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Rise & Grind


This morning, I woke up to a familiar fight – at least, a fight I’ve been having for the last few weeks; my daily battle with Alexa, who I tell “snooze” to at least 6-10 times before getting out of bed.

Usually when this happens, it’s a sign that I’m going through a difficult time – and I have been. I’ve battled exhaustion from the rigors of being a single Dad, business owner and independent human being.

Beyond being mentally and emotionally exhausted, I felt physical pain. Every morning, I’d roll out of bed and feel immense pain in my lower back, which made it difficult to stand up straight, go down the stairs or perform basic functions around the house. All of those 500lb. deadlifts in my 20’s eventually caught up to me, I suppose.

To top it off, my knees and ankles seemed to flare up every morning when I woke up, and I’d struggle to make it down the stairs without feeling sharp pain in each. To avoid it, I’d take each step – one at a time. I felt like an old man way too early.

It’s a difficult thing when you wake up with this sort of pain. The difficulty is amplified when you’re a single Dad with nobody to come and help you with your child in the way you need it most. When I woke up, I’d fight each morning with the fear that my back would go out entirely in a spasm, and I’d be left to care for Atlas that day while battling the excruciating pain a spasm brings.

Pain and fear go hand-in-hand like a bad pairing. There wasn’t much I could do other than pray, cry out to God and drive myself to Planet Fitness where I’d sit in their massage chairs each morning in order to return my back to a somewhat normal functioning state.

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. And the months cumulated in a 3-week battle that I can only label as depression of the worst kind; the kind where you feel like everything is crashing around you – largely, because it is.

Something told me in the heat of all of this that the solution wouldn’t come in 5 minutes, or even 5 days. Rather, I knew that there was a ‘better’ day in the future, if only I could take each painful step and keep pushing toward it.

I started stretching every day, oftentimes in the shower with scalding hot water warming up my muscles. I bought the best joint supplements money could buy, and found a back stretching device on Amazon for less than $35.

It worked.

I remember the first morning I got out of bed and noticed something different; my back didn’t hurt. As I walked down the stairs, I noticed that my knees and ankles didn’t hurt, either. It felt like I had won the lottery.

Since that day, I can’t say that my difficulties have lessened. In some ways, I’ve had new ones arise that I have to find the resolve to battle each morning, while hacking away at them one step, hour and project at a time.

But something did happen in spite of all of it; I beat the darkest hour that I’ve faced in several years, and I can tell you that I’m a better man for it.

When I got out of bed this morning, I had one mission; to pick up the bags of coffee that a friend of mine bought for me in Germany; leaving them on the porch while they went on another trip. When I arrived at their house, I saw two beautiful bags of German coffee, with a simple note:

“Thank you for all that you do.”

I stuck the note on the dashboard of the Volvo and eagerly drove home to brew the coffee, staring at it while I drove.

“Today’s the day.” I told myself. “Today’s the day where I make it happen.”

My day was packed full of calls, but there was a long enough gap in the morning for me to go to the skatepark and hit the ramps after months off to let my body heal.

It felt so good. So good to skate. To put my phone down, fly down the concrete ramps and push myself up and down on the quarter pipes. While I was a bit rusty, I ended the session without a single fall.

I realized something during that session; skating isn’t about what you do, or how well you do it. Rather, it’s the simple action of going out and conquering your fears, trying the unknown and being willing to fall and pick yourself up so you can try again.

I saw a lot of my life through the lens of going to the park. I’ve fallen, countless times, but the falls haven’t stopped me from pressing forward and persistently pushing through the moments where things seem to go dark.

By the end of the day, I had finished my to-do list, gained a new client, and gotten MY Volvo back which has been at the dealership for nearly a week.

No sooner had I sat down on my couch to rest, I noticed the pile of dishes, laundry and toys that all needed to be put away.

“Finish it.”

I started moving and didn’t stop until my home was ready for Atlas in the morning. While I was folding laundry, I noticed something special;

Every time I fold a piece of his clothing, I smile. I feel this little burst of joy when I fold his little shirts, cute little shorts, pants, pajamas and even socks.

Was I exhausted? Absolutely. Did every part of me wish that I had a maid to do this for me? Yes. However, I realized that were I do have somebody else (or my Mom) folding my clothing, I would miss out on those little bursts of joy that I get when I fold his clothes.

It hit me that being an independent adult is its own success criteria. If you pay your bills, earn a living, clean your own dishes, fold and put away your clothes and don’t rely on others to do all of these things for you – you’re a success.

Is it hard not having somebody else to pass Atlas off to during the times I could be working? Absolutely. However, I wouldn’t trade those moments for all of the money in the world, because all of the money in the world couldn’t buy me one more second of time with him – and that makes it all worth it.

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