Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Sculpted by Donald Wilson 1982

I’m lost on a road to “God knows where.” Feeling scared. Uncertain. It’s my story right now, and I’ve good reasons for my emotional state. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve been lost or overwhelmed by circumstance. There’s no doubt my situation is difficult, and solutions to my problems seem beyond my current […]

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Two years ago I wrote the above blog entry in my other blog “Out Here in Paradise” and re-examining some of the issues with which I was ensnared at that time have shown that progress is possible, even given serious and intractable problems.

Mine isn’t a new story.  My health is not good, and is deteriorating over time.  It is responding to my focus on trying to find a solution to my worst problems, and a way to cope with the things I won’t be able to control.  My financial situation is a disaster, brought about by a series of mistaken steps, all of which seemed to be the correct decisions at the time, but have left me in serious debt, absent an income on which I can rely, and quite uncertain as to the potential for even basic survival, under my current situation.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Two years ago my health was a lot worse than now. At least it seemed so at the time. I had just got out of the hospital where I was extremely ill with pneumonia, with a new diagnosis of COPD, to go alone with my diabetes and chronic arthritic and neuropathic pain. I didn’t know it then but I also had the classic symptoms of fibromyalgia at work. I had a lot of good reasons to be depressed, just based on my health, not to mention a lifetime of fighting with bipolar depression even since my twenties, more than forty years.

So that was where I started to fight against continuing to fall down the Rabbit Hole, and started this blog, where I’ve largely focussed on discussing my attempts to improve my health and the quality of my life by taking intentional control of those things I can control.

If you follow this blog you will have read about my struggles with my medications, and coming to an understanding of how they interact with each other, and have many side effects, some of which still plague me.

You have seen my excitement of discovery when I read Dr. Jason Fung and realized that I can take control of my diabetes by making significant lifestyle changes, including intermittent fasting and radical reduction in the amount of carbohydrate in my daily diet. I came to realize that exercise every day is important, just not exactly for the reasons that I thought. I’ve lost a lot of weight on this journey, with the result being an increase in energy, a renewed sense of hope for the future, and a continued plan to improve matters further.

I’ve written about my challenges with my marriage and how we have evolved to a new set of understandings that allow for the possibility of staying intimate friends, while perhaps moving to a new description of our relationship. In our new relationship as Nesting Partners, rather than Husband and Wife, we talk far more openly about just about everything, than we even did in the past. Which is a good thing.

I’ve written about Polyamory, the state of being committed to being open to romantically or sexually loving more than one person at a time, within ethical boundaries and with full disclosure of the partners to each other and to every new person brought into relationship. We’re both struggling with our new definition but have continued to be loving to each other while figuring out how to move forward into the future.

Me as a kid.

In that Blog from two years ago I was feeling completely defeated financially as well. Things in this regard haven’t resolved themselves entirely, but I have made strides in dealing with my debts by filing bankruptcy. It wasn’t fun and it isn’t over yet, but it will be soon, and I will be able to move on into some meaningful employment or business. I’ve also learned the outcome of my problems with the Securities Commission, and while I’m far from sanguine about the Decision made, and the sanctions against me, I am in a place where I have begun to see how I can move forward from here. I have accepted entirely that I am accountable for my current financial situation, and if I am to rise again, it will be because I make it so.

Here are a few random thoughts about how I will get out of this mess.

Make a list, detail the issues including both those which seem unsolvable and those which appear to have potential solutions, no matter how unpalatable.

Take concrete steps to begin to address some of the issues.  Whether or not I can solve everything, or even most things, I can do something about most things.  I desperately need to break the hold that my emotional condition has on me.

Start listening better to the people in my life who care about me.  At the moment they seem to believe in me more than do I myself.

Creatively analyzing my situation with a view to possible improvements in it.  A little improvement is better than none.  Maybe everything isn’t quite as far gone as I currently believe,  maybe I can still pull myself back from the brink.  Of if not, figure out how to ride out the storm caused by going over the edge.

Let go of the past, embrace the future.  What is, is.  What has already happened is done, over and can’t be changed. But what has not yet happened, may never happen, or may result in outcomes totally different than anticipated by my fears.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise
Self Portrait of me as a young man.

