Where I last left you was a wonderful place. A place of summation and grace. The extended moment of weightlessness a skier must feel at the apex of a jump, where gravity is in mid-reach, readying to pull her back to earth – free for but a moment. It is and was a moment to celebrate. A journey inward is set on its way and, for now, perhaps, at a place of completion.
A new journey calls, a journey (quite frankly) I never thought I’d take. A journey of soul-filling purpose and duty. A Journey biology was genuinely built for. A life-altering new world and path. One I didn’t believe I’d ever live in or on. A world of joy, legacy, and nurturing – in all the best and most challenging ways.
A new phrase I never thought I’d utter; I am a father. And in adventurous fashion (the brand in which I attempt to live my life), I will not just be a father to a newborn baby. That is just not adventurous enough.
I will be a father to two newborn babies.
Life feels exciting as I am in a state of anticipation and planning.
This year, in particular, has felt as though the path I travel down has been set for me. And here, I consider my objective in this task to commit to the best decade of my life.
Tenet #1: Pursue Fearlessly, Embracing Failure as a Teacher
With children coming into my life, I will certainly have the opportunity to embrace failure. And I have found a sense of peace in resolving not to be attached to the outcome here and in other places in my life. I am certain to look foolish and make some ‘tropey’ dad mistakes. I look forward to what I’ll learn, to being present for each and every moment with my children, now until my end.
There is a benefit to having children at this advanced (lol) age. I understand that life is not a destination but something only available in the present. Planning and strategizing are great, but it is not where life happens. This activity behavior only bends the now into what you wish it to become. Rarely do things end as planned.
I am motivated to fail more.
There has been a bit of a weight off my shoulders (interestingly enough). It is new and inspiring to live for someone else. Living trying to meet only your own needs and desires can be exhausting. It is analogous to trying to catch your own shadow. Because I equate failure with learning, I am far more willing to fail with this equation in mind.
Currently, I am failing quite often in my business! And these failures contain lessons to which I owe a lot of learning.
Tenet #2: Connect and Engage with Relationships
I have traveled much of late, visiting those who I miss and should see more. I have visited my brother and his wife in Denver, my friends in New York, and I’ve had family come to visit me. It struck me during my visit to NYC in February; there are so many people that I love and seldom see. Just being with them is a reward in itself. And I’ve taken pains to ensure that is the case. With the passing of a dear friend, I am more aware than ever that the ‘time-spent-with’ is the essential stuff of life.
I have built new and special relationships with those who report to me professionally, my coaching community, and more. It is not always easy to keep oneself open and vulnerable. The opposite mode was my habit for most of my life.
And I have a relationship that has created children with which I want to grow and deepen. Ensuring that there is a balanced sense of care, concern, and connection and ensuring my fierce desire for independence and lack of constraint is considered.
Tenet #3: Be Authentic
The challenge here is self-acceptance. It is now clear that I’ve been deathly afraid my entire life of being “found out.” As if some element of my person would reveal my unworthiness. My commitment to presence and disconnection from the outcome has helped in this. The damage of inauthenticity does not affect my life as it once did. However, a lot of energy is given to “catching” thoughts that drove behavior in the past. It is a daily practice at work, day-to-day and moment to moment.
I don’t have the level of shame that once existed when I compare myself to others, especially those who I admire. If and when I see that I fall short of their example, I only allow it to help chart my courses.
Tenet # 4: Accept Love With Humility and Grace
Where am I with this? Hmmm…
This is difficult. The reason being is that once I realized more and more boundary issues and beliefs that prevented me from accepting love, the easier and easier it became for me to achieve what I set out to do. Allow love. I think a simplification needs to be made.
I’ve had the additional realization of late that sharing the feeling of love in traditional means contains a different meaning for me than it does for most. Professing love can feel like saying, “I will now put my needs aside and only see to yours.” Or… “I am committed to feeling this way forever.” Or…”Let us now allow the necessary and societal approved practices and standards of a common relationship.”
