Earlier in January I was asked to provide a client’s story for Catalyst Fitness. I was honoured and surprised to have been asked to write my story because at the time I had only been going to the gym for a few months. In my story (http://catalystgym.com/denis-paradis-new-catalyst-family/) I discussed how the coaches and people of catalyst have been welcoming, encouraging and inspirational. I spoke of how they are a family here. I also stated that “my self-confidence and mental toughness continues to grow along with my strength and endurance.” While everything I stated was truth, I wasn’t completely telling the whole story. I’d like to use this space to tell the rest of the story. I need to tell the rest of the story because it has been bothering me that I couldn't tell the truth at the time. I was ashamed to talk about the state I was in. I felt weak and that I wasn't acting the way a dad or a man should. No longer.
I'll go back to the few months and more likely the last few years prior to joining Catalyst. Things were heading in a bad direction for me. My personal relationship with my girlfriend was deteriorating, quickly. Being part of the minor hockey executive, which had been a source of frustrating enjoyment for the last few years, was taken away from me. My employment had felt increasingly stagnant and suffocating. Photography, which was my true passion didn’t interest me any longer even if I went through the motions. My workout routine had become a challenge as what I was doing was extremely boring. Most importantly was that I still hadn’t looked myself in the eye and properly dealt with the loss of my wife Lisa in 2010. I always carried the burden of guilt whenever I started to feel that I may be happy with life. Sure, I had learned to adapt, put on a brave face and went through life like all was ok. The reality is that I woke up every morning hoping to make it through the day and went to bed most nights already regretting the next day. This not only affected me but also those most important to me. I was pushing away the ones who cared most for me and more importantly I was withdrawing into the darkness of what I can only imagine was depression. My motivation for anything was becoming non-existent.
I was spending more and more time alone and was getting used to feeling down. I felt like a child stuck behind a large heavy curtain and that curtain was a dark place. The thought of being with people caused my anxiety levels to increase and my self-confidence to quickly diminish. These two combined meant I wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating properly and had lost more weight than I had intended although at the time I thought it was a result of taking up running. I knew I was heading to a bad place. Fortunately, last September I decided I had to do something about where I was headed before it became real serious. I made an appointment to see my family physician to discuss what was going on. I barely held myself together during the appointment. Under his advice I took some time off work to focus on myself and deal with what was troubling me. I got some informal counselling through talking to friends and family which led me to understand that I am allowed to be happy. I couldn't control what happened with Lisa, I could only deal with the situation handed to my family and I. I finally began to understand that I did what I had to do and that while it was a bad situation, I had done my part to honour our vows.
The doctor also told me that physical activity was a great way to help yourself through dark times. I had decided that I needed to be in group environment to force myself to be around other people again. As I stated in my client story I had some experience with Catalyst, so I knew Coop and Ty to be great guys. I stopped in and it was suggested that I sign up for the On Ramp program which I did. I started with five 30 minutes sessions of individual coaching which was great for knowledge and experience. However, I still felt alone even though Coach Jess did an awesome job in making me feel welcomed and assured me that I was progressing well. I almost quit after the second and third sessions but forced myself to continue mostly because of the positive and encouraging attitude Jess displayed at each session. I reminded myself constantly that the goal was to get to the group environment.
Upon getting ready to attend my first class the anxiety level increased because I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do what was required to be a “Cross-Fitter”. I was afraid I was beyond my physical prime and was headed towards not only physical failure but also mental failure if I couldn't do it. I was even more afraid of not being accepted by the others at the gym but I’ll cover this point later. I remember not sleeping the night before I had planned to go to the gym. This would continue for the next few sessions. I would check the SugarWOD app on my phone at 3 am, 4 am, and 5 am waiting until I could see what the workout that day was. At first if I felt I couldn’t do something in the workout I would reschedule to the next day. Little by little the fear dissipated as my knowledge and experience increased. Looking back, the three things that made the difference was that I was learning technique, what weight to use and most importantly knowing that I was always short changing my limitations. Heck there was also a whole new language to learn. AMRAP, EMOM, SDHP, T2B, WOD etc. (Google these if you are not familiar) Thirty plus years working in the government and I thought that there was no way anyone could use more acronyms than us. I was wrong. I still look at my phone before heading to the box (what they call a CrossFit gym) to see the day’s workout but now it’s to see what mental and physical challenges I will happily overcome for that day. I’m no longer afraid I won’t be successful because I’ve learned that as long as I’m moving I am already a success.
