Am I Allowed to Feel Sorry for Myself?

***Yes, I have kissed my mother with this mouth. You’ve been warned. 

I’m a baby. A whiner. I am weakness. Maybe at this point, a poser. Woke up this morning feeling utterly and pathetically sorry for myself. It’s the lowest of the low for me. That feeling of knowing you’re pathetic and can’t find the balls to break from it. It angers me. Weakness. My complaining is tiresome. The fishing for sympathy. Empathy. The echo of my own verbiage bouncing off a chamber with walls of self-pity and impaling my self-worth. The spoken and physical comforts from loved ones are like the stubbing of a toe. Sympathy. Pacifying. That look of “poor thing.” Maybe the sentiment lasts 1 minute from them, then they move on. Good for them. I shouldn’t have said anything to begin with. What can they do? Why complain? I guess the same reason for this essay, social media, whatever… to gain attention. To stroke my ego. To justify my sorrows. To feel normal. Normal? Holy shit. This sorrow is normal? This self-pity is normal? Am I allowed to feel sorry for myself? I ask this all the time because deep down I know feeling sorry for myself is useless. What does it solve? Maybe it’s ok for a few moments but not long term. I can’t be a fucking victim in my own life. I have to tell myself, NO! I have to CONVINCE myself to move on. Today, I’m losing the battle. 

You have never tasted freedom, friend, or you would know it is purchased not with gold, but steel. ~Dienekes 

Now the panic starts to settle in. Is my body failing me again? So the damn checklist begins. Deep breath. Well that felt like it was about 6 seconds. That seems ok. No sharp or constricting pain in the chest area. Breathe in, 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand, 4 one thousand 5 one thou….., hold… one and two and three and four and five and six and seven… exhale through clenched lips… one and two and three and four and five and six and seven and eight… release. Repeat three more times. Check pulse, around 60, high but I can accept it. When I’m not thinking about it later it will be lower. Now for a quiet space and breathing again. I sit, cross my legs, feel the pain of my beef jerky-like muscles crack. I sit up tall and inhale deeply, hold for a quick moment, exhale slowly through clenched lips until I can no longer push. Repeat for three minutes. Cramps or pain in the shoulder? No. How about the lower right back? Some, but it feels muscular and has been nagging me ever since I’ve been riding my time trial bike. Energy is fine. Complexion fine. Respiration seems normal. So what the fuck? This, THIS is what I have to go through now? This is the routine when things don’t seem right? A check list of fucking vitals? A habit to reinforce fear? A checklist to tell myself “it’s ok Danny.” Maybe even a mental pat on the shoulder of reassurance when really, it should be a 2×4 across the back of the head. But how can I when it’s up my ass? 

Maybe, just maybe asshole, this is the way it is. No. Fuck that. I don’t accept it. I can’t. I won’t. But do I have a choice? Is there a choice? Free will, right? Well what the hell is that? I have no will. And it certainly isn’t free. 

Death will change you, if you can’t change yourself ~Mark Twight

Essays ago I was talking about the health scare I had a few years back. It was about how I now needed to get out of my comfort zone by backing off and going with the flow. I’m losing this fight with the boundaries that encase my comfort. Maybe part of me or even most of me can push through the self-perceived fence that guards my safe spot, but my fear pulls me back through just when things get tough. I’m great out of the gates but not much for stamina anymore. How could I be? I’ve had 40+ years of being fine. Of ups and downs and recovering just fine. Now, I find myself in a never ending cycle of feeling like shit. 

