Monthly Archives: November 2008

>Health Habits

>It is frighteningly obvious to me that I need to modify what I am doing in my life, particularly when it comes to eating and exercising. When my stimulants were stripping weight out of me, I began eating huge bowls of ice cream simply to prevent weight loss. Of course, when I started taking heart meds (because my stimulants sent my BP sky high), my metabolism also seemed to slow. I don’t eat as much ice cream now, but I still eat some. I definitely need to stop doing that. My weight has steadily risen throughout the summer and fall. I can’t afford to get any heavier.

I also need to get back into a much better groove when it comes to my diet. I am not eating a lot of gluten, but I have some at least three or four days a week. Beyond knowing that the gluten makes my digestion worse, I am also sure that it exacerbates my sinus issues. I need to buy healthier food and stop using junk food for comfort. I am hoping that by naming this, I will own my commitment to myself.

Beyond the food issues, I need to begin working out. While exercise will certainly help with my weight, even more importantly I will begin gain back some physcial strength. My knees have begun to hurt again. I am also sure that some of my fatigue is a result of my lack of any kind of endurance. My regiment will need to start slowly. I clearly do not want to overexert myself. I remember all too well how sick I got this summer when I pushed to hard. Still, by building muscular strength, I am certain I will gain mental and emotional fortitude. As always, my concern remains time. I hate that each day seems to only provide me limited windows of energy. Yet, that is the reality. Getting healthy is the best thing for me, thus is must become my highest priority. It does not mean that I won’t do other things, but it does mean that I have to stop waiting for some free time. There is no free time! If I intend to get in shape, I must give up other things, or simply know that I will not put much energy into my other activities.

My goal is to work out three times between now and next Friday. I also will minimize sweets and go the entire week without eating gluten. I think the goals are realistic, but we will see what my reporting brings next Friday.

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Filed under Balance, Exercise, Exhaustion, Fear, Frustration, Honesty, Insights, Narcolepsy

>Grace and Gratitude

>While I love turkey (although the tryptophan only makes my narcolepsy more fun) and my sister makes incredible desserts, I have realized over the last few years that the best thing about Thanksgiving is the opportunity to step back and honestly ponder the many gifts in my life. While narcolepsy (and chronic sinusitis and anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome) makes every day difficult, the reality is that I am daily deluged with gifts.

The greatest gift (other than life itself) is my beautiful wife. She makes each day sing. Whether we are snuggled tightly in our bed, or crossly vying with each other over the best way to do something, she makes each moment better. Her smile ignites my heart, and her body and intellect does the same in other places. Best of all, she truly is my dearest friend. I trust no one, perhaps not even myself, to the level that I do with her. She is cute and sexy and weird and hilarious and endearing and brilliant and annoying and driven and relaxed and glorious – usually at the same moment. While we clash on a daily basis, I am overjoyed that I continue to grow in my abilities to hear her side, disagree appropriately, eventually find resolution with her, and love her passionately throughout the ordeal. Better still, though, are the moments when we look at each other and know that everything is right. Those instances are fleeting, but their magic can last for days.

A close second is my daughter. As she enters her teenage years, I worry a great deal about who she might become, but I also know that I can’t control that. What I do know is that if she becomes even a fraction of the person she is today, I will be related to one of the most amazing people in the world. Daily, my daughter stuns me with the enthusiasm and brilliance and creativity and energy and compassion and sense of justice. While I often struggle to appreciate the whirlwind of her, I know that my love continues to grow by leaps and bounds. She is a remarkable young woman. She will become who she is meant to be; I am simply glad to have a chance to tag along for the ride.

Reflecting on those two gifts alone would be enough to know that my life is good, but my bounty seems to overflow. I almost want to feel guilty because there is so much that is good in my life. Fortunately, I am learning to accept what is freely given and to do so without regret. Whether it is the incredible friendship and love of my sister and her husband (particularly when she cooks up another amazing Thanksgiving feast), or the kindest and offbeat humor of my mother-in-law and father-in-law (who are kind enough to still come to visit, even in the midst of their grieving), I shower in love on a daily basis.

I am filled with awe and wonder by all of the following and more – my friend and colleagues and students at school, the stunningly wonderful folks of MOONS, the magnanimous moderators and members and organizers of Narcolepsy Network and its forums, the devoted and earnest members of my men’s group, the talented geniuses that I “teach” at MITY, the global and astute contributors to the narcolepsy support groups on Facebook and MySpace, my compassionate and fiery friends on tba and in the ultimate community as a whole, the gifted educators and friends and parents who interact with my daughter every day, my blessed medical providers – those of traditional Western medicine and those of the more Eastern mindsets.

No doubt, my life is difficult. This chronic condition makes each day a struggle, but I am fortunate. Not only do I have all of these wonderful people in my world, but I am also able to find fulfillment doing what I love. People pay me to talk to teenagers. I am even able to do it part-time. I would never wish my life on another, but I also would never trade it. I can see God’s grace in everything around me.

