Thursday, May 19, 2011

Arnold how could you do this to me?

     
     When are people going to wake up?  It’s as if most of the population are living in a fog and walk around in a daydream.  I am guilty of this myself, but it really has become apparent to me through my observations at scooter level, and diminished physicality.  I will be driving past someone who looks directly through me, and then does a double take, whipping his or her head back for another look.  Hello? Anyone home? Were you sleepwalking?
     This week was in my opinion yet another blow to society. The discovery that my Collegehood Icon, Arnold Schwarzenegger had joined the ranks of the millions building families out of wedlock was for me the last straw.  My roommates and I used to religiously play the movie, “Pumping Iron”, before heading off to the gym every single day in College.  The film takes place from Gold's Gym in Venice Beach California to the showdown in Pretoria. Both amateur and professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests in this part-scripted, part-documentary film. Five-time champion Arnold Schwarzenegger defends his Mr. Olympia title against Serge Nubret and the shy young deaf Lou Ferrigno, whose father is his coach, as the ruthless champ(Arnold)psyches out the young Louie.  A must see for anyone needing inspiration and an absolute tribute to his once greatness, this film was our pregame ritual to our workouts.  We would laugh, imitate lines and even attempt some of the exercises. 
     I continue to lose faith in our society.  If it’s not a friend, it’s an acquaintance.  If it’s not an acquaintance it’s an athlete.  If it’s not an athlete it’s a congressmen, or congresswomen, or President for that matter, all sharing a common hoodwink, bamboozle, deception, ripoff, swindle, doop, jerkaround, double cross, whatever.  I about fell off my chair when I saw the broadcast on the Today show that this time it was Arnold. I looked up to the (Mr.) universe, as I often do, and asked why? Why does this continue to happen?  Is it that difficult to be ethical, upstanding, honorable or moralistic?  Living a lie from your family for ten long years?  My gosh the thought of the stress and deception exhausts me, as does everything these days for that matter.  Look, I am not pulling a Father George here and I am no wanker, I am all for a little harmless flirtation, teasing, maybe a stray shot at a beautiful set of bodacious tatas never seen before,or a smack on the lips from an attractive friend of the opposite sex; you know what I am saying.  I am definately numb, but not that numb.  This behavior is all in good fun and can even be exciting, especially to a guy that once excelled in physical training and now participates in physical therapy.  Its just that more and more of these stories dominate our news.
     Yesterday I had Steve at work run and get me a coffee from Dunkin Donuts.  Their coffee is the best and Steve has helped me so much, he is a great kid.  Anyway as it sat on my desk alongside my USB cable that was plugged into my I-phone, the aroma permeated my big Greek nose.  Suddenly the I-phone rang and as I scooped it up with my fat numb fingers, the cord snagged the coffee and thrusted the lid off, tilted the cup over, spewing the contents all over my desk and my paperwork.  All I could do was yell for help, considering my inability to simply stand up and go get a towel or something.  My point?  Why do people continue to take advantage of their Divine God given rights and continue to abuse them as well as their loved ones.  Trust me something that seems as harmless and routine as mopping up a cup of coffee for you is overwhelming to me.  I can’t stress it enough, but it’s not until life’s little pleasures are overshadowed by illness, disease, tragedy, and your health minimized will you realize it.  Sure there are no “legitimacy” laws in place, but wake up people, get mindful, thankful, present, ethical, and a little nicer.   How could you do this to me Arnold?
  
   

Monday, May 16, 2011

Living life's simple pleasures.

