Being A Voter Doesn’t Give You The Civic Duty to Be A Jerk

Being “a self-important clown” isn’t something that most people will like to hear, but as someone who spends time observing and evolving, your views do shift.

As in the case of the election last week. One of the common themes about voting is that if you don’t vote, then you should not have a voice or an avenue to talk about the issues.

This is a clown. A "self-important clown" is someone who think and act like they're better than anyone else. When it comes to voters, we tend to act like elite jerks, all in the name of "civic duty."
This is a clown. A “self-important clown” is someone who think and act like they’re better than anyone else. When it comes to voters, we tend to act like elite jerks, all in the name of “civic duty.”

I used to be one of those people, as this post in 2010 can attest to.

Therefore, I am a “self-important clown”, and I deserved it.

Here is my “mea culpa”.

Over the past 10 months, my view has changed with regards to how we treat and dismiss people who are do not follow politics and do not vote, and when they speak out about issues that are important, voters dismiss them for not doing their “civic duty.”

This took shape over the past week when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Kaep for short) announced that he did not vote because he had deep reservations about both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, alluding to the “systemic oppression” that continues to be prevalent in the United States with respects to African-Americans.

Kaepernick has been critical of both candidates for months. “You have Hillary [Clinton], who has called black teens or black kids super predators,” he said in August. “You have Donald Trump, who is openly racist.”

“I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” he told reporters. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression.

“And to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there (to be elected), the system still remains intact that oppresses people of color,” he added.

-Michael Sebastian, Esquire Magazine, November 10, 2016

Colin Kaepernick. (Jake Roth, USA Today)
Colin Kaepernick. (Jake Roth, USA Today)

The reaction, no surprise, was one of furor…by voters.

Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s resident loud-mouthed television troll, spent nearly 15 minutes calling Kaepernick a ‘hypocrite”, because he did not vote. Ironically, Kaepernick is on the forefront of speaking about the escalating and long-running issue of race and police brutality.

That is when it struck me. Here is a dude who felt compelled to take a knee to protest and elicit conversation about the current treatment of African-Americans in this country, and the people who supported him are admonish him for not voting.

Several days later, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Mike Evans sat down during the national anthem to protest the election of Trump.  When asked if he voted, Evans said no, citing that he is not a political person. On the following day, he apologized for sitting down and offered to find another way to address the situation.

Evans received the same vitriol that Kaepernick received.

Evans and Kaepernick are individuals who are not political or follow politics by any means. And yet, they were chastised for not voting by people who did vote.

“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” 

I was so wrong with that statement.

Voters, including me, are the ultimate hypocrites.

I’ve written this in the past about how I view politics: I don’t tell people how or who to vote. I will amend this with the following: if someone is not interested in politics, they should not have to vote.

That is what nearly 47% of the nation did….not vote. They’re fed up with the state of affairs in this country. That was their protest vote, if that’s how you want to spin it.

Mike Evans of Tampa Bay. Evans didn't get the attention that Kaepernick received, but it didn't go unnoticed with some, like ESPN's Bomani Jones. (Athletes Speakers)
Mike Evans of Tampa Bay. Evans didn’t get the attention that Kaepernick received, but it didn’t go unnoticed with some, like ESPN’s Bomani Jones. (Athletes Speakers)

Clinton and Trump had way too much baggage and their actions speak for themselves.

What Kaep said drove home the point: it didn’t matter who was elected, it was going to be business as usual, and neither Clinton or Trump was going to seriously address racial relations.

Bomani Jones of ESPN talked about the Evans story on Monday afternoon and disassembled the myth about the importance of voting as it relates to someone having an opinion.

The monologue begins around the 10:00 mark.

Voting gives people the faux sense that they are making a difference, when they are really not, as Jones pointed out (and rightfully so). Putting on a “I Voted!” sticker, to show people how “patriotic” we are and our obligation to perform a civic duty, and then flaunt that in the face of others reeks of selective elitism.

When did having a “vote” gives you the authority to tell people who didn’t vote that they shouldn’t complain or say anything that they see as an issue?  

It is not a civic duty. It is a choice.

If it is such a civic duty, then why do we vote, if we have no interest to vote, especially for these two candidates that America was unhappy about?

So we can get a sticker and feel individually empowered without any guilt? Does voting empower us to act like raving lunatics and lose our shit over an election?

If that is the case, then all of us are fear mongers.

