Back in 2016 I went to the theater to “Snowden”. The true story of an NSA agent who reveals illegal surveillance techniques used by our government to spy on its own citizens. There are a couple of scenes in the movie where the character suffers from seizures that had
him writhing uncontrollably on the floor. As someone who suffered from a serious seizure disorder from the age of eighteen to about twenty four. Those scenes freaked me the fuck out. So much so, that I could feel myself unexpectedly welling up with tears and feeling overwhelmed. You see, though I have experienced having seizures myself, countless times over. I had never seen one from the eye of the beholder. During the times people like my Father described the frightening scene that would unfold before them. My unresponsiveness and the sheer sense of helplessness that accompanies it. I completely roll up into a metaphorical ball of guilt and shame. Recalling how often I joked or made lite of my disorder and the challenges that came with them. Know what I put others through makes me want to take it all back.
Now, having a seizure disorder is nothing to joke about. Over the years I woke up many times with the taste of concrete or soil in my mouth. I had my share of trips to the emergency room and I can remember the crazy hallucinations that often accompanied them. Yet, over time I got to know the warning signs as well as the triggers. I learned enough to consistently question my doctors upon visits and do enough research of my own to learn that the medication/medications they were prescribing and insisted I’d have to take the rest of my life were not curtailing the frequency of my seizures while giving me a pack of side effects to add to my misery. Add to that the horror stories I reading in the medical journals my Father just happened to have lying around. Through quick browsing I learned that the long term affects of the drugs were going to do more damage than good.
Upon informing my family and doctors I would be ending the endless cycle of medication and doctors visits. I was met with closed minds, disbelief and a couple of dozen cases of “But, James.” Still, I went forward with my plans to take a more holistic approach. Seizures followed, but for once, I was taking responsibility for what was happening to me. I made changes to my diet and every day habits and before you knew it. I went from having up to three seizures a day to going years without them. No more Epilepsy Society, no more medication, no more visits to the doctor or even worse, the ER.
I’d feel remiss and somewhat irresponsible for not adding that my decisions and choices were mine and mine alone. Everyone’s case is different and no one in their right mind should refuse treatment. My story and road to recovery is mine alone. As painful as it might have been for me. I feel as if seeing something so jarring from a different viewpoint was an education, of sorts. I think it’s somewhat universal that seeing or experiencing both sides of the coin gives you better insight into the situation. I know it did for me.
In moving to Seattle, Washington from Jersey City, New Jersey. I had some fear that much of the toxicity that had become a part of my daily life for so long would follow me out west and cast a negative cloud on whatever changes I was hoping to undergo. Despite a rather grim diagnosis just months after arriving in the great northwest. I’ve manged to maintain a decidedly positive outlook. Now, by no means does change come easy. Everyone is different and their isn’t a one fix fits all remedy out there that I’ve seen or heard of.
Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I went through a number of emotions that included depression, anger and self blame.. Throughout, my one constant has been trying to define what truly makes me happy while sustaining a balance that can nourish and fulfill my soul. The more I’ve searched. The more I come to realize how much the little things play a major part. When listing my favorite things, music, photography and maintaining a level or creativity on a daily basis are the first things that come to mind. However, the more I search the more I’ve come to understand how much joy comes from sharing or preparing a meal with my wife, traveling and sending silly texts to my younger brother.
As we get older our priorities change as often do the things that attract our interest and show up on our shelves. The solitude and alone time I often seek and have learned to enjoy, only improve my ability to socialize. Training myself to limit the people I let into my life and not getting caught up with too much bullshit has helped tremendously in cutting down on stress, anxiety and many of the ingredients of my once toxic personality and lifestyle. While my posts do get there share of likes these days. I would love to see some of your strategies, techniques and practices for dealing with stressful situations and day to day anxiety.
Truth be told, if it weren’t for the constant call of family back east. I might just stay in Washington state a bit longer. Having lived in New York and New Jersey my entire life. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to move to and live out west. And while it’s long ago been decided that we’ll soon return to either New York or New Jersey. I can’t help but wonder, what if?
Though my wife has reiterated that we, indeed, will return to that area. She, perhaps unknowingly, sends me mixed singles when I catch her looking online at lofts and condos in Portland. OR. It’s something I’ve become used to and I fully realize that she is either playfully curious or just doing it to break my balls. Maybe that’s why I’ve learned to take it all in stride and play along. Maybe that’s why I didn’t even blink an eye when leaving Olympia today and I was asked the question, “If we decided to stay in Washington and the choice
came down to living in Tacoma or Olympia. Which would you choose?” Before responding, I took a few seconds to think, choose and properly explain my choice. As a husband, you get used to being asked questions all day. So being able to quickly answer one and have enough facts and data to back it up might make you seem a lot smarter. Though delaying your answer can help give you breathing room and slightly delay the next life shattering inquiry. Which in my case usually has something to do with my hatred of Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi or Aerosmith.
