9 Is Not 15

Alternative Title, “Don’t Sit Across From A Mirror In The Locker Room”.

From the beginning. Fifty-one days ago I set a goal to lose 15 pounds in 50 days by 55. Saturday was 50 days and the completion of my 55th year on the planet. At the time the goal seemed challenging but reasonable…and necessary. The time passed but too many of the pounds stayed.

Yes, losing 9 pounds is “better than nothing” however, I have always thought this was a poor standard and something people say because they think it will make you feel better even though it never makes them feel better when they hear it from someone else. I do feel and look better with 9 less pounds but I am not where I want to be. So what went wrong?

Well, everything and nothing. The nothing. I said from the start that I intended to lose weight in a way that I could maintain. I did not want to take anything or do anything that once I stopped the weight would return. That I have done. The good news. I dramatically cut my processed sugar intake. Using fruit as a substitute I gave up candy, cake, etc. for 5 weeks. I weakened in the last two weeks but I can come back from that. Prior to that I would have something with lots of sugar most days. Candy bars and  muffins topped the list. I also cut down my caffeinated coffee intake from 5 to 3 cups a week. I expected these two changes plus some added exercise  to be worth close to 15 pounds over 50 days. No such luck.

The everything. I cannot stop eating. The quality has generally been better (more fruits and veggies, lower fat) but if I have one portion then I have three. Not sure what drives that behavior. Rationally I say every day, before every eating opportunity, that I will exercise self-control. But in the heat of the moment something evil takes over my brain. It isn’t even like the cartoons with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on another — there is no angel.

I know people with amazing self-control. They are goal oriented. They do what they say they will do. Apparently that is not me. Darn

So I am working toward my next goal. By Mitch’s birthday, exactly one month after mine, I will drop the six pounds I wanted off in the first place. The sad thing is that to get to where I was just 5 years ago I have several pounds after that. Baby steps. (Remember the movie “What About Bob” with Bill Murray. Hilarious. But I digress.)

Onward and downward. Off with the waist. Getting rid of my Fat Wish (some people have a death wish, mine is a little different.)

…Well you get the point. Check in around July 18. Maybe I’ll do pictures. Maybe.

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Do You Know The People You Know?

Dave died in our office this week. A heart attack as far as we know. No one knows why him, why now. He was only 50.

I knew Dave for a long time, over 20 years but casually. My relationship with him was indirect, through other people.

Here is what I thought I knew about Dave. Nice guy. By all accounts 10 out of 10 on the nice scale. Generally quiet but not totally introverted by any stretch. Worked hard. Was in process of taking a half step back in his career to retool. A good consultant (that is the business we are in). Analytical and math oriented, he trained as an actuary though that is not the work he was doing at his death.

Other than that I knew a few facts. His wife is great. (She is the younger sister of a friend of mine I have known since grade school. I have known her since she was ten. Growing up their homes was one of my secondary homes. I have always liked her a lot.) They have three kids, two boys and a girl. Their eldest will be going to college next year. They live in a north Chicago suburb, a nice middle class neighborhood.

Not much else. He joined the company I work for about nine months ago. So Instead of seeing him at my friend’s house maybe once a year I now ran into him a few times a month. He was domiciled  in a different office but sometimes I would work in his and sometimes he in mine. We do similar things but have not worked on anything together. When I saw him we would chat for a few minutes about work and home life. Usual office conversation.

So for a normal casual relationship I guess I knew the basics plus a little. Didn’t really know what made him tick or what he did outside the office other than be a husband and father.

Words of warning. You may want to go deeper. There may be some gems hidden below the surface. Don’t wait for a funeral to find out.

Here are some things I found out about Dave:

  • he was a leader in his synagogue. He was to be appointed President of the congregation four days after he died
  • he was passionate about being Jewish
  • he found time not only to be involved in the synagogue but volunteered and in some cases led other worthy causes
  • he loved music and played several instruments
  • he touched many lives (there were several hundred people at his funeral service)
  • he had a dry and sometimes dark sense of humor
  • he worked tirelessly both in support of these causes but also to be with and help his family
  • his children loved and admired him (his eldest gave a phenomenal speech about his dad)

There was more. Much more. If I had not met Dave but only heard the words spoken about him I would have thought here is a man to be admired, an inspiration, someone I need to get to know. The worst part is that I had the opportunity to get to know this man. I mean really get to know him since I kind of knew him — or so I thought.

How many people around me would enrich my life if I got to know them better? Everyone. No. But what if the number is 5 or 10.  Another several good friends, interesting people who would make my life more interesting. Wow.

Now I am somewhat shy by nature. That is part of the reason I do not go deeper. However I also am very quick to make judgements about people. I decide within moments if I think they worth my precious time.

Maybe I need to not be so quick to judge. Maybe I should check below the surface for that gem.

Maybe you should too.

I Watched A Man Die Today

Wars, natural disasters, murder, old age, cancer. People die every day. Thousands of them. Every day. The difference today is that I was there.

It did not make a difference to Dave. He was not even aware that I was there. By the time I saw him he could not see me.

I have known Dave for at least 20 years. We were not close though I knew him well enough to know that he was a really good guy and a good man. We are not connected so much by work, though his death  started in our office just feet from where I sit, but through other connections. A million years ago he dated a woman I worked with that was a friend. Later he married my close friend’s sister. I have known her since we were little kids. It is often strange the web of connections that binds two people.