What does that prove?

If you had a choice, who would you not see vote? Someone who believes in conspiracy theories, a racist, a misogynist, or someone who is not well-informed about the issues, and yet have an opinion?

Many of you would prefer that all of them don’t vote.

Bomani Jones of ESPN. An underrated rational voice of reason. (ESPN)
Bomani Jones of ESPN. An underrated rational voice of reason. (ESPN)

But…they do vote. If you try to keep them from voting, you are in fact suppressing them from voting. Jones’ argument is that voters go out of their way to dismiss the view of those who are not political, by using the “did you vote?” rationale as an excuse.

There is a lot of places around in America that are trying to suppress voters these days. You will talk about that, but we ignore our level of suppression towards those who may vote for someone who you oppose, or doesn’t vote at all.

Just because we vote, it does not and should not, make us feel entitled and privileged to tell those who chose not to vote that their opinion and their causes do not matter.

We, the voters, are suppressing people’s voices, all in the name of a “civic duty” that we are “obligated” to do.

That’s being a hypocrite.

We live in America, where we are free to make choices. Third world citizens would do anything to live here and be free to live however they choose.

To tell them that they have to vote for the sake of voting, is hollow.

If people do not see any reason to be politically active or take part in something they are not crazy about, then they are free to do what they want.

They pay taxes too.

I will no longer dismiss anyone who are interested and concern about the issues that are important to them, without holding a pithy obligation to perform a civic duty over their heads.

Oh, and voters, stop being assholes, including me.

 

An Identity Crisis

mr-ed-the-horse-with-alan-young
Horses don’t vote, but they do watch television, like Mr. Ed.

I didn’t watch a second of the election night coverage. I watched a Mid-American Conference football game, listened to a hockey game and the Lakers on my SiriusXM radio app.

I was in no mood to read the instant whining from losers and the obnoxious gloating from winners. Neither of them serves any purpose.

Social media are inundated with people who spent all week ranting and finding new complaints to rant about. No wonder why people “detox” from social media, namely those who are still butthurt and upset over the results.

Here is my suggestion: create and write a blog. No one wants to spend their time on Facebook reading a 1,000+ word blog. No one cares, except for those who are interested in reading your thoughts.

Or hit up Medium and Huffington Post, where pretty much anyone can write for them (I would advice Medium. I hear that Huff Post has a reputation of not paying their bloggers).

With that in mind, since I do have a blog, and 1300 words to hammer out…

…there are several observations that stood out to me during the last two  election cycles (2014 and 2016): disgruntled voters, lack of quality candidates, and an identity crisis.

Let me preface: I’m not a political analyst or some campaign insider, nor am I a Democrat, Republican, or a  Communist.

  • When faced with deciding between two unpopular candidates, nearly half (roughly 47%) of the eligible electorate said “screw this” or “no thanks” and did three things…
  1. …either they voted for a third-party presidential candidate…
  2. …they did not mark a presidential candidate on their ballot. They voted for everyone else, but they were not going to be pressured to vote for two of the unpopular candidates in American history to date…
  3. …or they didn’t vote at all.

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils. In the eyes of many voters, both of them were unfit to run the United States.

Rebuffed for President for a 2nd time, Hillary Clinton will have to figure out her next chapter.
Rebuffed for President for a 2nd time, Hillary Clinton will have to figure out her next chapter.

This is the candidate’s fault for not doing enough to prove to those voters that they best represent those voters’ views. It was clear that a sizable number of the electorate did not feel that both Clinton and Trump represented their views.

You want more voters to support your candidate?  Tell your candidate to do better next time. Check that, demand it. Tell your candidate not to be a disconnected jerk to potential voters. Voters are not stupid. They can see through bullcrap. After all, they are the ones who voted for that person.

It is an indictment on both Democrats and Republicans: they only cater to certain groups and shut out those that they really need. Mind you, some Democrats, notably Sanders supporters, bail on the Dems and supported Jill Stein. Some Republicans bailed out and supported Gary Johnson.

Time and time again, voters’ displeasure of the dog-and-pony show in Washington have built up to a boiling point. Continued gridlock, “politic-speak”, posturing, and egos have been the norm. It also doesn’t help that there is more distrust of the political infrastructure as it relates to how much money and power is permeated within both political parties.

Straight cash, homie. 

