November 24, 2018, Prescott-
I have decided to end this week of gratitude, by looking back at the ten best choices I ever made. I am grateful to the Universe for having placed these in front of me and I have a measure of self-gratitude for having made them.
10, Serving in the Army– At 18, I had little to show for my life. There was no discipline, of which to speak and my world consisted of drooling over girls and imbibing too much alcohol, too fast. Other-imposed discipline gave me a regimen, which I could add to the work ethic that my parents instilled in each of us and it set me on a course of self-reliance, which I still need and use.
9. Studying Psychology- It didn’t make me wealthy and barely got me a job, but knowing something of what makes the human mind tick has given me insight into myself and has made me more understanding of others.
8. Living on the Navajo Nation- I have a strong genetic memory of the Indigenous. I am not much, in terms of blood quantum, but my nature fairly burns with the feeling that I belong in the woodlands; that I am a gatherer and a sharer; that I am one with the Universe. Being on the same page, day to day, with Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people reinforced that unity.
7. Blogging- Writing is a skill that three of my four high school English teachers saw as a talent that I needed to sharpen. They gave me the tools to keep on sharpening that talent. College brought it up another notch. As a caretaker, and then as a widower, far from extended family, blogging gave me an outlet, one step up from journaling (which I also still do) and a wider appreciative audience.
6, Returning to work, full time- In 2016, having been a substitute teacher, with a couple of other jobs, whilst being Penny’s caretaker, I found a niche at Prescott High School. My place there was, more or less, secure and I was urged to return full-time, for the years leading up to my retirement from education. That work has been fulfilling, and will remain so until I reach 70, two years from now.
5. Working as a counselor- As a school counselor, I was able to impact thousands of lives, over the span of eleven years, between Tuba City and Keams Canyon/Jeddito, and some of those lives were saved. I am haunted by a few lives that weren’t and by those I couldn’t reach. The majority, though, learned life skills and resilience, and knew that someone had their backs.
4. Settling in Prescott- The job aside, moving here after Penny’s passing was a lifesaver. I had the anchor of a house, for the time I needed it, and of a Faith Community with whom I was already familiar and who were not intimate with Penny’s suffering. That last was important. I could not have the constant reminders of all that we had endured together. Since then, I have made many new friends and branched out in several directions-all healthy.
3. Widespread travel-Besides going back and forth from Arizona to the East Coast, for family visits, my wanderlust has taken me to western Europe, Hawai’i, the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska. I took in a small swath of eastern Canada, last summer and am likely to cross our northern neighbour again, in the summer of 2020. California, Nevada and Colorado have also seen a lot of me, these past seven years, as have the South and Midwest. This is an essential part of who I am.
2. Getting married- I have always been crazy about girls and women. There isn’t much about the opposite gender that I don’t like, though I am proud to be male. Self-dislike got in the way, though, when I found myself drawn to one young lady after another. Penny didn’t fall for any of that, and we built a solid foundation, by which both of us were able to tame most of our demons and raise a fine young man, who has taken his full place in the world.
1. Recognizing Baha’u’llah- I received a solid spiritual foundation, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As I matured, though, the rituals and practices began to feel automatic to me, and I have always known that there is a continuity to Divine Revelation, superseding any one of the faiths or denominations that are commonplace. In 1972, I heard of Baha’u’llah, and the Baha’i Faith, for the first time. Nine years later, I embraced Baha’i as my own. I have found its precepts teach everything in which I already believe, and the teachings regarding health are exactly what I needed, to tame the demon of alcohol dependence. Far beyond those, however, are the vision of planetary and human unity-dispelling the darknesses of racism, nationalism and excessive materialism.
I am sure I will have other choices to make, in the coming days, months, and years. Perhaps a life-changer will be among them, as well.