ARE WE THERE YET?

Living in the moment is where most want to be.  Connected to people.  Everyone’s searching for that rich connection to feel purpose, love, and belonging.  Many condense life to that simple place.  A dance on the planet in our fragile earth suit, connected hand in hand, swaying with humanity in the cosmos.    Making the most of the life experience.  Breathing, moving through the physical, emotional, and spiritual spheres for connection and meaning of it all.  Between now and the accumulated journeys along life’s timeline, charted for pleasure, reward, and achievement, what’s the ultimate destination that transcends the expiration date of the flesh and blood earth suit?  What’s a life well-travelled?  Are We There Yet?

It was a clear and sunny day in San Diego that April 16, 1976.  I was age 26, with a cocky and invincible persona, especially when riding with the wind on my Honda 250 motorcycle.  Until that green pick-up truck pulled in front of me that day, I thought the world was my oyster.  Suddenly, my life took a detour.  The sensation of right arm paralysis is complete detachment.  No pain.  Instantly, I knew my arm was deactivated, not in commission.  The intense impact of my right upper chest and shoulder with the truck’s rear bumper caused the brachial nerve roots to avulse; ripped out of the cervical spinal cord.  Flaccid full paralysis of the right arm.  With no possibility of the nerves growing back into the spinal cord, the physician gave me the choice between amputation, fusion, or subluxation.  Without muscles to give the shoulder joint integrity, the humerus (long bone of the upper arm) dislocates from the socket.  So became my new body image:  Napoleon’s arm posture.  Through my own design, a custom sling positioned the arm safely across my chest.  Rehabilitation was brief, but vocational adjustment was the major challenge.  My trajectory of a college education in health, physical education, and recreation to traditional career paths was bumped; part of that life changing detour.  After an eight year search, the Veterans Administration (VA) accepted me into an internship for the Prosthetics Representative Management Program.  End of the dusty detour, back on the paved road.  Are We There Yet?

During the Viet Nam War, I was granted a student deferment to attend Springfield College, graduating in 1973.  The undergraduate course work prepared me for my VA career.  Only a few credits separated my Bachelor of Science (BS) degree from a pre-medical degree, an educational track preparing students for medical school.  This training prepared me academically and emotionally for my professional health administration career serving disabled Veterans.  Through a career path with defined promotions that accelerated compensation, I prospered through advancing management opportunities at VA facilities in West Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, and Roseburg.  Serving men and women in our military’s armed forces was an honor.  The road signage ahead appeared clear.  Are We There Yet?

It was a small nodule on the left side of my neck.  Informal consultation with a VA physician dismissed any concern beyond a swollen gland, a normal lymphatic response to a cold.  After six months and a slightly larger mass, I was seen by an ENT doctor in December 1995.  Within five minutes of examining my oral cavity, he diagnosed me with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the left tonsil.  I was 44 years old.  Married with a teenage son.  With surgery and radiation, the prognosis was only 50/50.  Cancer’s intrusion was unknown; lumped into a 5% group of unexplained causes.  Another detour.  After five years on that detour, I was declared a cancer survivor.  Are We There Yet?

No one is exempt from life’s detours, trials, suffering, pain and disappointment.  Between the dark and windy storms that expose the character of our roots, there’s calm water foaming over our ankles, and warm granules of sand tickling our toes.  We’re invited to lay down and soak up the sun’s rays and marvel at the hues of blue across the sky.  Billowy clouds lull sleepy eyes, falling into the tranquil moments we long for, and cling to.  Is there a path to find joy in all circumstances, whether the wind is behind our back or blowing us off the plotted course?  Consider the simplicity of the ACB method to overcome adversity and proactively impact people and community.  Are We There Yet?  Almost.

The course begins within; always with ATTITUDE.  The attitude of identity and values that shape the heart’s compass and an even keel that shepherd’s the mind to persevere, calculates all circumstances as blessings in disguise.  Transformed and disciplined thinking that circles around thankfulness cultivates favor, the amplitude for ACTION.  Actions fortified with attitude shape outcomes of character in space.  Identity and value based character molds the environment with integrity.  AFFIRMATION is the witness and acknowledgement of blessings established within the sphere of influence.  Attitude, Action, and Affirmation.   

With the steadfast mindfulness of attitude, action, and affirmation, the course continues with CONNECTION.  Propel the energy of blessing rich character within for connection with others; sharing generosity of the heart. The ripple created by connection with people vibrates to others.  When preparation of the heart and willingness to share charity combine, a connectivity propels prosperity through the community.

The confluence of attitude, action, affirmation, and connection flows into BEAUTY.  There’s harmony and joy in all people and all of God’s creation.  Let’s seek God’s beauty within ourselves so we can see it all around us.  Are We There Yet?  Perhaps, but one short story to capture the journey’s destination.

After retiring from VA on May 2, 2015, I immediately embarked on my “next chapter”, the LovesIntention movement.  To “walk the talk” of LovesIntention’s generosity of service, I have a volunteer partnership with Mercy Health Hospice, Brookdale Memory Care, and Riverview Terrace Retirement Living.  Before I enter any volunteer venue, I meditate for a few minutes, preparing my heart around the ACB method of service.  On Friday, February 12th, Riverview Terrace Retirement Living staged their annual Valentine’s Day Wine Social, which included dancing to swing music.  The elderly residents appear to prefer listening to the music rather than dancing.  Only a few men attend, and they are physically unable to dance.  My volunteer role is to serve wine, crackers, and cheese; combined with a connecting smile, and genteel conversation.  During a conversation, one lady mentioned she saw me on the side of the room, moving to the rhythm of the music.  She began to speak about how she had not danced in many years, but wished someone would ask her.  Due to a healing leg condition, she wasn’t sure how well she could dance, but wanted to try.  So, we danced near her table for a few minutes.  She smiled, eyes sparkled, and glowed in happiness.  There was beauty in that moment.             

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science and design at Carnegie Mellon University.  He’s best known for The Last Lecture which encourages people not to lecture a point, just “tell them your stories, they will get it”.  Present and connected.  Are We There Yet?  That question poses distraction and preoccupation with thinking about the destination ahead rather than what’s present.  Maybe there’s a more insightful question to ask ourselves; to validate a life well-travelled.  Are We In The Moment Yet?