Tonight, as I walked to my car, I got to thinking about how right that statement really is. For the first time in my life, I am feeling my age.
Over the years, I always prided myself on my ability to run with folks that were years younger, work as hard, party as hard, generally do things that, in my mind, “kept me young.” You could see it in the way I dress. In the way I talk. In the choices I make.
But, tonight, for some reason, it hit me, I am just not that young anymore.
Perhaps it was the sleep study I had done. Did you know that during the day, I get 91% oxygen as I breath, but only 68% as I sleep? Now I have to wear a CPAP machine as I sleep. A machine I have always equated to old, fat people.
With so much going on, I constantly push myself to work late nights. Now at 1am, I am a zombie. Cant push myself harder. I used to get by on 3-4 hours of sleep. Cant seem to do that very often anymore.
I used to work out 3 times a week, now I get winded walking up a flight a stairs, or even worse, a couple of blocks.
Its easy to say its because of the weight I carry, but the truth is that the weight just exacerbates the issues. Its not a root cause. I am not just invincible anymore.
So, whats the plan?
When I was in college, I used to play a lot of sports video games. Usually, I won. Not bragging, just stating a fact. When it was apparent that I might lose a game, I used to go “elephant hunting.” I would shoot 3 pointers or throw long bombs. I would take shot after shot at the goal. If I didnt pull myself out of this pattern, I would 100% lose. Every time.
But the games where I would stop. Take a breath. Relax and refocus, more often than not, I would come back to win.
As CEO, this is something that I see happen quite often with startups. Path A isnt working, so there is a quick pivot to path B. Weight gets dropped on Business Development‘s shoulder to “just close a big deal” – anything to get the numbers up. Every meeting the Business Development person is taking is a swing for the fences. And 9 times out of 10, the deal takes longer, doesnt do as well, or flat out doesnt happen.
“If I can just close that deal,” the Business Development person thinks, “I can turn everything around.”
He finds himself hunting elephants.
In every day life, we do the same. We put ourselves through cleanses, fasts, hard work outs. We read book after book. We swear to ourselves that we will change everything. Tomorrow.
We spend our lives looking for that one elephant, that one magic bullet that will make everything ok.
Today, I stop hunting elephants. Today, Im stopping. Taking a breath. Relaxing and refocusing.
After all, tomorrow, I will be the oldest that I have ever been. Perhaps, its time to grow up just a little.
(UPDATE: My friend Tim has written an amazing book: The 4 Hour Body, much of which I have tried and achieved some level of success. That coupled with the improved sleep, and medication for my bipolar, I should be much improved in 30 days. Lets plan to have this be my “before” post and see what happens…)
- The View From Your CPAP (andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)
- Chronic Cures For Snoring (healthlifestyleforever.com)
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Not all movies mind you.
Just certain ones. Not ones where someone dies or where two star crossed lovers uncross their stars.
I cry at movies where some character (often not the protagonist) achieves something that they never thought they could. I cry at movies where the challenge is large and the characters attack that challenge without truly knowing what outcome will occur.
(In my own defense, I love movies. I watch them constantly. I have walked out of one movie in my entire life. There is something amazing about the visual telling of story, even if the story tellers suck.)
Last night I was watching the Tooth Fairy (I also watch almost every mainstream movie that comes out), and in the story, there is a kid who feels like he doesnt fit in. He plays guitar by himself, and has played so much that he becomes a decent guitar player. Not to give away anything, but he plays in the talent show, and is received gloriously. As he finishes his playing, and he looks up and sees that the crowd is cheering and that his mom is excited for him, and a smile crosses his face.
Not the smile of accomplishment or the smile of joy, but a smile of both achievement and realization. That combo smile gets me every time.
Now I dont consider myself for crying, the expression of emotion is the singularly most human thing I do. I assume that people are more surprised at my enjoyment of a movie like Tooth Fairy than the fact that I can be rather emotional.
But the expression of emotion, free from the perceived judgement of others is an important outlet. Im not demonstrative, I dont go to many happy hours (I find them too difficult to enjoy), I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about how to improve things. Work things. Personal things. Sometimes, even physical things.
My therapist tells me that I am too hard on myself. I think I am not hard enough.
So when I see someone achieve the one thing that I truly equate to success: achievement and the realization that you deserve the accomplishment, I cry. I smile. I absorb everything about the moment. I try to understand what that really will feel like. I study, I learn and I hope.
