Monday, March 30, 2009

Skatter Monkies United!

By twice, I skied more this winter than in the last twenty years combined. Not since a winter in Stowe after college, have my eyes leapt so quickly to the window each morning to see if new snow had fallen overnight; nor has my mind had so many wandering thoughts during the day about conditions up on the Mountain.

After so much time, my body has reabsorbed the breath of a “ski bum”, walking through life, but living to slide, as comfortable in heavy boots and awkward sticks as a ballerina in slippers.

In four short months, I have made more friendships than days skied. Such a wonderful energy lingers around a ski resort. More than just a healthy physical activity, there is a lifestyle embraced, a common passion shared that unites everyone in smiles. No bad moods cloud the sky. No one is a stranger here. It is expected that we will entrust our little skiers to get on the chairlift with whoever happens to be next in line.

Sharing the ecstasy of glorious snow or passing time at tables in the quiet lodge when conditions are poor, those of us instructing have become a team united. From such varied occupations and lifestyles, never even learning too many details about each other, our banter in the locker room is a treasure of contentment and comraderie.

When informed in late November of being assigned a group of four year old “never evers” to teach all winter, I seriously noted my sunken heart and (so focused on learning to trust my intuition) considered going another year without skiing more. Hourly over the next four weekends, as my son and I skied backwards coaxing one or the other tearful, terrified child towards hot chocolate, my patience and sanity were sorely tested.

The first day, when they all went foraging, I was inclined to let them be and head for the parking lot. Putting the pink gloves on the blue child while adjusting three scarves and two helmets yet again, only sheer will power and the fear of a lawsuit restrained me from losing "it" and getting too rough. Plenty of mean words were muttered under breath.

Yet hugs, true heartfelt, warm snuggles, a little head fitting perfectly under my arm, always saved the moment. These little souls who could burst instantly from howls to laughter charmed the frustration right out of me. Their delight and wonder so profound, their pain, frustration and tiredness so close to the surface, their fear and happiness so physically palpable; their gifts were rich.

To work and play so hard with my own son has been a treasure beyond reckoning. The advances in his skills and confidence as a skier, teacher and man have been wonderful to witness. Side by side, we have shared, supported and teased one another. Our friendship has grown so far beyond parent/child duties.

Now the snow melts, temperatures warm. We all move on toward baseball, soccer, biking and swimming. We realign the social sets suspended during these last months in our own hometowns. The world circles back and our fond farewells are already muted by the anticipation of the new season, the smell of charcoal and sparkle of fireflies.

In the meantime, I leave my little Skatter Monkies with this song from their very grateful Skatter Brain.

Skatter Monkies

Skatter Monkies, Skatter Monkies: skiing down the hills
Skatter Monkies, Skatter
Monkies, they give us all such a thrill

Mia Pink with brownie crumbs all over her face, never wants to stop, skis like she is in a race;
Bradley leans forward his hands point the way, smile so big and bright it warms the coldest day.

Mia Blue, I’m telling you, knows just where she wants to go, she’ll ski down any trail no matter what the snow;
Smiley Riley seems petrified with tears, ‘til you get up close beside and hear her singing loud and clear.

Good Golly Miss Molly so helpful and kind, at the back of the pack making sure no one’s left behind;
Brook never asks for help, always goes on her own, throws herself down mountains and never breaks a bone

Sabrina serafina as pretty as can be, refused to go up the lift, but really learned to ski;
Owen kept on goin’, never showed his fear, now he’s off to San Diego, we’ll miss him lots next year;

Early one December morn these kids came to me
So wrapped in goggles & helmets, it’s a wonder they could see
They all looked the same to me, I didn’t know their names
I didn’t speak their language, and couldn’t play their games
But they taught me how to laugh again
And see the clear blue sky
To find the good in everyone
And always question why
Skatter Monkies, Skatter Monkies: skiing down the hills
Skatter Monkies, Skatter Monkies, they give us all such a thrill
they give us all such a thrill
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Flood Waters Released

Sometimes to move forward, we have to take a good hard look back.

