It’s been 3 months since a friend and colleague passed away after a long and brave battle with cancer. I think of him often, in part because his office is a few doors down the hallway from mine, but mostly because he was a memorable guy. He was someone who faced what I considered at the time an unimaginable hardship: going through a divorce while simultaneously exploring treatments in a battle to extend his life, while at the same time trying to spend every living moment he could with his young daughter. It would be a heartbreaking story if it were not for the positive influence he had on a great number of people in both his personal and professional life. I never heard him speak ill of anyone, although I’m sure he did as all humans do. Such is life. I rarely found his focus to be on himself, although undoubtedly there were moments – even long stretches – of selfishness. Such is life. It’s only natural (and I think beneficial) to remember only the good things about someone we admired and respected after they have died, but that isn’t to say that in hindsight we need to think of our friends as perfect. That would be cheating them of being human.
When I was having a tough time, whether at home or at work, he was someone I could rely on to help me see the light, so to speak, and to focus on what really mattered. There were days he would take a walk with me (this all before his diagnosis) to get me to open up my chest and just to breathe. He would remind me of what was important, not by dispensing advice, but by asking me simple questions, like how my kids were doing.
He’s the kind of guy one would say took the high road. And coincidentally, that was the name of the road he lived on; it’s more than a convenient metaphor, though. There are any number of difficulties one finds in an hour, a day, a month, a year. Most of these are petty, many uncontrollable or unforeseen, but they all weigh on us in different ways at different times. I feel days when I can glide past the difficulty of my marriage ending, which on so many days feels like grieving for a lost one, with the ease, and as much pain, as smacking a biting mosquito. There are days when the kids are not with me, when something like buying a gallon of milk triggers a longing to see my children that feels like I’m being gutted with a dull knife. Life is a dream, but an imperfect one. That’s the sum of what I learned from the brief time in this world I was able to know JJ. Accept things for what they are in the moment, know that there is another day when things will not be so dire and, most importantly, take the high road. To do the right thing, as it is said, is a simple ethic. There have been many around me lately, JJ included, who have helped me understand how to live by that ethic, and for that I am grateful beyond words.
It’s been a while, and like anything in life that you leave dormant for a year, or more, you come back to it not only with a fresh outlook, but also a slew of experience and change. The life-altering, introspection-inducing, gut-wrenching, resilience-building, soul-crushing, spirit-lifting kind of changes that come from being in the midst of one’s life, a father, an employee or just someone trying to make his way in the world.
The middle of 2014 has found me living as a single-father, separated and likely soon to be divorced from my wife of nine years. I am happily and gainfully employed, in a strange — in a foreign kind of way — state of affairs. Physically, I’m living in a nice new two bedroom apartment that is well-furnished and filled with personal effects, yet strangely like living in someone else’s home, or a nice extended stay hotel. The kids seem relatively happy here, but it is always a guessing game as to what is really churning and shaping in the mind of a child. Mentally, I’m all over the place, as is to be expected; there are days of feeling content with the universe and my place in it, days when tears constantly well up in my eyes, clouding my vision and sapping — almost literally — my energy, hours filled with clarity and gratitude, and long stretches of time when I feel like I’m in a state of drifting, weightless limbo. And that may account for just a few days, in a cycle and range of emotions that, for the most part, are unique and indescribable.
So why now? For one, expression is part of healing. It is one among a proven set of factors in determining one’s state of happiness (more on that topic in a future post). It also fills some time, provides some relief via distraction from what ails one and leads one down paths to simple conclusions and reasonable insights; and those help one do more than cope. They aid in understanding and rationalizing a state of affairs, invigorating and motivating one to accept the way things are and can even provide surprise and delight about friendships, family and what is really important in life.
Very excited to see Colette and David arrive from Los Angeles today, for a long weekend in Austin. Most excited to go with them as guests of Caroline and KLRU to see Radiohead tape an episode of Austin City Limits. David and Colette were in our circle of folks who made the trip to Rothbury, Michigan for Rothbury Music Festival, so it will be a reunion of sorts. Today is a lazy day with a lots of sun, but a chilly wind out of the north. Quite a difference from yesterdays warm day in the 80s.
Tomorrow is the 84th Zilker Park Kite Festival. We jokingly refer to it as “People Fest” given the experience last year in which thousands upon thousands of people stood in Zilker Park, with absolutely no wind whatsoever. Just a line of food concessions and not much else going on.
Was lucky to meet a few of the guys from Circuit of the Americas this week, again at ACL Live (for a taping of the Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars). They are incredibly pumped up for the upcoming Formula 1 race this Fall, and the more I learn about it, and the swirl of parties and events surrounding it, the more I’m looking forward to the whole F1 racing world coming to Austin.