Death

It is with hands grasped in gratitude and thoughtfulness for Anthony, Harold, my family, my life and those whose paths my life has crossed which I write.
Last Sunday evening I lay in bed reading from my Kindle. The light of the screen the only light illuminating the room. I put down my Kindle and glanced at my Facebook feed. To my surprise, I was informed of the death of Harold Nichols. Harold was 53 and was murdered in Jamaica. Harold and his wife had lived in Jamaica for approximately 15 years and were missionaries for a local church. Harold and his wife selflessly provided to others what those individuals were unable to provide for themselves.
Tuesday, while sitting at my desk, I heard a ping. I was unable to identify the source until I closed several windows on my computer screen and found a message from a previous coworker. The message informed me of another death. this one a 56 y.o. male with whom I had worked.
Both individuals were quiet and humble and caused those of us who are introspective to examine our place in the world as well as what we offer to the world. This news comes to me just 6.5 days into the start of a new job. I left my last job as a result of the stress which I have felt for the past year and which I was concerned would result in more significant complications
As I was writing this post, a message popped up on my computer indicating the arrival of a new email. I opened the email and found this message forwarded to me from a friend.
Keanu is 50. He posted this photo and this message: “You see these people behind me? They are rushing to work and not paying attention to anything. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to take the time out. Say Hi to someone you see and maybe give a hug to someone who looks like they’re hurting. Help out someone. You have to live every day like it’s your last. The person who was holding you back from your happiness was you. Every day is precious so let’s treat it like that. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so live today!”
Keanu
I am sitting outside on this Mother’s Day, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face the taste of a fine cigar mingling with the smooth taste of a glass of scotch not taking anything for granted. As I grow older I realize with more certainty that another day is not promised to any of us. I have also learned to accept this fact and live my life accordingly. I rise each morning and go for a run. My pace is slower but that matters none to me. What is important is that I have the ability to still run.
Run I will. I will also continue to live each day to the best of my ability not complaining when things do not go my way but accepting what is and changing what I can.
Namaste.
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I am home…again

I write with hands clasped in gratitude and in prayer.

I returned from an all too brief trip to the Adirondacks. There are an equal number of philosophical questions remaining as there were prior to my departure. This quote from Charles Bukowski is cause for my continued reflection. Charles said, “The freeway always reminds you of what most people are. It´s a competitive society. They want you to lose so they can win.” This concept of competitiveness is one which I no longer comprehend. I barely comprehended this concept when I was younger and am unsure that I ever did. Perhaps it is age and the accompanying maturity. Competitiveness is a concept with which I struggle, especially as I grow older. In the four days which I spent in the Adirondacks, I spoke to no more than four people. Two of those “conversations” were to place an order for food so I am unsure if they qualify for the definition of “conversation”.

I arrived on the Rock River trail and breathed a sigh of relief that there were no cars at the trailhead. This meant, at least for the time being that this would be a solitary trail run. As I approached the sign in, a smile formed on my lips as I noticed there were no other signatures indicating hikers or trail runners remaining on the trail. After signing in at the trailhead, I began my trail run on a soft, leaf covered trail. The sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet and the trees bare of leaves, reminded me of Fall. This trail, I am guessing is a seldom used trail. I worked my way over a few rolling hills before descending to a low-land area with Rock Lake on my right.

Rock Lake

I was able to see the lake through the trees which, at this time of year remain naked. The buds on the accompanying branches not yet exposing their secret. Another hundred yards down the trail and I heard the sound of water cascading over large rocks. This would be Rock Creek. I stood in the middle of the footbridge spanning the creek, the sound of the creek louder than I had expected considering the width of the creek was no more than ten feet. I was reminded that everything, especially to me is louder than what would be expected in the Adirondacks. I was also reminded of this fact as I perused the headstones in a cemetery at the entrance to the park. A break in traffic passing the cemetery left me in total silence save for what appeared to be a buzzing in my ears. Perhaps the buzzing was me adjusting from the constant bombardment of noise to the profoundness of the Adirondack silence.

Rock Creek

John Burroughs in “The Art of Seeing Things” said, “If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination,—health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul. To the scientist Nature is a storehouse of facts, laws, processes; to the artist she is a storehouse of pictures; to the poet she is a storehouse of images, fancies, a source of inspiration; to the moralist she is a storehouse of precepts and parables; to all she may be a source of knowledge and joy.”

ADK1

As I made my way back on this 3-mile out and back trail, I decided to branch off onto another trail. This trail was no longer marked by the “hiking” blazes but by red “snowmobile” blazes. This trail was wider and marked by more frequent changes in elevation. It also extended this run from 6 miles to 14.5 miles with an elevation gain of over 1000′.

