Category Archives: Death

Moments.

Moments.

Though I am reluctant to compare my early morning to the prison yard in the movie The Shawshank Redemption… I felt a little like Andy Dufresne
as Paul Potts’ “Nella Fantasia” blasted at high volume with a haunting echo in the empty warehouse. “Duettino Sull’aria” had its place in the movie. All those trapped souls paused long enough to appreciate the melody. As did I, today of all days. If you’ve never looked at the translation for Nella Fantasia, today would be a good day to do so. It is a wistful and optimistic call for another type of world.

This one is pretty damn good most of the time. Why do we always ask for more?

I woke up this morning, almost embryonic -and warm. I’m not one to sit in melancholy. Standing there completely alone in the concrete and steel expanse, I let it wash across me. October 5th, another day and another opportunity.

Moments.

Not everyone is here to experience them. I remember because I need to be reminded.

Love, X
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Two Years And Another Life

Something I wrote two years ago: “I don’t look for exoneration, though I want it. There is no one in this world who can be both aware of my actions and the reasons for them except for me. Since I don’t pardon myself, I expect no less from others.” -X

I’m nudging up on the two-year mark of my brother’s death, and the ensuring bell ring/vision in my head. I’m eyeless to some of the underlying nonsense going on in my head. I’m more convinced than ever that had everything not happened in the unlikely sequence it did that I would likely be dead. Weight loss was just one component of it. Two years out, my explanation is the same: I don’t get credit for it. Something broke, and the vision I’d seen of myself would be the end result. It made me rigidly hyper-focused.

I still tell people, “Don’t give me credit for doing it. I should never have let myself go to that extent. It’s like a meth addiction; no one should embark on such a journey. It’s good that I stopped overeating, but terrible I let it go so far.”

I fluctuate around the mid-160s for my weight. I feel lighter than air at 150-155 lbs. That weight requires devout adherence to a healthier diet.

The trick isn’t losing weight. It’s figuring out what works long-term. It’s relatively easy to commit to weight loss for a few months. It’s quite another to develop a different relationship with food. Food is the in-law that sleeps in your bedroom.

Food Satan is always on duty, attempting to pounce on you. When you’re tired. When you want that sublime sensation of buttery smoothness. Or salty starch. At 11 p.m. when you really should be horizontal and not sticking your head inside the fridge.

Delicious food is ubiquitous and calls our name from the other room wearing a negligee.

It pains me to see people struggle with their weight.

I’ve watched many people make a list of ‘the reasons’ they can’t lose weight, even if they desperately want to. It’s eye-opening and mostly rationalizations. Heck, isn’t almost everything we tell ourselves?

When I lost almost all my weight, I added no additional exercise. It was immediately apparent that I was consuming an awful lot more calories than I was burning. My life was already active because of my job. Because of that, I focused all my enthusiasm on eating differently while avoiding going hungry. Being hungry is a sign that you won’t be able to maintain any successes you might experience. Generally speaking, you must eat and eat often.

I’m at the two-year mark. I’m grateful for those two years, even as I’ve had other struggles.

Primarily online, I catch hell for the simplicity with which I explain the weight loss problem. There are exceptions for some people; most of us eat too many calories versus what we burn. There is no escaping the math of it. People berate me by making specious arguments about the complexities of healthy diets. It’s not complicated at all! Less sugar, less fat, fewer processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions, and different choices. You don’t need to be 100% militant, but you do need to be 100% vigilant about your choices. Enjoy the allegedly ‘terrible’ foods from time to time, or otherwise, you’ll go bonkers. Especially if you sit and watch your friends and family eat an entire basket of buttery breadsticks or an entire large pizza.

I do enjoy the endless arguments online about the ‘best’ way, goofy supplements, energy drinks, and the myriad ways you can be made to part with your money. Whatever you choose, you must do it for the rest of your life. Find what works. It’s not a sprint. It’s a french fry-scented marathon.

