Simply Human

I walk.  A lot.

I do this to keep a couple of steps ahead of my disease and keep my lungs healthy and strong.  I also do this to reflect on my life and ask, what can I do better as a father and husband; what can I do to make my kids’ world a better place?  More importantly, what can I do to become a better human being than I was at the start of the walk?   Many times, I find no answer, but sometimes a little light gets shed on the subject and make me start to walk down another path from the way I was going, literally and figuratively.  Today was one of those days where I had more to reflect on than usual.  Tomorrow is yet another Chemotherapy session which will find me miserable for a few days afterward; and I have to prepare myself for that and steel myself against it’s inevitable onslaught to me both physically and mentally.  I was also still thinking about Friday’s tragedy and what I can do, or we as a society can do, to try and prevent this from happening again.  And suddenly it came to me in a flash.  It was as if the sun had gone nova and it took that to happen before I could see the light that was blazing so brightly before.

We must be human; and we must be kind to one another.

It sounds so simple and easy; it sounds idealistic; it sounds like a facile solution to a complex problem…but it’s not.  It is the root cause of everything that we as individuals and we as a society need.  If we want better mental health care, then we have to be more human about its treatment and its stigma associated with it as something that is to be hidden and not addressed directly.  I have openly addressed on this blog my own struggles with PTSD from the aftermath of 9/11 and my own diagnosis as having bi-polar disorder.  I am lucky, because I have the insurance that allows me to be a whole person; but many do not have that luxury.  I am able to tell right from wrong, but there are days when quite honestly, the line blurs for me…and if it’s happening to me, just imagine what is happening to those poor souls who do not have the luxury of that privilege.  I KNOW what can go through the mind of someone who has these issues.  I know first hand how easy it is to lose control and just give in to the Darkness.  I also know first hand what needs to be done to maintain control and embrace the Light that comes from others as well as what is inside of me.  But this realization could only happen because I have people who care about me and treat me as a human being.  It makes me want to pause rather than to give in to my base instincts.  There are those who have no one in this life, and they do not have others to show them the way forward.  What these people need is something as simple as kindness and understanding first and foremost even before we as a society can treat their ills.

We have become a culture that embraces the Darkness because we see no hope.  The Mobius loop we are in is the root cause of the problem is that we see no hope because we OFFER no hope.  There are people who see no kindness because they are offered none; and they despair and give into their most primal and uncontrolled instincts and do to others unspeakable things like what happened this past Friday.  We need to offer hope; we need to offer Light; we need to show others that things CAN and WILL get better if they know there is someone to catch them when they fall.  Simple acts of kindness and humanity are the first steps toward one’s own enlightenment as well as the enlightenment of us all.

We can blame video games.  We can blame a culture that embraces the violence and terror as part of its societal fabric.  We can blame many things; but its root cause is offering no hope for the future while letting the present exist in Darkness.  We need to change the way we THINK as individuals before we can act and address the problems that lay before us.  In order for us to be human, we need to embrace the part of us that is like the Universe…infinite and full of wonder; full of hope; full of Light.  We need to renounce the part of ourselves that is complacent in its very existence; the part of us that walks by the beggar on the street rather than help them out with a meal or a new pair of shoes like that NYPD officer did a few weeks ago.  We need to reach down deep inside and pull out the part of us that is a creature of Light; turn our souls inside out if necessary.  We need to be able to do one simple act of kindness before we can do hundreds or thousands of acts of kindness by making this place, this fragile planet become a better place to live.

Be human; be kind to one another.

It is probably the most difficult choice many of us will have to make because quite simply, we exist in a society that doesn’t glorify that kind of behavior or encourage its very nature.  We would rather be a creature of the Darkness rather than a being of Light because we do not promote the very fabric of our Humanity that IS our nature and our destiny as a species.  We are LIGHT.  Once we accept that; once we have that basic concept in our head, then we can begin that which I just spoke of…

Be human; be kind to one another.

It starts with a simple act of kindness and goes from there. It snowballs into better health care for all of us, and most especially for those who cannot afford it.  It starts with us taking away the implements of destruction that threaten our very lives.  It starts with getting rid of the guns, the assault weapons, the tanks, the nuclear tipped missiles aimed at the very heart of every nation on the face of this earth.  It starts when we say, “Enough!” and act upon that thought.  We need a way to offer hope for the Future and a better Present…and that means getting rid of our old ways of thinking.  We are truly at a crossroads this time, because we can now truly see the sacrifice those young souls made upon our behalf.  They chose to come into this plane to show us the way; 20 Angels and creatures of light who sacrificed their future for the future of us all.  It starts when we understand that they would still be here if we only did one thing…

Be human; be kind to one another.

We can talk about the specifics at another time, but we must all come to terms with this horrible tragedy by embracing the thought that we CAN offer Hope.  We CAN offer a Present AND a Future to anyone who needs it; in fact, we need to all realize this because we must be the ones who light the way.  We must, as a nation, become the shining beacon of hope and freedom that we once were.  We used to be the ones who wore the white hat; we used to be the country that defended and protected the sacred cause given to us by our founders and be the light of freedom and of hope…but we must also be the nation that has seen the ill of its ways and repented upon the altar of History.  We must be the ones who embrace the simple fact that we are the last best hope of mankind.  We ARE the future.  It is going to take some sacrifices, but those are sacrifices that we must make on an individual level and the rest will fall into place.

Be human; be kind to one another.

So many of our prophets and saviors and enlightened souls have been telling us that this is the case for centuries.  We usually turn away from them and kill them even as they tried to show us the way to become, that which is our Destiny.  To be Human is a blessing and a curse all at the same time because we must balance our base instincts with the future salvation of our very soul by forsaking the Darkness that dwells within and embrace the Light that is always there in each one of us, no matter how small.  Even the smallest ember can start a fire, and let this be the incident that lets us know that there will always be someone…even a complete stranger…who has our back and will grasp our arm and pull us up from the mob that is trampling on us (like what happened to me on 9/11).  We must be the ones to lead because those 20 children who died for our sins this past Friday have charged us with the task today and our Founders who did the same 236 years ago.  We must look at them and embrace the better nature of our angels, because within each one of us dwells a being of infinite compassion and caring.  A being that can transcend the very earthly confines we find ourselves trapped in and struggling with on a daily basis.

The true test of a soul is when they are alone in the Darkness and without a candle and when no one is looking.  It is time to light that candle of hope and guide ourselves out of the dark prison we have made for ourselves.  We need to be the flame that lights the other candles of hope because the person we are helping, although a complete stranger is our brother or sister.  They are human beings just like we are.  We must offer them hope and peace.  And there is only one way to do this:

Be human; be kind to one another…for the next hand you grasp may very well be the one who is reaching out to save you.  Take it, hold on to it for dear life…and see the hope love and light that are coming from the Human Being who offers you a chance to have hope and a future once again.

I have found that it is ironic that I understand more about life as I face the possibility of my own premature death.  It’s a shame that it took that to happen before I realized that I had more to offer my children, my wife, my family and friends than I had offered in the past.  It is now time to take whatever knowledge I gleam from this experience and pass it along…so that you may also show others the way that unfolds before me.  And it’s all so simple…and starts with each one of us, and it starts the moment we embrace ourselves, faults and all, and an implement of the will of the Universe.

