MY 45-MINUTE BRAIN TUMOR!

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I’m in my hometown right now, spending some time with my family and finishing my book.  I started it here, so it just felt right to return home to wrap it up, but as always, my mom likes to commit me to a laundry list of things every time I’m here.  The older I get, the less my visits home feel like a break from the chaos of living in Los Angeles and the more they feel like a traveling circus of one.  I have a tendency to be a people pleaser and I love my mom infinity times infinity, so I juggle on.  To be honest, I’m usually ok with most of the things she says yes to on my behalf, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed as my publishing date draws nearer, so it’s been a lot to balance lately and I don’t feel like I’m handling it very well.

I’ve been on edge and my patience has been tested lately.  I want to be everything to everyone but am often left asking myself how long I can sustain that.  I’ve been building space in my life for self-care and as my book is released and my speaking career expands, I know the importance of maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul.  As I woke up at 3:30 am this morning, my mind spiraling out of control, I had to take a few deep breaths and slow things down a bit, which is odd, because my hometown is literally the slowest place I’ve ever been.

It’s also my baby sister’s birthday today, so I’m trying my best to take care of all my responsibilities so that I can spend as much time with her as possible.  Last night, I even watched her play volleyball for the first time in years.  It was church volleyball, so it was more like a suggestion of volleyball, but I loved seeing her out on that court again.  Then, it was my turn; because of course, my mom signed me up for three volleyball matches during my week home. 

I told her I didn’t want to injure myself and she laughed and said, “Honey it’s church volleyball, you’re not going to hurt yourself.”

Three different guys went down with injuries last night; I was not one of them.

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I learned months ago that I am no longer able to step out onto a volleyball court for hours at a time and walk away unscathed, which is why I had the self-awareness to play within my capabilities last night.  I didn’t need to be a hero on that volleyball court (the pavement of our church parking lot) any more than I need to be a hero to every person that I meet.  I love helping others, but I’m no good to anyone if I allow myself to be damaged emotionally or physically.

I’ve felt a bit emotionally stretched lately, but I’m handling it and writing these blogs has been so helpful.  Also, the support I receive from my readers each week has truly lifted my spirits.  Emotional health is a lifelong journey and can feel a little overwhelming from time to time, but physical health is equally important.  I’ve written about some heavy stuff lately, so today I wanted to share with you a story about my physical health and how shit went south real quick one night a few months back.

Here it is.

So, I decided to play volleyball for the first time in years and about 2 hours in to a 3 hour open gym, I realized I could no longer look up or to my left.  Sure, I’m a 37 year old man who hadn’t stepped onto a volleyball court more than once or twice in the past decade and probably had no business coming out of “retirement” and jumping straight into 180 minutes of full on jumping and swinging, but I wasn’t about to let something as silly as age stop me!

As it turns out, age isn’t quite as silly as I’d thought and sometimes, age isn’t more than just a number.  Sometimes, age IS a number, especially when it comes to your body, and mine was approaching 40, even though my athletic mind was still in my early 20s.  I knew immediately that this pain wasn’t normal, but I’m stubborn as all get out and stepping off that court was never an option.  Also, my boyfriend Emile had randomly been called off from work that night and came to watch me and I was determined to remind him of my manliness, which I certainly did.  My goal was to show him my physical prowess, my athletic abilities, my killer instincts in the heat of competition, instead, I showed him that like many men, I’m stubborn and prideful and at this exact moment, I was also in a world of pain.

This temporary lapse in judgment lead to 16 days of intense neck pain, the worst headaches I’d ever had and a solid 45 minute period, the night after the open gym, where I was at first convinced that I had cataracts, then after a far too brief Web MD search, decided that I for sure had a brain tumor.  I thought I was going blind, wondered if I should’ve practiced using Siri to make phone calls more often since I’d clearly be relying on her very soon and thought of all the things I should have accomplished before I was undoubtedly given six months to live by a doctor I’d never met for a self diagnosed brain tumor I was certain I had.

I was sweating alone on my couch, contemplating all the things I’d never be able to accomplish and wishing I’d lived a fuller life up to that point.

