In response to my posting below, people have asked what my secret is. They want to emulate it, of course.
Well, only an idiot would prescribe what you should do with your life. I only know what is the explanation for mine. There are three explanations.
(1) My wife Marci. Raised in Cavite, near Manila, in the Philippines, she is easily the most extraordinary woman I have ever met. Now in her fifties, she is compassion itself, super aware of what other people are feeling, able to divine their needs before they ask, a trained nurse (or nurse's assistant), with the most generous heart imaginable. Smart as a whip, she was trained in finance and banking at a University in the Philippines, former staff for United Airlines, a million dollar saleswoman each year for 14 years at Nordstroms (where we first met). She has hovered over me during this spinal disorder, and has created the most beautiful healing environment here in our home that one could ever imagine, with love, a thousand kisses, beauty everywhere around me, sunlight, flowers, music, and beautiful food. I would not be where I am today, if it were not for her. Period.
(2) My nature. I have an iron will, for which I can claim no credit. It is my genetic inheritance from my Daddy and Mom. For example, after drinking Coke daily ever since I was 20, three to six cans a day, I cut it out, cold, on September 1st. I also cut out all the sugar-laden prepared foods that I was accustomed to all my life, and now eat mostly a vegetarian diet. My favorites: lima beans, asparagus, beets, potatoes, beans, squash, etc. When I occasionally eat meat, now, it is always lamb—don't care much for the taste of beef any more. As for fish, sole, salmon, tuna sashimi, prawns, etc.
(3) The Good Lord. I am a man of strong faith, always have been, and I believe a Great Immense Intelligence created us, loves us, and watches over us. The prayers of hundreds of people have risen, for me, during this health crisis, and I believe it has made a tremendous difference. I can sometimes actually feel His healing power. My favorite (Christian) anthem is by Mendelssohn: "He watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps."
Nice; so I'm guessing' it's okay for me to go take a nap.
SPEAKING OF HEALTHY LIVING CHANGES......
When I suffered my spinal injury in Europe last August, I vowed that my first aim would be to lose the weight that was weighing so heavily on my spine. I went on a low carbs, high fat diet and lost 40 lbs. since then. I went from 265 lbs. to 225 lbs. These contrasting pictures of me here were taken August 2014 (left hand pic) and February 2015. My back is now healing dramatically. And I'm smiling a lot (unlike the right hand pic)! I'm not the man I used to be.
In more ways than one. I've lost a lot (of weight), but I've gained even more (in rethinking my life, reordering my regimen, with more meditation and reflection). Yay!
But if they had instead said, "Would you like to be guaranteed losing 40 pounds in one month, but at the cost of great physical pain and agony?" I would have replied, "Can I have twenty four hours to get back to you, about this?"
Well, anyway, that turned out to be the deal. Scroll forward to today, and I have lost 40 lbs. (I now weigh 229 lbs.) AND, yes, pretty-persistent pain has also characterized this period of time in my life, though of course the two are not so transparently connected. (Except that, as the pounds have dropped away (on my chosen diet) the pressure on my spinal cord has lessened, as has the pain.
So, in retrospect, had I been offered that bargain, I would have taken it. The Lady AND the tiger. Each new day now softly brings "Hello lady." And "Bye bye tiger. Stop your growling."
Not to mention, "Thank you God." And, "Marci, you are a wonder (though I always knew that!)."
September 25, 2014
The subject is pain. It is Thursday, September 25th. The pain, which began August 30th, is ongoing. My body, since then, has been examined "every which way to Sunday". Conclusion from x-rays and such: a strong spine, above normal for a man my age (87). Source of the pain: inflammation in the sacral region. Cause: misalignment. Prognosis: complete healing. How soon: ah, there's the mystery. Who can say? To quote Ronald Glasser, M.D.: "the body is the hero." It will do what it does best: diagnose, correct, heal. It just takes its time.
Every day, there's a little improvement, due to so many people's prayers, due to Marci's tender loving care, plus my workout three times a week with a really extraordinary man: Stephen Milligan: 20 years a paramedic; 20 years after that, as what he is today: a chiropractor. He blends the healing arts. He lives five hours north of here (by auto). Comes down every week to work in the next town over, from here, helping heal me and others.
In observing how the body heals, I have noticed two modes, metaphorically, The Desert. and Oases. mode 1: the desert. intense, sometimes agonizing pain, when I walk or lie down. mode 2: oases from all that, much lower level of pain, especially when I sit. Times in the desert slowly grow shorter. The oases grow slowly longer.
