Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Riddle Of Thanksgiving

Thankful? I've written about this before. Why are people thankful for things they should be grateful for? To be thankful, is to be happy you have what you expected to have or, in most cases, relieved it's not worse. It's simply a feeling. In many ways, a superficial feeling. I'm thankful when someone sends me a Christmas card, but I'm grateful to have them in my life.

So why is it, in a day when our consumerism is at it's peak, when we cause stress on others to do things we should all do often, when we waste time, energy and money, are we thankful? Before rolling your eyes, realize for most of us, holidays are a stressful burden. A time when we put on a happy face, so that others don't have to see our daily troubles. Are we really thankful for that?

I will be spending my third Thanksgiving alone. Two years ago, I sat in an ice cold house, watching a movie. I don't even think I made dinner. Last year, a lonely motel room. One of two people in the entire complex. A kind stranger offered me a plate. This year, I'll be content, and yes, thankful to have a home, albeit not mine. I will be grateful for the food, however simple it may be. I will try to be festive in my own way. Grateful to a small handful of people. I'll think about the nearly 11 months I've gone without seeing my niece, my brother and sister-in-law. I'll get to see table spreads, where the yearly competition to see who can throw out more food will sicken me. I'll read news and wonder about those who are worse off than I am. I'll feel sadness and be grateful for what I have and that won't be a feeling. It will be determination. That next year, I'll be in a spot to offer my home to others, as my mother did every year. To those without family, friends or the means to "celebrate" a single day. A tradition our family sadly let die with her.

I'll hear stories of those who didn't appreciate someone being rude or someone lacking respect, but will know better. I'll think about a few who may be spending their last or sharing it with someone who is. I'll think about others and hope they are enjoying their day, never once thinking about whether those thoughts are reciprocated. I'll think about the children I know and take great pleasure in their naivete,

I'm not angry. Please don't misread this. I was the year before, and the year before that. Not this year. This year, I''ll be thankful to cook, but grateful for the food. I'll be thankful for the quiet, but grateful it's not merely loneliness. I'll be thankful I'm where I am in my head and grateful for the reasons why. I'll be thankful for the physical pain being gone and grateful for the small opportunities it's given me. I'll be thankful for a paycheck and grateful for those who were able to help when I had none. And as silly as it may sound to most, I'll be most thankful for the bed I sleep in and grateful for the little furry friend, Swag, who has in some odd way, understood my moods better than any human over the last two years. I like to think I protect him, but I know it's the reverse. He's changed my view of animals and I assume, if they knew, they'd be thankful.

I do hope people enjoy themselves. I realize the stress of planning, preparing, travel and relatives is a chore, but it's only a chore, because we make it one. The irony of Thanksgiving is, those who are most thankful, usually feel so after it is over, and I'm truly thankful I don't have to endure that irony.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Strangest Year

As the sun sets this evening, it will mark an end to most tumultuous year of my life. In the course of the past 365 days, I've experienced an emotional test few I know personally have had to deal with. Do not misunderstand. I am not looking for sympathy, as I at no time was ill. I did not face death or disease, so I consider my troubles self made. It's simply been a painful year, made easier by some, mostly those I'd never have thought would be the ones when the year started. And as IS becoming expected, the ones I thought would be there for me have all but disappeared.

I will not bore you with details. Not to be cryptic or for need of attention, but out of a need to protect my sanity. I don't feel like revisiting certain pains and I don't feel like looking backward. I'm in a better place. Far from what anyone I know on social media would call good, but a better place. I am secure in a home, at least for the next two month and that's not something I could say one year ago today. Essentially being homeless is a little different in this day of technology. I mean, who feels sorry for someone without a roof over their head, when they can log into Facebook? As if Facebook someone shelters you from the storm or gives you sustenance. If I did cry, those cries fell mostly on deaf ears.

The one thing sadness and solitude does is make you reflect and it's a painful journey. One I can not lie, test even those of us who view ourselves as strong. As someone who has always done for others, the prospect of truly needing was humbling experience. It still is. I've received help in the form of money, clothing, food and even one absolute surprise. A gift that allowed me to do something for someone else without the guilt, or shame, of them paying for it. I will forever be indebted to this fine young man. I just hope one day I can pay that forward, as I do not view him as the type to accept reciprocation.

This weekend, despite a joyous time, with laughs, love and incredible food, I had this date in the back of my head. Exhausted from a new job and some new stresses, I managed to block the ill thoughts. For the most part.

