Walking in Circles

The circuit is 1/10 of a mile, and I have been walking it often over the last week.

Today’s theme rests at the top of my mind, and I do not know why.  So many definitions. Is life a straight line? Ups and downs?  A triangle?  (up one peak and then down, but we will not say what kind of triangle)

Do we just continuously walk in circles?.

We set out to pursue a goal.  The path seems clear.  Perhaps it is rough and through thickets.  You have to work at maintaining the course.

But we struggle.  The path narrows and narrows, disappearing, forcing you into a game of orienteering with no map and no compass.  You blaze away, watching the sun and the moon and the stars, hopefully maintaining a suitable direction.

And then you find yourself back to where you started.  A job lost.  A family member lost. Health lost.  Friends lost.  Partners lost.  Any starting point you wish never happened, but can always happen again.

While walking that circle I wanted to know why it struck me so.  I guess it is because we can always set goals, but we may always be forced to return to the starting point.

Why start again?  Because it might not be the same circle and one can be optimistic that he or she eventually will find their way.  Even perhaps, the new starting point is further along toward your goal.

Standing still just leaves the world in front of you.

To be continued…from time to time

Tailgating:
Where are You Going America?

Driving south from the Palm Beach area to Miami many years ago, I noticed the numerous skid marks along the road, as well as the 2 feet of distance between cars at high rates of speed.  The correlation seemed obvious.

I have often thought about that trip, and the increasing phenomenon seen on highways.

In my generation, we were taught to stay behind 1 car-length per 10 miles per hour.  My children were taught to count 3 seconds per reference point.  Why were we taught that?  Well, safety, of course, but for whom?  You?  Yes.  But is there more?  On a crowded highway, a quick slam to the break with a car too closely behind, creates a chain reaction impossible to control.

So, how selfish is a tailgater?  I say very.  Not only is he or she risking their life, or their passengers’ lives, every car surrounding an incident is at risk.   Extraordinary risk.

Tailgating or excessive speeding seems a metaphor for American society.  It’s all about “me.”  We get traveling 5 mph beyond the limit.  We understand staying close to the next car in a crowded highway creeping along in congestion.  But 2 feet of distance at 85 mph?  (Ok, 5 feet at 75.  You get the idea).  One has to marvel at the sight.

We are rushing to nowhere in so many ways, and celebrating individuality to the extreme of selfishness.

Slow down a bit, and think of others when you creep up on that next car.  It’s not about your own life.

To be continued…from time to time

What Does Love
Have To Do With It?

Not sure how many drafts this might take.  The words are rummaging around in the head trying to make sense, prompted by the “ether” in the air currently transmitting hatred or animosity among too many, or perhaps too broadly.

We can be angry, of course, but why is it anger abounds.  We talk about love, but it is selective.  Love your partner.  Love your children and family.  Even love your friends, but beyond that, it gets fuzzy.  Quickly, any differences in thoughts or appearance leads to a stereotype.  Hate looms:  hate conservatives, hate liberals, hate the President, hate the corporations, hate the poor, hate Congress, hate the Muslims, hate the Christians, hate the Chinese, hate the Jews.  It goes on and on and on.  Even to the point of hate for the Patriots or the Yankees.

Enough.

Friday night, over dinner, a long-time friend and I talked about love for all.  We have known each other for over 40 years, with a long separation between, but reunited recently as if time had stood still.  We continue to confide in each other.  Support each other.  A friendship that started long ago never ended.

We explored.

On which side does one stand?  A love for all (recognizing the risks) or selective love because one craves similarity.  A welcoming perspective or a distrusting one.  The world is good or is the world evil?  And where does evil begin or end?

To many, I suppose, it is tough to be open and kind to everyone they meet.  Just a few stories of pain or anguish will raise someone’s guard to the point of fearful irrationality.

And this is what I am bombarded with every day; almost everywhere I look or much of what I hear seems to be couched in anger, hatred, distrust.

There are some whose venom bothers me deeply.  Makes me angry inside. I try to figure out why, why, why they think this way.  How did it develop?  What would make them relax and see it is not as bad as they say.  There are 330,000,000 people here.  We have to live together.   There are 7,000,000,000 worldwide.   We have to live together.

I am not clueless to know that there are bad people out there who may want to hurt me or my family, violently or emotionally.  But do I hate to the point of boiling over?  I don’t think so.  Do I believe all of those people around the globe or this country are bad, that the only good people are my children, their mother, or others in my family, or my closest friends?

