Welcome to June
June is here, and just when things looked like they might start to improve, they got worse. George Floyd was murdered. I haven't been vocal on public social media about these events because I choose to address them in person and face to face when I can.
Like many others, I'm outraged and recognize the need for change.
Unfortunately, social media feels like a breeding ground for narcissism to me right now. It's not my place to judge and I certainly have been guilty of the same behavior, bit amidst the genuine voices of black Americans crying out for justice are a slew of self-proclaimed allies competing for attention. Some tweets come across as more of a contest about "look how noble and great I am, and I condemn the rest of you" than actually moving the conversation forward. Bragging about follower counts or targeting people who choose to create impact in different ways just doesn't seem to be part of the solution.
Don't get me wrong, there are many who genuinely care and want to make a difference. If you've said something similar and felt it was a sincere reflection of your heart, I'm not trying to single you out. It just feels to me like too many people are focused on "look at me" and "if you don't do what I say you should do, you're part of the problem." There are plenty of people taking advantage of the situation to promote intolerant attitudes. I can't tell you how many white people have felt the need to post a set of inflexible rules about how other white people should act.
Today's culture seems to imply a good deed isn't "real" unless it goes viral. I believe if I do something good for someone, the knowledge of that person and God are enough. I don't have to further validate the act by broadcasting it. I wonder if people know what humility means when they post: "I'm so humbled by this great thing I did."
The solution is action, not words. The real change is happening between people, not Twitter profiles.
I try to think about every tweet before I share it by asking myself, "Will this help someone? Will it make a difference? Or am I just trying to get noticed and show I'm part of the conversation?" Often, I find something I wanted to share was really more "humble bragging" and wouldn't add real value, so I remain silent.
I took a break last week from sharing technical tweets to leave more space for the more important conversations taking place about racism and injustice. I personally choose not to broadcast "Hey, look at me, here's what I'm doing" but rather amplify other voices where I can and reach out to friends directly. I don't need anyone telling me what to do or how to act because I have that model in Jesus Christ.
All people are created equal. Black lives matter. I mean that as a statement of truth, not a slogan or a hashtag or an organization or a movement. We are all God's children.
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. - Matthew 6:1-4
I am especially excited that my daughter decided to partake in a protest and was profoundly impacted. I encourage you to read her thoughts that she posted to her Instagram. This one in particular stood out to me:
I'm happy to share more thoughts and ideas directly with anyone willing to listen, but please don't tell me I have to deliver platitudes on social media to make a difference. Twitter is just that: a bunch of tweets. There are plenty of words and deep thoughts and quotes being shared, but ultimately, it's the actions people take and the true quality of their heart that will make a difference.
Furry Friend Update
On a more personal note, we've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride with our beautiful German Shepherd, Indi. She has hip dysplasia and went in for X-rays due to excessive limping. They discovered a "mass" that turned out to be an enlarged spleen (the doctor said it was 3 - 5 times normal size). They did not see any visible tumors and successfully removed the spleen. Indi was recovering well when we got the news: a biopsy of her spleen revealed that she has a blood cancer called hemangiosarcoma. It is an extremely aggressive cancer and life expectancy is just a few months. She appears to be doing great at the present time but now we are playing the waiting game.
She is an amazing companion. We look forward to enjoying our remaining time with her and keeping her as comfortable as we can.
I suffered from bipolar disorder (manic depression) as a teenager. My psychiatrist told me it was a chronic condition and that I would be on some form of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) for the rest of my life. He prescribed me Zoloft and I attended group therapy sessions. That lasted for several months until I moved from Florida to Georgia. I quit medication and therapy and didn't look back.
⚠ Disclaimer: I don't recommend doing this. Everyone's situation is unique. Some people do need to remain on their medication, possibly for life, and stopping abruptly is never safe and can lead to severe side effects.
Fortunately (for me) it worked out.
I continued to struggle with depression until two things happened. First, I gave my life to Christ. Second, I decided to take action and be intentionally aware of my inner thoughts. When my inner dialog starts to focus on depression or despair, I pivot to positive thoughts, remind myself of the blessings in my life, and pray. It took me many years of practice to be able to make this shift, but you can change your thoughts and perspectives if you focus with intention. This has worked for me to avoid depression and anxiety for over 20 years now.
