Not For Sale: Taking Myself Off The Market

This blog entry was not planned, I kind of “stumbled across” this concept last night while I was on Facebook. A good friend of mine was contemplating online dating and I proceeded to tell him that sometimes it’s best to just take yourself off the market, like I had done in 2009-10, and live for yourself, and make yourself happy and productive.

Then I realized what a hypocrite I am.

Since I turned 18, I have spent roughly 12 years in miserable, unhappy relationships with various women and 10 years as a happy and contented single man. And there is NO question, on any level, regarding whether my life is happier single, or taken. None.

My stress level when I am in a relationship has pushed my body to break down in numerous ways. Heart problems. My hair falling out. Ulcers. Migraine headaches. Being more susceptible to airborne illnesses and taking longer to recover. Inability to sleep. A consistent bad mood. Overeating. Twitching eyes. I am quick to anger and this makes not only me unhappy, but those around me who have to deal with my very short fuse.

When I am single, it’s a different world. My stress level drops enormously and everything else starts to come together and I get healthier and happier. And it’s not a subtle change; it’s overwhelming. I really feel like life is worth living again.

I’m going to be honest about something I have never admitted to publicly and only a few close friends are aware:  I have had two episodes of suicide contemplation; the first was in the fall of 2009 and was due to me feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship.  The second was in early 2017 and was due to me feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship.

Everything I had suggested to my friend, I realized I was not doing. I wasn’t living for me. I was doing the exact opposite. I was spending hours talking to this girl or that girl rather than unplugging myself completely and doing things that I enjoy doing.  I was ready to wrap myself up in another round of unhappiness and there was no reasoning behind it.

Some people have questioned me over the past several months about why I consistently either turn down or blow off women who are interested in meeting or dating.  I think I had already made up my mind to avoid relationships without admitting it to myself.

Part of this comes from societal pressures. If you’re not in a committed relationship, you should be. Regardless of whether it contributes to your happiness or misery. It’s more about the reaction and approval of others than anything on a personal level. That’s wrong.  It doesn’t matter how you slice it, you have to live for yourself, no one else.

So, in the tradition of “physician, heal thyself,” I realized I needed to take my own advice. Which means effectively taking myself off the relationship market. Leaving myself open to make similar stupid mistakes to ones I have made in the past wouldn’t help me at all.

My decision-making processes where women are concerned have not been good. It’s not just that if I had two to choose from, I would choose the wrong one; when I had close to 30 to choose from, I still chose the wrong one. And when I say wrong, I mean WRONG.

I think anyone who has gotten out of a long-term relationship needs to take an extended break. A year, if possible. And if the relationship was an unhappy one, or as miserable as all of mine have been, maybe longer.  Maybe a permanent vacation could be called for.

And yes, I know that admitting that every relationship I have been in was soul-crushingly unhappy makes it look as though the problem may be on my end. And I admit as much. And that’s even more reason to remove myself from the dating pool. If I know I am gonna be miserable going in, there’s hardly any benefit to going ahead and doing it.

I just want to be happy. And enjoy myself. And from my personal experiences, I have to be single in order to do that. I can do the things I enjoy doing and I don’t have to compromise anything. I can do what I want, when I want, where I want, and I don’t have to answer to anyone. Why jeopardize that just to make someone else miserable and myself miserable at the same time? That has accomplished nothing for anyone involved.

I have been anti-marriage as long as I can remember. That will never change. I can’t even imagine how miserable marriage would be had I ever been stupid enough to try it in any of my past situations. But now I am as close to anti-relationship as I could get. And let’s face it, a relationship is nothing more than a gateway to marriage.  That’s a fact.

So, for at least the rest of 2018, I am “single, not available.” I wish Facebook had an option to make that your relationships status.  It’s not all that far-fetched, as AOL used to have that option available for profiles. And if things work out as well for me as a single man in 2018 as they did in 2010 or even 1996, this may be my permanent status for the rest of my life. As the saying goes, I don’t need anyone to complete me.  I’m a complete person.

