THE LOVELY GRIND

SURVIVING THE WORLD'S INSANITY . . . LIVING LIFE MORE SOULFULLY

Spiritual Inspiration

&

Better-Living Ideas

New "Tools for Healing" Now Available!

More than a glimpse of hell cover.jpg
I Call You Friend E-book Cover.jpg
outside cover 2.jpg
Show Me the Way of Life E-Book Cover.jpg
The Uncommon Grind Cover.jpg

Are you dealing with prescription drug withdrawal and/or high stress levels? Are you looking for support, direction, and a plan? Message me for more info. if you are struggling with Antidepressant Withdrawal, Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, or issues related to chronic stress. There is a way forward.

CLICK HERE TO REQUEST MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE LOVELY GRIND COACHING SESSIONS.

(Sessions conducted via Skype, phone, WhatsApp, or e-mail)

"“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions to anyone going through withdrawal.” Shelly, Ohio

"Because of Michael I feel supported and not so alone. It's comforting to talk to someone who has gone through the same ordeal and actually healed from it. The feedback he sends after our talks is very useful and encouraging, and I would definitely recommend his services."

 Kathy, CA

"Michael's Personalized Progress Plan and session notes are extremely helpful; not many coaches online do that sort of thing at all. I would absolutely, 100 percent recommend his coaching services." 

Brooke, OH

"Michael is very encouraging and motivating, and his follow-up notes are invaluable. I would absolutely recommend his services to anyone out there who is going through tapering or withdrawal." Brett, CA

June 2021  at The Lovely Grind

THIS MONTH WE ARE FOCUSING ON

The Power of Slowing Down

The Lovely Grind Giveaway Thumbnail.jpg

So this happened to me last month.


One minute I’m laughing with my wife and parents, celebrating incredulously as we settle into the best vacation accommodations we’ve ever been blessed with—tons of natural light, a full jacuzzi tub in the master bedroom, and a wraparound deck that gazes upon palm trees and spans the entire apartment—and the next minute I find myself sitting alone in a dank emergency room at the local hospital, staring at a piece of bloody gauze that had dropped onto the floor and wondering when I’d see my wife again, and in what condition.


How quickly life can change.


How quickly life can change. That was one of the thoughts that came to my mind as I waited for my wife to return from the CAT scan in that unfamiliar hospital. Another thought was: How do I keep it together as we work to deal with whatever is wrong here?


It was about 7:30 a.m. on a gloriously clear and sunny morning—the sort of day we’d been dreaming about for months as we’d planned our multi-beach tour through South Florida—but I couldn’t have cared less about the weather outside at that moment.


Instead, my thoughts were veering into the darker realms: disease, surgery, and mortality.


You see, my wife has had a complicated medical history throughout her lifetime—intestinal surgery as a girl, pituitary and ovarian surgeries in more recent years, and not too long ago a near-death experience in the hospital involving an accidental morphine overdose by hospital staff. I’d like to permanently forget about that stuff, but I can’t.


So, when blood began dripping from her nose onto my face the previous night as we prepared to kiss goodnight, unpleasant scenarios came to mind.


And then a bit later, when she actually began coughing up large amounts of blood, even worse possibilities shook me to the core. (If you’ve never seen a spouse or child or similarly close loved one practically choking on their own blood as it flows down their chin and into a waste basket that is becoming increasingly ghoulish, I can assure you it’s a frightful sight.)


We called 911, and the paramedics arrived shortly before midnight.


“Maybe it’s just a nosebleed from your earlier plane trip and the change from cold to hot weather,” they said. We had, after all, come to sunny Florida from the cold depths of February in Wisconsin.


I wanted to believe the paramedics, and I wanted to take comfort from what they were telling me. I mean, they were great. They did their jobs, and they also tried to keep things lighthearted and offer reassurances. “We can take her to the ER if you want,” they said. “But you could probably just control the bleeding on your own. And make sure to have her lean forward, not backward. That is probably what caused the blood to back up into her mouth. A scary sight for sure, but it might be nothing serious. If it gets under control tonight and doesn’t happen again before morning, you should be in the clear.”


Relieved, we said okay and opted for the latter strategy. We’d try to control it on our own and wait out the night.


(The four of us shortly after checking into our room; that night we had to call the paramedics)



The paramedics left, and the four of us—my parents, my wife, and I—stayed up in the living room and attended to my wife’s nose. As the bleeding seemed to subside, we all relaxed a bit and even laughed. What a story this would be! Eventually, my parents went off to bed and my wife and I moved to our room, where we kept ourselves distracted by watching television (which show, I couldn’t tell you). We held a lot of gauze under her nose and made sure that a mountain of pillows kept her head in the correct position.


Finally, my wife began to sleep; and around 2 or 3 a.m., I allowed myself to drift off, too.


