Tag Archives: Adolescence Interrupted

A Beautiful, Baffling Brain


Because of a shoulder I recklessly and relentlessly abused for the last 30 years, I’ve been forced to add another doctor to my Santa’s-length scroll. I tried to be affable, give it plenty of ice, practically cut the mph out of the heart of my serve, and even took additional rest days between matches.

Yet, there it stood, defiantly sulking in the corner like a toddler told he couldn’t have dessert. It wasn’t interested in what I wanted or how much I required constant, intense exercise to keep me sane. The decision was made to remain a dysfunctional nest of tears and impingements that screamed at me whenever I pushed it beyond its threshold. It was obvious I was going to need reinforcements.

I found a physical therapist who specialized in athletes and was fresh off a stint working with the Chinese Olympic team. He took a holistic approach and followed the theory that the interconnectedness of our anatomy makes isolating a specific injury area nothing more than a fool’s errand.

Fascia, which is the connective tissue throughout our bodies, functions as a kind of supportive wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles. If the fascia is disrupted by surgery or injury (or loses its stiffness), a variety of issues can develop.

Since this shoulder has been a nagging problem I’ve had for years, I was more than willing to hear his suggestions, however unorthodox they seemed.

So we got to work, trying to reestablish broken or compromised connections in unanticipated places. For example, even though the right shoulder is sore, the problem could be originating in the left knee or hip.

But early on, some very basic exercises started to paint a wholly unexpected picture. There were certain movements that were effortless to perform on one side of my body and absolutely impossible on the other. He remarked that he primarily used these activities to help retrain stroke victims. The more we dug, the more we discovered.

Because I stroll around this life with a brain that has been poked, prodded, sliced, beaten, and traumatized more than most, there are fundamental connections and channels that have been severed.

I play tennis like a maniac, I routinely go on marathon walks and hikes, I practice daily yoga, and I generally feel like a highly functional intellect. I assumed I emerged from the wildfire of my neurological nightmare more or less intact. But apparently, the smoke at my back was more of a smoke screen.

It looks like my habitual athletic movements established a type of overcompensation for some very fundamental disconnections. Because I’ve hit millions of forehands, the brain has learned to ignore the fact that there isn’t a normal relationship between my left leg and right arm, and the repetition of the activity allows that mask to remain.

I unearthed even more about a body and brain that I’ve been exhaustingly studying and researching for decades—but lying on a yoga mat with zero ability to move my arm and knee in the exact same way I’d done just a minute earlier was a frightening wake-up call that there’s still so much left to learn.

We possess some incredibly complex and mysterious cranial mainframes. Sometimes even the slightest disruption can rattle that cage in ways we may not ever realize.

So take care of that body, protect that brain, and nurture that mind. You won’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone.

Adolescence Interrupted 

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Scales Without Balance

“If we think of life as a kind of Olympic games, some of life’s crises are sprints. They require maximum emotional concentration for a short time. Then they are over, and life returns to normal. But other crises are distance events. They ask us to maintain our concentration over a much longer period of time, and that can be a lot harder.”                                                                                                    —Harold S. Kushner

I am deeply troubled these days. I’m blinded by unjust suffering on a global scale and I watch the escalating pain of family and friends from a very personal perspective.

How did our calibration fall so far out of balance? Why must genuinely sweet souls be forced to endure sustained agony while those with evil, black hearts are permitted to swim free in a sea of avarice and insensitivity?

I will never understand the fundamental human hardwiring that values greed and excess over common decency and the general welfare of others. It is a pandemic virus without a cure, and it’s systematically infecting our brains with frightening speed and alarming accuracy.

So…why do bad things happen to good people? Is there really no karmic system in place to level the playing field? Is everything simply randomized chaos without even the hint of some justified cause or effect?

This nightmarish scenario certainly frames society in a context that would cause the vast majority to squirm in their seats, and that’s not even taking into account the titanic religious implications in the lives of those who truly believe there is a grand master plan at play.

