Grappling with Corona Chaos

Corona virus

I have never experienced anything like the effect Covid 19 has had on all of us. There are times in my life that have been scary, and day-to-day living has been altered, but not like this. Most of us don’t have a frame of reference for Covid 19. I was young, but I remember the fear of nuclear attack towards the end of the Cold War. Y2K generated a lot of anticipatory fear, but the smart folks of the world remedied that. 9/11 ramped up fear, uncertainty, and certainly generated world-wide changes that continue today. I’m not proclaiming Covid 19 as worse or better than the other events I mentioned, but it does set a new social-behavioral precedence for every living person on Earth.


People that know I am a mental health therapist often ask my take on various things that we are confronted with in society. I have been asked my opinion on mass shooters, terrorists, sexual abuse, substance abuse and addiction in general; a little bit of everything. There are actual experts way more qualified than I am in those fields, but several people in my life still seem interested in my take on the darker side of contemporary life. Nobody has asked me my opinion about Covid 19 from a mental health perspective, yet. Once again, I’m not qualified to give an informative answer because I am right in the middle of it. I haven’t had the luxury of being well outside the perimeter of a given event; like a mass shooting. The perimeter or “blast zone” of Covid 19 is global. I couldn’t possibly render an objective, informed opinion on the toll this has taken on mental health worldwide, so I’ll just share my personal experience.


First and foremost, I’m lucky enough thus far that my loved ones have not been directly impacted by the disease caused by the Corona Virus. I assume my luck to be short lived, based on the forecast of the epidemiological prognosticators. As of March 26th of 2020, I have lived in a bubble that has been free from the virus. That gives the illusion of being outside the perimeter of the disaster; akin to being on the outside, looking in. Most of us were on the outside looking in to disasters such as the Twin Towers collapsing or the Columbine High School mass shooting. There are a lot of people in my personal life still fooled in to thinking they are outside the perimeter of this growing disaster. Lots of scoffing and eye-rolling at those of us taking heed of the advice of epidemiologists. I absolutely understand this skepticism, as I’m usually right at the tip of the skeptical spear when the media tells me to be afraid of something. I still grapple with competing thoughts that generate ambivalence, i.e. “I’m not falling for the media’s bullshit.” and then minutes later, “Brace yourselves!

Corona is coming

… and then, back to, “Nah, it’s probably bullshit.”Unfortunately, the psychological buffer provided by “being on the outside looking in” to this particular disaster will be short-lived. We are all within the perimeter of this growing disaster; Covid 19. While I do recognize my own ambivalence about the seriousness of Covid 19, my wife and I are erring on the side of caution. We have both let fear and anxiety guide our behaviors; albeit in a fairly measured way. Letting fear guide behavior sounds bad, and a good chunk of my career is spent helping people work through irrational self-limiting fear.

With that said, tuning in to what’s driving the fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear is a survival response. Fear tells us to make changes; to be prepared. My wife was on top of this pandemic well before it ever came to the United States, so we saw it coming. Fear allowed for us to prepare. Fear led to hitting the grocery store well before everybody else. Yes, we got a reasonable amount of toilet paper. Despite the financial hit, fear encouraged me to temporarily shut down a lot of our company’s services so as to not contribute to the spread. Fear has led to me consuming massive amounts of data on Covid 19. Feeding my need for the most up-to-date knowledge temporarily abates that fear. Fear led to my second firearm purchase, and then fear of my inadequate knowledge of how to win a gun fight led to my mass consumption of information on laws, tactics, and home defense preparedness. While consuming all this information, I quickly realized those Doomsday Prepper-type folks are sitting pretty right now. My observation of the “Prepper’s” preparedness juxtaposed with my overall reliance on the luxury of living in a First World country generated more fear. Yet again, I’m trying to use that fear as motivation to access needed knowledge and make arrangements for the worst case scenario.

My Precious.jpg

My .45

I have definitely experienced some of the downsides to fear as well. I was two hours in to a YouTube rabbit-hole consisting of survivalist and self-defense videos when I hit pause on the video I was watching, rubbed my screen-strained eyes, and had a good laugh at my own expense. I was rewatching a video made by some Green Beret bad ass called something like, “How to RELOAD on the RUN!” What is this, Mad Max? Not quite. Entertaining, to be sure; but productive? No.


Fear has also turned me in to a fat-boy. I wasn’t eating great the last few months as it is, but my diet is worse now more than ever. Food provides comfort. The more fat and sugar in the food, the more comfort that food seems to generate. Oreos are becoming a problem. I need to make better food choices.

Fear has also led to me resenting those people with a cavalier, dismissive attitude towards Covid 19. Resenting the “it’s all media hype” people in my life is not helpful if they pick up on my resentment. If I let my irritation color my interactions with the less-worried loved ones in my life, what are the chances they’ll come around and see it my way? Not very good. People push back and become defensive when others angrily accuse them of not behaving a particular way. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, therefore, force-feeding somebody the moral virtue of “social distancing” predictably leads to the rebound effect of toilet-seat licking Spring breakers “bravely” posting their exploits to Instagram. Fear is at the core of my impulse to give those folks a Purell-soaked slap across the face; but that isn’t effective.