So tonight at sundown, I'll do my new evening routine. I'll come home, feed Swag, sip some bourbon to warm by bones and make some dinner. I'll be grateful, never thankful, but truly grateful for those rare few who have stood by me. I'll think of the friends I've lost to much greater struggles than I know personally. I'll thank my mother for being the reason I didn't go up. Says a lot when you don't want to let someone down who is no longer here. I'll thank my younger brother for being the older brother, despite it paining me to accept his help. I'll thank my friends who have been by my side physically and emotionally. I'll thank my cat, Swag and for those who chuckled, you have no idea how different this story would be without him. I'll thank all of you who have made me smile, laugh and maybe even cry. For the support and the kicks in the ass.

And at this time tomorrow, it'll be a new year. The old one will be a memory.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Cold has evaded me for most of my life. Playing outside in the snow as a child, I had to practically be dragged inside. As a teen, the cold weather meant football, sometimes even shoveling snow for basketball. My work as a roofer, made the cold days seem pleasurable in comparison to the 90 degree days of summer. As an adult, shorts and a thermal, maybe a sweatshirt were all I needed for a winter day. Socks were optional.

Then I went vegan.

If there has been one dramatic change, aside from weight and body image, it's been the weather. A comfortable summer, but with much less heat than I anticipated. Less sweating, but also limited activity due to my surgery. Autumn seems to have faded after two, maybe three weeks and winter is here. The first snow yesterday. The second last night. A chill is in the air and has entered my bones for the first time in longer than I can remember. Three layers on my torso and I could feel the cold on my much less broad chest, my puny arms and running down my spine. I still wear shorts, but my once massive thighs, atrophied from lack of use, felt the air. My spindly calves showing the affects of the breeze.

It will be a long Autumn and even longer Winter. I do not look forward to it. I'm not in a position to purchase a Winter Wardrobe and the fatigue the cold creates causes me a slight fear. I know that when the body runs down, sickness inherits the space. As of this Sunday, it will be 67 months since my last cold. A few allergies, stomach aches and a headache or two, but no actual colds. The cold, the fatigue and working with children spells doom for my untested immune system. Positive thinking? I'll try.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Back Where I Belong


Work is a four letter word for most. If you work with children and view it this way, I'd be glad to part ways with you and I mean that with great sincerity. I point to social media often, but the number of teachers I am friends with is astounding. The number of those who complain about their job is minimal, but it's enough to be known. I have no use for these people and in most cases, remain friends out of a favor to others. I simply can't comprehend anyone working with children not feeling pride and joy, each and every day.

Yes, I get it. We'd all love to sip margaritas and leave our pants in the drawer. I've lived that life. Not in the relaxed sense, but in the way where my options were limited and my physical abilities had become a burden. Recently, I returned and while not exactly what I'd like to be doing, I am happy again. I have stories, laughs and I feel energized. So much so, I am sleeping again. I have fears, but not once I'm there. Sure I have days I'd rather be in bed with some snacks and a movie, but then a child reaches up and grabs my hand or gives me a random hug and I forget about me.

That is what it is all about for me and I assume for most. The thing I missed most about working with kids isn't that it's a job. It's not about money, which I will never have enough to be even remotely comfortable with my life. It's about that time. For those hours, every woe; physical, emotional and financial, all get stripped away and four however long I am there, I cease to exist for myself.

I'm at peace with that.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Only Real Fear

I may have written about this before, but I can't be certain. While I've been known to be open, I rarely talk about fear, because to be honest, I'm not really afraid of much. Sure, I don't want to die alone, but I'm pretty sure we all die alone in some ways. I don't like the idea of not being loved, but well, we deal with that too. I mean real fear, from something completely out of our control. Mine is wind; strong winds.

The recent news of hurricanes bothers me more than people know. Seeing the devastation is tough and the poor support people are shown when nature's fury strikes, is always upsetting, but for me it's the cause that I find upsetting. Things like earthquakes, mudslides, sinkholes and tsunamis are scary, but for me, strong winds are simply terrifying. The pressure, the accompanying rain, thunder and lightning add to it, but for me it's that sound. That howl!

