Thursday, July 28, 2011


My father is not doing so well. At 87, nearly deaf, lonely and now fully blind, his world is shrinking and he has little will to continue, yet he goes on as stoically day after day as the commute he once made on the train into town to work.

At least, he is open and honest about it, confides that he is ready and waiting, hoping that death's final knock will be quick and easy. Lane was just there this week to help him prepare for his less significant transition into the assisted living quarters. She asked leading questions about what he might need still to complete in order to let go. She organized nooks and crannies, sorted through his clothes, creating opportunities to reminisce, process, account and review.

Until now, his belief has been unshakable that death is a big, long, deep sleep, something similar to his experience in World War II when his landing ship blew up under his feet and he awoke sprawled over a sinking raft of twisted metal. He admits to saying "goodnight" to my mother as he settles into bed each night, but expects no answer, so of course gets none. For him, the rest is silence...

"Just let me know if you find out any differently," my spirited sister smiles.

Yesterday, I offered to come down to help, but he growled that it would just cost him money and hung up quickly after that. Devastated with guilt and shame, I worried those could easily be his last words to me, echoing painfully in my head for the rest of my life.

The difference in our lifestyles has been immense, growing ever wider and so difficult for him to comprehend. His time was clearly defined by a war and decades of prosperity, doing the "right thing": raising a family and attaining a success that carried him and his wife around the world. His considerable artistic talent was reserved for weekends and vacations when he could step off the conveyor belt of his generation and do what made him feel most alive. He stayed with the woman he loved in high school and still wishes he could see her one last time.

He wanted the same for me and patiently tolerated the slow steps that never got fully running. Lane admits there was no such expectation placed on my sisters who satisfied his craving by producing grandchildren and settled into their lives undramatically with good husbands. My struggle to lead a successful business or secure gainful employment is probably his greatest disappointment. It is even possible his lingering in some way could be related to his sense that he still needs to take care of me.

While a tube was in my belly, I could somewhat justify and feel comfortable that help was needed. Before and after, however, the reliance upon his money month after month, though much appreciated, has not been healthy, especially in that it is set up so that I have to ask each time and he has to process and pay it. No more healthy, however, has been the relentless effort, nearly compulsive, to please my father by transforming a construction wage into a viable business, a dented pick-up into a fleet of trucks with my name on the doors.

Fed up with writing those monthly checks on my request, my father demands I account to him for what I am doing to find respectable work. My answer focuses on the 100 resumes I have emailed without the slightest response. The truth is, although I start out each morning with the best of intentions to ride my father's train toward a well-defined, reliable and lucrative occupation, this yellow pad inevitably occupies my attention, an absorbing distraction.

The shift happens when I acknowledge it as a magnetic attraction and embrace it as such.

More clearly than that my dad taught me every day to take the train into town so my mother could stay at home, I was raised and emotionally rewarded to be creative, to think outside the proverbial box and dream that all things were possible. Lately, I realize that no matter the encouragement to write poetry, stories and songs in those formative years, I was expected eventually to leave that for the weekends like my father had and parlay my fancy education into a career. Publishing was fine if words were my passion. I just hated New York City so much, and loved writing joyfully, I could not bear the thought of it.

So in Oregon, I did what I could to support my instant family (my mother's value) and that construction income, for better or worse, has dominated my thinking ever since. My choices have been for the right reasons, but I have always lived for the time I could set aside to write. The less than whole-hearted attempt to renovate other people's homes, therefore, has never been very successful.

As I have approached and move beyond this surgery in the last year, I have healed my soulful heart as much as my body. Words have poured out and settled into a manuscript. Technology, in the meantime, has transformed the publishing world so that my marketing skills (honed in the construction business) can be put to good use, I learn, doing it myself. The more I embrace the details with a passion that cannot be denied, small successes begin to accumulate to support my life and dream. Especially re-enforced in these past few months, I grow convinced that my construction business had more to do with a failure of heart than of any ability to organize.

