Wednesday, November 20, 2013

When Coffee Isn't Just Coffee

Hey everyone. I hope this finds you all safe and well. Today I want to tell you a story, a story that is both true and hard to tell. It's hard to tell because of the truth it presents but its a story that needs to be told. I've held this true story back about myself for far too long and only now with the assistance of my therapist am I ready to reveal it. I am revealing this story about me because I want to be as open and candid about my life as possible. I've been guarded and held back much of myself for way too long. Truth doesn't hold you back, it sets you free. And I want to be set free. I've always held so much inside of me so tightly that its almost suffocated and choked me to death on more than one occasion. I need to let my truth be brought into the light so that I can face it, accept it, learn from it, and then let it go and move forward. So here's my story.

When I was in college I took a speech a class. And in this class there was a guy. From the very first day of class he and I just shared a connection. We began to talk before class every day and at some point we started walking out together talking. I knew he was married. He wasn't hesitant about revealing this fact. I can't say I didn't know or that he was lying to me about it. And I mean we were just talking. I loved talking to him and sharing things and I began to really enjoy his company. At some point, I don't know when or how, I fell for him. I really fell hard for him. But I knew it was wrong to feel that way about someone else's husband. So I kept my feelings to myself and we just kept doing our same routine. Towards the end of the semester, I believe there was about two weeks to go, he came up to me and confessed that another guy in my class who he talked to every day had a thing for me. He was too scared to say it to me though. Well, that shocked me because here is the guy I've fallen hard for telling me another guy has a thing for me. I didn't know what to do with that. I had no idea what to do or how to proceed. The next day of class, the guy I had fallen for asked if I wanted to join him for coffee after class. I knew I shouldn't. I knew this wasn't just coffee. I knew that this was more than just coffee despite myself trying to talk myself into the notion it was just coffee. My gut was screaming at me to say no and put a stop to it. But before I knew what had happened, there I sat across from him at the local Starbucks as he grabbed my hand and told me how much he cared about me and that he would love to be able to feel me up close and personal (note: I've edited this quote to make it far less adult than it actually was) and that he had fallen for me hard. This was it. This was my moment. I knew that this was one of those life defining moments. I could say yes and go down a very rocky, turbulent, wrong road with a guy who I had fallen for and who had me captivated completely or I could simply refuse and do the right thing. What was I going to do?

I sat there for a few minutes and I finally turned down his offer. So I did the right thing. I didn't act upon my feelings. But here's the truth that has been such an ugly fact to face for me, I wanted to. I wanted to throw caution to the wind and just say yes and suffer the consequences later. I simply wanted to just for once in my life throw my morals and my values out the window and just be with him. I was flattered. I wasn't disgusted or appalled at his offer. I was flattered. That's the fact that has haunted me for years. I wanted to be with another woman's husband and wasn't put off at all by what he was offering me. But I guess what I've started to see, with some professional assistance, is that no matter what I felt I did the right thing. Feelings aren't right or wrong. Whether or not you act upon those feelings whatever they may be is the issue. I wasn't wrong to feel what I felt because I really couldn't help what I felt but I had the choice to act on them or to walk away and that's what matters in the end. So my choice to walk away was right. And my feelings were just that. Feelings. I understand it all better now but I still do struggle at times with my feelings to begin with. I sometimes think I can control my feelings but maybe its just not possible for us as humans to control what we feel but the focus should be on the choices we make and the way we behave no matter our feelings.

And what about that other guy? The one who had a thing for me way back then. I never did take a chance on him. I approached him half-heartedly once and I never tried again. And our class ended. And I always wondered if I screwed up being so into this other unavailable guy that I overlooked the available guy who was ready willing and able who was right in front of me the whole time. I saw him about a year later and I thought was this fate giving me another chance? I decided to approach him when suddenly I realized he was with another girl. Oh the cruel irony of it all. I had my chance and as I look back on that class, I realize this guy did have a thing for me. It's obvious to me now the way he looked at me while I was giving my speeches and how he always asked me questions after I was done. And it just makes me sad. And upset. I beat myself up a lot for not seeing what was so clear and never giving it a chance because instead I was focused on some guy I was never going to have nor should have even been focused on. But you know what? As I realize now, that's just life. It doesn't make sense all the time. There are times we focus our energy and dedicate ourselves to the wrong people and things all the while we let other people and things slip right through the cracks. It's just a part of it all. It sucks. Its ugly. But it is what it is. Nayely Saldana is quoted as saying "we met for a reason, either you're a blessing or a lesson." Some people we meet are brought into our lives for a lesson. I believe that this is what these two guys were for me. They were surrounding me to teach me something. Now have I learned? That's the question. I think I am still in the process of learning what exactly the lessons were that I needed to know. But I have begun to pull those lessons out and with each day that passes I am getting closer to getting it.

