How to improve your health when your blood sugars are out of control.

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  • Healthy people are proactive about our health
  • Healthy people seek out more information
  • Healthy people consult professionals before implementing significant changes in our medications or lifestyle choices
  • Healthy people are patient and persistent in overcoming health or lifestyle challenges.
  • Healthy people accept total accountability for our own health, without taking on blame for things beyond our control.

What can you do to improve your AIC when you’re feeling terrible from a variety of symptoms and conditions, many of which are either a direct result of your diabetes, or at least are indirectly impacted by persistent high blood sugars.

There are any number of things you need to deal with in order to make real change. The most important of these things is probably NOT your diabetes. At least not directly.

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I’ve been a type two diabetic for many years. Diabetes probably started with me in my twenties although my first symptoms didn’t start to show up until I was nearly forty. I’m now in my sixties and I’ve been on insulin for more than fifteen years. That means I’ve been pricking my finger at least once a day since I was fifty years old, and injecting myself with insulin ever since.

The one thing I can say about my diabetes is that it has progressed in a predictable way, gradually causing negative effects to my body. All the way along the road various doctors have given me a lot of prescription medications, as well as a lot of advice. I’ve been to diabetic clinics where nurses and dieticians have attempted to teach me how to control my blood sugars through diet and exercise.

Why Me?

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I even received counselling, to try to make sense of Why Me? I think everyone feels victimized by negative health conditions, whether it’s COPD, Heart Disease or Cancer. The answers to Why Me? are both existential and practical.

There are two parts to the answer. First, there is the part of Why Me? over which you have no control, never did, never will have and makes no difference anyway. Whether it’s fate, God, a cruel universe, DNA or the conditions of your life (including a bad diet, smoking, poor or no exercise, etc.) leading up to becoming diabetic none of them actually matter in coming to terms with the emotional fallout of Why Me?

Truthfully, there are many things I could have done differently in the past that might have made a huge difference in my experience of diabetes now and in the future. But for whatever reasons I had, or gave myself, I did what I thought was within my capacity to change in my habits and behaviors.

You can check your blood sugars regularly with you meter tests, get your AIC blood work done in the lab and consult with your doctor as often as she thinks is useful or necessary. You may make changes in your diet and exercise program, and do your best to lose weight and keep it within certain boundaries. And if you do all these things from the beginning, your diabetes will be stable and you will reduce the consequences of this disease.

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For most of us, however, no matter how much we say we care about our health, we’re not really willing to do whatever is necessary to fundamentally change our outcomes. We do some of it, maybe ever some of it every day with serious intentions.

This is the Second Part to Why Me?

This is the part of Why Me? you can control if you choose to do so. So how do you change what you do and how you act, to have a real impact on your own health? This goes back to me saying that it’s not actually about diabetes, or even about your physical health.

It’s really about becoming conscious about who and what you want to be in your own life. We’ve all been beat-up by life along the way. Parents, friends, lovers, partners and even strangers have both positive and negative impacts on our self esteem. Why is that? Why do we let anyone else impact how we feel about ourselves, and how we make positive or negative choices about our lives, including those choices about dealing with negative health outcomes resulting from poor choices.

I hate to say this but “Who cares?” It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, or how you allowed yourself to be negatively influenced regarding healthy living. It really doesn’t matter, but only if there is some way you can turn your life around and ultimately take control of those things that you can control.

How to take control and like it.

The first thing is to understand what it is you need to do to make things better. If you don’t know what you need to do, it’s pretty hard to decide what to do. So find out. See you doctors. Read everything you can find out about current treatment alternatives, and inquire from other people their experiences. Read blogs. Get new referrals to diabetic clinics and resources. Talk over alternatives with your specialist. Make a plan of action with on a few, specific steps, done regularly and persistently.

Don’t try to do everything all at once. Set limited goals with realistic objectives. For example: Don’t try to lose a lot of weight in a week or even a month. Lose weight in amounts that can actually be achieved. If you find it too hard to do by yourself, join a club or a weight loss program which comes with monitoring and emotional support. But don’t blame the program if your weight loss isn’t happening. Be totally honest with yourself, and reset your goals. Weight loss is fundamental to improved diabetic outcomes and lowering blood sugar.

Don’t hang around waiting for someone else to improve your health.

