"You'll See You Soon...."
Book Summary- “The Blessed One” (by Daniel Austhof)
Book Summary- “The Blessed One” (by Daniel Austhof) has all the drama, excitement, and surreal attraction of a great fictional novel. However, in reality it is simply a recollection of the thrillingly traumatic, yet numbingly slow decade following a massive closed-head injury- by the author, Daniel Austhof. “The Blessed One” is written as a letter by Daniel on his 31st birthday to himself at any given point in the future. This was written to himself to serve as his reminder of the trials he has faced, adversity overcome, God Within, and how Blessed he was even back then and no doubt is at the time which he reads this letter. “The Blessed One” focuses on the fact that in spite of circumstance, we as humans are greatly Blessed, and possess the awesome ability to influence Perception- like seeing the rosebud instead of the thorn, Blessings instead of pain, Grace instead of trauma!
To: Daniel A-------
You wrote this letter to yourself on your 31’st birthday to serve as a reminder of where you have been, what has shaped you as a person, and how good life truly is today as you read this. Whenever you are reading this, wherever the Good Lord has led you, and whatever you have or have not accomplished, this letter is to serve as a reminder of the lessons you’ve learned from Life and why you now do what you do. Always know that you have overcome great adversity thanks to the strength of your spirit, combined with the Spirit of the living God, which resides within you and makes you who you are. You are, were, and always will be, Entheos- “God within”- and you must always Aim for Stars!
For the previous 3 months or so, you had been convicted by a consistent theme from talking to people, from Spiritual studies, and through other life events- all pointing to the fact that you needed to PRAISE God and live a life of THANKFULNESS. Well, this was a new angle for you, since you were still wrestling and fighting for the very quality of your future- your destiny- just like you had for the entire previous decade. As it is, if you had played out the hand you were dealt, it MAY have resulted in a safe, subpar, and at the VERY best, mediocre life, which would have been, and would still be thoroughly unacceptable. So you stubbornly “wrestled” with God and refused to accept anything other than His blessings on your life. You developed a militant Faith and demanded unrealistic healing from the “injustices” which were suffered. You picked out certain Spiritual events calling them God’s personal Promises to you, while taking Biblical stories of glorious events throughout history VERY literally. But though you got your ass spanked (your hip touched- as it may be) for your audacity, you were on the right track- in that your Faith was growing close to the size of the mustard seed that it is today! You were stripped of everything that your life was built around, but despite (or because of) it all, today you’re Standing Still!
But even with this Faith, You were having a tough time seeing enough positives in your life to even feel fortunate- much less blessed or thankful. Over the course of a Decade you had everything taken away, watched it slowly return, and then felt it all torn away again. So, Praise? Seriously?! Give Back Thankfully?! C’mon!! Why and How the Hell could you give back?! You had nothing. You had no one. You were nothing! YOU HAD NOTHING LEFT!! ….
--In 2000, life was great. After all, it was the new Millennium and you had just turned 21. You had a great job, working hard but were well paid. Your family gave you the gift of a great Christian upbringing, and then –as you demanded- they left you alone for the most part. You had friends who “mattered” in most areas of life as you knew it. You were fun-loving and carefree, fought any authority, and got away with most of it. As you recall, you were one happy guy!
But EVERYTHING changed on July 24, 2000. You’ve always had crazy sleep patterns and issues since your Junior year of High School. Sleeping through EVERY single class during your Junior and Senior years was very frustrating but you still pulled a 2.9 GPA, played Sports, and had a great social life, so you never worried about it too much- you simply created a “too cool”, aloof persona for yourself. In the years following High School you still had uncontrollable drowsy spells, but your job was a high energy, high adrenaline job as a Steel Erector, so it was again brushed aside. That is, until Dad went to a Sleep Specialist and was diagnosed with a Sleep Disorder. Sleep Specialist? Call you stupid- but you had no idea there was such a thing. So you mentioned to Mom that you were going to schedule an appointment when you had the chance. Well, you never got that chance. One fateful, hot, summer evening you fell asleep at the wheel of your Company work van, completely blew a stop sign, and T-boned an SUV at about 60 MPH. Without a seatbelt on, you were ejected from the vehicle – shattering headfirst through the closed passenger window. Your head was gashed open from forehead to crown (opened 3 inches wide) and then smacked on the pavement- causing a severe closed-head injury and a nearly severed off ear. You nearly bled to death, but somehow didn’t break a single bone. Thanks to the great response time by the paramedics and Aero-Med team, great doctors, support from family and friends, your own resolve- but especially the Grace of God, you were released from the (medical) hospital in less than 1 week.