But quickly, maybe two or so hours later, I was roused by my wife saying, “It’s happening again.”


The blood, once again, was flowing like a faucet, and I once again wondered: Is it related to her pituitary tumor or that surgery from several years ago? Is it something else completely, something just as serious if not worse?


I felt sick and shaky as I tried to decide what to do next. It was still dark outside as I mentally prepared for a day of unknowns and emergencies. I thought about what we might need to bring to the hospital if it turned out to be an extended stay of tests, scans, surgeries, or treatment plans.


After feeling sick in the bathroom for a minute and then encouraging my wife to keep pressure on her nose, I hurried over to my parents’ room and bashfully woke them from a deep sleep.


“Claudia’s bleeding again,” I said. They opened their eyes, trying to figure out if they were dreaming. “What do you think we should do?”


After a minute of discussion, I asked my mom if she’d call 911 again while I waited with Claudia in the other room and gathered a few things. And once again, the three young paramedics (now at the end of their shift), came up to our room.


Our first morning in those luxury accommodations began with me holding my wife’s hand as she was wheeled down the hallway on a stretcher. No, we weren’t going to the pool, or to the beach, but rather to the hospital. How strange.


The paramedics took my wife to a local emergency room in an ambulance, and my parents and I followed a few minutes behind in our rental car. Thankfully, a doctor listened to my wife’s request and allowed me into her private room off the main ER to stay with her. Others in this age of Covid haven’t been so blessed.


About two months ago my wife’s older sister, suffering from symptoms that were eventually diagnosed as stage 4 anemia, had to have a series of emergency blood transfusions in an Arizona medical clinic; and her husband wasn’t even allowed to be with her during any of it. She sat alone and scared and tried to connect with people via Facetime.


And a few weeks after that, one of my younger brothers stumbled—on his wife’s shoulder—into an emergency room in subzero Wisconsin, suffering from long lasting fatigue, dizziness, nausea and other symptoms that still haven’t been definitively grouped into any diagnosis. His wife (my wife’s younger sister, actually) was similarly denied entrance into the hospital.


Too dangerous in this age of Covid, they said.


Funny. With all of these billions of dollars for Covid testing—with all of this confidence in face masks—why couldn’t these medical facilities have found a way to clear a single family member for entry so that they could sit with weak and frightened loved ones instead of waiting by a phone? Sad.


But back to Florida, where my wife and I had actually happened upon a doctor with a heart (or rather been guided to him?). After a quick temperature check at the ER door (and with a mask dutifully in place) I was allowed into the hospital to see my wife. I found her in bed, in a small dark room, hooked up to monitors and IVs.


Our little cubby of a room sat directly across from the main hub of doctors and nurses going about another day’s ER business, but yet no one came to attend to us. I guess my wife had spoken to a doctor upon arrival, but because there was no “active bleeding” going on, he couldn’t diagnose or move forward.


We waited, and no one came. My wife had developed a migraine, and it was getting worse. She began to moan. So she moaned, and yet no one came. Perhaps they were used to such sounds there.



Finally, when I was able to speak to a nurse, I explained that it wasn’t the bloody nose per se I was worried about, or even the migraine of my wife’s that was getting worse by the minute. But rather it was the conjunction of those two things and how that might relate to her earlier pituitary tumor and surgery. The nurse seemed rather unconcerned (so just tell me what she wants in the IV for the headache, she demanded), but after my words were passed along to the doctor, eventually my wife was taken away for a CAT scan.


And that is when I began to lose it a bit. I found myself alone in that dark room, crying and staring at the empty space where my wife and her bed had been just a minute ago.


I found myself fixated on the bloody gauze that had dropped from her hands onto the floor, and I actually considered for a moment picking it up and holding onto it. What if something went wrong with whatever they’d pumped into her veins for the headache?


What if she was never brought back to me alive? (Again, several years ago she’d needed a shot of Narcan in the heart because hospital staff had given her too much IV morphine after surgery. Thank God I had been staying with her in the hospital room that night, because if I hadn’t been there to call the nurses into the room when her eyes were rolling back into her head, no one would have been there to revive her! Things like this do happen.)


I stared at the scarlet gauze. What if it was the last “piece” of my wife I had to hold onto?


I was sleep deprived and shaken, but in that moment—in that lonely hospital room—I worked to fall into faith, and in doing so was able to catch my breath a bit.


I imagined angels sitting next to me in that “empty” room.


No, it wasn’t empty. I wasn’t alone. I—we—were surrounded by guardian angles from above. And we were protected and guided by Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who had heard our prayers and answered them so many times before.


In times like that, what vision is more powerful than that painted by Jesus in Matthew 26:53?


“Do you think I cannot call on my Father,” He said, “and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”


The next time you are feeling alone and scared because of some situation in life, whether external or internal, try to picture the protecting and caring angels all around you at the behest of the Good Shepherd. Try to remember you aren’t actually alone!


