Best of Swarfblog: Confessions of a Happy Man

By Lloyd Graff

I wanted to share one of my best blogs, and amazingly Siri showed me this one without even asking. A few of the numbers are off by 5½ years, but I don’t care. The sentiment and conflicts are just as true today. 

I am celebrating today for no good reason – except the best reason, I’m alive to celebrate 2140 days after my crucial heart artery, the left anterior descending (LAD), was completely obstructed. That should have ended my life, but it didn’t because a Muslim doctor in a Catholic hospital inserted a stent into a 63-year-old Jewish guy whose Greek Orthodox physician personally wheeled him into the Emergency room. Only in America.

Every day since then I give thanks for the gift of living another day. I wish I could say I was joyful every day, but I’m not. I let trivial crap annoy me. I worry about the business and making money. I get irritated by the aches and pains of 70 years and not seeing and hearing like I did 30 years ago.

My grateful happy self kicks my negative grouchy self in the butt as my dual psyche wobbles on the balance beam of life.

I am thrilled to be alive each day and yet still pissed off that every day is emotionally turbulent.

George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

I feel incredibly blessed just to wake up and kiss my wonderful wife, Risa. And then, a few minutes later, I’m struggling in bed with business problems and girding myself for a painful post knee replacement workout. And then I remind myself, “you’re alive, Lloyd, you’re loved and you love, so get real.” Then I pull myself out of bed. I’m a happy guy, but I wonder why I’m not happier. Is this the blessing and curse of surviving till you have to start cashing in your IRA?

As a younger man I didn’t worry all that much. My parents were both big worriers, and I used to think I was absolved from worrying because they were so good at it. When they died at 70 and 77 I think I unconsciously believed it was my duty to become a worrier. It was almost an unconscious worry transfer that I couldn’t wash or wish away.

I am not debilitated by my wrestling match of gratitude and fear, but it does make for a tiring day. I live with constant double vision because of seven retina surgeries. My two eyes don’t work together. It’s another part of my daily internal battle – good sight and near blindness. Sometimes I block the one bad eye with an eye patch, but usually I allow both eyes to work it out. Maybe I prefer the struggle because it’s reassuring to have two eyes, even if one doesn’t see very well.

I often make the emotional connection with Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, even when it isn’t Christmas. The strands of joy and depression ran through George. Most of the time he held off the fear, but it was a constant presence in his life. Ultimately, it took an aspiring angel to help him vanquish his internal demons that the hated villain Potter kept abetting.

The title of the film, with all its irony, feels like my story. My life has been wonderful. It is wonderful. I am so grateful. Why can’t I feel that way all of the time?

Question: Has the pandemic been more of a blessing than a curse for you?

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6 thoughts on “Best of Swarfblog: Confessions of a Happy Man

  1. Steven Balder

    Congratulations Lloyd on being around and consciously grateful for life…. much to be thankful for! This year I have seen people in my world rise and make the most of the pandemic conditions and I have seen others sink into depression and loss in a way that I am not sure if they will ever pull out of.

    My wife and I have been very blessed in 2020, personally, professionally, financially…. literally across all dimensions of our lives. We are thankful and grateful while still carrying a respectful solemnness for so many who have faced or lost so much this year.

  2. Gordy

    Blessing for sure
    My 13 mile 45 minute drive with everyone on their phones forgetting that they are actually supposed to be driving a car is down to 20 minutes most days. I make every light on the first change now.
    I can only assume the people now working from home were the culprit; there were just too many important emails and texts then to focus on the road. Now they don’t have to be bothered with all that pesky rules of the road stuff.
    Another bonus is the small pile of car parts at most of the intersections is gone.

  3. Marcello

    Lloyd, I enjoyed the story and your honesty.
    The one shining star out of this whole thing is the enormous amount of time that I’ve been able to spend with my family. It has been so enjoyable. No crazy late nights at the shop and now I’m able to come home at a reasonable time and enjoy my evenings and weekends. I guess it took a pandemic to get me home and out of the shop. I’m sure that when things pick back up I’ll be at it again. But I’m going to enjoy every minute while it lasts.

  4. Peter Frow

    “My grateful happy self kicks my negative grouchy self in the butt as my dual psyche wobbles on the balance beam of life.”

    I am grateful for your remarkable turn of phrase Lloyd.
    Most of all I am grateful to know you, your warmth, your transparency and your panoramic vision which exceeds by far your physical vision.


  5. Ridgely Dunn Post author

    This year has afforded many people the opportunity to accomplish things they didn’t think were possible. For some, it’s ending one thing and starting a new one, or experiencing the chance to work from home. I have watched friends and family buy their first homes, or save money on trips, meals out, and other unnecessary things. I have also known many people who lost their jobs, or whose mental or physical health suffered.

    I am thankful for the opportunities this strange situation has afforded me. I don’t know if I am any better or worse off because of it, but I feel that I am in a pretty good place.

  6. Dan Ewing

    Thanks for the inspiration. I finally got around to reading this today.
    I too had a life threatening event, a blood vessel rupture in my head. It’s been 4 wonderful years since then and I have so much to be thankful for.
    It truly is a wonderful life! Can’t wait to see that movie again in the upcoming days.
    Even though our cutting tool shop is closing at the end of this year, I have been fortunate enough to be employed by our parent company. My ex-coworkers were not so lucky.
    The transition to a remote worker will be something new, but I’m sure I will adjust.

    Let’s all pray for a quick end to this pandemic and a smooth roll-out of the vaccine.
    2020 will force us to be thrilled when some normalcy returns in 2021!
    Let’s all appreciate the lessons of our current situation and never forget those hundreds of thousands of lives lost!


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