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The Need to Reconnect

2018-09-20T07:52:30+00:00

My hot cup of coffee feels good in my hands. I close my eyes and feel the first sip rapidly warming my body. It’s not something I think about normally, but I missed it, because I had taken a break during recent medical tests.

Moisture in the air on the back porch is so thick this morning it might as well be raining, as it has been for the past couple of weeks. Yet the sky is clear, the sun is bright, and it almost feels as though the rain may be over. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little hope from a bright sunny day, which somehow makes the rain more tolerable when it comes back. Little rays of hope are all it takes.

For me a little ray of hope is a day when I’m feeling normal again after a few weeks of not feeling great. I had a great night’s sleep, awoke with my normal energy, and feel like today is the day I’m supposed to conquer the world. Not that the world needs to be conquered.

A Bad Day

Though I’m having a good start to my day, there are others this morning who don’t want to roll out of bed to face what today may bring. This morning I’m thinking about the 30-year bride of my friend Sean, whom I mentioned after he had a stroke, six months ago. He passed away last week. Her days for the past six months have been about being brave for him, giving him a ray of hope, being at his side, dealing with doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, and trying to cope with the financial issues all of it brings. (His GoFundMe page is still up if you want to help her.) Now she has to deal with her grief, and perhaps feelings of guilt about a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering, and the fear of how she will survive without him. There is a line in the movie Unbroken saying that marriage is like two trees that grow side by side and get intertwined over the years. Those of us who are the other trees in the forests of their lives need to step in and do what we can to fill the unfillable void.

My Own Space

When my friend of 40 years passed, I went out to my little art studio back behind our old Texas ranch house, my equivalent of a man cave. Instead of a big screen TV and football memorabilia and beer signs, I’m surrounded by the things I love … paintings friends have sent me, paintings of places I’ve been around the world, and my art books. I sit in the old rocking chair — it belonged to my wife’s grandmother — and just rock and think. I was wondering how I should react to his death.

Though that seems like an odd question, I think we get to a point in our lives where we can control our reactions to some extent. I’m not talking about stuffing our emotions, but making good out of a bad situation.

Funerals Can Be Fun?

Though I think my friend would appreciate that his friends are saddened by his passing, knowing his gleeful personality, I think he’d rather I found something funny in it. You know, put the FUN back in FUNeral. He would be cutting up, making jokes, and being filled with life about his own passing because he was that kind of guy. And in it all, he would find some depth and meaning, some next steps. I simply don’t think he would want to see us wailing about him uncontrollably, which is why I shed some quiet tears to myself, and had a lot of smiles remembering where the tree branches of our lives intersected. How can I make the best of a bad situation?

I came to a few conclusions, the first being that I need to do more things with my family, my kids, so that they have memories. It’s too easy to let them sit reading their phones or playing video games, but those are not meaningful memories like a hike together, or something fun. And with college two years out, there is no time like the present to schedule memories.

Get My Own House in Order

Seeing what my friend went through because of a stroke was also a reminder to clean my own house. There is more I can do to lose weight, to get exercise daily, to control my diet, to manage my attitude and reduce my stress. My recent illness was not only a surprise, but a wakeup call that maybe I’m not a superhero after all, and maybe I’m just trying to do too much. It’s something I don’t want to admit, especially because I’ve had a vegan diet for the past 13 years and thought that would keep the wolves away.

The day before Sean died, I was having a discussion with my wife about whether I should get on an airplane to go see him, since it had been several months. She appropriately reminded me that though the thought was good, I just had my own health scare, and getting on an airplane and adding one extra trip might not be in my best interest. And as I was still pondering it, he passed away. The good that came out of that is realizing that I need more time with the friends I cherish, not just visiting them in hospitals, but having fun with them while they are filled with life. So I plan to do that, somehow, without adding more trips.

Same Time Next Year

Each year I hold a big radio conference at the Harvard Club in New York, and each year one of my closest friends, Jackson, flies into town. We room together at the National Arts Club, and we spend two or three days catching up over breakfast and dinner, sitting up late nights, laughing. We’ve done it for probably 10 years, and it’s a way to take advantage of a trip I’m doing anyway, to spend time with a friend. And it sure beats being in another hotel room alone at night.

