When The Shit Goes Down

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dave-a-roni/9139212242/in/photolist-eVARoS-ekxtuc-9PH5uo-9sQ8XQ-2332AC-9aVVgC-vh7gy-388qZD-7yDxrs-eZqzEk-L52ad-5CZAJk-q8PpT4-5DCLMf-9aSV6X-vgZua-8N7pZC-5Dytu2-fsce-4xa8u9-5CZApB-5H4Pqp-5H4RXi-pL5BGS-7WL2xF-5H97Jo-3oXGi1-5BBbJS-5BB7E7-5BwXE4-5CZAzZ-5BATtj-5BAXzm-5BwJKF-5BwMLa-5CZAW6-LRd5E-fscg-9nWac-99rVL-6DM5Cn-g85jGT-8EcC1Z-3oTbez-8GhZPR-8Gm9Sw-4PKiiK-f6ZQXT-7X7TCX-8LSqF3  This is an aside that loosely relates to About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb. The shit has gone down a lot in my own life this year, and it coincidentally appears to be happening in the lives of several of my closest friends and students as of late. If you get nothing else from this post, get this: Every time the shit has gone down in my life, and I mean EVERY time, in the thick of it, I decided that life would never get any better, and I should just get used to the mediocrity, trapped and doomed to days of despair and anguish. And yet, here I am.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/frf_kmeron/5950142415/in/photolist-a4N33k-a4QTfh-a4QX59-a4NCkr-a4R1v1-a4RdF9-a4RcjU-a4NkXx-a4QP6f-a4RbiJ-5HmacA-5N1Znh-bdZ8zn-8qWLWV-5N24w9-5ikbwi-6oeCPH-s5q8R-5irge8-5vghbE-bUpnia-mYEKM-a4Nu2i-a4R4L5-a4NbwH-a4Ri2J-a4QWAY-a4MVhF-a4N3En-a4Ndo4-a4RiRC-a4Nef6-a4Nwnt-a4QVyj-y8h3N4-2G6xqL-5tpuR-mYEKW-2RhMm-5HgRqp-5HgRkn-5HgRnc-5HmadS-5HmaiG-acW5tV-7gyXAf-mi94K-oq5Xr6-oo7Szm-oq5Wsx

Have a look back at your life. It has happened to everyone who has ever breathed air on this planet. You lose your job; you’re struck by a devastating illness; you’re flung headlong into a dramatic breakup or divorce; somebody close to you dies unexpectedly; you holy piss off the wrong person or people; you put $10k of the kids’ college fund on Roulette red and go broke; you have a falling out with a family member; you have an “FML” moment and drink your bodyweight in Tequila and get hospitalized for alcohol poisoning; you have an alternate “FML” moment and sleep with a few random strangers and next thing you know you’re being treated for some syphi-gono-herpes super bug; and so on, and so on, and the shit absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably . . . goes down. In my personal experience, it’s usually one small- to medium-sized incident in a string of incidents that finally pushes you over the edge, and has you going all Jerry Maguire, flagrantly leaving his corporate job in the famous meltdown scene.

In my own life, the shit has gone down many, many times; so many, in fact, that I’d be hard pressed to remember them all. There was that one time in Nashville in 2003 when I had FINALLY gotten a decent band together, and we were making gig plans, when our daughter Em was born several weeks early; our house was over an hour commute from the hospital where Em had to stay in ICU for weeks; then on the day we finally got to take her home, an ambulance backed into our sole means of transportation, ripping the rear door from the hinges, rendering us without transportation for days while it was repaired; we racked up an astronomical hospital bill and had to sell the new house we’d bought two months prior; finally, my demo had been rejected for the 159th time by yet another label, and in a fit of rage, I drop kicked every last one of my remaining 1000 CD debuts’ barcoded asses into the neighborhood dumpster as the neighbors chowed down on popcorn and wine and enjoyed that evening’s entertainment.

THAT’S OKAY!!! IT’S JUST OUR ONLY FUCKING CAR!!!!!! -Postpartum Catherine (Em’s mom) to the mortified EMS guy, profusely apologizing for clipping our car.

