Realization

Realization

I’m sitting here listening to the shallow rhythmic breathing of my mom. We are waiting for the ambulance to come to take her home. That realization has the ring of going home to Portofino Place but also of going to her eternal home. Very soon my mom will be going home.

This kind of understanding took a while to sink in. She came to the hospital 2 weeks ago and we never thought the end was so close. We never had a reason to think that. But now finally it is sinking in. When the gastro doctor said she cannot eat anymore without a feeding tube the truth didn’t sink in.  When her team of doctors said that I need to speak with the hospice team it didn’t sink in.  When I asked the doctor what she can eat when she gets home, he said anything she wants. It doesn’t matter he told me. Just let her be comfortable and as happy as possible. For some reason it just sunk in.  She hasn’t stopped sleeping since I got here. When she wakes up for a few seconds it’s unclear what she is saying.  Reality has sunk in.

I’m sad that soon I won’t have a parent. Even her being the protagonist she always was, it will be odd to live in a world without her. Not sad, but a relief that I don’t have to deal with her mood changes, anger and manipulations.  She was the protagonist of so many people. I think Ron will miss her the most. She beat him up daily and yet he is taking it the hardest since his life will change the most.  Also Russ who spoke to her so often.

My thoughts go back to the death of my father, being in the hospital and having so little to do with the decisions and I think I was detached from the emotional pain of it. I am thinking of that a lot the last few days. I wonder why it was like that. Dad had Harriet to make the decisions and she and Terri were a team. No one ever asked me what I thought about anything. Now I, being the healthcare proxy, am asked so many questions and yet for some reason I know to confer with my brothers and with Ron to keep them involved. It’s not because I need their input but because they need to have input. I get it. Terri and Harriet never understood that. This will be a time we all remember as a time of sadness but also of support while being part of a large family. Positivism came from that because we were all part of it.

I also remember my father dying while Michael was full out on a run of addiction. I’d get a phone call from Elba that Michael is at her house with his friends getting high and she was not home. I should intervene. I told her I was with my dying father and it was so uncomfortable for me. Torturous. Through that time of my life and this time I guess I am realizing that I am not a bad father, son etc. My dad didn’t need me but my son did. My mom needs me so I am here.

I suppose the reality of mom’s condition is written all over my face.  Dr. Cheuk just came into the room to sit with me and talk. She gave words of encouragement and respect for our family. She told me that mom’s kidney creatine level is higher than it should be so she can’t take the blood thinner for the blood clot she has in her leg. She asked if that’s okay. Another decision. She asked when she gets home and gets sick will we be bringing her to the hospital.  Another decision.  The doctors at Huntington Hospital are extremely caring. She just sat quietly with me for quite a few minutes, silently, and then slowly stood up.  We hugged, I thanked her and she left.   I will always appreciate those moments with Dr. Cheuk.

The end is approaching.

Advertisements

The Eulogy Never Given

My Unnatural Life with my Mother

I once listened to a meditation where the leader was saying that we should find that warm, comfortable, safe place you have stored in your memory.   The place where you felt you were good, loved, safe and felt the warmth of the light.  He gave suggestions about where to find this in our past and the first suggestion was to think of your mother, and what she gave to you.  It’s reflective of the natural course of events that a mother will unconditionally love their child, give warmth, love, support, safety and strength to their child.  However, the words of this meditation leader didn’t resonate with me.  He was not speaking of my mother, or my relationship with her.

For as long as I can remember I was anxious, and worried about pleasing my mother.  As a child I always believed that her happiness was my responsibility.  I needed to please her at all times.  To do or act the way she thought I should.  I never saw her as an ally or asset.  I never got strength from her. She was never someone to turn to when I had one of the many normal problems of a child growing up.  My father felt this way as well.  He was dedicated to making my mother happy.  I had no allies.  I only had myself.  For others in my family it was much worse.  One of my brothers was tormented by my mom.  He was unable to make her happy or give her what she needed so she was more negative to him than to me.  I realized something was missing in my life during my middle years and got help.  With great therapists I figured it all out and this led to self-awareness that has made me someone who is able to give love.  I’m still a loner on many levels, but I enjoy close relationships with family, and friends, and most importantly with myself.

