Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Greener Pastures

A fault of mine is that I'm always looking for the better deal or comparing myself with someone else's wealth in life, monetary or not. Money is always an issue but it seems as though we all end up at zero in some point in our lives.

Failure is an interesting word. To say to yourself that "I tried and failed" is really not a failure at all. If one learned from that experience and grew, only then would an individual really be prepared for the next phase of their life. Sure there's the initial shock and realization that things didn't turn out the way you planned but a lot of the time, if not all the time, things do have a way of working themselves out. Twenty years could pass and you'd think back to your so called "failure" and believe that was the turning point you needed in your life and shaped who you are today. You can only really fail if you give up and give in to the feeling of doubt and depression.

I'm a victim of doubt and depression. I've given in to the initial shock of failure and have done something awful to myself as a result. That incident was less than a year ago, in a circumstance less trivial than I'm experiencing at this very moment.

Looking back on this year I could say it started bad and ended even worse but this might've been one of the most enlightening years of my life.

I've learned about people and the social genre of a business' successes, whether on the up or down. I've learned that talking to a stranger can be used as practice for my vocabulary and temperament in a real-life conversation or social setting. I'm just now learning to accept my shortcomings and be who I am at the risk of losing a friendship, a career or material possessions.

Yes, I'm an over-weight epilepsy patient with no driver's license or nest egg. I may feel like I'm falling further and further behind the skills necessary to be a successful designer or photographer – both fields that burned white hot beneath my skin years ago. I could list off a list too, too long; I think we all could.

I may not be a strong man, but I know that deep down I'm trying to be a better man... a good man. A man that will give without the urge to receive. A man at peace, though sometimes it may seem as though his life is in pieces. A man who loves his family and would give himself up to make a better life for those around him. A man not afraid of death or pain, but is thankful for every minute of life and good health. A man who works for a better future while maintaining Mindfulness. A man who sees greener pastures but understands that his pasture was dealt to him by god.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


My sister Julie’s wedding is Saturday and I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship and how it’s evolved since Dad first introduced me to her in Mom’s hospital room. Julie was born on a Friday and she’ll be married on a Saturday; it’s kind of interesting how our lives our dictated by dates, days of the week, lunar and astrological calendars.

December 10th will now be a bullet point in our family’s history; this is very important because it seems as though a lot of our family’s past has been forgotten. I can’t recall the day my great-grandmother or grandfather died, (even though I was at his house just hours after he died; keep in mind that I was pretty young). I don't know the birth dates or marriage anniversary dates of late family members or even the date my Dad was in his horrific car accident when I was young.

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m very sentimental. I create an emotional connection to the smallest objects or the briefest sentences. If I remembered the exact day that my grandfather died I would most certainly take a moment to share a memory of him with my wife or say a small thank you for him in my mind. I didn’t know him very well, but I know my father respects him to the highest regard and if that’s the case then I know he was a great man.

Because our immediate family had a hard time with extended family, us five became very close (Mom, Dad, Julie, Jenni and I). But as we got older and I left for college we all became less and less involved in each other’s day-to-day lives. My youngest sister was still a young girl when I left for school so we didn’t have a chance to connect until just recently... as adults.

My whole point here is I want our immediate family to welcome new members in and never use the phrase “extended family.” I want to know more and more about Julie’s husband. He’s my new brother. The day I was married I got five new sisters and a little brother. I’m not always the best at keeping tabs on them but when I’m around I try to make it a point to talk about what’s going on in their lives; mind you these conversations are mostly with the older siblings. Facebook and phone texts are ok, but to really see them face-to-face and hear them speak is really a treat.

This Saturday I’ll hear my sister and my new brother say “I do,” and that will be one of the greatest treats in my life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Small But Not Insignificant

After a long and well traveled Thanksgiving weekend, I’m in the first couple hours of work and I’m getting reacquainted with the monotony of office life.

At first I was sort of depressed, and to be perfectly clear, I won’t disagree with you that no matter how busy our office gets, every day generally repeats itself. That’s the nature of being a designer, staring at a computer, sitting, eating lunch twenty feet from my desk and listening to stories about crazy clients and “hot” projects.

After an hour at work I started to feel a little different. I found myself noticing little changes around me. The toilet paper roll in the bathroom was on backwards, my “special” red pen was just laying out on my desk, I was invited to the daily meeting for the “higher-ups.” I can read off a dozen small, seemingly insignificant changes.

My point is, although I feel that design has been falling off my radar in the last couple of years, it may help me on a day-to-day basis to notice and be grateful for the small things in life.

