Make Your Mark

I listened to a discussion the other day that I liked. It was centered around the thought that happiness is more closely related to acceleration than velocity. When an airplane is at cruising speed you never notice how fast you’re going. But you do notice it when you take off. It’s the relative change from low to high that we remember. On paper you may have every reason to be happy, but if every day is status quo and never changes… it’s easy to feel dissatisfied.

The moments we remember, the events that give us the feeling of happiness are those times when things are new and changing. Going on a vacation, trying a new sport or hobby, visiting a restaurant or museum you’ve never been to. If you’re not continually accelerating you may have an impressive velocity, but are you really noticing it?

Last week I had an encounter with a * patient that made me think. This gentleman was not from around these parts as the saying goes. He was from a country in a different hemisphere that very few westerners would even remotely consider visiting. When it came time to sign his discharge paperwork, he very carefully made an X.

This fellow had never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. He did not know how to write out his own name. That brief encounter impacted me fmark2or some reason. It’s so easy to forget what a bubble we live in here in the west. Sometimes (very often) we take for granted how fortunate we are. Any why are we so fortunate? Because we won the ovarian lottery by being born here and not in this gentleman’s country. He had no options from day one. So many people in this country have every opportunity you can imagine, yet spend their time unhappy and complaining.

What do these two things have to do with each other? Nothing really. Just sitting here, marveling at how fortunate my family is and how grateful I am. Grateful that I have the ability to worry about something as trivial as daily happiness and what am I going to do to continue accelerating forward.

Today’s acceleration will definitely not include yardwork.

* HIPAA overlords, this is a hypothetical patient. Not real. Definitely did not happen. I made this up. Fictional. Please don’t report me.

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Tyler Durden:   I know who you are. I know where you live. I’m keeping your license, and I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then six months, and then a year, and if you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead…

Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.

The Lost Year

“Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon…everything’s different.” – Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes

This was an odd year. Not bad, just… odd. On paper there’s plenty of memorable moments that I’m very grateful for – completing my mid-life crisis career change, a big anniversary, a bucket list trip, travel to some new cities, rekindling my love of nachos  and questionable relationship with golf.

Looking back however, there were so many things that I didn’t do. I didn’t ride my bike. Or motorcycle. There was very little skiing or rafting. I didn’t take any pictures. I didn’t write much. Didn’t connect a whole lot with friends and family. Ignored the yard work. Ignored the gym. No real hiking. And worst of all, the grill saw virtually no barbeque this year.

When I look at those two paragraphs, I’m embarrassed. It’s a cliché, but what horrible first-world problems. It’s easy to forget how fortunate I am to have such trivial regrets. There is a large portion of the US, let alone the rest of the world, that can’t imagine having the year I had. Yet it’s easy to take for granted what we have and to let time slip by.

Looking ahead it feels like it’s time to reconnect. To realize that I’m way past the halfway mark of my trips around the sun. Nobody knows how many more you get, but it sure seems pretty stupid to waste them. It’s time to add some clarity to the filters that we apply to our day-to-day lives.

It’s time to say no to things that don’t add value to your life… Virtually everything on broadcast TV. Politics. Movie remakes and sequels. Being outraged at everything. Worrying what people think. Being afraid to try new things. To being lazy. It’s time to say no to pumpkin spice. And yams. Yeah, I said it. F**k yams. You can try to disguise them with marshmallows, but they’re still just nasty, mushy yams.

It’s time to say yes to travel and exploring. To being outside and skiing and rafting and fishing. To being back on two wheels and exploring trails. To being creative. To learning something new. To reaching out and maintaining connections to friends and family. To cooking and grilling. To more nachos. To exercising enough that I can eat nachos. To laughing.

Due to my job, I’ve spent a lot of time this year with people who are on their final trip around the sun. I can say with certainty that none of them wished they’d worked more, or spent more time watching TV. I suspect most of them wished they’d taken more risks. Experienced more things. Said yes more often. Engaged more with the people and world around them.

I was wrong about the year being lost. While at the time it didn’t seem like much was changing, at the end it’s given me a much healthier view of what’s important. I’m really looking forward to the new year. My single goal for this year – to minimize the number of days that seem wasted. To more often than not, go to bed and feel satisfied that I had a pretty good day. Seems simple. Harder in practice. Worth the effort.

On Maturity

Watching the violent snowflake outrage in Berkley over thoughts that don’t match their group-think, I was reminded of a recent conversation Mrs. Troutdog and I had about maturity. We were talking about kids being able to safely walk/ride their bikes to school and she said “…but he’s only in middle school”.

