Monday, January 9, 2017

Alive Day: Version 10

It’s been 10 years. 

Our memories are always defined in increments of some kind. We have high school and college reunions on the 5 year, 10 year, 25 year dates and so on. We do the same for tragedy. The first year then on to 5, 10 and so on.  Well this is my 10 year mark since my heart attack.

On January 10, 2007 I died. I was brought back but a part of me never came back. It is really hard to describe as you really need to have something like your life being in legit jeopardy to realize what I am talking about. I have a few friends who understand what I am talking about.

This one is special to me because I made it to 10 years.  The day I left the ICU there was a crabby nurse there who just came on shift and I guess she wanted to be the “tough love” nurse.  She told me that I would probably be back in 3 years. Definitely in 5 and probably dead in 7 to 10. I did not go back in 3 or 5.  I did not die in 7 and here I am at 10. 

One truth is that a part of me did die within the past 10 years. It was the good part. I know I am blessed that I did not die on this day 10 years ago but the impact that day had on my life has been defining.  I learned so much about myself and a lot of it was not good. Before the heart attack I was a person who already dealt with enough harshness that this life could bring to last several lifetimes. That day 10 years ago was to bring about a change where one realizes that life was worth living. At first it felt that way. I had a new appreciation for life but after time, I lost a major part of me.

I lost hope of life.

I did not notice it at first but my life plans went from long term to short term.  I am not talking about that “live for today because tomorrow is not guaranteed” crap.  I am talking about that part of you where you see the value in yourself and the value in a long time future or love, life and happiness. The loss of self-worth that my upbringing engrained into me added to a possible life cut short really impacted me is such a profoundly negative way. I lost the part of me that is important to everyone who wants the best in life.  I mean why should I invest in me when my life was going to get cut short anyway? Why should I care?

There have been good moments that I will get to (I promise) but there are so many bad ones the past 10 years. 

One of the biggest issues I have is that I self-destruct.  I owned this mentality that I was not worth much anymore because I was now tainted.  Why should anyone like me or even love me? Why should anyone care?  When you thing that way, you often destroy the good things.  I did my share of destruction. Laying in that hospital bed was the pinnacle of this. Just die and end it already. You are not worth crap anymore Richard and no one will miss you a day past your memorial service.  Do everyone a solid and just slip away. You don’t matter. You don’t have anyone.  You can just die and be a “oh I think I remember that guy” memory.  Was that wrong to think? At the time, no. 

Trying to move past that is still a daily battle for me.  Trying to figure out if I have value to anyone is a struggle.  I should know, and not have to hope for that.  It’s the vicious cycle that has been hard to break free from. It has caused me to miss so much within the past several years.

There have been 2 major significant moments the last 10 years for me.

One was the death of my stepfather here in my home.  He was fighting the onset of cancer and was getting weaker and weaker. One day I was in my room and Max was watching TV with my stepfather and Gene slipped off the chair onto the floor.  Max was like 4 or 5 at the time so he did not know what to do.  He went and told my mom and she and my aunt Nora went to check on Gene.  Next thing I know my cousins are beating on my door telling me that Gene was not breathing.  I ran in there and saw my mom and aunt crying over him so I started CPR while my sister called 911.  The fire and ambulance guys were here in minutes and they took over.  They took him to the hospital but he could not be revived.  Gene died. I called my aunt and asked her to bring Max to the hospital.  I went to get him then took him outside and tried to explain to him that Gene died and what that meant.  I know he kind of knew what I was talking about but he was so young.  I felt like I failed him.  He saw me doing CPR but it did not work. I sat in that ER room with Gene and cried. Real crying.  Then it stopped because I needed to handle the business of getting the funeral home on the phone and starting that process. My heart went cold that day.

The other moment was the death of my friend Jason Stone.  A few years before my heart attack I lost everything.  I mean everything. No job, no money, car out for repo, everything I owed in the back of my SUV. I slept in it many a night. At times I would steal food. Steal gas. It was not a good moment for me. I told Jason what was going on and the only thing he said was “bring your stuff, you can stay here.”  Once that happened, everything turned around for me. When I had my heart attack I was in ICU and it was late at night.  I was pumped full of blood thinners and bleeding out of everywhere.  My nose was non-stop bleeding. I was flat on my back so I was spitting up blood all over myself. My good nurse had left and the replacement was not around.  Well here comes Jason.  He looked at me and walked right out. A few moment later a nurse was in there with towels and a new gown and got me cleaned up.  Jason was an intense don’t mess with me kind of guy that you did not want to meet if he was angry.  When he saw me, he was angry. After that there was someone checking on me often.  That was my friend. He fixed things that were broken.  Some of those times it was me that was broken.  Jason was killed a few years ago in a car accident.  My stupid ego messed up our friendship and we were not hanging out like we use to.  I put off fixing that then it was too late.  I regret that daily.

But this story is not all whiny dribble.  Although things have been ugly at times, there have been good things too.  

There have been people that have come into my life and have shown me a better path. Even when they did not know it. I cannot write about these last 10 years without mentioning a few. Although I have tons of family and friends, there are a few that I have to mention because of their impact on me still being here.

First I have to speak on my family.  I don’t know where I would be without my mom and sister. They showed up when I was on that hospital bed and took care of me the weeks after.  I got to meet my nephew Max and have gotten to see him grow up.  Now I have that crazy boy Ree Ree running around too.  It makes everything amazing.

