My Evening With “Satchmo”…And A Wonderful World

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I must admit I’m struggling a bit tonight. I’ve stumbled across that Minotaur and we’re slugging it out pretty fiercely. But I refuse to yield my optimism or my determination. As I’m sitting here, wrestling with that primeval beast within myself, a song suddenly came to mind and I’ve been playing it over and over and over again.

As I sit here, watching the sun set on a clear, warm, beautiful day in the city, the home, that I love so dearly, I think about the song “What A Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong (nickname “Satchmo”).

The world is a beautiful place…it’s people who can choose to make it ugly. I choose to offer a wonderful world…

There are some times when thinking is not only cumbersome, but interferes with the business of living. Sometimes, we just need to enjoy the act of “being.” Sometimes, we just need to watch the sunset, and listen to a song which speaks of beauty and peace.

If you don’t want to click the link, here are the lyrics:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying “how do you do?”
But they’re really saying “I love you.”

I hear baby’s cry, and I watched them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

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“I Am” Is Quite Enough!

Just got back from my chiropractors appointment. Yea, I may be experiencing the onset of arthritis. This, of itself, is a bit of a bummer. But if it’s true, the more ominous thing is that means my autoimmune system is starting to attack the rest of my body again. The consequences of that are anyone’s guess.

I’m committed to being positive and proactive. But news like this fires up my anxiety and I have to work very hard to confront it and ease it back. Anxiety due to neurochemistry or physiology is one thing, but that doesn’t mean I have to nurture and “feed” it. To free myself from the aversion to anxiety, the discomfiture of it, is something I strive for. To free myself from attachments to it, to free myself from being possessed and controlled by anxiety, is something I can certainly do. That doesn’t mean I can make it go away, but I can snub my nose at it and refuse to let it get any deeper “into the castle.” If all I can do is offer defiance, then I offer the best, strongest defiance I can.

I’m finding a new strength and determination. This is largely due to the earnest, gracious support I’ve gotten from this blogging community. You all have helped me more than you know. A stupid little thing, a “like” or brief comment absolutely makes my day and makes me feel like I have 10,000 people behind me. The effect that this has on me is something I can’t fully describe.

I thank you. I’m most grateful to you all.

As I said, I want to be positive and proactive. I want to remain that stubborn, hopelessly optimistic, idealistic, audacious “Theseus” who sits on the mast and challenges God to an accounting. Yes, I’m a Quaker. Yes, I’m a spiritual person. But I’m also the “black sheep” of God’s family and I refuse to be patronized or keep quiet about it!

One of my challenges is that I see all of what could have been, rather than what is. Focusing on what could have been is a poison which ravages the soul and leads to darkness. The attachments to things which “might have been,” take away from manifesting myself in the present of what actually is. What “could have been” is a fantasy, “what is” provides the opportunity to answer the great existential question. There is vital purpose and meaning to “what is.” Dwelling on anything else is a betrayal of my purpose, meaning and very existence: It’s a contemptuous refuting of that existence. There’s value in what is. There’s meaning in what is. For whatever reason, there’s a very valid purpose to what is.

Desiring or craving “what could have been” is only a half step from what I wanted, but never could have. This will deaden one’s soul.

I want to be an all pro quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, guiding my beloved home and team to 10 Superbowl rings. Ain’t gonna happen.

I want to be Paul McCartney or Tony Banks (from the music group “Genesis”). Guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.

But why is it so terrible to be who and what I am? If I’m always focused on who and what I’m not, I’ll never understands what it means to be all that I actually am. I am a father. I am a husband. I (am coming to believe) that I’m some sort of writer who supports and encourages people all over the world, none of whom I’ve ever met. These things are a sacred trust. Why do I cast them aside so flippantly? How can I be so callous and dead to all that I am? There is value and meaning and purpose in being who I am. Even in pain and suffering, I say there is value…and meaning…and purpose to it all. Why do I discard my appointed task and path?

