2017 Time to write again.

2017 Time to write again.

 

For most 2016 was to put it lightly was a pretty rough year.  I saw many friends hit some lows, struggle with themselves in relation to the world.  I spoke with friends who battled depression, loss, illness and many other things that made life tough.

For me, 2016 was a mix of both challenge and greatness but the great did not come until I began to open myself up.  I stopped updating my blog, in part because I got super busy and part because I was struggling with myself.  It is so hard to write when your mind wanders so much that you have no idea what to add to your blog.  I was struggling with my direction and struggling as I stepped away from comparison.  Comparison with other bloggers, photographers and others whom I deem successful.  I wanted to be like some of these people but needed to figure out how not to keep selling myself short. To accept talents that I play down, things about me that although drive some people crazy but others love immensely.  I am “just me”.

 

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Photo Courtesy of POP Photography. Maggie Manchester

You see, I also made myself way too busy, which only briefly distracted me from the fact that although I am a caring person I began to pull back.  The pull back came from stress, from loneliness and from rejection from some people.  I made myself busy to block people from getting too close. To me, my heart was too valuable to allow it to keep getting rejection from people who, now I realize were not worth the effort.  This lead to just being afraid of even trying for the ones who were worth it.  When you are afraid of people getting too close because you don’t think you are worth people’s time then you find a way to still be around people but keep them at a distance.  Because, I love people and the energy I gain from them.

I did surround myself with things I enjoyed doing like my photography, volunteering, reffing hockey and for a brief moment…writing.  I would say around May, maybe June I began to realize that by keeping people at a distance, I was hurting myself.  When you desire companionship, like most humans do, pulling away only increases the loneliness.

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The one thing I have yet to mention, is that since January, I began to feel a spattering of emotion again.  Now, you may be thinking, awesome dude, I know how much you were struggling with no feelings.  Ya, wrong, not awesome.  My first emotion to come back was anger.  I was not being as patient as I use to, this was affecting me at work and I wanted to be alone a lot more when I was on my own time.

I began taking forever to return messages, texts and calls.  This did lead to losing potential clients and made a few friends angry.  I know when stressed or anxious, I tend to pull back, to think and also to be sure I do not say something harmful to people.

As time went on, I knew something had to change, I needed to learn to deal and to make a few changes.

So, the first step was to finally book a trip I have wanted to do for years but made every excuse not to.  May 2016, on an impulse I booked a trip to Thailand then asked for the time off.  Risky ?  yes, there is a chance I could get the time declined.  Toss it into the universe, I thought.  My hunch was right and it worked.  This became life changing for me.

I had also signed up for another insane physical challenge as this is something I need to keep moving forward in my life.  At the urge of my friend Sarah, I signed up to do the Spartan Trifecta challenge.  Little did she or anyone know then, that this stretched my budget, I really couldn’t afford it but I also couldn’t afford not to.  I wanted to support her in her journey not knowing exactly how all of this would affect me.  Supporting her changed me.  These events over the summer and fall would also be life changing for me.  I still battled anxiety and even some self doubt going into these but it was, just like the Goofy challenge in January about remembering what one person can overcome when they stop doubting and start doing, even when scared.

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I have no idea what 2017 will bring, nor am I making resolutions.  I will, like always make some goals, sign up for a few things that challenge me and continue on the road that I started in 2017 which has help me build confidence, open my heart again and start to realize that even if the things I do drive people nuts, they make me who I am and why some people love me.

Writing has been a great outlet and I have so much to talk to about and for  the first time, I don’t care if people “Like” what I write because at the end of the day, my blog is for me to share my wins, my losses, my challenges and document my life and my continued journey since my Heart Attack.

I may have readers, I may not but that is ok.  Let it be what it will be as I go along.  Set goals and keep kicking ass. 

I cannot promise I will be perfect at updating this blog, I can promise, in the very least, I will try.

Cheers to a rockin 2017 my friends !

 

Mini

If Facebook life is perfect, our real ones are too right ? Part 1

Given how my day went today it is fitting that I wrote this post a few days ago and now have 2 parts to share with you all.    

Facebook fools us all into thinking others lives are perfect, some people even think my life is always smiles and fun times…..Let’s open that door  and start with……

 

The story behind my most liked Facebook photo ever.  

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When you are not sure where to start, start with what makes the most sense.  Authenticity.

Marathon Weekend 2016 in Disneyworld.  My greatest and most successful moment in my Heart Attack Recovery, finishing the Goofy Challenge.

Great moment, right ?  I will agree, in fact over 200 likes, 2400 views on blog Facebook page, a few shares and many positive encouraging comments.

Yay, yay for me right ?  Sure.  Let’s go with that.  I made it look easy of according to some.

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This is where most of us make a mistake on social media and I am not immune to it.

 Now, I have definitely shared highs and lows and some not so great life posts but most of my Facebook shows more of the great life moments than the struggles.  Authenticity of life is thrown out the window because who wants to show how they are struggling behind the photos?.

Comparison, it’s what we do but we shouldn’t.  I had one message from someone who, while congratulating me also told me seeing my photo collage made them feel inadequate because they could never do what I did.  My response, you can do it but I promise you it is not easy.

Let’s look behind the photo.  Rewind a bit shall we ?

January 2013, Walt Disney World.  I attempted my first Goofy Challenge.  I failed.  I got pulled at mile 22, put on a bus and taken to the finish where they gave me 2 medals which to this day, I still think I did not deserve.  Those medals stay in a box.  My first thought was embarrassment, shame.  I had spent time on social media sharing my excitement for the event upcoming.  How the hell do I now tell people that I was pulled from the course, not fast enough.?  I wanted to be alone, I was ashamed, hurt, crying, angry.  After some time, I shared my failure on Facebook.  That was so fucking hard, so Hard that I turned my phone off right after to avoid any ridicule or mean comments.  None came.  People were encouraging and supportive.  It took a long time to get over that failure.  2013 became one of my worst years overall.  Life sucks a lot sometimes.

