Them Babies Gonna Kill My Swag

Them Babies Gonna Kill My Swag
Bertie wants to be a jockey and kim waits for ...
Bertie wants to be a jockey and kim waits for the off! (Photo credit: mark lorch)

So I am finally 35 years old. There was no total eclipse of the sun to mark the occasion. No plague of locust materialized. The earth failed to tremble. The dead did not rise from their place of rest. So much dread leading up to that day, just for it to be just like any other Saturday.  I did run a bunch of errands that day. Had a small cookout in my yard with the wifey and some of her family. And I got to witness the sister-in-laws dog repeatedly sexually harass one of my friend’s dog. So all in all pretty uneventful day.

English: An anxious person
English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That got me thinking. So what am I supposed to spend my times worrying about now? I know that 25 year old’s get the quarter-life crisis. And 45 year old’s get the midlife crisis. So what do us 35 year old’s get to fret about? How come we don’t get a crisis geared toward us? How am I supposed to know what I am supposed to be afraid off, and anxious about, if it isn’t yet “a thing!”

jubesbebbeh_zps53f0d117I guess it is up to me to find the next great fear that will take up my valuable time, and I think I found just the thing. Cute, chubby, drooly, projectile vomiting, always pooping, babies. Babies, and what they represent scare the living bejeezus out of me. They also seem to be everywhere. All my friend seem to have one, if not two or three. A day does not go by in which the wifey comes home talking about some co worker getting pregnant, or having a baby. The never-ending, baby factory that is the wifey’s extended family, seems to be always be welcoming a new addition into the world. Even Jubilee, best known for being Wolverine’s quasi kid sidekick back in the 1990’s, just returned to the X-men family with a newborn baby in tow. The world has caught baby fever, and it scares me that maybe I am immune.

English: Gov. Schwarzenegger visits Old Town E...
English: Gov. Schwarzenegger visits Old Town Eureka to survey earthquake damage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There hasn’t been too many positive male role models in my life. As I mentioned in some of my previous post, my father and I didn’t exactly win father and son duo of the year. My grandfather was a kind man when sober, but when he was drunk, he enjoyed slapping my grandmother around a bit too much. My great-grandfather was some kind of orchestra leader back on the island. He was pretty well know for what I had been told. He had a wife and a family. He also had “a thing” for the help. Guess you can say he had Arnold Schwarzenegger problems. That is how my grandfather came about. I come from 3 generations of men with some serious father son issues. Men who at one point or another gave an oath and believed wholeheartedly that they were going to be nothing like their fathers. Each man failed in spectacular fashion.

Cover of "Robin Harris' Bebe's Kids"
Cover of Robin Harris’ Bebe’s Kids

I can’t help but wonder what kind of father I will turn out to be. I would like to think that I could be the open minded, nurturing father that sparks his kids imagination. Perhaps instill a love for sports, movies, comic books, and all the other geeky stuff that I gravitate too. Yet I also understand that each child is his or her own person. There is a chance that no matter how much I try, the kid would never love or care about any of the things I like. There is a chance that the kid could be born an asshole. Hey, hey, don’t judge me too harshly for saying that now. C’mon let’s be realistic here. We have all come across some bad ass Bebe’s kids before. Kid’s that have kind, nurturing parents, that provide them with all the food and shelter that a kid needs, and yet they still turn into tiny terrors. Kids that torture furry creatures, and hit everything and everyone without impunity. Kids whose sole purpose is to gestate enough criminal knowledge until they are old enough to partake in the american penal system.

stressed out parentsI’ve seen the bewildered, desperate faces of parents, who have had the life sucked out of them by their kids. I’ve had good friends with children, who have looked me in the eye, and have told me in no uncertain terms how miserable being a parent has made them. Sometimes I get the sense that folks romanticize the notion of having kids. Probably like poets, writers, filmmakers, and others romanticize war. The ideal falls way short of the brutal and soul crushing reality.

There is so much about being a parent that seems to be out of your hands. I don’t understand how parents don’t just spend their nights just looking up at the ceiling fretting about all the potential catastrophes that could potentially befall on their kids. I guess all you can do is go to your local witch doctor, sacrifice a chicken, light a candle to Ochún, the Santeria goddess of love,  pop those kids out, and hope that  the universe chooses not to screw you over.

Despite all that. I will confess that there is a part of me that would like to have a kid or two. For 35 years now I lived only to make me happy. I have had a very selfish life. A life that has been devoid of a lot of responsibility. I’ve done stupid things, and not really worried about the consequences because in the end, it would only affect me. Maybe it would affect the wifey too, but she is an adult. She has a strong and loving family to fall back on. She has a good safety net. But with a kid or two, I would be more mindful of the consequences. They are defenseless, and have no safety net to speak off. I would have to be more cautious on how I spend my money, I would be more motivated to strive in the workplace, I would have more incentive to be a better, and more grounded human being. Above all else, I just want to be a good father to my future kids. A loving father. A kind father. The kind of father that does not provide his kids with shit-loads of material to talk about with their future psychiatrist.

Video games for all
Video games for all (Photo credit: AnaleaGwendolyn)

My time of relative freedom is at the end. The baby making process has begun, and I expect to have the wifey knocked up in the next few months. It is making me super nervous and giving me plenty to be anxious about. But I also know that it is time to leave my childish ways behind, and be an adult for once. If anything having a kid in the house could at least mean that I might have someone there to play NBA 2K with me more often. That is if he or she isn’t born an asshole. Well I can hope right?

High Anxiety Part III, or How Tom Nearly Died Playing with His Four Legged Shadow

High Anxiety Part III, or How Tom Nearly Died Playing with His Four Legged Shadow

“You say you’re ‘depressed’ – all i see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective – it just means you’re human.”

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

59b7359ef1af7b215195e862aeda4242

I won’t sit here and try to eloquently put an anxiety attack in poetic terms. They just suck. Plain and simple. Suffering from one drains the life out of you. It leave you feeling weak, and vulnerable, and bat shit crazy. Especially after the first few times you suffer an episode. The worse part is that, at least in my case, it seemed to come out of nowhere. One moment I am cool like the other side of the pillow, and the next thing I know I am doing my best Fred Sanford impersonation, yelling out “ This is the BIG ONE!” I’m overtaken by a sense of fear. I can’t breath, I turn pale. Sometimes I feel a bit faint. But mostly what I feel is afraid. That initial fear can’t be controlled, it can’t be reasoned with. You can’t guide the son of a bitch like some pissed off bull. All you can do is wait until it runs you over, backs up, and run you over again. Only then does the fear subside.

