Happiness and Joy

This past weekend, dear friends Brenda and Jim commented on previous post about Outing Depression. Jim’s comments reminded me of my most recent counseling journey and I thought maybe I should provide an update.

When I started to back to counseling in late 2019, it had a specific goal, to learn to be happy. A lot of the work was about exploring why I wasn’t happy and what being happy meant/means to me. A few months later we were deep into Pandemic Year One and counseling moved to weekly Zoom sessions. The tenor of most of the sessions involved processing my father’s death, talking about my relationship to my wife as her caregiver, the pandemic, and my golf game. Yep, a certain amount of privilege is involved in using counseling to talk about golf.

However, since golf is my one outlet (I have given up all adventure activities that have higher risk than golf in order to minimize my wife’s anxiety), it is pretty important to my well-being. Further, since I have given up the OCD behavior that supported my counter-dependency, or rather transferred it to golf, I needed to find a way to manage my expectations and self-criticism.

As things progressed, we talked more about how I felt during a round of golf compared to how I felt walking off the course at the end. Too often I felt beaten and broken at the end after a succession of highs and lows while playing. My playing partner was in a similar boat and we began working in parallel to reduce and almost eliminate the anger and frustration we felt. More often than not, we walk off the 18th green feeling like we had fun and it was well worth the three to four hours of time we spent playing.

After a year of wrestling with golf, the feelings of being trapped in the in-betweenness of being a caregiving spouse where everything seems like the “the waiting place” from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”, working remotely during the pandemic, and dealing with most everything at a distance, I came to a conclusion.

I was, I am, happy.

I was pretty glumly surprised. I no longer really had anything to bitch about. Sure, everything is not to my liking. My wife is still disabled and ending a third year in a wheelchair, people I care deeply about have fallen prey to seriously stupid conspiracy theories, and Pandemic Year Two is hardly a great rebirth, and my golf game still sucks (actually, my game is pretty good, the uncontrolled randomness of my swing still sucks), but all this is merely context. And that’s thing, happiness is not dependent on context, it is in fact about acceptance of what is, of what you cannot change, and what you can. Happiness, for me at least, is not about going around with a smile, but instead a willingness to smile when you can, an openness to finding joy in the world around your, whether it is kindness of others, the change of seasons, or the long arcing flight of a perfectly struck golf ball. There are many places to find joy.

I came to these conclusions at an opportune time. A friend of mine working through cancer and a terminal illness was unable to find a counselor that time available and could work with her. I was able to to get my counselor to take her on in my slot. There was a certain amount of joy in that.

For the record, I have not come in closer to achieving my lofty goal of hitting a golf ball 350 yards. At least not in terms of distance. I am now much more likely to hit a fairway though, and that’s a win. Nothing else has really changed, other than my attitude and my perception of the world around me. And I find more moments of pure joy.

Obsession is 2020 #Chasing350

In many ways, 2020 has been a horrible year. However, in one way, it has been a great year – I got to play a lot of golf. Teleworking cut an average of 90 minutes of commuting out of each work day, freeing me up for other activities. A directive from my wife’s PCP that I need to be allowed to get out at least once a week to play golf, as a break from caregiving and work also ensured that I would be able to get out weekly.

Just a few stats:

  • 98 rounds of golf (mix of 18- and 9-hole rounds)
  • 92 18-hole equivalents or 1,656 holes
  • approximately 12,000 balls hit between course, range, and backyard
  • an average of 13,000 steps per 18 holes
  • 1.2 million steps total (out of 4 million for the year)
  • longest drive: 311 yards

Even despite the simple fact that I still suck at golf, it has been a very good year. I should note that while I suck, I suck at a much higher level because my scores are the same playing from the back tees in the winter as they were from the white tees (a 1,000 yards shorter) last spring. Better ball contact, longer shots. Still lacking in consistent balance, rhythm, or consistency.

I am still committed to trying to hit 350 yards at least three times this year. While recently I have felt that it is likely beyond me, I’m not giving up. Yesterday, in the first round of 2021, I hit an 8-iron to within 12 feet on a 178 yard par three. This was my normal swing and impact where the ball soared unbelievably high and then embedded in the green. No roll, no low penetrating flight. I did not mishit and blade the ball. In September, I accidentally hit over this green with the same 8-iron, a full 190 yards. As long as I can keep making shots like this, I believe I can reach 350 yards with a driver.

