Saturday, January 7, 2012

Marathon Part 2: Motivators

This is the second part of an ongoing series I wrote ten years back about my first (of four) Marathons. Some of this was already published in my comments on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. My life change was in part motivated by that tragedy. And you can click right here for the first installment of my running history. I will keep this going until you see me finish St. George 2002!


The horror of September 11, 2001 came over me slowly. The first reports were from the rock station playing on the car radio. Thinking it was somebody’s bad joke I switched to an all-news AM station where the disaster was confirmed. The fragmented news reported a car bomb at the State Department and smoke behind the White House. The Interior Department sits between the two. I became very concerned about my co-workers and friends at Main Interior.

I was on my way to Gallup to meet with the Navajo Regional Director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on an archeology contract with the Navajo Nation. Switching my private vehicle for a government car at the Southern Pueblos Agency at Indian School and Twelfth Street, I drove west on I-40. The news reports clarified that the smoke was coming from the Pentagon. I realized then that this was not just a horrible New York disaster but an attack on the United States.

Nine Mile Hill was sunny as I crested into the valley of the Rio Puerco. I pulled off the Interstate where the “Grapes of Wrath” bridge is preserved as a monument to old Route 66. Finding a pay phone, I called on my government card to Gallup, then my office, then on my personal card to home. After a few rounds of calls it became clear that the meetings in Gallup were canceled for being utterly pointless under the circumstances and I was needed back in my office as supervisor because the government was going into emergency mode.

One of our attorneys had a portable 13-inch at the office and we watched the collapse of the two towers of the World Trade Center live and then over and over again. My old buddy Paul had worked in the towers some years back. I did not know exactly where he worked now but I began to worry. I called and amazingly got through to his voice mail so I knew the electronic circuitry in his building, at least, was still intact.  I left a concerned message for him at his home number as well but it was a few days before I spoke with him.  The first news came as Wes and I discussed the situation through e-mail.  The Deseret News online edition reported that church members were safe and accounted for* so that eased our minds.

A series of e-mails from Secretary Norton and our own Solicitor’s Office in D.C. over the next few days raised awareness of government security concerns.  The only thing we could figure to do was to start locking the front doors again early in the morning before all of us were in the office.  One of our attorneys was in D.C. staying out near the Pentagon and had a difficult time returning home, having to rent a car and drive with some others from our Pittsburgh office where she caught a plane.

The stress and strain on me were the last I could take. I was not harmed nor lost any loved ones as so many had in the country. Yet it affected us all. This on top of the many recent life changes and conflicts put me right at the edge.

The new job and relocation of the family from Santa Fe to Albuquerque were generally good. Although being in charge at work supervising ten attorneys in my office and two additional field offices in Santa Fe and Tulsa for over one year when it was not supposed to be that way was very taxing. We lived for a time in a cramped apartment while our new house was finished. There were new schools and challenges for the kids, new church changes and responsibilities, and a new house to furnish and yard to landscape. Then my father’s illness just before Labor Day and the resultant turmoil of my extended family, along with the everyday pressures of life were taking a serious toll on my emotional state.

[. . . .] Now I was having some trouble sleeping again usually waking up way too early even though my good wife had graciously volunteered to drive our sixteen-year-old to his early morning seminary class. Weekends particularly found me lethargic, depressed, sitting in my nice, comfortable bedroom not wanting to face the world. Sundays were the worst. Tired and unmotivated, I had problems enjoying church services feeling they were a burden on my tired soul. A couple of Sundays, not able to face more uninspired preachings or lessons, I sat in the car and tears came.

So I went to the doctor. They always say if you feel depressed, one should get a  check-up to be sure there are no physical ailments causing the emotional state. That was my intent. Dr. Caeser did not do much of a physical exam as I attempted to explain my mood swings but ended up unloading on him with a blubbering, complete emotional collapse. Listening to me carry on for some few minutes he said he did not believe I was bi-polar but was suffering from depression that I had been fighting off for some years, maybe my whole life. He prescribed anti-depressant medication. While I may have been looking for a magic bullet I had not planned that far in my conscious processes. I was shocked. If not depressed before I came in I certainly was at that point. I argued a little with the good doctor as to how he could come up with such a diagnosis so easily. He said that it was an experimental solution, that he would want to monitor me on the medication and that without serious side effects, this was a simple way to judge my “coping” skills under medication.

I proposed the alternative of exercise. He admitted that one can get a lot of the same results from regular exercise – the endorphins have a similar beneficial effect to that of the anti-depressants.  However, the problem is that regular exercise requires a lot of motivation and that was exactly the problem if one is already in a depressed state.

He said I did not have to fill the prescription then but should think about it over the next ten days to two weeks. In his experience most people had to think about it before they committed to drug therapy and once they did they were very happy they did, reporting back on their new carefree life, “how did I ever get along without it?”

But I took it as a challenge. Grasping at straws, perhaps, I took the prescription and folding it in half, carefully placed it in my wallet. I had no intention of filling it but it was a safety valve or at least a reminder I would carry with me. Maybe it was a certificate suitable for framing that, yes, I was a little crazy.

I continued to blubber all the way home where I told my wife. She lovingly listened and comforted as she held me. I went back to work and got through the day. This was a Friday and the next day, Saturday, was pretty dark. I sat in my room most of the day but roused myself to take my wife for a late dinner at Subway.

As we sat with our sandwiches I told her my plan. I did not want to fill the prescription. I chose the alternate, less-favored plan of exercise. I explained that it would require a change of lifestyle for me and would probably effect others as well as I made my dedication to exercise. She was very understanding and kind in her support for me. That proved even truer as time went on and she not only supported me but began her own program as well.  She has been a great help. 

Continue to Part 3

Later reports have identified at least three LDS victims of the 9/11 attacks.

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