Monthly Archives: May 2015

A rambling, self-absorb post that eventually gets to a reasonable point

As long as I’m sharing, I might as well share everything, right? Maybe I’ll get on Oprah–oops, they don’t have that any more. Whatever…

I know depression and I think I’m coming to know CFS or ME or whatever the hell it is that I have (WTHIITIH).

To start, WTHIITIH is a grind. It’s not football, where you spend the week getting ready for Sunday and then play, then deal with the aches and pains and play again next Sunday. It’s baseball. There’s a frigging game every day and you have to suit up and play. You have to be nice to the other players, the umpires, and the fans, and you have to perform. And no one really gives a damn about your aches and pains.

With depression, you don’t feel like doing it, whatever it is. You feel like your will is coated with heavy cement and while something inside you wants to go, your soul feels weighed down and immobile. The cement is heavy and it’s starting to form, making your soul’s movement hard.

With WTHIITIH, you feel like you haven’t slept in days. There’s a brain fog that makes thinking hard. You can’t multi-task worth a damn and you cast about for words while you’re speaking. Sometimes it hurts like a bitch (I don’t care if the word offends you; the pain offends me, so get over it). Sometimes you feel like you’re verging on a stomach bug. Sometimes you feel just a tinge of vertigo. It varies from day to day, but something is there every single day.

You aren’t sick enough to be sick, so you have to do the work anyway (hence the baseball metaphor). You start to wish for something major to happen, just to push the process forward so you can either figure it out or move to the theoretically inevitable next step. Or at least so you have a valid reason to not suit up.

As an aside, Bill Murray is a gold mine for bloggers, you know?

The differences between depression and WTHIITIH are pretty evident. But if you have WTHIITIH and it starts to get to you and you enter into BillMurrayland, and if you Google it, there are all kinds of helpful articles aimed at helping you figure whether you have depression or CFS. In case you’re curious, I can post something later helping you to figure out whether you have tennis elbow or stomach cramps.

They’re different things.

And that’s part of the struggle. There are a lot of good-hearted people out there who pray and wish the best and want to help. First, I appreciate it. And most of the time, I have a deep sense of gratitude. But sometimes, when it piles up and it’s really hard, it’s like me telling my wife how to cope with menopause–well-intentioned, but not really helpful. (By the way, I’m way smarter than to tell my wife anything about that.)

Anyway, sorry for being bitchy today. It’s how things are sometimes.

I guess the takeaway is that if you’re struggling with something–it could be WTHIITIH or a difficult job or a bad home life or cancer or a loved one having cancer… If you’re struggling with one of these things, or any other, there are going to be days where you aren’t fit for human companionship.

And honestly, that’s okay. You don’t have to be a schmuck, but you do get to go there. It’s part of the experience.

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Protesting against the right to protest is…well…silly

Soooo, a mess of people are protesting against Islam in Phoenix. And, because freedom, a mess of people are protesting against the protestors. And no doubt someone’s protesting because they like to protest.

In our dichotomous world, we like to divide everything in to right and wrong. It’s always easier and more fun when there are clear good guys and bad guys. (If you don’t believe me, watch Star Wars episodes I and II). This isn’t one of those cases.

The protestors are protesting against Islam because they don’t like it. In a free society, you get to do that. They’re drawing cartoons of Mohammed because in a free society you also get to do that. If you can create art of a crucifix in a jar of urine, and if that’s not hate speech, then neither is drawing a picture of Islam’s prophet. And even if it is, our Constitution allows us to offend each other with what we say. I might not care for what you say–it might anger me to the point of distraction, but when you lose the right to say it, we’re all screwed.

To equate Islam with terrorism is to equate the Catholic Church to the Irish Republican Army or the crotchety atheist down the street to Joseph Stalin.

In that sense, the second set of protestors is right to a degree. It ain’t cool to generalize against a whole group based on the actions of a few members of that group.

But they’re wrong in protesting the drawings. Acceptance of a group doesn’t mean never, ever offending their poor widdle sensibilities. Offending you isn’t the same as hating the entire group you belong to. And if drawing pictures that offend Islam is a bigger problem to you than people killing over the pictures, then, well…

When you assign responsibility for violence someone who drew a picture, rather than to the person who performed the violence–and when you say that offensive pictures are not part of your America, then I’m damned glad I don’t live in your America.

The drawings of Mohammed are a protest against someone trying to impose their religious beliefs to silence certain protests. So the protestors are supporting people who want to shut down certain types of protests. With all respect, who ya crappin?

And honestly, if your god is so impotent that he needs you to take care of someone who draws a picture on a piece of paper, then you might as well worship a golden statue.


Eight ways you just do it

I’ve asked people I admire how they do specific thing. How do you not get angry over this? How do you manage to go on when disaster is inevitable? How do just go on every day? I don’t know how you do it.

