Life: It’s All Yours.

  This post, its contents, and its author are not nor pretending to be healthcare professionals giving advice or suggesting treatment for health issues. 
For help with your health you must see a healthcare professional.

If you’re reading this post, chances are that you’re alive like I am, but you didn’t have a motive like I had, to reflect on what does it mean to be alive while the Life of my brother simply floated away like a freed balloon.  Synonyms for alive include methodical references like: aware, cooperative, and sensible. On the other hand, synonyms for Life imply inventive and daring like: animated, vital, and dynamic.

living1I’m definitely alive but am I Living? Living Life now? Living an animated, capricious, passionate, dynamic, vital, and creative Life? Living Life as though I was purposeful rather than predestinedOr has Life as an adventure, those outwardly foolish, expressive, devil-may-care, and goofy ideas of my arrogant youth been bagged and hung in the back of a closet like an unstylish overcoat? I remember exactly when I lost my nerve and consequently my verve. It was when I had to shelve my life as a creative, curious, and lyrical writer in order to be initiated into a wholly alien and inconsistent corporate culture by getting a job, being supervised or managed, have a steady income, and be a responsible adult. I compromised my true self to evolve into one in herds of others that bought into the idea that business is better than a mind full of zany ideas

The week immediately following my brother’s five minutes of death then resurrected by modern medicine, he spent it straddling the threshold between now and ever after. Rick’s life had become a slippery slope with one treatment jeopardizing another, inconceivable mobility issues, and, like a politician caught taking bribes, his dignity was retired by committee, his independence was incarcerated as he was assigned a room on a floor presently occupied by end-stage, incoherent residents. Considering what he’d already forfeited, I knew that my brother Rick, was going to finish what he’d started seven suffering days earlier: his non-negotiable intention to die, right there, there in a generic hospital bed surrounded by generic strangers. It was, after all, his free will that determined he did not want to live a compromised life.  It was then, in the presence of his own conviction that he would end his miracle of life.

Later that afternoon and well into the night I took a long, hard look at my Life, my unconsciousness of it, what I promised the world at birth, and finally, have I kept those promises? Below you’ll find a list based solely on recalling Rick’s life, his courage and his conviction, and finally my own mortality.  I was surprised (to say the least):

  1. Life is a Miracle:  It doesn’t matter to which, if any, spiritual leadership you follow, the simple fact that you, you, not somebody else, but you, faults and all occupy one tiny spot in a universe few can even imagine.
  2. Life knows its job:  Life knows the human genome and like Mr. Potato Head puts us together in a fascinating display of accuracy and symmetry.  None of my Mr. Potato Heads ever resembled each other.
  3. Boldness and Bravery aren’t the same. Boldness is something you do for your self in order to get noticed. Bravery is something you do for others disregarding your own safety. Men and women that are brave get noticed. Not because they were bold, but their actions were brave.
  4.  Join clubs, gangs, or any organization whose sole purpose is benevolence. They’ve been drawn together in order to help others rather than themselves.
  5. Fail as often as you can. Failing implies you tried something new. Failure is knowledge.living6
  6. Success is fleeting and assigned by others.
  7. Keep secrets secret. Secrets are like boomerangs, they always return to sender.
  8. Be unpopular; popular people spend a lot of time being popular. Unpopular people spend more time on their passions.
  9. All Olympian’s, film stars, and scientists who have won, starred in, or discovered a cure forfeited something very precious to dedicate themselves to their sport, their art, or their experiments.
  10. Whatever you’re undertaking, always have a “Plan B.”
  11. If you’re doing, going, or trying anything new, be sure you know a way out before it becomes dangerous.
  12. Be generous. Sure, with money; but with yourself. Everyone is inspirational. Tell your story to others. Truthfulness is inspirational.
  13. Never compromise your character. It’s who you are. Without it you’re nobody.
  14. living5Fear stops everyone at one time or another. But fear can be conquered: Simply dig in your pocket for your determination.
  15. Never quit. Never. Friends, family, strangers will all chide or mock your idea. Expect it. Ignore it. Mockery confirms they’ve heard or seen it. Which is always better than silence.

