January 8, 2026

Having been cooped up at home for fifteen months made me realize a number of things. For instance, I have enjoyed working from home more than I ever expected, so much so that as we ease our way back into the social fabric, I’ll continue to spend more time working from home than in the office.

Another is the realization that as much as I have compartmentalized it, my disability is real and has become more pronounced. I have to take it into consideration every time I do anything physical, whether it be as benign as getting into and out of bed to cleaning the house or helping with outdoor work. I’ll write more about this later, but the cold fact is that every physical activity I undertake is hard because I am less stable and prone to falling more than ever. I used to think of myself as an able-bodied person who had a hitch in their giddy-up, but that has changed. I now identify myself as a disabled person who fights like hell not to think like one. The difference is subtle, but it is real, and it sucks.

The biggest epiphany has been that working from home has given me a taste of what it might be like not to work anymore. The idea of retirement used to be this vague notion that I knew was somewhere down the road but wasn’t a real thing. Not anymore. It is real, and it has a date: the title of this post.

I have exactly four years, six months and thirteen days to go. I don’t have a calendar where I cross off the days, or some kind of mental countdown. Nonetheless, having a milestone like this less than five years away makes it seem very close and very real, so much so that I am beginning to consciously plan for it, which is a first.

The idea of what I once thought of as being put out to pasture used to be anathema, but now I welcome it. Not because I hate my job, hate working, or hate the people I work with, but because of the freedom it brings. Maybe it is part of getting older and the mindset that goes with it, but I enjoy not having to shave or get dressed up every day. I enjoy my time off more than ever and actually look forward to it. This tells me I am ready to take the plunge when the time comes. Perhaps being physically seperated from my colleagues all this time has made it easier to embrace the concept, but there is no denying I have no doubts about my ability to enjoy retirement.

I’d consider an earlier date, but there are economic realities that prevent it. I need to finish paying for this house, so having a steady income certainly helps. My treatments are cheap and are going to continue for the foreseeable future, and I have excellent health insurance that meets my needs. Why mess with that?

Four years, six months and thirteen days give me more than enough time to chip away at my debt while continuing to grow the assets we will need to live on, and I don’t want to leave anything to chance. I want to be able to afford the health insurance I will continue to use need and use, and not have to worry about making ends meet. There is a certain number I have in mind, and we are close to getting there. Plus the full retirement age for social security benefits is sixty six years and ten months, (I’m not going to wait until I am 70, which is the max benefit age) so that is the target date.

The one thing I need to be sure of is that when the day comes, I have something to do that I enjoy and will occupy my time, because hanging around with nothing to do other than watching the minutes tick by is a fate worse than death. I doubt travelling will be on the agenda because the reality of dealing with crowded airports and jetting off someplace to see the sites is a lot more cumbersome and complicated than before.

I was never a gardening kind of guy, so that’s out. I got rid of my golf clubs ten years ago. I was never into fishing, but even if I was the same physical issues remain. So that leaves writing, and the one thing retirement will do is eliminate the excuse that I’m not writing as much as I would like because I don’t have the time.

For the last several months I have hardly posted anything to this blog and, with few exceptions, I haven’t devoted many hours working on novel number two, even though it is almost half-way done, because I work long days and don’t have the energy or desire necessary to produce anything good. That won’t be the case anymore when January 8, 2026 rolls around, so we will find out if that excuse was legitimate or bullshit. Maybe I’ll even resume painting, which I did a lot when I when much younger. I could also spend more time cooking, which I’m sure K wouldn’t mind one bit.

I have a lot of time to figure out what I will do, and a lot can change between now and then. The point is I have options and am actually looking forward to having to make those decisions.

Let’s hope my body cooperates.

Emerging From Exile

Spring has always been my favorite season. After the long, cold dreariness of three months of winter that feels like six, it is invigorating to see green again. Sun and warmth slowly awaken as the days get longer, grass grows, and the flowers and trees begin to bloom. The air feels and smells different, and everything seems bright and new. It’s as if everything is reborn, and with that comes a sense of optimism and a feeling that the slate is wiped clean and anything is possible.

The difference between this year and years past is that it feels as if the winter we have emerged from has lasted fourteen months, and in many ways it has. Although we got to enjoy spring and summer last year, the pandemic was still surging and we, like many others, chose to exile ourselves in our homes, and communicate with family and loved ones remotely. Human contact was mininal, and as the months dragged on, we became entrenched in our routines, stayed ensconsed in the comfortable cells of our homes, and watched the world seemingly implode. Our worlds shrunk, and it was hard to be stuck with the same people day in and day out for over 426 days (I counted them) without being resentful and irratable. Anyone who says their mood didn’t change one bit during all of this is either lying or delusional.

For me, the last three months have been especially long, primarily because we could finally see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel that wasn’t an oncoming train, but were still on the endless treadmill of keeping ourselves safe, which meant continued isolation while waiting for the vaccines to arrive. I found the process tedious, frustrating, and it sapped all of my creative juices. I couldn’t think of anything to blog about without it sounding whiny or like a broken record. I haven’t spent nearly the amount of time I had hoped to on novel number two, and have generally been unable to enjoy anything. I’ve been existing, not living, as if on automatic pilot. The daily routine always revolved around a combination of the following: Get up, work, eat, take care of the house, go out occasionally for essentials, try not to get into an argument, try to find someting new and interesting on television, sleep. It was like Groundhog’s Day on steroids.

But things have changed. We’re all vaccinated now, and within ten days all of us will have passed the two week threshold. We can get back to a sense of normalcy that has been lost, and an emotion that has long been absent is returning with a vengance: hope.