Or the time in 2009: fresh divorce; enter nursing school a month later; flunk pharmacology; wait a year until pharm is offered again whilst getting a night shift job in the ER to pay bills; spend the next nine months working 7:00p to 7:00a, going straight to class and/or clinical after work from 8:00a – 2:00p, sleeping from 2:30p-6:30p, and going back to the ER for another shift; forced to sell my favorite truck because I can’t transport my kids in it when I have them for visitation; buy a piece of shit sedan that starts to fall apart during the first week of ownership; find out my kids are moving to California; get one call a day from collectors threatening to garnish my wages for old hospital bills; final meltdown happened after graduation. See “A Prelude.”

It’ll affect my credit score? (Maniacally) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Lady, I’m pretty sure about two years ago my score dipped below zero! You want to settle this medical bill?! Well take a number! -Me on mental breakdown day to a collector

My friends, I’ve coached a whole bunch of people during their “Shit Goes Down” times. Here’s what I’ve learned from my experiences and theirs:

  • I have never experienced a transformation without first experiencing a meltdown. The greater the meltdown, the greater the transformation. One of the greatest transformations of my entire life was a direct result of being chipped away, bit by bit, little by little, until I finally caved and hit rock bottom. And from rock bottom, I could offer no resistance to complete reformation. When you find yourself looking up to see the bottom, the doorway to transformation is right there. We are too often so overwhelmed by the pain and hardship that we cannot see the doorway. See if you can briefly let go of your perception and consider that you are on the verge of something amazing. 
  • We human beings become very attached to our problems. We identify with them. We think our problems make us unique (sidenote: they don’t). We will go to great lengths to prove to ourselves (and many times to show those around us) how much harder our lives are than anyone else’s. I’ve done this many times in my own life, and I’ve seen it many times in others. Observe the conversations you hear on a daily basis. I find it interesting that most human beings would rather argue about who has the worst problems,  the most bills, the most hardship, than whose life is the most vivacious and empowering.  Consider that you may have some degree of pride in being able to survive all that you’re weathering, and that you may be afraid that taking actions to pull yourself out of the rut may strip you of your identity. 
  • Emotional pain is familiar territory for just about everyone. And we LOVE familiarity. We are terrified of the unknown, terrified of stepping outside of our comfort zones, even if there was a great chance that it would lead to complete liberation. Hell, I would go so far as to say even if liberation was GUARANTEED, we’d hesitate if it meant stepping outside of our comfort zones. Consider that any attempt to create change in your life will come with some degree of discomfort. You must be brave enough to try something new, or has your old way of approaching life been invigorating for you? As dear friend and mentor Donna once told me:

Look at the emotional pain scale, with 0 being complete freedom and 10 being absolute misery. We human beings will live for years with a nagging 4 or 5 out of 10 because it’s familiar, rather than take an action that may BRIEFLY cause 10 out of 10 pain, even though that action has the potential to get us to a 0, complete freedom.

Finally, a word about perception. Shortly after my breakup with Alex, I was hanging out with some friends.

One of the guys said, “I heard you’re having some trouble with the woman.”

“Yeah,” I replied with my usual melancholy. “We broke up.”

“Congratulations,” he said.

It shocked me a little. Up until that point, everyone I’d told had showered me with empathetic phrases and angst-filled words of support. Not that I fully agreed with my friend’s way of thinking, but it momentarily jolted me from the perception to which I was so tightly clinging.

Change your way of thinking, my friends. Consider that things are not always as they appear. A new perception will breed new actions, which will breed new results.

To vitality, my friends. 

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About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb

Note: Make no mistake. “About A Breakup” is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written  for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.

Tyson QuoteI’m standing alone in the small parking lot of a local nature trail. I hear her peel out with a vengeance, that engine madly revving like a speed dragster that can’t get out of first gear, fading slowly until the only sound remaining is the wind moving through the trees. I start the first of a half dozen laps around the entire park.

I had a plan on this day, which turned into an expectation (bad idea). A solid plan with no holes. A plan that did not involve guilt-stricken explanations or crying or screaming tires punishing the black top. Or second thoughts.

A few hours before, we are wandering to the end of the trail, discussing light topics like the kids, and work, before moving on to deeper things, and the biggest shouting match we’d ever had. She apologizes for some of the things she’d said in anger recently. I apologize as well. I am positive she knows where this is going. I’m wrong. 

