A New Year’s Toast

A Toast

to the parents struggling to care for their family. May they provide sustenance and love for the children

to the first responder running towards danger when others run from it. May you always stay safe

to the soldier thousands of miles from those that love them. May your mission be righteous and your body unscathed

to the health care workers who give more to others more than they give to themselves. May their selflessness be recognized and appreciated

to the bullied child. May your struggles be recognized before it’s too late

to the bully. May you see the error of your ways

to the ill. May you experience recovery

to the grieving. May you experience closure and peace

to the hungry. May your plate always be full

to our leaders. May they do what is right, not what is profitable or electable

to the disenfranchised, the angry and the frustrated. May you find an outlet and peace in your heart

to the practitioners of hate and division. May you become part of the solution, not part of the problem

to those that chose the path of honesty and integrity. May you never second-guess that choice

to those who are glued to screens. May you look away and see the beauty all around you

to those fighting a hard battle. May the people you meet treat you with kindness and respect.

Here’s to a better you. A better us. A better world. It’s up to us to make it a good year.

Here’s to you.

 

Dog chasing a car

Ever seen a dog chase a car? My first question was always “what is he going to do if he catches it?”

I made the mistake the other day of clicking on one of the “hookup” site links. I was feeling, well what the fuck let’s call it what it is, horny. My wife had told me earlier that day that even though we are not officially divorced yet if I wanted to “get back out there” she was fine with it. I guess that means she suggested it. I certainly don’t want a relationship so I entertained the idea of a casual thing. So I signed up, no credit card required appealed to me.

I instantly regretted it. I began getting bombarded with nude pics of really slutty women “near me” and very provocative messages. I immediately knew that this wasn’t for me. Despite how “delicious” I appeared to one lady; despite the fact that Paradise was the “only one who could take me there”; and contrary to Sexygodess17’s assertion that she’s “the one I’ve been looking for”,  it’s just not my style. I deleted the account immediately. Like a dog, if I chose to chase this car, what would I do with it if I caught it?

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I’m not a casual sex guy, never was. I like the idea of a Friend with Benefits. I have friends that have this. Just sex, no commitments of any kind. But I’m not wired for it. When I was a younger man I had many long-term relationships and a few one-nighters. I never felt right after the one-nighters. Laugh if you want but I respect women and felt dirty if I objectified them in any way. Even when they seemed perfectly fine with it I still needed two showers after. It’s how I am and if I have to choose, it’s a good thing.

I recently entertained the casual route because I’m not ready for the real thing.  For a lot of reasons, none of which has anything to do with my wife, she’s actually the one that gave me the green light.

I don’t like how I look. I’m still heavier than I want to be even though I’m losing it. I’m very self-conscious of the swelling in my legs and how it would look to someone should I take my clothes off in a lit room. And, since I am a brutally honest guy, I only have one testicle. I had testicular cancer when I was 31 and lefty was removed. I was offered a prosthetic but I said no, it’s not like I was dating or planned to. I was with my wife. I regret that now. I think a woman might get freaked out about that. Do I bring it up ahead of time or do I let her find out for herself? Should be interesting.

Again, in the interest of complete and brutal honesty, I must also confess that I haven’t had sex in 8 years. My wife shut me off then and I couldn’t bring myself to break the vows of my marriage. Several opportunities arose, as did I, but I abstained. I have stayed in my marriage for the children and all I had was my honor. If I was unfaithful, my children would lose respect for me and that’s all I have. So, not having gotten more than a handshake in that long, I am very reluctant to ask my next potential suitor for an instruction manual for her vagina. And a kleenex.

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Another issue is what do I have to offer? A woman my age would most certainly see that I have little or nothing to offer them. I can see the ad now:

Broke, balding, chronically ill heavy guy with one nut and a great sense of humor who lives with his mother for the foreseeable future seeks, well shit, ANYBODY. Confidence in the bedroom depending on how long it takes to turn out the light.

