Anonymity & being Anonymous

I woke this morning with a heart full of gratitude for so many things. Today I feel gratitude for having the time at my job to take off and enjoy this beautiful summer weather we have been experiencing.

I woke this morning ready to start my day.

I was aware yesterday the NYS Office of Mental Health would be in the office today to review our program. Been there and done that. It doesn’t mean what it did in my career 20-years ago. It’s important, don’t get me wrong but I’m not in that top position anymore and I have to say, I enjoy not being in that position.

They came they saw and they reviewed. Today they’re in the office during which I spend the majority of my time and I’m off today. My boss is more than capable of managing what needs to be done, so the little bit of guilt which I have has been pushed to the side.

I was watching the Tour de France last night and I received a call from my dad asking if I was off Friday. I lied and said I wasn’t and he asked, “I thought you said you were off the next three Fridays?” I knew what was coming and I was right. I’ll be heading there sometime Saturday to “fix the computer.” Unfortunately, my dad is 79 and he often touches things he should never touch. I asked him what was wrong with his computer and he said: “there was a paper jam and when I tried to fix it a spring popped out.” Now we all know there aren’t any springs in a computer. Did I forget to mention my dad’s memory is beginning to fade and I am watching him become more and more confused. It’s sad. There are three kids and I am the only one who is ever called on for assistance. It’s not that I mind but there’s that anonymous thing again.

I thought about being anonymous. What a joy I think that would be. Not that guy in the mask anonymous but anonymous as in no one knows I’m there. No one knows I’m around. No one knows I exist. I want to do the job I enjoy and fade away into the quiet solitude of the night. My friend Henry Thoreau had quite a bit to say about solitude as did his counterparts John Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the things I really enjoy about going on vacation is the fact that for all intents and purposes I am anonymous; at least for a short while. U2 wrote the song “Where the streets have no name.”

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I’m done. I’m going to cut the grass with my headphone listening to some Pearl Jam and enjoying the solitude of my relative anonymity. I’m hoping you enjoy your day.

Namaste

 

Thoughts of a Thinker

I greet you with arms outstretched in gratitude on this beautiful morning.

I completed my first post surgical walk today. That’s not to say That I haven’t been walking, but there’s a huge difference between “going for a walk” with purpose and getting up from my desk or my couch. It is good to be back in this space. I know and have long ago accepted the fact that my running may not ever be what it once was. I have also accepted there will be a great deal of effort and time devoted to my progress.

I think when I walk. I think when I run. I do my best problem solving when I am by myself with the world relatively shut off. Thinking is one of the attributes of exercise which I enjoy. In his book “Walden”, Thoreau wrote, “A man thinking or working will always be alone, let him be where he will.”

This time alone with the birds is an opportunity for me to problem solve, long before the rest of the world becomes awake. The noise at this early hour is acceptable. I can hear the birds calling to each other. Time passes and I am allowed this brief interlude of solitude before the pace of the day begins to quicken and the time for thinking, at least for me, has gone. Now my thoughts are on autopilot. Being on autopilot is also a dangerous place for me to reside. It is necessary for me to check in frequently throughout the day and ensure I do not lose my way. When I need that time, I close the door to my office and take a few minutes before the next client enters to reflect. I also use my lunch hour to ensure I have even more time to remove the metaphorical batteries, place them back on the charger and ensure I have the emotional energy to traverse the remainder of the day.

Thoughts from this morning’s walk; which planet is visible in the southern sky? It’s Saturn by the way. Why do my healed incisions itch, especially the one on the inside of my knee? Why are my ears ringing this morning yet they didn’t ring at all yesterday? Why did the driver of that car feel it was important to run the red light? Where are they going this morning? Why do they believe they are more important than the rest of us who obey the laws? Why is Dunkin Donuts Closed at 5 AM? Why do they not open and allow their customers to travel 50 yards down the street to visit one of their competitors?  Surely Thoreau did not have to worry or think even in a more mild fashion about some of these topics. but think he did.

Thoreau was born in 1817. I believe that his thoughts today would not be to different from those he might have today. Thoreau, when he wrote his essay “Civil Disobedience” spoke of the importance of individualism. Thoreau expressed a belief in the power and what he referred to as an “obligation” of the individual to determine right from wrong independent of the dictates of society. Thoreau said, “any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one.”

It is this belief which I share with Thoreau and reinforces my need for solitude.

Namaste

The Long Weekend

I greet you with both hands clasped together in gratitude.

I’m here. I arrived at my home away from home yesterday, the Adirondacks. I came “home” because I needed time to rebalance my life. This is the place where it is easiest for me. My phone does not usually work and there are many miles of hiking/running trails to be had within a few minutes drive.

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Puterko’s pizza was not to be had. The owners decided to take an ill-timed vacation. Their vacation was ill-timed in that I love this pizza and look forward to eating some slices when I arrive here. NY style pizza with the thinnest of crusts and delicious!!

I woke Saturday morning with the idea of revisiting some places within the Adirondack Park which I had not visited in several years. I look forward to fall every year. There is something magical in the colors which begin to slowly appear on the leaves of the trees which blanket the countryside. These same leaves, soon will fall from their perch and blanket the ground in those same bright colors. Those same colors will soon begin to fade and they will be forgotten with the first snow.

Henry David Thoreau says it best in his description of fall. “October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year nears its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.” – Henry David Thoreau

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My first stops were Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. I stopped at one of my favorite put-ins on the Middle Saranac Lake and reminisced about past paddles on this lake. I stopped in Lake Placid for a quick visit. There is much history in this town with both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics being held. After a brief walk through town and a stop at a bookstore, I remembered what I struggle with when I visit this town. That memory was brought to the front of my memory when outside a wine store was a white Ferrari. Now I hold nothing against this beautiful car or its owner who I do not even know. It is the attitude of many of the visitors, visitors such as these with which I struggle. I took my book and made my way back to my car with a new destination in mind. As I walked, I enjoyed the light rain which fell giving the area a fresh scent.