I just do it.

Oh, well thanks a frickin’ lot for that piece of wisdom I can use to be a better person. (I never actually said that to anyone. I was always taught that if you can’t say something nice, just think it.)

But I always hated that answer. It was like the person giving it had special knowledge that couldn’t be passed on to the riff-raff.

Except now I’ve been asked the very same question and the answer is (drumroll…………….) I just do it.

Here’s what it means to just do it.

  • It means you don’t look forward. You may have to just do it for a lot of days in a row. Maybe the harder days are in front of you and you’ll face some steeper hills then. You have to be responsible and plan, but today has enough problems of its own. Figure out tomorrow when it gets here.
  • It means you trust. Odds are pretty good you’ve been figuring out tomorrow for decades. That’s a pretty good track record. Trust that track record. You’ve been doing this a long time.
  • It means you aren’t alone. If you think you’re alone, look again. Feeling alone and actually being alone are two different things. I know a guy who prays for people who don’t have anyone else to pray for. That means at the very least, someone is praying for you. And it all gets better from there. Someone is with you.
  • It means you don’t look down. If you’re challenged, you’re probably doing some pretty amazing things. You’re probably doing things you didn’t think you could do. Wow. Congrats. You’re pretty high up. But you got there by doing the things you didn’t think you could do.
  • It mean you accept ugly. No one…no one who just does it is elegant. They recognize good enough and accept ugly. There are no style points.
  • It means you’re compassionate to yourself. If you’re being challenged, if the load is heavy. You’re going to screw stuff up. You’re going to lose your…uhhh…stuff. You’ll freak out and be certain you’ll break under the weight. You may scream or cry or do both at the same time. Well, crap, you’re being challenged like you didn’t think was possible. It’s not supposed to be easy.
  • It means you ask for help. Nobody does it alone. No one. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. (Not the creepy Johnny Depp Tonto. The more normal Jay Silverheels Tonto.) And his name was the Lone Ranger. He asked for help when he needed it. Don’t be a dumbass. Ask for help.
  • It means you accept that you might fail. Movies and TV shows feature the good guys always winning. It’s called fiction for a reason. Always winning isn’t a reasonable expectation. Accept the possibility of failure and don’t waste energy worrying about it.

Just doing it is hard. And as much as I hate it sometimes–and some days I hate it with a white-hot rage as if from a million suns–I know I can just do my best and that will be enough.

For decades, it always has been.


Example of resilience

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have a couple things going on. If you haven’t, click the life philosophies and other esoteric crap category to the right over there…no, to your right…your rightyour other right.

Sigh.

Anyway, click the link and read some stuff. Today, I don’t want to write about what’s bad. I want to write about some amazing people I know.

A friend of mine sat and watched the P90X workout with the one-legged guy for weeks, trying to rally the guts to do it. He’d messed up his leg in a big way and had a hard time getting past his injuries. That guy now helps others with health and fitness and nutrition. It’s a calling to him. He’s an amazing guy who’s made a difference in my life.

Another friend has a chronic disease that really limits what she can do, and had a bumpy childhood to go along with it. She’s really good at accepting herself and her limitations. She’s built a wonderful life where she’s happy and successful anyway. She has two little kids and her pictures of them on Facebook melt my heart. I love her because of her limitations and because of what she’s done anyway.

Still another friend (three friends, who knew?) had a difficult childhood with an awful lot of hurdles to jump over. If anyone had cause to be cynical and bitter, it’s her. And yet she’s one of the most compassionate, empathetic people I’ve ever met. I’ve watched her work to become a better person and struggle still to do what’s right. A lot of my professional transformation has been because of her example. My gratitude to her is boundless.

As I read about my situation, so many of the stories are inspiring. While I whine about my toes feeling like they’re going to blow up, these people struggle to get out of bed. And yet, if nothing else, they’ve written about their situation so guys like me aren’t scared lumps of Jell-O. Sure, they have their morose moments. But they’ve accepted their lives. They’re doing amazing things because of that acceptance–even on the days when just making it to the bathroom is an enormous task.

They’ve been dealing for years, decades even, with something I thought would break me after months.

These people aren’t somehow better than I am. They aren’t more noble. They’re just people who’ve done it every day. I know I’m at once both very blessed and very challenged. They help my appreciate my blessings and face my challenges.

Their example helps me realize that what’s special in life doesn’t come from that afternoon when everything is awesome and you’re all sitting outside enjoying a perfect day. What’s special in life comes from what you build in spite of, and often because of, the things you overcome.

Life is what you do after you accept your limitations and figure out plans B, C, D, E, and F.

People are amazingly resilient. And their resilience should be a cause for hope and excitement, not guilt. Viktor Frankl’s ability to make it through a Nazi death camp isn’t a reason to look at yourself and say I suck for whining. It’s a reason to hope because of his example.