While I did not find an improvement in scoring, I did find something else. Real enjoyment. I finally learned how to just enjoy playing, regardless of how well I play. Regardless of how many things go wrong….and some days this was really difficult. It also wasn’t just me, it was my playing partner. We both worked really hard on managing emotions, containing anger and frustration, and just plain having fun. It’s almost a whole new game.

Finally, the pandemic may have saved golf, which was slowly losing recreational players. Golf is not cheap, can be very expensive, takes a significant investment of time, it has horrible cultural history (and present), and is insanely difficult for most people. During the pandemic. in Virginia and a number of other states, golf courses remained open while making changes to make it easier to avoid contact and maintain social distance. We see more women on the course, more young people, and more people of color. This is good because it is very easy to make friends on a golf course, if you can’t, there’s something wrong. A broader spectrum of players means a stronger future for the game, regardless of what else changes. Getting to know more people different from you is also a good thing.

I’m looking forward to more golf in 2021.

On Being a Veteran

 This was originally an email to my agency on Veteran’s Day about what it means to me to be a US veteran today, but there are a few things I wish to expand upon.  First, I want to dispel the notion of members of the military as being “suckers and losers.” They are not.  While a wide variety of men and women enter the military, and some might be viewed as losers, or may feel that way about themselves, by the time they finish basic and advanced training, they are no longer any such thing. They become soldiers, people who are willing to lay their lives on the line, not just for each other, or for friends and family back home, but for an idea – the nation, something bigger than self. The oath we took as soldiers first and foremost commits us to the Constitution, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;”  words that still make me proud to have served. I am still committed to that mission, albeit as a private citizen.

To serve one’s country is to commit to the idea of the country, not any particular individual. To support and defend the Constitution is a powerful statement. It’s a commitment to stand against those opposed to rule of law, freedom, and equality. Although it is fair to say that we have not been very good about distributing equality equally. The nation remains a work in progress. We also know that the Constitution was flawed from the beginning, in that it did not provide freedoms to all people. Thus it has been amended as many of us believe we can achieve something better for America.

My time in the US Army was a mere three years, followed by six years in the US Army Reserve. It was not easy time, despite it being peace time. It was a time full of opportunity, self-development, and pushing beyond what I had perceived to be my limits. It was also a time, especially looking back, to see just how racist and genderist government structures can be. That’s why I appreciate so very much the work that the agency is doing to develop a new statement of ethics and values that is focused on equity.

Some of the men I served with feel that those years in the Army were the best years of their lives. I remember it quite differently. I also remember that these guys did not really seem to be enjoying the experience all that much. No matter how many tough, cool, and exciting things I did then, they don’t come close to my years here in Virginia.  I’ll admit that dangling below a helicopter, climbing the side of a glacier in combat gear, cruising across plateaus in the Canadian Rockies in six-wheeled combat vehicles, and blowing lots of shit up occasionally was fun and makes for good memories, but those things did not define the years.

Finally, while I appreciate the current “Thank you for your service” attitude,  I don’t need thanks for serving. I benefited greatly from my service. It was an honor and privilege. Others, however, need and deserve much more than thanks. They need ongoing support and a nation that has not forgotten them and their colleagues.

I’ve spent 19 years and 9 months in Virginia state government. I’ve tried to bring the same values to this job that I learned in the Army: complete the mission, take care of your people. It’s not a bad model.

One Perfect Shot #Chasing350

I suck at golf. I really do. To be good at golf requires consistency over time in mind and body. It requires development of a repetitive swing that holds up over time. I don’t have that, never have, but it has been better in the past. Now, with the 10-year absence of a left side vestibular (balance) nerve, physical repetition seems beyond me. As for the mental aspect, my untreated ADHD, while it is a super-power for my job, creates challenges in focus at times. I’m repetitive about big ideas and concepts over time, according to colleagues, but little moments, not so much.

The thing is, golf can be a pretty abusive relationship. One can spend three or four (or more) hours playing golf and feel pretty beat down. Especially when your score is crappy. You can swear you’ll never play golf again – right up to the moment says, “Next weekend?”

You can easily get to feeling discouraged and beat up while you’re playing, and then it happens – just one perfect shot. If feels like you’ve kissed by the goddess herself. It’s what keeps you coming back….regardless what happens next. It happened to me last Sunday.

For 16 holes, I was kind of all over the place. I hit some really good shots, had some shots go really wrong (hooks and slices), missed a lot of short putts – clearly, I was struggling with both tempo and alignment. On the 17th, a short par five, playing about 483, I just cranked one out. Right down the middle, the ball seemed to hang endlessly in the air. A total of 295 yards, with only 10 or 15 yard of roll. It was glorious.