How symbolic is that this has occurred during a season that symbolizes rebirth? As I have ventured out more these last couple of weeks, I am noticing little things that I have long taken for granted, like the sight of a robin, flowers blooming, or the bright green color of the new leaves as they begin to sprout from their limbs. I notice the fresh crispness in the air, and the smell of ozone after a thunderstorm or heavy rain. It is as if I was blind to all these things, but being deprived of them for so long has allowed me to experience them as if it were the first time.

My hope is to not waste the lessons learned from this nightmare we are awakening from. Namely, make time for family and friends because they are important. Enjoy the outdoors and the wonder and beauty that Mother Nature has to offer, and do whatever you can to help sustain and protect it. Be kind to one another and not let differences of opinion become open warfare.

That last one may be wishful thinking, at least in the short term. I wish the lesson everyone could take out of this is to stop being so fucking selfish and end the dissension and polarization that has become so entrenched in our politics how we interact with one another. After all the hardship and death that has dominated life for what feels like forever, doesn’t it make sense to move past our greivances and try to find common ground? Hopefully we will get there over time, but that is a different subject for a different day.

For now, I want to bathe in a renewed sense of optimism and freedom. Even thought the experience was awful and has left scars, I want to celebrate the fact that the worst is over, and and everyone I love is still here. The new normal will be different, but the fact that we are actually visiting friends in person tomorrow for the first time in fourteen months is liberating. No masks required is the cherry on top.

It couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Who knows, if things continue to proecced in this direction, I might actually enjoy next winter for a change.

Existing

Ever since Inauguration Day I have been in a funk. I had been so crazed and consumed about what was going on politically since Labor Day that it occupied any down time that existed. And the fact that I may not have enjoyed what I was hearing from day to day was irrelevant.

Now that a new administration is in place, I have stopped following, watching, and obsessing over the news because I really do hate politics. What’s the difference between now and then, you may ask? The difference is my previous obsession had nothing to do with politics. It had everything to do with me feeling unsafe in my own country with a demagogue doing everything he could to hold onto power and sow division, in addition to not having a government that had a clue about how to address the raging COVID spread.

Now that those concerns have been alleviated, I am no longer obsessed. I keep tabs by watching the newsfeeds that cross my phone apps, and choose to dive into whatever strikes me, which hasn’t been a lot. So all of a sudden, I have a void to fill with little to replace it. Instead, I have been very introspective, which is rarely good. The byproduct of all my deep thought is this: we aren’t living, we are existing. It sucks beyond belief, and keeps sucking more with each passing day.

For me, this is about enjoying life and having shit to look forward to. You could argue that we do have something to look forward now that there is a vaccine and a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel that isn’t a speeding sixteen wheeler. That is difficult however, at least for me, because we have had to live in isolation for the last eleven months to stay healthy. Each passing week feels like a month, and while we are on the downhill side of this, I am sick and tired of the waiting.

We haven’t had much personal connection with human beings outside the family. Instead we Zoom or Skype, and while that is better than nothing, it isn’t the same. I have been working from home exclusively during this span, and while I have taken to it more than I thought I would, all that family closeness can get on one’s nerves. We are all experiencing similar things, are on edge, grumpy as hell, and quick to show our frustration, which often comes out as anger. Patience has become a scarce commodity.

Unlike my son, who loves nature and the outdoors, I can’t hike in the woods, go exploring, or even take long walks because of my physical limitations. Travel and vacations are non-starters, so all I have left is television, reading, computer games and my imagination.

I was never a big TV guy to being with, and there isn’t much good left on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock, or any of those platforms because we’ve watched all the good stuff and there is little to replace it. Winter sports only provide so much diversion, and even those can’t be relied upon because the virus keeps upsetting the schedule and postponing games. Baseball is at least two months away if not more. Reading requires motivation and enthusiasm, both of which are in short supply. So does writing, and the novel has therefore been a slow go.

And far as my imagination is concerned, it isn’t very fertile, otherwise the novel would be a lot further along than it is. My powers of observation remain strong and could be used to my creative benefit, but the only epiphanies I have had been are mundane and self-absorbed.

For example, I have observed that the knee on my bad leg is swollen and misshapen, probably because my gait changed a long time ago and my foot never points forward, but at an angle. I have observed that the hair on my legs, of which there used to be a lot, is gone. I have also observed that my skin has become paper thin because it cuts easily and bleeds like hell when it does. For example, two nights ago as I was getting ready to take a shower, I noticed a big splotch of dried blood that was the size of a silver dollar on my shin, and I had no idea what caused it or that it had even occurred. When I cleaned it up there were two wounds that looked like punctures, but I don’t remember hitting myself or banging into something, and this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. I have since concluded that the hair and skin must be the result of all the heavy duty MS drugs I have taken and continue to take.

This then leads to me wonder what the consequences are going to be resulting from the fact I have suspended treatments two months longer than normal because I can’t do those AND get the vaccine. Will this allow the symptoms to progress, and if so will the changes become permanent? I don’t think like that when I’m busy and engaged.

In hindsight, one of the reasons I let my hair and beard grow was because it was something new and gave me something to be focused upon and be entertained by. But like everything else during this shit show, both got too unruly and unmanageable. My mother-in-law told K that I looked like Father Time, for God’s sake. So I hacked the beard off but was at a quandary about what to do with the hair because I didn’t want to go to a salon. I finally said fuck it, and had K cut it. She did a great job too. The end result is hair that is the shortest is has been since I went to basic training over forty years ago. On the plus side, everyone says I look ten years younger.

As rosy as the future looks compared to eleven months ago, it is mentally draining trying to stay upbeat and optimistic, and this is coming from a guy whose glass is always half full.

Thank God for work! I am lucky as hell that my work situation has not been compromised or interrupted in the slightest. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know what I would do, other than freak out about keeping the house and supporting the family. I realize many are in that unfortunate situation, worrying about food and shelter every minute of every day. So in that regards I feel silly about complaining or being maudlin because all my stuff is superficial and selfish by comparison.