It starts when we embrace the word “Humanity” as something beautiful and not something to be feared.  It starts when we embrace the better nature of our angels…and we realize that we are the angels who have been chosen to deliver humanity’s calling to the world.

Be the Light; be the change that you seek.  Be the Human Being you know you can be, and that you in fact are.  Only then can we offer the hope needed to change our society and ourselves.

 

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon…we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win… “

-John F. Kennedy

 

 

 

Conquerers and Commoners Alike

Friday was one of those days that changes your life forever, and sometimes in the most unexpected of ways.

Prior to that day, I was a full-fledged supporter of the Second Amendment (The right to bear arms and form militias).  I know why it was put in our leaving breathing Constitution: it’s there as a means of protecting the populace against a government that may very well be violating the Constitution.  It is something I believed in very strongly in, although with restrictions on ownership (confined to sane, reasonable people), background checks, closing the gun show loopholes that are wide enough to fit a tank through let alone an AK-47 or any assault weapon that does not belong on the streets and into the hands of sane men and women.  As the reports kept coming in, my heart was tearing itself into little pieces because in many ways my simple belief in that Amendment put me square into a small part of this as an unwilling conspirator.  My belief in that Amendment was a small part of what allowed that madman to have his weapons of doom that took the lives of those children.  I continued to feel the burden of my belief fall upon me, until in a moment…a flash of realization…that I had become (once again in my life) Saul on the Road to Damascus.  The scales dropped from my eyes, and I can now unequivocally state here now for the record that I am of the firm belief that although I believe Human Beings have infinite capabilities to be beautiful, we also have the capabilities of being evil and darkness incarnate.

Some have said it’s because we took God out of schools.  Some have said that it is because our society is so messed up that these events area a reflection of that and we need to do more to prevent crazies from gun ownership.  And the knee jerk reaction from the other side is, “See!  I told ya so!” in many, many ways.  Oh sure, we can get all cute on the Internet with instant pix and memes.  We can try and get our point across letting others choose our words for us, but I don’t have that luxury.  I write.  I have to say what needs to be said, and quite frankly, I do not find that the words that usually flow easily on many things come much slower this evening.  But this is what I do.  Like Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality does not kill you”.  Well, reality killed 18 children Friday.  Reality allowed those guns to be bought.  Reality is what may have dashed the hopes of one man so that he turned to his darker half and used the very extensions of the darkness to take 21 lives.  Reality is 18 sets of parents who may never celebrate the holidays again.  Reality is that guns are on our streets, they are in our schools, they are in our homes.  And it’s time for a reality check: it’s time to ban all guns from this country.  I cannot say more than that.  All you have to do is look at every name on a list on the front of the Huffington Post and realize those were children.  They will never know families of their own.  They will never know graduations and weddings.  They will never know what life has taken from them in the form of a madman who was allowed to have guns.  That’s the reality…so I’ll keep writing because I need to get drunk on it…

How to we keep going?  How do we move on from this?  I can only offer my own perspective.  I was going to work on a beautiful Tuesday Morning in September 2001 when my world can crashing down upon me.  I was in the middle of the attacks on the World Trade Center.  I was caught in the dust cloud.  I saw people jump and the second plane hit the building.  I ran for my life.  I was trampled on.  And yet, I knew I had to get back to my family…and I did.  I was never the same man as I was when I left home that morning.  PTSD took its toll over me for the next two years, as did a diagnosis of being bi,polar.  But the damage was done, and I was a weak and frightened man.  Slowly I dove into the bottle, and for a straight year I lived there…until I was redeemed, found sobriety, and the love of my children.  Like all humans, I survived when I had to…somehow; I moved on but came out of the experience better for it.  Somehow, we keep going…

My wife and I have had incredible marriage problems ever since then.  We have our good days and bad days, but in the end we care more about our kids than we do about ourselves, or yes, even our marriage.  That took a big hit because of 9/11 and a lot of other things…there’s always enough blame to go around.  I have my share, believe me.  I am no saint; I am more apt to be a concrete angel with clipped wings rather than a glowing light upon the cosmic zephyrs.  But while that is still an issue, and we are working through things the best we can, somehow we keep going…

Last December 19th, an abnormality showed up on a routine x,ray.  It was lung cancer.  I have plenty of blame for that one: I smoked for years.  I was in that aforementioned dust cloud on 9/11.  I have gone through extensive chemo, radiation, and an operation.  It is difficult knowing that every day you either look up at the sword of Damocles above your head or the stars in the sky.  There are days when I vacillate between the two, and then there are those magnificent days where all I see are the stars.  Those are the days when I feel life more than I ever have.  Those are the days I love my wife and kids more than ever.  But those days are here and there, and I just hang in there until one comes around.  When you are told you are dying, you tell them you are not.  You tell them that you are going to live to see your grandchildren, and those are the days you see the stars…but there’s always that sword.  I’m training myself not to look at it and see only the sky.  I do that because somehow, I must keep trying…

And that is what we must do here.  We must keep going on, we must keep trying no matter what stands in our way.  There are a lot of future kids’ fates riding on what we decide to do in the coming years.  Although our hearts break, they are not made of glass.  The heart never is; it is always flesh and blood and can be remolded and taught to love again.  It can be taught to do the right thing.  It can be taught to somehow, it must keep going.  We must come to the realization that if we are to survive as a people, as a nation, and as a planet…we must end the culture of guns NOW.  Those kids could have been yours.  They could have been mine.  Next time something like this happens, and we all know it WILL happen again, we’ll all pontificate and do what we have been doing to fight the violence and end the death…nothing.  We’ll all still send our photos and memes on Facebook.  We’ll all feel sad for a couple of days, and we’ll just go on living like we usually do.

But this time, it HAS to be different.  This time we need to honor the memories of those children and adults who perished in a sea of bullets that were bought and paid for by all the lobbying money that the National Rifle Association could muster.  This time we have to do something…anything to stop the violence and death.  That begins with a dialog.  That begins with enough of us writing to our Representatives and Senators and even marching on Washington to try and end this senseless violence and culture of guns.  That begins when one of us says “No more guns” and another and another and another follow until we can finally rid the land of the weapons that are holding us hostage by the presence of their very existence.  This reign of terror must end.

It is often said that a revolution begins with one man.  Let this piece be the first words of that revolution.  Let these words be the beginning of the end of the presence of guns in our homes, in our offices, in our schools, and in our streets; so that our children will never have to face this again, or that people will be able to go places and not live in fear that the next shooting may involve them or their families.  Let it be a reason to carry on and believe that this is not about taking away your right to own a gun, as much as it is my right to live another day and to see my children do the same.  It’s about freedom from fear.  It’s about freedom from the NRA.  It’s about remembering all those souls we have lost on Friday, and a few months before in a movie theater, and a few years before at Columbine.   It’s about somehow, us finding the courage to do what is right.  It’s about us somehow, going on and getting the job done.  It’s about us not merely saying, “no more guns”; it’s about us believing that liberty and freedom come from the soul more than they come from the point of a gun.  It’s about us believing enough in ourselves that we can do this.

This nation may have been born with a shot heart ‘round the world, but it will die a slow and painful death if we allow the culture of guns and violence to take over our streets and our hearts.

