Tuesday, January 8, 2013

525 thousand 6 hundred minutes: How will you measure this year in your life?

For decades, I had 2 dreams over and over, almost every night.  In the first dream, I was a passenger in a silver car that slid out of control across 4 lanes of northbound I-71 and into the oncoming cars of the southbound lanes.  My spirit floated above the highway looking down on my dead, broken, and bloodied body.  I avoided riding in silver cars for years.  The second dream found me dying.  Whether my death was caused by some malady or was an accident really didn't matter.  It wasn't important.  But the message was always the same: I would die in my 50s.

My 40s were not exactly what I would call the best years of my life.  Even so, I was not looking forward to leaving them for my 50th birthday.  As each subsequent year arrived, I would wonder, will it be this year?  Will it hurt?  Dear God, please don't let me die alone.

If I make it until July 19th, I will turn 60 years old.  I have no reason now to believe that I won't get there.  I have some health issues, but nothing fatal.  I stopped having the 2 dreams about 4 years ago.  When I hit my 60th year, I will be 3 years older than my sister when she died.  Judy was quite a complicated woman.  She had a terrible temper that would ignite without warning, yet she oozed kindness from every pore, and I loved her dearly.  I miss her every minute, every day.  When she was sick (she had hepatitis C and myelodysplastic syndrome), she would never let her family tell us when it was really bad and she was in the hospital.  She could be near death and we usually wouldn't know.  She said that we had our hands full taking care of our mom (who had Alzheimer's and kidney failure) and she didn't want us worrying about her, too.  We worried anyway.  At the time her army of doctors told her that she could die, she told them that she would leave this life when she was good and ready and not a moment before.  She lived several more years after that.

My sister wanted to live.  Life was meaningful to her.  She lived every day as if it were her last.  Not because she actually was dying, but because she wanted to do and see everything, to be a part of the lives of her family and friends.  I've said many times that she taught me how to die but, most of all, she taught me how to live.  That's a lesson I didn't realize I had learned until the last few days.

I've spent most of my life being seriously depressed, doing what others wanted me to do, going through the motions.  I've breathed the same stale air over and over, done the same things again and again and still expected different results.  Life doesn't work that way.  You either give it all you've got or you go on as you always have and stay stuck in the same darkness that you've always been in.

The video at the beginning of this post is from the movie "Rent" which was a very successful Broadway musical before being made into a film.  The lyrics and music were written by Jonathan Larson.  The night before the first preview of "Rent", he died.  He was only 35 years old.  But in those 35 years, he lived--LIVED--enough for all of us.  He didn't get to see what a great success that "Rent" came to be, but he died knowing that he had created something lasting and something wonderful.  He died having followed his dream and not sitting on his hands with a blank look on his face.  He knew that he shouldn't and wouldn't waste a single one of his 525 thousand 6 hundred minutes.

I've wasted a lot of mine and I haven't had a year in my life worth measuring.  That changes here, that changes now.  My sister gave me a wonderful gift in showing me how to live.  It took me a while to get it, but "get it" I do.  This birthday year--and forevermore--will be a year to measure.  I'm going to be silly more.  Play the piano more often.  Write like I've got a million dollar book contract.  Dance every day.  Sing like I don't care who hears.  Say "yes" more.  Say "no" more.  Lose 40 more pounds and start dressing like the bohemian that I am.  I might write a play.  Learn the dulcimer Ginger gave me.  Study my Bible more.  Trust religion less.  Pray without ceasing.  Eat cake "just because."  Write my own fabulous funeral.  Hug more often.  Tell family and friends how much I love them.  This and more is how I will measure my 525 thousand 6 hundred minutes.

How will you measure yours?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goodbye to the Old and Hello to the....New??

I would be remiss if I let this year leave without wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  Of course, by the time I post this, it will already be the new year and my greeting will be late.  I've enjoyed (?) this time I've taken off for the holidays.  I had the flu and an attack of diverticulitis (I swear I will never eat popcorn again as long as I live!!).  As for the rest of the year, there was that little bump in the road at work.  My oldest brother hasn't spoken to me in 6 months and has pretty much disowned me.  We are no closer to figuring out the mystery disease and the bond popped out of my front tooth again.  I should have called my doctor today to set up the follow-up appointment for the diverticulitis and I forgot.  Ginger beat me at Scrabble tonight.  My Dad died this year.  The fifth anniversary of my sister's death was 2 months ago.  I haven't been very good at keeping up with friends, and sometimes the depression just weighs me down badly.

I'm ready for this year to be over.  So, Happy New Year!!  I don't know if that "Happy" is a hope or a plea, but I hope it works out, whichever one it is.  And despite what you just read in the last paragraph, 2012 wasn't all bad.  That little thing at work turned out to be a good thing because it got me more focused and we found a solution to the problem.  My brother will either come to his senses or not.  It's out of my hands.  I gave it over to God.  The mystery disease does not keep me down.  I keep getting back up every day.  I got the bond in my tooth replaced and it only cost me $27.00.  (Thank you, dental insurance!)  I can call my doctor on Wednesday.  Ginger may have won tonight, but I won the last two games before this one.  Dad and Judy have no more pain and suffering, and they're in Heaven with Mom.  I'm reconnecting with friends.  And I recognize when a depressive period is trying to get me 99% of the time and I can head it off before it gets bad.  (Thank you to my therapist!)  I've also lost 41 pounds since May 15th.

2013 is looking good, so far.  I have a couple of trips lined up this year.  Ginger and I are going to Paris to celebrate her 75th birthday and my 60th.  I'm going to Las Vegas with my sister Lisa and her family to visit our late sister's family and to celebrate Lisa's 50th birthday, my 60th (again!), and Lisa's youngest son's 21st.  I'll also be spending several days at my favorite place (General Butler State Park) around my birthday to contemplate turning 60 and to write.  I have outlined about half of the book I want to write and I have a lot of notes, so it's time to stop messing around and actually start writing.  I wouldn't mind losing another 40 pounds, so I'll be working hard on that.  I started out at 213.2 pounds and I weigh 171.4 now.  I would be happy to get to 150 pounds, but getting to about 135 or so would do good stuff for my health.

So yes, Happy New Year!  I hope this is a better year for everyone.  I wish us all love, happiness, good health, peace, and serenity in this new year.  May we all have the strength, patience, and perseverance to make it happen.