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Medal for a Pali

A day after Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title and 15th major tournament in a rousing resurrection of his career, President Trump said Monday he would give him an honor almost as exclusive as a green jacket from Augusta National Golf Club: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Just like hundreds of thousands glued to the television watching Tiger golf, I rooted for the man. And in many ways, I hoped there could be someone, like me and many others, that feel astonishingly from the stars into life’s gutter.

However, the Medal of Freedom? Why?

As you may know, The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, and is awarded to those who make outstanding contributions to national security or national interest, world peace, culture or other public or private endeavors. The medal has been awarded since 1963, and is typically given to a dozen or fewer people each year.

Thus, should one receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom simply because Mr. Woods has a longstanding relationship with Mr. Trump? They own property near each other, golf together both before and after Trump became president, and shared similar stories of reported bouts of infidelity.

Success for both has been overshadowed by stories of infidelity, payoffs, and for Woods, struggles with physical ailments. In 2017, Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving, agreed to a diversion program, probation, and among other requirements, to avoid charges of driving under the influence.

My question doesn’t negate Tiger’s accomplishments. But as Op-Ed write Dan Solomon noted, the adversity Woods is famous for overcoming, in other words, wasn’t something that happened to him. It was something Tiger did, to himself. So, am I the only one who finds it weird to cheer Tiger in his Masters moment, while simultaneously finding Trump awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to a disgraced athlete justifiable?

Presidents, current and former, have diminished the medal’s honor. Former Presidents Bush and Obama awarded the medals to thinkers, writers and athletes, living and deceased. Even Joe Biden, received the medal, though I envision Biden’s service to American’s a solid testament.

I believe the Medal of Freedom should be saved for true cultural and social leaders, those morally inspiring, accomplished, and meaningful. From my view, that’s not Tiger. But, everyone needs a pal – Even Trump.

Maybe, just maybe, Trump will have Big Macs, Quarter Pounder’s and fries on the menu.

WaterExcept for accepting that I could depart this at any moment, I’ve lived a relatively good life. Quiet days of work rolled into quiet nights and quiet hours of sleep. I’ve traveled many parts of the world; some parts were I while others are splendorous. Only two occasions where I ever experienced danger: Once in South Africa and another time in Atlanta. Still, up through last week, I never believed an actual physical assault would visit me.

As Longfellow would write:

Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life, some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Longfellow’s 1842 poem basically means everyone will experience difficulty and heartache at some point. The “day” is a metaphor for “life.” So, when I reflect back upon the black four-door Ford pick-up that pulled alongside my parked car, I thought little of it. Moments later, I was targeted simply because I carried a cane as the assaulter perceived I was on ‘public assistance,’ “sucking money” from society.

Looking back, I presume that somehow the offender thought beating the crap out me would somehow motivate me to get a job. Turns out he was wrong. I have a job. I am actively employed.

The battle lasted less than twenty seconds, for since my back was sore, I carried a self-defense cane. After listening to how I was a leech on society, a quick flick to the offender’s left shin left him crumpled in pain. He quickly stumbled back to his truck and sped away.

The police report was ‘matter of fact.’ Comments such as, “you were lucky,” to I “was smart,” should have run. My mother gasped. Colleagues momentarily “wowed.” And the world quickly moved on. I sat. Alone. In thought.

The rate of nonfatal assaults on American men 60 and older increased by 75.4% between 2002 and 2016, a new government report estimates. For women, the assault rate increased by 35.4% between 2007 and 2016. Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the need to strengthen violence prevention among older adults.

There’s a small, tiny part of me that wants to meet this fellow again – not for bridging wounds, but rather, to simply wreck his day. However, as a Buddhist, I use several problem-solving or approach coping strategies. They center on direct action and planning. These are directed at solving a problem and mitigating sources of distress. These coping strategies include:

  • Meditation: For the development of love and compassion;
  • Self-Help: Collecting information concerning the justice system, community resources, common experiences amongst victims of violent crime, and so on; and
  • Activities towards empowerment: This includes taking self-defense classes to reduce the possibility of future victimization; activism, such as sharing one’s experience with others to advocate for the protection of future victims.