I prayed, seeking protection and calm.


In times like that, what visual is more powerful than that of Jesus rebuking the storm on the Sea of Galilee in Mark 4:37-39:


A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet. Be Still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.


The storms in our lives come, often without a preceding weather forecast to provide warning, and when the waves begin to rock our boats and the winds bring us to the verge of drifting into mental and emotional oblivion, where do we find an anchor to steady the whole operation?


In faith. In the promises of the Lord, who assures us that we are not blindly pinballing through this crazy existence without direction or protection.


I prayed that morning in the hospital, and I tried to remember the mountains of evidence that pointed to the reality of God’s presence, protection, power, and grace in my life. He’d seen me through past financial strains, past professional stresses, past health crises with my wife, and past health challenges of my own.


There had been so many “dark nights of the soul” that had been weathered by seeking the loving arm of my Savior. There had been so many earthly lightening storms that had been survived by seeking transcendence to a place above the clouds.


That last part is key: The insanity of earthly life can only be survived and put into perspective if we climb above it all, to a place where earthly life isn’t the be-all and end-all.


As it turned out, my wife’s bleeding episode likely was caused by a combination of airplane travel and an abrupt weather change from intense cold to intense heat. Maybe the half a glass of sangria she’d had at dinner that night had contributed to it as well (they say that alcohol can interfere with blood clotting and also enlarge the “superficial” blood vessels in the nasal cavity, thus contributing to nosebleeds). The CAT scan came back normal, and the hospital sent us on our way that same day.


Looking back, I could be tempted to feel foolish for assuming (or at least fearing) the worst about the situation; I could be tempted to feel foolish for “overreacting” to a nosebleed, even if it was something strangely out of the ordinary for my wife and something that looked like a veritable hemorrhage.


I could be tempted to feel ashamed for allowing anxiety to grip me, tempted to feel as if my faith was weak.


But I don’t feel foolish, really. I feel human. I only wanted to do all that I could to make sure a bad-looking situation got attended to as quickly and thoroughly as possible.


When it comes to the people we love, is there really such a thing as being too fastidious about medical situations that confound and alarm?


And regarding the question of faith, I don’t think that feeling momentarily anxious or depressed or angry or alone is a measure of bad faith. I think, instead, it’s how we respond to those feelings that counts. Do we pull ourselves to prayer in such times? Do we look up to a place above our circumstances? Do we look around, and try to see and feel the greater spiritual reality that surrounds us?


Do we try to stay connected and trusting, even when it isn’t easy? Do we slowly lift up our weak arms and keep knocking on God’s door, so to speak, even when our stomach is tied in knots and our head is throbbing with confusion?


Do we at least try?


God, I think, rewards consistent trying.


Over the next couple of days we tended to my wife’s lingering headache with migraine medication prescribed by the ER doctor, and before we knew it we were once again enjoying days on the beach that truly felt like the gifts from God that all such days are.

I was so grateful, and even at the time I realized that I needed to hold onto that utter feeling of gratitude and carry it back to Wisconsin with me.


I might even make a sign and frame it and hang it up in my home office: I will not take things for granted today!

What is the moral of this story? Well, for one, don’t lean backward when a nosebleed is occurring. Despite what you might have been told growing up, that only makes things worse and can actually cause blood to leak down the back of the throat and into the mouth, thus making things look even more disturbing than before (you want to lean forward and put pressure on the nose instead).


But much more importantly than providing nosebleed reminders, I think this story reminds us all to consistently lean on our “anchors” when unpleasant surprises or crises come rolling through our lives.


For me, the two monumental (and clean) F words—family and faith—are anchors that I have leaned on again and again to keep the boat from tipping during times of tumult. The promises of my Lord, and a spiritual connection to Him, help me to keep my sanity (even if it is only just barely sometimes) when the ground is shaking and the windows are rattling and the wolves are howling just over the hills.


There are other healthy anchors in life to be sure, but none more important than faith. So I will end this message with a few words from Jesus in Matthew chapter 7, words that talk about the importance of starting with faith, and then building the rest of your life up from that.


Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)


Lean on the Lord this year during your times of trouble, and in fact find Him in devotion and prayer each day, even when things are going great. Make it a habit, and try to see each day of such spiritual connection as another brick that is being placed atop that stalwart rock of a foundation. Brick by brick, we build our faith and future that way. Brick by brick, we build a shelter for the storms.


Until next time, please remember to take care of yourself and your dreams,

Michael





CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING HERE


Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”

Shelly, Ohio

“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”

Jon - British Columbia, Canada

“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.

"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”

Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt

“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”

Andi, North Carolina

“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”

Alex, California

“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”

Catherine, Virginia

“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”

Erikka, South Dakota

“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”

Kim, California

“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”

Leanne – Ontario, Canada

"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."

