Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto Assassination

The only woman to lead an Islamic nation was assassinated yesterday. What does that mean for the world? Who knows, there is no indication that she would've been any better than the current Prime Minister. She would've been a force for some liberal ideas, but given the history of the area and the values of their system how much change would've been made is questionable.

I do not understand the low value human life seems to have in the Mideast. Suicide bombers, the promise of seven virgins in the afterlife. Man's religion at work again, certainly not God's work. Now there is a debate whether or not she was killed by violent means or fractured her skull on a lever. I guess if she died a violent death she would be martyred for the cause, if she died of a skull fracture then no martyrdom. What the hell kind of culture gives a damn about the method of death?

Then our politicians will have to make statements about the senselessness of it all. Bush will deplore the action as a threat to the growth of democracy in the region. What democracy? Votes are pretty meaningless in a society that resorts to suicide bombing, assassination, riots and arson to express its societal aims.

I do not know if the Pakistani culture based on a long history of war lords is capable of democracy. Even Benazir Bhutto defended the corruption of her previous regime some time ago as necessary to get things done. I think we should abandon all support of Middle East. Our soldiers are dying in a war we are not out to win. It will be Bush's legacy to have led us into Iraqnam. We don't seem to learn. I do not advocate isolationism, but I do think we help our friends and punish our enemies in meaningful ways.

What do I mean by meaningful? Blow the hell out of their country and make in uninhabitable. Demolish their infrastructure, their power sources, their means of feeding themselves. Drive them back into the stone age if they continue to act like cavemen. Push them under a rock and let them stay there. Bastards!

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Birthday

Today, 12/24 is my Birthday. I am 63 years old this day. It is hard to believe that so much time has past. It just seems like months ago my Father was alive and he's been gone almost 12 years. My Mother past away in 1971, almost 37 years ago. I am the youngest of three remaining family members, my brother past away in 1982, some 25 years ago. I have one sister who just turned 81 and another who will be 77 in March. The family is growing older, we are beginning to fade from the scene.

If it sounds like I am a little down, I am. My children are in their mid-30's. The whole generation level is shifting up one notch. Yet, the best times are now. I am relatively secure in my job. Our home and property are about paid for. We live on property that allow us a great deal of privacy and offer us a lot of chores to stay busy. Staying busy, my wife would say, is our means of survival. It seems like there should be so much more. It seems like we should make a contribution to the health and welfare of society that continues the progress of humankind trying to understand and reach its potential.

Not all of us can play huge roles in the success, or failure of the human race. What we can do is contribute. We can lessen our negative impact on the environment by recycling, by trying to husband our resources. We can improve our human condition by interacting with people in ways that are helpful and supportive. We can be contributing members of society and see that we are the best that we can be. This is enough. We all can't write the "Great American Novel." We all can't paint a masterpiece that says something to mankind. We can however, care about our neighbors, we can take care of our property, we can limit our impact on the environment. To that degree we can be positive, contributing members of this huge spaceship Earth.

So I am 63. I am in the best health I've been in for many years. I feel very good, and I aim to be around for many more years, hopefully doing my part to make this life experience meaningful and helpful to all.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What about tomorrow?

Much of my career involves managing people to get a task done. I have worked in manufacturing for over 25 years. Therefore much of my time has been spent analyzing the past to learn from, and planning for the future to succeed. I am in my early 60's and my career has changed to industrial training so I still stay in contact with that line of work I am most familiar, only I don't have to responsibility I once had.

I find however, my mind still turning to the what if's and oh shoots. In other words I still find myself thinking about the past and planning on the future. However my thoughts have been turning more personal than business related. In this year about to enter the record books, my health has been challenged, first by cancer, then by an irregular heart beat, then I had my gall bladder taken out in November. With the year coming to a close, my health problems behind me I have been spending a lot of time taking stock of my life.