As for those two guys, every so often seemingly out of nowhere I will go back and remember. I can still remember so vividly everything about that time of my life regarding their features which is really odd with the guy I never even had a real conversation with. I don't remember anyone else in my speech class or what my professor looked like but I can tell you what both of these guys looked like, and I can remember exactly how I felt and thought at the time going through it all. I used to look at this time and coil up in disgust and agony over what I didn't want to face. But with time and with reflection, the more I open up about what transpired and face the full truth, I don't look at this event as a regret. I look at it as a life altering event that has molded me and helped me on the road to who I am and will continue to help me become who I need to be. So it's not something I am ashamed of now and I can tell because I am sharing this all in detail on my blog. That would've never happened a couple years ago. So I am growing and evolving and that's always a good thing. The truth can be ugly at first but as you confront it directly and go through it, it suddenly doesn't seem so ugly or scary. Just face it and you never know what you might find.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Willful Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Hello again everyone. Greetings to you from chilly November southwestern Indiana. Hope you guys are well. The topic of my blog today is actually inspired by a friend of mine's twitter conversation with another about people who claim the Holocaust didn't really happen and how that "opinion" is shared openly in college classrooms in a discussion about religion. My dear friend is Jewish and so of course naturally this guy assumed that her whole beef with him was simply because she's Jewish, and for no other reason. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not just Jewish people who are highly offended and completely appalled by this "opinion". As you've noticed by now I put opinion in quotes because to me this is not a valid opinion. I do my best to be as open minded and non judgmental as I can and understand that we all have our own viewpoints in life and it's many issues. But see, there are some things I just don't find to be relevant, valid viewpoints. And chief among these is willful ignorance, which is what you have to have if you believe that the Holocaust never happened and it was some big elaborate hoax perpetrated by Jews to get sympathy or whatever your particular crazy illogical nonsense belief is. See, you are denying an absolute historical fact. It's a fact. To try and make it anything else is beyond ridiculous and every time you spew that nonsense out of your mouth you slap the faces of every single Jew who had to endure the agony and the suffrage of those atrocious years. Every single time you deny this despicable event occurred you are mocking the families of those survivors of this event who have listened to their loved ones account the horrid details and who have had to comfort them while they relive those disgusting memories over and over again. I remember being so naïve to the fact that holocaust deniers existed. I truly never imagined that anyone could deny something like that. To me, denying the holocaust is akin to denying history. So imagine my complete and utter shock when I too was sitting in my college ethics class and we got on the subject of climate change and people who denied it's existence and impact on the earth when suddenly this one guy started talking about how there are many great hoaxes out there designed to manipulate the masses, chief among them the landing on the moon and the holocaust. Now, he had me with the landing on the moon being a hoax because I thought that was pretty ridiculous but when he had the audacity to say out loud that the holocaust was a hoax, I couldn't even form any words for a minute. When I finally did speak, I just said how offensive it was to claim that was a hoax and how could he think something so repulsive? He was smug himself and asked me if I was Jewish to which I responded that I am a Christian but my religious views have no bearing on your ignorance. That was all I said. It was all I could say to keep from getting into a fight with him cause I think I would have. As I walked back to my car and drove home, I just remember feeling so angry and so offended at the blatant disrespect and the extreme ignorance of this man. Then I realized something even more disturbing: he wasn't the only one who felt this way. He got this idea from somewhere else through some other person. That's when I realized just how bad this was. That people actually believe this and speak it out loud and get others to follow their teachings, to hell with what history proves otherwise, boggled my mind. I mean, do they really believe that over six million people weren't just exterminated by order of Hitler? They think the survivors who lived in concentration camps are just making it up? They were really on vacation somewhere? I just can't understand that kind of ignorance and I don't want to either. I never want to understand the way that kind of warped thinking works. The biggest issue for me is that these people think it's only Jewish people who could ever possibly be offended by or disgusted by their words and their beliefs. Do they honestly not comprehend that there are people out there like me who are not Jewish who just are utterly offended by their ignorance and their disrespect? It's similar to those people who think the only people offended by the use of the six letter racial epithet starting with the letter n are black people. I'm deeply offended by that term as well. And not that this is on the same level at all, but the ignorance shown when guys automatically think a woman is upset with them because its their time of the month is a smaller example of what I'm talking about. I don't know in that case if anyone besides me is offended by that ignorance but my point is that I am offended by ignorance, but actually I am offended by willful ignorance. We are all ignorant on things until we are educated but once we gather the facts and are educated and then we still refuse to accept those facts and form another "opinion" we are willfully ignorant. There is an anonymous quote that sums this all up quite eloquently, "we are all entitled to our own opinion but not to our own facts." The fact is the Holocaust, a systematic extermination of one group of people, happened. It's a documented historical fact. To form any other opinion or form any other conclusion is being willfully woefully ignorant and I cannot respect that opinion at all. I sincerely hope that anyone out there who is being willfully ignorant will at some point see the light and understand the error in their way of thinking.

