“For me, the first fact of human existence is the human body. But if you embrace the reality of the human body, you embrace mortality, and that is a very difficult thing for anything to do because the self-conscious mind cannot imagine non-existence. It’s impossible to do.” -David Cronenberg
I think there comes a moment in our lives where we stop taking things for granted.
Actually, I think we have multiple said moments. Most of us have a general plan, outline, idea of how we would like to see our lives play out. Over time, the scenarios change based on current life events.
When I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I had one of these moments. I had another one when making the tough decision to leave grad school, my dream situation at the school I most wanted to be at, to have surgery and have my colon removed. I had another moment last night, while watching Netflix.
I’ve been trying to catch up on Scandal (I have a habit of binge-watching shows, and then leaving them alone for weeks or months), and I was real into this particular scene, when all of a sudden I just couldn’t remember what the previous scene was about. I had this feeling that told me it was something important or a plot line I was very interested in, but I just couldn’t remember it for the life of me. I eventually paused the episode so I could see what the scene was, and I felt my anxiety go away.
A little over 5 years ago, I had two concussions within a 5 month period, one leading to a hospital stay, both contributing to a diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy within a year. Since then, I’ve had some short term memory problems, such as the scenario described above. Or trying to leave the house, realizing I forgot my keys upstairs, and going back upstairs 2 or 3 separate times before finally remembering to get my keys. It’s frustrating for sure.
After my anxiety subsided, I had a thought: What will my life be like when I’m 40? Will I end up with some sort of early onset nervous system issues as a result of these concussions? Will my memory get progressively worse from here on out? (I do actively work on brain exercises nearly daily, so I’m doing what I can.) It’s a scary thought. It’s a thought that makes me want to wake up daily and accomplish a goal and to enjoy every single moment possible. Obviously life isn’t always roses, and it’s hard to not get caught up in emotional moments while also keeping in mind our mortality, but I also think this is a good, solid thought to keep in the back of our minds (and maybe even bring it to the forefront of our minds once in a while, just as a reminder).
Having the right mentality, and having a strong mental game, is essential to living out a good, positive, solid life.
Even so, I wasn’t mentally prepared for life during and after these surgeries I’ve had. Sure, there were message board posts I read through, even talking with a friend of a friend who went through this several years ago, and I have an outstanding doctor along with two superb nurses who always help me when I need it. But even still, the mental strain of going through such a significant lifestyle change isn’t something that should be forgotten, or glossed over, or cast aside. You’d think I would be somewhat prepared considering I’ve seen quite a bit of variance with poker, but even so, it’s just different. In poker, you make the correct fundamental plays, and the math says things will work out in your favor. So you work on your fundamentals until they are second nature in order to have a solid foundation, and you go from there. With my health situation, it’s nothing like that. I can eat perfectly, and my day to day life is impossible to predict. When I wake up in the morning, I’m unsure if I’ll be able to get to the poker table, or if I’ll be at home not feeling 100% physically. I’m not sure if I’ll have stomach cramps all day, if I’ll be making frequent bathroom trips, or if I’ll be fine and “only” go to the bathroom 5-7 times or so.
About a week ago, I ate some smoked wings with a little ranch, and I felt fine that evening, and the next morning. No issues. The next day, I ate the same thing, and immediately regretted the decision that evening. I just get mentally worn down with the day to day inconsistency. Once you get worn down mentally, it just affects everything else, whether it’s your interactions with other people, your job, or your subconscious decisions that normally aren’t even thought about to any real extent.
Keeping my mentality strong is something I most certainly want to keep working on. I’m constantly reading about the topic. I tend to somewhat meditate in the shower (and should probably meditate outside of the shower as well). I’ve learned that the most important part of it all is your approach to everything and how positive and grounded you can remain.
Now, onto the juicy stuff: my recent confrontation at Whole Foods.