I haven’t entirely let go of the past, and I continue to work on those things from the past that still cause havoc in my life. What can say, two short years later, is that there is hope, and things have actually improved, through hard work, a renewed practice of personal discipline in following my new lifestyle, and a willingness to be open and transparent to my partner, which means a lot less anxiety of both our parts, and a better, if not a little more complicated, redefinition of our lives, both together and apart.

Certificate of Survival

Jenn / SunnyDazzled /Flickr
Ghost Train

An antique engine still haunts the yard from the collection at The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg.
Happy Halloween!
This train goes between cities, further  
between nightmares and dreams, it travels
on track laid by dying
men that form the body nightmares.

Familiar faces, human, leave
our darkening world,
shadows answering no cries in the fog.

Do we forget who ride the empty boxcars
still searching for places to live in
a dream country for their own sons,

We travel with their souls, here in the dining car,
distinctly uncomfortable
with the smell of broiled lobster and sizzling steaks.

Have we the right to say or the guts to whisper:
You have it all WRONG
and can we take the pervasive laughing
clacking of the tracks

I wrote the poem above when I was in second year university, many years ago, influenced mostly by my experiences working on the Canadian National Railway. In the poem I am present to the existence of the thousands of workers imported into Canada to build the railways, and how many of them died in the process.

Many of the construction and railway workers were sent back home, mostly back to China, where they reunited with their families. Many, however, ended up staying in Canada, effectively separating them from their wives and children forever.

It is easy to forget that modern civilization was built on the backs of indentured and enslaved people, who still are denied any recognition for their real lives and losses.

In the current era, in a Canada now highly ethnically and racially diverse, these ancestors can finally have a say in who we are as a people. Acknowledging these people also opens the way to rediscover the indigenous peoples who have always been here. Long before European settlement the first nations were already here.

Before we can truly be the civilization we could be, we need to see and acknowledged these people, as well as the part of ourselves still enriched by their sacrifice.

Frustrated

by bureaucratic delivery of medical devices and services

Two nights ago I went to my local Shoppers Drug Mart in Walnut Grove, Langley to submit my prescription for my new type of FreeStyle Libre sensor and meter, as well as my two new types of insulin. It was a frustrating day yesterday sorting it all out, without yet having received anything… once I come up with the necessary funds. All told about $268.00 out of pocket, with $178.00 eventually refundable from Blue Cross once I send in the receipt showing that I’ve paid it.

My new insulin prescriptions are 85% covered by Blue Cross unlike my previous prescription for insulin which was covered entirely, once my initial 100 deductible is paid for the year. I don’t know why this is so, but is probably a result of this being newer technology and newer method of managing diabetes in BC and, for the moment, is grudgingly covered by Blue Cross under the agreement with my wife’s employer, and then only to 85% of the cost of the newer medications.

Money required for medications and equipment causes a lot of anxiety as money is particularly tight on my government pension, and I’m counting the days to the next pension check for when I’ll have any money to spend, pretty much on anything.

I’m don’t mean to be grumbling about my current financial situation. First of all its mostly my own fault. Secondly, the only person who can do anything about it is me, so there’s not a lot of point in getting angry about it. Still, coming up with an extra $300 all at once, halfway through the month is going to take some doing.

Assuming that I can figure out how to get the money together, it looks like I’ll be starting my new insulin regime tomorrow or the next day, and will start using my new sensor soon. I am both excited and anxious about it.

A New Leaf

This a revision to some of the issues I have addressed in my last several posts.

  • Marriage isn’t simple, and it sure isn’t heaven or hell.
  • COPD – it turns out that I don’t have it after all. What I do have is a great unknown, but whatever it is seems to be better than COPD, because it is treatable and can be controlled, unlike COPD.
  • I have prematurely given up Hope for a better life. Just because everything went to hell in a handbasket doesn’t mean that I have to accept my fate as given. I can still change everything.
Donald Wilson, from ten years ago.

Katherine and I are still living together, maybe not so much as husband and wife, but still struggling to find a way to cohabitate without driving each other crazy. Our issues have been enumerated and clarified, but not resolved or resolvable. Where do we go from here. I don’t know.

It turns out that I don’t have COPD. What I know is that I still struggle to breathe, which my respirologists says is a result of bronchial inflammation and asthma. She seems to believe that increasing my inhaler should reduce the impact of both, and improve my breathing. My recent experience of declining vigor and serious lung impairment needs to be put into a different context, one that has the possibility of significant improvement through new decisions and activities.

