First; the good news. I have not been sick since the week of the Super Bowl, also known as the first week of February (someone grab a cross, an ace of spades, a Kippah, a lock of Lindsay Lohan’s hair, and some wood to knock on). Quick confession: except the couple times I drank too much and drove my head into the state it had been in for two and a half years. Why would someone who has been in such a severe stasis for so long do such a thing you might ask? Good question. My doctor said it was to feel normal again. I tend to think my brain has suffered so much traumatic stress that I make poor decisions. Anyway, the meds are doing the job now. I am on seven different pills. The Walgreens gal doesn’t even ask for my name anymore. But you know what? So be it. Or as Vonnegut said, “And so it goes.” Millions have to take heart meds or blood pressure meds or diabetic meds to stay alive. I can do this.
I met with an old friend for lunch the other day. I had not seen him in probably ten years. He wanted my entire story from when I had the first of two back surgeries in January 2008 that sent me on the journey to this point. We spent three hours on a restaurant patio drinking coffee, discussing the strange trip. What came out of it was how happy I am now. I am writing and playing music, and spending so much time with my kids that my wife probably feels she has three children.
The last two and a half years have been a dark time. In fact, they have been hell. The last year trended better thanks to treatments, but overall it was also tough. Then starting in January off and on, I started walking around without pain in my head for the first time since October 1st, 2011. And now I wake up in the morning able to smile. I exercise. I can laugh without feeling like I am going to faint (Mainellis laugh hard). I traveled via airline. I went to a couple of basketball games. These sound like simple feats but were big deals. I am going to play golf any day for the first time since September 2011. I might cry on the first tee box. Of course, I’ll be angry as hell by the second tee box. F*&%$# three-putt!
This isn’t to say I won’t get hit with some bad days or weeks down the road, but I think I will take it on with a greater inner strength, having been given such a perspective on things. And now, I can only call all of this, my life, a gift. Everything that is happening to me feels like a reboot or second chance. All the wonderful people I met through owning a business for fifteen years including customers and my employees are still with me. Traveling the world and meeting incredible people through a terrific company for another five years are still there. And now, after a crazy three years of this monster illness, I am getting a chance to do what I love and meet more extraordinary people.
I signed up for the low-residency MFA at Nebraska last year thinking I could teach or work in the capacity as a writer if I remained ill. That was small-thinking. I have met pretty amazing people from all over through this deal. My writing has improved 200% and my first mentor, Kate Gale from Red Hen Press and who is an amazing writer, has become my advocate and friend, and has taught me the business of publishing. My current mentor is Pope Brock, a brilliant writer and a craftsman out of Maine that couldn’t be a better teacher. I’ll cut this post by a third next time, Pope. The rest of the faculty, together, is like a diamond mine hiding right under our noses. They are a wealth of talent from all over the country and bring a great diversity of experience. I really hope more people take advantage of the program. The alumni are successful and well published as well, proving the point about the faculty fully.
But this is life and how it works. One of my fellow mates, a professor up in Wayne USA who looks like Kurt Cobain and missed his birth-date as a Beat by seventy years, asked me to meet him for a beer on a Saturday afternoon. And who is with him? MarQ Manner. The man about town in the music world. The guy is Omaha music. We get talking about who is up to what these days and he tells me he has a singer/songwriter series going on that has been happening for about eight months and asks if I can do it. I tell him that I just started feeling well enough to play again, but I would love to and will let him know when I am ready. I see him again a few weeks later and he says, “I need you. Remember Dereck Higgins?” For those of you who don’t live in Omaha, Dereck is a legend around here. Punk, rock, jazz, electric, emo, you name it, this guy is the goods. So no pressure Dave. Show in five weeks. All original music. Let’s do it.
But look how the perfect confluence of writing and music have come together for me. As if they were supposed to. Synchronicity baby. Would I have said yes four years ago to all of this? I doubt it. Recognize any of these answers? I never have the time anymore. Too busy with kids. Ooo, I wish I could. Work is crazy right now. It’s been too long. Wednesday is naked pasta night. I have golf league. Am I the only one who does pasta night?
Sticking my head back out into society with my eyes open has allowed for the synchronicity. I went and watched some old friends play a show last week. Guys I grew up with, and who, when I see, I immediately have love for again. (Sons of…bitches they are). They can still put out damn good music too. And when I am out to see others play or read it seems like every time there is some other connection -crossing streams- to writing or music. I had to go to a publishing conference in Seattle to meet a great writing connection friend from Omaha.
I’m not sure if my mind, eyes, and ears are more receptive to it all right now, taking in all possibilities, or if the time is just ripe, but I am being much more accepting of the chances I am getting, and it has made a significant difference on my soul. One thing I am sure of is that we say NO to opportunities way too much. It becomes a reflex. Chances don’t just come around like a top forty hit on the radio. Life has these doors and they are only open at certain times, and yet we keep walking down the hallway scared to walk in a room and see what happens. Say no when you need to, and to the things you despise. but say yes to what you love. Make room for what keeps you fulfilled.
So, say yes and figure out how to make it work later (see Branson below). Say yes and give it a go. Say yes and enjoy it. Say yes, because you may not get another chance. Say yes, because you are being offered a gift. Say yes, because life is too short. Say yes, because everyone else says no. Say yes, because you only get one life.
But say no to drugs, kids. Just kidding. Do whatever you want.
MarQ Manner at Omaha Dispatch