Why Being on Time Matters

September 20, 2019
I once lost a job I never had by being late to an audition. It was for a national touring musical production and I was more angry than anything else. I was so pissed off it affected my day. I was angry at the producer and director, but I was also angry with myself. I was young, and not keenly aware of how important timelines were. It became a profound learning piece I often reflected on as I built my acting and stunt career.
A few years later, after I’d been spending some time in the film and TV industry as an extra and a stand-in, I once heard someone in the crew say “early is on time, and on time is late.” he made the comment since those of us cast as Stand-ins were expected to be on set when crew was, even if the Director, Producers, and Actors were still in their beds, or waiting for transpo (on most Film and TV productions, when actors are flown in, and for those principals in production, they have a shuttle, or limo pick them up and take them to and from set. Every day) the crew, and my fellow Stand-ins and I would all drive to Base camp, get shuttled in to set, have breakfast, and wait (because hurry up and wait is another thing I learned on a movie set, but more about that another time).
Early is on Time; On Time is Late. simple, beautiful, and to the point.
I’ve heard that expression many times since, and even used it myself. Remarkably, I have heard it in places other than the film and TV industry. And you know what? It makes sense.
Maybe the exception can be made for a party.
But for everything else, punctuality is still valued even if improper punctuation use is not. If you book an appointment with a client and you are running late, you notify that client as soon as possible and offer them the option of rescheduling if it works for them. Usually they will say ‘no’ and appreciate the fact you called. If you are running late and you say you are 10 minutes away and it actually takes you 45 minutes? Color Me impressed if you even still have a client waiting for you.
If you think I’m being too hard-lined about this, consider the following example.
You go to a restaurant and get sat at your table, and you place your order.
You’re told the order is going to be out shortly. And then 10 minutes becomes 15 minutes and 15 minutes becomes 20 minutes and by the time you get your order you have moved beyond hungry because you’re frustrated and irritated. The delay of: a doctor’s appointment; a meeting with a client; a contractor’s scheduled work time; a flight departure; a train; buying a car; a hotel check in…
They all have a profound impact on our day, to say the least.
I find myself somewhere beyond disappointed in such cases, because the sanctity of the contract was broken. Because the level of disrespect is palpable. It transcends inconvenience. It becomes something more. It creates a domino effect. What you have set in motion by being late typically has to run its course, and you are helpless to stop it. Exceptions are made, and should be, but as a rule, this standard is inviolable.
Being early shows that you respect and value other people’s time. Whether that is you getting ready to go out on a date night with your partner, or take your kids to the playground, or the water park, or whether it’s putting a presentation in front of a board of directors, or a vacation tour, do it for everybody else, and in doing so, you do it for yourself. Be early. Even if it is a few minutes. Because that minute is more appreciated and less noticed than if you are five minutes late.
Being early is subtly nuanced, and that nuance carries long after the clock stops ticking.

one step at a time

September 12, 2019

Being positive. It’s an enlightened process to be certain. I think living itself is a source of positive energy because of the effort at a molecular level to make things happen. That includes the simple act of opening one’s eyes, or placing one foot in front of the other. Think about that. Walking is a constant state of being out of balance, of falling. We are in a state of constant falling when we walk, but we course-correct with microseconds to spare.

But life is also consumptive and it’s our job to make sure we know how to sidestep the quicksand and swim with the rip current because at various times in our lives we are going to get caught by both. Think in terms of the Chinese finger puzzle. Struggle and you’ll be trapped; loosen and relax your energy, and extraction happens without effort.

I’ve always believed that people who are not ready for the worst can’t be prepared for the best. But I’ve also discovered there are limits. Still, being privy to the concept and activation of patience allows for positivity. That applies to people, goals, and situations.
One step at a time. That’s how my mountains are summited. That’s how things are accomplished. That is how you can accomplish whatever it is you set you sights on. Whether ordinary or mythic, it can be yours. Just take it one step at a time.

One step at a time.

