This era started with my diagnosis with MS but ended with it having been the best times of my life. I guess that you could say that MS was both the worst and best thing that happened to me through my life.
I was a bit depressed on having been diagnosed with an incurable disease that would rob me of the ability to control my body over the coming years. Things were not great at home, had been stressful at work (though not improving) and now this. So I sought some help from a therapist. I went to sessions with him for about a year, spent about the same amount of time on some mild anti- depressants, and came to some decisions. Well, really one big decision and that was that I needed to really start living the life that I had to the maximum. One life. We each only have one life but when you are healthy it is easier to think about the things that you can do later than if you know that you only have limited time. So one life it was. I was even going to have that tattooed on my back in a chinese script but was afraid that I would end up with a 'tat that said "kick me" instead of "one life".
The big decision that came out of my new direction was to leave the marriage that I had been in for twelve years. It was hard but neither of us was happy and I did not see us getting there. This is where the boat that I mentioned earlier came in handy. I had always kinda wanted to be a live aboard and this became my chance to do so. A 32 foot sailboat is not a large boat to live on but I was able to adapt it so that it was pretty comfortable. It helped that I was traveling a lot. It also helped that a lot of crap did end up in a storage locker. It is important to note that there are two extremes of live aboards...those that want to be ready to sale at any time and those that might sale once or twice a year. I was in the former...if I wanted to go for an evening sail on coming home for work the boat needed to be ready.
During this time I had also taken up rock climbing and was doing a lot of that. I was, as mentioned above, traveling a lot and was able to taking advantage of trips to stay extra time to explore places. The biggest initial change in my life, though, was the community that I became part of as a live aboard. I had met and was friendly with folks in the marina but when you live on a boat next to them your bond becomes much closer! We had a lot of fun together sharing meals, doing evening and weekend sails, going out into Annapolis and causing trouble. Great memories.
It was also during this time that I was promoted to Vice President at Black & Decker as part of an IT organization that did some pretty good work, if I do say so myself. My boss, our CIO, was able to build a team that worked well together and was able to do so over a pretty long time relative to most IT organizations. We had some ups and downs, we being any two of us in the organization, but over the years we built a record of implementing the things we said that we would implement, doing it on time, and within a budget. All of this while also responding the the business's need to take operating costs out where ever possible. It was at the end of this period when my boss and mentor retired and I was able to move into his office. The next three years of my professional life were to be interesting. It was 2008 and the economy went south. Then, as a direct result of that shift, Black & Decker got bought by Stanley Works. So I got to lead an organization through a financial down turn, which I had done pretty well (if I do say so myself), and now I was on the hook to help it get through an acquisition by a company that had markedly poorer systems and an egotistical IT leader. I was able to positively influence the absorption of my organization into the new company without significantly damage to our capabilities but I was left without a job. I had planned on retiring early...this just made it a little earlier than I had planned but all was well.
Oh, just about forgot, I also met, fell in love with, and married, someone during this time! No, I did not really forget. I was just saving the best for last! I was living on my boat, I was in the UK a lot, and I fell for someone that worked in the London office. We started dating, our first trip was together was to Spain where I lost a bet that we would be able to find a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner in Madrid (ironically, the day after Thanksgiving we found an Irish Pub that did have that dinner on offer but it was too late for my bet). It was the first of a number of great trips that we would take together. She ended up moving to the States (though it had nothing to do with me) and we bought a beautiful place together on the Baltimore Harbor. I had bought a new, and larger, sailboat to live on in 2003 and we took a number of memorable trips on her. One was during cicada season and to these stupid bugs our boat must have looked like an island as they constantly dive bombed us as we motored down a river to a planned anchorage. I had gone below and noticed the boat was weaving about madly. I went to see what was going on and it seems that Sara was fighting off bugs and not paying a lot of attention to the helm! We got married in November of 2006 at a ceremony in England. I had asked her on a holiday in Vail Colorado the previous April though at the time I did not realize what day it was. We had eaten dinner on the top of a mountain and on the ride down, with the lights of Vail shining below the gondola, I had intended to ask her but chickened out. I finally got up the nerve once we were back in the hotel but it was after midnight at that point. And it was April 1st. April Fools Day. Hmmm.
These were the best years of my life. I guess you could say that MS has been both the worst and best thing that has ever happened to me.