Category Archives: My Depression

The Road To Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

The Road to Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

The Lake By My Home

It’s not like I forgot about the Lake.  I knew it was there.  I just hadn’t thought to visit it in a while.  I used to walk the dog by it several times a week.  I remember feeling better then.  Emotionally, physically, better.  It’s not a long walk.  In fact, if I walk to the path that is adjacent to the lake on two sides, and then walk this path, past the “Logan’s Road House”, past the Hampton Inn, it’s about a mile.  Not a really long walk by any stretch, unless you don’t have any legs, or they don’t function for you the way they used to.  Mine do.  I can walk.  There are a few people in my life who can’t say this.  Some of these people are rather close to me.  But I can walk, and so I did this morning.  Something to be grateful for today.

The dog was grateful too.  Although she was huffing and panting along the way, she turned to me, squinting in the sun, with her tongue hanging out and I could see that all too familiar smile on her face.  “Thanks Daddy!”, that smile was saying.  I smiled back and said, “You’re welcome!”  She’s an old dog, my Jamaica.  She’s in fairly good health for her age.  Sometimes she falls when we are walking, but she gets right back up and continues to walk like nothing happened.  I can learn a lesson from that.

When we get back to the house and walk inside, it’s nice to feel the cool, dry air hit my face.  It’s warm outside, and humid.  This is as it should be in late May in the Washington, DC area.  Not quite hot yet, but warm enough and moist enough to bring about a mild sweat, even with a mild  walk.  When we do these walks during the mid-summer months, I am dripping by the time we get back.  The dog walks over to the water fountain (Yes, I said fountain.  Just a little gift I gave to her and to the cats a while ago to keep the water fresh and clean for them).  She laps up 5 or 6 tongue fulls of water, as I reach into the refrigerator and pull out a can of sparkling, lemon-flavored water for myself.  Nice, and cold, with a little bit of a bite.  This would be a perfect start to a weekend day, except that it’s not the weekend.  It’s the Tuesday after Memorial Day, and at the moment I don’t have a job to go to. 

I should be grateful, and I am for the fact that for the time being I’m still receiving a pay check, and my company is searching for another position for me.  I am grateful, both for this, and for the ability just for now to appreciate the time I had this morning to take the dog for a walk near the lake.  We need to do this more often whether or not I’m working.  I need to make the time to do this with her, for both ours sakes.

We really only have today.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.  I need to make the most of each moment that I have, and not waste the moments feeling sorry for myself, or wallowing in self-pity or fear.  But the only way to push the fear away is to fill my life with other things.  Good things, like a walk by the lake, and the gratitude that I’m able to take this walk with my old dog, and add some joy and contentment to her life if only for 1 mile at a time.  Maybe we’ll walk a little further tomorrow.  Or maybe tomorrow I will have a job to go to.  No matter what, I still need to make the time to take these walks with her, for both our sakes.

Clairvoyant Or Lazy? You Decide.

Preparing your home for sale is hard.  Especially when you are alone.  Still, I had done this once before, and my home this time was much smaller, with no land to worry about since I live in a condo.

So I decided to take the plunge, and I started looking for homes online.  Then I took it a step further and contacted a few realtors, finally settling on one of them to sell my home and help me find a new one.

There were things that needed to get done.  Stuff needed to get fixed, like the stains in the ceiling and along the wall in my bedroom and one of my bathrooms from some water that leaked in during a major storm.  Then there were the windows.  Almost all of them needed to be replaced because of leaking.  There’s still more of this “contract” work to be done, and I call it that because it was certainly not stuff that I was going to do on my own.

Then there was the decluttering.  Wow, what a huge job for a single guy who has a lot of junk sitting around.  I had no idea how much work this would be.  I had a few friends help, and I had a few others offer, but it seemed like the job was never going to end.  I kept noticing new things that needed to get done, and I was becoming more and more frustrated and depressed about it.

Then last weekend, with one of my neighbors in my garage ready to lend a hand, I just stopped.  I became incredibly depressed for no obvious reason, and I told my neighbor that I didn’t want to do any more.  During the week I still managed to pack up a couple of things and move them down into the garage, but for the most part I just came to a screeching halt.  I called the realtor and told him I was getting overwhelmed and I needed some help to first, figure out what needed to be done, and then do it for me, because I didn’t want to do any more work.