So, what is effective? What can we do to mitigate fear, remain productive, and not lose the core of who we are? What can be done to retain normalcy and generate productivity as we upend our lives in this global call for social distancing? The answer is to reestablish your routine. How do we establish a routine when so much has changed? We are being called upon to stay home. This has wreaked havoc on all of our day-to-day routines. Our employment routine has changed. Work is different, now. Leisure is different. Family events are different. Everything familiar has been upended. When all that you know is topsy-turvy, fear becomes our default setting. The unpredictability and lack of answers tend to make fear the lens through which we process our daily reality. Fear becomes the scaffolding upon which we construct our plans for the future. Ultimately, chaos is what we fear.

Order is the antidote to chaos. Structured routines and behavioral patterns create the foundation of order. Find some way, small as it may be, to plug a routine in to your life. This routine needs to be something that helps you feel happy and productive. This sounds obvious, but is tough in our current Covid-climate. If you know me or have been a reader of Killer J for any amount of time, you probably know I like lifting weights and love submission grappling/jiu jitsu. Well, as you know, everything is shut down. Two of the things that bring passion and enjoyment to my life are now more difficult to accomplish. If not for my belief in the value of establishing a routine, it’d be easy for me to rationalize my inability to train jiujitsu with my friends as “non essential” and just wait until this blows over. I’d be miserable within a week.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to establish a routine in spite of these barriers. This routine has been made possible with a little bit of ingenuity on my end, and a whole lot of generosity coming my way from friends, family, and complete strangers. My good friend Arlo owns a gym (Competitive Edge Fitness), and he let me borrow mats and a Kettlebell. My parents contributed further by letting me scavenge some of their home gym, which provided me an Olympic bar, a flat bench, and roughly 200 lbs. in weight. Legendary jiujitsu coach, John Danaher, rounded things out for me. In response to this Covid 19 pandemic, he released a free, four volume video on solo jiujitsu drills for all of us rendered unable to train together. My wife and I now have the ability to keep with our routine of going to the gym, and even better, she’s actually started to get on the mat with me and learn jiujitsu!

Although we live in uncertain times, routine provides us solace, normalcy, and fun. Our future success depends on it.

Katchie pushing my vehicle while rocking flip flops! Savage.

Treadmills: Proof of Intelligent Design

hamsterI’ve heard human beings described as Pleasure Monkeys; primitive, reward-seeking primates that will gladly climb a tree IF there is promise of bananas a few branches up. We, like all animals, seek pleasure and avoid pain.  The way we speak, with whom we associate, what we do, where we work, what we wear; all of it can be viewed through the evolutionary lens of putting in effort to achieve a reward.  The banana in the tree.

I really like weight lifting.  It improves my strength, and the aesthetics my efforts produce seem to be appreciated by my wife.  Putting myself through the grinder of a hard work out is well worth it. However, there are other components to lifting weights that are important to me.

Suppose a sadist of the worst kind devises a highly effective, resistance training contraption that allows the user to perceive what pulling hundreds of pounds off the floor might feel like, as well as all the accompanying performance gains.   The downside to this contraption is all of the benefit would occur without the glorious payoff of  moving the actual weight that was previously unattainable.

There is something beautiful about achieving a personal record.  Loading the bar with weight, and then hitting a clean repetition with that weight for the first time is a payoff! Hearing the metallic clang of the plates as they settle against one another during each repetition is a reward. Feeling the knurling on the bar dig in to my chalked hands, and watching the bar bow gently under the tension I  generate are bananas in the tree for which this pleasure monkey will climb.

Why, then, do treadmills exist? Where the hell is the banana?  If I hop on the treadmill for thirty minutes and jog at a ten minute pace, I have gone exactly nowhere.  Did I run three miles?  I guess so.  I didn’t feel any breeze, though. I didn’t catch the scent of blooming flowers on the side of the road, either.  Just the cloud of Axe Body Spray the guy next to me doused himself with.  I don’t get to see the ever changing, beautiful, Utah landscape.  Just the gaggle of women standing in a crowd four feet from me yammering on about when to switch from breast milk to formula.

Obviously I’m missing something, as treadmills are clearly popular, but who are you people?  …and, why?  So, in short, evolutionary theory holds that maladaptive behaviors will be selected out of the gene pool, and yet, treadmills abound.   Darwin was wrong, guys.  There is a God, and he wants us to do cardio.



Challenge Yourself

We all have plenty of things to stress about.   Adding an additional, challenging thing to your life is probably not at the top of your list of things to do.  After a full day of nonsense, you probably want to plop down on the couch and call it a night.  There is some value in chilling out after a grind of a day, but when your “relaxation time” is continually spent being unproductive, it’s all too easy to fall in to a muted existence.  Many people enter a depressing pattern of going to work, paying bills, taking care of family issues, and then possibly disengaging their mind through the distraction television, movies, and social media provide before falling asleep only to do it all over again.  Boredom become the norm.


