Friday, May 14, 2010
Many years ago, when I worked in Human Resources I used to comment t that the real good things we accomplished no one ever knew about. They were all confidential. I used to feel good whenever we were able to help someone. No one ever knew we did it.
I thought about that yesterday as I was driving around between appointments. I get a lot of private comments on my blog postings, stuff that’s not posted for the public to see. To be honest some of it tears my heart out.
People will write me and ask me to “reach out” to a Spark person they may know who is having difficulty in their lives or who may be burdened. They hope I can inspire them to possibly overcome some type of adversity in their lives. I am not telling you all of this so you will think I am some grand and wise person. I am telling you this by way of explanation. There are a lot of “someone’s “who helped me. Some of them are here at Spark and some of them are people I have known forever. All I can do is be me and share my story. I can only hope and pray that might help someone else the way the things I have learned have helped me.
In 1989 I was hospitalized for panic/anxiety disorder and mild depression. I had suffered from this affliction for around two years and was hospitalized because a group of well intentioned doctors had medicated me to the point of being a zombie-like person. Joan hit the roof, with the doctors, when we went to Wal-Mart one Saturday and I simply stood smiling at The Kraft American Cheese display.
Fortunately, we had a close friend who was a rehab counselor and Joan and I went to see him and ask him what to do. I kept having panic attacks and the doctors kept increasing my medication. Ever seen a zombie have a panic attack? Our friend put me in touch with a doctor who simply told me I was on the wrong medication. Okay no problem. Off the meds we come. Small snafu here. He told me that based on the combination of medication I was on, that in all likelihood I would have severe seizure coming off of the meds. So he put me in the hospital.
One of “those” hospitals.
I spent ten days in a detoxification ward and while I didn’t have any seizures I did have an amazing and fantastic experience. If you are familiar with detox, you are segregated and you eat, sleep and live with ten other people in the same boat you are in. I met some heroes. I met some people who had so much adversity in their lives and they were struggling hard to overcome it. I sat side by side with people who kept struggling with the same chemical dependency over and over and kept coming back for one more try to get healthy and whole. I felt a little small, actually. Some of these folks had been struggling with life and death issues for years and I was the victim of some doctor’s error. I learned three things while I was there and they have served me well for the rest of my life.
The first was: “John quit being the victim.” Amazingly, when I got this through my thick skull my panic and anxiety attacks decreased dramatically. Yes, I had issues in my life that often went beyond my control and if you suffer from the same disorder you know what a royal pain a panic attack can be. I had to decide if it would control me or I would control it.
I was really no different than anyone else on the planet. I had issues. Playing the victim is an easy role. People feel sorry for us, they cut us a little bit of slack but one thing I found out was that while they are doing all this, they actually discount us and lose respect for us. Who’s inspired by someone sitting in the corner crying?
You may think I am being cruel. I am not. As they say “been there, done that and I got a major award to prove it.” Once all the drugs were out of my system my new doctor told me he didn’t believe in treating my disorder with medication unless it was completely debilitating. He told me “to go live my life and learn to cope with my issues.” I did and I have. I quit using it as an excuse to not get healthy and improve my life.
The second thing I learned is that you can be positive or you can be negative and it’s not going to change the situation you are in so you might as well be positive. I could sit here all day and tell you how I have turned really bad situations into really good ones, over time, by simply adjusting my outlook on life. There are people who hate to see me coming because I am always spreading sunshine. I just figure that there are enough people spreading gloom and doom, why shouldn’t I do just the opposite?
Third, if you have good friends, cherish them, feed them, water them and they will develop deep roots right alongside of you. During the ten days I was hospitalized I received one inquiry, other than Joan. It was from my best friend. She didn’t care what kind of hospital I was in or what I was in there for she only had one question, “What can I do?” She offered to help Joan out if she could and told me not to hesitate to call her no matter what time of the day or night.
Find a friend and be a friend. That’s the best advice I can give anyone.
I still have panic attacks. I live with them and I have learned some strategies to keep them at bay. They don’t rule my life. I overcame that obstacle and now I am dealing with my weight. I will overcome that obstacle too. I am not a victim, skinny, fat or otherwise. I am positive about my approach to this journey and truth be known I am enjoying it.
Finally I learned that if you want a lot of friends you have to be a friend. The first friend you need to make is you. You are your best friend. I’ll be there for you to cheer, to help, to guide and all that other neat stuff, but you and I will never stop playing the victim until we realize the issues we have in our lives and learn to first love ourselves. We need to see that all of this, good or bad is simply the life we live and it is indeed, what we make of it.
I could sit here until tomorrow making excuses for being overweight and unhealthy or I can, like the Nike commercial says “Just Do It.”
If I can do this, so can you.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
My favorite story from The Bible centers on Moses, a whole bunch of cranky people, lack of water and God. Moses leads the people into the desert where they wander for forty years. They are hot, they are tired and they are thirsty. They put a lot of trust in Moses and I am quite sure he felt the murmurs and whispers that he had lost it. It seemed as if he could do nothing right.