Since becoming a Buddhist, I have tried to have a deep commitment to love and compassion – it is a commitment to nonviolence. In reality, should I ever meet my attacker again, I will borrow the Dali Lama:

I am reminded that all of us are basically alike. Therefore, I neither speak with a feeling of anger nor hatred. Yet, as a member of the world’s community, I recognize how dependent we are in one another. The injuries you wished to cause would not have fed one person, would not have given a home to a homeless man or provide shelter from a Winter wind. Your act wouldn’t have extinguished the level of hope within me, for I have crucified myself far worse than you ever could have achieved. Simply put, I ask only to walk and understand your pain.

My attacker claimed I was weak. He sees not the living water within. What is more yielding than water? If you beat a pail of water, can you destroy it? The pail, maybe yes. Yet the water escapes. Over time, water (love) wears upon the strongest – few can withstand its strength.

So, I am water … that which is both elusive and stronger.

A ‘No’ Man

As a consultant, I’ve had the privilege of traveling across the world and serving well over 1,500 clients, from CEOs to company Vice President’s, Senior Directors and managers. Yesterday afternoon, a CEO called and asked if I could join him for a drink. We met at a local Irish bar that both of us has, at one time or another attended.

“Sorry for calling on short notice. I needed to vent,” he said after ordering a beer.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Had an HR meeting two days ago over an alleged sexual harassment claim.”

“And,” prompting him further.

“Well,” lowering his head and staring at his whiskey. “A female employee claimed harassment by our Sales VP.”

“Well,” I sighed heavily. “I’m sorry.”

“Wait,” he interrupted. “She claims a year ago that the offending employee ‘winked’ at her.”

“Winked?”

“Winked,” he offered. “But under questioning, it turned out not to be a wink, but a ‘raised’ eye brow?”

“What the hell is a raised eyebrow?”

“Have no clue,” he muttered. “Have no clue. The entire management team was in the sales meeting and she claims he raised an eyebrow to her. And she felt violated by this.”

“Anyone else see this?”

“Oh hell,” he pounded his fist. “We were all there. And not a single one of us saw what she was referring to.”

A long pause swallowed his long face.

“Our Sales VP called today and resigned – claimed he felt humiliated.” He momentarily starred through me. “Where is all this going?”

By October 2018, the #MeToo movement derailed over 200 careers. As I’ve said before, most of those men needed to go. In nearly half the cases, the replacements were women. Joe Biden may be the latest casualty.

However, one unintended consequence, executives and analysts say, companies seeking to minimize the risk of sexual harassment or misconduct appear to be simply minimizing contact between female employees and senior male executives.

Most of the consulting firms I have worked with have told me that they will avoid going to dinner with any female employees, or that they’re concerned about deploying a women and men consultants onsite. People are concerned and have questions.

The CEO I had a drink with openly admitted to becoming a “No” man. He simply says no to most meetings. He ran off a business list to which he says no.

“If there’s a meeting with a female employee, I intentionally broaden the issue so I can include as many others as possible.”

“Having dinner at restaurant ABD. Want to … “No, thanks.””

“Going for coffee. Would you like … “No thanks.””

“Lunch at … “No thanks.””

“Grabbing a beer at … “No thanks.””

“Ordering tickets for the hockey game … “No thanks.””

“Texting female coworkers … “No thanks.””

“College internship programs … “No thanks.””

“Business Travel … “No thanks.””

“I grabbed a rental car, what to share … “No thanks.””

“Stay at the same hotel … “No thanks.””

“Same flights … “No thanks.””

My CEO friend placed a palm against his forehead. “My God. I’ve become a “No Man.

