My List Is Complete

About twenty years ago I managed a pizza delivery store in Panama City Beach for a couple of friends of mine. During the spring break season, we were open 24 hours a day. It was busy. According to our food distributor, we were the busiest independent pizza store in the country based on how much cheese we ordered each week during that time. MTV was in town covering the festivities of party-goers, Spinnaker and La Vela were packed every night, and the strip was bumper to bumper traffic for miles all day, and continuing late into the night. Needless to say, getting everything done each day was a monumental task.

One of the guys I worked for there was a list-keeper. Everything he needed to do was on a list. It wasn’t always the neatest looking lists, but it worked for him. He kept everything in Steno pads. And he always seemed to have everything crossed off his list at the end of the day, for the most part. I was impressed with his ability to get it all done, but also not happy with myself for never finishing my list and always having to move things to the next day. I was a great manager, but for some reason, I could never cross everything off my list.

I finally asked him one day, “How do you get it all done? You have a page full of stuff, the same as me, but you get a lot more of it done than I do.” His reply changed my life. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but his words certainly have stayed with me for more 20 years. It was so simple. I still use his strategy today. He said, “When I get something done, I add it to my list and check it off.” Mind blown. Eyes opened. Life changed. The philosophy of that simple idea is amazingly deep.

He would start his list with what was important to be accomplished. It might only be a small handful of things. As he would get things done throughout the day, he would add those things to his list. Since those things were already done, as he added him to the list, he would check them off. That’s brilliant. Do you realize how much stuff we actually get done in a day? If you made a list, you would know. And if you knew how much you do get done, maybe you wouldn’t beat yourself up for not completing your to-do list, a list that might be unrealistic to begin with.

As 2017 draws to a close, I look back on the year and I know I did not even come close to getting all the things done that I wanted to this year. If I had made a list at the beginning of the year of all the things I wanted to get done in 2017, that list would still need some work, or the year would need to be extended. But I won’t lament or lose any sleep about not finishing my hypothetical list. I will, however, be happy with what I did accomplish, even if some of it is trivial or perhaps less productive in the big picture of life as I see it. I still got a lot done this year. I survived. And that is a rather huge accomplishment in and of itself in some respects.

I finish this year broke, but none of my bills are behind. Except my student loans, which will likely never get paid. I didn’t get much done this year on the novel I’m writing, but I estimate that I wrote about 30,000 words to my blog in 2017. Neither of those endeavors pay the bills. I really just want to make a living as a writer, but I like the job I have and the people I work with. I’m not where I want to be in life, but I am certainly not where I was a short while ago, which is a good thing. I didn’t finish everything on my list for 2017, but I am pretty happy with what I did get done, including the less important things I added to the list as I went along.

My friends, do not make an overwhelming list for yourself that you cannot finish. Once you start moving things to the next day, it becomes easier and easier to keep doing that. You will never get it done that way. Pick a few things that are important. As you move throughout your day, week, or year, add to your list the other, less important things you get done and check them off. You’ll be surprised by how much you really get done, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Happy New Year to you all. May 2018 be a year of checking off the important things on our lists and realizing how important the things not on the list are that we get done as well.

Thanks for stopping by this year. Hope to see you in 2018. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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10 Days to Hell

As I’ve mentioned before, my psychiatrist at the VA changed how I can get my medications. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make any sense to have get them through the mail when I can go to the local military base, or even to the local VA clinic. But for some reason, my doctor says I can only get them through the mail-order system provided by the VA.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/06/10/my-new-va-psychiatrist/

I called the automated system to reorder my prescriptions on November 8th when I had about 5 doses left. It usually takes a week. It’s not a big deal if I have to miss one or two nights of medication. But the one I need has yet to show up. On about the fifth day after running out, I called the automated system. The voice said the meds were sent out on the 10th, to give it ten days to show up. Liars.

On or around the sixth day without my medication, I was noticeably becoming unwell. My focus and thoughts were not good. I was more irritable than normal, more blunt than usual, and becoming severely depressed. By day 8, my anxiety of not having my medication coupled with everything else I just mentioned was overwhelming. I could feel it physically in my body, mostly in my head and neck. My head felt like it was being crushed by pressure. The headaches were incredible and nothing helped.

By day 9, I was overly emotional. Everything set me off. I felt hungover. I felt like I had not slept in days. My entire body was uncomfortable and shaky. The pressure behind my eyes caused vision problems. It was like blurry tunnel vision. I know much of the physical manifestations were anxiety that came from not having my medication and wondering if were coming at all. I was beginning to become dysfunctional.

Day 10. I hated my life. I hated people, even more than normal. I hated my job. I hated everything. At work that day, one of my co-workers asked if I were ok. She said I looked like I wanted to kill someone. I was in a very bad place in my mind. I was scared for myself. It only took ten days to get to hell from where I started. That seems like a very fast fall to me. Ten days is not a very long time.