 

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My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013

Continuing on.  Aug 2013, Hear Attack.  Starting over physically.  I knew exactly what goal I needed to set but I also knew I could not rush it.  So behind my successful photo in 2016, here is what you didn’t see.

  • My first time back on a treadmill where I couldn’t even walk for 8 minutes and had to accept that defeat.
  • The moments when I walked away from those who said, you shouldn’t do this, maybe you just can’t anymore.
  • Injuries that I never spoke of. Spraining my knee twice, slipped discs in my lower back and neck, angina attacks ( thankfully only a couple.)
  • My feet and legs that bruise and swell from running, every single time.
  • The days I awoke in so much physical pain I struggled to just get through the day knowing it would eventually go away.
  • The training miles. When you commit to a marathon you commit a lot of time, time you could spend with family and friends.
  • Sleepless nights where I would go to the gym just to get out of my head.
  • Did I mention daily pain?
  • The training runs that I had to stop because I was vomiting profusely
  • The moments of doubt, so many times I thought “maybe you shouldn’t go for this.” I lacked confidence.
  • The moments of reaching out to people who rejected my pleas to talk, some of whom I no longer speak with.
  • The moments when you are trying to share but others make it about them or compare.
  • Friendships that have suffered because I made myself so focused that I failed at maintaining some important relationships. Some may never recover.
  • The times I stopped training to help others but received not so much as a thank you which made me question my importance to others. Who thought I was worth their time, love.
  • Wanting it so bad, the “win” that I got into some stupid situations that could have cause more injury harm than success.
  • The many times I questioned my own self worth.

 

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Soooooo Close !

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKOUT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could on and on.  The point here is this.  Behind most every smiling photo or “doctored” Facebook status is someone’s pain, someone’s sacrifice, someone who is looking for a win so bad so that they don’t feel like the loser they think they are. 

Most importantly behind the success at the end may just be someone looking for authentic connection, a talk, a hug, someone just to let that person be themselves so that they can pull that mask off, be vulnerable.

Comparing ourselves to others social media life is unfair because it is rare that you will see the authenticity or vulnerability of someone and usually when we do, we cower and say nothing or think, gee that person is just looking for attention.

Comparison is something I see a lot of in the support groups I am a part of and daily on my personal FB page and it can be so sad to see how people beat themselves up outside of Facebook because thier life is not like someone else who posted a great experience or photo.

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One of my goals is to be way more authentic in the coming 6 months.  My one promise is this…..  I will not “out” anyone but I will share stories.  I will talk about what is actually happening and share the wins and the challenges because I believe now that there are no failures, just challenges.

 

 

I have failed or faced challenges leading up to finally completing my first Marathon and as of this writing, I have been challenged once again by having my first Did Not Finish on my second Marathon due to injury. I shared this on social media and although I got support, I know there are many who would not.  Being that vulnerable was scary but worth it.  Sometimes you just have to open up but also listen to those who may need you to step up for them.

Part 2 coming in a couple days.

 

Mini

 

Heart Attack Stories – Chad Miller- We All Bleed Red.

 

Today I introduce you to Chad Miller.  Survivor at age 39.

 

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had my heart attack on August 3rd, 2012 at the age of 39.  I am a runner who has completed many half and full marathons in my lifetime and was on a 7 mile run at the YMCA after work on a Friday night.  The run was an easy pace one and I was not pushing myself very hard at all.  About half way through my run, I noticed I was sweating more than normal and had pain in my right shoulder.  I am very in tune to my own body and thought both of those were odd. However, I dismissed them as nothing very important and continued running another mile or so.  About a mile later I noticed my pain was increasing greatly in my shoulder and I was short on breath.  I still did not think much of this, but realized that was “just one of those days” where my body was not in the mood for a run and decided to hit the showers.  I was planning on meeting a friend of mine to go see a movie and would get a longer run in later in the weekend instead.   During my shower I realized a few things:  1. I was still sweating heavily 2. I could not catch my breath 3.  My shoulder hurt like hell and was starting to move slightly into the right side of my chest.  Now I was concerned.  My pain was increasing, but I was far from miserable.  I hopped in my car and decided to head toward the theater for the movie. Along the way my pain vastly started to increase.  Something was wrong. Very wrong.  My mind started running the words heart attack in it.  Surely that was not what was happening.  I was a fit, healthy young runner who ate a pretty clean diet.  I stopped at a convenience store and bought a four pack of Bayer aspirin. I chewed them up and drove myself to the ER.

 

Something was wrong, but I was not sure what it was.  When I got the ER I was in pretty bad shape.  I was light headed, sweating and my pain was very uncomfortable. It was6:30 on a Friday and for some reason the waiting room was already packed full with people needing to see a doctor.  The gal told me to take a seat and wait for my name to be called.  I firmly said “No!”.  I am in pain, something is very wrong, the pain is now in my chest and I need to be seen now.  The gal just stared at me clueless. However, another nurse was walking by, heard what I said and immediately took me into the ER.  I was hooked up to an EKG, was told I was having a heart attack and wheeled into another room to be prepped for surgery.  All hell broke loose in the prep room. I had 15+ doctors, nurses and others giving me their full attention. I was stripped naked, needles were inserted my arms, was given pills to swallow, pills to chew up and one gal even began shaving my groin area.  I was asked endless questions mostly dealing with when did I first notice the symptoms.  I can’t say my memory of all of this was the best. I was in shock.  How on earth was this happening to me?  I have friends that eat buckets of friend chicken nightly that have never had a heart attack.  Why is this happening to me?  Surgery was almost a complete blur. I was lucky that a heart doctor was on duty and free within 10 minutes of getting to the ER.  I remember being packed with ice up and down my body.  The surgery was very brief, or at least that’s how I remember it. One stent was put into my left ventricle.  I had just survived the widow maker (with a 93% death rate within the first hour) I was told.

