I woke with my alarm this morning. Five AM. One of my favorite times of the day. I love and live for the solitude that this time of day brings.

I have been waiting for this day for some time. With it came some fear. I could taste it like bile in the back of my throat. you know that feeling you get when you think you might throw up. I wondered if history would repeat itself. Regardless, I got my ass out of bed and accepted the challenge before me.

running

I also have a healthy level of denial about my age. I’ll be 54 on August 28th. I am thankful that I don’t feel my age and have to be reminded from time to time of my age. The reminder comes in the form of aches and pains from over doing it that I didn’t have at half my age. It’s a good reminder because it keeps from pushing farther than my body is capable and thus avoiding injury. As a result of the injury, I hadn’t run since April 6th. That’s a lie. I hadn’t run since July 15th of 2016. The original pain started the day before yet I pushed through it. Instead of stopping and taking a week off, I pushed through it and returned for more the next day. When I returned home after completing a 10-miler on the 15th, I sat on my porch feeling pretty happy there was no pain. Then I got up and heard a pop in my knee. The pop was followed by pain and a tremendously difficult time even bearing weight let alone walking.

It serves me right. I had been pushing myself through runs. the thought of getting up to run was even painful although this pain being emotional in nature was easier to deny. As time passed the pain also lessened. I thought I was healing and after repeated attempts to return to running even short distances, pain followed.

I sucked it up and scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The diagnosis was a torn meniscus. I pushed for surgery because his original treatment plan was unacceptable. I was not going to stop running. I was not ready to stop running. Surgery followed as did my first attempt, foolishly at running within one month.

path

One year has passed since I ran any distance with the exception of after my grandson or up a flight of stairs. I ran or rather walk/ran this morning. To my surprise, there was no pain. Even better, the love that I had and had lost had also returned. it feels good to be on the path to recovery.

Namaste

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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.

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

 

 

 

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

 

I’m home…

It is with clasped hands together in prayer and with much gratitude that I greet you…

I’m home…or what I refer to as my second home. Next to the Gulf of Mexico, the Adirondack region is one where I could easily make a life. It’s been almost two years since I’ve made the short trip up North. Excuses have been many.

Last week I left my job as the Director of Social Work at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. This was a job which I desperately needed to leave. I spent the last 11 months and two weeks, but who’s counting. I have allowed this position to drain every ounce of energy and desire from me.

I’ve spoken with individuals who know me and have been emotionally supportive of me and they knew I could have persevered and hung on. One friend saying, “I know you can do it. But how much longer do you want to do it?” I didn’t want to do it anymore. The stress accompanying the position started to damage my health; physically and emotionally. My blood pressure rose, I added weight and despite the relatively mild winter, I found myself running only a handful of times during the first two months of the year. My desire to run was strong, but my desire to rise at 4:00 AM to do so was lacking. An afternoon runner I never was.

ADK

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself. I forgot what I stood for and simply rose each day going through the motions. I ran on autopilot. Anyone knows, if you run on autopilot too long without monitoring the traffic around you, you’ll eventually crash. I left just before the crash.

I decided to take a week off from my practice and take time for me. Some me time. When I have taken time off previously, unless I have left the area I still met with patients in my practice. My wife was surprised to know I had nothing of importance to anyone but me scheduled for the week.

Lake Akanabee

As Henry David once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” I will go now confidently in the direction of my dreams. Identify your dreams and go after them.

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