Monthly Archives: June 2009

>Massive Mayhem

>I truly love that even the transition into summer break takes days of adjustment. One would think that a guy with narcolepsy would find it thrilling to begin a month and a half of relaxing. If only it were that easy. As I continue to remind myself, ANY change in my daily routine throws me for a loop. I tend to be more tense and to snap at people more rapidly. While I am making the shift better this time, I still find it frustrating – and stupid. Sadly, I am sure that no matter how long I continue to “learn” about living with narcolepsy, the act of moving from one daily schedule to another will continue to be difficult for me.

The up side is that I did get up today and exercise. That alone is a huge step for me. Unfortunately, I know that I am still recovering from last week. Thus, the exercise sapped me for a couple of hours. After resting, though, I got some work done. I even decided to have some fun after that, but invariably that led to trouble. My daughter decided that she wanted to play with the Wii too. Things were going great, but then after we each did our “Wii Fitness” on Wii Sports – which is an individual activity – she simply started doing something else individually. When I questioned her, I got a rude retort. I have no doubt that my daughter thought that she was being funny, but when I challenged her on that comment, I got a second rude retort. Since I was tired and crabby, I snapped back and a lovely fight ensued. It then continued as my attempted to reconcile. And, adding a second layer to my disappointment in myself, my wife was still home and found herself embroiled in the disagreement.

My daughter and I were able to reconcile and apologize to each other, but I hate that I was unable to keep myself in check when my daughter acted like a normal pre-teen. While her behavior was not appropriate, I can’t lash out at her. I did contain my frustration far better than I have in the past, but the reality is that I still reacted rashly and immaturely. As the parent, I need to give her the space to be angsty, and I need to be patient enough to let her settle down before re-engaging about the situation. I do know that I happened things “better,” but I need to keep pushing myself on this. The narcolepsy definitely complicates the situation, but my relationship with my daughter is far too important to let this medical menace jeopardize it.

The other difficult item to accept today was the fact that I nearly fell asleep in a chair tonight. If that was happening at 10 PM, I would be okay with it, but I was dozing and drifting heavily at 6 PM. Now, I know that I had a productive (and stressful) day. I also know that transitional periods are tough for me. But, it remains horribly humbling that I spent most of my day sitting around, yet I can’t stay awake past 6 PM even with 60 mg of amphetamine in my body. Seriously, you GOTTA love this condition – NOT! Obviously, I rallied. I even got a few other things done. Hopefully, July will hold more hope for a solid schedule, smoother transitions into my new days, and for more patience with my incredible and wonderful daughter.

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Filed under Exercise, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Humility, Illness, Loss, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Relationships

>Funny Fallout

>I always find it strange when I know that I am managing my narcolepsy better. The condition is so bizarre that it almost seems unwise to make such a claim, yet moments like today are plain and obvious. Thus, I must acknowledge the reality of life and my condition. As I knew, my decision to sleep a fractional amount between Thursday night and Friday morning overwhelmed me today. I spent the entire day lolling around my house. I did manage to get a small amount of work done, but the majority of my time involved working on a crossword, watching some DVDs, and exercising with our Wii. I have no doubt the exercising also added to my exhaustion.

Although I am pleased that I got some work done in the midst of my exhaustion, I am more excited that I did not feel guilty about the “undone” work. I found myself able to accept and to find comfort in that reality. I have time, plenty of it, for those other tasks. In reality, I have weeks to get to them. I don’t want this initial list to take weeks, or even days, but in the past I would have tortured myself for not doing them today – immediately. Thus, I am content with knowing I have time.

The other element of the day that was exciting is that I had chosen to not “exercise” during the second week of MITY. The reality is that I did get some exercise simply from my “active” teaching style, but I did not work out. I love, though, that I prioritized my health over cleaning our office or putting away books. I have no idea if I will be able to hold onto that attitude, but it feels like a step in the correct direction. Hopefully, I will find a way to make working out a habit so I can carry it into my school year, but I also love that I am not worrying about that either. Needless to say, my exhaustion remains, but I am thrilled that I am letting go and learning to relax.

