Independence Day

OK, this post is going to have nothing to do with my health, but I feel compelled to express myself anyway.

If you live in the USA, like I do, tomorrow is Independence Day.  It is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  That was on July 4, 1776.

But, I have a question.  Are we independent?  If so, from what, and/or whom, are we independent?  You may be thinking, “Of course we’re independent — no other nation controls us”!  And you would be right.  No nation controls us.  In fact, you could say the opposite is true.  We control many other nations.  As recent revelations in the news have revealed, we certainly spy on them, even our “friends”!

But, back in 1776, our government was the British government.  The colonists were declaring independence from their own government!  So, I guess my question really is, do you feel independent from your own government?  If so, how is that possible?  With computers, GPS units, wi-fi, and smartphones, is there anything you can do or anywhere you can go where you feel independent?

I don’t know about you, but the mere fact that the government has the ability to monitor everything I do, and the ability to track me anywhere I go, makes me feel not so independent.  Now, I’m not so paranoid that I think the government is monitoring me right now, or has been, but the point is, they could.

Do you feel independent every time you look at your pay stub and see how much you pay in taxes?  Do you feel independent each year on April 15?  Do you feel independent when you receive one of those traffic tickets in the mail with a picture of your car on it?  I know I don’t.

I’m sorry to be so down on this holiday, but it really isn’t Independence Day, so we should call it something else.  Now, I have a suggestion for a replacement name, but I don’t think it would catch on.  “Replacing the British Empire with the American Empire” day takes too long to say, and takes too long to write.  I don’t think it would even fit on a bumper sticker!  It would be a more accurate title for the day, though.  But, Independence Day sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it?

For one day, we can all celebrate the illusion that we’re free, if only for a short while.  We can have picnics and parties with family and friends, and we can pretend for a day.  We can pretend that we’re independent, and we can pretend that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want.  Then, on July 5th, everything goes back to normal.

It reminds me a little bit of the classic Star Trek episode, “Return of the Archons”, where Captain Kirk and the Enterprise encounter a society of people who are  completely controlled by a master computer.  The people all walk around in a trance-like state all the time, except for once a year, when everyone screams “Festival, Festival, Festival”!  Then they go crazy for a day, and then they return to their normal trance-like states.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we’re all controlled by a master computer, but we are, to a significant extent, controlled by the actions of our political leaders (in cahoots with their Wall Street banker buddies, of course!).  So, once again, I ask, are we independent?

Once again, I apologize for getting down on Independence Day.  If you are planning a big celebration tomorrow, and you want to celebrate, by all means, go ahead.  You won’t offend me at all.  But, I’m going to celebrate “Replacing the British Empire with the American Empire” day, and I’m going to celebrate it by treating it like any other day, because I don’t feel “independent”.

Oh, and one other thing — Happy Festivus!!

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Weekly Update

I had a pretty good weekend, except for the rash of thunderstorms we’ve been having here in northern Delaware.  We’re getting our share of rain right now.  Now, of course, we’ll probably go through a period where it won’t rain for a month!  At least it’s not 120 degrees like it is out in Death Valley!

I had both of my brothers and my nephew here for dinner tonight.  I think it was the first time all four of us have been together since Christmas, so that was nice.  My one brother is staying here and visiting for about a week.  So that will be great, too.  I’ll just have to watch a lot of ESPN (John is a sports fan, much more so than me).

I also had a visit from an old friend yesterday who I went to high school with.   And, I had a visit from another friend tonight.  So, the weekend’s been full with catching up with people.

I didn’t make it to the gym on Friday or Saturday, but I’m determined to make it every day this week.  I’ve been doing pretty well, but I need to make it an automatic habit that I don’t even think about, I just do.

So, with that, I’m signing off and making this a short post tonight.

