All Apologies

My dear, your apologies are well written and seem quite thoughtful with the right amount of remorse.

I often wonder when you will ask why I never acknowledge them.

My reasons are two fold

  1. Apologies are acts of contrition in the loosest sense. They serve more to the apologist than the one receiving the apology.
  2. Words are meaningless after, say, the second apology given for the same transgression. I’ll accept an apology when I know that you mean it. Showing me you mean it is never doing the thing that prompted the apology in the first place. One is not truly sorry if they keep doing that thing that hurts or offends.

Words are powerful, yes. They can inspire, demean, inhibit, motivate, thrill, or even kill a person’s spirit.

Actions…now there’s the proof to the pudding! Actions show intent. As that adage goes “Actions speak louder than words.”

Resolving to do the thing your words promise in an apology and really following through; is in fact, the apology.

The Importance of Dating

“Dating” means you’re going on dates. You are actively getting out there and meeting people and spending time with them. “Dating someone” means you’re seeing somebody specific, with purpose and on a regular basis. … You’re spending time with a person (or persons) in hopes of finding a committed relationship.” – Source Zoosk
 
 
So yeah, when you seemed perplexed as to why a married couple would carry on the ritual of dating based your belief that only the latter part of this definition was applicable, I must respond.
 
 
Actively getting out with your spouse is a concerted effort in keeping the relationship fresh and alive. It is an effort to appreciate the company of your partner in a mutually enjoyable activity/outing.
 
 
One could argue “Why bother? You are already committed to one another for life and you live together. You are with each other all the time.”
 
 
I can counter argue, “Do you ever take someone for granted because you are around them all the time? Do they become furniture to you or just a fixture/constant that you forget what fun you have with them when doing things together?”
 
 
A lot of marriages fail due to the couple not taking time out to refresh or revisit the reasons why they committed in the first place.  The relationship gets lost in the daily challenges of life, family, and job commitments. One partner may feel invisible to the other or unappreciated and then a distance forms between them.
 
 
To close that gap, we have to consciously choose to identify that a gap is forming and want to reconnect. What better way to reconnect than to resume dating? Focus on each other in the moment over some romantic lighting, good food, maybe a great show or a walk in the park after a coffee date?
 
 
Yes, initially dating is the act of meeting new people and exploring whether or not they are someone with whom you would like to enter into a committed relationship. That is where the latter part of the above cited definition holds true.  However, one should not become complacent once that commitment is established.
 
 
From my own experience, becoming complacent does cause a distancing, resentment, uncertainty, and ultimately an ambivalence within the relationship. If someone could have tapped me on the shoulder to tell me how important it is to really enjoy the company of my partner and celebrate it every day, when life got in the way; I believe we would have had a jollier time.
 
 
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more satisfying than a quiet evening in the presence of your partner just quietly being with them where no words, affirmations or physicality are really required to feel total and utter contentment. Those moments are important as well.
 
 
I just want to express the importance of the fact that relationships require attention – just as a garden would require tending to be fruitful.
 
 

Less Than a Month To Go…

In less than a month, I will hit the milestone year which aligns with my father’s collapse at work and his resulting brain cancer diagnosis.  He did not last a year from that diagnosis. His half-sister, Cindy and his brother, Tony also had the same kind of cancer originally found in my father which caused him to have a kidney removed. Cindy survived. Tony did not.

Last month, my voice had become hoarser with all the speaking I had been doing at work and my neck and sinuses have been inflamed. Each year, a new set of symptoms present themselves and I struggle and carry on; but I often wonder if I won the genetic lottery and I am going to get the same diagnosis as those before me.

He died at age 53. I turn 52 in less than a month and I am finding it hard to enjoy things while I feel less and less like myself. I am not steady on my feet after prolonged sitting. I don’t quite trust myself on trips alone for fear of collapsing one day myself.

I’ve noticed changes as I get closer to 52. There is an odor to me which is unlike the natural scent I have always known. It is strange and putrid. My skin is an off shade. (Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was changing since 1999 when I got paler and paler) Now the pink hue is missing and it is sallow. Really notice it in my lower limbs and my left arm.

And oh how I am tired! I’m not eager to run errands on weekends or nights after work anymore. I’m now having the groceries delivered most weeks and ordering supplies for the house online.

On a good day I take advantage of what I’m given and do as much as I can. The good days are not as frequent as they were a year ago. I am struggling.

You might have wondered why I’m going on about all of this. One reason is the genetic factor of what killed my father and his brother and how to identify the onset should I be the one.

Second and most importantly, each day is one better than the last; and even if I struggle and I am barely hanging in there it’s a gift. I cannot stress this enough: don’t waste a single moment. Enjoy it like a fine meal–savor every second you have.

