The Secret

 

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Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.

“Time”, Pink Floyd

Songwriters
ANDREW WRIGHT, SIMON SMITH

Published By
Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

First time I heard those words, I was 14 or 15 years old. I didn’t grasp the significance of them back then, obviously.

I sure do, now.

I recently wrote a post about commemorating yet another birthday, and I alluded at one point to how getting old scares me a bit, so I should probably explain myself. You may not want to read on unless you’re really happy today, because this one’s a bit of a downer.

I see my folks, they’re getting old
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange
No matter how you tell yourself
It’s what we all go through
Those eyes are pretty hard to take
When they’re staring’ back at you

“Nick of Time”, Bonnie Raitt

Songwriters

BONNIE RAITT

Published By
Lyrics © BONNIE RAITT

First of all, and I know this is going to sound so shallow, but have you seen what old people look like? With their wrinkled up faces and age spots on their hands and turkey wattles on their necks? I know, I know, I’m sorry, I really am, but I just can’t envision myself looking like that. Not me. My hair is definitely grayer, and there’s less of it than there used to be, but I’ve accepted that, more or less. Those other cosmetic changes are gonna be much harder to face.

But, it’s not just the looks; it’s the health. I dread what the future holds for this steadily deteriorating shell I walk around in. Will I get slowed down by arthritis? Will I be felled by a debilitating stroke, like my father, and bedridden for the last years of my life? Or will my worst fear come true, and Alzheimer’s slowly and mercilessly steal my mind, piece by piece?

It’s stuff like this that, whenever somebody says getting old “beats the alternative”, makes me think, “Are you sure?”

And, yeah, I know, none of those things may happen; I may just get hit by a truck, instead.

But, I’m the kind of guy who thinks, my life has gone pretty well so far, something’s gotta happen sometime to screw it up. The Law of Averages dictates that the scales eventually have to tip the other way.

What can I say? It’s how I roll.

 

Truthfully, though, I think the worst part of getting older is how everyone else gets older. So, the older I get, the more funerals I’ll be attending. Funerals of friends and family members. People I’ve known and loved for years, for decades, for pretty much my whole life. I want to keep them around forever; I don’t want to say goodbye to any of them, and it will seriously break my heart when I have to. I am really not looking forward to that part.

I mean, I know that’s all just part of it; we’re born, we live, we get old and die. That’s how this thing works. It’s never bothered me as much as it has lately, though. I know, I should probably just shut up and accept what’s coming, because it certainly doesn’t come only to me.

Just feels like it, sometimes, that’s all.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

“Time”, Pink Floyd

Songwriters
ANDREW WRIGHT, SIMON SMITH

Published By
Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

On the bright side, though, friends, (yes, there is one) I am working towards reconciliation of these issues, because I know a life lived in fear and dread is really no life. It’ll just take some time for me to reach the state where I can believe what singer James Taylor said years ago:

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time

“Secret O’ Life”, James Taylor

That’s the goal for me. Hope I attain it. Sooner, as opposed to later.

Hey, I Was Just Thinking…

This is how my mind works. You have been warned.

 

Whoever made up the rule that we have to say, “Bless you”, to anyone who sneezes? I’m no priest; I’m not qualified to bless anybody. Besides, are sneezers any more worthy of blessings than the rest of us? I guess people with severe allergies must be the most blessed folks on Earth.

Instead of “Bless you”, can’t I just say, “Good job,” or “Nice distance on that spray,” or “Next time, look away from my lunch, if you don’t mind”?

 

Okay, you’re in a restaurant, you’ve placed your order, and just before your waiter/waitress walks away, you hear, “All right, then, my name’s Jody/Buffy, if you need anything.” At that moment, are you ever tempted to ask:

“What’s your name if I don’t need anything?”

Because, why else would they even say that?

I don’t know, maybe each waiter/waitress/wait thing has a secret identity, which will only be revealed to you if you don’t need anything. So, next time, tell him/her/it you don’t need anything, and see if you find out the Secret Identity. Wouldn’t that be cool?