I am who I am, as I am, for a purpose – a very valid purpose. An essential purpose and reason.

I’m not here as an accident or mistake, and neither are you! We live in the perfection of who we are. To deny or ignore this is nothing less than sacrilege. We live in the perfection of who we are…and we are that perfection in living as we are.

I became physically ill because of the effects of CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). This is my path and my challenge to confront. Come what may, I accept this challenge and defy anything and everything blocking my path. From the deepest crevasse and the darkest places, I cry out defiantly:

I…simply…am.

I wish you all strength, and courage, audacious determination, and as always…

Be (Most) Well, My Friends
Your Friend, Theseus!

Is My Body Attacking My Body Again? I’m Quite An Income Stream.

I’m going to see my chiropractor this morning, so I’m going to mention the pain I’ve been experiencing in my knuckles. It’s been going on for a couple of months and I’m hoping it’s just that I’m getting older and am more sensitive to the weather. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know, however. For a number of reasons, my immune system started attacking different systems in my body and this lead to not just the problems with my thyroid, but other issues as well. Because I’ve been ill for so long and so many different things have happened, I dread getting my joints checked out. I don’t know about others, but with my being chronically ill, every time I get some ache or pain, there’s a part of me that assumes some new illness or problem has started: I’m always paranoid that something else is going wrong.

I don’t want to get into a whole discussion about health care and politics. There’s just too much contentiousness and conflict out there and, quite frankly, I have plenty of issues in my own life to deal with without getting into arguments with other people. What I can say speaks to my own experience, not vague scenarios. Originally, I had a good job. The insurance I had with the company was the best in the state and my wife and I bought into the highest level of coverage available (because we were anticipating our son’s birth). Since then, my son got sick, I continue to be sick, I haven’t been able to work in many years and all the retirement, savings and credit we once had was wiped out more than 10 years ago. I never minded paying my fair share. I don’t even mind paying more than my fair share if that would help others in more dire circumstances. The problem is that I’ve become nothing more than an income stream.

When my son and I both started getting sick, we were both misdiagnosed. Fortunately, we kept going to different doctors and hospitals until we found out what was going on and what we could do about it. For me, it took longer. I started getting ill in 1998 and it wasn’t until 2011 that I finally found someone who accurately diagnosed what was going on and knew what to do about it.

After I had lost my tech job, I tried to work somewhere, at something. The only work I could get, even as I continued to be misdiagnosed and my health increasingly declined, was part time work at a minimum wage job. I took it just to continue working and contribute. I made $ 200 a week, before taxes. The insurance from that job didn’t even cover the $ 300 of medications I was being prescribed at the time. Years later I came to find that not only were the medications not helpful, but they contributed to my health problems getting worse. Even today, the helpful supplementation which my chiropractor prescribes – and which actually work – aren’t covered, so they remain out of pocket costs. I can’t even get a renewal of my synthroid medication without having to go in to an medical doctors office and pay for a visit. I don’t take any controlled substances. The dosage rarely changes (and not by much). I don’t even have to get blood-work done. The doctor comes in a and says “you need a refill.” I say “yes.” The doctor goes to her lap top and clicks a button. Then says “okay, it’s waiting for you at the pharmacy.”

The frustrating thing is that I’ve never asked for something for nothing. Before I got sick I worked hard and played by the rules. I did all the things I was supposed too and didn’t expect hand outs or freebee’s. I actually could have gotten my college tuition from my grandparents, but felt at the time that it wasn’t their place to do what my parents were supposed to do in the first place. So I worked and paid my own way without asking for anything from anyone.

The frustrating thing is that I have nothing to show for any of it.

The frustrating thing is that when I did get sick, no one believed it. I was told I was just lazy or misdiagnosed with depression. (depression certainly is valid, but it’s just not something I struggle with personally).

The frustrating thing is that the only thing I’m valued for at this point is a continued income stream.

The frustrating thing is that now that I am sick, no one want’s what I can offer and I’m only viewed as a “preexisting condition.”