Moses goes up on the mountain for his daily meeting with God. He tells God that the people are grumbling, irritable and most likely a bit smelly because they haven’t had any water in quite some time. God ponders all this for a moment, and points at a rock. He tells Moses to take his staff, walk over to the rock and strike the rock one time and one time only and the people will have more water than they know what to do with.
As Moses is walking towards this rock he is looking down the mountain and looking at this mob that wants to cut his throat. “No way,” he thinks. “No way, is one tiny tap gonna supply all the water we need. I mean He is God and all but I better give it more than one bash, just to make sure.”
So he does. He hits the rock three times. Out bursts the water, problem solved and Moses figures he can move on to other issues. With a smile on his face and a song in his heart Moses descends the mountain. God stops him.
“Moses” God asks. “How many times did I tell you to strike the rock?”
“Uhm, one time.” Says Moses. “But I figured that I better hit it more than that, just to be sure.”
“You figured?” God asks.
The long and short of the story is that God tells Moses because of his lack of faith in what he was asked to do; he will not enter the Promised Land. In other words he won’t get what he has worked so hard to attain.
What does this have to do with C25K training? Well it comes down to being a matter of trust. It means trusting a program I believe in and trusting me to succeed.
I decided to train to run a 5K. “Use the C25K program John. It’s proven to work!!!” Person after person gave me that advice. So I sat down, read the program and decided it would work for me.
I started on Monday and I have to tell you the first week seemed awfully skimpy!! I mean three times a week for twenty minute a session? That didn’t seem like a lot. Better that I added some additional training on my own and on the days I wasn’t doing C25K training I needed to step it up a bit. The end result was late Tuesday evening I had a hard time moving. The heck with the program!!! I knew better!!!
Now I know none of you have ever done anything like this. I mean no one would ever consider eating way below their calorie level because they figured that by doing so they would lose weight even quicker. I mean no one should eat THAT MANY calories. So maybe we eat a lot less, our stomachs shrink and don’t lose any weight at all. We don’t follow exercise regimens because we know better and wind up hurt or dejected because we did too much.
Along with diet and with exercise this change I am going through has to incorporate other things I never thought would enter the fray. I have to learn to build and develop trust, not only in the programs I use but in John. I can’t trust me, however, unless I really care about me and I can’t care about me if I don’t value me!!! It means that even when I don’t feel beautiful, handsome, charming and witty, I believe I am. I believe I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to even though at the precise moment I may feel like a total and complete failure.
It means I trust and if it says on the package,” hit the rock one time and one time only”, then I do.
On top of being really good looking I also read minds. I know what you are thinking. “Yeah John, I trusted before and I got messed over.”
Me too. Been messed over more times than I care to count. But even at my heaviest, in my darkest moment, when every time I stepped on the scale and it went upward, I kept telling myself “You will get this John, you will find a way. This weight will come off. No matter how many times you fail you will get this one day.”
Then I found Spark and I found you. Yeah, you, reading this right now.
I hit the rock once.
I didn’t know this until a few months ago but do you know it took Moses and his followers forty years to make an eleven day journey? I think I would have fit right in
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
When I begin work with a new coaching client I ask them to give me a one sentence definition of what success means to them. I stress one sentence. In most cases we start off with two pages that are full of good stuff, goals and objectives, but not a definition of success. The process usually takes about two weeks and when you are finished you have a pretty good idea of who you are and what you are about.
It’s very frustrating because the first time I did it I learned the most valuable lesson about John I will ever learn:
I had no clue where I was going and I had no clue how to get there.
I had a lot of “sound bites:” that I had used to define myself, but if you took them away I had a lot of goals and objectives lying around in my backyard like a bunch of flowers that weren’t quite sure where they needed to be planted.
Ask people how they define success and most likely you will hear things like “security,” “wealth,” “prosperity,” or maybe “peace of mind.” Those are all outcomes or end results. They are the finish line and as any runner will tell you, it’s a good idea to know where the finish line is. The preparation it takes to get there shouldn’t be over looked, otherwise the finish line is just a mirage.
“If you learn to wait, you will lose the weight.”
That is my current definition of success. If I am patient with myself, allow myself to evolve, to learn, to depend on the wisdom of other people who have gone before me, I will be successful. When I think about my failures it was because I wanted to rush everything and not allow my mind or my body to adjust to the changes it was going through. Quite simply they both rebelled and said “We will have none of this!” The end result became frustration, followed by failure and then despair. Can anyone say “hand me another donut?”
Spark has helped me learn to wait or if you want to apply another acronym, learn to be patient.
Lemme give ya two examples:
A few months ago I was contemplating embracing a vegetarian life style. I wrote a short blog one Sunday about my desires but also quickly added about all I knew how to do was spell “vegetarian.” (Thank goodness for spell check.) I was overwhelmed with positive response. People gave me all sorts of resources. Now the old John, the impatient one, the one that wanted to see results NOW would have thrown all the meat in the house away, read about half of each article, took a billboard out on the interstate proclaiming himself the holiest and purest vegetarian of all time, and promptly failed. He would have told himself that this stuff worked for other people but surely not for him and it became another thing he was no good at.
