Leaving All This to Be Undone.

People not having faith in me, and a result me not having faith in myself has been a recurring theme in my life. When you’re constantly told that you can’t achieve something, it’s very difficult to achieve anything except the low expectations set for you. And when you’ve been convinced by friends, co-workers, teachers, parents, and others that you’re not going to succeed, it’s very difficult to prove them wrong.

I’ve had that scenario for so much of my life. But, lately something has changed. I don’t know where it started, but people have been encouraging me. They’ve told me that I’m worth something. They’ve told me that I deserve good things. They’ve told me that I CAN achieve more. And more importantly than people telling me that is that I’m starting to believe it.

Even though I’ve been writing about the changes in my life lately and how good things are going, it’s still so new me that I don’t know how to process it. It’s weird. I know things are different. They feel different. I feel different. Things are good. I don’t know if it’s the standard doubts that I always have, but there’s something there that’s saying “this isn’t right.”

The voice in my head saying “this isn’t right” is probably just confused since my normal has always been set to “meh.” And that “meh” is a large grouping of things: Expectations, mood, results, etc.

The best way for me to try to understand all of this right now is to go back to thinking about how surreal some aspects of my life have been over the past. Someone once told me that some of the things that I’ve said are surreal will stop being surreal and will just be very normal. I don’t know if I want that to happen. I like them being surreal to me because I think it helps magnify my appreciation for them. And right now, I’m using that same way of thinking/feeling to process the change

Over the next few months, a few more really good things may be happening for me. I say “may be” because final say in how good things get for me is out of my control. I can do what I need to for it, and I’m in the process of doing that. But, it’s not up to me what happens after that. And before you ask if I could be more vague, yes, I could be.

What I’m about to say is not my usual bit of doubt/self destruction, it’s me (thinking that I’m) being accurate about things. I need to find more motivation for other things. As much as I’m enjoying all of my progress, there’s more that I need to do. And that means that I need to curtail my willingness to quit and give in. It also means that I may need to force myself to get out of bed earlier. And I do mean “force myself.” It seems that no matter how much sleep I get, I cannot wake up and start my day without effort.

As I’m also searching for balance in my life, I sometimes wonder if my inability to achieve the things that I used to be able to achieve is now the balance for being to achieve other things. I’m also doing my best not to think about that too much, because if I do, I may immediately start that downhill path that my mind can so easily go on. The balancing act of my brain is pretty much a tight rope over a canyon.

And while I am getting the praise from some places, I’m not getting it from others. I don’t seek praise. I want it to be voluntary. I don’t like bragging about my accomplishments. But, then again, it’s probably because I’ve been conditioned not to believe that anyone would care. As you can see, there’s a lot going on inside and the scales of balance easily tilt towards the doubt and negative thoughts.

I’ve stopped myself a few times in this entry to regroup my thoughts to stay as upbeat as possible. I’ve also stopped myself because my attention span sucks and there were shiny things to look at elsewhere. But, anyway…
I do want to keep this from going to the darker thoughts, so I’ll end the entry now and say that I am genuinely optimistic about what should be happening soon. I’m finally on my way to better things.*

* = I really wanted to add some sarcastic thing there to imply doubt. But would it really be sarcastic? See! This is what I’ve been talking about…

Hold the Whole World in Our Hand and Greet the Dawn With Open Arms.

For so long, I’ve floundered. For so long, I’ve been sure that I won’t succeed. For so long, I’ve been sure that I can’t succeed. For so long, I wasn’t encouraged. For so long, I was put down. For song, I believed them.

It appears to be a different time, and I still believe them. But, the difference is, they’re telling me that I can. They’re telling me that I’m doing well. They’re telling me that I’m worth it.

And the difference is astronomical.

I’ve lived in a “World of Can’t” for so long. I was told about all of the things that I can’t do. I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I can’t apply for this, I can’t apply for that. I can’t achieve this, I can’t achieve that. It didn’t matter if that the thing that I was asking for was permission to do something or if I was asking if I was capable of achieving something. Constantly being told that I can’t made me sure that I can’t, and won’t.

Over the past few months, there’s been a change. Negative forces, while still present, aren’t the loudest voices in my head (even if they’re quite loud). The voices that encourage me to do more, the voices that praise me, the voices that offer me help and guidance, are the ones that I hear the loudest.

The change in my demeanor is very noticeable. I’m energetic (after coffee). I’m not as cynical as I was about myself. I don’t see myself as having the dead end life that I was programmed to believe that I was going to have. That dead end may be opening up. A conditional use variance was granted to it and I may be able to get around it. I may actually be on the path to success.

That last sentence would have been a great way to end this entry, but I want to keep going with these thoughts and get a little deeper into this.

I don’t know if my lack of esteem is a nature or nurture thing. It’s probably a combination of both, so let’s go with that. If, by nature, I was predetermined to half a lack of esteem and confidence, the lack of encouragement that I received from friends, family, teachers, employers, and other authority figures in my life just further nurtured my sense of blah. This is why it’s taken me so long to not be 100% sure that any and all good things that happen to me will be shortly followed by something horrible. That type of thought is so ingrained in my head that if/when something bad happens to me, even if I continue to ride this high that I’ve been on for a while, part of my brain will still have the “it was bound to happen” thought to attempt to deal with it.