  • 2014 should have been a wake-up call, but 2016 provided a harsh reality:  the talent pool of elected officials are weak, crappy, and awful. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.

Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg was the leading Democratic candidate to go up against Chuck Grassley in the U.S. Senate race. Then, out of nowhere, the powers that be at the DNC endorsed former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run for the Senate seat. Maybe it was Judge’s name brand over a lesser known Hogg.

Hogg never had a chance as Judge defeated him in the primary, and was the Democratic candidate against Grassley.

Everyone knew she had no chance.  The cows in the pasture knew she had no chance.

Judge got clobbered in the general election.

Hogg would have been a new face and possibly brought a new line of thinking and opportunity. The DNC didn’t see it that way, for whatever odd reason.

Here in Iowa, the Congressional delegation was re-elected. Very typical of Iowa voters: we keep sending incumbents back. That’s what we do.

  • Which leads into this observation: today’s Democratic Party and Republican Parties are at a crossroads.

They have an identity crisis.

The old-school establishment of both parties got “trumped” by a loose cannon with a brand who was not going to play their game. He played his own game…and won. The biggest losers were the Republicans and the Democrats.

"They laugh alike, they walk alike, and sometimes they even talk alike..." The Republicans and Democrats are both identical in that they have some rebuilding to do in their organization and with those who support them.
“They laugh alike, they walk alike, and sometimes they even talk alike…” The Republicans and Democrats are both identical in that they have some rebuilding to do in their organizations and with those who support them, after getting cold-cocked by Donald Trump.

Voters have no faith in government to operate and do things in the best interest of the public. Secondly, the attack against the media is fair, but let this famous story about Leslie Stahl and the Reagan White House teach you that no matter how much the media tries to tell a story, campaigns and viewers will see another story.

Mass chaos was bound to happen…but this wasn’t the  candidate or the perfect storm everyone expected.

Or was it??

It’s time for both political parties to seriously look at themselves in the mirror and figure out how to change with the times and the evolving world, because whatever they are doing, it’s not working, and last week it showed.

The Dems went through that in ’68, and the GOP did the same after Watergate. It takes something pretty big to make organizations, people, and entities to refocus and shift priorities to keep up.

Both Dems and GOP had internal fighting and strife among their ranks. GOP members distancing themselves from Trump on one end, and Bernie Sanders supporters who steadfastly refused to trust and support Clinton and her campaign.

As Strother Martin said in “Cool Hand Luke”

No, enhancing social media, pushing more absentee voting, or getting on MTV to do town halls isn’t going to entice voters to come back to the fold. And no, running out celebrities to tell people to vote isn’t going to work either…unless you’re gullible enough to listen to people who live in mansions in California and have little interaction with you unless you’re paying money to see them perform.

Who are the Democrats? Who are the Republicans? What do they stand for?

Do they represent everyone or only a few? Is it an open door policy or just the “establishment” reign supreme? Everyone knows that about the GOP, but as we learned publicly with the Sanders supporters, shutting out populist ideas in favor of the perceived “establishment” makes Democrats mirror Republicans to a “T.”

Will they continue to align themselves with the business world? Will they finally get around to addressing the African-American community and the continuous issues involving race and human treatment, or will they talk about the black community to the white audiences that they are trying to court?

Being out of touch isn’t good for both of them. Not willing to “change up” their game will make voters consider walking away from both in the future.

A quick fix isn’t going to work. Similar to 1968 and Watergate, it’s going to take several years for Dems and GOP to figure out who they really are and what direction they are going from this point forward. Disgruntled voters will seek other candidates and organizations that mirror their views. Sooner or later, that idealistic third-party will evolve and become an option.

“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid

Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981.

Every five years, or a quinquennial, I pull out the old newspaper clippings like clockwork.

The gravitational pull of an unsettling anniversary continues to bring new angles and perspectives that percolate.

Age and time can do that to a person.

Over the past week, a popular question was asked on social media:“What was the first major news story you were aware of as a kid?”

Many responded: the JFK assassination, the September 11th attacks (15 years coming up), Challenger (30 years ago this past January), among many. Some also had local stories that were the first big news story that they remembered.

For me, it was, and always will be July 12, 1981.

Thirty-five years ago this evening, Waterloo, Iowa police officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice were gunned down during a noise dispute at a home.  A manhunt followed as the suspect, James Michael “T-Bone” Taylor, was on the loose and was eventually captured.