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>Wiped & washed out

>I survived. In fact, I thrilled to a large extent. MITY wrapped up wonderfully. In many ways, my co-teacher and I were more on top of things this year than we have ever been. I truly believe that our class gave a tremendous reading. Each student delivered her or his best reading at the actual event. Plus, the book this year, while slightly smaller, seems to have better quality than ever before. I know that a piece of that is that I did more and better editing this year. Now, my brain constantly reminds me about the multitude of pieces that I did not provide feedback, but I definitely feel like I did the best that I could.

Perhaps the highlight of the session, though, came on our final day. I chose (and that is the truth) to stay awake as long as I could to get as much work as I could done. I eventually had to get into bed, and I did sleep for two hours. I knew that I was making a choice and that I would likely lose the weekend as a result of that choice, but I felt that it was worth it. As a result, we not only had the supplement (we make a book of the students work, abd then create a final “supplement” that has fun memories and a few more pieces by them held together with only a staple) ready, but we also had the 3 CD-ROMs (photos that I took, the book and supplement files, etc) burned, and I love the poem that I wrote for the class (that is not always the case). I also managed to be present for our students and truly enjoyed the final day of MITY this year.

Typically, I am a wreck for the final two to three days. I worry that we won’t get the book together, then I worry about the reading, and then I obsess about what I have done and what I have not done for the last day. This year, we were ahead of the curve each step of the way. We dropped the book off earlier than we ever have, although I am still waiting to get it turned in on a Wednesday rather than a Thursday. The reading came together beautifully, and I know our final day was as good as it can get – the day will always be bittersweet because we all have to say good-bye. Perhaps, the final element that made this “closure” so complete for me is that my co-teacher and I had the room cleaned, the computers returned, and our keys turned in before 4:30 PM. Much of that had to do with the assistance that we recieved from our students, but it was breath-taking nonetheless.

I also think I am pleased with the way that MITY went this year because I see it as one more sign of the strides I am making in handling my narcolepsy. Of course I was tired and pushed too hard at times. I need to get a better grasp of what I can and cannot expect of myself during the middle weekend of MITY. I also need to remember that the transition from “regular” school to MITY will always be bumpy because it is a shift in my daily schedule – and my body does not “do” that well. But, I am clearly starting to let go of the things that I cannot control. I am allowing myself to release – over editing, over “undone” work, over insane expectations. The journey is long, but each day is another step. Which raises my final point of pride. It was at MITY a few years ago that I first began to recognize honestly my inability to live in the moment. Although I certainly am still four days ahead, or two years in the past, in any given moment, more and more I am grounding myself in the events unfolding before my eyes. The results could not be clearer. My days are richer, even when they are limited by my narcolepsy. I can’t get everything done that I “want to,” but I am accomplishing more each day than I ever did when my narcolepsy was “hidden.” I regularly avoid direct self-praise, but I need to admit that even I am impressed by my improved efficiency.

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Filed under Balance, Education, Exhaustion, Gratitude, Healing, Honesty, Hope, Narcolepsy, Wisdom

>Sunday Struggles

>Today is Father’s Day, and yet the only real emotion I have managed is frustrated anger. We went to a Minnesota Twins game last night to see an old friend. The game was good, except that the Twins lost, but we got home late. Because I had food at the game past 8 p.m., I stayed up until 11:15. When I finally took my Xyrem and went to bed, I was overly warm. My wife and I were intimate for a time, but things just were not right. Plus, the Xyrem can make me more than a little goofy. I did finally fall asleep. I even managed to take my second dose last night, although I once again slept through my alarm.

When I awoke, however, my wife was missing. Due to her discomfort, she was sleeping on the futon in our basement. I checked on her and returned to bed. I awoke this morning at 8 a.m. While I had rested, I already felt the stress of the day. I am behind at MITY (my wonderful gifted and talented students are producing at record levels this year), and there is far too much that needs to get done around our house. Unfortunately, between my exhaustion and the Twins game on Saturday, I got nothing done. Thus, I climbed out of bed already wondering how I would get to everything on my mental list.