 

I was in the hospital the next several days and there was nothing very remarkable about this time.  My story is probably no different than anybody elses while in the hospital. I was sad, mad, confused, happy to be alive, embarrassed and about any other emotion I could have.   The time between my first symptom while running to surgery was right at one hour we later calculated.  The doctor on call that weekend was a real downer of a guy. He told me I likely had extensive damage and my entire life would now be different. He also said I would never run again.   Needless to say, I was absolutely terrified of everything he told me.

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I spent my days surfing the internet on heart attacks and eventually found the Heart Attack Survivors group that weekend.  I am one of the originals in there. I believe I was like the 55th person to join in the group that is now over 1500 people.  Back in those days, the group was small and we all really got to know each other very well.  My story of being a young athlete with a heart attack was new to the group.  I asked dozens and was also asked dozens of questions.  The group was awesome and I lived on that message board group for several months to follow. 

 

I met with the surgeon who put the stent in a week after my heart attack.  I had spent the last week of my life being convinced I was greatly damaged based on conversations with the doctor on call that weekend.  My surgeon (a true heart doctor cardiologist) assured me that was all incorrect.  He said my heart attack had been a mild one.  I had very minimal plaque in my heart and my heart attack was caused by a small fatty deposit rupture. His exact words were “your heart was kind of a fluke”,  He said I would need testing to confirm it, but he expected no permanent damage.  He also said it was his opinion that it would be unlikely I would have another heart attack until I was much older.  I later did a number of tests EKG, Echocardiogram, stress test etc to confirm that was all correct.  I have an ejection fraction rate of 60 and ended up with no damage at all from my heart attack. 

 

All the news I received after my heart attack was good news. However, for the next 2-3 months I went into true depression.  I cried almost constantly and convinced myself I was going to die soon and would never see my daughters grow up.  Every minor twinge of pain in my body had me convinced I was going to have another heart attack.  I went to cardio rehab and I was the youngest person there by 30+ years. It was not uncommon for me to cry while walking on the treadmill at rehab.  Physically I was fine, but mentally I was crumbling.  Looking back, I should have been on antidepressants during this stretch probably.  Then one night I watched my favorite movie of all time Shawshank Redemption for like the 50th time again.  The phrase “get busy living or get busy dying” stuck in my head the next few days. What the hell was wrong with me?  I was wasting my life away and had been given a second chance at life. To put it simply,  I was wasting my second chance God had given me.  

Suddenly I was embarrassed with my behavior.  It was time to get my shit together again.  I was almost done with cardio rehab and went in the next day and announced I was running that day on the treadmill after they had already hooked me up to the sensors for my walk on the treadmill.  The nurses looked at my panicked and told me the hospital does not allow running for cardio rehab patients. I ignored them and started cranking up the speed. It was time to go for a one mile run.   I will admit I was freaking terrified during that run.  The nurses ran off to get a doctor and the doctor and nurses all watched a bunch of monitors feeding information from the sensors hooked up to me during that mile.  I took a relaxed pace, but I ran and they could not do a thing in the world to stop me.   At the end of my mile they said all was good and I was now graduated from rehab.  I expected them to be mad, but they laughed and said I was now the first person in the hospitals history to run while in cardio rehab. 

My doctor had already given me the all clear to run again and off I went in the weeks that followed. .  For the next week I did several 1 milers.  The following week I did 1.5 milers. I soon ran a 5k. Shortly after I ran a 10k. And then 163 days after my heart attack,  I finished a half marathon.  I have finished a pile of half marathons since my heart attack, but am not longer sure I have the desire to do a full again. Maybe someday.   

From Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher

Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher ( Goofy Challenge Finisher)

39.3 MIles ( 63.25 Kms) , 2 Days, 4 Theme Parks.  3 Medals. 1 Moment of RAW Emotion.  

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His name is Mark.  At age 38 , he is now a Marathon Finisher.  It did not come without struggle, committment and hard work.

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Friends are a big part of what makes this whole experience so special ! Left to Right: Diane, Tracy, Cynthia, Nicki !

One week prior to his 36 birthday he suffered and survived a Heart Attack.  Four days later he went into Cardiac Arrest during surgery to place 2 stents in his heart.  Only one was placed due to this event.  He continues to live with another 70 % blockage in the main artery to his heart but this doesn’t stop him from living and trying to reach new limits.

For the next 2 years and 5 months he went through Cardiac Rehab, made a few lifestyle changes, lost 30 lbs and got back to one of his passions.  Running.  Mark will admit that none of it was easy and there were some days of having to push beyond what he thought he was capable of.

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On January 10th, 2016 in the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, Mark became an official Marathon Runner and Finisher.  Equally as important he completed the Goofy Challenge which requires a runner to do a Half Marathon (13.1 Miles or 22 Kms.) the day before.  Some would call this crazy, I guess that is why they call it Goofy.

In 2013 he attempted this same challenge and did not finish.  Due to pacing requirements he just wasn’t fast enough to avoid being swept off the course.  Some people say they were closing things early because of extreme heat and humidity.  “ It doesn’t matter the circumstance, I just was not fast enough and that race, unknown to me would set the tone for my year.  I failed but knew I would try again.  I just didn’t think it would take me three years to get back here to do it.”

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All Business !

 

On his Marathon Finish Mark said “This was by far one of my hardest and most proud moments in life.  I cried like a baby knowing I was going to finish a Marathon.  I saw my friend Jennifer, a woman who I respect, admire and love for how encouraging and supportive she has been. I believe around Mile 24.