(not my image)

If you can relate to this, then pull yourself out of the doldrums by doing something hard!  Our minds are wired to make us feel great when we engage in a difficult task, struggle through it, and then achieve some sense of success.   Climb a mountain.  Pick up a foreign language. Learn effective ways to choke people.  Do something!


My Barbell Journey

Emmitt Smith was the ball carrier at the time for the Dallas Cowboys, and my eighth grade self was damn well certain I was going to step in to the future Hall of Famer’s cleats one day. I was naive, but I knew enough to realize I needed to add some muscle to my marshmallow frame. I signed up for Ogden High School’s “Middle School Strength and Conditioning Program.”

A kid named Eddie and I set out on foot for the high school after the final bell rang. My Barbell Journey began. Honestly, I was intimidated. There I was, a pudgy eighth grader and absolute weight room novice, off to go work out at high school!
Ogden High

Once Eddie and I got there, a Muscle & Fitness-looking guy approached us and introduced himself as, “Coach Trimble.” Coach Trimble was a friendly dude that absolutely overestimated my capacity for exercise. He started me out on the bench press. After struggling through three sets of an embarrassing four repetitions with the forty-five pound bar, I quickly realized I was in over my head. Forty-five pound bench press??? I didn’t know what a “man card” was, but I certainly would have turned it in if I had one in my possession.

After the bench press debacle, Coach Trimble proceeded to take me through three sets of leg press, leg extension, leg curl, lunges, lat pull down, shoulder press, dumbbell press, incline press, dumbbell fly, curls, overhead extensions, and squats. Three sets of every one of those exercises, on Day 1.

The only thing more exhausted than my feeble body was my thirteen year old mind. I was bombarded with lifting tips: “Head up, feet shoulder width, one more rep, chest up, squeeze this muscle, one more rep, squeeze that muscle, butt out, drive with hips, one more rep, arch your back, feet planted, one more rep, head down, hands here, hands there, one more rep, pull, push, one more rep, do this, one more rep, don’t do that…”

Thank God my dad was there to pick me up afterwards. Pops scooped me off the sidewalk just outside the weight room, and wedged me in the passenger seat of his Cherokee. I greedily inhaled the Subway sandwich he’d brought me, and relayed my experience to him.

Was I hooked? Did the lifting bug bite me right then and there? Did I immediately fall in love with the iron?

Absolutely not.

The next day, after the DOMS kicked in, I was even more adamant. To hell with weight lifting, I couldn’t even feed myself! In order to wash my back in the shower, I had to put the sponge against the wall and back in to it like a grizzly bear with itchy shoulders. Ridiculous.

I defiantly and boldly exclaimed to both of my parents some famous last words:

“Weight lifting is stupid. I’m never doing that again!”
hex bar

The Captain of Gym Jerks

I’ve written about Gym Jerks before. I’ve written about the locker room before. Today, I met the Captain of Gym Jerks.

I lost about five minutes of my scheduled workout after walking in to the locker room today. During those five minutes, I became so transfixed by the horrific sight before me, that all I could do was watch in hypnotized agony. Here is my best recollection of what I remember seeing:

An overweight Hispanic man, approximately 50-60 years old standing naked on the wooden bench. Below this man, a dozen crumpled, moist paper towels littered the carpet. Eyes closed, this man was gently swaying to the music piped in to the bathroom speakers while feverishly scrubbing folds, crevices, and other unmentionables with the remaining paper towels in his hand. After thoroughly exhausting the drying capacity of one paper towel, he’d cast it to the floor with charismatic flair. He’d then unfold another paper towel, and start his unhygienic hygiene practice once again, swaying gently to the beat of Lady Gaga’s “Applause.”

There I stood, like one of those cobras, helplessly enchanted by the flute of an Indian man. Eventually, my brain caught up to what was happening. I was like:
Jackie Chan

Then I got the hell out and hit the weights. Captain Gym Jerk, you win today, sir.

Ridiculous Supplement Advertisements

Supplement advertising is growing more ridiculous and hyperbolic than ever before. Supplement labels now look like they were designed by a think-tank of Mountain Dew swilling 12 year olds that just got done watching The Expendables. I typically buy my supplements in bulk, so I order every three months or so. Each time I go to reorder, I become increasingly more confused as I peruse the labels of the latest stuff out there. Do I put this stuff in a shaker and drink it like usual, or am I supposed to pour this shit in my gas tank? Maybe feed it to a terrorist?

I started taking supplements when I was about 14, and they looked like this:
supplement twin labs

Times have changed. This is the type of crap we are now subjected to.

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In order to get strong, I need to infuse my body with Sasquatch DNA by way of a plastic explosive laden thermo-nuclear pump agent. WTF? I want to get a little stronger, not a first hand account of Chernobyl!