I really want to meet someone to spend time with. To walk and talk, read and watch movies, drink and hang out, and be casual with the pace. On top of everything else I don’t have, I don’t have baggage. I’m actually a pretty good guy and fun to be with if someone can get past all…that…shit.

At least Advil helps with the Carpal Tunnel.

My Special Purpose…Part 2

Deciding to be more positive would prove to be less daunting than actually doing it. I was in a rough place. I was still jobless, broke and living with my mother. Not exactly the cover of Forbes Magazine. I decided that the first course of action would be to embrace my surroundings. Despite the hectic, chase- the-dollar-lifestyle I had been living (and dying from) I was always a lover of the outdoors, an avid reader and a fledgling blogger. I spent time outdoors, read voraciously and started this blog…often all while outside. I soon realized that this was where I was meant to be, I just got here earlier than I planned.

I also found myself thinking clearer and better than I can ever remember. I achieved a state of Zen in my thinking, I achieved presence. For the longest time I have felt that I was not living my life, but instead watching it play out in front of me. I had achieved clarity and a desire to be completely, brutally honest with myself. I looked at everything, the good, the bad and the seriously ugly in a harsh and unforgiving light. I sorted out what would never be possible again and cast it aside. I envisioned what I would be capable of and I game-planned it. I forgave myself for my mistakes and I asked God for guidance. I decided, as cliché as it is, that my two choices were to dwell on the avalanche of misfortune that had swept my life away or to move forward. My income would be modest, I would never have the career, lake house and garage full of muscle cars that I had been working for. But money has become less important to me. What matters to me is quality of life.

I decided that I would do whatever it took to get healthy and stay healthy enough to secure my legacy. I would master the one thing that I was able to do consistently, sometimes unknowingly and without effort…to inspire. With apologies to Steve Martin, I found my Special Purpose.

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It might seem corny but I have always had an underlying desire to help others. My original Graduate school curriculum choice was counseling. I wanted to either be an underpaid social worker or a School guidance counselor. It wasn’t until I got married and my life became all about paying bills that I grudgingly decided that I needed a “real job”. I decided even then that I would always do what I could to help others, as a job or as a calling. I always felt as if I could do more. Now it appears that maybe I have.

The one thing that got me through decades of illness, bad relationships, and financial hardship was a hard-headed denial. I refused to acknowledge those things that threatened my goals and I was able to downplay and often shut out thoughts that were “downers”. Starting with my chronic illness, I loved when someone said: “you don’t look sick.” Well, that’s good I would think to myself that’s the goal. As I got worse, and more and more people knew about it, the more determined I was to not show it. My doctors would later say that my denial worked for me. By not acting sick I actually stayed healthier.

With regards to my marriage and the money problems, well they were one and the same. My wife would constantly attack me about the finances, asking me if I knew what was going on. If I knew how much trouble we were in? Of course, I knew, but I asked her if she thought it was helpful or healthy to dwell on it. Perhaps I should stay home? Give up? Not try at all to make it better? I suppressed it and went to work, it beats laying down and dying. As with the illness, when people found out how much trouble I was in they would marvel and say “you would never know it by looking at you.” Once again, that’s the point.

My children are grown. My miserable marriage is pending divorce. My health is relatively stable for now. I am debt free. My mind is sharp. Nothing is stopping me now from utilizing my special purpose except time. How much life is left in my years? I’ll know soon enough. But until then I am going to be the best person I can be, and hopefully, instill hope and inspiration in others. Not to achieve accolades, my end goal is so much simpler than that. I only want to be remembered as a good person. I think it’s doable.

I have already started the journey. I have forgiven myself and let go of my grudges and anger. I have forgiven some people that held more of a hold on me than they deserved. I tell people how I feel about them. I take time to say thank you. I find a way to help instead of an excuse not to. I volunteer at the food bank. And I just submitted an application for financial aid in order to study to become a Substance Abuse Counselor. I’m on a roll and nothing is stopping me now. If there is a way that I can make someone’s life just a little better and I have the resources to do it then I’m going to try. Someday, someone will say to my stone “Yea, he was a good guy.” That is all I want. To be the best friend, father, son, cousin, and human being that I can be.

