Category Archives: Death

Now Fondly Remembered

The fool on the far right with the fluorescent ‘X” on his jacket is me. I was the flower girl when my Mom and Dad remarried each other. They remarried exactly 29 years after their first marriage. 10,483 days have passed since this picture was taken.

My parents really were experts at drinking and driving. But for this moment, no matter how terrible the road behind them, they were happy. Dad died nine months later. Mom was not charged. (That last sentence is supposed to make you laugh.)

It is the only picture I know of where everyone was smiling. Even my brother Mike was smiling with glee. I wish I could always remember him, and Carolyn and Bobby Dean, like this.

Everyone in the picture is dead now – except for me. Dad died at 49, Mike at 54, and Mom at 67.

Fondly, remembered.

Love, X
.

Revelation Over Regrets

My first day back at work after emergency surgery.

It’s hard to see, but my brooch is intensely personal instead of light-hearted.

The brooch is a crematory tag of someone who died too young. “Too young” is such a misleading phrase. If you have things left unsaid or deeds undone, especially ones intertwined with your heart, today is your day to remedy it.

Regrets are the poison; revelation is the cure.

Get started.

Love, X
.

Overmorrow

I repurposed a 16X20 canvas and made my own.

I’m not an artist – but I am a sentimentalist.

I love the word “overmorrow,” and I hate that it’s dormant in our language.

Love, X

hasten your moments
they are but few
the overmorrow is a promise
often dormant or unrealized
procrastinate at your peril
there is beauty within you,
around you and for you
go solicit it
with open heart and mind
pretend this is your only day
to express, to love, to hold,
or to cherish
it may well be

Michael K. Williams aka Omar

Michael K. Williams was more than just his character Omar Little. That’s how legacy works, though. We become filtered by perception. People are often reduced to singular acts or traits. Michael didn’t suffer the fate of being reduced, though; Omar was larger than life.

If we’re lucky enough, we find a role like Omar Little, something which defines us and gives us a platform to flourish.

“The Wire” was a slow-burning show, one which I loved when it aired. Omar fascinated me, in part because he didn’t adapt to please, and his code put his feet in motion. I loved the show more when I discovered that his killer, a young boy, and sociopath, had previously been in an episode mimicking Omar and saying he wanted to be “the next Omar.” Knowing that many of the characters on the show were based on real people gave the plot a little more kick.

Michael Williams was initially a dancer, of all things.

His scar, one earned in a horrific birthday fight when he was 25, gave him an unintended sinister look that allowed him to blossom as an actor, a career he’d never imagined. An unexpected horror surprised him with his shot in life. Michael Williams had other significant roles; it’s Omar that I picture in my head.

The above picture is one I made a couple of years ago. It’s a 16X20 custom canvas that I have in my weird sink window. I attempted to pack in meaningful references to movies, books, and icons that inspired me. I chose a few “musts,” and the rest I picked at random from a list of about 50.

Omar is in the bottom right-hand corner.

Michael died when he was 54, the same age as me. He’d struggled with drug use for years.

There are a lot of Omars walking the streets. This fact made “The Wire” such an incredible show.

There was only one Michael Williams, and his fly feet will no longer grace the Earth.

“A man gotta have a code,” Omar taught us.

I hope yours serves you well.

Love, X

Life Is One Big Notecard

I had another writer’s block moment. NOT because I ever have writer’s block. It’s just one of those themes people ask about: “Can you write about any moment?” Yes. “Do you ever run out of ideas?” No. “Could you maybe slow down?” No. 🙂 All the ways I share can be muted, scrolled past, or avoided. And if I’m standing there talking to you, arrange to have another friend sneak up behind me and put a black bag over my head – and then run and duck into a closet.

Also, I’ve discovered that I could DIE at any random moment. While I watched for C19, my own bowels plotted an invisible revolt. I take that personally! How are y’all going to react to the absence of these millions of words that I spew?

I’m surprised everyone isn’t infected with the urge to cement small moments into history.

Life is one big notecard.

You are not a perfectionist; it’s most likely you’re afraid of how your truth will be received. That is out of your control. Let go.

There’s not enough time to experience all the things that happen to us. In part, because we live them much more in our heads than we do out in the physical world. It’s the bureaucracy of living, the hum and buzz of devices, the impossibility of doing something we love because we have only a certain number of awake minutes in a day. No matter what conversations you have, the activities you do, or the people you interact with, choosing or not choosing by definition robs you of other conversations, people, and fulfilling yourself with the things you love. I hesitate to call it a zero-sum scenario; it’s close.