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Jenn and I ! I love this woman, such an amazing friend !

She gave me some beer.  Yes I drank a beer and it tasted like heaven.  Shortly after I hugged her and went on my way, tears began to fall. “

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The course was not without it’s challenges.  From mile 19-20  he had to fully walk because his heart rate was not recovering as quickly as he had hoped.  It is the only point in the race where he thought that he may have to pull himself as his heart rate seemed to not dip back below 125 beats per minute on rest moments.  Thankfully his heart rate eventually went down enough to keep going on.  “6.2 miles to go, it became harder and I began run/ walk more frequently.”

To run a Marathon requires commitment, a commitment that most won’t give.  For the last 9 months he trained while most were sleeping.  Midnight and 2 am runs, sometimes he’d go earlier but that was rare. “Some people totally understood and others not so much.”  Opinions began to not matter to me. This was not about other people, it  was all about me.  I was dedicated to finishing, so dedicated that I eventually stopped wearing my Fitbit on those late night runs.  I kinda wanted to ensure I was challenging no one but myself. I was obsessed to say the least.”

The race started around 5:30 am with the first wave of runners set to go.  Mark was in Corral M.  4 corrals up from the last, he knew he had to go hard in the beginning as to not fall behind and risk being swept.  By the time it was his turn to cross the start line, the time was closer to 6:20 am.

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Corral M, I’ve got this !

Off went the fireworks and  it was now time to put all that training to the test.  He was nervous but not afraid, strong , focused but most importantly no matter the result, prepared to ensure he still had fun.  “ I stopped for a few photos with people who had funny signs, looked on in envy of those who had time to stop to take photos with characters but still felt like a kid seeing the Disney characters on the course. I did eventually get my chance at a couple of character photos but that reward would wait until I knew I was going to finish the race.”

The first 13 Miles seemed to be the easiest according to Mark.  13 miles was a distance he was use to as he had run half marathons in the last but only once since his Heart Attack.   As he continued he did experience some knee pain but was able to overcome that by stopping at Medical tents and utilizing bio freeze which numbs the area.  He credits that with allowing him to focus on the race and not the pain.

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The Half Marathon Portion on Saturday Jan 9th as a part of the Goofy Challenge. 66 kms in 2 days 🙂

As the remaining miles went by it seemed like forever, he began to run/ walk more frequently but still maintain a pace that was healthy and that would help him succeed.

How did you feel when you knew you were at the point where you absolutely knew you were safe and were going to finish the race without the fear of being swept ? 

“  That moment is when I got through the ESPN zone, the most boring part of the course.  I left ESPN and shortly encountered Mile 22.  The Mile in which I was swept in 2013,  I saw the buses  that were parked there for those who would not finish this race sometime later.  I gave those buses the two middle fingers, smiled and kept going.  It was such a good feeling to know that I was now safe and the race was now mine to finish.

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At Mile 26. The time is from the official start time. My final Time was 6hrs 47 min, 13 seconds.

 

To finish this story, I will now leave third person and talk as myself. 

As I entered Hollywood Studios my pace slowed, was is my sense of security ?  No, I was tired and wanted to ensure a strong finish.  They say with hard work comes reward.  What was my reward before finishing?  I worked so hard and skipped some character stops that I would have loved to do.  Then I saw Boo from Monsters Inc.  I had to stop for this photo, at least one, for me.  Shortly after  I saw the Genie from Aladdin outside the boardwalk and I was ecstatic that I could have my photo taken with him.  There is a quote in Aladdin that I love . “ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.”  This sums up how I felt crossing the finish line.

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Boo and the Genie !

 

I came running around that 26 mile marker and shortly saw that finish line in front of me.  I wanted to stop and admire what was before me but I could not, I knew I had to keep going.  As I got closer I looked into many eyes of those cheering on the runners.  I was bawling like a baby, I could not contain my tears, I forgot what it was like to actually feel emotion until that moment.  My eyes were leaking !!

Just before I reached the finish all I can remember was pushing my arms out to my side in excitement and bringing them back into my body, almost flexing and releasing every emotion I had in me.  Lucky for me the photographers caught that moment.  Here I was, after almost losing my life a couple years before, accomplishing the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life.  I smiled, received my Marathon Medal, hugged the volunteer and almost couldn’t let go.  I am pretty sure her shoulder is still soaked from my tears.

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ALL OF THE FEELS !! MY EYES ARE LEAKING !

Jan 10, 2016, I became a Marathoner.  I finished in 6 hrs, 47 minutes and 13 seconds.  I was not fast but I never gave up.  The training for this race began from the moment I stepped back on a treadmill 6 weeks after my heart attack. 

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“If you can Dream It, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

That feeling of finishing was worth all of the late nights,  hard work, blood, pain and listening to those who told me if I trusted them, then they would get me back as close as they could to who I was before.  That day I left it all out there and succeeded.

If anyone tells me they can’t do something, or that I can’t do something they have said it to the wrong person.  Because I will show them what I can do, what they can do….. IF,  they believe.

I may not have what others have in terms of physical capabilities but it’s not about that, it’s about my will power.  I am proud of what I accomplished but I will never settle.  I will always succeed and earn every moment of life.  I am still not a finished product, I am striving each day to always be better than I was the day before.  In my Heart I do not fear, I love as much as I can and am free.

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“ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.” – Genie from Aladdin.

 

Mini.

10 ways a Heart Attack at age 35 changed me.

When thinking about the last 2 plus years since my heart attack, I cannot help but run through the ways I have changed.

