Archive for the ‘pain’ Category

Speaking Well of Others Speaks Well of Ourselves

June 17, 2017
Be careful how you speak of others.
That sounds like the start of a stern lecture, so let me word that another way. Take care to think through what you say when you speak of others.
It doesn’t matter whether they are living or dead. The more negatively you speak of others, the more negative the reflection on you.
This stuff is called dirt for a reason.
I’ve always marveled at the interest of others have of drama not on the stage. Soap Operas, Reality TV, and a host of other things suck people in. This in addition to the drama we find ourselves facing on a daily basis. Speaking poorly of others only feeds that beast. How much is enough?
If you wish to speak of someone in a way that might warn others about their behavior, then consider the trust but verify approach. It carries more weight than muckraking.  An example I’ll share involves a referral. I was asked by a stunt coordinator about an individual she wanted to hire. The stunt side of the Film and Live Show entertainment business is different from the acting side. Where actors have to audition, stunt performers typically get their work through relationships and referrals. I was honest with her. I told her this particular performer had presented performance challenges on a previous project, and that I had to chase her for several weeks to get her info for a production I was coordinating, which ultimately opted not to hire her. It would have been easy to say, “the kid is lazy, immature, and unreliable” but there was a better way.
Find the better way.
A word when spoken is a bird taking wing for flight forever. The things you say you cannot undo, you cannot change, and you cannot take back.
This past week found me remembering my brother’s birthday, gone five years, and marking the passing of two people close to me. That qualifies as a pretty crappy trifecta in my book.
Neither who jumped ship this week was perfect, but both were worthy of stories that make us smile. In the one case, an old friend from my Rocky Horror days in the 80’s (and part of the then-famous Wild and Untamed Things) passed away after a lengthy battle with mental and physical health issues. At the memorial, my dear friend Jack and I both determined that stories to make people laugh was the order of the day. The Matriarch from my mother’s side of the family also shuffled her mortal coil. Her story to share (since I was and am still not ready to grieve openly) involved her walking up besides me, in the midst of a group of people we both knew, and rubbed my belly…as she looked at me and said, “Say it, honey. Lower and faster.” and then she walked away, laughing hysterically. In a rare case, I was left speechless.

When we are saddened by loss, someone more callous might observe and say, “boo hoo, people die.” That is not in the least bit mature, and we should not be those people. Nor should we pay any attention to those who demonstrate such ignorant temerity.

Speak well of others, living or dead, no matter how much the temptation to do otherwise. It’s better to be the better person than to live with regret because you said something in haste. Similarly, look for every opportunity to speak well and positively of those you know and those you love. Finding and extolling the good in others brings out the good in ourselves.
That’s how we should immortalize others; this, no doubt, is how we ourselves would want to be remembered.
Speaking of remembering, remember to call someone you love and remind them of how important they are to you.
Do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
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How We Change The Past