We run behind on everything – including our ability to ruminate on what we’ve done, said, and felt in a given day.

That lack of rumination lets us slip into not focusing on what lights us up: the people who reciprocate with kindness, love, and their time. The places that renew us. We’ve got to get back to the “lights us up” people and circumstances.

My notecard is always full.

I’m just too stupid to fully get to the next gear, where life really happens.

That bastard with the scythe gave me a reminder last week. I’m scribbling faster than ever. And pondering more.

Love, X
.

What Is Too Thin?

This post is personal. Please forgive me if my tone is harsh; it’s not my intention. Like I always do, I write vaguely at times, use a word or adopt a tone carelessly. Read this with the idea that you’re getting to know me better. If you read it looking for errors or a fight, you’ll of course find motive.

I woke up this morning to find myself weighing 146.9 lbs. I was shocked. I knew my day yesterday had been intense. I walked over 40,000 steps and managed to do 2,500 pushups. Not to mention an insane amount of physical work during the day, too. I’ve always imagined 165-168 as the control setpoint, with 170ish as the upper limit.

I am a little amused that anyone would lecture me by saying, “You’ve lost too much weight.” From my perspective, it is a great compliment. Losing 35% of who you were makes for interesting stories.

I’m sorry you don’t see my weight as normal. That’s a problem.

Not for me. You. 🙂

My cousin is concerned, and rightly so, because she recognizes how easy it is to let a goal turn to obsessive madness. I’m not anorexic or suffering from an eating disorder. There are days when I burn as many calories as an athlete. Work alone is so intensely physical that I look back over the last 16 years and wonder how I managed to be obese so many times. My cousin has earned the right to be the chiding voice in my ear. Her voice is in my head, reminding me to eat a wider variety and more calorie-rich foods in the process.

It was in part due to my cousin that I started doing pushups on June 1st. If you’d told me that I’d do 2,500 in a day 13 weeks later, I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But I did learn an invaluable lesson: there is no upper limit to how many I can do. At the outset, I had to be careful of my right shoulder. Work is intense and taxing. The pushups have largely eliminated the pain. I’m going to do my best to limit myself to 500 a day for a while. Yesterday will be in my head for years, though, because I surprised myself. That can’t be taken away from me when my body finally gets old and surrenders.

In October of last year, I had an epiphany. I saw myself as thin. Explaining the certainty of it doesn’t translate well when I talk about it. While my goal shifted increasingly downward as my vision became a reality, I didn’t plan on going past 170 in my wildest fantasy. While other parts of my life exploded, whatever happened to my head in October didn’t fade. As the months passed, I was amused that people attributed my success to willpower. It wasn’t that. It was clarity and stubbornness. Looking down at the scale and seeing “155” is a fantastic feeling. 146.9 is a bit disconcerting. I’m working on that without succumbing to many bad eating choices: Doritos, thick pizza, cheese, 54 pieces of chocolate, that sort of thing. I eat “unhealthy” food at times. (I hate labeling food as healthy or unhealthy; it’s volume and frequency that are the culprits.)

There are a couple of precursors to my “moment.” In February of last year, I started the process of losing weight, in part due to Covid. Stress took its toll, and I regained most of the weight I lost. Not all of it, thank god. At some point, I replaced the relatively new stove in the house with a bigger, better one to be able to more easily cook batches of healthy food. That drive to finally kick the fat bucket was brewing inside me. I know that reeks of an excuse. In October, my brother Mike died. Thereafter, I thought I had Covid and felt like I was dying. That morning is when the light bulb went off with an explosion in my head.

I often think about what would have happened to me had I not lost the weight. Would I have experienced a health issue? Or died? I know that losing weight during the long stretch of the Covid run saved my bacon on countless days. It let me stop feeling my knees hurt and my back. The converse of that is whether or not the rest of my life would have blown up had I stayed obese. It’s a real question for me. How much did my massive weight loss and attitude change have to do with my marriage imploding? There’s no question that staying so fat was going to cost me a part of my mobility – and perhaps forever. Being so overweight takes away a bit of so many corners of a person’s life. It’s because we gain incrementally and in ways we don’t notice. From there, we realize, “I’m fat. Oh my god.” We choose the hard that we’ve learned rather than embracing the hard of making positive choices.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the feeling of eating healthy and making endless good choices is sublime. It’s a self-reinforcing mandate. This is true for any personal goal.

