Sunday, November 24, 2013


Have you ever thought about yourself?  No, I mean really, really thought about yourself.  I don't think I really ever have so this blog post is dedicated to me - to my self.  I don't know how long it will be or even if I will find something deep to talk about.  Whatever I find in the self I am going to write about will not only surprise you but I am sure as hell as guessing that it will even surprise me.

I came up with the topic of "Self" on my run yesterday.  I was supposed to run 10 miles as part of a step challenge with a FitBit friend.  We were competing for bragging rights for who could complete the most steps in a day.  My run was going to kick off my day with about 18,000 steps.  Well I ended up running 13.3 miles because I was running a new trail system on the west slope of Davidson Mesa that I just realized existed (I use a smartphone app to record my runs so if interested you can see where I ran at this link - Strava).  I felt really stupid when I was using Google Earth to explore the mesa and found these new (actually existing) trails.  I have lived here 6 years and I am just now finding trails that are right in my backyard.  Long story short, my run went long as I explored (and got a bit lost when the snow hid the trail) but the positive was that I ended up with over 22,000 steps to start my day.  Unfortunately my FitBit friend needed to postpone our challenge because of a personal matter.

Snow covered single-track trail from today's run
Yesterday I was running naked to my mind be free to wander where it wanted.  Running naked to me is without headphones so I can take in all the noise and feeling of the run (see 18 Wheeler).  I came up with the topic of self around mile 4 of my run very near where the photo above was taken.  This gave me 9 miles to think, ponder, and begin to formulate this post.  My mind went all sorts of places with this topic until I came to the conclusion that I just needed to sit down and let the words flow onto the paper.

I am going to start with one thing that I really like about myself and one thing that I cannot stand about myself.  Here it goes:

Like:  Legs - You all know I really love my legs - click Legs to take you to my Leg post.  I could talk about them more but instead will just post another photo taken yesterday before my run - Enjoy!

My Legs before my run.
Dislike:  Procrastination - I have procrastinated everything in my life since I can remember.  Everything.  Absolutely everything.  Nothing has escaped being procrastinated - not even this blog!  I was able to compensate for my procrastination all the way through college by taking a drug and cramming.  I was an expert crammer.  I could lock myself away and force myself to focus until I wrote the paper, studied for the exam, or completed whatever task that the deadline had approached.  The drug I took to focus and get things done was anxiety.  This is not a real drug but it can act the same way in making me focus when a crisis hit.  I am blessed to be gifted with a high IQ and intelligence which allowed me to survive the chaos and still manage straight A's.  Then grad school happened and guess what?  I learned the hard way that I couldn't cram research or a thesis - my drug failed me.  My anxiety was extremely high throughout my graduate school attempts but it just wouldn't help me complete what needed to get done because as I said above, you just can't cram research and a thesis.

The thesis that never was...

I still procrastinate in my every day life.  My drug, anxiety, helps me at work and at home but not without undue stress on my colleagues and family.  I wait until the last minute for just about every task on my to-do list (I actually don't keep a to-do list but you get the point).  My life is spent reacting to what needs to be done instead of careful planning and easy success with early completion.  This doesn't mean I am not successful - it just means my drug, anxiety, has to work in overdrive which is a not a healthy way to live or work.

My favorite thing to do when procrastinating
Snake hunting
When I was about 30 years old, a psychologist told me I was ADD.  This certainly helped explain some things in life.  I really don't think I needed to know this during high school or college as my drug, anxiety, worked well enough.  Knowing that I was ADD would have really been beneficial to pursuing my degree.  I am not saying I would have finished - it just would have helped explain a few things such as never, NEVER having the ability to sit down and focus enough to read a single scientific journal article from start to finish.  Yes - this is the first time I have ever admitted this out loud but I don't think I have ever done that - read any paper from start to finish.