Taylor was and will always be the first major news story I remember vividly because that week was surreal and scary.

Page A3 of the Waterloo Courier, July 13, 1981, on the story of two Waterloo police officers slain.

To write a personal account of the story reinforces the impact that the case has in my life and the history of my hometown.

Several things have happened in the past five years since I wrote “The Longest Week” on July 12, 2011.

In March 2014, Taylor and former Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Marvin Messerschmidt died within a week of each other. Messerschmidt was the officer who chased down Taylor in a bean field outside of LaPorte City. Taylor stumbled to the ground, Messerschmidt apprehended him, ending the largest manhunt in Iowa history.

On the morning after Taylor’s death, I received a phone message from Adam Amdor. Amdor formerly worked at KWWL-TV (he currently works in public relations). Everyone’s friend Paul Yeager suggested to Adam to reach out to me.

Adam wanted to link my story to KWWL’s website story on Taylor’s death.  I was caught off guard by his request. After thinking it over (quickly), it was a story that needed to be told, for educational and historical purposes. I am a strong proponent of using history as a form of education. I called Adam and left a voice mail, giving my permission to link my post.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of reaction, comments, or something trollish.

It didn’t happen.

What did happen was that people read the post to get an understand the events of that hot humid week in July 1981 in the eyes of a five-year old kid. To this day, it is the most read blog post on this site.

The Taylor story stands out as a moment that remains a permanent fixture in the Cedar Valley.

———————————–

“Hi, are you the one who wrote about T-Bone Taylor?”

The Facebook message blinked across my screen two weeks after Taylor’s death.

“Yes, I am the person who wrote it.”

Her request was simple. She was attempting to write a book about the slayings and the eventual forgiveness of Taylor and the families affected.

I consented to help, but I acknowledged to her that I did not know all of the details of what was said and done, outside of what I remembered and the recollections of my father. Remember, I was five years old. Five year old kids see everything and asks a lot questions that adults do not feel comfortable answering, especially at that time.

We traded information on what we gathered. I felt that she has some salient material to go with, especially the time period from the trial until Taylor’s death. That angle was one of great interest to me.

After a month or so, due to personal issues, she abandoned the project. I never heard from her after that. It was unfortunate, but as the cliché goes “life gets in the way” and it does.

—————————–

Once in a while, I’ll glance at the post, and the late Randy Brubaker comes to mind. Brubaker was the Des Moines Register’s news desk editor. Randy passed away from heart failure in May 2014. Bru grew up in Waterloo, and he knew all about the Taylor case.

“Bru” sent me an email days after the original post in ’11. Bru said that it would be a good idea to pitch the story to the Register’s editorial board because it was one of the biggest stories in Iowa over the last 50 years.

I sent an email to Randy Evans, who was on the editorial board until his retirement about a year ago. That idea didn’t go anywhere, but it was worth pitching a story.

IMG_1879

When I wrote the original story, the one thing I never did was to pull out the old clippings, take a picture of them, and post them. I decided to do it for this post. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has several more archives of “the longest week” (front page headlines, the manhunt, and the timeline).

I don’t know why this story continues to be a major part of my life.

Maybe I do know why. I lived through that week. My grandparents and father had an indirect connection to it. I remember the weather, the sense of fear, the surrealism of the events.

The best answer for it?

It was the first major news story I remembered as a kid, and it’s the one I can never forget.

No Hall Passes for “Hot Teacher”

When the internet was just starting to gain a digital footprint in the world (aka I was in my late 20’s), I used to frequent a website called “Badjocks.com“. Badjocks was a site where stories of teachers or coaches getting caught having sex with students became daily fodder for those who love discussing such tawdry tales.

Stephannie Figueroa, 21, is charged with child abuse for texting nude photos to an 11-year old boy. (Orlando Sentinel)
Stephannie Figueroa, 21, is charged with child abuse for texting nude photos to an 11-year old boy. (Orlando Sentinel)

What stood out to me was the unusual number of females teachers and coaches being arrested for having sex with underage male or female students.

Most (male) readers would chuckle and say to themselves “I wished I was that kid!” The fantasy dream of shacking up with the “hot teacher” continues to be the norm.

Badjocks.com came to mind as I was driving home from treatment Wednesday morning. Miami Herald columnist and ESPN provocateur/court jester Dan Le Batard talked about two stories.

