The Gift




GORDONVILLE — Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.

When I first saw that scroll through Facebook one day, I was moved to tears (and I’m man enough to say it).

I woke up one day – maybe around 2010 – and found myself in a work environment where this anonymous saying should have been recited like the pledge of allegiance, and plastered on the wall as a reminder to those refusing to salute.

Sometimes I think that if I had come up with that idea, the storyline may have gone differently.

But the reality was that, if only because it would have been my idea, it would have been dismissed offhand.

That’s how it was going by the end of the roller-coaster ride.

My star had fallen.

It was what it was.

Playing it back in my mind, I had been on the endangered species list for a while, making me not unlike many of the middle-aged jobless souls cast adrift across the country.

I had overstayed my welcome, plain and simple.

The script said I was to ride off into the sunset on my own terms, with dignity, but I kept hanging on.

For reasons I can’t explain, I needed a little push out the door.

That came when my candle was blown out by a Kangaroo court.

Whether or not it ever made anyone else’s shine any brighter is something I ponder less as the days, weeks and months pass.

I think I know the answer, which speaks more about that place than it does about me.

It is what it is.

And it is what it became.

A blessing.

They gave me a gift.

A gift I have been unwrapping ever since.

 All Good

Instead of taking my blood pressure three times a day to make sure I wasn’t going to follow family tradition and drift into stroke terrain, it has been normal since the morning after.

Although my medication had been changed and tweaked, the real life-saver was my little girl.
When we first told Sofia that Daddy wouldn’t be going back to work anymore, the reaction of our young old soul was to cry.

All she had known for what was then six years on earth was visiting with me, although I brought her there less and less the more hostile it got. People didn’t even want me around, let alone my daughter.
Still, there were fond memories. It was the place where she took her first steps and where certain people who don’t run with the pack still made a fuss over her.

Plus, I think she understood that the job, for all its increasing stress and negatives, provided me with a place in the world.

It wasn’t uncommon for strangers to approach in public and ask if I was me – and she was Sofia – based on the regular mentions of her in my Sunday column that, for a while, made her the best known toddler in Central Montgomery County.

So, in her own little way, her initial reaction was to mourn the loss.

But it didn’t last.

How could it?

When we added that it meant she would see me all the time, especially at night, she did one of those smiling-through-the-crying things that kids do.

And it was all good.

And it has been all good ever since.

Lucky Seven

Before the axe fell, I drove Sofia to school in the morning, picked her up, set her up with a snack while anxiously waiting 15-20 minutes for a babysitter and then zooming into work like Steve McQueen  – where I would still get the evil eye from the CBB (Candle Blowing Brigade) for being tardy in their judgmental eyes.

By the time I got home, post-midnight, the best I could do was a kiss on the cheek while she slept.

All told, that was about an hour per day with the child we waited a long time to have. Yeah, we had the weekends, but I was often so exasperated that I needed to sleep off the week, exhausted from defending my candles from those conspiring to blow them out (not easy when it is most often happening when I’m not in the building).

This last year?

All Sofia, all the time.

And I couldn’t be any more content.

Sofia just turned seven. We have a tradition of staying up until her birth time,10:31, to officially ring in her new year – although she had a party for her school friends, a snack-time party at school last week and a house party for friends and family this past weekend.

And, in typical Sofia fashion, she got choked up.

We reminded her of all the good things that happened when she was six, like the addition of a pain-in-the-ass dog and the several trips we were able to make this past summer.

It was also the year she and Daddy got to make up for lost time.

I see and hear those parents who can’t wait to get a break from their kids, hoping against hope that snow doesn’t postpone school, and I just don’t get it.

Maybe they need to walk a mile in the shoes of a parent longing to be with their child during her wonder years – those before it becomes all about the friends, and the boys – instead of breathing in the air of a toxic environment alongside miserable people perfecting the art of throwing rocks from glass McMansions.  

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

I was accused of wanting everyone to like me, and being too focused on that, but that dime-store analysis was off-point.

It was more about what I really loathe.

It was about being misunderstood.

They were the hunters, and I was the witch.

I admit that it was new for me in an environment where I was once beloved, but surely nothing new for many of you reading this.

It happens.

Things just snowball.

It soon became easier for those above me in the food chain to go with that flow, to ignore their self-created litany of double standards and join the lynch mob and point to the blown-out candle I had become, and give it credence.

They have to live with themselves, and look at their own sorrowful images in the mirror.

I am living with myself, and thriving in the process.

All the Write Stuff

A writer by trade, I am actually writing more – way more – now than before. People are paying me to do it, and I can do it from my own home, meaning I eat dinner with my family and can watch my daughter grow while willingly chauffeuring her to her myriad of activities.

The only aspect of my past life I miss is the connection with the readers. Some of you found me on Facebook and caught the midnight train to Gordonville here in the Blogosphere.

I also know that a lot of my readers don’t have computers, so connection is lost.

Just be assured that the writing is alive and well. You will hear from me again. I’m working on one book, with a few others on the backburner.

My first step into writing was song lyrics, which began in high school, where teachers probably conned themselves into thinking I was taking fast and furious notes about whatever yawn-inducing subject they were yammering about.

It continued in college and pretty much ended once I started working for the man.

I am writing songs now at a similar clip. And with 30 years of life experience – and an enhanced vocabulary — in my hip pocket, I am putting my adolescent self to shame (although some of the college-era songs were pretty darn good, if I must say so myself).

In any event, my songwriting partner and I will be putting out a CD of 13 original songs – some old, some new — this year. It may go somewhere, and it may not. Either way, a sense of satisfaction I was not feeling will be there.

I want to live forever, but we share the same fate.

At the very least I’ll have this music bug scratched off the bucket list, although the hope is that this is only the beginning.

And the fact that Sofia has been with me to the studio has added to the joy. I play the songs in the car, and she sings along, as she knows all the words.

My words.

When it’s a new song, she’ll offer an opinion, which I not only value but look forward to hearing more from as her palate grows.

 A Sense of Smell

The inevitable happened recently when Sofia asked if I had written any songs about her yet. For all the odes, via columns, I have yet to cross that bridge.

When I do, I know it can’t be generic. It has to be “Born To Run” or “Thunder Road,” not “Born To Be Alive” or “Thunder Island.”

She would expect no less, as a burgeoning music buff.

Sofia’s favorite song these days is “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” She sings it a lot. Some parents would get annoyed, but I’m not some parents.

While off-key, it is with a passion that sends chills up my spine.

I’m not kidding myself. She sings it because she likes it, but I can’t help but feel like she is singing it for my benefit, telling me to let it go.

All I can say in response is that I have, and she is the main reason why.

I always felt the adage about smelling the roses was a waste of time. My theory about life was that you only go around once, so why bother with the detour?

But that’s the point.

You only go around once, so you should bother.

And what you shouldn’t bother with is blowing out someone else’s candle so that yours will shine brighter.

If you believe in karma, you will get burned.

Willie Nelson Quote



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