We were just finishing up our breakfast at a local Denny’s when I saw what would have made for a cool image. Not wanting to seem intrusive, I took a quick shot as we headed towards the exit with the intention of doing whatever editing was needed later. Just a couple of hours later as I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my wife. As I sat there enjoying my cup of joe and admiring a pretty cool capture. My wife burst my bubble by sharing a very similar image featured on the cover Seasick Steve’s “Can You Cook?” Though I had never heard of the artist or seen the relatively new album. I couldn’t help but feel that the rug had been pulled out from me I even wondered aloud if the picture was taken at the same location. And while I’ll stop short of posting the album cover. I’ll readily admit that my love of this image took a major nose dive after seeing something so incredibly similar. Oh well.
As I sit here in the coffee shop I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the combination of Seahawks fans stopping off for a drink before heading to Sunday’s big game and ever present population of homeless who use the shop for their bathroom visits and to charge up their electronic devises. One who took up four tables while doing so. Things I’ve come to both expect and accept as a coffee loving, coffee house freak. Having grown up in what could be considered as a suburb of New York City. (Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact and having lived in a section of Manhattan once known as Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve been used to feeling quite comfortable living within very varied surroundings. However, it wasn’t until I began traveling extensively, especially the country and farms. For it was on those trips and excursions that I found my true peace and happiness. So much so that, years after my move to New Jersey. I found myself opting for weekend trips to upstate towns and farms more then the possibility of hopping a train or a bus to the city. Having enjoyed both in my lifetime. I would never judge or criticize anyone for the lifestyle they choose. I’ve experienced both at different times in my life and both have provided countless rewards and lessons. I just feel that after a lifetime of city life. I might be opening up to something different. For now, my little weekend getaways are the perfect balance I’m looking for.
As I arrived at my Tuesday morning physical rehabilitation session. . I felt the warmth and rejuvenated spirits of my therapist and the staff I have become so used to seeing since my first visits back in July. It was rejuvenation one can only get from a much needed vacation, or in this case a three day weekend. While waiting for my session to begin, I asked some of the staffers about their extended weekend and what adventures they might have gotten into. Imagine my surprise when the responses each focused on staying home, relaxing and avoiding traffic. While I was expecting detailed stories of running marathons, camping and climbing the peaks of Kilimanjaro I could easily relate to the idea of staying local and just chilling out. For, not a week goes by when I’m not asked the world’s most important question “What do want to do this weekend?” Though intended or not, and I’m sure it’s not. That question challenges me to come up with the greatest idea ever known to man. A thinly veiled eight hour trip to Baltimore for crabs. An endless drive south to Portland or north to Vancouver. Or in this weekends version an endless drive to the mountains for a runny eggs and oily bacon breakfast. Followed by a tiring ride home and a stop to find out just how bad the food at Chick-fil-A can be. Maybe, one day soon, when the question “What do you want to do this weekend?” comes up. I’ll be able to say, “Absolutely nothing.” Until then, here’s to three hour drives to the country and the mountains. Follow your wanderlust. Wherever it may take you.
When agreeing or planning to attending any type of county or state fair. You have to open yourself to being exposed to some outlandish and outright redneck culture. Outdated and often unsafe carnival rides that feature soundtracks from the earl 80’s. D list cover bands who haven’t updated their sets since the Reagan. Deep fried everything and of course, the occasional Trump supporter or mullet fashioned family. It’s low brow entertainment in the third degree. And like it or not. Once you enter the fairgrounds, you are a consenting, willing participant and member of its subculture. For, it is only with that acceptance and embrace, that you will truly know the pleasure of eating bacon on a stick while crowding near a pen of newborn piglets to coo and look on in awe of their cuteness without even a minute sense of irony.
Over the last two weekends, we traveled to two separate fairs. One a County fair, the other, the mighty State fair. While I avoided the rides, one of which was featured on the news due to it breaking down. I took a bunch of pictures, had the worst BBQ in my entire life and chose not to seek the answer to the question, “WTF are elephant ears, anyway?”
So go, try the bacon wrapped hot dog, mount your five year old on an unwilling sheep and ride the wooden roller coaster and have a blast. Life is short and the rewards often outweigh the risks. Worst case scenario, you end up on the news when the fire department arrives to rescue you from a ride called “Satan’s Revenge”.