Monday, February 26, 2018

One Year Later

    It has been exactly a year since my last published writing.  Time is such a strange construct, so arbitrary and not always as illuminating as one would think.  But time and it's effects are inevitable.  How time affects each one of us (both as individuals and as parts of a whole) is difficult to quantify or anticipate... and often defies explanation.

    Life can be cruel and unforgiving, or it can offer hope of mercy and new beginnings.  When life is full of pain, hanging on to hope for a future where sustainable trust in the phrase "I'm okay" is achievable, can become seemingly impossible.  We must keep functioning somehow though.  We must keep breathing and try to focus on taking one day at a time, so we don't live in a permanent state of anxiety and/or depression worrying about what comes next.

    But taking one day at a time is steadily becoming harder for me to do, not easier.  After so many of the evolutionary experiences in my lifetime up to now, this seems counter-intuitive to me because literally taking one day at a time is precisely how I have survived for the last year.

    I deeply desire to continue growing into a simpler existence, of living only in the now... mindful and at peace inside. I want to be good to myself, and good to other people.  But in my recent attempts to maintain a reasonably healthy distinction between acceptance and forfeiture, I am struggling to stay on a path to the former; particularly while life's presentation of the latter is overwhelming enough to blot out the sun.  Acceptance can be more complicated and difficult than we think.

How does one know when enough is enough?
At what point is concession simply reasonable?

    I have subtitled this blog project "contemplating the human condition", and for nearly eight years that is exactly what I have done both on the page, and off.  But I think that for the last year I have been steadily running out of energy to explore, and needing to rest, to be at peace and heal.  Even people like me who are passionate about exploring and growing, can reach a point where we simply need to rest.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

When The Universe Sees Your Last Article And Accepts The Challenge

    Apparently the title I chose for my last post was a bit presumptuous because shortly thereafter, the universe decided to send me an opposing editorial.  I don't often feel like going into as much detail about boring everyday tedium as I am about to do, but the events of the past two weeks have packed so much crazy into such a short period of time, I just had to write a follow-up piece.

    Last Thursday evening I was hanging out with some friends and we had pizza.  I ate some of this pizza (it was good stuff) and then a couple hours later I started having a lot of abdominal pain, really uncomfortable like when you have eaten way too much, but I only had 2 pieces.  Once the pain hit, it started growing stronger and stronger by the minute; it eventually reached what I would call a 9 out of 10 and all I could do was try my best not to hyperventilate.

    My wife drove me to the hospital around 3:00 am.  By the time we got there, the pain was so strong that I burst into tears and it took them THREE I.V. doses of Dilaudid just to get the pain under control and bring it down to about a 7.  I overheard my nurse and CNA talking out in the hall about how that much pain killer is typically used for gunshot victims.  Yikes.  A subsequent ultrasound revealed gall stone blockages in my gall bladder which told us what was causing the pain.  I didn't know this before, but when the chemicals in your gall bladder get backed up and just sit there with nowhere to go, they actually start breaking down your gall bladder itself.  As it turns out, having one of your internal organs start digesting itself from the inside out, is unbelievably painful.  Like, sincerely-beg-someone-to-punch-you-hard-enough-to-knock-you-out, kind of painful.

    I stayed in the E.R. all night, and was rushed into surgery first thing in the morning to have my gall bladder removed.  An hour and a half later, I was missing one of my internal organs.  I know it is actually pretty common and happens to people every day, but it still sounds kinda crazy to me hearing myself say that.  It all happened so fast that to this moment I haven't fully processed the finality of the decision to go ahead with the surgery.  There wasn't really a choice though, it had to be done because the pain was utterly and completely unbearable.  That being said, being wheeled away from my wife's side and sedated was still an unexpected development.  There is always the little voice in the back of your mind that repeats all the potential risks they make you sign that disclaimer for.  I have definitely learned over the past 8 years that it is foolish to take anything for granted.

    I got to come home late Friday evening, to begin the path to being better.  I can't make it all the way to the porcelain throne without help, and the stairs in our house are completely out of the question.  Laughing is painful, and coughing/sneezing = death.  I'm gonna make it through this though, just like I always do.  I am so grateful for the love and support I have surrounding me, my wife and kids are so helpful and sweet.