As for the fear of not being accepted? That went away rather quickly. At my first noon hour class everyone came over to introduce themselves. During the workout I received nothing but encouragement. At the end there was nothing but congrats and high fives. There was no judgement on how poorly the WOD had went for me, there was no self-absorbed people staring in the mirror to see if there had been any growth in their muscles from that day’s work out. (FYI, the only mirrors there are in the bathrooms). In the beginning, every time I was planning to attend another session I argued with myself whether I was going to go back. I always gave it one more try because I was made to feel welcomed and comfortable. This scenario kept repeating itself to where I went from going twice a week, to three times a week to where I now go as often as possible. Being made to feel comfortable wasn’t just my story. I’ve been there long enough now to have seen it happen time and time again. I like to think that I am now part of the welcoming committee, always happy to see new faces at the noon hour group, always there to cheer on the others sweating it out with me.
As for me, things are better. I’m learning to lower myself off the hook of guilt. I’m learning to like myself again and feel that I once again have something to offer to those close to me. I still have bad days but they seem to have become less frequent. My personal relationship has taken some work and a few adjustments but it’s getting better and better. My overall attitude is better so work, being work, is better. Life is looking and feeling better for me. I have a lot of exciting short term goals that I am looking forward to over the next little while. Camping season is near and I plan to get my kayak and camera gear out again so I can once again enjoy the miracles of nature.
In summary, I owe a lot of thanks to my family and loved ones for sticking with me through this. I also feel that I need to say thanks to the great people, both coaches and members, of Catalyst. You all helped me get out from behind the curtain of darkness, for that I am extremely thankful. So now when you hear me talk non-stop about Catalyst and CrossFit you may have a better understanding of why it’s so important to me and why I speak so highly of my Catalyst family. There are none better. #wegotthis
The other night with family sitting around the table the topic changed from the overly heated discussion of minor hockey to the act of being part of your community. The discussion centered on how giving back to your community only then makes you part of the community. There were arguments about being a tax-payer makes you part of the community but the consensus rebuttal was how only giving of your time without asking for anything in return is the true definition of a citizen, otherwise you are just a resident. I know it’s utopic, but could you imagine how a city, town, village or hamlet would be if every resident became a citizen? I certainly would want to be a part of that community. Easy to talk of the perfect community just like it is easy to dream of winning the lottery.
Winning the lottery, something we all have dreamed of, repeatedly for me. I’ve wasted many a minute thinking of how and whom I would help. But what if winning the lottery is not about money but rather staying alive? Isn’t that the pinnacle of winnings? For some people being a match for organ donation is better than any money you could give them. The prize is the ability for their heart or kidneys to work as they were intended. What about being able to go for a walk on a spring day, all because you received two new lungs. You get the point; life has changed when you win this lottery, even more than if you have won millions.
This week I got to witness how this lottery works behind the scenes. I saw how the provincial agency Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) operated. A compassionate, professional and very efficient program that takes a tragedy and turns it into a life-giving lottery win. Going back to the start of this blog let me tell you that the reason we were sitting around as a family was because my sister’s husband, a father of two wonderful 20-year-old twins, suffered a tragic accident. This accident unfortunately took his life way too early in his 50th year. Sometime prior to his death Les took a few minutes of his time and signed his donor card. This gesture, a small one that I am sure he never wanted to amount to anything, turned out to be absolutely large.
The TGLN delicately turned his request to be a donor into reality. While respecting the situation my sister and her family were in, they quietly and effectively started the process in motion to give the gift of life. Before we knew it, the process had quickly found potential donors and from there they narrowed that down to the lucky recipients that were least likely to reject Les’ organs. Once things were in place the process had begun, the decision to remove the respirator, the sad tearful goodbyes, watching Les breathe his last breath. Eight minutes removed from his support, Les was on his way to become a hero. Hero was a tough word for me to use with Les as he had his demons, which ultimately, in my opinion, brought him to this point. He, like most people in his situation, became at times self serving and manipulative to help feed his demons. He wasn’t the fun guy I knew years ago, he’d changed. But this gesture showed me that deep down inside there still was the guy I would like to remember. It was nice to know that under the cloak the demons covered him in there was still the guy I was proud to call my brother in law. It was nice to know that there was still some of that guy who always showed up when we as a family needed him most.