Then along came Parkinson's Disease. And medication with side effects. And a global pandemic. And racial injustice. And a close, furry friend enduring major surgery and getting diagnosed with terminal cancer. The weight of all of this hit me at once, and for the first time in years I felt unbearable anxiety and despair. Fortunately for me, I knew a lot of it had to do with being overwhelmed and a chemical effect from my medication. It didn't make the feelings go away, but allowed a rational part of me to say, "This shall pass. Just hang in there." With support from my wife and prayer, I moved through it and feel great today.
I share this so that others experiencing something similar know they are not alone. This is just a reminder that these times are not normal. Depression can happen to anyone at any time. Check in with your friends, family, and other loved ones. Sometimes that can be the one lifeline someone needs.
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses is available 24/7 at 📞 1-800-950-6264.
Exercise is one way to fight depression and anxiety. It also is a fundamental part of my strategy to take on Parkinson's Disease. On May 15, 2020, I completed a 31-day challenge that culminated in a workout of:
2x 1-minute plank holds
I enjoyed the challenge and felt great, so I decided to continue to a new goal to end up at 50 burpees, 50 squats, and 50 push-ups. I'm about halfway there and so far, continue to feel fantastic. The fitness trainer in me is curious about the efficacy of such short workouts (they are 10-15 minutes). A question I had going into the plan was whether the duration and intensity of the workouts is more important than consistency (i.e. getting them done). I'm very confident that consistency trumps doing sporadic, albeit intense, workouts. After a few months of this, I've lost several pounds of scale weight and gained upper body muscle mass and definition. I decided to do a better job of tracking my workouts and began wearing a heart rate monitor.
This is the story my heart has to share: my first workout at lasted only 8 minutes. My average heart rate was 131 beats per minute and peaked at 151.
A week ago, I recorded this workout:
This was a longer workout than the first one, but I also got a lot more exercise work done. Notice my average heat rate was 129 beats per minute and maxed out at 146, much lower than the first workout. Finally, here is my workout from this morning:
Notice that despite adding work (5 more push-ups and squats, plus another 45 seconds of plank hold time), I completed the workout faster with a lower average heart rate and maximum heart rate. That looks like progress to me!
💡 Tip: I complete my burpees in one continuous round. To accomplish this, I use a technique I learned from bodybuilding when I did "breathing squats." I start out by doing continuous burpees for as many reps as I can. When I can't catch my breath, I switch to taking one deep breath between reps. I do that until I have to rest again, and increase to two deep breaths between reps. I end up at four breaths between each rep as I approach 50.
Depending on how I feel, I may supplement the workout with another calisthenic or plyometric workout. More often than not, I burn my extra calories in virtual reality.
Beat Saber Cardio Saver
I'm firmly convinced that consistency trumps all else with training. I like to jog but weather, schedule and other factors tend to interfere. One thing I can do late at night without a lot of preparation is virtual reality. I shared some of my Beat Saber antics in previous posts, but how effective is it? I started measuring my VR workouts and was surprised by what I found.
Here are the stats from my last run.
It was just over a 5K and lasted just over 40 minutes. I also prepared by filling water bottles, using a waist belt to carry them, and wearing another strap for my phone. When I jog, my heart rate tends to elevate and stay in the high intensity zone.
On the other hand, one evening I donned my VR headset and jumped into a series of songs in Beat Saber. This is what the VR workout looked like:
My heart rate was lower and the duration was longer, but I had a lot of fun and here's the surprise: I burned 16% more calories! Below is a graph of my heart rate. Notice it goes up and down quite a bit based on sequences in the song and time between songs.
I'll take it! I definitely plan to do more jogging as we move into summer here in the Pacific Northwest, but for consistency I've been able to burpee and Beat Saber almost daily. Here's a graph of my total active intensity workout minutes over the past 13 weeks.
I've definitely formed a new positive habit of daily training. It's the one thing scientifically proven to slow the progression of Parkinson's Disease, and because the disease won't quit, neither will I.