This week I pushed a key that put a collection of four short stories into print. An ebook at first, it is available at, Barnes & Nobles and other sources legitimate enough to make it feel real. Appropriately, I used one of my father's paintings for the cover. A full book is in production to follow and in actual print you can hold in your hand. To celebrate, after two years of hobbling along these many miles of growth, I have also traded in my redster for a Vermonter's Subaru with even more miles, but in such better shape, that with this book on the seat beside me, I can proudly claim my place on a commute of a different sort.

As I deal with the reality of my father's painful frustration, my tears surge to know my mother would be (and is) so very proud.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Food For Thought

For so many of us the ethic is strong that we must take care of ourselves. Deeply ingrained into our way of operating, even when help is naturally available, some of us can expend more energy obstinately turning it away than would be used to graciously accept the friendly gesture.

I noticed this in myself especially when I was struck down by my injury and beginning to live with two bags and two tubes coming out of my body. I insisted to the nurses I could get myself back in bed. At home, I turned down offers of food, not wanting anyone to go out of their way or be bothered.

Once healthier, I would still rather strain to lift something heavy than ask for help. I pride myself on being a man who prefers asking directions to being lost, but when it comes to doing, I am as macho as any man or woman.

Probably this comes from an innate sense of independence, as if help would somehow diminish our image of strength; the vulnerability might tarnish our hard-won place in the world. We are trained early to fall asleep by ourselves in the crib and pay our own way through life, have our own lawn mower in the garage no matter the size of the lawn and crowded the neighborhood.

The irony is that if they would take it, I would be happy if my mower served every yard on the block, but I want it to be mine, not theirs. Verging on compulsion, I am nearly relentless, offering more help than is ever asked. No task is too small, no request too out of line to figure out how I might make a contribution to getting it done.

I ask for nothing in return. It pleases me to be of service, to be giving. Somehow it feels like a payment of gratitude for the immense gift of simply being alive, able and willing to lend a hand.

Life is short and I am fearful of regrets. I do not want to reach a place of thinking I could have done more, wishing afterwards I could have pitched in and did not.

Not so purely altruistic as I claim, I know there are transients with hands out-stretched who fail to get my dime. Homeless people will spend another night outdoors tonight when I have a bed in the next room empty. A child drowned tragically this week and I drove past their home sending a mental blessing, but thinking probably enough other neighbors are dropping off dinners to make the point that we all care.

In the midst of the half-jocular visions of apocalyptic destruction advancing towards December 2012, an under-current grows more prevalent that predicts something far less destructive, but no less profound than the end of the world as we know it will jar us out of complacency. More and more people I know in varied walks of life speak of an amazing change of heart.

Both the Mayan calendar and scientific evidence of the sun’s movement through the Milky Way separately consider 5000 year cycles. The one coming to an end in both theories on the exact same date next year is viewed by some as a time that was ruled by mind and intellect, the masculine energy of domination, command and control.

Civilization has made incredible advances from footsteps towards the next village to rockets blasting into space. Ideas first written on papyrus are now shared electronically around the world in an instant. These giant leaps have created—or at least described—a society that charges forward without mercy to get ahead, rises to the top at any cost and strives to leave the competition squashed (if possible) in the dust.

A society of separation and alienation of uppers and lowers and better thans, a culture that thrives on the dedication to self and independence, creates citizens who take pride in doing, in managing alone, in fending off help. It creates people in pockets of isolation like me.

Our world today strains to the breaking point along every avenue of the infrastructure as demonstrated by the debate in Washington over the debt and suffered by all in 2008 as the economy slowed in every corner of the world. The default of our government and the resulting ripples of economic disaster could prove the doomsayers right a full year in advance of 2012.

From the comfort of our couches, the drama looks no more real than the movies that follow afterwards on our 48” HD LCD TVs. Rumor has it that there was some incredible thinking stored in the library in Alexandria 2,000 years ago, but a single match from barbarians who had been left out of the party started a fire that forced us to begin all over again.

