Renewing My Good, My Joy

Following this weekend’s multiple mass shootings across our nation and what will surely be more in the coming days, or weeks, months, or years as things stand and have stood, our country will be buried alive in body-bags, drown in all the blood and endless tears from families and close friends… I desperately had to find relief. I paused to re-balance. I had to detox and find buoyancy in my music, reminding me that there are still many decent, stable, joyful, helpful, patient, compassionate, understanding, empathetic, peace-making people who do live, love, laugh, and gladly learn… then DO those things I list making this world a safer better place.

To that end, here are my three selected life-renewing songs (out of many) that have returned to me a warm smile and a bigger heart. I’ve also included a previous happy slideshow from a previous blog-post: Amour et Coeurs Jumeaux. Let me know if you like my songs. If you feel the need or urge, share one of your favorite happy feel good songs down in the comments. I think we could all use some.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

If It Tastes Good

Oh to be young again.

Has anyone found the Fountain of Youth? Because I’m running out of time here! And don’t give me that long-ass sales line about working out and eating a consistent healthy diet. I did that for 45-years being a very active young boy. Several athletic activities such as swimming, volleyball, baseball, and ultimately soccer/futebol that I pursued from secondary school, collegiate, and pro to semi-pro before retiring. During all of those years was that “strict healthy diet,” with occasionally light normal alcohol consumptions. It all worked rather well — complete physicals always ended with the doctor stating, An excellent bill of health for your age sir.

Then came the big 5 – 0.

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

Injuries sustained over a lifetime soccer career — both knees, one shoulder, one ankle, and 2-3 concussions… that I can remember — began limiting my physical activities, or at least the particular sports I enjoyed playing. Time to adapt.

I quickly discovered, however, that it really, really helps if you HAVE the time TO adapt! And as I also soon learned at that point, it all comes down to shuffling around, tossing out, plugging in various “priorities” within a 24-hour day. No more, no less. Twenty. Four. This is a workout in itself!

By the time I perfect this time-management, advanced calculus equation, I am 55-years old. My hair, what’s remaining on my crown and has moved en masse to my ears, nose, and neck, has turned essentially all silver-white. My daughter says I am now ready to be accepted into a band of gorillas as a silver-back — not to be confused with THE silver-back, she clarifies. Apparently in the years it took me to become a near replica of Sean Connery, in 30-seconds my daughter became a Primatologist with an acute sense of reality-checks. I will spare everyone the long list of “medical checks” and prevention measures men over 40 should (sometimes must) be alert to and inevitably embrace. Several methods are quite humbling and challenge even the most sturdiest of dignities.

Then with a vengeance came varicella-zoster. But at the time I had no idea why I felt like my left side head, neck, left tonsil, and left inner-ear were about to explode. My friend tells me I kept mumbling over and over It hurts, it burns, I see Kate Beckinsale with Jessica Biel. This was rumour of course, and after all I was running a 103° temperature. An aging man cannot be held responsible for an unhinged subconscious!

After 3-days of total hell consciously and subconsciously, I had had enough. I was a defeated silver-back-n-top. Despite my long history of fainting at the sight of syringes, scalpels/lancets, needles, blood, and the occasional speech impediment around Nurse Goodbodee in librarian glasses, to the doctor I went. As I expected, this did not go as expected.

The nurse performed all the usual pre-diagnosis rituals, showed me my examination room and cushy table to place my buttocks to await the doctor. A few minutes pass, he enters, he corrects me 3-4 times about “Pugach,” pops the rubber gloves on, checks my head, stethoscope to the chest and back, then sits on his stool-with-rollers. Your shingles the doctor from Belarus or Ukraine with an impossible last name to pronounce explained, will go away in 4-6 weeks. But that’s not your biggest problem. I immediately start remembering the earlier pre-diagnosis checks:  weight scale? Ear thermometer? Prostate check? Whew! Didn’t do that one. Pulse check? Blood-pressure monitor? The constant popping of 1500-2000 MGs of Extra Strength Tylenol for the Kate Beckinsale/Jessica Biel ailment? Are there severe side-effects for that? I just wasn’t sure what could be worse than my damn head and pain.

Your blood-pressure is high; abnormally high. I was slightly relieved when he said that. I thought of many things much worse! We’ll need to put you he continued on some blood-pressure medications right away. I think cool, not a problem. You’re closely approaching stroke-risk status. Great, let’s do it — the meds that is. We’ll also need to do some lab work too… to check on enzyme levels and blood electrolytes, lipid profile, etc.

Now we have a problem. Well, if we don’t do lab work you’ll likely have bigger problems than the one in your head and on your head. He winked at me with a smirk. I thought, that’s not funny.

In the room ladened with every sort of life-threatening utensils and signs warning not to touch, discard here, and In Case of Emergency Do… I managed to get through the whole slapping the inside of the elbow, sterilization rub, needle enters, blood gushes out, fills the vile, undo the rubber strap off the arm, and then band-aid with a candy-lollipop. I walked out of that office a proud survivor and veteran of many floor deployments!

glasses-neededA day or two later the lab calls with my results. Everything looks normal the kind lady informs me but your liver enzymes are elevated. Okay, elevated is not all bad with a man’s body, right? You need to cut-down on your carbohydrates, go on a low-carb diet, and probably cut way down on your alcohol consumption. I felt my body sink when she said the last part. Like… ALL alcohol, I asked her. Wine, preferably reds, in moderation — say two or three glasses per week or one 8 oz glass per day — should be fine. However, she pretty much said no liquors in excess or heavy moderation. When I researched the low-carb diet, it wasn’t too bad, although several foods I’ve loved all my life — cheeses, breads, whole milk, coffee with gourmet creamers — had to go.

