Spring + Gratitude

The seasons are changing.

I know this not just because of the date on the calendar. There is a change in the air. The smells are different. Birds are singing and in the east, the sun is beginning, at this early hour to peek above the horizon. The air also has lost the bite which has kept most of us indoors for the past few months.

I stepped outside for my run this morning feeling hopeful as a new week begins. A quick glance toward the heavens and I am humbled and reminded as I look at the stars which are visible. I am reminded that I am but a speck in this vast universe.

I think, a lot during my runs. I enjoy running because of the usual escape from deep thought which is offered by running. Often I cannot recall what I have thought as these thoughts cascade and become lost like a drop of water breaching the crest of Niagara Falls.

As I run down darkened streets, the only visible light is coming from my headlamp. It lights a path directly in front of me allowing my immediate universe to remain even smaller. I think about the humility which I feel and for which I am grateful. I thought about the recent goings on in our country and find myself dismayed. Dismayed that we can’t even treat each other with the smallest speck of respect yet we hope by continuing to confront each other, often with violence on very polarized fronts we will unite and achieve our desired goals.

sunrise

Instead, I think of the symptoms of Tinnitus which have been bothering me with more frequency and intensity over the past couple of weeks. The ringing had been much improved for reasons neither I nor the doctors understand. I think I had lost a small amount of gratitude for the life which I have. These last several days when the ringing in my ears has been difficult to ignore, I have reminded of the importance of gratitude. Visiting my mom and dad last night and seeing his inability to walk reminds me that there are bigger problems to manage and I am a lucky individual.

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Why don’t you look where you’re driving?!

This is a Public Service Announcement from the Bearded Runner: When you drive, just DRIVE! stop fiddling with your radio or whatever the hell it is that you do when you drive, and just DRIVE!!!

Thank you!

I rise early in the morning, 5AM on most days to tie on my running shoes and start my day with some semblance of balance.

I look forward to my morning run and the solitude which I am allowed

Every year there are a gagillion websites (I’m probably being conservative with this number) that remind the runner of the dangers of running when it’s dark.

I run with a headlamp, blinking light on the back of my head and more reflective gear than I can fit anywhere on my body. I light up like a Christmas tree when headlights hit me. Yes, I said “Christmas tree.” There’s no such thing as a “holiday tree” so if you’re looking for any type of political correctness, stop reading and find another website!

Yet there’s always at least one driver who comes pretty damn close to me. I’m pretty sure that many drivers enjoy playing chicken with me when they see me out for a run. I think they arrive wherever they have decided to go and gather around the water cooler to joke about how close they’ve come to hitting me. When a driver gets that close to me, I enjoy pointing my Petzl light, set to the brightest setting directly into the eyes of the offending driver. If you’re especially lucky, I’ll flip you off and throw a couple of choice words your way to help brighten your day.

I’ve added a little video about “Running in the Dark”

There is no way the driver of the car this morning didn’t see me with the accouterment of reflective gear I was wearing. I’m just saying…put your phone down, stop fiddling with your radio or whatever the hell it is that you do when you drive, and just DRIVE!!!

The Grayness of the Day

I woke up this morning to 6″ of fresh snow. This was quite a change from the bare grass which was uncovered after the previous snow had melted. The temperatures, more seasonable this morning approached 16 degrees. The bitter cold stinging my face. I pull the face mask up a little bit higher and lean forward as I make my way through the newly fallen snow. My thoughts drift to the previous days run when the pavement was dry, snow was absent from the landscape and the temperature was 40-degrees, a far cry from the temperatures this morning.

There are times during every winter where I seem to drift like the snow through the gray of winter. There is little desire to run and often traveling to work to listen to the problems of others is also a struggle. I move slowly through the morning envious of those individuals in warmer climates who are not shoveling snow. There is an argument in my brain, so I rise, dress and go for a run or do I stay in bed for another hour? My inner groundhog insists there are 6-more weeks of winter. It is often the run which wins as I remind myself how I feel when I have laced up the running shoes, turned on the headlamp and head out the door.

winter running

My spirit needs light. It is this light for which I long and for which my spirit longs. I exit my house and make my way to the car for the drive to the office. The sky, a blanket of gray which does not seem to go away and which seems endless as it stretches the length of the horizon.

The end of the day arrives. I exit my office and am happy the sun when we see it in this hemisphere, makes itself present. I know longer days are coming and with it increasing warmth and more sun

Surgery & Meditation

It is with much gratitude that I greet you this morning.

