The COVID-19 Marathon

I am far from an experienced marathoner. I have only run four of them. Quite frankly, I don’t see myself running any more. However, in my experience, there are four distinct phases of a marathon. As our world drags into its ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am noticing that life has been mirroring those four Phases. Let’s take a look at this.

Marathon Phase 1. Miles 1-8

I can not believe this is happening. I know that this is going to suck, but when will I ever be here again? I am going to make the most of it. Look at all these people here. Runners chit-chat and smile as they pass each other “Hey, man! Good luck. We’re all in this together! Looking good!” I feel incredible. I am ready for this. Look at all these supportive spectators with their fun signs. Selfie! I have one pocket full of Gu energy gels that I will eat every seven miles and another pocket with salt tablets to pop every nine miles. I know exactly how much water I should drink every thirty minutes I am out here. I feel great. I can do this.

COVID Phase 1

I can not believe this is happening. I know that this is going to suck, but when will this ever happen again? I am going to make the most of it. We are all in this together. Kids, do not think you are getting extra screen time because we are always home. I have activities planned every day. I’m going to post them all on Facebook so everyone can see how awesome we are. I am working virtually, but I will put on jeans and a collared shirt when I clock in and remove them at the end of the day because boundaries are important. I am going to watch the COVID numbers every day to see the curve. Look at all the fun masks we are making! Might be fun to actually be around my wife a little more. I’ve got myself 365 rolls of toilet paper and an industrial barrel of hand-sanitizer. I’m fine. Let’s do this.

Marathon Phase 2. Miles 9-16

Oh boy. This is real. All the fun of the start is gone and these miles are pretty much just grinding it out. I have trained so it does not really hurt too much but I am starting to feel it. I will continue to check my watch about every quarter mile. Not gonna waste my breath talking to fellow racers anymore. They get a head nod. If nothing else, this is getting kind of boring. I’ve been doing this between 80 – 150 minutes and the end is really nowhere close. Its going to be one foot in front of the other for a really long time still.

COVID Phase 2

So, this is real. Still not crushing my spirits, but it’s getting kind of old. Hey boys, there really is nothing else happening. Go right ahead and put in an extra hour on your XBox. I’m getting tired of getting cleaned up on all of these board games anyway. Tracking the COVID numbers is no longer interesting. More like depressing. The wife and I are starting to struggle a bit for conversation because I am pretty sure we’ve covered anything interesting during the first few months. Facebook is starting to seem less supportive and is really just a bickering ground for everyone who has apparently spent the last few months getting their Ph.D in epidemiology, research methodology and public health. I am not going to talk about COVID at all today. Well, unless I actually see someone. Then I’ll talk about it because, well, that’s all there is to talk about. As for work, at this point, I just keep two collared shirts sitting at my work station. If I am going to be on-camera with someone, I quickly throw one of them on and take it back off as soon as my meeting is done. I can get a week out of those two shirts.

Marathon Phase 3. Miles 17-22

Hell. Everything is out the window and it is really just survival. My body is completely shot. I don’t even bother checking my watch anymore. I am cramping up in hamstrings, quads, buttocks, and calves. In one marathon, my legs actually gave out and I had to army crawl to a mailbox to shimmy up like a squirrel on a bird feeder at mile 21. Oddly, that was the only marathon I cracked the 4-hour mark on. I do not even talk to other runners. Sadly, I just just continue past bodies that have failed and are lying beside the road. I barely even notice emergency personnel running/biking/driving by because its so common. My emotions are a mess and on a couple races that I knew I would miss my time by 5-7 minutes, I cried. Well, I tried to cry but my body was so dehydrated that it refused to waste moisture on tears. Dry-sobbing is one of the weirdest things I have ever experienced. The worst part of this phase is that there is still a very, very long way to go. Every step has become misery and feels like a drop in the bucket. Definitely on the back half of the race and nearing the finish line but it is….. so……far…..away There is absolutely no choice but to continue but I just know that I absolutely never want to do this again.

COVID Phase 3

This is where we are and it sucks. Every sniffle and headache is a sure sign of infection. Even the best days are confirmation that I am asymptomatic. Boys, just get back on the video games. I’m sure you dropped in rank and you’ve only played 10 hours today, right? I have not looked at the COVID rate in days. I know it is approximately suckthousand/day and getting suckier. Not changing. I am pretty sure my wife has not closed a cupboard door, or turned off a light since March 13. And when did she start looking up and randomly saying, “Oh, did you see she was doing it?” and expect me to have any idea who “she” is and what “it” is? I am glad I don’t have any annoying habits. Hey, has anyone seen my work hoodie? Not the Lions one, but my work hoodie. You know, the nice one. I’m pretty much over social media. I get annoyed with people I disagree with and frankly, the people I agree with are even more irritating. Every day is the same. Everybody I know is convinced that they have had the undiagnosed virus at least six times. Nobody is having any fun and I am becoming numb to the suffering of others and bad news. There is very promising news with vaccines. Realistically, there is an end in sight. It is out there, but it is still going to be a long time and these next few months may just be the worst.

Marathon Phase 4. Miles 23- 26.2 and Recovery

These miles go kind of quick. At this point, I know if I am going to make my goal or not but I never really care. I am just excited that its is almost done. I am a very short distance from being finished and seeing my friends. I have a night out planned. For some reason, I expect that when I cross that line after 26.2 miles and stop running, it will all be over and things will be back to normal. It never happens that way. As soon as I stop, I realize the race is still with me. Walking off the start line to a recovery area requires new motions and new fits of cramping. I realize that the wet feeling in my socks is not sweat but blood collecting from blisters and tears on my feet that I did not notice. I need help getting my shoes off because I can no longer reach the laces without cramping. Worse, if I even try to bend down to get them, my head swims and I may pass out. I want to eat everything I can find, but have to be careful because, while my body needs the food, my stomach can not really handle much. The race stays with me for days. I try to keep a somewhat light diet for a few days because sitting on a toilet hurts my quads like crazy and it takes forever get my body seated. Gross, but that’s real life. I don’t know how women marathoners make it. It usually takes three days before I can go down steps without bracing my hands on a wall or railing. Crossing the finish line is not like hitting the “reset” button and everything going back to normal. There is a lot of repair and recovery to be done.

COVID Phase 4

I have no idea what this is going to look like. I know it is going to happen. I know that it is in sight. I can not wait to see my friends and families again. I can not wait for a night out. Eventually a vaccine will be safe, effective, and distributed. Or maybe the virus will die out (nope). Or maybe The Child holds the key. Whatever. The current state of the world will end. However, we will not be going back to normal right away. This is going to stay with us for a bit. Jobs, the economy, schools and pretty much everything is going to have adjust and heal. Friendships are going to have to be repaired. I fear that many friendships may be permanently damaged or, worse yet, deemed not worth trying to repair. They’ve just become bodies dropping off the side of the road during the hard miles. Shrug and keep plugging along. I worry that many of us have spent the last nine months throwing haymakers from behind a screen and keyboard and are killing what we have spent years developing pre-COVID. Please don’t.

