The Measure Of Victory – Thoughts To My Boys

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(Jason after semi-final win last June – days later repeated as CIF division champions)

6/5/17

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Boys, you may think it’s the victories that were finally secured that defines the ultimate measure and reward of what has been achieved.  However you’d be mistaken if that’s all you base your accomplishments upon.

It must be remembered that it was the strength, determination, and resilience that you had to call upon and generate – even when convenience seemingly begged for succumbing or surrendering under the strain of the fight – that revealed more about who you are and will serve to be the genesis for the magnitude and greatness of what you can achieve throughout the journey ahead of you.  It’s the unseen and solitary efforts that conquered any uncertainty that were just as meaningful as the jubilance of the final triumph because they will carry on well after the exultation subsides!

Happy Memorial Day – Reflections To Jason

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(Marine Sergeant Joe Dicochea, Korean War veteran, and my dad – Original Posted Memorial Day, 2015)

5/25/15

“Just give me tomorrow.” – unidentified Korean War Marine soldier

Jason, I think you’ll like this given your admiration of the Marine Corp.

I was watching a Military Channel documentary “Against the Odds” about a company of Marines who fought in one of more iconic battles in the history of the Corp at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War or “police action” as it was officially referred to.  I guess this was to avoid the stigma of the conflict that ended just years before called “WWII”.  I’m not sure that the soldiers in the field during the later action felt any different than the ones who were part of the earlier one.  However if that description made it more palatable to the politicians and public at the time, so be it but again, I’m sure the consequences and emotions associated with the battles faced by both “boots on the ground” were vastly similar regardless of it’s presentation to the masses.

Now back to the “Frozen Chosin” and the company that eventually was known as “Bloody George” because of it’s casualty rate.  Their role became famous within the grander story that makes every Marine proud to be part of that tradition.  Just a quick breakdown of the story, the George Company of the 1st Division after landing on Inchon (another iconic battle) and fighting in Seoul drew, more by circumstances than choice, the responsibility of having to hold their ground serving as “Spartans” to fend off what seemed to be the inevitable annihilation of the entire division by an unexpected attack by a Chinese forces.  The Chinese army vastly outnumbered them while the division battled unforgiving terrain and the most severe elements of the winter that struck during this engagement.

I was riveted in fascination by the story and interviews with the surviving members of that company.  Since my father (your grandfather) was a Marine veteran of Korea who continually referred to ideals of his beloved Corp as I grew up, I look upon just about every Marine combat veteran with an abundance of respect and personal pride by just having that connection with my father as well as other family members who wore that uniform.  J I know you carry that pride and still hold my father’s Marine emblem in your hand during each pre-game prayers and rituals.  Interestingly, I was informed after my father’s death by a Marine Corp vet who knew my Dad that he was involved in that epic battle while he was still still only a teenager.  I’ve never bothered to verify its accuracy nor do I question its veracity since it wouldn’t affect the “hero” I’ve always viewed him as during my whole life.  Moreover given his character, it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t share that information because as I’ve learned, it was an awful engagement to be a part of and it was a memory reserved for a different audience than someone who could never understand the basic and personal ferocity of war.

So back to the point (thank goodness).  George Company, who continuously battled for months of fighting culminating in surviving and escaping from a relentless onslaught of attacks by the Chinese (who outnumbered them 10-1) and the environment at Chosin, were nearing the end of their organized march to the deliverance of their home base from this personal “hell”.  At this juncture, a correspondent approached one of the beleaguered company and asked what probably sounded like a ridiculous question at the time considering all the Marine had been through.  However his response gave a profound meaning to not just his or his comrade’s existence but served as a reminder to mine.

Paraphrasing the question to that soldier, he was asked “if I were God and I could give you anything for Christmas, what would you want?”  A picture was taken of his face with the vacant stare often seen on those in combat, fatigued and almost indifferent to the death he’d witnessed, answering with this simple response: “just “give me tomorrow!”