However, this was followed by intense physical therapy in which you had to relearn to walk, talk, and even reason. This really sucked! It turns out that the things that were best for you, were the things that hurt the most ((hmmm..?!)). At one point you overheard a doctor tell your Parents that you were making remarkable recovery, but that he wasn’t sure that it could continue. He said that “if things go well, Dan might be able to be self-sufficient someday.”….
((First of all, let’s say a quick “Thank You” to your Family because you put them through a lot, and they were always there for you. So “Thank You and I Love You”!))
…. “Might be self-sufficient!”- “Bullshit!!! Are you freakin’ kidding me?!!” This only added fuel to your fire! You increased the intensity of your rehab and quickly pushed your doctors into releasing you back to your Construction job- less than 1 month after your Accident. (Supposedly) your doctors told Mom and Dad that there would likely be continued restrictions and potential emotional trauma down the road, but by that time you were 100% defiant of any doctor’s doubts and indignant to their prognosis’. You thought things were going smashingly and that you were back to your old self (later you were told that you were a zombie for over a year- going through the motions, but with “empty” eyes and no personality).There could be no doubt- You were INDESTRUCTABLE!!
In a strange way, the physical recovery was pretty easy for you- maybe more than for those around you. There were enough victories in your recovery that for a long time, you felt proud of your ability to overcome and your outlook was strangely sunny. You managed that long, cold Winter, but 9 months later that following Spring, things began to quickly take a turn for the better, then the worse, and finally for the WORST! There was still a lingering lawsuit against your Company from the other victim in the Accident and you took it VERY personally. You had purchased a Glock .40 caliber handgun just months earlier and you began having homicidal thoughts, right down to planning out your “revenge”. But you’ve always been a charming guy (“Disarm” >> ) and you were at the top of your game- even making some new friends during this partially-sane point of life. But, OH, what they didn’t know! You were a true maniac and wildly high on life! But rather than coming back to your senses, you immediately crashed all the way down to hopelessly suicidal. (“Goodbye, I love you”). Your rationale was that you had put your loved ones through far too much and now were an excessive burden on them.
So when you hopped into your Yukon for your final cruise to a local marina, YOU…HAD…NOTHING! You were being suffocated by Confusion and were being crushed by the unbearable weight of Emptiness. But on that lonely pier, with your Glock in your mouth and an anchor tied to your ankle, you snapped- but again not back to reality, but to an “oppressed”, manic state. You VERY literally felt a terrible battle between Good and Evil raging inside your chest. You were certain that you would be torn in two! In desperation you made the most awful decision you could imagine- purposely doing the one thing that you feared most in the entire World: you checked yourself into a psychological health institution- a freakin’ “looney bin”!! This was absolutely TERRIFYING!!!! You hoped that you have been able to forget how devastating it was to LOSE EVERYTHING, and betrayed by the entire World- by God- by your own mind!! You had lost your freedom, your dignity, your health, and now even your sanity! In this state of utter despair and absolute confusion- and locked up in a psych hospital- you were literally, physically threatened by the Devil himself! He was in the bodily form of a 6’8”, 350 lb giant of a pierced, tattooed “man” who growled the details of the torture that you would soon feel, and then stormed off to his bedroom- separated from yours by an 8” cinder block wall. (later, your medical friends told you that he must have been a Paranoid Schizophrenic who only thought he was Satan…. Whatever. If that wasn’t the Devil then I don’t believe it exists!). In the depths of total desperation you remembered that you still had ONE thing left - GOD! And in a very genuine, sane, and tangible way He gave you His Divine Protection, Strength, and Hope.