Can't do much work; so have been watching Ken Burns' fascinating PBS series on The Roosevelts. Watching how FDR dealt with the onset of polio at age 39, and yet rose above it, brings me to the edge of tears. What courage that man had! My pain will be brief. His was lifelong.
I come back, in my daily meditations to all the psalms I know by heart, all the hymns that echo down th corridors of my mind, all the Bible verses I can repeat by the hour: the theme is simple.
We are not called to always live a happy life. We are called to always lead a victorious life, conquering, overcoming, all the obstacles and challenges life puts in our way. And then to turn, in empathy, to help all those who face similar experiences. I will never look at a person in pain the same way again. Now I know.
Dang! light the trees! Dance! Sing the songs,
And hang the mistletoe;
Do what we can to right life's wrongs,
And let our souls just know
Things aren't as bad as they may seem,
God triumphs, in the end.
So, Marci sends her love, and I
Add hugs, to you, dear friend.
I've noticed something startling these past few months: my brain has been experiencing a sprint of new ideas in almost every area of interest, that I have. For a long time, I simply noticed this, and enjoyed it. I mean, my brain has always been active, but now it's superactive. And creative. I'm coming up with new ideas, a mile a minute. If thoughts once came like an occasional firecracker in the brain, now it feels like continuous fireworks.
Yesterday, it occurred to me to wonder why this was happening. I am, after all, 87 years old; isn't the brain supposed to go into a slow decline by this point, with brain cells flicking off into space at an increasingly alarming rate? Well, evidently not. So, pondering why, I found myself talking to myself: "what is different about your life, now, from, say, ten years ago?" Instantly I knew the answer.
My beloved wife Marci and I have been watching movies. No, that's not exactly something new. I've been a movie buff all my life. What's new is the frequency. Courtesy of Netflix and Amazon, we've been watching movies every night. Think what that means: graphic images flooding the brain for two hours every night. Without fail. And graphic images stimulate, as is common knowledge now, the right side of the brain. This right side, in most people, is the creative, exploring, designing side of the brain. It's the side that looks at old things in new ways, familiar things with newly-found wonder, unexplored mental territory with new curiosity, sees patterns where no patterns were noticed before. The late Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness(1979) was one of the first to notice that images could make a big difference in a person's life. Suffering from what doctors said was a terminal illness, he healed himself by playing Marx Brothers movies day by day. It was images (and belly laughs) that did it.
So, watching the movies every night lights up the mind. I then wondered, is that enough to explain this burst of fireworks in my mind? It occurred to me, after pondering, that there was something more. And that was, the choice of movies. I chose movies I remembered from different eras of my life, and most particularly the young years. We chose to watch a movie I remember seeing when I was in tenth grade: Action in the North Atlantic, with Raymond Massey and Humphrey Bogart. And the movie I remember seeing on my eighteenth birthday: Objective Burma, with Errol Flynn. And so it has gone: I've delved as deeply into my past as I can remember. For the sake of the curious, I have listed some of the movies at the end of this post.
But what is the point, and what does this have to do with stimulating the mind? Well, it goes back to a belief of mine about dreams. In my chequered career I used to do a lot of personal counseling with people in trouble. Some 6000 hours I would guess. And I particularly delighted in helping them with understanding their dreams. I noticed that when not much was stressing people out, in their present lives, their dream-maker seemed to go back during their sleep to Unresolved Issues from their past -- not yet completely digested experiences if you will –– and try to bring them to some kind of closure and peace. In other words, looking back at the past freed these people up, to do more in the present. And what was I doing, but going back to the past every night with Netflix?
When Frank Sinatra died, someone over forty wrote, "We have lost the soundtrack of our lives: the music to which we fell in love, to which we proposed, to which we tied the markers of key events in our lives." That's how I think of old movies, in my life at least: they were the soundtrack of my life. Going back and viewing this past, via movies, has freed me up to do more in the present.
Of course, I could be all wet. Maybe this new burst of thought and creative energy has more to do with age, the stars in their courses, God's grace descending, wisdom arising - - who knows? It still feels like fireworks in the brain. And I do believe it is a continuous diet of graphics and visiting the past that has something to do with it. But, either way, it is a wonderful time to be alive.