I was on my way to Harrah’s for a poker session sometime last week, and, as I like to do a couple times per week, I stopped at Whole Foods for a few things. Well, I had eaten a pb&j sandwich on the way, and I felt the need to go to the bathroom, so I figured I’d just do that before my shopping. I’m in the bathroom for about a minute when I hear someone knocking on the door. I’m like, “Oh great. Well at least there are two bathrooms right here, and they’re both unisex bathrooms.” About 3 or 4 minutes later, I hear someone knocking again. I say, “Yeah.” out loud, just to let them know someone is indeed in the bathroom (even though the locked door should tell them this). I’m in the bathroom for 8 minutes, 10 minutes at the most (I noticed the time on my phone) before I finish, wash my hands, and open the door.
When I open the door, there’s a middle aged guy standing there, hand on his buggy. He sees me, doesn’t look me in the eye, but looks in my direction, and just shakes his head with a frown on his face. I look at him like, “Really?”, though I keep my mouth shut. I look at him as I’m walking away, and he just goes into the bathroom. I notice one of the workers on break, looking at the situation, but he says nothing. I’m assuming the guy was making a big deal about the bathroom ordeal since this worker was already looking in that general direction, and looking at me.
I decide to walk away towards the prepared food area and contemplate my next move. I’m already very annoyed and a bit shaken up at the situation. Do I confront this guy and see what his deal is? Do I just brush it off and let it go and continue about my day? I ultimately decide I will most likely confront the guy when he comes out of the bathroom.
I walk back towards the bathroom and pretend I’m looking at the bread (because bread is super interesting of course), keeping one eye on the bathroom. When I see him come out, I shift my head in his direction. I’m assuming he notices this because he, still without making eye contact, gives a disapproving head shake.
I see him grab his buggy and start to make his way out of the side door, and I decide to follow and see what his deal is. As soon as I step outside onto the patio, his bags are falling out of his buggy (karma??). (This will all be paraphrased, as I don’t remember everything exactly since my adrenaline was pumping due to anger.)
Me: “Were you just outside of the bathroom knocking on the door and waiting on me to come out?”
Him: “Yeah you were in there for like 15 minutes!” (He was the whiny type of guy, and my first impression of him was that he was spoiled growing up, though I could always be wrong.)
Me: “That was rude. Did it ever occur to you that some people may have intestinal diseases and they may have to spend a little longer in the bathroom than a normal person? Oh and your bags are falling out of your buggy, I guess that’s karma.”
Him: “Well you were in there for 15 minutes!”
Me: “Well it’s not my fault I may have to take a little longer in the bathroom than a normal person. I think you owe me an apology.”
Him: “I’m not apologizing to you! I didn’t even say a word to you when you came out.”
Me: “You really didn’t have to say anything, man. The look on your face said it all, and you were visibly upset that I was in the bathroom for longer than you expected me to be.”
Him (as he begins walking away): “I’m not apologizing to you. I didn’t say anything. You were in there for at least 15 minutes.” (Like I didn’t hear him the first 3 times he said this to me.)
Me: “Well, I have an intestinal disease that causes me to take a little longer in the bathroom than someone who has no issues, you don’t have to be an asshole about it.” (I called him a prick at some point too as he was walking away, I was clearly heated.)
We have a few more exchanges before he says, “Well I don’t know what to tell you! I apologize??” (I think he asked me, I’m not really even sure, dude was being super ignorant.)
He walks away, I think this is when I call him a prick, and I say “Fuck him” under my breath as I’m walking away.