See, the optimistic, glass-half full, things will be better, don’t worry-be happy guy still exists. Still, this shit can’t end soon enough! And when it does, I want to throw the biggest, longest, most outrageous, anything goes celebration that lasts an entire weekend.

Everyone is invited!

Good Riddance

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to the turning of a page to a new year than I have this one. While I suspect we won’t be back to whatever a new normal is until late 2021 early 2022, and that these next three months are going to be among the worst we have experienced so far, at least there is an optimism that we are finally on the downhill side of this thing.

Given this year was an exercise in futility, it is all the more reason to be optimistic about the future. After all, when you hit rock bottom, the view can only get better from there. So in that spirit, here are my resolutions for 2021

1. STAY HEALTHY: The vaccines are here and the rate of the virus’ spread is skyrocketing. Some states are worse than others, obviously, and there appears to be a new variant that is more contagious, but hope is on the way. I have read stories of how combat soldiers who are close to the end of their tour fear the last few weeks/months the most because they are so close to surviving that hell and live to tell about it. I feel the same way about the virus, so we’ll keep hunkering down and try to stay out of the fray. Losing anyone to this thing at any time is devastating, but having to deal with that now at this stage of the game would suck beyond compare.

2. STOP BEING A NEWS JUNKIE: There was a period of time where I couldn’t get enough of the evening news programing. I was glued to the developments of the virus spread, what we were (or weren’t) doing to effectively combat it, not to mention the election campaigns. All this did was fuel my anxiety, frustration and anger to the point where I didn’t like myself. So I haven’t watched a single episode of any of that programming in over a month, and I hope to keep it that way. It is better for me to stay informed via print because it isn’t so in your face, and is something I can choose to read or skim over. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

3. WRITE NOVEL #2: We are stuck indoors with nothing to do, so if I don’t take advantage of the situation this might not ever happen. I started in earnest a few weeks back, and was surprised to discover this wasn’t going to be easy. I had to write an opening for a plot that centers around several pieces I wrote a couple of years ago. The good news is that once I started it became a habit, like I suspected it would, and and I finally have some momentum going, but the bad news is this is not coming as easily as the first one I wrote. I actually wrote two versions of the opening that I wound up deleting, but the third attempt turned out to be a charm. I haven’t revisited it in a couple of days, but that turned out to be a good thing because while I was working out an epiphany came regarding how the rest of the story could proceed, so at least I have a roadmap to follow. I couldn’t say that last week. So the hook is being set, and I just need to keep it moving forward. Of course, the will mean less time for posting in this space, but perhaps I can still manage a post or two a month.

4. MAKE FRIENDS AND FAMILY A PRIORITY: It isn’t like I’ve ignored them, but be honest. How many of us have had the opportunity to meet with our friends or relatives, only to beg off or postpone it because some other “priority” got in the way. Given most my interaction with human beings has been of the Skype/Zoom variety since this all started, I have a much better appreciation for personal contact. I’d give anything right now to gather with friends over a good meal or some drinks, and bathe in the warmth of their company. I suppose being deprived of anything makes us appreciate it more, but if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that good friends and a supportive family are like gold, and should not be taken for granted. I am hoping that the one positive thing I take out of this shit-storm is to make spending time with them a priority. Everything else can wait.

5. GO TO A SPORTING EVENT: I have a Red Sox partial season ticket plan, and last year was the first time in a while that I can remember where I didn’t go to see a single game. Being able to see them in person this year would mean that the pandemic has subsided to at least the level where it is safe/safer to mingle. I doubt I would go if the stadium is packed until 2022, but I would love to go to a game where perhaps they have about one-third capacity and everyone is distanced as far as seating is concerned. That would certainly be an indicator that normalcy is on the way.

6. NAVIGATE THE VACCINE – M.S. QUANDRY AND COME OUT OF IT UNSCATHED: What does that mean? Well, I get heavy duty drugs infused every six months, and get my blood filtered via plasma transfer (PT) ten times a year. My next infusion and PT is scheduled in a little over two weeks, the hospital I work at is starting the vaccination process, and there are a lot of unknowns. Specifically, if I get the meds and then the vaccine, how are they going to interact? Are the side effects going to be worse? Am I going to have to defer the MS meds for longer than I am comfortable with? Also, depending on when I’d be eligible to get the vaccine, how long will I have to go without getting the PTs? I know I will have to get two doses spaced three or four weeks apart, and my PTs are also spaced four weeks apart. The problem is that these procedures filter any medicine out of my blood stream. So how long does the vaccine need to stay in one’s body to do its work? That’s important because when all this started, I went more than two months between PTs and it was not good for the MS. My symptoms got worse and never fully improved afterwards. I know what COVID does, so the vaccinations are the lesser of two evils, but I am truly concerned about this because I can’t escape the feeling that in order to save myself from COVID, it will make the MS worse. Perhaps permanently.

7. GET OUT OF BAD HABITS: Since this all started, my alcohol and MMJ intake has escalated. I suppose this doesn’t make me different from many, but I have gotten into a pattern where the MMJ has become a mostly every night thing, and instead of having a drink maybe every couple of weeks, I’ve graduated to every weekend and some week nights, depending on my mood. So while I’m not concerned about not begin able to get off that train, it would be naive to think this is a good thing. But it has served a purpose, which is to numb myself from this shitty reality. Especially at night.

8. BECOME MYSELF AGAIN: I’ve become much more introverted and introspective during these last nine months. I’ve become angrier, less patient, and more judgmental. That isn’t me, and I’d like to think it’s a by- product of the forced isolation. A major attitude adjustment is needed, and I’m hoping that as the curtain slowly closes on this sad episode of our nation’s history, my optimism and kindness of spirit will rise from the ashes.

Happy New Year everyone! May the new year bring peace, happiness, and above all health, to you and your loved ones.