He is not alone. Lean In partnered with SurveyMonkey to look into the possible negative effects of the #MeToo movement for women’s advancement. Promoting mentorship is one of Lean In’s key priorities. Nearly half of male managers they surveyed reported being “uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.” Senior men were five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman than with a junior level man.

More recently, the MeToo movement has been credited for canceled office holiday parties, radio stations refusing to play the classic song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” after many claimed that the singer is trying to persuade a woman to stay with him by offering her a drink and company wide trips.

Thus, while it’s critically important that women who’ve been assaulted are heard, we cannot forget about the fundamental right to due process that our great country was founded upon. As Op-Ed writer David Oscar Markus noted:

If it’s the subjective feelings of the accuser that we prioritize over the intent of accused, then we will have flipped our presumption of giving the benefit of the doubt to the well-meaning. We will also put at risk coaches and teachers who encourage their students with a reassuring pat on the back. The same for business colleagues with a handshake. What’s next, criminalizing the close-talker? The list goes on. Let’s not send the message that there is to be no touching at all without fear of false accusation that it was “uncomfortable.”

Unfortunately, the side effect of men getting intimidated by the #MeToo movement won’t serve women well in neither the short term nor long term.

The real change will only occur at the grassroot level, which, in this case, is each one of us. However, I fear the only real change is that more men will become “No” men.

Buddhism and Baseball

I wasn’t feeling well throughout the weekend, so I limited my activity. Fortunately, Saturday was a rainout. And although I did perform a lot of household chores, neck strain and pain limited my activity. Yesterday, was cold. Thus, I satyed quiet, stayed indoors, and completed taxes.

However, I did watch some of Major League Baseball’s opening day and weekend. Prior to the season, I had read several columnists claiming the Cubs would do no better than third in the NL Central. However, after watching the Cubs first three games, last or next to last might be apropos.

I will say it straight: It appears the 2018 Cubs got on the bus from Spring Training. They suck.

Yesterday, the Cubs started great, as they built up a 4-0 lead in the first four innings. The Rangers immediately erased that lead however, as Delino DeShields crushed a grand slam off Hammels in the bottom of the fourth, giving Texas a 5-4 lead. In the bottom of the 9th, Texas Ranger Gallo hit a double off the left field wall and after advance to third on a groundout. He scored Cubs Pedro Strop threw a wild pitch that bounced so high, it came down 47 minutes on Ms. Felcowitzh’s old Oldsmobile Wagon as she drove home from evening church.

I figured Pedro Strop got pitching advice from Carl Edwards Jr. or Yu Darvish. Darvish lit up the baseball diamond Saturday. In short, Darvish ended up throwing 75 pitches to retire eight batters, and had to be saved. According to Baseball Reference, Darvish is the fifth Cub starting pitcher to give up seven or more walks in a start, joining Tyler Chatwood, Carlos Zambrano, Jeff Samardzija, and Jake Arrieta. The Rangers’ first 10 batters of the game did not put the ball in play, which set a new record for the club.

Despite Darvish’s struggles, the Cubs led 6-5 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, when another pitcher remaking himself, Carl Edwards Jr., took over. Edwards subsequently gave up a single and a walk, before Gallo netted a three-run home run. It proved to be the game winner.

All of this was topped by Sunday’s Cardinals – Brewer game. In the first inning, Matt Carpenter doubled. Upon safely reaching second base, he stood, placed his left hand over his crotch, raised his right hand and wiggled his hips.

“What the hell was that?” I mumbled.

However, in the 7th, with two outs, Cardinals pitcher Miller got Travis Shaw to pop up into shallow left field for what should have been the final out of the inning. However, with the shift on, the ball managed to find a hole between Carpenter and Ozuna, enabling the Brewers to pull within 4-3. Yet Carpenter, for whatever reason, did not stand place his left hand over his crotch, raised his right hand and wiggle his hips.

A friend called five minutes later, “Why didn’t Carpenter dance?

“Maybe because there was no dollar bills?”