I haven’t had a full seizure since July (where I lose consciousness), only auras. The VNS seems to be doing it’s job. I’ve had a vocal outlet for some of my concerns and ideas beyond this blog and I know now that talking and writing is hitting the nail on the head for me emotionally. I also believe it’s helping me better communicate to doctors, co-workers, friends and family; even strangers.

The phrase for today is “the little things;” petting and holding a small pet, looking into my wife’s eyes, listening to my heart beat during the last few seconds before I slip into sleep. There are a lot of complicated words in life, but if I can simplify things as best as I can, I believe my head will clear and I can fight any depression, any anger, any uncertainties, and any illness.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Editing a Voice

"Those who know, do not speak. Those who speak, do not know."
-Lao Tzu

I've come across this quote today and I'm trying to find a way to apply it. I've been neglecting this blog because the right time to write hasn't been presenting itself.

I've been speaking my mind to those close to me and I feel as though they're presenting advice (great advice) without knowing several important details that it's hard for me to divulge.

Simply, my goal is to continue to write and try my best to edit my voice.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Boots and Blood

I, as do many (or all) people in the world take their fair share of hits. Yesterday I officially had my driver's license taken away because of the ill-control of my seizures. I haven't driven in months; actually it's more like a year, but I always had the little card in my pocket that defined me as a normal citizen that had the same rights as an average "everyday" person in the community.

Instead I got an Illinois State ID. This is basically used for buying alcohol or returning an item to a store. I'm traveling next week, so I'll need it for the airport security, but vacations like this hardly ever happen for me. I know this sounds like a miniature thing to be upset about but it hit me in just the right spot.

I've been having small seizures every now and then but the VNS seems to be taking care of them pretty well. My mood is improving, but like I said in earlier posts; it could be my new job, money, a sense of security, etc.

Yesterday night, after the whole ID thing and I got back from work, Sara and I went on a walk (we've been doing this more and more lately). I strapped on my new Dr. Marten boots, thinking the walk would help break them in.

As most of you know, I only wear Dr. Marten shoes and boots... the English made versions. There's so much I love about them; they have a romantic-type vibe... after a couple months the shoe becomes a part of the wearer. I've said in the past... I find myself looking at a new pair and wondering; "Where are these shoes going to take me? What will happen to me? What will I see? How will I feel?" It's sounds cheesy but I just love the thought of a footstep. Sometimes I'll walk around my building or work or wherever and I'll see one of my old footprints in the dirt or snow. What an amazing thing.

Anyway, I was walking with these new boots and like a lot of new shoes, especially Dr Martens, they hurt like hell the first couple of "wears." After a couple blocks around the neighborhood I felt a pop on my heal and could feel the hard leather cut into my skin. I walked through the pain knowing full well that I was bleeding pretty bad.

While this was happening a large storm was creeping into the area and it was getting darker and darker. We started walking faster... further cutting the leather into my heal. I wanted to take a mental picture of this moment. The pain, the storm. I felt so alive!!

We made it home just as it started pouring rain. I opened all the windows to cool down the apartment and as the stormy breeze filled the room I slowly removed the boot from my foot. My sock was full of blood and Sara got me a wipe and a bandage. I felt great... about the whole day... it was like I had a new life in just a few hours.

After my heal was taken care of I looked into the boot an noticed that the whole inside section on the boot's leather was soaked in blood. It was dark and.......... just beautiful. Those shoes took me somewhere yesterday and now I have proof. Did I think when I bought those boots that they would make me bleed... turning my mind away from the horrible thoughts that would enter my brain that day?

All of this sounds obtuse but it makes so much sense to me. The storm, boots, blood and pain. It felt a lot like life all wrapped up into an hour-and-a-half.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Start

It's been over two months since my last entry. Since then I've gotten a new job, the VNS is working better and better each day and we're loosing up financially so Sara and I are able to think about the future a little more.

Let me just say that there were many dues that I had to pay for the positive wind that seems to be blowing in our direction. I will, without a doubt, dive into the details of the last couple months at some point but they're a little too fresh in my mind for me to really comprehend.

What I can say is that I'm feeling good about my new job although I'm adjusting to the added stress for which has caused an increase in seizures. What's nice is the VNS seems to be working... stopping or, at least, lightening the seizures. A "side effect" of the VNS is a lift in mood and overall quality of life; this seems to be the case so far. It could be just the changes outlined above but I'm guessing it's a little bit of both.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A New Kind of Post

Let me start by saying that I've had the best two weeks that I've had in a while – a long while, actually. By Friday night everything was just perfect; I was busy at work and feeling just great about how Sara's birthday turned out and remembering the snowstorm from the week before. Sadly, the bubble had to burst at some point. I won't detail any events but I will say (and I might've said this before) that there's always a lingering spot in my brain for awful, devastating thoughts and feelings. Every diagnosis from doctors, or anything that I'm beyond self-conscious about is thrown into this little box; add very strong neurological medications to the mix and they're compounded by massive percentages.