Just knowing that we want things to be different is not enough. Like a side pool of near-stagnant water circling endlessly, the same subtle undercurrents that caught us in this place, keep us trapped, no matter how clearly we see the middle of the stream.

For many years, through two families, I had a strong grasp on the secure, solid, and stable lifestyle envisioned for my children. Blessed by the opportunities and the loving support provided by my own parents, I could only imagine the same for my family, colored this time more brightly by a little more involvement of the dad in our daily activities.

With the vision so strongly before me, I lived the reality in terms of the physical presence, involved and caring, but the actual sense of complete and utter safety—so evident in my own youth—has always been elusive. For all of my children, the solid foundation that I experienced has rarely existed.

Contrary to all of this New Age philosophy and Quantum Physical proof that we create our own universe through the translation of our thoughts into reality, my adult life has been so distinctly insecure and fraught with such emotional violence, I worry it will require too much hard work and tenacity for any or all of us to undo. My children consciously and sub-consciously suffer the legacy of my fears and foolish choices, despite the indomitable man of unconditional love and emotional openness I aspire to exemplify.

The first step of healing begins with me: identifying initially the depth of my discomfort, then understanding some of the forces that continue to harm the best laid plans, hopes and desires.

For all the betters or worse, there is no problem enumerating the parts that have not worked in my life over these many years. Judged solely by the measuring sticks of my bank account, credit report and accumulated assets, I am a dismal failure of a man.

My unbounded optimism, however, placed the blame squarely on a lack of money forcing pressurized decisions that often resulted in only making things worse. If I could just throw a few more dollars at a problem, I kept thinking—believing with all my intellect—there could finally be the breathing room to make healthier choices.

My father, bless his caring heart, listened with the same concern as I when my friend’s doctors assured us we could not possibly want to deny all the tools we have available to help. He bailed me out with dollars that were just as quickly swallowed in the business that artificially nourished and supported my life, but never truthfully satisfied my soul.

Excuses abounded to allow the question of whether the stress of the business strained the marriages or the other way around, but all of the arguing was distraction from the real insight that I was not living as I loved. Although I learned to justify that being involved in renovations all my life meant I loved it, in truth, earning an income through construction had always been secondary to my passion to play music and write.

At first in college, then living in Oregon, it was an easy way to earn dollars quickly, paycheck enough for “X” number of hours worked. Transient and flexible, the work was ideally suited to pay bills while my creative career was established. Over time and increasing family commitments, however, the nailbelt carried a life of its own, requiring more attention as the size of the tools grew with the size of the projects.

Needing definition in my life as well as dollars, I more often called myself a carpenter and responded to the demand by hiring more help, then taking out an expensive add in the Yellow Pages to feed my employees. Soon my writing pads and computer screen only showed dimensions, spreadsheets and lists of things to do, while my guitar was shut away unplayed, the case collecting dust unseen in the corner.

Now that New Age thinking resonates with more clarity as I begin to understand the currents that led to my particular over-flowing pools of stagnation, unwanted addictions, and sense of abundant failure. The half-hearted effort to work with my own hands or, later, to design and direct others to build (in some small measure imitating my architect father) was just so half-hearted, no matter how well intended, and therefore doomed.

Only now, at midlife, hopefully before it is too late and I truly regret never having tried, by embracing the activities that whole-heartedly inspire my passion, doors begin to open, leading towards my most intimate hopes and dreams. Opportunities I once imagined with both wonder and fear are actually manifesting.

Rather than avoiding it and living falsely, by recognizing, acknowledging and learning to live with that fear, I finally stand a real chance of moving forward towards the happiness we all deserve. In fact, after two failures, I see a glimmer of hope that I might even make a good husband yet.

For now, I am focused on being a better father.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Never Too Late

Each time a musical phrase inserts itself into my afternoon or evening of lingering practice, a butterfly of color flitting out of nowhere and persistently sticking around, I am amazed at the ease with which it develops into a new song. So definitely coming through me not from me, I stay open to the flow and just let it roll. The more I think, manipulate, try to make it better, the more I'm in the way of the process and it all slows down.