    I've been totally wasted (in both the doped-up way, and the complete exhaustion way) all weekend, starting to feel a little more human by Sunday evening but still pretty trashed.  Still can't do the stairs on my own, but I can walk on a flat surface pretty decently.  Sleep Sunday night was very restless and Monday morning the feeling of recovery and any energy I had gained back, was gone.  I have a gut feeling (no pun intended) that something is wrong, but I am so tired I can't move.  I can REALLY feel the spot inside me where one of my internal organs was cut out- it is such a weird feeling!  I curl up in a ball in bed and try to sleep it off.

    Monday afternoon, my temperature starts rising and pain levels along with it.  I wind up with a fever of 102.5 while ON the acetaminophen that is in my pain meds.  Something worth noting is that Multiple Sclerosis + fever = OVERWHELMING nerve/muscle pain from head to toe.  One of the primary symptoms of MS is extreme temperature sensitivity, and raising the internal temperature of the body you live in definitely counts.  All hell begins to break loose inside my body as I seemingly revert to the state I was in BEFORE the surgery.  A couple hours of this and by Monday evening I called on 2 of my buddies to help drag me out to the car so my wife can drive me back to the hospital.

    The hospital ran a battery of tests because my fever had us all worried about the possibility of infection from the surgery.  Thankfully it turned out not to be surgical infection, but a Cat Scan and chest X-ray revealed that I have pneumonia.  PNEUMONIA?!?!

I told you the universe decided to teach me a lesson this week.

Silly, silly, silly me.

    I spend the night in the hospital again as my pain levels were really resisting control, but finally my nerves and muscles relented and I was stable enough to transport.  We returned home early Tuesday morning with antibiotics, still kind of shell-shocked.  Upon walking into our house, we discover that one of our pets is dead.  Seriously?  Our beautiful blue parakeet "Sky", who was so sweet and never bit anyone, was gone.  My wife and I looked at each other and just shook our heads.

I loved Sky.

    So anyway, pnemonia coughing fits + four different sets of stitches in your abdomen = OMG WHYYYYYYYY???  So I went to bed and hibernated for the next 12 hours, briefly waking up only to take my medications and go right back to sleep.  It's pretty chilly in the house... the furnace is acting flaky and not always turning on when it is supposed to.  Hmm.

    Tuesday morning I was still in hibernation/healing mode, sleeping all day.  "Maybe if I keep my eyes closed long enough, everything will go back to normal," I thought.  Tuesday evening I feel juuuust rested enough to get out of bed to find the wife and kids and give them all a hug.  Oh... and it's Valentine's day... *sigh*.  Then I found out that my sister had sent my wife and I a Valentine's Day care package with some of our favorite treats.  All things considered, it turned into a relatively happy Valentine's evening.  I soon realize that walking around the house has really taken a toll on me and I curl up in a ball again.

    Wednesday evening the bigger of our two dogs (a Rhodesian Ridgeback) jumps up on me, jamming her front paws precisely into two of my incision sites.  I scream like a little girl who has seen a ghost, and crumple to the floor.  This immediately sets me back a couple days in my progress toward being able to walk around confidently or go up and down the stairs on my own.  Thursday is pretty much the same as the second day home from surgery, I have lost a lot of progress.  I know our puppy was just excited to see me up and about, I can't stay mad at her... but the pain and frustration are real.

    On Thursday it gets really cold in our house overnight again.  Our furnace is clearly having serious issues now, and with the extreme temperature sensitivity which came with my MS, there is very little margin of error concerning what the temperature is in our house.  By Friday evening it is obvious we are going to need the furnace looked at. It's way too cold in our house.  Saturday we have someone look at the furnace, and... we are now buying a new furnace.

    So anyway... having degenerative discs in the neck & back by itself = nerve/muscle pain. Having IBS by itself = no energy. Having Hypothyroid by itself = no energy and memory problems. Having Multiple Sclerosis by itself = nerve/muscle pain AND no energy AND cog-fog/memory problems. Having insomnia by itself = no energy. Having a hiatal hernia by itself = pain & restless sleep. Having gall stone blockage by itself = unbelievable pain. Having surgery to remove one of your internal organs by itself = a different kind of pain. Having pneumonia by itself = no energy & generally being miserable. Having a mood disorder by itself = hard work fighting all of the ups and downs of life with one hand tied behind your back.