Eventually, the Brewers won in 9, sending the cards to a 1–3 start.

In Buddhism, there’s an endless cycle of suffering—we are always winning and losing the same game, somehow expecting to make progress. We spend part of our life trying to get it together, and the other part watching it fall apart. We don’t realize that if we try to gain something, we had better be ready to lose it. As soon as we have time—“I have a whole hour free”—we are losing it. We work hard to have a relationship, and then it breaks up. We come together for a holiday party, and then it’s over. We buy a new car, and the fender gets a dent.

What’s interesting is that just like baseball, life is really about the competition within ourselves. We rise to our own challenge. As I watched this weekend’s MLB games, I thought about all the things I did to get to this point, through snow and rain, heat and cold, management failure and my own.

When my time ends, maybe God will ask who won. Should He, I will say, “No one and everyone.”

I had a followup appointment with my physician yesterday. Having worked in the medical industry since 2006, I envisioned the nurse who performed intake returned to the Nurse’s Station saying, “He’s still alive.”

In many hospitals, nurses usually have ongoing office pools for all sorts of weird things: football, baseball, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, the length of Nicholas Cage’s marriages, the number of months between McDreamy’s, and ETOH. In medical terms, ETOH is alcohol. All alcohol has an Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H) molecule (thus the OH at the end of the term “ETOH.”) In other words, I’ve seen medical clinicians bet on the intoxication level of DUI’s dropped at the door.  So, I just presumed they wagered whether I would return, and if so, what condition.

Yet, I survived.

My physician eased through the door. A tall Ukrainian woman with a beautiful personality and general concern for her patients. I envied her – not from the aspect of pure beauty alone, but her ability to ease through doors. She moved effortlessly, glided past chairs and bed posts. Seamlessly pushed her coat aside, she sat in the chair next to me.

“I’m glad to see you.”

“Me too,” I replied with a smile.

“Well, any changes from the visit?” she queried.

“No,” I noted while briefly looking down.

“Meaning, you still feel like shit?” she smiled.

“Oh yeah,” I smiled back.

“Well, I got you an MRI appointment in this century,” she laughed. “Either someone found another MRI facility or (winking silently), they no longer require one. Thus, they slipped your name in for the end of April.”

“You mean, April 2019?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. I feel special.”

“Whatever happened, I think you’ve stabilized. But remember, you’ve been diagnosed as a walking time bomb. So, don’t do anything stupid until we get some better ‘Art Work (imaging photos).’”

“So, no scaling cliffs, paragliding or alligator wrestling.”

“Hmm,” rolling her eyes, “alligator wrestling is ok.” A brief pause. “I will do the best I can for you. We all will.”

A brief tear of honesty dribbled the length of my cheek. “Dang dry eye,” brushing it aside.

“A nursing aid will come in and get you out of here, with a request to draw some blood and get you back in next week.”

“See if you can find my odds for next week. Maybe I’ll buy a square.”

She laughed, “Be nice to her.”

The nursing entered with a cart. I contained my paperwork, one needle and vial.

“Ok.” She started. “Which arm?”

“For what?”

“For your Zoster (shingles) vaccine.”

“What for?”

“Our computer says you need the vaccine.”

“Well, I find it humorous, that I could die at any moment while as computer simultaneously says I need a vaccine.”

“At least you won’t die from Zoster.”

“You’re teasing right?”

“Nope. You’re not leaving until you get this vaccine.”

“Frriiiscncddfkw, ffrrrummmp, frump,” I mumbled.

“Oh,” and the computer says your BMI is too high. You need to get some exercise.”

“I can barely walk 60 yards without pain now. Can I take up jogging?”

Realizing the unforced error, “Sorry, just reading the printout.”

“Frriiiscncddfkw, ffrrrummmp, frump,” I mumbled.

Just prior to walking out, the receptionist yelled.

“Hey. You’re at 93–1.”

Smiling back, “I’ll take a square.”

