Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hitting My Stride with Fingers Crossed

So far, a good start to a new year. Hell, anything has to be better than last year! My Dad's situation seems pretty stable, and I'm feeling better than I have in months. Maybe years. For the first time in a long time, my hands are steady. Maybe this procedure they did in September really is working, at least for awhile.

Only minor complaint is that on Saturday my feet/legs started to swell up again like crazy, maybe due to all the activity that I'm starting to get back into again? Or maybe from the deep tissue massage Amanda signed us up for last week, that may have worked some toxins loose? Or maybe because I've turned into a total wimp after months recovery and little excercise? I don't know. But by Sunday, they looked like balloons and I could barely walk. Quite painful, actually. Fortunately now, I have pills for this. They work fast, but you don't get a lot of sleep, if you get my drift! Today I'm back to almost normal, sans "sports slippers" that are supposed to be fashionable, I guess, but look kinda dumb in the workplace.

Anyway, like I said, minor complaints... I find that lately I'm so grateful that I continually catch myself with a silly grin for no apparent reason... Doing yardwork, driving with an old Skee-Lo song on, looking at the ocean last weekend, smelling the sea air... simple things that hold so much more meaning to me now. Complete contentment and happiness, pretty much in each moment of my life.

Sure, I could make more money. But I have enough. Plenty, actually. And I really like what I do and the people I work with. I do know how rare that is. I could have a bigger, nicer house, but instead Amanda and I have committed to remodeling our place to evolve with us for awhile. Hell, with ten years of equity already, it would be silly not to.
I could have this, that, and whatever, but it's just stuff, ultimately. I was having lunch with a friend today and he was telling me that he plans to take his kids skiing this year for Christmas instead of buying a bunch of presents. We both agreed that as kids, it was experiences with our parents we remembered and cherished rather than the stuff we got.

So what do we really need in life, despite meeting our basic financial responsibilities/obligations to our families? Obviously, excercise, diet, and sleep. That's a given, so I won't get into that here. Instead, I'm going to talk today about:
FUN!!! Of course, there are good and bad kinds of fun. One kind can be relaxing to ease stress, but eventually has the potential to be self-destructive. I'm talking about the party, people! I've noticed that most people who drink and smoke tend to do it more as they get older and conversely have less of a grasp on a timeline for reducing/quitting. Can't do it forever, folks. How much more can I do I need to say about this that hasn't been said?
On the other hand, don't be a tightass. Get out when you can. Unwind. Fortunately, I live in a town where I can get out and go see some great live music pretty much any night of the week. I can meet friends for dinner, have great conversation, pretty much all the things a night on the town would consist of. Don't have to drink or smoke to do it. Big, loud bars and dance clubs don't hold much interest for me now, but I never had much of a tolerance for small talk or hanging around a big room full of desperate tools anyway.
Find something you like to do and do it. Try to make time for it, if you don't have it available already. Who does? You've got to get proactive about remembering to have fun sometimes. Guitar nights with the boys? Fishing? A cooking class? Just a simple date night away from the kids? Schedule that shit and stick to it! Fall into the trap of, "Life's too busy. I don't have time for fun," and pretty soon you'll turn into one mean son of a bitch that no ones likes to be around!
We can have fun and stay healthy while we grow older gracefully. As of late, we're constantly reinforced with images of Real Housewives of Wherever, unnecessary gastric bypasses, breast augmentation, "female rejuvenation" (really? come on!), and all this stuff that makes us think it's a crime to grow older. I can think of nothing sillier. We can stay beautiful and sexy without fucking up the body that God gave us. Think about it this way: When have people found you the most attractive? Probably when you're at your most confident. That comes from being comfortable with your body image and doing your best with what you've got. The big-haired, botoxed, faked-boobed middle-aged woman in teenager clothes, looking around awkwardly to seem if anyone notices her? Not sexy. Not to me, at least. Priorities, I guess. Better to have a companion than a trophy.
I'm by no means the best-looking guy in the world. But I feel pretty damn sexy, especially when I'm channeling my inner Teddy Pendergrass. Think about it.

...actually, don't think about it. Now I'm uncomfortable, and I would imagine you are too.

