As I spend some of my 58th birthday with you, I have decided to share something that only the closest people around me have known about.
I consider those of you who take the time to spend these visits with me, as among my dearest friends and loved ones. That’s just how much I appreciate you and how grateful I am for your attention and patriotism.
It’s been at least 25 years since I first began hearing a voice telling me one thing: “Be prepared by your 58th year of life.”
I heard it for several years – nothing more, nothing less – but I have not heard that warning in a long time now as I have counted down the years to today.
Clearly, it’s not something I share with a lot of people because who wants to tell folks that you were hearing voices?
Mock me if you will, but I have always been confident that that dire warning was the voice of God, and since I’m being honest with you, I just assumed for the longest time that I was receiving a gift – and perhaps a curse – in knowing when I would be called home and to do as much as I could to say I lived a good life in the in-between years.
So the question is, as 58 finally arrives: Did I? Did I live a good life?
I guess it depends on who you ask, and at the end of the day, I know I could have done more. However, I can look at myself in the mirror and say I did the best I could given the fact that – like everyone else – I suffer from the infliction called the human condition.
I’m human. I’ve made my share of mistakes like anyone else but the key has always been not the mistake itself, but what you do with the lesson from making it.
What no one knows about me is that when I do make a mistake, it’s never with the idea that I’m intentionally hurting someone. And when I do, no one punishes me more than I do.
Whether it’s a true life mistake or something as simple as misidentifying someone’s occupation or misspelling their name in an article, I am harder on myself than anyone else can be.
In short, I have a conscience and the self realization of doing wrong is a brutal process for me and how brutal that process gets depends on the severity of the mistake.
So there are some you could ask that question to who would perhaps have a legitimate claim in telling you I did them wrong. However, if they were to tell you I wasn’t a good person, they would speak from a perception of an action and not the person.
Then there are others who are caught up in their own self delusions and false perceptions about me who just imagine me as a bad person without knowing anything about me or my journey that got me to this point in life.
Liberals could certainly qualify in that category given their general nastiness, but I’ve had plenty of people in my life who came to that conclusion in a manner similar to what we recently discussed about a MSNBC writer who concluded people who want to be fit are right-wing extremists.
There is just no figuring out people like that. And since I’m exposing my soul – which I’ll probably regret because someone will use it against me – another example is some of my family.
My son cut off communication with me – and thus any contact with my granddaughter – because I was unable to drive down to them one Saturday to cut their lawn for them.
They haven’t spoken to me in almost five years now and have fully admitted to other family members that’s the reason they have snubbed me – this time.
So he ended our improving relationship and has denied me the ability to love my granddaughter because I had too much going on one weekend to drive an hour south and do their chores.
I’ve spent years and everything I’ve ever earned on raising other people’s children, as well, and while there is no animosity with the children after eventual divorces, I sat by a phone all day this Father’s Day and it never rang.
For a number of years, I heard from a lot of them but that dwindled down as their lives moved on. The last couple of years, there was one and this year there were none.
The same will happen today on my birthday.
But I get it. Life moves on. Cat’s in the Cradle and all that. I don’t take it personally.
As far as actual friends, my circle can only be seen under a microscope.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people I call friends, but I’m talking about the people who are just as involved in your life as family. My experiences with those types of friends have been ones of betrayal through the years.
I was almost always the loyal friend who just got taken advantage of one too many times to ever want to let someone that close to me again.
So some will call me cynical. They will say I’ve just had bad luck and not everyone is like that. I will admit that there is probably a little truth in that, but what I’ve learned from these lessons is far more valuable than relying on other people for some sense of happiness.
What I came to understand long ago, is that this is my journey and no one else’s. It’s why I don’t have room in my heart to feel bitter about those who have so easily tossed me aside because their journey, too, is theirs and not mine.
But I also don’t have room in my life for people like that. Jesus said we are to love our neighbor and pray for them. He never said we had to force ourselves to be in their lives.
You can beat your head against the wall when you know you are being wronged and the other person believes just the opposite – or – you can just sigh aloud and say, “It’s their journey, not mine,” and move away from it.
I tend to just say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It’s essentially the same thing in acknowledging that some things just don’t need to be your problem when in your heart, you know the real problem is theirs.
I know what some think and feel about me, whether dismissive or hostile, but it’s their own perception of things – their own illusion they created. I know I did my best, and in most cases, went above and beyond for them.
Perhaps it was things they took for granted. Perhaps it was things they weren’t looking for and needed more or something specific? Maybe they just needed their lawn mowed? Again, all we can do is our best and I know that’s what I have done.
Can I say I have no regrets? I don’t know anyone who can come to an end of their life and say they don’t have a single regret. If this is my final year of life, then yes, I have regrets. But I cannot say that I didn’t try, even if I didn’t always do it right.
I cannot say I was a perfect husband. I cannot say I was a perfect human being. I cannot say I was a perfect father or father figure. I cannot say I have always been faithful to God. I can’t say any of those things, but who can?
But I can say that this was my journey. I can own that. I can own my accomplishments and my failures. The dash between my years of existence won’t tell a great story, but it will tell a human story. It will tell my story.
As one of billions going through the journey and the billions who have already done so, and the billions to come, isn’t it important to understand that simple truth? It’s my dash. It’s my journey. It’s my story and all anyone can hope is that you end the journey knowing you gave it all you had.
Other people’s expectations of you should never outweigh your expectations for yourself. I have completed that part of my journey.
And to do that – I mean really, really do that – is to understand that relying too heavily on combining your journey with others only complicates the dash in between our beginning and end.
Of course, that doesn’t mean being selfish, although there are times when it’s necessary to do so. It doesn’t mean that your journey isn’t about others. We are all part of the puzzle, but it is your dash that fits the final piece into a picture of what was your life.
Just due to the nature of how life works, others will hold pieces of that puzzle in order to work on our journey. But that final piece belongs to you. Only you can finish your puzzle.
Now, to be fair, I haven’t heard that voice warning me about turning 58 in more than 15 years. God changes the direction of our lives all the time so perhaps there is no more warning, but I certainly have never forgotten how clear that voice was.
In my heart, I think I’ll live on beyond this year and I can’t say with certainty that God was even speaking about my eventual demise. Perhaps the warning was something altogether different.
Perhaps in this year of uncertainty and decline in America, the warning was for the one thing I can say I have always fought passionately for and that is my country and everything it represents.
So I guess we’ll see what happens in the next 12 months and whether it will be a prophetic year – or not. Who knows? I was partying a lot back then so maybe I imagined the entire thing.
Lots of people have thought that God spoke to them and they were proven to be wrong. I feel a stir in the universe, but perhaps that is just me being on high alert as 58 finally arrives.
Or maybe it’s just the onions I ate that don’t settle like they used to when I was younger.
Whatever the case may be, I am ready. I am ready to do what is necessary to defend my country if that should be the case. I am ready to place that final piece of the puzzle into place, if that should be the case.
I’m ready for any scenario including the collapse of society, a foreign invasion or hell, I’m even ready for a zombie apocalypse.
Or, I’m ready to carry on and keep doing my best.
I didn’t live a life that will see me lying in state at the White House. I didn’t live a life that an entire nation will mourn when I leave. Hell, I didn’t even live a life that would attract enough people to fill a closet at my funeral even if it was catered and had an open bar.
But it was my life and I lived it to the best of my ability. I’m OK with that.
Stay vigilant my friends. I believe there is a reason to do so. Keep informed and keep sharing our truth.