What will not be

I have reached the time in life when I am beginning to understand and accept some things will likely never be. I have come to believe, quite firmly in fact, that by accepting what will not be we are freed to accept what is and what will be.

Certainly accepting some of the things that will not be means experiencing sadness and, in some cases, loss, neither a particularly pleasant experience; but life is not ended by these experiences, nor is its value diminished. I accept, for example, and have accepted for some time now that I will never again have a relationship with family. Although I did not realize it nor see it coming at the time, my relationship with my family ended the day my father died. I was 15.

However, I have a friendship closing in on 40 years with Michael Sulsona; we are actually brothers at this point. His sons, Vincent and Philip, grew up calling me Uncle Peter and in my heart and soul they are my nephews.  And while I would have weathered the storms of life, Michael’s presence and the presence of his boys have made managing the storms a lot easier. I love them with all my heart. I am blessed.

I have come to believe too that at this point it is unlikely I will ever have the relationship with a woman that I’d like to have; one deep-heart committed under the same roof sharing the daily strides of life. There are few gifts in life more wonderful than waking up next to the person you love. But love and relationships have many forms, they are not cookie-cutter made, even though we are raised by well-intentioned misguided folks to think so. Once we gently disengage from that myth we are free to love in ways we  never thought possible.

And then there is my writing, the part of myself I am closest too. Getting a book published is not all about quality writing. What gets published proves that. Hell, while The Da Vinci Code had a good story line, it was some of the worst writing I’ve ever encountered; the only cliché the book left out was It’s quiet, too quiet.

When it comes to my writing, my job is to  write one piece of work at a time, send them out when they are complete, and then get to work on the next peace.

Life is good, not always easy, but good. Remember (please) that accepting what will likely not be will free you to experience what will be. And hey, when you notice you’re there when you wake up in the morning you know things could be a helluva lot worse.

The Perplexity of People

People baffle me.

What makes us believe the things we do? Or, what makes us unwilling to accept the realities that confront us, even when we know (or do we?) accepting them is what we must to manage and get free of  life’s more debilitating and, at times, deadly challenges?

If you find yourself hoping this essay will offer definitive answers, forget it. Honest observations for sure, but answers? Definitive ones? Not likely. Not from this pen.

While this is not a political column, some of the more baffling aspects of people show up in their political choices. Take Sarah Palin. First, she is blatantly dishonest. She resigns as Alaska’s governor to fight for Alaska (a confusing rationale to say the least) and takes a job with Fox News. The woman comfortably lies from sea to shining sea, says God told her to run for VP (I thought he liked us!) and yet millions adore her.

Let me switch gears now, or, better put, terrain.

Why, when so many recognize their opponent, I am thinking of alcoholism or addiction, brain injuries, along with other maladies, do they not choose to accept the reality of what they are facing (acceptance does not mean giving in) so their lives will grow the level of independence they deserve?

Let’s face it, when, on some level, you choose to surrender control to an addiction, injury, eating disorder, anger management issues, or similar maladies, including the wounding components of your history, the very last thing you are is independent.

The answer to the proceeding question may revolve around the person’s belief that they do not deserve their independence and, in some cases, their life. I’ve seen cases like this end in death – real death. Not the death of an idea or the death of a dream – death – end of breathing death. And, it is wrenchingly heartbreaking.

By the way, if you manage life by using dishonesty, you lose. Dishonesty breeds carnage in all forms and on all levels.  It is moral poison.  Without question, honesty is the most powerful weapon in accepting and managing life’s challenges.

Being honest requires stepping up to the plate and taking accountability for your own life, for managing your own life. Many use dishonesty to manipulate those around them, to get others to manage their lives for them. The tragedy is, when these folks reach the end of their days, it may or may not dawn on them that they never got to live life as themselves.

I wish I had the magical gift to help people recognize and believe, or dare to believe, that they are now and always have been valuable and worthwhile. That their independence rests in their willingness to accept and manage their own lives.