I recently looked into the beer-and-sausage guy. He does a weird diet once a year, every year. He always loses weight because his caloric intake is less. His bloodwork also improves in tandem – no matter WHAT he is eating.

It’s not a comforting idea to know that we can probably only eat 1600-3000 calories daily. If your limit is 2500, a sugary soda contains about 150, which is 1/16th of your average limit. A 2 oz. Snickers bar is 280 calories, well over 10% of your intake limit.

The simplest way to say it: most overweight people eat too many calories.

I don’t blame them. Food is amazingly delicious and brings happiness.

Fresh french fries or pizza? Oh my god. You won’t find a bigger aficionado of some types of potato chips than me. Chips and salsa? Yes, please. Two baskets if you’ve got them.

It wasn’t hard for me to practice “Choose your hard” when I started.

My vision, or whatever it was, took control.

Afterward? Remembering that food choices now bring unwanted results or continued success depends on how strong the siren voice of negligee-clad food is.

As Fat Bastard eloquently quipped, “Get in my belly!”

X
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Personal Post 76

It is possible that one death prevented another catastrophe.

It woke me up to the fact that other people would be devasted by more loss.

I don’t know what another two weeks might have brought.

Whether a fortuitous accident, fate, or simple happenstance, the universe rolled in my favor this time.

It’s been almost a year since my emergency surgery.

Thereafter, I committed to a ‘reset’ project. I failed at that on a couple of levels. I’ve kept the weight off and stayed active. My failures were personal.

The funk I experienced not so long ago wasn’t that much more profound than others I’d temporarily passed through. It was like a mile-long curtain of beads hanging from a doorway I was attempting to go through. I did, however, get wrapped in those beads, ones which got heavier the further from their source I traveled. The feedback loops in my head trapped me there. My feet were moving step by step, but no motion propelled me.

It’s a dangerous place to be.

I understand it much better now.

Being humbled does that to you. Having to look at yourself harshly is never a comforting experience.

Our egos have a way of whispering with too much bravado.

Someone in my circle recently suffered a profound loss, one which will forever demarcate her life into the before and after.

I don’t want to be a part of anyone’s loss or regrets.

The curtained beads are behind me again. I hope I retain the lesson, though. I always hate that I forget the primitive lesson of loss I learned in 2007.

No matter what happens, you have to “Get busy living or get busy trying,” something I originally was going to add to this post.

I woke up this morning with so much energy that I could feel it radiating off of me. I hope that energy converts to motivation and enthusiasm. Without those, life is a series of responses to the world around us.

I chose the picture for this post because it’s one I took a year ago when I was just happy to be outside feeling the sun on my face. That was enough – just literally standing outside in a foreign place, surrounded by trees and distant people in the periphery. Gurus have maintained for centuries that simplicity is one of the components of happiness. I’m not sure any of those gurus had to live life in this modern world.

Love, X

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“I Can’t Believe I’m Here!”

The now and before coalesce together into memories.

Deanne used to drive me crazy. She was an animal person and never met a cat she didn’t love. That sometimes meant we had eight or more feral cats outside the trailer in Johnson. My job was to find homes for them, or pay the adoption fees to help ensure they’d find a home.

Deanne was kind-hearted but also brashly aggressive when she wanted to be. I knew better than to complain too much about buying a bushel of cat food and hauling it home.

I have dozens of pictures of the cats she “adopted.” Some of them, I do remember the names she gave them. She named them all.

The first picture is of her and a human cat. She loved that picture of her. We were at our favorite cabin and accidentally participated in a parade near Holiday Island.

The second picture is of her and Travellin’ Jack, a local homeless cat that initially hated everyone. Travellin’ Jack could jump 15 feet in the air. Deanne domesticated it, and I paid the adoption fee and went and met the new owners afterward. Jack ended up a couple of blocks over from where I would live next. I saw him a few times on my walks in my next life and always thought of her being responsible for him still being alive.

