About A Breakup, Part 4 of 5: The Fallout

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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.

Meltdown Final 2Yes, it’s a sinister image. I thought about inserting a dainty unicorn shitting Skittles here, but let’s be honest. It’s The Fallout, after all: the single biggest reason people stay in their shit job, or continue to enable a life-sucking friend or family member, or, yes, remain in a miserable relationship. Because none of us wants to endure the temporary aftermath of an atom bomb, even as the whole universe is flashing neon marquises to a different life, one with possibility, of hope, of peace. We stay where it’s comfortable. As Donna, a dear friend and mentor, once pointed out to me while I was wrestling with making a choice regarding the breakup,

On an emotional pain scale (metaphors paraphrased here), with zero being the tranquil offspring of Gandhi and Mother Teresa, and ten being Ted Bundy on Angel Dust with kidney stones, people will tolerate a nagging four or a five for YEARS, even for LIFE. We are seldom willing to experience a temporary ten in order to ascend to the life of our dreams.

The Fray LyricThe Fallout is the period of transition between the immediate pain of The Atom Bomb (rewind to part 3 for a refresher) and the realization of the uncertain changes about to transpire. The fallout from my 2009 divorce (before my “enlightenment”) lasted about two grueling years.
The fallout from my broken engagement began to dissipate after just a few months. I’ll explain how I’ve learned to expedite the closure process later.

For now, let me toss a philosophical nugget your way (calm your tits and stay with me here; it’s a NUGGET, not a dialogue from a Plato). In life events, e.g. breakups, there’s what actually occurs, and there’s all that other horseshit that you tell yourself and everybody else about what occurs.

Simple example: Some guy cuts you off on your hurried way to work. Done. That’s all that happened. Here’s the horseshit (and what will have you wrapped in emotional turmoil for years to come): How dare this jerkoff cut me off on my way to work! Doesn’t he know where I’m going is WAY more important than where he’s going? Inconsiderate asshole! That’s the problem with the world today! A bunch of stupid, ignorant-ass people who don’t know how to drive and are making everyone else’s life a living hell!

Anyway, using the above nugget, I’m going to tell you exactly what happened, minus my horseshit story, which I had admittedly so painstakingly and methodically written out, so that the reader might grasp all of my ridiculously incorrigible teen thirty-something angst.

Here’s what happened. Alex and I make it a point to be straight-forward about the situation with the kids, to whom she’d become like a second mother. We sit right down with them the day after the Atom Bomb and explain what’s going on. As usual, they take it (as kids are so prone to do) so much better than we feared they would. Their resilience both humbles and astounds me, even to this day. They’ve thrived beyond measure, and I attribute this largely to our commitment to promote love and unity as opposed to bitterness and animosity.

Two days after, most of Alex’s immediate family arrive from out of state to provide emotional support and to help her pack up. I always admired her family’s tireless commitment to each other.

Three weeks after, she submits her two-week notice at work, stating she has no more reason to stay here. I help organize her house for packing.

Five weeks after, she makes the permanent move to Florida.

I could paint you a vivid mental picture of all the emotional pain and complexities, but for what? To indulge my mind’s (inaccurate) regurgitation of what a horrible person I am for making a move toward personal happiness? To entertain my mind’s desire to regret something, anything? It’s in the past, and it’s resolved. If you want to experience an expedited recovery, practice separating what ACTUALLY occurred from your emotionally driven STORY ABOUT what occurred.

Did it hurt? Hell yes. Did I have bouts of anxiety? Sometimes. Did I think the pain and heartache and guilt would never, ever, ever end? Absolutely. Vinny Bad DaysAnd yet, here I am on the other side, killing it with complete closure, completely happy in the relationship she’s found with her new guy. I couldn’t be happier for her, and we remain good friends.

Remember, my friends, your mind will gravitate toward the worst possible (most unlikely and illogical) scenario. If you lose your job, you’ll never be rehired by anyone and will die a penniless bum; if you don’t make the cut in America’s Got Talent, you’re a no-talent loser who has no choice but to go back to your 40-hour a week office job, forever; if you lose romance, that’s your last shot at love, and you’ll die a lonely old codger who pines over the one who got away; etc. Let go of the worst case! There are a million other possibilities between your current situation and the worst case scenario.

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

YOU CAN AND MUST ENDURE THE FALLOUT in its entirety before making any life-altering decisions!

The duration will differ depending on several variables, but know this: If you choose to return to your ex, for example, while any pain or lack of closure exists from the Atom Bomb, you will very likely make a decision you regret, a decision that is swayed by fear and influenced by a sensational thirst to return to that warm, fuzzy, familiar (shitty) comfort zone.