And maybe I will have inspired others to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC vs Common Decency

I do not stand with the people that insist that as a Country we should shout Merry Christmas from the rooftops. We do not need to assert that this country was founded by people primarily of Judeo-Christian faith.  Multiculturalism is a wonderful thing. There are approximately 29 Holidays celebrated within the month of December. It is culturally intolerant of us to insist that everyone says Merry Christmas. I believe that “Happy Holidays” is just fine. That is my bow to the age we now live in.

On the other hand, if someone, anyone for that matter, wishes you a Merry Christmas and it’s not your holiday…take it and say thank you. The overall point is that someone took the time and made the effort to say something nice to you. Don’t be offended. If someone offered me a peanut-butter and Jelly sandwich and I had a nut allergy I would say thank you for the sandwich. It’s common decency. Which, like common sense, is not common.

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Lighten up people, please.

Poker face

“You know, there’s this really great support group at a church in town. You may get something out of it” she said. Roxanne had startled me, I was zoning out in the chair. I removed my headphones, retracted the extendable arm of the TV, turned and gave her my full attention.

“Do I look to you like I need to go to a support group?” I asked. “I’m the last one in this room who needs that.” I subtly pointed out the people around me, nodding my head in their direction. “I mean, look around.” All around me were cancer patients, attached to bottles and tubes getting chemo, plasma and god knows what. They looked very sick. I was the only non-cancer patient in the infusion center, there for an anemia deficiency. I thought I looked pretty good in comparison.

“Bill, you’re carrying around an awful lot of baggage, you can deny it all you want but this is what I do. It wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone.” I didn’t question Roxanne’s pedigree, she was good at her job. She knew all of her patients that had walked in after me, enough to hug them and in some cases elicit tearful responses. This was my first time at the infusion center and I felt like I have known her for twenty years. She was older yet youthful, matronly but attractive, professional but very comforting. I had come in expecting a simple shot, I was to find out that I was to be seated for a 90-minute infusion. In the time it took her to swab my arm, insert my IV and hook up the bag she had extracted my entire medical and personal history. She was very easy to talk to. I felt like she knew me. But did she know me enough to tell me I need help dealing with my apparently visible emotional baggage?

The problem is that I think I’m doing pretty good with everything. A lot has happened, and I have lost a lot of what is dear to me. But I roll on, in my family tradition and I try to stay positive. In doing so I make an effort to concentrate on my body language and facial expressions. Beneath it all, I am a control freak through and through. If I look like I am handling it, then I am handling it. What goes on in my mind will not show on my face.  I’m not feeling bad for myself, I don’t ask anyone for anything and I don’t want pity. “Why me?” is not part of my lexicon.

It never occurred to me that maybe I’m not pulling it off as well as I thought. Maybe only someone like Roxanne, the infusion center cougar, whose job it is to provide relief and comfort to the truly sick among us, can see through it. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself. Maybe I should talk to someone.

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I always thought I was a good poker player. I won a lot of tournaments. Until one day I played with my friend Jeff. He called all of my bluffs and beat me handily. It turns out I have a lot of “tells” that he picked up on. If I don’t have the poker face I thought I did, then maybe Roxanne is right. I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

Because it’s all I have

I was heading to the market this morning to grab some necessities. I take any opportunity I have to drive through the center of this little town and admire the old buildings. I have never spent a winter up here so it is still all new to me. It’s a beautiful town but it is very divided between old money and crushing poverty. For every restored farmhouse with smoke from the wood stove drifting lazily from chimneys, there is also one dilapidated house with one or more broken down cars in the driveway, also occupied by children without a proper winter coat.