There are some who say many of us will survive the debacle that could come from climate change, economic collapse or a spilled cup of coffee on a console that sets off a nuclear holocaust. Even if nothing happens at all beyond the simple day to day pressure of earning our way and maintaining our loving relationships, we need to help each other.

To many, this next 5000 years is the time of the heart, a return to feminine energy, compassion and nurturing, a tremendous surge towards the heat of love. Not only do we have to give more than ever, but we also must learn to receive. The pride that ultimately leaves us alone at the top of the pile, independent and self-sustaining, no longer serves us well.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Game On

A troubling fear in the days before my surgery was that much of this ordeal provided a convenient excuse to avoid the more serious crisis of how to live the rest of my life. As long as surgery loomed and the catheter was an impediment, I could sit here quietly and always plead my health.

Repaired, I have to face squarely my disillusionment with construction and disappointment with the financial results of my insurance effort. Unable and unwilling to live on my father’s allowance, I have to find a viable income to hold my head high.

Fear suggests that the delay last year was a sub-conscious ploy to avoid the confrontation. Without a solid plan for afterwards, it is possible, I imagine, I might have sabotaged the paperwork to create the time to figure it all out.

While the case strikes home, I am quick to find as much evidence of my desire to be truly healed. Within weeks of the shock of having to cancel the surgery, I submitted close to one hundred resumes last summer. Without much opportunity offered back, I settled with full intention on selling the insurance, making thousands of calls and driving easily as many miles, but pitched largely to people who understood the value of what I offered, but were finding it a challenge just to make the rent.

Now the mantle is cast off (so to speak) and nothing holds me back. Physically, they warned me that it would be a slow recovery and not to be surprised to still need resting time each day in August. Awakening from the surgery with amazing clarity, however, I walked the hospital corridor several times the very next day because it felt right; with caution, there was no good reason to stay in bed.

The first day home, I climbed the stairs to the sidewalk, and feeling okay after a few steps, took more and more until I reached the Dunkin Donuts a half mile away. A ride back home would have been appreciated, but I made it, each step a little slower, and rested the remainder of the day in celebration.

Once finally free of the catheter, I have enjoyed a wholeness of body, a lightness of being, beyond comprehension. Activities as simple as getting out of the car are dances to new music. A more serious regimen of yoga compliments my meditations and limbers my extremities. With legs moving freely, my arms swing more strongly, my stride lengthens and I can walk much faster and farther each morning.

Unhampered by straps and tubes restraining my impulses, I find myself not wanting to put on clothes at all.

With the excitement of such fluidity, I attack my need for income with determination, but no matter the agenda, I end up working hard on written words. My book manuscript is completed and submitted to numerous agents and publishers; already in receipt, in fact, of its first rejection. I educate myself on the merits of self-publishing. Several sections are easily reduced to articles relevant to different markets and a website is discovered that lands me copy-writing assignments at an insultingly low rate, but income with words nevertheless.

Resting in between, I contemplate the education received this month in a series of webinars about creating a business out of the passion in our life, the true calling for our time on this earth. I consider my writing, supplemented by the music, infused with the valuable lessons learned in these years of transformation. Resumes are still going out to interesting variations for the uses of my skill-sets, but the bulk of my time is in pursuit of marketing scribbles, the one urge so consistently prevalent throughout all the years of my struggling life.

My goal by the end of the summer was to go to my pick-up soccer friends and kick a ball around with them as they warmed up to play. I had no expectation of joining the game until next spring. Last week, I showed up to watch and this week in bare feet, I came across a ball and kicked it a bit just to feel the solid connection as cool as no clothes against my skin.

Yesterday, I arrived at the park with cleats just for some better kicks and the Greek national team shirt, a treasured gift of a friend, I was wearing in my last game just a few days before the fall off the scaffold. My pals of so many years, not even sure of each other’s names, were glad to see me. They encouraged me to be cautious, but joked I could do well to lose a few pounds.