Today was the lowest weight I’ve hit. I got close Monday night after foolishly running five miles. Upon returning, I had to drink a gallon of water and then attempt to sleep. I think I dreamed about a running river, and that made me nervous for reasons that should be obvious.

For weeks, I’ve been in the low 150s. This week has been a barrage of work, running, walking, and pushups.

I get a lot of compliments. Questions. And some criticism. Some people are waiting for me to balloon back up. When I started, I repeatedly objected with, “Let’s see in a year.” The year is coming fast upon me in October.

One morning, the wife of a friend passed me in the hallway. “You look amazing, X!” We both laughed. Yesterday, someone said, “If you lose any more, you’ll dry up and blow away. You look great.” She lost a lot of weight herself for health reasons not too long ago. There’s rarely a day that passes where someone doesn’t notice that I’m thin. Today, a security guard who resembles me was standing by the elevator and saw that it was ME standing there. He thought I was someone he didn’t know. “You need to tell me your secret and how to do it.” He patted his stomach. “I’ll call you,” he said. He’s going to be disappointed when I tell him the big secret is to choose healthier food and to listen to what his body actually needs. “Keep your mouth closed” is a terrible name for a diet book.

On a recent morning, someone asked me in all seriousness, “How did you do it? You’re not sick, are you? Or did you have the surgery for weight?” I told her that it was simply eating well and that I didn’t have a secret. I told her about my friend Tammy, who managed to do what I did and that she was also about my age- and that if she could, I had nothing except excuses. I indeed started doing pushups on June 1st. But I had already hit 150 by the time I started.

“Just don’t lose any more weight, X.” My coworker meant it in kindness.

I have a couple of people in my life who resent that I lost the weight. It’s a bit bizarre to me, even now. I made it clear when I started that I was a bystander to my transformation. While I did adopt a diet that I experimented with, a big part of what happened was as if it happened to someone else while I observed it. All I can is that obsessively following a system yields results.

I’ve tried to avoid being too evangelical about weight loss. Some people do have medical issues that make it impossible or difficult. For those who’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve done, I attribute it to that odd human proclivity toward pettiness. Watching someone do it renders many objections that it is difficult or impossible to be completely moot. With enough motivation to move from ‘wanting to’ toward ‘making it a reality,’ most people can do it. Anyone who decides that it is a ‘must’ will find a way. Or try. I remember a cartoon from years ago. A man was sitting on the pavement, having stopped halfway through the race. He said, “It’s too much. I can’t run 26 miles.” The next panel showed a man with prosthetic legs racing past. The people with the “sitting on the pavement” mentality often don’t appreciate it when people go racing by, ignoring objections. I used to find myself being that type of person, too.

It’s tough to be around someone who steps into a new motivation. Though I never intended my weight loss to be an insult to anyone else, it did happen. This sort of journey inevitably changes a person. A success in one arena drives them into others. Of course, the person is going to change. Sometimes fundamentally, especially as behaviors become habits and a new way of life. A common complaint in relationships is “You’ve changed.” A trite but true rebuttal to that is, “And you haven’t.” We’re not meant to be static. If you’re in a relationship and one of you will transform themselves, my word of advice is to have frank conversations about it – and go to a counselor if you see that it’s becoming a wedge.

One critic insisted that people were constantly saying how ill I looked. That I am too skinny. Relentlessly adamant. They quoted the anonymous “they” to me. When I’m ready to hire a consultant about my choices, I’ll let them know immediately. IF such people care for me, they will find a way to communicate it to me. Since they didn’t, I have to attribute what ‘they’ allegedly said to a polite conversation with my critics. There’s no crime in honestly talking to someone about their weight if you care about them. The bigger sin is not to do so.

So, of course, despite having the tools to show otherwise, I visited a nutritionist. She said, “Oh baloney!” She agreed that some of it is attributable to the fact that I was obese for so many years and that the change was abrupt and substantial. She looked at my pictures at 252 and 232 and then as I am now. “You’re great, X. If you do add muscle, your BMI will seem off. But it won’t mean you’ve become unhealthy. You have to balance your body against more than a simple BMI. If someone still incorrectly tells you that you are underweight, send them to me. I’d be shocked if they don’t realize how overweight most people tend to be now.”