As I said before, I hope my joints hurt because I’m just getting older and the weather effects them. I don’t need another illness to contend with.

Sorry for the bummer entry. I’ll be okay, it just is what it is.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Cortisol And Dr. Who

The fatigue just hit me about an hour ago. This is a challenge, because it makes everything else heavier to carry. It also inclines me towards all the negative: thoughts, anxieties, hopelessness, irritability and more. Many years ago, all the doctors I went to assumed the fatigue was due to depression…but no one bothered to do any blood-work to rule out other causes. (Let me just say that taking anti-depression medication when your not depressed not only doesn’t help anything, but adds more problems). When I finally found a doctor who understood what was going on, she found, with blood-work and hormone testing, that the reason for my bouts of fatigue were due to a low Cortisol level. My adrenal glands were not functioning properly and this was (and remains) the cause of my fatigue as well as struggles with insomnia (at night).

I have to take credit here. I haven’t been following the prescribed diet or supplementation that I’m supposed to. Trouble is that it takes 6 months to a year for things to really kick in and take effect. Basically, the only way to better health is to help my body to heal itself. There is no magic pill. The difficulties 2 years ago not only reignited many of my past stressors and troubles, but it got me off track with the regimen my doctor set up for me. I’m not looking forward to waiting 6 months or a year for my symptoms to improve. But the big challenge isn’t diet, exercise and the medications, it’s the residue of what happened back in 2014. A lot of things got triggered. There were consequences of what happened which I’m still struggling with now. I have to get over that first, before I can expect to get back in the rhythm of the diet and supplementation. If I’m in intense pain and don’t care, why should I bother with the rest.

I’m trying to do some things, resting when I need to. On my last break, I was wondering what the point is and why I’ve had the (continued) experiences that I’ve had. I wondered why I was here.

Interestingly, I was watching Dr Who and this quote came up:

Dr Who, “The Pandoric Opens”

RORY: But I don’t understand. Why am I here?

THE DOCTOR: Because you are.

Believe it or not, that actually made sense to me!

Just doing what I can. We’ll have to see how it all plays out today.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Confronting My Anxiety

I was thinking about my last entry and anxiety. It’s a challenging thing to deal with as I’m always on edge to a certain extent. It just depends on how powerful it is and how much I’m able to beat it back or cope with it. Sometimes are easier than others. If I’m feeling relatively well rested and the symptoms of my illness aren’t too bad, it’s generally more manageable. But with fatigue, lack of sleep, headache, nausea, joint pain and more. I don’t want to do anything, much less wrestle with powerful emotions.

One thing which helps is ensuring, as best as I’m able, that my surroundings and circumstances are not stressful or overwhelming. If I’m trying to deal with conflict or there’s some crisis going on, it’s hard to summon enough strength and resources to deal with both. But even when things are peaceful, anxiety is draining all by itself. It saps not only my strength, but self assurance and general sense of well being. Intense emotions are draining. Being in a state of constant “readiness” and fear can be truly exhausting even when all my surroundings are calm and peaceful. Anxiety hashes my mello, man…and that pisses me off! (lol)

This is one of the reasons why I’m trying to be mindful and aware. I can’t challenge something if I give it free reign to ravage and pillage all through the inner part of myself. But this is not easy. First, the anxiety must be at a level where I can actually face it head on. If I’m on the verge of panic, I may not be able to face it directly at that moment. Over the years I’ve had to be sure that I was in a safe place, around safe people, in order to allow myself to be mindful enough to allow for a glimpse of it before slamming the door shut again. It’s taken me a long time to be able to actually “sit there” within myself, and actually stare back at it for any length of time. Decades of therapy have been invaluable in being able to get to that point. Once I got to the point where I could be in the same room with it (so to speak), once I could face it without trying to race away in terror and pain, only then could I start to work at reducing it or at least coping with it to any small degree.