So, there I am, standing over the ball, just inside 190 yards. Partner and I are talking.

“You’re going to go for it?”

“I guess. I’ve been hitting like shit all day, but this is normally an easy six iron.”

“You’ve got to. You know I would and I don’t have your length.”

We waited for slow group ahead to clear the green. I took my practice swings. They felt good. Step up, swing….and chunked it, hitting a good half-foot behind the ball in the soft turf. This is something I’ve been fighting lately, so while frustrated, I wasn’t terribly surprised. Walk the 70 yards, hit again, put it on the green, and two-putt for an easy par.

All that really matters to me is that I hit that drive.

I played again on Veteran’s Day. It was a gray, rainy day, just like all those days I played in the Willamette Valley in the 1990s. The course was pretty much empty, so I played as a single, unrushed, and working on aspects of my game. As usual, a mix of good and bad, but with no one to watch, either to celebrate the good or mourn (or laugh at) the bad, it was just easy to relax. I got to 17, looking for redemption.

I found it. Sort of. The drive was not perfect, as it came down on the edge of the cart path to the left, behind a stand of trees that intrude into the fairway, 287 yards from the tee. I had no straight shot, has not worried about score or making a conservative play, so attempted a heavy draw with the six iron. I took my stance, aimed wayyy right and almost. Landed in the greenside bunker on the right. I was pin-high and pleased as hell. Still ended a two-putt par, but it was good.

Next hole was a disaster, but I will be back at 9:40 am tomorrow.

Practicing Golf v. Playing Golf #Chasing350

I spent two weeks fairly ill, tested twice for Covid-19. Fortunately, both tests were negative. Even though wasn’t the corona virus, it was enough like it to be really unpleasant and just a bit scary. It also weakened me. I was never bad enough to have to stay in bed, and I was able to do some swing practice, but it got harder to do and I became sloppy.

Last Sunday, I did feel strong enough to get out and play. It was a lovely, grey and drizzly day, much like those days I played golf in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Unfortunately, it was raining buckets in Spotsylvania where my playing partner lives and he bailed out, assuming the worst. Out at the course, the forecast was for 0.02 inches per hour – at most a heavy drizzle.

When I arrived at the course, there was one group out on the front nine and another that started while I was on the range. Being a single, and not wanting to put pressure on any group, nor wanting to have a four-hour round or longer, I started on the back nine. Visibility was low and I lost track of my drive quickly. All I knew was that it was heading down the left. So I teed up another ball and swung away. Same result. Started walking, and found both balls, only about a foot apart. in the left rough.

The golf balls of my first two drives when I thought I had lost the first, little more than a foot apart.

I wish I could be this consistent with my swing on an ongoing basis. I am so wild, no matter how many lessons, no matter how much practice, I just do not really better. However, it is something that these were at 238 yards and pure carry, maybe a foot of bounce. The round itself was up and down, short game was really freaking good, long game not so much. Longest drive was only 245 and thus disappointing. To be fair, I had been sick and was still recovering.

I finished my round, cold and wet, in about three and a half hours, never seeing anyone else. It was lovely. The drizzle had stopped by the 11th or 12th hole. On the last par three I didn’t wait long enough for the GPS in my watch to catch up. I also forgot everything I knew about the hole. I took that 187 yard reading and thought, “well, I’ve been hitting a little short, let’s go with a 6 iron.” From the blacks, this is normally a 7 iron for me…at a 178 yards. Anyhow, I hit that ball so pure, so straight at the flag, I thought for sure that it was going to drop into the hole. I was of course disappointed when it dropped 20 yards behind the hole into the woods…and I never found that bright orange ball.

I played yesterday, after a very wet week. Course was generally soft and marshy and my swing was shit. Absolute shit. After looking at my swing speeds in practice and looking at my actual distances and what the estimated swing speeds were, I became convinced that I wasn’t making the same effort on the course. This was about the same time I ran across an article or video lesson that suggested that this was not only common, but often a result the misplaced belief that swinging slower provided more consistent results, when it generally results only in shorter results.

I swung harder and faster yesterday, trying to manage this 48″ driver in wet, mucky, windy conditions. It was not pretty. The only drive worth reporting was 259 yard carry that had incredible hang time. if the course had been hot and dry, I believe it would have been easily 300 yards plus on that particular hole. Temperatures in the low 50s don’t provide optimal results.

