I Hope

On this morning, dark clouds filled with precipitation spray the Bay Area with billions, maybe trillions of tiny droplets.

Splash.

Rain drops pitter-patter on the windshield of my car, a sound reminiscent of a drummer hitting a snare drum.

I’m driving north toward San Francisco—following a sea of red break lights up the 101.  Stop, go, honk—traffic brings out the absolute worst in people, and I’m not feeling so good at the moment.

I need to escape.  I need to break free from the stronghold of the nine-to-five schedule—wake-up, work, go home, sleep, repeat.  Today, I want to be free—not trapped by any sort of robotic routine.  I just want to wander around the city, and not think, not even once, about the plethora of responsibilities that I am committed to.  I often day-dream about having enough resources to travel the world with Lila and Ly—never concerned about money, just concerned about how many amazing experiences can be created in a 24 hour window.  I want to be free of the invisible shackles of this industrialized society.

I want purpose—and that purpose doesn’t reside in a cubicle.  Is purpose an illusion?

They say that those who consistently work hard and do the right thing will be rewarded.  Can that be true?  Yes—but I know a lot of people who worked their fingers to the bone, and some of them may disagree.

Hope is what keeps me going—keeps the dreams alive.  I must continuously remind myself to never lose hope…ever.

First Step in Recovery: Sobriety

Written 3/13/17

Lila, Ly and I had an amazing weekend.   We spent a lot of time outdoors–the weather in San Jose has transitioned from rainy to sunny and warm.

We went to see Cirque Du Soleil, and it was an outstanding performance.  We sat in awe as the performers displayed a series of unbelievable acrobatic feats, accompanied by a humorous and fun storyline.  Ly bought the tickets, and I am very grateful that all of us were able to enjoy the show together.

Lately, life has been….interesting.  I am trying to keep a positive outlook on things, but I’m struggling at work—as it has become clear that the leadership team at my agency isn’t motivated to make employee wellness and morale a priority.  My boss and I have had a few less than positive interactions—and i’m just tired of the sometimes counter-productive nature of government work.  On top of that, President Trump is cutting a projected $6 billion from the HUD budget, which will inevitably impact Public Housing Agencies (PHA) across the country (I am an Analyst at a PHA).

My objective is to look for new employment opportunities, and do my best to keep a positive attitude at my current job.  There is no use in complaining—I just have to focus on the positive and continue working hard to create new opportunities.  I am blessed with a beautiful family—and though my 9-5 isn’t ideal right now, we have everything we need in life.

Next month, I will be three years sober.  I find that it is difficult to write about drinking, as I believe my mind and body are free from the grasps of alcohol, completely.  What remains now is life, in all of its glory. In alcohol, I used to drown the components of life that I didn’t want to confront, and those components never went away, they just crept into a dark hole momentarily until the alcohol ran its course.  Eventually, I needed more booze to make the pain go away—but alcoholism never actually makes the negative things go away—as they are always resuscitated and come back 10 times stronger during spurts of clarity and cleanliness (a body/mind free of alcohol).

So what does make the undesirable aspects of life disappear?

Nothing.

It’s not about making the bad go away, and paving some sort path to absolute happiness.  No, that is impossible.  It’s about recognizing that sadness/negativity exists, and understanding that though life can be challenging, the challenges are what makes the beauty in life shine bright.

Those who never experience true adversity, will also never experience true happiness.

Am I sober?  Yes—and that was the natural first step in turning my life around.  However, I was naïve to think, three years ago, that recovery simply means I give up alcohol.  In fact, putting down the bottle is the first step in recovery, and sets the psychological foundation to take on what comes next…which is: “progress through evaluating life, pin-pointing areas of improvement, working hard and holding yourself accountable.”

Have a blessed day.

How to be a Good Parent

Over the weekend I received a nice message from a guy I grew up with.  He told me that I was an “inspiration” to him because of the relationship I have with my daughter.  He wants to establish the same sort of relationship with his son.

Now, keep in mind, a life conveyed on a social networking site is usually all candy-canes, butterflies and meadows filled with colorful flowers.  Rarely, does a person show the more challenging aspects of life to a social network—especially since only 300 of your 1,000 “connections” are actually a real friend.

Though, in this case, he is right—my daughter and I do have a strong relationship and connection—and I hope he can build that with his son over time.

My response to him was one of gratitude.  I told him that I appreciated his kind note, and that there are two main components to being a good parent.

  • Love your child with all your might
  • Try your hardest to be the best parent you can be

Literally, if you do those two things, you’re going to get it right most of the time.  Any parent knows that being a mother or father is the most rewarding, yet sometimes most challenging privilege on the planet.  At times I feel like a well-oiled parenting machine, and other times I feel like an old worn out engine that should be replaced.