My wife drove me yesterday morning to the surgical center where a torn medial meniscus was removed in my right knee.

The injury happened during a run in July 2016. I waited this long to have testing done because I thought it was simply a strain. I completed a pain-free run in January to have my hopes dashed as the day went on because the pain progressed. It is a good thing that I maintain very realistic levels of hope about just about anything, that way the disappointment is minimal and thus much easier to manage.

A visit to an orthopedic surgeon and an MRI both confirmed the diagnosis. Surgery was scheduled as was time off from work. Anyone who knows me knows the latter of the two items was more difficult to schedule.

I am now one-day post-operative and the pain medication sits on my dresser untouched. Advil is hopefully becoming a close relative which will join the Lortab on the dresser. No medication at all for pain for which I am also grateful. I know my meditation practice plays a large role in the way I manage pain and discomfort.

I am grateful for the gifts which have been bestowed upon me secondary to all of my hard work.

Namaste

The Power of Gratitude & Introspection

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

It’s Labor Day weekend 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 in my knee continues to decrease. For this, I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

This is one of my favorite places to write. The tailgate on my Honda Element drops at just the right height to work as a desk. On it sits a cup of coffee and my laptop.

Gratwick Park

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 more imbalance in my 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 had fallen off to one or two days each week, then one day 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 has begun 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 and when I see others out for a run, I am reminded of my inability to run. 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. I am thankful I have this ability and even more thankful I use it or should I say I have begun to return to its use. I still rise early enough to see darkness blanket the sky. As I sit and either read or write at this hour, I am comforted knowing another day is dawning and I have been blessed to see another day.

Namaste

Stop Bitching! Part II

I greet this day with hands clasped together in gratitude. Today I am grateful today for many things. They are truly too numerous to mention and this post isn’t about what I’m grateful for, it’s about you recognizing what you’re grateful for in your life.

I have been thinking a lot about what I have been hearing on the news lately. I am not going to get into those issues as they are far too large for me to deal with and I am not interested in starting what would ultimately be a partisan conflict that would not have an end in sight. Everyone today feels they know the answers. I am not alone in the world of opinions and I am not one of the individuals who feels as though they know everything. I do, like everyone else have an opinion and if you know the saying about opinions you will again understand why I won’t go there. If you don’t know the saying about opinions, here it is: “Opinions are like assholes…everyone’s got one.”

What I will get into is a take off from my post one month earlier and that has to do with the bitching and complaining I hear every day, mostly from those who will not take even one step in the direction of looking at their behavior which has resulted in both direct and indirect decision. Those same individuals are the one who refuse to believe they have any ability to make changes in their life and instead blame others. I almost got into the whole black lives matter, blue lives matter, etc., etc., etc. I also run into those individuals who ask for help, direction, etc. and still refuse to take the steps they need. We live in a culture where bitching, complaining, whining, etc. is accepted if not encouraged. If you didn’t before understand the wild success of platforms such as Facebook, you do now!

I have been in a little bit of a funk recently. I hurt my knee and running without pain and the concern about doing further damage has helped me to make a decision which I believe is in my best interest. I don’t like the decision and I want to get back to running…without pain and the fear of doing more damage. Therefore I made the decision, without bitching and complaining that best works for me. One of the questions I ask is “When did it become ok to not make a decision and to just sit back and complain?” This isn’t for me to anser…yet. I will go there in the book on which I am working but this is a question which each of us needs to answer for ourselves.

The decision not to run was a relatively difficult one to make as we are in the middle of my favorite time of year. For me, there is not much which rivals getting up at 4 AM, putting on a pair of shorts and running shoes, setting my watch and heading out the door for a run. There is no knit hat, no gloves, no tights, jacket etc. On the other hand, for the reasons which I mentioned, this was also an easy one to make.

I have used my meditation practice to be mindful of the fact that I have choices in my life. I feel sad for those individuals who refuse to believe they have choices. We all have choices. They may not seem like good choices, but they are choices nonetheless. I feel sad for those individuals who thumb their nose at interventions such as counseling and instead take the easy way out…medication. Medication can be a remarkable tool to help decrease some of the symptoms we experience, but they are in no way an answer in and of themselves. We are afraid to “go into counseling.” We believe if we “go into counseling we will “get the answers” to our problems. The answers to our problems are within us and we should be using counseling as a type of sounding board but not for the answers. I have patients who do see me looking for answers and when they feel they are “not getting help” because “counseling doesn’t work” are the same ones who leave counseling complaining.