Another good thing that happened is that I played three of the par fives in par, with two putts each (yes, always missing the birdie putt). They felt easy and natural to play that way, not as if I had played them really really well.

Bottom line, while there is a lot of left yardage between 259 and 335 yards (my goal) of carry, I’m not expecting huge distances in off-season weather. Golf this time of year does provide a good check on actual carry distances, especially when the ball plugs, as mine often do. Yesterday’s long drive was gorgeous, high with incredible hang time. That alone made the day worthwhile.

Side note one: I’ve been encouraging my playing partner to swing harder, because distance really matters. I’ve told him numerous times that I think he can hit farther than he does. Yesterday he was doing that. He was hitting carry distances that equaled his total distances this past summer. Also, by pushing him back to the blues, from 5,800 yards to 6,400 yards, that has also forced him to swing faster and better. It is good to see, even though he continues to beat me on scores. As long as I hit it the farthest, I don’t really care.

Side note two: I’m taking notes from the long drive champions, like Kyle Berkshire. I may be more than twice his age, but there is no reason I can’t try to swing like he does with these four easy steps.

Measuring progress for #Chasing350

There have been a number of articles in the last two weeks about various pros working to increase their ball speed and thus their distance. Rory McIlroy, already one of the best drivers, if not the best, on tour is working on improving his distance. My favorite bit from this article is:

“Bryson, when he speed-trains, he just hits the ball into a net, so he doesn’t really know where it’s going,” McIlroy continued. “He’s just trying to move as fast as he can … and sort of making the target irrelevant for the time being and then you can sort of try to bring it in from there. From what I’ve done and what I’ve been trying – you know, sort of experimenting with the last couple weeks – it’s the fastest I’ve ever moved the club, the fastest my body has ever moved.”

This resonates as it is what I do. At least one, of the ways I practice. I have a nice little practice area in the backyard where I can hit balls into a net in front of a strip of woodlands below the interstate. With a SuperSpeed Swing Radar and I can gauge swing speed and Dr. Scholl’s foot powder spray I can check ball contact. After all, it doesn’t matter how fast as I swing if I don’t make good contact. This allows me to practice in between trips to my local range and the golf course.

At the range near my house, the fence is at 250 yards and I think 75 feet tall. The balls are not only range balls, made to reduce distance by 30%, but they are so old, they are almost smooth. Many of these balls I suspect I have hit multiple times over the last 20 years. Generally, when I am going all out, I can either get the ball to drop close enough to hit the net or maybe catch the lowest 10 feet of net. My goal is, of course, to clear the net, or least hit it high enough that I can expect another 10 or 20 yards of ball flight (carry distance). Based on the chart in this article, it looks like I need to hit the net about 30 feet off the ground to pick up 17 yards of carry, translating to about 267 yards or so of carry. Ultimately my goal is 330 yards of carry, which suggests that I need to be well over the net and still climbing … over the trees and into the houses behind. This would be bad.

The good news is this. If I pull out a formerly lost ball that I had picked up while playing that is in good shape, I can hit much higher on the net, but it is still at a descending trajectory.

I’ve got a ways to go.

I have switched to a longer shaft. My driver is now at the max of 48 inches, with an extra stiff shaft. I am able to average about 116 mph on my little radar, so my clubhead speed is up about 5ph. Occasionally I top out over 120mph and rarely, 135 or 136 mph – which is about where I need to be to hit a 350 yard drive. The only problem, well there are two, is that the radar is probably only about 95% accurate and likely overstates my speed, and second, there is a big difference between swinging all out on the range (or in the backyard) and doing it on the course. My plan is take radar to the course and check my on-course speeds every few rounds.

Finally, I have another good indicator of speed improvement. A couple months ago I was practicing in the yard and saw the ball disappear into the woods. “what the hell? ” I figured I hit a worm-burner, but that didn’t seem possible since the tee box is a good foot above the bottom edge of the net, which hangs loosely. A few balls later, it happened again, only I saw the ball in trees and it was not worm-killing ground ball. The this happened:

This ball had a slice in the cover that got caught in the netting. So I am occasionally managing to hit through a commercial quality golf net, 10 feet in front of me. I can’t do it all the time. But occasionally. Today, I did it twice with a three-wood, and then with the driver. So, progress.

Rules and Strategy for #Chasing350

The more I chew on this goal of driving a golf ball 350 yards, the more I like it, and the more I realize that even if I fail, I probably win. If I come out of this with a 300 yard average drive, or even a 270, it’s an improvement. Plus, both are massive for a 60 year old amateur.