Being ADD is not a problem that cannot be helped.  I have gone on and off Adderall ever since being told I was ADD and now I take it daily to help me focus.  Adderall has really helped me focus on tasks until complete but it has not stopped my procrastination.  So - procrastination is the thing I dislike most about myself.
The behavior that I do to hide from myself - drink.  Thankfully I am not dependent on alcohol.
Hiding my fat gut under the waterline is something I do to avoid looks and judgement.
Self - do I truly have a real sense of self?  Looking at my biggest like and dislike about myself makes me think that I just might have a sense of self but that it is a new realization.  If you had asked me three months ago I would not have been able to tell you who and what I am all about.  I would have told you that I am a loser with no self-esteem.  If you read Snakes - Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? you can see that I may have had a sense of self for a very, very long time but I just did not know it.  The evolution I have been through to become the Executive Director of the Center for Snake Conservation could not have been possible if I was completely hiding from a sense of self.

I learning through a lot of introspection that I have blocked a lot of memories from my life behind blast proof doors with war bunker walls surrounding them.  Now this sounds very, very sad and it has been for most of my life - read Southern Fried Chicken and Bittersweet Symphony for a brief introduction into my brain.  Regardless of how sad it had been, I am now developing (or realizing that I have) a sense of self.  I strongly encourage each of you reading my blog to really think about yourself and see if you truly know who your "self" really is.  I am betting you will be surprised how little you know.

Self is also what identifies me with other people.  I have been a loser in my mind so long that I am worried about what the realization of self and the change that comes with it might do to my relationships.  I am excited about meeting new friends and growing these relationships like making the perfect Southern Fried Chicken.  It is my old relationships that worry me.  For example - I told you above that I ran 3 additional miles during my long run.  This took me an additional 30 minutes to complete so I was late getting home.  3 months ago this would have completely devastated me with guilt for two things - going running and being late.  Guess what?  Yesterday I could care less what anyone else thought.  "Fuck it" is what I said in my mind as I was enjoying those extra 3 miles of my run. 

Post-run Selfie
Taking Selfies is part of finding of myself.
When I got home my run yesterday, Heather was visibly annoyed with me.  She and my sister-in-law were waiting for me to get home so they could go shopping.  Oops!  Heather was pissed but I didn't care.  She let me know it too but I still didn't care.  This was a FIRST for me - previously if Heather (or anyone for that matter) was mad at me, I would completely shut down.  I would mope around the house and sulk as if I were a dog that just got caught in the garbage.  Not yesterday - I went on about my life as happy as could be.  It is this change that I am worried about affecting my relationships.  I do think this a HUGE positive for me but it may change how I interact with people.  It is those people that I have had relationships with a long time (my old friends) that may see the change in me the most.  I hope they like it but if they don't, I think I can honestly say "fuck them - I don't care what they think of me" and be happy about it.

I can attribute this new self to the many things I am working on in my mind but 4 things stick out the most.  First, for the first time ever I am seeing a psychologist that I really trust.  In the past, I have never fully trusted my therapists.  I have always agreed that therapy is an excellent way to help me get through problems or low periods but trust is key in any relationship.  I have a paranoia about people reading my mind and judging me - this affects me in almost any situation from my morning bus ride, at work, and even at home.  This paranoia caused me to not trust my previous therapists because I believed they were judgmental of what I was working through, thought I was stupid, or didn't like me.  My current therapist is absolutely incredible and I trust her completely.  We are making amazing progress in finding the self hidden deep behind those bunker walls and blast doors.

The second thing is this blog.  Since I am writing for myself and no one other than myself, this blog is allowing me to talk openly to this "self" that has been missing for 39 years.  Yes, I talk to you as a reader but this blog is really about me and written by me for me - no one else.  Yes, you read it and see that I am asking you questions like I expect an answer.  Tough shit folks - that is just my writing style and this blog is not meant to explain or share anything with you.  I know that sucks for you but please just appreciate the fact that I am actually, for the first time ever, letting you into the dark secrets of my past 39 years on this planet almost daily during my 40th year of being on earth.  I started this blog as an examination of the present and an outlook to the future.  Unfortunately (actually I think this should be fortunately) I have to get through describing who I am in this first month of this blog. Running With Snakes will then begin defining my present and future.  I like it!  So, this blog is the second reason I am finding me; finding that self that is making me a happy and fun person.  Fuck off and stop reading my blog if you don't like it.