This is precisely the reason that miserable couples repeatedly reconcile after splitting (I know VERY well from personal experience). We don’t allow ourselves the time to let the fear-based thoughts dissipate. We hear the fear screaming like a banshee! Where will I go?! What will I do?! Will I find anyone else?! The kids are doomed! I’m so lonely! And so on. And we go running back to what feels familiar, even as our hearts resist returning, knowing that misery is waiting upon our return. We don’t allow ample time for self-discovery, to explore what led us to question in the first place. Stick it out! Use the fallout to discover what you really want in life!

Here are two empowering agreements that Alex and I made:

  1. A firm commitment to the happiness, peace, and wellbeing of the other, no matter what.
  2. A refusal to consider reconciliation as a possibility until we had thoroughly explored our own incompletions. As a dear friend and mentor once told me, two incomplete people cannot create a complete relationship. And we both began to become very aware of our own incompletions in retrospect.

As it happens, we stood strong, did some self-exploration, and the breakup stuck. We both agree without question that it was a decision that was true to both our hearts. We are both a testament that peace and friendship CAN exist between exes (the same remains true with my ex-wife).

Stay tuned for “Rebuilding,” the fifth and final entry in the About A Breakup series. Cheers.

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Room 1: The First Patient I Ever Lost

8765547_cb84ee4533_zI’m no stranger to patient death. If you’re going to be a nurse (or anyone in the medical field for that matter), it’s something you will deal with routinely. This post is in reference to a patient who suffered a critical event while under my direct supervision and did not survive, about five years ago. I was a rookie who had seen death a hundred times under the care of another person, but I’d never personally lost a patient.

Mr. Z was a drunk. He was a frequent flyer. He would use the money he should have been spending on his seizure medications to buy booze. Then he would get wasted, have violent seizures, and his wife would bring him to the ER. He would come up swinging, too, fists throwing out wild haymakers at all of us after the seizures subsided. We’d have to restrain him. Then he’d come to his senses and apologize profusely. This happened once every few weeks.

In my mind, I can still see his wife, always casually strolling through the ER to the waiting room as we began treating him. She’d be carrying a small suitcase and a blanket, preparing for another few nights in the hospital.

On one such occasion, Mr. Z was abnormally lethargic. He didn’t do his usual Mike Tyson routine after his seizure. Dr. Y ordered a CT scan of his head. I approached Room 1 to transport him to the radiology department. He was asleep when I entered. His blood pressure was a little low, but his pulse and respirations were normal.

The radiology tech accompanied me, and we wheeled him down the hall on the stretcher; the whole trip took less than five minutes. I kept track of his heart rate and respirations throughout. He remained stable. We slid him onto the examination table.

And just like that, he stopped breathing. I quickly checked for a pulse. Nothing. We quickly slid him back onto the ER stretcher, where I began CPR. I ordered the CT tech to call back to the ER and prepare for a Code Blue (patient not breathing). She made the call and steered the stretcher back to the ER with me perched on the side, doing compressions the whole way.

My team were at the ready as we wheeled Mr. Z back to Room 1 and went swiftly to work. Despite our best efforts, within fifteen minutes, it became obvious he wasn’t going to make it. Dr. Y announced the time of death. It all had happened so fast. I was dumbfounded.

Dr. Y, a seasoned veteran of medicine, cast a glance across the room and immediately sensed my struggle to process what had just happened. She marched toward me with purpose, grasped me firmly by the shoulders, looked into my eyes, and stated,

“It’s not your fault.”

I looked cluelessly into her eyes.

“It’s not. Your. Fault.” She repeated again.

I wept.

“Tripp. It’s not. Your. Fault.” She was insistent this time, firm.

I nodded. I stepped outside, pulled myself together and finished out the shift. I’ve often pondered why I was so upset, and over the years it has become apparent to me. We treat human beings, without question, without prejudice, without judgment. Whatever your race, your gender, your sexuality, your background, we will treat you.

As an emergency nurse, whenever I feel myself compartmentalizing inefficiently, feeling burned out, exhibiting jaded behavior, getting frustrated, I reflect back on Mr. Z in Room 1, and I am reminded that human beings are human beings. A life is a life. And a life lost before its time is a tragedy. Period.

To my dear fellow nurses this 2017 Nurses Week, you sometimes carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You are a special breed. You see more disturbing images in a typical week than most people will see in a lifetime. You are loved, you are adored, and you are a vital part of the transformation of this world. Take time to accept the gratitude and appreciation that is declared to you, for you are all rockstars.

Cheers.

