Resilience

resilience

One of the most underappreciated aspects of human nature is our ability to adapt. While some folks have an easier time with this than others, the truth is we find our own way through challenges and roadblocks, eventually adjusting to them in a way that feels right for us. How would we otherwise cope with the world we live in now?

Seriously, does the life we once had seem real to you anymore? I certainly remember what that life used to be like, but it feels like such a long time ago that it happened in a different lifetime to another person. What I remember more than anything else is the process I went through to get to the place I am at right now.

I vividly remember the fear that existed when this was all new. I was a news junkie, watching the virus track from China to the Middle East and Italy before it invaded our shores. I never bought the supposition that this was all a fabrication of the media or a hoax. The apprehension about what would happen was the great unknown, and was in some ways worse than the reality of it being here.

When New York City became the new Wuhan, I followed the daily briefings and looked at the maps. It was if a bomb hit that region of the country and with each passing day the maps showed its blast radius expanding, inching its way into our state from the southwest to the northeast. Every day, I watched with dread as the number of confirmed infections and deaths grew, especially once the totals started accumulating in our town.

I started changing patterns of behavior by going to the grocery stores early in the mornings on Saturdays to avoid crowds. Shortly thereafter I started ordering them on-line and having them delivered. Nobody outside of immediate family was allowed inside the house,  and we stayed put in the oasis we call home.

Three months have since passed, and while the concern is still there, the shock and fear is not. The new reality is entrenched, the cards have been dispersed, and we’re playing the hand we’ve been dealt. I have the utmost respect, and in some cases awe, for the situation we are in, but I am no longer intimidated by it. I am not afraid of going out, and truly believe that as long as I adhere to the three pillars of wellness (wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing), I’ll be okay.  I’m in charge of my destiny now rather than feeling like a puppet on a string, and I suspect most people feel the same way.

I have are no illusions about the future. We are running a marathon, and we have completed maybe a quarter of the race. This pandemic is going to have its ebbs and flows, and we are going to confront times that are worse than what we have already experienced, but the bloom is off the rose as far as the novelty of it is concerned.

We have all adapted in different ways. We may not agree with how others have adapted (or in some cases ignored), but we’ve all found our sweet spot. It’s the beauty of our nature: observe, adapt, survive, and hopefully thrive. This process will continue to evolve along those lines until this is over.

We’ll never return to the place we were before all this started, and it may take the better part of two years before a vaccine is found. We’ll all be more aware of how germs are passed and how we can protect ourselves. This will be ingrained in our psyches for the rest of our lives, and will come in handy down the road should something similar pop up during our lifetimes.

We should be wiser and better prepared individually and as a country should that day come, so the carnage and emotional angst isn’t as pronounced. We’re usually good about learning from our mistakes, so there is a lot learning we can apply going forward if we have the collective wisdom and will to do so.

It’s all about being resilient, and resiliency is one of the many distinguishing features that make up the mosaic of our species. Its power allows us to navigate the enormity of what has happened and come out the other side intact.  It helped me adjust to living with a chronic illness, which is a good thing because I can’t remember what it was like to have two strong legs, or not feel like I could fall at any moment. And it has certainly helped me get from a place of devastation and fear to peace and acceptance as far as the pandemic is concerned.

And when you think about it, what choice do we really have?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Generation is Rolling In Their Graves

scream

Allow me to vent.

“The Greatest Generation” was the moniker coined for those folks who grew up during the depression, endured The Dust Bowl and also endured World War Two, either as soldiers or citizens supporting them on the home front. These resilient people endured hardships and deprivations none of us can imagine. I can guess what they might think if they were here to witness what is occurring today among those who are demonstrably chafing against the states closing down and some of the rules they implemented regarding social distancing and facemasks.

I’m all for people having their own thoughts and opinions about anything. Everyone is entitled to their own belief system regarding what the government should or shouldn’t do that encroaches on our lives.

Having said that, I am nauseated by some of the stories I’ve read about citizens taking things into their own hands to protest what the states have done in an effort to protect its citizens as a whole.

Shooting people? Killing people? Resorting to violence? Literally getting in citizens’ and law enforcement personnel faces and sometimes spitting in in them? Opening and licking ice cream containers in grocery stores? When did this kind of stuff ever become acceptable?

Then there is the stupid stuff, like some guy from Long Island suing the University of Connecticut because their child isn’t getting the benefit of the full college experience. Really? Like it’s UCONN’s fault.

We’ve been at this for less than two months. Can you imagine if these people had to live through the dust bowl, or had to endure rationing for almost four years to support a war effort? They’d lose their minds. Forget riots. Armageddon would be more like it.

I know, I know. It was a different time. Attitudes were different and so were how we were raised as children. But still, when has it become okay for anyone to express an opinion in such a way that it endangers the lives of others? When did this sense of entitlement take hold?

