June 12, 2022 by Howard Diamond
“When I’m sixty-four,” written by Paul McCartney. Yeah, I just turned sixty-four. Upon reflection, I had good and bad times, I have had some successes and some failures. It’s a little complicated, but…
I am alive.
Composer Stephen Sondheim wrote the song “Being Alive” for the Broadway musical “Company.” Cited in the final verse, “To help us survive, being alive, being alive, being alive.” Its overall meaning is that a person wants someone to hold, a desire for human contact, and a positive outlook on life. This might explain why I am here today and alive. These lyrics are fictional. For most of my life, I have been content or perhaps more neutral with being alive. At sixty-four, my life is not over. Sixty-four is only a number. More importantly, it’s about how one feels. At age sixty-four, I am doing fine. Most days, I feel good and productive.
More to do, more to accomplish
My struggles earlier on are far behind me. For twelve years, I had a significant other. Unfortunately, this ended with the death of my partner. Someone once told me to be happy we had our twelve years. This she called an Asian Lunar Life together. Twelve years together. Close enough, 5 June 2003 to 12 June 2015.
In 1980, I successfully graduated from Long Island University, CW Post, in under four years. Despite my earlier achievement, I could not secure employment after college. As a result, my anxiety symptoms progressively worsened. Eventually, I became more agoraphobic than ever. See, we get the entire picture. For approximately three years, I didn’t travel beyond a mile and a half from my mom’s house.
From 1994 to 2013, I worked in the Mental Health Field, where I had various positions for the same Mental Health Agency. During that period, I had a variety of different obligations and functions. Also, I handled my job responsibilities, received several merit salary increases, and was promoted twice. For most of those years, I was pleased with my situation as a Peer Specialist, and many of my colleagues were good and cooperative.
However, I had a strange working relationship with my last supervisor. Over time, my performance was severely critiqued and often heavily criticized. Eventually, my supervisor questioned my ineffective decisions, plus handling situations, so my work progressively went downhill. Indeed, she made everything difficult for me, and coming to the office was less palpable. Also, she pressured others in the agency to make working there uncomfortable for me and eventually be asked to leave, or I was going to resign.
As a resilient person, I found a new position with a different mental health agency. For three years, I continue to handle my responsibilities without incident. By the third year, my headaches were getting worse. Also, the frequency and intensity were steadily increasing. Several days, I felt it was impacting my functioning and doing my position, so I asked for time off and stopped working. Initially, my status changed to put me on short-term disability. After several months my physical limitations were not improving, so I left for medical reasons.
Over the last three years plus, I have struggled with various physical ailments that hampered my progress. Initially, I had visual issues, which caused blurry vision and migraine-like headaches. When I went to my neuro-ophthalmologist he informed me that I had nerve damage behind my left eye. Happily, it is only one eye, and it might affect my driving sometimes, but I should always be careful. Also, I needed eyeglasses every day with a unique prism in the left lens.
Furthermore, during the last two years, I have developed neuropathy, a nerve condition that primarily affects my lower extremities and is predominately different on my left side. Somedays, I am in pain, making it difficult even to move. On other days the feeling is like pins and needles. Even worse, when it feels like stabbing pain, I want to scream. Most days, the nerve damage makes it hard to just walk. My gait is off, and I am out of balance. Many times, I feel like I am a hundred and seven at times and will fall. Again, looking at the positive side, my affliction is to the left side. Therefore, I still can drive, but I walk in pain. Despite all the pain, I am still alive.
Singer Gloria Gaynor sang it best, “I Will Survive.” Continually, I keep up with what I need to do. So, I can do my laundry and drive to buy my food and toiletries. Adhering to medical appointments and picking up and taking my medications are essential to keep me alive, and I will survive. More importantly, I get outside of my place almost every day.
Charles Darwin wrote that it is “Survival of the Fittest.” I’m still doing my best to survive these sixty-four years. When the weather starts to warm up, I bring my tablet to the park or the nearest boardwalk. When summer arrives, my days will be spent at the local pool or beach tanning. Yeah, “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” isn’t just an expression for me. Now, I’m sixty-four and during “Rest Of My Life,” which was written and sung by many artists, I want to be in the best health for all of us.
I’m sixty-four, and I’m alive.
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Howard Diamond is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island.