Two Lessons I’ve Learned

Solano County is in northern California but I spent the weekend prior to my date of surrender in Log Angeles at the home of my close friend, Wynn Katz. Wynn was particularly concerned about this whole thing and from my perspective it was important to alleviate his fears. On Saturday afternoon we had lunch at an Italian restaurant on Via Rodeo in Beverly Hills.  Over the past 20 years Wynn and I have had some pretty serious conversations, but this afternoon he was particularly introspective.  “If you had to do it all
over again,” he began, “what would you change? What would you do differently?”

I thought for a while before answering. This type of question was completely out of character for him. Where in the hell was a question like that coming from? “Where is Wynn and what have you done with him?” I thought.

I was also concerned that he was feeling particularly bad – and frightened – about my decision to go to jail. Most people, it seems to me, focus on the notion of time when talking about incarceration, but their real fear is the environment, the uncertainty of it all.  They fear the obvious danger that accompanies being locked in a closed space with murderers,
drug dealers, and gang members, not to mention rapists and serial killers (and well they should). It’s this fear that the authorities use, and depend on, to act as a deterrent for the novice. The problem though is that it only works well on those who have never been to jail. It offers no deterrent whatsoever for those who have. They know the system, and do not fear it.

“First of all,” I said, “if I had to do it all over again, I’d kill myself.” (Now, I wouldn’t even remotely consider suicide and no one understands that better than Wynn, but he desperately needed an injection of humor, so I gave it to him.) “I don’t want to do it all over again to be perfectly honest” I said.  “And I also wouldn’t change a thing…You know
me as well, maybe better, than anyone else on this planet” I continued.  “I don’t have those kinds of regrets.  If nothing else, I’ve learned two important things in my life, and those two things have made all the difference… first, life is all of it: the good and the bad. It’s naïve to think that life is only going to be about the things that make you happy.  It isn’t all success.
You know what they say: “If you don’t see God in the profane as well as the profound, you’re missing half the story.”

“Secondly, I’ve come to believe that life is eternal, death is the illusion. I no longer have those kinds of fears. Death is the opposite of birth, not life. I guess because I no longer fear death, the other fears concerning life have disappeared. They all seem so silly to me now. For example, I’m not going to die because some woman goes crazy or wants to take her life on a different path. It’s her life. She can do what she wants. That’s where I am right now. It’s just that simple.  I’ve conquered my fears.  I don’t worry about money, what people will
think, or what tomorrow will bring.  I just don’t do it.”

There was a long, but comfortable, silence and then Wynn confessed, “I worry a lot about money lately; my business, my ex-wife, my children.  I worry about everything.”

“Well, don’t worry about me,” I said.  “In about six months, I’ll be on Larry King Live pushing a book.  It’s all going to be fine.”

The point was quite simple: every problem is an opportunity. I was going to enter Solano County knowing precisely what I intended to accomplish. I was already one up on the guards, the warden, and the other inmates. I knew Solano County offered me the opportunity to clarify my philosophy on life. I knew there was a chance to get clear, I mean
really clear, on the things I wanted.

In a lot of ways my choice to go to Solano County was selfish and manipulative. I recognize that. I am aware of the fact that I wished to be alone. I wanted to determine without any distractions what I really wanted out of the rest of my life. I had hoped to take the opportunity to decide – once and for all – whether to continue on my present course, or to have the courage to admit that it was not giving me what I needed to feel complete, and
therefore, to move on to something else that might. Medicine was becoming increasingly frustrating. Patients were becoming increasingly unrealistic. Insurance companies had frankly stopped paying doctors. And, the government was negotiating an overhaul of the system that did not include paying the doctor, yet made the doctor responsible for decisions someone else had made. A future in a system like that just didn’t seem bright. I needed time to think it through.

 

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