Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day six hundred and eighty six ... Keys to the castle.

This is my house.

But this picture was taken last October, before it was actually mine.

I had made a bid on a house right around the corner. It was way too small and way too expensive, but I was in a hurry. For what reason I can't be sure. I can, however, speculate that a contributing factor was that my aunt--the last of my close, blood relatives--had passed away the month prior and I didn't want to have to endure what was coming over the horizon in the same apartment I had lived in for eight years.

I didn't want to be in the same building over the holiday season that for so many years before had been the scene of so many family events. Not that we celebrated Christmas or Thanksgiving in my old place. But it's where I was picked up, brought back, and given bag after beautiful bag of groceries by my family. It's where I had birthday parties for me, and even one for my mom. The long, slow, smiling wait for her to crest the top step to the staircase that led up to the second floor each time she came there I will never forget. The excitement and boisterous noise that always carried throughout the normally quiet neighborhood during those events will always remain vibrating in part of the air there in my mind. And the way I would stand at the doorway on the bottom floor making silly faces, waving, and waiting for them to slowly back up, cautiously turn, and drive ahead down my dead end street--me, shoulders slumped and sad like a little boy, with tears running down his ruddy cheeks.

Maybe it was that.

Maybe I didn't want to spend the holidays there another year without them.

So I packed up my things and moved out.

Like I said, I almost bought the wrong place. But I talked with some friends, paid a building inspector, and ultimately came to terms with the fact that I had been impulsive and hasty. I stood back from the situation, looked at it with a fresh perspective, and begrudgingly changed my stubborn little mind.

But such has been my lifestyle for almost two whole years.

And so, a year ago on November 21 I went to see my lawyer. We went to the bank and then we went back to his office. I met my buyers agent and the sellers agent and we signed some papers. I nervously waited until I got the call from my lawyer telling me everything was as it should be; the house was officially mine.

And then I had this picture taken.

And I moved in with the help of my friends.

I celebrated Thanksgiving with some of them.

I had Christmas with my Aunt Anne here. I lit the bayberry candle on Christmas Eve, which has been a tradition in my family since before I was ever even able to hold a match--the smell of a blown out candle consistently evoking the deepest, dearest emotions in my soul.

And the winter came in and rolled on like it does every year.

A whole hell of a lot has happened since then.

I met a girl who I can talk to, first and foremost, and I fell deeply in love.

I travelled throughout Europe with her.

I got better at working through my personal problems.

I think I learned how to shut up about the things that don't really matter.

And I made this house a home.

And I come back to this place--a place like no other to me--every time I go away. It holds so many memories for me now. The first piece of furniture delivered; the warm brownies left on the doorstep by the neighbors; the first coating of snow; the first heating bill; my first fireplace fire; the first time the smoke detectors went off; my first party; my first real date in what seemed like a lifetime; the second date; the first nervous, excited, kiss; meeting the parents and cooking them dinner; Baseball season on my television; my birthday; the summer; landscaping; touring the world with someone I love; her birthday and the magnificent outdoor party here that accompanied it; the fall; the end of baseball season on my television; the leaves leaving my surroundings shockingly bare; the realization that privacy is overrated; the first few fleeting flakes of this winter's snow; the first time the heat went on since the last time; and the understanding that it's all come around again and November twenty-first is here at my doorstep.

And regardless of whether I may have rushed it or not. Regardless of if I almost made the biggest mistake in my life buying a house that wasn't right for me. Regardless of the way things might have gone had I not opened my mouth to say, both, "Hey guys, I put in a bid on a house," or, "I'd love to get together sometime" ...

Regardless of any of that, right now I'm sitting in my favorite place in the world, waiting for my favorite person to arrive, doing what I absolutely love most ...

And there's no better ending than that.

Here's to a year in the books and the rest of time on my side.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day six hundred and eighty two ... A moment's notice.

Every so often I stand in front of my favorite chair and try to picture myself gone.

This is what I do when there's something nagging in the back of my mind; it helps me get things done.

Can anyone else take care of it?

Will anyone else take care of it?

If I can't answer yes to both of these questions I get my ass in gear and make it happen.

I remember my mom calling me up sometime around June of 2005, right after she had gotten her new treadmill. She had named it "Harley" in honor of Dr. Harley Haynes, her dermatologist--the best in the country.

"I've been riding my Harley," she said.

"That's great, Mom. Good for you."

"And I've lost five pounds!", she said.

And I congratulated her on it, profusely. I was truly happy for her and I was really hoping this would be a turning point. She--like all of us in the Johnson clan--had a weight problem. It had started shortly after she had me at age 29, and despite some valiant attempts and successes losing ten pounds here, five pounds there, even twenty pounds at one point, it showed no signs of truly stopping for thirty five years.

But something happened at age 64 and she decided to do something about it: she bought Harley, and she started to ride.

Sadly, this grand attempt to get healthy would not last for long. Because in September of 2005 my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; in sixteen months she would be gone.

I can't, nor will I try, to blame her death on any one thing. I'm not a doctor, nor will I ever be. But I know that there is a link between obesity and pancreatic cancer. I know that my mother was well aware of this, too. My mother was one of the smartest and most proactive people I ever knew. I also know that she told me more than once how she wished so much to have really fought the weight battle sooner.

And now Harley the Treadmill sits in the front room of her house in Mattapoisett along with her and my aunt's ashes. Her favorite chair is there, too.

I have had plenty of scares in recent days. A little bump here, a mole there, the occasional heart flutter and, of course, the nagging weight problem. I see my doctor at least twice a year and he tells me I'm doing great.

I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs anymore and I hope I stopped in time.