The first story was a Florida female karate instructor arrested for texting nude photos of herself to an 11-year old male student of hers. The other was a 33-year old California female physical education teacher who was sentenced to 120 days in jail and given probation for having a threesome with two young males students under the age of 18.

The "hot teacher"fantasy is what it is:a fantasy. Sadly, a troubling number of female teachers or females in general has taken that fantasy to criminal levels by messing around with underage students.
The “hot teacher”fantasy is what it is…a fantasy. Sadly, a troubling number of female teachers or females in general has taken that fantasy to criminal levels by messing around with underage students.

When reading the P.E. teacher’s story on the air, LeBatard questioned the sentence given to the P.E. teacher. Linsday Himmelspach received 4 months of jail time and had her probation extended. If both of the accused were males, a stiffer penalty would have been given.

Does that remind you of a story from a few weeks ago?  The one that everyone was up in arms about???

LeBatard asked why do females who are accused and found guilty of sexual assault receives lighter sentences and not being treated with the same disdain as their male counterparts, and how is the national media and society turns a blind eye at it?

I agree with LeBatard. With all of the firestorm about the sexual assault trial of the Stanford University male swimmer, it is disturbing that adult women who commit similar heinous acts (rape, sex with minors, etc.) are not punished the same way as men do.

The only difference is the sex of the aggressors. The idea that women are not considered to be sexual predators when breaking the law is one of mere astonishment.

When I researched Badjocks.com today to see if there were any changes to the trend of female teachers and coaches illegally having sex with minors or accused of rape in some states, I was not surprised.

Out of the first 9 stories under Badjocks’ “Naughty Coaches” section, five of them were stories about females, in an authority of power, being busted for sex acts with minors.

If it's not Debra Lafave, Mary Kay Letourneau, or a male, stories like these on sites like Badjocks.com doesn't get as much attention as it should.
If it’s not Debra Lafave, Mary Kay Letourneau, or a male, stories like these on sites like Badjocks.com doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

And yet, these stories are usually ignored unless it becomes a NBC “Dateline”exclusive featuring those like Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave, only for the lurid accounts that took place.

If Brock Turner is a rapist, so to is Stephannie Figueroa, Lindsay Himmelspach, and Letourneau, who set the gold standard for statutory rape.

To treat those cases otherwise is foolish and irresponsible.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), about 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed sexual violence in their lifetime. In a 2014 Slate report, a National Crime Victimization Survey uncovered that 38 percent of men have been sexually assaulted.

Priests and men are not the only groups that rape women and men. Women do as well, however we treat that as atypical and usually blame the male victim and his raging hormones for achieving a “fantasy”. Whether these young males want to admit it or not, they are victims. Being considered as human prey by those we place our trust in to be adults…not searching for the next “Lolita.”

Adult women should be held accountable and responsible when they commit rape or assault.  They are sex offenders.

Just like men.

Fear Merchants

Fear.

A paralyzing and debilitating sense that creeps into our human souls, infiltrating our physical and mental psyche until it consumes us. What we fear in our own minds, in fact, can become true in our own minds by emotion and feelings, not by scientific fact.

Over the past few months, I have been addressing a certain fear that has paralyzed me mentally for nearly 20 years. I’m seeing a therapist to address it. It’s not a major deal for many, but it is a big deal for me.

The “fear” that I am dealing with, over the years, had developed into a “narrative”, or a story that is fictional.  It was a creation of my mind. I believed it was true, when it’s not.

Fear shadow

Oddly enough, the perception of fear goes hand-in-hand with recent events, notably the political atmosphere (what else is new?)

As I scour through my social media networks, television, and newspapers (yes, they still exist, folks), we have continued this long-running episode of a fear mentality that are not entirely real.

Are these fears that people believe in really true, or are they just what they are, “fictional stories”?

I do not have a rooting interest in regards to the candidates for President of the United States, but it is clear that the fear of unknown is driving people batty…including smart people, who has thrown rational and pragmatism out the door.

Our society has become “fear merchants” in order to sway people from what is true and what isn’t, by using fear. 

Here is one example. Follow me here: how plausible is it that Donald Trump is going to build a wall?  Not hardly, if you walk through each step that he has to take for that to happen.