Why Teachers Don’t Quit

May 24, 2019

Think about what quitting means to you. Then think about the adults that didn’t quit on you. Likely those adults were teachers or mentors of fine reputation.
Being a teacher means being earnest, being committed, and being dedicated. It means being able to get up every single day and willingly craft the tools for success every single time you have a conversation with a student.
In rationalizing and justifying words and actions, a teacher must study and assess, sometimes in nanoseconds.
I’ve had the opportunity in a variety of venues – from classrooms to stages – to deliver instructional educational content geared towards adults. My audiences have dramatically ranged in size.  This focus on application through experiential learning and interactive learning has varied results, largely depending on the receptiveness of your students. It’s an interesting thing teaching and facilitating to different groups. When your delivery process is the same but the reactive response is different, your audience and their participatory level runs the range from prodding to plodding to nodding to, when the pieces all come together, thoroughly actively engaged. Regardless, we are always professional and always committed, right?
Having delivered content in a variety of venues, on a variety of topics, I’m pleased with the fact I’ve become fairly adept at being able to read my audience and responsibly deliver and provide the necessary experience for them, allowing them to walk away being able to both ask and answer questions while building new solutions.

That’s what a good teacher and facilitator does. It’s a fascinating thing to watch a teacher at work. This is not a commentary on me. I’m good, but not worth marveling at. No, this is about teachers like my art teacher in eighth grade, Mrs. Smith. Or my history professor from Broward Community College, Ralph Clarke. And I cannot ever forget my literary professor and now friend, Dr. Peter Roundy. At Disney University it was Anthony Giffen, A teacher, trainer, and facilitator who made ‘yes and’ a way of life. What they all shared was the belief that I, as a student and a person, was worth the effort. They helped me discover a better version of myself.
I’ve had the good fortune of attending many career day events at schools, usually to talk about life on a film set. I marvel at the connectivity and bond and sense of guiding momentum dedicated teachers instill in their students. They literally have swung for the fence on behalf of students where other teachers gave up and called it a strike out.

My wife is one of these rarified teachers, a challenging force of nature in an environment where many are simply encouraged to simply just pass a test.  Once I had the great fortune and honor of being her date to a wedding. This wasn’t just any wedding. This was a celebration of nuptials between two former student of hers, students she had not taught in many years. Yet they felt so strongly about her they kept in contact with her. She was the only educator invited from the entire school. Think about that.
I once heard that we can easily name five adult figures, usually teachers, who had a positive impact in our lives, rattling those names off, rapid fire, where we would struggle to name five politicians as quickly. That says a lot about what it means to be a teacher.

Take the opportunity to appreciate what it means to be a teacher. If you have children and you send them to school, think about the tremendous outpouring and sacrifice teachers make with the single, simple focus of creating and molding a better person. We trust our educators to make the right choices, choices guided by integrity, and driven by character. If you are lucky enough, your kid, or you, have a teacher who are selfless and generous, and care enough to make a difference.
If you are a college student, or if you are signed up for continued education and learning through your place of employment, approach it as an opportunity. Your teacher, professor, or facilitator has already invested in you before you even begin your first assignment. Approach it as a chance to expand the boundaries of what you’re capable of as you add new tools to your tool kit. (As an adult learner, If you cannot do any of that, do everyone else who is in that learning environment a favor by leaving, or simply not attending in the first place). Everyone makes sacrifices by being there.

Be grateful for the teachers that care enough for your children to actually want to make a difference, hopefully as you were grateful and fortunate enough for the teachers that cared enough to make a difference in you. If you’re still in school and looking forward to your summer break, be sure to thank your teacher and professor. Maybe you can get them a gift card or take them out to lunch.  Trust me, they appreciate these gestures. Know that while you’re off enjoying your summer, they may very well be busy teaching, or beginning the very early prep work for the fall.  Being a teacher is in some ways the same as being a stay at home parent. It doesn’t typically pay very well, but it rewards in ways that are enduring for all involved. Remember your teachers who believed in you. Because they have likely helped you to discover the best version of yourself as well.

Observations

May 1, 2019

An interesting series of things happened the other morning that cause me to elevate the mental acuity of my youngest yet again.
Already slightly exasperated because she forgot her book bag, I’m listening to her from the back seat engage in this long ball of yarn treatise on things that disappoint her, things that ran the gamut from shoes to the colors I liked and  how they were different from the colors she liked. Then, out of nowhere, she looks over and sees a dog in the back seat of the vehicle besides us. The first thing she says is, “Oh look, it’s a cute little puppy.”