You survived, but it wasn’t a total sense of relief to be released from that psych hospital. It was only a release from that torment and fear, and into a frightening, judgmental world of disgrace. Now you had to face the World as some “crazy” Bipolar dude (“traumatic brain injury w/Bipolar-type symptoms”) with Narcolepsy. Your daunting new task was to try to create a confident, positive self-identity- immediately after being stripped of everything, and with a devastated mental capacity. To make matters worse, within the year that you were “gone” your social structure evolved entirely. Your friends all accepted you back fine, but cautiously; because- who knows how to deal with a “crazy guy”? And, literally, almost all of your friends had grown up and were either married, engaged, pregnant, or simply boring. This is all understandable- it’s simply Life. And no one knew- how could they truly care?! There was no way that you could express the intensity of your experiences (nor even would have if able). I suppose because it was your Hell. So you emerged, only to see everyone going about their own lives, facing their own trials and challenges. And it’s virtually impossible for someone else’s troubles to be more important than your own. There is no one who is TRULY able to “walk a mile in your shoes” -even if they wanted to (and vice-versa).
All of this psychological drama occurred within a 3 week time-span. So it was really just a slightly longer than normal ‘vacation’ from work. This personal torment really didn’t seem to matter professionally. Remarkably, you were promoted from Assistant Foreman to Director of Occupational Safety and Health. You were BY FAR overachieving- at work. Your brain functioned all right during the day but it “tired out” around 5:00 EVERY day, and your former pleasant confidence was replaced by a nervous social awkwardness and dependence.
Still, you must’ve been doing a great acting job, because things began to settle down a bit and you began to feel somewhat relevant to Life again. You moved out of your Parents’ house and roomed with 2 friends in a pretty nice condo. But Life was SO much work! Every minute of every day was a struggle. Every breath you took was a battle of You vs. your brain, your weaknesses, your fears, and those telling you of your “realistic” capabilities. You had several stretches-weeks at a time- with no sleep at all. It felt like you were a guinea pig for your doctors as they tried to create a balance between stimulants (that kept you awake during the day) and anti-depressants (which allowed you to sleep at night and kept you sane). It was awful! (You’ll try to stop mentioning it, but this drug balancing act continued for the next 4 YEARS!!! Each milligram of adjustment impacted your life in extraordinary ways). It was Trial by Error, and the Subject at hand was your Life! At times the World literally moved too quickly for your brain to keep up, and movements would blur together. Your Company gave you a resilient, reliable Chevy ½ ton Pickup Truck that survived for 250,000 miles in spite of your driving- which was incident free….. other than a roll-over accident while going 75 mph down the highway, and crashing into a iron pole which caused $13,000 of damage….. Oh, and the wooden stake that impaled your windshield, and the street sign that randomly tipped and slashed into the hood- (most of these incidents may, or may not, have resulted from your drug prescription experimentation- but you’ll never tell). In hindsight, you really weren’t a very safe driver back then:) Still, you improbably created an entirely new Division for your Company and you were holding a 4.0 at a local Community College, part-time in the evenings after work.
For the next few years your life was a maddening mixture of confusion and loneliness as you were a prisoner to your own damaged mind. You grew so accustomed to the pain and loneliness that it almost became a “soothing sorrow”. (“Fast Pain/Slow Pain”). There were many, many prayers sent in God’s direction begging him, “Take me Home!” It just wasn’t worth it! Not even close! But you weren’t about to become a coward, so you put your head down, faked a smile, and just kept going. The darkness was most intense until you were about 25 years old, when you finally remembered how to Dream again and began to find Hope for your future once more. You clung on, with Faith, to Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” But your Faith in God, and His Holy Spirit within you, was everything and everyone you had. You felt like it was “you vs. the world.” Who else could you trust- even enough for guidance and advice? Surely not your doctors- they said you might never even be self sufficient, that you couldn’t handle the management role of Safety Director, college would be too overwhelming, and that you would be doing well if you could be AVERAGE!!!” Can you imagine telling someone to strive for mediocrity?! Pardon your French, but that deserved a big “Fuck You!” (“Shut Your Mouth!”) In addition, you were healing and improving, but you felt like your friends and family still viewed and treated you like a brain-damaged invalid whose potential maxed out as a friendly Charity Case. For years, you didn’t even trust your own brain to tell you the right thing!
