I was going to post this to social media, but I realized it was far too lengthy a story and thus deserved its own article. I’ve been working on this on and off for months, so some of the dates may not be entirely accurate.
All who know me know that I am generally a very private person. I do not seek pity nor do I claim my life is better or worse than anyone else. So why am I writing this? My time is limited. That tends to change your outlook and priorities. I hope that by sharing these things it will help others be more caring, sympathetic, and introspective. Learn from my mistakes and the things I have observed over the years.
First, let me state that any negative comments (note there is a difference between negativity and constructive criticism) will be deleted. And anyone who knows me in person who also attempts to attack me (either in person or via the rumor mill as I know some of you love to do; do you really think the people you gossip to don’t tell me everything you say?) for speaking the truth will be permanently removed from my life. The nice thing about a short life expectancy is that you no longer care about putting on a facade in order to maintain relationships.
In the fall of 2016 I was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Most people at that stage don’t live more than a year. Less than 5% make it five years. Regardless of treatments. Obviously I’m already beating the odds. People say I’m too grumpy and stubborn to just die. They are probably right. At the time I was living on my own across the country from my family with only a few local friends. So I decided to move back to where my family lived. My house was paid for, so whatever I sold it for would be cash in my pocket. Since I was self-employed my only option for health insurance was the exchange (don’t worry; this won’t be about politics). As anyone who is a small business owner knows, private insurance is extremely expensive with outrageous deductibles, even on Silver or Gold plans (which I was on). But this decision had nothing to do with money. I simply wanted to go somewhere where I hoped I would have a support system. I made this very clear to everyone.
I don’t blame anyone for the reality I moved into, but for various reasons, this hope was dashed. My brothers have new babies with their wives. My mom works full time and is usually babysitting her new grandchildren after work. My dad is involved with his own family and business matters. Basically nobody has taken the time to be there for me. I literally could die in my sleep and it could be a week before anyone would even notice. When I moved I had several other options. I chose to come back to this small town because it is where my family lives. The support system I had counted on never manifested itself.
Once a week I talk to my mom on the phone and occasionally I see her, despite the fact that we live just a couple miles apart from each other. In the eight months I’ve been here, my dad has asked me on exactly one lunch date. Even on this lunch date, it apparently was only to tell me he was considering selling the house I was renting from him (which had sat empty for five years). Otherwise, he only talks to me if it is about business or money. Thankfully I have great friends. I get visits from one or more of them almost every week. But as my health deteriorates I am forced to admit I need more than that. This isn’t a judgment on anyone (though the two friends I have shared the full details with think I should be more judgmental). It is what it is. None of us are perfect.
I have made more mistakes in my life than I can count. I own that. I admit to that. I’ve never had biological children of my own, but even though I’ve been divorced for almost 11 years, I can’t imagine trying to profit off of my step-daughters. Especially if they were going through what I’m going through. I would give my life for them. I don’t hate anyone, but I also can’t understand why money would be more important to someone than their own child’s life. If I were religious I would say that I pray my dad someday sees that his priorities are a bit out of whack.
To give context to the last paragraph, let me explain. Originally I was told I could stay in one of the apartments he owns. At the last minute that was changed and I was told I was to move into a house which hasn’t been maintained in decades. (I also specifically asked for what he expected in rent, but he refused to tell me until after I moved.) The biggest of the myriad of issues it has is that the foundation is literally crumbling and the basement has been leaking for many years as a result. Legally, this house would not even be eligible to be rented out under state or city laws. I didn’t care about that so much since my life expectancy was so short (I didn’t expect to see Christmas). However, the refusal to fix the broken A/C (despite repeated promises that it would be fixed), the mildew buildup in the bathroom I keep having to cleanup due to the water pouring out of the tub faucet (which was finally just recently fixed) and broken exhaust fan (which has never been fixed), the broken stairs going to the basement which have caused me to fall (thankfully didn’t break anything) on my way to light the pilot on the hot water tank that went out for the second time due to the basement flooding… these are serious issues. The mildew and mold issues are especially problematic for someone with lung cancer. I’ve stopped even asking for repairs because the dozens of requests I’ve made before have been ignored. Obviously had I known this would be the situation I would never have come here. I had many friends I could have gone to live with instead which would have been better financially. I just felt it was important to be with family. The lesson I learned was this: true family are the people who will be there for you; not the ones related by blood.
I also admit to my mistakes. I made some bad decisions in the past. My dad did help me out a lot in getting me out of a jam. And I paid him back every penny for it. This is why I say I don’t judge people too harshly. We all have our good and bad characteristics. Things we’ve done wrong and right. So before anyone thinks this is an "I hate my dad" rant, please understand that’s not the case at all. He is a good guy. I simply thought he would care a bit more when I moved is all. At the very least do some minor repairs to the house. Even more important would be just to spend some time with me and show he cares. (For the record I also have done tens of thousands of dollars of pro bono consulting work for his company that I never charged him for.)