As hard as it might be to wrap your head around the fact that we’ll probably not get to the roots of the “meaning of life” debate during this short post, it’s worth considering that our own backyards are the only ones we can clean, and acts of kindness and generosity can easily be distributed one day (and to one person) at a time.

Your pain is never as severe as someone else’s. Your financial situation is never as dire. But your success is never as impressive, and your status is merely an illusion devised by your artificially-inflated ego.

Take a step back and take a step down. We are forgoing a sense of community and compassion at a disturbingly breakneck pace. It might be wise to take stock of what’s truly important…before it’s all lost.

Adolescence Interrupted

A Cinematic Pause

Nothing is more valuable for the sanctity of your sanity like a thorough reset. Although we have been conditioned to believe that only those who blindly and defiantly sprint toward the finish line should be lauded, more health and happiness is bundled with balance than whatever rewards are gained from ceaseless target practice. The psychological and physical punishment from maniacal ambition is a detrimental recipe for reduced days and a diminished quality of life.

It’s vital we find the opportunity and willingness to hit that pause button when society’s waves start to throw a little too much water into the boat—and drowning is a metaphor easily rescued by the right kind of flotation device.

Meditation can wear countless masks. Sometimes people have no idea they are involved in a meditative practice because it’s simply something they enjoy doing. But wherever you can find opportunities to live in the present moment and release the worries of yesterday or tomorrow, you are involved in a kind of meditation.

There are only two diversions that allow me near-total absorption: tennis and film.

I’ve discussed my passion for tennis, so there’s no need to revisit my obsession in further detail. But I’ve never described the transformative benefits of sitting in a theater or on a couch and letting myself become thoroughly engrossed in a movie.

Although this has probably always been a part of my life—I can remember paragraphs of dialogue from a film I saw 20 years ago, but I can’t remember a conversation I had with someone last week—only in the past few years have I appreciated this cinematic pause from my endlessly spinning wheels and cripplingly compulsive thoughts.

I give myself the permission to unplug from the anxiety and stress of my daily existence. I’m not exactly sure why these are the only two activities that tell the engineer running my obsessive brain to take a coffee break, but I am beyond grateful to have discovered them.

If a respite from the pandemonium that lives between these ears can be found on a silver screen, I’m happy to take my seat and escape the static.

Adolescence Interrupted

Helping Hands

It’s been said in various ways by brilliant minds with giant hearts. There is generally a slight bending of the words, depending on the originator of the quote, but the message remains unambiguous.

A society’s worth is measured by the treatment of its weakest members.

If this is the yardstick by which our modern nation is measured, then I think it’s pretty safe to say this country is worthless.

It’s easy to jump on the gun debate bandwagon because our policies are horrific and asinine, but there’s a much bigger picture to paint.

We don’t care about people. We care about money. Greed has raped decency, and the elite’s blatant refusal to turn around to look at the bloody and bruised feet that are being trampled on the road to ascension is abhorrent.

I’m too young to be the oldest and grumpiest man on the street, but watching half the nation swing a sickle at crops that took generations to grow while the other half cowers in a collective fetal position, is sickening.

We are on a roller coaster careening toward a graphene wall, and it feels like we’re only going faster.

A society should be caring for and protecting those who are most vulnerable. But when people reach out for a helping hand, we consistently find a way to sever it at the wrist.

I’ve discussed my disgust with the chasm between rich and poor a number of times in past postings so I won’t continue to abuse a lifeless equine. But there are dangerous roads being paved with precedents that will be too dangerous to excavate, once we’ve located our missing minds.

This goes way back…before Trump and before Obama. There is a systematic unraveling of our foundational ideals that has been spinning for decades. Human compassion, environmental sympathy, economic responsibility, and global empathy have taken a distant backseat to excess, waste, disrespect, and avarice.

It is a seemingly impossible course to correct, but I have to maintain faith that we will somehow find the courage to grab that handbrake, and in a screeching sea of sparks and flashes, bring that cart to a lifesaving stop.