Dotes Mc'Goat's

On Wednesday June 12, 2013, I suffered the worst anxiety attack in 2 years. The day started off the way most of my days do,  feeling groggy from not getting the doctor recommended 8 hours of sleep. I was downstairs in the basement, downloading some DLC on my XBOX 360.  Little Dory, my 4-year-old Black Lab/ Pit mix, apparently got tired of me giving all my attention to my game system, and was letting me in on her displeasure. She planted herself right in front of me, to make sure I could not miss her annoyed gaze. “What’s wrong mama?” I ask my four-legged shadow. She wagged her tail and with her nose she pushes away the hand that was holding the Xbox controller. That was her way of letting me know, that she wanted me to drop whatever dumb human stuff I was working on so I could do something fun, like pet her or chase after her. From the looks of her, all too human eyes,  I could tell she definitely wanted me to give chase. So I got up from the sofa, got in my giant monster pose, and told her in my best, big bad giant voice, that I was going to eat her. She takes off only to come right back at me. Let me tell you, this little girl is impossibly quick, but I do my best to give her a good chase. She ran circles around me, and I persist to go after her tail. Well after about 3 to 4 minutes of this, we both find ourselves being a little out of breath. I kneel down before her and pet her on the head. I tell her what a good little girl she is. Dory, pleased by my affection, rolls on her back and exposes her belly, for the prerequisite tummy rub. I oblige the little runt and rub her on the belly and neck. I got the idea to go upstairs for some reason, I can’t quite remember for what. However looking at Dory’s face I could see that she still had a bit of play in her left. So I stand real still at the bottom of the steps. She hops back up from the floor.  She knows that at any second I am going to take off at a full sprint up the stairs. I know that Dory is getting ready to give chase. We stand motionless, staring each other down like a couple of gunslingers about to have a showdown. Each one waiting for the other to flinch.  I hold my position, letting the tension build up. The instance I see her relax ever so slightly, I take off up the stairs, like if I was being chased by a 700 pound saber-tooth tiger, and not the 50 pound, puppy like, lab\pit mix that is now sprinting at full speed behind me. Off course i’m no match for a natural sprinter like Dory. But I do try to give her a run for her money. She gallops past me and makes it to the top of the stairs before I’ve reached the halfway point. Her tail wags in approval as she waits me. Once I get there, I pet her on the head and congratulate her on a well run race.

Down the Rabbit Hole
Down the Rabbit Hole (Photo credit: valkyrieh116)

Naturally speaking, I was feeling a bit winded. Granted it was nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve found myself sucking wind much harder after a heavy workout or roughhousing with the wifey. No, this was just a bit of heavy breathing as my lungs tried to pull in the oxygen my muscles were asking for. Unfortunately for me,  this time, I was aware that I was a bit out of breath and stayed focused on that feeling. I wondered to myself,  what if this was the beginning of a heart attack. That’s all it took. Just that one random thought crossed my mind’s eye for an instant, and next thing I know I was going down the rabbit hole. Although my lungs were taking big, deep breaths,  I felt like  couldn’t get enough oxygen in them. I could feel the left side of my chest tightening, like if someone was pushing down on it slowly, but with increased force. My left arm started to tingle. I could feel the bottom drop out of my stomach, and all the blood rushed out of my head. My legs became weak. I could feel them wobble, and they were having difficulty holding up my big frame.  My vision narrowed, and I could feel the world start spin. However as scary as that might sound, what was truly unnerving was the overwhelming tsunami of irrational fear that washes over me. In the midst of an attack, there is no light in the world. Everyone seems to have been transported to another dimension. You are lost, alone, and with no hope of ever being found.

imagesI pictured the wifey coming into the house, and finding me on the dining room floor. My body, cold and stiff. I imagine little Dory sleeping by my side, sad that her dad would not get up. I freaked out, no way in hell I could let that happen. I had to run for help, before I passed out.  I remember I took off towards the front door. My hands trembled as I tried to get the deadbolt unlocked. I reasoned that if I passed out outside, someone was bound to see me on the ground and would call for help. I stepped out for a moment and almost took off down the front steps in a panic. But I stopped myself. It was at that moment, that sanity made it’s first attempt to regain control. I became self-aware. I took notice that I was barefoot, wearing one pair of very wrinkly cargo pants, a slightly torn white t-shirt, and my hair probably resembled Jimmy Neutron. No that was not a good look for me. Yeah, at that instant I thought I was better off having the wifey discover my fat bloated corpse than to have the neighbors wondering why the Brooklyn Brawler was running down the block in a panic.

IMAG1989I stepped back inside my house to get my phone.  Dory and our other four-legged foster kid Pixie, looked on worried and confused. I’m sure they could see the panic and fear in my face, but probably couldn’t understand why, as there were no visible signs of any external forces that they could see, smell or hear that could be triggering my response.

Panic attack
Panic attack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I called the wifey at work and told her what was happening. She’s had to deal with these phone calls before. She knew the drill. She spoke to me in a calm, reassuring voice. She asked me to tell her what I was feeling, what how did it start. This annoyed the living shit out of me. I was panicking. I was nervous, death was coming for me, what the fuck did it sound like what was happening? But you see that line of questioning does a few things for me. One, it forces me to slow down and retrace what exactly lead me to that point. It reminded me that I was playing with Dory, and got a bit winded. And that got me wondering what if what I was feeling was the start of a heart attack?

The Incredible Hulk: Original Soundtrack Recording
The Incredible Hulk: Original Soundtrack Recording (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second thing that question does is piss me off. But that is a good thing.  One of the first superheroes I gravitated too when I started reading comics, was Dr. Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk. When the good doctor is in his human form, he feels anxious, vulnerable, and he fears that the monster within is his true self. But when he is angry, he turns into the gamma irradiated mountain of rage, “The Incredible Hulk”.  Only then does all the fears within him subside. Bruce is no longer in complete control of himself, and there is a part of him that rather likes it. I could relate. Now, my flesh does not turn pine green, and my fat (as much as I wish it did) does not turn into 900 lbs of muscle. But my anger does make me feel stronger.  I don’t feel vulnerable when I’m mad. My focus is sharp, I can articulate points in ways that I just can’t do when I am relaxed. The fog of doubt lifts, and I can see as far as the horizon from all directions.

You're not alone
You’re not alone (Photo credit: M.Angel Herrero)

The third thing that our phone conversations does, and the most important thing really, is that it help me realize that I am not alone. Even if I was to drop dead right then and there, the wifey is there with me. What more can we ask in death, than to be seen off by someone who cares about us. To have someone mourn our passing. To be remembered.

It is rather difficult to tell time when suffering an anxiety attack. The seconds feel like minutes, and minutes become hours. I estimated that the physical manifestation of my anxiety attack lasted about 10-20 minutes. The fear aspect of the attack took a bit over two hours to subside. The nervousness of having another episode remained with me for the rest of the day. After talking on the phone with the wifey for about 40 minutes or so, I went up to her job and met her for lunch. I wasn’t feeling all that hungry, but I did have a beer. Nothing takes the edge out of things like a good old fashion depressant. Afterwards I went to work and took it slow. I didn’t talk about it to anyone at the job.I just went about my business like nothing was wrong with me. I’m sure I stuttered a bit more than usual, talking to the angry folks that call the job for technical assistance. But for the most part I think I did a good job at playing it off. I even managed to partake in some small talk with some of the folks at work. That too helped.

