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

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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.

Patience

With palms together,

I wish you all a Good Morning.

I woke with my alarm…4:00 AM. I briefly debated with myself, not about running but about getting up to run. I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with my early morning runs. One one hand the cards are few and the ability to be left utterly alone with my thoughts are great. The downside, it’s 4:00 AM.

There are nights when I collapse into bed, exhausted from the day’s efforts. I push myself to the limits throughout the day, so much so my physical health has been negatively affected and I have questioned whether or not I need to look for other employment. I think about my private practice and if I am going to put this much time and energy into one activity, it should at least benefit me more directly. There are those days when my satisfaction cannot be measured as it is off the charts with happiness and satisfaction. There are also those days when I question why I am working so hard. It is these times when the run seems uphill and endless.

I enjoy pushing myself to the limits and enjoy the days when a feeling of tired envelopes me like a warm blanket and refuses to let go. Recently I found myself in a downward spiral, a feeling of sadness which I could not shake. When these times arise I find myself feeling sorry for myself. I focus only on the negative and when I attempt to pull myself out of this downward spiral, I find that society at large also focuses on the negative and the spiral deepens making my attempt to pull myself out more difficult. It is times such as these that I begin to resent myself and my profession. The catch-22 is when I find myself in this dark place, emotional exhaustion takes hold and reigns supreme. My running, I allow me the opportunity to revisit these dark places and confront the fears which they contain.

I recently began a new job, one which felt exciting at the time until I realized the interviews with which I was enraptured were to hold more pitfalls, more disappointment than they would excitement. I find myself not wanting to rise early and to participate in the one activity which has helped me cope and helped me to come out of this dark place. Rising at 4:00 AM only reminds me of the start of the day which brings daily disappointment closer to reality. The emotional energy which is drained resurfaces from time to time throughout the day offering a glimmer of hope which is usually broken down within hours.

I have been working on a project and it has been difficult to make the time necessary to continue to move forward. My days have been tedious and filled with activities related to my work which have caused the loss of my love for my career. As a social worker, I help others manage the stressful life events which when not managed well can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

My time rising and running at 4AM has often been a lifeline of sorts for me. Contrary to popular belief I often have more energy throughout the day than when I do not rise to run. Those same runs also help me to manage the inevitable stress which arises at some points within minutes of my arrival at the office. My runs have become a popular coping mechanism

Many of the barriers which I face throughout the day are self-imposed. I enjoy this concept and the eye rolling as many readers refuse to accept that not everything with which we are confronted is the cause of someone or something else. The self-imposed barriers are a result of our perceptions that our life is not going in the direction which we would like. It is beliefs such as these which lead to self-destructive behaviors and attitudes. When I allow myself to become fixated within the narrow boundaries of these thoughts and beliefs, my struggle with depression becomes increasingly difficult to manage. It can be difficult to remain focused as we navigate through our lives. My strength has been to approach these times with patience, persistence and perseverance which offers a gentle reminder that everything will be alright.

Namaste

The Blizzard of 2014

I woke this morning to the sound of a snowplow at the apartment complex across the street from my home. After peering through the slats of the blinds and glancing at the clock, I decided to head back to bed. The temperature with the wind chill continued to hover in the below-zero teens. I decided, with my best interest in mind to return to bed. Another day escaped without a run. The thought of hiking to the gym and running for an hour on the treadmill was a thought which lasted as long as the blink of an eye.

 
I woke an hour later, grabbed my Kindle and read for an hour until Jack yawned, stretched, rose on the bed and walked toward me where he sat down. He stared at me with that questioning look asking, “Why are you still in bed? I need to go outside and I’m hungry.” The morning for me, even after a run is the time of “a thousand little things to do.” Walk the dog. Feed the dog. Take out the garbage. Take out the recycling. Shovel the driveway. Brush off the cars. Start the cars. Start the Vespa. I was happy I decided to go for the new battery last night. Another day/night of consistently below freezing temperatures would have taken it’s toll and possibly left me stranded. Jack and I returned from his walk in the brisk temperatures. As he ages I realize his step is more tentative. He doesn’t like the cold. As I grow older I realize I have learned how to tolerate the cold. When you live in the Northeast, it is what it is. If you don’t learn to manage it, you had better move to a warmer climate.
 
Jack and I both ate our breakfasts. He appears famished as he ravenously gulps his food and stands by my side as I cook eggs hoping something might fall. Of course it does  but not on purpose. I read again as I eat my eyes returning to the top of the page and again make eye contact with Jack. It seems as though he knows just where to sit. When he realizes I have made eye contact with him he retreats and moves to my side. Perhaps the thought is if he makes himself more well known, I might give in and feed him again. Or perhaps his thought is simply that I did not see him from his previous vantage point.
 
After a shower and getting dressed for work I make another pot of coffee, this one for work. I depress the plunger on the French Press the light colored oils rise to the top. The smell forces me to close my eyes and drink it in. Smiling, I wait for the coffee to brew before storing it in my thermos for the ride to the office.
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I arrived ready to see my first patient to find the first three had canceled leaving my schedule empty until 3:00 PM. I contact other patients on my call back list but none are willing to venture out in the cold and wait at a bus stop to see me for counseling. Again, it is what it is. Another thing over which I have little control.
 
As I sit at my desk, Peter Gabriel emanating from the iPod speaker on my desk, I read on-line that the blizzard warning has been lifted. When I left my home for the drive to the office, the sun was brilliantly shining and the main roads were clear. Temperatures are forecast for a high of 17 which means a wind-chill around zero. Definitely comfortable enough to resume running. The roads should be relatively clear by tomorrow morning and when I run at 4:30 AM, relatively safe from traffic. Gatorade is already mixed and warm running clothing is already laid out. Batteries for the headlamp are already charged and I’m ready to hit the roads again when the weather cooperates.
 
Namaste