An over reaction?  Maybe.  If the next thing that happened in my life hadn’t happened I would have said I was just being lazy, and/or letting my emotions get the better of me.  But something significant did happen, and I’m wondering now if somehow I sensed that things were going on behind the scenes in my life that would change the  course of my life for the immediate future.

The following Thursday evening after work I got a disturbing email from my manager.  It said to not go in to the site where I worked for the government contract I was on, and to call him at home.  When I called him, he told me that the government lost funding for my position.  In other words, I am out of a job unless my company can find me another position on another contract. 

I’ve never been laid off or fired or anything of the sort, so to put it bluntly, I’m scared.  I have money in a retirement account,  but I don’t want to have to deplete that if I don’t have to, not to mention having to take a 10% penalty on whatever I withdraw.  I don’t know what I’m going to do if my company doesn’t find me something.   Well, I guess I do know.  I’m going to  look for another job.  I have plenty of contacts and some good skills and experience, so I suppose I shouldn’t be so scared, but I am.  Fear of the unknown is really what it is.

Back to clairvoyance.  Did I know there were discussions going on about the lack of funding for my position that I wasn’t privy to?  Or am I just really sensitive,  and felt an indescribable insecurity that was causing my depression and lack of motivation to continue to work on my home?  Was this a self-fulfilling prophecy,  whereas I caused this to happen because I felt so insecure?  I thing Carl Jung described this as synchronicity.  Two seemingly unrelated events are connected not by cause and effect, but by meaning.  This is a fancy way to describe a coincidence that is just too coincidental.

So here I am, terrified about what the future will bring.  I’ve canceled the move for now until I’m sure that I have a steady, reliable job to go to, and this is actually somewhat of a relief.  I’m feeling almost paralyzed though, and I’ve been waking up in the morning in tears from horrible nightmares.  If anyone else has been here that can offer some advice as to how to deal with the emotions, especially the fear, I’d really appreciate it.

Mornings

Mornings are difficult.  It’s not easy to wake up alone.  I suppose it’s better than waking up next to the wrong person, but sometimes I wonder.  Which is worse, lonliness being with the wrong person?  I suppose you could be lonely and be with the wrong person at the same time.  Right now for me, I don’t have to worry about that.  I just have to worry about getting out of bed, and that’s difficult lately.

I’m not sure when it started.  The depression that is.  I mean, I’m always depressed to some extent, but these days I’m on the verge of tears much of the time.  Plus I just feel sick, run down, stomach ache, nauseous, almost all of the time.  Having a bad back and having to take chronic meds for that probably doesn’t help.  But where has all of my energy gone?  I just want to sleep.  Having a job is a good thing, but I don’t want to go to work.  I don’t like being there.  I feel even sicker when I’m there.  I’m almost never hungry, but I force food down because I know I have to.  Yeah, full blown depression I guess.

The mornings are the worst.  I know I’ll feel better in the evening.  I know I’ll feel better after work, when I can relax a little bit.  But right now my stomach is in a knot, and I feel like throwing up.  I suppose I could pray.  In fact I think I will as soon as I’m done writing this.  Writing is a form of meditation for me, so maybe that’s what I needed to do this morning.  I needed to write this down and share it, and the answer has come that I need to pray.  I’m not a religious person by any means, but I don’t have to be to have a relationship with God.  If God is perfect, why would he care what religion I practice if any?  Yeah, I think I’ll pray.  Just for a minute before I go to work.  Maybe that will help get me through the day, maybe not.  It certainly can’t hurt.

I used to read this book of motivational thoughts every morning.  I stopped reading it a while back, but a few days ago I picked it back up again.  The thought for today is one day at a time.  It’s about setting a small goal, and accomplishing that goal, and feeling good at the end of the day that I’ve accomplished it.  Today I’ve already accomplished a small goal.  I’ve written this down, and shared it, and believe it or not between the time I typed “Mornings” and now, I’ve somehow typed myself into a whole different attitude.  I feel better.  So maybe the prayer I’ll say is “Thanks!”  Obviously something gave me the motivation to write this, and to accomplish this small goal before I left for work this morning.  And I feel better.  So thanks!  Whether it was God or something else.  Thanks!

