Category: Main


“Hey. You ok?” Janet began peeling back the covers, “Anyone in there?”

“Hmph,” as I slowly opened to the flicker of daylight. “What time is it?”

“Good,” she affirmed to herself. “At least you’re not dead.”

“What time is it?” 

“1:26 PM. Thought I’d stop by and drop off an Asiago Cheese Bagel. They always make the best cheese bagels Saturday.”

“Hmph,” I moaned in agreement. As brain synapsis began firing, Janet’s words faded as I curled an eyebrow. “Saturday?” I asked again.

Continued to be lost in her own thought, “Of course. Gibraltar’s Deli always makes the best cheese bagels on Saturday . . .” As her words faded from my radar.

I had been asleep for two days. “Oh God,” I silently whispered. Two days ago, I barely completed work. I was dizzy, light-headed, and had difficulty walking. My muscles hurt, the side of my head hurt, and my fingers ached from movement. I retraced my life. I remember getting in my car. Technically, I did drive home (if that’s what you call it). I drove into a curb, nearly crashed through the company’s parking garage security gate, almost fell asleep at a stoplight, and nearly clipped a mailbox. I got home and intended to take an hour-and-a-half nap. Two days later, I am waking to an asiago cheese bagel. Life is weird. 

People with Parkinson’s can experience extreme fatigue. It is a two-part cycle. One part physical, another part mental. Apparently, I felt both. The physical exhaustion I experienced leads people to reduce work hours, retire, or avoid social activities. The mental fatigue included mental tiredness, making concentration so faltering one can drive upon curbs and through security gates. 

To be fair, I have experienced this type of fatigue a few times. Previous experiences were similar to San Francisco’s slow-rolling, early evening fog that by all accounts, at first brush, does not feel overwhelming, but ensures you’re pretty toasted several hours later. On such nights, I would eat dinner, listen to Frank Sinatra on XM Radio, and slumber off to sleep. Whatever magic occurred between nightfall and dawn washed away any spoilage and I carried on as if nothing happened. Simply put, I am happy to eat, happy to sleep, happy to work.

At twenty-four, I rushed strained to see around the corner of my life, clinging to the hope that whatever cocoon I built, the caterpillar inside me might disintegrate, making way for a newer and more modern model. Instead, I rounded corners with such speed that I barely remember those left in the wake. Oftentimes, my lungs were winded, and the secrets I hoped to change stayed with me. I dreamed of living in a European village. I dreamed of changing the world. Now, I am a city dweller ruled by infirmity. As Harry Chapin might say, “A tame and toothless tabby can’t produce a lion’s roar.”

I wonder if I had set myself up for an impossible task—seeking perfection where it couldn’t exist. I always wanted my life to be perfect. I wanted fulfillment: the perfect job, the perfect wife, the perfect body. Looking back, I immediately think of writer Jack Gilbert. A snippet of words haunt me, “… anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” 

I have often said to Kanako that upon returning to God, I will openly state “how wonderfully bad at life I was. But I was there … And in spite of all my failures, I helped a good number of folks.” Sure I treaded water and nearly drowned from my own consequences on many occasions. But I cheated death, survived rough seas, and stayed harbored too long for many folks. 

Interjecting upon the consciousness of thought, “You’re not going to be happy if you miss these warm bagels,” Janet yells. Happiness? 

Wow, happiness. Even in my pain, I’m in the midst of absolute quiet, beauty. A lot of being alone. I walk in the morning, listen to the news, I eat, and start working. Just like the cycle of my life, I awake to see what’s worth doing badly.

Lies We Believe

The two days post-Parkinson’s diagnosis was spent reflecting. Admittedly, I accomplished little. Yeah, 2019 taxes remain partially complete, but there’s laundry, mail, and several medical bills. Prima facially, I accomplished little, but inwardly, I accomplished much. 

Much like my tumor, I’ve told no one of my Parkinson’s diagnosis. If revealed, one would probably curse my doctors, tell me to sue or at least write a well-thought nasty letter. Sure, I could spit in my original neuro’s face. Yeah. That doctor who blatantly told me in April 2015 told me to see a psychiatrist. I could have done that. I didn’t.

I could have attempted an angle. As a former rescueman who risked his, I effectively calculated all aspects. I was known for quickly summarizing the best outcome, and often, beat back the face of death. Doing such was a lie I told myself and others.

