Guest: Derek Avery

Lauren: Welcome Derek, thanks for joining me.

Derek: Thanks Lauren. Glad to be here.

L: And we're here in your office or in your workplace.

D: That's right.

L: Hanging out in Santa Cruz, California.

D: Yeah. Great place to be.

L: You and I have known each other from afar and I'm glad that we get to sit together in person and I want to start by asking you what your health journey has been.

D: To be as concise as I can be...I think a lot of my health problems, like probably the most prevalent one is like around my sinus issues that I have. So it's a chronic sinus pain, sinus pressure, which gives me a, it gets inflamed and I get a lot of pain up in the front of my face. I'm actually very headache prone also anyways, so that was, that means that if I get a little bit too dehydrated immediately I started feeling like I can tell what kind of headache I'm having actually. So I’m already little headache, prone to like 10 tension in the neck, hypertension, over overheating, etc. So then when I was around 19, 20 ish around there, I started noticing allergies. I didn't really have bad allergies younger. I had a little bit and like basic pollen, things like that.

L: Mmmm.

D: But I started noticing like really bad allergies, um, which were contrIbuting. Everything was like kind of getting me all riled up and I started having sinus. I’ll just call them sinus headaches to the point where it was debilitating at times.

L: Mmmm.

D: I'd be, I'd have, I'd be in college or at work and then I'd be kinda knocked out. I’d have to go lay down sometimes inducing migraines. So those that got that battle, all of a sudden I thought what the heck is going on? And so from then on I started noticing also like I'm having issues with being lactose intolerant. Then eventually, um, I think some gastrointestinal issues probably related to how much ibuprofen I was taking over the years, suggested by some doctors. So on top of that, the, in this past year I had an ulcer and I noticed they have a lot of sensitivity to peppers, tomatoes, things like that. Really bad now, to the point. And I can't even, including with an allergy and sinus related, I also don't drink alcohol basically anymore or hardly ever. Every time I do, I'm sorry I did.

L: Yeah.

D: So that diet for the diet, it starts getting really trimmed down on things you can eat and I still eat plenty of things so it's not as bad as other people but it started really getting bad for some time. But the main thing is just the sinus problems just been huge for me.

L: Yeah. When you and I were talking about doing this interview, we started talking about it a few months ago and at first you were kind of like, I don't know if it really counts as a health challenge or not. And then over time we kind of had a few more conversations about it and it seems like it's part of like an identity shift, kind of perspective where you have does this count as I'm going to say quote unquote real health challenge?

D: Yeah, totally. I still even leading up to, even after we talked and I said, oh wait, maybe after I've been talking about this, maybe it is actually a chronic health issue, but I, I for so long I've been dealing with this because now I just turned...in the summer. I just turned...what year is this? I'm 38, so I've had this now for like nearly um, shoot. Yeah, it's been like 20, so nearly 20 years I've had this issue. I've been dealing with on them off and really tryIng to address in the past like couple years or few years because it's just really sapped my energy. Especially like I have two kids and it's like I'm like, oh my gosh. And then I have other aspirations that have come up and you know, in the past couple years things that I want to do and hobbies and I'm like….My energy has been totally sapped by it a lot. And it's, it's been, it's been hard.

L: Yeah. I always think that dealing with pain has this side effect that we don't always think about, which is that it drains you. it drains your energy because there's a lot to deal with pain.

D: Mmhmm.

L: It's a lot of work.

D: Yeah. And in something that I've been really thinking about, especially since you talked to me about, uh, even coming on the podcast. I've shared on social media before, especially in the past year, occasionally I don't always talk about it because again, I feel like people don't want to hear about this. It's not that bad. People have it way worse. And so what, uh, what do I have to say about my pain and minimizing my own pain. But I've, a couple times I shared my frustration online about it and then realizing like man, like I realize when I have really bad headaches, which is frequent and often and especially came out of a two month rough patch and I was telling you before where it's really bad, but I'm, I'm typically having at least a headache a day and if not really bad where I'm like, I think I'm kind of holding it together to throughout the work week and then by the weekend just of like, I think mentally I'm just keeping it together to the weekend and all of a sudden bam. It just hits me and I'm out. I'm kind of having a rough weekend where I'm just so tapped.

L: Yeah.

D: I think I'm like, I'm like dealing with the pain man, dealing with the pain every day. Most days to where I'm so tapped by the end of the day, like when it's been really bad. Like my wife, Becky, notices like rings under my eyes. I'm like, even like today I've had a headache but it's not been as bad. So it's like, oh good. It's just a mild headache all day.

L: Right? Like, woohoo. Just some pain instead of tons. Yeah.

D: And I think something that I don't really...I almost feel silly talking about it to other people because one, if they, if ever heard me talking about it, it's like, okay, do they want to hear about this again? But they're asking me how I'm doing. So it's like it's not very visible unless I just tired of like, oh, you're tired. I get it. That's visible, but I'm tired because I'm having headaches all day, every day and on top of which sometimes...It's usually because of sinus this, but also the flare up in here is making also not only having a headache but there's pressure right up here.

L: Yeah.

D: It’s up here, in my grill while I'm trying to do technical work all week on the computer and like, other things and hobbies.

L: Yeah, and I wonder like when you look at, say you've been dealing with this for several decades now, if you look at what you've been telling yourself about what this is in your life and how to make sense of it, like what have your beliefs been about what this pain is or how to get through your life with it?

D: Well, I've definitely, there was, there was a time where when I was younger and I mean we had, we had a meal earlier and you saw, I eat plenty. I also ate a lot this morning so yeah, I've had plenty to eat.


