Living In America

It's not easy to stay motivated and positive...

The alternative however, is not a good choice.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling alright until I moved to get out of bed. At first I thought that allergies, which are prevalent and very bad this year and the medication I had taken before bed, had caused me to sleep hunched up. That was my explanation until I stood up and realized that my back hurt badly, in the kidneys-kind-of-way and not just sore but painful.

This always freaks me out because it is close to the pain I woke up with one Sunday early in 2008 to find out during a week of doctor visits, something I dislike, that my left kidney had failed and as a result the right one was failing. Sparing the details, I ended up with months of several operations and outpatient procedures. I've also been having these past few weeks other small signs that could be related that I've brushed off. OK, I can deal with it, knowing it's probably only at worst a kidney infection or a stone. I drink a lot of water (it's all I drink) every day and now drink even more now to try to clear it out. I'll wait until Monday to see how it goes and then decide how to proceed if nothing's improved. My theory is if I'm not unceasingly nauseous, passing blood or throbbing with intolerable pain, physical problems usually can wait a few more days.

That discovery would have been alright if I hadn't been told shortly thereafter that the person I've lived with for 15 years, suddenly realized that he couldn't find my Post Office Box key, the only one that exists. This required retracing his steps to all the places he'd been before the post office, at the post office and from the post office as well as searching the house. Still...no key. Later in the day I went back to the post office again to ask if anyone had turned in a key. To summarize, this is going to be a different kind of pain in the backside, since I've had this post office box for decades and the other key disappeared years ago. I am going to have to pay the Federal Government to replace my lock, which will also wait until Monday, when I plan by then to still be walking upright.

Why am I recounting this Too-Much-Information in a blog that could be read by anyone? One of the few YouTube video bloggers that I still subscribe to who is of the video online community I was once part of, Mean Black Dude, in the Washington DC/Maryland area, posted a video blog "Motivate Me!." In his vlog he asks "how does one stay motivated in this society?" and keep on going in this economy. (Careful if you're squeamish about the "BS" word.)

It's a good question I think everyone from all segments of our society ask themselves. Some ask it every day, all day and others of us just ask it every once in awhile on a bad day. My response to him was in the limited context of what YouTube allows in 500 characters. Essentially I commented: What keeps me motivated may sound really corny but it's staying positive. I'm a pragmatic, realistic man so I control what I can, myself and my attitude, letting the rest go. I avoid negative people and refuse to buy into bad attitudes. That said, it's not easy to do, it takes effort. You can read the entire comment section here to see his response and the variety of other comments.

Am I always positive? Am I one of those happy, upbeat people that drives everyone nuts? Absolutely not. It is work to stay optimistic sometimes and I have down days. Some of them have been down weeks these past few months but in the back of my mind there is always the thought, that the only other option to not being generally optimistic and positive is not a pleasant one. I know because I tried it for a time when I was younger. Fortunately I discovered that being an angry young man wasn't good for me and especially for anyone around me. The prospect of being an angry old man also meant being a very depressed and bitter old white guy we all recognize. I'm not sure what woke me up but I'm glad something did. Perhaps it was another dramatic medical event in my twenties, the early death of my father when I was starting college or a combination of a number of unfortunate things that happened then.

When I had a medical crisis in 2008, far worse than I let most people realize, I again recognized that my only option was to remain optimistic, positive and self-reliant. That is because when you send out those signals to people, they are returned to you, multiplied. It attracts people to you who will also provide you with support and mutual help. When I had a less than productive or good day such as today, I somehow manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other and stop it from being a negative day.

I also reminded myself that no matter where you are in life you are, high or low, you can always look and find someone better off than you are and someone worse off than you are. That is what keeps me motivated to stay optimistic and positive as well as considering that the alternative is not a good choice.


  1. I think you're absolutely right that remaining generally positive is the only viable option. I also agree completely that it is sometimes extremely difficult to remain optimistic and upbeat. I know I have had more than enough Very Down Moments lately...but though they don't seem short while they're happening, it always seems like something comes along pretty quickly to make things bearable again. I think if someone makes the effort to remain mostly upbeat, things will come along to encourage a return to that when things seem to be falling apart. I can't explain it, but I can cite far too many examples of it in my own life to believe it's mere coincidence.