In loving memory of:

Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt

 

“Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.” – Harlan Ellison

Memories Of Two Towers Struck Down, Revisited

For the past four years I have reprinted that which you are about to read. Every year I kind of give an intro and outro to the piece and get my sadness out of the way.

Sometimes, you go looking for history; other times it comes looking for you. I survived the attacks 11 years ago. I also survived with the acute PTSD I live with daily, but most especially today. Being bi-polar isn’t a help, nor is being disabled because of a combination of the two. Neither is being an ex-drunk (which I happily am mostly sober since 2006 except for a glass of champagne on a special occasion like my 50th birthday or opening day of Football season where a beer is mandatory). I managed very nicely with AA and left them after two years because I seriously felt my spiritual beliefs were being threatened. The remaining years have been surprisingly easy, thanks to the degenerating discs in my back which prevent me from doing a lot, mainly because I’m on such strong pain medication. So, no drinking because the combo gets you violently ill…even two drinks. One (if at all) is my mandatory limit. And it feels pretty good to be able to walk away and watch someone else put the lampshade on. I’m surviving as best I can some rough and turbulent marriage waters right now. Of all the things that have suffered the most since 9/11 it has been my marriage. That took a lethal hit to the stern…but we’re trying. Sometimes, not hard enough, sometimes we make it all work.

Oh, and I got lung cancer Stage 3A diagnosed in March. Trust me, I have no intention of boring you with that one, because I could (and should) probably start a separate blog for that topic alone. But that is basically what the past 11 years have brought me…that long winding road of insanity capped with cancer…and it’s almost impossible not to shake your head and laugh, because everything I have been doing was the right thing to get my family together as a unit once again and the final kick in the groin by fate, God, the Universe or whatever was lung cancer. But I WILL survive this too…just like I did everything else…mainly because I honestly believe that in some way, shape, or form I am here for a reason. What that is may not be clear to me now, but it’s getting there. I always say that the Universe unfolds as it should. We’re put in places for a reason and although the reason may not be clear right now it does become apparent in time. I some ways, the cancer opened up the world a bit more for me as I can appreciate the moments and the time between the moments rather than worrying about the future. There is only now. And 11 years ago, I sat a broken man in my basement office trying to make some sense of it all and I posted something on an old Babylon 5 chat board that managed to connect with a lot of people, so much so that I have been asked to allow it to be used by college professors in their classes.

What I would like to do now is reprint a piece I wrote a few days after 9/11 while I was still very much in shock and totally unsure of what happened and where I was going next.  It has been printed on several web sites over the years, and it resides in the Library of Congress as part of a collection of written history from eyewitnesses and survivors of that day.  It is graphic and intense, but it is MY story of that day…the day when my world, and everyone else’s changed forever.

———Phoenix Uncertain: Originally written on Thursday, September 13, 2001—————-

CATHARSIS I: The Road to Damascus

I need to write all of this down right now, while the smells, sounds, and experiences of the past few days are fresh in my mind. I also need to do this now because I’ve gotten some clarity in the past few hours and I don’t know how long that will last for. I have alternated between disbelief, sorrow, confusion, and anger…and sometimes all of these simultaneously. On Tuesday, the man I was ceased to exist. The light has been extinguished from my eyes. I’ve tried to explain things to my wife and broke down every time. I cannot even begin to explain to my daughter Katie how lucky she is to have her Daddy around, nor can I explain to her why her Daddy screams in his sleep or why he shakes for no reason. I cannot explain to her why every time I head a loud sound or bang, I practically jump out of my skin. All I can do is try and take the medication that keeps me normalized and try and make some sort of sense of the whole thing. Now that I’ve just popped a “happy pill”, I’ve got 8 hours to write this all down, before I descend into my own abyss once again. In the past 72 hours, I have witnessed events that I never thought I would see with my own eyes. What you are seeing on your television is absolutely nothing…and I do mean NOTHING…like it actually was to be there. I keep telling myself that something or someone must have had a greater plan for me, and that is why I am alive today instead of being buried under a ton of rubble. Perhaps that plan just to write this document of my experience to share with others so that they may carry on the memory of those who survived like myself, and the memory of those who were lost. Perhaps it is to share with you that amidst all of the evil, I witnessed some of the finest moments of compassion and humanity that I have ever seen…an affirmation of a belief that I have always held: that we have greatness inside all of us. Perhaps it is about the redemption of my own soul, for like Saul on the way to Damascus, I’m slowly coming to the realization that my life has indeed reached a turning point. I also know that there is no going back to the person I was, and I just have to figure out just who the hell I am now.

CATHARSIS II: Abnormal Normality

TUESDAY, September 11th, 2001: 7:22 AM, Little Silver Train Station, NJ
Kissed my wife and daughters good bye as they dropped me off at the station. Took my coffee, laptop, and briefcase…bought a copy of the NY Daily News. Thankfully since the NY Giants/Denver Broncos game ended late, I don’t have to read about how my team was defeated. Read through the paper all the while sipping my coffee on the one hour ride to Newark NJ, where I will catch the PATH Train (a subway between NJ and NY) to the World Trade Center, just 3 blocks from my office at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza.

8:20 AM, Penn Station, Newark, NJ
Board the PATH train…and actually found a seat! I consider this a good omen for the rest of the day, especially as I was lugging around a very heavy laptop PC in addition to my regular briefcase. It was for this reason that I decided NOT to listen to my CD Player today…it would be just too awkward carrying around a CD player strapped to my waist as well as a laptop and briefcase. I close my eyes to catch a few winks on the 22-minute ride into Manhattan. 8:42 AM, World Trade Center, New York, NY Leave PATH train for the ride 6 stories up a series of escalators to the street level. I decide that my laptop is sitting awkwardly on my shoulder, and that I would fix it when I reached the top of the escalators.

8:45 AM, WTC Path Square (located in the center of the WTC Complex, 1 story Below Ground, where there’s a Shopping Mall)
Reach the top of the escalator, and begin to fix my laptop. As soon as I get myself situated…something happens…a sound…something different. Sounds like a crash at first…then a low rumble…then a “whoosh” throughout the complex. People are starting to run, and once others see people running, they too scramble for the exits. At this point, I think it’s a good time to get the hell out of there, and start to run toward the exits as well. Someone, in his or her haste to get out, knocks me over. I’m falling face first toward a plate glass window in one of the shops. Somehow, I manage to contort my body so that I land on my left knee pretty hard, but my face hits the floor. I’m dazed…compose myself for a minute…and realize I have to get out no matter what just happened. My knee is killing me, but the endorphins take over, and that pain is quickly gone. I feel something warm on my chin, and realize that it’s blood. My fall knocked one of my front teeth into my lip, putting a nice gash in it. I wipe some blood away, and follow another crowd into the lower level of the Border’s bookstore, which also has an exit to the streets…it’s much less crowded, and a calmer exodus of people. I reach the street and exit into the air. There is a burning smell…I’d never smelled anything like it. There are thousands of papers falling from the sky in a quiet procession of calm amidst the chaos. A paper rain, much like one of those party favors that you might have had when you were a kid…you know, the fake champagne bottles filled with confetti. I start to walk across Church Street. I can see smoke, but because I’m so close to the tower, I can’t really see anything. I begin to walk westward toward Broadway past St Paul’s Chapel. As I walk, people are looking up at the North Tower, then looking back down at my blood stained face. I see their eyes are filled with confusion. When I reach the corner of Broadway and look up I can finally see what happened. There, at the top of a building that is approximately ¼ of a mile long is a HUGE hole…several stories in length…plumes of smoke and flame billowing higher into the air. I can only stand there, watching in disbelief as I realize that what we had all feared had probably taken place: a bomb had gone off in the World Trade Center.

