Only the Darkness Can Filter Through.

I was 29 years old and hanging out with the then girlfriend. We were at her house in the middle of the afternoon. She didn’t have any lights on. Her windows were open. The shades were up. Light from outside was coming into the room. She said she doesn’t usually have lights on in her room. She said preferred it that way.

Many times when I go to a friend’s house I’ll see that their front door is open, and maybe there’s only a screen door closed. If the door happens to be closed, it may not be locked and I’m encouraged to just go inside.

Those things confuse me. They always have.

No, it doesn’t make sense to you. It probably won’t. It shouldn’t.
It barely makes sense to me. But, let me explain.

My house always has the doors closed and locked. The windows are rarely open. The curtains are always down. This is what I’ve known for the majority of my life. It’s how my parents did things in the house. If I lift a curtain, it gets pulled back down. It’s what I was programmed to know as normal.

My life has literally and figuratively been locked away in seclusion and darkness.

Breaking my programming is not easy. Some of the sources of the programming are no longer around, but what they taught me still exists. Changing my normal to something else isn’t something I’ve found easy to do.

But, this isn’t just about doors being locked or windows being down, it’s a lot deeper than that. It’s about the people, places, and things in my life that have made me depend on darkness for comfort.

I’ve been in the shadows cast my more outgoing friends and family members. I’ve been the one that was noticed or picked last. My accomplishments only get attention when I point them out. There’s always been that dark cloud over my head.

I can’t flat out tell you that I don’t enjoy being miserable. I know that I enjoy being comfortable. Miserable is comfortable for me. Happiness confuses me. Yet, I enjoy happiness. I enjoy the feelings that I get when I’m happy. However, when I’m happy, I’m sure things are going to fall apart. Why don’t I assume that things will get better when I’m at my more miserable points?

Again, I’ll say that I’m sure this doesn’t make sense to some of you. I’m almost envious of that. Although, if you’re happy all the time, I’m confused by you. I’ve often wondered what type of delusional world that eternally happy people live in. Does it really exist? How are they oblivious to what I see and deal with? Or am I oblivious to what they see and deal with?

I don’t have the answers to the questions I’m asking here. You probably don’t either.

How can someone change 42 years worth of programming when so many situations that have caused that programming remain the same? How can I change what may not be able to be changed? If I can’t change some things, can I work around them?

I’ve written 10 entries this year. Some of them offered hope. They offered prospects of renewal in my life. They offered new chances. There’s a lot of good things happening for me right now. There really are. I’m very much aware of that and I have enough perspective to know that things are going (mostly) well for me. And yes, I did have to throw in that little hint of doubt. It’s because I’m constantly expecting everything to fall apart around me. The balance I’ve been seeking in my life seems to be there already. I see it as lots of little good things being canceled out by bad things.

Do I focus too much on the negative? Do I imagine the negative? What if things really are going great for me right now and I don’t know it? What if things aren’t going to fall apart?

Here’s some irony for you. My anxiety levels just spiked as I was typing that last paragraph. Yes, as I was discussing the possibility that my life might be going well, I got anxious about it. I think that sums up this entry very well.

Now that I’ve taken a few minutes to gather my thoughts as I wrap up this entry, I realize that what I said earlier is very true. I don’t have answers for my questions. I think I just have to keep going on this journey. Yes, my journey may be through darkness, but maybe one day there will be a window of opportunity and some light will filter through.

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Can We Begin at the End to Save Some Time?

It’s probably a good thing that I look at things from my past differently than I did while experiencing them. Maybe it’s a “hindsight is 20/20 thing.” Maybe it’s a case of me being tired of making the same mistake over and over again. Maybe it’s me seeing the same mistakes that I’ve made being made by others and that helps me recognize it. Whatever the reason is, it’s good to stop a behavior or pattern that is not beneficial to me. I’m not going to get into anything truly specific here, but if you know me well and you know where I’ve been for the past few years, some of you may be able to figure out some of what I’m talking about.