L: You are well nourished.

D: I am well nourished. I'm not starving. I'm hardly ever starving truly. But, and I was, I was, I was such a voracious eater when I was a kid up through teenage years, which is insane because I was also playing soccer and cross country and then all of a sudden I'm not doing any of that. I still eat a lot. And then to have this stuff start happening like a lot of my friends are of course because you're just. I was the guy who would eat anything and we'd kind of try anything. It was like, you know, running joke with all my friends, like, yeah, of course you're having health issues because you're a freaking nut. And so, you know, there's a little bit of that identity going on. It's like, oh yeah, well that makes sense. So I'm just kinda like telling myself...eh, whatever, and you can stop this at any point. And I realized even when I was, I wouldn't eat as much or I try to, I'm like, wait, I'm still having these problems, what's happening?

L: Mmmm.

D: Um, and then going and doing activities with people. My father was a, he comes from a very, like, stoic, like japanese background. He's from Japan. He came over here when he was like 12 with his mom, who they, my grandparents. I never knew my biological grandfather, they had split a long time ago and she married an american, they came over and she was always, um, it was just, they're very traditional japanese, like stoic, like, oh, just get, you know, just work hard, get good grades, do all this stuff and you're fine, you're fine.

L: Mmmm.

D: No need to be dIsplaying too much emotion and no need to do these things.

L: Don't make a big deal out of it.

D: Yeah, exactly. And he didn't typically overly do that, but he modeled that for me.

L: Sure.

D: And he was….he had a really hard, like, upbringing because his step father was an alcoholic, abusive physically to his mom, not really him.

L: Mmhmm.

D: And then my dad, like they squandered all his money. When he went away to fight in the Vietnam war, came back. My dad was very ambitious, things just kinda sucked it up and went and did life and I know a lot of that was modeled for me and so I felt a lot of pressure to just suck it up and just go do your thing, be responsible, help take care of like family. And it was also part of a church so, you know, you serve other people at whatever cost to yourself. Sacrificing yourself, your family, your relationships to some degree because that's what you do. And so I think I would definitely take some of that on, in the background in hindsight of minimizing all of that for so many years until really the past like couple of years.

L: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I just want you to know as you talk about this just from the outside perspective, like how important it is that you're talking about this because they think that people are gonna hear this and either themselves be like, I totally relate or say I know somebody who can totally relate because there are so many of us who minimize what's going on with our bodies and for a number of reasons, maybe it's because culturally, uh, we don't think it's as important or we're not taught to tune into our bodies and really listen to them or maybe like in our upbringing, like in your case, there's this kind of just this is the way to be is to just suck it up, keep moving forward, be of service. And so, and of course being of service is a great thing. Moving forward is a great thing, right? These are positive, good...

D: Resilience.

L: Yeah, resilience. And then the, then the shadow part of that Is when we do only that, that we forget to turn towards ourselves and really tune in and say like, okay, what do I need? What's happening for me right now? And especially around the culture of minimization, I think a lot of us can say, okay, yeah, I'm in pain but I'll get through it or yeah, I'm in pain but this is just the way it is.

D: Mmhmm.

L: And so we just keep going.

D: Mmhmm.

L: And so I just think it's one of the reasons I’ve been excited to talk to you also just because I think you're a cool person, but one of the reasons I've been excited to talk to you is because this is a really complex thing actually. It's not just simple, you know, I either do or don't have a health challenge. It's like my identity is one that's in flux and I'm really starting to look at what is true for me. And I think it's cool that you're doing the podcast even with those downs.

D: Yeah, one more layer of the same thIng. Essentially you're talking about cultural, like expectations or what I perceive as being expectation is on top of which...in case, you know, anybody else can tell I'm a guy at least identify as a guy.


L: That’s good enough for me.

D: You know, we're in a time where there's a lot more people who are a little bit more self aware and aware of that some of this is bullshit, but I mean I still feel that pressure still whether overtly or subtly of not only was I raised all this way, but also you're a guy. I am the primary income earner for my family and I'm, I'm the firstborn son of like, you know, my japanese father, which came with some other expectations. You know, that’s back to the culture that there's so many layers of that expectation burden I  felt was on me.

L: Mmhmm, right.

D: So, and I'm, and I'm a guy so I'm supposed to act this way and not be….Not even just don't be weak or emotIonal, but like, like it's valued. It's highly valued to be strong and to, and to work through it. Like even if there was some thought of like, yeah, you can feel your emotions, but you just worked through it and get it done.

L: Mmhmm. Like emotions are an obstacle. Right.

D: Sure. It's not something to experience and express, at least not too much. You can acknowledge it as long as you keep moving.

L: Yeah.

D: And so that was a new...and we’ve talked about this before. I've been...meanwhile in derek's brain, I'm having the best few years. Oh my gosh. Like not only am I feeling okay to express emotion and tapping in...like, there is a deep, deep well of emotion and I'm a very, very sensitive person at heart. Um, and so things affect me very strongly, whether positively or negatively, whatever you want to call it or whether it's happy emotions. Sad. It all affects me hard. It's like you pluck one of my hardest things and I’m just like whoa. Like everything's vibrating in the moment.

L: Yeah!

D: And meanwhile we were talking about earlier you were saying that sometimes you might feel like, oh, inside your might feel a very strong emotions, but on the outside you look like you're very together Lauren, which you do from the little limited experience I had of you.

L: Right. I’m fine. Yeah.

D: But then the same thing, it's like I'm on the outside looking at like, oh, like yeah, Derek looks like I've had people actually say like it's, I've, I think I've taken it as a compliment or as encouragement to have this behavior.