So I learn to trust myself. As I've reached this plateau of midlife, teetering towards the downhill slide, what an incredible delight it is to be inspiried to bring some new songs into the world. Just goes to show it's...

Some days are just so cloudy, I can't see two steps ahead
Life makes no sense at all, my heart's filled with dread
And I think there's nothing I can do about it, my back's against the wall
If this sounds at all familiar, then please join the call
It's never too late to sing a new song
It's never too late to right a wrong
It's never too late feed your soul
It's never too late to rock and roll
It's never too change your mind
It's never too late to come from behind
It's never too late to rise above
And it's never ever too late to choose Love
We are born with allthat we need to have a wonderful life
Heads held high and arms open wide
Free of all pain and strife
Somehow our thoughts get muddled, confused and full of fears
We so easily make foolish choices
And bring ourselves to tears
Take a good hard look at the road you've traveled so far
Are you pleased with who stands before you
Or do you wish upon a brighter star
If it all just suddenly ended, would you have any regrets
Has your life been fully blended, or do you just take the safest bets

I hope everyone can have as much fun as I am having today! Click here to hear the music.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Right Before Our Eyes

Opportunity lurks in the unlikeliest of places because, in actuality, it is everywhere if we can only remain open. So many of us can get lost in wanting, yearning for our dreams, pining for what seems elusive, while New Age pundits promise beatifically that it is all easily within our grasp.

Slowly, I am beginning to understand.

The more we open ourselves to the blank page of each new day, the closer the script we write resembles the life we want. Shedding myself of the expectations and “shoulds” by which I have been living, I find I have actual choices to embrace things previously relegated only to my imagination.

Less than a year ago, with trepidation more tarnished than my fingers were rusty, I opened my guitar case after years of silence. I caressed the strings, closing my eyes to float in the sound I could hear of a full band, sparkling and bright, alive with a blend of magic. Not only am I working on making that a reality through the formation of Cache, but this Saturday night, I will strum, pick and harmonize on a small stage with a trio from Toronto.

Six months ago, I would not have been so presumptive and audacious. Certainly I had no clue how to overcome the boundary that had kept me previously in the audience—if I was hearing any music at all. Developing a consciousness that we all have gifts to share, I have dared to introduce myself to musicians I admire. The Internet makes this really easy, leveling the field of play without imposition, allowing each of us the choice to click or not.

Because her edgy and heartfelt notes ( somehow resonated particularly in my ear, I trusted my intuition enough to meet Emma Cook when she came to town last month. Our polite conversation turned into an invitation to play along when she returned this month with her band.

The lifestyle of a singer/songwriter rarely supports travel with back-up musicians, so this adds a richness of voice to her show without having to labor on the long road in between. Working raptly with her CD to learn the songs, I played in my living room and sang along in my car, presuming to blend harmonies as if we were the best of friends. Crossing paths in Plattsburgh, New York last week where she appeared in a small club over the community co-op, although shy, I was pleased with the result, proud of myself that in daring to step forward, I could make such a talented musical friendship (and she seemed to like it too).

Today, what seemed like a twist of more bad luck with the flash of a warning light in my Redster was transformed by a series of fortuitous co-incidences into a wealth of opportunities. Forced to wait for a simple repair, I sat for a time in an upscale coffee shop a little beyond my normal circle of travel. Three different conversations with people I see rarely linked me with information to further several projects lurking on my list. Additionally, a complete stranger, inadvertently overhearing one particularly spiritual exchange, handed over a website address scribbled on a cup holder that she thought I might find very interesting…

No longer focused on the demand of my construction business, not dashing frantically here to there, nor distracted by the over-whelming details of hammer, windows, estimates and costly mistakes, my ear is able to pick up the sounds of songs more attuned to my most personal life. Instead of writing contracts and job-cost analyses, my pen scribbles lofty thoughts, wrestling them to pages that just might lead to a book, finally back on track to manufacturing the dreams my mother always assured me I could make come true.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Two strong voices are crying across the land, perfect anti-rhythms, counter-pulses to each other. Each is loud and profoundly affecting our daily lives as we struggle to envision what lies ahead. These voices are neither new nor unknown to us. At times singly dominant, at others inseparably inter-twined, they have been growing louder for years, becoming impossible to ignore in this time of crisis which many believe is about the economy, but others, looking deeper, know is about so much more.