Because some of the old Les was still hanging around, someone, somewhere had just won the lottery of life. They are about to receive a new lease on life all because Les had taken a few minutes to gift the ultimate gift, life. In my opinion, Les is a top notch citizen of this community.
Please go to http://www.ontario.ca/health-and-wellness/organ-and-tissue-donor-registration and sign your donor card today.
As Christmas approaches I would like to take the time to wish all those of you that have been interested in my photography the best of the season and all the best for the upcoming year.
I’d like to use my blog today for a personal reason to say thank you to the people that matter most and who have helped shape the person I have become over the past year. You collectively provide the reason I carry on as well as helping me to ensure I strive to be a better person.
I’ll start with my son Erik, you never ceases to amaze me with your inner strength. After all you’ve been through you still manage to find the courage and strength to carry me, always when I need it most. My stepsons Brad & Kyle, wow, what great young men you have turned out to be. Thank you for allowing me to still be a part of your lives. While we don’t see each other as much as I’d like, you continually make me proud with your accomplishments and ambitions. Your mom would have been extremely proud of her three sons and I know she is constantly with us to help shape that we are and what we will become.
Thank you to my parents, sibling and their families who are always there for me when I need it. They say you can’t pick your family but whoever was selecting ours did a pretty damn good job. We do have our differences and frustrations but when the shit hits the fan we are all getting hit with it together.
Great big thanks to those who have help support my photography along the way. You keep me inspired with your encouragement and your kind words. I only hope I can continue to keep your interest.
Lastly, but not least importantly, thanks to Shelly. You have stood by supporting and encouraging me, even though I make it difficult for you. As frustrated as I can be with things I can’t imagine my life moving forward without you in it.
Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope that 2014 is a banner year full of prosperity, health and happiness.
“Problem with the majority of today's society is that everyone feels they have rights, no one feels they have any responsibility"
Author unknown and my interpretation
When preparing to write my latest blog I couldn’t decide on a topic. Recently we have been continually bombarded with the negative stories about our country’s senators and their spending scandals. Then the focus shifted to Toronto’s mayor, the mayor of Canada’s largest city, who has been front and center of every international news medium for his antics. These public figures behaving this way just added more weight to the above quote, which I posted on my Facebook account on November 9th. The more I thought of the quote the more I saw it out in my day-to-day life.
We as a society have a tendency to expect certain standards but we don’t seem to want to be held to those standards. We have parents who expect their child to have a place to play hockey but they aren’t willing to volunteer with the hockey association. We have people who will look at others talking on the cell phone while driving with disgust but convince themselves that it’s ok for them to take a quick peek or provide a quick response on their own phones while driving. (I am guilty as charged). We seem to be ok with throwing money at a problem rather than fixing whatever the problem may be. Like Mayor Ford, many people, especially our youth, seem to think that after screwing up it’s ok to say sorry and have the issue go away. What more can I do, I said I was sorry?
How do we fix it? Well if I had the quick and easy answer I certainly would be happy to share it with you. All I can do is suggest we all start small, say your sorry when you truly mean it. Help someone who is in need. Volunteer doing something you like, you’ll enjoy giving back and the recipients will be appreciative. That appreciation will make you feel good and will be one of the greatest rewards we could all receive.
Go on, do something nice for someone today.
Photography is a method that allows us to capture a moment in time. What is a moment? Merrian-Webster dictionary describes the moments as follows a) a very short period of time, b) a particular time/a precise point in time, c) the present time. Seems easy enough, but if we think about it, really what is “The Moment”. (Sounds like a Seinfeld episode)
To me “The Moment” is raw emotion. It could be seeing a smile on my son’s face, or a sunset that lights up the sky in an amazing shade of orange. It could be the way the blades of grass grow next to a rock or that little child presenting a dandelion to their mother. It could also be a moment of sadness like losing a family pet or your favourite sports team eliminated from the playoffs. It could be anger looking at a photo of another human being mistreated or how about that politician, a person we are supposed to trust, captured misusing public funds. There are so many emotions a good photograph can evoke.
The good photographers capture “The Moment” better than anyone else. I only hope to one-day make people feel something, heck anything and capture my own “Moment” whatever it may be.
I guess my point in all this blabber is there are a lot of these potential moments whether they bring out a few seconds of emotions or whether it lasts a lifetime. Look around you; these “Moments” are everywhere. Enjoy these moments and let them bring out the emotions. Emotions good, bad and indifferent means we are alive enough to feel something.
The moment is now, just look around.
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