Things no longer necessary in my life

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about change. I think about this process a lot; as it pertains to me as well as to my clients. One day I began jotting down things I don’t need/want in my life anymore. The items on this list have outlived their stay and so I’m showing them the door.

Negativity – I recently deleted my Facebook account because of the negativity.

Shoulds, Woulds & Coulds – These are the assessments of others. There was a period of time in my life where I made choices based on what other people thought I “should” do. No more! No one knows my life and what I/it needs better than myself.

Gossip – see negativity

Empty promises – see negativity. If you think you’re going to make it to my “friend” list, I have news for you. By my “friend” list, I am not just referring to Facebook (I have a new account under an assumed name) but my personal, life list of friends. There are two people on that list and I’m not looking to grow it anytime soon. My acquaintance list on the other hand has grown over the years and like I said, it takes a lot to get on my friend list.

Lopsided friendships – This falls into the same category listed above.

Poor sleep – I’m pretty happy with the quality of my sleep…most of the time. I have a nighttime routine which I stick to with quite a bit of diligence. When I adhere to this routine, my sleep is pretty solid. When I don, not so much.

Cheap underwear – My wife, I’m Polish, what can I say, has always purchased underwear for me. It’s not that hard…boxers with a bright print. I love her frugality but when it comes to finding a new home for “the boys” it can’t be a low-rent district. They need a comfortable place to call their own. There’s other areas on which to skimp…

Bad coffee – Not here, not now, not anytime. I look forward to my one pot of coffee every day. I don’t buy expensive coffee because to have good coffee is more about how it’s made (the grind, water temperature, etc.) than the price of the coffee. I don’t drink Starbucks because it’s expensive and frankly it just doesn’t taste very good.

Guilt for things I shouldn’t feel guilty about – This one was always a tough one. I am grateful for my Mindfulness and meditation practice for helping to keep me focused and traveling down the middle path.

Excuses – Please!!!! Don’t waste my time!! If you have an appointment an you really want to make changes in your life, then be honest with me about any struggles you may be experiencing. If you, for whatever reason feel like you can’t be honest with me, please don’t insult me by lying to me. It all comes out in the wash.

Other people’s shit (unless they are paying me) – see excuses.

Anything that doesn’t line up with my truth or purpose as per my moral compass.

Fear – another waste of time.

Think about the things in your life which you are holding on and think about letting them go. If they’re not helping you, they’re more than likely holding you back.

Namaste

 

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Tomorrow may never come

Tomorrow may never come. It is important to make sure we are living our life today.

Since what my wife kindly refers to as “the incident” I have continued to spend time being reflective of my life and the impact which I have had in this world. I have experienced much gratitude secondary to some of the amazing teachers which I have had in my life. Some have been outspoken and others have been quiet, so much so one might not recognize their presence in this world

I became a social worker hoping I could be part of the process of change for the better for those individuals who have sought my council. Money, while important to some aspects of life, has never been a primary motivator. For this I am also grateful. I enjoy giving away as Jim Weigand once told me “pearls of wisdom without being the anchor around someone’s neck.” I feel I have achieved this goal and hope I have been as successful in this endeavor with my wife and children as I have with the clients with whom I have worked. God only knows on more than one occasion I had to ensure my value system  was in correct alignment to allow this to happen. There have been jobs which I have held, one for less than one year because on more than one occasion I have felt my value system so badly out of alignment it had begun to negatively impact my mental and physical health. Jim used to remind me of how easily the needle of a compass can swing away from one’s “true north,”

As more time and space is conjured between “the incident” and this current day, I continue to have others in my life who have continued to reach out with questions about my health and continued wishes for good health. Some of these people who while separated by great distances have ensured the survival of even the most basic of relationships. One of them, Jim who I had the luxury of spending many days for several years kayaking on Lake Champlain. Jim and I had the privilege of engaging in outdoor therapy with kids who had the misfortune of growing up in households where their parents struggled to keep their familial moral compass oriented toward a true North. Despite the several years and many miles since Jim and I spoke face-to-face, I recently received a text message from Jim. Jim shared he had also “been reflecting a lot about people who have meant a lot to me.” He completed the thought by adding “You made the list.” I paused and my eyes filled with tears. It is the times and statements such as these which cause me to stop, think and remind myself that I am a kind individual who does his best to ensure the needs of others are met. This is easy for me to forget.

Placing the needs of others before mine will ensure that my life remains out of balance and my true north is always out of reach.

Namaste

I lost my way

I’m sitting here waiting for a client, a client who despite the free text message reminder and the appointment card from the appointment two weeks earlier, never arrives. and I’m thinking about what it is I’m doing. I do social work. I do therapy which is what I love. It makes my day when I can provide knowledge and support to someone who is struggling and watch them take the newfound knowledge to heart and make the necessary changes to improve the quality of their life. I love what I do so much, I’d do it for nothing. What I’m not doing is following the same self-care advice I provide to my clients. Next week I am one week post TIA.

In the last year I have found myself giving and giving and while the receipt of payment, a smile, a thank you can go a long way, it is in no way a substitute for taking good care of ourselves. I amaze myself sometimes because I preach self-care to others and I forget how important it is to ensure I take care of myself.

When the people in my life who I have defined as important begin to sound like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon, I know I’ve surpassed that indicator. By the time I come to this realization, it’s too late.

There is a week in Florida which is coming up and I am in the process of downsizing my practice. More self-care is on the horizon.

Namaste

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.