Until next time,

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Guilty No Longer

Hello everyone. I hope this finds you all happy and well. Today I want to tell you about the breakthrough I had at therapy this week. I discovered something about me that at first knocked the wind out of me because of the sudden wave of clarity it brought to me and the absolute randomness of it. We were sitting in my session talking about something completely different when suddenly the overwhelming knowledge that I wasn't to blame for my cousin's death hit me. I have previously written about how I carry the guilt of her death around with me and how I can't let go of that guilt in my heart even though in my head, I knew I wasn't responsible in the least for it. But I have spent the last four years torturing myself over the thought that I could have done something, anything at all, to change the outcome of that tragic day in July 2009. The guilt I felt was all consuming. I couldn't see past it. I couldn't escape it. It was as much a part of me as my heart and soul are a part of me. So, when this feeling of clarity came over me, it threw me for a loop. I had no idea why I suddenly felt it, not just knowing it in my head, but actually feeling it and knowing it in my heart. I stopped the conversation I was having with my therapist and told her exactly what had just occurred. We then spent the rest of the session, about twenty minutes or so, talking about this new development. It was the strangest occurrence of my life quite honestly. But it was one of the greatest single moments of my life as well. And what I really want to talk about now is freedom. True, genuine, actual, spiritual freedom. I have never even known this kind of freedom could exist. The chains in my heart that wrapped all the way to the farthest reaches of my soul just fell away and suddenly I was free. The cell door flung open wide and my pardon had been signed. But I still couldn't quite understand how this happened. When did this truth reveal itself to me? And me being the type of person who has an insatiable curiosity, these answers were something I had to find. But it didn't take me long. What I felt inside of me was the reality of the situation. There was nothing I could do to stop what happened to her. And the past four years I had spent trying to find someway to forgive myself for that unforgivable mistake. But the thing is, and this hit me suddenly as lightning strikes a tree, was that wasn't the proper question to ask. How do I forgive myself? The right question was how do I stop blaming myself for something I had no control over? I didn't even answer that question consciously. Somewhere in my subconscious mind, which can be full of darkness and can be a master manipulator, the truth revealed itself to me. I didn't need to forgive myself. I needed to stop blaming myself. And I did. One of my biggest weaknesses is my inability to let myself off the hook for the mistakes I've made in my life. And I thought what I had done, or not done in this case, was something I couldn't let go of or let myself off the hook for. But now I get that there is a difference between forgiving yourself and not blaming yourself. That seems so obvious doesn't it? But at the time, before this moment of clarity hit me, I couldn't see that or understand the difference. And that understanding has made all the difference in my life. I now am free. I now have no bondage of guilt keeping me down. I don't hurt any more over what happened though I do still miss my cousin every day. But I don't have the guilt inside of me. That monster is gone. And that's a wonderful reality to live in. I don't want to ever go back into that prison of darkness. With this lesson I've learned through this process of mine that I didn't even realize I was going through, I won't go back to that place. That's life isn't it? We are all works in progress doing our best to be our best. And we all just have to take it one day at a time and hope that in the end, the lessons we learn help us reach the zenith of our potential as people. I wish that for all of us on this earth. It's been a long, hard, difficult journey to get to this place of understanding and there were definitely some very ugly moments involved. But what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. I embrace my strength and look forward to the next step in this journey along life's pathway.

Until next time,
Do your best to be your best.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Forgiveness Is The Path to Pursue

