I got an email from an old friend this week, and it dealt with something I was going to talk about, so it’s a good starting point for this…

I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I follow your blog; greatly enjoying your photos and prose since sometimes last year. I am saddened to read about your health problems.

I appreciate that sentiment — but to be honest, I’m really pretty happy with life. That hasn’t been true in the last number of years, but one thing I realized after I had the breakdown was that if I didn’t get to the root of things, none of the rest mattered and ultimately, I wouldn’t get it all fixed. The root of much of this was that along the way, I stopped liking myself, and so I went out of my way looking for reasons to be negative about myself, and that’s a big part of what drove the anger and depression that led to the collapse, and was a core cause of a lot of the weight gain — eating as punishment, eating because I didn’t give a damn. Probably, at some level, seeing eating as a really slow suicide path that wouldn’t be seen as that. At best, not caring if it happened. So if you play root cause analysis games (yes, life is nothing but a red flagged project needing some structure and a post-mortem), and you solve those root causing problems — you can fix things.

And so I ended up spending an enormous amount of time trying to understand what was making myself so unhappy, both internal and external triggers, and then understanding how to resolve those conflicts and come to terms with them. It was a process of learning to be comfortable and happy in my own skin again. There’s an entire series of blog posts on this down the road, when I can organize it and figure out how to talk about it.

In all honesty, I see myself as really lucky these days. I feel pretty good most of the time, ignoring the knees, and they continue to slowly improve; our seats at the Sharks are three rows off the glass, which is awesome, but that implies a bunch of stairs, which isn’t, but at the Phoenix game this week, for the first time in about six weeks, the stairs were merely annoying, not massively painful (down is a problem. up has never been a problem. go figure). So I’m hopeful this episode is almost over, and I’m trying to do a bit more exercise, within the caution of not overdoing it and causing a setback. I feel good enough that Laurie’s given me a hall pass, and I’m headed out this weekend for an overnight trip into the central valley to do some serious birding and photography, and see how it goes — hopefully Yolo Bypass, Staten island, Consumnes and Woodbridge on Saturday, grab a room somewhere on the I-5, and spend sunday up at San Luis NWR for the fly-out, and Merced NWR in the afternoon for sunset and the fly in. weather looks like it’ll cooperate, and I’m hopeful the birds will cooperate.

Whenever I want to feel sorry for myself, it’s easy to put it in perspective – I caught the diabetes relatively early (I’m guessing 9 months after it came on), and I had a head start of a couple of years on fixing the diet, since I knew I was a time bomb and it was likely to arrive at some point, and so while it’s something you have to watch and manage, for me, it’s more like dealing with chronic allergies or something. I’m not fragile, I don’t need insulin, I’m well controlled — and I hope to keep it that way, but for now, it’s more something to structure lifestyle mangement around than anything.

And when I look at how that (and grumpy knees) compares to what others around me are going through – honestly, my life’s not bad. I have grumpy knees and I have to watch my arthritis, and I need to lose weight.  I lost an old college girlfriend to liver cancer this year, another had her 20+ year marriage breakup and she’s now being a single mom. I’ve helped a close friend through breast cancer and a full mastectomy. A photographer I know just announced her Lymphoma is back. I’ve lost friends to bone and breast cancer, my dad to heart problems. I can think of two friends currently under chemotherapy, three who underwent cancer surgery in the last year, two 20 year divorces… I could go on.

When you look at that, you wrap your grumpy knees with a heating pad and count your blessings, because I’m still happily married and working to keep it that way, my heart seems fine (I did a treadmill test a couple of years ago and they didn’t find anything to worry about), I have my photography and now that the apnea and diabetes are well controlled I now find I have my energy back, and I’m getting myself more involved in a bunch of new things which you may or may not hear about at some point. 2004-2006 was when things crashed, and things were pretty sucky for a while before that, but now?

I’m just having fun, and enjoying what I have, and trying not to overthink things or get back into the mindset of worrying and being upset over what isn’t. Because what matters is the stuff that is… And what is, is pretty cool.

So I don’t complain much these days. And that’s awesome, since there’s so little worth expending energy complaining about…