Tenet #5: Experience Deeply
I think this is my favorite.
Say what you will about astrology; my sun sign is cancer. I’ve never truly felt it did much to describe me. However, I have come to know that I naturally feel very deeply, a trait commonly associated with cancer sun signs. I experience this frequently. And it has opened locked doors in my heart and soul. If there was ever a chance for my partner and me not to go through with the pregnancy, the veto vote did not come from my intellectual self. It came from somewhere deeper, a place that understood the determinist nature of our existence and embraced it. For example, I knew before she knew there was new life (I did not know there were two new lives).
I have been overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude this whole year, as I have noted time and again. I have also felt a sense of mercy that I have not experienced. It seems like it is coming from an external place, but it is really coming from me. I’m forgiving, letting go, not living in memory or mourning a great expectation.
Tenet #6: Go Public
I’m learning much about marketing. I am connected, and I have a great mentor and guide. I am also sharing what I’ve learned, helping others to heal. And I’ve learned an important distinction here. There is a difference between healing and cure. They are two very different paths that sometimes (and honestly, very rarely) meet. This is where the community is important. As humans, we have a default ability to connect and help each other heal. This is what going public and being connected mean to me. The more public, the more connected, and the more healing.
From a utilitarian standpoint, I am “putting myself out there.” I’m teaching and growing my yoga practice. I am doing my first seminar, “The Yoga Mindset.” I have scaled and improved my website, put together an email campaign, planned a podcast season, and posted regularly on Instagram and now LinkedIn. The process is helping me understand and solidify my knowledge as well.
Brining my full identity to light in social situations remains challenging, but more is happening in this domain then ever.
Updates and the Road Ahead
Previous 40’s Manifesto updates can be found HERE.
As I mentioned above, a simplification should happen at this point. Accepting love with Humility and Grace is wordy, but Allowing Love feels more open yet comments on both the resistance to accept and encompasses the humility that love requires.
As I moved through year 43, these tenets will be my guide as I consider family-building, new roles, and how I’ll ensure all parts of me will carry over the threshold. I can see many challenges ahead. I am inspired by them and moved to have them become the new context for my life.
Physician’s New Book Says a lot of What You’ve Been Thinking…
The book’s title, The Myth of Normal, reminds us of a fact of which we are already aware. That normal is a term brought about and supported by science. Normal is the curve’s middle when considering a dataset. None of us are actually there – in the middle. And thus, none of us normal.
The word normal did not enter into the English language until the 19th century in its current use.1 And now it has become an example, a goal for us to achieve.
We’ve all been asking and working towards being…normal.
One of the most frequent questions clients ask is, “Is that (feeling, instance, behavior) normal?”
In a book that challenges the medical field, the psychology and psychiatry field, and certain well-known intellectual voices in the zeitgeist, The Myth of Normal’s message is welcomed. The message is that chronic illness – both mental and physical – is a function of our toxic culture.
The word trauma comes from the Greek word “wound.” Our social and relational habits come from our wounding experienced as a child, even before birth. Often our traumas are inflicted before we have the language to put to it. And so we don’t have a conscious memory of the trauma itself.
Trauma separates us from our bodies. For example, not being in touch with your feelings signifies a disconnect from the body. If there was suffering during our pre-language period, when we are infants and even before, the mind’s only defense is to shut off its connection to the emotion. And this reaction can become generalized without our knowledge. We will then disassociate with our bodies. Sometimes this shows up as an inability of one to be aware of when they are satiated, so they overeat. This can also present itself in disassociation from our gut feelings. It can show up in physical ailments as one not knowing when ill or in pain.
Genetics Don’t Mean as Much as You Think
Interestingly, the author argues that the once heralded human genome has failed to have the promised predictive potency. Instead, doctors are finding human beings to have a remarkable ability to adapt to the environment regardless of genetics.2 Not to say that genetics play no role, but rather that doctors have consistently underestimated the environmental and internal psychological influences on illness. Mate produces many examples illustrating the medical field’s tendency towards this error. Stress and mindset have just as much influence on health outcomes as genetics.
