Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way
it’s supposed to you want it to. For instance, I’m supposed to have Bradley Cooper’s looks, and Bill Gates’ money. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but I’m learning to accept that neither are, or will be, true. What can be harder to swallow are the hopes and dreams that aren’t so pie in the sky. Letting go of some of the basic goals and desires in life can be far more difficult.
There’s no one I love more than my 19-year-old daughter, Sierra. I’ll never forget my tears of joy the second she was born. Her mother had a caesarian, so while her mom was sent to recovery, the nurse pulled me into the hospital nursery so that I could spend some alone time with my new baby girl. I thought I’d cried as much as was possible in the operating room, but when I lifted her out of her basket, and held her against me, the waterworks started again. That exact moment in time was the highest point of my life. I can’t imagine anything coming remotely close to that feeling. I was thrilled that I’d have a front row seat to watch my amazing daughter’s life unfold.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as I planned. I didn’t have that front row seat. You see, I have this damn disease called bipolar disorder that went undiagnosed for years. Like many, I self-medicated. While my precious baby girl grew up, I spent most of my time 1,500 miles away grasping on to any job I could hold, struggling to keep a roof over my head somehow. I wasn’t always successful. I spent many a night on a park bench. She came to know her dad as that guy who would call occasionally when he didn’t have a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other.
My whole life I knew I was really going to be somebody. I’d be a famous artist, or writer, or cartoonist, or more. Once I grew up and got into the work force, I became greedy and cast those dreams aside. I didn’t have time for such frivolous ideas. I was going to make it big in the corporate world. Every time there was a promotional opportunity I saw that would get me one rung higher up that ladder, I worked my ass to get it. I can’t think of a single time I failed. Every single opportunity became mine for the asking.
Eventually I had the big office, with the big desk, looking out the big window. I had managers reporting to me that oversaw the hundreds who worked under me. I was chummy with the Vice President of my division. I was riding high, until I wasn’t. For about the third time in my life I was diagnosed with depression (this was years before I was accurately diagnosed with bipolar.) The meds worked the best they could, but did nothing for my hypomania. This was around the time that my alcoholism was going full force, so the anti-depressants were no match for the alcohol. Overall, I was pretty high functioning, but eventually had a few goof ups that didn’t look so good on my file. I still had a promising career, but my ego was so badly bruised that I decided it was time to move on. I left the company and made a series of very bad decisions which led me to the sad drunken state I described above. I may have had the big office, but my hopes of moving up another rung and getting the big ‘corner” office were shot to hell. My corporate career was dead.
Some of you who have been following me for a while, may recall the days I use to frequently post about working towards being a Unitarian Universalist minister. I don’t know if I ever explained why, but those posts abruptly stopped. I had no desire to run a church. I already had the opportunity of running a business, and ministering at a church is too similar to that. I wanted to be a chaplain. I wanted to be there for people in hospitals, or hospice care. I don’t care what a person’s faith is, or lack of faith is, I only wanted to be there to minister care to those in need. Being sober and properly medicated was going to make it easy for me to breeze through school, right? Right? I failed miserably.
Returning to school was a humbling experience. Sure, it was hard to get use to the other students referring to me as “Sir,” but that’s not the type of humbling I’m talking about. I’m talking about it being damn hard. It was impossible to complete a project and get it in on time when having panic attacks so severe that I could barely function. I didn’t want to accept that I may only succeed by taking one class at a time. Hell, I’m not even sure cutting back that much would help. I finally had to stand back and look at things realistically. Even going to school full time was going to take me many years to get my masters. I then would have to work internships to advance. I also found the cost of going to theological schools, are unbelievable. I was looking at finishing college in my 60’s with mountains of debt to last the rest of my life. All I wanted to do was help people, but nope, that got shot to hell.
Things I’ve Had to Let Go
These are examples of many things in my life that didn’t go the way
they should have I wanted them to. I had to let them go. It was painful, but eventually I reached the point of acceptance. Does Sierra still have a dad? Hell, yes, she does. I’m not the dad I wanted to be. I’ll never be able to sit down and share the memories of her first school play, winning on the debate team, or taking her prom picture. I had to let those go. But, I do get to be the dad who chats online with her while she attends uni in England. I’m the dad who gets to talk with her on the phone and hear her excitement from having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’m the dad who got give her a tour around Los Angeles, go shopping with her for school clothes. I’m the dad who gets to sit with her and laugh while swapping stories at a funky coffee house. Right now, I’m being the best dad I can possibly be and I can’t ask for more than that. What I’ve got is pretty damn good.
What about shooting further up the corporate ladder and being a high level executive? To be honest, I was miserable and it wasn’t just because I wasn’t medicated. I remember on many occasions just staring out the window asking myself what I was doing. I wasn’t making an impact on the world in any significant way that appealed to me. I thought it was great, but it was really all about ego and I would never go back to it.
As for becoming a chaplain? Yeah, that smarts too, but if I was busy running off to hospitals or hospice units, when would I have the time to be sitting down and working on my first novel? Simple fact is I wouldn’t.
What an amazing life my life has become. I’m married to a man who loves me more than I ever thought possible. I have a daughter who loves me and we get to have fun doing adult stuff together. I have an opportunity to sit down and proudly announce, “I am a writer,” and then do it.
I’m not going to try and pull the wool over your eyes. I do grieve for those and many other things. Some days it hurts more than others, but wallowing in self-pity and wishing them back would only serve to make me old and bitter. I don’t want to be that guy. Today. Right now in this very second, I am the guy who is grateful for all the good he has in his life and keeps doing the best he can.