Friday, January 28, 2011

Forests and Trees

Today is the second anniversary of my final day at the Firm. Huh? If you have just tuned in and have heard me refer often to the Firm as my present employer then this apparent change of tense might surprise you. Perhaps you think you heard me wrong. You did not.

It was on this date two years ago that Skate and I pulled out of my "AK" parking space for what I believed at that time was to be the final time. For reasons too long and boring to recount again here (if you are long on time and short on constructive things to do with your day then peruse the archives of this particular space as the entries from February through May 2009 will answer all questions you might have on the subject), the "too good to be true" opportunity was indeed just that. The thing that could not miss did. And it missed badly.

I am not a man of science or of medicine. I make a once a decade trip to the doctor whether I need to or not and other than that, I keep those who practice medicinal arts at arm's length along with those who practice religion. Good thing I have two arms; eh? I believe chiefly in the power of one - the one whose ever more wrinkled and graying face stares back at me in the bathroom mirror every morning. I am a simple man. I adhere to Patton's teaching that, "You have to make the mind run the body." If I can will it to happen, it can happen.

Those fundamental precepts by which I live my life were shaken absolutely to their core starting on this very date two years ago. At some point in time between this date and a date in May that I shall recall with clarity equal to this date for the rest of my waking days the train jumped the tracks completely. I have never felt more helpless or more hopeless than I did during that period of my life. I do not pretend to know what forms the basis of a diagnosis of depression. I do know that for four mornings out of five for a period of roughly four months I contemplated finding something to drive my car into or off of in a manner that would assure instant death (I am a stalwart coward after all) and nothing more than a perfunctory investigation into its accidental nature. I am heavily insured and had little interest in screwing Margaret and the kids out of the money they were entitled to receive. Being completely useless during that period, I could not even formulate an action plan to accomplish that goal. I was - and in retrospect maybe it was not a totally bad thing - completely adrift. Never in my life have I been in as dark a place as I was right at that moment. So dark that I could not even wrap my head around a strategy that involved an unseen exit. Too little light. Too much tunnel. A potentially devastating cocktail.

Although they could not prevent me from having leaped off of the precipice in haste, courtesy of a couple of well-timed and well-placed helping hands, I was able to hold fast to that lone tree branch jutting out of the rocks and avoid dropping into the abyss forever. I hung there for all I was worth until someone placed a safety net beneath me and assured me it that now it was safe to let go. I believed that it was. And I am happy I did. For it was.

Life is a journey. And it is a journey that moves forward, keeping pace with the staccato beat of time. Yet sometimes to get ahead you have to circle back from whence you came, re-examine the various paths that lie open in front of you and decide best how to proceed. For years, master carpenter Norm Abrams has preached, "Measure twice. Cut once." Two years ago, on this very date, I ignored his wise words. I did so at my peril. And my ignorance and my arrogance came pretty damn close to costing me everything I love.

It has been said that you cannot always see the forest for the trees. I suppose that describes what I brought crashing down upon my own head this time, two years ago. Lucky for me that there was more than just one tree in that forest - another source from which I could draw a fresh piece of lumber. A piece that I now always make certain to measure twice before bringing the blade anywhere near it.

Live and learn. Indeed I have. And I am damned thankful for the opportunity.


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