The third picture is of her and my deceased cousin Jimmy’s labs. She always sat where animals could reach and nuzzle her.

The fourth picture is of her discovering a cat near the library. She lost interest in the outing entirely to pet the cat until it was damn near bald.

The fifth picture is of her with a “few” snacks for the birds at the hospital. It could be 10 degrees, and she’d say, “Those birds need us.”

The sixth picture is the last one ever taken of her. She’s looking off into the distance.

The next picture is of us in Mexico on the first morning. She was the baby of the family and worked hard to get to be able to take a trip she never imagined she could. “I can’t believe I’m here!” she kept saying.

She’s been looking off into the distance now for 15 years.

I always drone on about forgetting the lesson she left me.

If you have a secret Mexico, you better get off your ass and do it now.

Any of us could wake up one morning to find that everything that once was is no more.

Don’t wake me up when September ends: make me appreciate the fact that time is limited, stuff is nonsense, and we need to stop anchoring ourselves needlessly.

“I can’t believe I’m here!” might be the best possible attitude you can have, even if your day is just drinking coffee and sitting on the couch. You’re here, and that’s a lot more than we should take for granted.

Love, X

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“Will” You Or Won’t You

This isn’t legal advice. It’s not illegal either. Obviously, I’m not an attorney. If I were, I’d bill you for simply reading this. Or, more likely, I’d sue you for sharing conspiracy theories.

I know you’re immortal and will live forever.

Planning ahead regarding your death isn’t going to cause a Final Destination scenario. Or it might. Either way, as an adult, it is up to you to do the minimum to help the people you love once you’re gone. You never know when a giant log might fall off a truck and take your head off.

That’s no way to roll!

Every year at this time, I think about my thirty-one-year-old wife dying unexpectedly. Or the expert pilot getting thrown out of his parachute and falling to the ground at my feet. Neither really thought, “This is it.” No one does. They know it could happen. They turn an unseen corner and darkness falls.

If you don’t have a will, you’re leaving the people behind with extra baggage they don’t need. If people don’t have access to your financial accounts or your phone when you pass, I promise you that you’re causing needless agony on top of the grief they’ll suffer when you pass. It’s also a great way to encourage family members to behave like contestants on “Survivor.” And trust me, none of them will be as good-looking as those phony participants.

A handwritten will is acceptable. One that’s witnessed is better. The best is one witnessed and notarized. Probate courts love those. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your friends and family. (Not quite as good as living trusts and automatic survivorship or ownership – but much better than no plan.) Once you have one, I recommend telling your family you have one and what the contents are. It will be invaluable after your death if there are no surprised family members or someone claiming you said otherwise.

If you’ve not completed a will because it costs a lot or is a hassle, you’re wrong. It’s neither. You can do one from home in thirty minutes to an hour. After that, get it witnessed at a minimum and notarized if at all possible. The best part? It doesn’t require a lawyer. Doing it this way isn’t for everyone. But if you don’t have one, it is very likely that it will work perfectly for you.

Now that I’ve said all that, I can’t think of why everyone doesn’t have a will in Arkansas. Or share their passcodes.

Rocket Lawyer is my favorite do-it-yourself service. There are others. You can sign up for a trial and try it out. It is NOT expensive or complicated. You can edit it, download it, and easily use it. If you need help, have someone you trust to come to assist you. That will also help if a family member questions the contents. I won’t bore you with horrific family stories that ended in huge fights, court battles, or worse. We’ve all heard or been involved in them. I’ve known several people who died without wills and then had other family members destroy each other over alleged wishes and property. The simple truth is that you cannot know whether your wishes will be honored. Money and emotions cause uncountable family rifts.

If you have a lot of assets or are rich (define however you wish), it’s very likely you already have a will. For the rest of us, don’t worry about lawyers screaming that you should always use a lawyer to prepare one. If you have the money for a lawyer, please use one, but know that most of them use common template-generating software to fill in the information you’ll provide. Lawyers take time and money. It’s better to get one and then worry about “doing it perfectly.” Get a basic will now that covers most of the bases. THEN, follow up with the next step, even though we both know you’ll probably sit on the couch eating from a bag of chips instead.