My cat. She is my responsibility and she hates me so much until she needs food.

My friend Melinda Wells.  We have become family. She is as true a friend as you can get. She is the one that answers and says “well come over anytime you want”.  Melinda is selfless and always thinking of others.  She takes care of her family and she makes you family.  She and her sister, Lyndsay, are 2 of the best people you could ever know. They open their homes and hearts to everyone and they are my ride or die chicks for sure. Plus Lyndsay’s apartment has monster Jenga… so there is that.

My friend Maria Miller.  I have known Maria for so many years now.  Since the crazy auto finance days. I am not sure I can take credit for her being married but I think I did introduce her to her husband Josh. You’re welcome.  Maria has always been there for me too. Who else would go vinyl record shopping with me?

My friend Meriam Bouarrouj.  I met Meriam through Team True Beauty.  I see her pretty much every time I go to Los Angeles.  She is my tour guide. Meriam is one of my definitions of an elegant lady. She is such an example to me of someone with a kind, caring and loving spirit. She has shown me what hard work and determination can do. She has been so sweet and caring to me and a pure joy to be around when I get to visit LA. 

My friend from Germany, Dana.  None of you know her but she is the one person who made me realize that my voice means something.  We all have that moment where we wonder what it would be like if we weren’t here.  Dana was the one who made me realize that I mattered.  Short version is that I would get tons of people tweeting me because of who I knew and it got to be so much trying to make everyone happy so I just stopped responding.  Dana kept asking me to follow her so she could send me a direct message and I just wouldn’t. Ultimately she spilled her guts on Twitter to me. She was so brave to be so open in such a public way. I felt horrible because I did not mean for her to have to do that. But after reading what she wrote me I decided to respond so I wrote her a Twitlonger.  That is a way to write a long tweet without being limited by the 140 characters.  She was hurting herself.  The place she was in, I had been there.  What she did with a razor, I did with food and stupidity.  I did my best to let her know that there was hope there for her. That her young life was worth living and the mean things being done were temporary. I listened and simply responded like I did many times.  Years later she told me that she stopped self-harming that day and never did again. The impact of that moment for me was probably one of the most significant in my life.  When I would ask if I had value over and over there would be no response, until that day.

My ICU nurse, Annette Love Berry.  She was the one that was with me when I first got to the ICU when I had my heart attack.  Many times a nurse will sweep in, write their name on the board, show you how the TV works and then they bounce out. Annette was my nightingale. She was there that night through the morning and was there after my heart surgery. She stayed past her shift to make sure I was ok. She was so reassuring to me the entire time and did not judge me at all.  I was a fat blog of human waste at that time.  I was gross and worthless. Laying there very deserving of what happened to me because of my life of excess.  But she did not judge.  She is having major medical issues right now so stop for a moment and say a prayer for her healing…. I will wait…. Thank you… I told her the other night something that is the most truthful thing I can say… until the day I leave this world her name will always be uttered from my mouth when anyone asked me about kindness.  And when I get to heaven and meet God face to face I will be able to say “she was You!”

There is one person who I will forever call my BFF and that is Dianna Delagarza. Oh I have tried my best to mess that up… but she never gave up on me.  I know she thought about it, but she didn’t.  Dianna is that friend who always says “I love you”.  She will say it when I say I am leaving. Says it when she hugs me goodbye.  Says it again when I start to walk away. Then she will yell it when I start to get in my car. When we get to hang out it is nothing but laughter and meaningful conversations. Always at the most needed times. We have been through great times and extremely rough times. But we always get though them, don’t we. If it was not for her, I would not have realized my biggest dream of publishing not one, but 2 books.

Now I have had people come into my life like seasons. They swoop in… make stuff amazing then leave just as fast.  But I have one friend, Kirsten, who I have known for a short period of time but she came in at a significant moment. Young in age but the caring of someone of extreme years.  I am not going to lie, I had a bad moment in my life just over a year ago.  As I tend to do, I started to tear myself down.  It is an unfortunate habit but I was imploding.  We would Instant Message all the time and I was in that place.  You know that place, where someone is all destroying themselves and people usually respond with postcard statements like “oh it will get better” or “just let go and let God”… you know where you don’t know what to say so you change the subject or patronize them away.  She didn’t do that. She stopped me right in my tracks and affirmed me. She did not give me a cliché statement. She said something significant and life changing and personal.  She took the moment to shut it down when others would just brush it off.  I still don’t think she knows the impact of that and how much I love her for that. To be so young yet so thoughtful gives me hope for people younger than me.  I honestly don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for her.

To all my buds, Jack, Rob, Keith, Dave… I can say I have a pretty bad ass group of buddies.  A wannabe YouTube star, a chef, the sports dude, the free spirited artist traveler. 

There are so many people I could go on and on about who have been bright lights in my life, so I thank you all.

I know that is all over the place but it gets like that on my blog at times.  The past 10 years have been on all ends of the life spectrum.  I am definitely in a better place now than I was a few years ago.  Everyday truly is a blessing and I am slowly seeing that.  It is not easy to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.  But like I always say: sometimes your get the ring, sometimes you get the finger.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome blog. You know you are a part of my family and will always be welcome wherever I'm at. We love you! So glad you came out on top! I'm proud to know you and call my family and true friend!!