You Mad, Bro?

As I begin the process of transitioning off my biggest account at work, the still professional but definitely sympathetic tone of the Project Managers is definitely the worst part. The sting is primarily because they aren’t wrong. I am struggling lately and we all know it.

Still burns my ass, tho.

Also, I am reminded that I work hardest/best when I’m pissed off that someone thinks I can’t do something.

I was in line for a Lead role on a huge, important account. And, now… I’m not. The diabetes is the primary factor. It’s been a rough couple of months (putting it mildly) and I’m still not 100%. I’m putting my health first, as I should, and my entire friend base and professional support network are all 100% in agreement. So, I’m stepping back. Yay me! Self care is important.

[stepping back – yay me]

It’s absolutely the right thing to do, part of a plan to find other projects and roles where I’ll thrive. And I’m not fired, not disgraced, not punished. Just off that particular account and out of that role.

The other team members are being 100% professional and supportive. They are good at their jobs. But it’s there. They know that I’m stepping down and that I’m struggling. So there is just the tiniest hint of sympathy in their choice of words, the tone of voice. It’s subtle, and I’m definitely over-sensitive to it (and probably imagining at least part of it.)

Still burns my ass, tho.

Ugh. Why all this anger?

Full disclosure: I literally suggested this move myself. This is not something that was forced on me. I initiated and engineered it. So it’s interesting from a psychological standpoint that I’m having a strong emotional, angry reaction to it. What is it inside me that must fight against being told I can’t do something, even when it’s ME that is saying it?

Ah, the doubts were there. My gut knew it all along, if maybe not exactly why. Now, much time and soul searching later, I see how I was chasing the prestige, the high profile, but also going with the flow because it’s expected of someone in my position. But in reality the Lead role is absolutely, positively not in my wheelhouse nor a situation in which I would thrive.

This is a lesson I should have learned when I was 20. Background… I went to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology right out of high school because it was (trumpets blare, angels sing) The Rose-Hulman.

[angels sing]

I went to Rose almost entirely because that’s what everyone expected of me. The school is in my hometown and sits, pristine and elusive, on the eastern edge of town, a tiny castle of nerdy might, a Temple to the gods of Future Earning Power.

I didn’t have much choice. I have an uncle that, many years before me, was able to escape Satan’s Evil Clutches, AKA poverty, by getting his Rose-Hulman degree. So my family had pretty much resigned me to it since the moment I aced my first math test. Hell, I was voted Most Likely to Become an Engineer by my high school class. It’s a prestigious, exclusive, and powerful school and not everyone can go there even if they want to… so if you can, you should, right?

So, I went.

I fucking hated it.

Other than the many, amazing life-long friends I made, I hated virtually every aspect of attending that school. And it was EXPENSIVE. Sure, my grades were fine, but I was not. Yet there is such a strong stigma against being a “drop out” that I stayed well beyond my expiration date. There it is again, that irrational desire to prove myself to the haters.

Like a good little punching bag, I dutifully agonized for months and months over the shame of it, the soul-shattering failure of dropping out of THAT GOOD COLLEGE, the mind-numbing fear of disappointing my family, friends, and well-wishers.

A word of warning to others who may tread this path: Yes, college is fun but this type of emotional purgatory, especially when paired with epic binge drinking, is NOT a blueprint for the healthy psychological growth of a young person just coming into their prime. The internal agony pushed me into what was the first of many deep depressive episodes that would then continue to occur fairly regularly across my lifetime. I was miserable in every way possible. I barely left my bed for a couple weeks. Inside my head, I crumpled, I wailed, I curled up and died, over and over.

And yet, entombed in my blankets, shrouded in grief and a haze of cheap grain alcohol… something had to give.

Finally, after my Sophomore year at Rose, I tucked my tail between my booze-soaked, student-loan-burdened legs and transferred to Indiana State University, the small, much less prestigious liberal arts college also in my hometown. A failure, a mockery, a mere shadow of the man I once was, I resigned myself to at least try to enjoy ISU a little, and promptly signed up for as many Literature and Philosophy classes as they would allow.

Guess what?

I loved it.

LOVED. IT.

What the hell was all that anguish about? Why had I beat myself up so badly? What had I been trying to prove, and to whom?

Do not burden yourself too much with the work of meeting someone else’s plan for you. If they aren’t paying your bills, if they aren’t doing the hard work of living your life, then they have no right telling you what you should do. How do they even know what is best for you? SPOILERS: They don’t.

Yet here I sit at almost age 50, beating myself up for basically making the same mistake again. I let external pressures guide me somewhere I shouldn’t have been, and instead of listening to my gut and making a simple adjustment early in the process, I doubled down on my bad decisions and made more, bigger, badder decisions. Yah! That’ll show ’em.