    As for your back and kidney pain, I can only say that I hope their causes are minor and that you'll feel well again very soon. There's nothing like intense pain to put a damper on optimism; people like to say that pain is a good thing really. I agree that it is a helpful thing but I can't call it "good" and I notice that the people saying it are quite often pain-free. I'll just say that I hope things are much better very soon.

    But as for the P.O. box lock...I'm afraid there's no hope for a miracle cure. Even the greatest optimist has his limits. :)

    Seriously JR, I hope you feel better soon.

  2. It's a challenge to stay positive in this economic and political climate but not impossible, although I do have difficult days. When I think about it though, even prior to this economic climate there were down days and times. I remind myself that "the good old days" had their flaws too. Things do come along to encourage a more back to normal feeling and I think that is a part of life, not coincidence. A protection mechanism in a sense. Hang in there my friend, we're the type to weather storms and come out only slight scathed but relatively intact.

    I drink about a liter to a liter and a half of water a day and I drank about two the past few days. I feel better today and I think I flushed it out. That's enough info without going into detail. One thing I have to always remember is not to take my kidneys for granted, luckily I survived my problem without damaging them much, but I do have to take care of them. Hence, being very certain to drink lots of water, the best thing of all and avoiding any sugared drinks or pop except on rare occasion.

    Yeah, I think I know where that mailbox key is. It went down the recycle bin at the post office when he was sorting through the mail and getting rid of junk. He's not sure but I have a sixth sense about this stuff. Ah well, the key and lock needed jiggling to open anyway so...

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Two follow-ups to your response...neither of them are serious or particularly relevant but I'm going for it anyway lol.

    1) I'm blaming the mailbox deal on the government, under the theory that if there were a way to be CERTAIN that a person could lose a key while recycling junk mail, the PO would not only do all it could to make that happen but also spend a lot of money trying to make matters worse...and this is coming from someone who still thinks a stamp is a pretty good deal. Even so, rest assured I'm not torn on the matter: the feds did it. Government has, like, a nineteenth sense for creating annoying difficulties like this.

    2) You mentioned "pop". Most of my family has always called it pop, but some of them have called it soda. As far as I know, no one in my family ever called it "soda pop", though I know a lot of people do (or did). For some reason this has always been fascinating to me; it seems like something that would be a regional thing but I find nothing consistent in usage, nor has anyone explained to me why people who grew up in the same house might vary in their terminology. But they do sometimes, and in my experience I've never known anyone to switch from "soda" to "pop", or vice versa. Everyone I can think of has chosen their side and stuck with it, it seems. It's a silly thing to be fascinated by, but...well, my dad and I were talking about it this afternoon. There really can't be any coincidences.

    I know this is silly but I figured I'd pass it all along, because, you know, no coincidences.

    And yes.. to get serious for a moment, your first paragraph reminded me of something PJ O'Rourke once wrote about the "good old days". I can't remember the exact quote but it basically said: if you think the past was better, think about the word "anesthesia" as you walk through an old graveyard looking at all the young ages on the stones. Like your blog implies, it all has a lot to do with perspective.

    I know this was nutty, but so be it. Hope you're doing better, JR.

  4. The Midwesterners around here call it "soohdah" with that accent of theirs that reminds of the movie "Fargo." Most of us call it pop but Californians call it "soda pop." Go figure. Oddly, my British half relatives all call products like Coca-Cola "Soda" because prior to it becoming an item there (which it wasn't when I was a kid) they have their own carbonated juice drinks (orange, lemon, etc.) the call "fizzy drinks." Trivia for ya!

    I'm going with your theory in the junk mail bin. I also think their employees go through it (despite their denial of their ability when looking for a key) looking for items of value tossed in by mistake.

    My father used to say "the past is always better in hindsight." I suspected he stole the concept from someone!