In case you’ve lived under a tree or turned off social media this past weekend, I want to you to know Robert Mueller’s report landed. And after all the twists and turns of a Hollywood movie, here America stands – at the same spot where it all began. No conclusion on collusion.

To be fair, the Special Counsel’s report found evidence to support both sides of the question and left unresolved what the special counsel viewed as difficult issues of law. Attorney General Barr quoted Mueller as saying, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Back in January, Irate over the cost of a $6 street dog, a man brutally beat two women who tried to stop him from berating a Los Angeles street vendor, according to police. Los Angeles police released cellphone video. A man later turned himself in just hours after cellphone video footage of the incident splashed across local media stations. He claims other bystanders started the fight.

Huh? I don’t understand the segue,” one might ask. “What’s the connection?

Direct link? Hmm. Not much,” Symbolically speaking, “Maybe more than we care to admit.

Maybe all the Special Counsel’s did was emphasize where America is at. Maybe at the end of the day, all we’ve (meaning Americans) have done is elected a group of angry, pre-dementia patients whose thought process heavily leans toward bigotry. Maybe that’s what America is. Maybe that’s all we’ll become for the next 15 to 20 years.

What’s important to note is that we haven’t figured how to live with others whose beliefs don’t reflect our own. As a result, we resort to discrimination, violence or hate. Just as our legislators outsourced morality to the special prosecutor, so the did hot dog guy and bystanders. When you lack the courage to stand for justice, morality is not your job, it’s someone else’s.

Washington Post writer Greg Sargent wrote the following:

President Trump’s extraordinary response to the New Zealand massacre provides an occasion to intensify our scrutiny of a critical question: Are Trump’s words emboldening white-nationalist and white-supremacist activity at home and abroad? Trump regularly engages in both veiled incitement of violence and anti-Muslim bigotry with a kind of casual regularity that almost seems designed to lull us into desensitization. That this is losing the power to shock is bad enough. But that’s producing another terrible result: This desensitization leads us to spend too little time focused on the actual consequences these verbal degradations could be having.

For 675 days, Americans hung on Mueller’s every word and action: each hire, each redaction, each revealing footnote. Yet Mueller cannot answer that which is particularly reprehensible and hiding in plain sight: There are no signs Americans are particularly troubled by representatives utilizing politics to demean and debase others.

Every one us is responsible for Trump.

Yet, when confronted by America’s new reality, we watch. We pull out our cell phones and record. We post. WSeyell at the television. But we fail to vote. And for those who gave Mueller messianic stature, it’s time to reconcile the unreconcilable.

Image Trump’s presidency without a villain? Congratulations. That day is here.

What Mueller proved is that our own level of morality (or lack thereof) cannot be outsourced. Mueller never intended his report to neither clean our dishes nor neatly tie loose ends. At the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves. We must vet our own consciousness. Is Trump’s America the vision we want our children to live?

Happiness

Beautiful passage by Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877–August 9, 1962).

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Waiting Room

In Beetlejuice, the Neitherworld Waiting Room is a waiting room for ghosts. The waiting room is run by civil servants, and it is where one goes to meet or make an appointment with your afterlife case worker. There appears to be other types of offices leading from the waiting room but there is little to show what they are for.

I thought of the Neitherworld Waiting Room after attempting to reschedule a medical appointment.

“Greater State Medical and Pharmacy, how may I assist you?”

“Yes, my physician requested an MRI. I was originally scheduled for an MRI this past Thursday, but I was informed the MRI machine required repair. So, I would like to reschedule.”

“Okay. Are you a current patient?”

“No, I am being referred by Dr. Good Guy.”

“And your insurance?”

“Green Cross, Shield, and Holy Insurance Emporium.”

“Okay. The next availability we have is October 17th. I have both morning and afternoon available?”

“October?”

“I’m sorry. I know that’s quite some time away, but that’s our first availability. I can place you on a waiting list if you like?”

