One of my all time favorite songs. Michael Jackson released Man In The Mirror in January 1988; it was the fourth single from one of his best solo albums, Bad. See http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_in_the_Mirror (includes detailed information about the song).
[For all of you from Beachwood, I wonder if you are thinking the same thing…. I would be remiss not to give a shout out to my old buddy Shane Simon, who to this day covered Michael Jackson for his bar mitzvah better than any Michael Jackson cover I have heard in the 25 years since. Granted Shane sang “This One’s For the Children” on the tape that was handed out at his party. But if he covered Man In the Mirror, I undoubtedly would feel the same way. Shane, if this somehow makes its way to you, I hope you are well. Ran into your brother last summer in Margate — was awesome to see him. And I know my parents saw your folks in Florida. I am going to get in touch.]
I think everyone remembers this song. But have you ever listened to the words?
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways – ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself and then make that…
(Take a look at yourself and then make that…)
Do you remember the video? I sure didn’t. It was one of the only Michael Jackson videos that he did not star in (I learned this from Wikipedia). [Click on the link below that says “Watch on You Tube.”]
This song has deep meaning. Just watching the video gives you that sense. But it all starts with the person you are looking at in the mirror. And if you don’t like what you see — or don’t like what you see around you — you need to make a change. You need to stand up and do something about what is bothering you before an impact can be felt more broadly. You need to change your ways, and then the ways of others. Hmmmm. I just watched a video with flashes of Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, Hitler, Ethiopian famine, and the Iranian hostage crisis, among other notable historic events and people, but the takeaway is we each need to do our part to make changes and it all starts with the person you are looking at in the mirror. What bothers you? What do you constantly think should change to make this world a better place? What have you have done to help effect that change?
There are a lot of things I am planning to change and do after I beat cancer. [In fact, there are so many things about me that have changed in the six weeks and one day since a mass was found in the middle of my chest that I truly feel like a different person — mostly all for the better.] In addition to being better at everything (husband, father, friend, son, lawyer etc.), I am going to help people — both personally and financially — with the same type of cancer that I am dealing with (I have been researching (and in touch with one) charitable origination). All that being said, and knowing this is going to sound selfish and incredibly vein, I do not like what I see when I look at the man in the mirror. It may be temporary. Nonetheless, it still sucks looking in the mirror and not seeing yourself. And its not all because of the treatments over the last 6 weeks (which have been intense). Some of this isself inflicted…..
Granted I was bald to begin with (I started losing my hair my freshmen year of college). But my face is still swollen from the steroids (I think I even see a double chin). I have bags under my eyes from a lack of meaningful sleep. My beard grows in patches. But all of these things I can manage one way or the other. What gets me the most, however, is how my body looks.
I have been working out for 23 years. Other than getting sidelined for the flu (last year), a staph infection in December of 1999 (likely from a dirty gym mat in NYC), a terrible allergic reaction to an antibiotic in college (which, other than this past February and the last 30 days, is the only other time in my life I ever ingested a steroid), and the March of the Living trip I took my senior year of high school to Poland and Israel (where I still did push-ups nearly every day in the hotel), I cannot recall taking more than 4 days off from the gym in a row during this 23 year stretch.
We moved from Cleveland to Florida in 1993. About a month or two before we moved, the Markowitz family (they bought our old house), asked if they could store their universal gym in our unfinished basement. My parents said of course. That is when I started screwing around with weights. Mostly with upper body (particularly biceps) of course. I remember some of the older guys in Beachwood who used to lift weights and thought putting some muscle onto my frame would be useful.
When we moved down to Florida, I took working out to the next level. I remember seeing a few seniors (at the start of my sophomore year of high school at Spanish River in Boca Raton) that were body builders. And for whatever reason, I wanted to pack on muscle. I ate like a pig and worked out every day. I remember living at my grandparents’ place when we first moved down to Florida and eating a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese together with a box of 10 pizza bagels for a snack — all before dinner. My junior year of high school I added supplements to the mix. I even worked at GNC for a brief of period of time. But I didn’t make any money because I used nearly every dollar on supplements at the store. I ate protein bars during the 8 or so hours (a few days a week for maybe two months) of my shift at the Regency Court location (where maybe three or four customers would venture in during the entire day). [I have wondered whether all the over the counter creatine I took over (still remember vividly my father throwing out a container when I pierced my ear) could have a link to cancer, but my research so far does not suggest that is the case.]