No.

I start from the perspective if a disagreement exists, there must be a reason, and it does not mean to bring hate to the table.

(Update:  Oh.  If you wonder what got into me to write this, the comments associated with this story helped.)

Happy Holidays and Happy New year

To be continued…from time to time

Plan F

In late May of 1975, I stared out at the quad of Bowdoin College and walked.  Around and diagonally through the yard, I made my way thinking about what was next.  Graduation had finished a few hours earlier.  My parents and grandparents had left to return to Massachusetts.  I was planning to stay a few days to close down my room at the fraternity.

As I took one step after another, “what was I going to do?” was a thought directly in front of my eyes.  The only job in this time of deep recession (oil shocks) was to go back to my father’s store.

There was a “Plan A.”  I wanted a career in urban transportation.  I was fascinated by how things moved in a city.  Maybe someday I could work at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).  In my head, nevertheless, there was always lurking “Plan F,” the idea that anything could happen.  Just know what I liked to do in order to remain focused.

Plan A with the MBTA never happened, but I did some work in urban transportation.  So, that was good.  Touched it.

But there was a deeper dream, one that had started when I was about six years old.  The next door neighbor worked at MIT as Executive Assistant to the President.  She gave me brochures about the university during my adolescent years.  I was convinced that someday I would like to go to school there.   As it were, though, I attended Bowdoin College because I just was not the rocket scientist necessary to get into MIT.  Later, when I was looking at business schools, I decided to leave Boston, and was fortunate to head to New York City.  I gave MIT a look, but I had been in New England for a long time, already.

Following Bowdoin, my interest in urban development and transport never really disappeared.  There is a crooked line of career steps where a vague theme can be seen as the years progressed.  I knew that I liked teaching, and behold, I found myself at a Technical College, chairing a department.  I had thought about a political career in Boston when I was young (remember Urban), but never thought that would happen until I woke up one day, 32 years later, as a City Councilman in Pennsylvania’s third largest city.  Later, running for Mayor, I successfully derailed the incumbent’s idea that he could be Governor.

So, today, again Plan F surfaced.  I finished a day working at MIT — Computer Science and Artificial Laboratory, acting as teaching assistant for an online course developed by two well-known technology entrepreneurs.  I left late in the afternoon to have dinner with a college friend, class of 1975.  Full circle.

In negotiation, an axiom is to have a Best Alternative To A Negotiated Position (BATNA).  In careers, always have a “Plan F.”

You never know.

I think this is what eternal optimism can bring you.

To be continued…from time to time

Blood and its Effect

Whoever supplied blood for me today, I would like to thank.

24 hours ago, I could feel that the count had fallen to a level that would affect me.  Now, nearing midnight, totally different.  Amazing.

I have run away to Boston for a few days to work on a project at MIT, have lunch with a colleague, and dinner with a college friend.  Much of the time I am just going to relax, visit the Widner Library at Harvard, and enjoy coffee overlooking Harvard Square.

In my younger days, this was one of my most favorite hangouts.  It contrasted so much with the times I was on top of Mt. Washington.  On top, I was alone with the rocks and the views, the wind and the chill, always thoughtful and in awe of the beauty that wrapped around me.  In Cambridge, the vibrancy proved electric.  Once, while walking down one street, I bumped into Robert Reich, whom I had met briefly a few years earlier in Portland, Maine.  The meeting was an opportunity of a lifetime.  At that moment, I was able to tell him that he was my intellectual hero (and still is!).  Years later, we met up again at Cedar Crest College.  We chuckled about that long ago encounter, and he signed my copy of his first book.

Cambridge and Boston have a special place in my heart.  I was offered my first job here. Started business school at Boston University before leaving for New York.  I ran along the Charles almost every day.  Lived in Back Bay and the North End.  It was a time to be a twenty-something.  Sadly, the place is now beyond my economic reach.   It is nice that I have the project to give me a reason to return.

It was not always fun.  My first marriage ended with much pain and sadness.  Scarred me for a long time, and did not really understand how or why for many, many years.

Finished grading this evening.  I was pleased for a particular reason.  In my class called “Business as a Social Process,” there are 10 American women and 13 international students, many still struggling with English.  Teaching in Ukraine had made me sensitive to the challenges faced by non-native learners.  Throughout the semester, I faced the battle of balancing learning styles and language fluency.  The final was based on short 10 questions requiring 2 to 4 sentences.  Designed to ensure everyone understood the key ideas of the course, it also gave the international students an opportunity to work from memory in short bursts of English.  It would be clear if they understood the concept, even if the English might be a bit fractured.