It really wasn’t a puppy, but it’s a thing that we do and she has picked it up. Doesn’t matter how big or small or old the animal is, they’re still a puppy. Anyway, she looked at him and made that comment And then without missing a beat she said, “well, I hope he’s wearing a seatbelt.”  At the intersection I pull up just so she could see the puppy and we both look over at the same time and before I could say a word, Addison Rose at the top of her lungs yells, “oh my gosh! Hey! Put down your damn phone”  because the driver of the vehicle was on his phone.

First of all, full marks to the kid for being so safety-conscious. Second of all, full marks for using all of her words in that sentence correctly and in context. Now I could tell looking at the dings and bumps on this guy’s Cadillac that he probably wasn’t the best driver, and according to one nice big white scrape on his wheel well he probably tried to hug a wall or a parking pole too close for comfort and the wall was having none of it.

But her sheer Brilliance and understanding of what the guy was doing and recognizing that he wasn’t being safe was a thing to behold.
Luckily for the operator of the Cadillac, Addison’s voice carries. So he heard her and rolled down the window all the way. “Excuse me?” He asked the question more perturbed than indignantly. Before I could say a word Addison Rose said, “put down your phone!” And he looked at me and shook his head as he said, “your kid should mind her own business.”

I couldn’t help myself or stop the words that came out of my mouth as I said, “Maybe that’s why you have a dog instead of a kid, but it’s pretty bad when a five-year-old has more common sense than you. Maybe you should take the bus.” To which Addison said “yeah!”

Well, the fella told me I was number one but he used his middle finger to do so as he rolled up his window. He continued playing with his phone, probably updating his social media status, likely not to reflect that he had just been schooled by a 5 year old. Addison turned her attention to the dog in the back seat and just kept talking to him even though the window was up, just cooing over and over again about the cute  puppy.
So, that’s what life with Addison Rose looks like.  Don’t even get her started on not using your turn signal indicator.
On a more serious note, more serious than all of this, think about your actions and the examples they set as well as how much common sense is going into your decision making process. this isn’t just about driving, it’s about life in general.
Don’t be afraid to exercise common sense And make the right choices.  There’s nothing wrong with being a good example, just like there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
If a five-year-old can figure that out some of the time, then we’re simply making the  process too difficult for ourselves.

Why Being Authentic Matters

March 29, 2019

I’m currently on a ride and drive tour. I have learned a few interesting things during this tour. I continue to learn. I learned being authentic matters more than it ever has.

I learned courtesy, capacity, patience, and awareness. Above all else, I’ve grown to truly appreciate character and integrity.

With courtesy, I simply reinforced something that I’ve known, which is to be nice to everyone, even those who can’t be nice to anyone. And the reason why is because once in a while those people come around. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, you know you’ve left your mark.

Capacity. I learn to show up prepared to give 100% every single day. Sometimes that means creating a shield to protect yourself from the negativity. All you have to do is create a shield where your energy flows out but theirs does not flow in.

Patience. It’s a dangerous presumption that because you value your time and everyone else’s, that they will reciprocate. It’s a dangerous assumption to believe people will do what you ask them to in a teaching, training, or facilitation setting. Be patient and set limits, and for those who don’t want to come along, move the rest of the group forward and they will either catch up or be left behind. It is the 10-80-10 rule. Don’t waste your time on that 10%. There’s never a positive return. Not ever.

Awareness. Be aware that some people are going to come in and troll whatever experience it is you’re creating. They will bait you, either with talk of religion or politics, or simply by being demeaning to you and everyone around them. They will be course, they will be knuckle draggers, and they will know little of civility.
Be aware how you enter,  start, end and leave. Leave The space on a high point. What the individuals do with that is their business. But you don’t want to give them a reason to trash you. Those who will are likely to do so without a reason. Those who want are likely to extol the virtues of your ability, your skill, and your engagement. Leave them grateful for the experience.

Character and Integrity. Everyone has an idea of the latter. A colleague on a set once deliveried the perfect definition of Character. She said, “character is defined as making the right decision when the choice isn’t obvious.”

So, the next time you have a class, session, seminar, or event, be authentic, be energetic, and serve the people you are there to teach and train. The good ones will get it. They’ll feel your authenticity, and they will carry your message forward.