    Having EVERY single one of those things at the same time, WHILE recovering from surgery = OKAY UNIVERSE, I AM SORRY!  PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE NOW.  PLEASE.  PRETTY PLEASE!!!

That being said-- I will not give up.
I will fight another day, because the journey is it's own reward;
after a week THIS insane, it has to be.

Friday, January 6, 2017

When Physical Pain Becomes The Lesser Of Two Trials

I had a Multiple Sclerosis flare up yesterday, and then this happened (see picture) and it all made sense:

    Last night was "tabletop game night" with my friends.  I wanted to enjoy my in-person hangout time with some of my buddies last night; it is a really great outlet, providing much needed adult socialization.  But I had MS cognitive-fog to the point that I kept getting confused and sounded like someone who has never played that game before... even though my friends and I have been playing this particular game together for over a year now.

    Then there was an accident where my whole right arm got messed up and started having major problems, which is now keeping me up all night even on my prescription pain meds.  Nerve-pain is such a different type of beast to battle-- it does what it wants and generally doesn't care about the fancy modern medicines we are otherwise so blessed to have.

    Now it is the middle of the night and I am sitting here alone with my pain and in need of feeling like I can vent to a friend, even if nobody actually winds up hearing it.

    I have worked hard over the years to find inner peace concerning my challenges, but the struggle to sound even remotely coherent in front of people last night got past my treasured mental/emotional armor, and I wound up feeling thoroughly embarrassed.  Like... REALLY embarrassed.  The "curl up in a ball and don't even *try* to keep up with my friends anymore" kind of embarrassed.  I know I will snap out of it soon enough and get back to fighting the good fight, but that feeling super-sucked at the time.

    Furthermore, I am now rather frustrated that the embarrassment has gotten to me this much.  So far I can't shake the feeling of wanting to run and hide and not even go to game night anymore, so I won't have to feel like the dumbest guy in the room when this stuff happens.  And it WILL happen, it's just a matter of time.  [sigh]  But like I said- I love game night, I *need* game night.  So I know I will be excited to go the next time it comes around.  But I will probably still be trying not to show my fear of being embarrassed again.  I have no idea whether I will fool anybody, but I know I am going to try to whether I mean to or not-- it's simply in my nature to want to avoid feeling vulnerable or appear "weak" in front of people.  Lame, I know... but I have come to grips with that part of my personality and it is what it is.

    I worry sometimes that attempting to practice this level of authenticity can sound an awful lot like whining and self-pity, and maybe there is a certain amount of that in the mix. I am comfortable admitting my human nature.  After all, that is what this blog is all about: contemplating the human condition.  But for what it's worth, pointlessly indulging the urge to complain is not my intention.  My desire and goal is to process things in a healthy way and figure out how to live a more purposeful and enlightened life.

    I translate my experiences into personal improvement with varying degrees of success, but I am always going to try.  The journey is it's own reward, I believe that.  I feel it in my soul, and I love the peace that perspective can provide.  I draw strength from that perspective daily; especially when what is right in front of me staring me in the face and daring me to keep smiling and hoping, is too much, too painful, too overwhelming to just shrug off.  And as always- when we find our silver lining, there is the opportunity to share our experiences with each other because another person might relate to that struggle and wind up feeling less isolated.  And that matters because every human life matters.

So I think that is all I have to say for now, and I have run out of energy to continue typing all of this with just my left hand.  On the upside-- I have catharted™ sufficiently and might be tired enough now to go fall asleep.  Goodnight, and I wish you good luck with whatever you are facing in your life today.

#Authenticity  #WhenThePainJustWontStop  #MSwarrior

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Looking Back At Moving Forward

  It is amazing how something that began with zero expectation of being anything more than an unremarkable personal outlet, can grow into something bigger-- something that hopefully might be meaningful to someone else too.  I started this blog almost six years ago and it's incredible how much has happened in my life and the world in general since then.  I never imagined anything like this would come of it, but here it is:

So Anyway just passed 22,222 views!!

Why celebrate now? The number two is my favorite number so this is a fun milestone for me!

