God is in the Silence

When I lived in the nursing home, night was a very hard time for me.  I was alone.  Unlike the hospital, where nurses and aides came into my room at all hours of the day, in the nursing home I was not visited from 11 PM until 6 AM, unless I called for them.  I slept very little during the 2+ months I stayed at Manor Care.  The pain allowed me only short periods of sleep before it would wake me.  This meant that I was up for half the night trying to find my way back to sleep.  During the day, family and friends were with me. Therapy gave me something to do.  Having people around helped to keep my pain-numbed mind occupied.  At night I did not have such comfort.  My family and friends knew this and would sometimes stay by my bedside until mid-night or later, leaving when I would fall asleep.   I would awake 2-3 hours later, alone with my thoughts and my pain.  Often, I was scared.  I was not scared of dying or never walking.  I was afraid of my own thoughts.  I was very angry.  Much of my perseverance those first few months came from anger and fear.  My biggest fear was that I was no longer “me”.  That I had changed into someone who others wouldn’t recognize or want to be around.  I felt very different and people certainly treated me differently.

It was during the long nights that I would often pray.  These were the prayers of a broken man.  I would ask God to wake me up from my nightmare.  I would try to bargain with God by promising to do things in return for Him making me better. I knew it didn’t work that way, but I was desperate.  Over the many months of my rehab, I would try to become more thankful in my prayers, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find peace.  My pain caused my mind to wander and it never went to pleasant thoughts.

Over time I have come to accept the “new me”.  I am different on every level; physically, mentally and spiritually.  Just last week a co-worker was looking at a photo of me before the accident and told me that I don’t look anything like I use to look.  I hear that a lot.  With my new found acceptance came peace.  Peace, but not contentment.  I still persevere, but now it doesn’t come from fear and anger any more, but from understanding.  Through understanding I have gained some control over my pain.   I have come to embrace the silence and even seek it out.  I can now thankfully pray to God for all of my blessings.  Now, when I think about those scary nights in the nursing home, I realize that I wasn’t really alone.  God was there with me, listening and patiently waiting for the “new me” to understand.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

- Mother Teresa

Use the Force

I was in the gym the other day walking on a elevated treadmill.  I just added this element to my training in hopes of being better prepared for all the walking and hill climbing I am going to be doing while on a religious pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey at the end of April.  It hasn’t been going as well as I had hoped.  I am making some progress, but it is slow.  When I am on the elliptical I like to read to pass the time and keep my mind off the pain.  I have a hard time reading on the treadmill, so I have started watching television.  One of the big news channels was on and they were showing the “best” Super Bowl commercials.  Everyone’s favorite was the Volkswagen commercial with the little boy dressed up like Darth Vader. (If you didn’t see it you can watch it here.)  I got to admit, I like the commercial a lot.  I was a “Star Wars Kid”. My brother and I watched the original movie 100+ times.  It might have been because it was the only kid movie we had for our Betamax.  (If you are under 35-years-old Google it.)  We used to run around the house trying to move things with our minds.  We also would throw rocks at each other while blind folded and try to hit them with our Lightsaber.  The scars from the stitches are some of my originals.

As I was watching the TV, trying to forget the pain, I reminisced about trying to control objects with my mind and I realized a very big Truth.  I thought I had spent a lot of hours in rehab and the gym strengthening my body.  The Truth is that what I really have strengthened is my mind.  No, I can’t move objects by staring at them, but pushing myself through pain has more to do with my brain than my muscles.  As the saying goes, “Mind Over Matter”.  For about the last 15 minutes I had been in a pretty good amount of pain, but I was still going.  I had already gone 5 minutes longer than last week.  It wasn’t because I was physically stronger.  It was because I was mentally tougher.  Convincing my mind that the pain I feel isn’t going to hurt me has been one of my biggest accomplishments.  There are many times when our own mind keeps us from reaching our goals.  Often, overcoming the mental hurdle is all that is keeping us from taking the next step.

Just a couple minutes later I stopped walking.  I went seven minutes longer then last week.  I had hoped for ten.  I guess I will take seven and a topic to use for my blog.  As I sat in the sauna warming up my titanium, before heading back out into the wind and cold, I thought of one more Truth.  I have not achieved anything by myself. Only through the Grace of God have I been able to push myself to this point.  I have been “playing” around with the word Grace for the past few months while working on my book.  I think this will be page one of my book…

to favor or honor

1. beauty of form, manner, motion or action.
2. mercy; clemency; pardon.
3. favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.
4. the freely given, unmerited favor of God.