Peace

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The Roads We Travel

Have you ever stopped to wonder how many decisions you make in a day, or in a week, or in a year?  I have no idea how many decisions I make, and I wouldn’t even want to speculate on it, except to say that the number is very high.  Should I hit the snooze alarm again,  or get up now?  Should I have cold or hot cereal?  Which route should I take to work?  Should I try to make it through this light before it turns red?  Should I call out this person who’s acting like an asshole or bite my tongue?  Well, you get the idea.

There are also decisions we make that have much more of a long-term impact on our lives.  Should I take this job, or another job?  Should I stay in this job that sucks, or look elsewhere?  Should I get married?  Should I start a family?  Every decision has an impact, some positive, some negative.

With all the roads and the forks in those roads, we’re never going to make the right decisions all the time.  We’re probably lucky if we make the right decisions half the time.  I’ve been thinking about these roads and forks, because I’m a world champion at second-guessing myself.  I’m always thinking, “Oh, that was the wrong thing to do, or, oh, I shouldn’t have done that, or, oh, if only I’d done it this way instead of that way”.

But, I think the route I’ve been steering myself on more recently is better than some of the routes I’ve taken in the past.  Not every road is the right road.  Some of the roads lead right back to the same spot, and I have to try another road.  But, the overall direction is positive.  I keep having to remind myself to look at the big picture.  I’m usually more inclined to examine the vein structure on an individual leaf than to gaze at the entire forest.

About two years ago, I finally broke down and realized I couldn’t keep going on living the way I was.  At the time, I was living in a dark, dreary apartment which hadn’t been cleaned (literally) in over two years.  There were piles of take-out food containers everywhere because I never took out the trash, there were caked-up layers of dust everywhere, and there were globs of mold and who knows what else on almost every surface in the bathroom.  My college dorm room was a model of sanitation excellence in comparison.  I never invited anyone in to that apartment unless it was absolutely necessary.  My first thought on waking up every morning was to lament that I hadn’t died during the night, and my second thought was to hope (and beg) that I would die sometime that day.

I continued like this for several months until it got to the point where I was no longer able to operate in a functional capacity.  I have been on disability ever since.

But now, I live in a bright apartment which gets lots of sunlight, has a nice balcony to sit on, does not have caked-up layers of dust everywhere, and has no mold in the bathroom.  And, the trash gets taken out whenever needed.  And, I invite people in!  And, I’m looking at job sites and am actively considering a job search and a return to the “real” world.

My point is that I am taking steps in a positive direction.  I’ve sought professional help to deal with my depression, and I’m taking steps to take off a significant chunk of excess weight, which includes having had gastric bypass surgery in February.  Sometimes when I get down on myself — and I’ve also written here about how I’m a world champion self-beater-upper — I just need to remind myself that the condition of the roads I’m travelling on lately have improved quite a bit.  Are they perfect?  No.  Are any roads perfect?  Of course not.

I’m in a much better place now than I was two years ago, and I want to thank all of you who have commented here, on Facebook, on the phone, in text messages, and in person, and reminding me that things are better, and they can, and will, get better still.

Peace

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The Double-edged Sword of Technology

My last two posts have focused on both physical and mental ailments, so I decided to write about something completely different, something having nothing to do with obesity, gastric bypass surgery, or depression.

If you’ve been on this earth for more than 35 years, have you ever stopped to wonder and marvel at the technological advancements that have been made in our society.  I can remember being a small child, and living in a house with one television set, and it had a 19-inch black-and-white screen.  And you had channel numbers 2 through 13, and you had to get up, walk to the TV, and turn a rotary knob to change from one channel to another!  Our house had two phones, one downstairs, and one upstairs.  And they were both the standard black Bell telephones with a rotary dialer!  And you couldn’t waltz all around the house while chatting, because the phones were hard-wired to the wall!  And long-distance calls were only for special or emergency occasions.