March 24, 2017
We Don’t. We can’t change the past.
I learned a great deal in the presence of my mom recently. Dad died a few months ago and she has managed to summon the strength necessary to move forward through the fog that besieged us all.
I mention we can’t change the past because I have spent so much of the recent past woefully lamenting how horrible a son, brother, or friend I have been I’ve managed to miss a few opportunities to do my level best in a situation.
There are several layers of danger in looking back. The obvious is you’re not looking forward. That’s bad because you don’t see what’s coming, and can’t prepare in the event something whacks, trips, or otherwise reaches out to influence your forwardly locomotion. It’s also not good because you are distracted. You’re so focused on the thing that already happened, and the “what-ifs” that surround it, you are fairly well insulated from anything happening in real time.
Many do this unintentionally. You’ll know it’s happening with someone else when you are sharing a story or insight and you get a “what’s that?” Or they nod absent-mindedly, and offer some form of affirmative answer in the hopes it is the correct one. Usually they’re thinking about something else, sometimes trying to connect the dots with a thought you just shared. Other times their mind is simply wandering.
But it is that other looking back, the one where you’ve lost the ability to move forward, breathe, or achieve on your own. That form of looking back can become a false comfort, providing a seductive darkness.
We miss out on opportunity when we continue to look back. We turn our back on the chance to experience in real time when we look back. People who live their entire holiday, or another event, through the lense of a camera suffer this fate.
An old friend hastened to advise me, with my love for photography, to try enjoying moments as they happened, and not through the view-finder. Another old dear friend, long passed, questioned why people couldn’t just enjoy the memories as they happened, since it was impossible to duplicate in a photo.
I have spent much time pondering how I was not the friend I should have been, that I was never truly there for those few who would have thrown themselves on the blade for me. My brother pointed out, years ago, it wasn’t possible for me to be an active participant in the ‘group thing’ because I was like Hans Solo in my Millenium Falcon (a 1972 Mach I with a 351 Cleveland, 4bblcarbs, and the destinct ability to both turn heads and cause whiplash). He told me I was running solo and had to because that was where I was in my life. It was a sort of Buddhist assessment. But it was also right.
My brother has also long sinced passed; at that moment death became a callous creature that reminded me of all the things we’d never get to do or share again, and of missed opportunities.
With my family the lament was similar. Holiday get-togethers. Phone calls. But it’s all in the past…
We can only influence the future.
Another wonderful and wise person told me the only reason you should look to the past is to see how far you’ve come, and hopefully, what you’ve learned. She’s right. We have to see where we’ve been to know where we’re going. The plus is we can change our behavor at any time.
In that case I think I’m doing ok. I just returned from a week in the mountains of Western North Carolina followed by a week in the coastal lowlands of South Carolina. Both places, rich in history, have residents whose sensibility is entrenched in the here-and-now. I worked hard to enjoy the moments as they came, and found myself living most of them. I spent much of my time around mom, doing work in and around the house, and simply being there without being suffocating. We scattered dad’s ashes in relative silence, hung his plaque, and did a bit of work around the area without somber reserve. Mom said to me, as we walked up the path from the garden, “I can’t imagine anyone else I would rather have done this with.” I didn’t take it as a commentary on how I was the favorite child: I am not; I viewed it instead couched in the context I believe it was meant: even if I devalued my own contributions to the family as a unit, I was appreciated in full and my value should not be be questioned.
Not looking back with regret will be tough, but I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Perhaps you can do the same, and check in from time to time with your own procedural?

Second Chances: Love & the Unrivaled Feeling of One More Day

February 24, 2016

What would you do with a second chance?
What would you give for one more day?
What would you sacrifice for one more moment with someone you love?
What would you do if that day were granted?

I have a friend, dear and close to me in ways not easily definable, who has battled a progressively debilitating physical illness for several years.
Here’s a guy who’s still a bonafide badass to me. In his youth and younger days he lived a life others idolized or feared.
One of the perks of being so close that wasn’t a perk at all? I was privy to seeing how he had to deal with the pain when he wasn’t putting on airs for the public.
Even with the struggle of declining health, Those happy few of us permitted to hold council with him and receive counsel from him are fortunate indeed.

I’ve known about this physical challenge of his for a while. The first sign of impending mortality appeared to me sometime ago. We were sitting at his office and decided to get lunch. I walked out ahead of him and turned. That was when I saw him wince as he went to stand. A simple effort that taxed him mightily.
The next sign came when I visited him in a hospital. He was pointedly angry the medical staff had resuscitated him (because of the pain, as I would later learn).

But the day, a year and a half later, I got a text message that read, “not doing well” followed by a phone call and message that said, “come by the office and get what you want. I don’t think I’m going to be here tomorrow” you can be assured my heart nearly left my chest in panic.
I’d never heard my friend so devoid of life. My mind became quiet as all non-essential thoughts vacated.