As I drove by AD Auto Body I was prompted to turn around and say hi to Dave. Dave is another MA transplant who moved up here for a simpler life and eventual retirement. Dave is a friend of my mom and a close friend of my mom’s deceased second husband Frank. When I moved up here in August I had damage on my car that I needed to be fixed but couldn’t go through insurance. Mom brought me to Dave who said he would take care of it. He repaired over $1500.00 in damages for $286.00. I was amazed at this gesture, which he apparently does for everyone. “Never mind what the insurance estimate says, I will do it for what it really costs,” he told her. I was very grateful and thanked him repeatedly. Today. I felt compelled to stop in and say hi.

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I walked into the old, dusty shop and saw that Dave was with a customer. I waited patiently for him to finish (he is long-winded). When the customer walked out he looked at me and said “What’s up Bill? Crash your car again?” I laughed.

“I just stopped in to say Merry Christmas and acknowledge again how grateful I am for helping me out this year. You’re a real nice guy and I hope someone tells you that once in a while.”

He was touched,  but tried not to show it. A man like Dave deserves a thank you but doesn’t need it. And at this point in my life, I am unable to give him anything else but what is in my heart. It’s all I have.

Dave and I talked for a while, I shook his hand and left. “Say hi to your mom for me,” he said. I assured him that I would. I got in my car and felt whole. I could have committed to stopping in after I went shopping, on the way back. Or maybe later. But I might not have. I may have put it off. I’m glad I recognized that the time is now to say what is on my mind and acted on it. If all I have to offer is what is in my heart it is going to have to be enough. It can’t be bought in a store, and it can be given by many.

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No returns, please.

the Apple has a worm

I made myself get an iPhone this year when my upgrade was ready with Sprint. I did it reluctantly, my entire family and the rest of the known universe has one so I had to see what the big deal is. I am not impressed. As a guy who doesn’t play games, use a ton of apps and spend all day glued to it my phone needs are not a high priority. I use the internet, emails, social media, the camera and make calls. That’s it. I lose a lot of calls, the blue tooth is not working right and every time it updates it messes everything up. Part of this may be that I’m not tech-savvy. I know my way around a computer but I don’t care much otherwise. I’m old-fashioned like that, when I graduated HS the internet was barely a thing. Because I’m old-fashioned, I also like talking to a person when I have a problem. After my experiences with Apple and Itunes customer support’s phone system and customer service, I officially hate Apple. I may be the only person in the world to say this but it’s true.

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Voice-activated computerized menus suck. Theirs is the worst. None of the options given by the computer have ever been what I was calling about and getting the option to speak to a representative isn’t offered. I find myself screaming “CUSTOMER SERVICE REP” into the phone before I finally get someone. With the exception of maybe twice I have been connected with a gum-snapping, Starbuck’s Venti triple-swirl, cinnamon-laced-wheatgrass-infused with tiger semen sipping person who puts me on hold for twenty minutes only to give me a different number to call.

Resetting my password was an act of Congress because they couldn’t tell the difference between my son’s account and my own. But I dealt with them. I had to.

Today, while shoveling snow in white-out conditions my phone apparently fell out of my pocket. I looked everywhere, under mountains of snow as if someone had sneezed the coke off of the coffee table at Robert Downey’s house. It’s gone. So I called my carrier for my options. Sprint told me that I can get a new phone for $473.99 (in other words pay off my current plan). I said, “what about my protection plan?”

“Oh, you have AppleCare?”

They gave me the number to AppleCare. Surprise, surprise they don’t cover lost phones. Ugggghhhhh. Either way, I have to pay $473.99.

My mother called her provider and asked about adding me to hers. Good news, they can add me on cheaper, their protection plan covers lost phones and they will pay $375 towards paying off my other plan. I asked them what the deals were. They offered me a great deal on a Samsung 8 Note. I love that phone. I said “Great, let’s do that. How do I get the $375 to pay off Sprint.?”

“Oh, I’m sorry sir. That deal only applies if you get the iPhone.”

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