Old habits die hard, especially bad old habits. I intended to write more regularly, I swear. However, last few months been full of all kinds of interesting changes. Amy has been to Europe and Cuba (yes, I know it’s illegal- she’s like that, and gets away with everything). I’ve been to Nevada and Washington, DC. We’re finally repairing some nagging house problems, since we’re more confident we’re staying here. After nearly three years, the VA made a decision on my disability claim (I’m unemployable. I asked for a second opinion, and they said I was ugly, too). I published a book, and Amy is even closer to publishing hers (mine was easy – hers requires research). And Izzy has stopped growling at everyone but my son. (She’ll come around, or they’ll have to have it out in the backyard).
The French have a saying: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” It means, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” I know this not because Amy is a French linguist and high school French teacher, although that’s the most reasonable explanation. No, I learned the phrase before I had even met Amy from my favorite rock band when I was in high school – Rush. Not directly, of course, but from listening to one of their songs on the album “Hemispheres.” Although I had the best of intentions to change my bad habit of procrastinating about writing, my true nature keeps emerging. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Now that I’ve comforted myself that my long-term memory still works, I’ll continue. One of the major changes during the last few months is that I’ve gone from being a prospective published author to being a published author. “Walking The Crooked Path” was published in e-book form in late April, and in hard copy (paperback) at the end of June. It’s even sold a few copies, and I’m grateful to those of you who bought it and sent me positive feedback. I’m even grateful for those of you who stole it and send me negative feedback; you know who you are.
One of the most significant changes, however (at least to me) is that I’ve decided to stop shooting. It’s been at least as difficult as my decision to stop scuba diving when I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and in some ways it’s more difficult. The fundamental reason that I’ve decided to stop is that I’ve started to feel unsafe handling a gun. I haven’t had an accident, I have not shot my eye out, nor have I put inappropriate holes in other objects or living creatures. I do have increased weakness in my hands, though, and with the progression of the disease my hands move more slowly and I am clumsier. In a perfect world, I would continue until there was no possibility that I could continue, but I don’t live in that world. The publicly releasable reason that I’ve decided to stop is that I don’t want to hurt myself or anyone else. It’s true, but it’s also not the whole story.
Since this is just us, I’ll tell you the whole truth. I also decided to stop (probably before I really needed to) so that it would be MY decision. It may be a little arrogant, but it’s yet another way to be disobedient to PD. I don’t have the freedom to ignore the fact that this disease impacts every element of my life, but I don’t have to let it have the upper hand in every situation. I have come to realize that there is really very little that I control, but I don’t have to let this damned disease always dictate what I do and what I don’t do. I knew this was coming, and I don’t want to be like a professional athlete who continues playing year after year until he is the only one who doesn’t know that he should’ve stopped 15 years ago.
A wise friend of mine has written about a personal philosophy that I think makes sense: when PD takes something from you that you love and enjoy, replace it with something else that you love and enjoy. When I gave up scuba diving, I replaced it with shooting. Now that I’m giving up shooting, I’m replacing it with something else. Those of you who are my Facebook friends are suffering through my fascination with a new compulsion – I am giving in to my inclination to become 10 years old again, and I have started building plastic models.
I used to love building airplane models when I was young. It thrilled me to see the aircraft’s graceful shape emerging from a pile of plastic parts, and in my imagination I would strap into the jet I was building and slip the surly bonds of earth. I logged hundreds of hours of flying time during these flights of fancy. It was clearly a fantasy, though; I was never airsick, never ran out of fuel, and not once did I spin the aircraft without intending to.
I was also a pretty unskilled model builder. I didn’t have an X-acto knife, so I borrowed knives from my mother’s kitchen drawers. Not only did they not work very well, it didn’t make my mother very happy either. I could afford very few paint colors and supplies, so everything was either black or white, and usually ended up a mottled shade of gray, because the only paintbrush I owned was about a foot wide. My biggest limitation was my lack of patience, though. I became so impatient to see what the airplane looked like that I skipped whole sections of the instructions, didn’t paint anything, got more glue on the outside of the aircraft than on the seams, and often found later that I had glued critical parts to the seat of my pants or my forehead in my haste to see the wondrous aerodynamic beauty pictured on the box. My models never turned out that way, but I had hope.
It’s all different now, though. I have an additional 45 years under my belt, and I’ve become more patient. I can buy more than one paintbrush (many, many more – I still have obsessive/compulsive tendencies due to medication side-effects), and I can even buy more than two colors of paint. And the models – oh, they’re different, too. It’s now possible to spend more on a model of a fictional movie spacecraft than on dinner for two at Ruth’s Chris.
So, I’m in the process of replacing shooting. There are downsides; for me, shooting was a social activity, and model building isn’t (not yet, anyway – I understand there is something called a “group build” – I’m not sure what it is, but I think it’s wholesome and not creepy at all). There’s an upside too, though – a model of an F-35, an Me262, or a P-51D is much less expensive than a new Nighthawk 1911 .45, and I don’t have pangs of guilt and regret after going on a wild paint-buying spree. And Izzy doesn’t mind keeping me company and sleeping on a chair while I build a model. She didn’t approve of gunfire, and didn’t even want to be in the same county during my trips to the range.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. It’s a sadness to have to give up shooting – it was fun, and it gave me a sense of accomplishment and competence that’s important for anyone. More to the point, it’s also unwelcome evidence that PD continues to capture more and more ground in this running battle we’re waging. But, there’s always something else. Building models is good for my mind and my hands (although less good for my backside), and it keeps me thinking and interested in learning new things.
And, I’m not selling ALL the guns – the bad guys could still parachute into the back yard, or there could be a cure any day now. The Boy Scouts have their motto (Be Prepared), and the Marines have theirs (Semper Fidelis – always faithful). And I have mine – Ut Omnes Coniecto.
Keep them all guessing.