Adolescence Interrupted

Nurture Thy Soul

Every once in a while, the static seems to settle and we’re able to lock into moments of perfectly positioned peace. Granted, this is not a regular visitor. But when we can turn down the volume of that incessant buzzing in the backs of our brains to experience a few drops of weightless, unadulterated alignment with our surroundings, those fleeting flashes are worth their weight in gold.

This fulfillment-making formula doesn’t require complicated planning or lavish accommodations. It’s simply a matter of exposing the root of what makes us smile, and then letting it get the sunlight it needs to grow. This varies wildly from person to person, and sometimes the simplest set of variables generates the most significant results.

Personally, I know a perfect balance of music, film, safety, isolation, and an empty to-do list can rocket me to a sweet spot of contentment faster than a rowdy party or noisy get-together, but everyone is different. I also savor the depletion following exercise-induced highs. The more introverted energy that can be generated from easy, unrestricted breathing and the simple gift of letting my body buckle from exertion, the more it resembles a reward from work well done.

Perhaps I wanted to write about this particular recent event because it is such a rare phenomenon. It’s hard to remember the last time I felt like I could lower the defensive shields and clear my mind. It takes a very specific set of circumstances. So when that wave of pure tranquility unexpectedly washed over me a few days ago, its presence was noted.

Unfortunately, like all waves, it receded as quickly as it arrived. But the cognizance of its normally yeti-like existence helped reorganize the possibility in my mind for its return. Life can’t be all candy, but we should try to take the taffy when it’s offered.

Adolescence Interrupted

Closing a Door to Open an Exit

I suppose I’m boarding the bandwagon by looking back at the last twelve months, but there’s a reason it’s a popular pursuit.

We like to quantify our existence through measurable gains or losses. It’s a tool to see where we’ve been and to plot where we’re going. Without some definable roadmap, we tend to wander. One day bleeds into the next, and we’re left looking for the missing months and disappearing days. But I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

There’s an argument to be made on both sides. Adhering to an unforgivingly regimented schedule that leaves little or no time for friends, loved ones, or creative pursuits is probably as detrimental as a life spent sinking in the quicksand of financial worry or health concerns.

Money is made and money is lost. The loop of hope and disappointment continues to spin. But what’s the big picture purpose?

I do know that as soon as health is compromised, everything else takes a distant back seat. Whether it’s the physical or mental well-being of those close to us or own bodies rebelling against our neatly-laid plans, there’s no backburner for pain…at least, not the real stuff.

On that note, I can happily report that regular work with my energy healer/acupuncturist, Jennifer, has transformed my life. There were far too many days this past year when death seemed like a viable solution to neutralize the agonizing torture that migraines inflicted on my body and mind. I was yards past the end of my rope, as anyone who had a conversation with me about the topic can attest.

The residual damage of that kind of extended trauma is still there, but every week I move closer to regaining some sense of security and a slightly tighter grip on the leash of this unpredictable beast. Awareness about how we’re wired and why our brains decide to embark on dark excursions of their own design is like a spotlight in the eyes of Gremlins. They prefer to do their work in the shadows, so it’s up to us to bathe them in light.

I will continue to carry a boulder-laden backpack of uncertainty about my overarching path and purpose, but I am finally starting to take that hike without looking for falling rocks at every turn.

One heavy-booted step at a time.

Okay, 2018…I’m ready to walk.

Adolescence Interrupted 

Just Beyond the Barrier


“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”  ―Molière

The mouse maze would be a lot more manageable with a bird’s-eye view, and those towering peaks in the distance have done a nice job of blocking out the sun. Seeing the path unfold at my feet in inch increments, while tripwires and banana peels snicker at my cautious discretion, has made me wish more than once for the gift of flight.

If I could only elevate to see what’s waiting around that next bend, perhaps I could find comfort in the soft center of the present moment, even temporarily. Just a few precious minutes without the sense of an approaching sandstorm would feel like drops of water on the tongue of a desert wanderer.