We all learn how to BE from our parents and mostly our mothers.  I am okay today because of my mother, but not because she taught me to be this way but because I learned from her what not to do in relationships, and how not to act to my family and friends.  In a Buddhist group that I attended one time I asked “How can I get along with people in my life that hurt me?”  The teacher said that I should thank them for the lessons I am learning from them such as how to tolerate pain from others, and realize through the pain I’m feeling from them that I am learning how not to act to others.  This great lesson helped me get along with my mother for the rest of her life.  Because of how my mother treated me and as I watched, how she treated the others in my life, I was able to learn from her how not to be, and I became a better father, husband, brother and friend.

In this unnatural way of growing up, with the pain I have felt through the years from my mother, and as I watched her hurt so many people close to me, and as she goes towards her final resting place, I can say thank you mom for making me the man I am today.  It’s an unnatural path to take in finding gratitude for my mother.

I write this to myself to help me find closure and with the idea that this is something she will never know or could ever understand.

The Greatest Moment of My Life

I’M NOT THE SAME PERSON I USED TO BE, OR EVEN THE PERSON I ALWAYS HOPED TO BE.

I’M NOT AS STRONG, OR AGILE, OR QUICK WITTED; NOR ACCOMPLISHED AS I HOPED TO BE.

AND I DON’T HAVE THE SAME PHYSICAL PRESENCE THAT I ONCE HAD.

BUT YOU’LL HEAR NO COMPLAINTS FROM ME.

AND THAT’S BECAUSE I LIVE IN THE MOMENT.

AND I’VE NEVER HAD A MOMENT AS WONDERFUL AS THIS ONE.

I HAVE NO FEAR.  NO UNREALIZED GOALS.  I’VE BEEN MORE THAN FORTUNATE.

I MIGHT NOT BE AS SHARP AS I USED TO BE.  MY MEMORY NOT AS CLEAR AS IT USED TO BE.

BUT MY UNDERSTANDING IS SO FAR GREATER THAN IT EVER WAS OR I EVER HOPED IT WOULD BE.

CLOUDY OR SUNNY, THE LIGHT SHINES BRIGHTER EVER DAY.

THERE’S NOTHING I NEED.  NOTHING I WANT.

THIS MOMENT, AS THE ONE BEFORE IT AND THE NEXT ONE FOLLOWING IS THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE.

Serenity

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Strength to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

The Serenity Prayer was written by an American theologist, Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and then made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, and other self-help groups many years ago.  The poignancy of its simple message makes it a mantra for many of those in recovery and helps when things feel tough and out of control.  It’s the strength to draw upon when strength is needed.  It’s the understanding they receive when they don’t know why things are so difficult.  It’s a great perspective to use when change is needed but so difficult to achieve.

The discovery of this simple prayer has changed my life.

Serenity is defined as the state of being calm or serene.  It’s the state of being that I ascribe to as often as possible.  For me, happiness lives in that state of being.  It is in the moment that you feel that way.  If you are calm or just plain happy, it can only be NOW that you feel that way.  The future hasn’t come yet and the past is behind us.  So, if I can feel serenity and I am living in the moment, then for me that is the clearest perspective I can have.

So why do I find these simple words so powerful?

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  I say this to myself, repeatedly, when I am full of anxiety, and suffering emotionally over something that is beyond my control.  Too often I get an automatic negative emotional response to something happening to me.  I never decided to let it bother me.  It just comes over me like a wave, and for that moment encompasses me.  I find this line, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, is a prayer unto itself.  We all need to accept the things we cannot change.  These are the things that by their nature have nothing to do with us.  They come from outside ourselves. I don’t use God as the focus, but solely myself.  I ask myself to accept the things I cannot change.  However, if praying to God works then that’s great.  I get relief from most negative emotional states by just saying these words.