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It would take way too long to share my own history to fully capture how important those words came across to me when I first heard them and all the times I’ve repeated them in my head since then.  I think of all those times when I probably exaggerated the despair over the pseudo and “faux” ordeals that I unnecessarily burdened myself with at the expense of valuable time lost and the damage it caused.  As I sit where I’m at now in my life, I can only say that I’m so ashamed of myself and I apologize to my Creator for all those days I despised and destroyed, along with all those “tomorrows” whose future occurrence I dreaded – how’s that for honesty?

I understand now, and thankfully not too late given my close calls with mortality, that each day was my own personal gift with resources to invest as I saw fit and that the “tomorrows” were only a privilege with no assurance that they would ever begin.  I was such an f’ing fool and I also apologize to those who continually attempted to point out the overwhelmingly numerical reasons why my life was better than the few I chose to focus on and torture myself with – again, how’s that for honesty?

So my point, especially to you Son.  Never under-appreciate the simple, basic elegance of the days afforded to us since they pass out of our vision too quickly and thinking what’s ahead of us to replace it just may never be there.  It shouldn’t take that particular Marine or some old guy who fell on his head leading to a massive brain bleed, with the odds numerically against them more than most others for getting another “tomorrow”, lead you to understand what is right here in front of us is the only time that we are guaranteed to make the best difference for ourselves and everything around us.

J remember what I told you: until the last sun sets on the days we are given, every tomorrow has the potential to be the best day of our lives with the odds dramatically in our favor based on what we do, how we live, and the hope we carry towards the next day and it matters not how it ultimately turns out.

So I dedicate this message to my father, the Marines, and all military veterans given that this is Memorial Day and it’s important to me that I do something even if it’s sharing this particular story and associated message.  Referring to the Marine Corp credo of “semper fidelis”, I think it’s pertinent to the ideal of being “always faithful” to acting for the betterment of ourselves and those especially close to us.

In my case in thinking about the story above, if we try to practice with that faith and tragically are not “given tomorrow”, at least what is left behind for others is a memory and it should reflect the following:  We did the best we could, despite any adversity we had to endure, and capitalized on every internal and external resource available to us to make a joyful difference in the only life that we’ve been given, regardless of whether our own expectations of perfection are met.

I’ll end with this quote because I’ve been waiting so long for the right opportunity and I think it relays such a strong message regardless of the particular religious beliefs that are individually adhered to.

“Live a good life.  If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by.  If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them.  If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” – Marcus Aurelius

A Life Enlightened Through Love (meaningful excerpts)

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(Heart among the clouds.  Excerpts from a favorite post.)

7/2/15

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

…But getting back to the “love” that I think Dr. King refers to or at least my my take on it and how my understanding of it has been woven into my life.  I’ve written quite a bit about the transformation (of sorts) and rediscovery that’s occurred since my injury and how I’ve expressed a better comprehension of the love I needed to afford myself, those around me whether biologically or geographically, and degrees of love I needed to afford the basic elements in or near my life…

Now to be clear, anyone who knows me would never make the assertion that I express “love” for everything that happens in my life, or “love” about the totality of each person that surrounds me and those I have come across.  By virtue of me being “me” with my own personal tastes, preferences, and varying tolerance for certain traits, some things eventually fall into the category of “less than loved”, under-appreciated, or tangentially annoying over time.  I’m sure there may be a more tactful presentation of the foregoing blunt characterization but in lieu of an apology, I’ll just attribute this translucent honesty as a product of my age and brain injury.

However there is a precursor to whatever final conclusion is reached in my individual dealings and exploration of people and things so bear with me for a bit longer and I’ll start with this quote that I think is as spectacular in its message and presentation as the one by Dr. King:   “Keep love in your heart.  A life is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.  The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring.  Who, being loved, is poor?” – Oscar Wilde…

I have before me each day a gift of 1,440 minutes and there are generally static elements that I awake to with the comfort of knowing that love for and from them will continue to surround me absent any traumatic disruption in the forces that bond us together.  But by freeing and opening up myself to not just my normal routine but also the unexpected elements that present themselves, I’ve afforded myself the opportunity, possibility, and increased the probability that I will discover different aspects of “love” that can be so readily available in a life that is too magnificent to habitually ignore.  It seems that the further I lean in that direction, the farther I distance myself from patterns that lead to the intractable management of more undesirable feelings and their manifestations.