“I’m tired,” I say. “I’m tired of this tension. I’m tired of arguing. I’m tired of being in purgatory with our relationship.”

I watch as she comes to realize the conversation about to transpire. We’d had breakup conversations many times before, but this one is different. The threat feels imminent. I watch her go into shock and shut down. The details are fuzzy. I recall her telling me to go ahead and cut the cord.

“What’s there to talk about?” she scoffs. “If we’re breaking up, let’s break up.”

I find myself getting furious at the ball being in my court. Again. In retrospect, I see her need for closure, to leave no chance of getting sucked back in, of false hope. I get it. She would later admit that she’d felt the same way for a while, and would apologize for projecting her anger onto me.

“So I guess that’s it then.” She picks up her bag and begins the laborious trudge back to the entrance. I catch up and walk beside her. I feel like a traitor, and this will become one of the biggest personal challenges in the days to come: overcoming my mind’s compelling argument that I’m a bad person and a failure (I DID overcome; stay with me, don’t get caught up in the bad shit).

I watch her move from sadness to despondency, from despondency to fury; Irish-Italian Catholic fury. I’d witnessed this unique fury exactly three times in the six years I’d known her, twice toward another, once toward me. In each instance, I briefly feared for the life of the party on the receiving end.

When we finally reach the parking lot, she gets into her car and asks me if there’s anything else. I make a half-assed effort to have her see that we’ve exhausted every option. Didn’t we try everything? I realize I’m speaking as much to myself as I am to her. Regardless, she’s not listening. She mutters a goodbye under her breath before speeding away.

In the half dozen laps I make around the park afterward, I recall the futility of attaching oneself to an expectation, and the power of creating possibility. Expectations are static. You lose, you fail. You win, you realize it’s nothing special. Possibility, on the other hand, is different. You lose, you create a new possibility. You win, you create a new possibility.

Though I don’t believe it in that moment (remember, just because it sucks now doesn’t mean it will always suck), in the days to come, I will recover. And I will conquer. And so will she.

Somewhere in the distant past, I sold myself on the belief that there’s not a tragedy in this life that will make me give up. You have to decide that sort of thing BEFORE tragedy strikes. 11055343_10206828659705775_5582084695053198937_oI shared that belief with some of my closest peers and mentors, who true to their commitment to love and support their fellow human beings, incessantly and tirelessly reminded me that this is who I am. A survivor. A gladiator. Fearless. And the same applies to you who are reading this. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 4 of 5: The Fallout.”

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War)

Note: Make no mistake. “About A Breakup” is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written  for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.

Sometime in January of 2015, as I recall, I depart Alex’s (my fiancé’s) house as usual to start my week’s nursing work rotation. Moments before, I had hugged and kissed her as http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/alan-alda/images/26135914/title/alan-alda-photoshe left to begin HER nursing night shift. After her departure, as I’d done a hundred times before, I hugged Zeke, the sweetest dog ever, kissed his floppy ear, gave him a treat, locked Alex’s house, and departed.

Shortly after leaving her driveway, I’m struck with a trepidation, a panic. Call it a dark premonition. I have a momentarily vivid vision of life without Alex, of splitting up, of the relationship we’d built coming to an end.

She calls a little while later to make sure I’d left on time to get ample sleep. I mention the premonition to her, the fear still lingering, my voice unsteady. We chat about it briefly, and she assures me (as I’d grown accustomed to assuring so many friends and mentees), that no matter what, it will all work out.

About a year prior, we had begun to carry on some deep discussions with regard to the future of our relationship, having become engaged to be married. I know, I know. Work your shit out BEFORE popping the question. I think we’d found a peace with moving forward, even if every single minute detail wasn’t hammered out. Nonetheless, we found ourselves ebbing and flowing through some challenging conversations, and my heart was uneasy.

We would discuss, create a plan for how to generate new possibilities within the relationship, work the plan, and return to security and comfort. But we’d always somehow find ourselves back to being distanced, with lingering tension. So we’d discuss again. Make a plan again. Experience security and comfort for a time, and the distance would return. Again.

