Sorry I have been gone for a little while; I am having technical difficulties! (Seasonal affective disorder) Eh, I’m used to it! We had a hurricane a few weeks ago and it brought cold weather. Add low sunlight and presto! It is obnoxious, but I have tools to deal with it and while a thorn in my side; it is nothing to write home about. Just know you CANNOT control your thoughts and emotions, but you can deal with them in appropriate manner. NOTHING happens without our permission! Negativity in life is inevitable, but it only overcomes us if we ALLOW it! I challenge everyone to concentrate on the haves, rather than have nots! Example : I have very good health (kind of haha, my labs are great!), 2 cats who love me, love in my life, and a roof over my head. I have my life. I will be grateful and slay the day!
In early November of 2003, I had reached my lowest point and attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs and alcohol; I awoke from a coma about a week later. Unable to move or make noise, I found myself as one sees a newborn baby. I was extremely anorexic and malnourished; I was also very addicted to drugs and alcohol. What strikes me now as no coincidence is this: my family was holding vigil over Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria when I came back to life.
My life had completely taken a downward spiral since my days as a glowing college philosophy student. My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder. While in school, I modeled myself after the great philosophers and truly thought the greatest thoughts were derived from the use of some sort of substance. I imagined myself holding council with the greats in absinthe bars across Europe and sharing my brilliant two cents with those around me. As an adolescent, I was an avid athlete and won many scholastic awards; I graduated ahead of my class and the future was in my hands. My addictions had other plans: a dentist’s daughter, private school and university taught, I often found myself homeless and at the end of my addiction, living to drink and drug. My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night. No longer could did I care about my mental or physical health; I was physically addicted and drinking to live. How dark it is before the dawn!
Upon overdosing I found myself in a coma on life support; unable to breath on my own, my systems were shutting down. Recently, I found out that one night, they prepared my family for the worst. It is very important for posterity’s sake that one takes into account what atrocious shape I was in, as you may find the later portion of my story rather uplifting. After awakening, my living nightmare began, I had cut off the oxygen supply to my brain and was unable to move or make noise, due to the large holes now in my cerebellum. I wish I could say that was an a-ha moment, an awakening of sorts; sadly it was not. I did not drink, drug, or practice my eating disorder for three years, as I was physically unable and due to mobility issues had moved back home with my mother (my father committed suicide in 2001). After three years, I was walking with a walker, and ready to live on my own again… so I thought. By 2007, I had destroyed what little progress I had made; I was once again drinking and practicing the eating disorder, only this time I was severely disabled. In the spring, I found myself, once again, in a psych ward. Guardianship was relinquished to my mother; I know not why, but all of a sudden a switch flipped on inside of me and I decided then and there I would “get better”, so to speak.
I remembered the philosophical teachings of Epictetus, how one creates their own circumstances and of the great psychologist Viktor Frankl who claimed that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I began inpatient hospitalization to nourish my body and uncloud my mind. Once I was well enough, I began working with a nutritionist and attending support groups; I abstained from alcohol and drugs, but faltered with the eating disorder. Honestly, it was difficult to let go of all of my unhealthy habits. Resisting drugs and alcohol, I remained sober for 3.5 years. On December 14th of 2013 I, again, drank; that is an important date for me; that is the day I took my life back. I decided enough is enough and all but wore out my copies of my motivating philosophical books. The next few months found me sober, quitting smoking, halting the eating disorder, becoming vegetarian, and obtaining a gym membership. It’s truly amazing as to the things we can do when we apply ourselves! All this while, I’ve held onto the notion that there is reason for one’s suffering; if anything, it is to share hope with those who may well be fighting their own battles. For the first time in 20 years, I myself began to see hope. I sought refuge in the works of William James and studied Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. These works led me to believe there was an immutable sense underlying all; it was not up to me to figure my life out, but I could, indeed, live to show others that hope is for all, not simply the worthy.