I went to his office and saw a man struggling to walk.
All the stuff in his office, always changing as he got new and different stuff, to him was just stuff. Simple entertainment. To me it was stuff I had to have. I always saw things I wanted. I finally got it. It was all just Stuff. He looked at me and in that moment understood my thoughts. And smiled.
“Here,” he said as he reached for something on his desk. “This might be said to be one of my prized possessions. I’ve had it for over 45 years.”
He handed me a well-loved folding knife. I gripped the wooden handle and unfolded a shining, clearly sharpened blade. At the base was stamped the name “Buck.”
“Wow,” I said. “Thanks. I’m going to take it and clean it up.”
“Why? That’s 45 years of life, of experiences. Know what I mean? I mean, do what you want, but I’d leave it like it is.”
I nodded. Once again he was right.
He coughed. “We’ve had some good times.”
I smiled at him as the tears started. “I’m not ready to say good bye. I’m not ready to see you go.” I didn’t know where it came from, but I’d become a 9 year old boy whose best friend was moving to another country.
“I’ve hung on for those few who it would hurt for me to die. I can’t do it anymore.”
I nodded again, wiping my nose on my sleeve.
“Here, take this. That’s a nice shirt. Don’t wipe your nose on it. Haven’t I taught you anything?”
I smiled and took the tissue. His sense of humor was still as strong as his wit.
We sat there quietly for a few minutes, unusual because we always had something to talk about.
“Thanks,” he said, breaking the silence.
“For what?”
“Everything. For camping. For introducing me to your family. For showers with hot running water. For roasting hotdogs on sticks over an open fire.”
“I would give so much to do that again.”
“I know,” he said with a nod. He coughed. “I know you have to get to work, so go on.” He grabbed a green storage container and filled it with fresh produce: eggplant, mini bananas, tomatoes, avocado, celery, and cucumber. “Take this before it goes bad.”
As I took it he tossed a couple of bags of chocolate in with the collection of healthy fare.
“Give my love to the ladies.”
I nodded. “Love you,” I said as I turned and walked out.

That day was a blur.
The next day I steeled myself to go through the motions, similar to when my brother moved halfway around the world. I’d call his phone and leave a message. I’d keep calling until the phone would stop taking calls. And that would be the end of that.
The following morning I reached for the phone. After 3 rings an answer.
It was my friend, sounding groggy and tired, but very much alive.
“Ah hell, guess I’m still around.”
My heart leapt. “Want to go to breakfast?”
“All right,” he growled. “What time will you be here?”
“30 minutes.”
I made it in half the time.

We went out and had a helluva time. Who knew Denny’s could be the epicenter of a carefree morning where 2 friends laughed at themselves and the world? It ranked as one of the best extended moments ever, talking and laughing over runny oatmeal and cold eggs. Best. Day. Ever.
But that’s the point. It transcended magical. It was a second chance. I greedily drank in every second of that morning. Whatever else I had waiting could continue to wait.

The next time I was at his office he was in no less pain, but his spirit was somehow less burdened and buoyed. Mine too.
“I guess it wasn’t time. Dammit, it sure as hell felt like it.”
I nodded. I could have told him I was glad, but I think he knew.
“I’m thinking we should do hotdogs over an open fire again. Think you’d be up for it?”
He smiled. “Let me know when.”

I called that afternoon. “Want to do hotdogs tonight?”
“What time?”
“6 pm.”
“See you then.”
He called me later to tell me he’d gotten dirty and greasy working on his truck, and maybe we should reschedule.
Nothing doing, I thought. “Take a shower at my place.”
“Aren’t I lucky? 2 showers in 3 years.”
“See you when you get here.”

It was another great evening spent with a dear friend. A tasty concoction was fashioned out of the ingredients he’d given, a salad right out of a Gastropub.
Hotdogs roasted on sticks over an open fire, and laughter over candlelight and torches in the cool January evening.
It was an evening of beautiful second chances.

And that’s the point.
What would you give for one more day?
Live every day like you’ve gotten a second chance.
Sometimes we miss the cues when they happen.
Let those in your life know, through word and action, how important they are to you.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to the experience of the passing moment. Don’t sit and wish you had a second chance, another day, to let someone know what they mean to you.
Now then…go and let those people in your life know what their life means to you.

The Stunt Life

December 31, 2015

I miss morphine.
I didn’t say that to get your attention, but I do get it. I Understand now why people seek that one of many conduits, one that allows them to become comfortably numb.
I probably should have worded that first sentence differently. I should have said something along the lines of “I miss the paliative effect certain treatments can have on a chronic pain patient’s body.”
When I say I miss morphine that’s not the truth. The reality is I’ve been a chronic pain patient for over two decades. One of the side effects of my car accident, the initiation of this enduring Understanding, was a migraine that lasted 4 months. I was seeing a team of doctors at the time and one of them, a neurologist, prescribed some heavy duty narcotics. I realized, after a couple of days of being swallowed by the couch, staring at the stucco pattern on the ceiling and the television, that it wasn’t for me. I also came to the realization I’d no longer be able to return to my former career in the financial industry.

I worked hard in incremental steps to bump up my threshold and tolerance for pain. Becoming a stuntman served many purposes: learning stunts taught me to regain my motor skills, severely affected as a result of the accident; it taught me confidence; it provided for me clear direction where one was lacking; it taught me to work through pain. Most important, though not clear at the time, it became my true and rightful career. And pain has been my constant companion.