If things play out for me as I think they’re going to over the next few months, I’ll be in a better position to do things than I’ve been in before. I am fully aware that a lot of me getting to this point is due to a lot of effort on my part, but I didn’t do it alone. There’s been a lot of people, circumstances, and situations that have played a part in this. From friends and co-workers encouraging me, from me asking for help with various topics ranging from weight loss, physical pain, and mental health concerns, and job related things. All of it’s coming together. I needed the strength to get to where I am right now, but I don’t think I would have done it if certain people didn’t tell me that I could.

I’m going to fall along the way. I’ve done it recently. But, I wasn’t belittled, insulted, discouraged, or reprimanded. I was encouraged. I was basically told “it happens, you’re doing so well. Keep going.” Hearing those words is amazing for me. I’m not used to it. It’s genuinely nice to hear. It’s even nicer since I believe them. I’m in a good place. That place is likely to be better soon. It’s a feeling that I’m not used to. I’m also not used to not being concerned about it. It’s been a long road. I’m finally arriving.

I Have Waited a Long Time and Dragged Myself a Long Way.

In last month’s entry, I discussed the self-destruct mechanism in my head. It’s usually pretty prevalent. It often pops up when things are going well. It also often shows up when things are going poorly. It’s easy for me to not finish something and feel a moment of relief, since going through with whatever I had stopped doing would cause anxiety. However, all of those unfinished things create different anxieties for me, often leading me directly into a depressive spell when they pile up.

It’s also very easy for me to be in the self-destruct/give up mode when I don’t see a scenario getting any better. And when I’m in that mindset, my desire to do things is severely diminished. When my desire to do things is diminished, I’ll leave so much unfinished that I get more anxious and go further down the depression slide.

It’s sometimes difficult to snap out of that mood. It’s even more difficult to sustain a good mood when I’ve recently been that far down. None of this is new to me. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember, even though nobody, not even myself, saw the patterns.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen some improvements. I’ve developed some habits that (I believe) are healthy for me. I’ve made a lot of steps in a positive direction.

And yet, even as I hear from people about the positive things in my life, I’ve had a hard time believing them. I’ve been down for so long that it’s never been possible to be too optimistic about things to come.

However, recently, things have started to change.

In many of the recent posts when I’ve talked about how good things are going, there was always a black cloud over my head. It’s dissipated a bit. There’s some rays of sunshine there now, but hopefully not too much since I burn so easily in sunlight, but I digress.

The biggest source of stress and anxiety in my life has usually been my finances, or lack of. That’s been less of a burden over the past few years, but there’s often been the fear that something will happen that will to cause me to NEED to spend a lot of money. And while that fear is still there, there’s also now a sense of relief since there’s things in the works for me with my job that should see my situation improve.

The potential of the financial improvements have really helped me clear out some other worries and help keep me on a mostly positive path lately. Money isn’t the only thing that’s been good for me though.

Late last year I decided that I just needed to be healthier. Not just physically or financially, but mentally too. I’ve taken steps to improve all of those needs. I can also say that I’ve made progress. From the middle of October until now, I’ve lost 20 pounds. I’m sort of stuck at my current weight, but since I’ve also started regularly exercising again, I expect that I can make more progress there. I’ve also signed up for two 5k races that will be happening in a few months, so I have time to prepare for them. I’ve enjoyed my workouts, my weight loss, and the progress. But, there’s more than that.

The enjoyment isn’t just due to finishing something, it’s also from starting it. Over the past few years, my desire to workout wasn’t there. I don’t know if it was to not having anything to strive for, a lack of interest, or just being in depression that I didn’t even realize that I was in, but I’m not there now. I enjoy the effort that I’m putting into it.

I also recently removed some unnecessary items from my life and by doing so, I felt another sense of accomplishment. And this one was so very simple. I had a desktop computer that had barely functioned for a while. Even after I bought a nice new laptop for myself, I kept using the desktop for some stuff, regardless of how annoying and frustrating that old machine became. The desk in my room had its space taken up by the monitor, keyboard, and other related items. I didn’t use the desk for anything. By removing the computer and being able to utilize the space on the desk, I felt accomplished. Yes, something that simple made such a difference for me.

In addition to the minor changes that I just described, I’ve replaced other items throughout the house. And the small changes make things seem more practical for me. Simple things can make a big difference.

Another source of non-stressful energy is the phone call that I received from my doctor a week or so ago. I just had my annual physical and any items that were a concern last year were not a concern this year. It made me see that all of the efforts to be healthier have paid off.

I’ve been sleeping somewhat better recently. Although, I still often wake up in the middle of the night. The time that I wake up is pretty consistent and would be very convenient if I still worked early morning retail hours, but I don’t, so it isn’t. However, whether I wake up early or not, the most difficult thing that I do every day seems to be getting out of bed. I’ve been forcing myself to get up at sometime between my first alarm and when I NEED TO. I’ve been getting some stuff done in the morning too, and even if I’m a little bit tired during the day, I have the sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t had for a while.

I like that feeling of accomplishment. It’s so much better than the literal and figurative piles of things that I’ve put off. The weight of my burdens has been lessened and I feel inspired to keep going.