Trusts and automatic transfer of your property are much more desirable than relying on a will, which might trigger probate. If you use a lawyer or estate planner, he or she will, of course, fill in the blanks for you. It’s best to have your property and assets automatically transferred to the person or people of your choice without the need for additional steps.

I live in the real world and know that many people don’t think ahead. They falsely believe that they will have time later – or that those whom they leave behind will capably take care of it. That’s foolish. All of us must face the idea that today might be our last day to grace this world. A few minutes of your time will save countless hours of agony. If someone you trust doesn’t have access to your phone, your computer, and your accounts, you are causing them avoidable agony.

Now that you know that it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to get a will (or take the time to visit a lawyer), what’s stopping you? Most lawyers know better than to bite you, even ones who live in Madison County. I hope you live another thirty years. And if you don’t, that you take a little bit of your life to make your passing easier on your loved ones once you’re gone. If you’ve got time to watch an hour of SportsCenter or The Bachelorette, you have time to make a will or talk to a lawyer, estate planner, or psychic.

RocketLawyer
LegalZoom
Do Your Own Will
Trust & Will
U.S. Legal Wills
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker
Your preferred lawyer or estate planner
Random Guy On The Internet

PS: 90% of the things that you think are valuable are valuable – but only to you. Your death cuts the cord of connection. Reduce, give away, donate, and triage your stuff so that what remains is the essence of what you treasure. Simplicity is its own reward y’all. If the things you have are valuable in the real world, sell them and use the money to live the life you want or to help those who need a hand. It could be anyone’s last day on Earth. Buried treasures help no one.

Love, X
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Caprice

Preface: I wrote what follows this morning…almost as a coda, on the way to the apartment after work, a black Camaro zoomed impatiently into its left lane approaching me from the opposite direction. The driver was going too fast and over-corrected, sending him into my lane and luckily swerving wildly into the far lane next to me. I had no time to react, not even to stomp my brakes, which would have certainly resulted in a multiple-car pileup. As I passed without time to feel my heart accelerate, squeals, honks, and braking behind me filled the air. The driver of the Camaro managed to gain control without being hit. He stopped in the right lane facing oncoming traffic. The capricious and erratic symmetry of just living reared its head and whispered to me.
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All of these are true
none inscribed to change your hue

An undiagnosed cough ended on the kitchen floor
her love and life abruptly no more

Expert pilot fell to the ground
his loving sister to conjure the sound

A cluster of cells aligned with malignant intent
those around her yearning more time had been spent

The unbearable yet unbeatable beckon of alcohol
those who loved him clutching and watching his fall

A 92-year-old beloved woman took her last breath
a life well lived, met with welcomed death

An aneurysm unseen and unfelt and then all rendered past tense
no warning no reason no sense

Careless driver through the sign leaving one with an unfaithful spine
her arc of life flattened to a baseline

You worry about how you sound or look
how you sing, how you dance, how you might be mistook
any given moment, the universe can close your book

You have this moment to scribble your notes
to construct and imagine needless moats

Kind heart, clear eyes, and curious mind
make sure that you leave something meaningful behind

We are all preterit

This can both energize and immobilize, this insight into truth
beauty and love are in the eye of the beholder

May you live your life just a little bit bolder
no guarantee of life or that you’ll become older

Seize the day, come what may
otherwise, it will seize you
even if you do everything to perfection
these words are no mere early morning reflection
affection, expression, introspection
of these words, there is no question

X
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empty space

I’ve learned that people who isolate invariably have an addiction or a trauma. Quite often, it’s one they bury; like the ghosts of a cemetery, they emerge and travel capriciously in that person’s mind. Loop after endless loop. No one else bears witness. And because angst or depth wildly varies between different people, no one really understands the profundity of what afflicts them. Some people relentlessly look ahead, leaving behind the most heinous offenses. Others get trapped in the vortex over things we judge as minor. Though the loop may be nascent and small in circumference, each cycle takes the person closer and closer to calamity. We all see it coming and are mostly powerless to stall its progress.

