A reluctant conversation with God

Hey God. It’s me, Mac.

I’m in your house now, one of many I suppose, sitting in the back taking a hard look at my life. I rarely look for you in a building, instead I often search for you outside these walls, in nature. As I walk this earth I am on high alert for signs of you and in the process the purpose of that which I observe.

Now, I sit elbows on knees, asking for help finding my own purpose. This is a new thing for me, praying. If you are indeed all-knowing then you know this already. I was a bit late to the party.

I reluctantly accepted your existence because, like most mere mortals, I refused to believe that the beauty which surrounds me is a mere accident or cosmic anomaly. I decided that I was not atheist because they are certain that there is nothing, while I do not possess the audacity to be sure of such a thing. Logic dictates that if you rule out nothing then there has to be something. I therefore came around to believe that there has to be a higher, driving force in the universe. But I still can’t quantify or define you.

Are you the mighty, smiting God from the Old Testament? Are you the forgiving, benevolent Grandfather type with a flowing white beard and a staff in your hand? Are you to be found in the beauty of the setting sun, the awe-inspiring power of the crashing wave, the melodic chirp of the bird or the wondrous, innocent smile of a child?

I don’t know if you are a God that cares about who wins a football game, or grants requests for promotions and lottery jackpots. That’s what I think a lot of people ask you for. I also don’t know why you allow babies to get Cancer, bad people to live long lives, good people to suffer and assholes to thrive. But I suppose that’s the essence of faith. The faithful have to believe that there is an answer to every question and a reason for everything.

One thing I know about faith is that if understood properly, it reminds you of your place in the scheme of things. The mightiest of men are no match for the raw power of the tide. Should he survive he will recognize his smallness. He may resent it, I myself embrace it. I value my smallness.

Which brings me to the point. If it was your will, a pre-ordained event, or simply a plan to prematurely remove me from a life of chasing status, personal wealth and achievement and render me the most humble me I’ve ever been, then would you enlighten me as to what I am to do next? I’ve learned so much in the last 2 years. I’ve learned the value of humility, kindness and charity in the face of crushing circumstances. I’ve been to the very bottom and clawed my way out time and time again but my victory laps (with a modicum of humility of course) were short-lived as I am hit with yet another setback. I’m a fighter and I always found motivation to push on.

Until lately. I’m not feeling the fight. I’m taking knockout punches and choosing to stay on the mat until the count of 9. I’m looking for a reason to push on and simultaneously looking for reasons to give up. If you agree that my earthly journey has been wholesome and moral, that I am doing your work then would you please give me a sign? A sign that I am indeed on the right path, that I may be infused with the light to carry out what I think is my true calling. To be an inspiration to others. Not as a bigshot, but as someone who says or does the things that helps others with their own earthly journey. Shine your light through me and illuminate my future journey.

Please.

Well God, Yahweh, Mother Nature, Supreme Architect, Big Guy, whatever you go by, I’m not sure how to wrap this up other than to say thanks for listening. Please remember that I rarely ask you for anything, if I do it’s never for me. I’m in need here and my eyes and ears are open for your answer. Take care and if it’s not too much, tell my Dad that I miss him more than anything.

Mac

Be open to the experience

I woke Sunday morning feeling compelled to go to Church. That was unusual for me because while admittedly spiritual, I’m not particularly religious. I call my faith Kayaking…

Religion is sitting in church thinking about Kayaking. Spirituality is sitting in a Kayak thinking about God.”
Author Unkown

In short, I’m an Omnitheist. I believe in multiple faiths and their version of God. I believe that a higher power is everywhere and I spend a fair amount of time looking for him. The place I spend the least time looking for him is in church. Irony?

But Sunday was different. I had someone on my mind and I stooped to the level of the opportunistic Christians that I normally detest and I went to pray for something close to me. Not entirely a selfish act, I was praying for the health and recovery of a very special lady and I was feeling helpless. I was exhausting all options.