L: Yes, totally.

D: And this, I'll call it a facade. I'm not always intentional because it's just so internalized like holy crap that happened to you and you look like you're all good. Like Derek is always the stable one and Derek is steady, which I think I am also in some ways.

L: Sure. Yeah.

D: But also there's this inside, it's just like buzzing, like just kinda like...hmm. I don't know if that's just natural for me or if that was what was imposed on me to have the superficial. Have the, I don’t want to say mask and misuse it. But just the appearance of hey yeah, I'm fine, I'm good. But inside just like what the hell is going on and I need to go away.


L: Right? Like I’m feeling touched by something right now. And this, the word that comes up for me when I hear what your story that you're telling and kind of just this theme altogether is that is the worst oppression, because growing up in a world with other human beings in the world, like we have relationships with our caregivers growing up with our communities and there are different ways that we receive love and we learn how to kind of behave in ways that were accepted. And so when we grow up in a culture or a family that says like, this behavior is good, this behavior's bad. We learned to do the behavior. That's good. And so in your case you're saying like, well it was really valued to be resilient and to come across as having everything together and be okay. And so that's something that you're really good at and there's a way that just with all of us, like we have characteristics in ourselves that still want to bloom.

D: Mmhmm.

L: Like this sensitivity that you're talking about that we just didn't have practice from early on in life. How to express it, how to integrate it. And so what you're saying is like, wait a second, I have a quality here that I didn't realize I had until recently, which when we were at lunch, I shared that with you like my, my external perceived resilience can be both a really positive thing and it can be hard because people then don't really know what's going on for me inside.

D: Right! I still... I still feel like I'm talking about it a lot more and I feel like even now I can feel it welling up a little bit.

L: Just talking about it.

D: Talking about it openly and just knowing other people are going to hear it.

L: Yeah.

D: So even now, I'm like feeling a little fidgety. I'm actually very fidgety in general, but I can feel it starting to like tremble a little bit.

L: That makes sense, yeah.

D: Because I am a, I'm hitting that chord again. It's like, oh, okay. So it's still, it's still hard for me. As open as I am talking about it compared to how it used to be, but still feeling like, okay, so I'm not hiding it. I'm not, um, I'm not going to be holding it all together. You know?

L: Right. And you're kind of not following the code of conduct for what you're supposed to do according to your most of your upbringing.

D: Right.

L: You're kind of breaking the rules right now.

D: I am. Yup. And because of this work that I've been doing for myself In the past decade. So I talked about, I'm on my podcast and on my social media account that I created to talk about this stuff. And it was really about, it's really for me, I mean it is to share with other people, but it's, it's really a project for me and exercise for me and experiment. I don't even know what to call it. I call it all those things like I refer to as different things.

L: Yeah, a project.

D: Exactly, it's just an exercise in being open and sometimes just having open conversation with people because there's a moment early on. And if there's, if, if, um, if could go to my podcast, there's some earlier episodes where I'm just talking about….Oh yeah, I'm just saying, I'm saying I'm being vulnerable. what does that mean? I don't know.

L: What does that mean?

D: It's kinda like a buzzword, too, these days. Vulnerable vulnerability, authenticity. But for me it was really like, well the podcast itself that I'm doing on my own, it's like, it's, it's a chance for me to not guard myself in an open conversation with someone else.

L: Mmhmm.

D: So I mean they're in it with me to which I tell them, just so you know, I don't have any planned questions except this, you know, ask how you're doing and what stuff you're doing at the end. Uh, I have, I try to do very little research. Some people I just know. So there's that, but it's like, it's really….If I was just having a conversation with someone aside from everyone else in the world, we're just alone and that like if you and I were talking in private, it’d be easy to just talk about whatever because I like digging in and I like seeing, connecting with someone deeply or whatever or wherever they are willing to go and then, but then to do it more openly and broadcast it and knowing there's going to broadcast, it kinda gets like, like I feel a little trembly again because I might talk about something or share something. I'm like, what?

L: Right!

D: Would I have shared that if I just, and that's why I don't edit myself ever but I'll offer for them to edit. So it's a little bit raw.

L: You tell your guests that they can kind of…

D: Exactly. I just let him know like, hey, I don't want you to feel uncomfortable so we'll just have conversation. If there's any point in which you feel uncomfortable with that you let me know at the end. I'll go back and I'll let, I'll send you the audio if you want, if you want to review it, but just let me know and I'll edit it out because I don't want them to feel like they have to meet me there.

L: Yeah.

D: But If I just open myself and then it's another exercise that we've been open just like me tapping into more of what I realized, oh, this thing I'm calling it bad ass vulnerability, but it's really vulnerability and self acceptance.

L: Mmmm.

D: So it's the two paired really and just being okay with being me, which is a lot more playful and silly than I've previously allowed myself to be. Even at work and other places like, uhm, through Kyle Cease’s Evolving Out Loud community and, and um, that that's been part of this journey most recently and like I do sometimes silly songs by myself sometimes with like our friend Mark Fleig...I can never say his last name.

L: That’s it. It’s Mark Fleig Jr.

D: I accidentally said it right. Finally he'll be so happy.

L: He’ll be so happy.


D: So, but sharing all that stuff and being open, the more I can do that, the more it helps me to be less, doing less impression management. So I think that's helpful even with, in regard to my, uh, my pain and the issues I have with my sinuses, that's because again, it's something that I don't feel like people might see very easily or….

L: Totally.

D: And also I feel like, oh, headaches? Like everyone has headaches.

L: Yeah.

D: Somebody literally told me that one time like they weren't, they didn't realize that they're talking about somebody else. And I thought, okay, so I'm not going to be totally open with you.