Cognition seldom helps. You’re not rationalizing with the individual. You’re attempting to overpower something that is both tenuous and tentacled inside someone’s kidnapped mind.

You can try to get close out of love or concern. They often rebuff you. Isolation becomes its own self-fulfilling reward. The phantom loop constantly whispers to the person trapped in a behavior; its voice is not only proximal but deafening.

Don’t fault yourself if you’ve tried to pierce that bubble and can’t. It does not mean you shouldn’t try, even if it’s futile. Because the uncaring alternative is much worse. Even if the story ends badly. Most of us will return to that wall and vainly attempt to chisel away at it, even though we fluctuate between helplessness, anger, or realization.

This is the thesis of my Bystander’s Prayer.

And despite our varying cynicism, our hope for a dramatic change sometimes happens. The alchemy of why or how is beyond calculation. If this were never the case, our behavior would automatically adjust to just accept the unacceptable before we even tried. When it does come, the change, it brings joy. Everyone loves an underdog or someone who has overcome.

If it does end badly, we promise to try something different the next time. Likely, we won’t. There will always be a next time, as this world is full of trauma and unseen damage. Most of us believe that love or some fruitful variation will be enough to convince someone that it’s time to pull up into the high clouds instead of plummeting.

When one person plummets, we all do because that person carries a piece of us with them, even if they are blind to it. It’s how friends, family, and tribe work.

If you can, keep your hammer in hand, your chisel sharp, and your optimism high. If life gets you down, you might be in the hotseat. You’ll need us to pull up, just as we need you when we’re in the loop. The horseshoe finds its way onto every hoof, no matter who you are.

X
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What A Life!

What a beautiful morning. Despite the rain and lightning moving in, I went outside and started hanging more painted tiles on my fence project. This week, I painted 20+ more tiles and a couple of dozen wood samples to attach to my out-of-control art project out there. It was sublime feeling the wind howl through the vertical slats of the fence boards and the light rainfall across my face and neck. I woke up with a reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. Nature repaid me with its light caresses as I stood there in the dark, loaded with washers, screws, and tiles leaning against the old boards. I know I looked foolish, standing there with no shirt on, smiling. The temperature dropped 10-15 while I was out there feeling the storm front coalesce above me.

I missed a couple of phone calls last night. I called my sister back around 4 a.m. She, of course, didn’t answer. I hope she’s fixing her hair. I know that such an endeavor will take her literal hours. Lord help all the people who don’t have their do-not-disturb turned on. Everyone lives a different life and schedule. I wake up with the same enthusiasm at 2 a.m. that I have at 4 p.m.

I thought about my cousin Jimmy’s son Noah. Jimmy died nine years ago, which seems like a lifetime ago. Noah is graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. I can’t help but imagine how proud Jimmy would be – and that Noah is going to college. Jimmy would want his son to be happy much more than he’d worry about finishing college. As someone who died in his early forties, Jimmy would be right to do so. So many plans, so many assumptions about the seemingly endless days ahead to love, laugh, and do the things that are within our grasp. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Noah. He’s grown unimaginably and has the youthful looks of someone who reminds me of a young Matthew McConaughey. I hope he keeps that handsomeness. Otherwise, he’ll grow into a jowly-cheeked Englishman like his grandfather, my Uncle Buck.

In the graduation picture, Noah is the one on the right. (ha!) The woman on the left is Alissa, my cousin Jimmy’s widow. They were married about a month before he died. I could write endlessly about the complexities of that, and of lives forcibly derailed by an unexpected circumstance. It’s a lesson I know too well. I’ll limit myself to saying that if you want something, grab that sh!t while you can. Tomorrow is never promised and plans for the future are all predicated on the false belief that there is always time and that youth is our protector. The other picture is from 2004 when Noah was a beautiful little baby. Jimmy and I had such fun watching Noah’s mind react to shenanigans. He smiled a LOT.