That is grace and elegance, and what truly matters.

The Kindness of Strangers

March 7, 2019
Very early in my film and television career I was told by a friend with far more experience than I had to “be nice to everyone on the way up because you’ll see them again on the way down.”
It is always far easier to judge than to take a moment and arrive at a conclusion. By judging, we quickly assess and ascertain, we file and categorize, and then we move on. By doing so we miss out.
I’m reminded of a trip I made to Key West with an old friend. Towards the end of the day we wound up at Mallory Square, where we met a fellow who went by the simple moniker Pirate Tom. He was a guy with an old dog, a beat-up guitar, and not much else. But man could that fella tell a story. He was genuinely happy or at least took great pains to make us believe so. We spent several hours with him, hanging out and talking to him. Wound up getting him a couple of beers, and considering the experience, I think we got away cheaply.
I’m currently on the road. Will be for the next month and a half or so. Part of the new promotional team introducing a brand new automobile to Market. It’s been a lot of fun, being able to utilize my facilitation and content delivery skills in such a varied and often challenging environment to a range of individuals who run the gamut from enaged and caring to completely disconnected, disrespectful, and diseased.
Think about it. We show up to a dealership and ask for these people to give us several hours of their time so we can review content with them and help them understand the vehicle better so that they can then approach customers and clientele appropriately. The response we got really did span the Spectrum from gratitude and warmth to disrespectful crabbiness and colorful commentary. We got all sorts of questions from those who have a genuine interest in learning to those who simply asked when they could get some damn cars to sell.
We show up as strangers and leave sometimes optimistic that we’ve set a group of people up for success, and other times less than hopeful.
Today was one of those days right down the middle. At the end of the day I headed down the road to my next destination and checked in to my next hotel. I’ve become quite The Connoisseur of what should and should not be in a hotel room.
Crossing the threshold into the elevator with my carry-on behind me I turned to hit the button to go to my floor and the key fob from the vehicle I’m driving slips out of my hand, bounces on the floor before taking a well-aimed dive into that space between the elevator itself and the elevator threshold. I watched it disappear and could only imagine what kind of trouble it was going to be to bring out a certified elevator technician to come out, lock down the elevator, raise it and climb down into the pit to retrieve the stupid key fob for the hapless and clumsy human. Thankfully one of the hotel staff saw me looking stupidly at the elevator floor. Once I told her what happened, she tracked down the hotel’s maintenance individual. A few minutes later Miguel showed up, grabbed a flashlight, and shined it down into the dark abyss. Eight or so feet down was the key fob boldly taunting and staring back up at us. He told me he could get it and disappeared before I could react. I quickly followed behind him as he went to a large space that had become a sort of catch-all closet for everyone support-staff related. There he grabbed a very large piece of metal trim, and a magnet.  He went back to try his magic, and it worked up until it got to the bottom of the elevator where the fob forced the magnet to release its steely grip and freefell back to the floor.
Miguel disappeared again, this time returning with a coffee hook affixed to the end of the flat length of metal. In his first attempt he hooked the key ring and very slowly started to pull it up. Before you knew it he handed me the key fob and suggested I keep it in my pocket.
I know too many people who would have turned the other way. I’ve seen too many instances where individuals have all but said ‘it sucks to be you’. I found out from the front desk manager that this is simply the kind of person Miguel is. He doesn’t know what the word no means. Reminds me a lot of Leon, a gentle soul very much like a brother to me.
I asked for Miguel to be called to the front desk. And there I gave him a tip. At first he would not take it, and then I insisted if he wouldn’t use it for him maybe he could buy someone dinner or get something for a grandkid. After much protest, he accepted the money. I think even my abundance of gratitude may have been too much for him because he disappeared before I could thank him again.
What’s the moral of the story? Forgo fumbling with a fob? Take the stairs?
Be grateful for the kindness of strangers. They may happen to be your salvation and your sanity when you least expect it.

Life With Epiphanies

July 14, 2018

While the title suggest time spent with a Greek philosopher, it truly is about that elusive boon: the Epiphany. Epiphanies are an interesting thing. For most of us they typically show up after the event or cycle of action, causing us somehow to adjust our perspective, if we’re paying attention.