Holodeck
Holodeck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our brains are pretty incredible. Like the Holodeck on the starship Enterprise, the brain gives shape and meaning to everything we see, taste, hear, smell and touch, even if it’s not really there. It creates and interprets the reality that we see all around us. After all was it not my brain that literally got my body to simulate the physical sensation of a heart attack? I was not dying, but I sure as hell was convinced I was. That was all due to that 3 pound organ that sits encased in our skulls. And as infuriating as it might feel sometimes to be at the mercy of a brain that does not always cooperate, I also understand that without this faulty brain of mine, this beautiful world and universe it floats around in, would just be the purest form of nothing.

Thankfully there is one silver lining to this story. You see even though this attack was severe, and it through me for a bit of a loop. I was able to cope with it. I didn’t run down the stairs and made a fool out of myself. I didn’t go to the hospital, and waste a couple of hundred dollars on unnecessary test. I didn’t lose out on a days worth of pay. I went on with my day. I was able to “handle my business” like some of my friends like to say. I didn’t allow this attack to stop me from living my life.

As a child, my anxiousness froze me into inaction. As a teenager, my anxiousness grew into a cancer, and the anger that emerged out of it was more than I was capable of handling. But as an adult, with ever-increasing grays on the top of my head, beard and butt cheeks, I am learning to manage my anxiety in a healthy way. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it can be a bit exhausting dealing with this. But as long as there is a beat in my chest, and blood coursing through my veins, I will keep marching forward.

We are all faced with a series of great opport...
We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. ( Charles R. Swindoll) (Photo credit: Property#1)

I would like to finish with a quote that has come to shape the way I deal with things in my life over the past 4 years. It may seem a bit over simplistic. It may be much easier said than done. But in this slightly irregular mind of mine, no words have ever made more sense.

Take it away Charles R. Swindoll:

“The longer I love, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

 

High Anxiety Part II, or How Tom Earned his Tiger Stripes

High Anxiety Part II, or How Tom Earned his Tiger Stripes

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.’

Mark Twain

Giorgio Tsoukalos Ancient Aliens
Giorgio Tsoukalos Ancient Aliens (Photo credit: Aliens UFOs Proof Evidence Photos Videos New)

I don’t know if it was mother nature, or God, or those Ancient Aliens that the History Channels is always raving about, but whomever designed us sure did a pretty brilliant  job at it. Be they environmental or existential, we are capable of handling some heavy burdens. That’s partially the reason why homo sapiens managed to be such a successful species in such a short, ecologically speaking, period of time. We have made homes in some of the most inhospitable places. We toil hour after ungodly hour, earning our daily bread in the most soul numbing of environments. We resist, and for the most part, contain the monster within.

Maen Cliff wave
Maen Cliff wave (Photo credit: polandeze)

But everything has it’s limits. No matter how mighty you might be, eventually, if enough stress gets piled on, your ability to cope with it falters. Like a mighty sea cliff, watching over an ocean of chaos. The waves come in, day in and day out, battering your rocky facade. Eventually the rock falters, pummeled into submission. It erodes into sand. And when the foundation goes, everything above it comes crashing down, to be swallowed up by the sea.

My breaking point came when I was about 18 years old. This also coincidentally happen to be the time I was most reassured of my self. As I grew out of my childhood, and entered my teenage years, I began to grow out of my shell. I made some really good friends in high school. Some whom I still can proudly call friends today. I had pushed past my shyness. I began to read more. I started to develop my love affair with music. I didn’t feel as intimidated to talk to a pretty girl. I mean I wasn’t Mr. Suave by any stretch of the imagination. But I could make them laugh; and surprisingly they were laughing with me, and not at me. This positive change in my life should have served as a glimmer of hope that things weren’t all bad. But I have always had a tendency to fret about the one dark cloud on an otherwise clear blue sky. I suffer from the half-glass empty syndrome. Although my social life had improved significantly, I couldn’t help but stay focused on the problems at home.

English: Cocaine powder Deutsch: Kokain in Pul...
English: Cocaine powder Deutsch: Kokain in Pulverform (als Salz) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three years earlier, my father had been a respiratory therapist, and my mom worked as a nurses aid in the psych ward of a prestigious private hospital in Manhattan. Together, they had managed to carve out a decent living for themselves. But when the vice of drugs has it’s grips on the head of the household, your financial situation is precarious at best. The money that should have been going to the rent and the bills went instead to his habits. This lead to my parents falling behind on the rent. Then the eventual eviction notices came.

My mother and I grew tired of all the uncertainty and the frantic arguments that it brought. We reached a point where we realized that something had to give. That came to the mutual decision to remove my father out of the picture. We forced him out. We turned our backs on him. The fight was not pretty. A ton of tears were shed that night. Feeling were irreparably hurt. My father, was left feeling betrayed. But I didn’t care. To me the monster was gone. This turned out to be the foolish notions of a short sighted 15 year old. I had no inclination of how coming to a decision like that would affect my father, what it would do to the rest of us. That was almost 20 years ago now. And I still find myself looking back to wonder if I did the right thing. I mean what real business did I have in convincing my mother to leave my dad. What possessed me to think that I could grasp the complexity of my parents relationship.

ScanNow I was 18 years old, a defiant young man. My mom was stuck playing the role of the single mother. She did her damnedest to make ends meet and provide for her three very maladjusted kids. But this meant that she had to do a ton of double shifts at the hospital. She wasn’t around much. We found ourselves living in a cramped and dark basement apartment. We furnished the place with furniture from Rent A Center. My mother ended up paying $3000 dollars for $400 furniture. There were just two small windows in the whole place. One in each bedroom. The living room, the bathroom, the so called dinning area, and the kitchen had those flickering, florescent bulbs, that buzzed when you turned them on. Our new home was so dark, it felt to me like I was being buried alive. I despised every inch of that place. Looking back now, I realized what a spoil brat I must have been. As If I truly had any reason to have any notions of entitlement. My mom was not making a whole lot of money. My father got sick and went on disability. We couldn’t count on any child support. The poor woman had no financial backing from anyone. The fact that we had a roof over our heads, in a safe neighborhood, with a fridge stacked with all the baloney and bread we could stand, should have felt like god send to me. But I was too young and too stupid, and filled with way too many hormones to accept the realities of our new-found living arrangements.

Then there was that unresolved business with my father. I was dumb enough to believe that once I got my dad out of our place, that would be the end of it. I saw myself as the man of the house now. I pictured that life without my father would be one without strife and devoid of uncertainty. But like so many of my assumptions before, and since, I was horribly mistaken. My dad was still apart of our lives, whether I approved of it or not. My mother, perhaps feeling guilty about the way things ended, insisted that my siblings and I should have a relationship with him. That was easy for her to say. I had played an active part in his ouster, and my pops was a proud man. He was not very interested in mending fences with me. But to be honest, neither did I. Still  my sister missed him very much. She was only 8 or 9 at the time, and she was his little princes. So he would drop in a few times a month to visit.