Each Birthday after this point is a huge milestone and I’m going to appreciate the hell out of the day each year.

Never Have I Ever

Remember when I offered you advice on manners and you considered that advice bullying?

Yeah, well buckle up dear buttercup, because I’m sharing more and take heart– this is not you this time, but the acts of others which are teachable moments:

Never…

  • Tell someone the price of a gift you have given them.
  • Pick a fight over politics at someone’s mother’s wake.
  • Crash or tag along to an event if you’re not specifically invited.
  • Express disdain over the food served to you at a dinner party which you do not like.
  • Express ingratitude when given a gift you do not like.
  • Be unkind to someone struggling.
  • Ignore the request to RSVP to an event.
  • Be late to an appointment.
  • Keep someone waiting for a handwritten thank you or an expression of gratitude when you’ve been given a gift or assistance.
  • Act put out if someone asks you for help.
  • Avoid apologizing if you have clearly wronged someone.
  • Never throw someone under the bus to advance yourself in earning esteem.
  • Expect recognition, material compensation or tips for good deeds done

These seem obvious but, in case I am not around let this tidy list of etiquette be a handy guide to living better.

Losing Track of Your Whys

In my years on this big blue marble, I have found it most difficult to be a comfort to those grieving a tremendous loss.

I’ve experienced great sadness over the loss of dear friends, family members and I’ve been witness to those experiencing losses far greater than I can fathom.

In high school, a classmate was killed by a drunk driver and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. So I said what most say in their deepest sadness– “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It seemed a thin sentiment, because at the time, I couldn’t sense how profoundly losing someone you love can leave a chasm of emptiness and suffocating pain. And that grief would be ever present.

As the years went on and I journeyed through life, I had my share of grief personally. But before that, I experienced the helplessness of watching a friend process the loss of a beloved parent.

Nothing prepares a friend to be a support for that. Your heart breaks for them as they go through the five stages. It’s a dangerous time for some because they can lose their why.

No, that last statement wasn’t a word choice mistake. I really did mean why and not way. Although losing your why leads to losing your way in life.

You see, our why is our inner sense of purpose. What is our reason for being here? How is it we are here in this path we walk? That’s actually an opening to a song by the Moody Blues. (ref.: A Question of Balance) Though I digress… just check it out sometime. It’s a beautifully thoughtful song.

Sometimes the upending loss can make one question: “What’s the point of even being here? Why go on?”

They can begin a path of self destruction to deaden their pain or support their reasoning when they reach that depth of grief.

As a friend to someone who reaches that point, you can be their support best through carefully listening as they process this pain and help them find their path back towards their purpose by patiently employing a gentle Socratic method of questioning to lead them back to their whys.

Everyone has whys. They push them aside or forget about them in the noise that is the grief and sadness.

I learned most about this from the writings of Viktor Frankl– a holocaust survivor who was intent on studying those who survived the concentration camps and how they carried on. His findings further developed approaches to helping people contemplating suicide find their inner purpose. (ref.: Man’s Search For Meaning)

I can tell you I lost my whys a couple of times throughout my life. On 9/11 for example, I sat there for hours at my desk realizing nothing mattered. You were my why in that moment.

Later, I lost my whys when I realized I was grieving over love lost and paralyzed with fear after the heart attack and turned to self medication in the form of alcohol and danced ever so close to succumbing to the disease. You saw that and it really took a lot to bring me back. But I had to find my whys again. It was a little harder because you were older and my reasoning was stronger that you’re best off without me.

Through counseling and will, I was able to ask myself the questions to get me back to a personal sense of purpose.

Questions which really helped me comfort and guide when I was needed:

  • Who is left behind who still needs your care and love?
  • What impacts have you had on others so far?
  • What have you wanted to do that you haven’t already?
  • What do you think the person you’ve lost would advise you to do in this moment?
  • If it was reversed and they were here and you weren’t how would you hope that they cope?
  • What brings you happiness, joy and/or peace?
  • What are the ways to bring meaning of the lost one’s impact on you in your daily life?

Notice that none of these are yes/no sorts of questions. Always keep them open and encourage the sorting out of their feelings and thoughts.

Most importantly, be there for them and assure them of your love and support through it all.

Hard to Fight But Scared To Give Up

I have shitty veins. They break, I bruise and most times, it’s nothing. Occasionally it is something.

Something that should have killed me.

Those times I was in the hospital and stents were placed.

Recently, I’ve become more exhausted than usual and moderate to light activity causes chest, and limb pain. Sometimes a headache or neck pain.

The two smallest toes on my left foot are mostly numb. It’s a weird feeling.

I believe I may have Peripheral Artery Disease in addition to the Coronary Artery Disease tiara I wear currently.

I brought it on myself. I don’t exercise regularly, if at all. I have a sedentary job. I have a horrible past of eating like crap and weight has always been a problem for me. Smoking too.