My Hair is Turning White

hair

I’ve done a number of different things since March to address the boredom and monotony of laying low while the virus raged, and one of those things concerned my appearance. When it became obvious that we were in this for the long haul, I vowed that I wouldn’t cut my hair or shave until the ordeal was over.

While I had visions of growing a beard that would have fit right in with those worn by Confederate Generals during the Civil War, I relented  after about two months because K couldn’t stand it, and even I had to admit that it looked gnarly and needed a trim. That’s what happens when one’s facial hair has the texture and feel of steel wool.

That wasn’t the case with my hair, but I ultimately had to get a trim in July because while I enjoyed the curls and the long locks, it not only had become unmanageable, but was growing faster and longer on the sides of my head compared to the top, which gave me a mad-scientist kind of look.

I got the hair trimmed a second time a few weeks ago, but am still trying to figure out a way where I can keep it long without having it look like a mullet. The beard, on the other hand, bit the dust shortly thereafter.

The truth is, I had never intended to make it permanent, and was getting annoyed with the constant trimming and nurturing it took to keep it looking reasonably good, so I made the impulsive decision to get rid of it.  Perhaps it was because K’s mom said I looked like Father Time, or maybe I rationalized by saying the election results served as a symbolic turning point in the virus saga. Regardless of the reason, I marched into the bathroom, retrieved my trusty trimmer, and hacked it off.

The experience was a little traumatic because I have not been completely clean shaven for at least ten years, and for most of my adult life I have had either a mustache or mustache and goatee. So when the deed was done and I didn’t recognize the face looking back at me in the mirror after studying it for a few minutes, I noticed four things.

The first was that the skin on my face was a soft and smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom.  The second was my face felt like it was in a caught in a cold breeze. The blanket that had covered it for eight months was gone, and it took about three days before my skin adjusted to the external air temperatures.

The third thing and best thing was that I looked ten years younger. Facial hair has a tendency to make you look older (which is why I grew a mustache my junior year in high school to prevent from getting carded), and facial hair that is mostly white, no matter how good it looks, definitely ages you. So looking like a person who was closer to fifty than in his early sixties was a definite bonus.

But the one thing that caught me completely off guard was my hair. I knew I was greying before I started the beard, but sometime within the last eight months it didn’t simply get greyer, it had become very white. The change, quite frankly, was shocking.

I suppose I hadn’t noticed it because every time I brushed my teeth, or shaved the parts of my face where the beard wasn’t growing, I never paid attention to the hair, other than the fact that it was getting unruly. Instead, my eyes always seemed to lock onto the beard. That focus changed when the white from my face disappeared, because now there was only one place where I saw white.  That was on my head, and it wasn’t subtle.

I have no idea when the color changed from salt and pepper to mostly salt, but it doesn’t matter. Whether it be the stress of the past year, genetics or a combination of both, I’m turning into my mother in that regard. That is not a bad thing because while her hair turned completely white in her early sixties, like mine seems to be doing, it was a striking look and she wore it well. Plus she had a full head of luxurious white hair up until the day she passed at the age of 92. I should be so lucky.

It will be interesting to see how long it will take for the last spec of color to disappear from my scalp. I don’t remember when Mom’s stopped coloring her hair and went with the snowy owl look, but I know I do know it was that way when she was 64, because that is how old she was when I was married and the wedding pictures don’t lie.

The day will come in the near future where the color will completely disappear. But I could care less as long as I have something covering my scalp.  You see, I have a large head and very white skin, and combining that with no hair or beard will make my head look like an albino pumpkin. Should that day come, it’s a good bet the beard will make a comeback, and maybe then I won’t care how long it grows.

Note: You may not see any posts from me the rest of 2020. I need to get started on the second novel, and can’t seem to devote time to that and the blog. I’ve been putting it off for weeks now, and am truly unmotivated. But I like the concept in my head and think it will work, but have no idea whether the words will flow or if the experience will feel like I’m swimming in caramel. Time will tell. So assuming this will be my last entry for 2020, may you all have a wonderful, peaceful and healthy holiday season.

A Respite

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. Some of the reasons for this are because work has been busier than usual, and because I’ve been mulling over novel #2. My editor has been encouraging me to start, and I have been slowly putting an outline together, but the time spent on that takes away from this. At some point in time I will have decide to move forward or not bother, but that will be a different story for a different day.

The truth is that I haven’t felt like posting anything because I have been in such a down mood. The campaign and the mean-spiritedness behind it put me in a place that resulted in recent entries I thought were maudlin and depressing, and I didn’t feel like spreading anymore of that around.  And this is from someone who HATES politics and has traditionally avoided talking about it.

But now that the election is over, I’m glad to have a respite from the barrage of lies and negativity. I’m also glad that there will be a new occupant in the White House that will hopefully be able to change the narrative, bring civility to the political process and ultimately begin to heal the divisions that are so deeply imbedded.

Having said that, I am curious about how the 72 days between now and the inauguration unfold. 

I’m not surprised that Trump’s initial reaction is that of a spoiled child who threatens to hold his breath until he gets his way. It is distressing however to see the reality of how this election unfolded being replaced by his insistence that he won the election, only to have it stolen from him. It is shocking how many actually believe that, which makes me wonder if those same people would start believing in Santa Claus if their leader insisted he was real.

This kind of behavior and misinformation is indicative of the man, and while sad it isn’t a surprise. Unless there is proof of election malfeasance however, he should shut up and go away quietly, because that kind of fantasy makes only deepens the divisions, but what are the odds of that actually happening? One can’t help but believe he is more interested in seeding doubt so he can appear like a martyr to his faithful, then following tradition and doing the right thing by bowing out gracefully. It is this selfishness and self-centeredness that is one of the many reasons I am glad he lost.