The beauty of parts of our humanity is due to the fact that we are able to experience a wide gauntlet of emotions although it is rare that we entirely become masters of them no matter how diligently we attempt to keep them cornered.  How often is it that we are immersed in moments where we attempt to command the sensations of heart and mind so they somehow correspond to both the adulation and criticism directed our way?

Still I’m fairly confident that it boils down to a choice of how we approach each day.  Oftentimes they don’t end up as perfect as we hoped for but I’ve never been sure of the number of guaranteed outcomes we’re entitled to even when we think our best efforts have been made.  Still, we can better define how most days develop for ourselves and the proportionate amounts of “love” that can be summoned from all things gently explainable and even those supremely mysterious.

And so it goes that “the way you perceive and react to the world is a choice.” – David Foster Wallace.  And if given that choice, wouldn’t it be better that our expressions be symptomatic of emotions more associated with anything resembling “love” that reflect the brightness surrounding the beauty we can be behold, as opposed to anything diametrically different that darkens the best of each of those particular aspects.

It seems like a logical choice once I get past the illogical distractions and given the alternatives that could erode them, I’ll just try to seek and express the “love” that lightens all those things that continue to surround me!

Take On YOUR World – Message To My Sons

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“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple

You know when you two came into the world and I first held you in these humble arms, I had no expectations or visions that you’d eventually conquer the world.  But if you want to conquer any part of YOUR world or anything outside of it, know that I’ll always be behind you to support and help you every step of the journey ahead.  And you want to know why beyond the basic fact that I’m your father and love you?  It’s because I know enough about both of you to believe that you can!

You Cannot Be Defeated – Thoughts To My Sons

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5/14/17

“You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down as long as it’s one fewer than the times you get back up!” – Andrew Sorkin

As “Dicos” and my sons, please remember this about each one of us.  Not one person, thing, or set of unfortunate circumstances can defeat us spiritually, mentally, or physically, even though we may be bloodied in the process.  The only one that can defeat us is ourselves and only when we lose hope and faith in what lies inside of us and surrender, forgetting that there is still so much more we can draw upon to continue the fight.

As I learned from my parents, they did not finally lose to cancer until they could dictate the final terms of their existence. If you can’t change how life presents itself, change your approach so that you can adapt and change how you present yourselves it so you can overcome and achieve on your terms.

And in closing: “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dear Lord… – For My Sons

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5/11/17

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.” – Natalie Goldberg

Dear Lord, thank You for the gifts and blessings that have been bestowed upon me as I approach the moments that await me.  I humbly ask that I feel the strength of Your presence so that all will be on display through my most concerted and definitive efforts not only for their rewards, but because anything less devalues each of those gifts and blessings, and fail to fittingly honor You and the parents who brought me to this place with the unconditional love and support that has and always will be present for the days I shall exist.  Now let’s play ball filled with joy, free of doubt or uncertainty, because this moment calls for it while You, my parents, and their parents, watch over me.  Joe Dico

Be Thoughtful In Everything You Do – Challenge To My Children

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(I came across one of my earliest posts that was written to my sons and the message reverberated within my soul as I reread it and how I want to invest in the 1,440 minutes of each day ahead of me.)

1/24/15

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana

So now I’m going to ask you boys for something which is less a request and more of a challenge and test to reveal more about both of you.  In a way it’s something you owe yourselves as part of your own personal discovery as you approach your lives, and how others see you and/or may be affected by you.  At a minimum after all I’ve written and hopefully assisted you with, this is something that you owe me.