The lifting continued through my Syracuse years. At one point I was over 200 pounds. By the end of college I had introduced some light cardio to the routine, which I kicked up a gear through law school. I was probably in the best shape of my life during law school. All I did was study, work out and eat right (at least I thought I was eating right). The days of going out 4 or 5 nights each week during college had ended. Eating healthy, combined with cardio, had me feeling like a million bucks. Working out simply became part of the day no matter what. Whether it was finals, my summer associate job, being an associate at a big firm, having 3 kids, being a partner at a big law firm and traveling — I always made time to work out. [Another thank you to Jen, who understands that I need this time for mental health.] The work-outs have definitely changed over the years, but the 1-2 hours a day at least 5 days each week has been a constant. At least that was the case until 6 weeks ago.
Yes I walked around the hospital floor a ton and even had an exercise bike in my room that I used for a few days, but today was the first that I went into my basement and used some light weight bands. It was only for a few minutes, but it felt good. Because for the last 6 weeks I totally let myself go. When I should have been more focused than ever, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and other than a few very slow walks over the first 10 days at the hospital and a few days since I have been home (before this weekend), I did nothing. All notwithstanding that I was told I could work out at home (not in a gym) so long as I did not over do it (especially with the picc line being removed after a grand total of 3 days). I am very disappointed in myself and realize I am responsible, in large part, for feeling the way I do when I look in the mirror. [And I think Michael Jackson was on to something when he said we had to look ourselves first…..]
But after a much needed weekend away with the family at the shore, and about 15 miles of walking and nutrition discussions with my father in law (I also walked another 4 miles today), I woke up this morning with new resolve. I went to the grocery store with Jen and the boys and stocked up on healthy alternatives. Jen made a bunch of different things this afternoon that I can eat all week (thank you, Jen). I actually got dressed for the first time in 6 weeks tonight for dinner with the Newman’s at Beachpoint (where we were joined by the Rumbold’s). Not only did I eat healthy, but I felt so good being out with friends and feeling “normal” that I was at peace with the four days of chemo starting on Wednesday and the possibility of feeling like shit all over again. I am going to do yoga tomorrow and walk if my calves are not as sore as they are right now. Jen and I are going to go to Whole Foods in the afternoon to pick up a bunch of different things that I have been reading about that help reduce inflammation in the body (which leads to cancer). Are there going to be bad days? Of course. Are there going to be days where I feel like doing nothing? I’m sure. But I am not going to be unfocused or otherwise cavalier about how I treat my body.
My father in law sent me an e-mail today that makes me cry every time I read it. We talked about a lot of things during the 15 miles we walked on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (even on Friday afternoon when my feet and legs were so swollen that I could barely tie my shoes). We talked a lot about taking care of me over the next several months. His e-mail concluded with the following: “I want to just leave you with a few more thoughts: be good to yourself, take care of yourself and remember what Ace Adler told that 17 year old tough kid from Brooklyn, play within yourself (taking control of one’s emotions and appropriately channeling them to the fight ahead).”
When you think about it, and albeit with a selfish twist, this is not much different than what Michael Jackson was saying in Man In The Mirror: if you want to make the world a better place, you have to start by changing the ways of the man you are looking at in the mirror. Before you start helping others, you need to help yourself (and change your own ways). I lost my way for the last 6 weeks when I should have been more focused than ever. Not again. I am going to help myself so that I can be in a position to help a lot of other people in the future. But it needs to happen in that order.
I knew it would not take long before I had to add to the Thank you, Jen list (which I did a few times already in this post). Tonight, after putting Brandon to bed (and going back and forth to the grocery store for me on her own because we forgot a few things), she spent 2 plus hours with Ryan at the urgent care getting an x-ray for an arm that we both knew was not broken (after a fall down the steps late this afternoon). Easy for me to say I don’t want to take any chances. Jen knew Ryan was fine but took him anyway because I was worried. And I sat here and watched the Warriors game with Ev. Jen, thank you (again), I love you.