My wife and daughter eventually got up too. They had planned to play some tennis before the day got warm. When they left, I decided to use the time to get in some exercise. I had only done a tiny amount on Saturday and am feeling worse about my physical condition than I did a week ago when I re-started my exercise. While the exercise went okay, I was trying new yoga poses in the end. Invariably, my wife and daughter arrived back home in the midst of that. My daughter immediately plunked down to “watch” since Wii can become a bit of a spectator sport. Although I was self-conscious, I refrained from saying anything. Then, as I began to attempt the final yoga pose – which I was incapable of performing – my wife also arrived. At she sat down, a chair we have owned for thirteen years suddenly lost a bolt. My wife began to let me know that I need to fix the chair when I got done with my exercising.

Sadly, I snapped at that point. Things only got worse when I realized that the bolt that came loose was in a ridiculously difficult area. It literally took me over 30 minutes to fix this one bolt. AND, when I finally set the chair upright, one of the two washers that HAD been on the bolt, once again fell to the floor. Somehow, I had managed to let that come off in my efforts. Needless to say, that final insult did little to dispel my rotten mood.

Of all of the things that have happened today, I am most upset about losing my cool with my wife. I know that no one was trying to make me feel bad or undermine my day, but I lashed out because I felt like that is exactly what was happening. And, of course, I have allowed the majority of the day to slip away because I have been wallowing. I also exhausted myself between the exercise and the (literal) wrestling with the broken chair.

Days like today are the ones that truly infuriate me in terms of my narcolepsy. Consciously, I know that I am wiped out because I am trying to do too much by teaching these two weeks at MITY. Yet, I still consciously and sub-consciously expect that I should also be able to do “normal” things during the weekend. Our house needs to be cleaned, our finances need updating, our windows need staining, and our office needs organization. Even though I literally can’t do even one of these things, I feel like I should be able to do something. Worse, I know that my wife needs me to get to some of these things. The state of our house is weighing on her too. But, I am unable to do it. Thus, I get angry at myself for letting her down too.

Which brings me back to the fact that today is Father’s Day. Instead of relaxing and celebrating with my family, I have yelled at the two people I love the most. I have also pouted because the day has not felt at all like “my day.” Lastly, I don’t even feel like I can make things much better right now because I can barely think straight. My body is tired, and my internal turmoil is paralyzing even the remote chance that I will get anything done – including the massive number of pieces from my students (which will only make me MORE stressed out tomorrow).

I know this day will pass. I know that tomorrow will be okay. I know that MITY will be fine and that the class is good. I know that my wife and daughter still love me. I know that my physical fitness will be what it will be. But, I can’t feel it, and I hate that. Days like this are horribly bleak. Yes, I can (and likely will) get at least one thing done, but I won’t even enjoy that. More than anything, I just wish in moments like this that nothing was “my responsibilty.” I know that is an impossibility, but I feel overwhelmed by the frustration and sadness that I have once again “lost” a day (and a bit of my sanity) to this rotten disease.

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Filed under Anger, Confusion, Depression, Emotions, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Loss, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Parenting

>Museum Musings

>I am sitting in the cafe at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Correction, I am being paid to sit in the cafe at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I am here with the students in my Minnesota Institute for Talent Youth students. My co-teacher and I have brought our students here each year for the past four. Usually, I am pacing the galleries, looking for our students to photograph them, and worrying that I am “not doing enough.” I do periodically take a few minutes stop to look at a piece of art, but so often in the past I have felt like I MUST be the “teacher” while I am here.

I know I am slowly coming to terms with myself and my narcolepsy when my immediate thought this year was, “hey, I can use the time at the MIA to unwind a bit.” Not only that, but also I felt no guilt in that thought. Thus, MITY is paying my to chill this afternoon. Even better, I definitely feel like I am earning that pay. My co-teacher and I spent time on campus and here framing the experience. We are getting the students into a different environment to provide new stimuli to inspire their work. And, quite honestly, whether I am sitting here, or if I were pacing the galleries, I would not be helping my students write. In fact, one could argue that my hover easily could do more harm than good.