 

Or, how about when you pick up some food at the drive-thru of your favorite fast food joint? (By the way, why do we drive through a drive-thru? Someone needs Spell Check, I think.) You place your order, and the cashier mumbles back something that sounds like, “Okay, your total is gonna be $25.97 at the first window.”

At that point, do you try to negotiate? “So, how much is it at the second window? How much if I come inside? How much if I tell you my girlfriend’s paying for it? Wait, baby, where you going, I was just…come on, sweetie, get back in the car, I didn’t mean…HEY! COME BACK HERE!!!”

Side note: I have some relatives that are perfectly suited for working a drive-thru, because I can never understand them, either.

 

What is the deal with all the commercials on TV now for prescription drugs? As often as I see them, I can’t help but think, man, we must be in terrible shape in this country. I especially like the ones that help with ED, when they talk about men with erectile dysfunction or premature…..issues.

Are you kidding? All the other things you just freely come out and say on television, but you can’t bring yourselves to say…you know, that?

What really disturbs me, though, is when they start listing the side effects of taking the prescriptions. I mean, I know it’s a CYA kind of thing, but Jiminy Cricket… I always end up thinking, you know, I’ll just take my chances with the illness. Of course, at the bottom of the list is always…death.

I’m sorry, but personally, I don’t consider death a side effect. More like an end effect, you know? I mean, if you experience that, there ain’t much anyone can do for you at that point.

 

Other important issues:

Is it true that the distance to the next roadside rest stop is inversely proportional to the need to go?

Shouldn’t the times when traffic is heaviest be called Crawl Hour?

Can we put a stop to the madness of using redundant phrases like tuna fish sandwich and hot water heater?

How is it, a fitness machine can help you get totally ripped, but then again, so can a joint? Which way sounds easier to you?

I’m developing a new TV series about a University of Texas graduate who becomes a police detective in Hawaii. His catchphrase will be, “Hook ’em, Dano!”

That one was for you, J.

True story: Driving in Dallas one day, my wife and I passed a business with the intriguing name, “CONDOMS TO GO.”

My wife looked at me, and said, I swear to you, “Well, I hope they’re to go!”

Good one, dear.

I tried to imagine what a store named, “CONDOMS FOR HERE” would look like. It gives a whole new meaning to, “Cleanup on Aisle 5!” (Premature issues, and all…)  I mean, do you have to step over people as you browse the store? (Oops, sorry, don’t mind me, carry on…) Do the store personnel ever get in trouble for asking,”May I help you?” And, how late would they stay at work, sitting in the office and watching security footage?

And, would the store sell both “New” and “Gently Used”?

 

Please do not encourage this behavior. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The 0.05 Cu. Ft. Cell

This one is kinda long, just so you know, but I need to say all of it.

 

This is how depression sometimes feels to me:

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Sometimes, life gets so overwhelming, I can literally feel The Weight of Everything. My shoulders slump. My sides hurt. It actually feels like the boulder is about to flatten me.

I get to thinking about all the mistakes I’ve made and continue making in my life, couple that with all the many ways I feel inadequate as a human being, and finally, contemplate all the wrong there is in this world, and how truly hopeless it all seems, and that big rock is almost too much to hold. It’s a chain reaction of negativity that, unfortunately, is easily ignited.

This, also, is how depression sometimes feels to me:

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I’m at the bottom of this deep, dark pit, and I can see light way up above me, but I have little hope of making it to that light, because it’s just so far up, and the climb looks almost impossible.

And nobody knows I’m down there, because I don’t let anybody know. How screwed up is that? But, when you’re depressed, you have a good (you think) explanation, which I’ll get to later.

It’s been determined that the average adult human brain takes up 1400 cubic centimeters, or .05 cubic feet.

Doesn’t sound like that large a prison cell, does it? I’m telling you, though, when you suffer from depression, it’s plenty big enough.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to My Life.