Such lies bring comfort. If you’re dying, you want comfort God will dispatch angels to comfort and carry you. A young mother wants to believe doctors will heal their child or husband. If you lost your medical insurance, you’ll gladly listen to and swallow a politicians’ lure’ of free health care.

I could blame my neuro for all my ills. I could. I won’t. Why? Because I was the lie, I told myself. I’ve known for years my back was stiff, stiff leg muscles and pain, a left stiff arm, bad dreams, the nights I couldn’t sleep, and the ever so slight internal and left-hand tremor. I dropped more coffee cups and glasses than I could count. I just lied.

You need to see a neurologist,” She urged.

Ah, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. They’ll tell me nothing’s wrong.”

I don’t know,” she frowned. “There’s something about your symptoms that don’t make sense.

I relied on my ability to elude danger. Like forty years prior, Celecoxib, Gabapentine, Tizanidine, Tylenol 1, and Tylenol 3 were my lies. Arthritis drugs killed the pain but didn’t treat the disease. The tumor forced me to address the pain. 

I didn’t have much choice. The surgeon who removed my tumor stated I required a neuro eval. And coming full-circle, I returned to the very clinic that ignored me years prior. In less than an hour, I went from viewing doctors’ confusion to hear, “We believe you have Parkinson’s.;” to hearing, “You have Parkinson’s;” to “I’m sorry.”

William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.What Shakespeare is referencing is the drama everyone lives throughout their lives. He reduces life to performance or acting. To which, oftentimes looks ridiculous.

Is there some connection between truthfulness and personal integrity? Possibly. Spiritual men and women often had a disdain for lies. In fact, “not lying” one of the fundamental training practices of his path of self-transformation. “Not lying” might raise some ethical issues. For instance, what if a Nazi guard asked if Anne Frank was in our attic? Would I have lied? Of course.

The practice of deceiving with myself of true inner healing via false medication was like a sailboat anchored to the shore. I had a role in my own lie. I lived to the act, and my decision making was ridiculous. All of us need to focus on good days – living as many good ones as possible. Tomorrow, I promise to have a good day. 

Promise me you’ll live only good days.

Trump Acquitted

In light of Trump’s acquittal, I was sent the following revised Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to Donald Trump;

And for all that he stands;

One nation, under the GOP;

With liberty and justice for the rich and powerful.

Amen

Sadly, it will be an interesting year.

I Will Miss America

Ms. Tiffany Cross tweeted:

“. . . I am going to miss America.”

Ditto, Ms. Cross. Ditto

I have been a fraud investigator since 1995, testified at State Congressional hearings, and assisted in the prosecution of over 500 people. I am so angry at what’s happening in the Senate impeachment trial.

I am not making this decision based upon a preordained viewpoint of guilt or innocence. What I am angry about is the unjust trial being perpetrated upon America, that we will hold a trial with no witnesses, no evidence and no due process – that we will make no attempt to hear the truth.

If Barack Obama, or any black man for that matter, had done anything remotely like these allegations, the GOP would be burning the White House to get justice.

Stupidity Has Begun

Iran has fired missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. Iraq is now inbetween two sets of stupid.

The only winner? Death.

Striding from building to building can bring unexpected moments. Friday was no exception. In the burning afternoon heat, I stumbled over to a concrete beach and sat. I gazed up toward blazing blue backdrop and unto the white-hot orb piercing through my eyebrows.

Briefing supporting my upper body, my arms gripped my knees. I peered down, peered upward toward the heavens, and peered down for a long moment. A deep sigh breathed back into my face as it succumbed to breeze pushing against my face.

Arching left. “Crack. Pow. Bang,” echoed from my spine. Arching right, fared better. Only, “Crack and bang.”

A few may have presumed I derived some benefit from the afternoon heat. Indirectly, that would be true. Truthfully, I stopped because I had to. I couldn’t walk further.  I simply couldn’t move. Looking between my feet, I reflected upon what Tiger Woods said after his round at the British Open.

“I’m going to take a couple of weeks off and get ready for the play-offs,” he said. “After that, have a break. I just want to go home.” Exhaustion dripped from every word.

And to Tiger, I can concur. There are many days when I simply want to go home.

Pain has been my companion for four decades. When I was 20, didn’t think about it. In my thirties, pushed past it. In my forties, roughed it out. And in the last decade, maybe I’ll succumb to it.