Like I said, anyone can have their views about the pandemic, and what the states are doing.  But how about taking some responsibility and having accountability for your actions? These folks take none. Their attitudes are similar to those of the White House, who by not taking any leadership role is in a position where they can avoid responsibility for whatever happens (unless it is good, of course), leaving it up to each and every governor to decide what is best for their state. That way they can be blamed when things go tits up by reopening too soon. If the economy tanks there is little chance the incumbent gets re-elected, so the welfare of people be dammed. Let’s get the economy rolling again. Talk about having one’s priorities in order. Don’t they pay attention to the science?

Yes, these infringements on our lives suck. I’m getting impatient like everyone else. I hate being cooped up at home, and hate having to wear a mask and gloves when I venture out. I hate the shortages and the fact that so many people are struggling. But I believe in the science and believe it is all for the common good. And I would rather be inconvenienced than sick or dead, or have those I love in that position.

To say these developments are worrisome and discouraging are an understatement. I fear that throwing caution to the wind and reopening before more testing is available and all the trends are pointing in the right direction is a recipe for disaster. There are over 3,000 new cases a day of citizens testing positive for the virus in this country, for goodness sake. It is starting to hit rural America too. What will happen to this figure, in addition to fatalities by reopening prematurely? It will certainly increase, but by how much. Double? Triple? Will hospitals become so overrun that they won’t care for people above a certain age or present certain symptoms? Will the spread of the disease impact nurses and doctors so much there aren’t enough of them to handle the incoming surge? These are all fair and legitimate questions, ones I fear have more truth than not.

I’d rather be cautious and err on the side of opening up too late than too early. The consequences are too dear.

So what do we call this generation or group of people suing everyone and engaging in or inciting violence? The Whiners? The Whiniest Generation? The Its About Me Generation? The I don’t Give A Shit About Anyone Else Generation?

It’s sad, and I’m afraid it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

 

A Different Kind of War

War

When I last wrote, I somewhat flippantly said it wasn’t as if a nuclear blast was imminent, and mockingly asked if people would resort to wearing garlic necklaces. How things have changed during these last twelve days.

I now have enough food and supplies to last the better part of a month, completing that endeavor by hitting the package store and dispensary yesterday. I have been working from home since Monday, for which I am grateful. I am not living like a hermit, and continue to venture outside to get essential items when necessary. I also meander outside the house on sunny days, following the social distancing protocols to the letter.  Still, the experience is surreal to say the least.

What I have experienced more than anything else these last two weeks, is how my perception and perspective of things have changed. I have habitually looked ahead, and planned for stuff months in advance, primarily because it gives me something to look forward to. Now my focus is literally day to day. Many things that were important seem trivial by comparison, and my priorities are where they should probably have always been. I care about what is happening in the global markets, but am not obsessed by it. It sucks that this pandemic hit while I was trying to sell my house, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. At least I have an empty spot to use as quarantine headquarters if that becomes necessary. Sports has always been my passion, but I don’t care when or if any of the seasons resume. I have been diligent in my proactive MS treatment, but am seriously considering suspending all of it for two to three months.

All I care about is the health of my friends and family, and hope that we are all still here come 2021. Talk about a stark, sobering reality.

I fortunately have never had to experience the horrors of war, but lets not kid ourselves. We are neck deep into one. There isn’t any lead flying, and we don’t have to be afraid of the metal hitting the meat when we step outside, but this war involves projectiles that you can’t see, which is more unnerving when you think about it. I feel for those who suffer from anxiety in general because if I were an anxious person by nature, I would be constantly afraid that a person in my line of sight might be one of them, as if they were part of The Walking Dead, or that there was an invisible cloud of viral death lurking in pockets of air outside.  Rationally, I know that is not the case, and that by keeping the appropriate social distance and washing my hands constantly, I am safe. To say however I’m not anxious at all would be a lie.

I don’t blame our government for not preventing this because that was impossible. What I do blame them for however is not taking it seriously, preparing for it and at least ensuring that what was needed to test and treat once this hit was in place. They have failed miserably in that regard, continue to do so, and still mislead the public by painting rosy pictures about drugs that don’t exist, and that help in the forms of supplies and equipment is on the way. As citizens we are dependent on our Governors to take charge, and many of them are rising to the occasion, but it is tragic we have to resort to this. Working in the healthcare field, I know that front line staff is running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) and we still don’t have enough test kits. It feels like we are living in a the midst of a Stephen King novel. I just hope people remember this come November.

Unfortunately, we are not alone, as this brilliant piece by Bojana illustrates. God help us.

I am trying to appreciate the little things in life, like a glorious sunrise and sunset, sitting on our deck, and enjoying what nature has to offer.  As sometime who has been married for over 30 years, I am spending more quality time with K than I have in a long time, and enjoying every minute of it.  I am actually reaching out to friends and family more than before because I appreciate them more and because it is a way to feel connected as we isolate ourselves socially. It’s a pity it took something this catastrophic to make that happen.