Another, more recent thing, is learning how to “detach” from this “aversion.” In Buddhism, the thing which causes pain and discontentment in life are the attachments to desires (pleasures) or aversions (pain). To address this, the Buddha offered the “Noble 8 Fold Path” (which I’m not an expert on and won’t get into here). To free myself from the attachments that my anxiety has on my has proven helpful, but difficult, and as of yet I still haven’t been able to reach a point where I can utilize it for complete relief. Attachments are like feeling gripped by something, to feel almost possessed by something. For me, falling in love is such an experience. It fills me. I experience the emotional sensations surge within and I feel lost within that emotional experience. It was the same thing the night my son was born. I was completely lost in the emotions I experienced. That feeling of being “lost in it”…that’s what attachments are.

I had some kind of an awareness of such things before I read anything about Buddhism. I would think it’s a common experience to, at times, almost be able to internally “watch” one’s self as an almost separate entity. Perhaps my experiences with disassociation have helped me notice and further develop this separate yet internal awareness of watching myself, yet still be within myself. I don’t know. Disassociation usually means I completely zone out and am just about completely numbed out, both in emotion and mind.

However I discovered this, my imagination is such that I can actually picture something like anxiety as if it were in a separate, isolate space within me. Sometimes I can do it intellectually, but still be lost within the emotion of it. Other times I can place it in a separate space both in thought as well as emotion. At times when I’ve been able to do this – and it’s not common or often – I do feel better. That doesn’t mean it still doesn’t cause that vigilant “fight or flight” fear response of anxiety, but somehow it seems to be more manageable and tolerable.

This isn’t a cure all, some magical technique or a way to just “get over it and move on” (I hate that!). I still experience anxiety and likely will for the rest of my life. But if I can make it more manageable. If I can be better able to tolerate it and sort of separate it from the core of who I am, then I finally have a weapon I can fight back with. I may not be able to overcome it most times and may often not be able to summon the strength to wield the weapon, but the fact is I have it and (more importantly) I know that it’s there, that I have access to something. This is a much better situation than believing and feeling that I have no choices, no hope and no way of defending myself (against negative emotions like anxiety). I don’t want pity or well intended suggestions, I want something to fight back with on my own! The only person you can never escape from and the only one who will always be with you…is yourself.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Helping My Son With Anxiety…As I Struggle With It Myself

One of the surprising things I’ve come across with in the WordPress world are the number of people who struggle with anxiety. It shouldn’t surprise me, but for some reason it did.

I struggle with anxiety myself. Part of it is fed by CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) and the way my experiences altered my brain structure and chemistry. I react more intensely to normal, every day things and at the same time, my brain is less able to process any intense emotions. Frickin’ bummer, but I do what I can. There are techniques of redirection, meditation, deep breathing and the like which I’ve learned over the years and help me cope with anxiety, even if I can’t dissipate it or make it go away. Another reason for my anxiety is my thyroid illness. Unfortunately, one of the symptoms of thyroid disease is anxiety. Even though the medication and supplements I’ve been taking have improved my overall health, anxiety is still a problem and there isn’t much I can do about it except learning how to cope with it. This is really why I want a quiet, unremarkable life. I already struggle, even with quietude and within a peaceful space. I’ve never felt comfortable in the loud, rushing, confrontational world which is the predominant way of living in the north eastern part of the United States. I love my home of Philadelphia, but it’s not the laid back patrician area that it was when I was growing up. I really miss and long for that old Philadelphia, what I believe is (was) the real Philadelphia.

Anyway, my son also struggles with anxiety. Part of the cause for him is that anxiety is a common symptom of autism. Again, not much to be done. Another cause is all of the therapies he was subjected to when he was younger. It’s hard to grow up and constantly be in therapy. My son grew up with “don’t do this,” “do that,” “do this a different way,” “let’s practice that again” and so on. Constantly being redirected and corrected (for his own safety, not our convenience) has had an impact on him. It’s increased his difficulty with self confidence and feeds the anxiety which is a symptom of the issue which required all the therapy in the first place.