We are in the hard miles. It is discouraging, frustrating, boring, and can frankly be depressing. Have hope. There is an end. It is a way off and life is going to hurt, but the end out there.

Let’s try to spend the miles supporting and uplifting our fellow life-runners. Everyone is hurting in different ways and the sad truth is, some runners do not finish marathons. Let’s try to spend the hard miles making things a little more enjoyable for each other. Go out of your way for someone. Say something nice. Don’t hurt people. Bring me a donut. Commit to designating a period of time where you say, post, or tweet, nothing but positive news or feelings. Walk away from a fight. Try to make my wife close a cabinet door. Simply put, just love each other. Like it or not, we are still all in it together.

Thank you front line workers. Thank you medical staffs. Thank you teachers. Thank you first responders. Thank you Din Djarin, Thank you to those in the service industry, There’s too many to thank. And regardless of whether or not I agree with your decisions, thank you to those in positions of power, at many different levels, who are tasked with making impossible decisions that I would not wish upon my worse enemy. That actually might be Jar Jar Binks and the last time he had any political power, things went south really fast.

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Do not wait until they are gone

This fall I received a message that Matt, an old fraternity buddy, had surgery and had unexpectedly died on the table.  It really shook me that I am at the stage of life that I got a message about a college friend’s death.  Honestly, Matt and I were never close. We hung out a fair share in college, but I had only seen him a couple times since we graduated. In fact, I do not think I had talked to the man in 15 years and realistically probably would not have ever seen him again no matter how long either of us lived. Still, it kind of shook me.

Someone started a “Tell your best Matt memory” thread on our fraternity alumni Facebook page.  For the next few days, I checked in on the thread and watched it blow up.  I remembered a lot of the stories and had been a part of a few.  I found myself chuckling aloud as I scrolled through them and felt nostalgic as names I had not seen for years popped up.  Scattered through the crazy stories, were the occasional posts that started with, “Matt did some crazy stuff, but what I always appreciated was…” or “One time, Matt said something to me and it really helped me” or “Matt changed my life once when he…”

I found myself wondering if Matt had remembered any of these stories. I wondered if he knew that he had changed some lives/perspectives.  Then I found myself wishing there was some way that Matt could read that thread.  I wished there was some way that right before he left, Matt could see the memories he had made and the impacts he had on people. I wondered how it would make Matt feel to hear all the things being said about him. Then I wondered why we wait until someone is dead before saying these things.

Why do we wait until there is an empty body before we say how important someone is? It feels good and helps us grieve, but why not talk to the living? I have sat at many funerals, listened to eulogies and thought, “Man, I bet that would feel incredible to hear those things being said. It’s too bad it means nothing to the deceased.”  Would it not be amazing if everybody got one day when they sat on a stage, their friends gathered, and said, “You are a great person. This is why I love you. This is what you have done, and this is what I will always remember. Thank you.”

It’s not practical and would be pretty weird but I live in an era with unprecedented connectivity. I can do a version of this.  I am committing to every day, for the foreseeable future, sending a text, PM, Facebook message, or Facebook Wall post to someone and telling them something I would say at their funeral.  A memory.  What they did or said. How they impacted me.  Not because I am thinking of anyone’s death but because I think saying these positive things to them now will make more a difference than saying them when that person has left.  Not everything will be profound and that is fine.

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors was talking about the high rates of suicide and mental health problems among mental health professionals. As he finished, he turned around and muttered, “We spend our lives advocating for mental health and seeking help, but the people with the most knowledge of how critical this is are too God-damn proud to see when they are in trouble themselves.”  Twenty years later, I was in the middle of a couple year battle with depression, was laying in bed wondering how I was going to manage the day and beating myself up because I have more knowledge of, and experience in, mental health than 98% of America and yet, I could not help myself. For some reason, I remembered his off-hand comment. I got up. I got help and I got right.  I doubt he remembers me, and I guarantee he does not remember that lecture, but he will hear about it this week.

Let’s be honest. With the virus sweeping our nation, a lot of us are going to have a lot of time on our hands for the foreseeable future.  Give it some thought.  Send a bunch of messages or just send one per day.  Send it to a lot of  people. Deep dive into your Facebook friend list. Simply share a story that you value for no other reason than it was fun.  That is what most of mine will be.  Thank people for what they have done. Tell people they made a difference.  Say all the things you would say if the person was gone.  It will mean more to them now.

The virus is spreading. Panic is spreading. Fear is spreading.  Take a few minutes. Spread love. Spread gratitude. Spread happiness. Spread it faster.

Think about it.

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Just trying to do what my dad did

“Dad, English Premier League Soccer is on.  It’s Everton vs. Newcastle today.  I made nachos.  Do you want to come watch it with me?”

The truth is, I do not really want to watch it today.  I love watching soccer, but I have stuff to do and I really have no vested interest in these teams.  However, much like every Saturday, I will sit down in my chair an try to watch at least half of the match.  For the next 90 minutes plus added time, I am going to be bombarded with the history of players whose names I can not pronounce. I will hear all about their stats and how much teams are paying at the transfer window.  Ben will critique the manager’s tactical decisions, inform me which teams will soon be relegated and point out all the things he would do different if he was playing.  Clearly a fourteen year old boy knows more than the top players and managers in the world.

Why do I do this every weekend? First, the boy makes really good nachos. Second, it reminds me of one of my favorite childhood memories.

In 1987, for some reason, I was in really into baseball.  That year, he Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays played each other in the final game of their seasons. After 161 games, they were deadlocked and the divisional championship came down to the last game of the season. In 1987, my dad had back surgery and was laying in a hospital bed on game day.  I do not remember who suggested it, but my mother dropped me off at the hospital to sit in my dad’s room and watch the game with him.

I was excited because it was just my dad and me. I sat in the chair by his bed and for the next nine innings, I impressed him with my knowledge of the players. I entertained him with the statistics of every player who came to the plate and regaled him with my knowledge of the season. I was on my game and eagerly pointed out the mistakes the Tiger manager made because, after all, a teen boy in Kalamazoo, Michigan obviously knew more about baseball than Sparky Anderson who had only been around the Major League for a couple decades.