There’s more potential good things for me soon. And the combination of progress, effort, hope, and the ability to put those things together has me not just thinking that things are going in a good direction, but I’m actually believing that things are going in a good direction. There’s a difference between thinking something and believing something. Right now, at this very moment, and for the first time in a very long time, I believe that good things are happening. It’s a nice feeling.

And I’m not going to end this entry doubting myself…

No, that doesn’t count as doubt.

Tossed Into My Mind, Stirring the Calm.

As good as things are for me right now, I’m always concerned about things falling apart. I’ve said that many times in these entries. I question good things. I question why I don’t feel awful. I question why I’m doing well. I’m so used to chaos, misery, sadness, anxiety, angst, etc, that I’m almost calm when things are bad. Various lyrics from bands like Nirvana, Garbage, and Katatonia just popped into my head as I was writing that last sentence. I will offer another Marvel Comics-like No-Prize if you can figure out which lyrics. But, don’t worry about that now. Keep reading.

The first month of 2023 is over. It’s been a good month. I’m (mostly) in a good place. I’m doing pretty well with my weight loss. I’m doing well at my job, and there’s so much happening there. My social life is good. And yet, there’s a feeling of dread. What’s causing it? Is it my aforementioned doubt of good things? Is it fear of change? What’s the issue? Seriously, I’m asking you. I don’t know.

My car is old. If it were an American citizen, it’s legally been allowed to buy alcohol for a few years. I don’t know how much more life is left there. My mechanic, who I’ve been with for a few years and has taken very good care of the car recently made a comment which makes me know the time is numbered. So, based on that, I went car browsing recently. I made it very clear to the dealer that I was NOT there to buy. But, I was there to price some stuff. Just the fact that I couldn’t afford ANYTHING monthly did trigger a mild downward spiral for me. That is the one thing that I can isolate as being a factor recently.

When that slight bit of discouragement happened, my mind went into a self-destructive mode. I started stress eating. I bought a few more things that I probably didn’t need. Based on one setback, my mind’s instinct was to destroy all of the progress that I had made with my weight and my finances. Those two things have been some of my biggest stress causing areas for a while. And I’ve made positive changes in both of them. But, a voice in my head told me to blow it all up.

This type of thing isn’t new to me. I can very clearly remember being told about the first new television that I was going to get as a gift. I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but the hand-me-down TV that I had was either broken or had some issue with it. I was told that for a birthday I would be getting a new one. I emphatically told my parents not to get me a TV because I did not deserve one. Self doubt, misery, sadness. It’s always been there.

I am capable of being proud of myself. I am also very capable of being ashamed of myself. More often than not, my mind has me closer to the shame side of things, even if I haven’t done anything to warrant it. It’s just where is goes. The pride/shame mid-way point is not where my mind goes to. The balance isn’t centered. It’s not even one or extreme or the other, it’s just more a of 30% off to the side of the shame direction for a while and then 30% on the proud side, but for a lesser time. There isn’t that content middle point.

When my mind starts going to the darker areas, my attention span also suffers. I can’t distract myself with a book or a movie. I don’t have the ability to do much. I’m fully capable of going through most of the motions. I’ll go to work and do my job effectively and accurately, but without a sense of being there as I’m doing it.

As I was typing that last paragraph, I thought of two somewhat recent things that happened. In both of those situations, I drove to an event and met some friends there. And in both of those times, I dealt with really bad traffic. While I did get to my destinations and (basically) on time, my ability to really enjoy the events was not there. I should have had a much better time and been in the moment, but something that stressed me out had prevented it, even if the direct cause of the stress was no longer an issue. On the bright side, I’m aware of this. It’s something that I can work on. I think this is more easily controlled than other things that I’ve talked about here.

I am pretty sure that I thought about more scenarios from my life, I could keep this entry going for a very long time. But since I’m tired and don’t want to ramble on and on and on and on and on and on and on (see what I did?), I’m going to start wrapping this up. I’ve always believed that being aware of issues and wanting to fix them is the first thing that anyone need on a road to recovery. I don’t want to be complacent. I don’t like the self-destructive nature of my mind. Just saying that pushed me closer to the self-destruction because that’s on the shame side of things. I hope that my awareness of these things will eventually start to transition to progress in changing them, and then I can think about how I used to be self-destructive and my mind will go to the proud side of things, because I’ve made it happen.

Reflective Summary Froze Me in a Frame.

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” I can look back at 2022 and say that, for the most part, I am definitely better off than I was one year ago. 2022 was not perfect. It had its ups and downs, but as long as whatever remaining time in 2022 doesn’t throw me a major curve ball, I can say that 2022 was really a good year for me.

One of the very first things that I talked about in my 2021 recap was how I had managed to still avoid having COVID-19 at all. That streak didn’t last long into 2022. By the end of January, I ended up getting sick with it. It wasn’t bad for me at all. And due to the fact that I (most likely) had a sinus infection at the same time, I think it’s very possible that I wouldn’t have even known that I had COVID-19 if it wasn’t for that sinus infection. But, as I attempt to look at the bright side of things, not only was my experience with the illness not bad, but I got 10 days off from work. And they were seriously some of the most relaxing days that I’ve had in years.

