It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times…

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That classic line, from the opening of “A Tale Of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens, certainly proves to be the perfect adage for my life at this time, and if we boil it down to the past six months, it’s amazing to not only see the change in my life and my health, but the absolute extremes that I have lived through in both directions.

The only difference would be that my life plays out in reverse order, as it had been the worst of times, and then three months ago it became the best.

As we scroll back to October 2017, I was about to hit rock bottom.  I was miserable.  I couldn’t sleep.  I was constantly sick, whether it was sinus infections or viruses or any kind of sickness that happened to be going around, my immune system was shot.  I had stomach ulcers which meant that even though I could eat, I was in constant pain and had to take medication on numerous occasions to try to fix that issue.

Then I started getting migraine headaches.  My eyeballs would “jump,” which I looked up online and found that this issue was most commonly caused by anxiety.  Huge surprise, there.  I was also around 80 pounds overweight.  By the time November was closing, I was so miserably unhappy thoughts of death were a normal part of every day.  Not that I was actively planning to commit suicide, but I was praying that perhaps one night I would go to bed and maybe, as per the Megadeth song, “wake up dead.”

My hair started to fall out.  I hated my job, but had to make the money.

People were spending money faster than I was making it, but luckily I had cash reserves, so it wasn’t like anyone was doing without.  And seeing that my son had everything that he wanted was the most important thing, I wanted him to grow up knowing that he had a great childhood, just like I did.  I had the greatest childhood anyone ever had.  I wouldn’t trade my childhood memories, or my life in general, for anything.

And things started to change for me.

The realization that I was finally, totally, completely and eternally out of a horrible situation that I was in was the first step in making my life better.  And once I started to fall into a normal schedule, circa 2010 before I got into that set of circumstances, I could feel a real change beginning to take hold.  And my body started to respond.

Now that I am past that and in a happier position, I can legitimately say this is the best of times.  I can go where I want, when I want and do as I please without having to tell anyone what I’m doing.  My hair has stopped falling out.  I’m losing weight.  I can sleep at night.  I quit my job and became self-employed, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I have had a total of one migraine headache in three months.  I have had no stomach problems and one sinus infection in that time.

Now that baseball season is here, and MLB The Show 18 is going to drop in about two weeks, I can look forward to a great summer.  I don’t have to be anywhere except where I want to be.  I plan on taking in at least a few, if not a lot, of West Virginia Black Bears baseball games this summer.  Long days in the pool.  Grilling.  Even simple things like mowing the lawn and tending to the garden.  Watching the sun set while I listen to a White Sox game on the radio with a flask of whiskey and a cigar.

I’ve bled for everyone else, I’ve done for everyone else.  Now its time to do for me.  This is the best of times.  The worst of times are behind me.  I will render them so insignificant that I hope I can eventually forget them, rather than continue to hate them.  Because life is too short to hate anything, let alone anything so truly unimportant.

In closing, the lesson that anyone who sees this should take from it is that life is much too short to be unhappy and suffering to the point of your body physically breaking down.  This is not the answer.  Suffering through the worst of times did nothing to make my life any better and at this moment in time I literally have nothing to show for it other than the hatred I have for those whom I had to deal with at that time.  But as dark as the past is, the future is just as bright, and I’m gonna live it for all its worth.

Peace, and God bless.

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“Hello, Me, Meet The Real Me…” – Seeing Myself For The First Time

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Self-evaluation can be a strange and uncomfortable practice.  Since we don’t see ourselves the way others see us, we naturally assume that we are right and everyone else is wrong in their evaluation of us.  I know I have been.  I have been stubborn, arrogant and hateful, but I never wanted to admit it, because I have always pictured myself as the man I see in the mirror, a man who put self-respect and honor above all else.

After some very therapeutic conversations with some close friends who are not afraid to step outside the lines to help me, it pains me to realize the man I saw in the mirror is not who I am or even who I hoped I was.  In fact, I’m almost the polar opposite of him.

While I may have saw myself differently, I certainly never adhered to the “golden rule,” treating others as you would have them treat you.  Jesus is very specific about this in the book of Matthew, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  But when your vision is skewed and you feel superior to other people who may be in your life, you are not apt to follow that advice, as in my thinking was “I’m better than you, therefore you will take what I give you, but I expect you to respect me as I am better than you are.”

I am talking about this on a very human level, down to the bone.  Not what clothes we wear or how we act or the things we do, right or wrong, I’m talking about man to man, woman to woman, woman to man and man to woman.  All equal.  I never looked at myself from that perspective, and when I did today, I didn’t like what was looking back.