CATHARSIS III: Another Ulysses

APPROX. 9:00 AM, Broadway
It’s funny how the mind operates. You know, kind of like when you see a magic trick, you can’t believe what you saw…or when your team makes a triple play…or when you witness a birth. You know you’re seeing something, but your mind sends signals that it’s just not possible, but there it is. From out of the Tower, I’m seeing debris fall…but it’s coming in very irregular intervals. Usually, debris falls in a pattern as a structure is weakened, and at the same rate of descent. This debris was sporadic, and it wasn’t just falling in a straight line from the Tower…it was arcing. I saw it happen once, twice…but on the third time, I saw what I thought was debris MOVE, I thought I saw arms move…and I realized that debris cannot move, nor could it have arms. I had just seen people throw themselves from the North Tower to escape the consuming flames. I began to shake, began to shout “No F***ing way!” and “Oh my God” at the top of my lungs. Someone came over to me and put their hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was all right. I think I said something to the effect I was, but they offered me a bottle of water and some tissues to wipe the blood off my face. I accepted and I asked if they had seen the explosion…and that’s when they told me it was a plane that had crashed into the North Tower. They also told me it was an airliner. The brain couldn’t register that one really…except for the fact that I thought it was a terrible accident, and thank God it wasn’t a bomb. Another person in the crowd came up to me and asked if I needed help getting to where I was going. I realized that my hands were trembling and couldn’t hold either the tissues or water steady and my knees felt weak. Brain kicks in again: yeah, take this guy up on his offer. It turned out he worked for my company but at another location. We began to walk toward my building, and I notice some debris along the way. About a block from my office, right in front of the Federal Reserve Building I see some debris that catches my eye: some tacky looking upholstery that looks like it came from an airline headrest. It was then that I saw a seat cushion and an armrest…THANKFULLY empty.

APROX 9:12 AM, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
I walk one block further south to my building, and reach the Plaza. Just as I’m about to turn to enter my building, I hear the whine of jet engines. I look down the block at the South Tower, and see a fireball engulfing the building, showering flaming debris across the skyline, arcing outward and in my general direction. There is a low, rumbling sound, very much like what I had heard earlier…a sound that grew as the flames spread and debris rained down upon Manhattan. The crowd begins to run frantically toward the east, away from the falling debris. I overhear someone say that it was another jet that collided into the South Tower. It was then I realized that this was no accident, that my greatest fears were realized: we were under attack. It was at that moment, I knew that I had to somehow survive this…get the hell out of there…and get home to my family. I had just become a modern day Ulysses.

CATHARSIS IV:The Silence before the ROAR

APPROX 9:20 AM, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
I’m pretty superstitious. I usually sit in the same seat for a baseball or football game if my team is winning. I never pick up a penny “tails up”, and I don’t walk under ladders. In some convoluted manner, the Universe played a trick on me, for I work on the 13th floor of my building. It never bothered me before, but on a day like Tuesday, there was just no way I was going to go up into my office…so I decided to go downstairs to the Branch to use the phone to call my wife to let her know I was OK. (A footnote here and an important one because it’s going to come into play later: The Branch is an underground structure, kind of like a rectangular “donut”. It is just below the Plaza, with a circular glass enclosure in its center containing a fountain. There is an opening at the top of this enclosure to the Plaza to let light in. From the Plaza level, there is a circular wall that allows viewing of the fountain from the Plaza, and it’s quite beautiful when viewed from inside the branch at the level of the fountain.)

Just before entering the Branch, I meet up with a co-worker who sees me and is pretty amazed at my condition at this point…I can only imagine: A deer in the headlights look accompanied by a bloody face. I try and tell him what’s happened so far. It turns out, he’s not going to his floor either…and he helps me into the Branch. Needless to say, the Branch had been closed to all but employees with ID. I also know the Branch Manager, Assistant Branch Manager and many of the staff well because I’ve worked with them directly when I was in the Branches myself. I got in there; they sat me down and got me some first aid as well as some water. I called my wife, told her I was OK and told her of what I was going to do next: try and take the Staten Island Ferry and get to either my parents or my in-laws and have them drive me home. I just wanted to get the hell off Manhattan as soon as possible, especially with the thought that there were two ¼ mile buildings a few blocks away that had the possibility of collapsing. I called my parents and told them of my intentions as well. Needless to say, I’m pretty shaken up at this point. I decide to sit a few minutes to try and relax, collect my thoughts, and move on. A woman named Maxine (who I’ve never met before) sat with me and comforted me. She also spoke with my wife during my phone call and said she was taking care of me. God Bless her…she was a BIG help. We turned on the radio to listen to the news, to see exactly what had happened, and it was just as we feared: two jet liners were hijacked and were rammed into the World Trade Center…and one other thing that hit us all like a ton of bricks…the Pentagon was also attacked the same way. Nothing was the same anymore.

CATHARSIS V: No World Order

APPROX 10:15 AM 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
Some people talk about a “New World Order”. At this point in my life, there was definitely a New World, but anything but order. I had finally calmed down, and was about to make my way toward the Staten Island Ferry when the unthinkable happened: That ROAR happened again…that ungodly Roar that still was imprinted in my head from the last few hours… …And then I saw the debris and smoke fill the glass enclosure around the fountain. The ground shook, and we all began to rush toward the escalators that would take us to the vault sub-basements in the Plaza. We arrived down there followed by a cloud of smoke and dust…we made our way through passages that led to the underground cafeteria where security told us to go. My first thought was that my building was attacked, but something completely unexpected happened. We had just found out that one of the icons of the New York Skyline, one of the World Trade Towers had crumbled to dust…and that rubble had spread across Lower Manhattan, washing across the Plaza. We were told to stay put…it was safer here, and there was NO visibility AT ALL outside. More people started to file into the cafeteria…all of them covered in dust…stark white ghosts with terrorized eyes peering from the rubble that had been strewn onto their bodies. Among them were two people who worked in my department. I rushed up and the three of us hugged and held onto each other. We got a table in the cafeteria; got some of the water and wet rags they were handing out to help us breathe. …And we sat…for two hours…and waited for news of when we could leave the building. In the meantime, there was another dull roar in the distance…THAT ROAR… …And the other Tower had fallen. …And God only knew what the rest of the world outside looked like.

