Memento Mori

So this post has been rattling around in my head for the last week. I wasn’t sure I knew how to write it or more accurately where to start. I had thoughts possibly of not writing it. Denial, as I am sure you are aware is a wonderful thing or can be a wonderful thing until the thing which we are denying comes back to bite us in the ass. I also realized if I wanted to continue to live, I couldn’t continue to live in denial.

The long and the short of it is this; the evening of Thursday, April 26th I suffered a mini-stroke. Also known as a TIA or Transient Ischemic Attack. There I was finishing the first therapy session of the night and I felt numbness from the top of my right jaw which extended to the right side of my mouth. It freaked me out! Because it lasted about 2-minutes, I decided after telling my wife that I would also complete the second therapy session of the night.

I finished the therapy session and my wife drove me to the hospital. I say this like I was a willing participant in this decision. My future daughter-in-law, also an RN completed a quick neurological assessment and despite everything looking positive, said, “I’m calling a friend at the hospital and you need to go.” At that point, I became a willing participant.

So, here I sit at my keyboard and attempt to put these thoughts down on paper. It isn’t any easier a two weeks later. I wake up and put on a happy face which is a thin veneer covering the fear below.  I completed my first week back at work and see things a lot differently. I notice I have less tolerance for whining and complaining. Less tolerance for people who don’t accept accountability for their life, their choices and blame others for the consequences which are a direct result of their own actions.

When I was in the hospital, my wife called me every morning and asked me if I needed or wanted anything. Beyond being discharged and coming home, which wasn’t in her or my realm of control, I wanted for nothing. I had thoughts of having her bring my journal and a fountain pen since this has always been my emotional release, but I didn’t ask. I wanted those things, but I didn’t. I wasn’t sure I wanted to document this event despite its importance in my life and the fear which it struck in my heart.

I wasn’t ready to face the suddenness of the attack and now that two weeks have passed, I’m not sure I want it anywhere in my memory other than a healthy “remember when.” I know, in order to continue to live a happy and healthy life, I need to make changes.

The word curmudgeon comes to mind. The Urban Dictionary defines curmudgeon as somebody considered to be bad-tempered, disagreeable, or stubborn. Curmudgeons are usually defined and cast as grumpy old men. I can be grumpy but I’m not. I just hate stupidity, laziness and those who refuse to accept accountability for their behaviors. I take pride in being an independent thinker. I don’t take popular or easy positions and I’m not afraid to go against the grain. If this makes me a curmudgeon, then so be it. I’m happy to be in the club. Anyway, not to get off on a tangent, but I know my personality can lead to increased blood pressure, which in my case is not what I need. I try to see the viewpoints of others, but often they’re just too stupid and I find my blood pressure getting even higher. Better to just avoid these folks.

hospitalbed1

Coffee or perhaps the coffee which I was drinking, “Death Wish Coffee” will have to go. I went to the company’s website and cancelled my monthly subscription. I thought I heard a collective groan coming from the company as I’m sure my decision will have a negative impact on the companies budget. For now, it’s half-caf and caffeine free tea. The transition has been surprisingly easy. The caffeine is not something I ever needed, but damn, the taste of that coffee!! Delicious!! That, I will miss.

This morning, after a restful night, I completed my third post-stroke run. I don’t have any running goals at this time other than to help manage and maintain my emotional and physical health. My running was cut short last year because of knee surgery and a bout of depression which set in and which I ignored. My only goal in running, with respect to my health, is to keep getting up, enjoying the solitude of the morning and my plodding stride

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and journaling about what happened, my health, my practice and my family. I carry a coin in my pocket. On one side it reads “Memento Mori, Remeber Death. The opposite side of the coin reads “You could leave here tomorrow.”

While this may seem morbid, it is the reminder that at any moment often without notice, our lives may be snatched away. Death does not come to us and ask permission. It arrives slowly in the form of a debilitating illness or suddenly in the form of a heart attack or stroke. Regardless, it is there waiting for us all. What matters most is how we choose to live the lives we were given at the time of our birth and death. We can spend it complaining about the things we don’t have instead of feeling gratitude for the gift of life which we do have.

contemplation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namaste

Advertisements

In the Shadow of the Mountains

Roadway in autumn forest

I rose this morning, the floor cold to my bare feet.
Golden daylight falls through the barren branches of the stand of white birch trees.
As I stare through the stand of trees, I see the silhouette of one of the Adirondack ranges standing majestically.

Hot black coffee.
Alone with my thoughts,
As I stare out the window.

