Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Month: February, 2016

Kindling the Flame

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My birthday was last Monday. This was the first birthday I’ve ever been alone. Yes, people wished me a happy birthday at work (in fact, they took me out to lunch), and I heard from several people in person and many people wished me a happy birthday on Facebook, but when I went home at the end of the day, I was alone. That was a first in a long year of firsts.

I have been alone a lot lately and I understand that is the nature of things at this point. Friends seem far away and while I have a spark that my life is beginning again, the sparks right now seem only to flicker and then fade. I am hoping some of them kindle and flame. I’ll keep going because as Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.”

Things will change. I’ll be moving back to Rhode Island in June. I found a nice condo in East Greenwich big enough for me and the kids (who will be with me until they start graduate school). Getting back to Rhode Island will be going home. There is familiarity in it, even though I know nothing about East Greenwich. We will be close to family and friends once again and life will further kindle for me. I look forward to being home.

I know I need to start my life again. Whether that involves new hobbies or new people, I do not know at this point. I know that I want to get out of Texas. I want to leave all of the bad memories here and start anew. A friend of mine told me that I needed to find a meaningful life whether that involves happiness or not because it will be rich with significance. I hope I do have a meaningful life rich with significance, but I also hope it involves some happiness.

Soon, I will be putting the house here in Texas on the market and begin packing all of the belongings Lisa and I took to Texas to fight her cancer.  I do not consider it a lost battle. We gained seven years beyond her initial horrific diagnosis. I still marvel and shudder at what she endured to survive those seven years. More blood sticks that I can count, radiation burns, the barbaric side effects of systemic chemotherapy, radical surgery, wild clinical trials, nausea, neuropathy, headaches, coughs, colds, trips to the emergency room on holidays, and she waged this all-out war with an easy going manner to everyone else around her.

I still want to talk to her. I still reach for my phone to text her something funny. I still miss her every single day. When I’m especially down, I hear her in my head telling me to get on with my  life. And so I try, try, try again. I am alone, but I try not to be lonely.

I think the ultimate kindling is friendship and I am grateful for all of my friends. The ultimate flame is meaningful significance and I hope to be living that life. Happiness would pour gasoline on that fire.

The Narcissist

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I am many things: a male, of average height, overweight, blue-eyed, American of Italian, Irish and English heritage, left-handed, a son, a brother, a father, widowed, single, graying, Caucasian, an independent, a Red Sox fan, a Rhode Islander living in Texas, middle class. But what about the labels we assign to ourselves or fear to have assigned to us?

For example, a narcissist. How does one tell if they are a narcissist? Or guilty of self-conceit? Narcissus was, of course, the character in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and was transformed into the flower bearing his name. Epictetus wrote in his Discourses II, 17 that, “What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.”

On the one hand, these labels are usually assigned by those on the outside. One hardly ever hears of someone calling themselves narcissistic or self-centered. As Sophocles said, “The only crime is pride.” These are usually byproducts of what others see in us and say behind our back. We are usually not aware that people consider us narcissistic because it is others saying it to others. Further, if one is so self-centered, one usually does not take into account the opinions of others, should they be known.

On the other hand, it was Dostoyevsky who wrote in Notes from Underground that “Can a man of perception respect himself at all?” This leads us to believe that there is no amount of perception that can be achieved by man which would allow him to be narcissistic. So, therefore, if one is self-aware he is incapable of self-conceit.

The goal, therefore, is to have self-awareness (perception) and ignore what others say about us. If we lead our life in self-awareness and humility, we can never become narcissistic. As Ralph Ellison wrote in Invisible Man, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”

Sparks and Shadows

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I hesitate to mention this, but I think there may be sparks returning to my life. I say I hesitate to mention this because there is still the inevitable sadness, anger, and pain. However, for the first time in forever, I’m starting to see the flashes of life returning to me. I know I must go on. I know I must live. I have that option denied to Lisa and must make the best of it.

Friends have helped immensely in bringing me to this point. They have been patient and compassionate, insistent and decisive, unlike me. But I’m getting there.

One effect of these flashes is the shadow it places on my old life. This can be very exhilarating if the flash blots out the pain of these past seven years or if it casts a warm shadow on a pleasant memory. Sparks of a new life are all around me. Now I need to corral them into a consistent fire that will keep me warm and light my way. Wish me luck.