In many ways, fear holds the more forceful grip on our hearts, requiring an immense effort to pry loose. For several generations, in this culture, we have become accustomed to having things, envying and celebrating opulence as a measure of success. Imagining life without the comforts we have come to love so well buckles our knees. Fear creates an immobilizing anxiety, an inability to see the options for change.

For many, the concept of abundance is usually interpreted as a list of these things that signify wealth and success: a big house, high-salaried job, nice cars, and the newest gadgets. Growing numbers, however, are learning to speak of abundance in a more spiritual vein, measured by unquantifiable ideas such as Love, happiness, and Well-being.

How much of a good thing there has to be to be counted is irrelevant so long as one loves, is happy, and is well. This is more about being than having, so therefore is less susceptible to the vagaries of fear because there is nothing specific that can be taken away. It is up to each and every one of us to hold on or relinquish. We have the power in any and every moment to shape our lives.

This kind of abundance comes from doing, not getting. It is about attitude, living with integrity of heart, not worrying about the thickness of our wallet. Who we are, how we spend our time, what we feel changes from moment to moment, but is always reliant upon our beliefs as much as our actions.

In this life, we can be rich in as much as we feel. From the loftiest mansion, one can live in shame while a Mother Theresa can thrive beatifically amidst squalor. Equally, there are those whose addictive behaviors have invited ruin as others happily manage well-earned estates. Circumstances matter less.

When living with integrity, there is a wealth of happiness to follow, even if one is impoverished physically. One can attain riches without integrity, but if any honest effort of introspection is allowed, true happiness of heart might likely be difficult to find.

No matter how well-intentioned were my actions to run my business over many years, my efforts did not support that vision with integrity. Looking deeply within, I can see now where fear played a large role in determining the outcome of marriage and business.

When we want to find happiness, and we look toward things such as homes, vacations and cars to lead the way, we stumble and falter. We live in fear that what we gain will be diminished. And worse, afraid of not attaining it at all, we convince ourselves we are less than worthy, and then self-fulfilling action makes it so.

My fear, combined with over-zealous optimism—a compulsion to feel deserving—made me rush ahead of myself to enjoy the profits of my labor. So convinced was I that my contracts would be successfully accomplished, I accumulated the rewards before the prizes were properly won. Using a deposit to pay off the last job, I took a needed vacation before beginning the next, confident there would always be another job. Instead of happiness, I suffered immensely from the stress of trying to hold on to the bucking horse from the cart in front, creating a chaos in my daily life that could only end in disaster.

When complaining recently to my men’s group that I felt dizzy and disoriented, sluggishly unproductive, a friend who knows my details well reminded me of the changes I have managed in this past year. Most importantly, he pointed out, although I am living in far more modest and pedestrian circumstances—unfinished tiny apartment and old redster with mag wheels—I am learning the long-delayed lesson to live within my means, to buy things—even necessities—only with cash in hand, not on promises of future success.

Out of this simple discipline, I am discovering, from deep within, an abundance of happiness.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Fling

My face is burned from a weekend of sun on snow, crystalline and corn; the sky brilliant blue. The ground sheds its color of white, dirty with mud, but ripe with life. Bikes and runners clog the pathways. The carwash has a waiting line.

Talk among the locals is of how many gallons of sap are running, sugar shacks smoking with the smell of boiling syrup. From a farmhouse porch under the late afternoon warmth, a small party raises their glass to every car passing by. Spring overpowers winter’s weakening grip.

A month ago, the bitter air thick with snow, my legs just beginning to regain their confidence after so many years of not skiing, I was happy to embrace the life of cold, wind-driven runs and comforting hot-chocolate. Two weeks ago, I wistfully marked the moment when winter accumulated its full depth and sadly began to recede, thinking how sad it was melting so soon.

