Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Emotional Wreckage and Actual Wreckage: A Corner Turned...

Like just about anyone that grew up in the 80's, John Hughes "Rite-du-passage" films had a tendency to jam its way onto HBO and the various Ted Turner Networks on an almost endless loop. And if you were watching TV back then, you probably saw what many consider his magnum-opus, Ferris Beuller's Day Off. The title character, played by the immortal Matthew Broderick, had one of the best closing lines of a film ever, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." That never quite resonated with me as it has with many others, I prefer another line from that movie in the deepness and meaning of life areas, but I'll work that in a little later. 

I probably needed to find better role models in those days.
Still, the world is a shittier place without him in it.
Anyway, Ferris' quote is still pretty pertinent especially in regards to the last year and a half or so of my life. Life moves pretty fast, other things move pretty fast too, and if you don't look for it, it'll definitely hit you and hit you hard. I don't think it's any secret that for the better part of the last twenty years, I've kinda dealt with some depression issues. It didn't really manifest itself in anything too typical, like that refusal to get out of bed type of stuff people typically experience. For me it had a little more to do with just plain not caring enough about myself to not engage in pretty self-destructive behavior. During the Dorm Days, it meant I would hammer ALL THE BOOZE, eat ALL THE FOOD, excel at all the things college had to offer that weren't really all that important to actual academic pursuits. Let's just say my studies suffered a bit. Post college, the booze and food were still there, but now I had to keep a roof over my head as well, so I threw myself into work. I did it all to such a degree that well, I didn't leave a ton of time to myself. I had a fun job that I wasn't having any fun doing, my personal relationships kinda suffered. I was miserable. Then I turned 37. 

I discovered that 37 is a magical age. Kids, when you turn 37, every single, solitary bad decision you've ever made arrives on your doorstep to collect its bill. I was always a big guy, but I put on a ton of weight, really fast. I started to forget stuff, probably because of all the brain cells I annihilated back in college. I stopped going to concerts, or even going out at all. Christ, usually the only reason I'd leave my house was to go to work so I would have a house to come home to. I couldn't even sleep longer than an hour at a time, and I'd wake up in places other than where I'd fall asleep. SCARY SHIT! What was I doing? Who knows? I felt like shit all the time and looked even worse. Something had to change. 

It's hard to put a finger on a catalyst. I think the root was when I reconnected with an old friend on that Instagram app. Our lives had gone on vastly divergent paths and something about her creativity and zeal for life hit a button in my brain and got me thinking about the old, better days. That's the type of person I wanted to be again. Right around then, after a particularly shitty night of drinking alone and feeling sorry for myself, I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the disgusting thing staring back at me. It was time. I decided that I wanted to live instead of die. 

Also a bad idea to get me wet or feed my ass after midnight.
I made a few changes. I got some help. Started getting some counseling to work through the garbage in my head, and the big one, I bit the bullet and got my guts rearranged. SIPS Duodenal Switch it's called. It wasn't cheap, but as the surgeon told me, "No natural method is going to help you and you are going to die. This is the only way to take it off and keep it off." Basically, they cut about 80% of my stomach out, and re-arranged my intestines so I hardly absorb any fat. This is what they call a two-pronged approach to losing weight. You can't eat very much, and what you do eat barely gets absorbed. It works as long as you follow the rules. Cut as many carbs as possible, focus on protein and smearing butter on virtually everything because you need to eat a ton of fat in order to make the giant handfuls of specialty vitamins I have to take every day for the rest of my life to work. Exercise like a fiend and get a gallon of blood drained out for nutrient level testing every six months are just a couple others. Also, stay sober for a year and change or your liver will shut down. 

Not exactly the picture of health. But I'm much better now.
Kind of a pain in the ass, but I've followed the rules so far and seen the results. 250 lbs down and I'm getting pretty close to just getting the rest cut off me. I look like a fucking war-crime naked, but my clothes fit a lot better, hell, I recently raided my closet down home and am fitting back into my old high-school gear! CORDUROY AND SWEATER VESTS FOR MILES! I can run for ten minutes without stopping where I couldn't run ten seconds before. I still can't hit the ball out of my own shadow, but I can play 36 holes without wanting to die for the first time since college. Oh yeah, golf is fun again, work is fun again, life in general is fun again. Actually, I can't really say "again," because I don't think it ever really was for me. 

So I almost died, managed to bounce back, and then last April, I almost died again! This time, instead of slowly murdering myself over a twenty year span, I almost took the easy way out. BIG OL' CAR CRASH! Driving out to the mighty Rose Park for a little round of golf one morning, I approached an intersection right by my house. I was hanging a left as the light turned yellow. It's a fairly high speed street, but I thought the truck that was approaching was slowing down for the red. I was wrong. Dude gunned it instead and two vehicles can't occupy the same space at once. They estimated he was going sixty but I don't remember much of the actual impact. Just the spin as my Dodge Charger pirouetted a couple times around in the intersection and I got punched by every single airbag in the car. 