Day by Day, Hour by Hour, Minute by Minute

Over the past 3 weeks or so I’ve been trying to write another blog entry about my struggle with pain.  I was going to write about how a second surgeon, this time from the premier spine center in the country told me that surgery would not be the best option for me right now because of my age, and the risk, and the likelyhood of little improvement.  Such a complicated back I have.  I just couldn’t find the motivation to write out the whole, drawn out story though, so that’s about all I’ll write about that.  Instead, I found some motivation to write today from an entirely different source.

I have a new job, and I’ve been struggling to overcome a hurdle where I feel comfortable with what I’m doing.  I’ve been doing pretty much the same thing for a number of years now, and this job, although somewhat related to the direction my career has been going, is really a whole new direction.  Finally, over the past couple of days I’ve been finding a comfort zone.  I’ve been starting to understand the process flow, where the work is coming from, and what to do with the work when I find it.  And then fate decided that it had different plans for me today.

A few days ago my team was told that we were absorbing some new responsibility from a different team, due to the downsizing of that team.  We were getting a new person on our team, and he was to crosstrain with us, as well as members of my team crosstraining with him.  Yesterday our new team member said he had something he wanted to show us, and asked us if we wanted to come over and take a look at what he was doing.  There were only two of us in the room at the time, and I was the only one who went over to take a look.  While over there I remarked about how nice the guy’s view was.  His cube was against the window, and outside the window was a lake where there were Geese and some other birds.  We discussed logistics, about how we were going to crosstrain when there really wasn’t any more room in our office, and there was only one open cube next to this guy, which was vacated by the person who was fired, which was why his team (or him because he was now on his own) was merging our team.  We couldn’t come up with a solution as to how the crosstraining would easily take place amongst all team members.

Well, today it became clear that what our manager really meant was that I was going to be crosstraining with this new team member and his responsibilities and this didn’t really include the rest of my team.  Not only that, but I was going to be moving into the cube next to this guy.  Now here’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet.  The office I’m in is closing shortly.  The other office is in downtown DC, which I am not excited about traveling to and from every day.  But our manager assured us that when this move happens, our team would be work exclusively from home.  So no worrying about having to travel downtown.  Well, now with these changes taking place, was that still going to be the case?

So how did I feel about all of this?  Well, I was at first a bit frustrated.  I had just started to get comfortable and suddenly the rug was pulled out from under me and I was now taking on completely different responsibilities.  I then started to worry that this happened because I wasn’t cutting it in my current position, and they saw that, and decided to move me to something else, maybe even to just give me busy work to do until I became the next downsizing victim.  The I started worrying about the working from home thing.  I’ve recently been looking for a new home, maybe a little further away from the city because I’ll have more space and it will be cheaper.  Would this sudden change mean that I’d have to be slogging it downtown every morning and I’d have to put my plans to move on hold?

I took everything off of my desk and stuffed it into a bag, and moved over to the cube next to my new teammate.  I looked at the cube, and noticed that I now had some privacy.  The walls of the cube were really high.  I then turned around, and remembered the window, which I was also right next to.  There were the geese, swimming in the lake.  Suddenly my fear just lifted.  Sometimes I try so hard to focus on the negative of a situation when that negative is completely imaginary because I had not bothered to substantiate one bit of my fear.  Maybe I’ll have the same deal with being able to work from home.  Maybe I’ll love this new job, and I’ll love the new responsibilities.  The thing is, I was living in the wreckage of the future, which many wise people in my life have cautioned me against, and I have in turned cautioned others against. 

Who knows what will happen tomorrow.  Today I have a nice cube with a view of a lake and geese.  So for this day, and this hour, and this minute, things are pretty good, and I’m going with that.