If it isn’t happening, then look elsewhere for support, but don’t give up on necessary change. Remember that whatever happened yesterday is no longer relevant unless it results in change today. Guilt is useless unless it is accompanies by a renewed sense of personal accountability.

When I graduated many years ago from UBC my school motto was TU UM EST. What I didn’t realize was how powerful an idea that really is.

TU UM EST!

A Critical Medical Self-Analysis

Purpose of this exercise

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There can be no time more suitable than the present to make better choices for my future health and well-being.  New choices mean reviewing and carefully considering alternatives not previously pursued, or if previously pursued, inadequately.  In some respects, this analysis reflects a continuing and necessary re-evaluation based of my current state of health, not as a snapshot, as it were, but rather as a streaming and changing set of conclusions and actions based on them.  However, this analysis is specifically about now and the immediate future, with a clear understanding that nothing is ever completely settled in these issues, and there is new information available on an ongoing basis.

More simply put – This self-analysis is about resetting how I go about living my life with due consideration to what I have learned about the conditions and diseases that currently plague me.  How to do better and improve my health for the future – this is my object.

Much of what will be expressed here rests on certain persisting patterns of behavior which require significant modification.  In other words, I must change if there is to be any real improvement in my health reality. And based on what I know about achieving anything of consequence in my life, it will need to be outlined in a program of specific steps, which depend upon my own actions rather than on others.  My physicians can only provide me with information and treatment within what I’m willing or able to do myself.  My partner, as supportive as she has tried to be over the years, is not responsible for any part of this, despite my tendency to try to lay responsibility at her door particularly for my dietary habits and lack of blood sugar control.

Current Symptoms

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  • Frequent urination – especially at night, interrupting my sleep.
  • Poor sleep – several things wake me up at night, variously including frequent urination, frequent cramps in my feet and calves, pain my shoulders and hips, dry mouth and nasal congestion, sleep apnea, hay fever, and difficulties breathing.
  • Chronic pain during waking hours – moderate to severe pain in my feet, neuropathic pain as well as mechanical distress, including pain caused by walking on supersensitive soles of my feet, as well as my toes.  Also… periodic moderate pain in my back and shoulders, and more serious pain in my lower back and hips when walking more that 1,000 to 2,000 steps.
  • Periodic breathing problems – mild to severe asthma on a continuing basis, almost always somewhat symptomatic but much worse when exercising or physically stressed.  Sometimes exacerbated by emotional stress or conflict.
  • Chronic physical exhaustion and fatigue – comes and goes during the day but is worse during periods of relative inactivity (sense of exhaustion) and during periods of exercise (weakness and muscle fatigue)
  • Dizziness upon standing – it is sometimes acute and sometimes minor
  • Mental fatigue and a sense of a loss of acuity and sharpness – I am finding it difficult to concentrate on mental tasks which require the application of my intellectual skills and professional skills.  I still feel capable of creative work for relatively brief periods, but fatigue quickly overtakes me, and I must put things aside, while I attempt to recover my energies and focus.
  • Forgetfulness and feelings of anxiety regarding memory
  • Visual deficiencies – lately I can only read or work on the computer for a certain period before my eyes begin to become less effective, making it necessary for me to interrupt my work or reading, and brake completely from work that require visual acuity.  Eye fatigue contributes to my overall sense of fatigue and exhaustion.  Note: I probably need new glasses, something I will discuss with my ophthalmologist on Friday when I next visit her.
Rain coast blogger
Rain Coast Review Blog author

  Conditions and/or diseases

  • Diabetes
  • Slightly elevated cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma and bronchitis (borderline COPD)
  • Diabetic Neuropathy
  • Evidence of diabetic damage to my eyes
  • Fatty liver
  • Obese
  • Arthritis in hips, hands, shoulders, lower back
  • Tendonitis in hands and wrists
  • Eczema
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Allergies to a broad band of common allergens including pollens, animal dander, dust and others.  Anaphylactic reaction to Cipro and Penicillin
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Discussion

I have had recent visits with my family doctor, my Endocrinologist and my Respirologist (Pulmonologist), plus an upcoming CT Scan in early June at Burnaby General, and an eye exam this Friday.  I’m clearly a heavy draw on the medical system with all these frequent appointments to deal with various ailments.  Clearly I’d like to see less of them, and they would like to see less of me.  All we have to do to accomplish this feat is to improve my health sufficiently so that they wouldn’t need to see me so often.