Researchers, thinkers, and scientists have long argued over how to define human nature. Mate posits (with the support of many and varying thought leaders) that attaining an identity begins before birth. Especially when considering a sturdy or fragile foundation. This experience can be summed up in the child’s experience of security. While it was once thought that newborns seek connection with their caregivers solely due to their inability to survive without them, it is now known that emotional and social needs are just as important to survival, well-being, and overall health. This is demonstrated by the fact that when our panic-grief systems are not taken care of by our caregivers, (as in the case of not having our needs met -hunger, emotional closeness) our consciousness becomes dominated by our natural systems of survival, fear, panic, and rage. This overwhelm of these systems can create serious issues in life outcomes and experience.
Our Amazing Mind
Mate illustrates the power of our mind in interesting ways. In one instance, he discusses a woman’s journey from being heavily medicated to becoming a psychologist herself. The young woman was diagnosed with depression, borderline personality disorder, dysthymia, panic disorder, and ADHD. She was on several medications, including three antidepressants and a benzodiazepine. Now a therapist and no longer medicated, she explains that she made a choice as a child. She could conclude that her caretakers were vitriolic, inept, and unable to take care of her, or she could decide that it was all her fault. She chose the latter. Believing that if she took on the responsibility, then she could work hard to be deserving of proper love and care. This showed up in her mental health. Her adaptation to this perceived threat could not tell the difference between major or minor threats. And so the more threats that appeared, the more she took on.
The woman’s undoing of this belief brought her to a place of healing – as Gabor is quick to note that there is a difference between healing and cured.
No gene has ever been found to be causal to the presence of ADHD, Autism, or Schizophrenia. These diagnoses are likely the result of an adaptation that once protected the individual in question. They are not the individual’s fault nor the fault of heritable genes, but instead the result of unaddressed wounding.
The Book’s Course
The book goes on to address issues with the larger society we live in, the problems with capitalism on our psychology, how racism, sexism, politics, and social mores impact our cultural trauma, and the difference between cured and healing – two distinct states.
The Myth of Normal gives some direction on healing, offering frameworks to think about compassion, wholeness, and self-improvement. The book even touches on the promise of psychedelics on the path of healing.
The book is dense, to say the least. It’s safe to say it may take one or more passes to take it all in. In sum, Myth draws a picture of the piecemeal research mosaic of the last two decades and more. It highlights that our personal experience is important. It is also far more likely to be similar to what we all experience. Statistics, standard deviations, and normal ranges can help us only so far in understanding our complex nature.
It is telling that this book is not written by a new scientist or doctor attempting to make a name for himself, but by someone who is an experienced doctor and practitioner, seventy-eight years old. Mate brings both his experience and mistakes to the forefront helping us understand the context in which we are living and what is truly important. And that is understanding is how to heal ourselves, each other, and our culture.
Years ago, upon starting this blog, I became obsessed with humanity’s identity, purpose, and potential. I wrote articles as an exercise in sharing my journey but also to make up for a time when I was young and should have been studying – my attention elsewhere. I’ve been open to allowing the universe’s current to take me without knowing the destination.
The result has been terrifyingly wonderful.
I’ve come to know that despite struggle and difficulty (the terrifying), I’ve had a truly amazing life. Dreams and wishes fulfilled (the wonderful).
And now, I have a strong desire to lift others up, to share in the hopes that others will be able to achieve even more than I. A nurturing and focused energy.
We live in an unprecedented age where more is possible than at any time in human history. We have more knowledge, space, civility, and hope. And we have the possibility of being more.
And so, I choose to dedicate my life to helping others achieve their potential. The most fulfilling times in my life have been when lifting others. When connecting others. When growing and transforming.