I don’t want to operate on your back – Pain Part 2

There’s a good possibility that when someone hears these words spoken by an orthopedic surgeon, this would bring a smile to their face.  After all, perhaps the surgeon is about to suggest another solution to pain they have been experiencing.  Don’t get me wrong.  He did.  But his suggestion was to go back to my pain specialist and try some different techniques.  “They have all sorts of procedures they can perform to help you with the pain!”, he exclaimed loudly as he told me a story of another patient of his who went to the same pain specialist that I’m seeing and had great success.

What I told the surgeon though was that I had already tried everything the pain specialist had to offer, which I thought he already knew given that I was being referred by a pain specialist who saw the MRI of my back and determined their wasn’t much else he could do for me.  He then went on to show me my messed up spine on both the MRI, and the X-Ray he took while I was in his office.  I’ve seen these pictures hundreds of times in my lifetime, and every time I look I feel deformed, and ugly, and things just look worse that they did before, and that’s because they are worse. 

“I can see why you are in pain.”, he said.  He pointed out the “inflamation”, the “degeneration”, the pinched nerves, the arthritis, and how the scoliosis was only complicating matters.  He pointed out that the top of my back was bent forward and that he was afraid if he operated on the bottom of my back I would be hunched over even more than I am now.  He lectured about how correcting the problems I had in my lower back would not fix the pain I’m experiencing because the pain I’m experiencing is in my lower back.  This caught me off guard, but he explained that fixing the lower back helps leg pain, not lower back pain.  I still don’t completely understand, but I’m not an orthopedic surgeon, so I guess I have to trust him.

I then said to him, “So you are confirming that I’m feeling pain.  I already know that.  Is their nothing you can do for me?”  He told me the odds of surgery fixing my problem were too small to risk causing more problems and just distributing the pain to another location.  I understood this.  I was just frustrated.  I told him about the pain medication I was on and explained that I didn’t want to have to take it for the rest of my life.  I had already asked the pain specialist about other things I could do, and I’ve already tried those other things.  Exercises, Chiropractic, physical therapy, massage.  About the only thing I haven’t tried is Accupuncture.  The pain specialist said none of this would help me.  Not with everything that is broken in my back.

The thing is though, this surgeon was just one man.  He gave me the phone number for another surgeon who works in my area, and also at John’s Hopkins hospital.  I’ve already contacted John’s Hopkins on my own and I’m waiting to hear back from them.  I’m not giving up on this until I’ve exhausted all possibilities. 

Today, disappointing news is not devastating news because today I am a much more balanced person emotionally than I used to be.  I am deformed, but I’m not a freak, and in fact I’m a pretty darn good looking guy.  My deformity is hardly noticable until you’ve been staring at me for a long time, and some people have told me they don’t notice it at all.  I’m just a person in pain.  Long term treatment with pain medication is not an option for me, and I’m not going to accept that as the solution.  I hate having to take it!  I hate the stigma associated with it!  I hate the side effects of it, and if you are wondering what I’m talking about, I hate having to take a ton of extra fiber supplements so that I can poop!  I hope that didn’t gross anyone out, but really I don’t care.

The ending to this chapter of the story goes like this.  This is not over until I say it’s over.  I don’t see any fat women around, just one slighly chubby man, so I’m going to keep trudging forward.

How To Be Truly Humble

Here’s a fortune cookie and an abstract thought for you all in one.

“True humility is the knowledge that one can never be truly humble.”

If you don’t understand that one, don’t fret.  I won’t be able to explain it to you so that you can feel the meaning of it in your heart in a few sentences in a blog.  It’s something I’ve come to understand over time, and I mean a lot of time.  I used to think humility is what you felt when you drank all night, made a fool out of yourself, and had to be told the next day what you did to make a fool out of yourself because you didn’t remember.  But people would give you that look.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Or maybe you don’t.  It was the look that said, “There he is!  That’s the guy that did that stuff last night!”  For someone like me who craves being the center of attention, it was certainly attention alright, but not exactly the attention I was looking for.  Still, it was attention.  And attention is attention.  So if that’s the only way you know how to get it, then that’s what you keep doing, over and over and over, until, well, it doesn’t work for you anymore.