     I remember growing up my older sister used to call me “Father George” referring to a priest or a monk that loved simplicity or just a mature older figure that was not going to get into a situation that included conflict, be it morally or physically.
     The title of “Father George” I guess in retrospect really was an accurate one.  In fact I loved being mature and responsible.  Hanging out with the dog, sitting in the back yard with a cold drink on a mild summer day with the breeze blowing through the trees, or just hanging out with my parents or Grandparents and I was more than happy.  I really am a salt of the earth guy, a real simple man. One of those peaceful Sunday afternoons, falling asleep to Sunday golf on television,  or just sitting on the porch watching the universe go by was living well to me.  Probably very boring to most and not the behavior of the average high school kid but it worked fine for me and it was safe.  Yes safe and it was a chosen behavior. That is what was important to me. No conflict, no tension, no fighting, no pressure, but calmness and the comfort of being safe.
       For me my behavior is innate. It’s just the way it is.  I don’t try to act a certain way or not act a certain way, it just happens.  It’s like the weather. I realize one may have more control over ones behavior than the weather and maybe that isn’t the best analogy but my behavior was my behavior period and it just happened.  Each day I battle this disease, that element of safety seems further and further away.  It’s more like constant conflict and discomfort, insecurity, anxiety and in many instances just plain torture. 
    The twins celebrated their first communion this past weekend,(I am the only Orthodox in the house) and once I was dressed and ready I sat patiently as the rest of the family got dressed and ready for this Holy day.  There were blow dryers going, little feet running back and forth, the dog was barking, requests for toast with honey were bellowing over the hallways, and all the while I sat, and sat, and sat, remembering one day it was living well and now more like living hell.  Torture.  Sure I can be helpful to some degree if a job is placed in my lap, like tightening the kids’ belts or combing hair, but listening, sitting, and watching life as it revolves with all its sounds and commotion while looking in from what seems to be the outside is not what I would have chosen and has taken on an entire new dimension from the way it used to be.
     Considering I could not finagle myself and the wheelchair with the rest of my family sitting in the reserved and appointed church pew about three rows away, as I sat opposite from them it occurred to me just how distorted my views on life really were.  I believe most people would be more inclined to tell you that today’s world is a wee bit more cynical as we are constantly faced with conflict, tension, commotion and pressure, and where it’s easy to go to safer calmer ground; it’s unrealistic and ill prepares us for the truisms of life’s events. “Father George” at the time had no idea he should have been practicing war tactics preparing for a world war battle, nor did he need to.   Surely and most importantly don't ever expect battle or bring on it's energy, but rather be as present and aware in the moment as you possibly can.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying life’s simple pleasures, in fact everyone should, but it’s not until they are taken away do you realize just how much you took them for granted, and one can never be too prepared because challenges of many kinds inevitably come in various forms and fronts. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life can really serve up some distasteful circumstances.

     Life has served me a shit sandwich (SS).  Yes a shit sandwich, and I am not talking a Mufalata here, nor a famous Star Deli lean corned beef, but rather a hard, steamy colled rolled, burning, painful, numb, full of odor, grotesque sequence of circumstances.  In the shit sandwich world there are two modes of participation: the giver or the receiver, or both! 
     This morning as I unloaded my vehicle making my way to the DMC pool therapy in Novi, I received my first SS of the day.  I was leaning my weight onto my walker with such concentration and skill when a faint voice from a few yards away eagerly expressed to me how ecstatic she was to see another “young” person using a walker.  “Everyone makes fun of my walker, she exclaimed, it’s nice to see another young person using one,” she remarked.  First of all she was like eighty five years old and God Bless her but she either thought I was an old fart or whatever it is she interprets “youth” to be is a little skewed.  “Next person that makes fun of that walker serve’em a shit sandwich” I squawked back, reverently working on not falling in the parking lot. The old gal chuckled and off I went.
     As I undressed, redressed, and made my way into the pool it occurred to me just how huge my problems seem to me, but  in reality to the rest of the world I am just a grain of sand, a pimple on the ass of life, a speck of dust in the air.  We all have our problems and it can be so easy to get caught up in my own that the last thing I would ever think about is some poor old eighty five year old lady being chided about her walker.  I am confident her problems are every bit as significant as mine, as is yours, your friends, his friends, and so on.  Do you know there are over 40 million blind people in the world? Or that 1 out of every 150 people are autistic? Or that six and a half percent of the world’s population are diabetic?   Or that 26% of the deaths in the US last year were caused by heart disease?  I know the thoughts haven’t occurred to me at all.  I have been too busy munching on my own SS.
     When therapy ended and I made my way back to my car, sputtering and dragging like an eight cylinder motor working on two, I was grunting and groaning and cussing in an attempt to motivate myself to complete the task of actually “making” it to the car.  The parking lot was jammed and the car next to me was parked really close. As I held onto my tailgate, folded my walker, and tossed it into the back seat I yelled out a few beautiful obscenities, literally one after the other, hooted and hollered as I hoisted myself into my seat, fell back into the leather seat put down the window and threw out a couple more fabulous choice words to the universe.  As I sat back in the headrest catching my breath, I turned over and caught the site of a horrified old lady, knitting inside the car next to me, obviously witness to my verbal bantering and shocked out of her gore.  Moral of the story: We all have our own shit sandwiches, but be cautious how you choose to eat yours, or if and when you spit it out for that matter.  Dont think about only yourself, its a big big world.  Be aware there exists battles that others are fighting maybe not obvious to the naked eye.   And for Pete's sake if your going to yell your SS out loud to the universe confirm there is not an old lady knitting in the vicinity.  For others points of view (click here), but beware this site is intended for only the maturist of viewers!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

To the Tune of "Twas The Night Before Christmas-MS version"