         Hello everyone. I hope this finds you in good health and good spirits even if it is Monday. As those of you who have kept up with this blog all ready know, I spend a lot of time on twitter. Sometimes the craziness and drama is hard to deal with but there are definitely times when I see lots of wisdom and gives me great inspiration and motivation to share some of my own personal wisdom with you. And today I'd like to tell you about forgiveness. And why forgiving others even when they don't apologize is such an imperative process in the pursuit of happiness.
          I saw this quote on twitter today from Robert Brault "life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got". This is one of the truest words I've ever seen written. And I know this from my own personal experience. I spent many years living in bitterness and anger because of the wrongs committed against me. I felt that I was owed an apology and that people who hurt me should seek redemption and come to me on bended knee in regret and full of contrition. But that never happened and as each day came and went, the more bitter I became. The resentment would grow deeper and I became angrier and angrier. And it turned me into a very angry, unpleasant and bitter shell of a person. People would walk on eggshells around me due to my unpredictable volatile attitude. One minute I'd be fine. The next I'd be on the war path and take out all my frustration and pain onto one unsuspecting and undeserving person after the next. I made everyone around me miserable because misery really does love company. Many of my relationships with people suffered severely and occasionally my inability to let go of the past sins committed by others towards me created an untenable situation where the relationship was forever ruined. When I think back on the many years I spent wasted and all the relationships that I sabotaged due to this, it really does make me quite sad. But in the last several years, I've slowly began to understand that forgiveness is the way out. The way to unburden yourself and release yourself from the spiritual and emotional prison you become trapped in is to forgive. I have learned that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. Whether they seek forgiveness and are repentant in their behavior towards you or whether they ever even acknowledge their shortcomings towards you has nothing to do with whether you forgive them or not. Forgiveness is about you and moving forward with your life. You cannot focus on the future and take any steps forward if you continue to live in the past and hold onto all that anger and resentment of others. It's not possible. You hold yourself back and punish yourself daily by never forgiving and waiting around for that apology from them. Those people who hurt you are not affected negatively by your inability to forgive them in the least. The only person lack of forgiveness hurts is you. Nobody else will ever suffer or be imprisoned by being unforgiving besides you. And it's all your choice. I've finally understood that me living in anger and bitterness was a choice I made when I refused to forgive others. I'm not saying that it's my fault or my choice that people hurt me or that they wronged me in some way because that's not the case at all. But me choosing to allow them to continue to hurt me over and over again by making what they did affect me so negatively that it turns me into a bitter, miserable person that makes everyone around me miserable is all on me. That's my own choice and my own mistake. I allowed them to control me. I allowed them to keep me locked up and I gave them permission to take possession of my thoughts and feelings all because I could not let the past go and take steps forward away from all the hurt and the pain and the anger. I literally waited and waited and waited for years for an apology that didn't come and was never going to come. But now, I realize and recognize that if I want to go where I want to go in life and if I want to be free to be who I want to be, I need to accept that apology. I am able to move on when I do that. I'm not saying its easy. It's a challenge to accept that and to forgive them even when they don't even recognize how badly they wronged you. but it's an absolute necessity to do this if you want to reach a place of positivity, light and bliss. If you want to take control of your life completely you have to be able to forgive those who may not deserve it but again, it's not about them. You deserve it. You deserve to not have that weight on your shoulders or those chains wrapped around your soul. You deserve happiness and all the best life has to offer. And you cannot get there if you refuse to forgive others. Believe me, I know this for a fact. Until I began to forgive others and accept their apologies even without their asking for it, I was just a mess. I wasn't in a good place and I allowed so much bitterness to destroy so much good in my life. This is the most important life lesson I've ever learned. Forgiveness is the key for unlocking that door to the future filled with your happiness and the key to unlocking all your dreams. So I have to agree with Robert Brault completely and wholeheartedly. Life does become easier when you learn to accept that apology you never got and most likely will never get. If you have any resentment or hold any grudges towards anyone in your life, forgive them and let it go. Don't do it for them because they deserve it. Do it for you because you deserve it. To me, forgiveness means letting go so that you can stop walking with your feet and mind in the past. It's the way forward into a kind of life you've always wanted and have always deserved.

Until next time,
Do well. Be well.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Why This Trial Matters

After nearly five months, the case against AEG Live for negligence in the hiring, supervising and/or retention of Dr. Conrad Murray filed by Katherine Jackson on behalf of Prince, Paris and Blanket Jackson has been handed over to the jury to deliberate and sift through all the evidence presented by both sides and testimony of many people who worked with and around Michael Jackson in the last days and weeks of his life as well as multiple doctors who treated him throughout the past several years. The jury has a very challenging job ahead as they must sift through, sort out and inspect with a fine tooth comb all of the pages and pages of exhibits and transcripts. I know that they are going to their civic duty and take it seriously and come to the right and fair conclusion of the facts presented. But as we wait for their decision, there are just a few things I'd like to say about this case. Specifically, I'd like to answer three questions I have seen brought up repeatedly on social media by those individuals who don't agree with the filing of this wrongful death suit. I'd like to take a few minutes to respond to these.

The first point opponents make regarding this lawsuit is that there is no point because no amount of money will bring Michael back and there is no way to resolve this fact. They are right. There isn't an amount of money that will ever give Prince, Paris, and Blanket their father back or that will allow Katherine Jackson another opportunity to see her son or hear his voice or that will allow Michael to write another song to help try and heal the world or that will allow him to visit another orphanage and brighten a child's life even if for just a few minutes. And that isn't what they are seeking. In America, there are only two ways for someone to seek justice against those who have committed wrongdoing against them or their loved ones. Either through criminal court or civil court. Since AEG Live cannot be held accountable criminally, the only other recourse was to file a lawsuit in civil court. And the reason for this isn't about money. It's about justice. Every day, there are family members who file lawsuits against companies for negligence. There are several wrongful death lawsuits that occur each week. There is nothing wrong with seeking compensation in civil court from a company that failed to protect or was in some way negligent towards an individual. To say that it there is no reason to file a lawsuit against AEG live because it won't bring Michael back is the equivalent of saying there is no point in prosecuting Conrad Murray for his negligence because what's the point if him being punished in criminal court and going to jail won't bring Michael back? Nothing will bring Michael Jackson back to life. And certainly doing nothing to try and hold those persons and/or company involved in negligence will do nothing at all. If this had happened to your brother or son or father, you'd make the same choice as Katherine Jackson. When my father died, my family had to sue his insurance company and take them to civil court in order to receive the $50,000 life insurance policy. They refused to pay it because of a technicality on their end. We had to fight them in court to get that money that was owed to us. It wasn't about the money. We weren't being greedy or money hungry. It And we knew that it wasn't going to bring my dad back. We weren't going to stop being devastated he wasn't around or stop grieving or suddenly just get over his death. That money wasn't a replacement for his life. It was simply money that we deserved as surviving members of his family since he was no longer able to provide for us. Now you may scoff and say but that was only $50,000. But the point is the same. This lawsuit is about seeking compensation from the company that was negligent and holds some responsibility in the loss of Michael Jackson and this money is what the children and his mother are owed due to the loss of income from Michael. It's not about greed. It's about doing the right thing.