I’ve had a few relationships during the last few years. For various reasons, none of them have worked out. In some cases, I tried my best to get them back. Again, for various reasons, none of them worked out. No matter what I did, no matter how much I tried, no matter what I said, they never worked. Despite warnings from my own instincts, warnings from friends, warnings from the exs’ friends (yes, that’s plural), I kept trying. Sometimes one of the exs would tell me everything I ever wanted them to say to me. I would go back. It wouldn’t work. Nothing was solved. That pattern of behavior kept going and going and going. Until I absolutely could not go through it any more.

I don’t totally believe that the exs that came back and told me things could be different had any malicious intentions with me. I now believe things couldn’t have ever worked. In many cases, people break up because they just shouldn’t be together. There’s many reasons for a split in a relationship. I’ve had bad breakups and I’ve had some really amicable ones.

Sometimes two good people are just not good together. That happens. There could be a very good chemistry between them, or so it seems. But, maybe there’s a toxicity in the chemistry that dooms everything from the start. It may not immediately bubble up to the surface, but once it does, there’s usually no turning back.

There’s also people that are just toxic in general. They bring down the people around them. They leave the people they claim to love in shambles. They ruin lives. They may not mean to. But, it happens. Some of those people have significant mental and emotional issues of their own that need to be addressed. It’s unfortunate that they often don’t address them and continue to hurt the people they claim to care so much about.

Being the advocate for mental health awareness that I am, I am all for giving people multiple chances. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do. Unfortunately, some people cannot break bad behavioral patterns.

I’ve made plenty of mistake in my relationships. I’ll make plenty more mistakes. And even with everything I’ve just said about toxic relationships and bad behaviors, I have a hard time saying that giving people multiple chances was necessarily wrong of me to do. I’ve seen people get a lot more damaged by failed relationships than I’ve been go back to the person that they were hurt by. I’ve been on both sides of the equation. I get it. I understand it. It’s not always easy.

The head and the heart are not always in agreement with each other. Heartbreak after heartbreak can happen and the brain may tell you not to go back, but that won’t always stop you. But, I can also tell you that it’s a bit empowering when you finally put your foot down and say “enough.” Until that happens, if the cycle keeps going, expect more heartbreak.

As I’ve said, I’ve been on various sides of this one. I’ve been the one pursuing an ex. I’ve been the one that starts something with someone only to have an ex show up and promise the world, end the new thing to go back to the ex and have it collapse all over again, if it even really started to take off at all, which it rarely ever did. I’ve also been the one that was left behind for an ex that keeps promising the world. I can’t get angry with anyone for doing it to me, I’ve done it. That doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it wrong, it just means I understand when (and why) it happened.

I do look back at my own personal history a lot. I try my best to learn from it. It may take me a while, but I usually do learn from it. I try my best to not repeat the mistakes. But, sometimes it does happen. I don’t know if it’s fortunate or unfortunate that I sometimes learn from my mistakes when I see them being made by people I care about. But, It’s good that I’ve learned.

Sometimes, in the cases of these doomed from the start, doomed from the re-start, and doomed from re-re-start relationships, there is no new beginning. There’s just time being spent until it ends again. That next ending may be emotionally worse than the first time. Something has to change. Actions must be taken that match (or surpass) the promises of better things. It’s been my experience that they rarely are.

There’s no winning. There’s no relief. There’s just sense of loss, regret, and heartbreak. It just keeps going. It’s an absolute zero. There’s no winning an absolute zero.

It’s Always Darkest Right Before the Dawn.

Sometimes my blog entries have a darker and very pessimistic tone to them. The one I wrote at the end of June of this year definitely had that. In that post (and others I’ve written), I was feeling like I was stuck. There was no chance of any improvements in my life. I had a job that didn’t pay enough, didn’t offer me affordable health coverage, was 30 miles from my house, and I was 100% paycheck to paycheck. My social life seemed to be stuck as well. I was feeling that everything I had worked for a few years ago was gone. There wasn’t much hope left.

One month later I wrote an entry that talked vaguely about possible changes in the near future. I said there was something on the horizon that could (and should) make my financial situation better. I was optimistic, but cautious. It seemed too good to be true. It seemed too long of a time to wait. I had some doubts that it would come to fruition. But, it happened.

Just a few weeks ago I started a new job. It’s SIGNIFICANTLY closer to my house and just a lot better for me, for many reasons.