Today, long before the sleepy brown landscape bursts to green, when there are still markers everywhere to proclaim the dawning of spring, my heart soars.

In Oregon, I remember seasonal changes more subtly: mild transitions that sometimes made it hard to remember if we were heading to or away from Christmas. Summer reached a sweltering moment and winter cooled to a rare snow on the coast, but mostly the seasons swiveled moderately and mildly. Vermont is nothing if not clear in its definition of seasons.

One earns their spring here. The effort it takes day in and day out to scrape off the car, navigate the icy sidewalks, track your mittens and hat, the constant hard work to stay warm makes the bare head and gloveless hands magnificent. The shedding of jackets and baring of shoulders is like the unwrapping of a present: delightful and exquisite.

And like the rebirth of color bursting forth from trees and garden beds, heralding new life, spring revives the hopes and dreams within us that through the long dreary months have seemed to merely survive. Our visions breathe with new life revitalized, our energies richer for the time spent in dormancy, our journeys percolating within.

A year ago, I could barely sleep alone, the rattle of fear so loud that such a strange and unchartered life loomed before me. The dust of my apartment renovation rose thick and swirling to blur the confusion of my transition from one life to another, grounding me to a specific task, even as my heart beat rampantly, conjuring the many possibilities. The disorientation was alarming to me while I boldly boasted of my confidence.

Today, I pause to wonder. Proclaiming last year the need to hear my own voice, what has surfaced are the same sounds evident years ago when I was young and first stepping forward on my path: I ski and play soccer; I write and play music. Although hardly practicing any of these through most of my adult years, sidetracked by relationships and the choices of living, in each today, I feel stronger than ever before. The time away has not squandered these passions, but actually revived them with more powerful and focused expression.

Where I felt forced to abandon these parts of my personality for the higher purpose of making a living and supporting my families, my inner self fell into a sort of sleep, a winterlike somnambulance where the wind howled, avalanches cascaded and devastated, and my soul lived in darkness where evil spirited vices reigned over common sense. Now embracing the activities I love, this week I earned from them the very money I needed to pay my bills for the week. Feeding my soul put enough food on the table, gas in the car, and electricity in the computer to communicate with the world.

The energy of Youth is a sweet and enviable force, so vital and pure, but naive and slippery all the same. Fitful and unfaithful, it is liable to flit and dance about, vulnerable to being consumed in bursts of exploration and lost to wasteful distractions.

Maturity, I have learned, harnesses the emotion and—like water through a dam—energizes the flow, multiplying the power. Wisdom and experience create the ability to appreciate the value of time, understand the importance of integrity, the limitations of life, and the urgency of the moment.

Gifts—no matter how precious—are to be shared. No one of us is better than another. We each are given our lives and allowed to find our ways. Joining hands or standing apart, still we are connected, impacting our small space (our homes, our neighborhoods, our little Earth), sharing ourselves with each other and comforting those around us. Once we recognize the voice within us, we are unable to sit in silence, but sing forth loudly and freely like the birds on a fresh spring morning, or the geese returning home.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Amazing Grace

Fortunately, my doctor friend will soon be back in his true roll as a healer of others. Returning to the hospital after my last entry, the delight was palpable to find him awake and alert, though exhausted from his ordeal. Hour by hour, he improves so well that today we hope to move him to a rehab facility, the first steps on a good walk home.

Gratitude colors the tears of relief and brightens the loopy grins of joy. Parents, children, friends and partner all celebrate the return of warmth to his eyes, the powerful embrace in his recognition. This is a man who energizes with his healing touch, who we are blessed to know is healing himself.

Once the grip of death recedes a little, we are bathed in this wave of ebullience and jubilation, grateful for things so simple as the very air we breathe. Human connection, even with complete strangers passed in the hallway, is rife with a tenderness that could make us rich if it could only be bottled and sold.

In fact, these hard times make me appreciate just how rich I actually am. The lack of dollars only constitutes an inability to have and do “things”. At home pondering my resume and the jobs that might invite its reach, I recognize the value of my own heart and the lessons learned living less authentically than I am now.