In his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, John Burroughs shared the following thought, “So far as seeing things is an art, it is the art of keeping your eyes and ears open. The art of nature is all in the direction of concealment. The birds, the animals, all the wild creatures, for the most part try to elude your observation. The art of the bird is to hide her nest; the art of the game you are in quest of is to make itself invisible. The flower seeks to attract the bee and the moth by its color and perfume, because they are of service to it; but I presume it would hide from the excursionists and the picnickers if it could, because they extirpate it. Power of attention and a mind sensitive to outward objects, in these lies the secret of seeing things. Can you bring all your faculties to the front, like a house with many faces at the doors and windows; or do you live retired within yourself, shut up in your own meditations? The thinker puts all the powers of his mind in reflection: the observer puts all the powers of his mind in perception; every faculty is directed outward; the whole mind sees through the eye and hears through the ear. He has an objective turn of mind as opposed to a subjective. A person with the latter turn of mind sees little. If you are occupied with your own thoughts, you may go through a museum of curiosities and observe nothing.”

Path

Little could have been more beautiful this day. Sunlight began to drift through the bare limbs of the many trees. Silence, other than my breathing and footfalls was my musical accompaniment. Grtatitude for my breath. Gratitude for my eyes and my ability to take in such beautiful sights. Gratitude for my ears both to hear the sounds around me as well as to hear the silence in which I find so much solitude.

May you be able to experience such beauty in your life.

Namaste

 

Am I Living the Life I want to Live?

I woke this morning after a fitful night of sleep. I slept poorly and I am guessing because of the cold which has been my companion since late Thursday. Running these last few weeks has been almost nonexistent save for the one run I have added to each week. There has been little desire to run and even a smaller desire to rise at 4 AM.
This is typical for me this time of year. The weather becomes increasingly colder and the days shorter. January brings us to the “middle” of winter. I am happy to see winter beginning to come to an end. The days begin to grow increasingly longer as the amount of daylight steadily increases. This visual representation of lengthening days is often enough to help improve my mood. The hope of spring in the air, literally and figuratively. Since I began writing this entry more than a week has gone by. There has been a desire to write but little time. The weather has dramatically changed and the unseasonable temperatures grew colder and brought with them snow. Last Sunday, the last day I ran, the air temperature dropped to a low of negative 16. The photo shows what happens to one when one decides to exercise in those elements.
Frozen selfie
This time of year for me is normally a time of quiet introspection but even that has been decreased. I have found the time which I have spent writing in my journal has even decreased. My goal has always been to write every day. Often a week or more has gone by between journal pages. Today, the temperatures are approximately 10-degrees colder than yesterday when we reached a high of 51. The majority of the snow has melted and despite the colder temperatures, I needed to go outside. This is where I feel more at ease and more calm. My domain has never been inside. Inside is where I must be to accomplish the tasks associated with my job.
When I woke I reviewed the photos which had been added to my Instagram stream since I last checked at 3:00 AM. Many photos caught my eye but one also grabbed hold of my emotions like a lasso thrown around the neck of a bucking bronco.
This caption accompanied the photo:
“I’ve often imagined that trees keep their favorite humans as pets, since their lifespans are much longer than ours. Much the same way we keep cats and dogs. They watch over us, love us, and after we pass they mourn us. They adopt new humans after we’ve gone. Like ants scrambling madly in an ant farm, we don’t fully recognize their ownership or their care. Science is slowly discovering the sentient qualities of trees, but some of us have been sharing these friendships for centuries.”
—Vanessa “Runs” Rodriguez 
 Trees
I was and continue to be drawn to this photo. I find myself staring at it as I gaze at the previously blank wall across from my cluttered desk. I find myself staring at times when I have allowed my day to become unbalanced. Poor food intake, plus poor sleep, plus allowing myself to overwork is what often leads to this imbalance.
Yesterday I drove home from my office in Niagara Falls and to the west, my right eye caught the bright orange glare of the setting sun. Another mile down the road I pulled into a parking lot which runs parallel to the upper Niagara River. I backed the Element into a parking space which offered an unobstructed view of this beautiful sight. I rolled down the window and listened to the beautiful sounds which gently enveloped my ears. A gentle breeze caused the naked branches of trees to harmoniously rub together while a family of geese sounded their approach as their beautiful wings allowed them to gently touchdown in the still unfrozen water. A smile crossed my lips and within a few minutes, the memories and stress of the day were washed away.
When I look at or rather stare at Vanessa’s photo, I see the beauty of these elegant trees, her gentle touch on the bark of these gentle giants and the path which has been worn on the surface of this beautiful forest. My thoughts drift to my time spent in the woods behind my house, or the trails which I am privileged to run and snowshoe enjoying the solitude provided by the relative absence of the rest of society. I think of my time spent in the Adirondacks where this same solitude passionately grips me.
Are you living the life you want to live? Are any of us living the life we want to live? Do we realize there is a space to live the life of which I fear many of us dream but never attempt beyond the expectations of family, ourselves and society in general?
These expectations are dangerous and for the majority of us they are never fully revealed. We live our life in a dreamlike state agreeable to be “weekend warriors” while we may harbor dreams of something more; more freedom. We are tied to a paycheck and their belief that we need to make more money. We fail to realize this need to make more money comes with more responsibility which takes away the one thing which none of us are guaranteed, more time. I recall hearing this fear on a daily basis. “Be glad you have a job. It may not be the job you want but it’s a paycheck.”
It is becoming uncomfortable to sit outside any longer. I ask you to ask yourself if you are living the life of which you dream or are you living a life which you believe you must live and hope there will be time later to live.
Namaste