Roomies

When I did my recent painting trip to Cuba, my old friend Mitch roomed with me, and it was like two schoolmates telling jokes till two in the morning, laughing a lot, and reconnecting. And in a couple of weeks I’ll be rooming with Rick Wilson, a painter from my home state of Indiana. I suspect we’ll sit up playing guitars till the wee hours. I cherish those moments and regret that I never did anything like that with Sean while he was full of life. Though we were both busy, there was no excuse. We could have found a way. So my plan is to do this with my best buddies in places I’m already going, whenever possible. Not adding extra days of travel, but making good use of the time I’m there.

What about you?

Who are you not reconnecting with that you need in your life?

What excuses are you making for not spending time with them?

What can you do to take advantage of something you’re doing anyway, where they can be woven into the fabric?

What needs to be done to make more memories with your kids, grandkids, parents, and friends?

What’s stopping you?

Moments like these force us to think about things that need to change in our own lives.

It also makes us realize what we need to do for ourselves. I always say that you have to give yourself oxygen before helping others, because without it, you can’t help others as well. What do you need for yourself that you keep thinking about doing, but you find all the reasons you can’t? What old stories are holding you back?

There is a mountain you must climb. It may be Everest. There will be a time you can no longer climb it and can only dream about what could have been. Don’t look back in regret. Focus on today because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Don’t just exist, fight to create memories and live dreams. It’s worth fighting for.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week I told you why I was unable to go to Africa. They are sending me photos and messages, which I’m reposting on my Facebook page. It’s a missed bucket list opportunity. I want to publicly thank everyone on that trip who was expecting me to be with them, and thank them for being so gracious and understanding. I don’t like to disappoint, and this is the first time I’ve been unable to attend one of my own trips.

 

11 Comments

  1. STAMATIS PAVLIS September 23, 2018 at 7:18 am - Reply

    all the best from cyprus and get well hope to meat some time

  2. Ruth Weiss September 23, 2018 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I’m glad you had a health scare Eric. Glad also it has been resolved. I always wondered who was chasing you. You suffer, as I do, from FOMO – Fear of Missing OUt. But as we increasingly are made aware of as we get older, llife is short and then you die. Cherish your family, make those memories with them. Spend time with your dearest friends, paint, do the little things that you love. It’s OK not to climb Mt. Everest. Life is short.

  3. Barbara Burk September 23, 2018 at 10:09 am - Reply

    Your thoughts this morning really hit home with me. Thank you for being so open and honest. I look forward to meeting you in person at FACE.

  4. Debra Vance September 23, 2018 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Eric,

    I am as we all are, happy you are feeling better.

    While there is no “diet” that will prevent aging; moderate and enjoy the good stuff.

    I watch our society today and I find it all very troubling. We are supposed to look like we did in our 20’s, feel like we did in our 20’s and most troubling weigh what we did in our 20’s. Very troubling – we are fed unrealistic information at every turn.

    We as our society – fail to acknowledge that we are in “the cycle of life.” We are granted use of these bodies for a period of time. WE are born, we grow up, we live and ENJOY OUR TIME HERE. Then we must (as a society) accept that we too will all pass.

    Our goals should be different. We should work hard, play hard and enjoy the good stuff in moderation. Love and life to our potential. Help and give back when we can.

    Age gracefully as possible. Be healthy as possible and not “cause our illness” through stress or excess with substances etc. Get realistic – gray hair and wrinkles are merit badges some are not able to earn. These are truths that we can not escape. Not reality, not Gods plan. So have that steak and savor it. indulge in ice cream, cake a wonderful red wine. Exercise and get our rest.

    And by all means paint!

    Enough on a Sunday morning. Be well.