I love the examples in my life. Thank you!


It’s all good…well, mostly

I’ll start by saying two things. First, the word I will be used a lot in this post, and in some other posts coming up. Why not? This is my blog (though thank you for reading). And, if I must say so myself (I must, I must), I am kind of awesome.

Second, I don’t know a damned thing. That’s okay. It’s actually kind of freeing to be ignorant. I get to make mistakes and learn. And I have some learning to do. Things are new for me. Not necessarily shiny, but new.

The last week has been an amazing roller-coaster ride from exhaustion to triumph to pride to loneliness to dejection to rage to self-absorption to dark resignation to acceptance to gratitude. That’s where I am now. The only thing I’m certain of is that it’s going to change again, probably before I eat breakfast. My head is spinning.

Brain fog doesn’t help. I just had to look up acronyms to remember the word gratitude, which was literally (literally literally, not figuratively literally) top of mind just a few seconds earlier.

figurative and literal

Of all those roller coaster stops, the most importance has been acceptance. Whatever I have, I can’t do the things I used to do. I don’t mean Tough Mudder, either. I can’t pound things out the way I used to. I have to ration my energy for use on important things. I can’t pull a series of double-digit-hour days at work the way I used to, certainly not on top of a busy weekend.

I can’t work out and yet I don’t want to return to my previous Jabba-like physique. Chicks don’t dig that.

I’m kind of over most of the anger about that. It is what it is. Accepting it allows me to move on to what’s next. If I can’t do those things, what can I do?

I can more effectively ration my energy. Maybe I change the cadence of my day…start a little earlier and build in some time for rest during the day. Maybe go a little later and space in breaks. Trial and error is the key.

I can tone down the rage and focus on being in the moment. Rage and anger rob me of energy. I need that energy for more productive things. I’ve been through a lot of crap and I’m still here. So absent a meteor falling on my office today, I expect I’ll be here tomorrow, whatever happens. (Dear God, That’s not a challenge. Love, Chris.)

Stupid! Frigging! Rage!

I can eat better. Nutrition’s always been a weak point for me. I need to build some discipline there. I know what to do, I just need to do it. More vegetables, less processed foods, no more binging on sugar in the evening to alleviate stress.

It was a hard day and Publix has a big candy aisle.

I can study my foe. And I’m doing that. Reading up on it. Mostly about stories of people. I don’t care about clinical crap. Not yet. I want to know how to be effective. But I also need to start tracking my experience with it, as well, starting with sleep, food, beverages, exertion, and how I feel. Then I can find patterns.

And, most important, I can concentrate on how incredibly fortunate I am. If I have CFS, then I got it at a good time. Twenty years ago, it was the yuppie flu–an excuse or a sick attempt to capture attention. Now, it’s more visible. More accepted. There’s emerging science. Possibilities.

As cases go, mine seems mild to this point. The joint and muscle pain don’t seem to be letting go, but that could change, too. I don’t have heavy-duty vertigo and I don’t take months to recover from things.

And there are people. My wife. My family–none of whom have told me to shake it off and man up. My partner at work. And people online. A similarly afflicted doctor and blogger who wrote me two wonderfully encouraging notes.

And there’s the Internet, where I can build my knowledge and understand how people are handling this.

I reserve the right to fall apart from time to time. I understand it’s selfish and self-absorbed to do so. I understand that this is my problem and I shouldn’t afflict it on others. And my goal is not to, but I’m also tired and weary and frustrated and afraid, in a manly way (of course). It’s gonna happen.

But the goal is to be thankful and accept and to learn and adjust. If I can do that most of the time, that’s a big win.

As I said up top, I know nothing. But maybe in my ignorance, I can find something useful for you, as well.

Here’s hoping.


What l learned from working out

As I write this, I haven’t had a proper workout in three and a half months. To quote Tony Horton from Ab Ripper X, “It makes me sad.”

I miss it a lot. I miss busting my ass to a good heavy sweat. I miss the tight feeling of muscle exertion from a good resistance routine. I miss cursing Shaun T, that miserable son of a bitch as he abuses me through Insanity. I miss bitching about Yoga and running in the heat. I miss struggling through pull-ups. I even miss busting my ass before anyone wakes up.

But you don’t lose anything you decide to keep. I learned a lot from working out and much of it is in play right now as I move into a new chapter in life.

When it’s not a bazillion degrees out, I like to run long. I got up to 17 miles this past fall and I was hoping to get to 26.2 at some point. (Who knows, right?) But when you run, especially long, it’s as much a mental test as a physical one. I don’t know what other runners do, but I start telling myself lies when I get to a certain point.

“Just run to the tree and then you can stop.” “Come on, an old lady in a walker can make it to the road up there.” “You are going to feel so awesome when you get done.”

None of that stuff was true, but it did the job at the time. It helped me achieve things I never thought I could.