Yep that was the kind of humility I knew.  The kind that kept landing me in the same place over and over, wondering why I kept winding up in that place.  It was a lack of balance, when you come right down to it.  I had no idea how to get the attention I so desperately needed in a less self-destructive manner.  So time after time I wound up humiliated.  The way I delt with it was to just not be around people anymore.  I decided that I needed to be alone for the rest of my life, and the way I was acting, I think a lot of people agreed with me.

Well, that didn’t work so well either.  Because then my only critic was me.  I was really hard on myself.  I still am.  But at least when I was with other people who were as self-centered as I was I had some camaraderie in our self-centerdness.  I eventually had to make some drastic changes in my life, and those changes have led me on the quest for perfect humility.  Wait?  Ummmm…  Like I said, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.  Keep reading anyway.  It will all be OK.

Humility, as I’ve come to find out is something completely different than humiliation.  With most problems in life, as the one I was speaking about above, I lacked a sense of balance.  To quote a very good book, “I utterly lacked the ability to form a true partnership with another human being.”  Don’t go looking in your bible folks.  It’s a different good book.  If you don’t know what book, and you want to know what book, send me an email.  Anyway, it doesn’t really matter.  That was my problem.  I just didn’t know how to get along, with people, with work, with anything or anyone.  Not even plants.  I killed several of those.  Seriously.  “Ah, it can go a couple more days without water.  I know, because it’s a Chia Pet and I’m an expert.”  All of it came down to one simple, but extremely complex thing.  Humility.

To explain humility, or what it means to me, is easier to do with examples rather than just defining what the word means.  To me, humility means balance, which I’ve already eluded to.  I didn’t know balance.  I knew extremes.  I still know extremes.  I just don’t wander in their direction as often anymore, but I certainly know where they are.

Let’s take one extreme.  The person who only cares about themselves and their own problems.  Yeah, that was pretty much me for most of my life.  Still is sometimes.  Some would call this person selfish, self-centered, self-important, and pretentious.  They’d be right.  This person may at times pretend like they care, but they don’t.  Ultimately it’s all about them, and as long as things go the way they want them to they are perfectly happy.  This person utterly lacks humility.

Then there is the other extreme.  The person who cares nothing of themselves.  They are constantly serving others, doing what pleases others, putting their needs last.  Some would call this person selfless, other-centered, self-unimportant, and altruistic.  They’d be wrong.  That’s right.  You read that correctly.  THEY’D BE WRONG!  Now, I’m not saying this person doesn’t have good intentions most of the time, but so does the person at the other extreme.  The selfishness here is much more subtle, and I’m sure I’m going to get some hateful comments about this.  But at the extreme, this person can be an enabler, a codependant, and yes, I’m going to say it, selfish.  In fact, they could be even more selfish than the person at the other extreme.

How is this possible?  Because they are missing a huge part of the equation which comes with being able to form a true partnership with another human being.  They have forgotten that they are human, they have problems, they have needs, and that people love them.  Stay with me here, I’m not talking about everyone, just the extremes.  People in this state sometimes believe that the only way they can be loved is to be selfless, other-centered, self-unimportant and altruistic.  They forget that the people that love them want to be there for them, and feel a bond with them when they are being their for them.  They have utterly forgotten that a relationship goes both ways, they utterly lack humility.

So, before you stop reading and send a hateful comment, this is just a reminder that the person I was describing above was an extreme.  I was in no way saying it is bad under all circumstances to help others, to be there for others, to care for others, and to show others you love them through the actions that you take.  I’m just saying, sometimes it is your turn to receive, and when it is, be accepting of the help that is being offered to you.

So what is true humility?  It is balance.  It is the ability to be selfish and selfless at the same time.  It is the ability to understand that you don’t have all of the answers to life’s problems, but you do have some of the answers, and when you do have the answers you should share them.  It is the ability to know what answers you have and what answers you don’t have.  It is the ability to know when people want you to give them answers and when they don’t.  It is the ability to know when to ask for help, and when asking for help may be putting too much of a burden on a loved one.  It is the ability to know when to give and when to receive.  So who does this perfectly?  Raise your hand!  I don’t see any hands.  Well, probably because I’m sitting here typing this in an empty house at 11:15 PM on a Wednesday night, and the only ones that are looking at me are my cats, and they don’t have hands, they have paws.