Eventually, the trauma of the head injury subsided enough to handle a full day of healthy activity. Your friend who owned the condo which you shared, moved to Florida and you bought it for a good chunk of money. Probably too much for a first home, but you had a good, stable job, so no worries. Your environment was again becoming comfortable enough for you to enjoy yourself most of the time. You had your charm back and actually contributed to any enjoyable social environment. But you still had zero self-confidence, and never made decisions if there was someone else to cling to. Each day still had its’ struggles, but you had learned not to dwell on them, and at last you were able to chase the Dreams which had fueled you. You decided that you wanted a more Professional occupation and to make more money. So you set your mind on becoming an Investment Advisor. You signed on with a smallish Financial Services company which allowed you to get your foot in the door in a part time role while still holding your job. But first you needed to get licensed for the insurance and investment products. Of course your doctors told you that this was far too ambitious and you could never do it. Driven all the more, you studied and attained your Life and Health Insurance licenses, as well as Series 6 and 63 Securities licenses, and began working as a Financial Advisor in the evenings after work.
A big part of your recovery and acceptance back into society was your adamant refusal to use excuses about, or allow exceptions from anyone because of your past. You didn’t cry “woe is me!... why me…”, but you were still haunted by the overriding question of “Why?”--“Why would God let this happen to me?” “What purpose does all of this nonsense serve regarding myself or the world?” “How could these experiences possibly be beneficial?” Your conclusion was that you needed to use your intense experiences, particularly those when you felt so very alone, to reach out to others who were going through similar challenges. But, just like today, you were always a BIG thinker with big goals and big ambitions. So something as simple as volunteering your time with your Head Injury Specialist wouldn’t affect nearly enough people. So you wrote a book instead. You worked every spare minute for an entire Summer and wrote a 200 page story about your experiences. 200 aimless, random pages with no structure whatsoever. But the stuff was alarmingly raw and dripping with emotion. When you submitted your synopsis and sample to several agents and publishers, 2 replied back that you definitely had the story, but that you simply weren’t trained or educated enough in the art of writing. (And from then until the day you wrote this letter, your story had doubled already!...... And damn, look back at it NOW!!)
In the fall of 2007, the girl your Company hired to manage your Division suddenly decided to Lay you Off without a single hint or warning. You were absolutely stunned! That was the only full time employer you ever worked for and you were one of the “untouchables.” You were numb, but when the Company asked you back you declined and signed on as a Financial Services Representative with a huge firm. It was great, you could actually see the purpose for one of the sources of pain in your life, and it had worked out for the best!...For a bit. Unfortunately, you discovered that individuals with the Bipolar Disorder are not the most organized or structured people, and you struggled to stay afloat. With the Michigan housing market suffering a major collapse and your funds all but dried up, things were getting desperate. You became terrified of….everything. Life itself made you nervous. You boiled internally just thinking about the possibility of failure- or even of success. You became an insomniac again and things got so bad that, once again, you often begged God to mercifully end your misery. The only thing that kept you from again becoming suicidal was the revelation of God’s promises in 2 glorious passages from the Bible, which were presented to you in a way and at a time which left no doubt that God Himself was offering you a Covenant. The passages were from the book of Isaiah: Chapters 51, 52, and then 49- in that order. The phrase in chapter 49, “You are my servant (Israel), In whom I will display my splendor”, was the promise which kept you fighting and offered Hope that the future splendor would justify the present void. After you were treated for Panic Attacks and medicated for an Anxiety Disorder, you were at least able to think clearly enough to switch jobs and became a Cadillac salesman. And with money issues at the root of everything, you were “fortunate” to sell your condo for FAR less than you bought it for. What wasn’t so pleasant was basically payingthe bank your last $30,000 to take your home off your hands!