I digress. I guess I'm just trying to say that we become so entangled in trying to preserve some image of ourselves as eternally youthful, that we forget to focus on the beauty of our existence in the present moment. Same applies the opposite direction. If we focus too much on the future, we'll miss out on a lot. Or as Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians sang, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think..."

Fun. The right kind keeps our hearts light and our souls youthful. The wrong kind rots away at us from the inside out.

I've had to recalibrate my own definitions of fun as this disease has progressed. Quite obviously, I can't enjoy a nice glass or wine or even a lot of fatty or sodium-rich foods. But what were some of the things that I always liked, before fine dining and excessive drink became the norm for thirtysomething professionals like myself?

If we look back on our youth, we may be surprised to find that we got a lot of things right. Many of the activities we loved then we'd probably do well by revisiting. For my part, I always loved to play music. There's a purity to creating art that transports us above any real-world cobwebs we've stitched ourselves into. If we work at it and improve in our art, the sense of pleasure and achievement we derive is unlike any other. And that art can be anything from recreating the great works of Vermeer to working on an herb garden. Do it well, with passion, and it becomes art.

I'm all over the place today with topics, but I really feel that I need to devote some space to talking about one specific area when I'm on about the subject of fun: Travel.

Travel is by far, undoubtedly, simply the greatest complement to a healthy life that one can pursue. I really believe that. More than any schoolbook, mind-expanding drug, or any other input we try try to wrap our brains around, travel has the effortless capability to expand our souls in a number of invaluable ways.
I remember the first time I visited Europe, I felt as if I could feel my mind physically expanding. New synapses were connecting, firing off jolts of electricity as I took in the natural beauty, architecture, and old cultures existing as they do everyday, alongside my own life. As my worldview expanded, my place in it seemed much smaller, but no less important.

Travel also forces us to re-evaluate our preconceptions and beliefs about people and religion. We can't help but fall in love with all the beautiful faces that we share this wondrous planet with. We begin to realize that we all pretty much are the same, and want the same things out of life, and that evil on any level is an illusion created out of fear and closed-mindedness. We learn to recognize and embrace our cultural differences. We're not all the same, not at all. But would you really want to be? You'll find that to love the world and all of its people is the truest form of love for the God that surrounds and pervades us. Unless you're a hard-hearted asshole. But I'll bet you'll at least have one hell of a fight on your hands, clinging to your old beliefs like a damned WooBee security blanket.

Get outside! Shake things up a bit! Obviously, there's more mind-expanding experience to be had in a place like Liberia than at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Cancun, but that may be too much. Find a middle ground that works for you.

Another great benefit of travel is one I've come to embrace as the reality of my disease, and the obvious stress that goes with it, sets in. Think about your problems as a pinpoint on a Google map or something similar. Now "Zoom Out." As you travel more, you find that this excercise becomes quite easy as you get a sense of our surrounding world and the real physical space and distance it occupies. Zoom out again. Out... out... out... a little more...

There. As you look down on the noise and static that your life exists in, it really doesn't seem all that overwhelming for a second, does it? Those are real problems, mind you, and I'm not talking about escapism here. I'm simply saying that they may not have to be as big as you think they have to be. It's all relative. There's nothing under the sun that we can't handle.

So, have fun. Travel. Enjoy life! Or, were you planning on doing it later?

Just remember, folks...

You work and work for years and years, you're always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin' dough
Someday, you say, you'll have your fun, when you're a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you'll have in your old rockin' chair

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

You're gonna take that ocean trip, no matter, come what may
You've got your reservations made, but you just can't get away
Next year for sure, you'll see the world, you'll really get around
But how far can you travel when you're six feet underground?


  1. love it! i'm glad you're feeling better, too! btw, todd snider is at gruene hall tomorrow night!!! (he covered "enjoy yourself" on a recent album).

  2. I completely agree on your take on travel, every word of it. I can't get enough, and I'm that guy at work on the Southwest Airlines commercial that will volunteer to go ANYWHERE. If I haven't been there yet I want to go.

    I can't help but comment that you chose Vermeer as your artisan. I always figured you as an abstract, modern fan! Interesting. I learned something about Pat today.

  3. Thanks Kirk and Michael... I actually dig the modern stuff more. Vermeer is just fun to say! Kirk, Jake's also playing a gig tomorrow at the Red-Eyed Fly at 8:30, if you're interested...