During the ten days I would call the automated system for updates. Each time the voice on the other end of the line told me the same thing. The medication was mailed out on the 10th and to allow 10 days for delivery. On the 21st I found a way to call the after-hours emergency nurse at a VA call center. She made notes of our call that would be sent to my local VA clinic to my primary care doctor and the psychiatrist. The next morning, the primary care nurse called to tell me I could pick up a supply of my medication.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/10/08/the-va-is-killing-me/

I eventually spoke with the mental health nurse, days later, after the emergency had passed. I found out the medication was still in “pre-ship” on their tracking system and has yet to be sent. All the while I was holding out hope that it would show up in the mail each day, being told by the automated computer voice that it had been sent out more than a week ago, trying to keep my head above water and survive the darkness of my mind and the horrible thoughts that were taunting me. But I was being lied to.

The Department of Veterans affairs is broken system. And the face of that system for me is Dr. Elaine Ramos at the Eglin VA clinic. Dr. Ramos, you are failing at your job. You are failing me. Those little diplomas on the wall in your office are worthless if you don’t care about your patients and what is best for them. Do your job, doctor.

Dr. Ramos can kiss my ass. I hope the rest of you have a wonderful week. Thanks for stopping by. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Hit By A Bus

For the first time in almost a year and a half, I was ill enough to seek medical treatment. It’s not often, but when I get sick, it seems to hits me pretty hard. I’m not a man-baby when I get sick, I work through it, and do it very well most of the time. That’s probably why it feels as bad as it does when illness finally catches up to me, because I don’t take the time to rest and get well when I need to. Why can’t I just be sick on my days off? That would make life so much easier.

Basically, my kids make me sick. Wait! No! They got me sick, they don’t make me sick. I love them to death. And they love me so much, they shared their little germs with me. And now I’m sick. It started last weekend when my boys spent the weekend with me. Wait, no. It started two weeks ago, far from where I was. They passed it around to each other for a while until it finally caught up to me. They have always shared their things nicely, even being sick.

My two high school band kids had a band trip two weeks ago. Five hours each way, on busses, close quarters, lots of breathing on each other. Probably sharing drinks, perhaps some public displays of affection, or at least hugging and hand-shaking during the weekend trip. All those germs getting spread around just waiting for prey. Some of the band kids came home sick, at least one of mine at first, then the other to follow. I confirmed this with one of my co-workers who also has a child in the band, who also was sick. I think we have enough evidence to say that the high school band is at fault for me feeling like I got hit by a bus load full of viruses.

When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I still made it to work but left two hours early to go see the doctor. And then I left early the next day as well. A big shout out of thanks to Cody for covering for me at work. And thanks to my boss for letting me go. Although, my boss might have just been trying to avoid the paperwork that comes from an employee dying on the job. LOL. Apparently, dying on the job is frowned upon and creates an abundance of paperwork that no one wants to do. But I wonder if they would clock me out or call 9-1-1 first, after I collapse. Hopefully, we won’t have to find out and the medications will start kicking in and making me well again.

I can probably count on my ten fingers how many full days I’ve missed of work in the last twenty years from being sick. And the last time I felt this sick was 2013 at Fort Hood getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. In retrospect, it was good that I got sick there in 2013. The hospital did a chest x-ray, which showed my lungs to be clear as a bell. After deployment, a chest x-ray shows that my lungs are no longer clear. Much needed evidence in my continuing fight with the VA. But that’s a different story.

Back to my kids and them getting me sick. It doesn’t bother me, it’s not like I have a choice. This has happened dozens of times over the years. It’s one of the less-than-spectacular parts of being a parent, but it is part of it and usually not a big deal. Although, this time it felt like the Grim Reaper might be following me around to remind me that I am still just a mortal man. I already know that, so back off Mr. Reaper. We got nothing to talk about, this isn’t an episode of Supernatural.

As for my kids, they will continue to go on band trips, and to swim meets, and cross country meets, and all the other activities they are involved with in and out of school. And even though they will occasionally bring back the plague of death with them and share it with everyone else, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. They are active, talented, athletic, involved, and have wonderful, busy lives doing things they enjoy. That’s a fair trade. Go and have fun my kiddos, I love watching you all do what you do. And I love you bunches.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

Wired Differently

Way back in high school, what seems like a thousand years ago now, I was on the wrestling team. I enjoyed it and I was pretty good at it. Two-time regional champion in my weight class. In the largest tournament I ever wrestled in, with over sixty schools represented, I took third. Not too shabby. And my senior year at the state tournament, I lost by one point in overtime to the guy that would go on to win the state title in my weight class.

At the beginning of one wrestling season, one of the football coaches made some of the football players go out for the wrestling team. I think officially, it was strongly encouraged to those players, but they knew they had to go to wrestling practice if the coach told them to. About a week later, they were all gone except for one or two guys. Most of them couldn’t do it. Coach Downey ran a grueling wrestling practice, mostly on the mats in the cafeteria, but sometimes running stairs in our three-story main building on campus. If someone puked while running, he kept going, and the rest of us simply ran around it, lap after lap. Up three flights, down the long hallway, down three flights, and back. And again. For a couple hours. I guess this is my proof that wrestlers are tougher than football players.