I’m not a parent, which of course makes me perfectly qualified to pass judgement on parenting styles. I’m also not the most adventurous person in the world and tend to be pretty cautious most of the time. But this one time way back in the stone age I was twelve, about to turn thirteen. I wrote a letter (gasp, no email?) and applied to a summer camp I found in the back of Sunset magazine. I got the job, got on a Greyhound bus in Northern California and traveled down to San Diego alone. Spent the entire summer as a camp counselor and lifeguard.

Now this was not particularly extreme and I’m sure many of you who grew up in the mid-west were probably even more independent. I think most of today’s younger generation parents would be horrified at the idea of putting a twelve year old on a bus to travel 800 miles away, alone. Practically grounds for a child abuse lawsuit. (9 year old on the subway ) A year later at thirteen, a friend and I loaded up backpacks and rode our bikes 30+ miles to a lake and camped for three days. No cell phones, no way for our parents to know if we were alive or had been snatched by an evil clown. Today, a child of thirteen walking (or Uber) to the store to pick up a gallon of milk will be required to check in by phone three times and the parents will be monitoring their real-time progress via an app.

Ignoring “extreme” travel, how many parents today would be comfortable with their twelve year old riding their bike around at 4am every day delivering newspapers in the dark?  (what’s a newspaper?) How else was I supposed to afford baseball cards and movies? Today’s kids get allowance for backbreaking chores like “keeping their room clean” or “taking out the trash”.

We’re raising a generation that isn’t particularly rugged and is frightened of everything. Is it any surprise that people in the U.S. are outraged at everything today? Give your kids the chance to be more self-reliant and independent – they’ll thank you for it in the long run.

What I’ve Learned

In my short career as a nurse, I’ve learned a couple of things. Mostly that it’s frightening how much I don’t know. It’s a very interesting thing to throw yourself into something that has such a steep learning curve, but with serious real-world consequences… I’m not sure yet if 12 straight hours being scared to death you’re going to accidently harm someone is good for the blood pressure. Anyway, I have managed to learn me a few things I thought I’d share. For context I work on a neuro-spine floor. Spinal surgery, brain surgery, traumas, strokes, seizures, dementia, Alzheimer’s.

  • Your mom was right – wear a helmet. ALWAYS. I’ve been guilty of this. It takes surprisingly little force to cause a life altering injury. Just wear the damn helmet.
  • It is possible to only pee once in 14 hours. Not recommended, but achievable with practice.
  • Drugs in large continuous quantities tend to be bad for you. Forget Mrs. Reagan’s failed campaign, every junior high class should be forced to take a field trip to my floor to see the actual impact of drug use. Whod’a thunk taking too much meth could cause a stroke? The official term for the resulting brain impact is ‘summer squash’.
  • My patient load is 5. That means I get to devote a massive 12 minutes per hour ensuring you’re still breathing or not otherwise declining in a way that would look bad on my record. Let’s just say that the numbers don’t add up, even on the most routine shifts. Somehow it all works.
  • People are dumb, frightening animals. I’d estimate that only about a third of the population are what you’d consider normal functioning humans who can cope with daily life. It’s very scary how many people are out walking amongst us who really don’t have any grasp on basic life skills.
  • As a society we take too many pain pills. Everyone seems to think there’s a magic pill that will take away all pain… and I’m selfishly choosing not to give it to you. Sorry, but a subdural hematoma and multiple skull fractures is going to hurt. A lot. Yes I could give you more opioids, but I’m pretty sure continuing to breathe is important. I think I read that somewhere in anatomy and physiology.
  • Speaking of pills, people have the most bizarre rituals for swallowing ’em. You’ll happily swallow a massive chunk of steak the size of campfire marshmallow, yet swallowing a tiny little pill is like coordinating a moon shot. Water must be the exact right temperature, you must pre-moisten your mouth with exactly three sips, the pill must be carefully placed in the exact right position on the tongue, and you must swallow slowly while staring at the ceiling followed by half a glass of water to wash it down. Could you imagine eating an entire meal the same way you took pills? Dinner would take six hours and you’d drink 2 gallons of water. Considering each patient takes about a dozen pills… you can start to see why the allotted 12 minutes per patient doesn’t add up.
  • The various forms of Alzheimer’s are truly one of the most horrible diseases out there and it gets very little attention. The thought of it scares me.
  • If you tell me your pain is 10 out of 10 while talking on your cell phone and eating pudding… it’s not. Hitting you in the head with a sledgehammer is a 10.
  • No, I’m not going to stop treating the guy in the next room who’s blood pressure just tanked and is getting close to enjoying 300 joules to the chest, so I can get you a warm blanket. You’ll survive.
  •  Medical power of attorney. Yes, have one people unless you want to trust aunt Sally to make your medical decisions for you.
  • As you get older, think carefully about your code status (do not resuscitate, etc..). It’s not like the movies. The brain doesn’t survive very long without oxygen. There’s a bunch of vital gunk in the brain (I read that somewhere) that controls some important stuff. Even if we get the ticker running again, the outcome isn’t always desirable.

