Friday, September 18, 2015

On rewriting your life with a pursuit of happiness: It is never too late to be what you might have been

I have lots of inspirational magnets on my
refrigerator door. This saying is one of them.

Warning: Squawker Jon may call this "navel gazing," as he sometimes does when I write anything personal. I will also talk about 9/11, A-Rod, the New York Daily News, running and death. Be forewarned!

A few things over the past week reminded me how, in the words of the Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain," what a "short time to be there" we have, and how we really need to make the most of our time on earth to be happy, and be who we should have been in the first place.

The anniversary of 9/11 is one of those reminders. I used to whine about how old I was getting each year, until the Twin Towers were destroyed. What made me stop complaining about my age was looking at the names and birthdates of the people honored at Staten Island's 9/11 Postcards memorial. They never got the opportunity to grow old with their families. Growing older means that we're still alive, after all.

Another sobering thing is the news of the layoffs at the New York Daily News, my alma mater. It just goes to show how life can change in an instant. Those staffers gave their hearts and souls to the paper, and are being thrown out like yesterday's news (no pun intended.)

I was on my pal Paul Francis Sullivan's Sully Baseball show again recently, talking about the state of the Yankees. A-Rod's continued success this year, both professionally and reputationally, spurred me to wax philosophical. My point was that Alex has proven that as long as you're breathing, you have the chance to rewrite your life and come up with a better ending.

Sully and I also agreed, though, that there are exceptions to this rule, of course. Because they are predators, Bill Cosby and Subway spokesman Jared Fogle are not going to be able to rehabilitate themselves!

But in general, the point holds. If A-Rod had retired, the way Bill Madden wanted him to do, he never would have gotten the chance to rewrite his story. But Alex didn't, and now he has a much better reputation than he did a year ago.

Over the past two years, and especially over the past year, I have really tried to change my life in many ways. While I am still a work in progress, I have lost 55 pounds so far, and will be running my second half-marathon next month. Plus, I actually have a real writing career now!

Because of my being so candid about my struggles, others have talked to me about their own issues. If you look at Facebook posts, you'd think most people are happy, but they're not. There really is an epidemic of unhappiness in this country. And you can trace so many problems and addictions that people have to this. I know part of the reason I overate was because of being unhappy with my lot in life. And it was also easier to eat than to fix the things wrong with life then. However, we all need hope that things will be better in the future, even if that may be a long way away. And even if others around us want to continue to keep us down.

Whether you have faith in a higher power or not, we weren't put on this earth to be miserable, or to stay miserable. Especially given that we are privileged to live in the United States. This country was built on the principle of the pursuit of happiness; it's written in the Declaration of Independence, after all! Yet we sometimes think we don't deserve happiness, as if there is nobility in misery. There isn't.

Changing your life is extraordinarily hard, though. I know that from personal experience. It has taken a long time to lose those 55 pounds, and I still have a ways to go. But, as my running coach Mario says about me, I have the consistent persistence to keep on going. I think this comes from the desperation I felt in wanting to change my life, plus the success I have had with small victories has kept me going. I still wonder, though, how I had the courage to join a running club when I weighed 252 pounds!

Unfortunately, in many cases, some of our "loved ones" don't really want to see us make positive changes. They would prefer us to stay miserable. One of the things friends who had lost weight told me to watch out for was that I would see that some of my loved ones would not be supportive of my fitness journey, and would prefer for me to stay fat and unhappy. Sad but true.

If I could give one word of advice, though, it would be that there is no time like the present to change your life. Especially for people in my age range, where we start seeing our peers dying suddenly.

If I were to die tomorrow, I would want two things to be done at my funeral. First, I'd like to be eulogized as having tried to make my life better by getting off the couch. The second is to have "The Eyes of Texas," the school song for the University of Texas, played and sung at the service, and for everybody to do the Hook 'em Horns signs like at Lady Bird Johnson's funeral. But I digress.

I am a big believer these days in positive slogans and books, which would surprise my old Daily News colleagues who saw me as a cynical person in that cynical environment. I even have a slew of inspirational magnets on my refrigerator. One says that it is never too late to be what you might have been. I truly believe that. I also live by Eminem's lyrics in "Not Afraid," where he says: "I'm a be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly." Not the best grammar, but I agree with the sentiment!

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