For the curious: The soundtrack and sighttrack of my past:
During the past six months, we have watched Gunga Din, with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Sam Jaffe; Treasure of the Sierra Madre, with Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston; Beau Geste, with Gary Cooper; Cabin in the Sky, with Ethel Waters; The Barkleys of Broadway, with Fred Astaire; It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert; The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn; Drums Along the Mohawk, with Henry Fonda; Alexander's Ragtime Band, with Don Ameche; Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman; Suspicion, with Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with James Stewart; Yankee Doodle Dandy, with Jimmy Cagney; Roman Holiday, with Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn; Dr. No, with Sean Connery; Citizen Kane, with Orson Welles; The Maltese Falcon, with Humphrey Bogart, Pete Lorre; The Third Man, with Orson Welles; The Captain's Paradise, with Alec Guinness; The Big Heat, with Glenn Ford; Stormy Weather, with Lena Horne; To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant, Grace Kelly; On The Waterfront, with Marlon Brando ("I coulda been a contender"), Eva Marie Saint; Run Silent, Run Deep, with Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster; My Favorite Wife, with Cary Grant, Irene Dunne; The Bridge on the River Kwai, with William Holden; Bad Day at Block Rock, with Spencer Tracy; The Sea Chase, with John Wayne, Lana Turner; River of No Return, with Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe; From Here to Eternity, with Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr; Inherit the Wind, with Spencer Tracy, Frederic March; Let's Make Love, with Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand; Cool Hand Luke, with Paul Newman, Strother Martin ("What we've got here is failure to communicate."); High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra; The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft; The Enemy Below, with Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens; The Man Who Would Be King, with Michael Caine, Sean Connery; and every Fred Astaire or Cary Grant movie ever made.
Needless to say, I am not a politician. I'm only an expert about "the job hunt." But this does cause me to stay riveted on all that goes on in our nation's capital, because I've never seen a place more obsessed with The Job Hunt, in my whole life.
It's breathtaking to watch how, in the interests of their next job hunt, they will do almost anything: they will say one thing when they're trying to get the job, say the opposite thing once they have it. They will even say No to everything, if they think it will help them with their next job hunt.
They all have what we in our industry call "contract jobs" -- jobs that are only for a set amount of time, and then have to be renewed. This keeps their eyes riveted on the people who have the power to hire them again, and if they think it will improve their chances of getting rehired, they will completely reverse their decisions on the job, from week to week: they will even sponsor a bill one week, vote against that bill the next week. If they think it will help them with their next job hunt.
Why do they like this job so much, why do they want this job so badly? Well, for one thing it has a great health plan. For another, they get some mouthwatering special benefits and favors. And, probably most importantly, the job gives them a lot of power, for as long as it lasts. In an organization with 100 employees, one man (or woman) can thwart the will of the other ninety nine.
They don't need to take a Dale Carnegie course; this job, from beginning to end, depends on their being able "to win friends and influence people." That's the skill that most determines whether or not they are successful in their next job hunt. It is the sine qua non of the job.
The job hunt is their obsession. They try to conceal that simple fact by giving it a more high-falutin' name. They call it "re-election." But beneath the facade of that language, it's still the job hunt.
So, what does all this add up to? Simply this: their obsession with their own job hunt is ruining America. It's causing things not to get done that should be done. It's causing things that should not get done, to be done. It's corrupting the fight to make this a better and more compassionate country, toward its own citizens.
I know what you're thinking, of course. You think I'm talking about a particular political party. Nope. Wrong. I'm talking about the whole Congress and the Executive Branch, decade by decade. I'm talking about the hallowed tradition of the beast. Most of the policies, decisions and votes are based on their next job hunt.
So, as a job hunting expert, of sorts, I have this comforting thought for you: if you are unemployed, and worrying about how to find your next job, don't worry. You have a friend in Washington, who is in the same boat as you are. Make that: a lot of friends in Washington. They may be employed temporarily right now. But they're just as worried about their jobs as you are.
Friends? Well they would be, if they ever saw any connection between their situation and yours. But I wouldn't hold out much hope that they'll ever change. They are obsessed with their next job hunt. They're not that worried about yours, except as it affects theirs.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if they ever saw a connection between your job hunt and theirs? And moved beyond self-obsession to compassion? Oh well, we can dream, can't we?
P.S. In the interest of full confession, my grandfather was a congressman. He was a noble man, and never worried about his job hunt. He died peaceably, while he was still in office.I know of course there are other noble men and women in office, to whom none of what I have said above, applies. I hope their tribe increases.