I would like to tell you I not eating meat at all, but I can’t do that. What I am doing is gradually changing my life style, and reducing the amount of meat I am taking in learned to be patient and allow their bodies to change.
The same is true about exercise. When I started Spark I was walking, cycling and using the elliptical. I had been down this road before and so as much as I wanted to do more because I felt, in my head, I was ready to try out for the Olympics, my body told me to be patient. I’ll admit to you I got bored, which is why I decided to shoot for walking in a 5K race. The closer I got to race day, the more I walked. Joan decided to come with me, so I had a walking buddy most days. It was a wonderful experience!!!
I jogged the last third of a mile or so and surprised myself. I had a false belief that if I ran more than ten feet I would fall over dead. I didn’t. Joan and I followed up Sunday with a two mile walk and as of yesterday we both started C25K training because we would like to jog a 5K in the fall. I got lots of support from friends here. I have learned that it will be okay if that first 5K run is in November, December, or even later. It will come, when my body is ready and I am comfortable with my success.
“If you learn to wait, you will lose the weight.”
We do not realize, our unhealthy life style was an evolution also. Four days out of five, I don’t like reading what I just wrote LOL. I want it now and I want it all.
Thanks to you and so many like you I am learning to wait, to be patient because the day will come when I will see the results and oh my gosh, will they be great.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sometimes the lessons that help us the most are the hardest and most painful ones to learn. I know that’s true for me. So you sit there reading this and you say to yourself “Well, duh John. I know that.” Do we? I think if we did we wouldn’t as a wise man once said keep living up to the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
My son Matt has been divorced for almost two years. In a nutshell, his wife decided she enjoyed being single more than she enjoyed being married and decided to practice being single before she ended the marriage.
Before I go any further I want you to know this is not going to be one of those “My kid is perfect and he’s been wronged” rant. He’s not perfect. He was devastated when she left. She took their daughter and I can only imagine what he felt and continues to feel. He trusts no one. He was so happy to be married and I suspect from what he shares he feels as if he failed. He is thirty two and he feels lost and abandoned. To him there is no God. If there was, none of this would have happened.
I have spent a lot of sleepless nights. I cried, I prayed, I wondered if maybe I should have seen this coming and advised him about it before he got married. I got angry and irritable and just wasn’t much fun to be around.
Oh yeah, I ate. I ate a lot. Eating was something I could do. I couldn’t “make it all better.” I couldn’t control his life and it was like it kept raining and I kept wondering where they put the sun. Did I say I ate a lot? I felt cut off and I needed to fix this, because isn’t that what Dad’s are supposed to do?
I carried this inside of me for a long time. Some days it was right up front, other days pushed to the rear by other concerns. But it was there, this tension, this emotionally queasy feeling inside of me.
While all this is going on I begin my journey towards health and discovering who I really was under all these layers of physical and emotional fat. One night as I lie there wide awake that small voice spoke to my heart.
“You have your own journey to worry about. Leave him to me and concentrate on your own journey, John.”
I was stunned. This is my son. He needs me.
“Then he’ll ask if he needs you. Walk your own road John.”
I would like to tell you that I leapt out of bed, woke Joan up and said “Thank you, Jesus.” Far from it.
I got majorly angry. This wasn’t good advice. Kids look to their dads to fix stuff and by God I was going to do this come hell or high water.
“Why are you so afraid to look at yourself John?”
That one got my attention. Over the next few days this light of realization got brighter and brighter inside of me. I saw, that when I didn’t want to look at me and the areas I needed to improve in my life I found some crusade to go charging off on or some poor soul to help who needed me. I always made sure they were issues that no one would argue with. I became exhausted trying to right the wrongs and then never had the energy to deal with me.
That’s mainly because I was scared to look at me. I’m like you and you’re like me. We all know where the trap doors are inside of us, the ones marked “danger.” We are scared to open them because if we do, then we have to deal with what’s on the other side. Better I deal with your stuff rather than mine. Let’s all make nice and smile and the sun will come out and then we can hold hands and sing “Kumbaya!”
Yeah, I got my own road to walk, my own stuff to deal with. I bleed a lot, and Lord knows I cry a lot, but hey……. I am getting better and healthier every single day. Most of it is me facing me, but a lot of it is these bright lights along the side of the road that flicker a warm smile or a soft reassurance. You are holding one of those lights and while I cannot walk your road and you cannot walk mine we can encourage each other, care for each other and love each other as we move closer and closer to being who we are. We stand on the side of each other’s road with lights to help guide the way home.
I still love my son. I am here if he wants to talk. Joan and I are both here if he needs a shoulder to cry on, but it’s his journey and I have mine. All I can do is have faith and leave the rest to God. I am at peace with that.
I had a lot of difficulty accepting this. Joan told me she understood it about six months before I did. I asked her why she didn’t share it with me. She told me I had to find that peace all on my own. She loves me, she prays for me.
That’s the way it is for all of us, I think. We have to walk that road knowing that there are many others to help us, to guide us and to support us, but first we have to see the path ahead.
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