Look within yourself. The answers, despite your belief they are not, are inside you. Ask for help. Ask for direction, just don’t ask to be given the answers. This is a powerful part of the counseling transformation and believe it or not can be a fun part of seeking therapy.

Namaste.

Stop bitching!!!

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude.
Stop bitching!!!! Stop complaining!!!! Stop whining!!!! I mean seriously! Other than a simple, easy way to vent, does it really help?
Right about now your screaming at your screen telling me to shut up. Maybe you’re even telling me that I don’t know how difficult your life is, what kind of stressors your dealing with in your life, etc. Honestly it doesn’t matter. We all  have stressors in our lives. Sure, some are more difficult to manage than others while others may even seem insurmountable, but honestly bitching about how bad your life is and how no one ever understands you is a waste of valuable time and energy.
Bitching is reactive. If you believe you have the right to bitch and bitching is helpful, please do not read further. If you’d like to make an attempt at being more proactive in your response, please continue to read on.
These are just a few simple steps which I take because I can find myself in the same scenario and if the conditions are right, I can  find myself falling off the wagon and bitching.
The first step which I take is to stop using words like “can’t” and phrases like “I can’t.” If you believe you “can’t” you are correct and again you should not read further. This phrase drives me nuts and if in a conversation with someone who continues to use it, I will walk away. I run for fun and exercise and am often asked how  far I run. I plan on 4-5 7-mile runs each week. I am also often asked where I find the time to rise at 4AM to run and I respond, “I don’t find the time; I make the time.” Then I hear, “I can’t do that…” which is followed by a number of excuses. The bottom line is if you truly want to do something, get up and do it. If you can’t because there is a true impediment to accomplishing this task, ask for help. If the person or persons you have asked for help are not helpful, ask someone else. Many symptoms of “anxiety” and “depression” result from our refusal to make sometimes difficult decisions right now which will impact us positively in the future. We are afraid to make a decision, afraid to fail, afraid to make a wrong decision.
The second step I take is to assess the control I have over whatever the stressor is. We have more control over a great deal of our life than we believe we do. I’m not talking about the ultimate control which results in stopping a situation from happening but perhaps there is enough control to impact the outcome. Again, I introduce the word “can’t” and the phrase “I can’t.”
The third step is to assess what help and  resources you need. Is this something simple? “I feel anxious when I watch the news.” Stop watching the news or in the advent of 24-hour news, stop watching as a story is repeated again and again and again and again. Is this something more complex? My garage needs a new roof. Do I have the skills? No? Hire someone to do it.” If you can and want to do it yourself, what do you need to have in place to make this endeavor a success? Plan it and do it. The more involved the situation, the more involved the plan and the more resources we may need. Sometimes the help we need is professional help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It amazes me everyday how people will bitch at how bad their life is and not ask for help and often when help is available and offered, it is rejected.
The fourth step is go out and make it happen. You have set a plan, identified the resources you’ll need to be successful and have embarked on activating the plan. Go out and make it happen. A good plan, even the best plan will have faults because we’re human and we cannot think of everything. No worries…go back to the drawing board. No one tells us this is an option and many of us are afraid of failing. So what! You aren’t the first person to fail and you won’t be the last. I hate to burst your bubble but if you believe you are never going to not be successful doing something…it is amazing to me how wrong you are.
I believe it’s the word “failure” that scares us. Many of us were raised to believe that failure which is also known as “not being successful” is a bad thing. We are afraid to fail. So many of us are paralyzed by that fear and we refuse to even try because “what will people think if I’ve failed?” What will people think if you don’t try? What will you think if you don’t try?
There is a simple question I ask myself everyday especially when I am frustrated and am experiencing some difficulty seeing my way out of a problem. The question is “What am I thankful for today?” It may seem like a stupid or ridiculous question but I’ll bet you’ll have a great deal of difficulty identifying what you are grateful or thankful for in your life. I don’t care if what you come up with especially initially sounds cliché. That’s sad. Many of us take our lives for granted. We blame others for the negativity in our lives and then we find ourselves immobilized.”I’m grateful I woke up this morning.” Many people will not wake up today. Celebrate your gratitude for waking up and having the energy to get out of bed and pursue your life.
Life is made up of healthy doses of fear with a little anxiety mixed in for good measure. These aren’t bad things. These are the ingredients which make life a little more spicy and worth living.
I have a hope for everyone. That hope is simple…May you be able to step back from whatever stressors are building in your life and assess the amount of control you have over those life issues. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if that’s what you need and don’t be afraid to fail.
Namaste