I am going to live for me. Do the things I enjoy and live my life the way I see fit, not the way someone else decides I should do it. This is my life, and I will do with it what I feel is in my best interest. And for now, that’s being single. And there’s a chance that may never change. And if that’s the case, so be it. No regrets. It’s my life. I just can’t justify putting my life, happiness and enjoyments in the hands of someone who has no right to them.  Will some people disagree?  Of course.  But you do what’s best for you, and I’ll do what’s best for me, and avoiding relationships in general is the best thing for me right now.

And for those who understand, and support me in this decision, I thank you.  My closest confidants have told me that this was the right move for months.  And I finally have to admit that I agree, and admit its good to have people who care looking out for me.

In conclusion, 2018 is MY year.  And if I wake up on New Year’s Day 2019 and I am unhappy, I may re-evaluate my life’s decisions.  If not, the status quo can remain in place.  But until that day, my #1 goal is to avoid relationships and if anyone thinks they can or need to change my mind, rest assured, it’s not changing.  I am committed to this to the point that I will completely disconnect from anyone who wants to push the envelope.  I’m as close to completely happy right now as I have been in almost eight years.  I’m not willing to give that up for anyone or anything.  My life is not for sale.

Peace. ✌️

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Relationships: An Outsider’s Perspective, Volume II

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As I was visiting with my mom a couple of days ago, she broached a subject I was hoping we would not have to discuss:  Relationships.  The reason I hate discussing this with her is that I don’t need to be reminded that my taste in women is atrocious and that every time I have been in what would loosely be termed “a relationship,” I passed up a lot of better options to settle for far less than I deserved every single time.  I know all of this, and have to live with it, but she feels the need to remind me.

But this discussion was different.  It wasn’t about my poor choices and stupid mistakes of the past, it was about the future.  And I had not given much thought to the future.  I have been living with a day-to-day perspective throughout 2018, and the idea of thinking a day or a week or a month ahead isn’t something I had been doing to any extent.

I have, however, discussed it a bit with my two closest confidants at times.

The last time I was single for an extensive period of time, I had a list of rules to help me weed out the losers from the potential winners.  It wasn’t the type of rules that most people think of (specific height, weight, hair color, etc.) but was more guidelines to separate the trash from the treasures, i.e. “must have a job,” “must have a car” and “no crazy ex’s.”  The kind of thing a nice, middle-class girl should have.

The problem with that kind of thinking is that I looked past the more obvious points I should have been considering, like “is this someone I can stand being around for more than a couple of hours?”  Or, “is this someone I could marry in the future?”

To make matters worse, I not only totally disregarded those obvious questions but threw my guidelines away as well and settled for everything I never wanted.

This time around, I’m smart enough to put everything into perspective.

To put it a little more simply, as I said to one of my confidants a couple of days ago, “I want a woman I can’t live without, not a woman I can’t live with.”  Which means I not only want a woman who fits the obvious prerequisites (mutual attraction, mutual interests, etc.) as well as my own personal requirements (the aforementioned job and car, etc.), but also now fits the questions I should have been asking all along.

Obviously, this is going to thin the herd down to pretty much nothing.  And I’m OK with that.  Because at this point, at 40 years old, I shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than I actually want, and I am perfectly and totally happy as things stand.

So, I sat down again with mom today and said “at this point, given everyone I have met and where everything stands, no, I’ll never be in a relationship again.  Granted, that could change tomorrow depending on who I meet, but right now, no.”

If I don’t see a future with someone, I’m not going to waste the present on them.  It isn’t fair to me and at my age, I’m ready to either settle down with someone, or settle down alone.  And since I am living pretty comfortably right now, I see no reason to change that for someone unless she is going to be a permanent part of my life.

I wish everyone would adopt my philosophy, as a lot fewer bad relationships would result and the dramatics that result from those bad relationships wouldn’t happen.  Of course, I realize some people thrive on bad relationships, as a way of getting attention online or from friends.  Realize that this isn’t healthy or good for anyone.

I am going forward, alone or not, the wheels will roll.  If there’s someone out there that is my “forever,” then eventually I’ll meet her.  If not, I’m going to be happy and enjoy my life anyway.  I don’t need anyone to completely me, I’m a complete person, as is.  But I am not closing the door to anything that may develop down the road.

There is White Sox baseball to watch, fine cigars to be smoked, excellent food and whiskey to be consumed and life to be lived.  And that’s what I’m doing.  I’m not settling for less than the best in any facet of my life going forward.  Ever again.