Where I once was so stretched and challenged to do things “Right”, a rat racing a maze of corners and curves too complicated to maneuver safely, the stress blinded me to the sunshine and misty rains of the particular day. I felt the embraces of those who loved me, but empty inside and too terrified by the depth of that emptiness to even cry out for help, I could not fully embrace in return.

When approached so closely by specters such as bankruptcy and divorce, we have choices, but the ability to contemplate the past and consider the future, to actually make change (or choose to not), can be like wading through thickening concrete. Made difficult by so many options and possibilities, the decision becomes impossibly suspended, shadowed in the nuances of every variation. The spirit becomes immobilized, easier to continue just as we are, maintaining the status for fear of choosing wrong—stagnant for better or worse.

Death looms even larger, a mysteriously dark, impenetrably thick wall, too huge to climb over or around, too impossible to ignore. Passing through is beyond our ken and returning unthinkable. The past will become fixed in stone, unchangeable, forever left behind.

In this place of fear and uncertainty, dawns an exquisite feeling of giving up, letting go to forces beyond us. The choice is no longer ours to make. Our past so complete and certain, our future so unknown, unimaginable, we can only have this moment, this instant to live our last next best moment. We become our truest selves: we hold the hands—no matter our differences and issues--of those around us.

To live another moment is to feel blessed with a gift so precious. The world is illuminated, brilliant with promise. So grateful to be alive, to have that next moment (and the one after that), our ecstasy spreads to each other, compounding the energy, multiplying forever outwards.

In our joy, we commit to live more fully, embrace our future to make better choices. We vow to live the life we always wanted, follow the dreams we have carefully nurtured through the daily struggle. Time is short, Life so large and important.

In the meantime, we will make that so often postponed call to Aunt Alice, take the extra time for a walk on Tuesday, exercise, exercise, exercise…So quickly that clairvoyant optimism, the sense of enlightened peace, the empowering connection to the Universe recedes, lost in the maze as we become tiny scurrying rats once again.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Breath of Life

Three in the morning and my medical education leaps forward with more information than I ever wanted to know. My Doctor Pal and I have agreed to work together, but never imagined it might be with him as the patient and me as care-giver.

He has been heavily sedated for thirty-six hours now, one official and two minor tubes stuck down his throat, three different lines feeding solutions into his body, two more draining out. Earlier, twenty-five sensors had been glued to his head, but shortly after removed as the decision for a different procedure superseded.

They are slowly stepping down the sedative, bringing him closer to the surface, hopefully able to remove the tube in the morning. His body begins to twitch and move with discomfort and regained consciousness, and I am here to hold his hand and hum his favorite tunes, welcoming him back.

The staff is glad to have me here. They go about their business as carefully as they can. No fault can be described about the hearts that want him healed; still it is painful to witness all the poking and prodding he must endure.

In rare moments of quiet and dim light, I gaze at the screen monitoring his breathing, the fits and spurts of his life force represented in little mountains erratic and with jagged peaks. It is hard but vital for me to remember how bright and alert he was two days ago, more so out of this environment three weeks ago.

I continually visualize the sunny day this spring, snow melted and grass green, when we walk his doggies and talk intensely about relationships and recall Grateful Dead shows we may or may not have seen together. He will survive!

Mired in this intensive care unit, it is impossible not to marvel at the fragility of life. Each beat of a signal from the complicated equipment shatters the night with terrifying regularity.
While there is relief that they can find nothing wrong with him, the consternation that worrisome symptoms such as fever, tremors, sodium levels and dementia continue makes them look harder for an answer. Not professionally involved, I begin to wonder if the mere presence in this environment has not itself become a cause.

I can see where doctors (including my Pal) are trained to be decisive and conditioned to heal, unable to restrain themselves from active participation in the cure. Embracing their granted authority, they are compelled to find answers. Lacking clear definition, they order more invasive tests to rule out more obscure questions.