I'm only 39 and I'm planning to have plenty of years left on this magnificent earth.

I try to take care of the things that need to be taken care of before I get a reminder notice--both in tangible and intangible forms.

I water the plants twice a week.

I take out the trash.

I recycle.

I do my laundry when it gets dirty and I don't let it pile up more than necessary.

I write thank you notes.

I hold the door for people, and I make sure there's no one coming behind me before I let it close.

I keep my phone charged.

I pay my bills.

I clean my house.

I wash my car.

I cut out coupons and I use as many as I can before they expire.

I visit my mom's elderly friends.

I hire professionals to do the jobs that could potentially kill me.

I try not to swear around children.

I root for the Red Sox.

I tell my girlfriend I love her whenever I can, but I try not to overdo it.

And whenever I just feel like taking a nap, or putting it off until tomorrow, or letting just a few more minutes get in between me and the rest of my life, I stand in front of my favorite chair and I try and picture myself gone.

Can anyone else take care of it?

Will anyone else take care of it?

If I can't answer yes to both of these questions I get my ass in gear and get it done.

And that is why I wrote today.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 9, 2009

Day six hundred and seventy four ... Closer still.

I'm not all better, but I'm getting close.

My shrink asks me how my urges have been--have I been feeling like going back to drinking?

She's too funny.

No lady, I don't think so. I appreciate the concern, don't get me wrong. It's a legitimate one, as drinking was something I did more than almost everything else combined (a fair evaluation, albeit a bit boastful).

But I'm on my way to being able to cut free of those chains, those excruciatingly heavy and jagged chains. The allegorical fishhooks that pulled at my arms when I tried to lock the door and stay in for the night, or show up for band practice or a gig with only a bottle of water in my hand--the holes they left are all but mere freckles. God, I used to not even be able to scream it was so painfully predictable. The information they dragged out of me became more of a question than an answer in the end. "Hey, who's going to be the most wasted guy in the world tonight? ... Me! Me! Me! Ooh, ooh, ooh! I want to be that guy! Give me a chance! I'll show you how it's done!"

And so it would be.

And I suppose that it's important for me to write these words out loud in order to remind myself of how things were for much longer than they weren't. I suppose it's therapeutic, and perhaps may even act as a barrier against the evils that lie in what seems like every point one could focus a pair of eyes on, outside of the confines and comfort of home or a hospital.

But I'm not buying into the lifetime of servitude. No fucking way.

You see, it's quite easy for me to predict my future to a certain degree. I predicted a few things that would happen when this all began almost two years ago. Yes, I did say two years. Hard to believe it myself. But anyway, amidst the chaos that was the winter of 2007 I had an idea that if I cleaned up my act and started living right I would be able to lose weight. I predicted that my hypertension (high blood pressure) would level off, and I'd be able to get off my medication. I predicted that my anxiety level would lessen, hastened in part by the clearing of my mental state, which in turn would allow me to take care of my personal, professional, and business affairs that had become so neglected.

I could, however, have never predicted meeting Jodi. That was a stroke of brilliance that could have only been handed down from the heavens. And each time I look up into the sky there is a part of me that says "thank you".

But all of the aforementioned items on my list of main concerns did, in fact, turn out as predicted.

And that gives me some ammo. This is still a fight, mind you. Human nature is wont for destruction if given enough weapons. We're all dying from the day we're born, so why not screw with the mechanism? Seems like fun when you can't feel the damage.

I'm taking things in stride these days. I'm enjoying what my life is like now and not sitting around bemoaning how it used to be on a daily, hourly basis. I did that for a while. It got me on my feet and into a place where I could see down into it from above. I got an emotional and spiritual step stool to perch upon in order to see what I had been in the middle of.

It wasn't pretty.

I think it's somewhat funny now that I can see it all for what it is. I can't help but notice, when I'm out at a bar and having a good time, some people who may not know where I am in my adaption seeming a bit nervous around me. It's usually one of two reasons: either they think that I relapsed and am back on the sauce, or they think I'm nervous to be there around them. I could have never predicted that. I always thought it was going to be me who was the uncomfortable one. "Oh, how can I still go out and not drink? People are going to be offering me booze and I'm going to have to come up with excuses and it's going to be weird and I'm going to feel like I don't fit in anymore without my buzz on."

I never planned on it being as easy as just going out and not drinking. I never planned on it ultimately being up to me. I never realized--the whole time I was doing it--that not only did I had the start/stop button in my hands, but it actually was my hands, and it was connected to that big squash on top of my roundish body that I like--on good days--to call my brain.

Like I said, I'm not all better, but I'm getting close.

As far as the stuff my shrink asks me--about whether or not I get urges to go out and get loaded--this is how I see it:

At the stage I'm at in my life if I were to go out and buy a bottle of vodka and bring it back to my house and drink it, it would be like stealing a sandwich from a grocery store when I was hungry: it would make me feel full for a while. Then, in a few hours, I would become hungry once more, and I'd have the guilt of stealing something from the store. I couldn't ever just do it and feel good about it.

And I can't just do it once, because unless it kills me it'll just make me hunger.

And just like the leading brand of self-help is rife with analogies and aphorisms, so seems to be the words I write myself that keep me sane: it only works until it doesn't.

I don't write as much as I used to. I don't think I really need to. It's way more of an outlet for me to document the good things that have been going on, just in larger groups of moments. It's hard to say whether I would have the life I have now if I didn't have the life I had then. It would be unfair to even speculate ... so I don't.

I absolutely love the way I am and the way my world has mutated, but I also know that it could all change at a moment's notice. I realize we can only do what our brain tells us to do.

And that is why I wrote today.

Thanks for reading,