With the world returning to somewhat “normal” behaviors in 2022, I was able to compete in one 5k race. I knew going into it that having one of my best times was not likely to happen. It had been 3 years since my previous race, I was a bit heavier, and just out of practice. Nothing that I said in the previous sentence was meant to be an excuse, the statements were just facts. I probably could have put more effort in, but I didn’t. And I ended up finishing with my slowest time ever. However, the important part isn’t the “slowest time ever” part, it’s the “finishing” part. I finished the race and I’m thrilled to have competed in it.

So, I just said that I was a bit heavier than I had been. That was then, this is now. I’m currently the lightest that I’ve been in a long time. That doesn’t mean that I’m close to the lightest that I’ve been. I’m just lighter than I’ve been for a while. I still have a lot of work to do there.

And building from that is my workout routine. I don’t have one at the moment. I’ve barely done any type of workout since the 5k race a few months ago. I fully intend to recommit myself to that in the new year. My goal is to compete in as many of the local 5k races as I can, and in order to get the most of them that I possibly can, I need to be in shape for them. That will require me putting in a lot of work and if I stick to a plan, I should be able to do it. But, since I mention this ever year, DDPY (formerly called DDP Yoga) is the plan that I’ll be returning to. And unlike in 2021, when I was able to pull it off one time, I did not successfully complete a Black Crow pose.

Every single year that I’ve enrolled in a book reading challenge, I’ve failed to meet my goal. I’ve been doing this for a few years. My goal has always been to read 12 books in the year. It’s always seemed simple enough for me. One book per month. But, I’ve never been able to do it. And in 2022, I did not read 12 books. I read 13. I’m very happy with that. I COULD easily point out that many of the books that I completed were pretty short, but I did not make any rules about the length of the books. It was just how many that I could read from beginning to end within the calendar year. I’m going to keep the same goal for 2023 and I hope to match or surpass it.

Nothing stresses me out more easily or frequently than my financial situation. And for various reasons, my bank account isn’t nearly as high as I would like it to be. But, for the first time in a very long time, there looks to be potential for something to change there. A few things need to fall into place, and that includes me making some things happen, but if all goes as I’m hoping, when I do my 2023 recap, I should have good stuff to say here.

My social life was pretty good in 2022. If I gauge it only on if I have more friends than I started the year off with, then it was definitely a success. As is the case with basically all aspects of life, my social life had some ups and downs. But, when looking back, I really have no regrets. There’s nothing that I would change about my socializing during the year.

One of the things that I’ve said many times during 2022 (and even a bit before) is how surreal some aspects of my life had become. I’m not going to name names, but those that know the names know the names. There’s a few bands that I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve gone from being a fan of their music and their shows, to knowing people that know them, to knowing them personally. That has morphed into being called up on stage to do backing vocals a few times (including at the legendary Stone Pony) to being invited to do backing vocals on an upcoming album. I also got to appear in a music video for another band. A friend once told me that this surrealness would wear off and I told him that don’t ever want it to, because it helps me appreciate just how amazing the entire thing is. And while having some drinks with one of the members of a band a few months ago, I was talking about how surreal all of this is for me, he said “you made this happen. You talk to people and you made this happen.” After hearing something similar from another friend a little while ealier, it was that moment when it finally clicked for me. While I’m not still a bit of an introvert, I’m also out there doing things. It’s sort of a contradiction, but it’s worked out for me in ways that I would never have imagined and’s pretty awesome.

And that brings to me something that another friend recently said to me. I told him what I’ve said recently about my life and how “there’s never been a better time to be me.” He looked at me and said “there’s where you’re wrong. There’s never been a bad time to be you.” That was a “WOW” moment for me. The only bad thing about my friend’s statement is that I really like my own phrase and want to keep using it, even if I think it’s lessened by his great affirmation.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2023 to be better than my 2022. It’s simple, it’s to the point, it’s achievable. But, I think it’ll require a bit more effort than I put forth in 2022. I think the biggest motivation for me to put forth all of the necessary effort is that I’m pretty sure that I’m at the point (or beyond it, depending on your perspective of “norm”) where I have no choice. I need do to more to achieve more. When I look back one year from now, I hope to have good things to say about that.

So, to summarize this entry which has taken me way too long to write, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” I think the answer is defintely yes. I have my anxieties, frustrations, and other issues, but I really do feel like I’m in a good place. And like I just said, I hope that I’ll have similar things, if not better things to say at the end of next year.

2022 Album of the Year

1 – Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor
2 – Absent in Body – Plague God
3 – Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation
4 – Lacuna Coil – Comalies XX
5 – Bloodbath – Survival of the Sickest
6 – Strigoi – Viscera
7 – League of Distortion – League of Distortion
8 – Chat Pile – God’s Country
9 – Muse – Will of the People
10 – Clutch – Sunrise on Slaughter Beach

2022 produced A LOT of good albums. In the 19 years that I’ve been coming up with these lists, this was possibly the most difficult one that I’ve done. But, for someone that enjoys new music as much as I do, that’s a good problem to have.

I had never heard of Zeal & Ardor until this year. They’ve been around for just under 10 years and they were recommended to me by a friend due to their unique blending of genres. Their Wikipedia profiles describes them as “avant-garde, black metal, and neo-soul.” That alone was enough to get me interested. Then I started looking on YouTube for videos and I could not stop listening. I got a copy of their latest album and again, I could not stop listening. They have such a unique sound that (as I’ve said) combines so many genres into one cohesive musical vision. Being that I like more some more extreme metal, blues, and soul music, this is the band that I never knew that I needed to hear. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live in Brooklyn a few months ago and it was an incredible experience.