My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Ya, it is totally a cliché, a book has been written and many people will say they don’t sweat the small stuff.  I don’t anymore.  It is funny to think of the things that use to get to me or that I would worry about.  Now, most times my first thought is,  “ Is this worth worrying about or spending my time and energy on.”  Stress, my friends is something I try so hard to avoid.  The downside to this is that I become impatient with those who try to make small issues bigger than they are.  It does piss people off or I come across as not really caring.  In some situations, I really don’t.  Nowadays, there are things that I do procrastinate on because things can wait and it is not worth the stress and let’s be honest here, I try to have more fun.

 

  1. I prefer to be alone.

Ask anyone who’s known me a long time and they will tell you I always had to be around other people.  This use to be how I got my energy, my zest for life. Mini loves people !  Post Heart Attack, I find in many social situations I get anxious or very awkward and have to leave early.  This is why I never car pool with anyone.  I need my escape.  I spend more hours alone than I think most realize.  I use this time to read more, work on many of my projects and try to sort through my head.  I find it easier to be alone than to be in large groups.  I know I have become socially awkward and I am ok with that.  Being alone allows me to not put myself in an awkward situation or worry about upsetting someone.

 

  1. I have a new normal.

This took me a long time to accept.  I am still figuring out what certain limits are but I accept I am not who I was.  I like who I am now.  So who am I now ?  That’s for another post.  With my new normal, I have had to find new ways to do things I enjoy, accept restrictions and learn which lines I can push. Example, I will never run as fast as I use to but I can run.  I may accept the new normal but I will NEVER give up trying to succeed at what I can.

 

  1. I dream bigger.

I have many big dreams.  Most are of the humanitarian and Heart Disease awareness type.  I have so many dreams I hope to share and work towards in 2016.  Some are way out in left field but I would rather put those dreams out there and get laughed at than keep them to myself like I use to.   There is one dream I once had that I never made my move on now someone else made it famous.  Lesson Learned. So, I may never become famous for a dream I pursue but I really hope one of them leads to creating the life I desire.

 

  1. I actually like myself.

Most of this could be in another post but here is a start.  From 2010 on I actually had a strong dislike of who I was and I had almost zero confidence in myself.  I got good at putting on a show.

I like me J   I am awkward, I am social, I am fun,  I am smart in different ways, I am a good looking guy, creative, determined, flirty, playful, goofy.  I am uniquely and imperfectly ,me.  I am not for everyone but I do like who I am.  This doesn’t mean I don’t have some insecurities but I am more confident than I have ever been.

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  1. Experiences instead of Things.

I have always had a hard time buying things for myself.  Even when I bought my first DSLR Camera I was anxious.  Over the last 2 years  I have focused more on spending my money and time on experiences, dinners with friends, coffees.  My time is valuable.  I would prefer memories with my friends and family than something disposable.  It may be morbid but I want to think that when my time comes and I am 6 feet under that I leave those I care about with good, fun and maybe slightly wild memories of “Mini.”  No one will remember how many things I owned.  After my Heart Attack I questioned how people would remember me.

 

  1. Now I lay me down to sleep.

It is no secret that my sleeping patterns are messed.  Sometimes I go more than 24 hours without sleep, sometimes I nap an hour here and there just to function.  I have no idea how I function most days to be honest.  The thought of not waking up consumes my brain before bed almost  nightly.  I want so bad not to think this way but living with heart disease I am aware of what could happen.  PTSD is a bitch and that is one way it gets me.  Every night I go to bed wondering if the day I had was a good one, did I do something positive?  Did I make at least one person smile ?  Did I smile ?  Did I try to make a difference in this world ?

If I ever should die and not awake when the sun rises, I just hope the day before was a good one.

 

  1. I want Love but I am Guarded.

It is no secret that I have been single for a long time.  No girlfriend in almost 5 years, yep, you read that right, 5 years.  I have dated but can’t seem to keep anyone interested long enough, combine that with the fact I keep myself busy.  Just like most everyone, I have been hurt before but that is NOT why I am guarded.  I am guarded because I want simply to be accepted for me but sharing my health issues has scared some females away.  Can’t blame them because there are always things we as people can and cannot live with when it comes to a partner.  I am an amazing man as soon as someone can see beyond both mine and their imperfections.  I know I need to be a little more open with heart but sometimes it is so damn hard.

 

  1. Random Acts of Kindness.

I give more than most people realize.  I am not one to brag nor share every little Random Act of Kindness I do because I feel that defeats the purpose.  One per week, I do something.  Whether it is buying a coffee for someone, paying for their gas, leaving a random note or simply giving a homeless person a $10 or $20 bill.  I do something.  I want to feel like I have made a difference, even if for only a moment.

 

  1. I care but it sometimes doesn’t come out that way and it sucks.

If you have read this far, then you now get  a HUGE TRUTH.  I say I Love You more than I ever did before and tell people I care as often as I can.  So what is the problem?  I have been told what I say doesn’t seem portrayed that way.  I have a hard time comprehending this.  For example:  There was a woman I liked, I tried to show her but even she said she was not sure, that it didn’t seem that way.  I tried so hard but I just couldn’t get what I was actually feeling outward by action or expression I guess.

I have PTSD, I struggle with understanding emotion and even portraying  certain emotion.  If you are emotional in front of me, like crying or upset, my brain is trying to empathize and understand but I just can’t ever seem to figure it out.  It makes me uncomfortable in the situation and I am trying to think of a way out of that moment.  It’s not that I do not care, it is that I just can’t comprehend why you are upset or even what I am suppose to do.  It is not easy to live with and it keeps me up at night.  I use to be a very empathetic and understanding human and I kinda miss that guy.

So, if you and I are in a situation like above and my face goes red or I slowly distance myself from you or I constantly look away…… please know I care, I just don’t know what to do, guide me or let me escape.