Peace.

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.

Your Time On Earth Is Finite… Your Happiness Doesn’t Need To Be

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“Every man is put on earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown.” – Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone episode, “The Escape Clause”

It would seem that the concept of having limited time to do everything we want to do in life would make people want to pursue their dreams and wants and desires. But for some reason, from my own experience as well as from my observations of others, most of us are content to just sit around and let life pass us by. If we’re lucky enough to have good fortune, we don’t grab onto it and get all we can, we simply accept that we had a run of good luck and let it go. Then we go back to complaining and doing nothing to try to make our lives what we want it to be. We just go on “living.”

The fact that so many of us have spent time unhappy and did nothing to fix the situation or improve it or get out of it distresses me greatly, and I have been as guilty as anyone in this respect. When I add up the years I wasted, either being miserable or just not being completely happy, it starts to eat up a large chunk of my life.

This is completely unacceptable.

The fact is, as simple as it may sound, there is no need to be unhappy or miserable. I have been happier in the past three months than I was in the past decade. Once I got my head screwed on straight and realized how miserable I had been, I was able to look at my life a lot more objectively than I had before and size things up for myself.

Sometimes we legitimately don’t realize we are miserable.  My hair was falling out, I was 80 pounds overweight, I had developed ulcers and migraine headaches and I couldn’t sleep at night. I think I may have been suffering from a type of Stockholm Syndrome, feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor. So I tried to make myself feel like I was just an idiot if I felt unhappy at all.  I just kept going on, day by day, trying to act “normal.”

Well, I didn’t just feel unhappy, words could never accurately describe how miserable I truly was. And once I was honest with myself, I had to start asking the hard questions; why would anyone allow themselves to be miserable and unhappy? What does that accomplish for anybody? When you have dreams and wants and aspirations, what is to be accomplished by just sitting on them?  Who wants to live that way?

Here I stand today, free of all of the misery I was dealing with on a daily basis and I am able to pursue the opportunities I want, that I have wanted for years but was rarely able to verbalize until now.  I am finally able to be myself again.

I am free to pursue the enjoyments of life that are mine to enjoy. I can go where I want, when I want, without having to answer to anyone on this planet. That is a good feeling after years of what amounted to a combination of imprisonment, brainwashing and slavery. I have earned all that is before me.  And I will take advantage of it.

Your time on earth is finite, you don’t have 5,000 years to fix your problems and find your happiness. You don’t have 10,000 years or even 200 years. You have 80 years or less to make your life everything you want it to be. The first 20 of those years are spent growing up. So now you’re down to 60 years. Since I’m 40 that means I have blown over half of my available time, assuming I live to 80. And out of those 40, I was in some level of misery for roughly 1/4 years. Again, that is totally unacceptable.

So, if you’re reading this, please, for the love of God, if you are in some situation that you are unhappy with, do something to change it! There is no excuse on heaven or in earth to not be happy and do everything you can to reach all of your dreams and aspirations.

I know that sometimes it feels hopeless. I know that sometimes we just don’t have the willpower or the mental strength to extricate ourselves from a situation we find ourselves in. I’ve been there. But the feeling of getting away from the unhappiness, and the subsequent improvement in life, both physically and mentally (and even emotionally) is well worth any short-term unhappiness you may suffer from.

I hope this will help someone that needs it, that needs a kick in the pants to either start living, or get out of a bad situation to start attempting to live. Life is too short to waste. There is so much happiness to be had and its there for the taking. Just have the courage to go get it. Or give it your best shot. Sometimes even if you fall short, you at least gave it a try and sometimes the journey is as rewarding as the destination.

In closing, let me try to make you understand that while its never to late to start, the longer you wait, the shorter your happiness will be, and there’s no excuse for that. I would love to have the wasted years of my life back but it doesn’t work that way, so I have to be happy with the 20 or 30 I have ahead of me. And I am, I plan on making the most of them and doing everything I have always wanted to do. It’s just a matter of getting started, and the first step is not only the hardest, but the longest. But you can do it if you set your mind to it and disregard all that’s held you back.

Peace, and God bless.

