Seventy-Four and Still Counting

Seventy-four years ago, Sylvester and Marie Bommarito gave life to me. I’m grateful for all the love and affection I received while growing up and for my wonderful family today. For my birthday, I have taken the opportunity to reminisce about my terrific life.

During my latter years, I changed my perspectives and priorities. It used to be career success and compensation. Today, I’m focused on my spiritual strength, the well-being of my family, my health and more cerebral literary activities.

I retired in the early 1990s after spending about 25 years in financial services. During my working career, I paid a great amount of attention to “getting ahead.” Unfortunately, I neglected my family to an extent during that process. I had two children with my first wife who didn’t receive the attention they deserved. Tragically, the older one passed away a few years ago. I’m happy to say that my older daughter has built a successful career teaching and caring for children.

When my twins were born 30 years ago, I retired to care for them enabling my second wife to focus on her future. It was a God-given arrangement. I strived to be a better father, while my wife devoted her efforts into becoming a prolific investment banker. Our relationship enabled both of us to achieve our destinies.

Upon retirement and after becoming a stay-at-home dad, everything changed. No longer would I measure my life in dollars and cents. My success was to raise our children and to hone my writing skills.

This pivot caused me to write sixty published letters to the NY Times, author 10 novels and publish about 1,000 essays with Softball Politics. Current events and political drama became my new interests. I measured my success by the responses of my readers to my blog.

My efforts to care for my own physical fitness began a long time ago when I was a young person. I was always interested in sports and played football and baseball in high school. I even earned a letter on the bowling team, believe it or not.

I wanted to play football in college, but instead chose to attend Notre Dame. I didn’t have the physical qualifications to play Division One athletics, so I took up rugby.

I never heard of rugby. But the sport was made for me. It is violent and very much like American football in certain regards. After college, I managed to work out for two hours each day, in spite of many commitments, grad school, the National Guard and commuting to New York from Long Island. I started to do more running and eventually ran seven marathons including five New York marathons, one Big Sur and one LA.

For many years, I’ve worked out multiple times each day. I’ve supplemented walking and aerobic equipment with yoga and meditation. It saved my life when I had a bout with some medical issues and COVID. I have written about the benefits of yoga and meditation in earlier blogs.

One of the greatest activities that my family engaged in was world and domestic travel. It has been an important aspect of our lives. When our twins were 7 or 8, we created a travel itinerary for the next 10 years.

Our trips included every major city in Europe, Japan, Bhutan, the Chinese Olympics, Russia, Turkey, Spain, Germany, Israel, Australia, Hawaii and Alaska. My wife and I worked hard to give our children a cultural cornucopia that enabled us to see the whole world and meet others who live differently than we do.

We also visited many of the great museums in the world bolstering the cultural objectives of our trips. We have been to the Louvre (Mona), the Orsay (Monet), the Rijksmuseum (The Night Watch),the Prodo (Velazquez) and the St. Petersburg Hermitage (La Danse). My daughter was inspired to take Art History in college.

It has been a great ride during my first seventy-four years. Our children are older and young adults. They are building their careers and living away from home. My life has been a dream come true with my wife at my side.

The Wacky House Of Representatives

Several of my readers have been asking me why I have not commented on the whacky events in Washington DC. The craziness involves the election of a new Speaker of the House and the zeal with which Republicans are attacking Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for a number of crimes.

I was stunned by how narrow of a margin Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives. It was a nip and tuck election and the new party in power has a razor thin advantage over Democrats. Why weren’t moderate conservatives and hardline conservatives reveling in this victory?

The House operates for the most part with a simple majority. So, if Republicans stood together, they would have control over all legislative activity, and could effectively block legislation proposed by Biden, the Senate or any Representative.

Unfortunately, Mad Dog conservatives [my portrayal of uncooperative Republicans] decided to assert themselves in an attempt to stymie Kevin McCarthy from being elected the new Speaker. Twenty or so Mad Dogs said he is too moderate for the job. Why weren’t all member Republicans overwhelmed with joy being in a position to grind Washington to a halt?

Simply put, the new Speaker and his supporters had to agree to a number of rule changes to get McCarthy elected. Essentially, the Speaker’s position is diluted to a certain extent. Any individual representative can demand a change in the Speaker, one of the rule changes.

Upon some reflection, and while the House was voting numerous times for the Speaker, I thought the Mad Dogs were idiots for not supporting McCarthy and the 91 or so percent of Republicans that supported him. The Mad Dogs were stirring the pot and making all Republicans look bad.

But I changed my mind. The House Mad Dogs versus regular Republicans was in line with our democracy. It was a fair vote. So let it play out. I never thought the rebellion was good for Republicans politically, however.

Then, McCarthy agreed to virtually all of the Mad Dog demands, and still some Mad Dogs didn’t vote for him in the Speaker election. What the hell did the Mad Dogs want? Promises written in blood? So, I reverted to my initial feelings that some Republican Mad Dogs were idiots.

As far as Joe Biden and Hunter Biden are concerned, Congress is in a twitter about several things, some more important than others. Joe neglected to return classified information to the proper authorities according to law. Actually there are two tranches of secret documents in two separate places, so far. Moreover, the documents were discovered days before the midterm elections. The administration wanted to wait until after the elections to disclose the situation. [I wonder.]

Trump also had secret documents and is now being investigated for not securing the documents in his possession. Democrats are talking down Biden’s missteps but screaming for prosecution of Trump. Seems to me both situations need to be investigated with an equal amount of enthusiasm.