L: When something like that so closely mirrors my own inner self doubt. It can have the potentIal to really like fan those flames. Like there's already a part of me that's telling me that, you know, this isn't real, so if somebody else outside of me is saying it, I'm not going to want to move towards them.

D: Yeah. Right.

L: When you impression management, I thought that was such a cool term because it's something that kind of gets at kind of what we're talkIng about today, which is part of what we're talking about today, which is how we come across to the world and the choices that we make. Um, what has been your experience with even discovering your own sense of what your impression manager does? Your own internal impression manager?

D: Well, I think that I share openly with other people and on social media, like I really like….this has been like over a little over a decade of self work, of really intentional self work. And in working through it at some point. I've had couples therapy with my wife. I've gone through a spiritual transformation class, which was actually really helpful because there's a first time were. And that was kind of like the start of all this. There was a church I was a part of because it's out of this catholic, um, idea of spiritual direction versus just getting counseling, which might not be with a real counselor at some churches in like maybe an evangelical, like mainstream churches. They might have a counselor but they might not be licensed therapists that were licensed to do anything, but they might have. It doesn't mean that they can't be a good help and good listening ear, but you can also get a lot of other stuff that isn’t helpful.

L: Got it.

D: So there was this guy, Dave Smith, who had this program that our church took a part of and it was called The Odyssey. Good name.

L: I like that.

D: And it's this funny thing that like, it, he, this is the first time they mixed like a psychology in with the training. It was just the talking about the psychology of why we think these things. And I was like, what is going on here? I was like, this is cool. And what the hell. That's what I was thinking to myself. Literally like, in this christian spiritual formation course.

L: Yeah.

D: And it was funny as it was really my wife, Becky, who wanted to take the course and I just said, well, if you're going to do it, I'll do it with you. This is before we had kids.

L: You had that freedom.

D: So, um, we had the freedom to just like one night a week and then in like there's like a sort of a, there's a list just of like, um, expectations, commitments. Just like, hey, just so you know, these are the values that we have In here just so you know, what you're getting into. And for some reason I read down the list, it was like number 12 out of like 15 or something. It's just like each person in this workshop is committing to be as vulnerable as possible, which will benefit you in this process and, and everyone else or somethIng like that. I thought, that's funny. And I said that's being vulnerable and I could feel the hairs again. I can feel that moment when I was like, hair is like standing in the back of my neck. I'm like, let's, let's, let's with that, like, um, I, I think um, that one I'm going to work on really. I'm going to do this class and then I'm going to work on that one as hard as I can. Um, for some reason it felt appropriate. Like it just felt like…

L: That's so cool.

D: It's just this moment where I thought I feel like I need to work on this or I really want to work on this one and because.

L: It drew you in.

D: Yeah. And then so as I started working through that, I, you know, it was after that that we had the couples therapy and other things and other counseling and things then and the way I had like a lay counseling training also a little bit from another friend who's a therapist over time. So we're doing all this work and I'm like, every time I come against that, like I just joked with my wife and I said, yeah, I thought I was pretty... I thought it was pretty self aware and sensitive until I got married and then I realized a little more work to do and then after a while it's like, man, I've done a lot of work. I must be a lot worse, not that I had arrived, but, and then I had kids and I was like, oh, I still got more work to do.

L: Yeah. Being a dad and being a husband helped you to see the places where you need to grow and you've said yes to that growth, which is pretty cool.

D: Yeah. And in that to come a long way around to your original question through all that work and then being with my wife and kids who see me for what I am all the time, there's not a lot of uh, impression management that fools any of them.


L: I love that. Yeah.

D: And so I realized, okay, well if I'm going to be...integrity is important to my wife and to me.

L: Yeah.

D: And so I'm like, okay, so this is really shining a light on this area of me that's like, I don't think. And my wife is. I think we come together well because for one reason being that we're both, we have some core, like similar values that are really important to us, like integrity actually was one of them and just doing good for others and like just a few things that I really like. Yes. And we want to provide like, be really intentional with each other and with our kids, etc. Um, and everyone. But starting from there flowing out into the world and outside of that we are like exact opposites of each other. In so many things.


L: That’s awesome, it’s so cool.

D: And I grew up learning a lot of passive aggressive communication and you know, my dad did a lot of great things. Like he did a lot of things well in raising me. I knew that he loved me. I knew that both my parents loved me a lot, which helped. And they both spoke into me like, which was a little bit of a mostly a blessing. Maybe a little curious. Like I felt both humble and lIke I was, I've always been good. Um, although mixed with some of my religious background made me feel like also a little shame as well. Good and like I'm, I'm great and that's something that didn't jive with me will over time, which is why my spiritual like views have changed somewhat where, oh, I'm good. But then like, but, but really, I mean, but you're tarnished, you know, there's the word I guess. Yeah. So, and I was like an after time I was like, wait, this doesn't jive. So no.

L: It didn't quite work. Yeah.

D: So yeah, in all that, like I, I kept like finding that my wife is very blunt and very direct in her communications. Conversely. We've kind of met each other in the middle a bit.

L: Yeah.

D: But it's been hugely helpful for me to have someone be so directly direct about what she's feeling and what she thinks and uh, and it's helped me kind of like, oh, I can….Wait. We're, we're just….so we're just gonna say what we think and feel? Okay, great.

L: Let’s see how that works, yeah. That’s great.

D: So it got...It was really helpful for me though to also then say, hey, you know what? I think that I will also say what I feel, not just to her but to other people.

L: Yeah, yes!