Diabetes blood sugar and neuropathy management

Endocrinologist

My most recent visit with my Endocrinologist, as usual, thorough, with a significant discussion about changing my medications, in particularly, moving to two different types of insulin every day, with a long acting insulin injected in the morning with design purpose of bringing my premeal and fasting insulin down to ideally 7.0mml or below and then having me take fast acting insulin with each meal, dividing up the insulin between the meals, more or less based on the prorated amount of food being ingesting at each meal.

In order to manage this much more intensive insulin regime, it will be necessary for me to check my Blood sugar levels first thing each morning, as well as 2 hours after each meal.  The goal of the fast-acting insulin is to return my blood sugars to 10mml or below within the two hours.  

In order to maintain such a frequent reading of my blood sugar levels, I need to have a new form of monitor with a patch blood reader that sends the information to a monitoring device, either my iPhone or one that comes with the patch.  I submitted the request to Blue Cross two weeks ago and am currently awaiting approval. Note: I should follow up with them before Friday to make sure they are working on this.

The Endocrinologist wrote me prescriptions for the insulin and the device, as well as had his assistant prepare the forms for Blue Cross.  Once I have approval, I will need to deliver these forms to the Pharmacy for processing.

The Endocrinologist and I had a fairly long conversation regarding various aspects of my diabetes including the need for me to have my eyes re-examined, thus an appointment this Friday with Chui Luca, my Ophthalmologist.  We also discussed my weight gain since being diagnosed with diabetes with him expressing some thought that while weight loss would be desirable many type two diabetics in my circumstances find it very difficult to lose weight while taking insulin.  Not only does insulin contribute to weight gains, but so do Jentadueto and Invokana my other diabetes treatment medications.

In addition, gabapentin, which has been prescribed for my neuropathy due to diabetes, also leads to weight gain along with other symptoms I am experiencing.

The more common side effects of gabapentin include:

  • abnormal eye movements that are continuous, uncontrolled, back-and-forth, or rolling
  • clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty speaking
  • drowsiness or tiredness
  • dry mouth
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Talk with your doctor about precautions you can take for side effects from gabapentin:

  • Ask your doctor for advice on diet and exercise to help manage your weight if you are concerned about possible weight gain from gabapentin.
  • Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery until you know you can function normally while taking gabapentin.
  • Talk to your pharmacist about over-the-counter medications that can help relieve some of the more common digestive system side effects.

Gabapentin side effects may make you want to stop taking the drug. However, don’t stop taking it without first talking to your doctor.

Stopping gabapentin suddenly can cause serious problems, such as withdrawal symptoms or the return of seizures. Your doctor will help you stop taking the drug safely.

Medically reviewed by Lindsay Slowiczek, PharmD on December 20, 2016 — Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Other diabetes Medications

In addition to the two new forms of insulin, and the gabapentin for treatment of the diabetic Neuropathy I also take two other diabetes medicines.

Jentadueto

2.5/1,000 MGs – taken twice daily prior to morning and evenings meals.

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 08/28/2017

Jentadueto (linagliptin and metformin hydrochloride) is a combination of two 2 oral antihyperglycemic drugs indicated as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus when treatment with both linagliptin and metformin is appropriate. Common side effects of Jentadueto are:

  • cough,
  • sore throat,
  • sinus pain,
  • stuffy nose,
  • upset stomach,
  • weight gain,
  • pancreatitis,
  • diarrhea, and
  • low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Get medical help immediately if you have severe side effects of lactic acidosis (symptoms include muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness, tiredness, weakness, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, or slow or uneven heart rate.

Jenadueto is available in the following strengths: tablets containing 2.5 mg linagliptin and 500 mg metformin hydrochloride or 850 mg metformin hydrochloride or 1000 mg metformin hydrochloride. The maximum recommended dose is 2.5 mg linagliptin/1000 mg metformin twice daily. Jenadueto should be taken daily with meals, with gradual dose escalation to reduce the gastrointestinal side effects due to metformin.