I got there a bit late and I was fortunate enough to find a seat in the very back pew. My late Grandfather taught me this, in case my presence causes the plaster to crack and the ceiling to fall, I’m close to the door. That aside, there are several good reasons that I sit in back. First of all, if a person wanting to cause trouble comes in, I have my trusty 9mm and a great vantage point to stop an incident before it starts. Also, I’m not a real big “responsive reading” and hymn lover. I don’t do ritual of any kind so echoing unoriginal prayers is out for me as is singing those dreadful Hymns. I know the writers meant well but to me they are just insufferable. Finally, in the back pew, nobody is behind me to look at me in disdain because I’m not fitting in by playing along nicely. I like to sit in back and pray my own way, in a room full of positive energy and well-meaning people.

I suffered through the first 3 hymns and responsive readings and when it came time to pray, I broke from the ranks and said my own. I really don’t know how to pray. But I sometimes talk to the Universe and in this case it went something like this…

Dear big guy, you know who you are. I’ve been living a straight forward life that I think you approve of, can I ask you to watch out for my girl? She needs a little help right now and so do I. If it’s not too much trouble, while you’re at it can you tell me what you want from me? Oh yea, would you please grant the man in front of me the wisdom to trim his ear hair? And could you have the big guy in the choir tone down the “holier than though” look on his face? Take care of the meek. Punish the dicks. Save the children. Thanks big guy, has anyone asked you how you are today? Peace brotha…

When the prayer was over it was time for my favorite part of the service. The sermon. Our pastor always delivers a good one, relevant and timely. He didn’t disappoint on this day. He spoke of a young man, Jesus, walking into a village only to be shunned and ignored by the people of the village. They had been taught to be skeptical of strangers and the moral of the story was closing yourself off to that which is unfamiliar can limit your experiences in the world.

This particular sermon resonated heavily with me, for the very person that I came to pray for has caused me to open myself up to a myriad of experiences and phenomena that I previously dismissed as, in the words of Sheldon Cooper, “Hoakum.” She has made me a believer in destiny. In past lives and loves. A believer in providence and the existence of empathic connections. In the short time that I have known this magnificent lady my “horizons”, as it were have broadened exponentially. And none of it would of happened if, when asked by her “do you believe?”, I said no. I started with “I’m open to it.” Which evolved to “that can’t be a coincidence”, to “Holy Crap I can’t believe what just happened.”

I didn’t necessarily need to be reminded that an open mind is the portal to growth. I did need to be shown that it has fundamentally changed my life. Good things happen when you simply allow yourself to be open. When I joined Freemasonry I learned that I needed to believe in a higher power, any higher power no specification required, to join the sacred fraternity. At that point I was a agnostic (never an atheist, I am not arrogant enough to tell you that I know for sure that there is no higher power) I decided to open myself up to a non-denominational, outside the church approach to faith, which is essentially Spirituality. Since that time, I have found “God” in everything. The laughter of a child, the gait of a beautiful woman, the chirp of the bird and the magnificence of a sunset.

I went in to pray for a person. I left with a deeper appreciation of what she has brought to my life. All it takes is to shake off your initial reaction and say “I’m open to it.” Seems simple enough doesn’t it?

A familiar view

It’s 3 AM and I’m wide awake. I’d been admitted at midnight.

The clatter in the halls and the soft, incessant beeping of machines, as familiar as they are to me, could not be ignored. Television wasn’t an option, I had turned it off at 2. Canned laugh tracks weren’t masking the all-too-familiar sounds and sensations of the hospital room. I’d never been in this particular room before, but if hospital rooms were hotels, I’d qualify as a certified TripAdvisor reviewer. Trust me, they’re all the same.