D: Because I actually want to connect authentically with other people anyways.

L: Mmmm.

D: So that kind of falls right in line with that. I'm like, this is...why didn't I ever think of this?

L: That’s pretty cool. Yeah, so it’s like your life...part of your life path has been around sharing more of your true self both with the world but also internally with your own self.

D: Mmhmm.

L: And, and I'm also wondering like with this painter, I'm calling it a pain journey because it's your relationship with the pain in your body and the pressure and headaches and all of that. How do you talk to your wife and your family about your experience with your body?

D: Earlier on? Didn't talk about it as much, actually.

L: Mmhmm.

D: Which is in line with what I was saying.

L: Yeah, you’re at a different spot on the path.

D: Um, I just, uh, in part I feel like it's trusting that she's not going to hear me, you know, tell her about my pain and then say, oh, okay, well still….you need to suck it up. And I know that she's not like that.

L: Right? But the fears there.

D: But there's that still in me.

L: Yeah.

D: Like...there's a nervousness that she's just going to, that's going to be her response was like, yeah, but I need you to do these things.

L: Right.

D: Um, and I found instead that now I just tell her openly like, hey, uh, I'm having...I'm having a rough headache day or I feel it coming on. I know we had plans to do these things, but....or sometimes it's like, well let's go do this thing. I may be a little zoned out or...and she has told me recently because we've talked about a lot more these days that she still feels like she's like, look,I know that you're in pain since we got to, we're going to find some way, we're going to find, keep looking for better ways and more ways to deal with it. But you're still very present with our kids and you’re still present with me. And lIke you said, for how much pain you say that you're in. Like you're still there with the kids a lot. And so she's really encouraging me. And that's the only reason I say that is that she's just really been a great encouragement to me.

L: Mmmm.

D: She's had a lot of her own, a mIx of health and the mental health issues, um, her whole life stemming from a lot of different things. But, so she's very sympathetic and she just...and I told her, I said, you know, one of my facebook buddies, Lauren, she talked to me about possibly goIng on the show. I was like, that's kind of funny. And she just said, why is that funny, you know? And, and I thought, oh wait…


L: Wait a second, are you about to validate me?

D: Wait, hold on a second. I'm not sure I'm ready for this. So then she just...yeah, you have like, you have chronic pain and I guess I do. I'm a person with chronic pain and, and um, and with my kids now, um, I try to tell them there's some days where I'm just, I just tell them like, guys, we can go somewhere but I just can't like go running and jumping on this thing or at the park or I'll go with you the beach, but we're gonna just kinda, I'm just kind of mosey around. I'll help you play in the sand or do things, but I just can't. Um, sometimes I'll still try to base the swing around in a circle. But then when my head's really pounding, that's not helpful.

L: Oh, yeah. That’s not the time for that.

D: Not only that I get like, I forget it the feelings of vertigo, like from like the pressure in my head.

L: Oh yeah.

D: Like I can't even go on roller coasters like I used to and other thIngs like that. But I try to explain to them, you know, and they're six and three. Boys. So the thing that sucks for me sometimes is that if I'm not as aware or I'm not paying attention in the day, and I've been going for days sometimes if not a day where I've been like wrestling with the pain all day and then at some point I ended up lashing out. Like just like, just like raising my voice, yelling something that I don't, I don't do with other people except my closest family.

L: Mmhmm. Yeah, it's like the people closest to us get to see those…

D: Because it sucks, it’s almost safer in a way.

L: They are closer, but also they see our raggedy edges.

D: Yeah.

L: And that for you is one of your’s.

D: Yeah. I had these clues a long time that I could look back really quickly when I'm finally realizing all this crap. Like, oh, when I got super angry I wouldn't just expose that anger in the moment. Then later, weeks later, if it kept other things happening where I couldn't like, like let it out at some point. I'm not someone who is like putting their fists through a wall or anything. Then I'd be like smacking the steering wheel and my car. I'm just like….grrr.

L: Letting it out.

D: Like, bruising my hand sometimes that's just like, oh, well that's a, it's not a healthy sign.

L: Right. There are some emotions that need to be let out. Right.

D: So anyways, getting back to the communication, like I communicate stuff to them directly and then sometimes communication out in a raggedy like, edgy way or it's like ooh, that's kind of seeping out because I need to talk to them about it.

L: Yeah.

D: And of course anytime I wrong my kids especially, I mean of course, anyone, but especially with my kids, I know that I'm going to screw up. I screw up plenty with them. Um, but I always made it a point to, to say I'm sorry and apologize and telling them about it after anytime I do that because I mean frankly that's….I remember one or two times my dad ever actually that I'm sorry to me as a kid and one time in particular I was like, oh my god. Like I thought I was going to fall over.

L: You were shocked, yeah.

D: It's like, what the heck is happening here?

L: Yeah.

D: One time I remember, I think he did a couple times, but like one time I remember like, it's almost like no admitting to the fallibility of like, it's like not taking ownership for it almost. So I just wanted them to know that I respect them even though I disrespected them, I respected them enough to come back and own up and that I'm also fallible, so it's okay to admit that.

L: Yeah. I think that's so cool because the way that I think of, and I actually don't know your family, but just through you, I feel like I understand your family better through this conversation and through other conversations that we've had and I feel like there's something about the way that you are evolving along with them.