  Looking back, I honestly don't know quite what to think about the long roller-coaster ride of getting to this point, and it surprises me to see how much my writing has changed since the beginning, but I am certainly glad I decided to take the step of getting outside of my head this way.  In fact, it is hard to imagine my life without having a good way to write something more than random comments on Facebook.

  I admit that even though my university English professors urged me to consider a major in journalism, I doubted whether something like this was really possible for me.  But here we are, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with you.  I think we tend to shortchange ourselves when it comes to believing in our true potential (at least I know I do) and it's clear that we need to have more faith in what we can do when we really set our mind to accomplishing something.  We need to let ourselves hope, and then push ourselves to take steps toward those hopes.

  In 2013, I published thirteen articles here on So Anyway.  That's not a lot by most blogging standards, but for something I do as a personal hobby I felt like averaging one article every month was not too shabby.  Then I increased that output by following up in 2014 with twenty-one posts.  I was growing not only as a person, but as a writer... a necessary evolution in order to have a shot at publishing even a fraction of the thoughts I want to share.  Then the story takes an unexpected turn.

  Last year I posted just six times, and not all of them were substantial enough to be what I would count as "writing"; that's a 71% decrease.  Furthermore, I have not published a single article this year, until now.  My mother has made the observation in the past that she can tell when a given period of life is particularly challenging for me, because I will pretty much disappear from social media for a while.

Moms can be wise like that.

  It would be impossible for me to dive into the full story as to why I have been so stingy with clicking the "publish" button for the last year and a half.  But for now I can tell you that my journey has been keeping me unrelentingly busy expanding my "mind palace" as Sherlock Holmes would call it.  And moving forward, whenever I feel that place is ready for more company, you will still find invitations here to join me in contemplating the human condition.  :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Leading The Charge

  It has been exactly six months since the last time I published an article here on my open book of thought.  I write more often than that, I think my head would explode if I didn't-- but for better or worse a great deal of what I write gets tucked away as a draft, saved for a day when I feel ready to share that particular piece of myself with the world.  My state of mind has been one of deep introspection lately (even more than usual) and I'm afraid my blog has reflected that.

  But once again, we are witnessing history in the making as the voice of justice has risen up in defense of the downtrodden-- and I do not want to miss the opportunity of lending my voice to spreading this message of courage, compassion, and hope for a brighter future.  U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch held a press conference earlier this week, announcing that "we are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina.  We are seeking a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement."

I found this part of Attorney General Lynch's remarks particularly profound:
"Instead of turning away from our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past.  Let us reflect on the obvious but often neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight.  It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference.  We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward.  Let us write a different story this time.  Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country great."
  Lynch went on to offer the LGBT community a moment of encouragement, which brought many to tears.
"But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that  we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.  Please know that history is on your side.  This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time.  It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together."
Then Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, added this:
"Calling H.B.2 a 'bathroom bill' trivializes what this is really about. H.B.2 translates into discrimination in the real world. The complaint we filed today speaks to public employees who feel afraid and stigmatized on the job. It speaks to students who feel like their campus treats them differently because of who they are. It speaks to sports fans who feel forced to choose between their gender identity and their identity as a Tar Heel. And it speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior — like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in. Let me reassure every transgender individual, right here in America, that you belong just as you are. You are supported. And you are protected."

  I feel overwhelmed with joy and gratitude whenever I see people choose to stand apart from the fearful mob, and defend the ideals the founding fathers of this nation devoted their lives to enshrining in the charters of freedom.  When we see an entire group of innocent people being singled out for undeserved scrutiny and harassment, it is our duty and privilege to echo what the Declaration of Independence proclaimed to the world more than two centuries ago:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
  It takes strength of character to stand up in support of those who need it most, but make no mistake-- the bravest among us are those who, doing no harm to anyone else, are forced to live every day in constant fear of judgment and hostility... simply for being "different".

  So anyway, I genuinely hope that peace may be found by all who seek the blessings of enjoying "certain unalienable rights".  Like so many generations before us, we bear the responsibility to lead by example, to champion the cause of moving FORWARD in the course of human history.  There is a culture of contempt and contention shrouding our society, of that there is no doubt.  But there is also a light which I can see clearly through the fog of war: the light of kindness and integrity.  I humbly invite you to join me in pursuit of that vision!

Let's find each other out in front,
leading the charge
to secure liberty and justice
for all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016