A note about pain and professional stunt performers: if stunt guys and gals went to the doctor or reached for narcotics every time they’d tweaked this or torsioned that, there’d be no one to perform those awesome action sequences that drive people to see blockbuster films movie in the first place. And your choices would be Fried Green Tomatoes or Driving Miss Daisy (not that I didn’t enjoy Both). The truth is stunt performers work through strains, sprains, and tears. Maybe they’ll reach for Naproxyn. I once tore my medial meniscus doing a stunt and ignored the pop until a month later, when the pain refused to subside. That’s when I’d learned there was something amiss with my knee.

As masochistic as it seems I feel the awareness and experience associated with pain is a gift. Plenty of times when we’re experiencing joy and happiness we fail to register and taste every moment. But when you’re in pain? The seconds seem to divide themselves, a kind of mitosis dedicated to letting you know it’s not going away just yet. A minute becomes an hour and an hour becomes a day. A day is an eternity that brings respite only with the possibility of sleep.

A part of me says sure, I could have picked another career. But it was the accident and subsequent career that picked me. It’s a career that continues to give me great opportunities and experiences, including the chance to travel the world and work with some great performers of stage and screen.
A career that’s had me hitting the ground, fall pads, water, and everything in between. I’ve jumped and two-wheeled (or high sided) vehicles for years. Going up is fine. Coming down is more often than not physically jarring. I’ve described the sensation to those not in the know as feeling like someone has slammed your tailbone, full force, with a mildly padded cricket paddle.

Every time we break or twist something we wonder how long to heal. And, amidst all of the other thoughts, that this could be a career ending injury. This reminds me of a comment a fellow stunt man made years ago. He said we are intentionally doing things that could potentially break us and usually with the bare minimum of safety equipment.
So it’s reasonable to believe if I’m beating my body up, then I deserve the beating I get in return.
That’s the thing that causes me some days to feel much older than I really am.

Which brings me to my newest badge of honor. An impinged disc is a literal eye opening experience.
The pain associated with neuropathy? That’s a whole new level. I know plenty of individuals who believed if you can’t see the source of the pain then you’re just making it up. I’ve always wondered about things like sciatica, constant tingling in the extremities, pain that manifest itself in ways that create new benchmarks for personal pain comparisons. But then impinged discs step in to give you the kind of experience that makes a first person narrative too dramatic for words. Suddenly, trying to find a way to get from point A to point B with the barest minimum of debilitating discomfort and – this is almost just as important – not demonstrating to the rest of the world what’s happening. It’s like being a poker player in the game of life where you don’t want to tip the rest of the table to your tell. Dealing with the pain, you start thinking, “what could I have done differently? Maybe I should have spent more time warming up and stretching as well as warming down and stretching.” I know it’s not the latter.
An old friend of mine once gave me a hard time about being so careful with my pickup truck. It was a good natured ribbing about me not wanting to get my truck dirty or scratched. He said a truck needs to be rode hard, that was the thing that gave a truck character and told you it would be reliable.
I guess the human body is the same way. If I were to use my friend’s assessment of trucks as a model of comparison, I’d have to say my body is full of character.
Because let’s face it, nobody ever thinks about stretching after a physical activity. And when I say nobody, what I mean is most every individual I have ever worked with or talk to. The reality is any time we do anything physical we should warm our bodies up for the process. And we should stretch and cool down after. Being aware of this is useful but does little to distract me from the realities of the pain.

And that’s something else to think of. If you know somebody who complains of these issues? try to be a lot more sympathetic and empathetic then you might be.

Early in my Film and TV career I was at a social event bragging about being a stunt man. This old timer, Glen Wilder ( one of the truly finest and venerated individuals in the entire industry), overheard me and leaned in.
“you’re a stuntman,” he asked?
I said, “yes sir.”
He said “you’re not a stuntman till you broke something.”

I’ve been a stuntman for a long time. Like every other stunt man and woman in the business, I can walk you through a connect-the-dot diagram of every injury sustained and tell you where, when and how it happened.

It has been an incredible journey, getting to where I am. I’ve traveled the world, lived in several countries, and made lifelong friends. Two plus decades of defying death in the name of art has been a life alive with charm. It’s never the gravity, or the fall, but the sudden stop at the end.

Now then, where is that ibuprofen?