New hope is an odd thing. I hadn’t realized how deeply I had been affected by all the stuff in my life over the past five years. What is true also, is that I have been willing all along to believe that my life was more or less over, and old age was merely a bad post script to that.

I know it is time to turn over a new leaf and figure out just exactly I want for the next period of my life. I don’t have to accept decrepitude even if I do have to accept that advancing age and declining health options are real. I can fight this. Set some goals, Commit to specific changes.

Things I already know but haven’t been doing lately.

Encyclopedic Curiosity

cropped-donald-b-wilson-youth-portrait-square-pp-pe-bw.jpgFiguring out where I want to go from here, what I want to do and even who I want to be is far more complicated that I ever imagined it to be.  Especially now that I’m sixty-five years old.

I’ll admit to having experienced this state of fugue from time to time in my past.  When I attended university at UBC in Vancouver starting in 1971, I enrolled in a Music Education program, thinking that I might like to become a high school music teacher.  I had been singing in choirs and playing musical instruments since junior high school, and I fancied that I might actually be a good enough musician that I could make a living both as a musician and as a teacher of music.

Teaching and music both run in my family.

My mom and her father were both  teachers, and they both had successful careers, she largely as an English teaching with the Vancouver School Board for many years and later a Lecturer in Sociology in the Faculty of Education at UBC, and he as an itinerant teacher and school administrator across much of Canada’s north country, ending up as the Principal of Thunder Bay College, and later staying on as the first President of Lakehead University, both in Thunder Bay.

My very earliest memories were of listening to my mom sing lullabies when tucking me in as a young child at night, and of sitting on the piano bench next to my grandfather singing a Swedish Stilla natt, heliga natt! (Silent Night, Holy Night) along with him on one of his magical Christmas visits to our home.

Stilla natt, heliga natt!
Allt är tyst. Klart och glatt
Skiner stjärnan på stallets strå
Och de korade helgon två,
Som kring Guds Son hålla vakt
Som kring Guds Son hålla vakt.

My childhood home was often filled with music, as all of my siblings and I learned to sing early, and often.  Other wonderful memories of childhood include singing around the many campfires of family camping trips, to fantastic destinations like the Cariboo Trail, the Calgary Stampede, and the family homestead in Comstock, Saskatchewan where my grandfather and my mom both had their roots.

So becoming a music teacher seemed like a good idea at the time.  At UBC, in the Faculty of Music, I joined the University Singers, while also singing with the BC Boy’s Choir, which toured Europe one summer.  I also took several music education courses, and the standard required Humanities English 100 and a history course, French Canadian History, a survey course.

And, of course, I joined the UBYSSEY, the student newspaper,  as a greenhorn reporter and photographer.  During that year I wrote reviews of classical concerts and attended many operatic and symphonic events as a writer with Press Pass.  I shot news photographs and learned to work the dark room, and it’s many secrets.

There were a couple of things that went wrong in that first year, that threw my plan to become a teacher into the garbage bin.  Around Christmas I was involved in an electrical fire in my mother’s car, which destroyed the engine, and more importantly, led to serious smoke damage to my throat, vocal chords and quite possibly to my lungs, which may very well partially account for the fact that I  now suffer from serious COPD, and forced me to withdraw from the University Singers, and stop singing with the Boys Choir.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ’emphysema’ are no longer used, but are now included within the COPD diagnosis. WHO | COPD: Definition  http://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/definition/en/

The second, and much more important than the temporary loss of my voice was my failure to thrive in my education course work.  One of my professors told me point blank that he would be willing to give me a passing grade, only if I agreed to drop out of the Faculty of Education, and never take another education course.  For whatever reason, true or not, he had reached a conclusion about my unsuitability to becoming a teacher.  His comments to me were couched as gently as he could, but he stated that he believed that I didn’t belong in a classroom as a teacher because I was emotionally wrong for the job.  He felt that my unlimited energy and wild enthusiasm, as well as mercurial  temper and periods of depression made me highly unsuitable as a trustee for young children, or even teenagers.

I was stuck down, destroyed in my ambition to be a teacher, and took to heart this professor’s judgment.  The loss of my voice seemed trivial against the far greater loss of a potential career I’d always thought I’d follow.  So at the end of my first year at university I completed my arts courses, English and French Canadian History which were all I could take with me into the Faculty of Arts in the fall of the next year.