The nurses came in every few innings to check on us and my dad introduced me to every one of them and told them about how I was spending the game with him.  I remember them smiling. When my dad’s meal came, there was an extra Jello, pop and apple sauce under the metal cover,  My dad hung in there. I remember being a little baffled about how he could possibly slip in and out of sleep during such an important and tense game. In hindsight, I am pretty impressed that he could stay awake at all.  The combination of painkillers and baseball would put me in a coma.

The game ended. I am going to go purely on faded memories on this next part. The Tigers won the game 1-0.  Frank Tanana pitched a complete game shut-out and the only run scored was a solo home run to left-center field in the first couple of innings by Chet Lemon.  Or maybe it was Larry Herndon. I always confused those two. I want to say the game ended on a weak grounder back to Tanana.   I will have to fact check those 30+ year old memories later. I remember my dad thanking me and once again telling the nurses that I had spent the whole game with him as I left. I am not sure it it was pride of morphine talking. Probably both.

As a parent, I feel like I screw something up every single day. I am constantly worried that some day, my kids will remember me as some type of ogre who snapped at them for not putting their games down fast enough, for being too loud, or for making my living room a bigger mess than a frat house on Sunday morning.  I definitely over think it but I really try to counter all of that with small things like watching a soccer match with Ben or suffering through an overly complicated board game James (seriously, when did  games stop coming with spinners?).

Will Ben remember, or care, that I spent a good chunk of my Saturday morning watching an inconsequential match with him?  Probably not.  However, maybe one of these games something special will happen. Maybe not. Maybe he will simply be having a crappy day and me listening to him reporting transfer rumor will make it better.  Maybe he will remember that. I don’t know.

I am sure most of these Saturdays will fade from both of our memories.  However, almost every time I settle in and the barrage of information starts, I smile for a second and remember sucking Sprite out of a styrofoam cup in a hospital room over thirty years ago with my dad.  Maybe some day, my boys will sit with their son or daughter and grind out a football game, basketball game or dance recital (oh, please let it be a dance recital) and think of me.  I can hope.

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2018 Michigan Ragnar – Final (?) Leg

I am sorry that it has taken so long to get this last one written, but life happens.  This is the third post about my 2018 Ragnar Relay.  Read THIS and THIS to get caught up.

It’s 7:45 AM and I’m about to start my third, and final, leg.  This leg killed me last year.  My foot injury had flared up and pretty much broke me down.  It was a miserable leg and the final climb was torture.  Ever since I had found out that I was running the same legs as last year, I have had this one in mind.  It is a 6.6 mile leg.  Take note of that cliff at the end.  That’s a 220 foot gain over less than a mile.  That sucks. I am extra annoyed that is pretty light out but I still have to wear the stupid head-lamp per Ragnar rules.

My Everest

I decide that there is nothing left after this leg and so I am going to leave nothing in the tank.  I settle into a comfortable face.  A mile in, I notice my van is pulled off to the side. I panic. There is no way I am off course again! I’ve run this leg before. There are other runners by me and it is broad daylight.  There is no possible way, I screwed this up like I did during my second leg.  I’m relieved to find that they guys just wanted to get a few pictures and I haven’t blown it.

At least I’m on the correct course

After 5.5 miles, I have 11 kills banked, am cruising along and I know the climb is waiting.  I know that I am about to go downhill into a valley, over a river, and then start to climb.  As I start my downhill, I see the mountain looming as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.  This time, I can see a lot of people struggling up the hill. And they are all walking.  As I cross the river, several fisherman stop, point to the top and call out, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you!”

Everything is right this time, I am able to keep a steady pace.  No stopping this time, no matter what. No walking.  My legs are burning but I am able to add 10 kills to my body count on the hill. I finally finish the last climb, thank my Sherpa, toss off my oxygen mask and see one final guy struggling ahead of me.  Knowing, that I will be done after this, I ignore my screaming legs and sprint it in.  I fall about 3 steps short of getting my 22nd kill of the leg but am OK with it.  I’ve spent everything I have and am glad to be done. I am excited that Marty is able to get a few pics of me trying to track the last guy down.  I am more excited that I also knocked three full minutes off my time from last year. All that’s left now is to meet Van 2 for one more exchange and then my Van can wait at the finish line. My part is done.  I think.


At the van exchange point, a bald eagle circles above us and we find out that JD in Van 2 is done. JD’s had IT Band issues.  Somehow, he gutted out 2 legs totaling 12 miles but is a “no-go” for his final 3.5 mile leg. IT Band problems are extremely painful and I’m impressed that he logged 12 miles. After some discussion, and rule reviews, it’s determined that I am going to be the replacement runner and will pick up my fourth leg. I am plenty sore but the worst part of it is that everyone else in my van is done. While we drive to my next exchange point, they stop off and get good coffee and food.   Not protein bars and PBJ’s, but real food.  I have also been without coffee for about 27 hours now and the smell of their dark roasts is killing me.

Truth be told, my fourth leg ends up being pretty uneventful.  My legs definitely feel even the smaller climbs and make me regret my final sprint.  At the three mile mark, a runner is standing in the road. I stop to check on her and she begins to complain, “My husband told me this was a three mile leg. I don’t see no &*!** exchange point. I’m not running another step and am texting his ass to come get me.”  She has a lot more to say, but I do not wait around to hear it. I can only assume this is one of the teams that had a five hour head start on us.

I total eight more kills and think I may have a shot at number nine, but I just don’t have it in me to try to reel him in.  When I pass off the slap-bracelet for the last time, I truly know that I have nothing left.  My Ragnar is done and so am I.  I must admit to being proud of the fact that my fourth, unplanned, leg was run at about 6 seconds/mile faster than my very first leg.

Van 1 checks into our AirBnB and then heads to the finish line to meet Van 2 and our final runner.  We finish in a bit over 27 hours.  About a 30 minute improvement over our first try  Unfortunately, we will really have no idea of how we finished until tomorrow.  There are just too many teams stretched out over those 200ish miles to get a result until much later.

All eleven runners finishing together

I am extremely proud of our team. The experienced runners kept their times, or improved a bit, but I am most proud of the guys who had not been running for years.  They spent 2018 training their butts off.  They looked physically different than a year ago and shaved off giant chunks of time.  The training text-threads from all over the country, and the race itself, have been amazing.  Unfortunately, this year the finish line is freezing. We take our pictures, eat some quick food and decide to abandon the Ragnar after-party and go out on our own.

The well-oiled, disciplined machine that trained for a year, coordinated the race and completed it in under 28 hours suddenly is unable to coordinate anything beyond the first brewery stop.  Long wandering conversations eventually lead to an agreement to meet somewhere but only half the team ever makes it there.  People get confused about who is driving and who is walking. Some guys decide to make a couple stops on the way.  I have no idea what happens to a few of the guys, but I don’t see them again at all.  That kinda stuff happens and its actually pretty funny. Somehow, seven of the eleven sleep-deprived, exhausted guys end up at a final brewery and piece together the evening and the whereabouts of everyone.  After recounting our favorite parts of the race (mine was shaving over 30 seconds/mile off that stupid third leg) everyone makes it back safely.