Yes, You CAN Make Yourself Happy No Matter How “Depressed” You Are

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There seems to be an epidemic spreading throughout social media today, and its just an overwhelming amount of whining and complaining and moaning.  Everyone is unhappy or heartbroken or depressed or forgotten.  Well, here’s the deal, kids.  Unless you have a chemical imbalance or legitimate psychotic depression, there is something you can do about it.  And yes, it is as simple as just BEING HAPPY.

First, take stock of why you are feeling the way you are.  Someone has done something to you, has hurt you in some way or another.  It could be a friendship ending over a difference of opinion or a relationship coming to an end or an argument with a family member.  Whatever the reason, understand that its trivial at best and no reason to spend the day on Facebook telling everyone how unhappy you are.

Second, remember the person you were before this situation happened.  Think about the things you enjoyed doing.  Are you doing them now, or are you sitting in a chair with a tear in your eye, sighing “woe is me” and feeling sorry for yourself?  And maybe, as I have witnessed in a few instances, becoming angry because no one else is feeling sorry for you?  Do you think any of that is helping your situation at all?

You were a person before you became a depressed bowl of mushy feelings.  You went places and did things and had hobbies and none of those things involved sitting around whining and trying to get attention on social media.  Are you hoping the person who has wronged you will see it and see the error of their ways?  Don’t count on it.  Especially if it was an angry friendship or relationship breakup, I promise you the other person not only doesn’t care what you are doing, but is actively avoiding you.

I know this from experience, because I actively avoid people that have been eliminated from my life, whether relationship or friendship.  I don’t care where they are or what they are doing.  I also don’t spend my life looking up somber Facebook posts.  I would rather spend my days watching baseball and posting fun posts for my friends to enjoy.  I would rather spread a little smile than another repetitive frown.

Maybe its the time of year, people tend to be more miserable in the winter, cabin fever and that kind of thing but at least in my area of the country, that shouldn’t be an issue, we haven’t had enough snow this year to bother calling it winter.

Understand that life is going to be different going forward.  Whatever has caused you to feel the way you do, accept that its gone, and you’ve taken the first step to feeling better about the situation.  If you have lost a friend or lost a significant other, the first thing to do is eliminate their presence.  For example, I “cleansed” my Facebook page of photos, check-ins, posts and anything else that I found that reminded me of people that I did not want to be associated with.  Deleted and eliminated.

Out of sight, out of mind.  And it works.  Then you can start focusing on you and pursue the facets of life that make you happy, without anything bogging you down.

Now, I’m not saying put it in the back of your mind and grind on it daily, that doesn’t help.  I am saying eliminate anything that reminds you of the situation you are trying to get away from.  Yes, you can do it.  Nothing is so important that you can’t let go of it.  Especially if it makes you unhappy.  Why hold onto something, and sit and think about something that makes you unhappy or angry?

I think the term “depression” is the most overused and undervalued term used today.  Anyone who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed or has an off-day where they just don’t feel as happy as they should, feel “depressed.”  No.  Sometimes people have a bad day, or they’re sad for one reason or another.  That is not depression.  That is the normal range of human emotion and the arrow is pointing down at that particular time.  It’s like confusing “sleep” with “death.”  Sad and depressed are not the same thing.

In closing, I want to say something that I know pisses a lot of people off, but turn that frown upside down.  Instead of sitting on Facebook posting those ridiculous depression pieces, put the phone down and go for a drive, or do something constructive.  And get rid of whatever it is that makes you act like your world ended, because it didn’t.  The sun will rise tomorrow and so will you.  And the further you get from what ails you, or bothers you, the better you will feel.  Time really does heal all wounds.

Be happy.  It IS just a matter of telling yourself you will be, and making a few minor adjustments in your life.  And its worth it.  I can testify to that.  Once you eliminate the misery and embrace the happiness that life has to offer, you win.

Go for it.  You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Peace.

Misery and Depression… And The Long Road Back To Happiness

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About six months ago, I sat in this very chair and was reading an article about the effects of depression on your body.  As I read, I began to realize exactly where I was in life; in the clutches of crippling depression.  Insomnia, heart problems, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, a weakened immune system…  It was like reading a list of the problems I was facing on a daily basis.  The worst part was, I didn’t realize I was miserable.

I had been programmed by those around me to think that I couldn’t be happier, because it would reflect poorly on them if society knew how unhappy I was.