The rest of the Serenity Prayer leads me on a path to make the changes in my life which I desire.  Unless you are living a perfect life, a person needs change to make improvements.  It takes courage to make changes.  Courage to change the things I can, reminds me to look within myself for the courage, and gives me the understanding that it might not be easy but it is doable.  It is easy to leave things as they are.  Working towards change gives me the hope that one day I will get to where I want to be.

I know that if I can develop the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot change then I will be happy.

Toast to Alan on his 65th Birthday

By Pat DePalo Jablon

Here is a simple toast, for a very simple man.
Who lives his life daily, following a very simple plan.
He lives his life in the moment, For today is all he sees,
Never dwelling on what was, never worrying what might be.

He is simply always happy, Always calm, an inner peace like zen,
And if something goes wrong, it won’t be long, before it’s a good day once again.
This simple man truly enjoys, the simple pleasures that life brings,
Kicking back with a beer, riding his bike, the simple strumming of guitar strings.

This simple man is always grateful, says he has everything he needs and more,
Good friends-good health-good fortune, and a family that he adores.
This simple man is my husband, and for that I am very glad.
And if I can quote this man it would go like this,
“Today, this day, is the best day I have ever had.”

A Deeper Meaning to Eric’s Graduation

My son Eric just finished graduate school. After more than seven years of college, and after starting at the ripe old age of 22, he achieved his lofty goal and received his master’s degree in special education. His accomplishment is huge being that he was never a student who found it easy to study, and in his previous educational endeavors he was not very successful. He changed the paradigm within which he lived and went on to success. He proved that change is possible if you want it bad enough. My joy and pride for his accomplishments well up from within me whenever I think of it. But this essay is only partially about Eric. It’s also about people and the basic commonality we all share.

I found myself outside Queens College in a crowd of people, waiting for Eric to arrive, (some things never change) and while feeling the excitement of the approaching event I noticed something even more profound. I noticed the incredible diversity of the hundreds of graduates and family members surrounding me. They all spoke so many languages, were of so many skin colors, and yet they all had something in common. Something that was so pervasive, throughout this environment. They all just glowed. Where else can you be and find so many people together in one place who are all just so happy, proud, and excited, celebrating an accomplishment for themselves or someone close to them. It was a universal feeling of joy. I didn’t see any negativity anywhere. And then at that moment a truth became evident to me.

What I was witnessing was not just a happy time for those involved, but a universal sharing of joy, between people whose origins are as diverse as a bed of many different beautiful flowers, and who for that moment in time forgot their daily trials and tribulations, and just basked in their happiness. Within the diversity of people from all over the world I was witnessing America at its best. This was not what I see on TV most nights. There was no anger or fear between races and populations of strangers like we see on CNN. No talk of philosophical political differences being stressed more than the similarities we all share. It was just a sharing of happiness. “Can I take a picture of you all together?” “What was your major?” “That’s an interesting dress you are wearing.” Everyone was interacting, smiling, and making eye contact.

There is a dichotomy within all people. Our daily routines are stressful, and this stress translates into anxiety, fear, feeling of separation and general negativity which sometimes make us unhappy. We fear the future, and lament the past. It’s not who we are, but it is how we think. The other side of our minds is our TRUE selves. It’s the understanding of human universality, and not division. It’s the interaction between people through love, and not fear. Our true selves filter out all the bullshit which tells us we are different from each other.

I was witnessing hundreds of people being their TRUE SELVES all at once, and all together. It reminded me not of the dichotomy of what we are, but the reality of what we can be. It was a hopeful and invigorating experience. Thank you Eric and congratulations on your wonderful achievement.