CATHARSIS VI: A Hole in the Sky

APPROX Noon, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
Now I know what my cat feels like when I let him out of his carrier after we bring him back from the vet. He always wants to get the hell out, and yet he steps out gingerly, unsure of what he can expect. I kind of felt that way as I exited our building after we were told to head toward the East River. I also felt like a B-Movie actor on one of those bad 50’s “Day After…” movies, the ones usually used for cannon fodder on “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. There was dust everywhere, and it looked like it was snowing in September. There had to be two inches of dust and debris on the streets as CJ (one of those guys I mentioned earlier who worked with me) and I made tracks for the South Street Seaport. We’re wandering around, towels around our faces like some post-apocalyptic version of TE Lawrence and The Shadow trekking across the Nafud, or Paul and Jessica across Arakis in “Dune”. We looked back where the Twin Towers had been…the same two towers CJ and I came through every day from the PATH (she’s from North NJ)…the same two towers that had dominated the skyline since we were children (we’re both 40, born a month apart). There was nothing. Absolutely nothing…except for a huge black cloud where those beautiful towers once stood gleaming in the sunshine. It was as if you used a photo program on your PC, highlighted the Towers, deleted the image and filled the blank area with smoke. It hurt to breathe (and I’m a smoker, so I can just IMAGINE what a non-smoker would have felt). The dust stung your eyes and skin. It was raining dust…a horrible snowfall on a late summer day…a snowfall that contained pieces of building, asbestos, paper, jet fuel, and God only know what else. I was reminded of Good Friday for some reason… We finally got to the River, and began to follow the exodus uptown toward God knows where. All CJ and I knew was that we had heard there were ferries still running to NJ (the SI Ferry was shut down at this point, so my first plan was abandoned) and we had to catch one. The air was clear, and I decided I REALLY needed a cigarette at this point (NOTE: A martini was my first choice, but the bars were closed). I offered one to CJ…who hasn’t had a cig in 10 years…she took it, we lit up and moved on.

CATHARSIS VII: Dorothy and The Scarecrow

EAST RIVER ESPLANADE: Approx. 12:30 PM
I’m thoroughly convinced that The Universe has a sense of humor. CJ and I stop and look out at the river just below the Brooklyn Bridge. We can see hundreds of people walking across the Bridge to Brooklyn, the same for the Manhattan Bridge in the distance. It’s actually a beautiful day; there are no clouds in the sky…there are people just sitting on benches on the esplanade looking out at the water…some are fishing…some are making out. Order amidst chaos. We had just come from chaos into one moment of perfect beauty. I think to myself that this is really a beautiful day, and I imagine myself at the Shore or in my backyard with my kids…and then it hits me… …No beach to walk on unless I get home. No backyard and no kids and wife unless I get home…and God only knows what else happens on this day. Snap back to reality…we’ve got to get home. CJ and I meet a Police officer who says ferries are leaving from Pier 11 for NJ and directs us Uptown. Just a slight problem…Pier 11 is just South of us a few blocks, so CJ and I are headed in the wrong direction. Like I said, the Universe has a sense of humor…

SOMEWHERE ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE: Approx., 1:00 PM
CJ and I have walked for a while. I’m still carrying the laptop and briefcase, and I really can’t feel the pain in my knee yet, but at least my lip has stopped bleeding. Needless to say, both my shoulders are killing me. We walk around trying to find Pier 11, just Dorothy and the Scarecrow trying to find Oz. We walk through neighborhoods that we would never walk through regularly, and people are coming up to us and asking if we are OK (we’re covered in dust at this point). They give us water and comfort. We see others helping people…a woman in a wheelchair giving directions and a bottle of water to two people…four people hugging in the middle of a street glad to find each other…Police Officers with their arms around people offering them comfort as well as direction. I realize at this point what my Dad always said about the blackout of 1964 (he was trapped in the subway) that New Yorkers are people who put all differences aside when in a crisis. We finally find a cop who points us in the right direction…we head back downtown.

CATHARSIS VIII: Just Click Your Heels Three Times…

PIER 11, New York, NY: Approx. 2:00 PM
We found OZ. No emerald city here, just a bunch of ferries that were going back to New Jersey. CJ and I parted company here. She headed back to Jersey City and one of the few remaining trains that were running out of Hoboken. I got on a high-speed ferry bound for the Highlands on the Jersey Shore, about 10 miles northeast from my house. I decided I’d worry about how to get home from there…I’d walk if I had to. The Police search our bags before we get on… The ferry is VERY comfortable, complete with bar that is, unfortunately closed…it costs approx. $18 each way, about twice my cost for the trains (which were NOT running at this time), but they were ferrying everyone at no cost. They gave us water, and there were two clergymen on the boat, a Catholic Priest and a Minister, both Chaplains of the Highlands Fire Department. A call comes over the loudspeaker asking for 50 volunteers to take the next boat. People get up and leave, willingly with no problems. I see the Priest and yell out, “Father, are you riding this boat?” He says yes. I decide to stay.

NY HARBOR, Approx. 2:20 PM
The boat leaves, and the Scarecrow decides to look back at the Emerald City. The Towers are gone. The Black Void is still there. The Scarecrow loses what Brains he had left and breaks down. Like the Towers, I’ve just crumbled into a pile of rubble.

IN TRANSIT THROUGH NY HARBOR AND THE ATLANTIC:
The Minister sees me and comes over to talk. He was in Viet Nam for two tours of duty. I tell him what I’m feeling, and he tells me what happened to him. He’s describing what I’m feeling to a “T”. I’m amazed that someone else can describe what I feel…and realize just how fragile we really are as humans…and I also realize at this point, I’m not the same person who woke up that morning. We both pray publicly. It is my first time praying in public since I was 14. Like I said, the Universe has one hell of a sense of humor.

CATHARSIS IX: …And Say ‘There’s No Place Like Home’

HIGHLANDS, New Jersey Approx. 3:00 PM
We arrive in New Jersey The Minister walks me off the boat and asks if he can do anything else, and I tell him he did more for me than anyone in a very long time. I follow the crowd off the gangplank. We are told that we will have to present ID. We are also told that if we are covered in dust we will have to be decontaminated. I am told to go to the “left” line. My belongings are put in a bag; my laptop and briefcase are scrubbed by men in isolation suits by hand. I am told to stand forward a man with a fire hose that then proceeds to spray water on me from head to toe. As he is doing this, I can see the NYC skyline in the background. What two gleaming towers, had once dominated, was now dominated by a huge cloud of smoke and a gaping hole where the towers should be. I was told to turn around so they can spray my front. They do so…and I have been baptized into the New World. I’m handed my belongings, and a Police Officer takes my statement as he was informed that I was in the WTC when the first plane hits. It’s the second time that day that I’ve told my story…but this time more emotions are coming out…and I find I cannot look anyone in the eyes when I talk to them… I’m directed toward a bunch of vans, busses, and private cars where I’m told that someone would drive me home. I walk slowly, drenched…laptop and briefcase still present…away from the water and toward a parking lot. All I can do is stare straight ahead and make no eye contact with anyone. I feel like I’m there (here) but somewhere else. A woman named Doreen asks me where I’m going, and I tell her. She says she volunteered to give rides to people, and really has nothing to do…mainly because she was just laid off from Nike the day before. She offers me her cell phone to call my wife…it’s the first time we’ve spoken my phone call in the morning. I tell her I’m coming home in a few minutes. Doreen assures her I’m shaken, but OK. We drive off to my home.