Whether you believe we are godly creations put here as a test to enter eternity in paradise or an aimless spec in the universe’s infinite expanse, one thing is for sure: WE ARE A MIRACLE.
Which also means that YOU are a miracle.
At the same time, we don’t know ourselves, and we often occur in the world as toddlers discovering fire and burning ourselves and others to ashes – unaware of our power.
And so this blog, once nebulous and exploratory – a depository of study, ideas, and growth – is sharpened. A transformation into an apparatus of that growth, connection, and ultimate destiny that I see, feel, and sometimes experience.
Spending years in therapy (which has certainly had its benefits),life coaching has brought me more growth and fulfillment than I could have expected. It is the blade on the sword of knowledge, the tool that enables me to be present and in control of my life.
In my youth, I wanted to be a psychologist. I even considered going back last year to do so. But instead, I was led to coaching. What I’ve learned has been more impactful than anything in my undergrad or graduate education. And I want to share it with you.
The answer to the question posed in this work’s title can only be answered by you, for you. But I assert that the answer is in there – in you waiting to be known, discovered.
Write your story.
It is yours and yours alone.
It is in your power, no matter how dark the road may seem.
It’s hard to explain the fear. There was anger, too. Why didn’t anyone tell me this would be an issue? I was born with a heart defect. It wasn’t clearly explained to me until I was thirty-six. My parents told me it was simply a “hole in my heart.” My brothers apparently had these ‘holes’ as well. Eventually, theirs went away.
I’d have to “keep an eye on it.”
Looking back, the uncertainty in this explanation makes me mad. Crazy.
I was a fairly heavy smoker. I had my first cigarette under the bleachers at a high school football game at age 12. It was okay. I didn’t cough. My friends were impressed. From then on, I smoked regularly. At some points, up to a pack a day. And so, in the spring of 2013, I got my annual sinus infection. I didn’t let it slow me down. I was used to spitting green mucus from my inflamed and congested lungs. But this time, I had cramping feeling behind my rib cage. It felt like a runner’s cramp, but it wasn’t always there. It would… “pinch” randomly, causing me to make a grunting sound. It wasn’t unbearable. It was most annoying. My girlfriend noted the pain and requested that if it didn’t stop by the week’s end, I’d have to go to the Doctor.
One chilly spring day, I worked with a friend to install a new front porch railing at my house. It was the end of the week. My phantom “pain” was getting more intense. I went to the urgent care in North Canton, where I lived at the time. They conducted an MRI. I was sure it was nothing and believed I had to go through the motions to satisfy my girlfriend.
I recall waiting for a long time after the test. There was no nurse update. No knocks at the door for quite a while. Then, the doctor came in and looked worried. He explained that he had other doctors looking at the MRI results to determine whether I should be taken in for emergency heart surgery.
I felt nothing. I believed there had to be a mistake. He was kidding, right? The pain was under my right rib, far away from my heart.
The good news, he pointed out, was that the pain I was feeling was simply pleurisy, swelling of the tissue between the lung and rib cage. It could be treated with prescription-strength ibuprofen.
The doctors also saw that an aneurysm had formed on my aorta. Deliberations were held to review the size of the aneurysm and determine if there was a danger of aortic dissection based on other factors. This is the bursting of the aneurysm in which the heart essentially pumps blood into the chest cavity, and death typically occurs in seconds.
Though a smoker, I ran regularly and was active at this time. I was on my feet all day, and generally, my life made good use of my heart.
The doctors’ deliberations ended and determined that I had not reached the critical range where surgery would be needed. But eventually, I would. I’d have to monitor the size of the aneurysm at least every six months.
I was relieved for the short term, but I had questions.
Why didn’t the “hole in my heart” go away?
Why were there no side effects?
How come I didn’t feel it?
How come my parents didn’t know?
When would I have to get surgery?
What was that like?
Would they have to cut through my sternum?
What would the doctors do to fix it?