They're a part of your journey. You are a part of theirs. There's respect there and as you evolve, it's positively impacting you and your family. You know, like your relationship with your pain isn't just a straight line. You're figuring it out. It's the road curves. You're kind of figuring out what your identity is and how you hold your reality and how your wife holds it and letting her impact you. Letting her validate your pain and letting yourself be honest with your, your kids and saying, some days I can't do run and jump and play the way that I normally do and it's because I'm dealing with this. And I just think about how that does give permission to them too. When you're. Sorry, they learn, they get to make mistakes. When you're in pain, they learned that they too get to step back from things and not always have to be one thing. You don't have to always be energetic in order to be an awesome dad.

D: Mmhmm. And that's hard for me to not be the awesome dad.

L: Well then that makes me ask, you might know what I'm about to ask...what does it really mean to be an awesome dad?

D: Um, I know what it used to mean, which was to be able to do anything at all times, sacrificed anything at almost any cost then and uh, you know, provide any and everything that they need and maybe want. And I've come to maybe realize that maybe...What an awesome dad really is...is to be present, to be honest and vulnerable, including admitting when you've screwed up, um, and to say that it's, it's, it's less important. You know. Whatever they do, whatever you do, and it's more important, to just let yourself be who you are. Whether that impacts schedule or the finances or anything in the moment.

L: I like that. I want to say what I'm getting from what you're saying is it's not about what you're doing as much as how you're doing it, how you're being with yourself so that you can be with others and how you're truly showing up in the moment for what it is versus an like an idealized version. Because the first definition of the great dad or the awesome dad sounds really fun. It does sound like a superhero and superhero is in many ways a fictional character, right?

D: They say.

L: They say...duh duh dunnn. But like it's also, I mean, we can have a part of ourselves that's like a superhero, but in reality we're human.

D: Mmhmm.

L: And so I was thinking about the first dad that you described and I was like, he doesn't sound like he's going to be able to sustain this, just be able to do everything all the time for everyone.

D: That's a good point.

L: Like he might burn out and then people aren’t going to have access to him.

D: I'm, I'm known for having...I naturally have a lot of endurance. I'm very patient in general. Um, so last year I just decided that I was getting frustrated. I played soccer most of my life and then until I became like about 19, I was kind of the end of it for varying reasons. I won't go into, but I was getting frustrated because I love playing soccer and I want to just play for fun. I kept hurting myself and I still am hopeful someday I might be able to play again. But I just, I got so frustrated I said, you know what, I'm going to. I ran in high school, just sort of a rebellious act to my father. It was really an end to my soccer at the time and just hanging out with my friends outside of soccer and I was like, well maybe I was running if I ever ...I didn't really worked very hard at it. So maybe. And I played soccer all these years. Maybe I'm also a naturally good endurance like I’m strong in that. So maybe I’ll just run a marathon.

L: That’s so cool.

D: So I decided like two decembers ago. Like, I’ll just run a marathon.

L: Oh, like without training?

D: No, I decided I would train, but then I, I went, started training, got injured and I was like, oh, that's frustrating. I saw a specialist helped me through it and then I went and ran a marathon and I was like, oh, all rIght. Then I didn't train for the second one...it was a lot harder. But I did okay in the first one.

L: Good for you.

D: Um, and so I did a couple of those just in all aspects of my life I'm known for having good endurance. But I mean I started doing this. I started doing like...when I got into Kyle Cease’s work and I had been doing other self development stuff prior to that these past couple years, so just because I was like feeling like, man, I just, I don't know what it is, I want to do something else. Even there's some way to get other income and because we've been, we have massive debt that we've been working, chiseling away at and I was trying to find ways to do this and also find like I had this urge to do something else and I was like, I don't know what it is and I don't think it's quit my job right now or anything like that. But I was starting to find, oh maybe there's something.


D: Maybe there's something. I mean I have. I also have a history of the sordid history with sleep, so that's another thing that doesn't also help me recuperate.

L: Yeah. That's hard.

D: And I was like burning the candle at both ends, which I often do. Getting up early with the kids, help my wife. I'm having headaches, stuff going on. Also just trying to do these other activities at night and I was like started a little blog for like a second and I started finding eventually like, oh well I think I actually like in part also the creative outlet, so there's something with that that I'm still like investigating, kinda like still seeking out. But I Also, because I naturally have good endurance, I realized how but I probably gone way past just having good endurance or the endurance that it's like I've kind of burning myself out.

L: Mmmm.

D: So trying to find that balance now it's like, oh well how do I find that balance of doing these things and these things that I'm starting to really enjoy doing and feeling like...even recently I had to like take a little break from like I've recorded all these podcasts and I haven't been able to share them yet because I had a rough couple of months and feeling like, oh man, I'm just like, just dealing with that. Knowing that okay, I'm not actually superman or batman...as I’d maybe prefer to be.

L: Right now, just to make it clear to everybody who’s listening.

D: So I think there's something so appealing to be like the super, the superhero.

L: Yeah.

D: The superhero dad, superhero, husband, superhero friend, and I see all these like kind of these layers like kind of starting to like fall for me. Um, and realizing, oh wait, I am actually human. I can be super.

L: Yes. You absolutely can.

D: At times I can be a super person in a way, but I am a person.

L: Right. 

D:  I'm a human. So dealing with that and coming to grips with like, oh, okay, that's not bad. Which is another thing I've been coming to grips with. That's not a bad thing.

L: Yeah.

D: It's just a thing. It's something to recognize and realize, oh, maybe there's something else. Um, another way of being. And it's still me, but I don't have to and I can enjoy it and it can be a good thing and I don't have to be all these things or achieve. I think there's a little bit of ambitious part of me but that I want to serve people, but I want to serve...I don't just want to serve someone. I want to serve everybody in some way.

L: Right.

D: I want to help everybody. I want to serve everybody.

L: Yeah, yeah.