I was so pleased when I finished.  So pleased.

We are all tied together in this world, but we forget.  I received blood from an unknown person.  I have helped some non-native students see the world in a slightly different way. Before the little red blood cells have to be injected in me again, I am in Boston meeting friends, completing a project, enjoying time away, and interacting with a diverse crowd milling throughout the square.

I’m content.

To be continued…from time to time.

 

 

 

Strength

1:24am.  Sleepless.

Lying under the covers, thinking of how does one find strength to tackle challenge after challenge?

Various theories abound.  Religion, family, love, friends?  Ideas?  Hope?  Optimism?

A few years ago, many readers learned that I had had a severe hormonal reaction to medication used to fight prostate cancer.  The mind went askew.  I spiraled downward.  Nothing worked to bring me out of a 6 week period of darkness until my friends and support network bolstered my mood with love and kindness.

Now, that awful medication is in me again mixing with many more chemicals aimed at leukemia.  I agreed to stay with the same medication because I felt that I understood the effects and could react to chemical-induced despair as necessary.  I have succeeded.

Still, I suppose, at 62, that I could break down and throw in the towel with two cancers in me, neither of which is in reasonable control. Long drives for treatment should wear me out.  (2 hours each way and then 2 hours of drips into a port tattooed on my chest.) Too many chemicals in me should make me a basket case.

All the while, other stressors gnaw at me.

Where have I found the strength?

“Just be positive,” as I have noted several times does not do it for me.  What is it that allows me to deliver an internal “pep talk” and believe hope survives?  What causes me to say the right things in my head and listen and act accordingly?  A fine line needs to be crossed to succeed.

When I am at my worse with sadness (and it happens inside of me with few outside noticing ), I find the strength to say, “it’s ok.  You are not going to react like last time.  You ultimately might not beat the scourge(s), but you certainly will not let go without a fight.”  I laid in bed.  Thinking.

My first platelet transfusion since March occurred on Friday.  Red cells may be needed on Wednesday.  Is this not where I was a year ago?

Starting over.

The strength to say “it’s ok,” comes from an unwillingness to succumb to a dark side of sadness.  I can acknowledge that there is enough weighing on me to break, but I also have the strength to shove away despair.

The shoving that takes place inside my heart and mind, though, requires reaching — no, stretching is a better term — into the tiniest of passages so that I can flick the switch that would turn off strong emotions, including fear.  The stretch necessary to reach and flick the switch can only occur if strong enough to break the hold of despair.

Is that the ultimate strength?  Able to shove away despair and keep it at bay?

Now it is 1:55am

(The system locked.  I went back to sleep.  It’s 5:40am, and I am glad I wrote.   Thanks for taking the time to read.)

To be continued…from time to time

Why We Must Stop Trump

Because we all will get fired if we do not kiss his ring!

No joke.  Donald Trump does not fit an American ideal of the distribution of power where “do no harm” is a moral principle.  The people who have been hypnotized by his Fascist statements are what really is scary.  This is their chance to concentrate power into a weapon of hate and discrimination, ultimately to redefine the mission of the United States.

As Trump’s power develops, people who disagree will be more and more fearful about speaking out because Trump’s followers will squash you — whether it is in your car with a bumper sticker, at a rally, at your job, or in class at school.  Disagree with the Emperor?  You are toast. “you’re fired.”  You are just a liberal and worthless.  Ultra-conservatism turns into Fascism and the nationalistic celebration begins.  Have a different opinion?  You will be afraid to speak out.

Why is this happening?  For the same reason other Fascists have come to power.  Trump is able to play on the emotions of those who are angry or fearful or susceptible to bigotry.  It has happened before, throughout the world and history.  It can happen again.

Therefore what we do have to fear is “fear itself.”

Long ago before World War II, in response to the rise of Fascism in Europe, Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t Happen Hear.”  The pattern is ominous.

Read the book, and understand that waiting too long is too late.

Push back and demand that a civil war of ideas does not turn into a civil war.

I will.

To be continued…from time to time.

 

Diligence/Diligent

Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent application and endeavour; industry, assiduity

Constant in application, persevering in endeavour, assiduous’, industrious; ‘not idle, not negligent, not lazy

Oxford Dictionary of the English Language.  www.oed.com

What happened?