Every time the old man came over, he would find some passive aggressive way mock our current living conditions. It brought him a healthy level of satisfaction to rub it in my face. The look that he gave me after seeing the place for the first time said it all. “Well that’s what you wanted, right?” You wanted me out. Well you got it! Now look where you are at tough guy.” My father knew me well. He always said I was his mirror image. We shared the same sad eyes. We had the same lips. We walked the same, we carried ourselves in similar fashion; our chest’s sticking out like a pair of proud messenger pigeons. We both had a bit of an aggressive streak. He knew, without me having to say a word, that I hated the place. After all, he hated it. He used to tell me “The problem with you son is that you think you know it all. You might be a bit smart. I’ll give you that. But you don’t know shit about the real world. Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking differently”. I thought to myself, whatever old man. Why don’t you save that shit for someone who gives a damn. His mightier than thou shtick would eat me up alive. I wanted to take my fist and drive into his mouth until only my elbow was visible. The spite that had been festering in my heart about myself and life in general evolved into the purest kind of hate.

Scan (2)As time progresses a shift took place within me. It seems like everyone was clued in on it, except me. Personally, I just thought everyone was just full of shit, and if they didn’t get me then, “that was their problem.” All I needed was me, myself and I. My temper grew, and my patience diminished. I became belligerent with my mother. We constantly argued. I had full blown, all out, fist fights with my brother. I cut class every single day. I picked fights with my friends. I was not the most empathetic soul. It’s almost as if the act of rebelling against my father had somehow managed to transform me into the uglier side of his personality. I was all Mr Hyde, and no Dr. Jekyll. In fact the only difference between my father and I was that he had an excuse for being the way he was. He had his habit.

Then came that fateful dark day. The day I earned, what I playfully call my tiger stripes. A series of slashing scars that adorn my left forearm.  My father came over to visit my little sister. Usually I am well aware of when my father was going to stop by. That way I could either step out and miss his visit or, put away anything that I did not want in his view. Unfortunately for everyone, this particular day I forgot that my dad was coming over. I was sleeping in the bedroom, and had left my box of Newport 100’s sitting in plain site, on top of the TV.  My father walked into the room and found me laying on the bed. I heard someone calling my name. I awoke to see my dad standing in the bedroom. I sat up and greeting him, admittedly rather coldly. We exchanged  small talk. He noticed of the pack of cigs. He asked me, rather inquisitively, whose cigarettes they were? I think he suspected that perhaps they belonged to some unknown boyfriend that he imagined my mother was seeing. In hindsight, I should have lied. I should have said, “Oh those belonged to one of my friends. They left it there last night when they came over to play video games.” My dad knew all my friends smoked, and he probably would have been OK with that answer. I’m sure he would not have totally bought it, but it was a plausible lie, and so it wasn’t an insult to his intelligence. However I didn’t say that. I just sat up from the bed, walked over to the box of cigarettes, grabbed them from the top of the TV, placed them in my pocket, looked him in the eyes and said, “There mine”. My father was taken aback a bit by my defiant tone. “Wait, what did you say?” He asked me again, as if what I had said came at him at such speeds that my words barely had time to be registered. “Yeah, they’re mine” I repeated, as I tried to make my way passed him. I felt his big hand grab a hold of my shoulder. I imagine he was going to say “Don’t walk away from me when I’m speaking to you, I am your father!”, or some variation of that line that all children hear from their parents at one point or another. But before he could finish saying whatever he was going to say, I turned around and shoved him as hard as I could. He stumbled backwards and fell on top of the bed. “Don’t fucking touch me!” I yelled. I meant it too.

I had just declared my independence. I was a man now. A bad ass through and through. For the last couple of years I went from a relatively mild manner, good natures kid, to a angry brooding young man, who was no longer going to take shit from anyone.Nobody was going to fuck with me, especially not my father.

I will give the old man credit. I had pictured that if I was ever pulled off such a stunt, the sheer ballsiness of the move would have froze him. He would be frozen in place by my badassery.  But my father was not one to be scared off so easily. The look in his eyes said it all. He was about to beat the living shit out of me. Trust me, I though I had seen every face of rage that man processed in his arsenal, but the face he made as he got up from the bed that I had just pushed him on was a new one. I was convinced I was about to get the ass whopping of my life. Luckily I was a good actor. I knew that the only thing keeping him from strangling me, was that he thought I was ready for a fight. He lunged at me, spewing all manners of obscenities towards me, in two different languages. My muscles got tense and I was ready for the fight that was about to erupt. I was just praying I wouldn’t die in the process. He grabbed me again and I shoved him even harder a second time, sending him across the room. It was at this point my younger brother, Paul, came out of his room totally confused as too what was happening. My sister was on the sofa crying like little kids do when they are scared. I imagined it must have seen to her like she had a front row seat to a prize fight between Godzilla and King Kong. My brother imminently grabbed my father and did his best to hold him back. But my kid brother was over-matched. He 15 years old, 5’10 and weighed 160 pounds. My father outweighed him by almost 80 pounds. With my brother holding on to him for dear life, my father swung at me. His blow grazed my chest. I did the same and struck his shoulder.

Pushing was one thing, but I had now committed a cardinal sin. You were to never, ever, under any circumstances, raise your hand at your parents, When I was a kid, I often heard stories of bad little boys and girls that dared to strike their parents in anger, only to have God punish them by paralyzing their arm at the highest point of their would-be strike. That way everyone would know what the kid had tried to do. Shaming him or her for as long as they lived.

To say that my father’s anger increased in multitude is an understatement. He shoved my brother aside, ran past me, and headed out to the kitchen where he pulled out a kitchen knife from one of the drawers. He was huffing and puffing, but he had evil intent in his eyes. I crabbed my size 13 roller blade that was lying around. It was big and and made of some thick heavy plastic. It may not have sounded like a great first choice of a weapon, but swing that sucker with nothing but bad intentions, and I guarantee you it would have caused some damage. My father came at me. I braced myself  for the knife to dig into my gut, but my brother once again lunged at my father and tackled him. I don’t recall what exactly had happened in that instant, perhaps my dad got scared that he could have hurt my brother, or the persistent whaling of my little sisters cries finally got his attention. But something tore that idea of stabbing me right out of him. My father got up got and cursed me out some more. However instead of coming at me with the knife, he returned to the kitchen and threw the knife in the sink. He still managed to continue exploring the many ways he could insult me, which I got to admit got rather rather creative. He walked up to me, pushed me as hard as he could which sent me flopping on top of the sofa, and stormed out of the apartment. The crisis had come to an end.