“You pump the fluid out of your leg?”

Men’s Fitness and Harrisburg Magazine are now on the shelves.  Harrisburg Magazine has put the article on their website.  You can read it here. You will need to go out and buy Men’s Fitness if you don’t want to wait for them to put it on-line.   Between the two magazine articles and the Sentinel newspaper article from a few weeks ago, I sure have had some awesome opportunities to share my story of recovery and motivation.  I have received a lot of emails from people all over the country commenting on my articles and telling be about their own personal struggles from accidents and medical “issues”.  It has been very meaningful to know that my story is, in some way, helping others.

This week, my blog also got its own web address.  You can now also find my blog at www.mymotivation-myrecovery.com You can still find it  at the WordPress address, but the new address is easier to give to people when I speak in public.  Speaking of giving talks, I just agreed to speak to approximately 1000 people this coming September in Las Vegas.  I will be one of the speakers discussing the “Secrets of Life”.  I am very thankful for the opportunity and will be working hard to develop a great presentation for them over the next few months.

My next big step is to start to look for a literary agent and/or publisher.  If any of you know someone to whom I should talk, please send me a message.  I feel a little overwhelmed by the big world of publishing.  Any recommendations might help to get me started.  I am a relationship person.  Not knowing anyone “in the business” makes me uneasy.  Blogging also made me uncomfortable in the beginning.  I sit here at my desk writing about personal things from my life in hopes of giving you, the reader, insight into my recovery so that you will take my story and find inspiration to overcome your own personal challenges.  In return, I can feel that what happened to me was not without meaning or purpose.

The issue with “blogging” versus public speaking is that I get instant gratification from speaking.  I can see the people I am talking to.  With the exception of the person who gets up to go to the bathroom and never comes back, they are a captive audience.  You can stop reading at any time and click back to Facebook, Twitter or your emails.  Some of you post comments, but that is not the same as raising your hand and asking a question.  There is less interaction and I don’t need to try to spell things correctly. (I also think it is more “uncomfortable” to post a comment.)  I can see statistics that show how many people click on a post.  I know that I have 3500+ “reads” to date.  Therefore, people must be reading what I write. (Or maybe you’re just looking at the pictures. It’s hard to not look at a car crash.)  I also know, thanks to a friend who makes a living on Facebook, (I know, how do you get a job where you are on Facebook all day?) that the best time to post a new blog is 11 AM on a weekday.  I guess we are all suppose to be working, but instead we are checking our Facebook and Twitter before lunch.

I am learning to accept that you all are out there, somewhere in cyberspace, reading what I am writing, and that my mom isn’t just clicking on my blog 3500+ times.  I feel I am, in some way, fulfilling my promise to God to share the miracle of my recovery with others. Now I feel my next step is getting my book published.  (Mom, I will put you down for a case.)

Almost forgot to answer the question in the title… One of the questions I have been getting a lot since the articles is “You pump the fluid out of your leg?”  Some folks think that I have a port in my leg and that the fluid is pumped out of my body.  That is not true.  I have a vascular disease called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).  This is damage to the valves in the deep veins of the legs.  The valves in the veins need to close in order to push blood back to the heart. Mine do not close properly because of blood clots and trauma to my leg which allows blood to leak back down the veins.  This causing fluid to build up and my leg to swell.  The swelling causes my skin to break down and ulcers to form. If I didn’t manage it, infection could cause me to lose me leg.  In order to control the swelling I put a sleeve on my leg.  The sleeve has four chambers and is connected to an electric pump.  The pump first fills the lowest chamber around my foot.  Next, it fills the chamber around my calf, without releasing the pressure around my foot.  It continues to fill each chamber until the sleeve is squeezing my entire leg.  It then releases the pressure and starts all over again.  The fluid is absorbed by my body.  I do this for an hour twice a day.  (I am doing it now.)  I think a lot of people pictured some sort of external port that I hooked up to suck out the fluid.  I did have two of those hooked up to my stomach for a about a month after my abdominal surgery, but that is another story…