I know that the large majority of us will not get sick, and that the majority who do will survive this. But what a sad and miserable way to go for those who don’t. I believe that we will see the good in people more than the bad as we all work together for the common good, and hope that feeling of brotherhood and community survives this crisis. Everyone needs to sacrifice and follow the social distancing protocols so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, like they are now in Italy and are starting to in New York City. If that occurs were are all truly fucked.

It is time to hunker down, follow the rules, hope that the worst will be over soon, and most importantly, survive.

I beg you all to do the same.

 

 

 

My Winter of Discontent

eeyore

Winter has never been my favorite season. I can’t skate to save my life, and other than a short foray into cross-country skiing that died of natural causes due to lack of trails, I’ve never skied. So the normal diversions fans of winter enjoy to break up these long, cold, dark months have never been something I’ve embraced, not that it would matter now with my leg and balance issues. Winter therefore has been a season to be tolerated, not enjoyed.

This year has not been an exception, but what is different is the funk I find myself in. I’ve  been in such a foul mood lately I don’t even like myself.

As an optimistic, glass-half-full kind of guy. I normally meander through the first three months of the year in hibernation mode at an even keel, biding my time until the temperatures heat up and the buds start to bloom. Not this year, however.  Rather than proactively navigating the stormy winter seas, I find myself trying to steer this ship with a broken rudder and an inoperable compass.

I’m sure the natural letdown from the relentless pace we experienced during the construction and moving process has something to do with it, but it isn’t that simple. There are a number of factors at play that have conspired to suppress the optimism that typically begins to surface as we reach the end of February.

I’m sure the fact the house remains unsold plays a large part in this, but it didn’t bother me too much until now. The peak selling period is on the horizon, so you’d think I have a pep in my step and feel good about getting out from under this albatross. But real estate is one thing K and I have had never had good luck with, and I can’t help but wonder if that trend will continue. I didn’t worry too much about it these last three months because I never expected anything to happen.  But it feels real now, and the thought of being stuck with the status quo is driving me nuts.

Then there is the weather. It’s been a weird winter here in southern New England, because there hasn’t been much winter weather to speak of. There has only been one named winter storm when by now we’d usually have at least a half dozen. Our combined winter snowfall hasn’t even reached a foot where I live,  and it hasn’t been super cold either. In fact, I think this is one of the warmer winters we’ve had in recent memory, so you’d think I’d be on cloud nine.

The problem is that while the winter has been an easy one so far, it has also been a very wet and cloudy one. The sun has rarely been out for extended periods of time and the rain has contributed to a dampness that permeates everything. It’s amazing how one’s mood is impacted by sunshine and brightness, and all this winter has taught me is  that I could never live in the pacific northwest.

We’re going to be putting the house on the market again soon, and I can’t escape the feeling that all the winter weather that we have so far avoided will become unleashed as soon as that For Sale sign goes up. That would be the icing on the cake.

Then there is all the craziness going on in our national politics. Nobody has a good word to say about anyone or anything, a sense of lawlessness exists that I’ve never experienced before, and we will be deluged with this shit for another eight months. The democrats can’t get their act together, and are in the process of squandering a golden opportunity to lighten the mood in this country, while the Republicans are openly disparaging anyone who does not share their world view. This election will be the meanest, nastiest, ugliest, dirtiest campaign I’ve ever witnessed. I wish I could sleep through it.

I also feel fat, even though my weight hasn’t changed all that much since Christmas. I’d like to be ten to fifteen pounds lighter because it can only help my mobility, but I’m not motivated in the least to actively diet. I’ve started working out more, so perhaps that will help, but the fact is snacking at night is one of the few pleasures I enjoy, and consuming nothing but low-fat, low-salt goodies just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s a double-edged sword.

Lastly, the one thing that has always sustained me during these bleak months, the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training, hasn’t been anything to celebrate. Baseball is embroiled in the kind of scandal it hasn’t seen since the 1919 Black Sox, and my beloved Red Sox are getting swept up in it. The investigation into their role in the cheating scandal was supposed be completed by now, but it seems like it will drag out for another couple of weeks because of a “new development”. We’ve already lost our manager, and who the hell knows what other penalties and disdain are coming. It’s put a taint on the magical season that was 2018, and always will regardless of whether our actions pale in comparison to what Houston did.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, we just traded our best player, a generational talent who is perhaps the second best player in all of baseball, because of financial considerations. This coming from a team and organization that is worth billions of dollars. It’s poured buckets of cold water on a season that hasn’t even started, and has resigned most of us into thinking that the team has no chance of winning anything this year. Swell.

Of course, this could, and probably will, be a blip on the horizon come spring. The house will be sold and the economic binds that currently tie our hands will be removed. The skies will brighten, the weather will improve, and since most New Englanders expect the Red Sox to be not only the worst team in baseball, but a joyless team to watch, they will probably exceed expectations and surprise us all. The 2020 elections? Well, three out of four isn’t bad.