My relationship with my father basically ended on that day. My brother took my sister to her bedroom and tried to calm her nerves. The adrenaline that had been coursing through my body had run its course. My hands and legs shook uncontrollably. All I kept asking myself was,  “why did I do that?”. Why did I placed my siblings in danger. Why did I instigate my father like that? What was I trying to prove and to whom? I had no answers. My mom called home from work once she got word about the confrontation. But I chose not to get on the line with her. I lacked any coherent words at the time. Later that evening when everyone was asleep, I went to the bathroom and grabbed one of those inexpensive Bic razors that they sell in bags. I broke the plastic casing and retrieved the cheap, thin, flexible, and yet surprisingly sharp blade. Sitting on the sofa that night, I slashed my left forearm dozens of times. I don’t know why I did it. I never had come close to doing anything remotely that extreme. It never had such a thought cross my mind. But that night, after my big blow up with my father, it felt like it was the only thing I could do. It felt as right as breathing.

cut2Most of the cut were pretty superficial. They were quick slashes that barely seem to touch the skin, but blood still managed to surface. All in all, that night my arm was newly decorated with over 100 cuts. After I did it, I got even more depressed, since it dawned on me then, that I probably would seem down right certifiable to my friends and family. I poured alcohol on my fresh wounds and wrapped my arm up with some bandages. During the days that followed, my friend saw my arm and wondered out loud why my left forearm looked like Tony the Tiger. I told them that I was testing how tough I was and had cut myself. Some looked at me like I was the dumbest son of a bitch they had ever came across. Others did not believe I was capable of doing something that stupid. But I was stuck with the story. So to prove its validity, I did a demonstration right in front of a couple of them. This time however the cuts I made were deeper, and left permanent scars. I hit rock bottom. I alienating myself.  I became an outcast. I hurt my loved ones, friends, and family alike. I hated myself and believed I did not deserve to be loved. I retreated into myself. I graduated high school, and disappeared all together from view. I remained in contact with just a few friends. Folks that, for one reason or another stuck by me. I wont mentioned who they are by name, but I’m sure they kinda have and idea who they are. And I will always, even though I may not  show it, will be forever grateful for their friendship.

To Be Continued…

Next up: High Anxiety Part III or How Tom Almost Died Playing Tag with His 4 Legged Shadow.

High Anxiety: Part I or How Little Tom Became a Nervous Reck

High Anxiety: Part I or How Little Tom Became a Nervous Reck

“High anxiety whenever you’re near –
High anxiety – it’s you that I fear.
My heart’s afraid to fly – it’s crashed before …
But then you take my hand;
My heart starts to soar once more.

High anxiety … it’s always the same;
High anxiety … it’s you that I blame.
It’s very clear to me I’ve got to give in.
High anxiety: you win.”

Cover of "High Anxiety"
Cover of High Anxiety

In 1977, the master of comedy, Mel Brooks, released his Alfred Hitchckiik spoof, High Anxiety . In this film Mel Brooks plays the brilliant Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, the new administrator of The Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. He’s been framed for a murder that he did not commit. He goes on the run, accompanied by Victoria Brisbane ( played by the always funny Maeline Kahn) to clear his good name, and to reunite Victoria with her missing father. However he finds the task a bit challenging because he must also contend with his own anxiety disorder. Naturally, hijinx ensue.

Anxiety
Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

I’ve experienced my own hijinx while suffering from anxiety. Off course they only tended to feel comical after the fact. I make a correlation between Mel Brook’s film and my own experiences with the disorder  because it helps me to illustrate how ridiculous and yet difficult it can be to deal with a brain that has gone a tad bit haywire.  You stick out a bit more than others. You do things that might seem strange or come off as being anti social. You find it difficult to relate with others. You get down on yourself. You become envious of people that can do something as mundane as sitting quietly on a chair thinking of absolutely nothing. You lash out at the gods above and wonder why they chose to curse you with such a handicap. You spend a shit load of time wondering what your life might have been like if you were normal. That’s the other thing too. That word, normal, takes on a whole new meaning. The word takes on a life of it’s own. It morphs from something simple, and tangible, to something almost mystical. It becomes this far of place, that can never be reached like, Shambhala, or Atlantis. It is lost to you for all time.

Off course the reality is that there is nothing abnormal about having a mental disorder. Your brain just has difficulty regulating particular functions that allow you to do certain tasks with relative ease. The cause of mental disorders are usually biological, environmental, or psychiatric in nature, although most likely it is actually a combination of all three. But when you discover that you suffer from a mental disorder, you just can’t help but feel like you are different. That you are not like everyone else.

The other thing that people don’t realize about mental disorders is that often times you don’t just suffer from just one. If you were do a bit of research about the different types of mental disorders, you would find that many share common symptoms. In fact oftentimes it is difficult to discern one mental disorder from another. Let’s take me for example. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder about 4 years ago, however the physiatrist that I was seeing also believed that my history showed evidence of dyslexia, depression and ADHD. As Lucille and Buster Bluth would probably agree, I’m a bit of a “Hot Mess”.

I love dyslexia!!!!!!
I love dyslexia!!!!!! (Photo credit: Alii Vella ♥ Fashion Slave in SL)

Trying to achieve any level of success with so many handicaps, so to speak, makes it a tad bit challenging. Take the dyslexia for example. Almost every single time I write the word “and” I spelled it out n-a-d, “nad”. Granted, the 11 year old in me gets a bit of a kick out of it, however writing “nad” in a professional setting all the time, can get a bit awkward. I tend to spell words like store as “sotre” or the as “eth”.  I remember having such a hard time reading as a kid. It was freaking torcher. I would see words backwards, I had a hard time telling aparts words that sounded similar. Even today, when someone speaks to me very rapidly, my brain seem to pick up only half of the information that is being transmitted. I still cringe at the thought of me having to read out loud in the classroom back when I was in elementary school. The kids would laugh at me and call me stupid and retarded. Making matters worse I was the only Puerto Rican kid, in a predominantly Italian school. I already felt like an outsider because of the way I looked, but now I was the dumb kid in class too. I couldn’t help but see school as a torture chamber created specifically to hurt me in every which way possible.

Visual-dyslexia
Visual-dyslexia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although my anxiety disorder would not develop fully for another 30 years, I believe it is at this point that the foundation for the disorder was established. I was such a nervous kid. I hated school, I hated homework. I felt stupid and clumsy and not at all normal. And things were about to get worse.

My ADHD sure didn’t help things along. When folks think about ADHD they immediately image a rambunctious kid that runs around all day as if he had fire ants crawling up his ass. And yes, that is not so far from the truth for some. After all ADHD stands for Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity disorder. The thing is that although many kids do suffer from the Hyperactive part, others, like myself, suffered from the Attention deficit side of things.

English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the lit...
English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the literature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does it mean to have attention deficit in the first place. Well it basically means that the mechanism that regulates attention is faulty. So your brain has a harder time being able to maintain focus on any task that requires real attention. Especially if it is something, tedious, repetitive and uninspiring. Some people can sit down, read a poem out loud a dozen times and retain the poem to memory. In order to achieve that, you need to be able to push away all distractions long enough, for your brain to be able to imprint the poem into memory. I on the other hand can read the same poem 3 or 4 dozen times, and only about half of the poem will be retained. The reason being is that my brain has a much harder time quieting any external or even internal stimuli. So as I’m reciting the poem over and over again, some random thought will just come through. But but not only will the random thought pop in, but it will completely take over, and I will literally forget that I was trying to commit the poem into memory. Until eventually I snap out of it, notice that I am no longer concentrate on the poem and go back to it. However within a few minutes I will lose track of what I am doing yet again.