Before I end this, I need to recognize a few other gifts that are vitally important to me. Clearly, my parents and extended family are integral to who I have become and continue to become. I have often railed against my parents, but I know I am fortunate because their love for me has given me a deeper inner strength that has allowed me to start walking this path to more balance. Also, I must own that God has given all of this to me. I would be nothing without God’s love. I generally try to avoid injecting my faith into these posts because I don’t want to preach, but my faith is a tremendous source of comfort for me. In the same vein, I must acknowledge that random chance has hand in letting me get this far. While being born into the United States is not a guarantee of success, it certainly helps many people. And, when one is lucky enough to be male and white and heterosexual, the odds shift even more clearly into your favor. Yes, my own energy has gone into everything that I have done in this world, but I live in a system that has been pre-weighted to favor my sex and my skin color and my sexual preference. I don’t see those gifts in the same way that I see so many of the others listed here, but I know that I needed to name them. Invariably, I must offer thanks for the gift of those who read this blog. So often, I tell my students, “don’t mention the paper in the paper,” but this situation is different. I have never been able to journal before, but I have continued to use this blog for MONTHS – regularly (well, a hiatus has happened here and there when life has overwhelmed me). That too is a gift. The difference is that I know others are reading this too. While this writing is for me, I also feel that I owe all of you. Some of you are kind enough to check out a post or two; others read it regularly. A few of you are even crazy enough to leave comments. Regardless of who you are and how often you are here, no words can express my gratitude for your time and attention. It has definitely helped to save my life. Thank you for being a part of my many blessings. And, last (and maybe also least), I must offer thanks for my narcolepsy. While it is ridiculous and rotten, this condition has allowed me to learn more about who I am and what I truly value than anything else in my life.

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Filed under Balance, Blessings, Blogging, Emotions, Family, Gratitude, Honesty, Humility, Love, Marriage, Men's Group, My story, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network, Parenting, Relationships, Support

>Simple Successes

>I often am amused by my need for completion. As much as a piece of me hungers to never reach conclusions, another piece lives to “get things done.” I actually hate housework because no matter how often or how well you clean, or scrub, or sweep, or work, things always wind up dirty, or messy, or cluttered, or undone, once again. It is the insanity of home ownership, the madness of chores. As a result, I tend to love mundane tasks, like folding laundry or organizing specific items.

This trait is on my mind because we are putting our CDs into large cases. For years we have had our hundreds of CDs in various racks. We have tried to keep them in different locations, but they always seem to be in the way. My wife got two 336 disc cases last weekend, and I have been putting the CDs into those cases. I needed to get two more today, but am making tremendous progress. While that is good in some ways, I also know that I am obsessing about it. I NEED to finish because I also hate when simple projects like this are undone. Something about the “closure” of completing a task like this gives me fulfillment – at least for a day or two. Of course, the obsessiveness can undermine any benefits.

Tonight, I had hoped to find the two additional cases at a local electronics store. It is where my wife got the first two. Unfortunately, the store did not have more. I then checked two other stores to no avail and found my angst rising constantly. I know that part of my believes that the entire Thanksgiving break would be a lost if I did not find these cases, because I HAD to finish organizing the CDs. That is crazy, and I know it. Yet, I still felt the same way. Fortunately, a relatively new store at a local mall did have two more cases. I experienced ridiculous relief when I discovered them.

I am glad that simple tasks can ground me, but I also know that I need to keep working on long term tasks like the CDs being “unfinished” for a time. Getting obsessive about uncompleted tasks definitely saps my strength. Even worse, I can lose sight of other responsibilities when I am swept up in irrational devotion to a massive, but clear cut, activity. I can’t organize CDs at the expense of correcting the papers from mid-October that I still have not finished. Those written pieces need grades by Monday. It is not an option. But, I honestly could forget them because I desperately want to complete the CDs. It is crazy, literally.

Balance remains my goal. I know it will take years for me to even approach a moderate level of living in the middle of things. My brain is so conditioned for black and white, all or nothing – I hate it. Yet, it is who I am. By accepting that reality, I can free myself from the shame of it. I can challenge myself more openly, while still being kind to myself. Invariably, all of this comes home to roost in the nuances of my narcolepsy. Since I can’t control my body, I want to find it somewhere. What I must internalize is that control is an illusion at all times. I am starting to feel it, but I worry that full comprehension is also years away.

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Filed under Balance, Emotions, Exhaustion, Frustration, Humility, Illness, My story, Narcolepsy, Stupidity, Support

>Curious Questions

>The continued chaos of my life regularly leads me back to pondering what is the right direction for me. I know that I need to stay active. If I don’t, I worry that I will be overwhelmed by the anxiety that constantly builds up within my brain. But, I worry that I will drive myself into the ground. Even though I have gotten significantly better at saying “no,” I am still too willing to over commit myself. Helping others is deeply important to me, but I need to work on boundaries.