But until this becomes reality, my ship will continue to be tossed wildly on the turbulent seas. It will keep taking on water while I try to find something to extricate myself from this neck-deep malaise. Writing used to be an avenue where I could purge myself of whatever was bothering me, but that isn’t working either. All this whining I’ve spent the last hour committing to paper has done is make me feel worse because I’ve never admired people who whine, bitch and moan. My attitude has been to suck it up because nobody wants to hear your problems, and it could always be worse. I need to follow my own advice.

So my quest is to find a way to take the initiative and begin controlling my environment instead if it controlling me. The question is how.

Maybe it’s time for a brownie.

 

 

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It’s Getting There

Last pic

Daze

A brief update as I climb back into the saddle

It was good to take a step back for a few weeks and recharge the writing batteries. The break provided me with time to look forward to getting behind the keyboard once again, not to mention provide time to let my mind wander and come up with a host of ideas and subject matters.

Having said that, the new house has become an all-consuming monolith that dominates my daily life. I took week off to start getting our current house in shape for the market in addition to helping out at the job site.

This process is taking a lot longer than we hoped or expected. The first house we build in 1997 took about seven months to complete. Our current home took less than six. We assumed this project would be no different, however we are currently into our ninth month of work. There are a number of reason for this, which I might elaborate upon in the future, but we truly expected to be moving in any day now when we initially broke ground. Instead, the sheetrock will be completely up and taped by week’s end.

The pace of our progress picked up when K took control of the project several weeks ago, and I suspect that will continue on the remaining items that need to be done: painting, the finish carpentry, the cabinet and fixture installation, the lighting, the flooring, the garage, the final excavation and grading of the site,  installing the driveway and seeding the lawn. There may be a few tiny things I’ve missed but those are the biggies.

The biggest fly in the ointment right now is the excavating. The individual we hired is now doing this part time, his hired help is gone, and the laundry list of items that need completion are long. We have sniffed around to see if there are other contractors that can pick up some of the slack, but so far have been unsuccessful in our search as they are all booked with other projects. If we do find someone, I am sure they won’t be cheap, and this project is already way, WAY over budget.

Then there is the stuff needed to get our current house ready for sale. That list is almost as long as the one needed to finish the new place, which was the motivation behind taking last week off.

The pressure to get this all done is immense because we want to be get the house on the market while the weather is still nice. We initially believed everything would be settled before the end of August, and that the financial piece of this odyssey (selling our house, settling our accounts and depositing some funds instead of constantly drawing from them) would soon be over and we would begin enjoying the new homestead, the move a painful memory. Instead, our goal has morphed into moving by late August/early September, which is not ideal because the goals was to get the house sold before all the kiddos go back to school. That is a pipe dream now. Our original timeline allowed us to fix up the old place once we were moved and it was emptied. Instead it is more likely that we have to do this and put it up for sale while we live there. That means we have to work on both places simultaneously. Maybe that is for the best because I have read is it always better to sell a house when your are still living in it rather than when it is empty., but it does complicate things exponentially.

Our heads are swimming with all the stuff that needs to be done, and how to deploy our dwindling resources. I don’t remember the process being as stressful as this one has turned out to be, perhaps because we are financing most of this, but it is what it is. I forgot, but now vaguely remember, everything coming to a head towards the end of the process, where you feel like the tail is wagging the dog.

Meanwhile, it is soooooooooooooooo freaking HOT! I picked the hottest week of the year so far when took last week off. Temps were in the 90’s with high humidity all week long, and I felt as if I were melting. As you know, MS and heat are not a good match, but I plowed through it for eight to nine hours each day, drank a ton of water, then jumped into the pool to cool down when we called it a day. My body was thoroughly shot by evening, and I shuffled around the house like Frankenstein. Crawling into bed felt like heaven, but by morning I was so stiff it took a while  to get loose enough to get back at it.

Nonetheless, I survived and in some ways thrived. It was good for the ego to learn that I’m still fairly useful, even though it takes a lot longer to do things compared to the pre-MS days. But at least I still can. My balance and leg strength seems to be a little worse than before. I can’t tell if this is real or imagined, but it feels like it is more difficult to get around under controlled conditions. Then again, that disappears when I get to the job site. Maybe it is the motivation or adrenaline to get things done. Maybe it is all in my head. I guess we’ll find out when the move is actually complete and we can finally exhale.

Mother nature isn’t going to relent, unfortunately.. The heat index is going to be in the 105-110 range this weekend. It is going to remain hot next week, and many are predicting this will be the hottest summer in recent memory. That’s par for the course. We’ll have to be smart about working in that environment.

So as I climb back in front of the keyboard, I don’t know if this will be an every week thing again or whenever I have the time. I am sure you will read more about our progress in the short term, as it is the easiest and quickest thing to write about. Completing the house and actually moving has become an obsession, time is limited, and this will be a good outlet to vent. However, I’ve had a few epiphanies during my hiatus that I want to share, and will eventually get to them.