Third is my sister-in-law, Mitzi.  Really you ask?  Your sister-in-law?  Yep!  Mitzi is a psychologist with over 20 years experience as a therapist.  She has also known me since I was 12 years old.  This has given her a unique access to study me as a lifelong patient watching me grow up in my family, struggle to find my own identity, and watched me progress as a father.  I have never used Mitzi as a resource because I have been hiding from myself so long (plus every time I talked to Mitzi she scared me because I thought she was psychoanalyzing me).  Lately though I have several conversations with her that have left a positive impact on me.  She understands me as a sister would because she has watched me grow up but she is also a very good psychologist.  The night (Friday) before my first ever "guilt-free" run, Mitzi and I had an incredible conservation about how I became the past me.  Mitzi drew a diagram showing me how to find the self that has been missing.  Actually it was a drawing that was not designed to show me how to find the self but a visual way of seeing why it was not there.  Her explanation matched my ADD learning style and was extremely beneficial.  I look forward to talking more to Mitzi as I reach deep inside myself breaking down walls and unlocking doors.

My sister-in-law in a perfect therapist pose with my big dog.
The fourth reason is one that you may laugh at but I am too the point that I just don't care what others think anymore.  I now have the confidence to tell you to fuck off if you don't like it - progress made.  These are my FitBit and MyFitnessPal friends.  Both of these groups include amazing online communities of people that need and give support.  We cheer each other.  We taunt each other.  We offer words of encouragement.  We offer compassion and empathy to the struggles we have during our fitness journeys regardless of how different our individual goals are.  This is the friendship I have been missing in my life - judgement free. I mentioned my paranoia of judgement above which left me lonely.  I know that the judgement from my friends is in my head and not a reality but my whole life up until now I have not been able to believe this.  My FitBit and MyFitnessPal friends could care less about judging me - we all have the same goal - success!  Not only have these anonymous friends helped me with my fitness, they are also helping me find the self I have never truly had.

Southern Fried Chicken for my FitBit friends
My dad sent me an email after I posted Southern Fried Chicken that struck me as pretty important to pay attention to as part of my self discovery.  He wrote, "You have always been quiet and keeping the activities of your life quiet to us.".  Yes - this has been my MO of my life.  I made sure I stayed out of the radar at any and all cost.  Avoiding the radar has forced me to do a lot of strange things.  I chronically underachieve.  I settle for whatever I am offered.  I hide from conflict.  I never accept thanks, compliments, or gratitude.  I have remained distant from everyone.  I bury my feelings deep.  I have basically not been alive - not true to the self that is so important as part of my human identity.  I have kept quiet for long enough.

So how do I keep true to this self I find this year?  To start I am going to stick with what I know - snakes and running.

Snakes and running are constant positives in my life.  Every time I leave my habit of running I go farther away from myself.  To stay within myself this winter, I going to train for a marathon to run this spring.  I am pretty set on running this marathon by myself without friends or family attending the race.  The race is going to be about me and reaffirming the self I am discovering.  I am dedicating it to me and for the first time in my life doing something by myself for myself.  There will be no guilt and no hiding from myself.  Just me, the race, and my thoughts as I run 26.2 miles as fast as I can.

The marathon I choose will also be during prime snake time in the southeast.  Yes - I plan on going home to my old stomping grounds to run a marathon and catch snakes - a lot of snakes.  I don't know which race I am going to run but I can assure you I will be catching a crap load of snakes anywhere I choose.  Being stuck in the snakeless winter of Colorado is taxing every year but knowing I am training for a solo trip with no agenda except for catching snakes and racing 26.2 miles.  This is incentive enough to keep true to who I am - snakes and running.

Self - without a self you are not truly living.  I am finding myself during my 40th year on earth and I can't wait for the next 60 - yes I am living to be at least 100 years old.

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