All that's left.
I sat there for a moment. The radio was still playing "Problems" by the Sex Pistols. I looked down and wiggled my toes. My fingers were still there too. I tried to shift the car into park, but the knob wouldn't budge. "Shit" I thought, "the transmission is fucked." I was probably a little concussed. There probably wasn't a transmission left. The door was popped open so I unbuckled the belt and swung my legs out. Traffic was piling up and I was so supercharged with adrenaline, I felt like I could've dragged the car off the road myself at least until I saw the front-end or rather the lack of one. Surprised at how uninjured I was (maybe I'm bulletproof), I jogged over to the other guy to make sure he was all right. He was all right, the only damage his truck incurred was a missing bumper. As I went back to my car to start emptying it out and get my paperwork for the cops I realized that I most definitely wasn't bulletproof. My ribs were jacked up and I was in shock. The tow-truck dragged the husk of my beloved Charger off the road, I collected my citation from the police for failure-to-yield and went home. 

My mother came over to take me to the doctor, and as I painfully sat in my easy chair, something weird happened, I just started laughing. My mom and sister looked at me horrified. Maybe I am a little nuts, because that was really the only reaction that felt right at the moment. Despite all my best efforts, both self-inflicted and accidental, I was still here. For reasons I can't even perceive I was still here even though I shouldn't be. For some reason, I found that hilarious. At least until all that laughing tightened up my ribs and tears started pouring out. GODDAMN THAT HURT.

So I'm still alive, and from now on, I take absolutely NOTHING for granted anymore because nobody knows exactly when their ticket is gonna get punched. And I'm bound and determined to live my best life from now on. Whatever that is. I'm going to do it. The problem is, I don't have any idea what that means. For the first time in my life that I can recall, I like myself. I've got confidence that I've never really had. My job is satisfying. I've got great pals and my relationships with my family are as good as ever. As that other main character (and who some have theorized is the actual main character) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Cameron Frye said, "I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I'm going to take a stand. I'm going to defend it. Right or wrong, I'm going to defend it." 
"And the times have changed my friend
I'll be here to the bitter end
With a guitar in my hand, I stand a little taller
And I've been to hell and back
I ain't falling off this track
From the back to the front page
From the gutter to the stage"

But something is still missing. And I need to figure out what that is.

So, I'm gonna hit the road for awhile. Just me, and my thoughts. Sure, I'm going to be seeing some old friends, revisiting the past and figuring out how I got to this point, along the way. But I have a feeling the next couple weeks and this trip I'm taking might bring a little clarity to my head. I'm going to try to mix in a few dispatches from the road for you folks, and even if I don't find what I'm looking for, at least I'll have some good memories and a few awesome sights to share. Anyway, thanks for indulging my ass on this story. I promise to go back to telling dumbass college stories, inane commentaries and reviews of shitty movies again soon. 


  1. This brought tears to my eyes. You're a terrific writer. Your emotion is felt in your words. I'm so sorry you came so close to the brink and have had such sadness in your life, but i suppose that helps you truly value the good now, eh? You're such an inspiration. Thanks for giving me a much needed boost. I, too, need to make some changes. 37 is only a few short months away, after all. Eep!!

    1. Thank you Megan! Although since you’re basically the holder of the Undisputed Sweetest Person I Know World Championship belt, something tells me you’re going to get through the 37 curse just fine. Seriously though, I appreciate it!

  2. Nicely done man! I enjoy your writing. Sorry to hear about your journey to hell and back. I’m proud of you for sticking it out and making the tough choices you did. Solid effort man. Life is fragile, live it up and don’t take anything for granted. I saw a post the other day that had two boxes. One said Pain of discipline the other said Pain of regret. Everyone has to choose one. No matter how you look at you have to choose one. Good luck on your journey. If there’s anything I can do to help let me know. Go SOX!

    1. Thank you Enoch! Coach Connor dropped that “Pain of Regret” line almost as often as the he did the “Change the way you look at things” line. Unfortunately, it was almost too late before I truly understood what he had to say. Nowadays, I’m all about addressing those regrets and if possible, trying to fix things. Appreciate you amigo! Although I hope your Sox forever fail!

  3. So many things I want to say, but don't know where to start...thank you for saving yourself. I would miss you too much. Trivia,soon! Have a safe trip. XO Camilla

    1. Hey! Thank you Camilla! Appreciate the kind words!