My Bad

I apologize in advance for picking on my liberal friends a little bit. It seems that despite my best efforts, all of the election year blabber is starting to get to me.

The feedback from my post a couple of weeks ago is that it was sad. My mood is always a bit dark immediately following a chemo cycle, and apparently that came through in the post. For as long as I’ve been writing this blog (5+ years) the content has been little more than me jotting down my inner dialogue. In this case, perhaps I shared a bit too much. It was not my intent to make anyone sad – my bad. I try to remind myself that as tough as this situation is for me, it’s arguably tougher for you. I’ve been fortunate that no one really close to me has died (except Baba, but she was in her 90’s)- but I suspect that watching a loved one die is tough. It’s out of your control and painful. When the deed is done, however, I won’t be around to deal with it- you will. One of my goals has been to make things as easy as possible for everyone. That should include not writing sad, woe-is-me posts. The flip side is that I love ya’ll and want to be as honest as I can about my experience as it may help you in some way as you deal with your own lives.

In that post I noted that life is not fair. This is certainly true; fairness is a human construct that doesn’t occur naturally in the “real world”. We usually wheel this phrase out when describing something bad that’s happened. In truth, the statement is value neutral, it applies as much to good fortune as it does to bad. When an otherwise healthy and athletic forty-three year gets a rare form of cancer, that is certainly bad luck. Fortunately, however, that’s not the only luck I’ve had.

At birth, I won the lottery. I was born at a great time in human history, in the greatest country the world has seen to this point. I was born to a married couple that wanted me. While not wealthy by American standards, from a global perspective we were. As with the overwhelming majority of my contemporaries in America, running water, electricity and public infrastructure were readily available. My Alabama public school education, while poor from a national standpoint, was still far superior to what most people on the planet received. From a genetic standpoint I became a handsome, athletic, relatively tall, blue-eyed, male – things that were mostly considered to be physical attributes in our society (although, some of those “attributes” have come under fire recently).

Good luck would peek in on me from time to time throughout the rest of my life. It’s luck that I met my friends over the years. Luck that in was in a specific time and place to meet my wife. Luck that it was relatively easy for us to conceive children. Luck that those children were born healthy (and handsome, and athletic, and tall, and blue-eyed, and male). (Whether that is good luck is a matter of perspective. I suspect that in their lifetimes the libs will make them pay (literally) for those sins. As the good book says, however, we must render unto Caesar what is Caesars.)

While I benefitted from a healthy dose of luck, as Ralph Engelstad, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Goldwyn, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Kettering, Stephen Leacock, Ron Harper, Michael Jordan once said “the harder I work the luckier I get”. I worked hard in public schools to get accepted to a public university. I used a combination of  hard work (and student loans) to make my way through that- were it not for that hard work I would not have met my friends in New Mexico. By doing well at UNM I was able to make it to another public institution for graduate school. Once again I used a combination of work (and loans)  to make my way through- putting myself in a position to make friends in Auburn. That work then put me in a position to get my first job in Chattanooga. Working hard at that job while making prudent financial choices put me in a position to start my own business. Working hard to make my business a success (in addition to my wife’s hard work at her job) then opened up a variety of other opportunities for the family. If there is something I want my boys to take from this, it’s that hard work plays a bigger part in success than luck. It's also the most important part because it's the only thing you can control. You have no control over the situation into which you were born, and you often have no control over the good and bad breaks life gives you. Despite what others may believe, no one actually gives you anything simply because you are tall or handsome or blue-eyed. I digress..

As for the dark side of luck, I’ll skip the petty stuff and jump right to the matter at hand. For an otherwise healthy and athletic Caucasian male to develop gall bladder cancer is simply bad luck. To begin with, it’s a very rare cancer for anyone. Those who do get it generally live in South America, Eastern Europe, or Central Asia. Women are more than twice as likely to get it as men. It's most commonly found in those who are in their seventies or eighties. It also tends to occur in people who are obese. The cancer wasn’t caused by smoking, bad eating habits, lack of exercise, or any other poor life choice. That this would become my doom is highly unlikely, but here we are- it’s simply bad luck.

This brings us back to the point. There is no making sense of this. There is no order or reason. Life isn’t fair. On the balance of things, I have crafted a wonderful life for myself. Having been aware for some time of just how lucky I am, I’ve appreciated my good fortune at every step, and squeezed every drop of fun out of it. Looking back at all of the great experiences I’ve had, all of the great relationships I’ve developed, and all of the love I’ve experienced, I can honestly say that I’ve made my peace with checking out early. I’ve lived a great life, and while I missed a few opportunities here and there, I’ve done a lot, achieved a lot, and experienced a lot. I’m good with it.

I’ve done a great job of building up this argument and using it to cheer/psyche myself up. As far it pertains to me, I totally believe in this idea. However, the construct abruptly and spectacularly crumbles when I think about having to leave my children behind. There is no silver lining there, nothing good about it- no luck. Life is not fair.

A parting shot- I'm in the process of taking care of "final plans". One of those plans is for my memorial service. I am contemplating having an "open mic" portion of the program to give people an opportunity to share a memory of me- this is largely for my boy's sake. I have two fears about this: 1) that no one will say anything and it will be awkward for everyone, and 2) that some will convey wildly inappropriate stories (you know who you are). There isn't much I can do about 2 (other than to ask you not to be an ass), but I can at least give you a heads up to start thinking about a good (and concise) story that people might like to hear. Have at it.

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