DEN – Guest Blog: Camaraderie, Rediscovered

Today’s Guest Blog was written by our most #weatherproof of members; you’ll find Shea sporting nothing more than gloves, shorts, and a t-shirt on single digit mornings. Even from his first day at NP DEN, he’s stood out to me and so many of you because he brings his best effort to every workout. This man has blossomed in so many ways since he started coming; take a few minutes to get a glimpse of the depth, intensity, and passion that Shea shares with us. 

Thank you Tribe! I have been asked to share my story with the tribe more than once by more than one member. I have been procrastinating for months now. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, and there is so much to say. It has been difficult for me to figure out where to start.

They say that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. They also say that the hardest part of any project is taking that first step. Initiating that good ‘ol forward momentum. November Project has become such a huge part of my life. I owe so much to this movement and to each one of you! I love being here and I love all of you!

I have so many things that I want to say. Every day the list gets longer. Starting becomes more and more insurmountable. I know that I have let perfectionism become the enemy of ‘good-enough.’ Well, this Wednesday, I feel like I was called out twice for procrastinating. First: I was honored and humbled to receive the positivity award. Second: we as a tribe found out that another leader is retiring soon. So, I guess that it’s time to stop making excuses and start putting pen to paper. Let’s see where this leads me.

First off, I want to thank all our leaders! I am in complete awe of the time, energy, and personal sacrifice that Woody, Matthew, Erin, and Gabby have so freely given us. So again, from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU!!! Next, I want to thank everyone that drags themselves out of bed at zero-dark-thirty and shows up to support the tribe. I owe more to NP than I can possibly list in a single post, but I need to start somewhere. So here are the broad-brush strokes of who I am and where I am coming from.

I was serving as a United States Marine when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 13 years ago. I was diagnosed by an older neurologist that had a very traditional and outdated understanding of the disease. I was told that I had to avoid all strenuous activity. I had to avoid hot (80 deg F +) and cold (below 50 deg F) ambient temperatures. I was told to stay indoors and to try to not exert myself. This felt like a death sentence. I was devastated and I even contemplated suicide after hearing this news.

Since then, I have been blind in both eyes at one time or another. I have had weakness and numbness in my limbs so severe that I had to crawl up stairs to get into my home. I had to learn how to walk again when I was only 27 years old. In addition to my physical ailments, I have struggled with PTSD and depression ever since I was retired from the Marine Corps. I avoided crowds, I avoided loud noises. I avoided connecting with people. I avoided human contact. More than anything, I avoiding allowing myself to be vulnerable. My PTSD cost me my first marriage and on more than one occasion, it nearly cost me my life. I have always struggled to stay active through all of this, but my health was declining.

When I showed up to my first NP workout (almost two years ago) I had one foot in the grave. I was struggling with my MS, I was overweight, and still dealing with emotional baggage from my PTSD. When I showed up to November Project, I found a piece of my life that I thought I had lost so many years ago when I was first diagnosed and forced out of a brotherhood that I loved. November Project has become the community and the camaraderie that I lost when I was retired from the Marines. This movement has pushed me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I have never been a hugger. When I first showed up to NP, I was almost horrified when one member after another walked up to me and showered me with hugs. It wasn’t until several weeks later that I began to realize that my avoidance of human contact had been a barrier to my own personal growth. A barrier to my healing and my health. Since I have been training here, I have lost over 40 pounds. As I get stronger, my issues with MS become less intrusive. I am learning how to more effectively work around and deal with the limitations that are always present with my disease. I am learning to understand my body. I still trip, I still have falls, but the support that I receive here has allowed me to work through and push past my limitations. I can push myself because I know that when I fall, I have a tribe that will pick me up.

I love showing up and working out with this tribe. I love the support, the encouragement, and the competitive drive that I receive here. NP has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I am healthier, happier, and stronger now because of my tribe! I have become a better version of myself because of all of you. I am sharing this because I want my tribe to know who I am.

They say that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people fail more. I have failed repeatedly in my life and I have grown and become stronger for it. I have grown and become stronger because I have had the support of love and positive influences in my life that would not let me fail. No one ever succeeds in this world on their own. I have accomplished so much in my life. I have traveled the world. I have experienced more than I could ever imagine.

Yet, one of my greatest accomplishment has been allowing myself to belong. Allowing myself to be human. I am striving to learn to live with an attitude of gratitude. NP makes it easy to be grateful! Many times, I have felt that I had lost everything that mattered in my life. Many times, I survived. Viktor Frankl said it best, “He who limps, still walks.” (some of us even at NP!)

I am so grateful for everything that has brought me to this point in my life. I am learning to embrace the truth in Rabbi Hyman Schachtel’s quote, “Happiness is not having what you want, it is wanting what you have.”

If there is ever anything I can do to help any of you, please do not hesitate to ask! I owe all of you for everything that you have done for me!

I think the biggest problems in our world, both locally and globally, stem from a lack of human connection. A growing sense of isolation and insignificance. NP is the answer to this problem! NP is that human connection. NP provides that entirely necessary sense of significance and accomplishment that we are so desperately need to exist in this world. I encourage all of you to continue to reach out and connect to your friends, family, and community. Acknowledging the humans around you costs you nothing and takes a minimal amount of effort. At the very least, it may brighten someone’s day; and who knows, it may even save a life! NP is what the world needs right now!

I am happy, and I am thankful for the highs and lows in my life. I am happy to know all of you. My life is good, and I felt that I owed it to my tribe to let them know how much they mean to me. 

One more time: Thank you.

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