I had a few more of those random dark premonitions, each as vivid as the last. But I became well-versed in burying those gut feelings. It was too painful to think about. Envisioning all we’d worked for, and all the shit we’d have to deal with if we actually DID break up: relocating, the kids, the emotional aftermath, discussions with family, etc. I don’t recall how long I buried what my gut was saying, but it was a number of months at least. I went to great lengths to avoid what my gut was telling me. I feared the pain of change, despite the ultimate potential for happiness.

So I repeatedly resisted the urge to explore what was creating this unrest between us. I suppressed my intuition. If any feeling crept up that I couldn’t explain and centered around the future of our relationship, I avoided it like a drug seeker avoids Tylenol and NSAIDS. Again. And again. And again. In retrospect, though our relationship wasn’t what I would consider whole or complete (because WE weren’t whole and complete with ourselves, as I would discover), there was plenty about it that worked, we were comfortable, and neither of us was willing to challenge that. 

Somewhere around July 2015, the tension rose. We had a few heated arguments. I was angry at her for always putting the ball in my court to make a decision about where we stood. Of course, I should have been equally as angry at myself for doing the same damned thing. It’s like neither of us wanted to be the one to pull the trigger.

There was a ton of inner conflict and anxiety Waiting For The Wordwhile considering this choice. It’s like tapping into more courage than you can ever remember, in order to move on your gut instinct in pursuit of happiness, all the while praying that your gut instinct is wrong. 

I didn’t have it all worked out. I didn’t have it all tied down. But in late July 2015, with no particular reason other than I wasn’t happy (hell, can anyone explain gut instinct?), I made plans to break off the engagement with Alex. I think I reached a point where I just couldn’t ignore what my intuition was telling me any longer. It would be a lesson in dealing with failed expectations and navigating angry reactions (that make you briefly consider whether you’ll be getting out of the conversation alive, or as a ghost whose murder will be the topic of discussion for years to come). It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb” next.

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 1 of 5: Code Angst (An Introduction)

Hell, forget soft intros. Here’s what you need to know: I’ve been through a divorce and a broken engagement. And I’m happy. And I have a stellar relationship with my ex-wife, her husband, and my ex-fiance. And my kids are thriving. The last time I visited them, E, one of their friends from home, flew up with me, courtesy of her kickass mother. And my ex-wife and her husband and OUR two kids and THEIR two kids and E and my ex-in-laws and I ALL went out for pizza and drinks. And it was a blast. AND THIS IS A STORY OF HOPE. 

So after my latest blog entry (addressing patient death), a bunch of you crack sleuths noticed the “About A Breakup” series and inquired about why I hadn’t finished it. I started it about two years prior, and it sort of fell by the wayside. What do losing patients and breakups have in common? Hey, don’t focus on the wrong part of the story. I just figure before I start routinely contributing to The Impossibility Movement again, I should complete the unfinished entries. Here’s an updated introduction to the “About A Breakup” series. Final entries are in progress. I’ll do my best to make each entry short, powerful, and to the point.

If you didn’t decipher it by the enigmatic title, this is a multi-post series about a real-life breakup, in this case, a broken engagement as experienced by me. I figure it applies to a wide range of broken relationships. I’m writing with the day-of-the-dead-2041971_1920intent to relate to YOU in your own breakup, personal tragedy, or otherwise crossroads, and to perhaps be a signpost to hope and joy on the other side. Hope and joy, dammit. I insist. 

At age 37, with a warm-up marriage (a.k.a. “divorce”) already under my belt, I would describe the experience of defaulting on a subsequent, almost-marriage (a.k.a. “engagement”) as something along the lines of a hormonally-saturated lovesick teen, geeked out on Pixy Stix, standing in the middle of a fire and brimstone hailstorm during the First Zombie Apocalypse, armed with only a Little Mermaid toothbrush for self-preservation. Yeah, it hurt. And yeah, I’ve been through the turd ringer. And yeah, I’ve got some mad credentials. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

So here’s the thing. I’m gonna talk about some shitty experiences in this series. Some dark and frustrating and sad and plain old shitty experiences. And like all human brains, YOUR human brain is going to zone in, like Corgnelius The Corgi to a Poodle in heat, solely on the negative emotions, out of a sense of fear that YOU might have to experience the same emotions in your pursuit of personal happiness. Vintage Muse: Stevie NicksDo not buy into that mentality. It’s bullshit. We’re all well-trained to visualize all the worst case scenarios and to convince ourselves that stepping up and saying “this is what I want in life” will certainly lead to torment and regret. But you deserve a life that you love. And for all that we say we want in life, we certainly spend vast amounts of brain cells on what we have to lose, and almost no brain cells on what we have to gain.