Life has a funny way of working out but many things are not really random.  It can be excellent at times and others, well not so much.  Our ability to make an average day better from our own efforts is not something we should take for granted when we boil it down to its basics.  The best part of our day and overall existence should not be the greatest gifts we receive but the simplest gifts we give and just maybe, create for others.

You boys by virtue of being athletes, relatively easy on the eyes, personable, charming, fairly witty, etc., consequently may fall into the “popular” and “admired” categories, at least in the youthful and uncomplicated arenas of your existence. All of this changes in the college settings where you can get overlooked in a larger population and the grading scale of success is different.

So take this time to use this aspect of your status to reach out to those who would never imagine that you would even acknowledge them.  They are no less important than those you regularly interact with and importantly, can add a new dimension to your emerging interpersonal skills by exploring their own unique and distinctive attributes.  You just might be surprised that by performing this simple act of altruism, you may expand your understanding of your infinite coexistence with a few of the 7 billion people on this planet.

This a perfect time to attempt to figuratively “touch someone” in an unexpected and meaningful fashion because of the daily paths you cross in your school communities.  When you get older and in your professional world, you will meet a lot of people who you are essentially required to interact with, and consequently it’s financially beneficial to excel in that capacity.  But how authentic are those interactions when the objectives are more self-serving than a genuine extension of the best of who you are.  No excuses required – they’re just the frequent trap that engulfs us.  It’s unfortunate to find that we ignore the opportunities, either due to the hectic pace or schedule of our days, to slow down and capitalize on the random lives that we can affect or be affected by.

So my challenge is to make a simple attempt this next week (or longer) to acknowledge the unlikeliest of suspects whether it be another student, teacher, staff member, janitor, acquaintance, etc., who may fall outside your normal social sphere and would least expect it – I’m sure you can think of a few people who fall in that category.  Take an extra few seconds to just say “hi” or “how are you” to that person and pay attention to the response, if any, and do it at least one more time in the upcoming days.  If done only once, it can be construed as a fluke or aberration.  Importantly, initiate the encounter and use the person’s name, look at them, smile, and again at a minimum, wait for some sort of response and then take it however you wish from there.  Don’t think about it too much – just try it because there’s no reason not to and you might find a surprising return on the investment.

I’m not asking you to adopt my routine because frankly, you probably think I’m nuts!  I have the time, desire, and my own personal objectives which essentially involve gratitude for where I’m at and where I want my soul to remain.

Some might think I reach out to so many random individuals outside of my comfort zone for attention but that’s where they’d be mistaken.  My intention has never been to draw attention to myself (although that’s often the outcome), but to give my attention to those around me who deserve or maybe could just use it.  In the end though, I know that I benefit from it in too many ways to count and describe in detail.

All of our lives offer so many unnoticed and undiscovered things which really take little awareness to uncover.  Sometimes we get so locked inside our routines to appreciate what’s in front of us because we think external demands and distractions insist upon it.  Let’s be clear – they shouldn’t, they’re really not as significant as you think, and you can control your approach to them, all for the better!

So please be thoughtful in everything you do, and let that also include those who just happen to be part of your surroundings because the opportunities are abundant and shouldn’t be ignored.

And you want to know why it should come easy?  Because it’s the way you were raised, it’s who you are, and it honors your parents and those who influenced you to be that way.  Now please your Dad and rise to the challenge!

Critical Absolutes In Life – Message To My Children

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(I lost my loving Aunt Irma today and I found comfort in these words I wrote way-back-when that offers perspective with my sadness.)

9/23/14

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.”

This is much along the same vein of what I’ve been asking you to continue to be aware of.

I want you to think about the following and it’s not at all intended to distress you but give you a measure of appreciation of our lives now and some insight to how we should view the life ahead of us so that we don’t immerse ourselves in challenges that inevitably and unpredictably will confront us (I’m older so I speak from experience).

