Alex P. Keaton is Still My Hero

 Thirty years after being inspired by a TV character J.R. Reed is inspired by the real life of Michael J. Fox.

 

The year was 1982.  Reagan was in the White House and I was a white, middle class teenage boy living in the O.C.  It was the era of Must See TV and it was during the fall of 1982 that I “met” someone who would influence me for years to come.

Those old enough will remember Alex P. Keaton as the obnoxious republican teenager with a money fetish from the TV show Family Ties. Those not old enough should check out the video link at the bottom of the post.

Alex was always looking for ways to make an easy buck but inside he was really a good kid who was trying to carve out an identity for himself. Maybe that’s why I identified with the character.

By 1984 I was wearing ties to school (though not every day) and carried around a brief case. Because of my shyness and low self esteem I’m not sure what girls thought about my choice of wardrobe and luggage but I like to think it suited me..

I teared up when Alex broke up with Ellen (played by his now-wife Tracy Pollan) and I can’t listen to At This Moment by Billy Vera and the Beaters because it makes me weepy.

Alex symbolized Generation X and their fight against the hippie Baby Boomers.  He was The Man sticking it to the people who were sticking it to The Man.  Now that I’m older I find myself pushing away from corporate America and identifying more with a more open-minded, less stressful way of life.

Michael J. Fox brought Alex to life and won three Emmys plus a Golden Globe. He took a few years off and came back in 1996 with the show Spin City.  Fox was fast tracking his way to the top of the acting world when in 1998 he announced that he had Parkinson’s disease.

I applauded Michael for being a role model for those with Parkinson’s or other neurological conditions. He educated the public about neurological problems, raised awareness and was once again my hero.

I was amazed at Fox’s outlook on life and how he could be so optimistic about his future. Granted, Fox did well for himself financially and has more resources available to make his life easier but I get the feeling that he would be this way no matter his situation.

In 2007 I sat in my neurologists office waiting for the results of a CT, two MRIs and a balance test that made me fall more than once. The doctor came in and told me he wasn’t sure what was wrong with me but that he had a list of a few things it could be.

Parkinson’s was on that list.

I don’t have Parkinson’s but I do have a neurological condition that puts restraints on my life. I spend my days trying to learn new ways to cope with my situation and trying to not get frustrated about what I can’t do.

I spend a lot of time being frustrated and that frustration slows down my momentum. Having my momentum slowed requires me find new ways to cope and thus more frustration.

Neurological problems are tough because the symptoms can be varied and because others don’t always recognize the disability, disease or condition.  These problems affect daily life along with the ability to socialize and interact with people.

In my world a typical day starts with the realization that I don’t measure up to the standards I set for myself. I second guess every decision no matter how small or trivial that decision is. This morning I stared at a box of Apple Jacks and a box of Frosted Flakes for more than ten minutes as I tried to decide which to have for breakfast.

I seriously debated the pros and cons of each type of cereal and the impact it would have on my day. After I beat myself up for my inability to decide on cereal I decided to skip breakfast and start working. Thirty minutes later I was looking over the list of things I need to accomplish and figuring out what order to do them in and how to do them without having to interact with people or without failing.I always assume I’m going to fail at what I do which makes me feel bad about myself. I know I don’t always fail but have a hard time convincing myself that I can actually accomplish things in a positive manner.

I avoid interacting with people on Twitter, facebook and other forms of social media because I don’t want to come off as stupid or like I make no sense. That lack of interaction fuels my self doubt which in turn pulls me further into my hole and away from my friends and colleagues.

Because of the neurological problems I sometimes have a hard time communicating with others and that gives me a bleak, pessimistic outlook on life. I can’t figure out why I’m the way I am and it really bothers me. I have fleeting moments where I feel like I can conquer the world but most of my days are spent wondering when I will finally figure out how to navigate life. It’s beyond stressful.

 People with neurological problems have to find positive ways to cope with their disability because if they don’t the results can be disastrous. What could be a pretty good life becomes one filled with sadness, fear and frustration.

How do I know life can be filled with sadness, fear and frustration? I know because I live that life on a daily basis. My days are filled with self-doubt, second-guessing, fear of success, guilty feelings over anything good happening and a belief that I don’t measure up.

I’m tired of being overwhelmed but can’t seem to find a way out of this hole I’m in. My days are packed with forgetfulness, confusion and feeling like I’m a loser who can’t get anything done. My irrational fears paralyze me and keep me from getting out of the hole, which only ends up continuing the cycle.

I don’t recognize the J.R. I see on a daily basis and quite frankly I’m not a big fan of him. This guy is a whiny pussy who takes shit from everyone and feels like he deserves all the crappy stuff in his life. This J.R. needs to get kicked square in the junk and be permanently removed from my life so the real J.R. (whoever he is) can make a comeback.

Speaking of comebacks, Michael J. Fox is kicking Parkinson’s in the crotch and is making a return to TV. He’s once again proving that obstacles in life can be overcome and that by finding the right coping mechanisms anything is possible.

So why is it that I hear that message and continue to keep doing the same destructive things I’ve been doing? That is the million-dollar question and one that I hope I can get the answer to.

I’ve been spending the majority of my time locked away in a dark 12×8 room avoiding human contact and shutting down online because I allow the neurological problems and the fear to control who I am.

I’m afraid of any contact with others because I feel like my shortcomings will come out of me in the same way confidence comes out of people on those Cars.com commercials.

This blog post is a perfect example of what my life has become.  I started it five days ago and got stuck after about 600 words. I felt like I had nothing to say and that this would make no sense to others so I put it aside hoping to come back to it soon. I desperately wanted to finish this but have allowed my fear and feelings of worthlessness to take over and ruin my life.

Pretty stupid, huh?

My days are typically spent stumbling and walking into things because I lose my balance, forgetting what I was working on or thinking about, second and third guessing even the smallest decisions and feeling like I don’t measure up. If you’ve never experienced those feelings I can only say that they suck more than you can imagine.

I’m going to end this with a quote from Michael J. Fox I recently found. The words have meaning to me because I constantly feel like I’m being judged by others.

 

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” 

Michael J. Fox

 

Photo of Michael J. Fox courtesy of Shutterstock
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About J.R. Reed

J.R is a full-time single dad attempting to raise a 14-year-old daughter without providing too many stories to relay to her future therapist. He is also the creator of the popular blog, Sex and the SIngle Dad. A former radio talk show host and color commentator, he’s also an off-the-hook cook, a bit of an argyle-loving dork and has a word in Urban Dictionary. J.R. has a serious guacamole addiction and a torta dealer named Danny.

Comments

  1. Michael Kukura says:

    Hi,

    i had a stroke in december, and have a 6 year old daughter, I know about challenges as well. I refused to let it get the best of me and my daughter is my primary goal to get through it all.

    Wishing you all the best.

    Michael

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