Now, I still only have one television, but it has a 42-inch high-definition flat screen and gets I have no idea how many channels.  I only have one phone, too, but I can take it with me wherever I go.  I can use it to talk, e-mail, text, get directions, surf the internet, etc.  I have a laptop computer which I can pick up and take with me, even though it has gobs more computing power than the first IBM super-computer, which took up a giant warehouse-sized room.  I have a printer that can print, scan, fax and photocopy.  We can listen to music, or watch video, on devices that will fit inside our shirt-pockets or purses.  We can access almost any information we want, at almost any time we want.  We have created the most amazing systems of nearly instantly transmitting massive amounts of information from one computer to another.  We can detect and treat disease in a far superior manner than at any time in the past.  We have a pill for everything, and we have all kinds of gadgets to make our lives easier and more convenient.  We have come up with devices of enormous benefit to modern society.

BUT . . . . . and I’m just saying but . . . . don’t you wish . . . . sometimes . . . . for just a moment or two . . . . that you could just turn it all the fuck off!!  Just for a moment.  Just for one fucking moment!!  Can you remember the last time you heard the sound of silence.  I mean real silence, the kind of silence where your heart beat sounds like a bass drum reverberating in your chest cavity.  Can you remember the last time you were untethered from all technology (excluding sleep) for longer than one hour out of a day?  Can you remember the last time you had lunch or dinner with friends or family without someone having to whip out their phone for something or other?

Do you sometimes want to take your computer and throw it out the fucking window?  Do you sometimes want to smash your smart phone with a fucking sledgehammer?  Do you sometimes want to put your foot through your lovely high-definition flat-screen TV?  Do you ever want to take some flour, eggs, and a fork and make some pasta the old-fashioned way instead of tossing it from the box into a pot of boiling water?  Do you ever want to take a mortar and pestle and smush the shit out of some herbs and oil to make a pesto to put on that pasta instead of pouring it from a jar?  Do you ever want to get some cream, sugar and flavoring and hand-crank your own ice cream instead of just picking up something from the grocery store?  Do you ever …. just …. want …. to … slow …. down …. for …. just …. one …. moment, …. just …. one …. precious …. little …. moment.

Just a few bits of mental detritus that were flowing forth from the blob of tapioca between my ears.  Think about it.

P.S. When I started this post, it was going to be about how technology has helped our society become a total police surveillance state, but it morphed into something else entirely.  Oh, well.  I’ll do the surveillance state thing some other time.

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My Cycles of Depression

My depression level seems to go up and down from time to time, like a roller coaster but in super-slow motion.  Lately, I seem to be on a downward spiral.  I’m not sure why, because in general, things seem to be going better.  Here’s an outline summary of pros and cons from the recent past —

Pros

  • I joined a a fitness center and have been exercising on a much more regular basis.
  • I have been working hard in therapy on moving forward through life, one day, one moment at a time.
  • I have lost a significant chunk of weight since having gastric bypass surgery back  in February.

Cons

  • I still haven’t arrived at what could be the root issue causing my depression.
  • I’m  in the process of filing a disability appeal, because my disability insurer has cut me off effective the end of May.
  • I still tend to acknowledge failure with a lot more gusto than I do success.

Maybe my recent gout flare-up has given me too much time to think, but I still wonder sometimes how much better off I am than I was two years ago when I was at probably the lowest point of my life.  I certainly wasn’t at rock bottom.  I don’t believe in rock bottom anyway.  I believe you can just keep falling and falling, and if you don’t grab onto something and hold on for dear life, you can fall into the other side of infinity.  Then, once you grab onto something, you have to start clawing your way back up, one inch at a time.

I think the frustrating thing is the length of time the clawing process takes.  These days, with our 24/7 access to information and entertainment, guaranteed delivery the next day, just add hot water, ready in the microwave in 90 seconds, we certainly have instant gratification available to us.  But not on anything that matters.  Things that matter still take time, lots of time.

When I’m clawing up inch by inch, and suddenly I slip and fall down a foot or two, I always get down on myself because I know how long it’s going to take to re-claw that same distance.