 

Ed Paymer’s Funeral

This morning I went to Joel Paymer’s dad’s funeral.  I’m friends with Joel for a long time and yet I never met his dad.  I really enjoyed the funeral because I got a glimpse of who this man was and I was impressed.  The son of a rabbi, he was a true giver, in a time when our culture is so self-centered.  There were over a hundred comments on Facebook about Ed, from a business perspective as well as personal, how he positively affected people’s lives.  Gratitude was a theme for many comments.  What a legacy!  People were grateful for having known Ed Paymer.  I pride myself on being able to read between the lines.  There were fewer basic “sorry for your loss” comments, and many more comments about how he changed someone’s life, or was a pleasure to know, or how important he was to someone.  His niece spoke at the funeral about how for many years while she was a child he would take her and her brother to shows and events, and how important he was to her.  I was moved by that.  It’s pretty special for an uncle to make such an impression on a niece like Ed did with his niece.  Ed Paymer must have been a wonderful father to have grown up with.  I can see why Joel and his family has such positive attitudes.  As they were wheeling out the casket, I noticed Joel and Doug talking and they had smiles on their face.  I could see that while they will miss him, because a man of this quality is always missed, they will probably celebrate his life for the remainder of theirs.

I can’t help but think that Ed left so much to so many people.  While it seemed easy for him, for so many of us it is not so easy.  Someone said during the eulogy that he treated everyone he met like a best friend.  In contemplation of myself, I can honestly say that I can use some improvement in that area.  I think many people can.

The impact that Ed Paymer had on everyone who he came in contact with was pretty amazing.  While I never got to know him, Ed Paymer, even in death had a profound effect on me.  It’s extraordinary how goodness, positivity, and love can truly affect the world.

I was moved this morning, and I feel better for having been to my friend’s dads funeral.

Weight Loss

 

I’m always amazed when I notice things in our culture that are marketed well, but in reality just don’t work so well.  It seems to me that people don’t care so much that they might not get what they are paying for, or more importantly they might not get what they are looking for.  This happens with so many things in life, but it occurs to me that there is nothing more disappointing than weight loss products, and their ability to give lasting effects.   Now the industry would say that it’s the fault of the consumer, and part of this is true.  However, they know the statistics and they know most people might lose weight at first, following their regimen, but they also know that most people will not keep it off.    Billions of dollars are spent every year on weight loss magic, and so often the results are short lived or not seen at all.  Pills, potions, diets, and all types of experts claim to have the answer, but I have found the results are rarely long lasting.

In my opinion there are two parts to understanding how to achieve successful weight loss, physiological and psychological, and yet most of the world just looks at the first part and doesn’t much address the second.

Physiologically we need a certain number of calories to live, and if we eat more calories than we need to live it is stored as fat.  (weight gain) If we eat less calories than we need to live our bodies turn to our fat storage for calories and starts to use some of the fat. (weight loss)

For the most part, that is it.  Pretty simple.  Eat too much and you gain weight.

So people take pills to cut their appetite, eat “fake foods” to fool themselves into eating the same amount but reduced caloric totals, speak to dietitians about how foods work together to make you gain weight, etc. etc. etc.

While there are instances where things such as metabolism, and individual health might make it more difficult to lose weight, for the most part it’s a matter of how much you eat.

So how do we eat the amount of calories our bodies need and no more?  If we could easily eat less or healthier we certainly would.  I believe that success lies in the understanding of why some people have no trouble eating less and some find it so difficult.