For the past few years, I’ve felt burdened by basically anything I had to do. Driving an hour to and from work is exhausting. My 8 hour work shift took up at least 10 hours of my time. The stress of getting to and from work was draining me of all of my energy. I didn’t mind the job itself, but it wasn’t healthy for me.

Household chores were beyond just chores for me. They took significant emotional effort from me to get them done.

I couldn’t read books. I tried. I had no energy to concentrate on them. My days off were spent doing things that didn’t require a long attention span. While doing these things that didn’t require a lot of concentration, I would get upset that books I’ve started weren’t being read.

There seemed like there was no escape for me. That was what my life had become and I had to accept it. I had to deal with it. No matter how miserably depressing of an existence it was.

In just a few weeks at the new job, I’ve noticed a significant difference in my days. I’m getting more rest. I’m more relaxed. I’m working out more. I’m getting things done. I’m not necessarily more energetic, but I think that’s mental. I don’t think my mind has adjusted to the changes.

I still haven’t experienced all of the benefits the job has to offer. But, I am experiencing the one that may be most important. My quality of life seems better. Just a few weeks in. I cannot stress that enough. This is a good thing for me.

I have done some form of workout every day this week. Sometimes twice per day. I haven’t done that consistently in years.

Waking up doesn’t seem as difficult as it did a few weeks ago. Although, I did quickly learn the minimal amount of time needed to do whatever I have to do in the morning before work and I’ve utilized that knowledge a bit. But, even knowing that, I’m still a lot less stressed.

For the first time in a very long time, I have concepts for things I want to do in the future. I haven’t been able to have any real forward thoughts for a very long time.

While I’m actually optimistic about things at the moment, there’s still that little voice in my head telling me that this is too good to last. I’m doing my best to ignore that voice and any and every instinct that tells me not to enjoy this.

Yeah, that entry I wrote in June was dark. And I’ve always been a firm believer (based on evidence) that things usually get a lot worse before they get better. Well, things did get worse for me. Time and time again. Maybe this is my dawn. Maybe this is when things start to get better. When I’m at my lowest points, I take life day by day. I mentioned that I’m thinking of things for my future, but I’m still going to take life day by day and enjoy the ride, for as long as I can.

All You Know-It-Alls With Politic Views.

Thomas Jefferson famously said “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” I do my best to abide by that philosophy. It’s become more and more difficult in today’s political climate.

I have friends that have vastly different political views than I have. I could very easily lash out at them online when I see them post something that I vehemently disagree with. I could call them out on spreading falsehoods. I could hide their posts so I don’t see them. I could even just disassociate myself from them. But, I don’t want to do that. I like dissent. I think Thomas Jefferson would agree that this country was basically founded on dissent.

If you know anything about Jefferson’s political life, you know that he was no saint when it comes to taking shots political opponents. He and John Adams pretty much wrote the book on dirty campaigns when they ran against each other for President in 1800. But, they ended up being very close friends again during the last years of their lives.

Our current environment doesn’t seem to lend itself to such civility. Even though all sides seem to agree on certain things that definitely happened, they can’t agree on how it impacted things, the fact that it’s still and issue, or who’s to blame for it. Yes, I’m being vague. But, does that even matter? There’s so many issues this could apply to.

Just last week, Senator John McCain died. A lot has been said about him. There’s been a lot of praise of him from his friends, colleagues in Congress, newscasters, and from me. I did not agree with much of Senator McCain’s politics, but I respected him. I believe he served his country with dignity and class during some tough times.

During the 2000 Presidential Election, he made it very clear that his opponent Barack Obama would be a good choice for President, but he felt he could do a better job. That’s why he was running against him. He made it clear that Obama was a good man, but the two had differences of policies and views. That’s what the entire election was about to him, and to be honest, that’s what it should always be. It doesn’t need to be name calling, tarnishing of reputations, or smear campaigns. It should be “I want to do things this way, my opponent wants to do things that way. Which do you prefer?”

I could go on a mini rant of my own and point fingers at whom and what I believe started us down this path. I don’t think it’s any one person, place, or thing. It’s a culmination of things. Where we are now and who we see acting out isn’t the cause, but the effect. I’m just hoping we can turn things around.