“The real me.”

While talking this over today with my closest friend and confidant, she said, regarding how I had treated people, “no one wants to feel like they aren’t loved enough to be lived with.”  That was exactly what I was doing.  I was, outside of my own thought process, being a jerk without actually wanting to be or trying to be a jerk.  In fact, I was being worse than that.  I was allowing my overblown view of myself to take control of what I was thinking, feeling and doing, and running over people in the process.

In fact, it may be a simple case of cognitive dissonance, which is seeing or feeling two sides of an issue or, in my case, being involved in it, to the point of it causing mental issues.  I thought I was a great guy but I knew, on the basis of what was being told to me by people I was affecting, that I was, in fact, not a great guy.  The great guy was inside of my head, and the not-great guy was inside of my head, and they were coexisting in there.

Problem is, the not-great guy was the one getting most of the traction and it was affecting me as a person and those around me, as well.  But when I looked in the mirror, the me that was looking back was not the same one that was dealing with those around me.

This may sound almost like a textbook case of schizophrenia, but its not.  Its not that I am unable to understand what is real and what is not.  Its more that I may have simply closed my eyes to what I knew was real and would rather have thought of myself as the man looking back at me in the mirror, rather than the man everyone else saw.  No one, except maybe the most anti-social among us, want to see ourselves as the “bad guy.”

I have made myself absolutely miserable on a few occasions just to not be the bad guy.  I was in a horribly unhappy relationship that mercifully ended in 2009 and should have ended three years before except that I didn’t want to be the bad guy.  The guy who stared back at me in the mirror was just too nice to be a jerk and end things, so he suffered for years when he could have found actual happiness elsewhere.  That helped absolutely no one.  One thing you cannot get back, once you have wasted it, are the years of your life.

There are people I have mistreated to no end and in my mind, I was being a benefactor, when in actuality I was being more of a socialist dictator.  Not just with my money but with my time and attention.  But I didn’t see it that way, even when it was explained to me.  I thought I was being benevolent and that anyone who was blessed with my presence for five minutes a day should be thankful that they got that much of me.

Now, that I am kind of outside the box in every situation of my life, I am able to see the big picture, and the picture it paints is pretty grim.  I never set out to be a jerk, I never sat and thought “I’m just going to be an asshole, for fun.”  And I never saw myself in that light, no matter how mean or hateful or selfish I was being.  I could always justify it in my mind that I was a great guy, that guy in the mirror who was looking back at me.

Ultimately, it cost me a lot.  But, it also gave me a second lease on life.  I was at a point where I sincerely didn’t care anymore, and while I hid it from everyone around me, I was quite open about it to myself.  I was almost waiting around to die, because my life was at a point that I felt like I had bottomed out and there was nothing left but that life.

And now, that I am at the bottom and seeing me for who I really was, I can begin to climb back up and try to be the man in the mirror and make him the man everyone else sees.  I can do things the right way instead of the right-for-me way.  To those who remain in my life and those who will come into my life as the days, weeks, months and years go on, you will get the better part of me.  The man I was is not the man I want to be anymore.

I feel as though I need rebuilt from the ground up.  Physically, yes, but more spiritually.  And once I take my Arizona sabbatical, I hope my life is ready to come full circle.  There is a lot of good to be done in the world, and I can be a big part of it, once I look past myself and realize that there is more to this world than the man looking back at me in the mirror.  And I am 100% ready to make that move right now.  Without delay.

After so many years of just being a jerk, its time to bury that part of me forever.

My support system has changed drastically in the past six weeks, and I am confident that they will see me through this, through a total transformation that will make the world better for all of us.  I don’t deserve the friends that I have, they are all better people than I could ever hope to be, but that will be the bar by which I will measure myself, to be equal to those who have stood by me.

In closing, I want to say thank you to God, my family, my friends and to the soundtrack of my transformation, Megadeth, because without the sounds that I wake up to every morning and go to bed every night, I think I would feel lost.  And between the conversations I have had today and the Megadeth track “Sweating Bullets,” referenced in the GIF listed above, I think that is what finally knocked my head into gear and made me realize my footing was not nearly as solid as it needed to be, so I needed to dig deeper.

Thank you to everyone who reads this, and if you’re fighting your own battles, know that we are stronger fighting with a support group that believes in us.  I learned that the hard way, because without the support of those that care about me, I would never have even admitted to my problems, and admitting there is a problem is the first step to correcting it.  And I will begin correcting my problems immediately, with my supporting staff.

Peace.