Life At An Amusement Park

It’s been going on for five days now, minute by minute mood swings making me feel like a shooting gallery duck; dense anxiety like heavy fog, and a degree of indecision that stops my movement like a pause button.

indecisiveFor instance, this morning I couldn’t decide between chocolate milk or hot chocolate, behaving like the child at the soda fountain musing over nuts or no nuts. Ten minutes of my partner hustling through the house when at last he stopped, uttered some variation on a familiar expletive, poured a tall glass of cool milk, dumped the equivalent of a chocolate cake into the milk, dropped in a spoon, spun it about without dissolving anything causing it to resemble a freshly unplugged toilet, then brusquely presented it as though I was a fussy child, followed by that variant expletive and walked into the backyard.

I ask, is this the behavior of a fifty-five year old man, highly educated, and graced with an innate aptitude for johnny-on-the-spot decisions?

hammerToday was the first day of my 96 hour ride on the infamous carnival ride, The Hammer, in which you swing forward and back forward and back, etc.  Today was also the first time of my 96 hour disturbing mental yo-yo that the Midway seemed like an appropriate place to live. I’d fit in quite nicely with the Fun House, the Freak Show, ping-pong ball goldfish toss, and the notorious ring the Coke bottle.

But there’s been nothing amusing about my minute-to-minute change in behavior, the confusion which renders me speechless, the marathon of apologies, emptiness to the depth of a wino’s bottle, and then a creeping attack of self-doubt, self-worth, even writing was tortuous (when I suppose its most honest.  Did you ever have those days when you wished they speed past like flashcards?  It’s only until that damned disappointing sun, weak incapable of tossing out a solar flare and incinerating the cloud cover that I felt calm. No more staring into a day of gray disappointment.grayday

Night time is the best time for me. Inside the house is quiet and familiar like an old dog and outside is awash in black and could be anywhere in the world.


Which Is Which?

Night after night after night after night for the past three weeks I’m awake well past 4:00 am.   Last night I was awake until 3:10 am, just awake, not anxious awake or fearful awake or even we-leave-for-Prague-in-six-hours awake.  Just awake even after swallowing three milligrams of Clonazepam.

I still awaken at 7:30 or 8:00 or 9:10 am.  Today my day didn’t start until 3:00 pm.  But I can’t untangle the ball of yarn because I can’t pinpoint the beginning of this wakefulness: Is it one of three dire maladies that come and go like my sanity was a delicatessen (and bedeviled generations since expelled from Pandora’s Box with other evils) or if the distress of my brother’s death only appears in solitude; then today this torment advanced by adding a threatening malaise. Teasing the debilitating effects of mental illness with the expeditious death of my brother, my routines have been stirred, causing an atypical night/day composition causing great distress and exhibiting itself in one of three years in great part by one three infirmities: 1) Mania (this ain’t a party; 2) Depression (which routinely involves sleep; or, 3) Grief.

But today, today the symptoms were clear: sleeping well into the morning, sitting on the side of the bed for two hours; no concept of passing time.  When I first was diagnosed we accepted odd sleep patterns as a component of bipolar.griefpoem But now, when the inevitable death became evitable, my grief churned the sediment of negative memories, their decay rising to the surface like the Magic Eightball, and I precisely recall that day or incident or mounds of work to what?  End in death? Four years now sours like wet rags lying on the basement floor for two weeks and turn into deep, powerful, and dangerous emotions like hate, retribution, and bitterness which poison even my brightest memories like an elixir or potion.

And today I feel like shit; disinterested, loathsome, hopeless, belongings reduced to ordinary objects; all over, two men smiling or laughing in picture frames remain unrecognizable; too many functional, but inefficient appliances, especially my computer.  In order to simply write I’d have to troubleshoot half a dozen issues:the writing is slow to the surface anyhow, and when buoyant is likely to blather on about how shitty I feel, and how long am I expected to stave off this darkness?

Oh yeah, and when will someone like me rush to my side and avail his own life to repair mine?  When will that be? When do you think? How long did you wait? When generosity runs as thin as this a damning selfishness takes a seat at my table: “Hear you’re tired of saving people even when you’re risking yourself. Hear you’re looking for your “generous man” to shoulder your burden and top-off your short-comings.  Well, today’s your lucky day, ’cause they sent me instead. I’m what you’d call Selfishness.”