I’ll bet nobody raised there hand though.  The reason for that is simple and the answer to my original question.  It is impossible to be truly humble.  Now I didn’t say it was impossible to be humble.  I said it was impossible to be truly humble.  To be humble, all you have to do is try.  All you have to do is admit when you are wrong, learn from your mistakes, and hopefully do better next time.  Humility is the knowledge of true humility and the quest for it, with the understanding that as a human being, you will never find it.

When you are living you life at one of the extremes, and you are finding yourself becoming more and more alone either because of the demands you are making on others or because you won’t allow people close enough to help you when you need it, you are not living a humble life.

When you are living your life at one of the extremes, and you are finding that you don’t need people because they always disappoint you, or you are trying so hard to hold on to them or serve them that you are giving more than you have to give at the risk of your own health and sanity, you are not living a humble life.

When your life is going in circles, and you keep winding up in the same place over and over, not knowing how you got there, think about humilty.  Think about the fact that you are human.  Then ask for guidance, because there is another way to live.  There is the way of humility, and forming true partnerships with many human beings, and if you are spiritual, with God as well.

Wow it’s late.  Time for bed.  Good night.

It’s been such a long time!

It’s been a long time since my last post here.  I wish I could offer some reasons for that, but ultimately it comes down to a combination of laziness and depression.  Yeah, I used the D word.  A couple of months ago I used the G word, and I hope I didn’t put too many people off.  I also hope the D word doesn’t put too many people off, but it’s a part of who I am.  I’ve accepted that, and it’s very debilitating when I’m in the middle of it.

I have to say one thing though.  D and G don’t go very well together.  When there’s a lot of D in my life, it’s difficult for G to enter.  I block G out.  I block everyone and everything out.  I live in that dark corner of my brain that seems warm and cozy at first, but eventually becomes a prison.  The longer I stay there, the harder it is to escape, and the more I am able to convince myself that I don’t deserve to be anywhere else, and that this is my destiny.

So lets get back to G for a second, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m about to start preaching about the bible, or JC, or really any predefined notion of what G is for that matter.  For me, G is like the Force from Star Wars.  I hope that statement didn’t put anyone off, but if it did, quite frankly, that is your problem.  For me, G is available to me whenever I need it.  G is always there with guidance, direction, purposefulness, leading the way to the most fulfilling life I can possibly have.  Now I did say “like” the Force from Star Wars.  It’s not exactly like that.  In Star Wars, the Force is invisible, seemingly giving people magical powers to overcome their foes, and lead them in the right direction.  But my “Force”, my G, well, my G guides me mostly through the people places and things in my life.

For example.  A few years ago, I was coming home from a Memorial Day Picnic with a few friends.  I had brought my dog with me to the picnic.  Just so you know, I can be very introverted, especially when D is ruling my life.  I knew a couple of neighbors, but not really well, and I was actually uncomfortable when I would see them on the street, and would lower my eyes as we walked past each other.  On this day though, I get out of the car, and I have my dog on the leash.  My neighbor down the street is having a barbeque.  As I’m opening my front the door to my home, my neighbor is calling my name.  I pretend not to hear him and open my door and begin to step inside.  My dog has other ideas however, and pulls away from me, and goes running right over to the barbeque.

Some of you are thinking, well of course.  The dog wanted a hamburger.  To me though, that is beside the point.  To me, that was synchronicity, defined by Carl Jung as two or more events that are seemingly unrelated, but when they are looked at together, they have a very definite, meaningful connection.  Another word for the skeptical is coincidence.  I choose not to see it this way.  The events here were me taking my dog to this Memorial Day picnic.  Arriving home when my neighbor was having a picnic.  So far, not so out there right?  My dog pulling away from me and running over to the neighbor.  Still not so far out there.  It’s the outcome though, and the fourth event which I haven’t talked about yet that puts it over the top for me.  I walked over there to get my dog.  I could have just left, but my neighbor asked me to stay and have a burger.  I could have said no thank you and left.  But something at that very moment was giving me courage.  Something was making it easy for me to stay.  I know what it is now.  It was the humor in the whole situation.  My dog ran over to get some food, which made me both gasp and chuckle at the same time.  When I got over there, my neighbors were warm, and friendly, and my dog was being a goof ball and begging for food.  We laughed.  That was it!  We laughed!  Connection!  To this day, I am friendly with that neighbor, and that event helped me to get to know many of my other neighbors.