CATHARSIS X: Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

We arrive at my house…and I run to my wife (holding our month-old daughter) and my 4 year old daughter, Katie. Everything comes back to me in a big rush…I break down. We all thank Doreen, and I give her a big hug goodbye. In the next few hours, I try and explain things to my wife…and some of them I can…most of them I cannot. We call my doctor who tells me to go to the ER at the Local Hospital for a chest x-ray and some tests…apparently the stuff I was exposed to may have contained asbestos…and God only knows what else. While getting tested, they had me speak to a Psychologist…just like others who were coming in. I told my story the best I could, and she was a HUGE help for my family and me. I needed to talk and I did…and I realized that there is a lot I still have to deal with.

CHARTHIS XI: Phoenix Uncertain

I’m hanging in there as best as I can…and for the past five hours, I’ve been spilling my guts out for those of you I know, and those of you I do not. This has been my story, and there are thousands of others such as I. I mentioned before that I am not the same person I was when I woke up on Tuesday. Quite frankly, I’m not sure who the hell I am anymore…but these things I do know: *I am a Father of two beautiful girls *I am a loving husband of, quite simply, the most amazing woman on the planet AND THOSE THINGS ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT ARE MY LIFE! Please…just take the time to hug your kids, wife, partner, loved ones…NEVER take them for granted! Hold on to your friends and keep them close…chances are that this has touched us all in one way or another.

We have all been transformed in one way or another by this event. We are all filled with a plethora of emotions…I certainly know I am.

Let us work together to seek justice for those who have been killed or injured. Let us offer a hand to those who need it, whether or not they have been there first hand. Let us all show the strength of humanity and compassion that we are all capable of. Let us rebuild our city, our nation, and our fragile planet.

Let us go forward with one voice that says we shall never allow this to ever happen again.

God Bless You, Your Families, The United States Of America, and our Beloved Planet.

Arkangel3 BORN: Mar 14, 1961 DIED: Sept 11, 2001 REBORN: Sept 11, 2001

11 years later, these words recount the worst day of my life, and I’ve had more than a few bad days in the past decade plus a year…but I still have my kids and I’m still going to go on until the Universe calls me home…which I hope is much later than sooner. Next week I’m going in for an operation to remove two lesions and in a few weeks, the tumor on the other lung will be out of me thanks to a CyberKnife laser that will remove the tumor without having to take a part of the other lung. Yeah, I am scared..but I never have surrendered and I never will. I’m sticking around for the two most incredible girls I could have possibly wished for. Somewhere in all that bad karma there is a bright side. And that’s always it, isn’t it? The light at the end of the tunnel. without them, I would be a shell of a man…they are indeed my world and I try my best as a stay at home dad these days. I’m not perfect, but the best part about being a father is very occasionally, your words get through to them I hope they are reading this now in fact…and perhaps they might understand their father better. And whether or not she knows or wants it…my wife will always have my love and gratitude.

Never forget this day…ever. There may come a day in your life that may not be the same as this but its impact being relative to the situation it may seem that way. Remember this: You can and you WILL survive.

“Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.” – Harlan Ellison

An Embrace Of The Dark

We spend all our lives in fear of this one thing. We ALL do. There’s not even a question in my mind that it is without a doubt the most feared thing in the human race. It is a beast; a monster waiting outside the door. It is the dark and no light; it is the unknown creature hiding in the closet or under the bed. It’s malevolence is the defining paradigm of evil; something that would give Lucifer a run for his money. There is no avoiding it any more when it touches you…all you can do is hope for the best and embrace the Darkness.

“You have cancer.”

The three words that forever change your life and forever turn in upside down and inside out. Three words that are probably the most feared in any language. Three words that give power to the Beast and unleashes it from its cage and it is then free to create a maelstrom of death and destruction; sometimes taking no prisoners along the way; but more often than not, creating a vast wasteland upon which families are tested and either survive or are ruined. Families are bonded by this harbinger of impending doom, or vast distances separate them…or sometimes, they can be brought together in times of need. These three words start the Journey; one that begins the discovery of self, or puts you back on that road that you walked off of long ago to seek a career and life and perhaps settle for things that you never thought you would have had you remained true to yourself and continued down the road to discovery.

Make no mistake; this is a Journey of body, soul, and spirit. It is a test of courage and a test of will. It is a triumph of the human spirit, or the depth of human despair. There is no middle ground; no areas of gray. There is either Darkness or Light, and the road you choose and the companions that stand by you or those that run from you are revealed. You can even hear the bird crowing three times as they betray you…and it is then you realize that your life is better off without them. But those that stand with you and give you strength are somehow the pillars you can rest on when you are too tired to stand. These are those that give of themselves freely more than they ever have before. Complete strangers will offer you help when you least expect it…and simple acts of kindness take on meanings of biblical proportions. You suddenly see love in the eyes of those who may not have loved you for a while, but they cover that up with a sense of duty to help you survive because they dare not allow themselves to love you again. To them, you are the way you have always been; to you, you have just begun to emerge from your chrysalis. You are only beginning the voyage of the phoenix.

And in random moments the most remarkable thing is that the Universe that has always been your constant companion and savior reveals one small iota of information that will make you believe in yourself; or make you believe that perhaps there is indeed a reason for you being here that is slowly becoming more evident with each passing day. You see that time passes more slowly; that every minute is there to be looked at and enjoyed, like a sip of a fine tea out of good china. You notice that every single moment has its own significance and is only a small part of many paintings that the Universe is working on…a splash of color here or there; lines being drawn of exquisite beauty; or an insignificant object in the out of the way portion of a canvass that will soon become something more than a color or the outline of something currently indiscernible.

And then there are the simple moments of absolute revelation in simple tasks that you took for granted. Suddenly a solitary car ride along an unknown route to a place never having been to is not as bad as it once was. It is an adventure to be relished. It is the Journey itself at its core: in the end it is you alone with a map…or perhaps without one. It’s improvisation of life and the moment. The moment IS your life…

Embrace the Darkness…take up the hammer…pass through the gauntlet; not unscathed, not unscarred, not unworthy of the tests of the tournament…but unbowed in the face of adversity, self doubt, and a feeling of unworthiness comes a feeling of triumph over the void. A triumph of the will and sheer force of it over that which cannot be seen by the naked eye but that which you know is just there below the surface…lurking…always waiting to show up again. You become the Guardian of your soul, for if that ever fails you, then the Journey ends…now. The moment you suspend the belief in yourself, others, and deflate your will is the moment you die. To give up is the automatic one-way ticket to the Undiscovered Country. To hold on is to live…just one more day, moment by moment, in the moment itself learning about the moment and its significance. THAT is the small piece on the canvass…THAT is embracing the very thing that you never thought you would. You accept it; you start to deal with it, and you move on.

And you NEVER EVER EVER give up. Not for a moment, for there is always life in every moment, no matter how small. There is always revelation in moments and understanding in days. There is strength and courage and determination where you never thought existed. There is empathy for those of your own kind; those who understand the time between the moments and how it all plays out…but before our illness we were blind to this existence. Now we see it…clearly…and the road ahead is hard, but it is a road. There is a Journey. And there is LIFE…

“We’ve lived too long, seen too much. To live on, as we have, is to leave behind joy, love, and companionship because we know it to be transitory; of the moment. We know it will turn to ash. Only those whose lives are brief can believe that love, is eternal. You should embrace that remarkable illusion. It may be the greatest gift your race has ever received.” -Lorien (Babylon 5) / J. Michael Straczinski

The Springtime of My Years

Twelve days ago, I was told I have lung cancer.