One before and after pic opened this post. Here are a few more to give you a sense on how far we have come. At times both K and I feel like we are running on fumes, only to get to what by now must be our fourth or fifth wind. In the scheme of things we are in a final sprint on the home stretch, but it feels like it will take forever to finally reach the finish line.

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Unsettled

Unsettled

It has been a while since I’ve written about the new house, primarily because the process has been slow and steady.  I may have mentioned before that this is the third time we’ve done this, the last time having occurred almost twenty years ago, and each time reminds you of the the highs and lows that go with the territory of such an endeavor. I had forgotten about the myriad of decisions that have to be made, about the emotional swings, and how the progress can feel like it is zipping along one week, then slow to a snail’s pace the next.

Memories of the first house we built are near and dear to my heart, primarily because it was the first, but also because we fired the contractor before we were under roof. With the help of my father-in-law, a retired carpenter who could, with perhaps the exception of pouring a foundation, build a house from top to bottom, we became our own general contractors and finished the job in less than four months. That experience is a story in itself.

Each house is different, and this one has the distinction of K being the general contrtactor from the start, and because we started in late autumn.  It has been an interesting process so far. When we initially broke ground, it was easy to measure the progress because clearing the site, pouring the foundation and floors, framing the structure and installing the roof were all visable markers.

It was exciting to witness, but the project was still in its infancy, and didn’t feel real in many ways.  That may seem a little silly because the eyes don’t lie, and you could see the drawings on a blueprint come to life, but we were still making tweaks to the design, and the idea of actually moving felt distant, at least for me. True to form, I compartmentalized the entire concept of what I knew would eventually arrive. After all, why fret over something that isn’t imminent?

Since then, it hasn’t been as easy to chart the progress, yet the progress has been real and is now moving quickly. Once the shell was up, the roof on and the windows in, the indoor work began. Once that occurred, the structure really began to take shape, although it might not have appeared to looking at it from the outside. But as we speak, the inside has been competely framed, all of the interior plumbing has been roughed in and so has most of the electical wiring and interior duct-work.  The siding is more than half-way completed, and the deck that will also have a screened-in porch is almost done. Every time I go on site I see something new and different. You can see the rooms take shape, and see how everything fits. It is beginning to look like a real house, and I am beginning to think of our current home in the past tense.

We still have a ways to go. The garage floor needs to be poured, the sheet rock needs to go up, all the cabinetry and fixtures need to be installed, the finish carpentry needs to be completed, the heating system installed, the plumbing and electrical work finished, the floors installed, the walls painted, the driveways created and the exterior grading finished. But most of the decisions have been made in regards to the materials and subcontractors, and it is a matter of lining them up and getting them in. I am hoping that we will be able to move into the new place before July is over, but have no idea how realistic that goal is.

Nonetheless, the move is imminent, and therefore very real. As exciting as that prospect is, and as much as I want it to happen sooner than later, we are also in a state of limbo, and I find that very unsettling.

Why? Well, an endeavor like this has a lot of moving parts, and while you try to plan for the choreography of events that never ends, it never goes according to plan. There are always glitches and unexpected costs that need to be addressed. I knew from the beginning that as this project neared completion, the bills would begin to mount, and that things would be tight until we sold our current house. That has always been my hot-button, and it is on the verge of being pushed.

While the thought of being settled into a house that I know is well built and tailored to our specifications is comforting and brings a smile to my face, the idea of moving makes me want to curl into a fetal position. This will be our fifth move, but I was a lot younger, more able-bodied, and full of piss and vinegar during the previous four. Perhaps I was also a more naive about what the move actually entails: packing boxes,  unpacking boxes, setting up the new house, and getting the new lawn and landscaping established. I know better now.

Then there is the process of getting our current home ready for the market, which in my mind is worse than the actual move itself. We have some cosmetic work that needs to be done to make the house look its best, and have to inventory every single item we own, deciding what to keep, donate, pawn off or take to he dump. It is a time consuming, tedious and mind-numbing process. I am very impatient when it comes to this shit, and want to devote as little time as possible to it. I don’t want to debate the details of what stays or goes, so my impulse is to throw a lot of stuff away, consequences be damned! K attaches more emotion, sentimentality and careful thought to the process, so I am going to have to do my best to meet her half way and not become irritable as we comb through the history of our life in that place.

Once all that is done and the move is completed, the final hurdle is to sell the house for the price we want. I am feeling the pressure of time, because common sense dictates you want to sell your house during the peak selling seasons of spring or summer. Waiting until the fall or, God forbid, winter, would not be ideal. We’ll be up to our eyeballs in debt by then because we will be carrying what amounts to two mortgages, and when that occurs I will be a basket case of worry until the house is sold.