I was preparing myself for a sleepless night. Once a huge deal to me, now it was no big deal. In a former life, being awake at 3 AM was panic time. I would be so worried about being able to carry out the responsibilities of my work day on no sleep that I would obsess about it and be up all night. Alas, that was when my life was structured and meaningful. Now, being up all night barely affected me or my meager itinerary. As I sat up in the uncomfortable, narrow bed I looked forward to the one thing I could always count in during a hospital stay, some good thinking time.

The last 3 days had been a blur. After a 3rd day of failing to get out of bed for more than an hour at a time, shivering under blankets, a non-existent appetite, and experiencing complete exhaustion at completing even the most mundane physical tasks I had forced myself to take a shower at 8 PM. The thought of removing the 3 layers of clothes in order to even get in the shower filled me with dread. I ran the water until the bathroom steamed up a bit and I forced myself to get in. As I did that I was already dreading stepping out of the shower to get dressed. I have never felt so vulnerable to cold as I have lately. I ran the water hot, hotter than usual and hoped that it would wash away whatever toxins were stealing my life force from me. The effort that it took to wash my tired body sent me into a coughing fit. I nearly passed out I was so short of breath. I stayed in the shower longer than usual, enjoying the heat and steam, and still dreading the brief but brutal moments of drying off and getting dressed. After mustering the courage to do so, I found myself so winded by the mere act of getting dressed that I had to take a break. That told me all I needed to know, I was going to the ER. I was finally convinced that this wasn’t just another “episode” that CKD patients go through. I was more than run down, I was sick.

The 30-minute drive to the hospital was easy. Sitting was no problem. Walking the long corridor from the main entrance to the ER proved to be more of a challenge. By the time I got to the registration desk, they were already scribbling “shortness of breath” as the cause of my visit. Never having been to this hospital, I had to go through the entire registration process. By offering up “transplant patient” at the beginning of the visit, I certainly sped things along. I was immediately seen by the best doctor they could offer that graduated from the bottom 3rd of his graduating class. I’m not being cruel, it’s a small NH hospital that is only equipped for so much.

I explained my history, as I had done so many other times. They took vitals and made pages of notes. When they didn’t recognize half of the meds on my carefully crafted list I immediately knew I was in Mayberry R.F.D. They got the chest X-Ray done and, as I suspected, it was pneumonia. They immediately, and by that, I mean in 2 hours, admitted me. Which brings me to where I am now, wide awake, without comfort, body worn down and my mind searching for clarity.

Despite my serene surroundings, I am bombarded by my thoughts. The last month has been a blur of illness and disappointments. Flare-ups of symptoms once under control had dominated my time and energy. Medicinal changes and side effects have sidelined me from almost everything I enjoyed doing. I am annoyed that the pneumonia is back. This is the second time I’ve had it and the last time was the final blow that forced me out of employment. I’m annoyed at the perceived quality of care I am going to receive. The staff is nice, but they clearly have very little experience with a patient with a history such as mine. I have enough free time to embrace some bitterness also. I have been so disappointed by the events of the Friday before. I had gone to meet some friends at a long-anticipated event and despite the excitement and the planning, I had felt so miserable that I had to leave early. I had so many questions and things to learn from these people. But my expectations of tales and laughter and stimulating conversation over a bountiful meal turned out to be sipping ice water and picking away unenthusiastically at a meal that barely interested me at all, trying not to show my guests how nauseous, exhausted, cold and dying to get out of there and into my warm bed at all costs I was. It further annoyed me that I was already “writing off” the events of the past week as “just another setback” and a part of the new reality.

Is this my new reality? The silent room gives me no answers, and I haven’t the strength in my lungs to hold my breath for one. I am at the point where I know that I am losing the person I was just a month ago. It’s not the illness talking, I know myself well enough to look past how I’m feeling now but to the future. I have been able to pull myself up from so many of life’s beatdowns, dusted off and told it to Fuck off. But at that time, the good days greatly outnumbered the bad. Am I prepared for the days when my “episodes” outnumber my good days?

