Category Archives: Mental Health

Forever Radiant…

I know this can’t go on forever, this radiant burn and energy.

Can you see it in my eyes from the picture?

I’ve earned the wrinkles and the scars. I’ve earned the smile today, too.

I’m sitting here with the door wide open, enjoying a warm December afternoon. Güino, my tuxedo cat, prowls the landing outside, awaiting another squirrel’s visit. I watched a few divebomb the bird feeders outside today, collecting pecans, peanuts, and even suet from the songbird’s offering plate. It’s cloudy outside but such clouds have never brought melancholy; quite the opposite.

When I went outside this early morning and felt the air, I wanted nothing more than to put on my other shoes and take off walking across Northwest Arkansas. Work of course pulled me back to reality. I used the pace of work to draw me into a blurring zone of activity; hallways, concrete, and lots of stairs. Now that I have a Fitbit, I realize that I’m logging 50+ floors each day, which tickles me. I can walk 25,000 steps without giving it a second thought. As my friend Tammy taught me, “Nothing tastes as good as this feels,” the occasional realization that I don’t realize that I’m walking without another hundred pounds of me on my back. It feels like I’m gliding on air a lot of the time. I wish I had done this transformation twenty years ago.

I got to hug Kathy, a coworker of mine who has logged 30+ years there. She’s retiring Friday. I made her a personal canvas with a departing message, one conveying the bittersweet goodbye of her approaching and permanent absence. I didn’t start greeting her warmly or with a hug until a little over a year ago. Covid aside, that’s a shame. Personal connection helps all of us nullify that urge to be ‘professional,’ aloof, or behave in ways that violate our obligation to treat each other as people first and foremost.

Even after work as I wandered Walmart in search of people and stories, I felt like I was radiating an aura of energy. I helped three people while I was there. My biggest reward was saving someone a few hundred dollars on an alternate laptop. I gave the woman my email address and told her to write me if she has any issues with her Chromebook. I wished a few dozen people “Merry Christmas!” as I glided around the aisles. I saw the biggest afro hair I’ve ever seen there. I watched as someone cleverly misused the self-service kiosk to avoid paying for an item. (You get what you make us pay for Walmart.) Another man pulled at least twenty jugs of milk out of the cooler to inspect some unseen quality that only he could see. And I handed the Salvation Army bell ringer her choice of diet or regular soda. Thankfully, she chose regular, leaving me to down the entire bottle of Coke Zero in about two minutes.

If I felt this way every day, I’m not sure it might not be too much. It’s a wondrous feeling while it’s happening. I find myself mourning its eventual loss, though, as ridiculous and odd thing as that might be to say.

My sister wrote me, telling me that she’s still having difficulty, especially now that another round of inevitable physical symptoms creeps up on her. I can’t imagine struggling with addiction and past patterns. The ones I have are enough to keep me dancing; her shadows are longer and deeper than mine. Our pasts overlap and because of that, I understand the complexity.

Meanwhile, I’m going to step outside and take another short walk. I feel like I might be leaving visible energy trails in my footprints. I hope so.

And I hope that some of y’all are feeling exuberant, too, even if you can’t identify the cause. For many of you, it’s Christmas season, when exuberance is supposed to infuse your life like the first observed lightning bug of the summer.

While energy cannot truly be erased, our measure of it is limited by the burning fuse of our lives.

I can FEEL my fuse burning. I know I sound crazy sometimes. But if you can imagine looking up at the sky and sun and thinking to yourself that the same force that powers the universe powers us, it might be more relatable.

What goes up must come down. That’s okay. I’ve captured this day-long feeling of radiance and bottled a bit of it in my memory.

Nothing momentous happened today. And that’s precisely why it felt so precious.

Love, X
.

Before…

Before, I felt rich. Not because of my house, car, or miscellaneous and extraneous things to fill them.

Now? I’m poorer but I still feel rich. Despite the emergency surgery and the financial drain of that craziness, I have a job and my feet grace the ground without much pain for my age.

I prize wittiness and humor, sarcasm, and even dark humor. Snark? I can’t get enough.

Around me, I do see people that should stop being so cruel. But I don’t characterize everyone as being prone to cruelty. On a long enough timeline, we are all going to be assholes. Yes, even you, Greg.

While there are limits, I can walk outside and run or walk for as long as I want.

I can get in the car and just drive. Anywhere.

I can open a book or a web browser and find a little slice of the world and fill my mind with things I’d never imagined.

I can communicate with millions of people through social media and forums.

I can eat in a multitude of places that will grace my mouth with culinary delight.

I can see people, hug, and listen as they tell their stories, the same ones that probably drive their partners or family crazy.

Normal life as we expect is impossible for much of the world.

We forget that achieving our innermost dreams is a great goal but unrealistic. And that leaves the ground we walk every day feeling a little bit frosty to us.

Only gratitude and realization can ever cure us of our dissatisfaction with so much to be happy for.