One thing I do know is that I have fewer years in front of me than behind me so planning is now taking on a different meaning. Lately an old saying I learned in AA has been rolling through my mind: "You have to learn to want what you have, not have what you want." I have a lot. I have a lot of stuff that has accumulated through the years and I don't use but I haven't disposed of it. I have a lot of memories that sometimes haunt me and other times give me pleasure. I have a future that looks like I will retain my health for a long time to come, if you consider 20 years a long time. Still I find my self worrying about the future.

Frankly, the future is determined upon birth. We shall pass from this earth. We simply don't know when. Frankly I don't want to know when. Yet I find myself worrying about the length of time I have left. So, I have been discussing this with a power greater than I for the past few months and it has lead me to some conclusions that I am taking into my heart.

I need to learn from the past. I've made some mistakes both important and not so important. I need to learn from them to prevent having to go through those experiences again. However, to dwell on them distorts the present and can cause me to take actions that are not necessary. I cannot do anything about the outcome of the future, but I can do things that may pave the way to an enjoyable old age. What are those things, I can save money, I can be aware of my health, I can eat correctly, I can exercise, I can have an open, loving relationship with those about me. All of those things that contribute to mental and physical health are worthy of action now. What isn't worthy is obsessing about the future because it shall surely come whether we worry about it or not. I've always liked the line, Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you come to the end the faster it goes.

So I resolve to live in the moment. I resolve to try and look at my surroundings with new eyes each day. I resolve to try to be at peace with my self, yet avoid complacency. Life is no fun without commitment. So I resolved to study, learn, and voice my concern over issues that effect me, society, and this old planet we live on. Perhaps my time on earth shall pass too quickly for me, but if I sit and worry about it, my future time will be poorly spent.

Merry Christmas, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Medical Follow Up

Today I had a colonoscopy. It was part of a one year follow-up on my bowel resection. The results were normal, no polyps. In some ways it seems so long ago, in other ways it seems like yesterday. I feel well, I've lost weight, I exercise regularly and find work meaningful. Yet, I feel defective, my body became ill and has betrayed me. I am having a difficult time feeling any great optimism about anything. I find my mind wandering to my own mortality issue. What I need to do is just get on with enjoying my life. My wife and I are financially OK, our health is pretty good, and we are secure.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Eleven Months of Recovery

If anyone has read my blogs you know I had a bowel resection on January 9, 2007. I never could find out any information about what took place during recovery when you are out of the hospital and home. So I wrote a series of blogs about my experience hoping to provide some information out on the web that might be useful to some other persons going through the same type of recovery period.

From time to time I've updated my progress and that is what this is. In 3 days it will be 11 months since surgery. In that intervening time I also had my gall bladder removed about a month ago.

I am happy to report that I think I am doing well. From a physical stand point I have lost a lot of weight, on purpose. I regularly exercise, I mean daily, a 50 minute strongly paced walk, and I try to watch what I eat. I log my vital signs every day as a means of staying in touch with how I feel. I use a lot of personal positive feedback by assess how I feel physically during my exercise period. I work very hard to keep the negative thought patterns at bay.

December 12 I go in for a follow up colonoscopy. Given the pathology results after surgery and my assessment of my well-being I expect the results of the colonoscopy to be clear. So, from a physical stand point recovery is good and the prospects for continued health very promising.

I do have some remnants of a psychological impact. I do have an irregular heartbeat. I had PVC's (Premature Ventricular Contractions) prior to surgery, but they have elevated in frequency of occurrence since surgery. I belong to a forum that discusses irregular heart beats and am relieved to find my self in a lot of company. The medical world has proven to me that my irregular heart beats are benign and will not cause me any health problems.

I believe that stress plays a big role in the onset and continuance of the heart beat problem. I have been thoroughly checked out and do not have any underlying heart disease or damage. Yet these irregular heart beats occur daily, and may last for some time. The frequency seems to be dying down, but still I get aggravated when they occur.