Lost a night of sleep this week standing Sentinel over my youngest daughter’s 102.6 fever. Lost another night of sleep when I had to bury our dog at 3:30 in the morning, digging a hole to lay to rest the body of a creature we loved unconditionally. His passing has cast a dark Pall over the household, and a grieving aching sadness I couldn’t have possibly imagined. If those two things in a seven day period are not enough, my full-time employment came to an end.

That is a busy f****** week I don’t wish on my enemies.

I’ve learned a lot and had several epiphanies during my full-time gig.

I learned if you are not creating happiness at home and with those you love, it means little that you’re creating happiness anywhere else.

I learned I am not good at hiding my frustration. I learned I am pretty good at stepping on toes, sometimes upsetting people and bruising egos.

I learned I’m a failure when it comes to putting up with BS.

I learned it is not only important, it is necessary to have people in your corner.

I also learned I am still as passionate an advocate as I have ever been for the operation, the right people, and the right reasons. While I still believe more than ever that one should bloom where planted, do everything in your power to make sure the soil is firm and nutrient-rich, and you are surrounded by others that will help you shine and grow, and not be buried in the weeds.

I learned I loved that dog more than I could possibly have imagined. I discovered how much I missed the click click click of his toenails across the wooden floor. All the things I found annoying, like him jumping up on the couch and trying to nest through the leather, are things I would happily sacrifice just about anything to hear that sound and see the event one more time. He was the most food motivated creature I have ever known in my life, and that’s even considering me, who likes a good Buffet. Whenever anything dropped on the floor, which was a regular occurrence, all someone would have to say was “Uh oh Bucks,” and wherever he was even if he was in a deep REM-induced sleep, you would hear that tap tap tap of paws and claws as he would come to the kitchen. He often made it unnecessary to keep a broom and dustpan nearby.

Huckleberry didn’t have issues, he had subscriptions. To my account, he bit me four times. There is a permanent laminated sign with each of the dogs in the household. Next to his picture it says, “I look as sweet as an angel but I will bite. No matter what I do, whether I jump on you or wag my tail, don’t fall for it.” He couldn’t help it. Every time you did me, he would cry the most mournful cry, the saddest thing you ever heard come from a dog. It was as if he was being remorseful. He had been severely abused. That’s another conversation all together, but suffice it to say, Dante carved out of special ring for anyone who sees fit to abuse an animal. That is not your place or purpose in the world.

I was irritated and frustrated by all the puddles I had to clean up. I was certain it was my Orange Grove dog, who I’d literally found dying in an Orange Grove. With Huckleberry gone, so to have disappeared the never-ending scattering of those pools of various sizes. Was it possible I had been blaming the wrong dog? Yes it was. As a friend once remarked, “Huckleberry was the sweetest dog I never did pet.” If you did find yourself fortunate to hold and cuddle him, which happened every time there was a harmonic convergence of the planets, you would discover his fur smelled like hay, a pleasant smell indeed.

The vacuum is vast for space that had once been filled by 14 lbs of lovable sausage with legs. To quote Gibran, “Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

I learned a lot in a week. Above All Else, I reaffirmed my priorities.

I learned there’s no time like the present to show those you love whether they have two legs or four legs how much their presence in your life means to you. I learned that the same mindset holds true when you run a multi-tiered operation. I learned that no matter where you are and what you are doing, partnership makes the difference.

Most importantly, I’m reminded of something my neighbor once said. I once shared with him the crazy hours of my schedule and the fact that sometimes a day or two would go by and I’d only get a glimpse of my family.

He said, “Nobody ever gets to the end of their life and says, ‘I wish I would have worked more’.” That’s a wise man indeed.

I haven’t yet found anything I can’t do, but I’ve discovered a few things I won’t do. Sacrificing time with the people who matter most is one of them.

If you are not taking advantage of the time you have with your friends and family, whether they have two legs or four, you might consider adjusting your priorities.

Remember the parable about the two wolves? This Epiphany is all about feeding the right one, while taking care of both of them.

No matter what you do with it, ultimately your time is your own.

My daughter is better, my dog has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and now it’s more important than ever to look forward.