Miguel, Atlanta, GA

"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."

Eric, MI

“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

John, WA

“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

Emma, United Kingdom

“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”

Ram, AZ

THE LOVELY GRIND: SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION FOR WORKDAYS offers 90 devotional messages that will help you find rest, renewal, and perspective for your workweek and beyond.

WHAT IS YOUR STRUGGLE RIGHT NOW? Difficult coworkers? A lack of professional fulfillment? Financial concerns? Balancing work with the rest of your life?

By discussing a variety of professional stressors and life challenges and then offering spiritual and thought-provoking perspective on each, THE LOVELY GRIND gives readers a truly unique devotional experience.

Get a copy for yourself and don't forget to order one for a friend or family member who has been feeling fatigued or stressed out lately. Come join THE LOVELY GRIND & start living lovely!

CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING

If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.


A Good Friday afternoon on South Beach is altogether different from a Good Friday afternoon back home in Wisconsin: That much became clear rather quickly as my wife and I set our towels and tote bags down on the febrile sand near the Fifth Street lifeguard stand. For starters, the sun was shining brilliantly, a stark contrast to the midwestern cold and gray that often lends further solemnness to the Holy Week holiday built around Jesus’ crucifixion. And then there was the half-naked woman on display just behind my beach towel.


“Let’s move our stuff over there,” Claudia directed me, motioning toward a spot of beach that was closer to both the lifeguard tower and the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic. I glanced at the sunbather behind me and conceded.


“You must have seen the boobs and wanted to move,” I joked after we’d restationed ourselves. I was sure my wife had been trying to spoil the fun.


“What boobs?” she answered.


“There was a girl tanning topless right behind me,” I said, my voice rising. Maybe such a scene was par for the course on South Beach or the French Riviera, but it simply didn’t happen in conservative Wisconsin. On the Dairy State’s beaches, men were lucky to see a little sunburned cleavage come June and July.


“Well, I’m sure she was going to cover up before she turned over,” Claudia said with exasperation, as if I were an idiot—a perverted idiot.


“She already was turned over,” I said. “She was lying on her back.”


“Oh,” Claudia answered with a bit of surprise. “Did she at least have a nice body?”


“I don’t know,” I said, trying to convey indifference. Despite being surrounded by the sun-kissed sights of Miami Beach, I suddenly felt ice beneath my toes—thin ice—and I began to tread gingerly. “She wasn’t elderly or anything.”


“Well,” Claudia said, ready to move on from the topic, “maybe we should go in the water for a bit. I’m getting really hot.”


After swimming and then snacking and then swimming some more, I closed my eyes, hoping that maybe I’d fall asleep to pass the long minutes until the Raven Run’s starting time. Thoughts of icy cold beer floated through my mind, but I pushed them aside, determined to run eight miles before the day was done. Claudia and I had extended our stay in Miami again—nine days had turned into seventeen, and then into a month—and when I’d composed a short list of things to “do” before flying back to the cold weather, a final lazy day of sun and suds on the beach had found prominent placement.


However, Raven’s words rang in my head.


“You know, three runs will get you into the top one thousand,” he’d told me a few days earlier, shortly after I’d completed my second eight miles with him. That second run had taken place on a gray and windy Tuesday afternoon on the beach—the kind that doesn’t impress much on the Facebook and Instagram posts that are constantly being snapped by vacationers. But despite the weather, I’d shown up for my sophomore Raven Run effort because of a similarly provocative statistic he’d shared with me after my first run.


“If you come back for a second time, you’ll pass fifteen hundred people,” Raven had told me. Perhaps that was a canned line he gave to all first timers in an effort to lure them back for another fitness rendezvous on South Beach, but it had worked on me. It had persuaded me to make run number two a priority. And now, I was feeling the power of his verbal nudges again. The message was clear: There was a way to separate yourself from the pack.



I knew that almost 3,000 people had completed eight miles with Raven, but I’d been surprised to learn that almost half of those were transient one-offs, travelers just passing through to put an exotic notch on their running belts. I already had my exotic belt notch, the pictures and social media posts proving that I’d indeed “run with the Raven.” But I wanted more. I wanted to put some distance between myself and the crowd of ghosts who’d just hovered with Raven for a run or two and then disappeared. I wanted to become a little more familiar with him and his running community, a little more embedded in that intriguing world of unique characters and cardio catharsis.


Those perspiring bottles of Corona that were dancing through my mind’s eye would just have to wait.


Unable to nap on my beach towel, I sat up and opened my eyes, squinting in the bright sunlight. I could see that the family who had been picnicking in front of us had disappeared and been replaced by a young couple. An affectionate young couple. Trippy electronic beats from some Madonna song burst out of Bluetooth speakers as the guy, who was fully bearded and otherwise hairy, grooved hard. He was swerving and hovering over his date . . . who was also a bit hairy?