English: A child not paying attention in class.
English: A child not paying attention in class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember there was this one occasion, when I was in kindergarten.  I had probably been daydreaming deeply,  when the kid sitting in front of me, passed back  a small stack of papers. I snapped out of whatever world I had been visiting in my head, and found myself completely confused as to why these papers were being passed to me. The teacher looked at me annoyed and told me, “take one and pass it back”. I did as I was told. I looked down on the sheet and figured out that it was some kind of quiz. But for some reason I couldn’t register what exactly I was supposed to do with it. I looked around and saw the boy sitting next to me writing his name on the sheet of paper. His name was Tommy One Name Or Another (Sorry I can’t quite recall his name). So for reasons unknown to me I figured I was supposed to write Tommy One Name Or Another on my sheet  too.  He began to answer the question on the quiz when he notices me peeking at his paper.  So off course he hunched over and blocks my view of the answers with his arms and body. I was clueless. I was scared. I was afraid to raise my hand and ask what were we supposed to do. I didn’t want to look stupid in front of the class. So I remained silent. I left the rest of the quiz blank, and prayed silently to God that the teacher would somehow not notice me sitting there. Or better yet, that he would be kind enough to transport me away from this dumb, boring classroom and into a another world that didn’t have quizzes and teachers, and mean classmates. Maybe to a world where the Autobots, Gi-Joe, Voltron and the rest of the cartoon characters that I obsessed about, lived, and fought and had fun, wild adventures.

God the Father 04
God the Father 04 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Sadly, God did not hear me that day. Or chose not too. Because after about 20 minutes, our teacher came around to collect our sheets. She came up to me. Looked at my blank quizz, with Tommy One Name Or Another’s name on it, and laughed. “So your name is now Tommy One Name Or Another?” She asked in a mocking tone.  I was confused. I just smiled up at her like what I can only imagine she interpreted as a grinning idiot. She then reached out, grabbed me by my ear and pulled me out of the classroom as all the rest of the kids laughed at me. Yeah, having ADHD can do a number on a young kid’s confidence.

Now please allow me to apologize if I have given off the impression that having ADHD means you can’t concentrate. Cause that is not remotely true. In fact it can also mean the complete opposite. Another symptom of ADHD is that you can find yourself becoming hyper-focus on one thing. At the detriment of everything else. Sometimes I will remain seated writing even though I know my ass should have already been on his way to work. I will put off doing chores to play video games or watch a movie. I find myself talking with co workers a lot longer than I should be doing. And the reason I do that is because they are all much more interesting to do than whatever menial, yet essential task I need to be doing in the first place. So much of what we do throughout the course of the day is so repetitive, monotonous, and uninspired. It takes focus to get through such tasks, but for folks with ADHD, we find it really, really, hard to concentrate on those kinds of things. However if I find something that is remotely interesting, my brain will make all the effort to absorb every aspect of whatever has my interest. That is until the subject ceases to aid in the release of healthy level of dopamine into my brain. Once that happens, I drop that subject like a bad habit and move on to whatever else that will give my brain that kick it hungers for. Trust me, that is not an easy way to live life. It’s like being a damn Pogo stick sometimes. Hopping from one thing to another.

anxiety
anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

And then there is the anxiety. The bane of my existence. Do you have any idea what i like to always be on edge? To always be questioning how others are constantly viewing you? Sometimes I get so nervous and excitable that my brain will work faster than my tongue. I want to get a words out that I hope will make me seem intellectual, suave, charismatic. But the words come out much too quick. My tongue gets tangled and trips over itself. At best, I come off sounding like Yoda. Speaking backwards. “Smart, I sound, yes?” At worst, I come off sounding a little less articulate than Mishka the Talking Husky.

Venom: Separation Anxiety
Venom: Separation Anxiety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All my life I’ve been fearful of how those around me view me. Do they think I’m stupid, mentally challenged, or perhaps an anti-social prick. Others probably imagine that I think of myself as some tough guy cause I’m big, and I rarely talk with others. I imagine others see me much like the Hogar, the mentally challenge big man from Game of Thrones. But to be totally forthright with you. What probably really bothers me most of all, is the thought that most people don’t think or have any concrete opinion of me at all. And that is so much worse. Humans are a social animal. We need to be with other people. We need to have a sense of community. We need a place to belong. And we need to find our niche in that community. Most of us want to serve some useful role. Even as adults we want to be padded on the head like we were as children, and be complimented on  “what a good job you are doing”, or “what a soul person you are”. You want to feel loved, and appreciated. You want to feel like you serve a worthy purpose. But when you feel like a bit of an outcast, you don’t have that sense. You feel different. You can’t relate to anyone.  I think that is why I always was gravitated towards the arts. Whether it was drawing for hours in high school, coming up with sketches to impress my friends, or writing poetry in college. I could allow the work  to speak for itself. And I didn’t have to worry about my own clumsy ass getting in the way of how people perceive those things. In a sense those work’s were an extension of me. So if they liked them, then that mean that they liked me. And that was a darn good feeling.

Anxiety Always
Anxiety Always (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes my friends. All that self doubt. That inability to feel like you a worthy of love and friendship, can makes it difficult to achieve any real level of success in life. However all hope is not lost. You don’t have to be a victim of circumstance. You can achieve a level of self autonomy. You can change you stars, so to speak. Unfortunately, you can’t start up that path until you’ve hit rock bottom. I will be exploring some of the details of that very dark period, next time.

To be be continued…

UP NEXT: High Anxiety Part II, or How Tom Earned his Tiger Stripes.

I lost track of time…

I lost track of time…

I’ve just spent 2 hours looking through dozens of job postings for positions that I am nowhere near qualified for. Every job I looked through required either a degree, or experience, preferably both. Unfortunately for me I have neither.  All in all it made for a disheartening start of my day. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for the millions of people out there who find themselves in a predicament worse than mine. Folks who have been looking for a new job for months, if not years. People who are unemployed, who have seen their life savings drain away one dollar at a time. Corporations increase their profit margins to all time highs, while eliminating the workforce that made them profitable in the first place. But I digress. Today’s exercise in futility was not to illustrate what is ailing the U.S. in the 21st Century. Those problems are far more complex than corporate greed. My aims for this blog are a bit more modest.

What I am aiming for with the start of “Lost Around the Block” is to create a small platform to  voice my rather personal frustrations over the fact that I will be turning 35 years old.  And all the dreams and aspirations that I held near and dear to my heart growing up  just withered away in complacent silence. How did that happen? How did things change so drastically for me? How did I go from wanting to be a writer, to a Help Desk Coordinator, getting yelled at by miserable individuals who are making 3 times the salary that I make? How the hell did life pass me by without me even noticing? That is what I aim to find out. While rekindling my love affair for telling stories that are little slices of life.

Chicago State University
Chicago State University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10 years ago, I was finishing up on a couple of summer courses that I took during my first freshman year at Chicago State University. I was about to turn 25 and life seemed pretty damn awesome. I was an out of state student, living in the dorms  on campus. I was looking forward to heading back home to NYC and see my family for the first time in 4 months. My relationship with my future wife was in it’s infancy. It was new, and exciting, and we couldn’t wait to spend quality time with each other every weekend. I was making new friends that were vastly different than the ones waiting for me back home. Most of my new friends, were Mexican. They grew up in two parent homes, which was incredibly rare thing in the group that I grew up with. My new friends also seemed to have been raised  much more conservatively than my Nuyorican, east coast upbringing. And then there was my new home, Chicago. Coming from New York it seem so small and quiet. To me it was rather quaint. The food was good, the city was clean, the hipsters didn’t seem to be always be high on coke. It was the perfect place for me to learn how to slow down.