 

I was diagnosed with clinical depression back in 2003, and have been taking medication for it ever since. I don’t know for sure if it’s hereditary, but some members of my family on my father’s side were and are afflicted with it. Tragically, it drove one of my uncles to suicide.

It is one tough mofo of an adversary, I promise you.

Initially, my therapist told me that depression usually manifests itself in men as anger, not sadness, as with women. That made sense to me; the first time I visited her, and she asked me why I was there, I told her I was just mad all the time. Everything and everybody just pissed me off; in fact, I was hoarse when I got to her office, because I arrived really late, due to one road closure after another, and I was yelling the entire trip (windows closed) at anyone and everyone who was in any way responsible for those closures.

I…was…MAD!!!

That was pretty much how I rolled, though; anything could set me off. I didn’t like anyone, either. It was like this t-shirt I saw recently that read, “I used to be a people person, then people ruined it for me.”

I knew that needed to change, especially because it was causing tension at home. I was giving my dear wife a lot of grief she didn’t deserve, and I needed to stop. I wanted to stop. I knew I had to do something. And I needed some help to do it.

Now, folks, here’s a great thing about depression:

It has no use for logic or reason.

I mean, after all, let’s think about this a minute; I’ve had a pretty good life. I was raised in a loving home. I got a college education. I’ve got a loving, devoted wife, a nice home, decent health, decent job, money in the bank, never been in jail, never gone hungry, never gone homeless…exactly what the hell have I got to be depressed about?

See? Logic and reason. Depression gives that the finger. It says, “I don’t need no steenking reason!

Which, of course, makes me even more depressed, because I feel like I have no right to it. People whose lives are in the gutter, people with some terminal illness, yeah, depression in them would make some sense, at least. But me? Gimme a break, pal.

Yet, I still get depressed: Over my health, over growing old and looking it, over my numerous faults, over global warming, over all the unspeakably inhumane ways we treat each other, over the specter of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becoming President, over no particular thing at all. I descend into the pit. The boulder becomes heavier.

And, yeah, I know I’m not the only one thinking these things, but see, that’s another wonderful thing about depression:

It talks smack to you.

“Everone else has it together, what’s your problem, dude? Do you see anyone around you screwing this up as bad as you?”

And, many times, I don’t.

 

OK, Men, here’s where I need you to pay a little more attention.

Years ago, I was at a meeting (not that meeting), and the conversation got around to being depressed. As I was the only guy in the room, one of the women turned to me and said, “I don’t know, do guys get depressed?”

I was shocked. It never occurred to me that would even be a question. I thought, wow, we must really be good at hiding this.

Now, mind you, not all men get depressed, any more than all women. But, since women feel more comfortable sharing things, you just don’t hear about the men. For one thing, depression is viewed as a weakness, which MEN MUST NEVER SHOW, being the mighty defenders of Truth, Justice and The American Way that we are. Depression means we’re weenies, and getting help for depression is even more weenieish, am I right, guys?

Well, let’s consider, for a minute, the late Mike Wallace, the outstanding reporter for 60 Minutes. He was regarded as the toughest journalist out there, never one to shy away from the hard question, never one to avoid confrontation, never one to back down from getting at the truth. Tough guy. A MAN.

Guess what, fellas: he got depressed, seriously depressed, to the point of contemplating suicide. Admitted as much on, of all things, 60 Minutes.

Guess what else: He got help for it, then did an ad on TV saying it’s okay to ask for help.

Here’s three things you really need to know about depression right now:

  1. It’s NOT a weakness.
  2. You CAN’T just “snap out of it.”
  3. You CAN get help for it.

Listen up, guys. You want to do something manly? Something that takes big, brass balls? Get help for your depression; it’s available. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how many resources there are online for you.

Don’t know for sure if you’re depressed? Go to Webmd.com, Healthline.com, or whatever medical website you prefer, and read up on the signs and symptoms, and find out where you can get help. (Ladies, you look, too, for your man or for yourself.) I also highly recommend http://www.wingofmadness.com

Now, understand something, mis amigos. I got help, but I am by no means cured. Depression is treatable, not curable. I still have my occasions of irritability and anger. I still have my days of total pessimism and bleak world view. I still visit the pit. I still feel the weight. Those things aren’t going away. But they’re more manageable, now.