I don’t care what anyone says, the anger in this country, fostered by the kill or be killed attitude where people with different points of view that are belittled and demonized, are the byproduct of his conduct and rhetoric. It’s one thing to disagree, but it is another to do so in such a way that spawns hate, division and resentment. That is not who we are. Hopefully most people will come around to see it that way.

One of the most ironic things about yesterday is that as I was watching some of the news broadcasts later that evening, and scenes were being shown of the spontaneous celebrations in our city streets, one of the commentators mentioned that these were the kinds of scenes you normally witness when a dictator is overthrown. I had never thought of it in those terms, but I have to admit it does feel that way. At least for me.

Still, there is a lot to be wary about.  Most news reports have indicated that the next 12 to 18 weeks are going among the worst we have experienced as far as the virus is concerned, and most of that time frame is on Trump’s watch. Who knows what the landscape will look like, or how many more will die, between now January 20th?

I think it is safe to say we will see more of the same given how the administration has handled the virus so far. I suspect that most of that time will be spent, other than chasing legal windmills, on settling political scores, whether it be firing Fauci, pardoning Manafort, Lynch, or any of the loyalists who were sent to jail, than trying to help the population navigate what can be a potentially lethal time.

For me, I’m going to try to focus on the positive and ignore whatever the Trump camp is (or isn’t) doing. Everybody is eventually going to have to lick their wounds, and try to come together and listen to one another so we can heal, grow and move on. And job one is the pandemic because nothing, including the economy, changes until we get more control over the spread. We need to break the cycle of tribalism that has come to define our politics, and the only way to do that is to stop treating opponents as enemies, but don’t expect any of that to start until after the inauguration.

These next seventy two days can unfold a number of different ways. The best case scenario is that the White House accepts the results without destroying faith in the process so that we can begin to heal. The worst case is that the Trump camp remains entrenched, burns our traditions of civility and an orderly transition of power to the ground, and some of his most enthusiastic supporters decide to take to the streets and incite violence in an attempt to take back what they believe is theirs.

The reality, as always, will probably be somewhere in between. I’m hoping for the best but understand that’s expecting too much. It’s going to be grim winter, but at least there is hope for a better day.

That hope is all the respite I need despite what may unfold. I don’t expect miracles, and it is naïve to think that the president-elect has a magic wand that he can wave to make this all go away. Our legislative leaders need to find ways to find common ground and act for the betterment of us all. Otherwise we will eventually find ourselves in the same place we have been the last four years. I’d like to think we are smarter than that.

Scary Times

scared-child

My rule of thumb has always been to avoid writing about politics, religion and sex because each are intensely personal. Save for one post I wrote a few months back, I’ve been true to that credo. In fact, when Superman wrote this post last week, I responded off line. But when a sitting governor is the subject of a kidnapping and potential murder plot, I can’t be a quiet bystander any longer.

ENOUGH!!!!!!!!

As you all know I have never been a Trump fan, but I have stayed out of the name calling, political hysteria, and all that crap. I felt and still feel that anyone who openly wished for his death when he caught the virus is just plain wrong. But his behavior since the COVID diagnosis has become even more erratic to the point of being downright frightening.

One of the first things someone told me as I entered the managerial phase of my work career was that the first rule of management is that everything is my fault. Both the good and bad. They explained that the leader sets the tone for his people, that any department head wears the successes and failures that follow, and that if I didn’t have a thick skin I’d better develop one quickly.

In our fearless leader’s mind, that doesn’t apply to him. Everything good is his doing. Anything bad wasn’t his fault, responsibility, or someone else is to blame. And his tribe follows his lead.

How else can you explain the visceral and often primitive reactions between those who believe in the science of COVID and those who think it’s all bullshit? How else can you explain the amount of hate that is so blatantly obvious in this country? How else do you explain why we lead the world in COVID related infections and deaths. How else can you explain that there is no outrage from the White House when a black person is gunned down by law enforcement, yet peaceful protesters are branded as subversive. And now we have the incident in Michigan.

What a fucking mess!

COVID would have been here regardless of who was in the White House, I know that. Not all Trump supporters are blatant racists, but I bet it is safe to say most racists do support him, and he continues to refuse to disavow their actions. And Trump didn’t recruit or organize any of the terrorists, lets call them what they are, to take out the Michigan governor. But I’m sorry. Anyone who insists that he has absolutely nothing to do with the state we now find ourselves in are as much of an enabler as his cronies in the Senate. He is the messenger egging them on. After all, he did say that Michigan (and other states whose governors dare criticize him) should be “liberated”. Well, I guess some of those “good people” were listening and decided to act.

If he wins the election, everything is all hunky-dory, but if he loses, the election was corrupt because of absentee ballots, the Democrats and any other wild shit he can concoct. He encourages people not to let the virus dominate their lives, and that it isn’t any worse than the common flu, without taking into consideration that he’s just plain wrong, that nobody on the planet received the treatment he received, that it demeans those who lost their struggle with COVID, and even if a bona fide treatment becomes available, not everyone will have access to it because he is so hell-bent getting rid of the Affordable Care Act.

Mitch McConnell meanwhile breaks all historical precedent by refusing to have the Senate hold a Supreme Court confirmation hearing more than eight months before the 2016 election, claiming the incoming President should have the right to choose, but wants to ramrod a nominee through less than a month before the election that involves the most unpopular Presdient in our history who lost the popular vote by over three million votes. The hypocrisy of it all makes me want to puke! Putin and our enemies must be laughing their asses off as they toast to their success.