On Being the Black Sheep

It’s been five weeks since the death of my older (by two tiny years) brother, Richard.

aa-driptowelsOne mid-afternoon as I was visiting him in the ICU he easily slid into a nap. So I closed my eyes amidst a midafternoon’s bath of sunshine, until the first reel of a daydream began: It focused on a man-in-mourning transfixed! He watched as the Life Miracle slowly dripped from him like he was hung yet unwrung towels that became lighter and lighter as water continued to drain. A voiceover added that water is movement, and movement is fundamentally incapable of staying anywhere for long, especially where it: 1) Isn’t valued; and, 2) Isn’t wanted. I awoke startled, seeing a nurse tending to Richard. In hindsight the man in my daydream was me and I was there to observe dying, to witness the broken pipe my brother had become, and in his case, disinterested in repair, hopeless in patches, and instead, quit. Autocratically, decidedly, and determinedly.

Is autonomously dying rightful? If so, it’s hidden down deep in the fine print that no one reads except those searching for any way out like a trapped diver short of oxygen?

Clearly Richard found his karmic precedent and pursued his resignation with silent bravery and resolve. I’ve been told by childhood acquaintances who have remained in Milwaukee that they’ve overheard self-promoted clucking of crassly ignorant and insensitive hens quoting St. Peter himself, “Richard did not simply give up: The mere thought is preposterous and queerly unorthodox for a son as dedicated to his mother’s care. Give up? Just, quit? Not Richard . . . but that baby brother, the one that went to college . . . For eight years . . . then wouldn’t come home to his dying mother; oh no, had to live . . . in . . . Chicago with his pal . . . No, it’s something I’d expect from him, from the Black Sheep of that family. “aa-blksheep

Summer’s Surrender to Fall



Moments after awakening, your verve ignites the hope of one more day of Summer and you fly from bed covers sticking your landing on chilling quarter-sawn floors like Mary Lou Retton. Skating across the frozen floor you throw open the curtains (as if they were silken chenille drapery hung casually in your Latin Quarter Pied-à-terre) waiting to be awash in dawn’s low-horizon sunlight.

Disappointed, the monotonous Gray Gang rolled into town minutes after midnight like lawless gunmen in frontier westerns. Intimidated townsfolk peeked through barren curtains and set about fortifying their modest homes: Searching for gaps in windows and beneath doors they stuffed the clefts with thick, woolen remnants similar to pre-dawn dog walkers that shelter themselves behind fleece and neoprene.

The liberated leaves figure-skate about my feet then streak skyward caught in a draft like summer kites and the floating dreams of a child:  All at once they’ve coagulated into knee-high tempests which zig and zag like adolescents chasing each other at noon time. Colors flash against skies of blue or gray or ashen citrine patch quilts. These October skies challenge the manufactured, yet awe inspired Independenceaa-leaves Day fireworks. The path, covered in a thoughtless arrangement of patterns and color like ballroom carpeting, have been crushed and watered and dissolved into an ingress of mislead and slippery shortcuts. In the day’s dusk, from afar the drained and disheartened scraping of pasted leaves to sidewalks which coincidently echoes the desperate sound of your repeated scraping of an overcooked and decoupaged fried egg from your sister-in-laws idyllic and maniacal “Panicured,” (the cookware’s equivalence of a mani-pedi).

That handful of cooled late summer sun slips through desperate fingers like sand, and jabs through gangways, half-naked trees, and slowly hibernating perennials. Yet each slice of sunlight reminds one of that perfectly chilled Cosmopolitan, sipped, as passers-by were evaluated, or that push-up pop and root beer float enjoyed during a devastating humid evening, or slightly and lightly limed key lime pie savored beneath Mrs. Landowski’s heirloom Sycamore that breezy summer afternoon. We hope we can squeeze just one more day of memories to keep our hope inflated, like the aa-boytireboy two doors down who’s anxiously and devotedly pumping a chronically flat rear tire is wholly disinterested in the waning blossoms and bye-bye of blue birds and tumbling bumblebees all which undoubtedly signify Summer’s surrender to Fall. But if we cease pining for what is lost and watch that boy two doors down, we might learn a lesson which the earth has known for eons:  Summer is but one season in four, four which may not be idolized as Summer, but which bring changes that tickle nature just like a favored uncle or aunt might’ve brought penny treasures which I adored.

And like the forever flattened tire that the boy two doors down finally acquiesced, try as hard as you might, we’re simply observers of a world that remains true to it’s own change of seasons, or, if you will, its life’s purpose.  What might our world be if we expressed an unwavering commitment to who we are and what we do?