Most of us made it.

The next morning, Van 1 starts the trek back home.  About forty minutes into the return trip we get a text from the Ragnar organizers.  We are getting gold batons this year!  We have finished first in the Master’s (over 40 but still sexy) division.  I believe we finished around 17th out of about 250ish overall.  I’m quietly relieved that my little detour on Leg 2 didn’t cost us anything.  That has been in the back of my head for a long time




Sometimes, I struggle to see the good things in life. I can get too focused on the ugliness of the world and the things, or people,  that I do not have.  The Ragnar weekend always forces me to see how blessed I am. I wrote about how blessed I am last year so I will not re-hash that, but I am extremely grateful that I can be included in a group of guys who can rally together to do a Ragnar relay over two decades after we left campus.  It amazes me.

There is one fact that reminds me how much I love the company of my Ragnar teammates and how, even after all these years, I know that I am with the right people.  No conflict. No drama. Just people I genuinely enjoy. When you consider the drive to the starting line, the race itself, and the drive home, I spent about 32 hours in a van with the four other Van 1 guys.  We never once turned on the radio.

2018 Michigan Ragnar – Leg 2

Continuing from

My sense of direction sucks. It’s embarrassing but it is what it is.  I was nervous about getting lost last year.  Most of the legs have multiple turns on back roads and I was not sure how well marked the course was so I would write the turns on my arm with a Sharpie.  As it turns out, Ragnar marks their course incredibly well. Even on the desolate, lonely legs things are pretty clear.  When you see a blue Ragnar sign with an arrow, you turn to where the arrow points.   Easy.  I’m also running the exact same legs as last year, so I’m fine. No Sharpies in 2018.

My leg is only 3.2 miles long and the last mile is all downhill.  I’ve set a goal of getting the last mile done in under six minutes.  It’s an easy course. Up and down a couple hills, turn right, go down a hill, turn left and done.  It’s a bit after 9:00PM so I have my reflective vest on, the mandatory blinker is flashing on my back and I turn my head lamp on.  I watch quite a few runners make the exchange ahead of me and try to figure out how many of them I can track down.  Marty tags me in and I get out fast.

I only have a quarter mile down when my van zips by to meet me at the exchange point.  Marty must have finished and jumped right into the van.  About 3/4 of a mile in, I reach the top of a hill, see the arrow pointing and take my right turn. I feel so much more fresh than I did at this turn last year.  As I look ahead I see no flashing lights ahead of me to run down. It’s so much easier chasing people down but this is going to be all about self-discipline as it may be a bit before I catch anyone. I take a deep breath and try to pick up speed.

Night Running

A quarter of a mile down, I see a vehicle approaching. There’s always traffic, but this vehicle is slowing down.  As I get closer I see it’s a van.  Obviously a Ragnar team’s van is stopping right beside me. I am not amused.  There are a lot of teams that play around a lot and have a good time.  I do not mind that, but when I’m racing, I do not want any of that.  If they are gonna blast an air horn at me, throw glitter at me or something equally as stupid, I am going to be seriously pissed off.   A door slides open and I see my teammates. Mark yells, “Turn Around!”  I stop and am baffled.  “Seriously!  You are off course. Turn around!” Quickly I find out that I have somehow made my turn too early. A quick debate reveals that none of us know if I’m allowed to get in the van to be driven back to where I went of course or if I have to run back. Rather than risk a DQ, I turn around and  run back.  I’ve added a half-mile to my run and probably cost my team four minutes.

As I get back on course I see the sign I followed was for “Overflow parking.” Fortunately, my van had made the exact same wrong turn!  If they had not made the wrong turn, I have no idea how far I would have run before realizing I was off course. Probably a mile, then figuring it out, then a mile back. Disaster.  Or, if I had been 60 seconds slower, I would have missed my van making their own correction. The window of time for my team to happen upon me was actually very small. Later, I  would find out that after they realized they had screwed up, they were hustling to make it back when they saw a headlamp approaching.  Someone said, “At least we aren’t the only team making this mistake. We gotta let this idiot know he’s off-course.”  They didn’t know it was me until they had stopped.

I spend the next three miles switching between freaking out about the time I cost and being grateful that my teammates had made the same mistake at almost the same time. Things could have been so much worse.  My pacing is all messed up as I try to make up time while managing my panic.  I know I only have one more leg after this and I try to burn everything I have. No sense in saving anything.  However, I am just too distracted to really bear down.  I do not even try to break six on the last mile.  Too much of a mess.  Truth be told, I can also feel Father Time creating extra weight on me.  It feels like the jerk is skeeching behind me with a parachute. I do manage five kills and I finish with a decent time. I’m actually pretty close to what I did last year. (

After Moby finishes his leg, we drive ahead and try to steal some sleep while Van 2 takes over.  Basically, we are parked in a giant infield with tons of other vans trying to snag a bit of sleep between 11:30 PM and 3:00 A.M.  As a recovered insomniac, sleep and I do not always get along.  Curled up in a borrowed sleeping bag, in a bucket seat in a min-van, in a lit-up infield is not exactly in my sleep wheelhouse.

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Trying to get some sleep

To make matters worse, Mark and I both start sniffling and coughing within thirty minutes.  Truth be told, all Ragnarians become raging hypochondriacs in the weeks leading up to the race.  In addition to worrying about wasting your training, the fact is that if you really get sick, the team is highly unlikely to be able to find a replacement runner who is free for that weekend, is in good enough shape to compete, and is dumb enough to want to participate.  The last month before the race was a torrent of texts from everyone freaking out about every sniffle. As a school employee I lamented working in the germ warfare research facilities that are public education while the doctors on the team sent texts such as “My sick patient coughed into my mouth!  I’m screwed!” And now Mark and I are hacking away after our second leg.  While we lament our crappy luck, Mark eventually says, “Hey, you borrowed that sleeping bag from Ryan.  Does he own cats?”  Sure enough, I notice that I am trying to sleep in cat fur. Obviously Mark and I are both allergic.  The sleeping bag gets buried, we are miraculously healed and Mark falls asleep.

The rest of my night of night is pretty much tossing and turning.  I get 10-15 minutes of sleep, but I expected that and can deal with it. I track Van 2’s runners and have quick conversations with whoever wakes up for a bit.  I realize I have not heard much from Moby in the back seat. I turn around to see how he is doing.  Moby is in a yoga pose wearing only underwear and a bandanna. It’s 2:00 A.M.  It’s 40 degrees. I am not surprised at all.  Sometimes you do not ask questions.