I was Majoring in English, with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I had earned a 3.6 GPA during that first year. This was a hell of an accomplishment for me, because my GPA in high school was 1.6. My professors were courteous and nurturing, and they genuinely seem to like me. And since I was a few years older than the rest of my freshmen classmates, I took genuine interest in going to class, and learning the curriculum and participating and doing all the things you do  when you are an eager student, ready to take on the world. Yeah, life was amazing back then.

Love and Rockets #31 by Gilbert and Jaime Hern...
Love and Rockets #31 by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, 1989, Fantagraphics Books. Cover illustration by Jamie Hernandez depicting his two main characters, Maggie (right) and Hopey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so sure of myself. I thought I had life by the proverbial balls. I was convinced that within a few years after moving to Chicago, I would be writing my own indie comic book series. It would be published by Drawn and Quarterly or Fantagraphics. My stories would be populated with the people that I had encountered all my life. My minority characters would not be gangbangers, or junkies. They wouldn’t be pushing dope, or have criminal records. They wouldn’t’ be driving flashy cars. Or waving the flags of their home country 24/7. They would be hard working people. Struggling through life to get ahead head. They were complicated, perhaps emotionally stunted individuals who just wanted to be loved. They listened to rock music, and hip hop, and old boleros. They spoke eloquently when it was required, but could keep it gully when the moment called for it. They were going to be real flesh and blood, three dimensional characters. And I was going to be heralded for illustrating women and minority characters in a way that had not been done since the Hernandez bros “Love & Rockets” comic series of the 1980’s.

Yeah life was full of possibilities. But the passage of time has a tendency of weathering things down. As the semesters wore on, my attention span dwindled. I got tired of being dead broke in my mid twenties living off student work. So I left school in my senior year for a job with a fortune 500 company to do tech support. The job was not exactly rocket science but it paid well, so it had that going for it. Initially I had every intention to go back to school, but I kept getting good raises and it just got harder to walk away from the cash. Well that was until the great recession happened. Than those raises that were so appealing for the first few years just tapered off. The job became more micromanaged as well. Everything was about doing much more with a whole lot less. Eventually the job stopped feeling like a blessing and started morphing into an imprisonment. I found myself stuck. I hated the job now, but the allure of returning to school and finish what I had started became less appealing, since no one seemed to be hiring grads. I was stuck in limbo.

Arch of Cabo San Lucas
Arch of Cabo San Lucas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new car smell that my relationship with my future wife had, eventually wore off. And the work needed to make a long and fruitful relationship work became harder. We went through a couple of bad patches. We constantly argued. We would have those good, angry shouting matches, where everyone spoke loudly, but nothing was ever heard. It got to the point that I wanted to just disappear. I had grown up in a household full of fights. Daily arguments came naturally to my family.  And I am convinced that those fights, and the threat of violence that I experienced during the early part of my life had a real negative effect on how I came to handle stress as an adult. Each fight robbed me of my strenght. I felt dark and lost after each confrontation. To the wifey, our arguments were just a natural part of the process, so she never took it to heart like I did. To this day, I think we both still see the toll that a good argument takes quite differently.   I think it’s nearly impossible to articulate the sheer amount of energy that needs to be exhausted to make a relationship work. One can easily rest on their laurels and just put things on cruise control. However that is how I believe folks wake up one day next to their long time partner wondering who the hell is that imposter sleeping next to them. We would in time persevere and salvage a relationship that clearly meant the world to us. I married her on Friday, October 22, 2010, on a beautiful summer like day on a beach in Cabo San Lucas. It was nearly 8 years after I had first laid eyes on her pretty face. We were surrounded by her family and some of my friends. It was a beautiful yet simple ceremony. And one of the most memorable days of my life.

Off course with marriage comes all the other things that take up time and energy. Buying a house, joining finances, talk of children and family, and pets, and melding visions of the future, and dealing with personal crisis, and all the stuff that convinces you that following dreams of yesteryear’s is a foolish notion.

My new young friends, got older, and life got in the way of some of their plans as well. Some got pregnant. For others, the responsibility to their parents and siblings led them to leave school and make a living to sustain their families during the hard economic times. Eventually enough time passed that we all just kind of stopped talking. Except for the occasional comment on Facebook.

I also stopped going back to NYC. My mother moved to Puerto Rico. My brother and my sisters, kinda started spiralling into a darker place. But what truly killed any desire to go back home was the death of my father. I got a call from my baby sister. She informed me that my dad had an accident. Apparently he had been released from the hospital a couple of days earlier for some relatively minor heart procedure. As the story goes, he felt a bit faint. He tried to make it over to the bathroom to take his meds, when he passed out. My father’s head crashed into the bathroom sink, breaking his neck in the process. He would lay on the floor for almost 24 hours. Only reason my father was found was because his dog apparently barked for several hours and it eventually got his next door neighbors attention. The cops broke the door down and found my dad barely conscious on the bathroom floor. He was taken to the hospital and my brother was notified.

My father was paralyzed from the neck down. The news did not come as a shock to me. The truth was I had been expecting a dreadful phone call about my father for years.  I had been estranged from him for the better part of a decade. Some in my family said that my dad and I never got along because we looked and acted so much alike. The real reason was that my dad had an unhealthy relationship with cocain. And when money was tight and he could not get his fix he became an angry, offensive, and at times, violent man. As luck would have it, I was the only member of the household that was big enough, and old enough (well as old as a 15 year old could get)  to get in his way. Those were not fun times.

I went to vist my father in the hospital along with my future wife. The day was November 22nd 2006. It was the day before Thanksgiving. The moment I walked into the hospital room where he was being cared for, he let out a small cry, “My boy, my boy.” Unlike my father, who laid in a bed, a shell of his former self, I had complete control of all my limbs. Yet I could barely move forward. His hair, once dark, thick and curly,  had thinned substantially. Almost all color had left it too. It was mostly white with patches of grey. His mouth was toothless. His face seem gaunt, and pale. The only part that seem familiar to me was the stubble. Although the jet black stubble that once decorated his face had now turned white. When I was a kid, before my brother and I were to go outside and play with our friends, we would have to ask for my father’s permission. Once he granted us his blessing, we would kiss him on the cheek. His prickly stubble would sting our young faces. And if we complained about how much the stubble stung, he would reach out for the back of our heads, and playfully rub our faces on the stubble. We would protest and try to pull away. He ate those moments up. After laughing for a bit at our discomfort. He would kiss us on the forehead, tell us to be careful and to go off and have fun.

In my eyes my dad was always this large hulking figure. 6’2 250 pounds. But from the looks of him I could see that the past few years had not been very kind to him. He had easily dropped about 60 pounds. He looked so frail and tired and sad. My god he looked so fucking sad. However my dad was always a bit of a showman. He always was one to put his best foot forward. He wanted to leave people with the impression that he was a man that always had it together, even when the world around him was falling apart. This day was no different. He put on a great front for my wifey. He was charismatic and charming, and rather heartwarming. He came off as this sweet, kind old man that just ran into a bit of bad luck. However his luck would surely be changing for the better any day now. So there was no reason to feel concerned for his well being. The wifey would later ask me, how could the man she meet be the same angry frightening man I described to her so often? I’ve never been quite able to answer that question. When my dad was living with us, not a night went by in which he didn’t kiss us on the forehead before sending us off to bed.  A day did not go by in which he did not say how much he loved us. He was big on hugs.  And his favorite pastime was to watch the New York Giants games on TV with his two boys.