The "box" was opened temporarily... the bubble burst.

Over the last couple of years I've come to understand these feelings. When I think something abnormal I can tell that it's foreign and not really me. I've had an okay amount of strength; my temper has evened out and my emotions have been low, but not so low that I need professional help (in my opinion). A small amount of depression and inactivity comes with these meds and situation; I'm not making excuses but it is hard to drive myself and be productive. There's just not a lot of energy available.

The VNS was supposed to help dramatically. I think I might have been putting all my hope into this little machine. It does help with seizures, but they said it would improve mood and general quality of life. The last couple of weeks might've been it's powers creeping in, but so far I've been in the same slump that I've been in for months.

Interestingly, when I'm forced to open myself – or – the "box" up and all the horrible, negative, lonely, lost, devastating, feelings are released... there's this time, like now, where my mind is in neutral. I feel really positive, not guarded and I'm willing to be myself and have a deep conversation without fear of the "box" flying open, again.

I told Sara that we need to talk every week about ourselves and where we're at – not work related, just us on a personal level. We need to communicate. I keep 99% of my feelings away from her because I don't want her to think I'm sick or disturbed, but when she finally sees them it can be a shock. Frankly, she's probably offended that I'm not opening myself up to the strongest and closest person I have in my life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Snowed In

After my last post I could tell that I needed a change. That change came in the form of a massive snow storm that took Sara and I out of work for two days. I have to say that those days were the best of 2011, so far. There was a buzz in the air all day on Tuesday before the storm. For instance: the grocery store was completely bare of any items because worried shoppers bought up enough food and water and salt and, and, and, and... like they were planning for a nuclear holocaust; salt trucks were racing around like mad; the news was ALL about the storm. Every channel was warning people to stay home and "hunker down." I was so excited; a very welcome break from monotony.

When the storm hit I was driven home from work early by my boss; we could barely see in front of us by the time we neared my apartment. Amazing.

Sara and I planned, too. We bought things to eat and movies to watch. Every hour we were peeking our heads out the door and windows to see how much had fallen. We heard plows and snow blowers and the wind swirling while snow piled up outside our door and window ledges. After it was all over, we found the ONE shovel in our complex and started to dig out. We were so full of snow and sweat from digging and digging... it was so wonderful.

The day back to work was Friday, which was a breeze and then we were off to the weekend. It was an unplanned vacation that had to be brought down from god or something. I smiled the whole week.

Saturday night I had a very small seizure at the grocery store. It's kind of embarrassing when I have to throw all of my "goods" onto a shelf so I can retrieve the magnate from inside my pocket, then lean on a cooler while waiting for the seizure to end. After it was over I was tired and I had the same warm, calm feeling that one gets after a good cry; my body and brain were recovering.

Afterwards, Sara drove me home and made pigs in a blanket (hot dogs in croissants) and mac n' cheese while I leaned my head back on the couch. Even after the seizure, I had the same smile on my face that I did all week.

My Dad always talks about life as being an adventure. He'd say, "The trip to Cleveland for a routine check on a client was worth it because it was an adventure." "The snow was coming down fast and the snow-blower broke down." "Your sister and Sara needed a ride home at two in the morning." "I finally found a way to stop water from leaking into the basement!" For him those are new experiences, new challenges... new adventures.

What I needed was an adventure; last week I got one.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1st

First, let's get business out of the way. Last Saturday, the 29th I was preparing to get on the train to Wheaton to photograph a train exhibit at Sara's museum. I had just gotten out of the shower, put on my boxers and started to taste something from the past and see images from far-off memories playing in the back of my head. I knew what was coming but my VNS magnet was in the living room. So, here I am running through the house half naked looking for the magnet; I found it next to the couch (of course) and swiped it across my chest. I sat on the couch with my back straight waiting for the seizure to end. I was looking at my numb right hand while moving my fingers; what an awful and amazing feeling.

After the seizure I took an Ativan, a strong drug to stop anymore seizures from coming; a sedative. Frankly, it made me feel really good; I guess I was stressed about the photo assignment and my brain just couldn't handle it. The train ride was very relaxing; I even made a friend. A pierced girl and I were both laughing at a lady singing show tunes and snapping her fingers while we were waiting at the station.

Despite the seizure, Saturday was a good day... fun.

It's hard to explain how the last few days have been. There are just too many details, so they really can't be put into words. I've only spoken in short sentences, not paragraphs; enough to interact so as not to seem like I'm blowing anyone off or anything like that.