Every person must deal with their own moment. There are those moments when we’re fable to do with natural God given talent. And then there’s what we our body to endure. Former NFL pro-bowler Chris Carter said “My mind was mentally sharp, but I couldn’t get my body to respond to what I thought.

In the movie ‘For Love of the Game,’ Vin Scully had the best quote on aging.

After 19 years in the big leagues, 40 year old Billy Chapel has trudged to the mound for over 4000 innings. But tonight, he’s pitching against time, he’s pitching against the future, against age, against ending. Tonight, he will make the fateful walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium, to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of summer.

After nearly forty years of travel, bad hotels, cheap bad food and long nights, I looked up into the afternoon sun . . . my body said ‘enough.

Like Tiger, “I just want to go home.

On December 22, 1944, at about 11:30 in the morning, a group of four German soldiers, waving two white flags, approached the American lines using the Arlon Road just south of Bastogne.

The Germans sent soldiers to take the American surrender. Awoken from a deep sleep, Brig. Gen. McAuliffe, said “Nuts!” The response was typed and delivered by Colonel Joseph Harper, commanding the 327th Glider Infantry, to the German delegation. It read accordingly:

December 22, 1944

To the German Commander,

NUTS!

The American Commander.

In March, I read of a Kaiser Permanente robot rolling into a patients room in the intensive care unit and telling an elderly patient by video he would likely die within days. In some ways, I felt more fortunate. Mine were posted on my EHR account. It was ‘transactional.’

A tumor in the neck measuring 4.1 x 2.3 in transaxial dimensions and 3.7 cm in height (1.6 inches x .9 inches x 1.4 inches), surrounding the spinal cord and C5-C6. Preliminary indication benign. Requires biopsy. Metastatic or secondary tumors may spread from another site. Delicate neural structures will complicate treatment, resulting in nerve compression, spinal deformation and compromised bone strength.

There’s good news and bad news. Good news: Highly likely the tumor is benign. Bad news: Tumor is the size of a walnut, surrounds the spinal cord and or nerves. Prognosis? Nuts.

Nuts!

Every day someone gets the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. The shock, accompanied by a ferocious sense of foreboding and a powerful dose of premature grieving, can be overwhelming and paralyzing. However, my first inclination was not despair. The gnawing torment some experience never occurred. No nausea. No dread. No anxiety. Using the Kubler-Ross five stage model as a measuring stick, I leapfrogged denial, anger, bargaining, depression and landed on acceptance.

I’ve known since 2014 that my internal clock was running out. I cannot explain it. I instinctively knew death was nearing. My time working in hospitals reveals that even if loved ones refuse to discuss death, the patient knows it is coming. I just presumed it would have been quicker, for five years later, I’m still around. However, in the annals of life, 5 years ago is just a moment ago.

So, what’s next?” my boss asked.

I doled out a usual quip, “Burning a hole through my deductible.”

What I really thought was “Relationships.”

Author Karen J. Warren wrote in 2016 that she was diagnosed with terminal illness. As she confronted the truth about her medical condition. She articulated the personal, philosophical, and medical issues when discussing end-of-life options. However, the following stays with me.

I knew that what gives my life meaning, what really matters to me, are relationships—relationships with myself, with other people, with animals, with the natural world. Creating or nurturing these relationships is what I value most.

The precious time I have left matters! I found myself asking, “Will doing this or saying that make a positive difference to my health or enhance my well-being?” For example, does it make a difference to me whether I participate in a research program, take an X-ray or have a mammogram? My guiding principle has been this: “If doing something makes a positive difference in my life or enhances my well-being, then do it; if it doesn’t, then don’t do it.”

So, nuts.

I will do something that many fail to do: Focus on things that will make a positive impact.

You should too.

A friend called from Chicago to vent.

“I have been working on a PowerPoint presentation for executive management for two weeks. The Vice President for the company sits ten (10) feet from me, but will not talk to me because I am just a Senior Manager. Instead, the Vice President will only accept email from his Director, who works at the regional office in San Francisco, California.

After reviewing the presentation, the Vice President sends the slide deck to his Director in San Francisco. The Director in San Francisco reviews it. However, since he is a Director and feels the work is beneath him, he refuses to change anything and forwards the slide deck to me.

I review the slide deck. Only three words require changing.

