Friday, December 24, 2010

Each Man Deserves The Highest Standard of Living


I have a friend who I rarely mention in these reflections. Well, his absence suggests that I discount his influence. But that's not true. We are like brothers. We share the same age; we share the same passions; we share the same Faith. He has endured a difficult year. Sunday I sat beside him. The bar was crowded. Our shoulders touched as we sat on parallel stools. I turned to him and said, "You're heroic to me, bro. I respect you. And you know how rarely I say those words."

Gary turned to me and said, "I do. And that means a lot to me. You have such high standards."

I laughed. "I do."

"I know."

And I do. I have the highest standards for myself, my work, and my friendships.

This has been a difficult year for me as well.

Wednesday night I worked out with my trainer. My trainer is also my best friend. As Mike and I lifted weights, we assessed the year. Finally I said, "No. The word I'd use to describe my life is overwhelmed."

This year I've been overwhelmed.

I've been overwhelmed with wins and losses. No. That's not truest. The truest is that I've been overwhelmed with whens and losses. I've been overwhelmed by the happened - when. I've been overwhelmed by the impeding - when. I've been overwhelmed by the probable - when.

And I've lost this year.

On February 5 I shoveled snow and blistered the sole of my foot. On the following morning, I learned that I'll lose half of my foot. The foundation of my foot has shifted. Bones rub and scrape and tear my sole. My podiatrist is hopeful on the retention of my leg if he severs all the toes. I'll retain the front half of the foot as long as I can keep infection at bay. As of today, it remains unhealed; the wound seeps; the ulcer is unsealed. Each mourning before I stand up from my slumber, I swing my legs to the bed side. I inhale, I mumble a petition, and I pull the bandage from my foot. I look for inflammation. I feel for hotness. I explore for signs of discoloration. The worry of the when hits my lungs; I am floored by sadness and loss before my feet slide into slippers.

In October my foot acquired an infection. Six days of hospitalization and two weeks of picc lines followed the discovery. I retained the shape of my foot; I lost all my savings and plunged into poverty.

This year I lost hope; my foot will not improve.

This spring I polished my novel and queried the agents. I couldn't get anyone to read it. I uploaded it for sale as an EBook. Sales have been ... um ... slow. I've spent the last triplet of weeks reorganizing it. I could rewrite it; well, except for those high standards.

I have more blog readers now than I've ever had read me; I have fewer words to offer them.

My circle of friends evolved this year. I have a few additions; I have a few reductions. I have a few subtractions. There are many reasons: too much distance, too much drama, too much dissonance, too much division, too little interest.

Yes. I require the highest standards.

I think we all should require the best from our fellow human beings.

There's an adage that you discover who your friends are when you're down and out. Of course the phrase is tainted with the expectation of disappointment and abandonment.

Well, not to me. I've discovered my truest friends during my trying times. This year I've discovered I have allies in acquaintances I would have discounted as apathetic to me. I've invited them into my life and include them as friends.

And yes, this year I discovered an abyss where I thought agape existed too. I've ended a few important friendships. Sometimes my heart aches; sometimes I exhale with relief.

Tonight is Christmas Eve. I sit here with Christmas carols in my ears, more than a little sentimentality in my soul, and reflection in my mind.

In all honesty, I have not prospered this year; I have not progressed.

I am not a better man.

My heart isn't more innocent. My soul isn't less sinfilled. My pride still straddles my intentions. I continue to chafe at criticism. I still wound those without wisdom.

I am not a fool. I see the correlation of a sin scarred soul and a sole without heal.

Yet I know the joy of Christmas is that it marks when the clock began again. It’s the first beat in the synchronicity of Divinity. And from that moment on each minute of our moments mattered again.

Tonight marks the moment when I will begin again. I will slide my eight-toed soles along the edge and toe the highest standard.

I demand it of myself.

Will I remain overwhelmed? Oh probably. I anticipate a whirled without end. During tonight's contemplation, I played around on YouTube. I found a scene from the film White Nights. I watched Mikhail Baryshnikov pirouette. I realized one needs toes to touch for balance while in a pirouette. One can't pivot on a heel. Yet by Christ, one can stand staid on solid soles.

I don't intend to pivot; I intend to stand.

Amen.