Ever since we’ve been in the pandemic, I’ve been trying to stay in shape. At first, I was biking indoors for not only myself, but for my track athletes. I would post my workouts and to talk about them and what the focus was so that my track athletes could see someone keeping the effort up and that they would maybe be pushed to get out and do something themselves. I did this for over 8 weeks. Spring was past its prime and a couple days led to nice weather. Time to get outside. It was glorious. I felt great. Rode with a friend the next time and it was effortless. Now I couldn’t go back to being on rollers. Rolling roads was my only option.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and it was just below 50 out. I had the proper clothing, no big deal. I’ve exercised in cool weather before. But something was different. At wattages that I’m usually fine with, I was breathing harder. Not out of breath, just working harder. When I got home, I was so fatigued all I did was lay in bed for an hour or so looking to take a nap. I couldn’t. My chest barrel was achy. I could still breath deep, my heart rate was still normal, there was no fever… god, what is going on? For about the next two weeks it was this way, but better each ride. It lasted for just over 3 weeks. I’ve been in this cycle for about 2 months now. Yesterday, I think was the start of the next cycle. I rode with a friend and we did the same exact loop I did a week ago. The intensity factor last week, based on my power meter, was .93. It was a day where I thought I was going for an easy spin and I decided to do some big chain ring work. It felt fine so why let up? This lasted until my ride was over. Fuck yeah. I even felt good after it. Tired, but the good tired. Yesterday, it was the same loop. .92. I wanted to go to the ER for about 2 hours after the ride. I eventually got moving and did some housework and felt ok for the rest of the day. Chest was sore. 

The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love. ~Tennessee Williams

Woke up this morning, achy in my barrel. Heart rate is fine. No fever. I can take deep breaths without pain. I have fucking had it with this shit. So now what? Make another doctor’s appointment? What for? To be told, for at least the tenth time, that everything sounds and looks good? Fuck that. Seriously. I’m even rage typing right now. Maybe the keyboard can share my pain. That’s a bit irrational, isn’t it Dan? It’s beyond bullshit and I don’t know what to do anymore. I exercise, I do breathing exercises to round out my rides when done. I meditate. I write. I walk. I even stop in the day to practice breathing. I’m taking my prescribed meds for my episode years ago. I try to relax. I’m constantly in pursuit of reading up on mentality and how to be more at peace. I work on awareness all day and my reactions to it. Maybe it’s allergies. I’ll take meds for that too and I don’t feel much of a difference. Analysis paralysis? I feel like I’m going through a midlife crisis. For God sake, I thought I went through that a five years ago! My awareness has the acuity of a nerve being severed when it comes to this kind of mentality. Every little thing triggers it, aggravates it, gives me knots in my stomach and paralyzes my attention towards other things. I dwell. A dwelling that turns into a black hole. Each time this bullshit happens, I get closer to that event horizon. It is looking to suck me down into an inescapable realm of loathing. Separating my will, atom by atom at an accelerating pace. I can’t allow that to happen. I CAN’T allow it to happen. My body is becoming a failure. Maybe it’s my mind. It is happening to me over and over and over, a sadistic mind fuck on a continuous cycle. It doesn’t matter what I say to myself, or how much water I drink, or the whole foods I eat, or how much exercise I do, or how much writing I do, or how much I talk to my friends about this. It just never seems to get any better. It is beating me down. It has not only taken the wind out of my sails, but ripped the sails and the mast from my boat while having fried its navigation system. I feel like I can’t exercise to the intensity that shapes me. I feel like I can’t do what I absolutely love, and that is to suffer without hesitation. Whether it’s biking or running or jiu-jitsu, anything that involves a high heart rate and deep breathing. I feel like it’s been stolen from me and I am continuously chasing after it. I am not gaining any ground. I am beat back by it just when I think that I have a grasp on it. 