Life and Death: A Different Sort Of Birthday

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3408605763_92d0bc3049_b   5th of July, 2015. Before dawn. Most of the east coast is still sleeping.

In my typical fashion, I reach a lazy hand over the bedside table and smack the snooze button for the tenth time, annoyed at the damned ear-piercing alarm for performing the job I assigned to it. I finally muster the strength to drag my carcass out of bed to prep for another 12-hour round of mental taxation as an ER charge nurse.

Silence.

I live with my folks currently, so I take extra care not to disturb anyone as I do my morning routine. It’s a Sunday at that, so I won’t be crossing morning paths with my dad on our respective ways to work. I trudge down the hallway into the kitchen, scarf a few spoonfuls of Apple Jacks, down a glass of water, pop half a 5-Hour Energy (I know, I know; I’m an over-caffeinated work in progress), and quietly shut myself into the bathroom, still half asleep.

I kneel and turn the cold bath faucet on as part of my wakeup routine, to shock myself awake, and to tame my chaotic morning mane. A few seconds before plunging my head under the running water, I could swear I hear the muffled sound of my dad yelling in the next room. Weird. They usually sleep in on Sundays. I turn the water off and listen.

Silence.

We have this geriatric Rat terrier who, whilst in her prime, once tried to check out permanently via school bus tire. After miraculously sustaining zero injuries, the skid marks across her back faded, and she lived many more years. We’ve considered admitting her into a canine nursing home on account of her half dozen life-threatening diagnoses. Dear Lord, I thought, she’s finally hopped the twig to Abraham’s bosom.

I rise to make sure everything is OK. Of a sudden, before my hand reaches the door, it swings violently open, my dad gripping the knob with white knuckles, breathing heavily . . . focused . . . alarmed.

“Hey. Can you come check on your mom?”

My heart skips a beat as the adrenaline permeates. We rush to the bedroom, where I find her lying in bed, cold, listless, pale, sweating . . . and not breathing. I recognize the signs of cardiac failure immediately. I’m struck with a fear.

Stop. Breathe. Keep it together.

I collect my thoughts as my dad dials 911. He begins a series of trips in and out of the house, alternating between flagging down the ambulance and checking on his beloved wife.

“Hey mom! How you doing?” I shout in jovial terror, struggling to maintain my positivity as I put my fingertips to the side of her neck. I feel a very faint, very slow pulse. “Hey Mom!” I shout again.

She suddenly takes a shallow breathe, moans and whispers faintly, “I’m fine. I feel a little sick. Don’t call the ambulance.” Good. At least she’s herself. Even near death, she’s worried about stressing us.

Then she mumbles that she thinks she’s going to pass out. I watch the life slowly depart from her eyes. She stops breathing again. I instinctively look for the patient Code Cart which contains every life-saving medication known to man, shock pads, heart monitor, oxygen, compression board, intravenous setup. But alas, I’m not in the ER. All I have are my hands and my scrambled brain. I refocus and reach to lower her to the floor. I prepare to start compressions on my mom. Just before I lift her, she takes another shallow breath.

“Ugh. I feel just awful. I’ll be fine. Really. You don’t need to call anyone.”

I put a hand to her cheek and look into her heavy eyes. I take a deep breath and control a lingering tear as I pull it back together.

“Mom, I need you to trust me.”

She hesitates. I see irony in her eyes: This wonderful woman, to whom I’ve entrusted my life for so many years, now asked to place her life into my hands.

“OK, Tripp. I trust you.” Her lip quivers as she fights a tear, that dreadfully liberating release of control. Once more the life fades from her eyes. Once more I prepare for compressions. Once more she takes in a breath and comes back. We ride this roller coaster four to five times for what seems like an eternity.

My dad finally rushes in with the EMS crew. Mom seems to be returning to her senses, and is fully conversational by the time they lift her into the back of the ambulance. I step into the truck to tell her I love her and that she’s in good hands. The paramedic, a personal friend, runs a cardiac monitor strip and we both agree on the probable diagnosis.

We slam the back doors, the engine revs and they speed away as the day breaks, lights flashing. I trot back inside to help my dad get some things packed for a hospital stay. Of a sudden, the world stops as an hour of suppressed chaotic emotions surge to the conscious surface. We hug each other briefly, have a small meltdown, pull it back together and finish packing for a few romantic nights of white walls, sterile breezes, incessant beeping and waiting. Lots of waiting.

The cardiologists did stellar work on a heart so big that she probably feels guilty for “burdening her family” as she reads this post, as if she had any control over the electrical impulses of her own heart. There is no burden, only love. And we’re glad mom decided to stick around a while longer. Her recent birthday reignites my utmost gratitude for life.

