Third Life, Phase One

The first goal of my “third life” is to regain my health.

Before retirement, my health was declining. It was as if the warranty expired at age sixty. But it was not just getting older. I wasn’t getting enough exercise, and then I was stricken with a series of ailments that ranged from a worsening of my irritable bowel syndrome and tachycardia, to new issues with thyroid disease and my gallbladder.  Dealing with these issues while still dealing with the stress of an ever-changing job took a toll on me.

When I returned to my position as a project manager in 2011 after being laid off a year I was in very good health, fit, and at 170 pounds, a good weight for me. I had been mountain biking three or four days a week and felt great. Unfortunately, I was unable (or to be honest with myself, unwilling) to maintain that effort after returning to full time work. What was easy to do after spending the morning job seeking, suddenly got difficult once I returned to full time work.

It was a good thirty-minute drive to any bike trails from my office under good conditions, and even if I left work early, at four, the traffic was so bad so often that I could not get to the park in time to ride and get home in time for dinner at six thirty. As the economy got better, the traffic got worse. So, my big mistake was to use that as an excuse to stop riding. It did not take long for the weight to start going up. I had a gym membership; However, it is hard for me to spend any significant time on a stationary bike after having had the distinct pleasure of riding in the woods. There is nothing like it. A constant breeze of your own making, twisting and turning along narrow trails, continuously varying terrain, beautiful views, it was an excellent and mentally stimulating workout. Unfortunately, it was too easy to get out of the habit. My failure was not finding another way to get the intense exercise my body needs.

Work was intense and satisfying at the time and before I knew it, many years had gone by. The work was interesting and challenging as I had to learn how to manage a healthcare group. Previously, I was managing commercial design, something I was familiar with. This was a whole new type of client.

I was also managing the studio as well, making sure everyone stayed busy and productive. This was perhaps the most stressful part of my job. During that time, I developed a rare thyroid condition (rare in men) that was discovered when prepping for surgery to correct another rare condition, enlargement of the parathyroid gland. That resulted in the need to remove my thyroid and one of my parathyroid glands. (I had never even heard of the parathyroid. Did you know you have four, two on each side, behind your thyroid)?

To survive without a thyroid, I would have to take synthetic thyroid hormones (Synthroid) the rest of my life. That destroyed the fantasy idea that I could, if need be, exist in a state of independence from the world. (Now my life depends on Big Pharma! My wife has been in this state all her life, so I really have nothing to complain about and much to be thankful for)! One of life’s many delusions gives way to realty!

By this time, I had put on twenty-five pounds and was up to 205 pounds. Since having my thyroid removed, I put on additional weight and got up to 222 pounds! I was morbidly obese for my 5’-“8 height and my doctor even noted that my weight gain was “abnormal”. I asked about it, but he would not consider that it might be due to my use of cheap insurance approved synthetic thyroid hormones, as I suspected, since my thyroid levels were in the “normal” range. I was wondering if there was something else the thyroid produced that science had not discovered, that was needed by the body, but missing from the singular hormone therapy that is standard for my new condition. All this time, my IBS got worse. He would not allow me to try a natural hormone treatment, and my insurance company would not cover it since I was doing clinically fine on the Synthroid. I also had a gallstone and had to have my gallbladder removed. And finally, the gallbladder surgery led to a incisional hernia, requiring another operation. I drank way too much beer.

Before I knew it, eight years had gone by, and it was now 2019. I was lethargic, unhealthy, fat, out of shape and about to turn 64. I needed suspenders to hold up my pants, and it was getting difficult to get off the floor, so I avoided any task that required getting down low. I knew if something did not change, I might not live much longer. (My mother had gotten in similar bad shape and died at 69. Luckily, I had not developed any heart issues like her, but I feared it was just a matter of time).

Yes, I tried to work out in the AM like I used to do but as time went on, it was getting more and more difficult getting going in the AM. It became impossible to drag myself into a gym before work. My joints hurt, I was not sleeping well, and I needed more time to ease into the day. I also knew myself and once I get busy with my workday, I have never been able to take a break long enough to get a mid-day workout in. I tried, but was unable to sustain it. After work, the gyms were too crowded. It would take two hours to get a one-hour work out done. I was too impatient for that and valued having dinner with family more.

In addition to these issues, my IBS was getting worse as my company changed the tools and methods we used to manage projects. I was having to learn new technology and how to satisfy a new boss at the same time. He also raised the studio performance goal. My boss was supportive of me, and put me in a leadership position but I began to feel like my job was literally killing me as the stress built up and my health declined. I needed a change.

After consulting my financial advisor (me) I calculated that we could afford to retire. I confirmed this by hiring an actual adviser. So, I advised my boss I wanted to retire at the end of 2020. He was supportive and accommodating and we made transition plans to train my replacement. With a light at the end of the tunnel, I breezed through the last year knowing I was now a ‘short-timer”. COVID happened and we all went to a WFH situation. The stress declined and I was able to train my successor, who took over everything the last six months.

Now that I have retired, I am free from work, and the stress I could not control. I have focused on two things since I retired. The main goal has been getting back in shape and losing weight. I also got to start writing a novel that I had been planning for years. I am happy to report that both goals are going well.

Turns out, it was not the Synthroid that explained my weight gain. It was too many calories in and too few out. (Where have I heard that before)? I have lost twenty pounds and am now after half a year I am one third of the way toward my aggressive weight goal of 160 pounds! I expect to get there before the end of the year or sooner. I am working out at the gym more, (but still not as much I want) so I am getting stronger. I can even get up off the floor again without needing something to grab to pull myself up with. I have started riding my bike again, though that is not as easy as it was ten years ago. I have completed five chapters of the first draft of the novel and am most of the way through the sixth. Now that COVID is getting behind us, we also hope to do some traveling, some of which is research for my book. Those trips, one of which I have already written about recently, will be the source of future musings. (I really need to do a tour of France. If for my book, is it tax deductible)? To top it all, off my IBS, from which I have suffered for twenty so years, is almost gone! It must have been more work stress related than I had ever imagined.

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

It is still a mental struggle to get myself to the gym every other day, but I am working on my motivations and trying new tricks. I no longer have my job to blame, it’s just me and gravity that I must conquer!

Thanks for reading!