Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Make Me Smile

To quote a couple of lyrics from the Chicago classic, “Make Me Smile,” “living life is just a game…” “I’m so happy.” It may be hard to think that after writing a post like I did recently, how could I possibly be thought of as someone who is happy, given all that I have gone through in my life. But the truth is, I am actually a very positive person. The key to this happiness is balance and being able to recognize the things we can control and those that we cannot control, all the while focusing on what is important in life. Just as there are game pieces, there are individual pieces in my life, that keep me in this game. And just like sitting at a table with friends or family playing a board game, the results do not always turn out like we would like. But you take the experiences, and you bring them with you the next time you sit at that table.

And in spite of the two major issues that I must face in my life, failing health and divorce, I really do have a lot in life that bring me enjoyment, smiles.

Two words, “my world.” No matter the struggles that I have faced, my daughters have been the driving force behind me getting through EVERY challenge that I have faced. From the days they were placed in my arms, through their entire childhood, and into their early adulthood, my entire mood skyrockets each time I get to talk with them, or even better, visit with them.

Over the years, we have taken turns giving each other reasons to laugh. Each personal achievement they have attained along the way, they have done so with a stubborn determination. And with each health crisis that I face, though I know it is out of my control, I still take up the fight, not to have their hearts broken.

My life as a cancer survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has been directed by a set of goals and milestones, and one by one I am meeting those goals and milestones. With one final high school graduation to go, two college graduations, and of course whatever follows in their young adulthood and as far as relationships (and secretly hoping for grandchildren), I am not focused on what I am up against, I am focused on what I have gotten to experience.

Music in all of its forms, is able to take me mentally to any refuge, any direction, to bring me back to the place in my mind, where I know, what I have, is good. My entire life has been filled with role models, exposure to different genres, ability to challenge myself to “read a second language” (music), and so many opportunities to compete, travel, perform, and feel accomplished.

I have always felt music an important part of my life. From singing in school, to the music I listened to in the chair while I got my chemotherapy, to special performances, music made things less scary, offered comfort, made people feel good. I am fairly confident that I have bestowed the same respect for the various genres of music with my daughters. I have several great moments that will always bring a smile to me, like when my oldest daughter sang “God Bless America” for her grandfather, or when my younger daughter played “Chasing Cars” on guitar with me singing on vocals. And then there was the time, leaving a movie theatre after watching “Rocket Man,” the rockumentary of Elton John, listening to my daughters singing “I’m Still Standing,” one of the many hits of Sir Elton.

I do not want to lose my place trying to confirm how long I have been doing this, but I have been writing “Paul’s Heart” now for over ten years, easily likely more than that. I have contributed to many writing projects such as newsletters and books, all the while still working on my own memoire on survivorship. I have given many speeches on survivorship and patient advocacy. There is a catharsis that I get from writing and speaking not only personally from me, but hoping that something I have written will make an impact or difference for someone, especially when facing a challenging situation.

When we face a challenge or confrontation, we need to be able to release the stress created, and for me, that is writing. It could be in the form of a text, an email, a post, or even the ancient form of writing a letter. Whether or not those thoughts ever see the light of day, the mere act of releasing them via my fingertips, provides a way of letting those stressors go. And if it happens to be a positive thought that has been written, perhaps the ideas may give a more defined direction, providing a better opportunity for success.

Friends. No definitions. No requirements. No expectations. Frequency of time together, never a factor. Never having met in person. Just knowing that person is there, and will be there, and that same assurance given back, in good times and bad, sharing memories and tears, lifting spirits and giving high fives.

I am not talking about relationships either. I am talking friends. And if you are lucky enough, to have a best friend, that one you know will always have your back, kick you in the ass when you need or deserve it, and give you the push you need to reach something thought out of reach. Whether one friend, or twenty friends, to be able to share, laugh, and experience life is truly a blessing to be a part of.

Pets, fur friends, family. It has been a long time since I said goodbye to my best friend, Pollo. He gave me so many years and so many memories. My daughters think I take so many photos of them. Had I had a smart phone when I first got Pollo, I undoubtedly would have my own Youtube or TikTok with him.

My daughters and I can be out walking, for exercise or recreation, and I will always, and I mean ALWAYS stop to pet someone furry. I cannot get enough of the TikToks of the dogs, cats, no matter the breeds or species, animals always have a way of bringing me happiness.

And lastly, but not least, “You.” I get enjoyment out of watching others have fun, experience success, grow. I love to hear success stories, not necessarily having come from a dark place, but just a success story. I enjoy watching people open gifts, participate in activities like skiing or parasailing, even though I can no longer do these things myself. If you are smiling, I am pretty sure not only will I be smiling, but so will others around us.

This was the challenge that I issued to myself, and can hopefully convince anyone who might think otherwise, I really am a happy and optimistic person. Sure, I have some crappy things that get thrown at me. But I never lose sight of my peace and my happiness. And all the things I mentioned above, are all pieces of that game of living life. I really am so happy.

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