  5. Linda Wells September 23, 2018 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Hey Eric, hope you are feeling good again. I was on the trip with y”all when Roger dislocated his shoulder. Lots of worried people that night. Just wanted to say if you still want to go to Africa my group is leaving on Oct. 13 to take the murals I did to put in the new school we are building for the Maasai in Tanzania. It will be 3 weeks of work getting the school put together, hanging the murals, painting other things around the classrooms, putting together the desks and chairs and shelving, etc. before the dedication on Nov. 3. Three of us who are going are artists so I’m sure we will find time to paint for ourselves somewhere in the three weeks. You can see photos of the small school being built on my facebook page. It doesn’t look like much to us but they’ve never had anything like it out there. The school will have solar power, toilets and showers that the kids have never experienced. We will also hold an “art camp” with as many kids as we can handle. They will start with 96 in the nursery school in November, then when the school officially opens in Jan. there will be at least 250 in this tiny school. I don’t know how they will manage. Anyway if you want to go, let me know.

  6. Anne Spencer September 23, 2018 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric,
    So good to read your note this morning. I have enjoyed your Sunday Coffee notes for some time now. First time to respond to you and others on your words and travels. I was sorry you were not able to go to Africa as I enjoyed a wonderful semi-enjoy and semi professional trip to Kenya and South Africa… I enjoyed reading about the murals to South Africa for the school I read in a comment
    to you…it warmed my heart.
    Thank you for your note on the importance of connecting which I value and must do more as friends are distance, gone from close communication and too often ill or gone.
    My best wished to you in your recovery and thank you for your generous spirit in art and life as I do my best to continue my love of painting, artists and the beautiful history of painting.
    sincerely, Anne

  7. Nicholette Fetsch September 23, 2018 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Greetings, Eric.

    I am so glad that you are feeling better. Yes, it is of prime importance to take care of yourself. I know how that goes. The last two PACE conferences I attended were within driving distance for me. Not so, anymore.
    Then there is FACE which I would dearly love to attend. I even had an application all filled out for a chance at a scholarship. I decided against trying to fly from coast to coast. The trip would have worn me out and made the conference less than workable for me. I decided to stay home and work at my art every day with all the beautiful DVD courses and huge art library I have. I simply cannot do what I once did in the way of going hither and yon. I am 84 years young and with limits still able to enjoy music making and painting to my heart’s content.

    Take good care of yourself, Eric.

    Best wishes,
    Nicholette Fetsch

  8. carol anderson September 23, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric,
    Sometimes, I think separations (of all kinds) are there to show or teach us something. As a two time cancer survivor and now recovering from a fall which left me using a cane and hobbling even more than normal when the barometer falls, I know the best is yet to come. and If that means going it alone, so be it. I’m as peace with my Maker and my world is changing around me. I’m looking forward to every day and painting en plein air in Fall!

    I was vegan for 20 years, then something inside told me I needed more protein in the form of meat. I added organic eggs, beef and bison. I am also starting to rebuild my worn down, beat up body with Hydrolyzed Protein and am using bone broth daily to cook with and consume in homemade soups. It working! Over time we get depleted and must do what kept our grandparents healthy to reboot. At 73, I’m starting to see positive results and recommend returning to the old ways to regain your health and stamina.

    I toast you with bone broth!

  9. Sam Traina September 23, 2018 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Back in March my Ophthalmologist discovered that I had a 2.5 mm melanoma growing in my left retina. What are the chances of that? 1 in 100,000. Talk about unlucky. I had it treated with radiation about 6 months ago and further test reveal it’s been neutralized and dormant. I go back in one year for my next check up. It’s also been found to be the higher risk melanoma. 50/50 chance it will spread to liver. After app. 9 months this hasnt happened and that’s good. They say if you go 2 years without it spreading the chances reduce quite a bit of it spreading later. But I definitely relate to your last two articles and want you to know I know what your going thru even tho I dont really know exactly what you have. I share all your “life” thoughts and questions. Even lost time with family I could’ve improved on and working on now. . Thanks for your articles and all you do for us.

  10. joyce snyder September 25, 2018 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Eric you always inspire me ..and mine (as I send it along to family) so you need to now remember the bucket is still not full for YOU! Africa will still be there waiting for when you DO go. God meant you to be where you are for HIS reasons.

  11. John September 26, 2018 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    This was a beautiful post. Thank you, condolences over your recent loss, and best wishes for good health!

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