How the MS is going to factor into all of this is anyone’s guess. I know I don’t do well in the heat of the summer, which is theoretically when all of this will occur. I also know a lot of stress isn’t good either, but I don’t see how that can be avoided. I have no idea whether the MS is going to allow me to be as involved and engaged as I want to be and, assuming it does, what my body will feel like when this is over. This was not a factor before, and brings an another layer of anxiety to the process. I want to roll up my sleeves and do as much on site as I can instead of paying others to do it, but will my body allow it? I’ll probably be sucking on that vape pen quite a bit.

These were all realities last fall, but they were theortetical. It’s an entirely different ballgame when they are on your doorstep. Between dealing with the day to day issues of getting the house built, dealing with cost overruns and planning for the actual move, the new house has taken a life of its own and consumes most of our time and energy. The strain is worse on K than for me because she is the general contractor. She is on the front lines every day, and has to deal with a myriad of personalities and other crap that is too long and complicated to get into.  She is really good at this and has done a remarkable job, but it is sometimes painful to witness.

We are on the verge of entering the final stretch, where everything comes to a head. Critical mass is approaching where we prepare and transition from one place to another. I feel it approaching. It is an unstoppable force, a test of endurance, stamina and nerve.  The feeling is exciting and terrifying, exhilarating and draining.

Summer has always been my favorite season. I have always enjoyed this carefree time of year when when I’m lounging by the pool, enjoying evening fires on our patio, and hanging out in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet. I’m always saddened when September rolls around because I know the cold winter months will soon be approaching. I never imagined a day would come when I’d wish the summer away, but here we are.

I can’t wait for this to be over.

Shit Happens

happens

A short post today as I got off to a late start this week and won’t have much time over the weekend to write.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and learned of an event that just occurred in their life that could have long term implications, most of which aren’t great, and it got me to thinking.

We get inundated by the marketing apparatus in this world that portray images of health, wealth, fun and carefree, easy lifestyles. Depictions of hardships, struggles and sadness are in the minority. After all, that stuff is a downer and doesn’t sell. It’s easy to get sucked into the delusion that we are either doing something wrong if our realities don’t match up with what these ads show us, or give us the impression that what they show us is attainable if we only tried harder.

If it were all that easy.

The truth is life isn’t that simple, and shit does happen. Some of us either need bigger shovels or use the one we have more than others, which isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and everyone needs hip boots. These issues can become potholes on life’s super freeway, and it’s how we deal with these events that define us.

Take me, for instance. I’m an optimist by nature, a glass-half-full kind of guy. I think  I have had it infinitely easier than most in my life. For instance, I have never had to deal with the loss of a child, a life-threatening illness, or had to struggle financially. I’ve always been well fed, had a roof over my house, a loving family and support system, had an excellent education and a successful career.

Having said that, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Not even close. MS is the most obvious because I write about it, and is near the top of my shit happens list, but it is not at the top of that list.  There have been a host of other situations and scenarios that I have had to deal with, and continue to deal with, that are not fun. Some of these events have put a tremendous emotional strain on my family. Their fallout remains, and probably always will.

I would have easily traded getting MS instead of having to endure certain events in my life, but we never get to make those choices.

Nobody escapes this world unscathed. Just because an individual or a family has appeared to be blessed with good luck and have never had to struggle, don’t buy it. All it means is they hide it better than others. Not everyone wants to talk about their personal travails, preferring to instead to share the good in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Do any of you truly know anyone whose lives have been constant sunshine?

Experience has taught me that life is like being on a life raft in a vast ocean. Sometimes the seas are calm, or you have a fun ride on a wave that is pushing your forward into a good situation. Sometimes you are caught in an storm with relentless giant swales that come crashing down upon you, threatening to submerge you and everyone on board. All you can do is hang on for dear life, try not to drown, and hope the storm passes soon. With practice, maybe you learn how to navigate the swells better.

You also hope that the rogue waves, the monsters that come out of nowhere, catch you completely off guard and are the most dangerous and toughest to negotiate, rarely occur.

If you know someone who is going through a tough time, reach out to them. The simplest thing, like letting them know you are thinking about them and rooting for them can make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

The Ecstasy and Agony of Being a Fan

fan

I have always been a sports fan, dating back to the Impossible Dream season of 1967 when I was eight years old. I was also an athlete, having played every sport I could growing up, all the way through college where I played varsity baseball. Golf was also a favorite pastime, although some will argue that isn’t a sport.

My ability to golf or participate in any sport obviously came to a crashing halt once MS reared it’s ugly head, but the fan in me remains strong. My passion is baseball, and my addiction is the Red Sox, but I am also heavily invested in the NFL (Packers since the Lombardi days) and UConn college basketball. You can add the Boston Celtics to that list, although until recently I had given up watching any NBA games, and the Boston Bruins, although the Whalers were my team of choice until they left Hartford.