Along the way, I came to understand the cause of the aneurysm. The aorta is a high-pressure valve that carries blood to the whole body. Generally, it’s a pretty hardy vessel. I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. In my humble understanding, this means that the valve should close off from the heart with three “flaps.” My valve only had two. So this caused the valve to not close all the way, and the blood pumps continuously and with more pressure than a normal valve. Ergo, a bulging or aneurysm can occur. The operation would solve the problem by installing a new valve and grafting the aorta where the bulge had been.
John Ritter, Albert Einstein, and Alan Thicke…what do they all have in common? They all died of complications from an aneurysm. I also learned that it was the 13th leading cause of death. I don’t know if that’s still true.
I watched the condition closely. I graduated from grad school, got promoted, married, and lived on. In January 2017, at 36 years old (immaturity-wise as well as age-wise), my doctor commented that I should get the surgery done before I was 40. And so, I booked the surgery for June 12th, 2017. I spent the next six months coming to the realization that this may change the nature of my life. I made a bucket list just in case and completed each item.
On the day of the surgery, it still hadn’t fully clicked. I was shaved by the nurses, and my wife and her family were there to comfort me. I was wheeled outside the OR in the cold hallway before the operation to contemplate my abundant life.
I woke up.
My first two thoughts were, “why haven’t I spent more time outdoors, hiking?” And “I want to see a giraffe…”
I was uncomfortable, but there was no pain. Just…tenderness.
On the first day, they asked me to get up and go for a walk. I was excited because I felt I was recovering quickly. (I know, it was the first day.) But I was out of breath after just one step when I got up. I can’t explain how scary this was. At this point, I didn’t have dreams of being an ultramarathoner. But I did run regularly. I ran seven miles the day before the surgery, and the day after, I couldn’t walk more than a step.
I was truly scared. As a matter of fact, all of my emotions were off the charts. I hid tears from my wife when I saw on the news that a senator had been shot and was in surgery, barely holding on. And, when an apartment building in Europe burnt down, most of its inhabitants were still inside. These news stories from this time will forever be in my heart.
Then I got a chance to speak with people from the On-X company who made the artificial valve used in the surgery. They thanked me and referred me to a “twenty-five-year warranty.”
I did the math…I’d be 61.
Perhaps it was my heightened emotional state or something else. But it felt like it wasn’t… over. And that it never really would be. On top of that, no one told me how loud it would be! I sounded like a ticking clock…ALL THE TIME! I took comfort in the warm feeling that I’d have my wife with me the next time I went through this. In coping with the fear, I’d fall asleep beneath the blanket of this fear each night.
When I got home, I had to defeat my first enemy. I couldn’t accept the fact of being immobile. So I walked. At first, it was just to the end of the driveway. But it extended to the end of the street, then to the park, and then for hours and hours each day. Until one day, I just started running again.
Once I healed and ran several marathons, I asked for the toughest assignment at work to prove my promotion-worthiness.
I got it.
It caused the end of my marriage, a deep depression, an inability to leave an abusive relationship, and eventually a spiritual awakening and rebirth.
And here we are.
I’ve come a long way. I’m grateful for the experience. It woke me up and caused me to question, grow, to reach for authenticity.
But another thought crossed my mind for the first time a year or so ago…
What would I do if I knew I only had 25 years to live?
How would the constraint add meaning to my life? How would it motivate me to act differently than before? What kind of life would I create? How would it make me better? Worse? What did I really want to do with my time on earth? What was it that really mattered?
And here I am.
It’s been more than five years since the surgery. I’ve got some time left.
This blog seeks to log this journey and how it is different now that I literally hear the clock ticking… to the expiration of my 25-year warranty on my heart valve on June 12th, 2042.
There are seven major chakras: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown.1 The seven are divided into two categories, Matter and Spirit. Chakras were first identified in the Vedic writings as long as 1500 years ago. Chakras are referred to as ‘spinning discs of energy’ found throughout the body. They are described as constantly moving in an attempt to balance the various energies in the body to reach homeostasis.