In order for you to get the GREATEST impact out of this series, you MUST understand that no transformation in the history of mankind has occurred without a meltdown occurring first. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a transformation, would it? Suppose you found yourself in a state of beautiful and happy and unicorns-shitting-Skittles bliss. And suddenly, you awoke from your dream and found yourself in a state of beautiful and happy and unicorns-shitting-Skittles bliss. Yeah, you read it right. It’s redundant. If all you ever knew was total bliss, you wouldn’t know a transformation if it bit you in ass. How the hell would you know the difference? How would you know blissful light without experiencing darkness? The greatest and most powerful transformations that I’ve ever experienced in my life came on the tail end of the greatest heartbreaks and tragedies. 

 It’s Yin and Yang, my friends. This is what all the great spiritual teachers mean when

imagesthey say “delight in your suffering.” They don’t mean have a tea party in the middle of the shit storm and throw rainbow confetti and eat fucking cupcakes with sprinkles and bathe in a champaign-filled hot tub whilst being battered by rain and wind and flying cows and washed-up celebs and whatever. They simply mean that endless possibilities exist when there’s nowhere to go but up. Remember that.

When life sucks now, we’re convinced that life will suck for eternity. But the future isn’t as shitty as you are convinced it’s going to be. Sure, it hurts like hell when it’s happening. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. But too often we choose to endure the mediocre because we’re afraid of how much it will hurt to go after what you really want in life. This is your happiness at stake. As my dear Aunt Janet so poetically puts it,

“You just have to keep reminding yourself that it’s going to suck. Until it doesn’t suck anymore.”

Now don’t be half-assed about it. If you’re gonna start reading this series, see it through. Way, way, way (sometimes WAY the hell down there), underneath our tears and sorrow and guilt and regret, there’s a flame burning within us from a time when we knew ourselves to be forces of nature, before the world told us we were worthless, and we started to believe that crap. I’m not guaranteeing that this series will change your life. But I do guarantee that you won’t get the full effect if you don’t read the whole thing. Stick it out, my friends. Hope and joy, dammit!

Look for About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War).

Cheers.

Taking A Cold, Hard Beating In Life

Featured

Photo Credit: M&R Glasgow Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/glasgows/2200685325/in/photolist-4mt65r-ekrgJt-a6vJdG-5FH4VD-uF9ih-8XjWpc-rG1Ab2-rzxLc5-waqrBf-v1cxSC-u87vbu-tnA3Gy-wnFUzk-qMamXQ-qTnkp1-tFD3rq-7UTZAg-7Fk5f2-hMPcyx-dQCf9W-wTyKP-bWiVm2-72FndA-cJWEi-6dS18j-kja511-jAnYzN-p8LucZ-8txYwK-cE5u1w-63Sp2P-ku75L6-bwDfTi-csKbXb-cB5abE-4RGYkK-63WCb7-762KYT-7v33Ly-762Jb8-4AE4Gy-766Fij-5x79sv-6KiwBU-63WCmE-5TGymf-4LHZv2-5HyVxA-63WC27-63WC6j  The last nine months or so have delivered a few harsh blows in life, the latest of which has left me reeling with fear, and the blast radius has affected some of those closest to me. It happens to us all. I’ve put a lot of time and work into transforming my once permanently cynical mentality. But none of us is immune to a breakdown from time to time. The last few days, I’ve found myself uncharacteristically asking which day will be the one where I finally throw in the towel. A small but significant memory has begun to show up for me repeatedly, no doubt a result of this damned positive brain training I’ve been practicing the last few years.