I would need 100 hands and a Texas Instruments calculator to count how many mistakes I’ve made as a father—but I keep in mind that those mistakes happen, and will continue to occur because I’m putting in a lot of effort, and parenting is a “learn as you go” gig.

Do you know what my daughter sees?  Yes, ok, she sees me do or say stupid things sometimes—especially in public places.  Does that embarrass her?  Of course it does.  But you know what?  She ends up laughing and says the line I’ve heard so many times:  “it’s ok Daddy.”  Usually that line is accompanied by a big, warm hug—which certainly does indicate that everything is “ok.”

Now back to my point.

Do you know what my daughter sees?  She sees her father present and accounted for.  She doesn’t question whether or not I will pick her up from school on the nights she stays with me—since daycare, I walk through that school door, look around for her, finder her, smile big, give her a hug, sign her out and hold her hand as we walk to the car.

“You cool with chicken nuggets for dinner?”

“Yeah, Dad, I am cool with that.”

She knows, like Keanu Reeves in the movie Hardball, my ability to “show up” is unsurpassed.

When Lila asks for an assist with her math homework—I sometimes look at her assignment and mumble “what the…..is this common core mess?”  She doesn’t remember that I had to Youtube a “how to” on that lesson—she remembers that I took the time to research, understand and teach her how to work through the problem.

I don’t burn chocolate chip cookies, I just give milk an opportunity to shine every once in a while.

I don’t sleep in too late on weekends, I just get an extra hour of sleep to build up energy to do super awesome weekend activities.

Do I get frustrated sometimes?  Yes, probably more than I should—but when I act out of character, I take accountability.  I talk to Lila, I explain why I got frustrated:

“Lila, it was wrong for me to raise my voice yesterday while helping with your homework. I was frustrated because I had trouble figuring out second grade math. It was not your fault, and I need to do a better job.  I am sorry.”

“Ok.  I understand dad.”

Human beings make mistakes—and a very important character trait is the courage to take accountability, to admit when you are wrong and implement measures to remedy the issue.  If I am in the wrong as a father, I speak to my daughter like I would speak to an adult in that situation…with respect and remorse, followed by one of those big, warm hugs.

Children are experts in the art of observing, and applying what they observe.  The first place we need to look, as parents, if something isn’t going as planned, is in the mirror.  What can I do differently?

That is a question I ask myself on a regular basis.  Why?  If I continue to 1) love my daughter with all of my might and; 2) try my hardest to be the best parent I can be—I will always see an area where I can improve, and an opportunity to become a better father.

Lila has never asked about my drinking habit—I suspect she doesn’t remember how much I drank, or how it impacted my last relationship—she was only four years old when I quit drinking.  She does, however, notice that I don’t drink beer anymore—and I simply tell her that:

“Dad wants to be healthier and live longer so he can spend as much time as possible with you.”

When she gets older, I will be honest and open about my struggles with alcoholism—and what “would’ve been” if I didn’t quit when I did.  I will tell her because I refuse to keep secrets from my daughter—but also because I want her to feel comfortable approaching me with any challenge, problem or issue she is having in life.

You Are My Mirror

I’m not a big fan of looking in mirrors.  In fact, I’d rather only have one mirror in the house—one in a room with no lighting.

I don’t see what you see—I see something different.

I see an aging man with a face scared by years of smoking and drinking—grey hairs protruding from my chin, and the sides of my head.  I feel a light sensitivity that induces migraine headaches and disrupts my ability to think clearly, or store memories properly.

I wonder where the last ten years went.  I have a random collection of thoughts, images and emotions stored in my mind—sometimes it’s a struggle to recall a specific time and place.

However, there is an exception.

You.  You are my exception.

Instead of a mirror, I look into your eyes.  When I do so, I truly know that you see the good in me—that me that I can’t see.

You place your little hand on my cheek, and stare at me with those honest eyes—letting me know that I’m worth something.  Even if, at times, I don’t believe in myself—your belief in me keeps things moving forward.

When I look at you, I see me—and if I look long enough, it all becomes clear.  You are me, and I you—and we are in this together.

I’m not going to let you down.

I’m not going to let my insecurities take over.

I’m going to understand that the sad, confusing and hectic moments in life shall pass—and the happy, clear and stable moments shall overcome.  Always.

You, my dear, are my mirror.  For in your eyes I see my reflection—and in your smile I see my worth, my reason.

I love you.  Always and forever, no matter where in the universe I am loving you from.

I’m a Hypochondriac. Plain and Simple.

 

 

I’m a hypochondriac.  Plain and simple.

To me, headaches are actually brain tumors forming and a cyst is some rare form of cancer.  A pain in my calf muscle is a blood clot traveling to my heart—and that sinus pressure is an imminent and fast acting brain aneurysm.

I send my doctor photos and emails every other month convinced I have 3-6 months to live.  He won’t say it, but inside he’s like: “this fucking guy needs to stop Googling shit.”