I want to be able to vote for a candidate because I think he or she is the best person for the job. I don’t want to vote for someone because I know that he or she is less awful than the opponent. I want a candidate to tell me specifically what they will do for me. I don’t want them to tell me how bad the opposition is. I want to be able to discuss the differences of opinion with someone and not immediately get angry.

I don’t know if we can get back to a civil society. Each side has their own set of facts. Even though that’s not at all possible. People believe what they believe, no matter if it’s true or not. I try to read things from all perspectives to gain insight so I have a better concept of what is true or not. I don’t just go on hearsay.

Building on that, and if I may (once again) quote a Founding Father, John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

But, this isn’t so much about facts as it is about discourse and conversation. Yes, facts play a part in that, especially now. I’ve had many political discussions with people I don’t agree with. Some of them are close friends. We’re still close friends. But, those are ones that don’t deal with the rhetoric and name calling that I see online all the time. I have theories as to why we got to that point, but that would be extend this entry to a very long one that I don’t have the patience to write, and you don’t have the patience to read. Maybe one day I’ll get into that history lesson.

What I’m trying to say here is that I think we need to make a concentrated effort to get past the anger and hostility. We need to stop believing things that simply are not true. We need to accept what things are wrong and not do the “yeah, well (insert name here) did that too.” We need to stop the blame game and see truths.

Unfortunately, I think we may have gone too far in the wrong direction already. I hope I’m wrong.

This is Another Chance or So I’m Told…

What a difference a month makes.

The last entry I wrote had a darker tone and prompted a few people to ask me questions about my well being. For the record, there was nothing to worry about, but I’m grateful for the concern.

The last thing I said in that entry was “I can’t go back to where I’ve been.”  For the most part, that is true. There’s a lot of things in my life that I can’t return to. There’s situations and scenarios that shouldn’t be returned to. There’s things that should be left where they were in the past.

However, there’s also things that can be returned to and it looks like they might be. I’m going to be intentionally vague here. The only thing I will say is that it’s possible that I could be returning to a situation that I really enjoyed being in. We’ll see how it plays out.

At the beginning of the month, I was lamenting my employment and financial status. Those haven’t gotten any better, yet.
There’s something on the horizon that could (and should) make both of those a lot better for me. I just have to stay put for a little while longer and wait for things to fall into place there. Again, I’m intentionally being vague.

I’ve often written about how happiness and good things going on for me confuse me. And based on that, I’ve had a very confusing few weeks. Since my last entry, a lot of good things have happened. I’ve had some very good times. I am A LOT less stressed than I was just one month ago.

Another thing I’ve written about a few times recently is how I’ve had trouble talking about specific details of events or scenarios from my life. I’m having trouble with this entry too. I’m not even talking about the vagueness that I’ve already mentioned. I’m just having a hard time writing about things that aren’t generally miserable. I guess that’s a good thing. As I was starting this paragraph, a quote from one of my favorite actors, Simon Pegg, came to my mind:

“We are never more creative than when we are at odds with the world and there is nothing so artistically destructive as comfort. Princess Leia taught me that.”

I like that quote because I understand it and because of the Carrie Fisher reference. I’ve documented how much of a hero she was (and still is) to me. But, as for that quote, it’s very true. I’m never too complimentary of most of my writing, but I’ve always felt my best work happens when I’m most miserable. And today, when I’m a relatively calm and good mood, I’m having a very difficult time writing about myself. Is that good?

Another reason I have a difficult time writing about good things is that I’m sure everything is going to collapse around me. I’m sure all the good stuff will go away. Do I think that because it’s happened too many times? Do I think that because it’s just the way I’m programmed to think? To be honest, it’s very confusing to me. But, right now, I don’t want to think about it. I want to ride this out. I’m enjoying the wave of good times, good news, and a possible good future.

I know this entry is short, but it’s like I’ve said, I don’t have much to complain about right now. I’m in good place, well…
maybe I should say, I’m still where I was, but things are looking better.

Just a few months ago I wrote a blog entry talking about how bad of a time I was having and how I had a string of a few good things. My mood had changed a bit. The last thing I wrote in that entry was “Depression isn’t just a phase for me. It’s much bigger than that. Smiling may be a phase, but it’s a phase that I’m hoping to extend.”