It might be strange reading those words from me. Many people think I have accomplished stuff. I havent. Ive done some things. some well; some not so well.
I cry. I cry about things that matter to me. That drive me each day at Graphicly. Do you know how amazing it is to see people accomplish things and see the look in their eyes when they know, really know, deep down inside, that it was through their effort that they achieved that accomplishment, and the accolades and respect that they have garnered for themselves is so well deserved that it actually doesnt need to be reinforced?
So, at least once a day, while watching TV or a movie, I find myself choked up. And it reminds me that my purpose is to help people find ways to learn that they are able to do the things that they have set out to accomplish.
At Graphicly, we ask everyone to think about three questions:
- “What can I do today that helps Graphicly today?”
- “What can I do tomorrow that helps Graphicly tomorrow”
- “What do I want out of this experience.”
Because its when those three questions intersect that people truly become engaged and are able to accomplish wonderful things.
As I get ready to bail out of Graphicly for the day, I am excited to head home and watch a movie. Im thinking something light. Perhaps Schnidler’s List? I probably wont cry at all.
Preface: I wrote this a few days ago, when my brain was definitely was in a “depressed” state. What that means that the chemicals in each cell were not firing at a much slower or erratic rate than normal. (The opposite is an “active” state, which is when the chemicals in each cell are over firing. Interestingly, it is very similar to epilepsy, where the electrical impulses are firing at an erratic rate (which causes seizures).
I wrote it, and then saved it as a draft, because it was very raw, and I wasnt sure if it would be read as what it is, my thoughts and feelings at a moment in time. As a reference point, I dont feel like that today. I feel pretty normal actually.
But, one of my tenets is being open and honest about this birth defect that I am trying to determine the correct course of medication and behavior to control. So, right or wrong, I think its better to put it out there than to not.
Read at your own risk. Its not a very pretty piece, and frankly, something I probably would have rather just deleted. I hope it helps people understand me, and perhaps if they see themselves in it, they can begin to understand why these feelings exist.
And, I almost want to close the comments, but I wont. Please understand that unlike anything else I have written, there is no humor here. If you want to comment, be honest in your comment. Dont worry about my feelings, but do be respectful of your words.
I have spent my entire life with the inability to properly regulate chemicals at the cellular level in my brain. For my entire life, this defect within my brain cells has fueled days of great energy and motivation. Days of great accomplishment and success. And days of great sadness and loneliness. Days of self destruction and introspection.
This brain defect, this physical limitation within the very cells of the organ that drives thought and emotion (along with the basic functions of life), has created a most interesting life for me. I would have had it any other way.
But now I am tired.
Tired of waking up in a funk so deep that the thought of moving seems to be outside the spectrum of reality. Tired of bouncing off the walls thinking a hundred different thoughts at the same time, not even being able to breath because I have so much to say, to do, to ponder.
I dont want this any more. I just want the consistency of a normal life. I dont want to feel that I have to continually protect the people around me from me. I dont want to feel that if I dont keep everything in complete control, that I will end up hurting the very people that I love.
I am just tired.
I am tired of waking up and laying in bed waiting to see what direction my brain is taking today. Does Taylor’s whine make me smile or does it build anger? Does Calin’s meowing make me cringe or excited?
Every day it seems to be different. I can be just fine for weeks, then have a couple of days of wonkiness.
If I dont know what the day is going to bring me, how can anyone else?
So, I protect the world from me. I keep myself inside and protected. I stand alone and strong.
And it makes me tired.
So I see doctors. Currently I see 3. Each is hopeful that things will change. I take medication. It seems to be working, I guess, but the edges of mental states are more acute and sharp now. They happen less, but when they do, its like 3x of what it was, which just kinda sucks.
And I am scared.
What if I am doomed to live this life of inconsistency? What if no matter how hard I try, I will be alone, because no one wants to have to deal with a lack of reliability. What if I am unlovable, because I am not reliable or consistent.
And I am angry.
I am angry at my father for being a drug addict, and probably being bipolar himself. I am angry that I can just fix this, like I fix so many other things.
Which just makes me sad.
I know that I will come out on the other side of this one day. But I wonder what the trail of destruction I leave behind as I “work it out,” will look like, and will that other side look like this, but just with a consistency that I have never achieved? I have begun to learn how to accept hope, and that has been wonderful.
And, so now, I am hopeful.