Hunter Biden is a wreck. He’s an addict, an alcoholic and he has used his father’s position to get favors from foreign sources. It is illegal to use elected individuals to gain favors for private citizens. If convicted of this corruption, and other crimes such as not filing tax returns and lying to federal investigators, Biden could face jail time.  The story has been downplayed by the Biden Justice Department Department, but Republicans are going to blast through political roadblocks to investigate crimes by the first family. Keep in mind, Trump and Biden could both be running for president in less than two years. Maybe we would be better served to nominate qualified individuals who are not under investigation for felonies.

Since Washington will be in gridlock politically, Republicans are going to keep busy investigating the forementioned items and other bone-head moves by Democrats during the last two years.

The Wonders Of Yoga and Meditation

As some of you know from earlier posts on Softball Politics, I have been practicing yoga and meditation for several years. I was inspired to do so after some medical issues including Covid led me into a place of negativity. I’m sure millions of other people had a similar experience, but I was determined to combat these feelings and once again appreciate the wonderful things in my life.  

As part of my practice, I recently read a truly insightful book entitled “We Were Made For These Times,” written by Kaira Jewel Lingo. It has given me even more insight into my own feelings about life and what lies ahead. It relates yoga and meditation to normal life. [I quote Ms. Lingo many times in this essay. I have not taken the time to reference her comments.] 

Yoga and meditation originated thousands of years ago. Many great men and women have tutored others in the benefits of these practices. It stands to reason that new ideas have been incorporated into the current perspectives over time. Interestingly, yogis and other tutors have not been aggressive pertaining to the benefits of practicing the skills. One must actively seek out expert instruction. Most agree that yoga and meditation can be quite helpful in dealing with the trials and tribulations of living in today’s world. But finding a competent teacher is critical to a great and safe practice.

Change. One of the most interesting and important realizations is that things are always changing. And, most people are taken aback by variations to their daily regimen. We can deal with these moments most affectively by accepting them and incorporating them into our life. A life consists of happy moments and unhappy moments. Simply put, the happy moments must offset the trying times for us to be content. Given the pace of these changes, one must be aware of his or her surroundings and willing to accept what fate has in store for them. 

The author frequently talks of transition, challenging things and the need to deal with them with clarity and compassion. The practice of staying present, being open hearted and accepting changing circumstances are incredibly helpful in dealing with life.

With mindfulness a person can learn to navigate through intense and challenging times and avoid suffering and difficulty. This activity is known as coming home to ourselves, in response to whatever is happening in our lives. We can find this home inside of us and always be safe.

Deep questions cannot always be answered with our minds. We must resort to a deeper consciousness. Huge issues are seeds that we need to plant in the soil of our minds and let rest. Our mindfulness practices are the sunshine and water that the seed needs to sprout. One day it will rise up on its own and the answers to questions at hand will be obvious.

This technique can be exemplified by the following. In anger, you might author a harsh and even spiteful letter. It would be wise to take a day or so to rethink whether to send the correspondence. It is almost always beneficial to sleep on aggressive actions. With a clear mind, one can be more effective and more civilized.

Accepting what is. Transition and change can be more difficult if we resist them and assume they are indicative of something wrong with our life. Life is never a smooth journey. We are always encountering obstacles and unforeseen events. We should accept these moments and attempt to incorporate them into our thoughts. Transition and change are a part of life.

Breathing is the most basic thing we do. It is not a life function that we need to perform knowingly. Yet consciously breathing can be a safe haven where we clear our minds and see things without fear or malice. Stress is a dangerous thing that surrounds us every day. It can be greatly decreased when we meditate with deep breathing. It brings us to the present, the here and now, and enables us to compartmentalize our fears.

Stored consciousness. When a seed is planted in our consciousness in the basement of our minds it lays dormant until watered. If this consciousness moves into the living room of our minds and there’s water, it will sleep no longer. It can be a very pleasant or unpleasant experience.

If a seed of anger rises out of a sleepy state, it can be a powerful energy ending experience. The anger can be a consciousness that overwhelms our lives for a moment or a day or a week. Unchecked, the anger can arise more often and stronger in the future.

Offsetting our anger with mindfulness must be our objective. With one deep breath a soothing feeling can overcome you and can clear your mind. Mindfulness actually leads to transformation and solace when your mind is under duress.

Impermanence. Our lives are continuously in the process of transition. Even if we live in the same place and have the same experiences for very long periods, we are still changing. Impermanence is the key to our existence. Every moment things are rearranging in our lives, and often we are lulled into believing that what exists now will always be. This feeling can cause undue stress. Being seduced by temporary youth is dangerous. We all grow old and eventually die. We must be prepared for impermanence and the things that that occur in this process. Impermanence is not an idea. It is an insight into our constantly changing lives.

Equanimity is a fundamental practice that can help us center and balance ourselves from the mountaintops of our minds as we view all sides of issues that affect us. We should not take sides. We must be patient and wait to see a situation in its entirety. This is a form of non-discrimination, impartiality, letting go and non-attachment. Impermanence gives us a more engaged involvement into the changing episodes of our lives. It opens our mind.

Nurturing the good. Happiness is not the disappearance of suffering. Even if we are in a period of transition and indecision, we still can be in touch with beauty and truth around us. Gratefulness is a powerful way to nurture the good. We must try to be grateful when we experience kindness and good wishes.

Five happinesses:

  • Meditate and pray
  • Exercise
  • Be aware of things we are grateful for
  • Do a random act of kindness
  • Keep a mental journal of happy moments during the day

The things outlined in the essay are difficult things to grasp and make part of our lives. But they will lead to more fulfillment. They are concepts that ages and ages of wise men and women have debated in an effort to give us a road map to of a good life. A perfect life is impossible. We must revel in the good and deal with the bad. Life changes every moment of every day. If you emphasize the good and accept the bad, you will be a better person.