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Fortified with Optimism

Penske Truck 2

“I live in a perpetual state of optimism, without it there can be no hope…” Harry Belafonte.

Standing at the foot of my bed I stared out at the empty floor this morning, waiting for something to nudge me, something to pull me into my morning routine. It reminded me of the times throughout my childhood where I would do this “stand till’ you’re motivated drill.” Perhaps you’re familiar with it. You stand, or sit, in a catatonic state with your eyes fixated on one particular point, as if you’re staring into some magical utopic portal, wishing you were there instead of the reality you had to face. Typically it was in the morning before school. I desperately wanted to climb into this magical hole then to face the fact that I’d be spending the next 7 hours with bigoted nuns and a bunch of mean spirited kids.

What snapped me out of my trance this morning was a single thought about a journal entry I wrote back in 2005. It was right after I moved to Southern California for the second time in 6 years. Like the first in 1999, moving across country was exciting, an opportunity to begin fresh in a beautiful environment. Sunshine and opportunity is what I was after in 99’ and it was no different then. I don’t ever remember experiencing that kind of ambition, where I was operating within this magical space of optimism and determination. I was young, strong and full of vision. In other words, I was pumped! I was sure that I would make an immediate impact in this chosen field of mine. The 05’ move, however, was slightly different. Life was beating me up pretty bad then, but I knew on a higher plane of consciousness that it was part of the whole process. I had to go through these dark valleys. It’s what I signed up for. Most people are afraid to create their own path in life. Taking unconventional, unbeaten paths (I love Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken poem) will bring on all sorts of doubt, confusion and pain. With this in mind I made certain that I was prepared for the voyage. I read countless books on how to manifest your destiny… the mind, body & spirit connection… out of body travel… psychoanalysis… (NLP) Neuro Linguistic Programming… so many. I feel like a walking book of affirmations and quotes at times. If I recall, I read about 25 books over a one year period.

So, any feeling of doubt I experienced I was able to handle. Whenever a challenge popped up, I simply utilized one of the many coping skills and completely wiped it out, by writing and reciting a daily affirmation or using some kind of visualization technique. And if I couldn’t figure out how to deal with the immediate issue, I picked up another book, and started the painstaking process of gaining insight. I would follow up my reading with silence, where I would sit alone in a park, at a beach or sometimes in my car. A whisper from my spirit would tell me when it was time to move on to journaling.

Fortified With Optimism
Where I’m going with this story is the parallel between my 2005 cross-country drive to California and what I am facing right now in my life. A dear friend announced recently that she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. When I first heard the news I had this amazing sense of calm, clarity and purpose. The initial shock lasted for a few seconds but then I went right into this highly focused concur & defeat mode. As if I’ve been training for something like this, simply sitting back waiting for an opportunity to actually practice my faith and skill sets. Being able to raise your level of consciousness is something that must be practiced, which is something I haven’t done in a long time. I’ve got all this knowledge stored up, and I must use it. Not that I haven’t had any opportunities recently. I’ve simply allowed darkness and depression rob me of any ambition I might have had. I know within every fiber of my being that she will beat this illness. Fear and darkness will NOT come anywhere near us. As soon as they show their ugly heads, hope will no longer exist. I am committed to live in a perpetual state of optimism.

Ali and Frazier 2
The parallel starts at the tail end of ’05 move. I was already running on very little emotional energy before setting out for California. Circumstances and life decisions kept knocking me down during this period. I think I received more emotional bruising from hitting the canvas than the actual life blows itself. I just kept getting knocked down, and I was so tired of dancing around the ring all I wanted to do was lay there. Why get back up, there was no energy to even bob and weave my way out of those flurries of punches, and life was throwing and landing hard punches. So, I would just lay there. I remember hearing Les Brown say in one of his motivational speeches if life knocks you down make sure to land on your back, because if you can look up you can get up. I know, Les’ quote sounds a little corny but I like the analogy. I was actually spending too much time on my back. The canvas was beginning to feel comfortable. I didn’t want to be like the average person who accepts what life throws at them. They become accustom to life on the mat and opt to stay there until it’s all over. My theory was if I didn’t have the energy to get back up before the 10 count (and you know what the 10 count is, right?), I would simply roll off the mat. Maybe the trauma of hitting the cold concrete floor would provide enough shock to my body and senses, giving me enough energy to crawl my way back into the ring. So, moving back to California was my act of rolling off the mat, and like any punch drunk fighter I was dazed and a little confused. Yes, I was carrying a lot of emotional baggage but I did manage to bring along a little excitement. Unlike the first trip out, the stress of the travel turned into a test of will, endurance and faith. What I failed to take into account was the added stress of having precious human cargo on board.

“Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care, Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care, Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care. My master’s gone away,” played continuously, so it seemed, through this small battery operated boom box. I was prepared to make the 3 day journey alone but my 6 year old daughter begged to come along. She was to fly out a week later with little brother and mommy but her grandmother convinced me to take her as my traveling companion. Although it was a wonderful bonding experience and I’m very happy she came, I had no idea that her presence would bring on such extreme cases of stress and anxiety. Being at the wheel of 25 foot Penske truck presents its own challenges, not to mention the extra 12 feet taken up by the car I was towing. The biggest challenge was dealing with my worry and anxiety over keeping her safe. I didn’t think about the fact that I had never driven a truck this large before.

I vividly remember how I felt on the last leg of our trip. We were somewhere between Phoenix and Los Angeles and we had checked into a small hotel with plans of rising early the next morning for a predawn start. As we progressed through the early morning I noticed my morning coffee wasn’t doing much for me. We had approximately 4 more hours of travel and I had a very hard time focusing on the road. To make matters worse my truck started doing some kind of strange dance on the highway. I later found out that this particular stretch of highway wasn’t very friendly to inexperienced truck drivers, especially to those with cars attached. I was told that because of the uneven surface, the extra weight of the towed vehicle created an improper weight balance, causing a continuous vibration and bounce, where it felt as if the car and tow hitch would snap right off at any moment. On top of that, we were going through high elevations with cars and large trucks zooming by us. Plus, the lanes seemed to have been extremely narrow.

This lasted for about 2 hours I think. I truly felt that I was coming apart mentally, and it was affecting my breathing. If you’ve ever had an anxiety attack, you know that it’s something you do not want to experience behind the wheel of a 25 foot truck with your daughter inside. I was afraid to exit due to the fact that I had already experienced two nightmarish situations trying to maneuver that truck in tight spaces. We had to stop unexpectedly for a bathroom break back in northern Arizona, and as you can imagine, finding a truck friendly stop wasn’t very easy. After missing my turnaround to get back on the freeway, I ended up on some deserted road, and I was headed down a private road right into some kind of compound. The private road sign was huge so I felt they meant business. It looked more like a trailer park but it had this Jonestown (Jim Jones) vibe to it. I managed to find a small turnaround that looked to be someone’s circler driveway. Knowing that the turning radius in a 25 foot truck wasn’t the best, I gave it a little extra gas, hoping the extra momentum would somehow pull me out of my turn if I got stuck. I was afraid to look back because I thought I’d see some strange character in my mirror rushing out the door cocking a double barreled shotgun.

So, as you can see, I did not want to exit. I didn’t know how long this nerve racking bounce would last. I was so tense… and I could feel the panic attack coming on. I must control my breathing, I said to myself. With hands on the steering wheel I started doing breathing exercises I learned in an acting class some time ago. I wanted to refocus my mind on the end result of peace and calm. But it wasn’t working. I knew I had to clear my mind from this panic stricken state. The mental fatigue wouldn’t even allow me to latch onto any concrete thoughts. The mental mechanism I learned to use would not ground my thoughts. I could not focus my mind. My thoughts and heart rate were truly racing. But, as soon as I looked over at my daughter to see if she was detecting daddy’s breakdown, I had this instant rush of clarity and drive. I had to protect her! I didn’t want anything to make me lose control of this truck. I don’t know if it was some primitive internal reaction, like the adrenalin based flight or fight response, but whatever it was, it focused me. I was able to get my breathing under control almost immediately.

I looked over at my daughter again with the thought of starting a conversation and she was sitting there happy as can be… snacking on something and singing along to one of her children’s tapes. She didn’t have a clue to what her daddy had just experienced. I can’t tell you what actually happened to me in that precise moment. I really don’t even know how to explain why I knew within my soul that everything was going to be alright after I received the news about my friend. I just know that I cannot sit still. I must take action and deploy all of what I know about the mind, body connection. I know see that all of these years of learning about diet, exercise, metaphysics were all in preparation for this moment in time. This decease WILL be defeated. Like my daughter, my friend means the world to me. I WILL not allow anything bad happen to her. I must protect her. I am determined to do everything in my power to make complete wellness a reality for her.

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