If I continue to be as active as I am now, muscle mass will increase, resulting in a higher weight without the associated fat content.
I chose 168 as my set point. My job is very physical, and I’ve kept my leisure time activity rate higher than average, too, without going to a gym. I’ve channeled my anxiety into exercise. As the counselor I saw told me, short-term measures are warranted; if they become long-term measures, you’ll have to figure out that, too.

I lost a lot of weight that year, as part of an intense 3-way weight loss bet.

Most of us don’t have a realistic idea of how much we should weigh, nor how many calories we should eat on an average day. I look back at my pictures and shake my head. I missed out on a lot by being so overweight. I can’t get that time back, so it’s on to the next goal of ensuring my habits remain permanent – without risking developing a food issue. They are rare in men who are 54 years old. Food is too damn good and calls me by name like everyone else.

The majority of people around me don’t think, “Ugh, he’s TOO thin and looks terrible.” They think, “X looks normal.” So, if you’re in the minority who feel like I’m too thin, get online or talk to your doctor.

Or get a hobby.

The consensus is overwhelming: I’m at a normal weight, with a buffer of loss and gain comfortably on both sides.

This is how I’m supposed to look, so get over it and be enthusiastic for anyone who can do it. If you love me, of course, you should step in and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass if I continue to lose weight.

To be clear, I’m not talking about my face; whether that’s normal is up for the monkeys to decide.

My weight, though? I’m good. It’s not just my body saying so. It’s science.

In time, people will see this as the new normal. It looks normal, but it feels fantastic to be able to move with agility, walk for miles, do pushups, and run even if I stupidly decide to do so.

There’s always the danger of forgetting the lessons I learned.

One of those lessons is to stop letting critical people get inside my head. They can make fun of my brooches all they want. Just not my weight.

And if I get off track or fail, I proved to myself that my objections and excuses about why I couldn’t do it were all dumb. And that I could do it again. We all fail until we don’t.

No matter who you are, you can do something today. That’s enough, no matter how small. Tomorrow, a little more. The law of increments seldom disappoints.

If you see someone finally get past their excuses? Take the time to applaud. We need it. We’ll return the favor when you succeed.

PS For my cousin: I don’t plan to stay quite this thin. I love you. Please keep an eye on me, though.

Love, x

.

.

Extras…

In Cancun…

A Bit Of Me And My Day

I wrote a heart-wrenching post and story today. This isn’t it. 🙂

After writing yesterday about coincidences, a couple of big ones popped up, like fish jumping out of the water and into the boat. It’s a bit mesmerizing, seeing unrelated things – and people’s stories – merge and overlap. A couple of these surprise coincidences were related to people having connections that I previously didn’t know about. Another was finding out that people had an entirely hidden life. (Or so they thought. People always know. And once people die, their stories become liquid and slide out of people’s mouths with greater ease.)

For those who take the time to share their stories, it is appreciated. Seriously. As with pictures, I love that people trust me with their tales and (often) invisible biographies. It adds a lot of value to my life. More so now than ever.

I made a huge pot of homemade chili yesterday. The apartment smells fantastic for once. 🙂 I’ll avoid the obvious joke here.

Yesterday and today, I painted several long floor tiles. Yesterday’s were cobalt metallic blue; today’s are deep, bright red. Instead of lacquering the deplorable countertops, I’m placing a series of tiles across some of the sections. I’m using felt on the bottom if such things interest you.

These also allow me to put hot pans all over the place, even if I’m not cooking. It’s essential to keep people guessing.

I also installed a hallway light where one didn’t previously exist. I was so spoiled at my last house. Because I planned, I had extensive photos of the house being built, including all the plumbing, wiring, and extraneous studs and braces in the walls. I have to be extra careful, like a barbarian, in this old apartment.

Though I won’t go into details, some of my overconfidence and previous exposure to violence finally worked on my behalf. I took a risk and confronted someone who needed a reminder of what constitutes civilized behavior. Shockingly, something in my eyes or deadpan delivery got through to him. I don’t know about y’all, but a whispered intention carries much more power than a shouted one. It is one of the few things that my Dad’s meanness resulted in a payoff for me. I don’t invoke it often. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t foresee a trainwreck if I didn’t risk it. It was a small victory and will add a little peace to a few people’s lives. There’s no need for me to understand the person’s cruelty. Sometimes I forget that. It just needs to stop, and there are times when playing it safe sometimes makes it less so.