I’ve dabbled in several martial arts forms over the years, including Aikido, Hapkido, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Jeet Kune Do, and Kempo Karate. A few years back, I entered Faglier’s Kempo Karate in Augusta, GA, home of some of the biggest badasses of the CSRA. I’m proud to say I’ve trained on the same mat as local MMA champs Jason Faglier (Sr.), Jason Faglier (Jr.), and Alex Faglier. Until that time, I had mostly trained in controlled application of joint locks, chokes, throws and takedowns. Faglier’s was the first dojo I had visited where they routinely practiced full contact sparring, and anyone could try it.

I appreciated this new opportunity, figuring if I was ever to gain real confidence in a street fight situation, I should probably learn to take a punch and give one back. So I dove in head first as usual. I picked one of the biggest, baddest mofos in the dojo and asked him to spar with me after class. Go big or go home, right? His name was Matt. He was an advanced brown belt, MMA and competition experienced, and he also happened to outweigh me by around 80 pounds of solid power. He cheerfully obliged. Come to think of it, perhaps that should have worried me.

Anyway, we chomped down on our mouth pieces, gloved up, and stepped onto the mat for three rounds. Around, oh, fifteen to twenty seconds into Round 1, I was gasping for air like a chain-smoking asthmatic. I was in pretty considerable shape at the time, but let me tell you something: Being winded in the gym with a jump rope is one thing; it’s another thing altogether when you add The Iceman, delivering shots to your rib cage like a jackhammer to a Popsicle stick birdhouse. I dropped my gloves to insinuate I was done. He swiftly replied by delivering a solid right cross to my jaw. It’s hazy, but as best I recall, I believe I momentarily saw a grinning purple unicorn wearing gold clogs, a Black and Mild clinched between his teeth, tap dancing on Matt’s left shoulder.

I shook my head and regained my focus. “Never let your guard down,” Matt said in a lowered voice with a piercing stare. “Never give up.” It was obvious I was going three rounds with him whether I felt like it or not. Round 2: Shot to the nose. Dazed. Another shot to the jaw. Dizzy. Shot to the solar plexus. I was fighting the urge to yark. Round 3: By this point I was secretly just hoping for a knockout blow to put me out of my misery. I was struggling to keep my gloves up. But every time I would drop my guard, he would deliver another shot to my face. “Stay with me. I know you’re tired, but you can’t quit. Come on, man, stay with me. Stay with me.

After three eternities, the Round 3 bell rang, and I realized I was still alive. I had survived three rounds with one of the best fighters in the dojo. He grinned with spirit, slapped me on the shoulder, and told me I’d done well. And he reiterated, “Never, ever, EVER give up.” We bowed and exited the mat. I could only assume what he meant by “I’d done well” was that I hadn’t vomited, had a seizure, pissed myself, or offered up the ghost. He had pushed me WELL past my level of comfort. But he had ignited a fire deep within me to push on, despite several very convincing urges by my mind to throw in the towel. See the first paragraph. Sound familiar?

Every visit to the dojo after that I would step onto the mat with him again. I took beating after beating . . . at first. But then something began to happen. After several weeks, I discovered I could take several hard hits in succession without losing focus. I could swiftly respond with my own flurry of strikes and maintain my defensive guard. I could anticipate an incoming strike based on his body movements. I could spot holes in my opponent’s defenses. And I could make it all three rounds and still have the stamina to go three more.

Some blows in life can leave you in such a state of shock and dismay that you’d swear you could hear the gentle whisper of Death offering sweet (albeit false) relief. Whenever I take a crushing blow in life, or several crushing blows in succession, as seems to have been the case these last several months, when the panic sets in, when I feel like I might puke or pass out from the sheer stress of it all, I start recalling those same sensations as I went head to head with Matt. In my mind’s eye, I can see and hear him, voice lowered, determined stare, urging me to press on, to never give up, to stay with him, even as he beat the shit out of me, because he saw something within me that I didn’t see within myself, and he knew he would be doing me a great disservice by letting me throw in the towel.