The Selfie Project- Part 1

For one year I took a photo of myself once per day.  I only missed 3 days.

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As a Photographer I ask people to stand in front of my lens and for brief moments show themselves as natural as possible in order to “get the best shot.”  Many times as these people are getting ready to pose for the camera I hear about their insecurities, physical insecurities.  It is my job to make them comfortable.

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That last sentence is why I did the photo a day project.  If I am to make people comfortable with their insecurities I had to become comfortable with mine.   I needed to see myself beyond my thoughts about my physical imperfections.  I have always disliked seeing myself in photos.

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I actually had larger plans with these photos.  I wanted to be super creative and do fun shots but after the first few I quickly realized that me in raw, authentic form is what was needed to make this work.  I did my best to tell a story from my day and not all the days were exciting or funny.  In fact most days were completely uneventful, some tough, some quite fun.

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In the beginning it was easy.  Smile, take photo, add the date, the story or blurb and post to Facebook.  As the weeks passed it became harder because I began to do the things I had sometimes read about.  Instead of taking one photo then posting, I began to take multiple.  I tried to find the best angle, hide the bags under my eyes maybe limit my double chin.  I would waiver back and forth and some days I would only take the single shot.

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Side note:  Before I began this project I was perfectly happy with my appearance, my smile and who I was.

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It was when I began taking multiple photos before posting the perfect shot that I began picking apart my appearance.  I smiled everyday in each shot except I think 2.  Those 2 were days I was exhausted, too exhausted to even smile.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy those days, just tired. 

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What did I not like ?  My sometimes lazy eye, the bags under my eyes, my scar under my left eye, the cyst I have under my jaw or how exhausted I looked somedays. I hated when I could see how dry my skin was on certain days or the scars I have from small facial lacerations.  I hated that no one would really see what was going on behind my eyes, I hated even more that I did not have the courage to talk about it.   I started to not be comfortable with how I looked.  This is not acceptable.  We are all imperfect and yet we compare ourselves to what we think may be perfection.

 

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The smiles.  Oh the smiles.  The good and the tough days I still smiled in the photos.  Why ?  That is a simple answer.  Everyday, no matter the joys, challenges or feelings of loneliness, I had a reason to smile.  The reasons differed but each day I could smile.  The biggest reason to smile is that I was given each new day whether I deserved it or not.  I was able to smile because each day I was trying to be better a better person than the day before.  Some days I succeeded, some I failed. But I smiled.

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So what did I learn?  So, so much my friends.  Good, Bad and Ugly.  I could probably write a small novel about my lessons and leanings.

 

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I learned just how much one person can really beat themselves up for thier own perceived flaws and how outwardly we can show people how much we like ourselves, our appearance and our lives but inside we question those same things.

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I learned just how easy it is to manipulate our social media presence. 

Through photos, stories and daily posts that our friends see and read we can make our lives seem so damn amazing, meanwhile, the reality is that many of us are lost and our lives are not as amazing as they appear. 

Why would we show our real and Facebook friends anything other than perfection online ?   There were only a few who were able to notice my less authentic days through my photos.

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I learned that it is ok to be authentic. Yes at times I was criticized but who cares, I was me trying to be me.

 

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Authenticity. 

I did my best not to allow myself to create a perfect presence in these photos but I also bet very few people would really know the difference between my authentic smile and the one I forced on the harder days.  With each story that accompanied the photo I shared what I was doing, where I was ( sometimes) and a few of who I was with.  I was as authentic as I could be.

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The Likes. 

After taking time to review each photo before writing this it was clear to see it was almost the same people liking my photos each time.  I found at times I loved getting a lot of likes, it was rush and I actually felt maybe this wasn’t such a bad project.  There is a whole other piece to the likes that I will share in another post.

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Unexpected Impacts. 

Beyond the obvious likes and comments that regularly happened something else pretty awesome happened.  Something that I was unaware of until the photos stopped.  There were people who never liked a single photo, who didn’t comment once but made me aware of how much they appreciated and enjoyed seeing my photos daily.  One person going as far to say that seeing me smile each day helped them get through some of their harder days.  There is more to that story and I will be sharing in another post.  Whether you know it or not, people are watching even when you think no one is.  You can impact someone by just being you.

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People will mock you. 

People will write unpleasant messages, people will block and remove you from their online presence. People will even post almost daily, in a mocking way and not explain in a clear manner why it was important for them to take that 20 seconds to post under your photo.  They didn’t seem to see how it was disrespectful and wrong Even with the mocking posts I still saw true friends who stuck up for me.  Good from the bad right ?

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This project challenged me, made me happy and at times made me dislike myself but in the end I own every part of it and what it took to actually complete it.  It taught me that I need to keep doing odd stuff that people might find odd or intriguing because it gets me away from my comfort zone. 

In the end I have to say this.  I can’t promise I will never look at a photo of myself and be slightly insecure but I can promise that I will see beauty in my smile and what it can do, if even for a moment in mine or someone else’s life.

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HAPPY 2 YEAR HEARTAVERSARY TO ME !

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August 11, 2015.  This day,  I celebrated  me and 2 years of life post heart attack.  I wanted to be alone this day because it is my day, for me.

So how do I share a day so personal to me ? A day in which I think about the previous year and my growth.  I also begin to think about how I envision the coming year.

So what did I do ?

I started this day by visiting the beach court where I had my Heart Attack.  I sat alone for a while in thought….surrounded by kids playing at a day camp around me.  I smiled as these kids played tag, threw dodgeballs at each other and had sand fights.  Then it came to me…..sorta.  Seeing all of this around me gave me a Happy Heart 🙂

Now, before I continue…..I used the hastag #happyheart for the day but #happyheart is not my original idea.  For this, I give credit to my heart sister Sarah Klena from http://heartattackat31.blogspot.ca/.  She created T shirts this year to raise money for American Heart Association.  Ultimately that hashtag was created by her and I will give credit where it is due.  I think about #happyheart a lot since Sarah first brought it forward.