D: And without being a part of a church anymore in the way I was where I was really doing things to serve other people where it's obvious how I'm helping people...no longer doing that. I think there's been a little bit of a...That's where the podcast has been kind of fun to both like have a creative outlet and to serve people in a way, even though it's also about just expressing myself and being open and that's part of the silliness. Tapping into some of that. Playing my ukulele instead of a guitar and I'm like, that's a funny thing to be playing a ukulele. So. But I like it.

L: Yeah. That's all you need to know. Here's what I going to say. I want to say a lot of things, but I'll say this one thing I'm looking at your journey, your hero's journey is, is sort of like you learning how to strive for this really resilient persona, which at the heart of it does have to do with service and love and care. So what I heard from me earlier in our conversation was sometimes it hurts to not be able to be the awesome dad...and I don't want to just graze over that because that's a real feeling. There's disappointment there, right? There's probably sadness, anger that can come up for anybody who has that, that regret like, oh, I can't show up physically the way that I want to. But then in the not being able to do that, you've also just redefined awesome dad in our conversation and, and kind of as you said it, you were like, oh, it's, it's actually about showing up the best way I can given what I have. And it's in that, that I just, as I sit with you, I'm like, well that's what you're doing. This is your life. You're, you're improving through what you've got so that you can really be there for the people that you care about, including yourself. And that's kind of cool. And I think there's a way that we don't necessarily get to that place unless we've been heartbroken and disappointed by not being able to do what we originally set out to do.

D: Mmmm. That makes a lot of sense because I struggled a lot with coming from a religious background, talking about god being a benevolent god. If you believe in that, and, well in that mind frame you. There's the benevolent god and there's been folks who with some with good attention. I'm not going to assume whatever this is not going to get attention with using that theology to to propagate their church or whatever they're doing, but I'm assuming that there's good Intention there. I mean there's been times where they say, oh, well god's a good god and he gave this to you to teach you a lesson, and it sometimes it's like, okay, I always kind of bristled at that because they said, oh, well way he made this bad stuff happen and there's all these points that you'd want to do that's despicable. Like if wait, if he made that happen, that just seems terrible. Not just what happened to you, what happened to others out there in the world and even in the self help in the personal development field. Like there are people saying, oh well you just take the stance that whatever happened to you happened for a reason, and I bristle because of my religious background. Some of the...some of that and it's like, oh well I don't really like that.

L: Mmhmm.

D: Not saying that it has to be wrong because I don't like it. It doesn’t feel...

L: It’s not really a good fit for you.

D: It doesn’t feel good. I said, but with a slight slant on that I can allow anything bad that's happened to me serve me in a way and I think that it's even like you were like kind of what you were saying. My definition of god has changed. Now you have it more as god slash the universe. Now I won't get too deep into that, but anything that's happened to me can...maybe it was meant for good. I don't know what, but it can still serve me and I know that a lot of people who've gone through really crappy stuff came through that and the only reason like they were able to really do some amazing things that they've done or just even having amazing lives as, as having come through that if they didn't come through the hardship or, or work through it and in the same way I do think of, okay, there's a point at which I feel like I don't really feel like why me...but I still feel there's moments when I'm just like, I don't want to deal with this.

L: Yeah, of course.

D: Don't want to deal with this. Even if I, if I allow myself to not just think, well other people have it harder, but in some moments I'm like, but I don't want to deal with this pain and this. But I do. It does. Again, it shines a light on some things that it's allowed me to work through and like, and you can grow and evolve more and you know, because my kids are going to go through things, despite that I don't want them to.

L: Yeah. Of course.

D: And I know that I'm going through hard things, builds resiliency, and I don't think that's the end all, be all but things are gonna happen regardless.

L: Yeah.

D: So things are gonna happen and you're going to work through it and you're gonna when you come out the other end like you're going to be, you're going to grow, you're going to be stronger, you're gonna have a new perspective on things that you wouldn't have had otherwise. So that can be invaluable.

L: So what does it mean to you to live a fulfilling life and has that definition changed through your health journey?

D: Yes, it's definitely changed. Okay. So what it means to me to live a fulfilling life, I think in short would just be to allow myself to be present in at any given moment as much as I can. Be aware of that. And that means whether it's what I deem a good or a bad moment, and then to move past that. Yeah. Going through that at the other end to, to basically bear witness or just share with other people, you know, whatever came from that. And not shy away from that because I'm more concerned about what other people think because for me it's really only been about, I don't like getting up on a soap box telling people what life's all about or what they should know, but I do believe in being present in the moment and then connecting with someone else over those moments and they get to experience something through your eyes and you get to experience something from their eyes. I just feel like life is slightly better in that way.

L: That's so cool. Do you have any funny stories from your physical journey in the world that you can share?

D: There's probably so many. It's...I was wondering. Well that one I think that...I don't know if this is the most funny ever, but because of the pressure that meant I've noticed that because my sinus pressure, like I get...histamines get flared up my sinus cavities get inflamed. And I, and I get like I can feel compression. I feel the weather changing.

L: Hmmm.

D: Feel a change in weather coming before it hits.

L: Right.

D: I drive over the hill a lot over out here. It's highway 17 and from Santa Cruz to the Silicone Valley in a plane. One time I was traveling by myself. I used to love flying. I don't love it so much anymore. I appreciate flying. I'd rather do that and go for a super long drive. If I have to, you know, to get somewhere. So let's think of time, especially with my kids. So time is more important to me in that way. But when I, when you take off and land in a plane, the pressure, it can be pretty intense and especially when I, you know, if you've ever been sick or had a cold or something and then you. It's not fun to go on airplane. That's how I feel every single time I take off or a plane. So one time I was, I was traveling by myself and we're taking off in the plane and I was sitting next to...just like, I don't know why, but it feels like more embarrassed when they're younger people. Not like little kids but like young adults on the young side to around my age or so if it's an old person, I don't care. Like an older person there, they're probably just like, ah, whatever. I've seen everything. A little kid is like, they'll laugh at me whatever I do.


