For those keeping score at home, its been almost fifteen weeks since my last blog and perhaps a year since my last awesome blog. It was during my studies at Hallmark Institute Of Photography in the fall of 1983 where I learned two valuable lessons that remain front of mind and still serve me well. They were:
Fake It Till You Make It
Only Show Your Best Work
Whether as a young and nervous photographer in a dark portrait studio, or walking into an adversarial customers’ conference room working for 3M, both of those statements served me exceedingly well throughout the years. Whether with a camera in my hand or a laptop, I reminded myself that I was most often the subject matter expert in the room. While my sense is that right now, I’m not able to create the same witty stories that flowed so easily a year ago…I certainly can articulate thanks to some people. Thanks David and Greg, for teaching me so much about the water filtration industry and allowing me to be comfortable not being the smartest guy in those rooms. Believing that Garbage In equals Garbage Out, I strove relentlessly to acquire and validate accurate information. John, I remembered the unbridled glee I felt the afternoon you taught me the ease and immense power of pivot tables. I knew that if I had passion and irrefutable facts on my side that I would be successful in most endeavors. As my early retirement approached, a reoccurring concept kept poking at me, but I’ve still not been able to identify it with pinpoint accuracy.
Fortunate? Blessed? Made My Own Breaks? Skill? Dumb Luck? Well Planned? Preparation Met Opportunity?
While I’ve thought about this subject a lot over the past few years, not one single term fully covers how I feel. So, in the absence of a perfect descriptor, I’d like to thank some of the people that have provided long-lasting impressions on me during these past few years. I hope to secure a final definition on what I’m truly feeling in that regard, but at this point I just don’t know what to call it.
The last fun thing that I did before my septic shock crash was walking a few hundred yards to hear The Status Crows concert at our RV party in the desert. Lynn was already there and I could only stay for a half hour due to my fever. The last song I heard was Michelle singing Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. Sick as a dog, I walked alone back to the rig, having no idea what craziness was about to ensue. Six days later, while still struggling to get my blood oxygen levels to an acceptable level so I could leave the dump…I mean hospital, we had to move our motor home from the Lake Havasu rodeo grounds. Michelle and Chuck, fellow RV’ers and the duo that are The Status Crowes musical group, offered to help Lynn. Michelle drove our 43 foot rig through town and to a new campground. Lynn and I will never forget your assistance when we so desperately needed it.
Another early 2020 Thank-You is to Carole and Scott, a full time RV couple. In addition to helping us drink the Xscapers “Kool-Aid”, as soon as they heard that I was in the hospital, they literally packed up their house on wheels and drove it to the hospital in order to offer assistance to Lynn.
Fast forward to about Day 4 in the hospital and I’m recovering from septic shock and at wits end due to the largely ambivalent attitudes of staff at at Havasu Regional Hospital, a place I hope to never to return. In a barely-controlled rage, I asked for a supervisor. What I got instead was Liz, tattooed and stunning and an absolute angel of a nurse. If I’d not been so deliriously sick, I’d have spontaneously blushed myself into a fever. She explained that she was not a manager, but confidently assured me that for the next twelve hours, my care would be absolutely perfect. Liz left upon me an ineligible impression at a time that I so needed a helping hand, even though that helping hand accidentally whacked me in the nuts with an IV line on my last night in that dump of a hospital.
A few weeks after discharge from the hospital, a Fulltime RV’er named Kirsty just out-of-the-blue gave Lynn and I an amazing Orvis fly fishing rod / reel combo and ladies waders. I was speechless when it happened and her gesture inspired me to make multiple gifts to people this year. When I gave our video game console to Austin, a kid in a campground, or run outside to give bottled water to lawn care people or gave a cool watch to Sean in Michigan, I think of how special Kirsty’s gift made me feel.
Not too long after I left the hospital, I was thankful to receive the gift of Loretta’s Hearts, a book of photographs from Karen, my grade school friend and (now she knows) first childhood crush. As a tribute to her mother, Karen captures naturally-occurring hearts that she finds in nature. The timing of this wonderful gift / book could not have been better, Karen.
Bob, Stephanie, Lysle, Bryan, Wayne, Elizabeth, Karen, Steve, Larry, Wendy, Tammy, Lee, Joanne and Karl – thanks for being great friends and maximizing our Summertime in Northern Michigan. I was clearly off my game this Summer, but your camaraderie, campfire songs, counsel and cocktails were so beneficial.
Mark and Caroline, thanks for supporting my old 3M customers and expanding their businesses in ways that my weary self did not. You guys staying in touch with me after working for a company where it’s very hard to make a difference is wonderful! Lance, while I so wish that you could have been my official boss, your guidance then and now is something I listen to and take to heart. Even that “look at people with the best possible interpretation” silliness :). I’m now fishing, flying a drone, building bluebird birdhouses – thanks in part to your insightful insistence that indeed, I need some hobbies.
Sherri, while I was there at the CHS airport to support you in your battle with cancer, the hug we shared was the most meaningful one to me this year.
Todd, Thank you for your Patience, Respect and Hopefulness...and a Philly ace up your sleeve. What a long, strange trip its been.
Greg & Denise…Jim & Holly, thanks for being our friends, despite the challenges of virology and politics.
Lynn, thanks for being supportive and by my side, whether unconscious in an ambulance, dancing drunk in the desert night, marooned in an Indiana parking lot eating Amish Crack or masking up for a mystery ride somewhere fun.
Mom & Dad, thanks for listening to and helping me through some especially difficult stuff this year and we’ve certainly grown closer as a result. (Hell of a way to get closer, huh?)
Last, but most important – thanks to Christina, my psychologist. I’ve been doggedly skeptical my entire life about mental health issues and “professional” diagnoses. I’ve been the guy whose dial was set too high, so finding myself in a dark place was something I never imagined. You helped me to sit with and accept the discomfort and remember that I’m OK and that things won’t be like this forever. With a single question you showed me that the world was round – not flat. To say it any other way would demean the magnitude of what that one question accomplished. The understatement of my year was hearing you say, “Yes, it’ll get better. But it’s going to get worse first.” It did…and it did. While Blue Cross may pay you…I can never properly repay you for showing me that the body does keeps score and (grudgingly) opening my mind to the power and benefits of mindfulness. This perpetual Doubting Thomas sees more clearly now thanks to you.
I’m very thankful to be fifty seven years old, debt free and exploring the country with Lynn, well on my way to feeling OK again. Perhaps I’ll figure out a new-me, rather than just going back to the old-me. One of these days, I’ll start writing again about driving through tunnels, meeting strangers, old road-warrior hi-jinx and visiting Worlds Largest Balls of Twine. Not today, but hey – it’s Thanksgiving….So thanks to all for hanging in there with me.