The specific goal is to be able hit a measured drive, according to Garmin Golf, of 350 yards multiple times (at least three) before January 2022. Further, these drives will be at sea-level (not Denver or similar elevations), and they will not be from tees with more than 20 feet elevation, and only USGA -compliant balls and equipment will be used.

I’m not going to cheat. Part of the reason for this effort is to show up at some 60 and above events and at take the long drive prizes whenever possible.

My current average swing speed is right around 100 mph. My max, based on both the chart in this article and my Swing Speed Radar, is around 116 or 117 mph. I figure I need to add 20 mph to my average and max swing speeds, or improve my efficiency to eek more distance out of each mile per hour of swing speed. I can possibly add up to 5 mph simply by increasing my driver length to the USGA maximum of 48″ – roughly 2 mph per each additional inch. I can potentially add another 6 to 12 mph from the swing speed training system I am working through. The rest is going to have to come from improvements in ball-striking efficiency – especially since increasing driver shaft length may likely decrease my efficiency as it will be harder to control.

These things alone will not be enough. I will also have to continue to work on increasing strength and flexibility. These things are good to do anyway, but sometimes hard to just do.

I expect to spend a fair amount of time working on simulator, outside my occasional lessons in order to find a good swing in terms of launch angle, spin rate, trajectory, and smash factor. Which means this will appeal to my data-oriented, analytic mindset. I am likely to also find that I might be better off with new equipment, which could be fun all by itself.

Since I have nothing else I really want to write about these days, I’ll keep posting about this here. It’s going to be fun trying to do this. It will also be an excuse to some really cool things.

A Quest for 350

I don’t know. This is insane. However, here it is. I am setting a goal to hit a golf ball out to 350 yards, before my 60th birthday, a mere 15 months away.

I’ve been playing golf again for a few years. It’s a silly game I have picked up multiple times over the years. I’ve had lessons multiple times. I’ve hit over 10,000 range balls in the past five years. I’ve played pretty much weekly for the last three or four years, in fact I have played just about 80 rounds so far this year. Have I gotten any better from this effort? Not that my typical score would indicate.

Sure, I do a lot of things better, but rarely does it all come together to look like I know I am doing. Because of this, and a lot of self-reflection, I have realized that:

  1. I want to hit the ball a long damn way.
  2. I want to hit the ball well.
  3. I want to look good doing it.
  4. I don’t really care about score.

Saying these things out loud the other day was freeing. Made it a lot easier to just have fun…even while hitting some ungodly slices. Ever hit a 90 degree slice that still covers 270 yards of straight line distance? All I could do was laugh. Playing on the narrow, penal course I play on, such shots are a recipe for disaster. But the next tee shot was redemptive – 270 down the middle.

After watching what Bryson DeChambeau has accomplished this last year, I see possibilities for real improvement. I’m not planning on adding 50lbs of mass, drinking 6 or 7 protein shakes a day, or playing a driver with less loft than my putter. Regardless, there are other things to learn from him, and from the long drive competitors that he studies.

I realize this is a completely unreasonable goal, especially at my age. But so what? Let’s say I put 15 months of physical training, stretching, instruction, and practice into this and end up with an average drive of 300 yards, or even 275, that will put me well in front of most anyone I will be playing with.

And isn’t that what really matters?

Currently, my best drives are right at 300 yards and change, and those have been rare this year, maybe five times. Most rounds, I will hit 270+ yards two to four times, excluding the giant banana balls. My 7 iron is a respectable 180 yards of carry with a very high trajectory. In other words, I feel that I have something with which to work. Further, my current instructor says I have the swing of a 40 year-old. Tiger Freaking Woods is 44 and his last drive at this year’s US Open was 368 yards, so 350 seems reasonably humble.

Actually, it is completely insane and unreasonable, but what can it hurt?

Predictive Destination

Google wants to help. It really does. My car has Android Auto and I think it was confused today.

When in the car and connect my phone, Android Auto comes on and displays Google Maps, offering suggestions on times to my usual haunts. Today, when I headed out to play golf today, it kept showing the time to the coffee shop my wife and I visit each Saturday, no matter how far away I got. Tomorrow, I expect it will pop up with the time to my golf course as I usually play on Sundays.

Keep in mind, I am not using Google Maps to navigate to these locations, I never have had to. Instead, Google tracks me through my phone’s GPS. Of course, I have consented to this, so I am not complaining.