Even as I typed that, I realized that one of my students just wandered past. The young women and men that I get to teach a MITY amaze me. Often, they have been treated with ridicule and disdain because their intellects frighten even their teachers. Thus, most of them have no idea how to feel supported, or welcomed, or appreciated. Also, because they tend to “get it,” at least intellectually, the wonderful young women and men do not know how to be kids. By letting them roam, we are giving them the gift of trust and respect. They certainly do not need me to watch their every move, nor do they need one more adult who makes them feel uncomfortable. I have no doubt that the approach which my co-teacher and I take in the classroom (by treating our students as brilliant and thoughtful young adults) is a huge piece of the success we have had over the years. I am grateful that I am beginning to find ways to bring that same attitude to our field trip.

It is just one more way that narcolepsy has proved to be a blessing, rather than a burden. The reality during the previous two trips to the MIA is that I HAD to rest for long periods. I felt guilty doing it – “I can’t let MITY pay me to rest” – but it happened nonetheless. Bottom line, though, is that I will be far more effective tomorrow because I took this time to relax today. So much of managing my narcolepsy is letting go. I tire rapidly and stress increases the energy drain. By being hyperconscious at a museum, I exhaust myself and do a disservice to my students. Thus, I am allowing myself to appreciate the stillness today. Hopefully, I will continue to embrace the gifts and the frustrations that narcolepsy brings me on a daily basis.

On a tangential, but loosely related, note, my Wii experience continues to be productive. I have now found myself on at least two occasions dripping with sweat while grinning and laughing. I am clearly getting exercise (and finding genuine strength building in my legs), but I am also having fun. Both of those are vitally important to me living with my narcolepsy. My physical endurance has fallen precipitously over the past two years. It is the awful reality that time for exercise has remained a distant priority as I have been forced to choose where and when I exert myself. At the same time, I have pulled away from many of the things that do make me laugh. My ultimate team was a major highlight of my life, mostly for the joy and camaraderie that it brought me. Sadly, the declining nature of my physical condition stripped the fun out of ultimate. While part of the pleasure I take from using the Wii is laughing at how stupid my Mii looks at times, I am also spending far more time interacting with my daughter. I had dearly hoped that the Wii would be a bonding element for our little family. Things are definitely developing that way. Finally, even if the exercise and fun were not happening as well as they are, I am overjoyed that I am using the Wii to reconnect with yoga. Primarily the “yoga” material on Wii is poses, but those alone are helping me reconnect to my body in a deeper and more spiritual way.

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>Wonders of Wii

>I have loved video games my entire life. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I experienced first hand the arrival of home video games. I also fall into the primary age group to have “lived” the hey-day of the video arcade. My summer before ninth grade, I spent hours nearly every day in the local arcade. While part of me regrets those lost hours, another still longs for the sheer joy of honing my skills at Galaga and Tempest.

Although I have own a couple of game systems as an adult (a Super Nintendo and a few “plug in” consoles that hold 5-20 games), my wife and I have purposely avoided purchasing any of the ever improving systems during the last 15 years. The primary reason truly is my inability to stay sane when I have a game system. Certainly, I chafe at the idea that I am incapable of remaining grounded when there is a game to “beat,” but I also know that the decision has been a wise one.

Given my narcolepsy, I shudder to think the state I might be in today if we had purchased a Game Cube or an X-Box. Heck, I have even avoided computer-based games for the same reason. I have no doubt that Worlds of Warcraft would have stolen hours of sleep for weeks on end. In fact, I would be willing to bet that gaming easily might have masked the depth and extent of my excessive daytime sleepiness for at least four or five more years.

The irony is that I am writing this the day after I purchased a Wii system – with my wife’s permission and approval. I might be a risk-taker at times, but I am not an idiot. While I do worry that we could eventually acquire a game or two that might tempt me into a few “all-nighters,” I am more confident about my maturity and decision-making. The reality is that I know what happens when I push, and more often than not, I am unwilling to sacrifice the next two or three days simply to “enjoy” a little friviolity. Let’s hope I am still saying that next month and next year.