Sports has always been an escape. Some people like dramatic television or movies, but those are scripted and in many ways predictable. What I love about sports is that it is completely unscripted, can be as dramatic as anything you see and read, and it is something I can relate to having played teams sports for such a long time.

The state of my teams is as good as it could possibly be.  The Red Sox are having a historic year, the  Packers have the best quarterback in the game and an improved defense that could serve them very well on their march to the Super Bowl. The Celtics are relevant again and should challenge for the NBA crown. The UConn men have a new head coach and should return to their winning ways soon, and the women’s team is a dynasty. The Bruins….well, I’m more of a hockey fan than a Bruins fan in all honesty, and I don’t really start paying attention to the sport until the Stanley Cup playoffs are near.

I should be thrilled right now, particularly about the Red Sox, but I’m not, and that is because I take the state of my teams way too personally, and this is where the agony come in.

Here’s the thing. This edition of the Red Sox will be the greatest in their long history as far as the regular season is concerned, but that won’t mean shit if they don’t win it all, and they aren’t playing well right now.

They entered a three games series with the Yankees on Tuesday, and the Yankees were reeling. All they needed to do to clinch the division was win one game, but I wanted more than that. I wanted them to stomp the snot out of New York, win all three games and leave no question about who was the top dog.

Instead, they just lost the first two games and have not looked good doing it. Even worse, they may have given hope and confidence to a Yankee team that has not been playing well the last two months, and that is about the worst thing that could possbly happen from my perspective. You want teams to crest as the playoffs arrive, and that ain’t happening for my Sox right now. Given the nature of this rivalry, this season has provided me with ample opportunity talk smack with Yankee fans, but guess who the Sox will probably play in the first round of the playoffs? And guess who is just itching to give back what they have been receiving in spades all season long?

The Red Sox have flamed out of the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years, and if that happens again this year, especially if the Yankees are the team that does it, not only is this team going to be known as a fraud, I am going to have to take so much shit from Yankee fans that it will be coming out of my eyes, ears, nose, and every other orifice I can think of.  This often feels like a fate worse than death, especially when you consider the history of those two teams playing head to head.

Up until 2004, I knew nothing but heartache, which was made infinitely worse because most of the Yankee fans I have known are true assholes when it comes to rubbing it in. But they have the history behind them, and if you get in this arena you have to expect it and take it. That is why coming back from a three game to none deficit to those dreaded Yankees to win the American League pennant was so orgasmic in 2004. No team in baseball history had done it before, and it was almost as if the Gods had conspired to have the Sox exorcise their demons in the most glorious way possible, while the Yanks lost in the most humiliating way possible. Justice was sweet!

If the Red Sox lose a game they should have won, or look bad during a particular stretch of games, my mood is beyond foul. As you can probably tell, I’m pretty pissed about things right now, and that will exponentially escalate if they don’t win tonight’s game. That will have meant they squandered a chance to clinch the division against their most bitter foe, spit up a hairball by losing all thee games, and gave a floundering team confidence in the process. Keep the shape objects away please.

Although nothing can touch the passion I have about baseball and the Red Sox, football comes close. The fallout from games is worse in some ways because they only play once a week, and I have seven days to stew over a loss. The game is so visceral that it is hard not to get completely engrossed in the emotion of it, and because they don’t play every day, the high from wins are higher and the lows from the losses are lower. I’m still mad as hell that Minnesota tied the Packers last Sunday, primarily due to an awful call by the refs towards the end of the game. This will stick in my craw until they play Washington on Sunday. A win will make the world right again while a loss will make me rue the day I became a sports fan for about the millionth time.

I know it’s silly to let a game where the players make more money than I will see in my lifetime and who, as K likes to say, spit and touch their crotch way too much, dictate my outlook on life. But I can’t help it, and I know there are a lot of people like me out there.

Having a team in the playoffs is thrilling, but it also takes the joy out of watching the games. When these games involve teams I don’t love or hate, I can watch them for the pure enjoyment and spectacle of the sport. It is a completely stress-free experience.

That all changes when my teams are involved because now I have some skin in the game, and it feels like a life or death struggle. The tension becomes unbearable at times, but the joy that results from going all the way is supreme, makes the journey worthwhile, and provides a warm glow that lasts well into the next season.

On the other hand, getting eliminated, particularly if my team blows the game, is unequaled in its agony and the despair that follows. These two sides of the pillow represent the Ying and the Yang of being a fanatic. There are times where I honestly wish I could jump off the bandwagon and swear off being a fan of any team, but unless I come down with a permanent form of amnesia, that isn’t going to happen. It’s in my DNA, and is my one true addiction. Otherwise, why would I put myself through so much torment?

So, when the baseball playoffs start, I will strap on the seatbelts and watch the games, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I will live and die with each inning, each win and each loss until the season comes to an end. Maybe I should dull the senses and anesthetize myself with alcoholic beverages or the MMJ while watching the games. Maybe I should DVR the games and watch them if the Red Sox win but delete them if they lose. Maybe I should find a lucky talisman and keep it around. Any other suggestions you might have will be entertained.