Some of the songs that got me hooked on this album and band include “Run,” “Death to the Holy,” “Golden Liar,” “Feed the Machine,” “Church Burns,” and “Götterdämmerung.”

If it wasn’t for Zeal & Ardor, Absent in Body’s debut album, Plague God, would easily be my number one album this year. I know that sounds like an almost silly thing to say, but it’s true. This album is THAT good. And just like last year’s Album of the Year, Amenra’s De Doorn, I became aware of Absent in Body because of All Elite Wrestling’s Malakai Black. He uses a song from De Doorn as his entrance theme for this singles matches and he uses a “Rise from Ruins” from Plague God for one of the teams he’s in. Absent in Body is actually sort of a “sludge metal” supergroup that has members of Amerna, Sepultura, and Neurosis. I would list what tracks stand out more than others, but there’s only five songs on the album, and they’re all pretty good.

Porcupine Tree broke up in 2011. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet, was my Album of the Year. They had others ranked high in my lists. Their last album before their split, 2009’s The Incident, was not good. In the time since their split, their front man/main song writer, Steven Wilson went on to do some really good stuff with his solo band and some others. I was not sure what to expect from the Porcupine Tree reunion, but Closure/Continuation, was excellent. I was able to see all of the songs on the album and a lot more of my favorite songs from them at Radio City Music Hall in September and it was such a great show. Not only did I get to hear some of their “classics,” but hearing the new songs live really made me like them more. If you were a fan of Porcupine Tree from their original run and didn’t listen to Closure/Continuation, I highly recommend that you give it a listen.

“Harridan,” “Of the New Day,” and “Herd Cullling” are the songs that I consider to be my favorites on this album.

I put a lot of thought into whether or not Lacuna Coil’s Comalies XX was even eligible to be considered for this list. For many years, I’ve had an established set of rules that include “the album must be new material (for the band or artist).” Comalies XX is Lacuna Coil paying tribute to the 20th anniversary of their 2002 album, Comalies. They didn’t just re-master it or re-mix it, they re-imagined it. While the melodies are very close to the original and the lyrics are the same, that’s where the similarities end. They re-wrote every song and played them in a style that more accurately reflects their current sound. And after hearing a few songs from Comalies XX, I joked that some of them were the versions of the songs that I’ve always wanted to hear. But, even after that, I still wasn’t sure about if I could include it in my list. I was lucky enough to see Lacuna Coil a few times in September and was able to discuss the album with members of the band and they told me about the effort that they put into making this version of Comalies different from the original. They succeeded.

The track listing is the same as the original so it starts off with “Swamped.” The new version of the song is (in my opinion) the most similar to the original than any of the others, which is probably a good way to ease the transition for any skeptical fan. The next song, “Heaven’s a Lie” goes in directions that I wouldn’t have expected, but I’m glad it did. Hearing Andrea Ferro do the growling vocals that he’s enjoyed doing over the last few years really added to that for me. I’m not going to go song by song on this, as it would take up so much time, but in addition to the ones I’ve already listed, the other new versions that really stood out to me include “Daylight Dancer,” “The Ghost Woman and the Hunter,” and especially “Unspoken” (where Ferro growls vocals orginally done cleanly by Cristina Scabbia, who sounds great on this album too).

Bloodbath makes another appearance in my Top 10 Albums of the Year list with Survival of the Sickest. I believe this album is easily the best one that the Death Metal Supergroup has done with Paradise Lost’s “Old Nick” Holmes as their vocalist and the best one from the band since 2004’s Nightmares Made Flesh. It’s just a good Death Metal album. And if you’re a fan of Paradise Lost, Katatonia, and/or Opeth, you should be aware of Bloodbath.

The opening track of “Zombie Inferno” is one of the better songs on the album, and the video for it is perfect for the song. I also recommend checking out “Malignant Maggot Therapy,” “Affliction of Extinction,” and my personal favorite song from the album “No God Before Me.”

Continuing with albums that feature members of Paradise Lost, the 6th Best Album of 2022 is Strigoi’s Viscera. Strigoi was founded in 2018 by Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh. Instead of just playing guitar, like he does on Paradise Lost albums, Mackintosh is the vocalist for Strigoi, and like Bloodbath, this album is just a good Death Metal album. And like I said about Bloodbath, if you’re a fan of the bands I mentioned earlier, you should check this one out.

Some of my favorites from Viscera include “King of All Terror,” “A Begotten Son,” and “Byzantine Terror.”

Like Zeal & Ardor, Absent in Body, and Strigoi, League of Distortion are also making their first appearance on my list with their debut self-titled album. YouTube suggested to them to me and YouTube did well. Not only did YouTube introduce me to League of Distortion, but it also made me aware of it’s lead singer Anna Brunner’s other work, which I hope will make this list at some point. But in the meantime, League of Distortion’s sound reminds me a bit of Butcher Babies, Snake River Conspiracy, and Drain STH.

“Wolf of Lamb,” “It Hurts so Good,” and “I’m a Bitch” are my favorite songs from this album.