It still feels like a dream or a sad movie. It can’t be real. He was just here. He just turned 50. Five years younger than me. On Sunday he watched his eldest child, a son, graduate from high school. Monday morning he went to his youngest child’s rehearsal for graduation from middle school. Because he had missed part of the morning he came to our office instead of the one at which he normally works. Our office is closer to his home than his real office 20 miles away. He walked in and waved to people he knew as he went to the guest office. He never made it in.

I heard the thud from my desk. I heard someone ask him if he was OK. I heard that question again a moment later and I ran out to see what was happening. Dave had fallen to his knees. A cubical wall kept him from falling forward. I saw his face.

The look on his faced is etched forever in my memory. Eyes wide open. Glassy stare. Lips apart. Still breathing but labored. Not responding to our voices. Nothingness.

Call 911! Get the Security people up here now! She called immediately. And again. Where were they?

Trying to figure out what to do. Someone slipped his briefcase off his shoulder. We got him lying down. He still was breathing but did not respond to our voices. His face was turning red. None of us knew what to do. I felt so helpless.

Fortunately people came who seemed to know what to do until the paramedics arrived. They gave CPR and used a defibrillator. Finally after what was probably only a few more minutes but seemed like a lifetime the paramedics arrived. They worked on him for 40 minutes or more. We were asked to stay back so I could not tell how he was doing.  I alternated between not wanted to watch and needing to get a clue as to how he was doing. All of this nightmare would go away if he just came out of this OK. He had to. But he didn’t.

While waiting we looked at each other. Dave’s wife had been called. We agreed on who would follow the ambulance to the hospital. I would stay behind with the team. About 15 of my people were there when it was happening. Someone needed to tend to them as well.

They were still doing CPR when they took him away which I took as a bad sign. Over the next hours I only had hope because I had not heard otherwise. Then the call I did not want to answer came.

I did not and still do not know what to feel…or more accurately how I feel. I learned from my mom’s death that death is strange. It only is the end for the one who dies. The rest of us need to go on. Her death was the only other one I had witnessed but in her case she had been ill for quite some time and we knew it was coming.

So I am sad, numb and feeling very mortal. Sad for losing a guy I knew and liked. Sad for his wife who I have known and liked forever. Sad for his children. Sad for all who loved him and called him friend. Sad for Dave. He will not be here to witness all of the future events of his three children.  Numb. I have started to cry at least a dozen times. Started but have not yet bawled. Why is that? Am I not sad enough? Am I not sensitive enough? Shouldn’t I be crying? Isn’t that what we are SUPPOSED TO DO when someone dies. Crazy the thoughts in your head at times like these. Crazier what people say.

First, you should know that I have a high tolerance for any and all reactions when people are sick or have died. No one knows how to act. There is no etiquette. We all grieve in our own way. There is no right or wrong. So the things I am about to share are not meant as a critique but just the craziness of dealing with tragedy.

Let’s start the “what stupid things people say in these times” with me. At some point while he was still on the ground with the paramedics I turned to the next guy and said something to the effect of “I could have gone my whole life without seeing something like this.” Wow. How selfish and thoughtless. Here he was fighting for his life and I was thinking about how it impacted me.  As the saying goes, “It is not about you”, meaning me. Again the craziness of the moment. Because in some sense it was not about him. The dead need no sympathy. They no longer care what you think or say. It was however, about his wife, his children, his close extended family and a long list of people before it was about me.

But what can you say. As we were waiting for the news from the hospital many people asked me if I was OK.  Of course I understand they are only trying to be empathetic and anyways what else could you ask. But am I OK? AM I OK? Hell no I am not OK. I am anything but OK. And yet I thank them for there concern and tell them I am fine because that is what you do.

One colleague came rushing in. He had been by before when the event was first unfolding and now it was between the time they took Dave to the hospital and THE CALL. He sincerely asked that I inform him when we know what happened…and then he reminded me that we will need to get together soon to discuss some client thing. Really. You had to throw that in. Now? But as I said I believe we should be tolerant of any reaction in these circumstances and I mean it.

How should we feel? What should we say? What should we do?

I gathered my work people together after they took him to the hospital and told them that however they need to deal with what happened they should. Most of my people did not know him well if at all but they had been there. I told them to work if staying busy helped or to take a moment, an hour or a day. Most people stayed. I stayed to watch over them.

So now I have shared on a miniscule scale what people in war, first responders and doctors in hospitals see every day. Death is not pretty. It is not what you see in movies and on TV. This was not made up, it was real life. Real Death.

I said I felt mortal. Dave had recently had an echo cardiogram. One of the more sophisticated tests to check your heart and arteries. He was told he was fine. I had one six months ago and was told I am fine. But the docs really don’t know do they? One paternal uncle died of a massive heart attack in his early 60s. I am about to be 55. Another uncle has survived 3 heart attacks. What me worry? (This part is all about me.)

Tomorrow we go on and sort out what this means. One of my bosses mentioned how this puts things in perspective. But what is that perspective? Do we do anything differently tomorrow? Do I? One person at work already resigned from her management role because she decided it was not worth the stress. I tend to be a one foot in front of the other kind of guy. I will go on. Do I change my life?

I have already been exercising more and trying to lose the extra pounds. I will continue though not because of today.

I will try to enjoy my life more and stress out less but change is hard. Maybe I take a year off and go climb a mountain. Maybe.

I am still working out what life means after watching a man die.