The Great Wall of China. It took 20 years for China to build it. Don't expect a wall of this magnitude to be erected in America.
The Great Wall of China. It took 20 years for China to build it.
Don’t expect a wall of this magnitude to be erected in America.
First, he has to get Congress to introduce a bill on the floor, go through committee, be debated, and then to be voted on by both the House and the Senate. Is it possible someone will introduce a bill to build a wall? Yes. How feasible is it for anyone in their right minds, regardless of party lines, to pass such a bill?

Zero percent.

Congress has to appropriate funding for a wall, hire contractors and employees to build it, and how long will this “pork barrel project” take to be completed?

Finally, the courts have to determine if it’s legal to construct such a thing, adding the liability, engineering, and other things to consider.

President Richard Nixon is shown after he addressed the nation on TV regarding a cease-fire in Indochina, October 8, 1970. (AP Photo)
President Richard Nixon is shown after he addressed the nation on TV regarding a cease-fire in Indochina, October 8, 1970. (AP Photo)
That is why we have “checks and balances” between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It’s designed to keep all three branches of government in check. For anyone who attempts to defy the checks and balances should look at the guy on the left as a cautionary tale.

This “wall”  talk is a fallacy…concocted by fear.

Yet, a large number of people keep touting of fears of this level because they “believe” it…and they expect you to believe it, even if you don’t.

All of this hubbub is similar when President Obama introduced the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (I refuse to call it by its nickname. Personally I think it’s a stupid nickname for it)? People started talking about “death panels” and the like, fearing about what the plan will do (in their own minds), without taking the time to fully read it and ask salient questions.

Fear.

It’s disturbing that very smart people become “fear merchants” about anything that trips their trigger. Whether it’s about someone building a “wall” (that’ll never happen), free college education (college profs and faculty are not working for free), and fearing that not-so bright people are mounting an anti-intellectual war against them.

Smart people need to take a chill pill…and stop pumping fear, because they are the ones who are listening to the very thing that they are fighting against:  fear.

Our fears are based by what we hear, and we adopt it as fact…when most of it isn’t true.

It’s a story that we create mentally to satisfy our irrational and lurid imaginations of what we are afraid of.

We spend more time imagining the most vivid or outrageous things, and we ignore the subtler and slower ones that are brimming underneath .

What is a more likely scenario?  A wall being built around the United States, or possible disruption and  infighting for delegates between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia?

We know as a fact that Sanders has yet to give up his campaign run, and after the debacle in Iowa and Nevada, it’s clear that it is possible that Philly could be a mess. It could be prevented…if Sanders should decide to end his campaign and endorse Clinton. We will see.

In her 2013 TED talk, novelist Karen Thompson Walker said that “…we can’t possibly prepare for all of the fears that our imaginations can concoct.”  Walker detailed the events that took place after the whaleship Essex was struck by a sperm whale in 1819.

Late last week, I took the first steps in getting over my particular fear. I had conjured up so many scenarios in my mind that may never come true. Having a cluttered mind isn’t always good, especially for those who observe and soak up information like me.

I have to take a pragmatic approach to fear: stop fearing of what “might” happen, based on hearsay. I don’t know what is going to happen. No one knows. That’s why I have decided to stop worrying about things that may not happen.

Fear is an imaginative illusion.

Especially those that make no sense at all.

The Inability to Mourn

I don't see dialysis as a hindrance. It's a normal part of life these days.
I don’t see dialysis as a hindrance. It’s a normal part of life these days.

The nurse took 4 alcohol pads and swabbed the catheter that was sticking out from my chest. She screwed in two long narrow plastic tubes into the catheter plugs, walked over to the machine and flipped it on.

I felt the blood draining out of my body, pumping through the dialyzer, and returning the blood back into me.

It was a surreal feeling to see your blood being cleaned of toxins and water. That was possible because my body was unable to do it anymore.

That was my introduction to living on dialysis.

May 7, 2016, marked the one year anniversary that I began kidney dialysis.

Normally, we don’t usually remember the exact day that we remember certain small moments, outside of major events.

I’m different. Dates are important to me. They are recorded history.

I haven’t ruminate about what has occurred over the past 12 months, and yet, it’s in the back of my mind every time when I ask myself, “Will I ever be normal again?” (Short answer: an emphatic “no.”)

Dialysis is a normal routine in my daily life now. But, those 7 days in the hospital going from worrying about a nagging flu to a life-threatening condition has become another part of my psyche:…

…survive.

All I have ever done is survive.