Invokana

300 MG – taken once daily prior to the morning meal.

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 11/12/2018

Invokana (canagliflozin) is a sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor used to control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus, in addition to diet and exercise. Common side effects of Invokana include:

  • urinary tract infections,
  • increased urination,
  • yeast infections,
  • vaginal itching,
  • thirst,
  • constipation,
  • nausea,
  • fatigue,
  • weakness,
  • skin sensitivity to sunlight,
  • hypersensitivity reactions (including skin redness, rash, itching, hives, and swelling),
  • bone fractures, and
  • kidney problems.

The recommended starting dose of Invokana is 100 mg once daily, taken before the first meal of the day. Doses may be increased to 300 mg in patients who are able to tolerate Invokana at 100 mg doses. Invokana may interact with rifampin or digoxin. Tell your doctor all medications you use.

Asthma and Bronchitis Medications and treatments

After spending 10 days in the hospital in 2016 with severe pneumonia, when I was discharged my Respirologist at Centrio Medical Centre diagnosed me with COPD and prescribed three different inhalers to treat the disease.

Spiriva 2.5 mg

Spiriva 2.5 mg – two puffs with morning medications

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 2/12/2018

Spiriva HandiHaler (tiotropium bromide) Inhalation Powder is an anticholinergic drug used to prevent bronchospasm (narrowing of the airways in the lungs) in people with bronchitis, emphysema, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Common side effects of Spiriva HandiHaler include:

  • dry mouth,
  • constipation,
  • upset stomach,
  • vomiting,
  • cold symptoms (stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat),
  • nosebleed, or
  • muscle pain.

Tell your doctor if you have any serious side effects of Spiriva HandiHaler including:

  • difficult or painful urination, or
  • fast heartbeat.

The recommended dose of Spiriva HandiHaler is two inhalations of the powder contents of one Spiriva capsule, ONCE DAILY, with the HandiHaler device. Spiriva may interact with atropine, belladonna, cimetidine, clidinium, dicyclomine, glycopyrrolate, hyoscyamine, mepenzolate, methantheline, methscopolamine, propantheline, or scopolamine. Tell your doctor all medications you use. During pregnancy, Spiriva should be used only when prescribed.

Symbicort

Symbicort 200 mg – two puffs with morning medications and two puffs with dinner medications

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 1/22/2018

Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate) is a combination of a steroid and a long-acting bronchodilator used to prevent bronchospasm in people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Common side effects of Symbicort include:

  • headache,
  • throat irritation,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • stomach upset,
  • diarrhea,
  • back pain,
  • stuffy nose,
  • muscle or joint pain, or
  • changes in your voice.

Tell your doctor if you experience unlikely but serious side effects of Symbicort including:

  • white patches on tongue or in mouth,
  • signs of infection (such as fever, persistent sore throat),
  • mental/mood changes (such as nervousness),
  • trouble sleeping,
  • vision problems (such as blurred vision),
  • increased thirst or urination,
  • muscle cramps, or
  • shaking (tremors).

For patients 12 years of age and older, the dosage of Symbicort is 2 inhalations twice daily (morning and evening, approximately 12 hours apart). Symbicort may interact with antibiotics, antifungal medication, MAO inhibitor, antidepressants, beta-blockers, or diuretics (water pills). Tell your doctor all medications you are taking. During pregnancy, Symbicort should be used only when prescribed. Budesonide passes into breast milk. It is unknown if formoterol passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Salbutamol

Salbutamol 100ug – two puffs as required

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 2/7/2019

Ventolin HFA (albuterol sulfate inhalation aerosol) is a bronchodilator used to treat or prevent bronchospasm in people with reversible obstructive airway disease. Ventolin HFA is also used to prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm. Ventolin HFA is available in generic form. Common side effects of Ventolin HFA include:

  • nervousness,
  • shaking (tremor),
  • palpitations,
  • headache,
  • mouth/throat dryness or irritation,
  • cough,
  • hoarseness,
  • sore throat,
  • runny or stuffy nose,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • dizziness,
  • sleep problems (insomnia),
  • muscle pain,
  • changes in taste, or
  • diarrhea.

Seek medical help immediately if you have rare but serious side effects of Ventolin HFA, including:

  • chest pain or
  • irregular heartbeat.

