Tuesday, February 26, 2013


*Note to reader: This is an exercise in, well, I am not sure what. This is a letter to myself going back to when I was 20 years of age - a different person, mindset, body and spirit. I've always wondered what I would say to myself if I could go back...here is my crack at it.

Dear Me,

I'm forty-six years old and you are twenty. It's hard to believe twenty-six years have gone by. 

Looking at you now, it's hard to believe we are the same person. Inside me, today, you are buried deep and yet you still manage to pop out now and again. 

Sometimes I really resent you. You and your insecurity. You were scared of everyone and everything. You stayed up all night paralyzed by the fear of dying in your sleep. If you only knew what was coming. I won't go into that now because you really won't sleep. 

Maybe you should have taken care of yourself back then. You wallowed through school - a college you knew you didn't belong. Deep down you knew but you were afraid to be who you are today. You were afraid to fail. You were afraid to try too hard and simply fail. Change scared you almost into oblivion.

I have news for you. People fail every minute. And if you think 'girls' are your biggest problem, wait until you have a shooting pain up your arm and you are on a table staring up at hospital lights. 

So scared of failure. So little lack of faith in self. 

Shame on you for listening to the negatives. You will learn not to waste so much energy on those who look to knock you down. It will take you too many years though so get crackin' on that now will you?

If you only knew about what you will accomplish. If you had a glimpse, maybe it would all be different somehow. Maybe you would have been braver. Hard to tell. 

Here are a few things you have succeeded in...I thought  you should know. 

You will graduate college...you will get a job. No, I can't say you will ever love it but you will be more successful than you could imagine at it. 

You are going to be in a rock band - a pretty good one at that. 

You are going to learn how to skate and play ice hockey - something you dreamed of when you saw Jim Craig win the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics.

You will discover the gym and get stronger and thinner. I promise. By the way...you should have started running by now but that can't be helped right now.

You are a published author. No one will ever take that away from you. And while you are at it, be okay with who you are - an artist. Recognize it early and don't take 25 years to figure it all out. Keep dreaming all of those fantasies you use to distract you from life - it worked.

Let go of your regrets. Do it now. They will only haunt you on your darkest days.

Let go of your enemies both real and not. Do it now. The battles that rage in your head will get you no where.

Listen to your body. It's telling you how you are every minute of every day. Did I mention you should start running?

You will sound like your dad more and more....get used to it and be proud.

By the way, you will be a dad contrary to what everyone has told you all your life since you were six.

You will have friends for life. And they will want to be with you forever.

That's about it, Me. I wish we could sit and chat longer but you and I are very different people. You like to sit there and wait for the world to guide you down the river. Not me. Maybe not as much. It's an unforgiving world we live in - grab it by the horns and twist until it goes to its knees. 

I'll never forget you, Me. Deep down, you are always there. I might try to hush you more than I should but I learned a lot from you. I am me because of you. 

Everything you did, made me what I am today. Sometimes I curse it. Most of the time, I accept it. 

Enjoy the ride, Me, and smile every once in a while. You don't do that enough, if you ask me. 


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Food For Thought...

I've had a long standing relationship with food.

I can sit and blame everything in my life on the treatments over a lifetime ago, even the eating habits.

Along with a laundry list of side effects that I have documented off and on, one of the stranger aspects came with eating.

All I remember was his formal name - Dr. Webber. He was a typical looking mad scientist type. He wore a typical white coat with typical glasses he would stare just over the rims from. He had typical male pattern baldness, with tufts of white around his ears and back of his head. All typical save for the fact that he wasn't mad or insane. What he was, was the head of Radiology.

I remember piercing blue eyes. He would always look me in the face when he talked to me. A refreshing deal when most adults talked around me, pointed, shook their heads and whispered when they realized I was crying at the words they were saying all too loud. Not with Dr. Webber.

Before all of my life began, I was built in my father's image. I had the build, the shoulders, the sturdiness at 6. After the storm took over, I put on a tremendous amount of weight and I never shot up in height like my brothers did.

More than likely it was the dosing of a steroid called prednisone that probably pushed the bulk against my favor. And along with a voracious appetite came an oddity - I couldn't taste any of the food I was eating. I remember explaining to Dr. Webber, that everything tasted "tinny" or it had no taste at all. Not salty or sweet. Not savory or tart. Nothing.

Outside of his white coat, Dr. Webber was a rolled up sleeve kind of person. He sat with me and my mother with a series of almost nonchalant questioning. Then he turned to me exclusively.

"If you had to pick out your favorite food, Joe, what would it be?"

Now picture a fat italian kid thinking about all of the possibilities. I grew up in a house where every Sunday, macaroni and meat sauce were the symphony that filled my nose for hours.

"McDonalds," I said.

"And what would you have at McDonalds?"

I'm talking steak and salad. Pasta fagiola. My mother's meatloaf...we won't go there.

"I like the fries..."

"And what else?"

"A hamburger..."

"And what else?"

Spaghetti. Porkchops. Fresh tomatoes from the garden. Sausage. Meatballs.

"And a shake..."

"Everything still tastes tinny to you?"


Dr. Webber turned to my mother. Years later I understood the mentality. If the patient felt good eating that stuff? The patient got a little leeway.

"Give him what he wants. Anything he wants to eat."

When you have a child who is in chemo and radiation...all that goes with it, you are hard pressed to push spinach smoothies into them.

I am not blaming anyone for it. That path may have been started with or without being sick. It was a different age back then. We didn't understand nutrition, exercise or the combination like the science it has become today.

Still on came the weight. In high school I was barely 5'-something and 225 lbs. No worries. Today that's 60 lbs away and a bad dream. The ramifications still resonate through me to this day.

They knew how they wanted to kill the disease but what they didn't know then was what about the patient? What about the psyche from having a body go hog wild, heavy on the hog?

What are the aftershocks as an outward 6 year old turns into an introverted teen? An introverted teen then turns into a rebellious young adult...

Decades later as I lay on a bed with a surgeon scrawling a pen sketch about where your heart blockages are...you wonder. And you keep wondering.

I love to eat. Eating to me is special. I pity diabetics who have to be careful about the carbs and those who cast aside eating food as a chore in general. To me eating, at the table, surrounded by friends and family harkens to my ancestors who huddled the same way in gratitude and very likely, survival.

My eating habits today are vastly different from twenty, even ten years ago. I get prodded, poked and even made fun of for what I take in daily. I don't care. I still enjoy it. I am motivated beyond what size jeans one would wear.

Still the resonating sounds off in my skull. Daily. Sometimes hourly.

Being overweight led to under confidence. Shyness took root. Introversion was planted. I lived in my own world. I was safe there. The irony is, that world back then, so dysfunctional as it was, has tributaries to my fantasy stories of today as an author.

With that dark period came loneliness and misunderstanding. You will note my love of wolves and other creatures that are 'misunderstood'. All of that came from the fat kid who didn't speak up much in high school.

No pity parades. Just the facts. Everything you have experienced has brought you to this place today.

Lots of people ask if I would change anything. If I could, would I?

Hard to say. Without all of these experiences I wouldn't be 'me'. Whatever that means. I do joke I may have been taller but that's another subject for another time.

Anyway, it's food for thought.....I am already thinking about my post workout breakfast....