Our ancestors cherished tribe, food, fire, and safety. They strived for something better, faster, and more complicated. Now that we have it, we all sometimes know in our hearts that we have more than enough to fill this world with love, comfort, and hope if we but choose to.

To do so, we have to fill ourselves first.

I am rich.

Most of us are.

Love, X

What Was Was… (A Guest Post)

Every once in a while I erase the whiteboard in the kitchen and write the first thing that comes to mind. Today’s is a simple set of statements, but ones very hard to reconcile in the scheme of life. We often find ourselves looking back, thinking about the heydays and moments we were at the point we thought as best. With regrets, what~ifs, despondency. Hoping we may one day find those moments again.

What we need to take away from those minutes though is that the past is the past, and whether we think things were somehow better before we need to see the now with a fresh set of eyes and appreciation. There are lovely things, amazing seconds, right here and now.

We all have a “gilded” age full of sparkle and shine, it will always not be now. But if you can’t appreciate all the beauty of the day just now happening because of it… that is doing this one a disservice. There is so much to be grateful for right this moment, focusing on the past only causes you to gloss over it.

“What

was Was.

What is Is….”

Personal Post, December Edition

The screenshot is of this week’s sleep for me. Months ago, part of my therapy was to learn to sleep again. My benchmark is 6 hours, which probably seems low to most of you. It’s not. I CAN sleep more, but my natural rhythm at this weight is six hours. At some point, I’m going to take a week and see if I can sleep for eight hours and see if it lowers my motivation again. It did before. I’m not sure I actually fell asleep as early as I did on some of those nights; the Fitbit interprets low heart rate and breaths as light sleep, even if I’m awake and listening to music or a podcast, or wrestling with my cat Güino.

In February, I wrote a post titled “Shirtless in February.” I never felt too weird about people seeing my body. We all know what people look like, more or less, whether they’re layered in two shirts, a tunic, and a bathrobe. It’s anatomy, not magic. (Although there is magic and chemistry in the process of seeing someone, that’s for another post.) 🙂 We fool ourselves by thinking we’re being clever. In my case, I wish someone had been creative enough to tell me to stop eating and lose weight twenty years ago, and in such a way that I would have HEARD the concern. We don’t have a way to lovingly talk to someone about this sort of thing without setting off a firestorm of defense or anger. That’s a problem.

As a side note, the world would also be much better off if you accept the compliment if someone thinks you are pretty, beautiful, handsome, or attractive. There is no universal standard for such things. Can we stop insisting there is? One of the most beautiful things is a quick smile and a sense of humor, even if the teeth behind it are crooked. I’m being serious. There’s no single formula for beauty or even attraction.

Yesterday, I had tons of energy. I ate an abnormally large lunch and then had a therapy session. We laughed a lot, which is always a good sign. As I often say, she can laugh easily because she’s billing me. I already knew I was feeling better due to the volume of pranks and creative things I’d been doing. After, around 4, I felt anxious. Having a Fitbit pays off in these circumstances. Because I have the premium option, I could see the metrics in real-time and progress. Seeing the physiological effects helps me deal with it.

Today, I woke up feeling like I was walking on air, which is becoming very common -and when I don’t feel that energy, I wonder what causes it. I realized that I expect that I will always wake up ready to ring the bell and step into the day. I wanted to go running all morning. Unfortunately, work intervened. Work “let” me walk 15-20K steps, though. It wasn’t until after work that I realized that not running yesterday affected my level of anxiety in the afternoon. It should have been evident to me. I’ve only missed a couple of days of running in the last couple of weeks. If I find myself incapable of constant running, I switch to running in intervals and burn through the miles or minutes that way. Anything incremental is better than not doing anything. I’m not sure I will continue running. I’d do it if someone agreed to chase me each day. Add a little danger and/or mystery to the equation.

I hit the streets this afternoon. I enjoyed the incredible 75-degree afternoon. Weirdly, I could sense this might be the last such incredibly temperate afternoon to enjoy – maybe for weeks. The Upper 70s in December? Yes, please! And so, I ran. After a few minutes, I took my shirt off. The slight breeze gave me wings. Even though I didn’t want to, I stopped. I felt like I could run ten miles, which would be a discomfort payment I wouldn’t want to make tomorrow. I did run up and down the apartment stairs a few dozen times when I got back, though.

An actual test of whether someone cares what they look like is if they can run without a shirt on. Forget swimming without one; the litmus test is running, where there’s no water to hide your body. For 54, I look normal. My scar left what looks like a second belly-button indentation a few inches above my real one. The surgery left a “pooch” between the two indentations. When I think back to how I looked and felt before, it is still hard to believe I fooled myself for so long. I’m not a fan of people being ashamed of their bodies, no matter what shape they are in. I understand it, but when you compare the vast variety of body types and shapes, everyone has something they hate about themselves. Except for me. I accept it all because it’s me. I did the work needed to remove the excuses I kept whispering in my head. Looking normal is something I hadn’t anticipated.

