I was nose deep in a book yesterday when Mom entered the room and dropped a envelope in front of me.
“Look what I found. Your thank you letter to us for your Graduation Party.”
I looked at the envelope, there was the unmistakable and easily recognized bad handwriting. Jesus, I wrote that in 1992.
I immediately read all 3 pages. It was as if I was opening a time capsule. With the exception of some very genuine and sincere acknowledgements of my parents (of all the negative stuff I talk about one positive about my life is that I have great parents), the rest of it was classic me. Regrets, apologies, some introspection and a lot of remorse about mistakes made, opportunities wasted, time lost, and promises to do better. It could have been written last week.
After reading all of that I concluded that in 30 years I haven’t changed a bit. I’m still a fucked-up mess that is barely comfortable in his own skin. I just have a different set of things to be neurotic about now. I guess some things will never change. Not until I change the way I think.
I’m making progress on that front. I recently published a post about my troubling propensity to be really hard on myself and a couple of readers made comments that really helped me drill down on it. I opened myself to the option of just letting shit go and just do better. One blogger said that I am only trying to put the best version of me out there, that I am just dedicated to self-improvement. I think that is accurate. I may hold myself to a very high standard, but if my goal is just to be the best version of me that I can be, what is so bad about that?
I just need to find a healthy way to do it.
You see, the usual standards for everyone do not apply to me. I am in my late 50’s and I still try to look like I did as a 31 year old gym rat. Biology doesn’t cooperate with such notions but I consistently deny that. The good thing is that it drives me to work out, which is never a bad thing at my age. But I still don’t like what I see in the mirror so that is decidedly unhealthy. Part of me should be asking what exactly a 56 year old man who battled renal disease for most of his lofe, has had a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, cancer, 3 staph infections, sepsis, dialysis and two kidney transplants should even look like. In that light, I should give myself a break. Right? Nope.
I guess what matters, and I wish I knew this when I wrote that letter 30 (wow) years ago, is that the answer is to just do better. To stop the toxic behavior and stop sabotaging myself. To use the windshield more than the rear view because one is big and the other small for a reason. If I don’t learn to think like that I’ll never grow. It amazes me that I know what to do and yet fail to do it. What has changed is my determination to keep the positive at the forefront of my thinking, not have the typical epiphany after beating the shit out of myself for days about some verbal misstep or behavioral gaffe.
So after a long streak of no change and cycles that seem incapable of being broken I think I have the tools now to get my entire being on the same page. It took a 30 year old letter to see this clearly but it really makes sense now.
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.
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.