The past month has really been a good for me. I hope that one day soon I’ll be able to go in detail about the things that have happened, the things that have been talked about as happening in the future, and how the way things happening now are making me smile a lot more than I had been in a very long time. So, let me paraphrase myself to close this entry. “Smiling may be a phase, but you’re damn right I’m going to extend that phase for as long as I can.”

My Prospects Have Become Less Promising.

Just two years ago I was dreading my 40th birthday. I had a lot of questions about my future. I was working for a company that was going out of business. And while I was technically a full-time employee with health benefits, I was only working around 32 hours per week. That was also the lowest paying job that I’ve had since the 1990s. I was also working a part time job on the side to earn more money. When the full-time job went away, I got a 2nd part time job to keep myself going. While my employment situation was iffy, my social life was looking pretty good. There was definitely an upswing there.

Now, I’m just a few days away from my 42nd birthday. I’ve just passed 1.5 years at a full-time job that pays me the most I’ve been paid since 2001. That job doesn’t offer cheap healthcare coverage. I have to drive over 30 miles to get there. I haven’t had a raise and I don’t see one happening in the near future. I made choices about my jobs that looked to be the right ones. I’m in the exact same, if not a worse place, than I was when my situation appeared to be less stable. And oh yeah, my social life isn’t looking nearly as good as it was two years ago.

After the initial dread of my 40th birthday wore off, I was really optimistic about things. I had a lot of good things happening. But, it’s now two years later and a lot of curve balls have been thrown at me by life. How many more can I foul off before I strike out?

How can I really be optimistic when I see no hope for me? The economic system is set up to hold me down, not lift me (or society) up. I certainly can’t thrive in this environment. I can barely survive. As I said, I have a full-time job. I don’t have the time for a 2nd job. Trust me, I would probably get one if I could. I’ve been looking at employment opportunities elsewhere. I’ve looked at entry level positions that are closer to my house that offer comparable pay to what I’m getting now. I’ve noticed that a lot of entry level jobs require a lot of employment experience. At least that’s what their descriptions say. I think the people writing them don’t understand the term “entry level.”

I’m not going to use this entire entry to go over my employment/financial issues. Trust me, I could go on for days about them. They’re definitely a big source of my anxiety and worries. My social life is as well. It’s amazing to me that I can say that I truly have more friends than I’ve ever had, and yet I feel lonelier than I have in a very long time. That’s what chronic depression will do for ya.

As I mentioned in last month’s entry, I often write these out and then delete entire paragraphs. What you’re reading now is many re-writes. I had originally written something MUCH darker. I discussed something about a big fear I have about being 42. I went into (vague) detail about what it means for the rest of my life. My heart rate rose as I typed it and the thought of publishing it was too much for me. I know, I know. I can’t just leave it out there like that, but I have to. It’s something I not really capable of publicly talking about. To be honest, it’s more of a superstition about a family history thing that I’m almost sure will impact me as well.

I’ve written about how I was bullied as a kid. I’ve talked about other things from my past that had negative impact on me. I’ve gone into that a lot. Is it weird that I still look back somewhat fondly on the days of my past just because they seemed simpler? The struggles of adulthood are very overwhelming. It’s even more overwhelming when you’re sure that you’ve accomplished very little, are years behind where you think you should be, have no money to your name, and are having thoughts about mortality.

Yes, that last sentence was a reference to the thing I said I don’t want to talk about.

Everyone has a breaking point. I often wonder why I haven’t reached mine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I haven’t. But, how much can one struggle before he (or she) gets there? 42 years old. Never moved out. Single. Paycheck to paycheck. No help and no hope in sight. I’m not really putting a lot of optimistic shine in this entry, am I?

Again, let me assure you that if you think this is not nearly as dark as the original versions of this entry. Maybe one day I’ll be able to really get into some of the darker thoughts and concepts in my head. I’m just not able to now.

I don’t know how long my story will last. I know that there’s a lot of unfinished chapters. There’s chapters that I wish could be erased or modified. There’s also chapters yet to be written. I don’t know how those unfinished and unwritten chapters will play out. I don’t know how much control I’ll have in them. I don’t know how long they’ll be or how many remain.

I do know that I’m tired of starting over. I feel like I’m constantly starting over. I’m just not going anywhere. There’s beginnings and endings. The middle part seems very stagnant.

