Living with a Life-Altering Illness Guidelines

This was created from a presentation I made at the Saturday Morning Men’s Cafe. September 11, 2021. Here is the video of the zoom session.

Educate Yourself

  • Do your research as soon as you get a diagnosis even though you might be afraid of what you find. Look at multiple credible sources of information.
  • Learn the side effects of the medications and supplements.

Mental Attitude

  • Find answers to the question: What can I do to live the most robust fulfilling life possible despite my illness?
  • Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do. Don’t accept the “new normal” too readily. Look out for self-limiting beliefs

Dealing with Medical Professionals

  • Be friendly and constructive with everyone you meet: including doctors, nurses, lab workers, other caretakers, and housekeeping.
  • Don’t be passive and compliant if there is an issue. Be assertive about what you want. Don’t worry about hurting feelings. If you are denied a request, if it is important, ask them to document their refusal, and/or go to a higher level.
  • Explore getting a second opinion. 
  • Follow your doctor’s orders.  If there is a conflict between what doctors are telling you, get it sorted out.
  • If you have multiple doctors, make sure that they are communicating with each other and have access to all your medical records.
  • Take prescribed medications properly.  

Seek Out Community

  • Don’t be isolated. Expand your support network. Reach out to friends and social media. Join groups.  
  • Build community with those who are experiencing the same disease and seek out their stories and opinions.

 Identify Advocates

  • It is important that you have at least one person who is looking out for you. They don’t need to care for you, but they should be willing to look out for you, be with you on important doctor appointments, and be an advocate while you’re in the hospital.
  • Explore giving someone Medical Power of Attorney. 


I have been concerned about this administration since Trump was elected. See my blog from November 2016. In trying to make sense of it all, I have returned to my understanding of Spiral Dynamics.  So here is my take on it. 

 I am going to suggest that you listen to the video on Spiral Dynamics or study the attached presentation to become familiar with the concepts of Spiral Dynamics. See links at the bottom. 

 In the United States we moved into the industrial revolution through the Orange meme and up until the mid 1800s we were predominantly Blue and Orange. The Orange meme created the separation of church and state which was to counteract theocratic blue influences.  We moved into the Green in the late 1800’s as a reaction to the exploitation of workers which came from the profit motive and its unwillingness to attend to collective needs. So, we passed child labor laws, workplace rules, sanitation standards and safety standards. The Green influences, including unions, caused laws to be passed that counteracted the Orange capitalistic mentality that valued only profits. Green environmentalism impact profits and is resisted.

Throughout the 20th century despite all of the chaos and bloodshed caused by world wars (Red, Blue and Orange) the trend was still moving through Green. By the 21st century with a Green president Obama, the reaction from Orange, primarily the capitalistic dynamics, rose dramatically. So that there is a reaction to “democratic socialism” by the (largely Orange and blue) body politic which is realizing that the demographics and the strength of the Green influences are growing because more voters coming from a Green thinking. Immigrants are more Green and young people are Greener. The survival reaction of Orange has now shifting all way back down to Red in order to protect itself. And so, we have Blue/Orange using a president who is Red to counter this demographic change and the growing influence of Green. This includes voting suppression, and attacks on other democratic principles such as the Bill of Rights and the balance of powers in the constitution, and stopping freedom of choice. The Orange mentality is tolerating Red authoritarianism in order to protect itself and maintain the influence of the moneyed class. Monied self-interest (don’t raise my taxes) is more important than democratic ideals. The blue mentality is using Red to promote theocratic change in laws. 

 No one is making any overall decisions about this. It totally outside the control of anyone individual or group of individuals control. It’s a dynamic process with millions of complex competing forces constantly shifting and changing the shape of direction of our body politic, society and culture. I am not going to enumerate these multiple influences that are occurring. You can figure that out yourself.

Understanding what is going on through a Spiral Dynamics will allow you to step outside of the process and look at it as  whole, realizing that fundamentally you as an individual don’t have any control in same way an individual cell in a huge pulsating organism does not have any control.

 You do have influence, not much, but some. It also means that you can become more tolerant of others because they are caught up in the same dynamic as you. I guess the message is to chill out. Easier said than done.



There has been a lot going on since I last posted to the blog. The political landscape is heating up.  I thought it would be helpful to provide a different perspective in contrast to all of the vitriol  that seems to coming from damn near everywhere.

I am a big picture guy, so I am going to give you a 100,000 year perspective using a values model called Spiral Dynamics.

I met on zoom with several friends and went over a power point explaining the model. We then discussed some of the current political issues using the model.

Hope you take the time to listen and comment either on the blog or on Youtube.

Click the picture for the video.


Here is the power point presentation.