In 2014, I was doing so well all around that I set a new goal for myself: to go back to school to be a personal trainer. You must remember that from 2003-2004 I could barely move; so this was a lofty goal. I gained my certification on the first try, joining only 10% of my class; next up, find employment. Believe it or not, I applied at gyms and health and nutrition stores. I secured a position in a health store and took the paratransit bus to work; I remembered stories from my childhood: these helped me overcome adversity. Aesop’s Fables, morals, and abstractions guided me through troubled waters. CS Lewis is another favorite who I studied intensely, not for his religious, but philosophical teachings. I believe now that “Even at night there are stars that shine”.
I have not had an eating disorder or used substances since 2013; neither have I eaten meat or smoked. As I now know, there is meaning in the suffering. Life happens; it is up to us as to its meaning. I know today that I make a choice everyday as to the path my life will take. “I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my destiny.” Hope is available for everyone; take heart; it is yours if you want it.
“Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough.”- Richard M. DeVos
There are so many opportunities to do this throughout our day, yet few take advantage. As human beings, I believe we are always seeking encouragement; this often stems from the most unlikely places. Being fellows, we can, indeed, be the color in someone’s otherwise grey world. Personal circumstances may dictate otherwise and life may seem all but hopeless, but know that it is absolutely NOT. Whether it is a smile, kind word, or random act of kindness; actions indeed make an impact. Know that you are loved unconditionally. Even if I don’t personally know you, know that someone loves you for the simple fact that you ARE and nothing more. Know that you are worthy of being loved and of giving love to others. We sometimes feel as though we are alone, you are NOT; trust that I have been and continue to be on the front lines right along with you. And if no one else tells you, “You can do it and I love you!”
“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.” Epictetus
Some things I have learned thusly: Not everyone will like you and I cannot take myself too seriously. I have (and still do) face criticism. I have found that the best way to stay out of controversy is to completely avoid it. If one does not do anything negative, then when we find ourselves amongst gossip and chaos, we can rest easy and simply laugh it off knowing that it is baseless and completely unfounded. I am indeed overly happy and all over the place, but I am harmless! I have received reminders of myself from 10 years ago and I must say, it’s COMPLETELY embarrassing! I must call myself out (aside from things done to me) I have been a thief, a liar, a cheat, an addict and alcoholic, completely out of control; this hardly touches the surface. If you are any of these things; do not count yourself out and feel damaged beyond repair. There is always hope; I know but little, I do, however, I know something about and believe in humanity and goodness. Trust that I am well versed on current events, much of my life revolves around them. I am well aware of all of the negativity and atrocities in the world; many of which (and I am EXTREMELY sad about) involve people I love. If I do not involve myself, I can laugh off negativity and realize it is not ME, but the other party. I have spent too much of my life spent at the whim of others; we choose this, no person has control unless permission is granted. One need not waste needless energy on worry of other’s thoughts about them, but rather remain secure with themselves.
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”
― Saint Augustine
Humility is indeed an art form; I write and talk explicitly in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring. The mere fact that I am writing publicly about humility is indeed any oxymoron. I am definitely not the most humble person in existence, yet I try my damndest. One need not be boastful about their accomplishments (I often am), but let their life and actions speak for them. I am indeed very little if I am mere talk with no actions behind me. Talk of one’s humility is extremely ironic, for often if one speaks of their humility, they are not such. I have many friends who are humble to a fault and do not like to be recognized in ANY fashion. I respect the hell out of them! It is not in my nature to do such; I try my best, but often fall short. I am well aware that I am not the smartest or most beautiful person that ever was or will be; I am neither a saint nor brilliant nor supermodel, but I am loved and that is good enough! I will attempt to practice humility as best I can… while still blogging J
“One filled with joy preaches without preaching.”
I hope I never come across as preachy; if I do, I apologize. Someone who has had great influence on me once told me: we walk this path shoulder to shoulder. Woe be it to me to stand on a soapbox and attempt to control people. I cannot; each person will do what they want to do; I simply aim to encourage and inspire, never preach. Let bygones be bygones and you can indeed affect the world; not letting anyone affect you negatively. No one! If I make you angry, I apologize in advance. Some people despise love and happiness and find it obnoxious; it strikes me as very funny. Let your actions speak for you. I am simply a conglomerate of my words and especially deeds; these must be congruent if I am to live a fruitful life of balance. Today, I am filled with joy, despite external “things”.
“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world.