But as I attempt to maneuver, jockeying for position among a throng of marathoners, my trusty compass abandons true north, testing my resilience and trying my patience. How many times must I substantiate my intent as the lake freezes, leaving me sliding around in socks instead of skates?

I am defined by my defiance, then and now, and no flash of light or fake whiff of cheese will divert me from finding that finish line.

This mouse is more method than instinct, and the only footsteps to follow are the ones I leave behind.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Benefits of Resetting

Pots boiling over. Tea kettles screaming to be heard. Every line racing to red. Pressure valves begging for release.

We have all felt the strain of inescapable compression. Bands tighten around temples as blood vessels constrict. Faces flush and jaws clench. Shoulders tense as teeth shave enamel.

These desperate attempts to hide our particular brand of bats in our carefully decorated belfries are rarely successful and often dangerous.

When the gasket is finally blown, picking up the pieces is more complicated than reaching for the nearest dustbin. Damages are felt more than seen, and the gritty residue left behind has an odd habit of clinging to the cavities.

So what’s the plan of attack? How can we combat the feeling of impending doom before we’re pulled underwater by a false sense of limited oxygen?

Like every unresponsive phone or frozen computer screen…just reset.

Even though we’re made of cells and blood instead of slots and bytes, the fix takes a similar form.

Stop. Close your eyes. Inhale. Exhale.

It’s incredible to feel the cure. So many of us are walking through the world, unaware that we’ve forgotten to breathe. We unconsciously shorten our intake when we’re worried, working, and stressed. Sometimes even intense focus can produce the same effect. It’s not our fault. It’s our formula.

So the next time your nerves are knocked into overdrive or you feel a seed of rage starting to sprout. Take a beat, and take a breath.

Adolescence Interrupted

Luck be a Founding Father Tonight

It’s easy to view the world as a giant game specifically rigged against you. When enough hopes and dreams fall in succession like a neatly-choreographed domino dance, the prospect of second chances further dwindles with the sound of each ivory thud. The finish line retreats one step at a time to contrast your hard-earned momentum, and the impetus to dig deep feels like a relic from years when you wore much younger skin.

But every once in a while, the universe is flipped on its head, pure oxygen fills the lungs, and those serotonin deficits sit in surplus. Impossible odds and implausible victories make you question the very existence of ruts and worry, and the idea that anything is achievable feels as common a notion as the prior certainty that your particular brand of shadows would never see the sunlight.

One day. One minute. One singular moment everything changes. A notification that you will be sitting in the front row, dead center of a brilliant show that has occupied all your conscious waking thoughts for over a year sends a wave of anticipation and gratitude surging through every single cell. Surreality is too tame a word. You assume there is a mistake and triple check the email. But facts are facts and this is happening. You’re going to Hamilton on Broadway.

Just days earlier, you strolled past the Richard Rodgers Theatre, looked up at the shimmering marquee, and lamented the fact that the modern musical has created a chasm between the rich and poor. There was a time when orchestra seats were expensive, but special occasions justified the cost. Now the sticker shock of tickets priced to maximize profits and establish a notion of “exclusivity” make you yearn for a time when the power of musical theater was accessible to everyone. But you shelve your sentimentality, bathe in the fact that you got the biggest break imaginable, and strap into the experience.

You walk down to the edge of the stage, take a seat that’s close enough to count the number of cavities in the mouths of these musical demigods, and try not to faint from anticipation.

To say that you’re blown away would be an understatement of laughable proportions. You have sat in these theaters since the age of seven, wide-eyed and engaged, soaking up every syllable like a sponge. You buy soundtracks, meticulously memorize every lyric, and belt your lungs out in the middle of traffic. This is, and has always been, your life. Tonight everything changes.

It’s not just good. It’s not just great. It’s the single best play, music, lyrics, and choreography ever created. Hands down. Hamilton sits alone at the very top of a mountain specifically carved to honor the genius it contains. There are no rivals. There is no second place.

The unthinkable is actualized. The dream is a reality. It’s quite possibly the very best night of your life.

Adolescence Interrupted