My backings and kits to make my own brooches arrived. I’m sure all of you have thought, “X really needs a lot more brooches.” Realistically, it’s cheaper to convert pendants and other items into brooches than it is to buy brooches. And it might be fun. I’ll let you know after I’ve stabbed myself sixteen times. Or tried soldering, only to melt my fingertips. Fortunately, I have insurance for my failures. It doesn’t hurt to have a jewelry expert handy when I have several dumb questions.

In another project, I learned that you can use vodka instead of perfumer’s alcohol when making your own eau de toilette or eau de cologne. In other news, perfumer’s alcohol is a real thing. Unlike perfumer’s alcohol, at least you can drink the vodka if you botch an attempt at making your own eau du toilette. The confounding aspect of this project is that I haven’t worn any cologne or scent since the Jurassic Era.

I got a surprise gift of Ghiradelli Sea Salt Soiree dark chocolates. I’ve been craving chocolate lately. They’re small enough I can’t overdo it. Well, I shouldn’t say “can’t.”

My weird set of stainless steel rainbow bowls arrived today. They are ridiculous. And I love them.

I got an extended free trial of Walmart +, which includes home delivery. I realized how much time and effort I was expending shopping and lugging groceries. Until you’ve carried 22 34-oz diet tonic water bottles and 30+ cans of fruits and vegetables, you don’t realize how much exercise this is. My first order didn’t include any refrigerated items. The next one will.

Fingers crossed and elbows oiled! (That’s one of my phrases, a reminder to be hopeful but be willing to get to work.)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my wife Deanne’s death. I’m not one to memorialize as much on the “day of.” I’d rather have nostalgic moments pop into my head unbidden. Memories can be like beloved books; on the shelf, waiting. Being divorced has pushed me to take a more complex look at the phases of my life; her death put a sharp boundary and divide in my life. I’m reminded that I survived the turmoil. Part of my secret was not to wait for life to come to find me again. Despite all my trouble, most of my own making, I wonder.

Love, X

Another Morning

I heard it at first, unseen, a diminished thunder, a helicopter performing a growing crescendo. After a few moments, I watched its glimmering lights rise above the horizon. It was a thing of beauty against the background of a deep blue purple sky, one growing lighter by the minute by the arrival of the sunrise. Then, a sliver of realistic thought: that same helicopter was carrying a person, or leaving to retrieve one. When you’re in the nexus of so much human activity, it becomes mundane and easy to forget the countless dramas and personal stories unfolding around you. As the helicopter shrank against the horizon, I couldn’t help but wonder when we might get a reprieve..

The Last Hug

It was a beautiful moment, one whose aura has not been extinguished, despite the hurt. It was a moment of bliss. He had no way of knowing it would be the last time that he would touch her. Thanks to the picture, he now measured all pleasures and memories by that standard: was it a great movie, especially if it were his last? Would the knowledge of its numeracy trace an additional groove of recognition in his brain? Because he practiced this often, he learned that knowing one’s time to pass would render all moments useless. Nothing could be enjoyed in and of itself. The approaching darkness of a loss would cloak everything in its shadow. If you knew that your next cup of coffee would be your last, he guessed that you might never take a sip of it all.

But he sometimes looks at the picture and can’t help but get trapped in a labyrinth of what might have been. It’s a quintessential human emotion. Not regret precisely. It’s impossible to slice away the happiness that envelops the memory, just as it’s difficult not to take a moment to consider the pain that resulted from it. It’s an endless war with neither side of the emotional scale winning. He nevertheless gets comfortable and takes a minute to think back while looking at the picture. At times, he’s left with a light buoyancy, one derived from lingering happiness that he had the experience at all. At other times, he feels as if someone punched him while he was napping. “We always take away something from our moments,” he thought. “Why must we insist on a polarizing method to evaluate our experiences and memories?” Of course, he didn’t have an answer, so he did what we all do and came up with a temporary distraction, one which would occupy him until the next time he visited the memory.

He could only hope that time might continue to help him clear his mind.

He sat on the couch, his legs folded under him, the picture held between his curled fingers.

It wouldn’t matter if he slipped the picture back inside the book on the discolored end table. The image was graphed in his brain, now complexly tied to the emotions he felt during and after the hug and the picture.

When he dreamed, the picture became fragmented, polychromatic, and elusive. While he could no longer see the picture, he could feel it, like the hug itself, one radiating presence and acceptance. He put the picture aside and laid down on the couch, welcoming the dreams that might come.