Wow, that girl needs to shave! I thought. But then I realized that the individual in front of me—the other half of the couple, the half who was wearing tight denim shorts and a tied-up crop top—was actually a man.


The gay couple threw each other dance moves and pouty expressions, and soon they were joined by a tall and pretty black photographer with a long blond weave. She wore a professional camera, and she quickly began taking glamour shots. The men posed enthusiastically as the techno music continued to bounce over the sand.


No, this wasn’t Good Friday in Wisconsin, I thought as I glanced at the clock on my phone. It was a Friday on South Beach—it was any day on South Beach—and that meant that Raven would be running in just over an hour.



“I have to use the bathroom,” Claudia said as we stepped off the sand and onto the concrete sidewalk that separated the beach from Lummus Park. “Wait here.”


As I leaned against the short coral wall and waited, a figure dressed in black—a sartorial choice that stands out on a sunny afternoon—peddled past me on a bicycle. I quickly realized that it was Raven. He was breezily weaving through the crowd of tourists who were dressed in their bikinis and flip flops. When I waved, he U-turned his bicycle and rode toward me.


“You’re still here,” he said, sounding surprised.


“Yeah, we extended our trip,” I said.


“Running tonight?” he asked.


“I plan on it,” I said, now glad that I’d forwent those afternoon beers so that I could answer in the affirmative. What shame would I have felt if I’d instead answered no with a longneck in hand and a half-drunken smile plastered sheepishly on my face?


“Thanks for the article,” Raven said.


“You saw it?” I replied casually, my tone belying the internal turmoil I’d been swimming in for the past forty-eight hours. I’d published a blog post about my first Raven Run experience, and true to my nickname my mind had been overworked ever since. I’d been rather sleepless for the past two nights because I’d tried to share the post to Raven’s Facebook page but it hadn’t made it there.


Why hadn’t the post made it there? I’d wondered. Did Raven not like the writing? Or had he been offended by some anecdote I’d shared or by some physical description of him I’d offered?

I had, at one point, written that Raven looked like an older and more mysterious version of White Goodman, Ben Stiller’s buffoonish fitness-buff character in the movie Dodgeball. Maybe that description had been over the top.


“Yeah, I saw it,” Raven said. “I left a little thing—a comment—on it.”


He didn’t seem offended.


“Well, I hope you liked it,” I said, still not sure that he’d liked it at all. I wondered what that “thing” of his had said? He wasn’t offering specifics here, and my mind—that often-exhausted piece of machinery—continued to churn.


“The run starts a little early today because of the picnic,” Raven said. “About five or five fifteen instead of five thirty.”


Before my second run with Raven, he’d handed out pastel flyers advertising his annual potluck gathering. It wasn’t the sort of social function I would normally dive into if left to my own reclusive trappings, but Claudia’s Latina (or feminine) sensibilities loved a good party, and she’d been lobbying for our attendance.


“Sounds good,” I said. “I’ll be at the run. And Claudia and I are going to try to make it your picnic, too. We brought a cooler of drinks, just in case.”


“I hope you can make it,” Raven said. “Your wife will have a good time. Well, see you in a bit.”


And then Raven peddled away with a pleasant smile, and when Claudia came out of the bathroom, I told her about our encounter. I told her that Raven had read my blog post and even commented on it.


“It didn’t seem like he hated it or anything,” I said.


“Hmm,” she responded knowingly, admonishing me for once again worrying about nothing.


“Yeah,” I answered, and then we walked to where our borrowed minivan was parked so that I could change into my running clothes.


***


The crowd in front of the Fifth Street lifeguard stand was slightly larger than it had been on my first two Raven Runs. Raven’s longtime girlfriend, Miracle, was there. She was wearing blue jeans and a camera and had come not to run but to see Raven off. And then there was Dos Equis, a tall and debonair gentleman from the Dominican Republic. He wore a white beard and had gotten his nickname because of a resemblance to the Most Interesting Man in the World character in those beer commercials.


Also present was a man known as Caca (a spry and gregarious marathon runner from Spain), a woman known as Blue Tango (a maidenly figure from Columbia who loved to dance and paint), and Evictor, a fortysomething Miami lawyer who had run with Raven 170 times and who conversed easily and often. Evictor had brought with him the day’s only new runner, his female friend Mo, whose day job involved organizing “ultra” relay races throughout the country.


“We’ve got a real runner for you today,” Evictor told Raven when introducing Mo.


“Sounds good,” Raven said, and judging from the knowing smile on his face, I guessed that he’d seen such “real” runners falter during his eight miles before.