That said, I continue to wonder if teaching is the right place for me. I do love my job, but I also worry constantly that I am not doing enough for my students. Rationally, I know that I am doing good work. Certainly, I am doing the best that I can, but is it enough? Am I providing the instruction that my students deserve? More importantly, I need to examine the impact of those feelings on my psyche. Worrying about what I am doing does not help my mental health. I am proud that I am handling my insecurities well. While I do have dark moments each day, my prevailing mood is upbeat. I do know (and believe) that I am doing the best that I can each day.

Even that knowledge, though, trips me up. If this is the best I can do, and I can’t keep up with the minimum expectations of my job, is it responsible or ethical to continue in that profession? I don’t have an answer, but the issue is regularly on my mind. I have much to offer my students, but I also need to ensure that they are getting the instruction that they deserve. The realities of all this far exceed my abilities. I truly do not know what is right or wrong, or if an answer even exists. What I do know is that I will continue to do my best. I will find what energy I can and parcel it out as fairly as possible.

Amid it all, I do realize that I must take more for me. I need to exercise. I need to do yoga. I need to have time and space that is mine. How that will fit with teaching, parenting, volunteering and loving, I have no idea. My life will be what it will be. I will breathe and move and sleep and live.

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Filed under Balance, Confusion, Education, Emotions, Fear, Frustration, Honesty, Humility, Narcolepsy, Sharing, Support, Wisdom

>Managed Madness

>Life continues to roll along. I have survived until the end of my first trimester at school. My wife has returned from visiting her family for her brother’s funeral. Thanksgiving break is nearly here. I am stunned at my exhaustion, but also am impressed by my resilience. The ferocity of life has not broken my spirits. Instead, I find that I am getting better at acceptance. My “slump” continues, but I am relatively at peace with that. I have managed to get a few things done each day, even as my sleepiness seems to be growing again. In fact, I nearly fell asleep in the mid-afternoon yesterday. Regardless, though, I know that I am accomplishing what I can.

Certainly, I would love to do more each day, but I recognize that it will continue to take time. I desperately want to work exercise and yoga into my daily routine. I also want to have more order in my daily life. Gratefully, I am gaining enough wisdom to see that those things will take large stretches of time to become habit. Beyond adopting a “little by little” approach to such goals, I also understand that lifestyle choices that my wife and I have made certainly diminish the possibilities of regular routines. What I can do, though, is continue to evaluate what commitments in my life I should keep and which I would be better off letting go. The process is not easy, but it is honest and needed.

More than anything, I hope to find stability within my life with narcolepsy. Certainly, the condition is making my life difficult of late, but I know that I also have a hand in that. I continue to push myself at school and in the evenings. I am not sure if I can do my job “well” and be a good parent and husband without doing that, but the exertion is definitely fomenting the strength of my narcolepsy. That said, I see my narcolepsy as an even greater blessing of late. Hardship and suffering are not something I would wish on others, but I definitely find that I learn a great deal from them. I am certain that my life is more rich because my narcolepsy helps me to appreciate even the smallest successes. I adore paradox! Truly I do.

I have no idea how I will continue to negotiate the chaos that is my daily life, but I don’t plan to spend time dwelling on it. My goal remains making it from one moment to the next, one day to the next. Living in the present, being mindful of now, is what has grounded me so well of late. I know it is the proper path for my continued journey.

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Filed under Balance, Blessings, Exhaustion, Gratitude, Humility, Narcolepsy, Wisdom

>Sleepy Sadness

>So much has happened this month, and yet I fear I have no words. The days and weeks have literally gotten away from me. I also lost track of my job, my other responsibilities, my health and any sense of schedule. Worst of all, my wife lost one of her brothers. Her youngest brother choked on a sandwich and no one knows how long he was deprived of oxygen. He was on a respirator for ten days. Finally, he was taken off. No tests done while he was on the respirator gave any indication as to how he would react. The assumption was that he would likely die. But my wife’s brother has thrown folks curve balls his entire life. In true form, he remained in a coma, but began breathing naturally. Then, 36 hours later, he died.

Complicating things even more, the death came on my daughter’s birthday. My wife left for home on Saturday and will return to Saint Paul on Thursday. My wife stayed for my daughter’s birthday sleepover, but it has been good for her to be with her family. The visitations and the funeral were good, and I know that she is feeling more at peace with this. I am still feeling the loss. I know I made the right decision, but I also regret that I could not have been physically present for my wife and her family.

All of this has drained me even more. At the same time, I have been more productive in the last few days than I have been in a month. I see that as a good sign. I know that I need more time for me, but am struggling to find it. I need to sleep more and must find a way to let down. Having three days off next week will definitely be a welcome relief. I also think that the grading that I will need to do at the end of the trimester will be lighter. It definitely feels good to write again. My goal for the end of this year is to establish a clear pattern for exercise, yoga and my time. I need to take much better care of myself. If I do not, I know that I will be unable to do the job that I love so much.

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Filed under Balance, Confusion, Depression, Emotions, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Marriage, Sharing, Therapy, Wisdom