So, after I took the photo below, I posted it to Facebook and asked my friends to share with me their stories that made gave them a #happyheart.  I would read these at the end of my day when I returned to social media.

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Now, I will get back to this in a moment.

My Heataversary is like my New Years minus any drinking and kissing someone at midnight ( unless someone wants to join me in a kiss. )

The rest of my day was driving through Southern Alberta and stopping to take in the scenery.  I wanted badly to just be alone.  Alone to be with my thoughts and to go about my day with only having to worry about where or what I would do next.  There was no direct plan other than to drive and take photos.

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The photos above are from various points along the route I drove and places I stopped. Truth is, I did not think much for the first half the drive, I simply took in the scenery.  Whether it was the vast fields, mountains in the distance or the various Horses, Sheep and Cows along the way.  It was completely breathtaking and relaxing.

Then came the drive home and although earlier I had thought about the direction I hope to go in the coming year, another thoughts came to me.

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You see, I have definitely grown in the last 24 months and come so far but one thing occurred to me.  I still play things too safe and don’t take as many risks as maybe I should.  I still play it safe. So then my mind wandered as to why.

The answer is not as simple as I thought.  I thought I have been taking more chances the last 2 years and yes I have taken a couple BUT I still played it safe by not pushing myself to reach beyond what I think are my limitations and in matters of the heart.  I won’t go into too much detail as this is a little personal for now but I will say this……

I NEED TO STOP BEING SO AFRAID OF NOT BEING QUITE GOOD ENOUGH.

I NEED TO MAKE A MOVE

I NEED TO TAKE HARD STEPS

I NEED TO TRY EVEN MORE

I NEED TO BE OK WITH MAKING MISTAKES

BECAUSE ALL OF THIS MEANS……I AM BEATING MY OWN FEARS.

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The drive home passed quickly with no stops for photos and although I was deep in thought, I was actually happy.  Happy because, if you remember at the beginning of this post I said I wanted to be alone.

Somewhere along that highway I realized I wanted to be with friends, I really wanted to be around people to end my day.  Lucky for me, my team had a dodgeball game that night.  I had planned to skip the game to be alone, I honestly did not want people to see me at all.  I am thankful that I changed my mind.

That game was our first win of the season, it was a fun game and I felt completely in my element being with people I love being around, playing a sport I love.  Playing the sport in which I was playing the day my heart attack occurred.  Kinda like slaying the demon in my head.

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After the game we were invited to a our team mate Jesse’s place for a BBQ and a Beer.  I had declined this invite a few times actually but eventually decided to go.  BEST DECISION !

Ending my day with these amazing people was the perfect ending to a great day.  A day of celebration, reflection and just being one with myself, nature and in the end, my friends.

I am thankful for life, thankful for growth and I am thankful I get another shot at living every single day.

2 Years later I am thankful for my Heart Attack because it was my eye opener and my life line.

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Celebrate life and make someone happy, make them smile because as a quote I read the other day said.

“If you have the power to make someone happy, do it.  The world needs more of that. “

–Don’t know the author.-

Happy Heartaversary to me 🙂   Here is to many more !!

My First Tattoo :) 38 by 38

Fire and Ice Heart- The Heart represents the soul; who someone truly is.  The Fire represents passion, verve, emotion.  The Ice represents logic, confidence, calm. The two together fuse into a combo much stronger than their individual parts.  Synergy.

 This synergy makes up a large of the soul, hence the Heart.

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I have always wanted a tattoo and like most people ( definitely not all)  I wanted something that was “ME”.  So, 37 years of age, it finally happens.  I mean, granted it took a life changing event, recovery and thinking about my own traits.

Oh and I can’t forget… 2 missed appointments and months of sneding random messages of what I was looking for to my artist.

So ummm obviously the tattoo was going to be Heart related considering I had a little heart misfunction almost 2 years ago…..holy crap…2 years !!

The final result is a Fire and Ice Heart described meaning above.  Each part of the description describes me or traits I wish I had or had previously possessed.

She is not complete yet but I am so proud of this tattoo.  I love it more than I can express.  It is a reminder of how far I have come, how far I will go, to never give up.  I love showing it off every chance I get.

My Artist.  I cannot say enough about this woman.  She has patience like no other, I mean she had to deal with me right ?

Her name: Ashla Bee,  she works at Human Kanvas in Airdrie, Alberta.

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I have known this fantastic, talented  woman for close to 10 years. I we worked at the same place and even starred in commercials when we were younger for that company.

There was no doubt in my mind that she was the one who I would ask to take on my tattoo.  I loved seeing her artwork on Facebook and seeing how much she loves what she does.  I knew she would  listen to my craziness and add a little touch of “her” to the design.

Thank you Ashla for making this man so proud to wear your art, for making the experience a lot of fun and for being patient with me 🙂

 

MINI

 

 

1st Half Marathon Post Heart Attack- What an experience !

My First Half Marathon Post Heart Attack !

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It took me a while to write this.  I had to sort through all my thoughts on this race.

I trained hard, I was dedicated, I pushed when I wanted to give up, kept going to the gym even when I didn’t feel like it.  Every moment leading up to the race was a challenge.  I was as ready as I was going to be.  My mind, my body felt strong.

Now, before I dive into this further please understand I am very proud of finishing the race and no one can take that away from me.  The pride and the finish.

I spent time before the race meeting friends, taking photos and having my photo taken many times thanks to people loving my race shirt ! The Shirt….that is for another post.

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To say I was nervous would be the biggest understatement of the day. 