We decided to get the Wii because I am struggling horribly to work exercise into my routine. I feel like I am finally beginning to learn how to balance home and work and me. That in itself is a massive accomplishment for me. But, I also know that I will be healthier, happier, and more complete if I can find even a modicum of fitness. Enter the Wii. My wife and I spent Saturday night with my sister and her husband. They have had a Wii for awhile, but this was our first couples “Wii night.” Everyone had a blast playing a wide variety of games, but at the end of the evening I got a chance to try Wii Fit and the Balance Board. Not only did I find it fun, but I also realized that it could easily be a missing step in getting back into some type of exercise groove.

The beauty of Wii Fit is that I don’t have to GO anywhere. My narcolepsy makes me so wiped out at times that the idea of driving to a gym, or even running to the lake a mile from our house, is simply not an option. I worry that I will exhaust myself. If I do that and then need to drive home, I risk my safety and that of others. If I do it and am now a mile from my house, I am foolish enough (and male enough) that I will still try to run home. Then, I will get sick. It happened repeatedly last summer with ultimate and with yardwork.

Instead of risking those things, I can now plug in my Wii and do some yoga and light conditioning work in front of my TV. It also “feels” like a game with vocal support from the etrainer. The Wii can’t be my only exercise, but it is a perfect place to start. I would love to pretend that I am capable of pushing myself to establish a workout routine on my own, but I am not. I have nearly forty-one years of failure as evidence. I do best, in terms of fitness, when I am part of something. The Wii tracks my progress for me. And, the fat little Mii, that is ME, provides its own motivation. I know this is going to help me.

I feel blessed to have a wife who supports me so much that she is willing to change her mind about getting a Wii. I also am proud that I bought the Wii last night and have already used it twice to “workout.” That is two more workouts than I have done in months. Pretty good for less than 24 hours. Still, it is not lost on me that while I am starting strong, I have done that before to taper to nothing within days. I believe this will be different, though. I need this and the exercise will take the place of some of my other recreation. Building up my strength slowly will also prevent my system from crashing. That is also a good thing (and a chance from the past).

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Filed under Balance, Blessings, Eastern Ideas, Exercise, Family, Gratitude, Honesty, Hope, Marriage, Narcolepsy

>Summer Surviving and Blog Blessings

>Somehow, my summer has managed to feel as frenetic as the school year did. I spent the first three days of my “vacation” meeting with the other folks who teach the same course that I do. While the work was exhausting, it was also extremely productive. We are making huge strides by mapping our joint curriculum. I thoroughly enjoyed the time that we all spent together, and I have high hopes for the coming year.

I have also been preparing for the creative writing course that I have taught for the past eight summers. As I was mapping my regular academic course, I was also puttering with the syllabus, web site, and lesson plans for this summer course. My co-teacher and I got to spend some time together today. I also got to spend time with one of our former students (and chatted with another) who is now interning with the aspect of the program that enrolls my daughter. I love that this young man is still a part of the Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth, but I also am overjoyed that I will get to see him more frequently over the next two weeks. This year will be the first time in five years when this fellow is NOT in our classroom.

While I thought that I would never experience anything in my “regular” teaching career like MITY, I realized over the past two weeks that my current situation at school IS like MITY. The rigor and creativity are present in both places, and I get to team with marvelous co-worker in both situations. Thus, my excitement for MITY feels different this year. I am still elated that it is here again, but it is not my “salvation” as it has been in the past. I think that is a good sign.

Finally, I need to give a shout out to a fabulous new blog that also discusses narcolepsy. It is actually called Narcolepsy and is written by a person with narcolepsy in Florida. He is close to my age and has a markedly similar approach. He too simply wants to process (for himself and others) what it is like to live with this unnerving, facinating, awkward, and bizarre disease. I do hope that others will check out what he has to say. Best of all, he posts on a fairly regular basis – something I am hoping starts to happen here again (soon).

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