One thing that apparently occurs after major surgery is a fear of the disease reoccurring. This I've read is common. I am 62 years of age, I thought I had come to terms with my own mortality some years ago. Undergoing surgery, even though very successful, has reawakened that realization that I have fewer years in front of me than I have behind me. I do not find myself depressed, but I seem to have become aware how fragile our existence is. In some ways it has led me to a greater appreciation of my wife, my children, and surroundings. Yet I am plagued with the idea that I may not get to enjoy those these things for a long time. The thoughts do not dominate my existence, for the most part they intrude when I am alone, musing about life in general. I drive the thoughts away by refusing to let them occupy much mental space and time.

Everything has gotten better, including my mental attitude, so I expect these dark musing will lift even more. It probably is a progressive process of recovery of spirit just like the physical recovery is a progressive process.

My system seems to be settling into some form of regularity after the surgical intrusion. I now am facing some problems from the gall bladder surgery, a hand full of mixed nuts seem to make my stomach slightly upset and can trigger a series of bowel movements that can be rather uncomfortable and frequent. Other than that, I'm doing very well.

In a nut shell, life is OK. Some thoughts about dark things, but frankly probably not much more than the normal person encounters going through life. I certainly have an appreciation for persons undergoing medical procedures I never had before, and I am grateful for the quality of care I've received. This experience has certainly strengthened the bond between my wife and I and my recovery experience would have not been as positive if it hadn't been for her.

That is all for this day. Keep the faith fellow survivors, life is good!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On Optimism

Wonder why anyone would write about optimism when they are feeling a little down. What better way to deal with the dark side?

Sometimes it seems to me that books and articles are like a cork lifesaver, they bob into my life just when I need them. This year I've been going through some medical difficulties one of which is an aggravating irregular heartbeat. I now understand that pretty much all people have an irregular heartbeat, they just do not feel it. When I feel an irregular episode going on it makes me think I am defective. I end up feeling less capable of doing active things. That simply is not true, but it does not prevent the thought from entering my consciousness.

This morning before my daily exercise walk my heart is acting up a little bit. While perusing the library in the bathroom a book was lying on the top of the stack called Hard Optimism, it is a Price Pritchett book. Price Pritchett writes self help booklets on a number of topics. The booklets tend to be well done and remind people of things they can do that help get through difficult times.

As I sat there waiting for events to pass I opened the book to a page. I did not select the page I just opened the book to a convenient point. The chapter heading was "Recognize and dispute negative thoughts." The quote at the start of the chapter was from Henry David Thoreau and read, "We are always paid for our suspicion by finding what we suspect." How true those words are. I learned from my years in AA that we tend to invite events into our lives and we can have a choice of inviting positive or good events or negative or bad events.

The quote at the end of the chapter is equally good. David Landes of Harvard said, "In this world optimists have it, not because they are always right but because they are positive. Even when wrong they are positive, and that is always the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated eyes-open optimism pays; pessimism can only offer the empty consolation of being right."

Through the years I have listened to members of my family bicker about details of trips, visits, events and such like and I realized that they were really concerned with being right. The rest of the listeners were dragged down by the conversation instead of enlightened or illuminated. I have avoided this trap much of my life. Yet there are times that I feel negative thoughts. I also do what this chapters says and that is chase the negative thoughts away by realizing the temporary nature of such feelings. I have also found that I can talk my way through negative thoughts and feelings and end up on the positive side of the situations.

A person I knew used to say of life that we are all victims. I have always felt we had a choice and I choose to not be a victim. That does not mean I don't have negative thoughts. In my opinion the difference in being a pessimist or an optimist is not allowing the negative thoughts that occur to occupy much of our mind. Worry is like paying interest on a debt you may never have to repay. The other thought I could share is, the day doesn't end just because it gets dark. I'll let the reader, if there ever are any, finish that thought. I would much rather have to deal with failure knowing that I tried than having the consolation that I was right.