The final band making their first appearance in my Top 10 is Chat Pile. They’ve been around for a few years, have released a few things, but their first full-length album, God’s Country, is my 8th Best Album of 2022. I was not aware of Chat Pile until a just before I finalized my list. They were recommended to me and I listened to some songs and I was immediately in need of more from them. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this album reminds me of early Clutch, some IDLES, with late 1980s era Mike Patton style vocals. I listened to the entire album and knew it was one of the best of the year. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in the years to come.

The opening track “Slaughterhouse,” “Why?,” “Wicked Puppet Dance,” and “I Don’t Care if I Burn” stand out a lot.

Muse is the most well known band on my list. I’ve enjoyed all of their releases, and this one is no exception. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Muse a few times. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to on this tour. I would have liked to have heard some of the new songs in person.

The title track, “Compliance,” “You Make Me Feel Like it’s Halloween,” and the last track on the album with the “f word” used a few times in the title stand out as some of the better ones.

Preview in new tab

While Clutch’s Sunrise on Slaughter Beach is obviously good enough to be ranked as the 10th Best Album of 2022, it still wasn’t close to their best work. I don’t want to really make it seem like I’m disappointed by it, but it didn’t draw me in as much other other releases of theirs. If you’re a fan of Clutch, as I certainly am, this album is worth listening to, and at only 33 minutes and 10 seconds, it’s a very quick listen. Maybe I just expected more.

Regardless of what I just said, the songs “Slaughter Beach,” “Nosferatu Madre,” and “Mercy Brown” do stand out a lot.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2022. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):

– Amorphis – Halo – This album really didn’t do much for me. I’m hoping that after the last few really good albums from them, that this is just a mis-step.
– Dead Cross – II – This is a good album that barely missed the Top 10.
– Downset – Maintain – This is easily the best thing that Downset has done since 1996 and could have made the list if the Top 10 wasn’t so stacked.
– Florence & the Machine – Dance Fever – Another album from a band that I like that didn’t really do anything for me.
– IV and the Strange Band – Southern Circus – IV is the 4th Generation of Hank Williamses to be in the music industry. This was a solid debut and I look forward to hearing more from him.
– The Gathering – Beautiful Distortion – I wanted to like this, but I’ve never been able to get into the Gathering since Anneke Van Giersbergen left in 2007.
– Ghost – Impera – This was a good album that also could have made my Top 10. It has the least progression of any Ghost album from the previous, but that’s probably intentional since they didn’t change the character of the singer this time.
– The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost – It took a bunch of ex-In Flames members to reunite and do a good In Flames record.
– Patriarchs in Black – Patriarchs in Black – This was a solid “stoner rock” album.
– The Pineapple Thief – Give it Back – Their 2020 album Versions of the Truth was ranked as the 4th Best Album of the Year. This one didn’t come close to being as good as that.
– Slipknot – The End, So Far – It just didn’t do anything for me.
– Tedeschi Trucks Band – I am the Moon (volumes I – IV) – The Tedeschi Trucks Band released four albums in the year, and while they’re good, I think they may have been better off releasing just one with maybe two of them combined. And then maybe do it again next year. There was just too much in 2022 and not much stood out as a result.
– Those Poor Bastards – God Awful – I REALLY want this group to have an Album of the Year. God Awful, while A LOT better than the name would allude to, wasn’t their best work. It does have some good songs though.

I know 2023 will have a new album from Katatonia. Will they receive their 3rd Album of the Year from me? I also know of the debut album from Host, which is Nick and Gregor from Paradise Lost returning to the sound of their underappreciated album of the same. Other than that, I don’t know what else 2023 will bring as far as new music goes. But, I do know that I’ll enjoy listening to some stuff along the way.

A note about eligibility for my 2022 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2022.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

The Healing Through Years. So Obscured By the Tears and the Strain.

I’m doing well. I’m doing well. I’m doing well.

The reason that I repeated that just now is that I’ve found myself needing to remind myself lately. There’s just so much good going on with me. I’ve been a part of so many amazing moments over the past year. I’ve increased my social circle a bit over the past few months. I’ve had a lot of fun doing a lot of things. I’ve started taking steps to be healthier (physically and emotionally). There’s just so much good happening.

And yet, there’s also that lingering doubt in my mind. The doubt that creeps in when things are going well. The doubt that tells me that the good stuff isn’t going to last. The doubt that tells me that I don’t deserve to enjoy myself. The doubt that continues to make sure that I can’t fully enjoy any moment. It’s always there, even in small doses, but it’s always there.

There’s a lot of how I’ve been programmed to think, feel, and behave in various situations that I’m trying to work on. I need to re-program a lot of the wiring in my head. The reason that I have any hope at all at being successful with that is that some of the praise that’s been heaped on me by various friends has made me think more about what they’re saying instead of my usual instinctual dismissal of it.

So often, I’ve found myself justifying my relationships with the very people that I was hanging out with. I’ve often wondered “why am I here?” I’ve thought that I’m unworthy of being associated with some people. My mind has told me that I’m in over my head. But, a few times recently, that thought process was challenged by something that said to me or a situation where I felt completely welcome. That type of feeling isn’t something that I’m particularly used to, but I kind of like it.

I’ve always known that my interests aren’t usually the most popular things. And, for the most part, that’s never bothered me. I like what I like. It hasn’t always been easy to find other people who have similar likes and interests. I think that’s why I’m someone that has really thrived on social media. I’ve always managed to find groups of people to discuss stuff with. And this isn’t new for me either, I was doing it on America Online in the mid 90s. And from doing that then, there’s people that have been friends of mine ever since.