Long ago in another universe, my high school history teacher and football coach constantly reminded me to polish my shoes.

“Be diligent Donovan,” he would charge.

But this was not the only habit he wanted me to remember.  There were numerous messages stressed, all within the meaning above.  Don’t be lazy — physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually.  Question, but do so from a frame of reference that would be as objective as possible.

To be opinionated without background or facts would be fatal, he argued in class.  Could we support our comments was the demand.

To play the game of football without understanding its nuances would always produce the risk of failure.  Brute strength is not always the answer.  An emotional backbone leading to commitment demanded a “don’t quit” attitude.

Where has diligence gone?  Why does one fall into a trap of not uncovering the next stone, or making assumptions with little support?  Why is it that “winging it” seems to be the easy way out?

“I don’t understand” is a legitimate phrase with which to begin.

Mr. Rodan would say, “that’s not an excuse, though, …tell me what you do understand. Work from there.”

Struggling to do so is the essence of diligence.

To be continued…from time to time… 

Life is a Series of Opportunities

Do not think that I am sad or angry or depressed by these events I describe.  I am not.  My purpose is to open a window to the reality we all face.

That for most of us a significant challenge will occur sometime in our life.

How to cope?  I have written often that the word “positive” does not sit well with me because the challenge is awful.  The consequences can be horrible.  The need for others to care becomes overwhelming.  Hope is shrouded in a fog of complexity, fear, uncertainty.

For me, and I cannot speak for anyone else, “optimism” rings truer.  An optimism that I can enjoy each moment, and that people care, and that I maintain enthusiasm — provides strength.  The adjective “diligent” comes to mind.  I am diligent at putting one foot in front of the other.  Don’t stand still.  Don’t wallow in self-pity.  Find something to do and love.  I can be optimistic at remaining diligent and not giving up, even when confronting negative events.

I am so lucky at this moment that I have not reached the stage of health that I usually see at the infusion center.  Others have it so much worse than I.  It is likely that at some time in the future, I will experience similar conditions.  How far in the future I do not know, but I feel for those people.  Understand their walk along a path toward the end. Yes, through optimism, we can believe a solution exists.  Still, being forced to take that path earlier than expected sucks.

As the procedures piled on each other yesterday, I thought about the nature of insurance.

When it comes to healthcare, our country is only beginning to understand that a civilized society has a responsibility to help minimize the financial disaster that accompanies serious illness.   The one concern I do have is the risk of immense costs not covered by insurance that would affect me and my family.

Sickness I can handle.  Dying destitute or being able to leave little to my children does strike fear in me.  I don’t mind buying insurance.  What I do mind is the tendency for healthcare insurance to place a financial burden on those with severe illness by segmenting costs by degree of illness (a company or individual being charged more because of claim experience).  Insurance is a societal invention designed to share risk.  I do not mind paying more in my premiums, co-pays, or drugs to help pay for a sick baby.  I feel the same for individuals who end up having a serious illness anytime in their lives.

In a way, waiting to escalate premiums after the fact or segmenting costs by claim experience  runs counter to the reality that many people hurt themselves for years by not taking care of their body ( as a result of any number of vices or risks).  We are beginning to see how important is prevention, and even experimenting with cost differentials in cases where people do take risks.  I do not have an answer, but clearly health insurance is a difficult public policy topic that cannot be totally solved through marketplace practices.

I have the opportunity to enjoy decent protection with insurance.  I also have the opportunity to remain optimistic that my life for a reasonable time will continue without serious deterioration.

Life is a series of opportunities to experience.  A choice on how to face them will never disappear.

To continue from time to time… 

A Day of Life

Just another 24 hours.

I am sure others with a medical condition have had one those days.

Two great classes.

One year ago started monthly medication — now not working.

Late night drive to Willow Grove hotel.

Short ride to Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Fill out and sign oodles of forms — check.

5 test tubes of blood — check

EKG  — check

Echogram of my heart — check

Insertion of a “port” in my upper right chest and a connection to my jugular vein.  Local anesthesia.  (Proud of myself — sedation, they said, is common, but I was driving — pain was minimal) — check

Bone biospy (6th one in a year)  Local anesthesia– check

Skin biospy — check

5 more test tubes of blood — check

Decent health insurance — check and thank goodness

Available for all? — not if the Republicans have it their way.

Assigned to the most successful treatment group out of three in new clinical trial — priceless.