This felt as if I was loosing my closest dearest friends and even the ones that get you into untold troubles and complications of particular day-after regrets. Bye-bye. Gone. Send a postcard.

Then my follow-up doctor visit happened.

Same routines as previously with the marvelous exception of items designed to poke, puncture, probe, or cause general discomfort such as fainting and peeing (in a cup or in your pants) all remained out of eyesight and out of my body. I was thrilled! The soft knock-knock on the door and my doc with the impossible last name enters. All my problems and ailments are in decline — the fun news. We then begin discussing the low-carb diet and what it encompasses. He covers the “Okays to eat/drink” first, perhaps wanting to make me feel better… as most doctors are supposed to do. He names off a dozen or so and all of them I enjoy eating. It’s quite a tasty list of options. Do you have our Low-Carb Diet pamphlet? No I replied. He walks over to the wall of pamphlets next to the big laminated poster entitled “Causes of Hypertension to the Human Body,” grabs my future meal plan and hands it to me.

There in green-ink I see the side of “Okay to eat/drink” list. Yep, check. Then on the other side of the page is the “Avoid – Do Not Eat/Drink.” In a most drabby voice I share my assessment of the diet, Umm, the red Avoid side is noticeably longer. He acknowledges my keen observation; apparently he has heard this tone before. Yes, a big reason for that are the enormous choices shoppers have at grocery stores and restaurants. Yeah, that’s true I say to myself, still mopey. I try to finagle some exceptions, or certain conservative amounts, frequencies, and volumes, but my doctor with the impossible last name is having none of it. He goes into a more extensive spill as to what exactly is best and what is iffy, wrong, and call the undertaker. I try one last attempt to skirt by, just on the edge, and he interrupts me. I guess he’s on a schedule?

Basically, if it tastes good, spit it out!

I look at him astonished with eyes bulging, mouth frozen. I’m unsure what to say. Then he begins chuckling, and explains he wanted to get me refocused on what is important. He then modified his hammering gavel to a softer If it tastes sweet, spit it out.”

Well there, I felt much better. My doctor (and I suppose my body) put me on top of the geriatric world, only after one-hour… a bit older listening to my exhilarating new lifestyle! Strike up the marching band, but leave off the flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, the entire percussion section, and the tubas.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — But Don’t Over Do It 😶

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There’s No Way!

Anyone who has had to deal with manifested psychiatric-psychological disorders like manic bipolar disorder as well as/or clinical addiction, which often go hand-in-hand, then like me you can probably relate to and empathize about why this particular song* speaks volumes to me. It captures the intensity. It covers ALL of the mental and emotional ups and downs, successes and failures, that seem to be a never-ending saga of love, hope, destruction, beauty, anger, disappointment, joy, and most of all perseverance. I sometimes wonder if staying isn’t abnormal.

I live a chemical life
I’m on a mission to try
You went insane for a day
I’ll have to shove it away
My only option is gone
Smile as they break and they fall
You want a simpler life
You can’t erase what was mine

Even though it is human nature to often seek perfection and expect perfection, we eventually find that in seeking and expecting perfection, we find imperfection. The more perfection desired, the more imperfection found. Sounds quite insane, quite a formula for cyclical chaos doesn’t it?

[Pre-Chorus:]
You must be out of your mind!
This was a simple design!
You fuck it up every time
How could you leave me behind

Yes, there have been many times over the decades where I thought I was going out of my mind! But many times I felt denying or running from the problem(s) wouldn’t solve anything or teach me/us anything either! But everyone doesn’t think or feel like I do, so some do indeed “run”… and leave me behind. Some truly want immediate satisfaction and relief!

[Chorus:]
It’s alright, it’s alright
’cause I know what you want
but you’ll just have to wait
If I had it to give
I would give it away
I’m living it up
while I’m falling from grace
There’s no way, there’s no way that I’m running away

And in my years of employment in the Psych/A&D field helping others, I eventually found that if I don’t remain disciplined with my own mental-emotional health, rest, and recreation, I too can fall from grace. I am just as human as the next and I am reminded of that, dancing that edge sometimes as I must, as long as I remain truly human inside humanity. Make sense?

How many thousands of times I have heard this rationale and events play out…

I’m used to making it worse
Made up of four letter words
You wanna know what it was
Now isolated and gone
You fall apart at the seams
I’ll never know what it means
Try not to pull it apart
You’re anger’s straight from the heart

[Pre-chorus]

[Chorus]

There were numerous times when my patience and will were exhausted, done. All I wanted was to be selfish, left alone in solitude, or to do one of my favourite therapies: dancing. And yes, even dancing and screaming energetically angry too… at first, maybe. (wink)

But then…

It had to be the worst for me
I don’t know what to say so let me be
And now I find you left me behind**
I don’t know what to say so nevermind!

You’re mine!

I still belong here, there… with my human family, with my tribe, with my soul mates… through the good times and the bad. Together.

’cause I know what you want
but you’ll just have to wait
If I had it to give
I would give it away
I’m living it up
while I’m falling from grace
There’s no way, there’s no way that I’m running away

I don’t have all the answers, nor can I guarantee immediate results — you’ll just have to wait… be patient. If I had it to give, I would give it away! But in the meantime, I’ll be here with you. I might get frustrated, even angry, but I will celebrate successes just as pumped and just as excited as you do! “You’re mine.” You’re ours.

You know, maybe we don’t need such super high expectations of perfection. Since perfection always accompanies imperfection, let’s find all the beauty in imperfection and embrace it along with perfection. Let’s learn to screw up better each time! But do not fear…

There’s no way that I’m running away.

(paragraph break)

* “Simple Design” by Breaking Benjamin (2004)
** This line refers to my Dad who in July 1990 took his own life without reaching out.

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

(paragraph break)

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