The mind can be tricked, but the body, not so much.  You can be in a horrific car accident and break every bone, and while you can tell yourself that you’re not in pain or that everything is fine, that body cast will paint a much different picture.

There I was, for years on end, absolutely miserable.  Hating everyone I dealt with, just wanting to be alone, crying myself to sleep at night, my hair was falling out, I was 80 pounds overweight, I developed ulcers and, within the past year, even started to get migraine headaches.  But I kept telling myself I had to be happy.

But inside I knew I was miserable.  You can’t be around people on a daily basis that you hate with every fiber of your being and somehow be “happy.”  You can’t throw your life away and expect anything good to come back to you.  Ever.  It just doesn’t work that way.  If you want good in your life, you have to put it there yourself.

Luckily, circumstance decreed otherwise and those people have been eliminated from my life forever, and in less than three months my whole world is changing.  I have lost 17 pounds, I haven’t had a single migraine headache since early December, I can actually sleep at night and wake refreshed in the morning, my blood pressure is dropping, my ulcers are finally straightening up, my hair stopped falling out and I don’t feel the overwhelming, non-stop feelings of misery, doom and depression that I felt for seven years.  Just by the elimination of people I hated from my life.

From the time I was 15 I always said I would never live to see 40.  It was just a premonition, nothing concrete ever happened to give me that foresight.  But now I realize there was some truth to it.  At the age of 40 years and six months, I actually started to live.  The old me is dead.  The “me” that hated to get up in the morning because my bed was the only place I felt “happy,” that couldn’t function due to headaches so bad I became disoriented, that laid in bed awake every night for four or five hours before a small amount of sleep would overtake me and then I could have nightmares about the unhappiness in my life.  That “me” didn’t make it far past 40.

So, to anyone who reads this, I’m pleading with you, don’t lie to yourself.  Life is too short and precious to be spent being miserable.  Don’t throw your life away.  If there’s anything in your life that is making you miserable and unhappy, get rid of it.  It’s not worth it, no matter what it is.  There is so much happiness to be had in the world today, don’t let anything, and especially anyone, ruin it for you.  You’re worth more than that.  I lost seven years of my life to crippling depression and I’ll never get those seven years back.  But, if I live as long as my grandfather did, I could have 52 years ahead of me to enjoy life and actually be happy.  I plan on taking advantage of them.

Don’t let society, or anyone’s manipulations, make you unhappy.  Don’t allow yourself to be used and abused and taken advantage of just so someone else can be happy.  It isn’t worth it on any level.  Your life is your own.  To live as you want.

I want to say that I thank God for the life I was given, I thank my friends and family for seeing me through it and I thank providence for getting me out of the misery I was in for all those years.  Many a night I laid in bed and begged the Lord to end my life before the sun would rise again.  Now the sun has truly risen.  I wouldn’t trade my life right now for anything or anyone, and I am happier than I have been in probably 15 years.  And a whole lot healthier.  With a lot more support and love than I have ever had.  How many times lately I have said “today was a really good day.”  Those were so few and far between in the previous seven years I could have counted them on one hand and had fingers left over.  Life is what you make it.  And this is mine.

In closing, you are given one earthly life.  What you do with it is up to you.  If you want to get into a situation where every day feels like it would be better if it were your last, then you need to wake up and understand that there’s more to life than that.  There are wonderful people and places and things to enjoy.  Hobbies and food and drink and movies and shows…  Why allow anyone, or anything, to make you unhappy?  Let it go.  Take a deep breath, and walk out into the world.  And enjoy it.

Peace.

I Have So Much To Be Thankful For

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Being thankful is a powerful emotion.  And an underutilized one, as well.

Like most people, I tend to only take stock of my life and realize what I’m thankful for after something significant has happened.  And that is the wrong strategy to take in life.

In my own case, I seem to only realize that I have a lot to be thankful for when I feel like my life is being destroyed.  Maybe that’s the eternal optimist inside of me realizing that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.  Or maybe its the Lord bringing it out in me.

In late 2012 and into early 2013 I was able to start looking at all the aspects of my life that were positives.  I had the support of great friends and I felt like I had a great future ahead of me.  I was planning a move to Illinois and had already taken some steps to get that move into motion.  I had a phone interview for a very good job and had already bought my airline tickets to fly out a couple of weeks later for an in-person meeting.  I figured while I was out there, I could start looking for living quarters and start putting down roots.  I was so excited for a new beginning because I was in complete control.