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Namaste

Jack + Jackie boy + Man’s Best Friend + My Buddy

Yesterday we put our dog down. When I say “our,” I mean me, my wife and my children.

We met Jack 16 years ago. We had been forced to give away our three cats to other owners. Our daughter developed allergies which helped make the decision only mildly more palatable. One cat, also known as my cat, Jasmine was the most difficult to let go. She was the cat, who no matter where I was would find me, climb up my arm and drape herself around my shoulders like a scarf.

We didn’t waste much time seeking out Jack. Much to the chagrin of my wife, I needed him. There’s something about that unconditional love, that wagging tail greeting me at the door when I came home after a difficult day of seeing patients that were helpful.

Jack

Now we have said our final goodbye.

Yesterday we put Jack down. This, next to my grandmother’s passing, has been one of the most difficult goodbyes I have ever had to say. Last week I suggested to Nancy we call the vet and take Jack and have him examined. I guess, as I think about this decision which never materialized, I was looking for someone to make this decision for me. As a social worker, have this conversation, sometimes more frequently than I would have ever hoped. As I spoke with the vet, fighting back tears, I felt as though I had been having a conversation with myself. She was telling me everything I tell others in a similar situation. I knew the answer. I knew what needed to be done. I knew what the humane decision was.

Jack4

The night before, I spent the evening with him. I watched him nervously walk into the kitchen and stand in a corner staring into space. His vision gone, clouded by cataracts which have grown rapidly over the past several months. His hearing also gone. After several minutes he began to walk in circles around the kitchen. He found another spot of significance only he knew. This behavior has gone on for the last 2-months and more recently has grown worse. He grows tired after a half-hour and retires for a couple of hours when I rise and watch the rise and fall of his chest to ensure he was breathing. As I watched this behavior tonight, I was reminded of the kindness of our decision. This is no way to live. There is no longer any quality to his life and watching him struggle simply pains me.

Jack2

Today, our first without him ― feels so lonely, we ache without him. The silence is deafening, and we sometimes “hear” him, only to remember that sound is now gone. We’ll never again hear the jingle of his collar as he comes to greet us or look down at him as he sits by one of us at dinner hoping a scrap will either fall or the kindness of one of us will bestow him with a gift. I never imagined saying goodbye to such an amazing friend would be so difficult.

We returned home and with a bottle of Makers Mark recounted our memories. Listening to my wife and son I am reminded of the great gift he was in our life.

I slept horribly. I read and reread a poem sent by a friend. The grief and sadness I feel, commensurate with my love for him. The thought of falling asleep and waking without him being there to greet me was too much to bear.

Jack3

Jack has been an amazing teacher to me. He taught me the what it meant to live life unselfishly. He reminded me of the importance of caring for others when those emotional batteries had been bled dry.

Jack

I am grateful for the life lessons you have taught and for my willingness to learn. In so many ways I have become a better person as a result of those lessons.

Our future, I am sure will be graced by another canine but Jack will never be replaced. His memory, like other memories, will fade but he and the gifts he gave us will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace Jackie boy.

Dad + the next step

Friday morning.

Dad celebrates his 80th birthday tomorrow.

I just got off the phone with my mom She’s tired, emotionally and crying. Dad is being moved to a nursing home at 4:00 PM because he cannot transition on his own from bed to wheelchair.

Twice in two days, mom had to call 911 to have EMT’s come to the house because he had fallen out of his chair.

My dad remains eerily quiet. If you catch him deep in thought a smile, however, forced will replace the previous countenance. I know he is concerned. I know he is scared. He does not wish to die but has also accepted this fact as inevitable.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2018-1-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

He like me is constantly thinking but we have a tendency to not show the rest of the world how we are feeling and of what we are thinking. Some people find this frustrating, I find solace in not wearing my feelings on my sleeve. My father and I have discussed before how we manage our feelings. We don’t believe we are stronger than others, we just don’t believe in what has become, as I call it, the “Art of Complaining.” If I need help with something, you had better believe I will be the first person to ask for help. If I cannot see an immediate way out, then I’ll keep chewing on it until I do. When I say “fuck it” and decided to let it go, it doesn’t mean I don’t care nor does it mean I have given up. It means there is nothing else which can be done or as I like to say, “It is what it is.” Thanks, dad for teaching me this statement. It has saved my ass more than once from becoming overly involved in something over which I have no control. I have signs in both of my offices which hang ominously projecting this belief to all who want to hear.

This morning I called my mom and the upset tone which was in her voice yesterday morning was now replaced by worry and fear, her words muddled by her tears. I will pick her up and we will go, together to the hospital to be with my dad and ensure he has loved ones around him as he readies for what will ultimately be the next steps in his life.

Memento Mori. This term was one which I saw scrawled in spray paint on an overpass under which I have driven God only knows how many times in my 54 years on this planet. I saw it and frankly never gave it much thought. Several months ago after being introduced to Stoicism, I was reintroduced to this phrase.

Memento Mori, when translated from Latin means “Remember Death.” We are all going to die…this is inevitable. Unfortunately, many of us live our lives thinking, believing we will magically live forever. We race throughout our day focusing on what we believe or have been told is important while leaving those things which, in the larger picture are often nothing more than a means to an end. The day after my father was hospitalized, my sister’s father-in-law, the proverbial picture of life and success and the same age as my father, was sidelined by a stroke. His fate remains in the hands of God as a prognosis is too early to formulate. He appears, at this time to be stable. This too is a reminder that our lives can be over in the blink of an eye.

Memento Mori

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.