Usually.

 

Now, let’s get REALLY serious.

Thinking about suicide? Brother, I’ve been there. Many times, I’ve ruminated on whether the world would be much better off without me in it. Usually, it’s just a fleeting thought, but I’ve had at least one Hamlet Moment in my time, believe me. I’ve had that hopeless, useless, worthless feeling more times than I wish to remember.

You know what brings me back, every time? My wife. And my two cats. Silly? Maybe, but…

As bad, as terrified as I may feel sometimes about going on living, I feel infinitely worse about leaving them. I picture my darling wife trudging, as through water, through a house where everything she looks at reminds her, in some way, of me. I think of those precious cats futilely scouring the house, looking for Dad, not comprehending that he’s gone, forever…

and I just can’t. I just can ‘t.

Do I like admitting this to the world? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It’s a part of me I’d just as soon keep private, thank you. But I think of Mr. Wallace, and then I think of the last moments of comedian Robin Williams, putting that belt around his neck, completely bereft of hope, his pain and anguish going all the way to the marrow, and…

This could go one of two ways, in other words. The first way, while more painful, is still the better option.

Really, it is.

My wife and pets are my lifeline. If you can’t come up with any lifelines in your life, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, open 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255, and let THAT be your lifeline.

And to one person in particular, (you know who you are) remember all the people who love you, including me. We are all here for you.

You’re not alone, I swear. There’s a way out of that f*****g prison cell.

Honey, We Need to Talk…

My new driving job takes up a lot of my time; I’m on the clock twelve hours a day. So, I don’t get as much blogging time, lately. As a result, you may not hear from me quite as often as before.

Believe me, though, I’ve not run out of material. I have some things to say regarding events of the past couple of weeks, but this is not the time to just spew out something from a place of raw emotion. I need some time to choose my words carefully, and to speak from a place of reasoned, rational, but no less passionate, conversation.

I believe, at this point, that’s the best approach for us all.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not overlooking the urgency of the matter.

It’s obvious we are long overdue to have a serious conversation about some issues in this country that have gone past simmering and reached the boiling point. We all need to come into this conversation openly, having dropped all preconceptions and prejudices, to ask some tough questions and be willing to hear the answers, to speak honestly and without fear of reprisal and, most importantly, to listen closely.

It’s just that, as vital a role as emotion plays in the dialogue, it can no longer dominate. We all see where competitive yelling has gotten us; can we all agree, it’s time to employ a different method?

I’ll be back soon, I hope, to share a few things for us all to think about. Meantime…

“…oooh, I’m drivin’ my life away…”

 

57: It’s Not Just a Steak Sauce Anymore

So I’m 57 this month.

Actually, every month for the next year. (rim shot) But seriously, folks…

What I want to know is, how did I get here so freaking fast? It really is amazing. It’s like grabbing ahold of a rocket just as it launches, then hanging on for dear life.

I remember Dad taking me out to lunch on my 30th birthday, and him asking me if I ever thought I would be “this old.” I said I never thought I would be this old this fast.

And that was 27 years ago!!

Now, I’m at the age where my friends and I compare medications. (What’re you taking for your high blood pressure/cholesterol/diabetes/yadayadayada?) With all the stuff I take, I’m a walking chemistry set. I worry, one of these days, they’re all going to interact with each other, and I’ll spontaneously combust.

I can no longer sit down or get up quietly anymore. The action has to be accompanied by this groaning noise, like I’m putting down or picking up some huge, tremendous weight. Which, of course, I am. Gravity is a terrible thing, sometimes.

Speaking of which, I seem to be getting shorter, as well. I’m pretty sure I used to be just a shade over six feet tall but, according to my last few doctor visits, I’ve been measured at five-ten to five-eleven. If I live into my nineties, I might end up as a dwarf.