Boston Magazine’s noted a 2017 Merritt Hawkins study found, that in Boston, a new patient can expect to wait more than 52 days. Need a mental health professional? Three weeks. And to emphasize, I received a recommendation with an arthritis clinic to review my spine. My consult appointment is scheduled for the second week in November.

Therein lay the difficulty, wait times mean little for receptionists and billing specialists. They hold the power.

My guess is that the current system works quite well for most. However, specialists can be tough to get appointments with. In my case, I felt the receptionist was really saying, “This is the way we do things. If you want to be seen, you’ll follow the rules – our rules.” Should death take a holiday, I will have waited months. If death refuses to take a holiday, the above conversation is just another pretty pointless exchange in a probably quite common day – for her.

For a moment, I did think of Canadians. Then again, Canadians are reported to have it worse. In 2017, The Fraser Institute reported overall waiting times for medically necessary treatment increased. Specialist physicians who were surveyed, reported a median waiting time of 21.2 weeks between referral and receipt of treatment—longer than the wait of 20.0 weeks reported in 2016.

I note several weird stories from the news. A woman in Santa Anna, CA made news for billing her physician for the 45-minute wait time. The woman, who gets paid hourly, reportedly deducted $150 from her $223 bill return the bill, with a letter, explaining why she wouldn’t pay in full. The physician’s office reportedly agreed to the adjustment. Another physician reports he credits his patients $50 when late.

Both are interesting stories. Maybe I can buy some extra minutes from the Angel of Death.

Greetings oh great Reaper. I received this $50 bucks from my doctor, can I credit it to my account?

We take no credits.”

Damn. Mr. Reaper, you have a poor attitude.

As for me, Neitherworld Waiting Room. I wait.

Like racers competing for a prize, I wonder who’ll win: the Angel of Death, the doctor, or me? Should the Angel of Death appear and inform that my time is up and offer one final request before being accompanied from this world, I will, without hesitation, reply:

“I want a second opinion.”

“What you say, ‘six months for the first available consult?'”

“Hey. I have $50. Want a drink?”

First of The Last Amends

I was confused. Upon opening my Google Calendar, I noted the ‘To-Do’ list item in my Google calendar, dated Friday, March 22nd, one day after my MRI. It was created during a more blissful period of life, some nine years prior, when I promised someone a trip to New Zealand during their 55th birthday. The note was accompanied with an additional entry:

Your spirit brought us together, and now that things continue to move forward, I vow to keep my promise and take you to New Zealand.  I believe it was for your 55th birthday. So you have a standing offer …. should you decide to accept.

I completely forgot about this Google Task. And it’s strange how it showed up this week. Coincidence?

I believe God has a tremendous sense of humor, a willingness, if you will, to occasionally make light of the absurdities with end-of-life situations. For instance, was God reminding me to go on the trip or reminding me to reach out one more time for closure? The person I made this entry for has refuted any attempt to return my emails, my calls, or letters. So at this point in my life, God’s motive, if any, remains ambiguous.

If I dared to write, I would start with the obvious, “I believe I will have to take a rain check, for it appears I have a prior engagement.” Ha.

Last week I had a stroke. Subsequent diagnosis indicated cerebrovascular disease. The doctors were concerned, pretty much quoting the conversation, “with proper medicine and dietary changes, maybe minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or a couple of years.”

At this stage of my life, I had zero thought of contacting anyone from nine years ago. Almost everyone has moved on. For whatever reason, the task ‘New Zealand’ was there. The only consoling words I would say straight out is, thank you for caring for me. Your heart and love pulled me through many bleak days. I say those things knowing full well my transgressions, and of the harm, my words and deeds have caused. In prayer, I have begged forgiveness 70x7x7x7x7x7x7x7 (70×7). Regardless, prayer, in and of itself, seems so inadequate.

I want you to know that no matter how it turns out for me, I am forever thankful for the friendship we had.