My eighty-five year old mother in law has said on a number of occasions that Trump reminds her so much of Hitler. I’ve never bought into that comparison, and still don’t (mostly), but how can you not see the similarities in the creation of what became the Nazi party in Germany to what is occurring here now. We have a very unpopular President, who was always a loose cannon, who is now spouting off incomprehensible bullshit that I’m actually hoping is a case of rhoid rage from all the steroids he received instead of him losing his mind. Indict Obama? Indict Biden? Indict both of the Clintons, Pelosi and any other enemy he can think of? For what? Does this sound like a sane person? He’s doing everything he can to make it harder for people to vote, either in person or via absentee ballot and his enablers are helping him, like the governor of Texas who mandated there can only be one location per county where people can drop off their ballots. Do you know how big some of those counties are?

Any true leader would care for the welfare of all of his citizens, not just those who support him, and would do everything in their power to make it safer and easier to vote. His actions demonstrate the only thing he cares about is winning, and he does not give two shits how that happens. Does anyone honestly think that all the absentee ballots will be handled appropriately and accurately? I expect to read stories about how bags and bags of these ballots were thrown away or “lost” after Election Day. It’s the only way he wins the election in my opinion.

These next few months really scare me. He’s sewn doubt about the election and in so many words encouraged his people to flood the polling areas to make sure everything is above board. Even the Department of Homeland Security admits that domestic terrorism is the greatest threat we face, and he’s calling in the dogs to…..what? Intervene if they think they see something fishy. How do you think that will turn out?

He and Pence have all but admitted they will not accept the election results should he lose, and he has a lapdog of an Attorney General who asks how high when Trump says jump to help him steal the election. How can anyone not see this is a recipe for disaster? How can anyone not see the potential for carnage in the streets unlike anything we have yet seen? Accuse me of being overly dramatic, of hyperbole, of being full of shit, and of being a far left socialist (I’m not, by the way) if you want to,  but when a republican senator and ally says “democracy is not the objective of the US system,” how can you not think otherwise, regardless of how Senator Tillis tries to explain it away. The only chance we have of the administration accepting the results without much fuss is if he loses BIG. And even that may not be enough.

I’ve never been a political animal, and have proudly straddled the middle for as long as I can remember. I’m fiscally conservative (don’t get me going about the spiraling national debt that will soon overwhelm us), and socially liberal. But this election isn’t about politics for me. It truly isn’t. I’d say the same thing about anybody in that office who is as unhinged as Trump is now.

This is simply about a bad guy who only cares about himself that needs to be fired before this becomes a country we no longer recognize. We’re more than halfway there already. We can argue and worry about 2024 in 2024. The church of what is happening now is what’s important.

Whenever the dust finally settles on this cluster fuck, I sincerely hope we have a new President. We didn’t know what Trump was about in 2016, but have no illusions now.  Shame on us if he doesn’t lose big. We’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.

And I’ll probably become an alcoholic, drug addict or both. How else can one numb themselves from the reality that is sure to follow?

Managing Boredom

Here is my typical week: Monday through Friday, wake up at 5:15, roll out of bed, make coffee and something to eat, then open the laptop and start working by 5:30. Take an hour lunch between 1 and 2, then work until 4 or so. Then it is time to head downstairs to work out before heading back upstairs to set the table and help get dinner ready. Once dinner is over, any remaining food is put into the fridge, the dishes are placed in the dishwasher, the counters and stoves are cleaned and the garbage taken out.  If there is nothing else to do, which is usually the case, I’ll take a shower then, depending on the time, fiddle with my I-Pad or watch TV until around 9 before brushing my teeth and heading to the bedroom. If there is something interesting on the tube I’ll watch a little while longer before nodding off, otherwise off to dreamland I go, only to wake up the next morning and repeat the same exact thing.

Saturday is pretty much the same, other than the fact I don’t get up as early. The mornings are spent grocery shopping followed by chores, and those are usually done by Noon. The rest of the day and all of Sunday is is spent trying to stay busy or helpful. I do most of my blogging on weekends, which helps, and so does the NFL, particularly if the Sunday games are any good.  Otherwise I’ll fiddle with my I-Pad or hang out with K, trying to find something decent to watch.

How bored have I become? I’m now getting eight hours of sleep at night during the week instead the typical of getting five or six. Dreaming is often more stimulating and entertaining than reality, so perhaps this is a situation where escaping reality is actually heathier because I am getting more rest.

We have been into our new entrenched reality for over six months, and it has become very old. I’ve become a hermit, venturing outside of my cocoon of safety only to get groceries, get my treatments, and drive somewhere for the occasional errand. Personal contact with anyone outside the immediate family is rare, replaced by Skyping or Zooming.  The new normal is a dull, sobering and boring existence. Managing boredom has become an ongoing challenge. 

Fortunately, I was raised during a time where there weren’t a gazillion channels on television, there were no computers or internet, and we had to find creative ways to occupy ourselves or risk being put to work by our parents. I  would therefore venture outside to find a friend to play with or find a discreet place to read to avoid suffering that fate.  This kind of training, if you will, has better prepared me for dealing with the isolation we now face than most kids and young adults, who I really empathize with.

I can only use relatives and colleagues as an example, but I am so glad that I don’t have school-aged children anymore. I would certainly welcome a little boredom in my life if that weren’t the case, but I’d wouldn’t trade my boredom for the insanity parents face today. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to balance work, being a part-time home school teacher, and managing the emotions of children filled with energy and the need to unleash it in a world where options are limited at best.

Then there are young adults Nidan’s age (22). After he was furloughed from work, he used his love of the outdoors and exploring the woods to his advantage, and made daily treks that lasted hours to help break up the monotony. This solitary adventure keeps him safe, but still only occupies a sliver of the day.  He also made the smart move to continue his college education, so the classwork chews up some more time, but there is still a void that need to be filled. And like anyone his age, there is the desire to have a meaningful relationship, but how can anyone create that in today’s environment? He has the unfortunate burden of living with two immunocompromised people, which he takes seriously. He is trying to be patient, but he’s chafing at the bit, and who can blame him? It wouldn’t be so bad if the end was in site, but we are all fatigued and impatient about having to had to navigate a life where one breath can potentially kill you or those you love, with no end in sight. Maybe now that Trump and some of his inner circle have become infected, the light bulb goes off and we can actually move towards more of a coordinated, national response to the pandemic, but I am afraid that is wishful thinking.