Things are simpler here.
I can just be…
There is no judgment, no expectations, no goals,
No fears.

There is no one to please, no one to help.
The quiet solitude of leaves as they dance on the breeze.

Time

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for being given another opportunity to grace this earth. For being able to take another breath and enjoy the things in my life which brings a smile to my face. For my eyes and being allowed to see my beautiful wife, children and grandchildren and whatever else graces my view throughout the day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in thought thinking about how I spent this past Sunday. I was on call for Crisis Services. Despite this and my usual Pavlovian response as I nervously wait for my phone to ring; I decided to relax and spend the day the way I wanted to spend it. When I’m on-call I make no concrete plans because a call can come in at any time. As I grow older I see less and less value in filling each day with concrete plans. There are things which need to be done, tasks which need to be completed. Those will get done for there is little which needs to get done at that moment. I found the world will not cease turning if something is left undone.

Jack and I rose and we went for our usual Sunday morning walk. Before returning to the inside of the house, we perched ourselves on the front porch and based in the solitude of the morning. There is, for me no other time of day which brings so much joy. The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit.

The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery person. It sat protected in its orange cocoon protecting it from the elements which may have otherwise disturbed my ability to read its contents with some modicum of joy. Jack watched as I ground beans for my morning coffee. As his eyesight fails at his age of 15-years, his eyes grow cloudy with cataracts, he thinks he is going to be fed again. I allow him to smell the freshly ground beans. he takes a quick sniff and turns his head away in obvious disgust as he realizes this treat is not for him. read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit. I have this new coffee an Instagram friend suggested I try. Don’t tell my friends at Death Wish coffee, but I really enjoy this smooth taste. All of the information if you’d like to find them on the Internet and give them a try is right on the bag.

coffee

For those of us who reside in the year 2017, sitting and doing nothing is difficult. We all know this and many of agree using one of the excuses which make every hair stand on end; “I just don’t have the time!” First of all, this is Bullshit!!!! We have nothing but time. It is all in how we choose to spend the time we have. So, when done correctly, the ability to sit and do nothing productive, is, in fact, a momentous achievement. There are some people who see me doing nothing as defined in their terms because whatever activity in which I am engaging does not fit their definition of productivity. These are the people who would disagree with me. That’s too bad because I find reading, lying in my hammock, playing with my grandson, writing, smoking a cigar and drinking a couple fingers of a good whiskey are being productive.

coffee

In the past, I had struggled with sitting quietly alone. I felt like I need to be in perpetual motion. It seems as though the minute I sit my brain begins to wander. My eyes also wander. I begin to see things around the house which may or may not require my attention. Most certainly those things do not require my attention at that time. My son joined me. We both noted it had taken him 4 hours to clean his car inside and out. It’s not that the car was that dirty, it’s that he stopped several times, sat and we talked.

I have a salve for my spirit. It comes in the form of silence, of solitude. When I am physically able to run, it comes in the solitude which I feel during a run and which accompanies my spirit for some time after the run has concluded. It also comes in the form of reading, journaling and smoking a good cigar. My entire professional life I have found myself chained to a calendar and a clock. Questions abound such as “Do I have enough time to do this or that?” These things have resulted in a perpetual feeling of anxiety; of being on-edge. When I apply the salve, which ever one I have chosen, the grip which anxiety has had on me begins to weaken. The difficulty arises when I do not apply the salve as often as is recommended. When I neglect an application, I feel out of place. My mind wanders and guilt, self-imposed guilt reenters or should I say I allow it to reenter. I regret now not doing more in my work life to disrupt that configuration.

Try it sometime. You might actually become addicted to “not doing anything productive.”

namaste

Life in Transformation

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for this beautiful day.

Life is transformation. I can think of several individuals in my life who would disagree with this notion. Then again, those same individuals would disagree with just about any notion which identifies the personal responsibility with which we need to take to transform our lives.

I am coming up to the first scheduled day off since May. It’s been a long time I know. I’ll be heading back to the Adirondacks for some quiet time which will include a lot of reading, a lot of writing as I work toward completion of my book. This time will be punctuated with several sips of bourbon and some Puterkos Pizza.

Fall is upon us. The light of each day grows progressively shorter. We inch closer to the Winter Solstice. It’s that time of year when we begin to once again regain precious minutes of daylight. The calendar, at the same time, inching closer to the new arrival of Spring.

pens

I woke this morning to rays of beautiful sunshine peeking through the slats of the blinds. One of my joys is having an opportunity to wake without an alarm. Another joy are the beautiful sounds coming from the birds at the freshly filled feeder and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It is these simple things which bring me the most joy. The joy I find in such simplicity reminds me not to take life too seriously, to not worry about the things which I cannot control and to live each day to its fullest.

