Saturday, May 29, 2010

R.I.P.Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper died this morning. He was 74, best known as the director of  Easy Rider, the best known film about the counterculture of the 1960's. Breaking the boundaries of life and art, he lived as radically as one of the characters he created for many years, before going into de-tox and joining AA in the 1980's. He continued to work in movies and television for many years, proving that there indeed are second acts to American lives.

I always felt an affinity for the man. He wore his recovery lightly, honest and willing to discuss it, if asked. But he also did not seem to feel the need to completely repudiate his life prior to recovery as so many people do when they get sober. He clearly enjoyed some of his adventures even as he recognized the need to change his ways. At least, that's how it seemed to me.

Now, in that world of coincidence that I really do not believe in, I feel compelled to mention this. This Memorial Day Weekend is also the 33rd anniversary of my Recovery. I am clean and sober 33 years this weekend, my date is Memorial Day 1977. What does that mean? Not much if you are looking for something tangible, but in the intangible world of my eccentric spirituality, it means that someone I have never actually met, but felt close to, crossed over during a very special weekend to me. I'm just getting over a long hospitalization and a life threatening illness. I felt cold winds at my back, too, but as it turns out they weren't for me, at least this time.

Jung called it synchronicity. I don't know what to call it, but trust that more will be revealed.

Anyway, I used to joke that my dream 12th Step call would be for me and Dennis Hopper to get a call to take Keith Richards to a meeting. Looks like that's probably off the table now. So Dennis, wherever you are, I hope the coffeepot is full and they have a Cohiba waiting for you.

Save me a seat.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Loose Ends

I know that a lot of people who write, write about their illnesses. You can get away with it if you are a really great writer. But if you are just an okay writer, like me, you know what happens? You whine. And, man, oh man, the only thing I hate worse than whining in general, is me, whining.

So here is the short version: I am a hardhead who didn't:

  1. Stop smoking until three years ago (after 40 years as a serious smoker.)
  2. Listen to my wife who had been telling me since December that there was more going on than just a cold, and that I needed to get to the Doctor.
  3. Listen to my Doctor, who had been trying for a month to get me to go into the hospital.
Because of this, I:
  1. Ended up in the hospital for two weeks.
  2. Am taking a raft of meds.
  3. Will be convalescing for a while longer.
  4. Learned that no matter what you try to do with it, a hospital gown is ugly.
That is about it except for a couple of loose ends:
  • What got me into the hospital was, in essence, an Intervention. My Doctor and my wife, Connie, forced the issue, and I went into the hospital that night. So remember, what "being a hardhead" actually means is "being really good at denial." 
  • Patients are called patients because that is about 99% of the healing process, learning to be patient. (Learning to be a patient patient, actually.)
  • Nurses and techs make the world go around.
  • The world goes on quite nicely without my active participation.
Now, of course, I could go on and on, what I learned and what illness teaches us and my own personal awareness that I have developed and, as they used to say on Seinfeld, ya-dee-yadda-ya.

From Ann LaMott to William Styron to John Berryman there are a thousand writers who have done it better, with far more intelligence and wit than I ever could. And with a lot less whining!

Next time, back to the business at hand.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hiatus over--I'm back!

A funny thing happened on the way to this post.

Okay, not so funny--Pneumonia. I collapsed. spent two weeks in the hospital, returned home with the energy level of a newborn and a bucket of medications to keep me breathing. I am just beginning to get back to work, slowly and cautiously. Three days a week are the best I can do for now; I hope to step it up to four next week.

My wife has been great, and so have my friends. People have stepped up in ways that are truly humbling to me, and fill me with gratitude. I could write all day and never be able to express the relief that I got because people were looking out for me, my wife, the families I work with. I can only hope that I could be half as good and loyal a friend when it's time to reciprocate.

So, cautiously, I am saying that I'm back. I hope you haven't lost interest, because I am ready to resume the conversation.

Let's talk soon!