Van 2 starts texting that we need to get ready.  Craig starts our last series of legs somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00 A.M.  I only have a 6.6 mile leg with a monster hill ahead of me and I’ll be done.  Some of the exchange points are cold.  The wind whipping at some of the beach exchange points is particularly brutal.  I am not loving that blowing sand is giving my PBJ and rather unsatisfying crunch.

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Starting last series of legs

Still, I am having a blast.  I have not seen some of these guys since Ragnar 2017. Before that, it had been 20 years since I had last seen some of them. It has not been uncomfortable at all.

Dawn is just breaking as I stand in the starting chute for my last Ragnar leg.  It’s cold but at least the sun is rising.  I do not need the stupid headlamp at all, but Ragnar rules say I have to have one on until a certain time and, let’s be honest, I’m a rule follower.  For the last time, Marty tags me in and I start my last leg.  This is the leg I have been waiting for and I feel like I have something to prove on this one.

I’ll write that up later

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2018 Michigan Ragnar Leg 1

When you complete a high-intensity race that you have trained months for, you find yourself wanting to talk about it for months.  Unfortunately, most people are only willing to listen to a few minutes and you can not really blame them.  I have a blog, so I can just put everything up here instead of making my wife suffer through yet another Ragnar story.

Once again, my team of 11 former fraternity brothers committed to run the Michigan Ragnar Relay.  In short, it is a 200ish mile relay race from Muskegon, MI to Traverse City, MI that will take about 27-29 hours for us to finish. Each person will run 3-4 legs totaling 13-24 miles each.  The guys in my Van will run legs 1-6 before Van 2 runs the next six legs and the vans will continue to rotate until the 36 legs are complete. Last year we were under-prepared, a weird combo of experienced runners and guys who just started running, and had not idea what to expect.  Somehow, we ended up finishing 13th out of 240ish teams and 3rd in the Masters Division. This year, people have committed to training and we know what to expect.  CLICK THIS to read about last year and learn more about the race.

As I drive to meet my team, I reflect on how much better trained I am. Last year, I was dealing with an injury and recovering from a nasty virus that practically eliminated my training.  This year I am more prepared. Well, maybe prepared isn’t the word I am looking for because 45 minutes into my drive to meet my teammates I realize that I left my sleeping bag at home. I make panicked phone calls to the guys who live closer to our rally point. Fortunately, I catch Ryan before he leaves and he throws in an extra sleeping bag for me.

After the team meets up, my van goes to the start line and the Van 2 guys go to kill some time before driving to the exchange point after Leg 6.  Last year, we started in the last wave at noon.  It took us almost ten hours of lonely running before we started catching teams. This year, we get a 10:30 start and will be around more teams much earlier.

start line
Van 1 Runners at Start Line

Van 1 is going to run the exact same legs as last year.  The only difference is that Ryan changed to Van 2 and Moby joined us.  I have known Moby for years and am fine with the swap.  He will be fun. Unfortunately, I am wrong and Moby shatters the peace at Exchange #1.  Blood is spilled.  Sitting in the back of the van, Moby blatantly states the filled donuts are absolutely disgusting and makes gagging noises. I vault over the seats and begin to give Moby the worst beating he has had since college.  Fortunately, Mark and Marty are able to drag me off of him before I turn him into a puddle of jelly-filling.  I have known Moby for over 20 years and had no idea that I was friends with an Anti-Donite.

Starting the 5th Leg

Order is finally restored and I get ready to run Leg 5 which is a relatively flat 6.0 miles. Marty tags me in and has set me up for an easy kill.  You record a “kill” when you pass a team.  Marty reeled a team in and I am able to get my first kill in only about 50M.  The first five miles of my run are pretty uneventful.  Last year I was so nervous about my health, what Ragnar was going to be like, and my injury that I barely remember this leg.  At best, this leg is vaguely familiar.   What I do remember learning is that Ragnar is not quite as physically grueling as one would expect.  I will get about 7-8 hours of rest before my next leg and with only 3 legs to run, there is not much point in holding back, so I push it.

With about a mile left I have set a pretty fast pace and am paying for it. I have four kills and there is one more in my sight. She has a pretty good lead and keeps glancing back at me.  She knows I am hunting and does not want to tell her teammates that she got killed. She is not fading as fast as I had hoped and I really have to push. The last half-mile is just enough uphill to hurt. When reaches it, she give me one last glance, smiles and starts to sprint the hill. My lungs are burning but I finally kill her at the top of the hill with about 50M left and sprint it in just to make sure.

As I tag Moby in, I feel my stomach rolling from that last mile and duck into the bushes to donate my lunch back to the land.  Mark quickly snaps the picture below and sends out a group text stating, “It’s like we are back in college!”  I hate my friends.  After I recover, the woman I was chasing walks by and says, “At least I made you work for that kill.”  I reply, “You made me puke for it.”  She yells “Yes!” pumps her fist and high-fives me. Runners are weird.


Ultimately, I shaved 33 seconds off of what I ran this leg in last year. It is not a ton, but let’s be honest.  Once you turn fortsexty years old, any time you do not get slower is a win.

Van 1 drives to the van exchange point to meet Moby and tag in the Van 2 runners.  Most of the exchange points are in parking lots, parks, or overlooks but the Van Exchanges (every 6th leg) are bigger, have music, vendors and a lot more life.  Last year when we hit the first van exchange point we were one of the last ten teams to arrive. Nobody was there and the volunteers were breaking everything down.  With the earlier start time, there are actually a ton of people there and everyone is having a good time.  Marty is mostly excited that we are actually seeing hand-sanitizer in the Porta-Potties.  When you start in the last wave and spend hours trying to catch 240 teams of twelve runners, you encounter a lot of Portas that are in dire need of attention.  Not the case this year.

Perhaps the biggest difference comes as Moby finishes for Van 1.  Last year, the volunteers were tearing things down and it was empty.  This year, the DJ calls out, “Team 141’s runner is coming in and this guy is flying!” After Moby finishes, the DJ yells at me, “Hey, what wave did you start in?”  When I tell him that we started at 10:30, he gets back on the microphone and announces, “Keep an eye out for these guys! Check their finish tomorrow!  They are fast.”  Yup…last year was fun but things are going so much better this year.  We still have about 170ish miles and probably 22-24 hours of racing left, but it is a good start.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoorCheck back later to read about Van 1’s second set of legs. Teaser.. it involves night running, a potentially major error and 2:00 AM yoga.

Youth Soccer Players – Knock it off!