There are few absolutes in life but the most basic is that once we enter this life, we will some day have to leave it.  No need to focus on these particulars other than to recognize that the importance is not the beginning or the end but rather the quality, not the duration, of the “in between”.  Don’t rely on the concept of “life expectancy” measurements because as we are constantly reminded through personal and global events, tragedy has a different definition of equality.

So what do we do?  Actually not much more beyond what we are doing now, or what we already know.  If having a problem with the first, trust your instincts on the second while factoring the absolutes above as you go through each day.  I really want you to invest in this life and use your senses to be aware that there exists a pulse not only in you, but that there is also an almost musical rhythm to everything around you.  This is not some theological BS I’ve created in my mind but something I’ve grown to be increasingly aware of through not only the patently obvious, but what was once imperceptible to me.  I know, maybe just an imaginary complication of my brain injury but what if I’m right?

So get to the point Dad!  We all know that even the best laid plans somehow get ousted in the execution.  Sometimes things occur when we never intended for their development.  Maybe your steadfast dreams temporarily feel like nightmares.  Here’s the best I can offer.

If you feel lonely, it’s not the same as being alone and regardless there is always someone there if you open your eyes.  Something’s just don’t matter but always remember that you matter, especially to me.  When you start falling deeply into despair, reach up your hand because their will be another one lowered to raise you up, even though it may be an anonymous one.  If your heart feels broken, at least you know it’s there and can be repaired.  If you are too tired to run forward, rest and/or slow down but don’t go in reverse since only what’s ahead will help widen your growth.

If you lose something important to you, don’t get lost by its absence because at least you had it at some point to appreciate its importance.

Case in point:  I kind of knew that I would lose my parents but I never envisioned that it would happen in the course of a ten-month period.  I dealt with it initially in what kind of worked in the short-term through denial and distraction but it took me a lot of time to realize that my prolonged and underground grief extended well beyond what my parents would have wanted for me.  I had them, I’m grateful to have had them, and I miss them – what more is there for me to dwell on?.  However by knowing them and what they shared with me, I grew to understand that they would not have wanted me to torment myself about the time I can no longer have with them, at least during this part of my existence.  Now when I shed a tear because of them, it’s only because you boys never got to meet them which is why I share so much about them with you.

Almost at the end!  When you feel happy for whatever reason, remember how different it feels compared with other emotions and that it’s probably your best opportunity to make a difference to help others (whether family, friends, or strangers) when surrounded by small opportunities to do so (see beginning quote).  Since we all have known similar emotions of feeling depressed or despair, then maybe the smallest kind gesture may have an impact.  We all know the obvious signs or clues, and it’s not important to know the why, what, solution, or response in return.  It’s only important that we as human beings caught in the same environment react to such an opportunity and do more than just share space in it.

Another absolute:  God may be the first to love you and likely the last but I find it hard to fathom that He can love all of you more than I do when I think about you, and more so as I end writing this!

Dad

Life Is So Precious Because… – Message To My Family

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(With Christian years back – Since the time I posted this last year, I had surgery to remove the remaining appendix that ruptured mentioned below, tests to rule out a suspicion of cancer in the area, another seizure that sent me to the hospital, some mini-seizures that didn’t, etc.  And through it all, I’ve been so blessed with a precious life I value immensely and the words below still ringing so true today in belief and application.)

4/6/16

“Life gets so much more precious, when there’s less of it to waste”. – Bonnie Raitt

It just occurred to me that one year ago [now two] at this time, I was in the ER after two unexpected grand mal seizures that occurred while driving that happened literally seconds after I pulled over with Christian in the car knowing something wasn’t right.  Luckily Christian, all of 13 years-old, stayed calm and got me the help I needed during the time I was amidst the haze of these developments, finding myself on the curb with paramedics treating me and Deb at my side.