 

Death of a Popular Poet

November 15, 2017

Working as an MBA candidate comes with a remarkable series of challenges and responsibilities. Most recently, one of my professors, who clearly was passionate about motivating his students, shared some deep and meaningful insights. He sent me an email in reply to mine in which he shared with me that the pessimist states death and taxes are the only two immovable objects that are a guaranteed certainty.
He then went on to share with me an optimist looks at change and time as certainties. I think he wanted to make certain that I understood the depth and value of both, and that how we launch our perception impacts the way we look at the world.

Yet my perception of the world has recently become a little hazy. Recently I have been forced to reckon with the mortal enemy that is death. In the past two weeks I have had to say goodbye to two people. The first one had given up a long time ago and tip what some might say was a brave choice and taking his own life. But the other, well he was a fighter. But even his optimism was not enough to Conquer Cancer.
Let me tell you a little bit about AJ.
I first met AJ years ago when I showed up for an interview on a radio show that he was one part of a partnership. He and Ernie, a mutual friend, invited me to come talk about a book that had just been released titled Confessions of a Transylvanian. This book, written by an old and dear friend and myself, detailed the experience of being part of a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast.
The very first thing I noticed about AJ was his energy. He possessed this smile and a genuine eagerness to laugh and share.
We laughed a lot during that interview and at the end of that hour I knew I had made another friend.
But it wasn’t until I started working at Epcot with the entertainment team that he and I really started to connect. Everywhere I would have to track him down he was always on the go, eager to chat.

It was during one of these conversations that we both discovered one of our most favorite mutually appreciated holidays, Halloween, offered us no shortage of creative Outlets. I shared with him some of the things I had done when I designed haunted houses, many decidedly low, low Tech, and he shared with me Cutting Edge high-tech things that were either of his creation or off the shelf.
We talked repeatedly about combining forces to create a haunted experience like no other on a ranch for another mutual friend, Dave.

And when, in the process of producing a fairly sizable event, it came time for a DJ, I asked him for recommendations. Instead of a recommendation he suggested he do it.
I learned about AJ that almost like a good book, every few pages there was some new and incredible facet or skill he possessed. I was always learning something new with him.
At the event venue, we took the elevator. He gestured to the walls and said “velvet. ”
He sounded like an old crotchety guy, commenting on the quality of an inferior product. And the two times we were there, for the tech scout and the event, every damn time we rode the elevator, we’d both say, “velvet.” After a while we’d just randomly say “it’s velvet,” and it carried to EPCOT where it stood proxy for a normal greeting.
But that made sense. AJ was not normal. He transcended it.
He was a class all his own, always a pleasure to be around.

I used to bleed alone, keeping my grief and pain to myself. That ended the day I lost my brother, five years ago, and was clear and present when I lost my dad a year ago.
With AJ I have no regrets. I had the good fortune of seeing him damn near every day that I was at work, if you could call what we did work. And he always had time for me and I always made time for him and I am glad for that. Because I have regrets when it comes to my brother and I have regrets when it comes to my dad.
Maybe that’s the thing to take stock of now. If there someone in your life you’ve been meaning to reach out to, don’t wait. Regret is a deceptively heavy burden to shoulder.

I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to catch my breath.
It is a callous thing to say, but I can think of a few people who are probably past their expiration date on planet Earth.
AJ was not one of them. He was one heck of an individual with a lot of light, love, and life still to give.
The world is little quieter today.

Anxiety…Can You Feel It?

October 24, 2017
Anxiety.

Anxiety should be called the Beast of No Name, or the lost ancient language from the Tower of Babel. Finding the words to express the frustration, or an event, situation or feeling can be so difficult that there are no words. Internalize the feeling and sensation of extraordinary pain and you find yourself exhausting your energy and resources maintaining a facade for the world around you.
This naturally becomes very taxing and ultimately those closest to you see through it and yet, if you are as stubborn as I am, you still insist on saying nothing.

I Prevail alone. At least I believe I do.