“When you go out into the woods and you look at the trees, you see all these different trees and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are green and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it, you see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans you lose all that. And you’re constantly saying “you are too this,” or “I am to this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.” ~Ram Dass

If you think that life is a journey to some sort of destination you could not be more wrong. I understand your thoughts right now because we have all heard the sayings on the t-shirts and bumper stickers which remind us that “life is a journey.” If we think of life as a journey then we keep going faster and faster to reach this unknown destination. Life is transformation. Life is a transformation. We are reminded of this every day while also being reminded of the opposite. We are constantly changing, evolving, and improving. Our growth has nothing to do with speed. In fact it often this need for speed, the need to reach a believed destination which causes us to stumble and make decisions which may not be in our best interest. We need to slow down and assess our direction. We need to ask ourselves what we are transforming into. Every Sunday I receive a text message that asks, “Slow down and ask what you have learned this past week?” What have I learned that can impede my transformation and which can help my transformation excel? Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Better than last week, last month, last year?

chris

I use photography to help better understand the path on which I am on. I look at my photographs, camera in hand to see how I can see my life and its surroundings differently.

How do you see yourself? When you look at yourself, do yourself a favor and don’t blame others for the condition of your life. Your decisions are just that, your decisions. If you look to blame others, you will find the hole in which you are in become ever deepening. Accept responsibility for your actions. Ask for help from honest individuals and develop a plan that will help you achieve the goals which you have set.

Namaste

Writing, Depression & Other Things

With hands grasped in gratitude, I greet you on this beautiful day.

It’s a long weekend for me and I am happy to be enjoying an extra free day off this weekend. As I sat, my soul warmed with another cup of coffee and my Kindle, my mind began, as it often does to wander. I began to think about writing. It has been three months since my last post and almost three months since I have worked on my book.

It has also been almost three months since my last consistent run. This “streak” was interrupted just once by an attempt to test my knee. This “test” failed miserably and caused additional pain. I have had x-rays completed but the physician refused to discuss them with me when she believed this injury had been caused at work. This despite the numerous pages of information which I completed explaining the injury took place as a result of running. I find this to be an indictment of the current state of our medical profession and one, which within my own practice I work terribly hard to avoid. Regardless, I will reschedule with another physician and secure an accurate diagnosis.

Each week which goes by offers me increasing hope as the pain and discomfort continues to decrease. For this I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

I was frightened by the notion that I did not miss running, especially those runs which allowed me to start my day with some modicum of balance.

I have been reflecting on the last year and in some cases wish I could call a mulligan and have remained at the job which I had prior to the start of the last year. Since this is not a possibility, I have reflected on what I have learned in this last year.

Not to be cliché but I have learned the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have also learned it is not a bad thing to be happy with the status quo, to not wish for more, of anything but to be happy or to find happiness in what I already have.

I was reminded balance can be found in such things, that to not see the balance which I already have and to seek something for which the definition is unclear causes one to experience greater imbalance in one’s life. I stepped from the frying pan into the fire. I saw my physical health be called into question and I saw my love for running also being called into question. It culminated in me experiencing a panic attack while out for a very early run. The panic attack saw me sitting by the side of the road in tears with passersby wondering what was going on for me at 4:30 AM. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and began a course of medication to help me manage these symptoms. I began the search for alternate employment. Finally this goal was reached but emotionally I still felt empty; like a ship bobbing on the waves in the open ocean sails flapping loosely in the breeze with not enough force to provide the energy necessary to move forward. My meditation practice faltered and finally halted and also became nonexistent. I had hung my hat on one decision, one belief, that a new place of employment would provide all the stress relief which I would need. This solved a small portion of my problem, the remainder lied in my belief that there was nothing else to question. Depression set in followed by anhedonia and a general feeling of malaise. I continued to run but even these were forced. The love which I had previously had for waking early in the morning now became a chore instead of a salvation. I still enjoyed the solitude I felt but I also felt myself withdrawing into myself; feeling sorry for myself. Everything became a chore. I functioned on autopilot and left unchecked ends up causing an accident. This “accident” was my knee injury. Even my journaling which provided as much solace as did my daily runs and something with which I found respite, waned and became almost nonexistent. Daily writing fell off to one or two days each week, then once each week. There were weeks where I was lucky if I even inked a fountain pen let alone knew the whereabouts of my journal. I retreated more and more into my head and found reading to be my one remaining constant.