Once they began to play, I watched from the sideline, kicking, kneeing and heading a ball by myself to stay moving, but yearning to join just as I had viewed the corridor from my hospital bed. It was not long before I drifted in to guard the goal, two shoes thrown down. The first pass back to me and my embarrassingly under-kicked redirect brought cheers from them just a little less than for Jeter on his 3000th hit, but feeling perfectly grand to me.

For an hour, I jogged and scrambled, hanging back there, growing braver as the muscles came alive. My feet had lost little and seemed to be gaining back much more. My pals joked, after a good stick and take-away, that they would have to stop playing it easy on me; be as tough as I deserved.

Having healed so much, I go forward this morning, happily aching and a little bruised in body, resolved in mind to have the life I have always wanted and deserved.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011


On the way out of the exam room, once again catheter free, the nurse advised me to relax. The removal had gone relatively smoothly. She had been able to push fluid through the urethra. The ultra-sound proved I had emptied my bladder once; I could probably do it again. Even as extensive as my one-chance surgery had been, they have rarely seen a setback like I had suffered. They were confident that a week later, all would be fine.

To be sure, she wanted me to stick around the hospital for a while and see how things flowed.

Fear played its cruel hovering game, however, and bottle after bottle of water in the cafeteria was not making me feel any better. Free of the catheter for 48 hours last week, my elation from that time saved me from despair in the days since. I had pushed hard to pee so little and patiently survived the pain, sure that muscles just needed practice, but the re-insertion of the catheter after all that was too frightening a possibility that the surgery had ultimately failed. I could not stay very relaxed in this moment of test.

Amazingly, checking email, a daily offering had arrived for this day entitled “Go with the Flow”, a little reminder that resistance to the movement impedes our lives and we must accept whatever comes. The delightfully synchronistic message brought a great smile, but could not alleviate my concern. Even with the Universe and my body seemingly in such conjunction, I was hyper aware of every muscle inflection, completely focused unpleasurably on the minute urges and fluctuations inside my genitals.

A stranger at the urinal at last, facing the tiled wall, but still internally agonizing, I meditated on the nurse’s words and took long, deep, sighing breaths, urged to relax in the fateful moment that had finally arrived. Nothing came but a force of pain, so I went deeper, closing my eyes and let muscles fill with the air and hold poised with emptiness. A burning from deep within expanded, but still nothing came out.

My body urged to push, like a mother needing her baby out, and my toes curled with the effort to start. My jaws locked, but my breath went deeper still to uncurl toes and fingers. My breath steadied, my consciousness envisioned forces swelling and rising, pulsing outwards with the breath. Every cell unclenched, flowing with energy of expansion, an opening of soul.

At last, I could feel something release and even as a sharp wince surged, drops came forth and I felt a palpable relief. My grin that spread from ear to ear was much larger, but the message in the little puddle of fluid was even more clear that I would be well again.

On the 4 hour ride home, climbing out of the car at each stop confirmed the amazing lightness of being I felt again to have no tube nor tail bound to my leg. The irritating straps of latex, Velcro and plastic had vanished, this time never to return. I could dance across the parking lot far more easily than others who were burdened under their daily loads of concerns. Alone and in the mood to celebrate, my body burst with song and my eyes glistened with freedom brighter than fire works.

And as I get back into my own healthy life, trying to force a job out of a thousand internet possibilities, I have to take the nurse’s words even more to heart and try to relax. I suffered a business for far too many years that was always dangling on the edge of disaster because I was pushing too hard, trying to get too much out of something that could only produce so much. Last week the catheter had to go back in because I was pushing so hard again, straining to get it out instead of just allowing the natural urge to release, letting go and letting flow.

Some new work will come along that will be much more suited to who I am today and what I want out of life, the perfect mix of effort and abundance and something I love to do.

We are built to function well, our bodies, hearts and minds. Fear makes us push too hard, swing too soon, eat too fast. Faith is available to give us something to hold when troubles seem too overwhelming, bleeding out of us like a catheter that’s been in too long. We just need to focus on the breath in moments of fear, shake off the distrust and return to the most basic of functions. and we will always find our way, the love will surely flow.
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