Regularly accused of seeing conspiracies too often in simple routines, I still yearn for a more passive treatment. Not at all questioning their motives and depth of Hippocratic commitment to care, it just seems more apparent he needs to be disconnected from all monitors, relieved of the stream of drugs, and allowed to go home where he can truly rest and recover.

His body seems to be working well in its own defense, unpredictable and independent as it might be, to rid itself of an infection that may have been launched from a well-intended needle. All agree this mishmash of symptoms could all come from the side effects of the drugs.

The irony is not lost that the tube was inserted as a precaution to the sedation and the sedation is now required to protect himself from the discomfort of the tube, less able (because of the drugs and the tube) to breathe on his own. To the distraught layman and family member, the solution seems so obvious, yet how does one answer when the doctor implies that doing less could be harmfully negligent?

The tools are available, how can we not use them and remain idle?

One can only give over, gaze at the bank of monitor screens showing the mountains of breath, and pray that it continues in and out, erratic but regularly, until that day this spring when my visualization of our walk with the dogs becomes reality.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009


So quickly the world goes topsy turvy for us--as a nation on a day like 9/11, or as individuals-- when we wake up normally but are suddenly transformed into another dimension by an event. The sun still shines, the sky is blue, cars race across town on their million myriad errands, but we are suspended, all of our usual points of reference askew.

For more than two weeks my best friend, a brother in all but DNA, has been in the hospital with a mixture of uncertain ailments that began mildly but have turned absurdly unpredictable. Bright-eyed and cheerful yesterday morning, finally looking forward to his release, this morning he lies with tremors and is lost in a stupefying dementia, hardly recognizable.

Preparing for a knee replacement, no one was alarmed when it grew more painful and swollen, but an MRI revealed a staff infection , requiring surgery to drain. Even strong antibiotics, however, are not allowing him to heal, and today leaves us all quite frightened.

My gut intuition believes he will recover fully. Just yesterday, we had an involved conversation together about hospital psychosis and the reality that this was not at all a healthy place for him to get better. In fact, the longer he stays, the worse he is getting.

So much we take for granted in our lives. My favorite metaphor is that “…the sun always rises, the spring always comes, the rain dries up and the clouds blow away.” No matter how bleak my circumstances in the past, I have always been able to rely on the belief that life will change for the better.

How devastated I would be if my friend were not to survive!

In the middle of that ski trail last week, my contentment was so profound, I actually feared for my life. Did this incredible sense of peace bode of some impending catastrophe? Would my sunshine set into perpetual darkness? I felt so at One with the Universe, it would have not surprised me were I to be swallowed whole on the way home.

All the more I fear this catastrophe in the life of my friend. As he lies delirious, one can only be in awe of the spiritual questions he must be fighting within himself. This is a man, his mother weeps, who has always been so strong. Indeed, regardless of his chosen profession as physician, his life has been devoted to helping others. Now perhaps he must learn that he can let down and others will come to his aide.

From our days as college students and ski bums, to building additions on his office, to raising children and supporting each other through divorces, we have shared more than most men. I hate that it takes tragedy as close as this to make me recognize the power of such camaraderie. I could hardly bear the devastating silence of his absence.

The Universe presents me these days with several challenges to my sense of mortality. Understandably this comes more regularly as we age. My 85 year old father dreads the morning mail and complains his only reason to wear a suit anymore is to attend funerals.

Still, at my middle-age, there seems an unusual number of events to stress the brevity and unpredictability of our time here. Instead of fear and sorrow, I find my determination grows to make the best use of the precious moments. Not impatient with time wasted, I am grateful to have any at all. But the limitations enforce an urgency, a need to focus, to make better use of fleeting time.

While I try not to judge the details, or chastise myself for lost efforts, my focus is to create value. Believing in abundance, we can have our cakes, but forced to choose, friends and family will always come before dollars. I pause in my busy schedule today to write this sitting near the labored breath of my friend because he needs me far more than I need to pay bills.

We all must do our part to make the world go round, but without devoting our hearts to those we love, without acknowledging the people we cherish, without being there for them when they need us most, that world would be a very desolate and lonely place.

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