Anxiety is tough to deal with on a daily basis. My son loses the ability to think and speak when his anxiety spikes. He knows what he wants to say, but his brain is unable to form speakable thoughts. This is very frustrating for him. It’s intensely frustrating for all autistic young people who struggle with this and, from what I’ve seen, is the ultimate reason why some become aggressive or violent. You can see the deep frustration and anger on their faces: Knowing the idea of what you want to say, but just not being able to express it in anyway – as a life long disability – is something that I know I would find enraging. I don’t know how I would respond to that kind of difficulty.

We’re fortunate with my son. Somehow, all the therapies worked well enough that he’s able to formulate those thoughts if he can reduce his anxiety and take his time. The thing which has made it easier for him is that I’ve learned to take him by the shoulders and gently pat him on the back. In my calmest, most peaceful, reassuring voice, I always say “that’s okay, buddy. Take your time. No worries. Think it through.” I know that if he senses my anxiety and frustration about his not being able to speak, this significantly increases his anxiety and he completely looses the ability to articulate himself. It’s been vital for him to, in effect, “feed” off my calmness while he struggles as well as the reassurance that doing what he can, in his own way and own time is not only all right, but is a way of being. If he see’s me calm and not impatient or irritated, he’s able to take on that calmness as well and use the techniques he’s learned to be able to find the words and express his thoughts. It’s taken a lot of work over the years – and I suspect more than a bit of luck – but he’s able to express himself, by knowing how to calm himself – rather well.

With my own anxiety issues, it’s sometimes difficult to give him the support he needs. I can’t hide anything from my partner or son. They know me too well. I do what I can, but I’m also honest with him if I’m struggling. I’ll tell him that I need a minute with the result that I’m working to calm myself down and give him the emotional support he needs as he’s trying to reduce his anxiety to find the expression of his thoughts.

My anxiety is interesting. I’ve explained the origin’s and it’s taken me many years to understand where it comes from. The worst was when I didn’t understand or know the cause. Before I had a better understanding, I would assume (quite reasonably) that the anxiety was do to the situation I was in or the people I was with. This make me more neurotic, because I was assuming a connection between the anxiety and something or someone with which there was no connection or the connection was that they reminded me of my parents or a situation of my past. Not knowing what was going on made this emotion difficult to live with and made daily living difficult, often immobilizing.

But understanding better creates a different challenge. My anxiety simply exists, as a state of being. It always tries to lach onto and infuse itself into any negaive thought, experience or worry that I have. It’s always looking for something – some thought or emotion – to infect. It’s a real pain in the ass.

There are some techniques to alleviate the worst of it. But even with these, there are some times when the only thing I can do is just get through the day. I can’t function, I just do what I can to get through the day. Sometimes the best thing I can do is be mindful of the fact that the anxiety is a lie. Because I feel it, it’s valid, but the underlying causes are sometimes out of my control. At such times, I do the best I can to not “feed” and increase it’s power. If I can’t reduce or dissipate it, I can at least work at not allowing it to get worse by deliberately contributing to it. Cold comfort, but I do what I can.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Fatigue, Fatherhood…And The 100 Acre Wood

It’s been a challenge today since I wasn’t able to get a decent nights sleep last night. This situation is certainly better than it was a few years ago, but the lack of sleep really effects me. I was able to get a way with it when I was younger, but those days are long gone.

It’s so strange. Not being physically ill when I was younger, I had no idea what the older folks were lamenting about. My wife, who is a few years older than I am, warned me what was coming. As I felt virile, young and invincible at the time, I was foolish enough to laugh it off. Wow, was she every right! (lol) Nowadays, I pay attention to whatever is ailing her, because I know that I’m not that far behind. Of course, the fact that I pushed myself way beyond reason and wore my body out (and contributed to triggering my thyroid / adrenal issues) before it’s time means that in many ways, my body has outpaced hers.