Second point that the opposition of this lawsuit makes is that AEG Live hasn't been affected by this trial at all and that they aren't broke or losing business. But that isn't a fair point because the verdict hasn't been reached yet and the trial isn't over yet. We must wait and see how this effects AEG Live but the goal isn't even to make them go broke. It's about holding them accountable for their negligence in the death of Michael Jackson. And AEG Live is all about money. If they have to shell out any monetary amount to Katherine Jackson and the three children, that will affect them and there can be no doubt about that. And the facts that have come out of this trial will make AEG Live the pariahs of the entertainment industry. Will every artist out there stop using AEG Live? Probably not but there will be artists who will refuse to work and sign with them due to this trial. And this will change the way that promoters do business. It will. And that makes this trial worth something as well.

The last point that I will discuss here is that the opponents say all this trial did was bring out negative and ugly things about Michael. What things? That he had an addiction to Demerol in 1993 and in 2002? That's not a secret. Michael himself wrote about this struggle in Morphine. There is nothing hidden from public view about his struggles with addiction. They paraded a lot of doctors up on the stand to testify and all they revealed was that Michael lived in lots and lots of pain and at times used too much narcotics for that pain. The other thing that AEG Live counsel kept harping on was about Michael being charged in 2005. Again, that's not a secret, and he was acquitted. So what's ugly or negative about that? These are things in his past that we all know and to just try and not bring those subjects up or ignore the elephant in the room is doing a disservice to Michael's memory. He lived through all that stuff and as people who love him unconditionally we will love and stand by him always even through his trials and tribulations as he asks us to do in Will You Be There. The one thing that I wasn't a fan of coming out was his medical history being made public. That wasn't fun but I understand why it happened. But again, if anything, that only  made me admire and respect him more when you see just how much he suffered from so many physical ailments. Michael struggled but yet endured. What is so negative about that? And at the end of the day, Michael made a bad choice regarding using propofol but that doesn't make him a bad person nor does it mean he can be blamed solely for his death. AEG and Dr. Murray definitely contributed to his premature demise. And that is what this case is about. Dr. Murray was punished in a court of law and is sitting in a jail cell as I write this (now I won't talk about how him being released soon is an absolute joke in this blog). So that leaves AEG Live to face the music. And since they can't be charged criminally or be sent to jail, they must pay by paying out money to the surviving children and his mother. There is nothing greedy or selfish or wrong with that.

As I wrap this up, I just want to give positive thoughts to Katherine Jackson and to Michael's three children as they continue to try and navigate their way through the pain and the grief of living without their beloved son and father every day. And I pray for the jury to stay strong, be thorough and bring back a just and fair outcome to this trial. The road has been long and hard but in the end, I have faith that there will be justice for Michael. That doesn't mean it will replace him or that it can substitute his life. It just means that his death won't be completely in vain and that those who share blame in his death are made to face their accountability.