I was attending my son’s U14 soccer match last week. After about twenty minutes I had seen two players rolling around on the ground grabbing their ankles before jumping up to take a free-kick. Two others clutched their heads in anguish after getting knocked down but were miraculously healed by the sound of a whistle.  So when one of our players cracked an opponent with a pretty heavy (and admittedly late) tackle, I rolled my eyes as the kid thrashed around on the ground clutching his leg.

He stayed down and a parent asked me, “Erik, do you think he’s hurt?” I shrugged and said, “That’s the fifth kid that’s grabbed his leg and the second time that one’s stayed down. I doubt it.”  However, he stayed down. Their coach came to the field and started to check him out. When he took the shoe off, the kid slammed back onto his back, started slapping the ground and screamed.  The place went silent. A parent whispered, “Oh my God,” and I felt like a jerk.  A few seconds later, the player arched his back, leaned his head back and screamed again. I start scanning the the parking lot to see where an ambulance could most easily get access to the field as I assumed this was a broken leg. I swore to stop being so cynical and was embarrassed by the thoughts that went through my head when somebody’s child went down.  However, two minutes later the young man hobbled off the field. Four minutes later he checked back into the game. He played another 30 minutes with no sign of a limp.

Youth soccer players – Knock it off.  This is not about “looking like a man,” changing soccer’s image in America, toughening up, sportsmanship or anything like that.  It is about not scaring the hell out of your parents and the adults charged with keeping you safe.  The faking, or dramatizing, injuries has to stop. This was just an example, but I swear I have seen more kids thrashing on the ground and/or holding their heads.  Their are three people who can stop this.


I know you see the professionals doing this act every night and want to be like them. I get it. I really do.  Professional players reactions are not going to change. I wish they would, but they won’t.  Here’s the thing though.  You are not professional players.

I know you see Neymar, Renaldo, or Mbappe rolling around in anguish in front of tens of thousands of die-hard soccer fans who are glancing up at the giant replay to see if the player has a sliver or has, in fact, been smitten by one of Zeus’ lightning bolts. Those fans get the “drama” of professional soccer. Your parents do not.

There are not tens of thousands of fans. There are maybe 20-30 parents.  There is no Jumbotron for them to see what happened to you.  Most of them are sitting 50-80 yards away in lawn-chairs with impossible sight-lines.  They do not get the “drama” of professional soccer. In fact,  most of them do not even truly understand the off-sides rule. They do not see a multi-millionaire laying on the ground selling the foul. They see their son or daughter that they once rocked to sleep laying in the grass in apparent agony.  It is terrifying.

I am sorry but your parents are probably not die-hard soccer fans. Even if they have a good view of your foot getting stepped on, they may not have been watching. The odds are that Mom was talking about Book Club and Dad had his face in his phone trying to manage his fantasy football team when they heard the whistle blow.  They did not see your foot get raked but looked up to see you crumpled on the ground holding your head.  It is 2018 in America. They do not see an expression of agony. They see a potential concussion and it freaks them out.  Please stop grabbing your head when your ankle is twisted.

Your parents love you and have committed an enormous amount of time, money, and energy to your sport.  Your safety is their number one priority.  Do not toy with that. If you are the 0.1% that makes it pro, go ahead flop around on the ground. Until then, remember you are somebody’s child.


I get competitive advantage, especially as kids advance through the higher leagues.  Players are going to dive. They are going to flop for fouls. Some of you teach/encourage it.  If I am being honest, when I played I had no problem going to ground if I thought I could get a free kick from it.  Like it or not, it is going to happen.

However, there is no need for children to fake or dramatize injury.  Players will need to leave the field when they get banged up. That’s sports. However, if you have someone acting like they are hurt, make them sit for a period of time.  If they are screaming to the heavens, do not put them back in the game.  Again, I am not asking you toughen anyone up or make anyone learn to play hurt.  I am asking you to help stop the stuff the scares parents.

Kids are going to be kids. They are going to panic when something hurts and may need to come off the field. That is no big deal.  You talk to them about concussions.  Tell them from Day One that you take head injuries seriously and anyone suspected of a head injury will not play.  That’s common sense and league policy. Personally, I would tell them that if they are grabbing their head for drama, I am going to treat it like a head injury.  Maybe I am wrong.  You can set the bar for acceptable behavior.


We are the ones that can stop this.  We can end it. This is a very simple conversation and one I have had it many times with Ben.   We have talked about “hurt vs injury” from a very young age. He knows that if he thinks he is injured, he is to stay down and I am fine with that.  He also knows that he is never to fake an injury or to engage in injury theatrics.

Ben knows that if he has to check out of a game and re-enters later, I am fine with that. I trust him and his coaches.  He also knows that if he fakes an injury, I will not let him back on the field. I am not doing the “tough-dad” act, but we have had conversations and he knows that if he fakes an injury I will walk across the field and insist that the coach does not let him re-enter.  He knows that if he thrashes around holding his head and pops back up, I will ask his coach to treat it like a concussion and remove him.  It has nothing to do with playing hurt at all. It has everything to do with not cheapening the concern for and the reaction to the next player who might actually be injured.

As parents, we can stop this. We can let our children know that our families do not engage in these behaviors. We can make those rules and we can enforce them. It can be stopped.

As we drove home from the last game, I talked to Ben about the player who was screaming. We talked about how we do not act like that, how it’s bad for the game and just how ridiculous it was. We discussed how there is nothing wrong with being hurt but making sure your respond appropriately. I said, “Beyond looking foolish, can you imagine what the player’s mom and dad felt like when he was laying there screaming? I felt horrible for his parents.  If that was you, I would have been terrified and probably would have climbed the fence to get to you.  Please, do not ever do that to your mom and me.”  He gets it.

We can stop this if we do not accept it.

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Parent to Teen Dictionary

As summer has moved on and I have spent more time with my sons I have come to better understand the communication difficulties that plague parents and their t(w)eens.  Many of our miscommunications occur simply because my boys and I have different definitions of words and phrases.  In an attempt to improve communication between the parents of the world and their t(w)eens, I have done my best to provide a list of parent phrases and how they are defined by children according to Webster’s Teen Dictionary (WTD).  Let us begin:


WTD: At your earliest convenience. See also; When your Fortnite battle has concluded


WTD When used by teen: used to stress importance.  For example, “I am literally the only person in my school without unlimited X-Box time.”

WTD When used by parent:  Maybe they mean it, maybe they do no not. Example. “This is literally your job and your job alone” translates to “It would nice if you did it, but someone else will probably take care of it if you do not get to it.”


WTD: Frequently enough to avoid getting caught by random spot-checks

“Turn off the video game at 9:30:”

WTD: Make sure to start a new game at 9:28 and I will gladly listen to your complaints about not being allowed to “finish this game up.”