I think the number one thing I’ve learned so far is how fleeting our time here is. Every day I walk the floor surrounded by people who thought they were going to have a regular, boring day until they got thumped by the cement truck they didn’t see coming. You can’t avoid all the cement trucks… but you can do everything possible to enjoy today.

On Travel And Whatnot

I done visited me some places in my life. More than some, considerably less than many. I seen me the Rooster Days parade in Broken Arrow Oklahoma. I drove past that big arch thingy in St. Louis. I spent a day once in Mendota California. On purpose. I spent a drunken afternoon betting on Jai Alai in Tijuana once. Y’all may want to put those on your bucket lists.

Mrs. Trout and I got to talking and the subject of travel came up. She asked where would I want to go for a big bucket list vacation? Interestingly it turns out, I don’t know. I’ve never actually put any real thought into it. Trips, vacations, countries, and adventures have just sorta happened… I don’t have a big list that I’m checking things off of. So I decided it’s time to create that master list and start working through it before I get run over by a cement truck.

Turns out, making that list is harder than I thought it would be. I actually got somewhat overwhelmed. Are we talking about big budget, six months of planning, once in a lifetime trips? Maybe it’s the quick weekend dash to see the Myrtle Beach Elvis fetouriststival? Worldwide or U.S. only? Lazy sit on a secluded beach (would have to get in banana hammock shape for that one) or trek the Himalayas? Pampered all-inclusive resort or someplace that might not be so safe for a camo baseball hat, Bermuda shorts, fanny pack wearing U.S. of A good ‘ole boy? Culture and museums or party my brains out (well, until 10pm, I go to bed early) on a beach somewhere in Phuket?

Once you pick a place, how do you see it? Organized tour? Frantically hit every tourist spot you can since you’ll never be back? Ignore the tourism and stay in one spot like a local?

There’s just too much out there. I’m paralyzed. What if I choose wrong? What if I can’t find a Taco Bell? I may have to binge-watch No Reservations for ideas. Or Bear Grylls. Nah, too scary. I may just stick to every season of Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives. Eating my way across the country seems like a worthy bucket list goal. I’m going to keep working on this list. Check back with me in a while to see how it’s going. Odd’s are I’ll still be staring at a screen with approximately 1,232 browser tabs open, all pointing to various top-50, must-see lists. Or I’ll have been sidetracked with epic dog fail videos.

On The Big Blue Bin

I shouldn’t tell you this because it makes me sound, well, terribly insecure. I am, but that’s beside the point. The point is to leave you marveling at how manly I am, combined with a deep sensitive side. Stay tuned for the end of the post and videos of monster trucks, tattoos,  blowing stuff up, and American eagles flying majestically over the latest Tough Mudder run.

This week I had two friends make me feel really bad about myself. They didn’t mean to (refer back to insecurity). The first incident followed the horrible running decision from my last post. My friend seemed to truly enjoy the run (no, I don’t understand that) and commented on her feelings upon reaching the summit. One of the things she said was how thankful she was that she had two arms and legs that work and how grateful she was that she could do something like this. At the time the only thoughts I had were #1: beer, #2: I’m never doing this again, and #3: beer.

It wasn’t until later that I reflected and realized that, holly crap I’m pretty damn insensitive. Of course she’s right. I’m sure there were folks in that race that trained most of the year, overcame incredible obstacles, and just finishing was probably a significant milestone for them. Meanwhile I’m writing a snarky post complaining that I didn’t do as well as I wanted and I should probably put more effort into it next time (no, there won’t be a next time). We’re all one horrible cement truck accident away from wishing we could run a race. I should be damn grateful that at my age I still can participate.