Or so I thought.  Instead of taking that opportunity and running with it, I made a mistake of ultimate dimension.  That mistake cost me my move and cost me a lot of my friends.  It cost me my dignity and my self-respect.  And a lot of wasted time and money.

But fate was able to extricate me from that mistake, in the most unpleasant and painful way possible, but it was worth it in the end to be able to be able to escape such misery.

And now, I can stop, and take a look around me and realize that I am, in fact, the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  And now, I have the chance to make the most of my life.

First, I am thankful for my relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I had an amazing experience with the Holy Spirit in 2013, and I wish I had held onto that a lot more than I did in the years that followed, but when you’re involved with people who are evil, it makes it difficult regardless of how strong your faith is.  I can say, now without question, my faith is unbreakable.  I will carry it with me for the rest of my earthly life.

Second, I am thankful for my family and my friends.  I don’t deserve the friends that I have.  They are the greatest anyone could ever hope for.  I have turned my back on them, denied them, ignored them and eliminated them from my life, though against my own will, I still allowed it to happen.  And while I was disconnected from them, I leaned on my family.  My mom and dad are both elderly but they are always there for me when I need them.  As for my friends, nearly all of them have returned to me and for that I will be forever grateful.  They will never again suffer the indignities they suffered before.

Third, I am thankful for my freedom.  It’s amazing how people can change you, and not in good ways.  For instance, if you are in a relationship or marriage, your significant other should want you to be the best person you can be and remain true to yourself.  I am thankful that I am free to be me.  I can do what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want without any interference from anyone.  I’m not in a situation where I am expected to make anyone else happy, and I am especially happy to be away from people who only wanted what they could get out of me.  Being single is a truly blessed feeling.

Fourth, I am thankful for all that I have.  My material possessions.  Money in the bank.  A nice home.  A dependable vehicle.  They may not matter in the grand scheme of things, but I am very happy to have them.  They are things that make me happy and that I enjoy.

Finally, I am happy just to be alive.  For 25 years I told everyone I would never see 40.  I don’t know why I felt that way, it was just an overwhelming feeling I had.  Kind of like a premonition.  In many ways, it may have held me back, because I never wanted to really commit to anything because I didn’t figure I would be around to see anything through.  I realize now that was the wrong attitude to take and hopefully I realize now that I have another 40 or 50 years to accomplish everything I have ever wanted to accomplish.

This March I’ll be taking in Spring Training baseball in Arizona for the first time, in person.  That’s a dream I have had for years that until now, had no chance of being realized.  And if my month-long experience is a good one, I am planning to make a full-time move to the desert southwest.  There I can make a real fresh start, from the ground up.  And that opportunity comes along very rarely in life, and I will take advantage of it.

I have so much to be thankful for.  And I am most thankful for the second chance I have been given to do things the right way.  I am not shackled by my mistakes any longer, I am not tied to empty words or stupid promises.  I am free and I have everything I could want in my life.  And to anyone who feels like they are at rock bottom and they have nothing to be thankful for, just think about this.  Instead of focusing on the things that are making you miserable, step back and think about all the blessings you have in your life.  I know that can be a significant challenge, but if you can do it, believe me, its worth doing it.

Life is not bad, life is good.  But you have to eliminate the negativity, whether it be people or possessions or addictions or whatever is causing you strife.  Sometimes those things are removed independently of any action, and I was lucky in that respect.  I was saved from my miseries without really having to fight them.  But if you do have to fight them, fight with all that you have.  Don’t back down.  Don’t go back into the same patterns and deal with the same people.  Life is worth living and it is worth protecting.  At all costs.

In closing, let me say that if you just ask God to help you, you can absolutely depend on the fact that He will.  It may not happen overnight.  But I can say, without hesitation, that God has delivered me from every bad situation I have ever found myself in, and if you just trust in His plan and realize that everything will work out in the end, the road you are traveling will be a lot less difficult.  Be thankful for what you have and give all that you can to make sure you utilize the power of being thankful every day, not just when you are at rock bottom.  Be thankful for your blessings every day of your life.

Peace.