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. ~ David Goggins

This is something that will be hard for me to get used to if this is the way life is going to be. This is something that is already challenging me and it’s only been a few years. I’m tired of hearing that I need to back off. I’m tired of telling myself that I’m getting old. I’m tired of thinking that I need to let off the gas. I understand that I am not 20 anymore. I understand that my body will not recover the way it used to. I understand all of this evolution throughout a lifespan. But I’m experiencing a drop off. No. A plummet. This is not a gentle decline. It is a crevasse. I’m hanging on with one hand, dangling. I want to lead a good life. A productive life. A hard life. A life with some suffering. Maybe it’s cliche, but somewhat of a warrior’s life. I don’t want to be stuck on my ass doing yoga in the basement or taking a brisk walk and talking about how that’s my workout everyday. I don’t want to be stuck in the house and sidelined when my kids want to go for a bike ride or even a run where I can ride next to them on my bike. I feel like this is the downward spiral of a toilet bowl. I’m in the whirlpool and headed for the sewer. I hate the feeling. It’s as though I have lost my shield and my spear is broken while my sword is too heavy to wield. My body is evolving in an accelerated but natural rate, but my mind is not. It doesn’t comprehend the speed. 

You’re your own biggest critic. Am I being too critical? NO FUCKING WAY. As my father would always tell me, “The truth hurts.” Yes, it does. And who else is going to be as truthful to me besides me? Sure, others will give it to me straight, but they’re not as intimate with myself as I am. Nor do they understand my true feelings about myself and what I expect. It’s easy to tell someone else that it’s fine to let off the gas. It makes us feel better about ourselves with our own dealings of weakness. But we never do tell ourselves the same because we want to make ourselves feel like shit. Why? Because on the other side of suffering is greatness. We all know this. We just don’t practice it, but the suffering I’m enduring is blocking the true suffering I require. What to do? Drag on trying to convince myself that this is living, that this life now is not a participation sport? Do I live out the rest of my time scared? Should I be idle just to make sure I live as long as I can? Would that even work? I am past midlife. As Mark Twight says, “This isn’t midlife. This is closer to the end than the beginning…” Will the remaining time that sums up the fall and winter of my life be a life worth living? Would I want to be a person who would rather leave this existence now, after doing many of the things that make ME feel alive and worthy of the space I take up? Or, do I want to spend the next 30 years wasting oxygen that would be better served for someone who is not wasting their moments? Or, would I prefer from what I heard in a recent podcast, “having a tattoo on my chest that simply says ‘DO NOT RESUSCITATE'” as I’d rather depart with a smile than a blank stare? I wonder how people who live their lives on the edge, that leave this world early, really feel in those final moments? Knowing their whole lives that any moment can be their last. And when that moment comes, is there a split second of regret or gratitude? I want to, no, I HAVE to believe that it’s gratitude. Why else would they live that way? I’m not saying I want a life on the edge when it comes to my pursuits, I just feel like my health is always on the edge and my pursuits sharpen the edge. 

Punish your body to perfect the soul. ~Mark Twight

Maybe it was a bad day. I can deal with that. What I am struggling with is that those days keep adding up at a faster rate than they used to. But maybe, just maybe I can keep the positive days in the black. That if I just live one suffering moment at a time I will be present enough to find a little grace. To keep depositing growth in my “life well lived” bank account. That these moments of will still outweigh the pitiful ones. I have to keep digging. I have to keep examining. I have to find the good in the bad. This suffering, good or bad, can teach me a lesson. That I gave something of myself and that has to mean something good. That I left a weaker part of me as another pebble on the pavement of this new journey. That even though I may be crumbling in some areas, I can keep other areas intact. It might be with duct tape, but goddamnit, it will keep me in the fight. Many before me and many after me have and will still prove, that there is always a way to work through our self-pity. I am not special or unique. There have been many lives lived that were much harder than mine. And when I think about, really, is my life that hard? NO. Give me a fucking break Dan. Get perspective on relativity. Because relative to others who have lived a hard life, I’ve yet to even leave an imprint in this life. The struggle is not real. If I want to have the hardcore life, I must expect no fucking slack. Get it together. That’s all I want to do. 

How human beings deal with the limitation of their possibilities regarding how it affects their actions and their ability to love, how they behave under these restrictions — the way in which they accept their suffering under such restrictions — in all of this they still remain capable of fulfilling human values.

So, how we deal with difficulties truly shows who we are.

~Viktor Frankl