I have to do something. I thought I have been eating healthy. I can do better. I thought I have been making good choices. I have to make better. I thought I was feeling pretty good. I must do something better.

When I get out of here, I think to myself, I need to make some changes.

As expected, I was released with an antibiotic after only one day. Left to fend for myself again. Left with time to think, to assess and re-evaluate. Where is my source of power? How do I tap into it again? What needs to happen to make me again crave the challenges outside of my doors more than the comfort of my own bed?

I need to be a conduit of inspiration, not an object of pity. I don’t think I’m overstating this. This morning, when I looked in the mirror…I looked sick. That I cannot accept.

 

Kayaking

Yesterday was quite a day. I got out of bed at the crack of 7:30 and went downstairs for the morning caffeine infusion. My mother, on cue, was making a pot. Something was missing. “Where’s your boytoy?” I asked her. The boyfriend stays with us almost every weekend and he was there when I went to sleep the night before.

“Gone,” she said. “He got a little too handsy this morning and when I told him to knock it off. He got pissed, packed his bag and left. Want to go to Church with me?”

What I wanted to say was Gee Mom I am actually headed down this morning to see a couple of friends before I stop by wifey’s and have cake with the 2 oldest kids for a belated birthday party so I can’t. But what came out was “I’d love to.” There was no way that she was as ok as she acted and I knew I needed to be there to support her today. I would go down after church. Besides, I needed to know what happened.

As we prepared for church I got the story. Being the Trump supporter that he is he tried to grab her by the…well you know where I’m going with this. Apparently, he woke up a little “Randy”, popped a Viagra, rose to the occasion and attempted to park it somewhere…at 6 AM.


Mom was just a little busy sleeping when the countdown ended and it was a failed launch attempt. He and Mr. Johnson were rebuffed with extreme prejudice. Knowing that he’s a golfer, I’m just a bit surprised at his lack of etiquette. You always give a heads up before you try to play through.

The church was delightful as always. As I am still in my Undefined-Spiritual-Transition-Mode I sit there and I people watch. I know the people now, The congregation consists of some wonderful, giving people. And then there are those few that have that ethereal my shit don’t stink because I love God so much that I’m going to heaven and you’re not face and I know that they’re completely full of shit. Fine by me, it’s their journey, not mine. I then caught the eye of Linda, my new buddy from the food pantry. She mouthed “hey you” to me and I smiled for the first time that day.

Linda is an attractive, happily married older woman who I am very drawn to. In the classic sense of the word, I want to be around her. It’s not sexual but exciting nonetheless. She’s educated, smart, extremely charitable with her time and in her actions and I love talking to her. Linda was present the day I told my food pantry volunteer pals my theory on religion. I was asked in front of a room full of people why I don’t attend church often. I told them:

Religion is sitting in church thinking about Kayaking. Spirituality is sitting in a kayak thinking about God“.

It’s not original but it sums me up so well.

The service closed with a prayer. Not participating in the ritual, rebel that I am, I said my own prayer of the agnostic.

Dear whoever you are. Without putting too fine a point on things please make this earth a better place. If you can’t then please show us how. Take care of the poor, don’t let babies die of cancer and punish the dicks. I don’t care how you do it just put it higher on your list than who wins the next major sporting event. Your humble servant, Amen or bye for now or whatever. Forgive me for I know not what the fuck I am talking about.

We then adjourned for the St. Patty’s luncheon out back. Mom was serving so I grabbed a plate of food. Seeing a bunch of set tables and a row of chairs I chose to sit on a straw chair. That would allow groups to have the tables. I had picked a perfect spot to people watch and that is just what I did. A few people approached me, some who I haven’t yet met introduced themselves and some that I knew, asking me why I was sitting there lonely. I assured them that I was where I wanted to be. After all, I was. I was writing my next blog in my head after all!

Linda approached and sat down next to me, smiled and said “Kayaking?”

“What do you mean?” I asked her. She couldn’t possibly be referring to the conversation we had weeks ago.