Stay Well. God Bless,

Mary Elizabeth Dallas wrote, “With terminal illness comes newfound, and profound, wisdom.” I concur. What I’ve learned from working in hospitals is a surprisingly common theme: that until the end, many fail to realize, that happiness is a choice. We often get stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and themselves, that they were content when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

Like others before me, I have a desire to find peace or acceptance. I don’t want to change the world. But I would covet peace. The lesson learned was life is short, and it is necessary to impact the world while one is still alive positively. For me, making people smile, to relieve the world of pain, even for one minute, is my goal.

And like others before me, I woke up today and still have an entire day to face. Life keeps going, whether I am ready for it or not. As such, I am filled with more gratitude – gratitude given by the person written about above and the gratitude I’ve received from countless others. The question then becomes:

Is it possible to find such beauty in everyday living?

If so, why did I ignore so much of it in the living years?

I reached for the blood pressure kit after being woken early by a racing heart. 3:47 AM flashed as my wrist blood pressure monitor beeped through its cycle. In less than a minute, 98 beats per minutes flashed, followed by 168 systolic and 87 diastolic. Should my BP have increased, I might be at increased risk.

I downed some medications, leaned against the bathroom sink. A momentary look at the toilet produced a soft laugh. “What if I die while using the toilet?” I muttered. A greater laugh ensued thinking of the poor slob who found me sitting on a toilet at the very moment I checked out. Hell of an obituary though, ‘Great guy, bad aim.’

By 9:15 AM my blood pressure had stablized to 117 systolic and 67 diastolic with 57 beats per minute.

Staring at the world from my dining room table, I asked a two-word question, “What’s next?” Having worked in the medical arena for the past decade, there were only a few people who wanted to hear how the patient was honestly doing. Most want to hear hope, courage, and positivity, not how unlikely the chances one would survive or how to live well during the process. For patients like me, there are no breakthroughs. There is no last-minute precision medicine or gene therapy. Such dialogue is written for only made-for-television movies.

I made one attempt to tell a close friend last night of my diagnosis.

Hey Cara,” I started. “I stopped to have some medical tests run late last week.

And of course, you’re doing great.

Well,” I sighed.

Interrupting, “You know my ankle is still bothering me from when I tripped six weeks ago. I have an appointment on Monday. Should I keep it?

Why not?

Because,” she whined, “I am starting to feel better. I know I complained about it, but I believe it’s getting better.

Then cancel.”

Oh well,” she continued. “I still think there’s some swelling. And it hurts if I push on it. But I have to pay a copay and the copay for x-rays. Medical stuff, always robbing anything, supposedly to help the people they serve.

I gave up.

What’s next has been highly contested for several hours. I could complete my 2019 Income Tax Return. Then again, would the effort prove valuable if I die April 14th? There is a humorous part of my soul that wants to die without doing taxes. Or maybe, I would complete them, but not mail it. When the tax man cometh, he will find a handwritten ‘Post-It-Note’ at the top of my folder, “I left $50,000 in the …” An additional ‘Post-It-Note’ underneath would continue, “If you go to my computer, you will find I deleted my browser history …” Those words in and of itself might keep them busy for months.

Many Buddhist teachings and quotes find their way into things, but they sometimes come across as nonsensical phrases meant to sound obscure. There is meaning behind the quotes. Many lessons remain useful today. When I write of all the things I thought, what’s next was answered in one somewhat silly Buddhist quote.

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Many of us are caught in the results of what we’re working toward or the way things will be when we finally achieve something. Truth is, that getting to where you want to go, being successful or even receiving a prognosis of a terminal disease doesn’t mean the work you’re called to do goes away. Up until the transition, I will probably do many of the same things I did before my diagnosis. If I cannot continue the mission called to do, if I can’t take on the simple tasks as best as I can, how can I conquer bigger things God requests?

Do your work. Do it well, and regardless of whether the message is a success or downright depressing, do it again. It’s all about being in the moment.

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