There is a certain psychology necessary to address boredom. Besides needing to convince one’s self that this will eventually pass, we have to figure out ways to enjoy simple things that we perhaps took for granted, or start new hobbies. My physical limitations prevent me from being able to do a lot of things around the house and yard, so I have to search for more cerebral things besides playing card games and Scrabble on the I-Pad. My agent recently asked me about perhaps starting another novel. I actually have almost one hundred pages of written text on something I started a year or two ago in addition to a series of short stories I wrote that can be used as the nucleus of a new novel. I looked at both again after that conversation and got a little excited about resuming either because they both have promise. Continuing one or the other would certainly occupy my time, but the motivation to sustain the effort needed to do it isn’t there yet. Maybe that will change when it starts to freeze outside.

I’ve always been good at drawing and painting too, even though I haven’t done either in decades, so diving back into that could be an option. It’s a solitary endeavor that chews up time, and we all need things like that not only to make the days more tolerable, but to keep ourselves from going stir-crazy.  

Finding and embracing things like that helps prevent us all from scurrying around aimlessly, like a hamster on one of those metal wheels, their little legs pumping furiously while they go nowhere.  This is critical for me because even though a summer where more than 90% of my time was spent mostly isolated at home is over, there was the drama regarding the house sale that overwhelmed everything else and made it seem less onerous. We could also spend time together outside as a family unit, and occasionally have a close friend or relative over provided we kept our distance and wore masks.  But the colder weather is coming and that option will soon close.  

The onset of a colder climate will initiate a period of time that will be long and dreary, not to mention potentially dangerous. The holidays usually offer a respite, but how can this year’s season be anything but comparatively sterile and underwhelming? At least we are fortunate to be able to experience them in whatever fashion we do with all our friends and relatives around. Not everyone can say that.

By the time the weather turns warmer, there will hopefully have been a change in out national approach to the pandemic and we will have managed to control the spread better, not to mention more promising news on the vaccine front. But until then I’m braced for another six months that may feel like six years. Managing the boredom is going to determine how tolerable it is, not to mention maintaining one’s sanity.  It’s going to take some ingenuity to navigate, but what choice is there?

Hiccups – A Rant

hiccups

Hiccups are one of the rarer and lesser-known side effects caused by steroids. I found that out the hard way many years ago after my first three day course of treatment at home. One liquid gram of the stuff infused on three consecutive days did remarkable things for my symptoms (I wasn’t nearly as bad then as I am now), but twenty four hours later these bastards arrived and literally did not stop for seventy two hours. Each day was worse than the previous one, and they lasted all day long. I had to try to sleep with a stack of pillows to keep my head and body upright, but they did little to help, and I doubt I got much more than four hours of combined sleep at night during that time.

I tried everything to get rid of them, but to no avail. The worst thing I tried involved food. After dinner on the first night, they seemed to subside, so I naturally attributed that to putting food in my stomach. As a result when they returned I stuffed my face with comfort food. Of course, it turned out that eating food didn’t impact them at all, so all I achieved was making myself feel like I swallowed a basketball while my body convulsed with one hiccup after another. You can imagine how that felt. We aren’t talking one or two of them either. They were repeated and countless, delivered in machine-gun like fashion, lasting for an hour or so before I’d get a brief respite before starting again.

I’ve never had to endure that torture on such a large scale since then. I get steroids infused every time I have my plasma transfers and other infusions, but those only happen over a single day. As a result, when they reappear the following day, it’s annoying, but one day is a comparative piece of cake, so I don’t mind.  Besides, if they get really bad a healthy dose of THC laden MMJ temporarily puts them to sleep.

I received my last plasma transfer a couple of weeks ago, but because of a glitch in the ordering system the steroids were not infused. I did not get the same benefit from the treatment as I typically do, so I asked my neurologist if it would be worth considering taking them orally for a few days. Yesterday, I received a script of 20 pills, with orders to take 4 a day over a 5 day period. I started taking them as soon as they were received, and just finished swallowing down my fourth pill in twenty four hours. I have to admit I think they are doing a world of good, which put me in a really good mood, but something has just developed that I perhaps naively never anticipated or expected: the hiccups have started again.

I’ve reached out to my neurologist to see if tapering down to three or two pills a day would provide the same kind of effectiveness, but I doubt they will. So the quandary I find myself in is choosing between decreased mobility, strength and balance, or five days of hell.

I swore I would never put myself through this again, but the mobility and balance issues are as bad as they have ever been, particularly at night. I would like to keep them at bay so that those symptoms begin to emerge just before my next treatment, but the memories of that first experience are so vivid.

Remember, we aren’t talking an occasional burst of a few hiccups. They occur every five seconds or so. The first bout lasted close to an hour, left, then reappeared within the next hour. They aren’t bad now in the sense they are relatively mild, but as the day progresses they will become more frequent and violent in nature. They will escalate to where these five second intervals involve two or three and sometime more spasms, one right after the other.  Trying to take a breath in the midst of these things is difficult, which can be unnerving. They are as exhausting as they are infuriating, and the prospects of dealing with them for several days doesn’t thrill me. And it isn’t as if I can just stay stoned all day and night. There is a thing called work.

Knowing me I’ll put up with it, but the shit we have to do to keep ourselves afloat with this miserable condition. And I’m one of the fortunate ones.