To those of young in years or at heart, please be careful what patterns you create for yourself. You have a long, long time to follow the trajectory that you create at age 20. It sounds ironic, but there is very real, very serious danger in putting so much energy into just going along with the flow of other’s expectations.

Also, just because something is the right thing to do, it can still hurt really deeply.

Make good choices. Love each other. Forgive yourself.

Peace and Love — VVV

An Ode to My Pancreas, a Love/Hate Story

Life is so hectic and dark lately. I’ve got so much going on, some of it good and some of it bad. The world feels like it’s falling apart yet we all just keep doing our thing. That’s all you can do, right? Maybe. I don’t know. Somehow 2020 feels different.

Me? Big things in motion. Work is difficult and rewarding (as always), I’m still separated and divorcing the Wonderful Wife (she’s still wonderful, still co-parenting together, she’s just no longer my wife), and the kids are going batty in captivity… er, I mean… in quarantine. Oh, hey, and my body suddenly doesn’t process sugar correctly which is causing my brain and my entire autoimmune system to freak out and possibly kill me from the inside. No biggie.

I suppose I’m lucky, really. I made it almost 50 years before my body decided to try to kill me. That’s a good run.

This is by far the biggest medical issue I’ve ever had. Hell, I’ve never even broken a bone (knock on wood,) and I’ve never spent the night in a hospital (knock on wood.) HOLY CRAP why did I just jinx myself by putting that in writing? [knocks on all the wood]

Knock on wood. No, this isn’t wood, but it’s not my hand either.

I’ve been “working on” eating better and getting healthy for a long time. For 20 years I’ve been trying to eat more veggies, to cut back on sugary crap. I’ve been slowly making changes with some good success, albeit in small ways. I’m proud of how much I’ve overcome my total lack of real food knowledge and role models, total lack of support. I’ve had lots of well wishers and encouragement, but everyone I know struggles with their weight. So, let me just say that I had already done a lot to change how I eat before this Diabetes diagnosis—though clearly not enough.

Mine is the same old story. My weight has been an issue since I was about 9 years old. I’ve always loved food: eating it, cooking it, baking it, eating it, talking about it, photographing it, and eating more of it. Also, I like eating it.

To top it off, I’m not much on exercise for the sake of exercise. Or for any sake, really. I used to do bodybuilding, but not really regularly enough to get much benefit. I like yoga but never seem to get around to it. In fact, I’ve never found any exercise routine that really works for me. I always get bored and discouraged. Plus, I’ll say it… I’m not naturally athletic. I’m not even a little athletic. I’m not graceful or tenacious or driven. (translation: I’m a lazy, out of shape slob.)

I am Fat Thor. I could do worse.

Don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up too much on any of this. Sure, I look back and wish I had taken it all more seriously, and sooner. That’s how hindsight works. But you have to remember it’s hard for anyone to get super serious about something so vague, even from a doctor. “Hey, do all this stuff and you *might* see results in 20 years.” Who can get excited about that? But now today, hoo-boy… it’s crystal clear that everything I eat or do is pushing me toward either health or ruin. Motivation is not so much a problem now.

The biggest eye opener of all the diabetes stuff is not the finger pricks, or counting carbs, or even the new pills. The part that has shocked me the most is how many people already caught the ‘Beetus and how incredibly chill they are about it. I’m losing my shit with every meal, every new ache and pain. But all the diabetes old-timers are like, “Meh. I just have to watch what I eat a little.” And shocking to me is that most people keep eating a lot of the same foods… even though it makes them miserable.

This has weighed on me a lot the past couple of weeks. Am I doing this wrong? Am I the only one who has to completely change how I eat and live? Why has this turned my life upside down? When will this end?

Of course, I’m not doing anything wrong. My only fault is that I’m very new to this and I’m not framing the conversation correctly in my own head. Yes I’m trying to re-create myself, to change my entire relationship with food, virtually overnight. I want to kick this thing, and fast.

Kick this thing?

Sorry, dude. That’s not how this works.

This is Diabetes, not some head cold or the transient flu. We’re tangling with Ol ‘Beetus himself. This isn’t going away overnight with some cough syrup. It won’t “clear up” in a week, or even a month. This is my life now. And the thing about being alive is… no matter how ugly it gets, you have to just get out there and LIVE YOUR LIFE.

Life goes on, my friends, even if a tiny endocrine gland in your gut is screaming “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!”

My Pancreas, a re-enactment. (no pancreases were injured in the creation of this blog post)

So I live and I learn. Each day brings new challenges and new rewards. It’s maybe not much of a life, but it’s all I’ve got.

In the end, I’m just doing the best I can to soften the impact of a bad situation. And that’s all anyone can ask of me.

Peace and Love, my friends. Peace and Love.

— VVV