Checklist for Infection Prevention

It is a given that security is inconvenient. Need to develop reasonable habits that will avoid infection.

Washing hands

  • Each time you go to the bathroom do thorough 20 second washing. This will mean several times a day
  • On entering house each time.
  • After opening boxes and grocery items
  • After sneezing or coughing

Hand Sanitizer (HS)

  • Carry small bottle of HS with you
  • Use HS every time you get into your car at home and away
  • Use HS on phone once per day
  • Use HS on credit cards periodically

Things to Avoid/be aware of

  • Touching face
  • No longer take change. Only use credit card
  • Pen in signing at counters. Use pen or be aware and use HS asap
  • Public doors and handles
  • Grocery cart
  • Signing with finger on screen at register
  • Putting in number at grocery store
  • Use wipes at theater-no longer going to theater
  • Keep distance from others in public 6 feet or more


  • Shipping boxes. Study now shows they can retain virus for days
  • Sanitized contents of boxes if smooth surface such as plastics.
  • Sanitize oxygen bottles


  • Expect guests to use HS upon entering. Use Zoom for most all contacts
  • Housekeeper put on furlough

Receiving Shipping Items

  • Assume the box has the virus on it. Open the box and discard in trash.
  • Put item on deck. Wash hands. Spray item with Clorox spray.
  • Leave on porch for an hour or even three or four days.


In my last blog I stated that “growing up” as an adult means going through stages of development. To do so one must become “conscious”. This means understanding yourself. Discovering that voice in your head and the unconscious patterns that drive you; learning more about your  internal psychology. Using personality assessments can help.

I learned about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator in my late forties and gave feedback to hundreds of people on their type. Rather than explain it, see the above link to take the test for yourself.

Here is what I learned about myself from the MBTI.

I am an extrovert who gets energized by interacting with others and the environment. If I am by myself for long periods, I want to get out and be in social situations where I can be with people. I enjoy interacting with people. I learned to appreciate introverts who prefer to recharge by being with themselves. My son can have a great weekend by himself. My wife needs alone time in order to stay centered and not drained. I have learned to respect that people are different from me. .

I approach things conceptually and globally. Details are not my strong suit. I am anything but precise. I much prefer to talk about ideas than things. An example is finding myself at the Offshore Technology Conference and having absolutely no interest in the machinery. I learned to admire those who enjoy working with their hands on practical concrete problems. The same with those who do detailed work with numbers. I prefer to read a history or philosophy book than change the oil in my car or do my taxes. Others prefer these practical endeavors. In conversations I can get bored with the mundane and detailed. Others can see me as too pie in the sky in my thinking, always focused on the future rather than practical day to day stuff.

The filters I use in decision making are facts and logic and in doing so I tend to dismiss the values based decisions of others, when in fact values based decisions are rational as well.  I delude myself into thinking that I don’t make decisions emotionally when at some level I do. I learn to appreciate that others have a different way of making decisions and having opinions and, just because of that, they are not wrong.  

I am not particularly structured in my external world. Clothes seem to get disorganized in my closet all by themselves. My desk is cluttered. This is my natural tendency and I have to find systems to  overcome this tendency. This is why technology has become so important to me for staying organized.

I prefer to keep my options open and I feel constrained when I have to commit to a decision. While I plan a lot, I prefer it to be my plan rather than someone else’s.  Others prefer to have a tight schedule and stick to it. I am not inclined to do that. I tend to be “pressure prompted.”

Here is the write up on my profile.

One of the benefits I got from the MBTI is having concrete language to see how I differ from other people and to see the value from these differences.   In addition, the simple act of truly exploring one’s inner psychology helps one relaxed patterns that have been unconscious. I will talk more about this later  as I go into two more assessments.

Meantime think about taking this assessment. Do more than just read the report. Read it multiple times and think about it and correlate your daily inner states and behaviors to what the report reveals. Let it soak in. Let me know you have taken the MBTI and we can talk about it. 


Do you think the same way now as you did when you were 16 years old? When you were 16, did you know that there was any other way of thinking? Well of course the answer is no to both. The 25 year knows what it is like to be 16, but the 16 year old does not know what it is like to be 25. And, the 50 year old knows what it is like to be 35, but the 35 year old does not know what it is like to be 50. So we do change in many ways during our adult lives. We change in terms of how we see ourselves and how we see the world and others.

When I read Seasons of a Man’s Life by Levison in my mid-forties, I felt like the guy had been following me around all my life. He described what was going for me in my late thirties and forties to a tee; lots of questioning and turmoil. It is only when I look back at that time that I see that I had transitioned to a new level of development.

It was not until my early sixties that I learned about levels of adult development from Integral Psychology by Wilber. He talked about Robert Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development.