Until next time,
Be well and do well

Friday, February 1, 2013

Living with Guilt and Regret: The Worst Fate of All

Today I sit here and realize that I haven't divulged something that needs to be divulged in the worst way. It's not that I intentionally don't share it or anything, it's that it isn't easy. It's quite difficult to admit. It's sometimes impossible to face this truth about myself and my life. I never used to believe in regrets. I thought that was just a myth people used to be a victim or gain sympathy or something like that. I never thought anyone could actually feel regret or wish something didn't happen so much that you'd seriously consider selling your soul to the devil and give up anything you ever owned to change one choice you made in your past. And then it happened to me. I made a choice once that at the time was justified and made sense to me. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. But hindsight is a bitch in that it's perfect vision. You see things so perfectly clear now that if only you could have seen then, you'd have altered so many things. What am I talking about? I'm talking about my cousin Connie and myself. We were born 10 months apart and grew up less than a mile away from each other. We were always at each other's houses and would spend hours of each day playing, laughing and just being silly girls. We were inseprable. We had such a deep and profound bond that even our closest family members would say how we were more than just cousins, we were like sisters. When she was 15, her parents decided to move and it wasn't even that far away. It was just about 11 miles or so. But it felt like she was going to Siberia or something. Well, she still wanted to go to the same school I did that she was going to and she could as long as she had a ride. Well since I had my license and a car of my own already, I volunteered to get up every morning, pick her up and take her to school .Well that didn't last long because her parents decided to not pay the tuition,which is totally understandable looking back on it now as that kind of thing is extremely expensive, but at the time it felt like the end of the world. So we saw each other less and less but still talked to each other all the time on the phone. Well she then got a job when she turned 16 but had no way of getting there. So once more, I agreed to take her every day. We had such a blast at first as we would blare music and laugh and sing out loud and she taught me this trick to wave at every car we passed and act as if we knew them just to mess with them and be silly!! The expressions of those drivers were priceless and I can still remember her laugh and smile when we would wave like two stark raving mad lunatics at oncoming cars. But in time, we started to become distant. I would get upset at her for not giving me gas money and I told her that I wasn't willing to drive that many miles twice a day and be that nice for free. Well, then she got a boyfriend at her job. And at that point, things got really nasty. I felt abandoned and neglected by her. I felt she was drifting away from me as we talked on the phone less and less and he would come get her and take her to work every day which made me very mad and resentful. I mean I couldn't believe she was tossing me aside for some guy. Even though I told her I wasn't willing to keep driving her every day I still got pissed off that someone else was doing it. And as the months went by, we spoke to each other less and less and saw each other even less than that. At some point, we just stopped. We had no interaction at all. We ceased to exist in each other's lives. I got busy with my life. She got busy with hers. I remember when my mom told me she was graduating high school and wanted me to come along with her that Sunday, I told her no thanks I had better things to do with my time. I found out she was getting married after she got married. Had no invitation or knowledge of her plans to get married before hand. That's how far we had drifted. That's what had become of our incredible bond we had shared for so many years. I saw her once whenever she and her husband were down at my grandmother's house one Saturday and I had to drop something off there for my mom. The awkwardness and discomfort of each of us was palpable. We didn't utter one word to each other. I walked out and left. About six months after this incredibly awkward encounter of ours, I was at my job and received a phone call from my sister. That wasn't anything out of the ordinary as she called me quite often at work. But when I got on the line I was not prepared for what she told me: one of your relatives just committed suicide. I was stunned. What? I barely could find my voice when I asked who? That's when my world was completely shatterd and turned upside down. One word from my sister's mouth was all it took to drop me to my knees in utter disbelief, shock, confusion and pain. "Connie". It didn't even register the first time so I asked her again, and again she said her name "connie". At that point, I lost all my breath in my body. It just went away. I dropped to my knees letting the  phone bounce off the counter. What happened in the next few minutes were all a blur. I ended up going over to her and her husband James' house that night and the worst part about this was that I didn't even know where they lived. I had to get directions to go there that night. I never should have been driving that night cause I don't even know how I got there. I just walking in and seeing her mom sitting on the couch with this look of complete shock on her face. I saw my sister and my mom. And then I saw her husband. I didn't know him I just knew who he was. I went over and hugged him so hard