Humility & Patience

With palms together, I wish you all a good afternoon.
I woke this morning after a fitful night of sleep. It needed to find me or I to find it; either way sleep was not to happen.
It took me several hours of fighting with sleep or perhaps to sleep to realize, or should I say admit the cause of my restlessness was right inside my own head. I work in a profession which I love, for which I share a tremendous passion. That passion, if left unchecked turns into burnout. My problem is I have a tendency when I allow myself to go on autopilot  to miss or perhaps more accurately ignore the signs which lead me down the road to destruction.
I teach mindfulness and pride my own mindfulness practice, but lately this practice has been anything but mindful. Mindless would be more accurate.
Three or four times each year this happens. I allow myself to go on autopilot and neglect to watch the road in front of me. Thoughts speed up and slow down. There are on-ramps and off-ramps all relatively safe if we pay attention to what is ahead of us, on either side of us and behind us. I am usually pretty good at spotting when a breakdown might occur but this time I had taken my eyes off the road for a period of time which was in hindsight, too long. You know what happens next. That’s right, I was involved in an emotional accident. This year it was allowing myself to miss both of my trips to the Adirondacks. The winter trip was missed, well for reasons which I can no longer recall. The summer trip was missed because of many, too many excuses and rationalizations. This summer trip has been greatly missed. These trips, especially the summer trip have been an anchor for more than a decade. When the anchor is lifted, moved or is neglected, the ship will drift. I knew something was wrong when I saw my 4 AM runs dwindle from 5-6 times each week to three times if I was lucky. My alarm sounded and running was never the problem, getting out of bed was. I was emotionally exhausted yet I refused to acknowledge this. I refused to look within. If I had, the answer would have been within arms reach. I would have only had to reach out and grasp it.
Typically we become angry and quickly look around for someone to blame for if we search hard enough there is always someone to blame. Unfortunately, we never look in the right direction as the blame falls squarely on our shoulders. Sure there are other, outside contributing factors but it is our responsibility to pay attention and when we don’t…well it’s safe to say we all know what happens next.
It is important not only for us to pay attention to what lies ahead and around us but to take our proverbial pulse several times each day. I remind patients within my therapy practice of the importance of self-care and forgot about myself.
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

Balance & Gratitude

A Beautiful Moment

With palms together,

I wish you all a Good Evening.

I left the office at 6 PM. I completed a staff meeting 60-minutes early and let my staff retire for the day. The week was a difficult one; busy but productive.

I sit alone in my backyard, laptop on my lap, three fingers of Bulleit consumed, journal written and a cigar burning in my hand as I type. My only company are the cicadas and crickets as they compete for the coming darkness and the solitude which is provided. A cool breeze which has all but erased the humidity from the air providing a comfortable evening in which to sit in stillness and in silence. The time is 8:04 PM. Darkness is descending quickly as we approach the second week of September. My son and I have tickets to the Notre Dame game the weekend of September 26. I look forward to spending this time with him.

I am thankful for the 7-mile run this morning. A run which started my day. It is my running, my early morning runs which remain one of the keys to balance in my life.

I love rising in the stillness of the early morning. I run with no one else around with the exception of the few passing cars of those souls who begin their workday. I ran across the bridge which spans the Erie Canal and sweep the light of my head torch to the left. The light is reflected back to me in the eyes of several deer; resting peacefully before the light of day reveals their sacred position.

This run this morning, while anticipated was one which I thought several times of abandoning. The thoughts of abandoning are quickly pushed to the side as I remain motivated to complete this run. My legs struggle to find a comfortable cadence, the humidity striking me and reminding me this run will not be an easy one. Thoughts of my favorite runner, Rob Krar also come into play; his silent encouragement helps to keep me going.

I complete this run with mixed emotions. I sit on my porch and cool off, sweat dripping in this humid environment. My only company are the crickets which break the silence. A glance to the East and my eyes meet the brightening sky. The color remains pale but also provides hope the sun will shine.

Happiness in my life is ensured because it is what I make of it. A helpful quote by @iamthecitymonk…”What you focus on expands. Look at the beauty and virtues of others all the time instead of their flaws.” I extrapolated the content of this quote to everything in my life. Daily, I look for the beauty in everything and everyone around me. Most of the time it is found and when it is, I am allowed to see the beauty within. See your beauty every day.

Namaste