I was turning into a muscular guy. I mean, I dig chicks, but if I dug guys, there was a certain guy on the other side of the mirror who was a fine, fine looking man.

And all the time with the exercise bands and the weight–all that time rolling my eyes at Tony Horton’s goofy jokes and watching Angelique and Anna so I could keep my mind off Shaun T’s freaking Insanity–I became more resilient. I learned that there’s value in seeing something through to the end. I learned that from the first time I pushed all the way through Plyometrics in spite of the nausea.

I learned from Erik Stolhanske, the one-legged guy in P90X Plyometrics–the mother of all the P90X workouts–that a handicap can be overcome. And I learned from my friend Mari that if you keep at it, the workout that almost made you puke can turn into an ego workout.

That’s Erik. He’s only got one leg, so I wanna hear no excuses from any of you.

I learned not to say I can’t–because as soon as you say that, you’re right. I learned to say I presently struggle with. I learned that now is a point in time and things can change over other points in time. I learned that I am resourceful enough and smart enough and stubborn enough to eventually do it anyway.

I learned that “What’s your excuse?” isn’t an insult, it’s a challenge. It’s a call to arms to go after what you want. If you want to be fit, don’t let children or your current shape or your schedule or the fact that you always sucked at gym get in the way. But it’s not about fitness; it’s about expecting the best out of yourself, whatever the goal. You’re freaking worth it so go freaking after it.

I am not currently working out. I may never, ever do a hard core workout again. (Not quite okay with that, but that’s a different blog post). I don’t wear the P90X3 hat any more or the Tough Mudder t-shirts (except to bed).

But I keep the lessons. They transfer. I have no excuse. I am legitimately afflicted by what appears to be a chronic condition that severely limits me. That just means God picked someone smart enough and pretty enough to overcome that affliction to live a full life anyway.

I learned that in a puddle of sweat on the floor after a workout. So freaking bring it.


Rage and resignation

I’m not in my right mind as I write this. The evidence, your honor, is just this simple…in the past four minutes, I have gone from complete internal rage to complete resignation.

A new feature of my experience, something I think is brought on by the Post Exertional Malaise, is pain. It’s everywhere, kind of circling my body. It’s certainly there in the big joints–knees, elbows, shoulders. But it’s also in my fingers and toes, which feel like they want to explode. Add that to the general feeling of exhaustion and hopelessness and it’s not a happy mixture.

And that’s before the challenges of work.

Curse you former Broncos receiver Haven Moses. I rebel against you!

In the Old Testament, there’s a story of Korah, who staged a coup attempt against Moses to get Israelites to rebel against God. In response, God opened up the earth and swallowed him. It’s very tempting to rebel against Moses this morning.

That’s where I am with things, especially in the past week. The big things are huge and the little things also seem bigger as a result. I just want it to stop–not so I can go back to life as it used to be, but so it will stop, just for a few minutes.

It’s not cool to be vulnerable publicly. People move away from that because it’s uncomfortable. It’s weakness and patheticness and, to be honest, what if it happens to them?

It’s happening to me. I know it’s happening to other people, too. I know other people who have it worse–and I know some of those people personally. But for right now, I don’t care.

If you have a chronic condition, that’s part of your life, I suppose. Not that I’m an expert after three months. But I know how hard it is now. I know it seems to be getting harder by the day. And I know it’s not sustainable. But I need to make it be.

There will come a day when I look back at this stretch with pride. I had enormous obstacles–I think having a difficult job situation and an undiagnosed condition that robs me of every ounce of vitality count as enormous obstacles. And I kept at it for as long as I could.

Cause I’m gonna win.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s not pretty and I am failing at a growing number of things, but it’s within the margin for error and there is an end in sight. And I intend to get to that end.

And I know how it will feel when I get there and that counts for something.

I buried the lede, but if you’re in a similar situation and you make it through today, that’s amazing. It’s amazing in ways the people around you can’t conceive. It’s okay to be angry–to vacillate wildly between rage and resignation. It’s okay to fantasize about nothing. It’s okay to scream at God until your voice goes raw and then to crawl into his lap and cry.

You don’t get to be the black hole of joy or try to make everyone match your level of misery–and honestly, why would you? This sucks.

But you get to be internally all over the place. You get to not be elegant. You get to win ugly. If people are expecting beauty, they’ll just have to get used to disappointment. After all, you are.

So, not to get religious, but crawl up into God’s lap and cry. Find your best ally and cry in front of them. Rage at the injustice of it all, because it is unjust. And it’s very likely that no one understands. You are in a very tough, very lonely place.

But then you have to suit up and move forward. If you don’t, your thing, whatever that is, wins. Don’t let it.

Some days survival is enough. Just getting through the day is victory. Allow yourself that victory and the possibility that tomorrow will be better. You can’t let go of that little bit of light or you have nothing.