I always used to look at the skinny guy who seems to be able to eat anything he wants and still maintain his weight.  I figured he had my enormous love of food and appetite but just never gained weight.  I thought he was given a gift, and I was always jealous.  However, research shows us that they don’t eat more, they just eat better.  The reason why they eat better is because they were raised to eat healthier. They are not immune to the physiological rules of caloric need. They don’t eat huge portions, tons of cake and ice cream, or snack when they are upset.  I believe that they just don’t medicate or sooth themselves with food.  They are not psychologically more fit, but just deal with their psychological needs in a different way.  One study showed that thinner people walk more, stand around instead of sit and just fidget more.  Is fidgeting their way of soothing themselves?  I mean that somewhat sarcastically, but studies have shown that thin people are less sedentary that heavier people.  So often babies are given extra bottles when they cry and at that early age they get soothed with food.  Isn’t it a fair conclusion that eating when you are upset or anxious is a learned behavior?  How many young children are rewarded or worse yet controlled with sugary foods?  Candy, ice cream, cupcakes etc.  Our parents have linked good feelings to unhealthy food and for us the link usually lasts forever.    I don’t mean to put the blame on our parents.  I am also to blame, having followed my parents lead.  Yet this link of soothing with food is rarely explored or addressed when attempting weight loss. So what do we do?

As with so much of our lives, living with awareness opens our eyes and makes living a happy life more possible.  I compare overeating to drug addiction.  Some people can control their intake of drugs and alcohol and some cannot.  I believe it’s the same with food addiction, and this is the reason why so many people cannot control their eating.  As the drug addict often soothes with drugs, the food addict soothes with food.  Instead of facing this as what it is, a form of a self-medicating psychological soothing technique/compulsion, we look to easier answers such as dieticians who say they have figured out “the answer”.  They have food supplements, their own expensive portion controlled meals, and drinking your meals.  It is all a substitute for a lack of control of a food compulsion (addiction).  Truly being aware of this can give people the strength to control themselves.  In an aware state recently I noticed that whenever I am anxious I go to look for a snack.  Now if I just took a few cashews that would be fine.  But I am not hungry.  I am upset, or anxious, or nervous, so since I am not looking to satiate my hunger but fill an emotional void, I eat and eat and eat.  Sometimes after I eat I feel better emotionally, but cannot remember what or why I ate. Of course, in reality food has nothing to do with being emotionally upset.  Now, when I get the urge to eat, and I know I am not hungry, I become aware of this being an emotional reaction, and I think of it as such.  If it’s not meal time, then before I put something in my mouth I think of what’s behind my urge to eat.  It helps me control the desire for food.

So I am in the middle of having changed my eating habits.  I’ve almost completely stopped eating red meat because I believe that it is not natural for humans to eat meat.  Our digestive system is not built for meat digestion as are that of carnivores.  Since I stopped I feel much better.  Also, since I stopped overeating and recognized my food compulsion (addiction) I feel so much better.   It’s not cool in our culture to admit to an addiction.  We try to hide from seeing it for what it is.  If, however, I am correct about overeating being an addiction, then all the comfortable answers and remedies that people use to lose weight would not work.

THEY DON’T.

How many people know someone who lost a lot of weight and then gained it back.  (relapse) The cycle that people get into, of losing and gaining weight is what happens almost all the time.  This is similar to the cycle of drug addiction.  Drug addicts might go to rehab many, many times before having long lasting benefits. Our societies approach is all wrong.  When someone loses a sizable amount of weight and keeps it off they are more than just following a diet, or listening to some nutritionist tell them what to eat.  These fortunate people have changed their general eating habits as well as themselves emotionally.  They have found the reason to change and the benefits from change greater than their satisfaction of soothing themselves with food.  This process, as you can imagine is far more difficult than “going on a diet.” They have become better eaters of course, and learned to eat like thin people eat, and fortunately for them they got past the emotional ditch they kept falling into in relation to food.

Our culture has monetized everything.  Instead of getting to the core reason for overeating we have figured ways of making money on weight loss.  This profit incentive keeps us from doing the very hard work which is what is necessary to understand what we need to do to lose weight.  We want the quick fix.  A more intelligent idea is to consider the reason for eating more than your body needs.  Become aware of what’s happening to you.   I eat well now because I want to stay healthy, do what comes naturally to myself and my body, by eating well.  When I get the urge to overindulge I think of how if I indulge myself in that moment I will be hurting myself.  So I don’t.  We all need incentive to stop bad habits.  Overeating is a bad habit.  Understanding why we do it is the beginning of any desired change.