Another thing I’ve learned first-hand is something I’ve been preaching about as a libertarian for years. The healthcare system is broken. I don’t mean Obamacare or Trumpcare or whatever. I mean the insurance-based system itself. For example: my out-of-pocket premiums (after subsidies) averaged around $300/month this past year. On top of that I had to pay nearly $10k before meeting the deductible. Then, when I moved, I was forced to switch plans and pay the same amount all over again! Pretty expensive for someone who can barely get out of bed most days. Liberals might say "that’s why we need a single-payer system." Sounds great, but thanks to my low income this last year I have now been forced onto Medicaid, and they have officially notified me that they will not cover treatments at the Cleveland Clinic in my case. I don’t know why exactly (the letter wasn’t clear), and due to my condition I had already decided to not seek further treatments anyway. But it shows that both the conservative and liberal approaches to healthcare are flawed.
Now for the big confession. The thing I haven’t told anyone. Because I’ve been scared my dad or someone else might try to get me declared incompetent and take control of my life and what possessions I have left. But I’m taking care of that so that it will no longer be an issue. I have been in stage 4 for at least a year. It has spread to my lymphs, possibly my bones, and to my brain stem. Between that and my extreme anxiety, my short-term memory is for shit. My long-term memory and cognitive functions are still 100%. Which is part of why I felt it necessary to write this. The best way I can explain it is that I feel like Alice some days. Not doing any drugs (not my thing, though I don’t judge those who do). Those who have dealt with extreme anxiety know what I’m talking about. You think you did things you didn’t. You have blackouts where you do things and don’t clearly remember doing them. There’s a reason that Monk is one of my favorite shows. I’m not as bad as him by a long shot, but I can empathize.
This is what I go through daily. And again, I do not want to play the victim. I know many people have it worse off. I typically sleep 8-10 hours and wake up coughing up blood. I then go to the store if necessary for food or other necessities. In that single hour I become exhausted again and I lay back down for a nap. A couple hours later I get up again and I get on the computer to produce thousands of lines of code for either a paid project or one of the several FOSS projects I contribute to. Whether I get paid or not isn’t as important to me as that I keep busy. I’ve always been a workaholic. I also admit to being an alcoholic and the stress of what I am dealing with hasn’t helped since nobody has bothered to be here for me. So I have a few drinks and then go to sleep for another 8-10 hours and start the cycle over again. I told you this would be the good and the bad. Totally unfiltered.
My personal journey in regards to religion is two-fold. There is the emotional trauma and the intellectual debate. As a natural rationalist, the intellectual issues are what ultimately decided my views on religion, but it is worth covering the entire story so all might learn from what I’ve witnessed.
I was raised Seventh-Day Adventist. And not mainstream SDA, but far-right-wing SDA. Not far removed from the teachings of the Branch Davidians and other SDA splinter groups. My parents were both great people, but willfully blind to the abuses of the church. One of many examples is that we actually harbored a couple who had kidnapped their grandchildren simply because they disagreed with the lifestyle of their child. I was told to keep this fact quiet. We had a pastor who sexually abused children; a fact which even though his own children openly admit to today, my own parents refuse to accept. We were brainwashed to believe that whatever deacons or pastors in the church did was acceptable. The church has become more liberal (note that I don’t mean this in the political sense) today, but cover-ups still are common, yet they claim to be the 144,000 (ignore the number since it obviously makes no sense) chosen by God to survive until the Second Coming. I could go on and and on about how ridiculous this church is, but even with these few facts I think anyone with a brain will see I was basically raised in a cult.
Despite all of this, I still clung to the belief that the Christian Bible held all the answers. That it was infallible. Yet the more I studied it, including the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, etc… the more I questioned things. I still refused to admit that I was an atheist/agnostic/rationalist, so as a student preacher I went to church leaders. Not just local, but in the Ohio Conference and even the General Conference. Right up to the GC president himself (for those who don’t know, this is the equivalent of talking to the pope). All of them had one answer to my questions: stop asking and just preach what we tell you to preach. Finally this culminated in me making an ad-lib speech to a group of students from all around the country basically telling them the church was not infallible. I didn’t give details. I didn’t say anything in the least bit about sexual abuse on the part of a certain former minister of the church. Yet somehow the church leadership knew exactly what I was talking about. Because the next weekend I was confronted by my own parents about the speech. Proving that the church was fully aware of the abuses by their pastors and was willing to do anything to cover it up. In short: the SDA church is easily as corrupt as the Catholic church and possibly more so.