The dose of Ventolin HFA for adults and children for treatment of acute episodes of bronchospasm or prevention of symptoms associated with bronchospasm is 2 inhalations repeated every 4 to 6 hours. More frequent administration or a larger number of inhalations is not recommended. For exercise-induced bronchospasm, the dose is 2 inhalations 15 to 30 minutes before exercise. Ventolin HFA may adversely interact with diuretics (water pills), digoxin, beta-blockers, antidepressants, MAO inhibitors, or other bronchodilators. Tell your doctor all medications you are taking. During pregnancy, Ventolin HFA should be used only when clearly needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. It is unknown if this medication passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Other Medications Prescribed or recommended

Tecta 40 MG

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 10/24/2018

Protonix Delayed-Release Oral Suspension and Delayed-Release Tablets (pantoprazole sodium) is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) used for short-term treatment (less than 10 days) of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and a history of erosive esophagitis in adult patients.

Common side effects of Protonix include

  • injection site reactions (redness, pain, swelling),
  • headache,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal or stomach pain,
  • diarrhea,
  • gas,
  • dizziness,
  • joint pain,
  • weight changes,
  • drowsiness,
  • tired feeling, or
  • sleep problems (insomnia).

The recommended adult dose of Protonix is 40 mg once daily. Protonix may interact with atazanavir, nelfinavir, ampicillin, blood thinners, digoxin, diuretics (water pills), ketoconazole, iron, or methotrexate. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use. Protonix is not expected to be harmful to a fetus. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment with Protonix. Protonix passes into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

APO-atorvastatin 40 mg

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 4/23/2019

Lipitor (atorvastatin) is a statin used for the treatment of elevated total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, and to elevate HDL cholesterol. Side effects of Lipitor include:

  • constipation,
  • diarrhea,
  • nausea,
  • fatigue,
  • gas,
  • heartburn,
  • headache, and
  • mild muscle pain.

Contact your doctor if you experience serious side effects of Lipitor including:

  • muscle wasting and muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis),
  • confusion or memory problems,
  • fever,
  • dark urine,
  • increased thirst or hunger,
  • drowsiness,
  • loss of appetite, or
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).

The recommended dose of Lipitor is 10-80 mg daily. Erythromycin (E-Mycin), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), cyclosporine (Sandimmune), indinavir (Crixivan) and ritonavir (Norvir) decrease elimination of Lipitor. Lipitor increases the effect of warfarin (Coumadin) and cholestyramine (Questran) decreases the absorption of Lipitor. Lipitor should not be taken during pregnancy because the developing fetus requires cholesterol for development, and Lipitor reduces the production of cholesterol. Lipitor passes into breast milk and could harm a nursing baby. Breastfeeding while taking Lipitor is not recommended.

Ramapril 10 MG

Ramipril side effects

Ramipril oral capsule doesn’t cause drowsiness. However, it can cause other side effects.

More common side effects

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. The more common side effects that occur with ramipril include:

  • dizziness or faintness due to low blood pressure
  • cough
  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness or tiredness
  • Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • low blood pressure. This is more common when you’re starting the drug or increasing doses. Symptoms include:
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • allergic or hypersensitivity reaction (angioedema). Symptoms include:
  • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • stomach pain with or without nausea and vomiting
  • liver problems (jaundice). Symptoms include:
  • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
  • stomach pain
  • fatigue
  • swelling (edema). Symptoms include:
  • swelling of your feet, legs, or hands
  • low white blood cell count. Symptoms include:
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • purple spot on your skin caused by internal bleeding (purpura)
  • fast or abnormal heart rate or palpitations. Symptoms include:
  • feeling like your heart is fluttering
  • high potassium levels. Symptoms include:
  • weakness
  • arrhythmia (irregular heart rate)
  • worse kidney function. Symptoms include:
  • nausea and vomiting
  • decreased urine output when urinating
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

As you age, your kidneys may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of this drug may stay in your body for a longer time. This increases your risk of side effects. Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose or a different schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Special considerations

Kidney problems: 1.25 mg once per day. Your doctor may increase your dose to 5 mg taken once per day if needed for blood pressure control.

Renal artery stenosis or dehydration: The starting dose is 1.25 mg taken by mouth once per day. Your doctor may change your dose as needed.

