Training Session #33- July 11: Vanity Is A Lonely Road

In 2013 I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder that chewed a hole in my cerebellum, atrophied various muscles, impaired my vision, balance, coordination and consequently stole my ability to run. I have dedicated the summer of 2018 to regaining my strength, coordination, balance, and relearning how to run. I am participating in a 5k run on September 23rd in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is my training journal. This is my attempt to grow physically strong again.

Write on. Fight on.  

The previous training sessions can be found here, under “Fight on- Summer Training Log”


Time:

6:50 am to 7:30 am

Conditions:

Outdoor- 77 degrees

Training Maxim:

No hurry. No pause.

Training Performed:

40 minutes of continuous intervals of walking and jogging.

Accomplishment:

Jogging a quarter mile to finish today’s training.

Quote I’m Thinking About Today:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Reflection:

I enjoy jogging–accept when I’m approaching another jogger.

When I see another jogger I suddenly become self-conscious.

I worry the other jogger will cast judgments upon my slow pace and herky-jerky form. Then after training, they will sit in a loose circle with their tightly muscled friends, sip protein shakes and talk about how this morning they passed a man jogging so slow that by the time he finishes his run his clothes will be out of style.

Vanity is a dangerous motivator. We want to stride across the eyes of others looking confident, composed, and strong.

But as a runner, writer, and struggling human being, I know vanity is a lonely road. Vanity is inauthentic and creates insecurity.  Vanity always disturbs pace, form, and progress. Vanity tricks you into that thinking that joy is easily attained.

The truth is–runners, writers and human beings are not always smooth or graceful, composed and balanced. We are erratic, frustrated and wavering.

And the sooner we dismiss the passing glance of another and accept, for better or worse, who we are–the sooner we will find joy in our actions.

From The Previous Training Session-July 10: What Advice Would I Give Myself?

As a 12th grade teacher, I’m often asked by students, who are about to graduate high school and embark on adulthood, for advice. Advice on facing fears, following passions, sustaining long-distance relationships, repairing relationships, and overcoming physical limitations.

But what if I were my own student? What advice would I give myself?

Keep going. 

 

What’s the World’s Greatest Lie?

It was a tradition of sorts.

In the initial months following my diagnosis, after each doctor’s appointment, I would go to the bar

Given my deteriorating health, maybe a few pints and a plate of fried pickles was not the most constructive response, but sometimes nothing soothes a fractured soul like the warm panel walls, a friendly jukebox and the comfort foods of a corner bar.

I remember sitting with my wife and parents and two brothers, talking through the details of my appointment in low, weighty voices.

We had drinks and ate deep fried vegetables and to snap the tension, someone would say something funny and we’d laugh, but not too loud. Because, now was not the time for laughing loud.  Now was the time to make sense of bad news.

I remember the hallow clinks of pint glasses and finding things to do with my hands– bending coasters, tearing bar napkins into confetti–and feeling helpless and powerless. Like sitting in the last pew at my own funeral.

For awhile I believed there was nothing I could do. It was final–I was stricken with some rare disease. Period. And I remember believing how utterly unfair it was.

If our language confirms what we believe, relying on the phrase “it’s not fair…” cements our belief in the world’s oldest lie, which according to the novel The Alchemist is:

At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”– from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

A few years ago, a student suggested that I start a blog.

Why?

Because sometimes you say interesting things in class.

Sometimes?

Yeah, sometimes.

Not to go all Hollywood here, but in serious ways this blog, saved my life.

Because I’ve learned that it’s not the bad news that matters, it’s our response that does.

Our self-victimization vexes others to where they will lose patience and tune us out. Their previous pity sours to apathy.

By bemoaning our bad news, we empower our bad news. We waste vital energy needed to command a positive response to conquer such bad news.

And plus, self-victimizers with their bloated bellies of self-pity and self-delusions make for terrible drinking partners.

Be well,

Jay

Why I Celebrated My Worst Day

When I decided to celebrate my worst day I had romantic dreams of baking a chocolate cake, coating it with vanilla icing and beautifully decorating it with some unabashed inspirational quote.

Here’s what happened.

It’s okay to laugh. Seriously. I know, it’s high fructose, high caloric train wreck.

Just in case you can’t read it, beneath the scattered sprinkles, squiggled in red gel is the iconic line from Bruce Springsteen’s Badlands — “Aint no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Here’s why.

This past September 4th was a big day for me. An anniversary of sorts. So I baked and decorated a cake to commemorate the day.

On September 4th, 2013 I had my first MRI revealing my brain damage–large chunk of my cerebellum had degenerated.

The date has now become a personal milestone. In the days and weeks following September 4th, 2013 there was, as you could imagine, a quiet tension. The kind of quiet tension that lingers between the pages of hospital waiting room magazines.

With every test, with every confused doctor I grew more desperate, more convinced that I was going to die a young man.

Four years later my brain damage is still unaccounted for.

However, eighteen months after the MRI, a muscle biopsy revealed an autoimmune disorder, sarcoidodsis, that causes inflammation not degeneration.

Four years later doctors are still nosing through medical journals searching for precedent. They are still hypothesizing.

I say let them hypothesize. For the only fact that matters today is — I’m still alive. And according to the Boss, that ain’t no sin.

If the September 4th picture marks my worst day, a day which initiated the worst stretch of days I have ever experienced, I’ve learned that celebrating your worst day is an important step toward healing. Though I’m not physically healed, and may never be, mentally, emotionally and spiritually I’m stronger for having endured my worst day.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose ones on way. Victor Frankl author, psychologist, neurologist

Suffering is lonely work.

Often, when we suffer we alienate the very people who take us to our appointments, who hold our hand, who cry alongside of us.

It’s understandable that when we suffer we become selfish. We fall into ourselves. Yet by doing so we fail to recognize the anguish others are in because of our suffering.

Cutting cake (even a poorly decorated one) and celebrating your worst day is an important step toward healing.  A sugary reminder of how resilient the human spirit can be and how our lives, whether we want the responsibility or not, are the models that others will follow.

Be well,

Jay