Last night, my window was open a crack, the soft whirl of my ceiling fan going, the blinds shut and the shades drawn, as I slept to the normal sounds of evening. There was some wind, but the standard clink and clank of the wind chimes, did nothing more than sooth me. Around midnight, the wind chimes' melodic notes gave way to what sounds like a child banging pots and pans. The soft whirl, becomes a whistle and howl, sometimes shaking the window as if angered by my safety. At times, it sounded like a roar and while I knew, I couldn't relax. The house shook, the trees rustled, Swag nestled closer and thoughts of Dorothy and Toto, ones that should have brought the comforts of my youth, brought angst and trepidation. Maybe it's because you weren't there and you weren't there, unlike the cast of that classic. I don't know. It's such a visceral reaction.

As the winds died down, the rattling and rumbling stopped and gave way to the soft tones of the chimes, it soothed me. My heart slowed, my breathing calm. The feeling one feels stepping of a roller coaster. Somewhat exhilarated, relieved and the adrenaline release gives one that feeling they've exerted themselves. There was no desire to ride again. I drifted off, woke again to the soft rain, my favorite sound and off again. The cat purred and his paw stretch, resting on my back. He was there.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

In Control

Being in charge isn't for everyone. People say they are "take charge" or "control freaks," but the reality is, most of those who claim that are poor leaders. I do not know if I am a good leader. I was as a child, especially when it came to sports, but mostly and maybe secretly, because I didn't care much about winning. I've never actually cared about winning, other than the joy it brings others. It's a weird dynamic of my life, which spills over, both positively and negatively into other aspects of my life. I don't think it will change, but I'm seeing it's affects now.

For many years, I ran a program for kids. For years before that I was lucky enough to work for places that allowed me the freedom to, within reason, mold my groups in my own way. Well, after a three year hiatus, I'm back working with kids and I'm low man on the totem pole and I'm having difficulty with it. I'm having a problem being a cog. I'm having a problem with the lack of control. I'm glad to give up the power and the responsibility, but the control is the hard part to let go of.

Before you over think this, I do not mean control of the program, the kids, the money, the staff or anything to do with that sort of thing. I miss the control of freedom. The control to take a group and make their time in the afternoon the best it can be, all the while learning lessons they aren't even aware of. I'm not good at very much in life, but I'm great with kids. Call it cockiness, ego, what have you, it's something I excel at. I can connect to the best and worst of children and I mean that in how they view themselves. I can make that worst be seen as a lesson to overcome and that best as something they can share with others. I am good at leveling the playing field both literally and figuratively and I'm good at it, because I have control. I miss that already.

I will adapt and I will learn to feed off the smiles. I've already taken to the frowns and some I've turned, some I haven't. I won't give up on those who haven't, but I lack the control to take one and introduce them to the other. They other may not want to play soccer, while the other has no interest in Lego. In a perfect world, I'd have created a Lego soccer game by now and a friendship would have been forged. It's that control I crave. It's not power, it's merely the freedom to do the one thing I'm good at and I miss being good at it.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Being There

I am about to be vague or some may see it as cryptic. I'll attempt to be brief. I'm just feeling a little flustered, confuses; possibly even bitter. Do most people think their mere presence equates to effort? I mean this is the most general way, but think about all facets of life, if you choose. A job, a relationship, even a marriage, a parent, a friend, even a tryst or an acquaintance. Have we become a society, a culture, where our presence is viewed as enough? Do we view just being present as enough? 

Think of people you've been with over the past twenty-four hours? Did the person serving your morning coffee, maybe even your breakfast, act as if you were more than just a person standing in front of them. Did you accept them for more than doing their job? What if it was your child or parent or spouse? Do you see them or the routine? Does how they do it make a difference or is their doing it simply enough? Some work in a class, a cubicle or maybe a site. Everyone plays their part and those parts change, but is there ever a time when you think they are irreplaceable? I don't mean to say they aren't good at what they do, but are they, or is this based solely on the fact they are there? 

Let's make this more personal. Your child's affection. Is it generic? Your spouses? Is love-making exceptional because it really is or because you're with that person. Is the effort put in or is it implied this is love, not just sex? Too difficult to view this and the love of your child at the same time? OK, you have a night out and you call the babysitter. Are you happy they present or that someone is, or maybe that you are not. When you walk into work are you changed? Do you feel the need to be there or are you there for your needs? How do you feel about others, the old and the new?

How often do you put forth the effort to recognize another human being's presence? How often does that happen to you? How often do you even think about your own presence and if your physical being there is simply enough? We joke about the tree falling in the woods, but what about all the things in life we do or don't do that are ignored based on us simply being there or someone else being there? 

Has the simple act of being present become the single most important aspect of our culture and our lives? Is it enough?