“You know what I mean. It looks like you’re Kayaking right now.”

“I can’t believe you remember that. Nice catch. Yes, I am. Always. You know that’s not original right?”

“I know”, she said. “But I liked it and you own it.” We talked for a few, I met her lucky husband and she went off to socialize with someone else.”

Who knew that my own words would come back to me someday?

The rest of the day panned out as planned. I made it down to MA to see my friends and family and made it home by 10 and made sure Mom was ok.

As of today we haven’t heard from Trump Jr. I guess we’ll see if the voters choose to let that “locker room behavior” slide.

 

 

Even when you’re ready for it

download (5)

When you know someone is dying it is like being staked to the ground watching a snowball headed for your face. You can do nothing but wait and let it happen. And it stings like a bitch when it hits you. My friend Tony died today. I was expecting it but a massive ouch just the same.

This won’t be a long post, I already wrote a post about him a couple of weeks ago that nobody read so I wouldn’t want to subject more of you to not read it again. (here is the link if you do)

I am feeling so many things right now. I am sad that the world lost another honest, hard-working, simple and decent man. He had the adoration of his children, the devotion of his wife, and the respect of everyone that had the good fortune to meet him.

I’m upset that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. It’s bad enough when someone goes and you realize that you have unfinished business; or that you are unhappy with the last thing you said to that person; or that you meant to visit them but you just didn’t get around to it. But I made the effort. I reached out to the family, asking to visit Tony, but Tony didn’t want visitors. He just wanted to be alone.

Finally, I am feeling nostalgic. One of the only things about working at that miserable restaurant was working with him. It continues to baffle me how any task, like sweating your ass off while serving hundreds of people in one night, can be fun when around those that you love. And I do love Tony, he was like a second father to me. When I was mad at my own, it was Tony who reminded me to love and honor my father because he only wanted the best for me. This from a guy who worked every weekend and holiday, never seeing his family. to do the best for them that he could.

I don’t know what kind of work ethic I had when I met Tony but I know what it is now. I credit him so much for that. Work meant something to him, it wasn’t a source of “braggadocio”, it instead gave a man his honor. I would come to value the accomplished feeling of a job well done, of contributing, of making a difference.

Losing Tony is like losing a part of me. I take comfort knowing that as recently as a few months ago I saw him. We enjoyed a cocktail and I gave him an envelope that he wasn’t allowed to open until I was gone. Inside was a letter telling him how much I cared for him, thankful for all that he taught me and how grateful I was that he had beat Round 1 of Pancreatic Cancer. I know he read it, but he wouldn’t mention it even if I asked.

At least I don’t have the awful burden of things unsaid. I just wish I could have sat with him and squeezed out of him one more of his trademark laughs.

He always told me to say hi to my Dad for him. I hope he gets to do it in person. I’m sure they are in the same place.

download (4)

Goodbye dear friend

 

Inventory

I was reminded today of one of my favorite expressions.

“Happiness is not having what you want. it’s wanting what you have.”

And in a very close second comes the Stones with

“You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”

download (84)

2 years ago I would have measured my success as a man by how much stuff I had. It was the life I was living. I lived in a nice neighborhood with neat lawns and beautiful cars in driveways. I had the Jones’s on both sides of me and I was trying frantically to keep up with them. I couldn’t. My illness was increasing, my income was dropping and trying to keep up was literally, and I never use that word, killing me. When I lost my job the bottom fell out and we knew that moving and breaking up the family was imminent. I was livid, disgusted with myself, mad at the prospect of not seeing the kids every day and feeling like a complete failure. I was also relieved to be out from under the crushing weight of the lifestyle I was living.

Fast forward 2 years and what do I have? If measured in possessions…not much. I own as much stuff that would fit in a ’13 Honda Civic. If you were to measure my heart. I have everything.

download (86)

Once I realized my career was virtually over, my dreams of a beach house were gone, my marriage was beyond repair and my health was in serious trouble I had to assess what I did have. It took some serious soul searching but I found that I was a wealthy man in assets that money cannot buy.