  • Stage 1 — Impulsive mind (early childhood)
  • Stage 2 — Imperial mind (adolescence, 6% of adult population)
  • Stage 3 — Socialized mind (58% of the adult population) In Stage 3, the most important things are the ideas, norms and beliefs of other people and systems around us (i.e. family, society, ideology, culture, etc.).
  • Stage 4 — Self-Authoring mind (35% of the adult population). In Stage 4, we can define who we are, and not be defined by other people, our relationships or the environment.
  • Stage 5 — Self-Transforming mind (1% of the adult population). In Stage 5, one’s sense of self is not tied to particular identities or roles, but is constantly created through the exploration of one’s identities and roles and further honed through interactions with others.

If you want to explore in more detail about this mental model of Adult Development, go to Kegan’s Levels of Development.

The key idea here is that you grow as an adult. And, that becoming “self-authoring” means not being imprisoned by the cultural and parental messages about who you are or who you should be. It means transcending the misery caused by not owning your own authority. It means thinking deeply for yourself and being independent of others.  I see myself somewhere at stage 4, moving to stage 5.

So how do you become more self-authoring?  Well, knowing and learning about ourselves as we are in the crucible of a crisis is where the true growth occurs.

We can get a head start before a crisis arises by uncover the unconscious patterns and programing that drive us. See the Johari Window from the previous blog.

We can explore our personality dynamics, our personal history, and our value system. We can reflect on these things and see if we can discover where we are on a path of development.

Some people have no interest in this self exploration and I fully respect that. But if you are willing to go on a journey of self discovery in order to grow as an adult, stick with me and let me share with you my learning around personality dynamics, value systems, and crisis.

In the next blog we’re going to begin exploring three mental models of personality.

Can you see how you have changed over the years and think differently now than then?

As you look at the stages of development, where might you be?


In thinking about how I think, I am aware that I operate on lots of mental models; maps of the world.

A mental model is an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person’s intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences.

A good example is a road map.. The map is not the territory, but it represents the territory in a way that makes it useful.

I am going to share one example of a mental model I use in my coaching practice and then in the next several blogs share others that have been useful to me in my life.

The Johari window model is a simple and useful tool for illustrating and improving self-awareness, and mutual understanding between individuals.It helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others.


Open, or Arena

This the part of you that is known to you and known to others. It behavior and motivations that are public.

Hidden, or Façade

This is the part you that you know about yourself but that others don’t know. This can include thoughts, feelings, motivations, secrets, or personal history.

Blind Spot

This is the part of you that others know but of which you are unaware. They see behavior that you are not conscious about and perhaps might deny it and be defensive. Just ask your spouse or a colleague to give you some honest feedback and you will get a sense of this. 


This the unconscious part of you that others don’t know and neither do you.

Just knowing this model has been useful to me. I have found it beneficial to be more open.  Exposing the hidden parts myself have allowed me to be more authentic and disclosive with others. And, this has led to greater intimacy and trust with others.

Does knowing my blind spots help me in personal and work relationships? Of course. Anytime I can learn more about myself, it can be positive and lead to meaningful change. When we recognize our unconscious patterns we can grow.

I  have also found that there are ways to surface the unknown about myself through reading about personality dynamics and unconscious patterns that might be present.  A therapist can help with this as well. See my blog about Shadow.

So, with this example, I hope you can see that value of metal models. I will share more in future blogs.

Can you see that many of your attitudes, beliefs, judgements and assessments are based on your mental models?

In what way can you create greater intimacy by disclosing more of yourself to love ones?



See that man. If you could see what that one person has walked through from their earliest time from all their growing up time; through everything they wanted to believe in that did not believe in them; through everything that didn’t last; through every heartbreak that got them here today, you would fall down on your knees in awe and there would never be another stranger. Stephen Jenkinson

In an earlier blog, I said that I did not believe in Christian dogma, but was a Christian in that Christ taught love, compassion and tolerance. And, I could identify deeply with those values. So let’s explore compassion by first talking about empathy.

It wasn’t until I was 54 that I had a deep personal understanding of the experience of empathy.  In the past, I had been masterful in distancing myself from others’ emotionality.

I was observing men on a New Warrior Adventure Weekend who were deeply in touch with the pain in their lives and I found myself moved to tears vicariously feeling their pain. I now felt the emotion of empathy. It is the capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering; to vicariously experience another’s emotions.

Compassion is empathy coupled with the imperative that “someone, perhaps me, should do something about that”. There is an intention to act because of others are suffering and to recognize that I am not separate from this suffering. Compassion comes from our oneness.

In 2010, I found myself with 50 executive volunteers in a prison with 100 inmates enrolled in The Prison Entrepreneur Program. I was deeply touched by the participants’ appreciation for my being there and their desire for redemption. My feeling of compassion caused me to continue to volunteer and become a member of their Houston Advisory Board for a number of years.