I included a picture of Noah’s mom from the first time I met her at my trailer in Johnson, in the part of my life I refer to as ‘the before.’ It didn’t work out with her and Jimmy. They had chemistry. Jimmy had many demons that would have made it almost impossible for her to make him happy. It’s no disrespect to Jimmy’s memory to share that truth. The Terry side of the family unfortunately is prone to shattering opportunities by succumbing to vices. Jimmy, like the rest of us, could sabotage the best things.

As the rain started, I looked up to the apartments. One of my neighbors had covered the railings with sheets. I went and pulled them down and took them to the dungeon/laundry room and stuffed them in the dryer and turned it on. When the neighbors exit and see that their sheets are missing, I’m going to say, “The Fayetteville police just issued another warning to advise everyone that the Infamous Sheet Bandit is up to hooliganism again. I saw him take the sheets.” I might as well use my act of consideration as justification for a little verbal pranking. I’ll let them think their sheets are missing for a couple of minutes before letting them know what I did. After the wife goes back inside to tell her family about the Infamous Sheet Bandit. It’s Fayetteville and such a miscreant may be indeed running loose on these streets.

I took a picture of my right hand a couple of days ago. Ribald interpretations aside (I’m left-handed, by the way), putting almost a thousand screws into boards in the last couple of weeks using only hand tools has given me an artists’ scar, one of tough callouses in the palm of my hand.

I rescued a really old tiny rocking chair from the hospital dumpster a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have the skills to make it beautiful. But I do have the enthusiasm to fix it and paint it and give it new life for a child I know. I so badly want to paint it a beautiful rich color. We have enough unadorned and practical things in life.

Though it’s not done, I also added another picture of my dead tree project. I put one living branch on it, as well as three bright songbirds. Since I’m a fan of sentimental metaphors, I like to think it symbolizes that even dead trees provide beauty, comfort, and the possibility of adaptation to whatever comes next.

Love, X

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WTF-Time

“Lazy is a bad word. Shall we instead call it selective participation?” – The Internet

Today so far… woke up to laughter. Anytime 2 a.m. involves laughter is an auspicious day. And probably suspicious if I’m involved. There was heartache in the morning for someone I love and I hope she finds peace knowing she gave her presence in a time when it was most needed. I worked a bit, then came home and put wheels on my desk. Insert joke here! I built a wooden planter for sunflowers and installed it along the inside fence at this hideous apartment complex. Put up a shelf for random nonsense (I loathe specific nonsense.), one I repurposed and made from fence board. And then, because I couldn’t stand looking at it, I went outside (because that’s where trees and brush grows!) and cut away all the limbs and brush along the 50′ of the fence next to which I put in the planter. I’ve accumulated 4-5 truckloads of limbs and brush for ‘somebody’ to haul off; otherwise, the neighbors might stage an impromptu bonfire. I also picked up an entire bag of trash that somehow managed to get all over the complex since the last time I cleaned it. My back is still sore from all the previous festivities involved in “The Great Cleaning of 2022.” It’s 10 a.m. and I feel like I’ve accomplished a blizzard of activity. I’m going to go find some more laughter in a little while. My soul needs it. Enthusiasm is at a premium these days and I’m going to cash every bit of it in today.

“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” -Brian Tracy

X’s Frog Corollary: “If you have to kiss two people, at least one of them should be a woman.”

Remember that there are three distinct stages in life:

BIRTH

WTF

DEATH

The first two have already happened. Squeeze in as much wtf-time as you can, because it’s flying past with indifferent velocity. Otherwise, you’ll lose your health, your loved ones, or your life – only to look back and vehemently utter the phrase, “WTF happened to all the minutes?”

Love, X

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P.S. I made the picture out of several elements and rendered it.

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