My obscure interests also have a downside. They’re definitely part of the reason that I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’ve been shunned a lot. But, to be honest, there’s LOTS of reasons for the shunning and the outcast thing that aren’t related to my interests. A LOT of it has to do with the amount of times that I wasn’t allowed to do anything based on parental restrictions. And this is where I start to clam up and become unwilling/unable to get into details. If/when I’m able to say more there, I will.

One of the things that I’ve told people lately is that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” And while I really do mean that when I say it, the doubting voice in my head has had me thinking about it. I’ll start to think “Really? What’s so great about now?” “How is now any different?” “You still haven’t changed anything.”
Those thoughts are there. I don’t know if I have a definitive answer, but I just know that something is different. Earlier in this entry, I said that I believe the praise of friends instead of immediately rejecting it. That alone is a HUGE difference for me.

Another word that I’ve used a lot to describe my life is “surreal.” Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around how great certain experiences have been. For a while, one of my friends has pretty much insisted that I should have a podcast or write a book at some of my experiences. I really don’t know if my stories of celebrity encounters have enough details for either of those mediums, but I’ve also recently found a forum where I can drop an anecdote about some encounter I’ve had and get a pretty good response. But, I digress…

The point about the “surrealness” of my life is that while I’m thoroughly enjoying so much of it, I’m also fully expecting it to come crashing down at any moment. I think that because I’m programmed to think it. I’m programmed to think it because of reasons that I’m not even sure of. Is it the influence of my parents and their lack of encouragement? Is it because kids in school were downright cruel to me? Do I doubt that I belong in social settings because I was shunned? Do I prefer to be by myself because it’s a defense mechanism that I built up due to being left out or do I just prefer it?

I don’t know the answers to the questions that I’ve asked. The more I think about those answers, the more my anxiety builds up. If my anxiety builds up, the doubts in my head are magnified. It’s a vicious cycle. I may know the answers one day. I’ve seen some gradual changes. The answers will come to me, just probably when I stop looking.

Shrouded in Autumn’s Graven Ascension.

Bad days happen. Everybody has them. And recently, I had a few. There wasn’t anything big that bothered me, but a various things were getting to me over the course of a few days. It set me down a path of withdrawal from people, and some of them noticed it.

I’ve often said lately that I’m “in a good place.” And I really still am. My social life is good. My job is good. I’m healthy (as far as I know). I’ve told people that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” And yet, without warning, I was going down a mental health spiral. And that’s the thing about depression. It’s not a phase. It’s not being sad. It’s always there and can flare up at any time.

I’m not completely sure about what started my downturn. As I said, it was various things. I’ve had a lot on my mind. Some were good, some were not so good. My default way to process things is to focus on the not so good. Maybe I was doing that. I’m not always aware of it. Focusing on good stuff does take effort from me.

In a recent entry, I posted about being feeling alone even when in crowds. I was pretty sure that I would feel that way again over this past weekend. There were a few events that I was going to be at and quite frankly, I didn’t really feel like doing them. I didn’t think they would be good for me. But, they ended up being the exact opposite. I could chalk it up to lowered expectations, but I’ve had the “I don’t want to be here” feeling many times before and didn’t walk away glad that I was there.

I’m currently in a form of a weight loss program. Although, that’s a simplification of it. It’s more of program designed to coach my eating. I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks, and I’m very enthusiastic about the lessons that I’ve already learned from it. And the reason that I’m mentioning in this particular entry is that it’s been teaching me to modify how I do things. It’s about re-training my thinking. And I’ve been trying to do that in various aspects of my life.

I’ve said that my default is set to miserable. How did it get there? That’s a loaded question that I don’t know if I can easily answer. But, can I reset my default? Can I train myself to not automatically default to miserable? I’ve been very carefree over the past few years. I’ve been much more mentally healthy, or so I think. But, I’ve always wondered if it was real of if I was faking it. You see, that’s my default. I doubt my happiness. I doubt whether I deserve happiness. I question why people are happy. I don’t trust happiness.

I am aware that no situation is perfect. I know that I cannot control every aspect of my day. But, can I control how I think about things? Can I control how I process things? Can I control how I react? That’s something that I’m working on. It takes effort. Change is good. Progress is good. Change and progress are also scary. They can also cause me anxiety. Was my recent setback caused by anxiety over a change in eating habits? I’m going to try to not think about that too much right now, since going through that thought process may result in a spike in anxiety. Yes, that’s how it works for me.

Here’s what I do now about me right now. I am going through the process of changing things in my life. And it’s deliberate. It’s not just a concept. I’m trying to make improvements. Even with my little setback last week, I still feel that I’m in a good place. I never fully went to a dark mental place last week. I was very far from it. I was just slightly distant and slightly irritable. It took a few people to say a few things to me and I snapped out of it. I’m always afraid that I’ll snap right back into it, hence my discussion of default. But, my awareness of things may be what stops it from happening.

I always end the year with a recap entry about how my year went. There’s two months left in this year. I’m still on a good path. I know that I can do more to (attempt to) make sure that I stay on that path. I’m working on it. And I’m as optimistic as my miserable default lets me be.