I’ve taken several measures to ensure that I am living a healthier life-style than say…3 years ago when alcohol was my liquid of choice.  Who needs water, right?

I quit drinking.  I quit smoking.  I lost 25 pounds, and if anything, my resting heart rate and blood pressure are lower than ever.  As I type this, I ask myself: is my blood pressure too low?  If so, can I die from that?  If yes, when do I die?

I wasn’t always like this. No, no, no.

I started thinking of mortality when I found out I was going to be a father.  I remember the first time I got on an airplane after learning Lila was going to be born—I was in constant fear that, before and during the flight, the plane would crash…that I would never have the opportunity to hold my daughter, or be a father.  I don’t fear much in life—but the one thing that scares the shit out of me is that I will somehow die and Lila will grow up without me.  Or, that something will happen to her, and I won’t be able to overcome the pain of losing a child.

I literally had no real purpose in life before Lila.  She is my reason for existing, and without her, there is nothing.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

I tell myself that my thought process is irrational.  Even if I do get diagnosed with some terminal illness, I shouldn’t be spending my time worrying—I should live happily and anxiety free.

In the past, I drank my emotions away.  When I felt anxious, I drank—when I felt sad, I drank—when life got overwhelming, I drank.  I drank to feel nothing.

Now, sober, I feel everything—and it can be intense.  I appreciate the intensity in which I feel and process emotions—and I pray for strength to always do what is right for my family.  More than anything, I feel a pure and absolute love for my daughter, Lila—and my one true wish is that she knows how much her daddy loves her.

As we approach Christmas (or whatever Holiday you celebrate), I am one grateful mother fucker.  Lila will turn 8 on Christmas Eve, and Ly and I will celebrate 9 months living together.  Ly has been such a strong, positive influence on Lila and me.  And, she just got a great job at Facebook—we are truly blessed.

I see people drinking and eating to celebrate the holiday—and you better believe I crave beers, shots of whiskey and/or bottles (yes, multiple whole bottles) of wine—but I resist.  I resist because, when sober, I am happier, healthier, wiser and able to hold myself accountable.  If you are putting down the bottle for the first time, just know that you can do it—and if you do it, you will become amazed by your true potential.

In 2017, I want to worry less and focus on living more.

Happy Holidays mother fuckers!

 

Lately, I Reflect

Reflection

I look at my daughter, and the first thought that comes to mind is:

“I’d do anything for my baby.  I’d do anything to protect her and to ensure she succeeds in life.”

I mean, fuck man, she is the reason I love at all.  She is the reason I glanced in the mirror just over 2.5 years ago and decided that it was time to love myself.  When all the cards fell and the dust settled—that kid was standing there, looking at me with those big and beautiful, half Filipino eyes.  Do you know what I saw?

I saw someone who genuinely believes in me.  I saw someone who expected me to know what to do next…who trusted that I knew what to do next.  I felt someone walk over and grip my pointer finger, and say “daddy, can we go outside and play?”

I never felt so damn hard in my life.  It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about how that little girl grasped my finger and somehow injected life into my body and hope into my veins.

“Yeah baby, we can go out and play.”

I went from an alcoholic, drinking 10 beers and a bottle of wine per day, to reading books in Lila’s classroom once a month for the past two years. To becoming an expert at braiding hair and a teacher of many activities like ice-skating, swimming and doing flips on the trampoline.

I always made sure Lila was taken care of and loved, even as an active drunk—but I took that shit to a whole new level mother fucker.

When you spend so much time and so many resources on buying and consuming alcohol—you are literally ridding your body and mind of positive energy.  It takes a little while, but when you stop drinking you start to feel and experience (it really is quite the experience) all of that positive energy rushing back into your mind and body.  It’s hard to describe—but I legitimately have a full agenda created each weekend Lila is over…I mean I jam pack the weekend with activities.  In the past, I just wanted to chill inside, wait until the noon hour—then, crack some beers and do things inside. Maybe take a nap or some shit.  Now, I’m up by 6am cooking Ly and Lila breakfast, bopping around and actually looking forward to experiencing new things.  It’s AMAZING!  I look forward to the future because I have so many new things I want to do, and places I want to go.  I want Lila and Ly there by my side, and that positive energy I mentioned earlier, is coursing through my body right now as I write J

When the booze exits your system, along with all of the poison that came with it—I promise you, it is replaced with positivity, a sense of purpose and responsibility.  It just takes time.

I wake up at 6:00am each day and earlier on the days when I drive Lila to school.  I have an overwhelming sense of purpose and responsibility—I know what I have to do, and know what I can’t do.

No more are the days of sleeping until 9:00am on a workday.  Shit, I can’t believe I did that for so long.