The dramas in life didn’t end with property or careers or medical issues. You had some really weird relationships around that time as well. When you started your new job selling cars you were involved in a very hot, but very weird relationship with a rather attractive girl you met there. But it became quite apparent that we were simply at different points in our lives and that it wasn’t going to work, when she invited you to visit her at her 2nd job- as an exotic dancer!! In addition, you became friends with a charismatic, party-starter type of guy who had stories which were TOO unbelievable. If all of his claims were true, he just might have been THE most exciting 23 year old guy in History! You should’ve seen through it, except he was able to walk the walk and talk the talk, and you watched some of his grandiose claims happen with your own eyes! We played off of each other perfectly and you helped him work his magic at every place we went! There was never a dull moment, but that lifestyle was expensive! There were rumblings and rumors about him, but he had you convinced. Then he decided that he was moving to Los Angeles. To make a very long story short, you had wanted to move to California ever since your accident, (at one point nearly following a friend out to San Diego ), and you decided to actually do it this time. You had an “Investment Executive” job lined up, a roommate, and an apartment ½ block from Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. And when you helped him relocate there, we rocked out West Hollywood just like we rocked out West Michigan!! You literally had to shake free of the pesky “Kid”- the actor from “Kid and Play”- so we could go ‘pop bottles’ at the beach house of a music producer we met that week.
When your Cadillac dealer learned of your plans, you mutually parted ways. But it was cool, because the next day you were scheduled to verbally accept the Investment Advisor position in Beverly Hills. But, in yet another cruel twist of the dagger of Fate, Bear Stearn’s folded that night, and when you made your scheduled call, the Investment Firm told you that 40 Wall Street brokers had applied for the position already that morning, and that you would no longer be offered the position!!........ Dammit! A numbness began as another dream was shattered. There is a Bible verse in Proverbs which says “Hope deferred makes a heart grow sick….” That was a big-time understatement. You felt angry and betrayed by the very God which had led you through the fire! But- SHIT HAPPENS!!, and now you were Unemployed in the midst of an increasingly terrible U.S. economy and Michigan job market. And your ‘friend’ turned out to be a phony- it was all a façade- which was too bad, because he was a REALLY talented guy! You had temporarily moved into your Parent’s basement, but by then you were so far in debt that you still couldn’t make ends meet and couldn’t get back on your feet. So you cashed in all of your retirement funds and used it all to pay off MOST of your debt.
Now you REALLY had nothing! Or so you thought: Ever since you moved out on your own, you had a phobia of ‘simple’ country living, but that summer you had to attempt to swallow your pride and work with Dad on his farming/gardening- (in 4 months you went from a Hollywood rockstar to a broke, unemployed “farm hand”). You managed to eek by on Unemployment and side jobs- anything from temporary labor jobs, to mowing lawns, to painting homes, to driving dump trucks. At least you had a pretty nice Toyota Camry to drive around…… until some 17 year old punk, without a driver’s license, decided to blow a stop sign at a blind intersection directly ahead of you. You locked up your brakes, but he was SO close! You might have slowed from 60 down to 45 mph before you T-boned him. You survived, but your car was destroyed! But remember, you’re invincible, so you “only” tore your rotator cuff. You not only survived, you very literally laughed once you stopped choking from the airbag chemicals that filled the air. “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver” (Isaiah 49:2) Ha! Of course. You were being trained! All of this was such bullshit that it was kind of funny. It reminded you of a favorite song of yours around that time called “Lost,” a collaboration between Coldplay and Jay-Z: “Just because I’m losing, doesn’t mean I’ve Lost…..I’m just waiting till the ‘shine’ wears off”! Still, while your Life seemed exciting and eventful to others, it literally felt so empty- so hopeless- so meaningless. What if you were wrong? What if it was ignorance to believe that there is a God who speaks through a Book? Again, you would occasionally ponder the underlying “Why?” question. You wondered if you would make the same decision if you once again had the gun in your mouth- knowing what the entire next DECADE would bring?!!!
Your Hope and Faith were again being challenged and you wondered if you might have asked for more than you could handle. For the first time, your eternal optimism couldn’t avoid the doubts about your belief that the Good Lord really did want you to strive for excellence in life- the assumption that there was a purpose for your existence-, or the thought that maybe you were only meant to be a beacon of failure and should learn to deal with it? It really sucked to keep on losing, even when you were already down to nothing, but you were coming to grips with it all…….Then, 3 weeks before the start of the new Decade in 2010, you received a letter labeled “I-R-S”. You were fined $1,900 for an honest misunderstanding of the Taxable Exemption Laws back in 2007. $1,900 isn’t TOO much, but it was infinitely more than your entire net worth and your hole to escape from became deeper still. So there you were: 30 years old, single, flat broke, renting your parents basement, unemployed, with a clinical sleep disorder, a mood disorder, and an anxiety disorder! (DAMN!!! You were hot!) You were fighting a battle with one hand tied behind your back! Many mornings you laid in bed and thought about how no one would blame you if you just gave up. Just stayed in bed. Surely there was some type of government funding that would cover your daily care.