Inside My Head, Smokescreen’s Gone.

Emotions are a weird thing. It’s simultaneously possible to be fully enjoying yourself and dreading the situation that you’re in. I’ve written about this before, but it happened to me again recently. I was surrounded by people that I know. But, while fully enjoying that, I was also isolated. I’ve been thinking about that since it happened.

As weird as it may sound to some people, very often I’m at my most comfortable when I’m by myself. I’ve been very careful to not say that I’m “alone.” I very rarely feel alone or lonely. Being by myself and being alone are two completely different things, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve found a lot of outlets over the years. I’ve explained this in my entries. For over 25 years, I’ve been on social media sites and have been connecting with people that have similar interests. Those interests range from Professional Wrestling, old TV/movie references, music, and more. I have “real life” friends that I can go to discuss some of my interests, but if I don’t know which of them I can talk to, I have online forums where I can go. Social media can be destructive for some people. But, it’s really been an outlet for me. I really do believe that people that I interact with on those sites are what keep me from being “alone.”

I’m sure that if I gave it a lot of thought, I could pinpoint various situations from my childhood that helped create these feelings. But, I don’t know if I have the ability to do that right now. Detail like that would need a lot of time and effort.

The thing that I need to stress the most to anyone that reads this, and especially to any friend that has seen me recently, it’s very possible that you’ve been with me while I’ve been in one of these moods. I assure you that if I told you that it was good to see you that I meant it. I also assure you that if I said that I was having a good time, I really was. But, I also couldn’t wait to leave. That is more about me than it is about anything or anybody else.

I’ve been telling people lately that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” There isn’t sarcasm in that statement. It’s 100% true. But, it doesn’t mean that anything that anything else in this entry is invalid. It just means that I believe that I have a a pretty good concept of perspective of my current situation. I know where I am and I know where I’ve been. Where I am now is a lot better than where I’ve been.

I don’t know if I would be able to be in such a good place if I didn’t have my means of escape. My escapes are all of what I mentioned earlier, podcasts, movies, tv, concerts, and other events. And yet, sometimes while I’m attending those events, I want them to end so I can leave. And I may be fully enjoying myself while I’m there. I know there’s some mental/emotional contradictions there, but it seems so very normal to me.

If you read this and you start thinking that something’s wrong or that I’m not in a good place, don’t worry. I really am in a good place. But sometimes, I just don’t feel comfortable where I am, even if the most comforting of settings. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, it just means that sometimes I’m very much in my own head. And maybe that’s the best place for me.

As I’m Walking I’m Breathless, I’d Welcome Clarity.

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s OK, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – the Doctor

Why did I start off this entry with a quote from an (allegedly) fictional character? That’s really simple, because when I was thinking about this entry, that quote came to me. I interpret that quote from the Doctor as a way of saying that you need to change. You need to grow. You need to evolve. Specifically, you need your views on life to evolve.

Way too often I see people criticizing modern kids for spending too much time playing videos games, looking at their phones, and not doing more “manly” things such as sports. What I think people fail to realize is that they’re doing things that are right for them. They’re also doing things that some of us didn’t have the capability of doing. While I did have video games to play at my house when I was a teenager, I didn’t have the capability of playing with people all over the world. I was THRILLED when more than two people could play when multi-player games were available.
We didn’t have cell phones when I was a kid. And when cell phones were first available to me, there were barely any features. Heck, the first one that I had didn’t even have a clock on it.

People my age and older that would go outside and do play in their yards did that stuff because we didn’t have as many ways to entertain ourselves as kids do now. Our grandparents didn’t sit aorund and watch television when they were kids, because that wasn’t even a concept yet.

I remember back in the late 1990s when Pokemon cards first became really popular. I did not understand what the big deal about them was. And to be honest, I still don’t. But, to some people, they mean a lot. Their value isn’t necessarily monetary, it’s personal.

I don’t care about cars, football, or motorcycles. That doesn’t diminish me in any way. It just means that I have different interests. Just like the kids that collected Pokemon cards. Their interests were different.

I started this off with a quote and I’m going to use another one that I like, this one is from the late, great Bill Hicks. He said “All your beliefs, they’re just that. They’re nothing. They’re how you were taught and raised. That doesn’t make ’em real.”
I think that quote shows the point that your ideas can and should evolve.

When we were children, there were a lot of fairy tales that we were told. We were told about the existence of various fictional characters. We were told some of those characters would bring us gifts, give us money, or deliver candy in the middle of the night. Ignoring the fact that some of those things seem pretty creepy when you think about it, but there’s also a time when we stop believing the existence of those characters.

My point about brining up the belief of those characters and things that we’re told is to emphasize part of what Bill Hicks about beliefs not necessarily being based on reality. WE need to evolve how we think about things, people, and society. WE need to realize that just because someone is riding an electric scooter instead of a motor cycle that the person on the scooter is not failing to live up to a standard of manhood. Again, it’s just something different that wasn’t an option before.

I’ve done my best to change how I look at life. By evolving how I think about life, I’ve become a lot less jaded and angry than I was in younger days. I don’t look at things that I don’t understand and belittle them. In fact, If I don’t understand something, I may use my phone (which has all of the technology that I didn’t have as a kid) and do some quick research on what I don’t understand. And maybe, just maybe, by doing that, my way of thinking about something will evolve.