Don’t give up.

So this week has proven to be creatively challenging for me. I awoke Sunday with intentions of writing an epic blog post on motivation but then, as irony (and life) would have it, I became unmotivated. Tired. Confused. Health stuff, insurance stuff, parenting stuff, dog stuff, and a spinal tap tossed a well-intentioned week into a gear-grinding week. A week of scattered thoughts. A week of creative paralysis.

Recently, on a friend’s recommendation, I saw a new neurologist who specializes in complicated neurological diseases (it’s also safe to say all neurological diseases are complicated). The neurologist was cool. He wore a bowtie, asked a lot of questions, took handwritten notes, made lighthearted neurological disease jokes, and suggested I have a spinal tap to see if my spinal fluid is carrying a disease, like a roofer, up my white ladder* and in to my brain.

*White Ladder was the title of David Gray’s 1998 best selling album. I spent many-a-college night listening to Mr. Gray as I tried to unknot whatever juvenile nonsense I was knotted in. I often think about that 18-year-old kid trying to make sense of himself, of the world, only to realize I’m not so different now. Yes, some things are different. I’ve put on a few pounds. Strobe lights now give me headaches. Cheap light beer has been replaced with filtered water. But I’m still listening to Babylon on repeat. Still struggling to make sense of life. Still soothed by the music of my youth.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a mother in Ohio whose son was recently diagnosed with a rare, degenerative neurological disorder. She said she found my blog, thanked me for sharing my story, and giving a voice to many people who are struggling to find a voice. She said that my writing helps her son find hope in this seemingly hopeless time.

The doctor straightened his bowtie, scanned his handwritten notes, looked up and said, “What do we have to lose?”

Me: (Thinking) I guess nothing. But does it hurt?

Doctor: Not really.

Me: Have you had one?

Doctor: A spinal tap? No.

I’m pretty sure in 1999 I spent all of my energy avoiding pain. And when life hurt, I cured myself with cheap light beer and David Gray. Little did I know, pain is not only elemental, pain is useful. It takes a lot to get from one day to the next. It takes a lot of love–for yourself, for others–to keep, as my friend and talented writer Blake Kilgore always says, grinding.

My friend Jesse Jackson from Texas and host of the Set Lusting Bruce podcast, is bravely recording new episodes while he battles his second serious bout of cancer.

Trevor, from San Diego, California who, like me, has Cerebellar Atrophy recently reached out to send positive West Coast vibes to the East Coast.

The nice lady at the end of my street, who waves to Maggie and I on our morning walks, just had to put down her 14-year-old dog.

No matter your affliction, your confusion, your heartache, your pain, life is hard. Life is really fucking hard. And sometimes I want to quit. To hell with bravery and courage and perspective. Sometimes I want to self-indulge. Sometimes I want pity. Sometimes I don’t want to write on. Sometimes I don’t want to fight on.

A former student emailed me after a horrible family tragedy to say their life is really hard right now. A lot of tears. A lot of loneliness. A lot of sadness. And then, in the last paragraph, they thank me for always writing. For always fighting.

I realize giving up has graver, more severe, more negative consequences than moving forward does. And if you give up now, you will spend the rest of your days ashamed you did. If you ‘re tired, if you ‘re frustrated, if you’re downtrodden and confused and lost, you’re the only one who can get you through whatever you’re going through. Others can help. But true help, true change, true courage comes from within.

I want you to realize that you’re stronger than your pain.

I want you to remember you’re stronger than you realize

Don’t give up.

Keep going.

What do you have to lose?

Be well,


A pre-spinal tap selfie:

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Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost-handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door (your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.


Jay Armstrong is a writer, blogger, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

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