But, c’mon man! That’s not how you roll! You never have… Around that time, a line from your poem “Winner” came to the forefront of your mind and it became your inspiration and your rally cry, just like it still is today. You measured EVERY decision and every move you made by comparing it to this statement: “The Winner just does Winner things…..”- Enough said! You started asking yourself: “If there was a hidden TV camera on you, would you be O.K. with everyone seeing what you’re doing- anytime. Would you really want to stagger around, bitching and moaning about this and that, or should you just put your best foot forward and act like the person you want to be. (“Faith is in acting the part”) So instead of sitting on your ass, applying for job after executive job and waiting for the next e-mail from a prospective employer telling how they were pursuing other candidates, you accepted an assignment with a temp-staffing agency doing an entry-level manufacturing job for $10/hr. Then you washed your car, cleaned your basement, mowed the lawn, and went to the gym….. besides, you had a torn rotator cuff to recover from!
Your biggest epiphany came with your realization that your life’s goal- “Blessed to be a Blessing”- shouldn’t be seen only as a future event. You didn’t need more stuff in order to give of yourself. You had absolutely no money or possessions but you had plenty of ability, talent, and time- and that could go a long ways. So you resumed giving what you could to your Faith community, but somehow it didn’t scratch the itch that was begging to be satisfied….. You’ve always been a huge sports fan and one day you were listening to a random West Coast sports talk radio broadcast when the host commented on a new practice facility that the Detroit Lions were building. It was to be named after the honor and memory of their longtime equipment manager, Ricky Sandoval, who had just passed away after an inspiring battle with Pancreatic Cancer. The host went on to mention how his own father had just passed from the Cancer as well. He gave a short, but animated tirade about how devastating Pancreatic Cancer was and how it was grossly underfunded and almost ignored by the government and the media. He mentioned that it happened to be Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and said that if anyone was interested in learning more, the web address www.pancan.org would tell them everything.
Yes, it was just that “random” how you became involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan), and look at how much it has affected your life thus far! So you became the Community Representative for the Western half of of Michigan, and you decided to throw yourself into it and make a huge impact. You had NO doubt that volunteering with PanCan would change not only the entire world, but even your own life as well! You developed the habit of writing down a summary of your goals and objectives to track their progress, and in one of your first summaries, you wrote to yourself in capital letters: “Someway, Somehow- PanCan WILL change your life!!!!”
…Over the course of a Decade, you watched while your entire world was torn from your grasp and you were rendered helpless. You lost everything you had worked for, around which your entire identity was based. For the first time in your life you had no control of your Circumstances and you had nothing to take pride in or satisfy yourself. You wanted to make a difference in the World- but you had nothing, you were nothing, and you were certain that you were completely irrelevant to Life.
But you were wrong! You didn’t have much, but you didn’t have ‘nothing’, either. Of all people, of course you understood that. Earlier in life you had experienced how it really feels to have nothing, and comparatively, you were living in abundance. Besides, there were surely others, at that moment, who were in those same depths, or even worse off than you had ever been.
Still, your well was dry- you had NOTHING. So you GAVE more. More than you thought you had….. But by then, you had finally developed the understanding that it is impossible for one to give more than they are able. In this regard you were right. Look at yourself today. You were very right. At Last, you were right!!
So today, back when you turned 31, things had cleared up at last. You finally understood: You still had nothing- but you possessed EVERYTHING! You still were alone- but you wore the Good Lord’s Ring! You still were nothing, yet you were already KING!!!
So today you are where your Faith and Hope always promised you would be- King at last! Now there is so much more to be thankful for, but it’s even harder to remember to keep things in perspective. You hoped that you are finding this letter helpful with this, but you couldn’t take yourself any further. You’re sorry, but you were unable to remind you of the Future of your Past- besides, you’re living it right now. So Daniel, this is today’s reminder of your Past- with love from yourself in the Past.
*God Bless and you’ll see you soon,
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