But, everything is connected, as Douglas Adams’ Dirks Gently said, and I make all kinds of connections.

Remember, I was off to play golf.

A man comes home late on evening. He sees the porch light come on and the door open. His wife is there waiting for him, clearly upset. Taking a deep breath, he gets out of the car and trudges to the porch.

“Hi honey, I know it’s late. I’m sorry…”

“Where in the hell have you been? I’ve been calling the office and your cell for hours! What in the hell is going on with you? “

He thinks to himself, “Wow, she’s really angry. the truth is simply not going to do. I guess the thing to is to confess to a lesser offense.”

He sighs, “Honey, is the going to be hard for you to say. The thing is, I just have not been happy. I have felt neglected and alone while you have been so busy. So, I had an affair, I’ve been at her place.”

She stares him down. Her voice cuts like a knife, “You lying bastard, I see the grass clippings on your pants, and noticed your clubs were not in the garage. You’ve been playing golf again, you son of a bitch!”

Yes, a very old and bad golf joke. But it came to mind while driving and got me to thinking about predictive destinations. If Google notices that you frequent particular addresses, I can see where this becomes a really bad thing.

“Umm, honey, what’s this address on the display?”

“Gee, I really don’t know.”

“Let’s go there and find out. I’m curious. Google must have suggested it for a reason. This could be fun!”

I wonder if Google and its developers think about these things. This age of near total surveillance has so many things going on. For example, this article about Acension health system tells us about how Ascension is sharing de-identified patient records with Google for Project Nightingale. The goal is to use Artificial Intelligence to improve patient healthcare. But if Google knows most every android users’ location history and can match those histories to medical records that include appointment dates and times, the merged records for those Android users are now fully identified. I remember a news story about this in the last two weeks, but I can’t find it for some reason. So, maybe Google is not perfect. Or maybe not.

Clearly, it occurred to developers after the fact because they added an Incognito mode to Maps that allows you to hide your location. I wonder who complained? And why? Maybe a stronger grounding in the liberal arts and humanities would have avoided the need to add such a feature as it would have been built in from the beginning.

The destination is less important than the trip. That was the moral of Robert Bloch’s Hugo Award-winning short story, That Hell-bound Train, “The joy is in the trip, not the destination.” If Google developers had read that story, they would better understand the risks of focusing on just the destination.

Outing Depression

My friend, Chuck Pearson (@ShorterPearson on Twitter) published a marvelous essay last week on his struggle with depression. I’ve thought for a couple of years about writing about mine but could never get around to it. This has been especially true in the last year since Dad died. The beauty and clarity of what he wrote pushed me through the remaining barriers so I could out my depression and share my story.

In November of 2016 I was in a very dark space. There are/were many external reasons, things that been building to a crescendo pitch for years, but ultimately it was a failure to address the fact I had never admitted my depression, nor had I tried to treat it effectively. There was no excuse for this, other than the depression itself. I understood depression to be an illness, a chemical imbalance. After all, my wife was being treated for it, my oldest, and others around me.

I simply didn’t want to deal with it. I was being self-destructive.

I quit caring about myself.

It wasn’t until a very smart and insightful friend asked, “Tod, why do you hate yourself?”

I was stunned. It stopped me cold. I had no answer. But I did understand what I had just learned. It took me several days to absorb it, to come to terms with it. Two weeks later I made some choices.

I went to my PCP told him I felt depressed as a regular, ongoing thing. “Tod,” he said, “You know it is a chemical imbalance. We can can treat it.” Just like that I had a script for a mild antidepressant, starting low to determine its effectiveness.

Later the same morning, I made two calls. One to a therapist that had been recommended to me, one to a weight-loss clinic. I made radical changes to my diet and lifestyle and went to counseling two days a week for several months. It was intense.

Forty months later, I am in a much better place. I’m still on the antidepressant. After ending counseling and just doing the ongoing work required to be healthy, I have started back to counseling. It’s different this time, not just because I have a new counselor, but I am working on something else. Before I was working on the self-hatred thing, now the focus is simply on happiness.

Is my depression solved? No, its treated. As long as I take my script each day, pay attention to life, check-in on myself regularly, and keep my doctor apprised of how I am doing, it’s managed. I wish I had done this years ago. My depression was not new. Looking back it was clearly a part of my life a long damn time.

Like I said, I wish I had taken these steps a years ago. Age 58 is a little late, but damn well better late than never.