“Do this task to a quality you will be proud of:”

WTD: Since you literally do not care at all about this task and pride will only come by completion, you need to complete this as quickly as possible with complete disregard for quality.  Oh wait, you do undestand how to use “literally” correctly. You better keep that quiet.

This phone is to communicate with us.”

WTD: Use this phone to know instantly when any of your friends are online and available for gaming. Please disregard any texts from us.

“In the Dishwasher:”

WTD: Within 100 meters of the dishwasher


WTD: To limit what you want to do; To be held responsible; To define right vs wrong.  Example, “That half-completed homework is fine. You can’t judge me for that!”

“I just need a little break”

WTD: You should increase the intensity and frequency of your demands so that I cave in quicker and can get a little peace after you get what you want.

“I need you to take this seriously:”

WTD: Focus really hard for 9-13 seconds and move one.

“Clean up:”

WTD: Push everything to the side of a room, go to your bedroom and begin the sacred ritual to invoke the Spirit of Cleaning (aka, someone else)

“Without Complaint:”

WTD: As long as you do not verbally complain you are fine. Feel free to roll eyes, sigh in exasperation, scowl, shrug your shoulders, and stamp your feet. As long as you do not complain with sentences, I will be happy.

“We leave in 15 minutes:”

WTD: In 14 minutes and 59.76 seconds, you should begin to consider what you need to have ready before we leave. 0.24 seconds is plenty of time to get dressed, eat breakfast and pack.

“Gimme one second:”

WTD. You should wait one literal second before repeating that exact same question. Oh crap! There’s that “literal” term again!

“We need to set some rules….”

WTD: Prepare thyself for the Shackles of Injustice

I hope that I have provided all of you with a useful tool that will help you communicate better with your loved ones this summer.

**Disclaimer:  I am sure that I will hear about how I have now “Teen-Shamed” my kids, perpetuated negative stereotypes about about teens, marginalized the efforts of those heroes devoted to writing real dictionaries or have broken any number of  number of known or unknown, social mores.  The fact is, I have two incredible young men of whom I am extremely proud.  This is meant simply as a chance to laugh at parenting and have a little fun with it.  If I have I offended in any way, shape, or form, I literally (WTD) offer my most sincere and heartfelt apologies.

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Me No Run So Smart

As I am waiting for my half-marathon to start, I am reminded that two things always annoy me at races.  First, “That Guy” is always there.  That Guy wears nothing but a super skimpy speedo or some other ridiculously tiny peace of race gear.  Today’s version of That Guy is wearing super short, baby-blue print shorts that look like they may be tiny pajammy-shorts.  That Guy’s girlfriend/wife/friend is wearing a matching outfit. Irritating.  As usual, That Guy needs to strip down and make a giant production of rubbing suntan lotion all over.  Of course, this is done in a very conspicuous area in the middle of everyone.  He also has to yell at someone way off in the distance at that moment. That’s right, That Guy, we all heard you  and looked over to see your 90% naked body getting oiled up.  By the way, That Guy is always ripped.  I hate That Guy.

Second, I am a nervous pee-er. Before every race, I am running into a Porta-potty every 15 minutes.  I swear that the door is hardly shut before I start thinking, “Uh-oh, I may need to go again soon.”  I’ve trained really hard for this race and really want a PR (Personal Record for you non-runners) which means the Pee Factor is in full-effect.  With half-an hour to start, I again feel the urge but the lines are at least 40 minutes long. There are almost 3,000 runners here and nowhere to duck out. I decided that this is a good time to get over my neuroticism and just deal with it.  I am really focused on breaking that PR and I know that I really do not need the bathroom and am just nervous. I can be such a head-case.

The gun goes off, I get a quarter mile in and realize it’s not just nerves. I have a full blown Bladder Buster situation going on here. The first mile is along desolate roads and with all the trenches to the side and overgrown shrubs, I don’t think I can dash off anywhere. The last thing I need is to roll and ankle and end up laying in some field peeing myself.  Fortunately, I know there is a Porta-Potty at the 1.5 mile mark.. Just as a reach it, a fellow nervous-urinator bursts out of the outhouse.  It’s time to pull a Daytona 500 Piss-Stop.  Time me.  Forty seven seconds later, I explode out of the blue-plastic door and start trying to make up some time.  Go ahead and remember that number.  Forty sevan seconds.

Four miles into the 13.1 mile race, my foot starts killing me.  It’s been a mess since Ragnar (Read me and notice That Guy was there too) and getting worse.  At mile five, it’s starting to become a real issue and I decide that this is my retirement race. I am frustrated with the foot and just upset with the realities of aging. I spend the next mile mentally writing my retirment blog.  I’ll need to talk about the physical benefits of running  but also all the fun times I have had.  Gotta mention the people too. The running community is really cool.  By mile 6, I am about 70% certain that I am running on a broken foot or at least some type of stress fracture.  This half-marathon is on a beautiful course along a stunning bay in Northern Michigan. I pull over, break out my phone and take a few pictures of the view. Definitely need to put those in the retirement blog.

I slog through the next 2 miles and stop again at the 8-mile-marker. I let myself walk for about forty seconds. I’m not spent, just frustrated and lacking any competitive drive. I make sure to thank a couple veterans that are watching the race.  I don’t care what your politics are, those men and women gave up big chunks of their lives and saw things that nobody deserves to see.  You are not compromising your beliefs or politics by saying “Thank you.” They deserve at least that.  As I decide to get it going again, I hear a spectator mention some buff-dude in tiny pajama shorts running with someone in a matching outfit.  That Guy is out there and That Guy is close.  That’s all I needed to hear. I am going to wreck the last five miles

By the 9.5 mark, I am right behind That Guy. I am having so much fun reeling him in.  That Guy is fading big time and dumping tons of water on himself.  His soaked shorts are now pretty much transparant and there is no way I am staying behind that. I pass him right at the 10 mile marker and know that there is no way I will let That Guy catch me.

The rest of the race is awesome. I spend a good chunk of it laughing at myself.  I can be such a petty little jerk but stuff like that keeps me going on my races.  Honestly, I really needed the opportunity to bury someone who annoyed me.  Maybe it’s wrong, but it helped shut out everything else and keep the legs moving.

This course hooks up with the marathon course that I have run a couple times (Yeah, I hit my goal and I ain’t ever doing that again) and I enjoy seeing some landmarks from my marathon.  Hey, there’s the mailbox I had to use to stand up after my legs went out.  Oops, that’s where Hip Tattoo hit the ground. I wonder what happend to her. Here’s where the race-official threatened to pull me off the course because I could not run/walk a straight line.    Good times.  It is pretty nice to be able to cruise through areas that were marathon-hell.