The second incident occurred over a dinner conversation. Somehow talk drifted towards garbage and I casually dropped the anti-green bombshell – no, I don’t recycle. After an uncomfortable silence, my friend called me out on my statement and said “why?” I briefly contemplated tales of old war wounds, presidential dispensations, we live in a recycle-free zone, my busy schedule… but quickly came to my senses and ‘fessed up. The answer is that I’m too lazy to sort it and I already take out the garbage too many times every week. Uh yeah, that sounds as lame writing it as it did saying it.

Sadly, I spoke the truth. I really am that shallow. I actually searched “does recycling really work” to see if I could make myself feel better. While there are a number of arguments you could try and make, at the end of the day recycling is a few less things that end up in a landfill. And that’s a good thing. Oh, but the cost!! Err, I looked that up too. In my town, even if I was to add a second recycle cart it’s only an additional .54 cents per month. Dammit, I hate when I can’t be right all the time.

Does this mean there’s going to be a fundamental shift in my outlook? Have I completely given in to the North End, crunchy granola, hippie, 420 celebrating, Tibetan prayer flag, and save the whales lifestyle? Probably not. But I do think I need to be a little more appreciative of what I have. And if I can make a few small differences here and there, why not? I am officially making one of the two garbage bins under the sink a “recycle” bin. We’ll see where it goes, but don’t hold your breath for the hemp clothing and compost bin.

As promised, in no particular order:

egale

Monster trucks  (I tried, but I just can’t do it. Too close to pro bass fishing and “jorts + mullets)

U.S. Marines blowing shit up  (warning, might be disturbing for those who don’t really understand what “stopping ISIS” actually means)

It doesn’t fit me, but I’m fascinated with day of the dead tattoos. (Dia De Los Muertos if you’re not from pigs-knuckle Arkansas. Apologies to any of our southern brothers that actually live in Arkansas. If you’re a reader and live in Arkansas, on purpose… well, I’m sorry. Don’t know what else to say)water

The Tough Mudder. (Relegated to the same waste bin as running races. Never again. Interferes with drinking beer)

On Moments Of Truth

The moment of truth. A turning point. That defining moment. The red pill or the blue? Beer or bourbon? A salad or fries? Jimi Hendrix or… wait, never mind. Hendrix is always the answer. For many people there comes a point in time where you reach a place that inspires you to decide that you don’t want to continue down the same pzig-Ziglar-motivation-quotes-2ath you’ve been on. If I was a motivated guy, this is where I’d insert the inspirational quote from Zig Ziglar and declare that things will be different from now on.

Uh, that’s not really my style. Although, I did have one of those moments yesterday. I’d foolishly signed up for a running race that I’d done before. Except I was lazy and I didn’t train for it. I probably gained did gain weight between sign-up and race day. I assumed that, like when I was 20, I could just show up and get ‘er done. Uh, nope. It was pretty ugly. As I lumbered uphill like a pregnant walrus, it became clear that I can no longer deny reality. I’ve gotten old, fat, and frighteningly out of shape. I was passed by people who, if I saw them on the street, I’d think to myself “there’s a walking heart attack”. I was passed by people in their 70’s who looked like they were going to keel over at any moment. I survived and finished, but it was a humbling day.

I woke up this morning determined to change and to seize this opportunity to improve myself. I vowed to be the like ‘theRock and post my 4am daily workout on the Instagrams. I will be a paleo god and laugh at those fools eating gluten and sugar. I will be pure! I will fuel the engine with nothing but locally sourced fresh food kissed with mermaid tears and love. I will embrace Grok and become a crossfit machine. Then I thought about pancakes and wondered when the new pizza place down the street will open.

I’m not sure if I have it in me to change my habits. I like the idea of it. It’s the doing part that’s a challenge. It’s hard to say what path I’m going to take. I did win the weight loss challenge of ’14. I’ve also managed to put all that weight back on, plus some, by sitting in a chair fairly continuously for a year and a half. Which me is going to emerge come Monday morning? Will it be the motivated and disciplined troutdog or the fat lazy trout taking the path of least resistance?

Realistically, any clear thinking person knows that our actions should be based upon preparations for the zombie apocalypse. And what is Columbus’s rule # 1? Cardio. So there you have it. It’s the 4am wake-up and go time for me. Then again, there’s the merits of being well-armed, don’t be afraid to use your ammunition and rule #2 – the double tap. Go ahead and hand me those pancakes.

Tallahassee: Are you fucking with me?

Columbus: Uh, no. You should actually limber up as well. Especially if we’re going down that hill. It is very important.

Tallahassee: I don’t believe in it. You ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?