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!

Our nation is founded on the most amazing principles of human rights and democracy.  The law of the land is that every person is created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  What perfect ideals.  However, throughout the ages we are discovering that while people are created equal they are not equal in our society.  The rich get richer, the pool of poor get larger, and the middle class is shrinking.  Politicians do so very little to make us a greater nation.

Instead of getting better as a nation we have stalled into partisan politics and as a nation we reflect the day’s psychology of selfishness and self-centered thought.  Instead of being a nation of people, we are individuals living in the same nation.  Instead of being part of a whole, made up of all different folks from all over the world, we are individuals who strive for ourselves first, our personal beliefs first and think of the country as one entity only when necessary, like when we are attacked.  It’s not the way it should be.

The natural course of events is for us to see ourselves not as individuals but as small parts of the bigger whole.  To see all people as our equal and to respect everyone in the world.  I do believe that radical Islamic thought is the reason for so much terrorism in the world, but does anyone think it would be so easy to recruit suicide bombers if we showed respect to everyone in the world? To not be so glib about collateral damage?   I am so grateful to live in this great country, and I celebrate this today, but I also think of how we can do a better job for ourselves, and how that will make the whole world a better place.

Our Italy Trip

I am sitting in my opulent seat, on the flight home from Rome. Our travels are almost over and if I had to describe this trip in just a word it would be wonderful. Or maybe amazing. Or otherwise perfect.

Besides those few words I have had many enlightening thoughts about many interesting topics. Religion, which was a huge part of this trip gave me great insights, and added to my growth in my personal spirituality. My gratitude quotient has grown dramatically. My understanding of the difference between people throughout the world and within our country has also grown. Some of it makes me sad with how I react to the difference between how people live. I want to explain all this and it will take time. But all in all it’s been an amazing time for Pat and I. We toured Italy, saw so many fascinating places, and met wonderful people along the way. Our tour group was a mixture of people from all over the country, with nothing in common other than affluence and a positive attitude.  We all got along so well, that after the week was over there was nothing but good words spoken, hugs for everyone, and even some tears along the way. We talked during the week with almost anyone who wanted to, and we shared so much personal stuff. I love people who share with others and really enjoyed that part of it. Funny how I find it so difficult in my regular life to meet people like this and yet on this trip so many people were open. Perhaps it was because we will probably never see each other again, or perhaps it was because so many of them were older, smarter and more mature. Everyone on the trip had already arrived in their lives, and maybe all of them had nothing to feel badly about.

We met Michael and Mellanie for lunch one day in Rome. That was so important to me to meet them and we really only met them because they canceled something they had planned to but were unable to do. Our time together was great. We had lunch and talked for a long time. We got an emotional jolt on the first day in Venice, our first day of the trip when I got a message to call Jon. While we were away Jimmy died of a massive heart attack. While we were enjoying the week at home part of our family was suffering. The funeral, the wake, and all that goes with tragedy was being lived. Dave told me that Jonny stepped up and I would have been proud of him. I’m sure he did and I surely am. I was very uncomfortable being so far away during this family tragedy. In one way it was good we were out of town. I am sure that Jon grew during this past week. The harshness of life does that to people. His family will get the benefit of that growth as he learns to help support them through life. As we go home now I am excited for the future and all we have. After speaking to so many of my contemporaries on this trip I find that so many people at my stage of life are missing so many of the things I usually take for granted. Children and grandchildren living far away, lack of a spouse or partner, poor relationships, people losing their faculties.   Pat and I shared a wonderful time together, and that sharing builds an excitement that is almost not containable.  We will have the opportunity to share so much more.  My soulmate and partner and I do life nicely together, and once again if I learned anything important it’s that I am a fortunate man to share my life with Pat.