Independence is a state of mind, not a physical condition or physical level of functioning.

I’ve known and  know people resistant to taking medication or going to psychotherapy because they mistakenly believe if they do they are not handling things independently. Were that misguided belief accurate, then it has been many years since I’ve read a book independently because I wear glasses.

Wearing glasses is independence because by wearing them I am controlling the poor vision rather than allowing it to control me (and, by the way, rob me of my favorite pastime, reading). Taking medication or going to therapy or get free of some of wounds or abuse you suffered in your history is independence. Why? Because you are taking charge and you are managing your life, not the ailment or your history.

Now I am going to get some sleep. That would be me managing my fatigue, being independent, if you get my drift.

Kahrmann Acceptance Speech

Note to the reader:

On June 5 the Brain Injury Association of New York was kind enough to give me this year’s Ted Weiss Advocacy Award. It is the second time they have given me this award and I am deeply grateful. A United States congressman from 1977 to 1992, Congressman Wiess was an advocate, not just for his constituents, but for all people. He was particularly fierce in the arena of healthcare, not blinking when taking on shoddy health practices for veterans, in nursing homes and more. It is a humbling experience to have my name linked in any way to so honorable a human being as Congressman Ted Weiss.

At this year’s conference I gave an acceptance speech which has prompted an enormously positive response. It is one of the few speeches I actually wrote beforehand and it was recorded. In light of the intensely positive response, I am publishing the text of the speech here.

Ted Weiss 2009 Advocacy Award Acceptance Speech

Before I get started let me first tell you that my favorite movie is, It’s A Wonderful Life. In that movie there’s a scene where Clarence the angel tells Jimmy Stewart that every time you hear a bell ring it means an angel has gotten their wings. I have decided that every time I hear a cell phone ring, say, during a speech, it means an angel has gotten their wings. That’ll make it easier for all of us.

For me, advocacy is an allegiance to the one thing all of us have a right to expect – equality. Advocacy has to be a tenacious alliance with an individual or group when their equal rights are being threatened. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men – and women – are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These rights – your rights – will die on the vine of hope if they are not given the water of respect and the sunlight of dignity. Your voice and mine play major roles in this task.

We’ve lost some extraordinary voices this year, a man I never met though I’m sure was deeply special, he was a drummer, Patrick Cavallo[1], and two who worked in this field, Frank Pierce[2] and Mark Ylivisaker[3]. Like many of us, both men knew the difference between those who really knew them and those who merely sought to use them. Neither man allowed the latter group to distract him from helping others. And, by the way, they’ve got their wings.

While it is true that time will still all our voices, I believe the voice of the human spirit lasts forever. The human spirit is alive and well in each of you: it lives in those of you who teach us you do not have to stand up to stand tall; it lives in those of you who teach us you do not have to have sight to have vision; and it lives in those of you who teach us you do not need hearing to know the sounds of injustice.

There will always be some who look to rob others of their equality because they are more concerned about fattening their wallets and thickening their bank rolls. I know there are people like this because I’ve met them and been wounded by them. I have heard their sweet sounding sugar coated words packed with arsenic. I’ll say one thing for brain injuries, I’ve never seen a fat wallet or thick bank roll protect someone from getting one.

Like other advocates, I have endured the efforts of those who would like to silence me.

But I will not be silent.

I will not be silent when I see anyone – any of you – being treated as if you are some form of diminished humanity. I will not be silent because what I am really talking about here today is freedom – your freedom and mine. The freedom to be who you are – safely – with equality – in the world you live in.

And when it comes to preserving our freedom, silence is never an option.

It is a wonderful life. Remember to live it. Many of you have earned your wings already.

Thank you, I love you all.

[1] Brother of BIANYS president, Marie Cavallo

[2] BIANYS board member, brain injury survivor, veteran

[3] Clinician know worldwide for his remarkable and innovative work with survivors of brain injuries.