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“You Know,” And Why I Sometimes Say It in Interviews


Smart is a person who does not read social media comments. Alas, I am not too smart, it seems. I have given numerous interviews over the past two years. You can watch one or more of them here. Lots of people comment on these videos. Many of the comments are complimentary. Others are personal attacks. On occasion, viewers will complain about me hesitating too often or saying “You know.” They suggest I am either a terrible speaker or that my interviews are unwatchable.

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Do I pause too often or say “you know” too much? Yep, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I am sixty-seven years old. I have osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, degenerative spine diseases, gastroparesis, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency — all incurable and debilitating. Last Friday, I had yet another MRI, this time on my lower back. Currently, I am in so much pain in my neck and spine that I am unable to walk longer than short distances (“short” meaning walking from the living room to the bathroom). I suspect that my latest MRI will show more disc and spine damage. I live every day with excruciating pain, so much so that there are days I want to kill myself. I don’t have pain-free days; only bad days, less bad days, and fucking I-want-to-stab-myself-in-the-head-with-an-ice-pick days. Before judging and condemning me, I wish people would walk in my shoes or at the very least consider what a challenge it is to live with pain from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. I am not whining or complaining. I have accepted that this is the way it is for me; that this is my new normal. I went to granddaughter number two’s graduation on Sunday. Two days before, I had my MRI in Auburn, Indiana, and then we drove to Attica Raceway Park to watch 410 sprints, 305 sprints, and late models dirt track race. I knew that doing these things would extract a heavy price from me. At the graduation, someone said she was surprised I was there. Polly laughed and said, “He wouldn’t miss this for the world.” And I wouldn’t, even if I had to crawl up the steps to the stands. If that were the last thing I did in life, so be it.

Chronic, unrelenting pain has affected every aspect of my life. And I mean EVERY. Thus, when it comes to giving interviews, I don’t, all of a sudden, become pain-free. Typically, when I sit for an interview, I take extra narcotic pain meds and muscle relaxers. I don’t take cannabis because it negatively affects my thinking abilities. I only take cannabis after I am done writing for the day.

When I talk during an interview, pain affects my ability to speak. So, I often pause or say “you know” to manage my pain. I am well aware that my interviews would be better without this glitch, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Most viewers don’t have a problem with this. Those who do might be better served if they don’t listen to my interviews. I am doing all I can do to give thoughtful, engaging interviews. That hundreds of thousands of people have listened to them suggests that they resonate with people — speech impediments and all.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    Bruce, Bruce!! You’re using some form of the Devil’s Lettuce! Is it working for you? It’s been so awesome for the asthma, opening up my bronchial tubes better than many prescription drugs.

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    When I saw pictures of you at your granddaughter’s graduation I thought you looked very healthy. So at least you LOOK good.

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    Bruce Iim unsure how much or if edible cannabis affects my thinking but it is not as disruptive as morphine which I took for a couple years. During two years I took morphine I watched many movies and several years later, the movies are so thoroughly forgotten I can watch them again. I used to wonder how people re-watched movies and now I know. My memory (previously) was such that I remembered movies in granular detail so re-watching was impossible. I’m reasonably certain cannabis is not nearly as destructive to memory as Morphine. You commented your Docs got cranky about scripping pain meds. I had the same experience. Fortunately my peripheral neuropathy ordeal abated about that time. I never craved morphine and got by with an aspirin so I could get to sleep. Trouble with aspirin was/is it thins my blood so much I bruise and bleed all over the house very easily. While cannabis does affect memory bit, there’s no bruising/bleeding problem and no worry about occult internal bleeding. My only complaint is inconsistent quality and strength of edibles. I’ve thrown away a couple batches that kept me jittery all night which is the opposite of why I use it. Yes a bad trip is possible even with gummies. That of course is thanks to the fact of it’s demonization so that little research was done. Hopefully the science will mature and quality will stabilize. When pot is good it’s very very good and when it’s bad it’s awful.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      I’ve been on pain meds since the late 90s. Started with Darvocet, and then Tramadol. In 2005, I started taking Hydrocodone. The dosage and frequency has changed over the past 20 years. For years, I took both Hydrocodone and Tramadol. That seemed to work best. And then came the war on opiates. My doctor took away the Tramadol and stopped the benzodiazepine I was on for sleep. So much for doing no harm.

      I have done well with cannabis, with few problems. I have had strange effects twice. Scary effects. Normally, it provides nominal pain relief, helps with nausea, and helps me sleep.

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    Barbara L. Jackson

    I don’t have the pain you do. However I have carpal tunnel in both wrists and trigger finger in both thumbs from working in IT for 30 years. Now my elbows and ankles and feet are getting unhappy. I will have my right hip replaced in July 2024. We had a zoom meeting with a nurse who was smart enough to get it going using everyone’s emails when Kaiser’s data system refused to do it because of a Microsoft upgrade. (I must mention people’s good results as well as their bad results). However the attitude of the medical profession to pain is you just have to suffer thru it. We will not give you strong enough pain medication. You will not sleep well for months but you must get up and walk several times a day no matter how much it hurts or you will not get better.

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      Barbara I hope you find some pain relief. I have carpal tunnel off and on and it’s nasty. I’ve read it can be a symptom of other seeming un-related problems so I’d study up. Try edible cannabis if it’s legal where you are. I’ve used it for a couple years and there’s been no serious downside to it. No intoxication with moderate dosing and worst case being some products gave me more jitters than pain relief. Ineffective products are rare. The Docs got paranoid about pain meds very suddenly, from freely prescribing to refusing altogether. I see the same thing happening with reproductive care where abortions are restricted. Docs seem more concerned with their own careers than with patient’s suffering or health. Sad but true. This is what we get when politicians interfere in the practice of medicine. Doctors are not perfect at it but politicians are the worst.

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    I dint see how you’re able to do all you do considering all the pain you have. You must have serious will to get through it all.

    This is another lesson about judging people without knowing the facts. You’re using pauses and filler words to cope with pain, and ignorant people are criticizing you for it. Not nice.

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