Dosage to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death

Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

2.5 mg taken by mouth once per day for 1 week. Then 5 mg taken once per day for 3 weeks. Your doctor will increase your dose as tolerated to 10 mg taken once per day.

Encyclopedic Curiosity

cropped-donald-b-wilson-youth-portrait-square-pp-pe-bw.jpgFiguring out where I want to go from here, what I want to do and even who I want to be is far more complicated that I ever imagined it to be.  Especially now that I’m sixty-five years old.

I’ll admit to having experienced this state of fugue from time to time in my past.  When I attended university at UBC in Vancouver starting in 1971, I enrolled in a Music Education program, thinking that I might like to become a high school music teacher.  I had been singing in choirs and playing musical instruments since junior high school, and I fancied that I might actually be a good enough musician that I could make a living both as a musician and as a teacher of music.

Teaching and music both run in my family.

My mom and her father were both  teachers, and they both had successful careers, she largely as an English teaching with the Vancouver School Board for many years and later a Lecturer in Sociology in the Faculty of Education at UBC, and he as an itinerant teacher and school administrator across much of Canada’s north country, ending up as the Principal of Thunder Bay College, and later staying on as the first President of Lakehead University, both in Thunder Bay.

My very earliest memories were of listening to my mom sing lullabies when tucking me in as a young child at night, and of sitting on the piano bench next to my grandfather singing a Swedish Stilla natt, heliga natt! (Silent Night, Holy Night) along with him on one of his magical Christmas visits to our home.

Stilla natt, heliga natt!
Allt är tyst. Klart och glatt
Skiner stjärnan på stallets strå
Och de korade helgon två,
Som kring Guds Son hålla vakt
Som kring Guds Son hålla vakt.

My childhood home was often filled with music, as all of my siblings and I learned to sing early, and often.  Other wonderful memories of childhood include singing around the many campfires of family camping trips, to fantastic destinations like the Cariboo Trail, the Calgary Stampede, and the family homestead in Comstock, Saskatchewan where my grandfather and my mom both had their roots.

So becoming a music teacher seemed like a good idea at the time.  At UBC, in the Faculty of Music, I joined the University Singers, while also singing with the BC Boy’s Choir, which toured Europe one summer.  I also took several music education courses, and the standard required Humanities English 100 and a history course, French Canadian History, a survey course.

And, of course, I joined the UBYSSEY, the student newspaper,  as a greenhorn reporter and photographer.  During that year I wrote reviews of classical concerts and attended many operatic and symphonic events as a writer with Press Pass.  I shot news photographs and learned to work the dark room, and it’s many secrets.

There were a couple of things that went wrong in that first year, that threw my plan to become a teacher into the garbage bin.  Around Christmas I was involved in an electrical fire in my mother’s car, which destroyed the engine, and more importantly, led to serious smoke damage to my throat, vocal chords and quite possibly to my lungs, which may very well partially account for the fact that I  now suffer from serious COPD, and forced me to withdraw from the University Singers, and stop singing with the Boys Choir.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ’emphysema’ are no longer used, but are now included within the COPD diagnosis. WHO | COPD: Definition  http://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/definition/en/

The second, and much more important than the temporary loss of my voice was my failure to thrive in my education course work.  One of my professors told me point blank that he would be willing to give me a passing grade, only if I agreed to drop out of the Faculty of Education, and never take another education course.  For whatever reason, true or not, he had reached a conclusion about my unsuitability to becoming a teacher.  His comments to me were couched as gently as he could, but he stated that he believed that I didn’t belong in a classroom as a teacher because I was emotionally wrong for the job.  He felt that my unlimited energy and wild enthusiasm, as well as mercurial  temper and periods of depression made me highly unsuitable as a trustee for young children, or even teenagers.

I was stuck down, destroyed in my ambition to be a teacher, and took to heart this professor’s judgment.  The loss of my voice seemed trivial against the far greater loss of a potential career I’d always thought I’d follow.  So at the end of my first year at university I completed my arts courses, English and French Canadian History which were all I could take with me into the Faculty of Arts in the fall of the next year.