That’s a hell of a way to start a new post, let alone one that’s been sitting around in my head for even longer than the official word from my doctors but it’s easier to come to the point of this post rather than go for all the flowery prose (although I’m sure some will creep in here somewhere later on). I’m having test after test done, being poked and prodded; biopsied and anesthetized. I don’t know how much blood they’ve taken from me in the past month alone. I’ve been to specialists, been to hospitals, been everywhere except where I really want to be which is on a beach in the Keys somewhere with a couple of college buddies raising hell for old time’s sake. I’m certainly not about to write “one last go” at it, because quite frankly…I’m not dying, I’M LIVING.

I absolutely, positively refuse to die…not yet, not now and certainly not at almost age 51 as my birthday is this coming Wednesday. I want nothing more than to see my kids graduate from college, and walk at least one of them down the aisle. And if I am supremely lucky, hold my grandchild in my arms. I figure that’s about 15 years; 10 years plus interest. The least the Universe could do is pay me back for the past ten years of misery: one incredible thing after another, starting with 9/11 and then a battle with the bottle followed up closely by tremendous back problems that put me on daily painkillers. Then my marriage takes a bit of a nosedive, and now this. It’s honestly been just like Commander Ivonova said in “Babylon 5”, “…thoroughly paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate”. I have to think that there is something very wrong with this picture; that everything I did in my past lifetimes is coming back to haunt me in this one. Either that, or I was a REALLY nasty bastard in the life just preceding this one. You couldn’t write an “All My Children” script like this if you wanted to (especially now that it’s been cancelled. I’m still in awe over that decision). So the bottom line is this, you are probably wondering: how long did they tell you? How long?

Well, how long do YOU have to live? Do YOU know? Well, neither do I; it’s just as much as it was 3 months ago with me. One day at a time and one moment at a time as much as humanly possible and not knowing when the end is coming. Well, the end in this life, anyway. There’s probably other journeys I have yet to take as I have been a less than perfect soul this life and that is for sure, but now it’s tempered with one thing most people don’t have when you are not diagnosed with something like this: PERSPECTIVE. After the initial shock wore off (well, the first wave which lasted a few hours…then more days, and then finally some realization of the facts) I realized that almost immediately the way I look at things changed. I began to take everything in. I began to look at the moments between the moments…because they are there if you look. They are just hidden enough that when you get that idea or realize something, that is when you have found a moment between a moment. But now I see them all. They are all hanging in front of me like equations drawn on a sheet of glass. You begin to realize that “x” is no longer as important as it once was, and “y” now is definitely a better way of doing things. You begin to realize that all the crap we allow ourselves to get excited and high strung about (and for me, this was in fact my very existence) is NOTHING. It means NOTHING unless it alters for worse your life or the lives of those around you. It means that STOP sign that you have cursed for 20 years because you never make a left turn easily suddenly is a place to reflect a while as traffic goes by. It means that you may become a little quieter to folks than you normally are…and that’s OK, because you really have to think about not only what has just happened to you with the illness but what you are going to do with this sudden shift in perspective.

It’s like you’ve been shifted into a Parallel Universe…everything looks the same, but things are slightly altered. Almost imperceptible at first, but then they become things that suddenly take on new meaning. What was once a mundane task now becomes a moment to commune under the stars as you throw away the trash like you never have before. People look differently at you too. You can tell in their eyes; it’s almost as if they absolutely positively fear you because you have suddenly become death incarnate to them. They know that sooner or later there’s going to be a funeral and service and wake, and tears. And that’s OK, because your friends and family have to grieve with you through this, but it’s not grieving on my part because like I said before…it’s not yet my time. I have work left to do here, and I honestly don’t have an idea of what that is…just the same as I didn’t three months ago. Then again, I have a much better perspective now, so perhaps I might be given that insight into what I need to do before I slip into the Long Night; with any luck a good 15 years down the road. My concern is for my family. I’ve pretty much accepted death as a doorway to somewhere else. Perhaps that’s just comfort to me and there really IS nothing after this life (please, I hope you hard core Atheists are wrong, LOL) but I highly doubt it. For I have seen things in my lifetime that made me understand that there is more to the world and the universe that we see and that which we do not see. I KNOW death is a means of going to join with the rest of the Universe for a while and rest. Your soul gets some time to examine your lifetimes and decide its next course of action. The only time this is taken from you is when you have achieved Oneness with the Universe; you will have become part of the Creator/Creation/Sentient Being which is the very Universe we live in and are a part of. How do I know? Just my forming an opinion over half a century of seeing myself compared to the rest of my fellow-man and reading about the ancients and what they believed. I’ve read up on a lot of Theology and Existentialism. I’ve taken a bit from here and a bit from there to form an opinion.

That is why I am a Deist. I believe in a higher power, but I highly doubt it listens to me and me alone (if at all). Let’s be real: an omnipotent being capable of creation and destruction listening to one sentient in a billion billion billion times 10 to the billionth power of other sentients in the entire Universe. Sorry, no direct channel here with the Universe…except when the Universe needs an answer, and it sometimes uses us to get that answer for it. You see, the Universe asks itself the same questions we do, but on a much grander scale; and while we have resources and philosophies to fall back on, so does the Universe. It relies on us for the answers as much as we rely on it. Perhaps my situation is one where the Universe needs a sense of my perspective by giving me a glimpse into some things that I haven’t had before. But ultimately, there is something at work out there…something that is not evil, nor good, nor anything in between. It just is…and it it is all and it is in everything and it is you and it is me. And the sooner we realize that we are all connected ultimately to each other and to the Universe as a whole, perhaps the Universe itself can move on to bigger and better things. It’s all relative; it’s all infinite. And like I said, those equations in front of me? They can be pretty handy sometimes.

In a few days it will be the first day of spring; in fact, I’m having the pleasure of having a biopsy on my lymph nodes to make sure it hasn’t spread there yet (one time I really hope nothing grows in spring). But I picked that day for a reason: because it is a day of renewal. It is about celebrating the end of a winter and the darkness of things and into the warm sunshine and brilliance and fullness of life revitalizing itself. That is why I picked that day because as I said earlier, I’m not dying. I am living. And hope does indeed spring eternal at least for me. I have to hope. I have to believe. I have to stay positive and never forget that life is reborn and renewed on that day. And that will be the start of the Springtime of my years, not the winter of my discontent. I still have two Seasons of Life ahead of me…and in the cosmic scheme of things, I’m figuring that’s about 15 years.

At the very least.

And so it begins…

“We are born capable of greatness. It’s when we allow ourselves to become discouraged, to see ourselves as failures, when we fail to recognize our inherent nobility, that we grow small, and diminish, and ultimately sacrifice our dreams on the altar of more realistic expectations of ourselves.

When that happens, we forget who we are, what we are here for, and what we want to achieve, knowledge that is always within us…until we choose not to remember it any longer because the memory pains us, and because it is easier to settle for less than our dreams demand of us.