There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created
in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores
of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will
appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” –Leo Buscaglia
This world is writhe with choices; kindness and love is a choice not unlike any other. Happiness and sadness both take the same amount of effort on our parts. I can choose to be grateful for what I have… or I can wallow in misery. I have reasons beyond belief to feel sorry for myself, but what good would that do? The past is behind me. I can place blame or I can take responsibility for my present actions. I cannot control the actions of others. Seriously… I can’t even control my cats! I have no power over what is said or done to me, but I can, indeed, choose how I interpret such things. I am indeed blessed to have people surrounding me who deeply love me, unconditionally. Those who do not know me judge me based on my history and appearance; it does not affect me unless I let it. Generally speaking, a kind word or a smile tends to soften such pre-conceived notions. It is relatively funny to see someone with a walker holding the door for someone with a wheelchair. If all you can manage is to tell someone you love them today; do it. The world could use it!
I see extraordinary people everywhere. People at the gym with major medical problems, people in institutions struggling, people battling personal problems in daily life; but they live and fight, despite their struggles. It is incredible to see; people surviving despite their circumstances are inspiring and make me so happy to watch; they give me courage and hope. I was hoodwinked at one point, thought you could buy happiness. Many of these people had or have very much, tangibly, but they are just things. Their power of spirit is what is great, nothing tangible. I am constantly awestruck by the sheer goodness and fighting spirit some people possess; it is simply incredible.
Mental: If you think you have a serious issue with this, for God’s sake, tell someone. Do not think you must “go it alone” or that you or alone and you are hopeless. I know my head is not always a thing to be traversed solo; I quite often need support from others.
Physical : At one time or another, we are bound to have ailments. Be kind to others with lesser physical attributes, for you can easily be in their place. There is not always a rhyme or reason, sometimes people are the way they are through no fault of their own. Always treat others with love; you would want the same for yourself.
Social: The world around you is full of wonderous love, if you remain open to the fact. If you view the world in a pessimistic manner, that is how you will see things. However, the more you are cognisant of the joy offered by the world, the more explicitly you will find you internalize it.
I love people, especially my friends; sometimes people don’t know how damn AWESOME and meaningful they are in this world. Everyone in existence has a place in this world, whether we choose to be givers or takers is up to the individual. You all inspire me, from good friends who I speak with at length, to a random stranger holding a door open, to a random word of encouragement; every bit improves my world and the world in general. Unfortunately, we do not live in Utopia; it is very difficult to not succumb to the woes of the world. Often times, it seems there is more negative than positive; I don’t ignore the negative; but try very hard to search for the positive. Believe me, it is there! Just not as sensational; often times wonderful people and situations do not garner headlines; just because you do not receive accolades does NOT mean you are not making a difference!
Mental: Do not use negative self-talk;what you think you manifest. Rather than tell yourself “I suck” (my mantra for a long time), tell yourself, “I am awesome!”; however do not think you have to be perfect or get a big ego. It’s a tough fall if you fall from a pedestal! But don’t be down on yourself from the onset. Also (and this is major for some people), if everyone around you is encouraging you to think less of yourself, do NOT listen. Just listen politely (if necessary) or if you can remove yourself. Try not to engage or fight; this often just inflames a situation. Realize that, unless it is constructive criticism (if what someone’s saying is only aimed to make you feel bad or is hateful) it is not going to improve your quality of life.
Physical: If you do cardio, aim for a little longer; weights or cans, a little more. Bit by bit, you will see improvement. Exercise, even small, boosts the immune system and increases physiologic function; it is not all about aesthetics. Exercise and the immune system writing . Video. The majority of clients at my gym are older in age and they are fantastic! It’s not about having the tightest clothes or lifting the heaviest weights; it’s improving your life and feeling good!
Social : Try not to let social problems get you down;easier said than done! It is impossible to read or watch the news without hearing “bad” headlines. Bad things happen in the world; if they really bother you, do something rather than just talk about them. I am not suggesting you do anything violent or harmful, but if you can make an impact, for the BETTER (not what YOU think is best, but what is right for humanity) …. just do it! And do not let such situations consume your being; you are not an individual according to social structures. You are YOU!