Slowly but surely my energy began to return. I am not fully there but I feel my hope, my desire to return to enjoying the run beginning to increase. It was at first difficult for me to accept the fact that I could not run, despite knowing further pain and injury would certainly follow. This summer, one of our warmest on record and a time of year I look forward to running as it affords me the ability to run in only shorts and running shoes caused additional strain on my mood. Alas, it is what it is.

My own diagnosis is one which places a possible return to running around the turn of the year. Hopefully, with the advice of a doctor and the possibility of physical therapy I can at least comfortably return to some form of physical activity which will help ease my depression.

As I said in an earlier post, one of the greatest abilities we have, if we choose to accept it is our ability to be introspective.

Namaste

Sitting outside…

With palms together, I wish you all a good evening.
I sat outside enjoying the beautiful weather wearing a lightweight jacket for additional warmth. My accompaniment was my journal and one of my favorite fountain pens. It is easy for me to get lost in the solitude offered by sitting outside.
All of the trees visible on my street are now void of their leaves save for the few hangers on who have forgotten the seasons have changed and fall is firmly upon us. Or, perhaps they are more like myself and have little desire to be in agreement with the calendar. and wish for longer days and sunshine to remain for a period of time beyond what is dictated in this portion of the country. Letting go for me is not an agreeable option.
The sky is overcast. The sun even at this relatively early hour of 4:20 PM remains visible in the western sky, sinking closer to its nightly hiding place behind the horizon.
I, like the leaves who refuse to leave their comfortable perch, have decided to go against the rule, the social convention, the norm which is accepted by sitting outside and enjoying “what is left of the decent weather” before the winter winds begin to blow bringing with them the arctic chill and much-dreaded snow.
Jack, my faithful companion stands in front of me refusing to sit. Perhaps his reluctance is a result of the cold, damp ground which grows colder as winter marches forward. His head is tilted back, his nose piercing the air, smelling smells which I cannot smell, those scents pushed here and there by the steadily increasing wind.
The sun continues its dip toward the horizon, shadows lengthening…
Namaste

Today was a good day.

With hands clasped together, I wish you a good evening.
I slept well last night despite retiring with what felt like the symptoms of a cold. I don’t believe there has been an increase in stress as much as there has been the perception that stress has increased.
I  rose to go for a run lamenting the darkness which will accompany each and every run through Spring. This easily falls into the category of “it is what it is.” I changed up my route and quickly found the solitude which I seek during most runs. Thoughts, as they usually do, drifted in and out of my mind. My ability to see things more clearly during a run is one of those things which keeps me running. The symptoms of a cold did not make an appearance during my morning run nor did they make an appearance toward the end of the day.
As I ran along the Niagara River I looked over my shoulder and began to see the pink of the rising sun as it made its way above the horizon. A brief stop at Fisherman’s Park to snap a few photos, the obligatory selfie and then to bask for a few more minutes in the solitude of the morning. As I resumed my run it became clear there would no longer be a need for my trusty Petzl headlamp. Sunday is one of the few days which I can run late enough that I can see the sunrise. That is until the full onslaught of what can be a depressing winter is once again upon us and the sun will often not grace us with its presence for weeks at a time. I have already decided my trusty friend Lexapro will once again accompany me through these dark times. I ended my relationship with my friend last winter and by the time I realized depression had taken his place, it was too late. I was forced to muddle through what remained of the winter months and the struggle that is Spring.
Spring for me can also be a struggle. The calendar reminds us that warmer weather and longer days are near. Often Mother Nature plays a cruel joke on us and reminds us of our insignificance by allowing the accumulated snow to melt and then to reintroduce us to that form of precipitation that, by that time of year has grown old. I found myself badgering my wife about whether or not she has purchased plane tickets so I can quickly fly to Florida and renew my relationship with the sun and all it has to offer me.
The Buffalo Bills played today which is a topic of which I have little to no interest in writing. The weather, 65-degrees, sunny with a consistently stiff wind helped make my decision to sit outside and write this essay. As I complete this essay, I watch the sun as it creeps lower in the sky. This is noticeable too by the increasingly colder hint in the wind. The shorts I am wearing will soon become a mode of dress inappropriate for outside activities. I caught myself thinking about this question as I ran believing If I am lucky I will have at least 1-2 additional weeks where I can run outdoors in shorts.
My daughter, son-in-law and grandson just arrived for dinner. It is time to go.
Namaste.