I don’t have everything I want. By the old standards. But I really want what I now have.

I have become a totally honest person, in particular with myself. I know who and what I am and no longer have a job pushing the boundaries of my ethics on a daily basis. I am comfortable in my skin for the first time.

I have a wonderful relationship with my children. The distance has created the need for quality time, and conversations were had and growth was achieved. I found that they respect me and understand the situation. They just want what is best for me.

My mind is clear and sharp. I’m reading the books I’ve always wanted to, I’m writing on a daily basis, reading some great bloggers and thinking on a level previously unachieved. In addition, I feel inspired.

I have renewed my relationship with my mother. We were very close until my wife put a wedge between us. We are like best friends again. Not to mention how much she is helping me right now.

I have optimism for the future. There are still so many things that I want to do, and if I set reasonable expectations and listen to my body I may be able to do them.

By having some “me time”, forced or otherwise, I realize that for the first time I like myself. If it’s possible to not say that in a self-serving way that is.

 

This year-end I want to end on a high note, with momentum and heading in the right direction. Unlike many other years in which I was down, defeated and counting on a new calendar to give me a better life. It just doesn’t work that way, I have to make it happen.

 

 

Dad would love this

“Your father would love this,” my mother remarked as she nodded to the craziness occurring in the dining room. I nodded in agreement. We were cleaning dishes and listening to my oldest son, youngest daughter and her best friend abuse each other. It was a perfect night. Cold, windy and snow-covered outside; music playing, wood-stove burning hot and laughter galore inside. The house smelled great and our bellies were full. My Taco Tuesday feast (a day late) of Tacos, Quesadillas, homemade Spanish Rice, and Guacamole was a hit.

Mom was right, Dad would have enjoyed seeing this. He worked his whole life to build a home like this to retire in, entertain his friends and spoil his 6 Grandchildren. It is a true goddamn shame that he would not see this come true. We didn’t get together nearly as often as he, and I, would have liked. Shit happens and time flies. My situation did not allow me to come up. A difficult work schedule, a young family and a wife who resisted coming up (too buggy, too far, too much time in the car, I can’t sleep up there, and I’m too much of a rigid bitch to give you what you want) caused time to slip away far too fast. By the time our schedules freed up a little, Dad was sick and visits became difficult. By difficult, I mean it was hard to watch. I barely held it together, but the children had a visibly hard time with it. The once virile, humorous and incredibly active man was transforming into a shell of his former self. It was not unlike seeing the air escape a balloon in slow motion. It became increasingly difficult for him to go out of the house, he had a hard time getting in and out of cars, and once he couldn’t drive, any optimism he had was out the window.

The good and bad memories of my father surround me. His influence is everywhere. Pictures on the mantle, the flag handed to me at his funeral by a grateful nation, the hand made furniture are good ones. The safety rails in the bathroom and the disassembled handicap ramp in the back yard are not. I remember once, when he had a caretaker at the house, I walked by the bathroom and Dad was on the toilet. He needed to be wiped. I asked him if he wanted my help even as I realized that I had never thought of wiping my father’s ass for him. I also never envisioned a day he would need me to. Dad couldn’t talk but he mouthed the name “Arthur” (the caretaker) and I went to get him. I knew then that the last thing Dad wanted was for me to wipe him, he was embarrassed that I saw him like that. That was a tough day.

Still, I remember the few times that we did get together as a family. Fond memories of him manning the grill, making a campfire, toasting marshmallows, playing with the grandkids, having dinner and playing phase 10 after, these are all great memories.

Yes, he would have loved to be here tonight. I would love for him to be here as well. He really left us too soon. I really want to believe that he is here, somewhere in this house, enjoying the laughter and keeping a careful eye on us.

Miss you big guy