I asked someone to run an errand for me this morning.  I knew exactly what I needed, but I couldn’t remember what the names of the products were called.  I had to look at the empty box of the one product to remember that it’s called Prilosec, and then I knew I needed cotton something-or-other, but I asked for q-tips instead of cotton balls, so then I had to send my friend back to the drug store again.  This means my memory and concentration problems may be starting to return, which would be a significant fall downwards.  I hope it’s just temporary, but I’ll take the wait and see approach for now.

I also haven’t been able to cut back on any part of my chemical anti-depressant cocktail, which kind of bums me out, especially with all the things I read about the potentially negative side-effects of said chemicals.

On the plus side of things, my brother John is coming down this weekend to visit for a week while my other brother Tom and my nephew go on vacation to wherever it is they’re going, somewhere in Canada I think.  So John and I will be able to spend some quality time mutually bitching about the meandering mediocrity of the Phillies baseball team!

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General Health Update

I’ve had sort  of a rough run the last couple of weeks.  First of all, I hit another weight stall.  I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon on June 10.  She said everything looked really good, and I should keep doing what I’m doing, and that the weight stalls can go in cycles.  In short, I shouldn’t worry about them.  But, I still do.

Then, I had another gout flare-up, which is either the 3rd or 4th one since my surgery in February.  This one has been the worst one yet.  It has been a week-and-a-half, and I still can’t put full pressure down on my right foot.  I recently had blood work done, which showed that my uric acid level is normal, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on.  I had an appointment with my family doctor yesterday, and he prescribed something called Colcrys.  He said it should take almost immediate effect.  I’ve taken three doses so far, and it feels much better, but I still can’t put full weight on my left foot.

I also haven’t been to the gym in a week-and-a-half.  I’m planning to go tomorrow morning.  If my foot is still bothersome, I’ll just do exercises that don’t involve using my feet.

So, I feel like I’ve taken a couple steps backward. Plus, I’m in the process of appealing a decision made by my insurance company cutting off my disability insurance, so I’m gathering all the necessary information to submit that appeal.  I’m not sure how much good that will do, because I’ve set a goal to try going back to work, or at least seek work, by the end of the summer.  So, by the time the appeal gets decided one way or the other, I could very well be back working somewhere!

Anyway, on the plus side, my one brother will be coming down here for another visit in another week or so, so that will be nice to visit with him for a while.

That’s about it for now – peace

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Weight and Exercise Update

I just wanted to post an update on my new exercise program and my weight loss.  First, the exercise.

It’s been going better.  I’ve already been able to add a few more exercises to my routine, and I’ve gone up from 1 to 2 sets of each weight exercise.  In 4 weeks, I’ll move up to 3 sets.  Here is what I’m doing right now -

  • walking (3 rounds – as many steps as I can each round)
  • Nu-step (sort of like a seated elliptical)
  • Sci-fit (arm cycle)
  • overhead press (on machine)
  • chest press (machine)
  • high row (machine)
  • low row (machine)
  • lat pull down (machine)
  • tricep curl (machine)
  • bicep curl (dumbbells)
  • pull up row (dumbbells)

I’m not sure if I’m using the right terminology to describe the exercises, but you get the idea.  On the weight frontier, I’ve hit another stall.  I have an appointment with my surgeon next Monday, and we’ll be reviewing my food log, so I’m hoping there are some dietary adjustments I can make.  I’ve only lost 2 lbs. in the last 2 weeks.  I know that anything in the downward direction is good, but I’m only taking in about 1000 calories per day right now, so it’s been a little frustrating.  I hope the stall doesn’t last too much longer.

I went to the mall today and bought a new pair of sneakers.  I also got my left ear pierced.  I’m really not sure what compelled me to do that, but I had two piercings in the ear a long time ago, but haven’t worn anything in them for over 10 years, so the holes had closed up.  They are now re-opened, and I have 2 starter studs in my left earlobe (turquoise color for my birth month, December).

That’s about all for now.  I hope everyone is well out there.

Peace

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