I know you’re probably thinking I was just being dramatic, because, well, I was, but I did not care in the moment.  In that moment I was terrified, I was in pain and I was so annoyed with myself for acting like I had something to prove to a man who had been in love with me for 5 years and had seen me play volleyball only once or twice before.  Also, I’ve never actually been as good at volleyball in real life as I’ve always been in my head. My sister Kari was the real athlete in the family, but we don’t need to talk about her insane athleticism now, this is about me and my immense ego.  

As I sat on my couch that night, barely able to move and suffering from what was more likely a tension headache, I finally started to come to grips with the mistake I’d made earlier in the night, allowing my childlike ego to take over my aging body.  Emile wasn’t even watching me play; he spent most of the night playing Candy Crush on his phone, completely uninterested in my desperate attempts to show him my own badassery, which really never existed in the first place.

As I contemplated my decisions on my couch that evening and as soon as the pain and blurred vision passed, I watched an episode of The Real Housewives of New York, where the women were so drunk in Mexico that Bethenny was naked in a pool with Ramona and Sonja was trying to make out with a barely married Luann.  Luckily for me, my vision returned just in time for me to witness what I believe to be one of the greatest Real Housewives moments of all time…Ramona actually apologizing to a naked Skinny Girl and hugging it out on national television.  In case you live under a rock, the “Skinny Girl” is Bethenny’s badass brand, not some sort of judgment on her body or the female figure.  This moment of reality TV gold, which I’d almost missed during my fake brain tumor and temporary blindness, really hit home for me.  Ramona Singer, quite possibly the worst person at apologizing in the history of television, had just done the unthinkable.  She put her ego aside for the sake of her friendship.

Why is this significant, you might ask?  Well, let me tell you.

Ego is a tricky topic for most people, so let’s just be very clear about something.  You have an ego.  I have an ego.  Every human on the face of the planet has an ego.  It’s our nature; it’s a part of who we are and what makes us human.  Problems start to arise when we stroll through life ignoring this fact or even worse, are blissfully unaware of it.

We live in a world where the word ego is thrown around as a negative and I’d like to change that!  I’d like for you and me to start embracing our egos.  It is very possible to have a healthy ego, without being egotistical.  Egotistical is bad; don’t be egotistical.

How do you know if you’re being egotistical?  It’s simple and it’s complicated…  

Do you feel superior to others?  Do you always feel the need to be right or have the last word in a disagreement?  Do you have to win to be happy?  Do you find that you’re never happy with what you have and always seeking more?  Do you struggle to find empathy for others?  Are your conversations more like monologues and are you constantly seeking recognition?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to start exploring your own ego and how it’s dictating your life.  If you answered yes to multiple, you should probably get to work right away.  There’s a downloadable FREEBIE on my website that is great for helping create positive words of affirmation that are a great way to building a healthy ego, so go grab that when you get a moment! 

The reality is that most of us, myself included, could answer yes to every single one of these questions at some point in our lives.  That’s ok.  What’s not ok is the unwillingness to make changes once you realize that your ego has too much control in your life and is affecting relationships with the people that matter to you.  YOU are in control of your life and YOU are the solution to your problems. 

I know that sounds so simple and it really can be, but every now and then it gets a little more complicated, especially when it comes to ego.  The list of questions above is pretty common, easily recognized indicators of an unhealthy ego.  Personally, it’s the less obvious signs of ego that I spent most of my life unaware of.  Trying to please everyone all the time is my ego’s way of actively working to chip away at my personal life’s purpose.  Writing, for me, has been a much healthier way of connecting with people by creating content that will live on forever and bring hope, while still allowing me to retreat and take care of myself from time to time.  It’s a constant balancing act, but I have enjoyed figuring out what works for me.

Also, now when I decided to do something like step out on a volleyball court, I do it to simply enjoy myself and not to impress anyone.  That’s how I approach all aspects of my life.  Every single day, I try to think of ways that I can serve others, while also maintaining my own mind, body, and soul.  I think that’s the point of life.   I haven’t perfected that balance and probably never will, but I’ll never stop trying.  Luckily, my brain is working fine and my eyesight is 20/20, so I don’t have any reason to check out of my life and allow my unhealthy ego to consume me.

By the way, we won last night.  I no longer allow my ego to consume me, but I do still like to win.  I guess I didn’t TOTALLY play just to make my mom happy.

Also, I still don't know how to use Siri.