Aside from the other symptoms, the general fatigue and tiredness from lack of sleep, significantly impact me in a number of ways. It took me years to actually be able to understand that there is a difference between fatigue and being tired from a lack of sleep. Before I understood the difference, I often took naps during the days. But it was fatigue due to a thyroid and adrenal issue, not being tired from sleep deprivation. Because I slept during the day, I ended up unable to sleep at night and this only made things worse. Back then, my system was all out of wack.

Now that I have a better understanding of what is sleep deprivation and that is fatigue, I’ve been able to better balance my system and I do sleep better. But nights like last night are not uncommon and I can’t always predict which nights I can sleep and those I’ll be up for.

One of the problems with this is that sleep deprivation and fatigue, both, independently intensify my CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. My anxieties, intruding thoughts, lack of motivation, negative thinking, even despair, are all stronger when I’m tired or fatigued. Worse, it takes more effort to do ordinary things, at times I have to will myself to move at all, when I’m tired and / or fatigued. So even though it’s already difficult for me to do anything, I now have to summon even greater effort to even do simple things.

One big thing which effects my spouse and child is that I also become much more irritable and reactive when tired and fatigued. I know better now and either ease it back or keep my gripping and snapping to myself. Before I knew what was going on, there were many comparisons made between me and “Eeyore” from Winnie The Pooh, as well as, “Squidward” from Sponge Bob. Oh, there are times I can be soooo very charming! (lol)

Now that I know, I at least keep quiet or keep to myself when I’m feeling this way. Plus, I’ve discussed all this with my wife and son and they’ve always been very understanding about not pushing me too hard and being willing to give me space to grumble and and snap to myself (in another room).

This, I think, is so very important.

With my wife, it’s one thing, because she’s an adult and can fend for herself. But with my son, it’s been a little more challenging. I’ve tried to be honest with him about my illness and issues and worked with him to accommodate what he needs with what I’m able to provide. The problem is that children with sick parents sometimes take on a parenting role. While this might happen when I’m 90 and senile and he’s in his 60’s, it’s not appropriate when I’m 50 and he’s still a teenager. I know all too well what it means to be your parent’s parent, or your parents spouse. I lived it. I know how dangerous and damaging that can be and I set my son straight every time he starts to head in that direction.

There are times when we can’t be perfect in front of our kids. I know that’s a bummer, but their going to find out anyway! (lol) One of the many stumbles my parents made was trying to be what they thought parents were supposed to be. Their reference was the 40’s and 50’s, “Donna Reed” and “Father Knows Best”. Admirable…I suppose, but my mother wasn’t Donna Reed and my father wasn’t Jim Anderson (“Father Knows Best”). The problem with this plan was that, because of the fact that they couldn’t be perfect, they ended up pretending – and insisting to my siblings and I – that nothing was wrong and everything was normal. This might have worked (I doubt it, but it might) if I didn’t have access to those TV shows! If those shows were “normal,” then I saw normal and what was happening in my home just didn’t match.

I do what I can with my son. I try to be honest without going into unnecessary detail: I explain, but don’t elaborate. But the main thing I always impress upon him is that my problems aren’t your problems. If I’m not feeling up to snuff, I say so and go off by myself or turn inward. With children, this isn’t always possible and there are times when I just have to suck it up and do the best I can. I may not achieve the level of “Sponge Bob” or “Tigger,” but I’m not “Eeyore” or “Squidward” either.

It’s all about doing the best you can with what you have to work with. Forget perfection! I want to be the best of who I am!

…Well. I must say that I’m rather pleased with myself for being able to make an entry. I’m pushing myself, but I’m exhausted and foggy and didn’t think I could string 2 sentences together.

I hope this all made sense. It’s good to write even when I’m not feeling up to it.

Thanks Everyone!…

And Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

(P.S. Though I’m not feeling well physically, this entry makes me feel better, more “Tiggery,” which is who I really am deep down inside.

Just remember everyone, no matter what happens, “Your braver than you believe…“)