I also know that I’m going to be very disappointed at many points of my life. Let me put a positive spin on that. I’m going to be disappointed because I care. I’m going to be disappointed because I keep trying. I’m going to be disappointed because I keep doing things. They’re not all going to work out. Things that I think may be going well, may not end up good. But, I’m still going. I’m still fighting. I’m still here. My current prospects may not be so promising, but I can’t go back to where I’ve been.

All You Live, All You Give. All You Live Fits In a Teardrop.

Just a few years ago I was officially diagnosed with Dysthymia, which is sometimes defined as “a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms.”

I no longer suffer from it. Well, actually I still do. But, the name of the condition has been officially changed to Persistent Depressive Disorder. With the new name, it’s a bit easier to understand. It’s very self descriptive now.

Why do I suffer from this? Is it genetic? Is it due to things that happened to me as a kid? Is it from my parents? If it is from my parents, again, I ask if it’s genetic?
Is it due to being bullied as a kid? Is it due to bad relationships? Did I allow myself to be bullied because I was verbally put down so much at home that I didn’t know I could stand up for myself? Was I in bad relationships because my parents didn’t set an example of one that was good? Maybe I was in bad relationships because it was all I knew? Is all of this my own fault?

I don’t have the answers to ANY of those questions, other than maybe the last one. I KNOW that not everything that I deal with is my fault. I know that there’s situations that I couldn’t avoid. I always feel that my quest for the answers is a source of more anxiety and depression for me. I don’t like when things don’t make sense. Much of my life doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand a lot of things about it. In fact, there are some things that I completely understand and they’re even bigger sources of depression.

Very often I feel like I’m a prisoner of my own life. And it’s a life sentence. There doesn’t seem to be a out of the bad situations. I keep trying different things and they all produce the same results. This is something that I will definitely dig deeper into in a future entry.

Happiness confuses me. I think I’m comfortable in my misery. I know that’s not a good thing, or is it? Can comfort be bad? There’s a difference between comfort and complacency. I think I’m more comfortable than complacent. I think…

I was about to say that I could easily tell stories about my parents and their impact on my mental health, but I really can’t. This entry originally had specific things in it that I’ve deleted. I guess there’s specific things I don’t want to talk about on here. Although, sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m afraid that some people’s visions of my parents may change. I really don’t know. I keep wanting to delete this entire paragraph.

This entry is one that is giving me a bit of anxiety. Then again, most of my entries do. Part of my condition is a fear of expression. That’s something I definitely got from my parents. Not only did they not express themselves in a positive or constructive way, more often than not, they didn’t say anything at all until it all blew up. I want to delete this paragraph too.

I’m noticing a trend and I’m not just talking about my “breaking the 4th wall” in this entry. I’m noticing that I’m hitting a wall. It’s a big one. I need to find a way to chip away at it.

From September of 2010 until the end of June, 2012 I was seeing a psychologist once a week. I felt it helped me a bit, although now I realize that I really never scratched the surface of what my issues really were. I was just focused on what I was going through at that time. Although, I do know that it’s all related.

Part of the inspiration for this particular post is a documentary I watched last week. That documentary is called “Bipolar Rock N’ Roller” and it deals with one man’s struggle with mental illness. I became familiar with it because the subject of the film is Mauro Ranallo, and he’s currently a commentator for WWE, among other sports.
This is not the first time that something I’ve seen related to WWE has inspired me to write a blog entry about my own battles with mental illness. A few years ago, I watched a reality series that WWE produced and one of the stars of that show came out during one of the episodes. Even though his sexuality well known before that, the simple fact that he said it publicly impacted me. I saw a weight lifted off of him. It motivated me to write more about how depression burdens me and to share more details in this forum. Sometimes my sources of inspiration are not what many of you would consider conventional.

How does my story have anything to do with a Professional Wrestling commentator’s issue with Bipolar Disorder? It doesn’t. But, watching Mauro Ranallo so openly tell his story inspired me to get a bit deeper into mine. One day soon I hope to really get into details, because I don’t see a professional about my issue anymore. This is therapy for me. This is what I do for myself to get my story out. This is me unpacking my baggage, one blog entry at a time.