I was ready to take this race and make it mine.  In my training I had felt amazing, was running an 11:45 min/mile.  I only had a few blips while training but worked through it smartly.

Smart.  That here is the key word my friends.  I trained not for speed, I trained to be smart, healthy and to ensure I was having fun.  Trained not to think too much about my heart attack and what could go wrong.  I felt so amazing !

Then came race day.  Up at the crack of crazy ( 3am) for a start time of 7:00 am.  I never publicly stated I had a goal but in my head I wanted to finish in 2:25.  That is what I trained for.

I won’t detail every kilometre, I promise. 

The course was amazing, flat, scenic.  The weather was cool at the start and quite warm as the race progressed.  The first kilometre and a half I ran with my friend Susan but realized her 9 min per mile pace was too much for me and out of my training zone.  I let her go ahead because I did not want her to stay behind for me.  I really wanted to do the whole race with her but realized she was a lot faster than I was.  Respect the pace, respect the distance is exactly what was going through my head.

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The first 5 KM I felt amazing, was matching my 12 min/ mile pace and just before the 5 km mark I stopped to see my friend Danielle who was waiting kindly for me by the Starbucks in Bridgeland.  It was so good to see my friend Danielle on the course, it gives you a little boost to keep pushing forward.  I took a photo with her and off I went.

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Danielle and I 🙂

 

As I ran back across Memorial Drive I was loving the race having fun with other runners and was still keeping a 12 min mile but  that was not to last much longer.

It was slightly before reaching 17th avenue that a little fatigue had started to set in.  This was between kilometre 8 and 9.   

17th Avenue.  What do I say about this part of the course ? It was definitely the worst part of the entire course.  It was 2.5 km of uneven roads, pot holes and a narrowing of the course.  Pedestrians crossed at a few points from the sides of the street.  Just before Kilometre 10 is when my race started to go downhill.

I went to pass 3 runners who were running side by side by side.  As I cut to the right I hit a dip in the road hard, twisted my knee, tried to brace myself from falling right over ( BIG MISTAKE !).  It took about another KM before I started feeling immense pain.  Now in theory this could have absolutely ruined my race but something great came out of it.  The Injury?  A Sprained Knee which I am still battling the pain of a few weeks later.

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As I went to walk to the side once the pain started, I bumped into a young woman, apologized and we laughed.  This woman would be one of 2 that I ran/ walked the rest of the race with.  Her name was Lindsay.  The other girl was Shona.

The rest of the race we paced each other, taking walk breaks and although I admitted being in pain, I downplayed it.  I remember at one point,  Shona had said I was the reason she was running and staying in it.  That was awesome to hear and yes, it motivated my ass to keep going.

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318778_199516843_XLargeMy pace slowed to between 14-16 minutes per mile.  There were far more walk breaks than I had hoped for but I knew pushing harder would have made this injury worse.  So I did what I seem to do best in hard situations.  

I laughed.  I danced.  I chatted with those around me.  I posed as I ran past cameras.  I hugged a random person.  I pretended to be Superman, only, I was missing my Lois Lane.  My Knee was my race kryptonite but it would not wreck my spirit.  I kept repeating encouragement to my run mates as they did with me. This race was still mine.

 

The final kilometre was upon us and yes I continued to run/walk right up until the final corner where I ran, in tons of frickin pain but I ran.  That finish line looked so close and yet so far away.  The three of us kinda split at the end.  I would run into Lindsay again at Bag Check and a few days later on Instragram.

Crossing the finish line.  OH. MY. GOD.  So much awesome that it is hard to put into words.

I Crossed, I Cried ( that is again  for another post), crouched to my knees after crossing, got up and walked up to… and this is where it gets really cool.

 Her name is Sarah Lynn Stephens.  The day before the race she saw me at the packet pick up and told me I would finish and do amazing. Little did I know til later that the girl I got my medal from, who’s shoulder I cried on was the same girl who had encouraged me before the race.  A Girl who’s sister is actually on one of my Dodgeball teams.  Small World.  318778_199763060_XLarge

Seriously such an awesome finish, I would not have changed a thing.

The Race was fun, tough, but fun.  My Heart felt amazing, not once was I worried about my heart. It was my heart that got me through to the finish.  My body was up to the task at hand and I had fun for the entire 21.1 km.  I made a couple new friends, experienced brief emotion ( again a different post), finished a race and became very proud of what I accomplished even if it wasn’t the goal time I had hoped. 

 

 

 

So what else is there to say?

 

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When you set out to accomplish a goal, No matter how hard you train, how prepared you are…..Sometimes things don’t go as you had hoped or planned.  Sometimes we search and try for one thing but discover another.  There is no reason to be disappointed if you don’t get your time or PR and complete your goal.  Use it to move forward but don’t beat yourself up, be proud of what you did accomplish and look for what made the experience great. 

 

For me, it was two women who made me laugh, crossing the finish line, crying on the shoulder of someone who said they were proud of me and in the end……Kicking Heart Disease’s Ass for yet another day.

-MINI-

 

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7 DAYS

7 Days from now I will run my first Half Marathon Post Heart Attack.

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7 Days from now I will put my training and hard work to the test.

7 Days from now, I will be 100% focused.

7 Days from now I will equipped and prepared.

7 Days from now I will face fear head on.

7 Days from now I will beat my fear.

7 Days from now I will take the first step to more races.

7 Days from now I will encourage others as I run.

7 Days from now I will have fun.

7 Days from now I will dance on the course.

7 Days from now I will feel physical pain.

7 Days from now I will beat that pain.

7 Days from now I will feel joy.

7 days from now I will embrace that joy.

7 days from now I will run, walk, crawl if I have to.

7 days from now I will finish the race, even if it’s in last place.

7 Days from now…..Simply….I WILL.

 

Mini.

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