I can still feel those body and head shots like torpedoes, rattling my chest and brain, leaving me dizzy and gasping for air, not unlike the aftermath of some of life’s atomic bombs, but slowly etching a permanent message onto my heart and soul: that though I may feel pain, guilt, fear, panic, anger, sadness, frustration, hopelessness, and a whole host of other vivid human emotions at any given time, and though they may FEEL very real, even debilitating, at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, at my core, I’m still a fucking gladiator.  See Two Breakthroughs, Part 2 of 2: Fearless

For what they’ve taught me, I’d like to acknowledge my friends at Faglier’s Kempo Karate for being a part of my mental and physical training. You can find them here for more details.

If I took pictures of every injury I’d sustained in martial arts, I’d have a small bible. Here are a few minor injuries:

After Percocet. Broken and dislocated.

Head contusion. Bow staff to the temple.

Poop And Love – Entry 2: You Are A Sexy Beast

IMG_1241 (1)This is me around mid-June 2015. I’m approaching 140 lb. from 122 lb. About six weeks prior to this photo, I was down to 122 lb. from my latest ulcerative colitis flare, which started in January 2015. Skin and freaking bones, man. But I had a breakthrough in my mentality, my way of being, and I will happily share it with you in this second entry of Poop And Love, if you will agree to be infected with positivity and sexy confidence. Poop And Love – Entry 1: Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis.

If you want to create change in your life, strive first to accept the way you are now. To clarify, that doesn’t mean you have to LIKE the way you are now. For example, I’m a sexy-ass beast. And so are you. And I mean that in a most non-arrogant way. It’s how I choose to carry myself. It’s joy, not pessimism. It’s confidence, not conceit. But here’s the thing (the part I don’t necessarily LIKE sometimes): I’m a relatively small guy, an ectomorph, i.e. considerable strength packed into a body made out of pipe cleaners. Chances are you won’t see me flexing on the cover of Bodybuilding Magazine anytime soon. Between the ulcerative colitis and my body type, my historic challenge has always been keeping the weight on.

Now, before all the canker blossoms chime in with how amazingly kickass it must be to have no worries about obesity, allow me rattle off a few challenges for my fellow stick people in this obesity-focused society:

  • Good luck finding legit literature on how to GAIN weight; you’ll have better luck finding the Yetti sipping on Cognac and playing Spades with a Chupacabra at a hookah lounge in France. Incidentally, a few years back I did land on some solid lit by life guru Tim Ferriss, and I did some extreme self-experimentation from his book, The 4-Hour Body, to prove whether or not it could be done. See the results here. BOOSH.  
  • Whether you’re circling the death drain from fluid depletion at 115 lb. (true story) or getting ripped kettlebell style at 150 lb. (true story), it’s all the same to the handful of people who will tell you EVERY time they see you that you look sickly and need to eat your meat and potatoes. Never mind that an hour ago in your quest for weight gain, you nearly sacrificed a testicle in your efforts to leg press to muscle failure, or that shortly afterward, you swallowed a smidgeon of your own vomit when your body attempted to regurgitate that 1000 calorie weight gainer concoction you forced down.
  • When brute strength of any kind is being requested, if those seeking assistance have a choice between you and a 450-lb smoker with congestive heart failure, well, let’s just say you can go have a nap.

The aforementioned list is characteristic of the way I USED to be: self-conscious, pissed off, working out daily because I despised my frail, sickly body. In January 2015, I went into another ulcerative colitis flareup, and within three months saw all that hard work quickly waste away, from 145 lb. to 122 lb. But this time I tried something different: accepting my body for what it is, and for what it isn’t; letting go of the anger, the stress, the resentment; accepting it and creating new possibilities. So I got to work. I reconnected with some great mentors and found a good doctor who prescribed some alternative meds. After I held 122 lb. for a week with no further weight loss, I picked up the kettlebell, weak and fatigued, and Pavel Tsatsouline (Enter The Kettlebell) and I returned to the mat, where I’d left off six months prior, not because I hated my body, not because I wanted to look like somebody else, but because I know and accept who I am, and I know who I want to be: fit for life, e.g. a sexy-ass beast!

We have this common misconception in society that the fastest way to progress is to hate who you are so much that you are driven to change it. Here’s a news flash: If you don’t like who you are now, you won’t like who you are then. Just have a look at the numerous studies of the relationship between hitting the lottery and personal happiness (hint: it won’t fulfill you as much as you think it will). Learn to generate lasting change by first seeking to accept yourself exactly as you are, for everything you are, and for everything you aren’t. From there, you have a blank canvas, my friends. You are not attached to any pre-conceived notions or hindering circumstances. You are free to create a life that you love.