September Blues

Summer has come and passed. The innocent can never last. Wake me up when September ends.       Billie Joe Armstrong

I’m generally a pretty even-keeled guy. I don’t get too giddy when something great happens, and won’t wallow when things don’t. After what we went through waiting almost ten months to sell our house, and enduring some family drama I haven’t written about, you’d think I would be in a good place. Instead I’ve been in a rut, and I suspect it is going to take much longer than September to dig out. I have given some thought how this has happened, and what I have come up with is ranked from least to most relevant.

Mental fatigue: After enduring the strain I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I’m tapped out, with no appetite for anything that isn’t kumbya. And we all know that isn’t the reality in this country (more on that in a bit).

Sports: Yeah, I know. This is trivial and superficial, but sports is an escape from reality, and we can all use a diversion. Unfortunately, my beloved Red Sox are only adding more angst to the equation because they suck. Not only do they suck, but they aren’t even remotely watchable. They have gone from being historically good to historically bad in a span of two years, which is mind- boggling. I therefore latched onto the Bruins (hockey) and Celtics (basketball) to fill that void, but the Bruins spit the bit, and the Celtics lost a golden opportunity to put their current opponent away. They are now in a dogfight for their playoff lives, have lost all the momentum they had, and it appears they are headed for a disheartening crash. Swell. Maybe the Packers can give me something latch onto when the season starts next week.

Word Press: They changed the format so everything is foreign and different when it comes to this platform. When I preview this on a different medium (laptop, I-pad, phone) it looks different, so it has taken me twice as long to compose, and I have no idea how fucked up it will look when it’s published. It’s an aggravation I don’t need, and it is really pissing me off!

The Endless Virus: We are into our sixth month of this pandemic and there is no end in sight. Summer was supposed to provide a respite from its spread and we know how that turned out. The cold weather months are looming, flu season is coming, and anyone who thinks this isn’t going to take a turn for the worse is delusional. I am tired of the isolation. I am tired of the struggle. I am tired of thinking about everything I do in the context of staying healthy. I am tired about having all this time on my hands which provides ample opportunity to dwell on how fucked up our current situation is. We have at least another six months of this and probably more, and I am just plain tired of it all. The only light I see at the end of this tunnel is not a ray of hope but that of an oncoming speeding locomotive that will flatten anything that gets in its way.

The campaign: We are only 58 days away from Election Day, and those 58 days are going to feel like an eternity. It’s already ugly and it will get uglier and uglier the closer we get to that fateful day. As you know, I have never been a Trump fan. I distinctly remember waking up the day after the election in 2016 absolutely terrified about the next four years, but hopeful that I was wrong about the guy. I wasn’t. Then I made the mistake of reading Mary Trump’s book which not not only validated everything I suspected about the guy, but put me in even more of a panic about our future if he gets re-elected, which I thought wasn’t possible.

It also has me questioning the sanity of our electorate because I don’t understand how anyone can make excuses for this guy anymore. He has botched the handling of the virus. He takes no responsibility for anything, lies constantly, is lazy, uninformed, blames everyone else for his failings, and only cares about himself. The law and rules of government have no meaning for him if they get in the way of a desired outcome. I am a firm believer that the President sets the tone for the people in this country, and what we have right now is a society that is racially divided, politically polarized, intolerant, and mean-spirited. We demonize anyone who doesn’t share a similar point of view, and have become a joke in world’s eyes. You may argue that Trump didn’t create the situation, which I can acknowledge. But he has made it infinitely worse.

It is disheartening to ponder how this narcissistic, egomaniacal, sociopath has continued to get away with what he has. I hope and pray that he loses by a large margin because I doubt he will leave voluntarily if he doesn’t. He’ll insist the election was rigged, was fraudulent, or anything but fair. This from a guy who has encouraged his supporters to vote twice, and done everything in his power to plant that seed of doubt. One can only wonder if the violence in this country will escalate if he refuses to leave. Maybe the futuristic piece I wrote a few months back isn’t that far from reality.

My bottom line is this: I have disliked a number of our Presidents in my adult lifetime, both Republican and Democrat, but I have never questioned their loyalty to the country, it’s people, and our democracy until now. I honestly fear for every one of those things if we are stuck with King Donald for another 4 years.

The Disease: In the twelve years I have had to endure MS, I have never thought of myself as disabled or anything less than whole. I’ve pushed the physical envelope at every opportunity and never though twice about it. I haven’t asked for or expected any accommodations, have never thrown in the towel about performing any required task, and have lived in a state of ignorant bliss in regards to what the future holds. Unfortunately I’ve reached a point where reality has punctured that comfortable cocoon of denial.

Everything has become hard. Walking is hard. Standing is hard. Taking showers is hard. Getting into and out of bed is hard. Turning in bed is very hard. Getting into and out of my vehicle is hard. Getting dressed is hard. Stairs are really hard, and so is putting socks on my feet. The risk of falling used to be remote. Now it is ever-present.

A few days ago, I gave into this reality because I almost dropped a huge stone I was trying to lift out of the back of our SUV onto my foot when I temporarily lost my balance pivoting around so I could place the stone on a nearby hand-truck. The fact that didn’t happen and I didn’t mess my back up in the process is a minor miracle. For the first time ever, I had to wave the white flag and beg off taking the one remaining item out of the vehicle. K had to call a friend to finish the job because what was left was too heavy for Nidan to do himself, which was humiliating from a male ego perspective.

The truth is my leg is toast. My legs have always been the strongest part of my body and have provided a firm foundation that allowed me to do anything I chose, albeit much more deliberately. As much as I hate to admit it, that foundation has crumbled, and this reality is as sobering as it is depressing.

I can’t do anything about the MS other than come to terms with the reality I always knew was there. Knowing me, that will happen sooner than later. As far as all the other stuff is concerned, it is completely out of my control. All I can do is pray that the arrival of 2021 will provide ample reasons to be more optimistic and hopeful about the future than I am now.

If not, being placed in a medically induced coma doesn’t sound like a bad option.