Tag Archive: Life Lessons


“Excited?” Maria asked as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and sat to my left. “I mean, it’s here. It’s finally here.”  Then, leaning in, “It’s here.”

“Weird. It just feels weird,” I responded while typing ‘execution commands’ on my laptop. I momentarily glanced at the memo taped over the cake, candy, chips, assorted snacks, bottles of sparkling juice, party streamers, ribbons, and helium-filled balloons. 

“COVID Tiger Task Force Deactivation.” the internal memo broadcasted to staffers. The shutdown comes as the pandemic continues. The U.S. will eclipse 610,000 deaths by Summers’ end, while the global death toll currently exceeds 4.1 million. As we approach deactivation, the entire team was focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key members back to normal business operations. Yet, I am unsure what ‘normal’ was anymore.

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All The Changes

The first time I heard Harry Chapin’s song Changes, I wondered about his thoughts. Chapin was a compulsive writer and talker from what I’ve read, and listening to someone who seemed to pierce life’s subtleties easily, propelled me to dream of many careers. I often envisioned myself as a great orator or written style, one who would draw the masses. I also imagined being a fireman rescueman, a top Colombo-style detective, a Noble Laurent, a singer, a restaurant owner, and an inventor. But as the years rolled by, I changed.

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I’ve never fawned over celebrities, not even when living in Los Angeles. Traveling nearly every week, I often found myself departing either Sunday or Monday and returning Friday, and repeating the process the following week. I met many celebrities during my travels: Roma Downey, Della Reese, Hulk Hogan, Kelly Hu (whom I had one dinner date), Erik Estrada, Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Covey, John Tesh, and Connie Sellecca, to name a few. Even if I sat adjacent to a celebrity, I never bothered them. A few days ago, I made an exception. 

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Katie Cassidy revealed that her father’s (singer David Cassidy) last words were ‘so much wasted time.’ Cassidy’s last words have been on my mind for weeks, and none more present while I have been cleaning out my home. In Sweden, this type of decluttering called döstädning— meaning ‘death’ and städning meaning ‘cleaning. In the final preparation of my departure, I don’t want others to be spending hours clearing out unnecessary items. Therefore, I am unloading all I can while alive. As I sorted, I kept thinking, “Why? Why did I waste so much time collecting this stuff?

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A Year of COVID

I don’t regularly listen to National Public Radio. In fact, in the past year, I can count the number of times spent listening to anything on NPR on one hand. Last week was either my fourth or fifth. While reaching down to grab something from my chair, I brushed the radio’s ‘on’ button. The NPR station began with the story, March 11th, 2020: The Day Everything Changed

“A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the enormous changes in our lives have become unremarkable: The collection of fabric masks. Visits with friends or family only in small outdoor gatherings. Working or learning from home. Downtowns deserted at noon on a weekday.

While some changes happened gradually, there was one day [March 11th, 2020] that marked the beginning of the new normal.”

For a few minutes, I sat fixated as NPR host Marco Werman took the listeners through what changed. By all accounts, the World Health Organization formally declared COVID-19 a pandemic around March 11th, 2020. Since then, the magnitude of loss has been stunning. Today, nearly 120 million global COVID-19 cases and 2.6 million deaths later, I kept thinking of all that had changed. Sure, one could focus upon key political facts: Chinese officials actively blamed Americans for starting the virus while the Trump administration blamed China. Still, my focus narrowed. The question I asked myself was, “How has my life changed during the year of COVID?”

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I watched Nomadland Sunday. Robert Ebert’s website summarizes the film accordingly: “Fern (Frances McDormand) is grieving a life that’s been ripped away.” Almost every viewer will claim the movie is littered with pain (not in a bad way) of those who face the challenge of living life alone. Some suffered from loss of a town, job loss, homelessness, loss of a spouse, a child, or even loss of oneself. In one scene, Fern so much wishes upon being alone that when she finds an abandoned dog, she ties the dog to a table outside a shop and walks off, thereby averting any potentially sentimental moment of connection. When in trouble, they become masters of finding a way out, rarely calling anyone. And that’s where I can relate.

I spent much of Sunday in a chair, barely able to move. Regardless of position, my neck, shoulders, and chest. Anyone suffering cervical osteoarthritis gets accustomed to the sound or feeling of popping in the neck when moving. At ties, mine tends to sound like a garbage disposal in perpetual grind. Never forget to add that the ol’ ticker (my heart) dribbles in some momentary flickers of pain and reminds me that I am a mere mortal. One day, time will be up. But not today. In theory, I should have been able to reach out to someone, but hell, when you live a solitary life, the question I always seem to ask myself is, “Just who the hell do I call?”

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How do we register details that most miss and fail to interpret? Seriously? How? I’ve formulated many observations in my 61 years of life. Two are more recent. First, be alive is, in and of itself, a miracle, a statistical miracle. Second, how is it I whizzed past millions of people with hardly a notice for details? I know my successes and losses, but why didn’t I ‘tarry an hour’ with another in dire pain?. And of success? When does any form of ‘tarry’ turn to envy?

“Could you not tarry one hour?” Jesus asked several disciples. “Hey, Unknown Buddhist? Could you not have tarried an hour with this man?” Like many, I would tell Christ that I’m pressed for time and line up excuses often spoken by others. “I have to complete this report.” There’s the, “I have to contact this customer.” And of course, “Jesus Christ (Oops. Sorry.), I have to meet my wife. And as you know, tarrying with her for an hour is equivalent to twelve. Even you (pointing a finger to Heaven) can attest to that.”

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The Banker’s anonymous website relayed a story, “A buddy in New York used to tell me that the right way to manage your money is to have just enough to cover your bills until the day you die, and then bounce the check to the funeral home. Man, that poor funeral director.” While it was a joke, there is a speck of wisdom in the humor. My recent burst of wisdom come from two women. I call it, “A Tale of Two Women.”

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I first heard Limbaugh in 1988 driving across America. His voice ricocheted across Iowa as if each corn stalk was were a unison of antennas uplifting far-right conservatism from the depths of a relatively unknown chasm. His voice gave marginalized Americans a voice. To some extent, his views paved the way for likes of Fox News, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump. I listened, not because I overtly professed his beliefs or even liked him, more so because I recognized that this form of vitriolic pseudo-hate would likely climb out from American farmlands to impact America. I wanted to understand, but never did. Limbaugh was uncomfortable. He called HIV/AIDs ‘Rock Hudson’s disease,’ asserted ‘environmentalist wackos’ were scientists organized for a political position, women lived longer than men because they had comfortable lives, being liberal was similar to being Nazi, claimed Barack Obama was not born in the US, and argued against the dangers of smoking.

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During my first big job during my 20’s, I overheard my coworker Jamie crying two cuticles away. I could only hear one side of the conversation, his. From the nature of his tears, his father had been diagnosed ‘terminal.’ The same scene repeated over several days, to which, at one point, I thought, “Get over it. Everyone dies.”

I wasn’t as appalled at myself then as I am now. Being ‘terminal’ tends to alter one’s perspective significantly. after surviving life in a military rescue squad, I arrogantly grew to believe I could live forever, that I was invincible. Rescue that person from the edge of a cliff? Sure. No problem. Deactivate that a piece of unexploded World War II ordinance without blowing oneself to bits? Sure. No problem.

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