I survived my parents’ divorce, subsequent remarriages and divorces to other people. I also survived and live with diabetes, the threat of being blind, unemployment, and depression.

Living life, to me, is a bonus. Getting to that place requires a lot of trudging through mud.

Over the last 12 months, I have survived cramps so debilitating, I couldn’t walk, a fistula that didn’t work, and battling cognitive and speech troubles.

Beyonce once sung about being a “survivor”, but even she would have a hard time understanding how the term “survivor” is not to be taken lightly.

Those factors would cripple someone who has never endured such a predicament. Honestly, I never spent any time dwelling on any of it.

I was too busy adapting to what ever I had to deal with.

What I have not done is “mourn.” Mourning is part of the grief process. Shocked, denial, bargaining, mourning, and acceptance. I skipped the first four and took acceptance.  The other four never applied to me. I can’t be too shocked about something I’m not in denial of or try to bargain with.

The acceptance came on the morning of May 6, 2015. My nephrologist walked into my hospital room and announced that I will need to start kidney dialysis. She was bracing herself for my reaction.

I showed no emotion.

“Okay, what are the steps I need to take and when do we get started?”

She was shocked on how calmly I said it, sans emotion. Two hours later, I was in the operating room, having an incision on my right jugular and a small hole on the left side of my chest for the catheter to be fitted in. The catheter, 18 inches long, easily slid inside my chest like spelunkers searching for diamonds in a cave.

I hastily wrote a post on the night before starting dialysis. I should have put more thought into it, but it was my way in letting everyone know what was going on…and privately hoping that no one would worry too much about me.

The reality was…I was alone and scared. I didn’t want to leave this world without someone by my side.

On May 7th, one year ago, as I was lying in bed getting dialysis, I spent most of that afternoon comforting everyone who visited me,  and not allowing anyone to comfort me.

I didn’t want to make it about me. I wanted people to learn and understand what those like me were facing. There are 100,791 people waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant. The median wait on a kidney transplant list is 3.6 years (facts courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation). Every 14 minutes, someone is added to the list, while 13 people die waiting for a kidney.

Numbers don’t lie.

Mississippi River, facing north.
Most of the time, I walk along the river to “mourn” and to mentally refocus on my “new” life.

I am struggling with mourning the loss of the “old” me. I haven’t mourn the losses that I have had personally.

I am mourning the loss of not being able to work, to be away from the things I was involved in, and being successful.

Most of my friends, over the past year, ended up with new or better jobs, went on great vacations, engaged or gotten married, or got to experience something. I celebrate those successes. I also empathize and mourn the losses my friends have had.

“Starting over” is a hell of task to take on, especially when you feel like you have been starting over from scratch several times in your life.

Starting a “new” life and burying the “old” one is what we hate to do…unless we are forced to. It is tough for me to be acclimated in a new city, finding people to interact with, and immerse yourself in a community.

But, this is what I face. It’s being adaptable in situations where you may not have control of…even if that means controlling your body.

I am going to try to “mourn”, whatever that entails. I’m not sure if I should cry, or let sadness cover me until it goes away. A good friend of mine once said about having bad days “embrace those bad days, it helps us appreciate and take advantage of our better days.”

39…Going on 40

Tired blog

I am tired.

Physically and at times mentally.

That is what dialysis will do…even to someone who’s not even 40 years old.

Dialysis takes a toll on your body and how you feel, regardless if you try to carry on with your life. Walking is difficult, doing small or big things can wear you out, and you just don’t feel like doing anything else but sleep.

And for this writer, being unable to do the things I was able to do is pure hell…and depressing.

For the last seven months, I have been absent from this blog. I don’t have it in me to regularly write when I want to do so.

The good thing is that I have accepted that I do not have to blog when something pops up because it’s not necessary to have an opinion about everything that goes on in this world…unless you are George Takei (Mr. Sulu), Andy Borowitz, Tyrese Gibson, or D.L. Hughley.

I needed to write this entry on the last day of 2015, not as a clichéd expression of the year that was, but as an avenue for me to express my gratitude to the people who sent “get well” cards to me, and to talk about the aspect of turning 40 on New Year’s Day.

It should be a milestone, but it doesn’t feel like it, given what I have endured since May: kidney failure, moving, adapting to changes.