Twas the night before Wednesday, The Greek out like a log
A couple of valium snoring louder than the dog.
The children were tucked under their covers with care
The windows were opened allowing in the cold air.
Tuesday was crazy with PT and such
The necessity for sleep holds importance so much.
Poor tired Linda had catered to all,
She just settled down as her bod hit the wall.
When out in the hallway there arose such a clatter,
I struggled to the walker to see what’s the matter.
Slowly dragging my torso my eyes like two holes,
Banged my toe on the wheel my ankle then rolls.
The clock glowing brightly the time I would know,
It’s two in the morning and my body won’t go.
When what to my twitching left eye should appear,
It’s one of the twins shivering in fear.
Tapping the floor with two little feet and he’s moving so quick
Oh please Lord don’t tell me tonight he is sick.
More louder than dinosaurs his run as he came,
He shook and he shouted his dreams’ claim to fame.
Darth Vader, an alien, some monsters and a mummy,
He’s scared out of his wits and now sick to his tummy.
Back to his bunk climbing up from the wall,
Please get away from me monsters please get away all.
The terror continued and he thought he would die,
When he gets this worked up he’ll usually cry.
So back down the hallway the little guy flew
If he’s awake I may as well be too.
I glanced at my wife still purring with sleep,
I scowled at Michael to make no more peep.
As I gathered myself and was turning around,
I tripped on the dogs toys consuming the ground.
The dog never moved sleeping sound head to paw
His belly was upright and I was in awe.
A bundle of fur he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a person asleep in my sack.
So off to the bunk bed my listless body not merry,
My legs like two boners and almost as hairy.
We crawled in the bottom this bed for me not fun,
Just me and my buddy so close together were like one.
It’s now almost three and soon will be morning,
My dear son I love you but would rather be snoring.
Some cuddling, caressing, rubbing and such,
The dream of these monsters was plainly too much.
By four in the morning and sleep out of sight,
I figured some TV would do him just right.
He tiptoed downstairs as he went all alone,
And although he just loves me and puts me on the throne,
Accompaniment downstairs with MS just aint happinin,
I figured once more he’d probably be crappin.
Now finally alone and two hours will come work,
If I don’t catch some z’s surely ill be a jerk.
As my eyes start to shut there commences a beeping
The fire alarm battery is dead on the ceiling,
And it’s obvious this night there will be no more sleeping.
Back in the day I would fly to my feet,
With a snap and a turn this alarm I could beat.
As I stare at the ceiling asking the universe why,
If it weren’t for the humor I think I would cry.
The beeping continued its course to no avail,
I lay in the bed like a prisoner no bail.
To Moses forty years in the desert my thoughts do turn,
Get your ass out of bed there’s lessons to learn.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Slaying Your Dragon!

     Slaying Your Dragon, (contrary to the interpretation of the Urban dictionary) is synonymous with the likes of kicking ass and taking names, shut up and deal with it, harden your heart, give up the ghost, call it whatever you damn well please but just execute it.  Those warriors out there battling illness or even life’s persecution need no explanation from me, and are enduring exactly what I am expressing.   The smallest of tasks that the generally healthy take for granted like "jumping" in the car, "running" in to the store, "grabbing" a bite to eat, and "popping" out of bed are incredibly daunting tasks to those of us challenged physically.  Instead, every day is like "slaying the dragon."  We experience an ongoing war and are forced to ensue a battle with even the minutest vocations.  Something like answering the telephone on certain days can become as laborious as forty hours of overtime.  Just a routine morning shower, "throwing" on some clothes, having breakfast and making my way to the car and I am ready to take a break.  It’s like running a 29 mile marathon every morning without even leaving bed. The mere thought of the process, of which I must rehearse in my mind to prepare for the day, often times leaves me in a state of panic and anxiousness and bewilderment, yet there is something pushing me, lifting me, propping me, kicking me in the ass that inhibits this MF'er from losing the war to MS or even just giving it the satisfaction. 
    
     Often times prior to getting out of bed I must first practice a bit of shamanism, or meditate as if all the weight in the world has dissipated from my body, and then opposing forces inside me are now charged and in turn thrust deeply into the inner frustration and anger of my atrocity, using its negativity as strength and power.  In one fowl swoop and momentus propulsion I swing myself with a series of motions to a semi upright position on the walker, and with an enormous grunt or a groan will involuntarily squeeze every lower body muscle, blood rushing to my head, and then with a yell or growl I will then curse the illness as if it’s someone in the room.  Partly because the muscle spasms had neglected me from obtaining any rest, and instead I get up feeling the likes of the aftermath of four quarters of tackle football, but mostly because I am just plain old pissed off and although I may scare the shit out of anyone in the bedroom, especially Linda, this routine is a necessity if I am going to slay this dragon.  The first 20 seconds of my day can dictate the remaining 86,380, so unless I have my mojo going, I better think twice about getting up.