So in thinking back as I shared with Christian today, had he not been in the car with me when I was seeing the auras that at the time I didn’t understand we’re precursors to the seizures I was soon to experience, I might not have pulled over seconds before they occurred.  So in a sense Christian saved my life that day by his presence, just like all of you have each done so many times before when it sometimes been so f’ing hard to do so on my own on more occasions than I’ve ever let you or anyone else know because that’s never been my way in this life of mine, or I just can’t remember all the countless times over the years those moments have almost struck me down, you know?  I’m supposed to be strong enough or so it has seemed throughout most of my life as a result of the way my parents raised and continuously demonstrated to me, and I guess I’m still here on this earth because of it.

So what’s it mean?  Well if Christian hadn’t been there giving me the awareness that I had to protect him and pull over, I would not have been there to see Jason’s game that night in Irvine (after a great deal of persuasion and begging to get the doctors to discharge me from the hospital), the one last night, and all the ones in between; or seen Christian’s game last Saturday or everyone in between; or even be here as Mom reaches the 46th year of her life after knowing her for all of them other than the sixteen years before those.

I know things are not as centered as I’d/we’d always wish but I wonder had it been my time to join my parents at this time last year, or when my appendix ruptured in October and went untreated for a week, or my first falls in 2013 that led to a traumatic brain injury and first seizures that I somehow recovered from when there was some doubt that I would; or the recent second fall where I would have bled out had I not been found unconscious; or just those times I tripped over myself and couldn’t get out of my head; what would have been missed or lost by us had it been my time to leave this earthly existence, or stop fighting and just give up, which is seemingly the same thing in my mind.

It’s impossible to know or imagine but I’m here with hope, optimism, and love as always as each day continues to present itself, even on certain days when life challenges my faith in its meaning.  All I can do is thank you and be grateful for being there and giving me sustaining breaths when the air was almost taken away from me way too many times since you’ve been part of my life, and in a sense all of us!

Upon quiet reflection and in looking back which is hard because it gives rise to some temporal pain with the honesty, it seems the last few (maybe several) years are an illustration of persistence through the good and epic chapters we’ve written but especially the tougher ones but boy, it’s hard to argue with what’s occurred, been overcome, and ultimately been achieved to date that I’ve been blessed to be a part of with so much more I could ever dream of or imagine.  With that said, I’ll end with this quote: “There is no such thing as a quantum leap.  There is only dogged persistence – and in the end you make it look like a quantum leap.” – James Dyson

I love you all!  Thank you for letting me share because I’m sometimes not strong enough to hold it in – more temporal honesty there.

You’ve Got This Kid!- Reminder To My Son

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I remember the day I wrote this to Jason after speaking with him by the gym pool while he was going thru forgettable teenage struggles and a few weeks later he won the first of his two California high school division baseball championships.  I reminded him of the same today to continue to apply to whatever college challenges that exist or may arise (baseball or otherwise) because they will likely turn out to be either forgettable or not as substantive in due time as well.  In looking back, it may have been one of best days of my life with him!
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“…So finally here’s the more basic and generic message I wanted him to live with and by.  Until his final moment ends, the tomorrow’s of his life carry the potential to turn out to be the best days of them all, and it matters not whether it does or doesn’t turn out that way!

Importantly, what he does or does not do will have an incremental impact on the chances of them occurring and if he proceeds with “optimism” as I suggest, then he will likely avoid the indecision to do things that ultimately just might work out a lot better for him had he done otherwise.

Moreover, he will start to disregard relying on the easy justification of doing nothing based on the mindset that “nothing will probably come of it”, “there’s not much of a point”, or “it probably won’t matter”, because the way I see it, everything CAN MATTER, since I believe EVERYTHING WORKS OUT one way or another if we just nudge, or downright shove, things along in the right direction!

Oh and when things aren’t going so well at the time, that just means that there is a greater margin for improvement and potential that the next day will feel like ONE OF THE BEST DAYS OF HIS LIFE just by the nature of comparison.  At a minimum, it will likely turn out a hell of a lot better than the one before if he releases and let’s go of what did or didn’t happen because then, there will exist a fresh potential and perspective for successful and wonderful new days…”