I am supremely confident that if the Red Sox get to the World Series they will bring home their fourth crown in fourteen years,  but the AL is stacked with good teams and those fucking Yankees are going to be an obstacle. If the season does end prematurely, my only hope is isn’t against those guys. And if they do lose, maybe the Packers will take some of the sting out of it by winning the Super Bowl.

If the Sox and Packers both disappoint, I will survive. But it will be a very long, sad winter.

 

 

Poetry or Prose?

Prose or Poetry

Prose or Poetry

Which to choose?

A comfortable shoe

Soft and worn

Or an alluring mistress

Fraught with peril

 

The prose terrain is safe

Predictable

Instinctive

But so plowed and harrowed

The soil has degraded

Infertile from overuse

 

The poetry pasture is robust

Fertile

Alien

Virgin territory

Bursting with potential

Yearning to be sown

 

I’m a stranger to this land

Left abandoned

By the fear of failure

A bitter taste

But the prose well is dry

And a deadline beckons

 

Enchanted yet wary

With racing pulse

I delicately wade

Into the poetry pool

And fervently hope

I don’t drown

 

 

 

 

 

Our Era of Intolerance

intolerance

I follow some of the social networking groups for people with MS, and a lot of what I read is sad, but not in the way you might think. Yes, it’s hard to read the about the plight of others who deal with physical pain, but it’s reading about those with emotional pain and scars that is especially rough.

I’m referring to the torment men and women feel about not being the kind of spouse or parent they think they should be. Then there are the single people who are alone and lonely, lamenting the bleak prospect that their disability might make them a social pariah for eternity. I’m also talking about people who lose the ability to sustain a job because their physical limitations prevent it, or their employers put so much pressure on them regarding unscheduled absences and lack of dependability that it isn’t worth the relentless emotional strain.

What I find incredibly sad, however, is reading posts from people whose friends and family question their integrity by suggesting or implying that they aren’t really sick, and that their symptoms are psychological.

Is this kind of callousness the exception or the rule? I’d like to think it is the former, but am afraid it is becoming or has become the latter.

For some of us, our disability is obvious. All you have to do is see the way we walk, or how we navigate our walkers or wheelchairs to recognize we are dealing with something that prevents us from being whole. Your senses provide proof that something is wrong, which makes our condition understandable and acceptable.

But for many, the symptoms are less obvious. You can’t see pain. You can’t see crushing fatigue. You can’t see cognitive fog. You can’t see depression or the general malaise that can emerge from constantly fighting a losing battle. These are not tangible things, so it’s easy and convenient for able-bodied people to be derisive and dismissive.

While I think it’s bullshit, I understand how people who are unrelated and unconnected to us can make those kinds of judgements. After all, we live in an intolerant age, at least in this country, where the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue practices and promotes this kind of thinking. What I can never understand or accept is how family and supposed friends can be so unsupportive and cruel.

Perhaps these attitudes have always existed, and I was blind to them until MS opened my eyes to the plight of others. After all, people who have been living with mental illness or who are not neuro-typical have been dealing with this kind of prejudice for ages.

Still, why is it so hard for people to accept what their eyes can’t see? What makes individuals so dismissive about anyone who is less than whole, who may be odd or quirky, or who simply beats to their own drum? Why is someone who struggles with a physical or mental/emotional illness considered flawed, damaged, and therefore less of a person. Don’t we all deserve a little respect?

Is it insecurity? Do individuals feel uncomfortable or threatened by what they don’t understand? Or do people have the need to prop themselves up by tearing others down?

It’s sad to think that people are more supportive if you are stricken with something like cancer than dealing with a condition that isn’t as obvious, as easily understood, or curable. I hope I’m wrong about this, and am allowing the grim scenarios some of these posts describe to color my judgement about the world we live in. That would be ironic, because I don’t watch news programming of any kind for that very reason. The news is so negative, and paints such a bleak picture of society today, how could anyone who constantly exposes themselves to that message not be pessimistic about the future?

Maybe I should take a respite from these sites.

I was a child during the turbulent 1960’s, so I didn’t understand or feel the civil unrest that existed during that decade. After watching a recent documentary on the year of 1968, I concluded that I would have thought society was coming apart at the seams had I been an adult back then. I also would have feared for my child’s future.

I don’t think we have bottomed out to that degree yet, but it does feel like we are experiencing a renaissance of the 1960’s and heading in that direction. Our current level of social discord permeates everything, and perhaps feeds the point of views that allow people to conclude that our symptoms are all in our head, and all we have to do is stop feeling sorry for ourselves, suck it up, and get with the program. Kindness and empathy still exist, perhaps more than we think, but it is drowned out by all the other noise, and seems harder to find.

Whatever it is that is driving this mean-spiritedness, I hope it dissolves in the not so distant furture, and we all emerge relatively unscathed.