and the tears just started flowing uncontrollably. I couldn't even stop to breathe. It was gutteral in that moment standing there with him in his living room of the house he shared with her. A house I didn't know at all. I walked around and saw she had two dogs. I didn't know that. I saw she had so many pictures and I just wanted to soak it all in. It was my cousin who I grew up with and shared so many things with and yet in that strange house that night she was a stranger to me. I didn't know what to do or what to say so I just walked out into the garage. The place where it happened. The place she decided to end it all. And I just stood there in somber silence closing my eyes and picturing her with pill bottle in hand laying in the back seat while the engine was running and the garage was filling up with carbon monoxide. I wondered what she felt in that moment. Was she in pain? Or was she finally feeling peace? It probably should have freaked me out to be in that room so quickly after it happened but it didn't. It just felt....right. Like that's where I  needed to be in that moment. It seemed like I felt closer to her then than I had in years. Weird right? But so very true. And so we eventually went home and I found not one second of sleep that night. I was haunted by my thoughts, or memories to be more exact. The memories came flooding back to me that night. The good ones we had somehow got overlooked by the bad ones. I kept replaying over and over again the last few conversations we had when we both were so bitter and angry at each other. And I just started to cry. I cried so long and hard that night I didn't think any more tears would come out. I felt carved out inside like I had been completely gutted and had my heart and soul ripped out and stomped on and then put back in and forced to continue to use them. I couldn't sleep. The voice in my head was screaming at me how could you? How could you let this happen? How could you let her down? I knew in my heart that this was my fault. The blame was laid at my feet. I could have changed the outcome. If only I had done something different when I had the chance. Why did I become so distant? Why did I stop caring? When did I turn my back and walk away? I was haunted by my past. I couldn't function. I felt so guilty because I knew things would have been different if I hadn't been so stubborn and foolish. I should've and could've picked up the phone and re connected with her but my pride was too hurt, my heart was too cold, my mind too closed off. I simply refused to do the right thing and make amends while she was here. And now, the cold harsh bitter reality set in. I couldn't change it now. It was done forever. She was gone for all eternity. I couldn't make it right. I couldn't make amends. I couldn't be forgiven. I had to wear this shame as my badge for the rest of my life. The guilt and anger I felt cut me deeper than any knife. I know people tried to tell me that there was nothing that could have changed the outcome because she was set in her ways and wanted to end it all. But I know better. I still feel guilty. I still feel shame because I can't say for sure that me reaching out wouldn't have affected the outcome. I can't say that it wouldn't have mattered. And that uncertainty and that doubt is the worst kind of fate. I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy. To live in a prison of your memories and knowledge is beyond cruel and unfair but it is my pennance for my sins. I accept this. But I don't forgive myself. I spent many hours and days at her gravesite asking if she could ever forgive me and yet I never got an answer and that's because there isn't one. She can't answer me because she doesn't forgive me. I don't blame her. I don't forgive me either. I doubt I ever will. I have become better at not letting the guilt consume me and I have gotten used to what it feels like to regret something so much you'd change anything about yourself or your life to change it. If I could go back to in time and get a re do, I would do it without hesitation. I'd change the way I did things and the words I said. I would alter it all just to find a way to make it right somehow. I lay awake in bed many sleepless nights and wonder why she did what she did. She never left a note so we are left without a reason and any semblance of closure but then I tell myself would it bring me any more peace or closure to know why it happened and she did what she did? The answer is no. It'd still hurt like hell and make me feel so guilty and shameful. The choices I made regarding our friendship are mine and mine alone. They cannot be erased or overturned or passed on to someone else to be held accountable for. It's all on me. and every day I wake up, I have to live with what I have and what I haven't done. It's not an easy thing to do. I do it because what other choice do I have really. It doesn't mean I forgive or forget. It doesn't mean I have found peace or closure. It just means I have to keep living while she lays dead and buried far too prematurely. I will never get over it though. I will never let it go or let myself off the hook. I don't deserve it. There are times I look at myself in the mirror and shake my head in utter disgust and disbelief at what I've done. I feel like I am partially responsible for what transpired and to know that is so damn hard to take. But again, its my pennance. I have learned that every choice I make, and inaction is as much a choice as any action ever could be, has consequences. Be prepared to face those consequences. Do your best to make the best choices. And really try to fix any fractured relationship you may have with someone. You never know when you'll wait too long and live to regret it.