All of this did not dissuade me from my faith however. It only encouraged me to study more about history and the Bible and science. And the more I learned, the more I realized it was nothing but lies. Forget for a second that all scientific discoveries have disproven every claim made in ancient scriptures. How can one claim moral superiority while teaching that God sent bears to eat children for the crime of making fun of a bald man? Of course, that’s just one of thousands of examples of the evils of Christianity. This isn’t to make excuses for other religions. Islam, for example, is equally abhorrent. To use a Christian quote: let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
tl;dr version: for those who say I need to embrace religion before I die, just shut up. I refuse to become evil and embrace Christianity. I am happy with my decisions regarding religion. So stop preaching at me. I feel sorry for those trapped in the Abrahamic religions who don’t see how vile they are. I don’t hate them though. And I will never be one of them.
Despite what some may say, I have never been and never will be a liberal. As with religion, I am a rationalist. I believe in free will above all things. But I am also a realist. Some will say that anarchism is the ultimate goal of libertarians, and in principle I agree. But for an anarchist society to be successful and moral, humanity must grow. We need to let go of our hatred of those who disagree with our opinions. Whether this means hatred stemming from differences in wealth, skin color, sexuality, or whatever else. Bigotry is bigotry. So I am more of a right-of-center libertarian in that I believe some form of balance is required in order to ensure freedom.
I would love to see the dissolution of income taxes for example. Ideally, we would have no taxes on Americans, but given our out-of-control debt (ironically increased by Republicans just last week), this is probably not feasible right now. A more rational solution would be a flat tax (either based on income or a sales tax) without any loopholes whatsoever. Of course, this would have to be accompanied by drastic reductions in spending, which is something neither major party has an interest in.
Now for an anti-atheist rant from an atheist. I couldn’t give a shit about a Ten Commandments monument outside of a courthouse. That is such a stupid thing to argue about. I will say, though, that the rules should apply equally to all organizations. If you support religious displays paid for with tax dollars on public property, you should allow all religious and irreligious organizations to do the same.
Most importantly, we need to stop saying government=good and individual rights=bad. If you are not harming another person, you should be free to live your life however you choose. Even as an atheist, I will be the first to defend a Christian’s right to express their opinion, so long as they are not forcing it on others. All I ask is that they give the same consideration to others.
Short version: carry all the guns you want, do all the drugs you want (so long as you aren’t hurting anyone and nobody else is paying for it), have sex with whomever you want. So on and so forth. Your rights should only end when they harm others. I’ve never done coke or acid or anything like that even once in my life. I’ve never even taken a puff off a cigarette! But just because I’ve chosen to steer clear of these things doesn’t mean I feel I have the right to force my opinion on others. I have been flat-out accused of doing such drugs straight to my face by family members, but that’s their problem. I have undergone multiple drug tests which prove I’ve never done any of that crap.
Even discussing sexuality is taboo in America. We are so repressed as a society. We encourage little girls to dress up in provocative clothing and we brainwash them with romance novels/movies. But any discussion regarding the basic biology regarding sexuality is frowned upon. So here you go.
People are different. Men, women, trans, whatever, we are all different. This doesn’t detract from the claim that we are all equal. But equal rights doesn’t mean we are all the same. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where we are all precisely the same. Most (not all) men are basically simple — their needs are few and so they also don’t understand women for this very reason. Most women are the opposite — they are seeking some complex romantic ideal and don’t understand why men (for the most part) don’t provide that. All genders need to be more understanding of others.
In nature, among mammals it is very rare to find monogamy. Even in the Christian Bible, monogamy is very rare. Polygamy has been the norm throughout human history. But puritanical theists have ingrained in us a sense of jealousy and possession. We need to feel like we own our partners. As a result, almost everyone ends up cheating to some degree. Maybe it is just flirting. Maybe a kiss. Maybe more. Yet if we accept polyamory (safe and honest being key), this would not be an issue.
Ironically, this brings me to another aspect of healthy relationships. Although possession in the sense of monogamy is unhealthy and unnatural, possession in the sense of establishing a hierarchy is entirely natural (and is observed in the animal kingdom). Romance novels and movies have convinced us that true love is about equals. It is a nice sentiment, but it isn’t reality. In almost every successful relationship, one person controls the relationship and the other follows them. This may manifest itself in a strict set of rules such as a D/s or M/s relationship, or it may be less formal. But whatever the case, it is not wrong to admit that you can have true love where one person helps guide the relationship. Some people need to feel in control of something and others need to lose control of certain aspects of their lives. This is not wrong or immoral. It is natural, and it is high time we stop pretending otherwise.