Children sing and dance spontaneously, tell stories without fear, reveal their thoughts without inhibition, and reach for what logic tells us should be unattainable. That is who and what we are in our most elemental form. We do, we explore, we ask questions; we pursue our heart’s desires, we dream of achieving greatness. But as time passes, we learn fear, we learn to second-guess ourselves, and we learn to suspect our abilities and our desires. We are told that some people tell stories, some people dance, and some people sing, but these things are not for everyone. When we try to express our innermost thoughts, we are told to be quiet, that no one wants to hear what it is we have to say, and that even if they did want to hear it, what we say has no innate value. When we lose the spark of spontaneity that was born inside us, which is our greatest gift, we progressively eliminate the possibility of finding joy and purpose, and inch by inch, our dreams slip away from us.

If we are to be who we are, and what we are; if we are to accomplish great things, then we must learn the heart’s most essential rule: NEVER SURRENDER DREAMS.”

-J. Michael Straczinski

A Blessing Of Tears

Tonight I cried about it.

It’s taken me this long, but it hit me full force and from out of the blue. The realization that in a couple of weeks you may very well be told that you are dying or very ill and need an operation is not exactly a picnic. It really took me by surprise because I was holding back everything so well, so sooner or later, I guess the damn had to burst. I wasn’t expecting the raw emotion that came out of me, this absolute profound sense of sadness that made be think of everyone I knew who passed away, flashed by in a moment. Ironically on a day where love is celebrated, my loving aunt passed away 11 years ago. Somehow I think she was here with me; I could feel another presence. I usually know who they are too…sometimes, it sucks being gifted that way and other times it’s a blessing. And now I can almost understand the title of this post better as it’s the title of an album from one of my favorite musicians’ (Robert Fripp) pieces of his extensive body of work. I always thought the title was beautiful for some reason, and now it just made sense.

Sometimes we need our tears to give us the relief and release of the unedited emotion that’s been in check inside of us for so long. I’m more emotional than most guys; I always have been. I’m usually the guy who’s yelling at a ballgame or when I get a good laugh going, I’ll crack up a room just from that. There are other things I keep buried deep down, and it’s these things that sometimes come out as extreme anger. That’s the nature of being bi-polar as well as a recovering alcoholic. And for a guy with PTSD, I’m handling all of this remarkably well. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I think I am. I always thought that had this happened to me, I’d handle it exactly the way I did tonight…with pure unmitigated sorrow. I wasn’t angry. I had no bitterness. I was almost bargaining with the Universe that if there is a chance for a second half of my life…a second chance to do something, I swear I’m going to make it count. I was put on this Earth to do something meaningful. I was not put here to die at a very young age (although my kids consider me “old” at 50. Bushitt…50 ain’t old, and I have no intention of going anywhere. Except to Paris. I’ve never been there, or Moscow in June. I’d even love to spend New Years Eve there, because that is the highlight of the Russian Holiday Season. I’d love to go on a vacation to Disney (either one, although my best friend lives in San Diego and my wife has family there and in LA) with the kids…before they get to be beyond being kids. I’m not going anywhere except to both my daughters’ graduations and weddings, and I plan on being there when my first grandchild is born.

Things suddenly were put into focus: don’t procrastinate. Get this done with. Find out what the hell is wrong. Subconsciously, I must be delaying things because I’m not making time for blood work (I’m only a day or two behind schedule there; a needed test set me back a day) for this last of three tests that is the scariest and the most risky. There’s a shot my lung could collapse when they take a sample they need, but I’m going to will my body into making sure that does not happen. I’m scared…who the hell wouldn’t be with a potential cancer diagnosis? What’s more I’m even angrier at myself because try as I might I still can’t quit these damned cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not helping as I’m falling back on the real thing that got me in trouble in the first place. That and 9/11 (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; 50 year old men despite having smoked for 35 years do not die of lung cancer at a relatively young age of 50. I won’t go into my rage about that one, because that would produce the opposite of why I started writing this in the first place).

It was a cleansing of the soul. I needed that cry alone, and yet I felt a spiritual arm around me hugging me. What the worst part about all of this is has become my thoughts on my children. What becomes of them. Of course they’ll have their mother and other family to take care of them. God only knows how much I love those two girls. I see home videos when they were younger and there were my two little girls, the ones you always keep in the back of your mind as a favorite picture; one that you always carry no matter how old they get. I often wondered why my Dad had a picture of me from 5th grade in his office as I lumbered in there with long hair, beard, and ripped jeans back in my college days. I asked him once why he never took that down and updated it. He told me something along the lines of “I always liked that picture of you, and you weren’t such a fool back then. Besides, you’ll understand when you have kids”. Well Dad, I do. It took 30 years, but I do.

And tonight my soul was cleansed by a blessing of tears.

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The Necessity Of Self Transformation

Last night after all the hoopla died down from the Giants game, and I tried so desperately to watch all the sports shows on the Super Bowl results as I could (but couldn’t because I was just too damned exhausted rooting for my beloved NY Giants) I fell asleep on my couch.  When I awoke, the TV was on, the plays were still running from the game, and I realized that I had to get up in 3 hours and take my girls to school.  Just before I went upstairs though, I cheked my Facebook Page and someone had posted this on it:

And in the moment that I read this, I understood what has been happening to me for the past few weeks with the cancer scare.  Why my whole life has been a series of events that unfolded in a manner that on one level can be seen to be extremely tragic.  But on another level it becomes something else…it becomes a gateway for the next phase of my life.  The realization that as much as I want to change the world I cannot, at least not yet because I am not yet ready.  I must first change myself; my inner core; the light of my own soul that I have just in this very moment realized that I saw with another person, and she shared her soul with me.  It was back in college, we were 19 and we were exploring the possibility of getting involved (and believe me…I am SO not going into details about this beloved friendship because it is WAY too complex for even the Universe to understand, LOL).  We had see light and warmth projected on the wall of her dorm room…and that was our souls moving outside of our body.  The light, the core creature that we are inside this shell was allowed for just a few moments to exit, or a part of it was anyway.  But in that instant I saw something I have never seen again since: myself.  It went back into its shell and never came out again except on special occasions…like when my children were conceived.  I knew they were just because I could sense something was different.

And now I am faced with a situation that has taken me years to understand: I must eliminate the dark negative places of my own self and then suffering in the world can end.  I must awaken the sleeper that has lain dormant for almost 51 years and then I can begin to change the world.  It doesn’t have to be on one big earth-shattering moment of change…just a small part of  the overall picture…MY part of the overall picture.  I need to start with myself; the journey can only begin if I go within and release the potential and that which is inside of me.  The reason why no change happens is a lack of self awareness of a nature that is more profound than can be explained.  Like that light on the wall.  I may yet be very ill.  I do not know, but I have just realized that it is important to empty myself of the darkness and transform within so that I can be a beacon for others to follow.

I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months.  I really don’t.  There’s going to be days where my writing is a bit off, and you’ll have to excuse that because I might be a bit medicated.  Buy my sincerity and belief in what needs to happen will always be honest and forthright.  Time to begin again…

“If I take a lamp and shine toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often we assume the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes, we stand in front of the light and assume we are the center of the universe — God looks astonishingly like we do! — or we turn to look at our shadow and assume all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose — which is use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and all it flaws, and in so doing, better understand the world around us.” – J. Michael Straczinski