There are far too many individuals who have sent me well wishes in September and October. I feel bad that I couldn’t write back to them in a timely manner, because my handwriting is sloppy and it takes time to have a thought and say something that is meaningful to them in an individual way. Being tired after being hooked to a machine and not having the strength to focus is rough.

To that, I say thank you. Thank you so much. Those notes mean a great deal because it made me stop deflecting what I needed to hear: people caring about others. We live in a crazy, wild, sad, angry, goofy, and amazing world. We tend to take our frustrations out on others, whether it was a bad day, something we heard ticked us off, or anything else that trips our trigger.

I have been hesitant to offer opinion on issues and topics that has been talked about in 2015. There is no need for me to talk or voice my opinion about everything. It’s too damn tiring to regurgitate.

Some things are not worth it, and if someone tells you otherwise, respect the advice, but don’t always take it to heart. If they want to talk about it, that’s their prerogative.

The point is that if someone cares enough to say “Hey, I am (we are) thinking about you”, it goes a long way.

At midnight tonight, I will reach a milestone. I’ll turn 40 on New Year’s Day. Honestly, I haven’t thought about being 40 since spring. Any ideas of having a 40th birthday party…out the window. Volunteering at an NYE event…forget it. Sitting at a restaurant watching bowl games and having brunch…not this year.

40th cake

In fact, I have dialysis on my birthday.  A 4:30 am wake up call. It would be best for me to stay up and soak in the early hours of the new year.

I haven’t openly talked about life on dialysis. It’s only because, as a guy, most males do not talk about things we are dealing with. It’s a natural response. We do not feel comfortable being vulnerable about what we feel, how we feel, and what we are scared of.

With that in mind, I have to talk about being 40 and what I have went through.

It was like my identity was taken away when my kidneys failed. I couldn’t live by myself anymore…so I had to move closer to family. Moving around and doing things in town became challenging and exhausting. I had to turn down many opportunities and select a few events to go, as a way to save energy.

My horoscope today, for what it’s worth, was spot on with this:

“Over the last year, you may have developed a thicker skin. You may have become more accustomed to criticism. You may have gotten used to disappointment. You may have learned to adapt to changes you weren’t quite thrilled with. This probably happened so gradually that you didn’t even realize you were developing a darker outlook on life.”

I may appear to be optimistic on the outside, but internally, I do have a darker outlook on my life. The opportunities and the chances I put aside in order to either get ahead or to get back in the workforce. The “what ifs”: marriage, family, career advancement, vacations, et cetera. I was always scuffling to stay above water. My head is still water…barely.

For me, being 40 does bring closure to a decade that was not the best.  My 30’s was the worst period in my life, outside of my parents’ divorce when I was in high school.

In your 30’s, you learn a lot about yourself. Are you marriage material? Can you excel at work? Can you handle a diaper? You slow down with the party animal phase, though you have enough energy to pull off a few more if the opportunity presents itself.

Burns and Benny
Jack Benny was “39” years old for 41 more years after turning 39. George Burns thought the punch line was funny.

None of those things happened for me. I was unemployed for most of the decade (7 of those years), so I was spending most of my time in “survival mode” to get by. As a result, I “didn’t have time” to go on a cool vacation, go on a couple of dates, and excel in a career that was a good fit for me.

Yeah…I’m bitter about my 30’s. I am not ashamed to say it.

“Living your life” was foreign to me.  Now, I have to live my life the best way I know how: with careful consideration.

There was a second part to the horoscope that is worth noting:

“In the weeks ahead though, you should discovered a new sense of longing for a happier outlook, and if you follow that path, you will have many reasons to be more optimistic.” 

I won’t say that I hope that is it would be better. I hope that I can make it a happier in the new year and a better start as I began my 4th decade on this planet. There will be plenty of unforeseen events (bad and good), life and people evolve, and you have to make of it the best way you can.

There are some things that I shouldn’t be hung up on (social media mobs and faux outrage), and stuff that I should be hung up about a lot more (two goofy and loud nieces, signing up for dating sites online).

It was a bad decade for me. I can’t sugar coat it because I’ve denied it for so long. (My counselor gets an assist for pointing that out.) I hope that in my 40’s I will get better, get on the kidney recipient list, find a career or job that I want for myself, and hopefully go on an overseas trip with a partner.

To my 30’s, you have taught me to learn how to survive and be resilient.

To my 40’s, I hope those lessons pay off, and be positive.

Happy New Year to all of you and may 2016 be a bountiful one.

 

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