While I have decided not to give money to street beggars, I donate to the Star of Hope Mission as an act of compassion for the homeless.

The Buddhist’s have the concept of loving kindness where you focus on others’ suffering while meditating. When you type “compassion” into YouTube, you get a lot of Buddhist teachers and almost no Christian teachers. What’s that about? Most compassionate Christian ministries have the hook of conversion attached to them. Buddhists don’t seem to have that, although I think the Christians seem to have more ministries that help those in need.

I don’t think one has to be religious to express compassion. There is something about our humanity that evokes these feelings and desire to act. In 2017 Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Houston and the mayor called for volunteers. Thousands of people rose to the occasion, even putting themselves in danger to help others.

How about you?

Can you truly empathize with others? Put yourself in their shoes?

In what ways do you practice compassion by performing acts of loving kindness?


My 81 year old sister Gail died in her sleep on October 10th. She felt well and was happy. She was not afraid of death and if she could remember her death, she would not be surprised; just pissed off because she did not have a chance to vote.

She left two children and three grandchildren who are deeply grieving her loss as am I.

Grief is one of our greatest teachers. It cracks us open—that’s how the light gets in. It demands that we look at our relationship with life and our fear of death. It reveals the great healing power of love. Ram Dass

Gail and I had a great relationship and due to recent conversations with her, I have a sense of completion. I miss her and find it so strange that she is gone. We were the witness to each other’s life. I expected to die before she did. I can hear her saying “Hah, you thought I was going to grieve you; so there”

I am now the last of my generation except for a very distant cousin. My twin brother died when we were 35, the same year as my mother. It is a strange feeling being the last one. It is lonely. There are only a couple of people, lifelong friends who knew my father or brother.

I think about my family’s previous generation who of course have all gone. I remember seeing a picture of a stadium with 20,000 baseball fans in 1890 and it struck me, “My God, they’re all dead”. 20,000 ordinary people, not unlike you and me, who no longer cast a shadow with no real artifacts to speak of that reveal they ever existed. This certainly gives one perspective on the human condition and how we are all on death row. And yet I do believe that we are living in our ancestors wake as we create our own wake for the future, whether it be good or bad.

Even with this perspective, we grieve. And, it is hard. Having lost a 19 year old son who would have been 48 this year, I know.  The wound of loss can be searingly deep and yet it will heal just as the body heals a physical wound. Grief is not an event; it is a natural process that takes time and it is unique for each person.

So, I grieve for Gail and yet I have a quiet peacefulness. She led a good life and was loved.

I’m the last leaf on the tree.

The autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me. . . .

I’ll be here through eternity

If you want to know how long

If they cut down this tree, I’ll show up in a song.



According to Carl Jung, your shadow is that part of you that you hide and deny to yourself and others. I learn first about shadow at the New Warrior weekend training in 1996 and have been trying to identify my shadows ever since. I was particular struck by Jung’s observation that those who claimed to have no shadow were superficial. They lived well, meant well, brought no overt harm to others, but they failed to see the nuances of their behaviors, the unintended consequences of their choices, or the pallid lives they conducted. Oops. Is that me? I hope not. So let me explore my shadows.

When you identify and “own” your shadow, you become a full person, acknowledging the dark side as well as the bright side, the positive attributes. In my blog on Sin and Evil, I touched on this. Each of us have in us all the attributes of being human. So when you are rooting for the hero to take revenge on the bad guy by killing him, you are expressing the part of yourself that is the killer. And when you admire a charismatic leader you are projecting qualities on them that you are denying in yourself.

I recall being upset with a retailer overcharging  and thought they were stingy. When I asked myself, “in what way am I stingy?”, I realized that there is a very clear stingy part of me, making sure that I get full value and being mad if I don’t. So I can see how I project my shadows onto others.

Shadows can come from early life. In my case the message from my parents to be strong and independent caused me to not show vulnerability and be so focused on self sufficiency that it became a detriment. Owning that shadow allowed me to show more of my heart and to seek help when I needed it. In other words, to express more of myself as a human being.  

Some of us live our life by reacting to having felt abandoned, in which case we overcompensate by seeking attention by performing and being visible. That’s me. This blog is an example of “look at me”.

Others may feel overwhelmed and seek to become invisible and to hide out in life.  They play small rather than large. They are protected.

Another example of a shadow  for me is my unconscious and sometime intentional desire to manipulate things to get my way, devaluing other’s needs.

So, with some reflection I have identified some  my shadows; with more to surface.

How about you? What are your shadows?

Can you identify and own all parts of you; both the good and the bad?