Life gains a little bit of clarity when you have a Russian doctor holding you down while a Filipino nurse gives you a shot in the butt. As I lie on the hospital bed in all of my pathetic glory, I ponder how I had ended up in this sad state of affairs. The short-term answer was severe dehydration from what I could decipher from the doctor’s heavy accent. A few short minutes ago I was enjoying a good cigar to commemorate a memorable cruise with friends when the waves started to pick up. The choppiness of the ocean didn’t compare to the rocking taking place in my head and stomach. Excusing myself I stumble towards the elevator and just by chance run into my wife, Jenn. This is where the chain of events gets a little hazy.
Jenn fills in the blanks by saying I hunched over then suddenly fell backwards slamming my head against the elevator wall. I shook a couple of times before saying adios to the wealth of buffet food I consumed by blowing chunks. When I come to I notice my wife, the medical staff and a middle school kid are swarming me. The first two I understand. It is the kid’s presence I am not quite grasping. Jenn says he was in the elevator when this all went down and helped us out. So, I want to take this time to say thank you to whoever you are and also let you know that if by chance you had a camera phone and filmed this entire sequence, I don’t blame you at all for posting it for the world to see on You Tube. I would do the same thing if I were in your shoes.
Hooked up to an IV, waiting to be released, my options are limited. I can catch another 15-minute snippet of the random movie playing on television or sleep. Being a father of two girls under the age of four, I choose the latter. The problem is I am restless, severely restless. My mind won’t stop racing. Here I am in the Bahamas surrounded by an endless amount of water, yet I am dehydrated. The level of irony this statement holds only Alanis Morrissette could truly appreciate (I’ll wait for some to connect the dots). Chalk another up to Ripa luck.
Building upon the irony is the fact that this was not the first time these chain of events occurred. The first go around there was no need for sea legs as I was enjoying a delicious PT’s Burger (best cheeseburger in all of Wilmington, NC) with my boss and another co-worker. After incinerating the burger in record time, I hoped in the long line to pay. Almost instantaneously, I feel clammy, my legs begin to buckle and I start seeing big black spots everywhere. Trying to get a hold of myself, I head to the bathroom to slap water all over my face. Looking in the mirror, I attempt to muster enough strength to make it to the car without passing out. Somehow my pep talk worked, but as I open the door to the restaurant I hear my boss say “Barry, I don’t think Tony is all there.” Barry extends to me his arm and I become his pitiful excuse for a prom date as he helps me to the car.
Realizing I was in no state to work, they show mercy and drop me off at home. Jenn is caught off guard from my appearance, as she is gift-wrapping presents when I come in and collapse on our bed. The irony comes into play when you realize that my near death experiences (okay, so I might have a flair for the dramatic) happened almost a year to the date apart – November 28th. This date might seem insignificant to some, but holds a great deal of importance to me. You see that was the date of my birth 30 years ago today. I’m convinced my two “episodes” are my body’s way of reminding me I am a year closer to death’s door.
The reason I found myself in the Caribbean on a boat surrounded by too many guys in banana hammocks in the first place was to welcome in my thirties. Now that I am here I don’t know if I should be celebrating or mourning. I can’t seem to shake this feeling. I realize I am too young to be mired in a mid life crisis. But, I can’t come to grips with the fact that I am at the age when hair is beginning to disappear from my head, yet growing like wildfire on my back. It’s official: I’m an old fart.
If the average life expectancy in the United States is 77.8 years, it means my time on this spinning globe is 38.5% complete. This reality has forced me to ponder what I have done with the 262,800 hours I’ve been given so far? What type of man stands before me 15,768,000 minutes into life? The answer to that question leaves me completely unsettled. Unsettled, because I do not like the answer.
Where do I begin? There are the habits I struggle to control, parts of my past I wish could be undone, insecurities I fight so hard to hide and flaws I am desperately trying to correct. This doesn’t even touch upon all my regrets. There is the ever-present tinge of hesitancy that keeps me from taking steps of faith. Or the hurtful words I’ve watched fall from my mouth I tried to stuff back in my big trap. There are too many unfulfilled dreams that have witnessed their sunset and as a dreamer this means my perspective has slowly grown dim wondering what could have been. Growing up I was told time and time again of the “potential” I possessed. As a kid, you take these words as a compliment. As a grown man still experiencing life at status quo level, that same expression haunts you.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a neurotic, whack job only part of the time. I do sleep on occasion. There are numerous ways I’ve been truly blessed. Waking up every morning to the glory that is my fine behind with my fresh morning breath kicking takes a very special woman. An even greater one is needed to deal with me during the rest of my waking hours. Jenn has been my wife, confidant, encourager, therapist and best friend for over 7 years now. She compliments my weaknesses in ways I am still learning to this day. It amazes me the way she nurtures our two beautiful little girls: Maddie (4 years going on 14) and Paige (almost 2 years old). Her patience and consistency with them blows me away because those are virtues the Lord hasn’t blessed me with just yet.
Any parent will know what I am talking about when I say having children is a game changer when it comes to dealing with your issues. Nothing prepared me for parenthood – not even the 5-pound bag of sugar I had to carry around for a week in middle school. At the end of that experience I made chocolate cupcakes and let me tell you my kid was delicious. Bill Cosby was right. Kids do say the darnedest things. They also ask some really challenging questions, watch you like a hawk and are absorbing everything you say and do like a sponge.
The motivation to get your stuff together changes when you have rugrats looking to you for guidance, love, support and wisdom. Your words of insight need to have more depth than don’t eat the yellow snow and always look both ways before crossing the street. When I examined my parenting style and habits, more questions arose: What impression of life am I leaving with my kids? Will the relationship I am creating now with my daughters allow them to have confidence to come to me when things get difficult later? Where am I dropping the ball as a husband and father? It was easy to sweep my uneasiness about the person I was becoming under the rug when it was only my life that was affected. Marriage pushed this concern up a notch, but it wasn’t until kids came into the picture that the uneasiness about my growth wouldn’t go away.
So, now I am left to figure out how to cure my 30 years of mess. Growing up in the age of the instant information from the Internet, 2-minute microwave meals and TiVo, I was hoping for a quick fix to the slow progression that is the man I’ve become. If my last trip to Barnes & Noble is any indication then a “new” me is attainable in exactly one month time. Scanning the shelves, I realized there was a book out there promising to remedy any situation and make you whole again. If I put my mind to it I could heal a broken heart, tame my stress, learn Sanskrit, get the job I want or attain thin thighs all in 30 days or less. Simply amazing. In four weeks or less, one could find the man of their dreams and get married, take hold of their finances, become self-assured and have a powerful memory. There was even a book for experiencing mind-blowing sex. I passed that one on to Jenn.
My trip to the bookstore sparked an idea that could have a profound affect on my reconstruction efforts. What if I could cure 30 years in 30 days? This crazy question is the foundation for the blog that you are reading right now. Year 30 for Mr. Ripa is going to be one of change and growth. Yet, being a man with a wealth of issues, there are numerous things that need fixing. So, I’ve decided to choose 12 issues, habits, regrets, hopes or fears that yearn for my attention. I am going to devote 30 days (1 month) to each one. This blog will report my progress, failures and growth. I have no clue what the upcoming year will hold, but I invite you to join me on this journey. Think of it as a community therapy session. After all, blogging is a lot cheaper than seeing a shrink.