Hitter was in the group again, too (I’d run with him on both of my previous appearances), and later we’d be joined by the Judge, a very blonde and fit member of the Miami legal community who had won Raven’s 2017 Event of the Year award by completing the entirety of a Raven Run just several days before giving birth. There were a few others in attendance for my third Raven Run as well, but my mind—already flooded with fresh faces and stories—had reached a saturation point for processing new people, so I wasn’t able to catch everyone’s names.


“His mind is always working,” Raven introduced me at Roll Call. “He can’t eat, he can’t sleep. He can’t do any of those things that we all need to do because his mind won’t let him. He’s Overrrrrworrrked Minnddd.”


I clapped for myself and the other runners as we were introduced, and then, as the day’s run found its pace, I filed in alongside Mo and we began talk about her relay-race work. Mo, who was in her thirties, began the run with confidence. She kept creeping ahead of Raven, which was easy to do if a person wasn’t used to his downtempo pace. At times, while talking with Mo, I got pulled ahead of the run’s founder myself, but I always recognized my displacement and jogged in place or looped back so that I could stay near the Raven Run’s axis.


Evictor, in accordance with his status as an attorney, was a talker. However, he was also friendly, self-depricating, and very likeable. He was the antithesis of all those lawyer stereotypes, and I enjoyed listening to him. After a couple of miles, he began remarking about the sand that was steadily infiltrating the upper half of his New Balance running shoes. Then another runner, Hitter, chimed in to say that he’d experienced the same complication with his own New Balance shoes. It was an issue of porousness, he said, maybe something facilitated by the mesh covering on the front end of the shoes and a problem the company ought to address.


Then the alternative to getting sand in one’s shoes—running barefoot—was discussed, and Evictor waxed eloquently about the difficulties and possible dangers of running without footwear. His language got technical at times as he discussed “heel striking” and the evolution of man’s walking capabilities.


Every so often—midsentence and midstride—Evictor would stoop down to pick up a piece of trash that littered the beach. He’d scoop the trash deftly, like a pelican diving for a fish, and then he’d jog to one of the many garbage receptacles near us, depositing the offending item before realigning himself with the group. He did this with a boundless enthusiasm that mirrored the boyish features of his face.


We all noticed Evictor’s cleanup efforts, but it didn’t seem that he was doing them for show. Rather, he seemed to be acting because of some deeply rooted personal convictions regarding our responsibility to care for the environment. Before the run was over, his repeated acts of beach tidying would spur Hitter to chip in, too, demonstrating that peer pressure can be a positive thing.


As was the case during my first two Raven Runs, I was enjoying the sense of community the event fostered. I was enjoying listening to and participating in the pinballing conversations with Raven, Hitter, Evictor, and Mo. I was enjoying this open-armed embrace from a group of fellow run lovers. However, as the Judge and a friend of hers began commandeering the interaction—as conversation veered toward the professional and political for a bit—I felt a strange but familiar pang of inadequacy overtake me. The sensation was familiar to me because of how often I’d experienced it in social situations in the past, but it was also foreign to me, because now I was experiencing it during a run—an activity that was supposed to provide surefire safe harbor from such anxieties.


What am I doing here? I suddenly wondered as we trekked along the beach.


You don’t “fit” in a running group! some destructive voice in the back of my mind hissed. You’re just a novice!


And when the Judge mentioned something about an upcoming gala she would be attending, I momentarily felt like a juvenile interloper amongst a group of accomplished “grown-ups.” I was nothing but a forty-year-old, childless child with vague writing dreams and no real professional or financial influence in the world.


My heart thumped rapidly and my legs felt weak, and those unpleasant stirrings had nothing to do with the physical demands of the eight miles I was currently engaged in.


But then, as the soulful rhythms of the run continued, the light panic passed. Step, breathe, sweat. Step, breathe, sweat. My overworked mind untensed as the ocean air caressed me and the miles continued. My skin became pervious, like the scalp of Evictor’s shoes, and the benevolent presence of God washed through me, as it does at some point on nearly every run I take.


I feel blissfully alive when that sort of spiritual surge happens during a run, and trembling with goosebumps, I give thanks for small miracles that aren’t that small at all: the brilliant engineering of my legs and lungs and beating heart; the Divine gifts of breeze and cloud cover during scorching summer runs; and the blanket of protection that keeps me from harm when I’m moving in darkness, through storms, and alongside heavily trafficked roads.


A calming realization washed through me. This was the Raven Run, not some hollow runner’s group populated by the hypercompetitive, the shallow, and the self-absorbed. No one was here to compare professional accolades, bank accounts, or even marathon times. No one was here to judge (not even the Judge), and if I could just transcend the bullying voices in my own head, I would realize that Raven’s community was actually offering me a bit of gospel on this Good Friday. Because this group reflected the spirit of its organizer, it was inclusive, gentle, kind, and soulful. Raven and his run welcomed people of all backgrounds, offering them a cleansing activity capable of easing their burdens and putting the lunacy of the rest of the world into a little perspective.