Thanks for reading.
Until next time

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why I Still Believe

I hope that this finds all of you with good health and good spirits. I am sitting here right now consumed with many conflicting feelings and thoughts on the recent revelation from Lance Armstrong that he did indeed use PEDs and did dope as he has been accused of for so many years. I, for one, have been adamant about his innocence until being proven guilty and since he has now admitted it with his own lips, I will say that day has arrived. He was guilty. I admit, I am shaken by this because I have considered him to be on e of my greatest inspirations and have such immense fondness for him and looked at his seven Tour de France titles after beating cancer as the ultimate success story. So yes, I am shaken. And I am disappointed. There are no excuses to be found. I am not going to make excuses or try and find justification or anything of the sort. He was dead wrong. Speaking as someone who has steadfastly supported and offered unwavering faith in him and his accomplishments, I sit here disheartened dismayed at the recent admission that all of his success in his sport of cycling is tainted  and so much of what has inspired people has been a lie. I am saddened yes. I am disappointed in his horrific mistakes yes. But I am not turning my back and walking away and cursing his name and shaking my head in utter disgust at ever believing in him or being inspired by him. Like I said above, I have---present tense—an immense fondness and admiration for him, and that is still there as I write this. And this is what I am saying in this particular post. I am still behind Lance. I am still a fan. I guess it just comes down to this for me: I am not the kind of person to just cut and run like that. I understand people being angry and they are justified in that anger. I understand them cursing his name and spitting on his legacy (aside from the whole making fun of him having one testicle thing—more on that later). It’s understandable. But I’m just not that way. I don’t know. Maybe I’m too naïve or too optimistic in the eyes of some. But I simply refuse to throw someone completely under the bus because they’ve made some atrociously awful decisions: playing millions of people for fools, bullying those who tried to bring the truth to light into paying him money (this is the worst offense of his in my opinion) and who went along with the culture of cheating and lying when he could have and should have tried to stop it. I don’t believe for one second that he was the only one to do this unethical and shameful behavior. And there is no way I will be convinced that he was able to get away with what he did by being this Mafioso type individual. It is far too rampant and the sport of cycling far too saturated for it to be only Lance Armstrong who did it. That is why I get his statement that he didn’t start the culture but he did nothing to stop it. Yes he did as did so many others in the sport. It’s obvious to me that the only way this type of cheating could go on for so long and be so extravagant was if there was corruption at the top that trickled down to the athletes. Lance himself says he did it with no fear of being caught. Why? Because he knew he could do it and there was no incentive to not do it if you could do it and get away with it. No, that is not an excuse or a reason. But that is a fact. As he also said, cheating is when you give yourself an advantage over others that don’t have the same advantage. That is technically not true at all in this case. Many other cyclists doped and used PEDs. He was the best at it. In a world full of dopers, he was the best of the bunch. And I also don’t believe that he forced anyone else to take any illegal substance. These are grown adults. If they didn’t want to take them, nobody could force them. Did he maybe encourage it and influence them to do it, yes but there is no way he can be blamed for others choosing to go down the same route. As I said, the culture was everywhere and everyone involved is to be blamed for their own choices to either sit back and silently let it happen or to partake in it. Nobody gets off the hook from me because they blew the whistle or because they were “bullied, harassed, or forced”. I call epic bullshit on that as an excuse. It seems that cycling is very much like baseball. Corruption and greed became more important than winning the right way. Winning at all costs to make the most money was what motivated everyone involved. And they all must face the consequences of their actions, of their poor choices and of their lies. But I also believe in redemption. I believe that anyone can overcome mistakes from their past. I don’t believe, I absolutely refuse to believe, that we are defined by our pasts and our mistakes. I know many people will always define Lance Armstrong as a cheat, a liar and a disgrace. But I don’t and I won’t. He’s much more than that to me. I still stand by him and with him. And before everyone starts screaming at me or rolling their eyes at me, let me explain why. Because he is not the product of these inexcusable, unacceptable, atrocious mistakes he has made. He’s more than that. To me, he is a survivor. This man survived cancer and no matter what else he has done, or what sins he has committed, that takes tremendous courage, strength and passion. I applaud him for looking the devastating demon that is cancer right in the face and fighting it and winning. He was up against the odds and he came out on the other side. He struggled with it but he survived. And I also see a man who has given so much hope and so much compassion to others who have also struggled and been affected by cancer. His LIVESTRONG foundation is an extraordinarily beautiful thing. It should not ever be torn down or thrown into the same place as his tainted professional cycling career. They are completely separate of each other. It’s not okay to diminish what he has done in the area of cancer research or what he has done with his own personal battle with cancer just because of the sins he committed while on a bicycle.  I’m not suggesting that he be forgiven simply because of these things. I am just pointing out that not everything that is associated with him is shameful or is a lie. Don’t take out the obvious anger and frustration you have on his professional sins on the other private and wonderfully positive things he has done.  When I see that people withdraw their support of LIVESTRONG it honestly makes me upset. I mean it is well within their rights to do that but to withdraw support of an extremely positive organization that helps so many people around the globe simply because of certain bad things the founder has done is not okay with me. I know that the foundation goes on with another CEO. I understand that. But some people will forever associate that organization with cheating, lying and unethical behavior and to me that’s the equivalent of blaming a child for the sins of their father. They are not the same. Please don’t treat them as such. I was inspired by Lance and his story. I still am today even as I sit here disappointed in his choices to dope and lie. While yes it does change some things in my mind, it does not change others. I still support him. I still want to see him succeed and spread his story of survival to those who are currently struggling with cancer. I want to see him redeem himself somehow. I know he  has a long uphill climb and that some people will never forgive him and that is their right. But for me, I just refuse to turn away from somebody I admire and have been  inspired by due to very very poor choices he has made. I am a very loyal person. Anyone who knows me knows this. I will walk with you and beside you no matter what and I will go to the farthest reaches of hell and back for you. It’s one of my greatest qualities, but it can be a fault too in the eyes of others, especially in times such as these. But I just believe that people are inherently good and that even though they can do some incredibly bad things, they still have the ability to be good and do good and that they are not just all the mistakes they’ve made. It’s easy to love someone when the road is straight and the sun is shining and there are no obstacles in the way. The challenge is after the road starts to get curvy and the storm rages on and the walls of obstacles begin to mount. I always believed what my psychology professor said: loving somebody means knowing the worst thing they’ve ever done or thought about doing and choosing to love them anyway. I agree and it’s how I live my life. I choose to keep on loving someone even when they show themselves to be full of mistakes. That’s what unconditional means. My faith has been shaken with this news I admit. But to come back to that faith even after doubting it, means the faith was worth it in the end. I also believe that faith is not faith until tested. I am not trying to wax poetic about things here. My whole point of this is not to change anyone’s minds about how to feel about the recent events or to change their minds about what they think about Lance. I am simply expressing to everyone why I still choose to love and admire him. Even though I could have thrown in the towel, I just refuse to be that way. It’s not in my nature. I am a forgiving person who believes in redemption and second chances. Not just for him but for myself and for all of us out there. I always choose to believe in success stories like Lance’s. I always have. I am not gullible like some would like to say. I am not that cynical. I refuse to let my faith in people be destroyed by things like this. It’s smart to be slightly skeptical but also faithful. Too many times today, too many people become far too cynical and lack faith in anyone or anything. They say it’s because events like this make them that way, I say it only does if you let it. Being cynical is easy. Lord knows it is. Being faithful takes so much more work and more inherent risk. But I will always choose being faithful over cynical. Always. And as for the whole making fun of him for having one testicle thing, that is truly disgusting. There are many many things that you can get after for and rightly so but that is absolute bush league. The man had cancer and had to have a testicle removed. That is not something to joke about or to insult him with. It’s not something that I will ever allow to be said in my presence. And anyone who says anything like that will be called out for it. It’s the equivalent of  a woman having breast cancer, getting a mastectomy, and then somebody decides to insult her by using that against her. Like I said, you can say a lot of things about this man that will be irrefutable and relevant. But that’s one thing from his past that is off limits.  Now I don’t really care if you agree with anything else I’ve said in this post but I would hope you would agree with me on that. But I would like to close this post up by saying this: Lance, I still love and admire you. I forgive you. I still believe in you. And to all those who don’t agree, please remember this is the world according to me.
Peace, love and pina coladas to all