As it turned out, I ended up with an English degree since it was the only second year course I could take, and I was invited to participate in the Honours program in English literature by the Faculty Adviser supervising my first year English course.  In a way, the English Department chose me, rather than me choosing them.  My choice in an academic degree was large a default decision, rather than a purposeful one.  It didn’t seem too off base, after all I am the son of an English teacher, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that English was a pretty easy alternative to my preferred choice of music.

The choice of an academic career by default, is in many way, symptomatic of the choices I’ve made in the rest of my life.  As someone with a supposedly high intelligence quotient, the ability to read copiously as a result of reading extremely fast, and with the ability to do well in any scholarly pursuit, if I put my mind and heart into it, made school seem like a natural path, even if I actually was pretty much indifferent to the content of my education.  I love reading, but not literature per se.  I’d have been just as happy to have done my degree in Economic or History, or for that matter, Astrophysics.

If I have any dominant characteristic, common to me as a child, an adolescent, an adult and now, as a senior, it is encyclopedic curiosity.  I don’t claim to know much about anything in particular, but I’m interested in almost everything under the sun. I continue to be thrilled to discover new things, new inventions, new way of thinking and doing.

This characteristic has many good aspects to it, and a couple not so great.  It means that I have had, and continue to have, some difficult in choosing what to do with my time.  Everything looks interesting, and generally I’ve pretty much always been able to handle the challenges thrown up by any of my endeavors, except in one, simple, but fundamental way.  It’s tough to choose, and even tougher to stay the course.    My threshold of boredom is really low, and my curiosity and boredom with everyday duties have made me singularly less than as financially successful as I should have been, if only I could have stuck to one thing, and truly made it my own.  With my raw abilities I should have mounted to the top of whatever career I choose, instead of ending up mediocre in all of them, having failed to really commit to any of them.

 

 

 

Wonderland?

Sometimes I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe, one in which I’m no longer a person.  The world has also changed, seemingly irretrievably, into a place without any kind of safety, security, and surety.

Mum used to complain to me, from time to time, when she was retired from teaching, that she felt invisible, of no consequence, and therefore, of no value to anyone, including to herself.  I remember telling her that, of course, she had meaning and value, at least to her children, and that we value her for her wisdom and accumulated life experience.  I believe now that my comments were, at best, well-meaning but false.

Feelings are not facts, although they weigh us down as if they are real.  I am going to be celebrating my sixty-fifth birthday in less than a month.  Supposedly this means that I should be enjoying the opportunity to retire from active working life, and into a pleasant meander down the road of a new journey, not so bound up in ambition or goals.

Instead, I head into retirement with serious complications of diabetes and COPD, chronically exhausted, in constant arthritic and neuropathic pain.  My professional life is in disgrace, and my finances are completely destroyed.  My marriage is a shambles, a mere shadow of meaning and purpose I believed it to be. Whatever self-esteem I once enjoyed has been systematically eroded to the point where I have become self-effacing and ashamed.

Accomplishments once achieved with pride, are now rued as pointless, as they were not sustained, nor followed up with long-term success.  Professional competence and pride in my knowledge and skills are now the pathetic memories of a fallen champion.

I have crashed and burned before, and arose from the ashes to take on new challenges and build a life again. I’m told by professionals that I need to let go of the past, forget my shortcomings, and learn to live with my current life and health circumstances.  In short, I need to refocus on a new future.  Build again a life worth living,  a life into which joy and laughter can once again be a part.

There is still much of value in my life, and turning to those people who continue to befriend me and support me is a part of that future.  Gratitude for what I have now will be a good start.

Still, it is difficult to look around me and see a landscape filled with characters I don’t recognize and don’t think I really want to get to know.  What would be even more helpful would be if I could find a mirror that shows me the man I once thought I was.  The mirrors in Wonderland show me a person I scarcely recognize, and who I really don’t want to be.

 

 

 

Business is Business

Aside

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my business life over the past couple of years, while I’ve tried to stay positive in the face of severe business reversals.  It is natural to doubt myself after several major problems occurred put a wrench into my ability to function.  Needless to say, I’m not happy to lose my investor’s money in projects that didn’t work out the way I’d planned.  And I sure didn’t expect the fallout that has come my way.

Truth.  I missed the boat on some important things.  Like the collapse of the oil markets and Alberta’s economy, with them. Like the fact depending on other people only works if they aren’t subject to the same negative market conditions as me.