Don’t worry; I’m still not going to ACT normal, so you can cross that expectation off of your list.

I’m going to put a picture below. Not so that people could say something nice – or mean. Anyone who wants to snark is welcome to as long as it’s creative. I love creative snark, and I need to practice not caring that other people think I look like Danny DeVito grown up and thinner. I’m not sucking my gut in. I don’t have one. I have a weird pooch that can’t be fixed without surgery, which will not happen. I already lost a knife fight with a surgeon. He got the last laugh with the catheter.

People keep telling me to stop losing weight. I haven’t lost any weight since before my surgery. I’m just working to change my body mass. I ate a donut and seven Ghiradelli chocolate squares this morning.

I’m still experimenting with the ‘how’ of it. There are days when I’m glad I’ve done it all for no other reason than to know I did it. The future could hit me with any number of calamities or illnesses. It’s a question of when not if.

I’ve encouraged anyone interested in doing something to change themselves. No matter what else I’ve done, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I still weighed 230, 240, or 250+ lbs. The voice in my head answers: “Dead.” You don’t have to go to the gym, buy supplements, or do a lot of cardio to lose weight. You don’t even have to invest a lot of time. All it takes is a change of mind about how you want to look and feel. Small changes, constantly reinforced. Because I’ve learned to say so, I’ll include the caveat that there are exceptions. But I’m not writing about the exceptions. As the year winds down, the barrage of New Year’s Resolutions and commitments ramp up. And I reply, “Why wait? You can do one thing today to start. And you can do it right here and right now.”

If you’re happy with your body, stop struggling to worry about your weight. And don’t worry about how people perceive you. You can’t change that.

Take it from taller Danny DeVito.

Love, X
.

I Asked

I moved my bedroom from the living room into a bedroom this morning. If that sounds byzantine, it was. I’ve lived in my living room for almost four months. I also exercised and then went running. Whether it was toward something or away, I’m not certain. But I ran. And it felt glorious. It was the fifth time this week and the first in a long time where I felt like I might become airborne as I did so. I bought a set of athletic pants that fit me properly. They are 28-30 small adult/child size. Someone nicknamed me “Babypants.” I don’t take offense. I earned the size. And if you see me running and think I’m doing it strangely, that’s more than okay, too. Doing the work and looking stupid is okay by me. I’m going to look (and sound) stupid quite often. I look forward to it. It puzzles me that people are afraid of looking stupid, saying the wrong thing, or believing that other people have the magic formula for style, method, or appearance. We owe it to ourselves to be as strange as we naturally are.

When I got back from running, the husband of a caretaker for one of the tenants here spent his time waiting by blowing the leaves off the walkway. He watched as I ran up and down the staircase a few dozen times. “Getting your cardio in again? I saw you run up from the road.” I laughed. “Well, I have 30 years worth to catch up on.”

Earlier this week, I did a reset and asked the universe for a couple of favors. Not because I’m deserving of them – but because I’m not. It’s the first time I’ve dared to do so in a long time. The biggest ask is that I avoid calamity or demise for at least another year. A year is long enough to transform anything.

In the same way, I’ve diligently said, “I don’t know” with much greater frequency this year, I’ve also started asking. It’s a tangent to my propensity to state my truth without trying to wrangle someone into a specific reaction. It’s been a wild ride! Those who respond with incredulity that I ask are forgetting the fundamental truth: it’s never wrong to ask; it’s only wrong to respond irrationally on either side of the asking. It’s the cousin to honesty, a thing everyone claims to desire yet few embrace without grimace or discontent.

As I write this, someone texted me in response to another ask. Life can be so precious and quixotic at times, can’t it?

Ask
Ask for what you want or desire.
If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it.
Ask of life and ask of people.
The answer, though bitter or not what you sought…
It’s at least the truth.
Everything starts from there
Ask

Love, X
.

Wisdom From The Internet + Thoughts

“When you close your eyes to sleep it doesn’t matter how big your bedroom is.”


Wisdom from the internet.

It really doesn’t matter how big your house is, either, if you are not happy. Having all the things you need should result in all of us being content and satisfied, but not necessarily happy. If your life is flooded with things but not satisfaction, no amount of clutter or creature comforts will fill your heart with gladness. But we try. Me too.

I try to not imagine how happy the people are, the ones around me. But I do. We’re supposed to make such judgments based on how people act rather than what they say. Words are often glib, camouflaged, or misdirected. It’s not in most people’s nature to honestly communicate. Some of that is from social politeness. If we’re not baring ourselves to those who matter, though, a big chunk of our potential is drained away. People make assumptions, right or wrong about themselves based on how well they think their cohort is doing. Being honest gives them a benchmark to compare. Lords knows that social media isn’t an accurate reflection for most people. Thank you to everyone who has shared something about themselves with me. It is a comfort, even as I sit in my living bedroom, looking out the front windows, watching the world drive by.

Love, X
.