I go back inside, finish up my shopping, get some coffee, and head back out the same door. I notice an older gentleman and what appears to be his grandson, around the same age as me, still sitting at a table (they were there when the confrontation occurred). I apologized to both of them for having to hear and see that situation play out. The grandson was super cool about it and had some kind words and good advice for me. He said that’s something I just need to expect, and I shouldn’t let that mess up the peace I have within me (no he was not a hippie). After I commented about how I usually like to educate people, and I don’t ever really get worked up like that, he said that the guy may have responded better had I been calmer and tried to educate instead. He was absolutely correct about that. Look, I can’t exactly fault myself for reacting with such emotion. I’ve kept so much emotion inside over the past 2 years, and some of it escaped right there. But what I regret not doing is educating, or at least saying the words “ulcerative colitis” or “Crohn’s”. Maybe that would have stuck with him more than “intestinal disease”. Maybe he would have googled those terms later, learned about the disease, and realized how ignorant he was being. I don’t regret confronting the guy, but I do believe I could have handled the situation better. If I had 15 minutes to think it over, it would have played out much differently. But I reacted with emotion. And who wouldn’t? It’s a tough situation, and it’s something I’m glad I was able to at least learn from. Going forward, I’ll be a better person because of it. Maybe I should just start carrying around brochures from the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America so I’m better prepared next time.
Afterwards, all I could think of was this song:
Poker treated me well in January. I went out to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi for a few tournaments during their big series in January, The Million Dollar Heater. I ended up finishing 28/2200+ in their first event, 5/45 in the H.O.R.S.E. tournament (HORSE is a mixed game event, the game rotates every 8 or 10 hands between Hold’em, Omaha 8, Razz, Stud, and stud Eight, hence the acronym), and 11th out of a little under 200 people in the main event. The deep run in the main event was a huge confidence boost (an understatement, for sure). The tournament structure was outstanding, and there were some good to great players left on the second day, especially when we were down to 3-4 tables remaining. I felt I was finally able to gain a lot of respect from my peers by making a deep run in a tougher than normal southern field in a higher buy-in event.
I was hoping to carry that momentum into the past couple weekends when I returned to the Beau, but I wasn’t able to cash in either of the tournaments I played. But that’s tournament poker; it can be highly variant. Next up is the WSOP Circuit event in New Orleans in about 3.5 weeks. In between tournaments, I’ve just been working on my cash game fundamentals and trying to improve each and every session, while working on my mental game and going over hands between sessions.
Assuming my health can keep improving over time, and I can have some good days still, I plan to insert more physical activity into my life in the coming months. I need to improve my core strength, and I plan to get into kettlebell workouts to improve my overall strength. Gaining weight will be a challenge on its own, so we’ll just see how that goes over the coming weeks and months.
I was able to visit Laura in Carbondale, where we finally got to spend actual Valentine’s Day together, which was really nice considering how far apart we are at the moment.
Growing up in south Louisiana, snow can be seen as a luxury. As a kid, I was always excited when the temperature dropped below freezing, just because that meant there was a higher chance of snow. Of course, we hardly ever got any (maybe 2-3 times in my lifetime?). So when the snow arrived in Carbondale, I was excited for it. I was up at 2am when it started coming down real hard. It was fun to play in. But then the snow turns to ice. Then the temperature stays below freezing, which means the ice doesn’t melt. Of course I don’t have the correct footwear for snow nor ice. I was ready for some sun. But overall, we had a blast. We were able to go hiking on the only good-weathered day while I was there.
We attempted to make homemade marshmallows:
Upon returning, I was able to enjoy a scotch/whiskey/dark chocolate tasting night with a friend.
Dark chocolate tends to pair fairly well with scotch. The Yellow Spot 12 is a very rare bottle I was fortunate enough to find in Carbondale, and the Scapa 16 is one of my favorite scotches now. We didn’t try the Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams (that’s being saved for a special night, according to my friend), but Glenfiddich 15 is a favorite of ours (actually, Glenfiddich in general).
Overall, I feel as if I’m at least attempting to live my life as positive as possible. There are always bumps in the road, some larger than others (or most larger than others if you’re driving in New Orleans), but how we are able to respond to these bumps really defines who we are as a person. And we’re usually better for it.
“An awareness of one’s mortality can lead you to wake up and live an authentic, meaningful life.” -Bernie Siegel