     Rising from bed can be the single most important decision for anyone battling any illness emotional or physical.  I know it’s not always even a possibility for some, but motivation, encouragement, desire or just plain necessity can dictate this process.  I do not care how horrible the night went, or the lack of sleep that has left me exhausted, staying in the sack is not an option.  Knowing that my family is counting on me to provide for them or a customer or colleague at work has asked for my services are examples of two driving forces for me to rise in the morning.  There are many mornings where I would love to stay in bed, grieving, recuperating, pissing and moaning, or just hiding from the day, but that would be surrendering. 
    
     Many mornings I arise in a condition worse off than when I went to bed the night prior.  It may either be debilitating pain in my back or extremities, extreme numbness, severe vertigo or whatever.  Instead of focusing on these ailments I try to use them as motivation.  "Bring it on", I often yell out, or "is that all you got" I will ask this evil power as if it’s not inside me but standing across from me, laughing, chuckling, and enjoying its assault on my body.  I have no intentions on allowing this beast free passage and treat it as a competitive foe and never a friend.  Teaming up with this monster would be accepting, acquiring and obtaining its evil, instead my method allows me the power to renounce, dispute and repudiate it.  I refer to MS as "bastard", "monster", "beast", "hell", and in my mind picture a sloppy, disheveled, fat, lethargic, despicable gargoyle with no teeth, unshaven, gargantuan pig constantly in my grill challenging me.  This slob I see has two little strings of hair that hang in its face, and a methodical little grin. This overall depiction is often what drives me.

     I try to use the walker, as much as I and my kids despise it, as often as I can.  Niko, who is now driving by permit, refers to the walker as his "nemesis", and often times will not park the van in the garage if the walker is anywhere near, as it deters his thought and his inexperience maneuvering around it results in his inability to properly position the vehicle.  It’s actually quite humorous.  However, complacency would be to settle for the wheelchair, and although some days I know I really shouldn’t be walking for the fact I could easily fall, I push through the pain or fatigue in an attempt to keep atrophy at bay.  Muscles easily turn loose and when slaying this dragon, it’s either use it or lose it. 
    
     Driving has also become a challenge considering after approximately three toe lifts from pedal to pedal, my shin becomes fatigued and reaction time slows down considerably.  To remedy this I simply use my right hand and lift my leg up and down to apply pressure to the appropriate pedal.  I do often envision what might happen if I had the need for a sudden stop or a flat tire or a fender bender, but that volatility just creates anxiety and again that is only forward thinking and future thinking, which in my world do absolutely no good.  Living in the present is soup d'jour. Driving is a privilege, and the masses would never realize that fact until it was taken away.  There is certain independence to being behind the wheel and I have no plans of ever forfeiting that right.  Aside from the low back pain, and my unorthodox driving style, being behind the wheel allows me to feel "normal"and independent,  and provides the opportunity to fraternize with the rest of the world while actually taking part in life’s energy and flow.
    
     Aside from driving, work is the pinnacle of the day for me and without it I would not be a very nice companion.  For me its fielding phone calls, internet orders, customer concerns, scooter rides throughout the warehouse, constant and consistent chiding amongst coworkers, and problem solving that I consider therapy.  Last week a customer was staring at me as I was unloading from my car to the scooter and Don and I caught a glimpse of what was truly a relatively innocuous stare.  "Shock and awe" I call it, and when he finally realized we noticed his panic stricken face he quickly turned away.  Don, my witty colleague, assured me as to the conjecture of this observation, and followed with a real classic.  "Don’t feed the circus animal", he blurted out loud, referring to me as a type of freak show, and the two of us belly laughed so hard my numb right hand poured my entire latte across my pants, and nearly fell off the scooter!  All day long as I drove past Don on the scooter we berated the situation with better and better slogans.  "Welcome to the freak show", "who's the carnie", "look at the beast driving a scooter!"  God it was funny as hell.

     Even the healthiest of us have battles throughout the day.  We all have our own stories, and as insidious as it may appear to the world, nobody seems to go unscathed.  Humor can truly ease the situation.  Learn to laugh at yourself a little.    I need you all to do me this favor. The next time "running" to the store, "jumping" in to the shower, "grabbing" lunch for the kids, or even "preparing" for the day becomes in anyway a pain in your ass, it is necessary to perform one of two options.  Either thank God profusely for the ability and fact you can actually perform and accomplish these tasks without trepidation or consciousness, or take my approach, get your head on straight, make a few jokes, and SLAY YOUR  DRAGON!  There are no other options.