I make the changes and send the slide deck back to the Director in San Francisco. The Director reviews and forwards the slide deck back to the Vice President in Chicago.

After an hour, the Vice President decides he wants to change another slide and inserts a “comment” into the slide on page six (6) and returns the slide deck back to the Director in San Francisco. The Director reviews his request, makes no changes and returns the slide deck to me in Chicago.

I review the requested changes. Only two additional two words.

I then return the slide deck to the Director in San Francisco, who in turn, returns the slide deck to the Vice President in Chicago.

Now, wouldn’t this have been easier if the Vice President just came out of the office, walked ten (10) feet to my desk and requested the change?”

“Pretty funny,” I stated.

Well, I hate it,” he replied. “I would rather sit and do nothing.”

Really?

Really!” he said.

I concluded with the following parable.

A crow sat on a tree and did nothing all day.

A rabbit noticed this and asked the crow, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?”

The crow answered: “Sure, why not?”

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested.

Shortly after beginning, a fox jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, better sit very high up.  In other words, rank has privileges.

Moving Aside

Colorful foliage in the autumn parkAs we near the end of 2017, I’ve reflected upon my writing and whether to continue this blog. The mission of my blog was to enable readers to see blessings often hidden in plain packages. I asked for acceptance, guidance, and loving kindness to remind me what love is really like, to feel safe and lay my heart open, exposing my journey and soul to your inner light.

Looking back, I’m unsure exactly what my journey was. My blog’s journey started in 2012. And in four years and eight months since, I’ve opined upon many topics, from politics, health, spirituality and so on. Four years and eight months since, I remain unsure exactly what my journey is.

Over the years, I’ve opined on lost neighbors, friends, even blogs. “Ultimatemindsettoday” is gone. Respect Life? Gone. The Buddhist Blog? Gone. Women Active in Buddhism appears to have been updated eons ago, for Aung San Suu Kyi remains listed a hero. Shakya Design closed it’s doors December 2016. Quiet Mountain’s website struggles upon opening. Thus, since life moves on, I removed them this afternoon. Only one has moved forward – Oscar Relentos by publishing a book on Amazon, even noting a reviewer.

During these past years, our global community lost many good politicians, entertainers and sports stars. Also, too many military members died, both home and abroad. Mass shootings interspersed my blogs – Pulse Orlando, Ferguson, Missouri, Connecticut, and Las Vegas just to name a few. Hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters crossed my thoughts. Still, forty-eight months later, did any one specific blog post change anything? Hard to say.

As such, I reflect. How has my blog impacted anyone? Or, maybe more so, “How has my blog positively impacted anyone?” That question, in and of itself, leads to a more contemplative thought, “Have I positively impacted anyone.

Looking back at various blog notes, I had a difficult time comprehending how current events could be mastered by older textual teachings. In a world of Trump-ism and self-importance, it’s hard to envision how the Biblical teachings that I grew by could prevail in a world of hyper-conservatism. Then again, it’s hard to understand how good people would let bad things happen. Yet more often than not, ‘we the people’ ignored our faith and jumped toward a pool of darkness representing itself as the path to glory.

Maybe my blog attempted new horizons, trying to communicate something fresh and exciting. My writing became less about legends and storytelling and focused more on current lessons and the beliefs that a Christ, Buddha, Dr. Martin Luther King, and others maybe would have pressed.

It’s ignorant for me to confess, but in my early twenties I visions of becoming a spiritual master. After seeing the God, who wouldn’t? Right? However, I have learned over the past decades is that real heroes are destined for greatness. But I never experienced such, as most don’t. Borrowing from Harry Chapin I am not a hero. At 58, I’m a tame and toothless tabby who can’t produce a loin’s roar.

The arrogant belief in their own legend. As such, I have no legend. I have no Wikipedia page. Just as politicians are blinded by their own ideals and belief in their own legend, so was the man some thirty or so years ago. What I have realized is that teaching and learning is a two-way street that it is. My own mentees have taught as many lessons as I taught them.

The real lesson is that all things are temporary. Even this blog. As leader and in life, I must move aside.

As 2018 nears, I will end with a quote from Roxanne Gay.

The older we get, the more culturally invisible we become, as writers, as people. But you have your words. Make sure there are people in your life who will have faith in your promise when you can’t.”

Yes … the real lesson all along was to ensure there are people in your life who will have faith in you when you can’t. That’s love. Love’s what it’s all about.

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