I also bleed alone. That was something my brother observed and pointed out years ago. Another way he and I were so much alike. We tended to keep our injuries, our sufferings, and our pains to  ourselves.
I was in a car accident a year-and-a-half ago. A young mother of two at a stop sign, distracted either by her two boys in the back seat or an electronic device, pulled away from the stop sign and hit me on my driver side of my vehicle.
In the days that followed, the pain started to come to my wrist and my shoulder and a couple of other places.
Having decided that no severe or Serious injury had occurred, the young mother texted me and offered me $200 if we just dealt with it ourselves. I declined. Didn’t feel right.
Over the course of the past year-and-a-half the pain in my shoulder Amplified. It was so bad at times it was impossible to work through. There was also radiating, searing pain in my upper bicep on the same arm.
But I never let anyone know.
I exhausted all options. I initially started physical therapy under the direction of a doctor. It wasn’t helping. They sent me for an MRI which showed some damage. Amother series of physical therapy sessions. The effect was palliative at best. Less than an hour after each session, the pain came back.
I received a cortisone shot and then another and then another. I tried acupuncture and Chiropractic work. I am more of a believer of the first than the second. But neither had lasting effects.
After a year-and-a-half I decided surgery was the only option.
The procedure lasted 2 hours.
After I came out of the OR, the doctor shared the work he had done on my shoulder with my caregivers.
He explained to me during our pre-surgery meeting something he had said before, which is an MRI offers a surface and somewhat detailed, yet not complete, picture. Once inside my shoulder he discovered one of my bicep tendons that anchor to the shoulder was torn too severely to repair. This on top of the ligament, cartilage, and bone damage.
The anesthesiologist came to talk to me, pre-surgery, and told me they were going to administer something called a nerve block and the side effect was I would feel absolutely nothing from my shoulder down to about midway passed my elbow to around my forearm. Sometimes the nerve block is so effective the entire area is rendered useless.
Welcome to my world.
In this case that entire area is my shoulder to my fingers.
I expected, post-surgery, to be calm and in that drug-induced haze one experiences emerging from anesthesia. I expected I would get home and climb into bed, and sleep blissfully.
Over the next few hours following surgery I became extremely anxious and frustrated that my left arm basically hung like some dismembered appendage in a haunted house.
I became angry and impatient, irritated with everyone and everything. I was miserable to be around.
I realized I  had become so anxiety ridden and frustrated that I was taking it out on everyone.
Not having any control over my arm is a kind of frustration that I have never experienced before. It’s in a sling looking to escape. And thanks to gravity, it does so effortlessly every time I get out of bed. And that happens currently every 2 hours because they pumped me with so much Saline that every visit to the bathroom is just like the first visit at a bladder bust, you know, where the bar will lock the bathroom doors and tap kegs, and the beer is free until someone has to go to the bathroom. In such a case people wait as long as they can. I’ve heard some people hold off going until they are in extreme abdominal pain. That’s not me. Undaunted, I get woken up by my bladder every 2 hours because it feels like a fluid-filled basketball. The first few trips I needed help. I needed help getting out of bed, walking to the bathroom, opening the door…and it was an especially interesting time dealing with an elastic waistband, to which I’ll spare you any other  TMI details but know I was on The Struggle Bus.
I can walk to the bathroom by myself now.  It’s the little victories. But 16 hours after surgery I still feel like I have a zombie cadaver’s arm attached from the elbow down.
As I mentioned, this arm slips out of the sling as I get out of bed and in one solid fluid motion drops to whack me in the groin with every step. I imagine the feeling is like strapping a cricket bat to your waist as you walk through town for your brisk morning constitutional.
I’ve gotten better at repositioning this arm and getting it back into the sling. But at first, I was wholly dependent on everyone around me, including my beautiful wife and daughter. And I would watch as they would gently and gingerly place my arm back in the sling. And then it would be somewhat manhandled so the strap that went across my back was properly readjusted.
Not feeling or having control of my left arm from the shoulder down is the most disconcerting, frustrating, and anxiety provoking sensation I’ve experienced during the process. Forget for a moment the fact I am left-handed. Not being able to do anything with my left arm is frustrating beyond words. Living, even temporarily, as an honorary member of the right-handed world, every single action is deliberate. So far I have managed to get ice and water, fix coffee, and accomplished the challenging task of hanging address shirt on a hanger and buttoning it with one hand. It’s the little things, right?
I was a wreck in the months leading up to the surgery. And a lot of those around me and close to me knew. The day before the surgery I called my mom and spoke to her for 45 minutes. See, with her degrees and certifications, she knows a thing or two about the human mind and internal conflict (she says, tongue in cheek, she helps keep mountain folk’s heads screwed on straight. Does the same for her family too, I suppose). Before the accident this shoulder was in Prime condition. In my career profession I had sustained injuries, but never to this area.
I’m told this sensation of no control over my arm usually last no longer than 12 to 18 hours.
It’s been over 16 hours and the only thing I feel is a heavy-weighted numbness, with an undercurrent of tingling.
I still bleed alone with a lot of things. In doing that, I’ve discovered I am hurting those I love which in turn hurts me.
I’m learning a lot about anxiety. I’m learning a lot about frustration.
And I am learning in discovering that those near me that love me,  love me more when I open up about these things.
I’m always going to bleed alone with certain things, but for sanity sake it makes sense to share these things with the people around you, the people who are here for you, the people who love you and who want to help. And all they’re waiting for is for us to speak up.
The key is our words. I’m discovering those who want to help are right there on the other side of the door, ready, willing, and able in most cases.
Meditation also helps. I need to get back to finding that place of peace and calm Within me. With the world beyond my control seeming to spiral out of control, seems to me it’s up to each of us to make our local universe a better place for everyone living in it and stopping through.
Hey! Just this very moment I almost moved my pinky. It’s the little things.