My enjoyment felt restored by these thoughts, and I ran on, renewed.


“So, is it true that you do not like people to pay for running events?” the man known as Caca asked Raven. Caca, a Spanish slang term for dung or shit, was not a nickname that had been given to insult the man Raven had assured the group during Roll Call. Rather, the name had actually been requested (for reasons Raven still didn’t fully understand), and it was used like a term of endearment.


Here we go, I thought as Caca hit on what I knew to be a hot-button topic in Raven Run circles. This could get contentious.


I was aware of Raven’s anti-pay-to-play (or rather anti-pay-to-run) stance. It was an opinion that I more or less agreed with, given that I’d only entered one official running event in my life, a casual, holiday-themed 5K several years back. The registration fees for that event had apparently benefited some type of cancer research. But still, I remembered thinking, if I did this every time I wanted to run, how quickly would I go broke? Instead of continuing to register for “jingle bell” runs, or “bubble” runs, or some half marathon named after a wireless service provider, I’d decided that I would freely run my own “races” each week; these would be private events that took place in whatever parks or streets or trails I happened upon on a given day. These wouldn’t cost any money or breed any competitive anxiety in my stomach. I ran to escape life’s pressures and formalities, not to invite them.


However, I also knew that runners like this sixty-seven-year-old Caca—this triathlete who like Raven defied age with his weekly fitness routine—were perhaps ignited by the prospect of having a structured event to train for and then conquer.


“That’s right,” Raven said. “Running should be free.”


“But some people, like my friends and I, we love training and running together in the marathons,” Caca countered. “What is wrong with these events? Why do you think that people should not enter them?”


“Well, I’ll tell you why,” Raven answered, and then he went on to explain how he’d once been wronged by someone involved in the organization and promotion of the Miami Marathon. Certain promises had been made regarding Raven firing the starting gun, but those promises hadn’t been kept.


“So, this stance of yours all began for personal reasons?” Caca said.


“That’s how it started,” Raven agreed. “But it’s not just that.”


“Oh?” Caca said, seeming willing to listen. And Raven talked, expounding his run-free philosophy. He explained how running was supposed to be more relaxing than mad dashing for top-ten finishes in an age group. It was supposed to be more simple and soulful and accessible than registration fees and entry lotteries. Those were the things that Raven said to Caca to bolster his argument. Or perhaps they were the passionate arguments being made by the antimarathoner inside of my own head, the one who was screaming, It’s true! Man didn’t create running and shouldn’t profit from it. God gave this activity to all of us as a spiritual gift, and to treat it as competition or retail opportunity is to cheapen it!


As I jogged ahead with Caca, the two of us discussed the matter further. I had my own opinions, of course, but I told him that I could understand the debate from both sides. In short order, we switched over to lighter topics. I told him I was bilingual, and we began to converse in his native Spanish. He, along with Dos Equis and Blue Tango, spoke English only as a second language.


Bicho? Sabes que significa la palabra bicho?” Caca asked me.


“Bug?” I answered.


“Yes, bug. But it is also like a term of affection in my country.”


I nodded. “Like gordo in my wife’s country. She’s from Argentina, and everyone there is a gordo. Little kids are gordos. Parents are gordos.”


“Yes, but bicho is not like this in all countries,” he explained. “In other places, bicho is this!” He grabbed his crotch and looked at me with an excited and amused face.


“Ha!” I shook my head. “We really do have to be careful, don’t we? So many words have different meanings in different places. Like here in the United States, it’s not very nice to call someone fat. But in Argentina, everyone you love is a gordo. And in Miami, everyone is mi amor, or mami, or papi. Native English speakers just wouldn’t casually say these things to each other, but here in Miami, I’m mi amor to the lady at the gas station or to the woman at the café.”


Caca and I laughed, and I marveled at the fascinating way in which culturally diverse worlds had collided for me lately. The house where my wife and I were staying on our vacation was packed full of diverse Latino energy. In addition to my wife’s best friend from Argentina and that friend’s daughter from a Cuban ex-husband, the residence housed the friend’s fiancée, who was from Venezuela, as well as another young couple who was also from Venezuela. That couple had been pregnant, but on the day of my second Raven Run, health concerns had forced the wife into a rushed delivery.


As Claudia and I had been preparing our clothes and cooler for that day’s beach trip, her cell phone had buzzed. It was the father, Yolseg, saying that his wife was being hurried into delivery because of blood pressure issues. Everyone else from the house was in Europe for the week, so ironically Claudia and I were two of the only people this young couple knew “well” in America at the time. On our way to South Beach that day, we’d stopped off at the hospital to visit Yolseg, who had just witnessed the labor and appeared comically shaken. And on our way home from my Raven Run later that night, we’d returned to the hospital to lend further support. By that time, around 10:00 p.m., the mother had been moved to the intensive care unit because of blood loss suffered during the caesarian section. So not only was the rookie father sleepless with newborn worries, he was also anxious about his wife’s condition.