Last night in bed the street light was reflecting off the snow and illuminating our bedroom. I laid on my back and looked at the pattern of light on the ceiling while working out what I was going to write today.

It's horrible, but there are streaks of days that wish to god that I would have a seizure; a seizure so serious that it numbs my brain. A seizure that serious makes it hard to communicate. I want to see words and not understand them; I want to see faces and not recognize them. Sometimes I just want to be deprived of feeling, you know.

I write this now but if that day ever comes it'll damn me. Even right now I'm so sorry for writing it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day Ahead

All day yesterday I thought it was Wednesday. It wasn't until 9 o'clock last night that Sara broke the news. She had a late meeting so I had the house to myself; it was very quiet. After dinner I moved to the living room but didn't really have the energy to turn on the TV or watch a movie. I put some music (finally) on my iPhone; I found my earbuds so I could listen to something, anything.

It seemed appropriate to leave only a couple of small lights on so I could really get into a place where thought was actually possible. I'm a big fan of live, small, acoustic-style songs; I found a few good ones and leaned my head back as I listened. This is the time that I imagine having a talent where I could set-up and speak to a crowd through music. It seems like a concept so simple and insignificant can have weight when given the opportunity so be expressed through song; some concepts and feelings can only be expressed this way.

I've studied around and geared myself toward the "visual." I've probably said this before, but my eyes just don't see like they used to or at least the way I hoped they would. Close people have excelled in the visual arts; whether it be design, photography or another fine art. I can't say that I don't spend time thinking about these people... good or bad thoughts.

Even though my job is still on the visual side of the spectrum, my life has become more about language. I'm supposed to express, through words, how a seizure feels. "What is your aura like?" "Explain to me what you're thinking after a seizure." I still can only really put into words, maybe 20% of the sensation. Imagine that you're at your desk and suddenly you taste your birthday cake from when you were twelve. Then you see flashing pictures in the back of your mind of an old TV show your grandpa used to watch when you were young. By the time you figure out what you're tasting and what you're thinking, the seizure starts and when it's over, you've lost it all. (It's just amazing that the mind stores these little details; some people would give dearly to unlock these memories and some would wish to god that they would be lost forever.)

When I say that my life has been about language I'm referencing mostly the spoken language. When I speak it takes time for me to find words and pronounce them properly. I have to ask, at times, what terms and expressions mean... even some of the simplest and most well known. The last couple of job interviews have been a testament to this fact; not to mention my new voice. Awful.

The written language seems to be a way for me to slow down and take my time to express, well, everything. I can stop for the right word or right name; I can think and edit what topic I'm going to write about when I'm in the shower or laying back and listening to music in the dark. I read recently that "... as a writer, some of your best lines are the ones you delete." I've edited several choice lines already; if they were to be spoken, I wouldn't be able to go back and delete.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Today is Wednesday

Yes, today is Wednesday.

There was a five minute period of reflection after I just wrote the statement above. Not much has happened since my last post; that could be considered a positive or a negative. What I think about a lot is my desire to have a place to be. Lately, I've had a steady system of home - work - lunch - home - dinner - TV/movie - sleep. The weekends are usually wide open but just as unproductive; I almost crave the chance to do nothing.

I dream vividly. It's sad to look at the side effects of my medications and read "side effects may include vivid or disturbing dreams..." To be honest, even the disturbing dreams give me something new to think about the next day. I wonder how those thoughts entered my brain; am I really that creative to think of such things? If so, it would be a fizzle of the creativity that blossomed in my art and english classes during high school about 12 years ago.

I picked graphic design as a major in college because I thought it was interesting and safe; interesting on the creative side and safe on the financial side. After all, designers have a good chance of getting employment just out of school; no additional school is really required to make a living. When you tell your parents that you want to go to art school they usually seem to balk at the idea, asking how one can make a living as an artist. My parents weren't like that, they supported me fully and were proud to have a their son go to college; that made it very easy for me to concentrate on my education.

After school I fell on hard times for about a year, but eventually moved to Chicago and found a job. My boss needed photography done for brochures and catalogs so I began to learn and get very interested in the trade; I thought I could make a living while making art as a photographer. A friend got me into a freelance position at a newspaper where I had assignments nearly everyday after work; it was probably the most frustrating and rewarding time of my professional career. I constantly critiqued myself and found new techniques and equipment to make my work better and better. In my free time I used several vintage 35mm cameras to learn older techniques (before digital) while making art. I shot at least one hundred rolls of film and entered them into my computer electronically with a film scanner. I fixed up old cameras and probably got a little obsessive with the number of cameras and accessories I bought from eBay. Photography filled that creative need that has always followed me around; I was even a part of a black and white photography show at a local gallery.