As I walked briskly along the sidewalks in Lake Placid, this small town for which I have a love/hate relationship, I found anxiety beginning to rise. I needed to leave, to travel down the road and away from the throngs of people. I needed to return to the woods and the cathedral which is the woods with its silence and brilliant colors displayed for all who wish to see. Thoreau said, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” I could not agree with this more.

I traveled to Whiteface Mountain and marveled at its beauty. The summit of the mountain was bathed in fog as the rain which has accompanied me since the start of this trip, remained. It was this rain and the accompanying temperatures which brought the fog. More beautiful memories were made this day. I remained at the base of the mountain not wanting to take the time to travel to its summit as “a lot of snow” was being forecast later in the day. Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of it’s fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors, had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

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Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of its fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

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Driving back to Indian Lake from Ausable found rain continuing to fall. As I neared my final destination of the day, the rain became heavier and had begun to transform into sleet. Within several minutes the transformation was complete and it had begun to snow. My first snow of the year. I retired to my room to eat dinner, read and write. I heard a sound outside my window which carried with it the eerie feeling that winter in my neck of the woods would not be far behind. That sound was a plow clearing the street.

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On my solo drive home from the Adirondacks, I think about my return to my office feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I think about getting into a car again Friday evening, this time with company and traversing the highways as we travel to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on Miami University.

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Namaste

A Beautiful Day

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

This past Sunday, I was awarded with two exceptional items in my day. The first, my grandson’s presence at our home for the entire day. As sick as he was feeling and as unenergetic as he was, it remains a pleasure to have him grace our home with his presence. The other was the beautiful weather which accompanied Chase.

My Sunday morning went as smooth as it normally does. I take a few minutes to ask the question,”What good can I do this day?” This question is a daily question. It is a challenge to myself to be a better person every minute of every day. I am not perfect and I catch myself falling back into old ways; old behaviors. Difficulties only arise when I do not catch myself lingering in the past and do not acknowledge the work which remains. As I grow older, I am acutely aware my time on this plant is set. Like everyone else, I am unaware of my expiration date. There is no fear for me in death, there is however fear that I will not accomplish everything which I have set out to accomplish.

I digress as I desire to keep this post brief and to remain on point.

I rocked Chase to sleep, that beautiful feeling of contentment in my arms. I am having difficulty deciding if I want to continue to sit, holding him or put him down. I decide on the latter and decide to retreat outdoors. Before I do so, I gathered my journal, my newest addition to the fountain pen family which has been freshly inked, my journal, a favorite cigar, my lighter and a two fingers of one of my favorite whiskeys.

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I am immediately caught by the stunning scene as I exit my home. The sun, still high in the sky, its rays piercing through the still covered canopy of the maple tree in my backyard.

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The sweet smell of fall immediately strikes my nose; leaves which have recently fallen from their perch, the decay of the pumpkins being chewed upon by the neighborhood squirrels and the dew remaining on the grass. Yesterday, Stephen and I had raked all of the leaves and the grass was cut. Today, it was as if the grass was never touched; carpeted by a new covering of colorful leaves. A smile crosses my face and I retreat from the porch to my favorite Adirondack chair. I softly brush the leaves from the seat and place myself in the comfort of this chair. I clipped my cigar and touched the flame to the end and begin to puff. The smell of this exquisite smoke curls upward and eventually dissolves into nothingness. It is at this moment which I am reminded again of the briefness of life.

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I reach for my pen, a Visconti Homosapien freshly inked with a beautiful blue ink. The ink, I notice is the same blue as that of the sky.

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I open to the last page written and this beautiful nib glides effortlessly across the page, my thoughts flowing with the same ease. The pen, recapped, returns to it’s leather home and now I sit. I sit and simply take in the beauty that is this day.

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.

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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.

Why do I run?

I greet you with hands clasped in prayer and gratitude.

I was asked this question the other day, “Why do I run?” I am unsure why I chose to write about this topic today as I am asked this question with some frequency. The question is “Why do I run?”

I jotted down some thoughts…It is just after 4:00 am. I was dreaming about a trail run which I had recently completed in the Adirondacks. As I rose and dressed for my run, thoughts, as they often do at this time of day crept in and challenged my belief to stay in bed and get more sleep. I think of a photo of Rob Krar on my wall, his bouts with depression and my need for solitude which helps to contribute to the balanced start of my day.

I know within the first few steps of my morning run that I have what it takes to beat my demons.

I run to be awake. I run as a reminder of what I am capable of achieving. I run for my father who can no longer walk. I run because it is an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and reexamine my passion for the process of change, both in my life and in the life of my clients.I run because it allows me to challenge myself and to give me some modicum of control over the life stressors which I encounter over which I have little or no control.

I run to be a better person, a better father, grandfather and husband. I run because I have the ability to see the world, my world through a different set of eyes, a set of eyes through which I can see the morning sunrise as the rays of light leak through the branches of the nearby trees. I run to stop running; to feel the stillness and the quiet as I sit on my front porch after a run while everyone else remains safely tucked in their beds. I run to enjoy the solitude and quiet which I seem to only be able to achieve after a vigorous run.

I run to think about the people I have in my life, those who I love and those who I can do without. I think about the latter and I say a mantra for them in the hope they may find the same peace I have been able to find. I run for them. I run to release the stress in my life. I run because it reminds me of the importance of humility in my life. I run to remember and to forget. I run because of the order which I find during this time of solitude. I run to feel and experience the emotions which we all feel and too often deny because we are afraid. I run because it’s free and because it allows me to feel free.

Namaste