Claudia and I had offered reassurances as we drove Yolseg back to the house for a quick shower and a bite to eat. “You like pizza,” I asked.


“I love the pizza,” he answered in his thick Venezuelan accent, and while he cleaned up and prepared a bag to take back to the hospital, I baked a Screaming Sicilian brand Mambo Italiano pizza that I’d bought on sale at Publix earlier in the week. Once out of the shower, he dug in like he hadn’t eaten in months. On the night of his first child’s birth, this recent immigrant from Venezuela and I celebrated by sharing piping-hot triangles of frozen pizza while watching the local Miami news. I suspected he’d never forget those late-night slices of pie, and I knew that I wouldn’t, either.



“You know, Blue Tango here broke her arm just last December,” Raven told me as we continued along the paces of his Back & Forth North route. I winced and blew a slight whistle, impressed by the determination of this passionate grandmother jogging next to me. Apparently Blue Tango had won Raven’s 2017 Rookie of the Year award by completing forty-eight runs, and now, just a few months after injury, she was back at it. Her easy pace wasn’t burning up the sand, and she often slowed even further to stretch and rotate her weakened limb, but she was back at it nonetheless.


I admired Blue Tango’s resilience, and as I honed an eye on Raven’s stooped posture, I considered his resilience as well. I thought about how he ran every single day despite excruciating back pain and foot pain and who knows what other kind of pain. I thought about the other aging runners, too, the ones I’d already met who were flirting with seventy or had already passed it: Taxman and Dos Equis and Sleazebuster and Caca.


In addition to being stirred by the inclusiveness of Raven’ running community, I was struck by the age- and injury-defying inspiration of it all. Some of these Raven Runners were case studies in determination, and their stories yelled, No Excuses!


In Raven’s world, there truly seemed to be no excuses when it came to getting out into the fresh air and taking care of oneself with exercise. People here were running well into retirement and through all sorts of bodily nicks and ailments. Within a mile, Dos Equis, a diabetic, would lift his shirt to show me the mechanisms of the insulin pump he’d recently had implanted in his side. He’d underwent that procedure so that he could exercise more freely.


No excuses!


I felt inspired. I wanted to push photos of these older Raven Runners into the faces of younger individuals who didn’t take proper care of themselves (or into the faces of lethargic sorts of any age). I wanted to hold these people up as motivating examples so that the smokers and the television addicts and the needlessly depressed in society would see some light.


No more excuses! I wanted to yell. No more excuses for going a day or a week or a lifetime without exercise! Just come on out to South Beach and get it done with these people for an hour or two. Just give it an honest try. You’ll feel better, believe me!


By mile six, Mo, the ultrarun organizer, was showing clear signs of fatigue. Some combination of the heat, the distance, and the intermittent stretches of running on soft sand seemed to be taking a toll on her. She appeared weakened, but still determined.


“So, do you think you’ll be back for another Raven Run?” I asked her, and she laughed through gritted teeth.


With sweat slicking her face, Mo answered, “Ask me later. After this is finished and I’ve had a couple of beers.”


As it turned out, Mo did finish the run, earning the nickname MoJoe due to her coffee addiction. And when I asked her later that night at Raven’s picnic about the chances of her running again, she seemed slightly uncertain but mostly game.


“I don’t know,” Mo said to me, grinning while holding that long-anticipated beer. “I think I have to do it again. Apparently, I can pass like fifteen hundred people if I come back for another run.”






CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING HERE


Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”

Shelly, Ohio

“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”

Jon - British Columbia, Canada

“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.

"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”

Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt

“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”

Andi, North Carolina

“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”

Alex, California

“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”

Catherine, Virginia

“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”

Erikka, South Dakota

“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”

Kim, California

“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”

Leanne – Ontario, Canada

"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."

Miguel, Atlanta, GA

"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."

Eric, MI

“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

John, WA

“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

Emma, United Kingdom

“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”

Ram, AZ

THE LOVELY GRIND: SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION FOR WORKDAYS offers 90 devotional messages that will help you find rest, renewal, and perspective for your workweek and beyond.

WHAT IS YOUR STRUGGLE RIGHT NOW? Difficult coworkers? A lack of professional fulfillment? Financial concerns? Balancing work with the rest of your life?

By discussing a variety of professional stressors and life challenges and then offering spiritual and thought-provoking perspective on each, THE LOVELY GRIND gives readers a truly unique devotional experience.

Get a copy for yourself and don't forget to order one for a friend or family member who has been feeling fatigued or stressed out lately. Come join THE LOVELY GRIND & start living lovely!

CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING

If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the wi