Since 2008, I absolutely, I mean absolutely have no drive to pick up a camera. My equipment sits unless I need to shoot something in the studio at work. Even if I see something that I would've probably photographed in the past, I turn my head and shrug. Part of me, sadly, is glad to not have the pressure of making good art. I was very harsh on myself and my photos; out of all those rolls of film I shot, I could probably only pick out twenty photos that I was proud of.

This blog is somewhat creative; I've been trying to learn more about punctuation and the proper way to express my thoughts (whether they're worth anything) in sentence form. I think I'm doing an alright job; I bounced the idea off Sara about taking a writing class, even if it's just for me I think it could be enlightening and an outlet for renewed creative energy.

Like I said before, there's a desire to have a place to be. Right now, I'm thriving on complacency.

Tomorrow is Thursday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


On the topic of seizures, I had two last Friday. One small and one larger one where I didn't convulse but I did lose memory and couldn't understand words or communicate very well. This is disappointing seeing as though it was a month since my last seizure and we're upping the VNS, etc. Caffeine plays a big part I've noticed. I'm cutting way back, after all caffeine speeds my brain up and I need to slow it down; it's common sense that I'm just not heeding.

Yesterday I had a job interview. I would be lying if I said that the employment issue wasn't pressing. On the way home I just looked out the window and asked myself what the whole experience meant. Obviously, I was a bit disappointed with what I saw at the potential new company. Why did I take a valuable half day, with Sara sick, to travel? I felt confident and I spoke well (in my opinion); I did have a few moments where it took a second for words to come out when I tried to highlight a specific topic, like remembering terms, names, etc.

I tell interviewers that I'm looking for a "new challenge;" it's the truth but the word "challenge" has several layers for me. It would be nice to meet new people and hear new voices and talk about different subjects. How would I fare working with these people; where would I fall in the social network of a new organization?

In college, my ability to socialize had its ups and downs. As an RA in the residence hall I was very social and responsible, but at my internship at BVK, a big influential ad agency, I was small and overwhelmed. It was the same in school; I was relatively quiet and guarded in class. I would speak up in critique a couple times a week, but honestly I wasn't happy with the people in my class. I felt at times that they were putting on a show, using words and making hand gestures to make themselves seem like they were at a higher artistic level than the rest of us. Many times I was so frustrated that I would skip out of class at break and make my way back to the dorms to quietly sit in my chair and stare out of the window. I was probably thinking the same thoughts as last night after the interview.

I have always over-thought and taken life too serious; a good way to put it would be that I take life personal. Yeah. I'm going to coin a phrase; "Don't take life personal." I worked at an intellectual property law firm one summer, maybe I should call them and trademark that sucker.

Another piece of common sense I'm not heeding.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The New Year

Today I'm visiting NW again to have the VNS turned up. It seems to be working how it should. I've had two strong seizures since my last doctor visit but I was able to control them with the VNS and the magnate. I've been keeping track of the "when/where/intensity" with my phone; something I wasn't doing in the past but should have been.

My New Year's resolution is really so big and complicated that I wouldn't call it a resolution at all. My job is to pick away at the things that I do have control over.

Sara and I were watching a documentary about WWII; basically the reconstruction. Cities and homes were completely destroyed. Amongst all the rubble, people formed lines and started pulling out one brick at a time to set them in a nice, neat pile. They found chairs and furniture, turned them right-side up and found an area for them. The people looked miserable, and the narrator said that reconstruction didn't end until the 1980's.

I'd like to do the same thing. Start at a point and work with what I have to make things better; even if it takes longer than expected. Every other time I've tried this method I was met strongly by adversity. The thing that I have to understand is adversity is the definition of any disorder or disease.

When I got out of college I had an idea of where my life was headed and what I wanted to do. I was looking straight forward, but several months ran into years and the path began to curve and sway. I was distraught but willing to work through the doors that were open to me. Since being sick, that path has taken a complete right angle and I haven't yet come to terms that the path that I'm standing on isn't the path I dreamt about.

The one thing I could never expect is that someone else would be sharing my path's turns and dips. Sara is a person I need. She's the part of my brain that remembers and continually reminds me for what I should be grateful. Sara's the energy that keeps my going when mine seems to have run out. She has eyes that do not look away from my body's scars and discrepancies; a body for which I'm sorely self-conscious. Sara has hands that will grasp mine to walk me through difficult steps; literally, at times. She married this man, a man that hasn't held himself in high regard in a long time. Apparently, there's something she sees in me that I have yet to discover.