Before this event, in another home, I was sitting on my front porch when a neighbor who I was having a quarrel with arrive home.  A few months earlier, I had a few friends over to watch the superbowl.  I only had two parking spaces, and I was using one of them.  So I told one of my friends to park in my neighbor’s space, and we put a note on his car telling her to knock on my door when she got home and we would move the car.  Well, she never saw the note, but instead chewed me out.  I probably deserved it and was lucky his car wasn’t towed.  But on this particular day, she got home, got her 3 year old son out of the car, and went to the trunk of the car.  Her son started asking for a particular toy, and his mother couldn’t find it.  She said, “I don’t know honey, I think it’s gone, I’m sorry.”  This 3 year old kid, for whatever reason, turned to me, threw his arms up in the air as if to ask “Where is it?” and said, “It’s gone!  It’s gone!”, continuing to lower and lift his arms over his head repeatedly.  He wasn’t the least bit upset, he was just being a 3 year old kid.  Of course my reaction was to laugh.  The moment I started laughing, his mother’s eyes met mine, and she smiled, and all of the tension between us evaporated immediately.  She happens to pull up, while I happen to be outside on my porch, and her son happens to ask her for a toy which she can’t find, and then happens to do something that makes me laugh, which causes her to smile at me.  Coincidence.  Come on people!  Synchronicity!

Let’s take a leap of faith for the moment and assume that what you may think of as coincidence is actually G?  Does this mean that if I am paying attention and not so wrapped up in my own life and my own problems, and my own misfortune, and my own D, and I am living amongst the living, that G will present itself, and I will be able to recognize it, and use it in helping me make the right decisions in my life.  I think so.  If you don’t think so, like I said, that is your problem.

So back to D we go.  Sometimes, like I said, it’s really difficult to start the journey out of D when you have completely blocked out G, and have been sitting in that dark prison for a while.  Especially if those around you have been the victims of your wrath while you have been there, because now you not only have to admit that you are where you are because you chose to be there, but you now have to humble yourself and make amends to people as you start the up hill, and rocky journey back to G.  But if you believe what I’m saying here, you are not making this journey alone.  G will guide you, but you’ve got to ask for guidance.  No, I’m not necessarily talking about prayer.  How about simply going to someone you trust, and if you’ve hurt that person, give them a hug, because if they know you well, that may be all they need.  Then tell them you don’t want to be in the prison of D anymore, and you’d be grateful for their assistance climbing out.  Then take it slow, and steady.  Go to anyone else you have harmed, and make amends, or at least try to.  Don’t expect them to be receptive to you, all you can do is try.  Do these things with G in your heart.  G is in that person that was helping you.  G was in my dog that day, and that 3 year old boy.  If you take it slow and steady, G is always there to show you the way.  Don’t ask for gifts, ask for guidance.  And when you get that guidance, ask for the courage to move in G’s direction.

One thing is for sure.  If you are in a good place, and you are able to keep G in your heart, you will undoubtedly run into others who are experiencing the hell of D.  Reach out your hand, so that they may grab a hold, but be careful about doing much more than that.  Let them take your hand, don’t grab them by the collar.  That is a good way to lose some fingers.  If they don’t take your hand, then tell them it is always there. If they do take it, guide them gently, and remember how you felt when you were where they are, because you may be there again someday, and they may be reaching their hand out to assist you.

Tomorrow may never come, so stop feeling sorry for yourself, get off your ass, and ask for help.  And when you are given direction from someone who can be objective, take it!  G will always point you toward the light (no not that light), but it’s up to you to be in a place to see where G is pointing, and it is up to you to start your journey in that direction.

– Larry (Skywalker) Cohen