As I hit the last quarter mile, I realize that I have been so distracted with my bladder, my foot, and That Guy that I have barely paid any attention to my watch. I round the last corner and see the clock.  I have missed the PR I trained so hard for by 20 stupid seconds.  That is 1.53 lousy seconds/mile.  I literally pissed away my PR.  I immediately rage-delete the stupid pictures I stopped to take.

A lot of people have asked me why I did not just pee my shorts and keep going. Simply put, that is disgusting.  Maybe if I have a scholarship on the line.  Maybe if I could win some big money. Maybe if my kid’s life depended on it.  The fact is, I’m just a fortsexy-year-old man trying to stay in shape and beat some personal records.  Nobody but me cares at all and that is not worth running 12 miles in pee-soaked clothes.  Never considered it and never will. Frankly, I am surprised so many people have asked.

I guess I am OK with how it went. When I was actually running, I actually crushed my PR but it does not count. Poor pre-race/race management blew it. At least, it was not poor training or just being unable to hit that pace anymore. Me just no run so smart.

My foot’s not broken. The podiatrist’s quote was, “You beat the shit out of that foot.” I have taken a few weeks off and will ease myself back into training.  I do not think I can live with missing my PR because of bathrooming and pouting.  I will give it another shot if my foot holds up. I think it will.

At least That Guy didn’t beat me.



A few weeks ago was the birthday of a friend of mine who passed way too young. I have also had a number of conversations with people who are struggling this month, so when my Facebook feed showed that I had posted the blog entry below, I felt like I needed to follow up on it. Go ahead and click on that first.

Basically, two years ago I wrote about my decision to take medication to help control anxiety issues and depression issues. That blog was largely about that decision and the positive effects.

Where am I at?

Two months after posting that blog, I felt like I had figured things out and stopped taking the medication.  I continued to see a counselor for another year after discontinuing the medication because I wanted to make sure I really did have my stuff together.  Last summer, I told him “Have you noticed that what we have talking about for the last year is not even close to the reasons I came in here two years ago? I think I’m done.” Basically, I took Lexapro for a little over a year, but have not touched one of those pills in over two years.  I’m fine.

What’s different?

I am better at distancing myself from work. I’m a school psychologist. Most people find it hard to believe, but the job is mentally brutal. The average career of a school psych is extremely short. Do not quote me, but I believe it was around 3-5 years the last time I checked. We turn over psychs at an alarming rate and the number of school psychs on anti-anxiety medications is staggering.  Basically, it is not me. It’s a mentally damaging job filled with conflict, isolation and frustration that breaks many many people at some time.

Here are three quotes said to me this year that would have crushed me in the past. “You made that call?  F**K you, man!”  “I just want you to know that I think you f*****g suck,” and finally, “Don’t as Erik. He’s just collecting a paycheck.”  Sadly, those came from staff with whom I work. Imagine what I get from parents and students. In the past, I would have lost sleep or tried to find ways to reconcile the problem or frankly, get the person to like me.  Now, I go home and go on with my day. I am actually really good at my job. I know that. People get mad, people get angry. Whatever.  Maybe they really do think I suck. Maybe they were frustrated and blowing off steam. I do my best and move on. Of course, I do collect a paycheck as well, so that kinda helps. A nice big fat public-school employee paycheck.

I have really learned who I can depend on and it is the people who were there for me when I was a mess and when things are great. When I posted that blog I got bombarded with “What’s the matter?” “We should get together and you can fill me in,” “I am always here, what do you need?”  I struggled because when I posted it, I was through everything. I did not need anything anymore. I wanted to yell, “I’m fine. Where was this twelve months ago when I needed it?”  In fairness, most of them had no clue. Some I had flat-out lied to. Perhaps others, I wasn’t direct enough with when I tried to reach them. I am certainly not blameless but what I have learned is that people love riding the big red fire truck with sirens blaring to spray water on the inferno, but fewer people like to spend time quietly checking smoke alarms.  Those are the people I can depend on and I have them in my life. You know who you are and I love you.

Chicken or Egg?

In my professional life, and in my person life, I see countless people basically say, “I need to find out what I have so that I understand why I think/act like this.”  When I started in therapy one of the first things I said was, “I do not believe there is anything wrong with me. I think I am depressed and anxious because I think certain ways and have certain patterns that I need to break.  I do not think I ‘have something’ that is beyond my control and causes me to do this.”   Some people have genuine disorders that they can not help. That is a fact and I am not discrediting that at all.  For me, that was going to be my last resort, not a starting point. I wanted to change everything I could before saying, “I have X.”  It may seem minor, but I do believe that if I had walked in and relinquished that locus of control I would not have been as successful.

People will still occasionally make a comment about by “mental illness.”  Initially, it infuriated me.  Not because there is anything wrong with mental illness, but because I do not consider myself mentally ill.  I had a tough spell, took some pretty serious steps to correct it and feel like I am back on track.  If I blew out my ACL, had surgery and went through a year of rehab, I doubt people would refer to me as “physically disabled” three years later when I was walking and running around. Again, something that I would have stewed on years ago, but now am much better about letting it slide.  Who knows, maybe someday I will have another “mental-injury.” It is possible, but I am not overly concerned about it right now.

In Conclusion 

I am as happy as I have been in a long time. In a weird way, I am almost glad I had that bad stretch.  I feel more insightful, resilient, and content. Mostly, I feel more grateful. I just felt like I needed to give some closure to what I put out there a couple years ago.  Two final things.

First, take care of your friends and family.  Check in on them. Say something if you notice them struggling. Listen to them. Check their smoke alarms. Do not wait until it becomes a blazing fire and then try to throw buckets of water on it. Stuff is already burning at that point. You will never regret touching base or checking in.  Even if you meet resistance, or even lies, your gesture will be appreciated on some level.

Finally, if you are struggling. Get some help. If your loved ones say you are struggling,  you are struggling. Get some help. It does not mean there is anything wrong with you and any help does not need to be permanent.  I will close with this analogy.  It was like I was spending my life slogging on the ocean floor and drowning.  On the good days, I could swim twenty or thirty feet above the floor and say, “Look at this. This is not bad. I am well above the floor. I’m swimming”  However, after spending so much time on the floor, I’d lost perspective and did not even realize that even though I was twenty or thirty feet off the floor, I was still 100 feet below the surface and drowning.  Getting counseling and meds was like tying a life jacket on me and shooting me to the surface.  Once my head got above water, I thought “Wow, I had forgotten this is where I am supposed to be. I need to relearn to swim.” As I swam stronger, I untied the life jackets.

As of today, I don’t even know where my life jackets are anymore.