I got it better than most. Things are looking up. I just have to learn, like we all have to learn, there’s no crime or shame in reaching out to others when we need help.

There is always strength in numbers.

Speaking Well of Others Speaks Well of Ourselves

June 17, 2017
Be careful how you speak of others.
That sounds like the start of a stern lecture, so let me word that another way. Take care to think through what you say when you speak of others.
It doesn’t matter whether they are living or dead. The more negatively you speak of others, the more negative the reflection on you.
This stuff is called dirt for a reason.
I’ve always marveled at the interest of others have of drama not on the stage. Soap Operas, Reality TV, and a host of other things suck people in. This in addition to the drama we find ourselves facing on a daily basis. Speaking poorly of others only feeds that beast. How much is enough?
If you wish to speak of someone in a way that might warn others about their behavior, then consider the trust but verify approach. It carries more weight than muckraking.  An example I’ll share involves a referral. I was asked by a stunt coordinator about an individual she wanted to hire. The stunt side of the Film and Live Show entertainment business is different from the acting side. Where actors have to audition, stunt performers typically get their work through relationships and referrals. I was honest with her. I told her this particular performer had presented performance challenges on a previous project, and that I had to chase her for several weeks to get her info for a production I was coordinating, which ultimately opted not to hire her. It would have been easy to say, “the kid is lazy, immature, and unreliable” but there was a better way.
Find the better way.
A word when spoken is a bird taking wing for flight forever. The things you say you cannot undo, you cannot change, and you cannot take back.
This past week found me remembering my brother’s birthday, gone five years, and marking the passing of two people close to me. That qualifies as a pretty crappy trifecta in my book.
Neither who jumped ship this week was perfect, but both were worthy of stories that make us smile. In the one case, an old friend from my Rocky Horror days in the 80’s (and part of the then-famous Wild and Untamed Things) passed away after a lengthy battle with mental and physical health issues. At the memorial, my dear friend Jack and I both determined that stories to make people laugh was the order of the day. The Matriarch from my mother’s side of the family also shuffled her mortal coil. Her story to share (since I was and am still not ready to grieve openly) involved her walking up besides me, in the midst of a group of people we both knew, and rubbed my belly…as she looked at me and said, “Say it, honey. Lower and faster.” and then she walked away, laughing hysterically. In a rare case, I was left speechless.

When we are saddened by loss, someone more callous might observe and say, “boo hoo, people die.” That is not in the least bit mature, and we should not be those people. Nor should we pay any attention to those who demonstrate such ignorant temerity.

Speak well of others, living or dead, no matter how much the temptation to do otherwise. It’s better to be the better person than to live with regret because you said something in haste. Similarly, look for every opportunity to speak well and positively of those you know and those you love. Finding and extolling the good in others brings out the good in ourselves.
That’s how we should immortalize others; this, no doubt, is how we ourselves would want to be remembered.
Speaking of remembering, remember to call someone you love and remind them of how important they are to you.
Do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.