I have reading glasses scattered all over the house, in an effort to reduce the number of times I’m caught in a room without any when I need them. It’s bad enough being caught in a room with no idea at all why I went in there! Then, I have to play detective, searching for clues, retracing my steps, interrogating myself, roughing myself up when I don’t give the right answers…it’s just terrible, I tell you. I should know by now, if I just leave the room, then I’ll remember why I went in there.

Then, you know, there’s the cosmetic stuff. I don’t look too wrinkled, I think; the fat mostly conceals that. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. Also, I don’t know how this happened, but the hair that’s missing on my head has evidently relocated to my ears and nose. I guess it’s more fertile there, because it sure seems to grow faster there. I think someone should open a chain of ear and nose barbershops; that is a seriously untapped market, if you ask me.

Fortunately, though, I haven’t become a geezer, yet. I haven’t taken to wearing Bermuda shorts with knee socks, and I don’t go around knocking kids over the head with my cane, although that part actually sounds kinda cool.

And, by the way, kids, you may not want to take naps now but, trust me, the day will come when you will absolutely live for them. Really.

Bottom line, despite my whining and complaining, it’s been a pretty dang good life, so far. I’m glad to still be here, with the people I have in my life. (and the pets!) Done lots of things I shouldn’t, avoided doing lots of things I should, got more than a few regrets, but many blessings, as well. Getting old is a pretty scary thing to me, but I won’t dwell on that here. Some other post, perhaps. Right now, I’ll just be happy with where I am.

Since the only wisdom I can pass along is what I can borrow from someone else, I’ll leave you with some lyrics from my all-time favorite lyricist, fellow Texan Don Henley. Hope I get to stay around awhile longer.

Later, y’all. Nap time.

I look in the mirror now
I see that time can be unkind
But I know every wrinkle
And I earned every line
So, wear it like a royal crown
When you get old and gray
It’s the cost of living
And everyone pays
It’s the cost of living
And everyone pays

Don Henley, “The Cost of Living”

Songwriters
DON HENLEY, STANLEY LYNCH

Published By
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

For every moment of joy, every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my thanksgiving

Don Henley, “My Thanksgiving”

Songwriters
HENLEY, DON / WINDING, JAI L. / LYNCH, STANLEY

Published By Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

 

 

My (So Much) Better Half

What attracted me first was the eyes.

I met her when we were in our early twenties, in the college age Sunday School class at our church. I led the singing one Sunday, when I was home from school, and she played piano for me.

Then, I traveled back to school later that day, and pretty much forgot about that encounter. So, our story really didn’t begin there; just a footnote, more or less.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was graduated and back home, and we were in a different Sunday School class together. She was having some of us over to her apartment for her birthday. I was the first to arrive, and so we had time to talk awhile.

And that’s when I noticed those eyes. Those big, beautiful eyes. The kind you could just gaze into all day.

And, as we talked, I noticed a few other things. Her intelligence. Her honesty. Her smile. Her sense of humor. We had a pleasant conversation that afternoon.

And it still took me another month to ask her out (!) That’s how fast I moved.

But, it was the second best thing I ever did for myself.

The first was marrying that girl two years later.

 

The month of July is a significant one for me for two reasons. One of them is my birthday, which is sort of good news/bad news these days. It’s a commemoration of another year lived on this planet, and a reminder that I’m another step toward the grave. I’m on past middle age; I don’t imagine myself living to 114. I’m on the downhill side of my life, which explains the increasingly rapid pace at which it passes. Still, I try to be grateful for every year I’m still here.

(Incidentally, there are plenty of other July birthdays in my family. Apparently, October was quite an active month.)

The second big reason is my wedding anniversary. This year will mark our 32nd.

Incredible. It went by like nothing, but it’s also felt like we’ve been together our whole lives.

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The fact that this woman has put up with me that long is worthy of a medal, if not a parade. Ain’t no doubt, this boy won the Lottery on his wedding day.

