the next. How would Dad handle all of this?

Bill Marshall was well-known among friends, family, and business associates for his resilience and cheerful demeanor. It was a great source of pride to him that this applied to more than just his public, outside persona. He was also committed to maintaining a positive frame of mind even when alone and talking to himself, which today he was doing quite a bit of. What people didn’t realize is that it required nearly all of his energy to maintain that reputation. There are limits to what any man can take, as he was fond of thinking. despite the fact that he rarely allowed himself such slack. He held himself to an impossible standard. Today, when the walls felt like they were closing in, he decided to give himself a rare break. Snap out of it! he reprimanded himself, you’re not going to fix anything in this state of mind. With the equivalent of a snap of a finger, he let his day wash off of him and he just walked. To keep his mind empty and focused he walked while looking down at the ground and concentrated on playing “don’t step on a crack”, a game from his childhood. This amused him for a while and it wasn’t long before noticing that he was approaching the final stretch where his car sat waiting for him. It was the only car in the lot.

When Bill reached the clearing to the parking lot, he saw a lone figure in the parking lot very close to his parked car. Great, I’m probably getting robbed or vandalized. He began to walk faster, marveling that his day is somehow getting worse.

He felt the phone in his back pocket vibrating. He was tempted not to even look to see who was calling. It was most likely his wife doing the nightly “where are you” call. God, he fucking hated that call. Often, he contemplated answering and saying “as far away from you as possible!” and hanging up but he knew that wouldn’t end well. Then again, it could be one of his kids calling and he grabbed for the phone. Too late, he had missed the call, but it was indeed the wife. Here comes the text, he thought. 2 seconds later it came through.
Where are U?

Bill chuckled to himself despite his annoyance. He called that one. He didn’t respond. He had a walk to finish and possibly a kid to beat up.

Broken

I feared this day would come. The proverbial chickens have come home to roost, so to speak. My heart is in pieces right now.

I’ve often posted about my children and how they are thriving. I considered myself lucky to have them. As young expecting parents, we, like countless expectant parents always responded to queries about what we wanted for a baby always responded “happy and healthy.” As they grew, we never pushed them towards what we wanted but instead helped them find their own way. And despite the tumultuous, often hostile environment my wife and I subjected them to (real proud in that arena) they all turned out to be exactly what I had hoped for. Happy, healthy good people with kind hearts and good values. I really thought that we had dodged a bullet, I had always feared that their parents’ failures made a lasting, damaging impression.
My fears have been confirmed, my youngest is not doing well at all. My baby is sick.

It started with erratic behavior. The once sweet, kind-hearted girl had been acting out in public. Being loud and disrespectful, smoking a ton of weed, arguing with her mother about silly things, being sexually promiscuous, dressing provocatively, poor hygiene. She was getting in trouble at work. Her manager wanted to know what happened to the sweet girl she hired. She was disciplined several times. I spoke with her the best I could as often as I could but with COVID I was limited to how much I could see her and I had to rely on her mother for most of my information. Yes, the woman who is famous for histrionics, exaggeration, mood swings and her ability to make absolutely any fucking thing EVER worse, was my source of information. As it turns out, she wasn’t off by that much. My baby really is mentally ill.

We talked at length on the phone after I realized that it wasn’t a phase and that I needed to get involved. She confirmed that she was struggling. Body dysmorphia, self-esteem issues and her relationship with her mother (bad doesn’t begin to cover it) has resulted in Anorexia.

I saw her in person yesterday for the first time in months. It was very up in the air if she was going to attend Thanksgiving at her older sister’s house at all. Her mother has COVID and my daughter had been exposed. She high-tailed it to her girlfriend’s house (apparently she’s gay now) once she found out and stayed away. This of course was a major problem for her mother who doesn’t believe in the vaccine. In short, she refuses to get it because she doesn’t think it works yet where my vaccinated daughter is concerned, she feels that her being vaccinated will protect her. Fucking hypocrite. Knowing how differently it affects people, it is incredibly irresponsible to expose her because my ex wants to be cared for. It is a lonely disease for everyone, deal with it. So anyway, my girl was tested and was negative so she came.

I knew it was going to be awkward for her. She had recently had a bad argument with my oldest daughter, our host for the holiday and things were said. In short, my oldest told her that nobody recognizes her anymore and it’s like she doesn’t have a sister anymore. This cut my youngest deep and to make it worse her sister was unapologetic. She was also very anxious about everyone’s reaction to her weight and worried about the pending comments. She is horrifyingly thin and any mention of her weight is very damaging to her. Of course, several people commented and it was hard for her. She wanted to leave. I excused myself from the table and took her outside.

We had the most honest conversation we have ever had. But the things that I heard have rocked my very soul to its core. I think she told me more than she has revealed to anyone. She is so broken, so conflicted, so in need of help that I truly do not know what to do. She claims she is doing better emotionally. Maybe she does seem a little happier but she’s not her own self by a longshot. To put it in perspective, happier for her means she doesn’t want to kill herself right now. Her body image and food issues are killing her. She showed me a video she took in the bathroom. She merely looked in the mirror and began crying uncontrollably. I will never, as long as I shall live, get over seeing that. I was up most of the night. The only bright side I can find is that she is starting therapy next month and she really wants to get better.

At my darkest moment of my life this girl’s face appeared to me and gave me the courage and strength to face the life that was beating me down. I hope and pray that my unconditional love and support for this poor damaged soul has the same effect on her. I love all of my children to the moon and back but with her, it’s a little different. Maybe because the others were always so strong and independent that they needed me less and she always needed, and asked for, my attention. Our relationship is just unique and very special to me. I would do anything, and I mean absolutely anything to make her better. I would gladly exchange my life for her happiness. But it ultimately will fall on her to get better. I have never felt so helpless.

And powerless…I find myself again just wishing for happy and healthy