Lately

Lila and I went to a Father/Daughter Dance last weekend.  It was such a fun time.  We danced, I met some dads and Lila got the chance to play with her classmates. Before the dance, I took her shoe shopping.  She picked out a pair of “pretty shoes” and a pair of running shoes.  Honestly, Lila isn’t a girly girl—but she did enjoy trying on the various shoes.

I think it’s important, especially now that I’m in a relationship, for Lila and I to carve out time for just her and me.  It has taken time for Lila to warm-up to Ly—as kids get older, they need more time to feel comfortable around new people.

With that said, I am happy to say that Lila, Ly and I have been doing very well.  Though it has taken some time for Lila to warm up—as a family, we definitely hit some mile-stones this weekend.  Lila is having a great time with Ly—and they are doing things together, as opposed to Lila always wanting me around.  Do I feel like chopped liver?  Sort of—but that’s ok.

It makes me very happy to see those two building on their relationship—and it’s nice to have another woman around the house, because frankly, I just don’t get it sometimes.

I trust Ly as a role model in Lila’s life.  She is a successful, mature and very intelligent woman—all of the things I want Lila to grow up to be.  I tend to expect the unexpected in life—so I’m going to enjoy the moments, and always remain cautiously optimistic about the future.

I am trying my best to be a good partner.  Relationships are hard—and Ly and I have had some honest discussions.   I feel comfortable telling Ly things that I may not have told other partners, due to a fear of being punched in the face or screamed at.  Ly is just always calm, cool and collected…which I really like.

All in All

Life is good.  I mean, there are days where I wonder “why am I sitting at a desk 9 hours a day?”  Then, I look at our car, our apartment, our health insurance cards, all of the fun things we get to do—and it reminds me that I work hard, though sometimes painfully, to ensure that we have all of the things we need in life. I appreciate my job, and the fact that it pays well enough that my daughter and I don’t want for anything.  Well, maybe we want to go on more vacations—but hey, who doesn’t?  You know what I mean.

I suppose it’s about perspective.  Often times’ people complain about things, like work, and neglect to look at the alternative.  Or people aimlessly complain without actively making an attempt to change their situation.  At some point, you become the main source of your agony.  Either you decide to change the aspects of your life that cause so much frustration—or shut up and learn to appreciate what you have.  We are a species that always wants more—but I’m trying to live happily knowing that we have everything we need.  If I constantly want more, then I’ll never truly be happy.

Be well and happy my friends.

Don’t Love Me to Death

I felt the urge to write Katie today.

I took my usual 20 minute mid-morning walk down the Guadalupe trail—squirrels were shooting across the pathway, the sun was shining and the random smell of homeless people pee-pee wafted through the air.

Yesterday was a rough one at work, and some of the emotional remnants lingered within.  I dug my hands deep into my pocket, kept my head down, and wished I could walk home instead of going back to my cubicle.  Thankfully I don’t have to work tomorrow—I wrote this week off on Wednesday afternoon, and decided I won’t be professionally productive again until Monday morning.

As I was on my overly dramatic, “woe is me” walk—I suddenly began to think of Katie.  When I feel down, or negative in anyway, which is infrequent since I stopped drinking, I think of the day Katie walked out on me.  I think of what I looked and felt like—how I acted, and the way I treated her during the last 12 months we lived together.  I think about how sick I made myself, and how that self induced sickness infected Katie too.  I was an emotional parasite.

I think of her face—her trembling upper lip and the way she would pucker-up when she got angry.  I think of her crying.  I think of her giving me every last opportunity to change—and I will never forget the look in her eyes and the sadness in her voice when she finally realized it was over.  When she finally realized that the only way to save me and herself was to leave, and never look back.

She understood that sometimes even a selfless person has to make a decision, that to them, feels selfish.  But it’s not selfish at all—it’s simply the right thing to do.

Would I have changed if she stayed?  Yes—but only temporarily, until I realized I can do whatever I want and my biggest enabler will always stay by my side, until the day I die, or the day she progresses from the brink of insanity to complete madness.

Alcoholics and addicts tend to destroy everything in their path, and consistently remain oblivious to the emotional distress they impose onto others…onto the people they love.  For, the only people who remain by your side during the darkest moments are those who genuinely love you—but even the strongest love has boundaries and breaking points.  I broke everything—and have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.

I will never feel complete until Katie forgives me—and if I remain incomplete forever, the only person responsible is me.

I used to think about her every minute of every-day.  Then gradually, I thought of her less.  But, never will I forget the person who changed my life forever—even if now I only remember in times of sorrow.

I thought about writing Katie today—but I have to let the urge pass.  I don’t want to remind her of the pain I caused.  She decided not to love me to death, and her strength exposed who I really was.  A selfish, depressed drunk who had every reason to be happy yet focused on everything that made him sad.

I am not that person today—but I was reminded that in order to never become that person again, I can’t ever forget.