Although… I went out for football in junior high school (yeah, I know it’s called middle school now, and whatever, I don’t understand why they changed it). I lasted one practice when I decided it wasn’t for me. Not having become very athletic by that time, my young body was in shock at what it was having to do. I lacked the talent, desire, and commitment it would have taken to be on the football team. So, maybe football players are tougher.

OR, perhaps, we are all just wired differently. Conditioned differently. Have different goals and strengths. Different talents. Some of those guys that couldn’t make it on the wrestling team were a force to be reckoned with on the football field. Brute strength and hard hits. And while I would have likely gotten run over by them on their field, they were no match for me on the wrestling mat. I had balance, technique, and leverage. That’s what I brought to the table that they could not compete with.

The hardest thing I’m working on in my life right now is realizing that we are different from each other, in more than just our physical abilities. Mentally, we have different strengths and weaknesses. We each react to situations differently. I know that some people can’t relate to what I go through, especially when the depression gets ahold of me or my PTSD symptoms show themselves. And, on the same token, I don’t understand some of the things other people go through. I have to catch myself once in a while so I don’t say out loud, “Get over it,” or “Why do you let that bother you?” or “It’s not that hard.” And I know people think that about me as well. And I understand.

We’re not just different from each other, we, ourselves, also become different. Age, trauma, and stress transform us on a daily basis. Even though I try very hard to not show it, I am my own worst critic about the person I have become. I ask myself all the time, “Why does this bother you?” I reminisce about all the things I used to be able to do physically, long hours of physical labor or running a half marathon. Or even passing an army physical fitness test. None of that used to be hard. I tell myself to get over it, but it’s not that easy. That’s usually when the depression flares up.

I’m not wired like I used to be. And I’m not able to recondition myself to be the old me. Not physically, not mentally. I’ve said before that the physical issues I brought back from Afghanistan contributed to my mental collapse. And to be honest, if I could just get the army to take responsibility for those issues, that would be a huge weight off my back. And what absolutely kills me is that at one time in the life I used to live, again what feels like a thousand years ago, much of what makes me “crazy” now barely phased me back then.

I am struggling quite a bit lately with self-criticization (and yes, that’s a word, I just looked it up to make sure, consider it your word of the day). I am depressed more often than usual and it’s becoming harder and harder to work through. As a high school athlete, I looked forward to getting pushed to my limits. I wanted to know what I could handle and how I measured up to others. It made me better. I don’t enjoying being pushed to my limits anymore. Especially mentally. And I reach my physical limits after just a few hours on my feet at work. And I hate it. But I’ll bet if Coach Downey barked at me to run stairs, I probably would, until it killed me. You know, since wrestlers are tougher than football players I would have to. LOL.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by this week. I hope you got something from this. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Chapter 6 Complete

This week I finished chapter 6 of the book I’m writing. This process is taking much longer than I anticipated when I started a little more than a year and a half ago. The first four chapters seemed to flow effortlessly. Then life, writer’s block, work, and occasional laziness with my writing project each took turns keeping me from the keyboard. I started this project in February 2016. I feel like I should be further along by now. To be honest, I thought I would be done and on my second novel at this point.

I seem to lack the discipline in using my time wisely to write like I had in the beginning of this project. My motivation I once had is not as consistent as it once was. I come up with some wonderful “writing” in my head most days while I’m at work or hanging out with my kids, but I fail to follow through by putting the words down. I’ve probably written two or three books in my head in the last year. But, for the most part, I still make time to write to my blog weekly. That is something important to me because I made it part of my personal therapy after coming out of the lowest point in my life a couple years ago.

Sometimes I go back through my blog posts and read again what I was going through at a particular time. For some of the posts, I see the title and can recall everything about the piece I wrote. For a few of them, I need to read every word again to remember what was going on in my head. I find some of my posts still very powerful. Some of them remind me the dark place I was once at in my life. Some of them remind me of victories or progress I have made. Many of them make me smile. And there’s a couple of them that are just bad writing. But in keeping with my effort to post weekly, that will happen sometimes. (That might be happening now since I didn’t really have anything prepared!)

I did have more I wanted to write this week, but sometimes life dictates how much I get done here. And that’s ok. I’m living life and sometimes that means I don’t get to write as much as I would like. I do need to be more aware of that, when life really does slow me down, and not just use it as an excuse sometimes when I’m staying up until one in the morning watching reruns on television. In my defense, sometimes that’s my only time to decompress and relax.

I don’t know if my book will ever be published, assuming I finish it. I have already looked at some options. All the traditional publishers want a finished product. I don’t think vanity publishing will be the way to go. There are some self-publishing options online that are interesting. But I’ve always envisioned my work being printed. I guess I need to finish it first. I’m about half way done. I WILL get started on chapter 7 this coming week. Stay tuned for more updates. And thanks for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Previously posted excerpts from my book:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/23/448/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/09/17/2nd-excerpt-from-my-book/