Anger, frustration and lack of understanding makes it easier for us to make people into villains. It’s rather easy to turn loved ones into monsters. I am not saying I misunderstood my father. No, he said and did some awful things. His behavior during the months leading up to the night I  forced him out of our apartment, was erratic and violent. And I was convinced that if I did not get him out of there, one of us, including my father, was going to be hurt in some potentially violent way. However what I failed to see was that he was a sick man with a drug problem that needed help. I didn’t know enough about the subject, I wasn’t mature enough to help my father. None of us were. We could not get past the hurt he was causing us, and I guess, we eventually wanted to give it back in turn.

I would get to see my dad one more time the following day on Thanksgiving. My mom made him a plate of arroz con gandules and turkey. The wifey and I went over to the hospital with my brother.  I stood next to my father’s hospital bed, and fed him the plate that my mother made him, much like he must have done to me when I was a baby. It was one of the most heartbreaking things that I ever would experience in my life. The rest of the afternoon, my dad talked about having gone to Chicago to find me; which to be honest neither my brother or I actually believed. And He talked about taking rehab seriously and vowing that he would be walking by the end of the following year. We all sat there an agreed and encouraged his new found optimism. But I think deep down inside we all knew that wasn’t going to be the case. My dad was 54 years old, had no insurance or money to pay for surgeries or rehab treatment. None of us had the financial means to help cover the cost of his medical bills. Everything was pretty much FUBAR.  Deep down inside we all suspected that there would not be a happy ending.

I kissed my father on the forehead for the very last time that Thanksgiving evening. I promised him that I would be back to see him as soon as I could. The wifey and I would be leaving back for Chicago the following day. I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me too. I left the hospital room with the wifey and my brother. That was the last time I ever saw him.  We spoke a few times over the phone during the following weeks. My sister would hold the receiver up to my fathers ear and we would have a conversation that way. But each time my father would seem to cut the conversation shorter. Each time I spoke with him he also sounded more and more weary. A part of me thinks that maybe it became too painful for him to talk to me from so far away. Maybe it made him miss me more and the thought of dying without possibly seeming me again was too much for him. Another part thinks that maybe he grew to  resented me for not being there next to him. That perhaps he wanted me to leave the life I was trying to establish in my new home and return to my old one. To be a family once again. More likely than not, he was just growing tired and depressed, and just wanted to die.

On March 6th 2007 my father passed away from pneumonia. He was 54 years old. My brother and sister had my father cremated. There was no viewing, no ceremony. And I for some unknown reason, never could bring myself to go out there and mourn with my family. I just couldn’t do it. I cried, I cried like a babe when I got the news. So many contradictory emotions went through me that day. I just couldn’t make sense of what exactly I was feeling. There was a sense of loss, guilt, anger, hatred, all these feelings that I just couldn’t come to terms with. I guess I still haven’t really. Because  I haven’t been back to NY since that Thanksgiving. It’s been almost 7 years now.

As I was nearing my 30th birthday things got kinda bad for me. I developed anxiety, and night terrors. I realized that my ability to concentrate on any one thing had gone from bad to worse. My mind became almost fractured. My thoughts would jump from one bad idea to another. I became rather dark and moody, and pushed people away. My performance at work plummeted too. It was then that this creeping notion that my life was coming to an end started to really take hold. I had this feeling of dread as if my days were numbered. This feeling became worse as I realized that my weight had gotten completely out of control. You see I am an addict as well.

Both my grandfathers were alcoholics, and both died of cirrhosis of the liver. My dad’s poison of choice was weed and cocaine, and the heart problems that he suffered later in life were do to his earlier substance abuse. I saw what drugs and booze had done to once proud men and I promised I would never follow their footsteps. So I swore off drugs, and I only would have a drink during social events with friends. Never alone and never to get drunk. And if I did happen to have one to many drinks then I would make sure to allow several weeks to pass before drinking again. However the source of my addiction was a lot easier to get too than alcohol or narcotics. For me my addiction was food. It always had been. When I was 13 years old I tried out for the New Bedford High football team. I got weighed by the coach and I came in at 305 pounds. Now to some of you that number might seem alarming. But for me it was an odd source of pride. I was a big kid. I never had a problem handling such a large body. I played basketball with my friends. Spent hours hitting the handball on a hot court. I didn’t walk with a wobble. And my size pretty much kept the bullies away. For the most part my size had been a bit of a shield. However once I turned 30, that benefit became a depriment. I had an anxiety attack and was taken to the hospital. The nurse weighed me during the check in. I came in at 411 pounds. That number scared the living shit out of me. What was scarier still was the fact that I knew I had lost some pounds over the previous year or so. I am convinced that at my heaviest, I was closer to 450 pounds. My weight was going to be the death of me.

That is when I decided to make a change. Deep down I knew that if I kept traveling on the road I had been on all my life, I would not live to see 40. And if for some odd reason, my body and mind did manage to somehow survive the ordeal that I was putting them through, I was sure I would morph into a much darker and less hopeful soul. I needed to inspire change within myself. But coming to terms and understanding how or why I accumulated so many bad habits throughout the course of my lifetime would not be easy to discern.  I sought help from a psychiatrist to deal with my anxiety. I learned a lot about myself and my past during those sessions. I started to make inroads about my anger issues. I started losing weight. It has taken almost 4 years, but I’ve dropped 80 pounds. My anxiety attacks went from two a week to maybe 2 every six months. I am less angry and a bit more even keel. My concentration levels have improved by exercising, and taking supplements. I currently find myself hovering at about 330 pounds now.

New beginnings are not easy thing to partake in. Changing one’s trajectory takes a herculean effort, and a level of understanding of oneself that is hard to come by with the distractions of modern life. I am not certain that I will succeed in my attempts of becoming whole. I don’t know if I can overcome all my shortcomings. I can’t say for certain that I will amount to anything that is worthy of the gift of life. However what I do know is that I sure as hell will continue my journey on the road less traveled. That is the purpose of Lost Around the Block. I wanted to create a spot that folks that are trying to hit the reset button on their lives can find inspiration. A place where we could all find stories about those who are lost. A site that people from all walks of life could gather and say without hesitation or fear that they just don’t know.

I am no new age guru. I am not trying to convert anyone into one religion or another. I won’t sit here and talk about cosmic energies, or hidden truths or how if we just spend ten minutes doing this one thing, happiness will find you. I can’t even say with any absolute assurance that I have a single clue what I am doing here. But hopefully if I stick with this, and as more people find the site, maybe this will evolve into something more concrete. Perhaps we can serve to inspire each other on our little attempt at a course correction. We will see.

Thanks for tolerating this long rant. I plan on posting other stories about myself and others that I feel fit what I am trying to create here. I hope you check back often. It’s always more fun to be lost with good company. 🙂

Here’s hoping that we all are found.

Tom G III