I can talk the big talk by saying that no matter what, I won’t fight another episode; but, frankly speaking, I’m sad and afraid to allow my life to end. This is painful.

Yet the current state of my life, with the stressors of my job and family…I kinda do want a clean out.

I know! I just got done watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the second time this season and I cried as always knowing that life is a gift not to be thrown away.

It’s a pity I did whatever the hell I wanted while young with no second thought to the damage I was doing down the road.

I’ve read the articles on reversing heart disease and I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet. My daily fats don’t include butter (unless it’s nut butter) and I eat high fiber foods for breakfast and lunch and add it to our dinner with lean meats or a vegetarian option.

And yet here I am. My left leg numb and stinging after light activity, eating nitroglycerin like tic tacs.

I keep thinking if this is an aneurism or dissection or claudification, I just want to be home to die. I don’t want it to happen while driving or in a stinky hospital or god forbid — in the bathroom stall at work!

I’m finding it harder and harder to go to work in this kind of pain. I’m actually finding it very hard to justify working until I can either recover or just spend my days where I want to be. Home.

I’m also afraid to sleep while in this pain. What happens if I don’t wake?

The control freak in me worries about what mess I may be leaving you and your father to clean up. The paperwork, outstanding bills and accounts to close down. It’s all just a hairy pain in the ass.

I never wanted you to deal with my passing. That’s why I paid for my funeral in advance. That’s why there’s a book that has instructions for after I go. I just don’t have all the rest of the shit in it. Like accounts and passwords. Contacts.

I really must do that for you. I promise if I’m given tomorrow I will get that done.

And if I stroke out (and it’s not deadly) but leaves me where ultimately I am in a vegetative state, do not waste the money keeping me alive. Let me go.

Our healthcare system will ruin you and your father financially if you try to keep me going.

I hope that the afterlife is true and even reincarnation is possible. If I had that assurance I might not be so scared to let go. But this is where I am.

Stuck.

Heartsick.

Sad.

Tired.

Jealous of those who have shittier habits and will outlive me.

A teensy bit angry at myself for wasting the time I had.

Just know that I bragged that my veins were mostly Twinkie frosting when I was your age. How ironic it was for me to hear you brag that yours were filled with cheese this weekend at your grandpa’s house?

I’m here to warn you that even if you don’t smoke and you do stay active, your dietary choices will lead you right down the red carpet I genetically rolled out toward artery disease.

Please do the research now and make the necessary lifestyle choices that reverse the damage you’re doing and you outlive your mother.

It’s Only Human

The single most challenging thing in life is to know when to ask for help, remembering that one is never left to go it alone. Turning a blind eye to the helping hands around you when in a time of great need is a grave mistake.

There are some who get an intrinsic reward from sympathies of the masses by hoisting themselves up as martyrs in the face of great adversity and challenge. Whether it is out of pride they find no resources, or to get the attentions they crave, remains a mystery.

There is no shame in asking for help. Please never take the load yourself if you feel like you are drowning. Reach out when you are overloaded. Someone will offer to help or point you toward someone who can help.

It is no sign of failure or weakness if you ask for help. The important point is that you must recognize when you need help.

  • If it is sapping your energy/resources and there seems no solution in sight, no matter what you try; then you need help.
  • If you feel your back is desperately against the wall with no path to resolution, then you need help.
  • When you feel overwhelmed with all of the tasks/expectations set before you and you begin to shutdown physically or emotionally, then you need help.
  • When you’re experiencing a highly charged emotional state and it seems never-ending, then you need help.

Being in any of these situations it is easy for one to be blinded by the situation and not see who is around who can help – thinking you are alone to handle it.

The important thing is to know you are never alone.

Let me repeat that with emphasis…

YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.

There are hundreds of thousands of folks who probably have gone through the very situation(s) you are in and can offer guidance and solutions. Maybe family, friends, professional agencies, counselors, doctors, psychiatrists, support groups, message boards…even a complete stranger.

But you must open your mouth and say, “I need help.”

Simply complaining or staying silent will not alert those around you that you need help. Everyone around you is working through issues of their own and may not be intuitive enough to know you are in dire straits and need assistance.

Know too, that just because a person is busy does not mean they are not open to help. Please do not use that as an excuse to keep sch-tum. If they cannot help directly, they may know someone or some resource that can help.

I know it is humbling to admit vulnerability, but we are a community and we are put on this earth to help one another.

When that help is given, remember it. Do not claim that it was never received or disregard the help that is offered. You are less likely to be helped in the future.

Some of my favorite songs regarding helping

The Band –

Billy Swan –

Joe Cocker –

The Staples Singers –

The Little River Band –

The Youngbloods –

And most importantly – Bill Withers