Cheers.

Poop And Love – Entry 1: Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis

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I’ve been entertaining the idea of throwing out a periodic entry on The Impossibility Movement about dealing with the chronic condition known as ulcerative colitis. You can thank my defective, rotting gut for the inspiration. Calm your life. It won’t be loaded down with force-fed anatomy lessons or sultry emotional agony that would rival angst-filled teenyboppers thrown headlong into premature menses at the news of Zayn’s departure from One Direction.

I’ve been inspired to share a little personal nugget about my life that you may not know about me. It might inspire you. It might give you the warm fuzzy tinglies. Or it might make you want to vomit.

Well anyway, I shall tell you the story of my diagnosis. I will spare you the gory anatomical explanations. All you need to know for this entry is that UC means “ulcerative colitis,” and its most recognized defining characteristic is lots and lots (did I mention lots?) of shitting.

As it happens, I’ve been in and out hospitals a lot in my life. A torn ACL; a head contusion (twice); bloody noses (multiple); dislocated and broken fingers; deep foot laceration; complications from some rare bizarre bleeding disorder (for which I still have no diagnosis); and a host of hospital stays for the UC (amongst other things) have led me to the receiving end of medical care many times. It’s part of what inspired me to become a nurse.

One thing that happens when thrown into a hospital setting for the first time is that you lose certain parts of your dignity right swiftly. Many people resist it. Me, I chose to embrace it. It’s actually quite liberating to stop giving a crap about how you look. For example, during my first hospital stay for UC, multiple nurses and medical staff bore witness to my numerous sprints to the bathroom, open butcher paper gown traipsing merrily upon my exposed naked ass, breaking wind and/or other substances, left hand flailing violently in front of me as if to clear traffic, tips of right fingers crammed against my asshole like a mobile home versus a tornado, not a chance in hell of stopping the great deluge of Montezuma’s Revenge about to vacate the premises of my bowels.

When an imminent liquid bowel movement comes forth, your life’s priorities are suddenly quite simple. Nothing in life matters at that moment except making it to the nearest toilet; not bills, not looks, not relationships, not personal safety, and you certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about how many total strangers lay eyes upon your sunshine and biscuits.

During that particular hospital stay, I was scheduled for my first colonoscopy. That’s where they shove a small camera into your brown star to inspect around 80 feet of your colon. You have to prep by completely emptying the colon, hence the aforementioned sprints to the bathroom (as if I wasn’t crapping enough as it was). Twelve years ago, prepping for a colonoscopy was simple. I’ll paraphrase as instructed by the nurse:

Only consume clear liquids the day before this fantastical, magical experience; twelve hours before, quickly drink a half gallon of this pasty liquid that tastes like Vomit of Lucifer on a decaying possum carcass, with just a smidgen of skunk piss; you may add grape or lemon lime Gatorade to sweeten it. Try not to yark.

Bollocks. Lady, Wille Wonka and a Pope’s exorcism wouldn’t touch this forlorn concoction. I think I vomited more than I shat.

Anyway, the next day, after like 30 days of round the clock bloody diarrhea, my new GI doctor would report to my hospital room to deliver the official news that I had ulcerative colitis. Admission weight: 112 pounds as I recall (down about 30 pounds from my average weight at that time). I looked like Skeletor on Speed and Adipex. He would go on to explain all the wonders of this exciting new disease for which there was (and is) no cure, and with which I should be prepared to deal for life. So here I was at 25 with no major medical history, thrown headlong into the world of chronic disease.

I must say that I’ve been blessed to have spent the majority of my life since my diagnosis in remission. That is to say, I usually only average a flareup about twice a year, and through self-experimentation I have developed several methods for quick recovery.  Over the years, I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve learned about life with a chronic condition. You learn that you can take much more than you thought, that you can find peace and happiness even in the midst of excruciating pain, and that your outer condition and circumstances have little (if anything) to do with your inner spiritual state.

My friends, true peace is possible in any circumstance or condition. I am the evidence.

Cheers.