Take heart my friends. We can live in fear of what we cannot change, or we can live with gratitude for what we would never change. Be bold. Seek to cherish your life and your loved ones, not out of fear of losing them, but out of simple love for every precious moment.

Thank you, mom. I love you dearly.

Image by J E Smith at https://www.flickr.com/photos/statusfrustration/3408605763

 

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. 

Taking A Cold, Hard Beating In Life

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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.

First Album Release and the Quest For Perfection (Which Is BS, By The Way)

Superglue NightmareI’m thrilled to have just rereleased the Superglue Nightmare Demos, number one of my first three albums released from 2002 to 2009. These albums are raw and far from perfect, and after enough internal conflict and angst to fill three psych wards and still have enough left over for both sides of the Caitlyn Jenner debate, I’ve yet again found myself fumbling (and occasionally just walking) down the path of self discovery. Current life lesson: Peace with imperfection. Let’s discuss this elusive bitch, er, beast that is “perfection.” It’s a pandemic that has infected every human mind in history at some point or another.

We humans have this obsession with flawlessness, with the way things SHOULD be, but aren’t. Then at some point, we have this big revelation and decide that being flawless is crap, and we’re not going to give a shit about our flaws anymore! What you see is what you get! Then we have a meltdown because we realize we’re not flawless at being cool with our flaws. So then we do some yoga or meditate or pray or stab our spouse or something, after which we arrive at a peace with our newfound discovery: that everything ALREADY IS flawless, for better or for worse! Perfection! We just didn’t see it before! And that makes us better than you, because you haven’t made that particular discovery yet. But it’s OK, young Grasshopper. Here, you can bask in our flawless glow. 

In December 2014, you may have read my post about splitting with a promising record label. In January 2015, after dealing with some frustration, I picked myself up again and started making plans for a Kickstarter campaign to fund the remainder of my half-finished Tripp Powell & Co. debut album, Vintage Revival. I also began working on a publicity album entitled The Shotgun Sampler. The premise of The Shotgun Sampler was to put a few original songs from each of my first three albums onto one compilation for distribution. The album was so named for the manner in which I intended to release the compilation: quickly, without worrying about over polishing it, just to give fans a sense of my original sound. I’ll give you three guesses to see where this is going.

So four months later, I’m still working on the finer points of this “quick” album release, finding myself averaging 4-5 hours of crappy sleep per night, sucking down one to two energy shots per day, juggling my paying job (nursing) and my non-paying job (music), in the middle of my worst ulcerative colitis flare ever, frail and sickly. It took me that damned long to admit to myself and to everyone else that I was stressed out of my mind. After all, I’m the positivity guru, right? I’m beyond stress . . . cough, cough, BS!, cough, cough. And the ultimate stressor? DELUSIONAL SEARCH FOR PERFECTION. I found myself completely sold on the notion that this musical venture should be flawless, perfect and without mistakes. Are you starting to smell what I’m stepping in?

So once again, I picked myself up (side note: NEVER GIVE UP; thank you John Eliopolo), checked myself into the ER for a jump start to wellness, started therapy with a great new GI doc, picked up the kettlebell once again and started putting on the muscle with an old trusty (and absolutely brutal) weight gain regimen (thank you, Time Ferriss and Pavel Tsatsouline), and took the following detours:

  1. The Shotgun Sampler can go to hell, or at least collect dust on an earthly shelf for a while.
  2. All three of my first albums will be hitting online stores, starting with the Superglue Nightmare Demos. Look for the next two in the coming months. They each have imperfections, and dammit, I’m cool with that.
  3. Vintage Revival will be postponed, but is still very much alive. I’m leaning toward giving Kickstarter another shot later this year for funding.
  4. In the words of my good friend and mentor Javier Silva: “Get your shit out there and start playing live! Get messy! Make some mistakes!”

My friends, we human beings have the misconception that there is a way life SHOULD be, which causes us to resent and to resist the way life IS. Consider my notion that this musical venture SHOULD BE flawless, perfect and without mistakes. See where it got me? A pretty fair shot at taste testing different soil types and contributing to flower growth, if you catch what I’m saying. Have a look into where you expect perfection, or where you try your best to portray it. True, passionate, amazing life isn’t for the polished, the refined, the flawless. It’s for getting dirty, making mistakes, and loving yourself and those around you all the more for it. 

“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making some more.” -Cheryl Cole

Tripp Powell & Co. are rehearsing and gearing up for live shows in the near future. If you’re itching to get your hands on a copy of the Superglue Nightmare Demos pronto (and you should be!), you can find it here. Expect it on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Amazon and all other major music outlets soon. Cheers.

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.