D: I was next to some younger adults and I was traveling by myself and we've taking off in the plane and the pressure starts building out thinking, uh oh, this is like the worst freaking pressure I've ever felt in my life. And it gets so bad. And so it feels like it’s just building forever. I'm like, when are we going to hit? When are we gonna hit that point?

L: Right.

D: And it finally hits the hardest. It's just, I just like I passed out.

L: Mmmm.

D: And um, and so I don't know if I mentioned I have sleep at severe sleep apnea, which is tricky with my sinuses being clogged up.

L: Yes.

D: Because it's actually the throat closing on itself for me.

L: Right.

D: And so I snore like a freaking chainsaw. And I apparently...I came to and I was like, we were, we had been flying for a while. Uh, I think it was a short trip to Portland for meeting some friends, which I have said my wife's family is there, but it's meeting friends there. I think we're nearing the course. I wake up just in time for speed, like dropping down and I feel the pressure. I’m like,  no god, but I just feel like I look at, I'm just like, I think I snore woke, I woke myself up with a snore so it's kind of like an I kind of like, *makes snorting noises* I just felt like...why do I feel like I have a crick in my neck and when I look around I'm like, I see like the people next to me looked at me like what the heck?

L: Oh no, you had an audience.

D: And like I had been like, I know I'd been snoring because I snored like so loud that I woke myself up at a crick in my neck because I had been laying sideways and I had drool that pooled all the way down my shirt and it was pretty bad here. And I looked at, I was like, uh, I just didn't. I just kind of didn't look at it, cleaned up and then sit there and again I'm seeing the pressure. I'm like, no, god, I'm going to pass out again.

L: Right. It's like you have zero privacy in those moments and you're trying to get through this super painful experience.

D: And this is when I was up to here in my impression management still.

L: Yeah.

D: I was like, oh god, this is embarrassing. Now it's like now it almost doesn't even seem like that big a deal, but like at the moment I was like, I'd rather have control of everything.

L: Aww, but you survived it somehow.

D: I did. The picture is funny now that I'm telling you, it's kind of a sad story, so…


L: It’s okay, in retrospect though, I can totally see how maybe for the people who are sitting next to you, they might tell it as a funny story.

D: I hope that they enjoy that.

L: Like somebody got something out of this.

D: Not one of my finer moments.

L: Yeah. No, it sounds like it was a painful but also, but also, you know, is kind of like a...It is a pretty funny story. If you look at it through a certain lens.

D: Not knee slapper, but I'll think of some better ones and I'll shoot ‘em to you.


L: Okay. What do you have now that you might not have had without your health challenges?

D: Uh, I think, I think, you know, going back to what I was saying about other challenges like we were talking about like moving through obstacles or moving through challenges and wrestling through stuff like a kind of just creates new growth or it can create a new growth. You can move through it. I feel like despite that I don't love having face crushing headaches most days...it's just to me it's just another level of another potential level of growth and like slowing down and I'm generally pretty empathetic with other people and I feel like I see both sides of most situations so I can understand where I might not fully understand the way they do, but I can see from their side, oh, but I could see how they might feel this way or think that way. It's just like what a much...even another deeper level of growth for me in understanding like other people who have a hard time because I...with health challenges, well not just health challenges. Whatever their challenges are.

L: Yeah.

D: Um, I can appreciate more.

L: Wow.

D: One, I can appreciate more when people, when people are going through a hard time in that way, I'm like, wow, I really feel you on that. Like really feel you on that now.

L: Mmhmm, yeah.

D: And I appreciate that and am able to connect with them a little bit on a deeper level. And in that’s what I...I really love to connect with other people.

L: Yeah. In an authentic way.

D: And then also appreciating when I feel better in moments I'm like, oh my gosh, I may not be totally well now, but I feel like I could just do anything in this moment. Really appreciating the moment, it feels a little cliche, but like those, I mean the darker moments makes those brighter moments that much brighter.

L: Yes. When you come out of that hard period, like you were talking about those two months where you're physically struggling and not really seeing podcast episodes. Now you're starting to come out of it to have that.

D: Mmhmm.

L: Well, it sounds like a lot of gratitude and sort of cherishing what you do have when it's here.

D: Absolutely.

L: Finish this sentence: This is not what I ordered...

D: Okay. This is not what I ordered and it can be all good.

L: This is not what I ordered and it’s gonna be all good. So far it has been it seems like, like you've made it through even that flight.

D: I survived.


D: It’s not the most profound thought, but I do think I do plan for the worst and hope for the best. I don't...I don't know if I'm an optimist, but I generally have a sunny disposition. 

L: Hey, that works.

D: So I don't know what to say about that.

L: I like it. It's just the general felt sense that it's going to be okay.

D: Yeah. Like I don't see how things are going to work sometimes and we'll see I'm going to get out of this, but coming through this I'm like, oh well this other stuff is fine. Whatever it's gonna be...It's gonna work out.

L: Well, thank you so much for joining me.

D: Thanks for having me.

L: It's been great hanging with you in your office, so thank you.


L: As the sun sets.

D: As the sun sets on us.

L: Yes. This is when batman becomes alive.

D: That's right. I have some work to do now.

L: Right? You have some work to do now.

Lauren Selfridge