As it turned out, I ended up with an English degree since it was the only second year course I could take, and I was invited to participate in the Honours program in English literature by the Faculty Adviser supervising my first year English course.  In a way, the English Department chose me, rather than me choosing them.  My choice in an academic degree was large a default decision, rather than a purposeful one.  It didn’t seem too off base, after all I am the son of an English teacher, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that English was a pretty easy alternative to my preferred choice of music.

The choice of an academic career by default, is in many way, symptomatic of the choices I’ve made in the rest of my life.  As someone with a supposedly high intelligence quotient, the ability to read copiously as a result of reading extremely fast, and with the ability to do well in any scholarly pursuit, if I put my mind and heart into it, made school seem like a natural path, even if I actually was pretty much indifferent to the content of my education.  I love reading, but not literature per se.  I’d have been just as happy to have done my degree in Economic or History, or for that matter, Astrophysics.

If I have any dominant characteristic, common to me as a child, an adolescent, an adult and now, as a senior, it is encyclopedic curiosity.  I don’t claim to know much about anything in particular, but I’m interested in almost everything under the sun. I continue to be thrilled to discover new things, new inventions, new way of thinking and doing.

This characteristic has many good aspects to it, and a couple not so great.  It means that I have had, and continue to have, some difficult in choosing what to do with my time.  Everything looks interesting, and generally I’ve pretty much always been able to handle the challenges thrown up by any of my endeavors, except in one, simple, but fundamental way.  It’s tough to choose, and even tougher to stay the course.    My threshold of boredom is really low, and my curiosity and boredom with everyday duties have made me singularly less than as financially successful as I should have been, if only I could have stuck to one thing, and truly made it my own.  With my raw abilities I should have mounted to the top of whatever career I choose, instead of ending up mediocre in all of them, having failed to really commit to any of them.

 

 

 

Wonderland?

Sometimes I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe, one in which I’m no longer a person.  The world has also changed, seemingly irretrievably, into a place without any kind of safety, security, and surety.

Mum used to complain to me, from time to time, when she was retired from teaching, that she felt invisible, of no consequence, and therefore, of no value to anyone, including to herself.  I remember telling her that, of course, she had meaning and value, at least to her children, and that we value her for her wisdom and accumulated life experience.  I believe now that my comments were, at best, well-meaning but false.

Feelings are not facts, although they weigh us down as if they are real.  I am going to be celebrating my sixty-fifth birthday in less than a month.  Supposedly this means that I should be enjoying the opportunity to retire from active working life, and into a pleasant meander down the road of a new journey, not so bound up in ambition or goals.

Instead, I head into retirement with serious complications of diabetes and COPD, chronically exhausted, in constant arthritic and neuropathic pain.  My professional life is in disgrace, and my finances are completely destroyed.  My marriage is a shambles, a mere shadow of meaning and purpose I believed it to be. Whatever self-esteem I once enjoyed has been systematically eroded to the point where I have become self-effacing and ashamed.

Accomplishments once achieved with pride, are now rued as pointless, as they were not sustained, nor followed up with long-term success.  Professional competence and pride in my knowledge and skills are now the pathetic memories of a fallen champion.

I have crashed and burned before, and arose from the ashes to take on new challenges and build a life again. I’m told by professionals that I need to let go of the past, forget my shortcomings, and learn to live with my current life and health circumstances.  In short, I need to refocus on a new future.  Build again a life worth living,  a life into which joy and laughter can once again be a part.

There is still much of value in my life, and turning to those people who continue to befriend me and support me is a part of that future.  Gratitude for what I have now will be a good start.

Still, it is difficult to look around me and see a landscape filled with characters I don’t recognize and don’t think I really want to get to know.  What would be even more helpful would be if I could find a mirror that shows me the man I once thought I was.  The mirrors in Wonderland show me a person I scarcely recognize, and who I really don’t want to be.

Business is Business

Aside

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my business life over the past couple of years, while I’ve tried to stay positive in the face of severe business reversals.  It is natural to doubt myself after several major problems occurred put a wrench into my ability to function.  Needless to say, I’m not happy to lose my investor’s money in projects that didn’t work out the way I’d planned.  And I sure didn’t expect the fallout that has come my way.

Truth.  I missed the boat on some important things.  Like the collapse of the oil markets and Alberta’s economy, with them. Like the fact depending on other people only works if they aren’t subject to the same negative market conditions as me.