The wedding, incidentally, was somewhat eventful. Love birds escaped their cages and flew around awhile. A groomsman fainted just as I was kissing the bride.

Oh, well, give the people their money’s worth, right?

So, that’s how we started out, and it’s been a wonderful ride ever since. The more I’ve gotten to know this lady, the better I like her.

I’ve never known anyone so thoughtful before in my life, who thinks of other people’s needs as often as she does, and is so willing to do what she can to help.

She has a terrific sense of humor. She’ll come up with stuff sometimes that simultaneously cracks me up and makes me envious that I didn’t think of it first.

Like me, she’s a sucker for animals. She’s got a tender heart for cats, dogs, and all baby animals. (“Aren’t they cute?”)

She is absolutely devoid of pretense; she’s genuine. What you see is what you get. She’s honest to a fault. (As is the rest of her family, as I learned)

She has a very strong sense of fairness, and bristles at injustice anywhere she observes it. She believes in, and respects, the dignity of every individual, and treats them accordingly, as she would want to be treated.

And she loves me, as she’s proven over and over again.

And, oh yeah, she’s pretty, too.

 

We’ve had some wonderful times together. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to visit several places across America, see beautiful things, and have unforgettable experiences. One that stands out to me is standing on the balcony of our hotel room on Waikiki Beach and watching the sun set over Honolulu. Never thought I’d actually get to do that. It’s just one of many dreams come true in my life.

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Of course, we’ve had some experiences that were not so pleasant; such is life. But we’ve been there for each other through it all, and we always will be.

Does she drive me nuts sometimes? Sure.

Do I return the favor, in spades? Bet all your money on it.

But we both know, we’re in this thing for the long haul. We made a commitment to each other all those years ago, in front of God and several credible and semi-credible witnesses, to be with other for as long as we both shall live. And, 32 years later, here we are, looking forward to more wonderful years together.

And her eyes are as beautiful as ever.

Happy Anniversary, darling. Thank you for being my wife. You’re my very best friend, and there’s no one I’d rather hang out with. Thank you for sticking with me through bad times, as well as good. Thank you for your devotion and support. Thank you for your patience, which I constantly put to the test. Mostly, thank you for loving this lucky guy for all these years.

I Love You so very, very, very much.

 

Our Beautiful Home

Folks, we’re about to celebrate our 240th year of existence as the United States of America. Parties, burgers and fireworks will be abundant. Lakes all over the country will be full of drunken boaters. “Stars and Stripes Forever” will be played by bands and orchestras coast to coast. American flags will wave everywhere you look, American hearts will swell with pride, and American retailers will offer DEEP discounts the preceding weekend.

As Michael Keaton said in Night Shift: “Is this a great country, or what?”

It is, folks. An amazing country, from sea to shining sea.

But, as we all know, there’s definitely room for improvement.

I don’t want to dwell on that, because this is a party, after all. But, I can’t totally ignore it. Economy, environment, race relations, education, our whole election process, health care, guns…and I’m just warming up.

But, one of this country’s greatest strengths is its capacity for evolution, dating all the way back to our forward-thinking Founding Fathers, who birthed this beautiful experiment. Progress is possible, these problems are solvable, a better future for everyone is in sight.

But, we gotta work for it. All of us.

So, as we celebrate our precious freedom on the 4th, let’s remind ourselves that with that freedom comes responsibility. We must be more active caretakers of this lovely piece of land we call home, and of each other, as well. As we toast our independence, let us reconsider our interdependence; we need each other.

I’ll leave you with a little something we all learned and recited as schoolkids, and I will ask you to take another look at these words, and seriously consider what they mean to you.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,

And to the republic for which it stands, 

One nation under God, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all.

Happy Independence Day, everyone. If you’re anywhere near spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, fruited plains, or any other magnificent scenes, take it in and appreciate it. Leave it as you found it, so someone else can appreciate it. Treat this land with love.

And, oh yeah: careful with the fireworks.