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.

The Truth is That Our Youth Was a Carpet Laid in Stones.

As I always state in my late June entries, my birthday is in early July. Because of that, I really do see my calendar years as distinct halves. And I will always start to look back at what’s happened over the past six months and, in this year’s case, look at the 45 years of my life that I’ve completed.

I really enjoyed this past year. I think that’s been pretty obvious by my entries here. By no means has it been perfect, but it’s been very good for me. My mental health has (for the most part) been good. It was a very fun year.

2020 and 2021 basically blend together in my mind. They’re just one long chunk of time when not much happened and I didn’t get to do much, but that goes for just about everyone. I ended 2019 really doing well. I was enjoying myself quite a bit and did a few things that I thought were “surreal.” When the Pandemic started, all of that stopped. But, my mood never changed. Things continued to go well for me, just differently.

When things started to open up in 2021, I was able to somewhat pick up where I left off in that surreal life. And due to conversations that I’ve had with some friends (two in particular), I’ve realized that when you look at my life from the outside, it looks like it’s a lot of fun and just really good. I’m very much aware that what you see on the outside doesn’t always match what’s happening on the inside. But, I think those conversations have helped me feel as good as others think I do, if that makes sense.
And, it’s not lost on me that one of those conversations was with someone that’s a big part of the surrealness.

So while my inward happiness and my outward happiness appear to be in sync right now, that voice in the back of my head that was dormant for a while has started to remind me that this could all be temporary, especially as I’ve looked at my bank account recently. Not much triggers my anxiety more easily than my finances. And while I’m still doing so much better than I was a few years ago, I’m not doing nearly as well as I was just a few months ago.

This is not going to turn into anything to do with politics when I talk about my financial situation. I’m way too informed and aware to know that the world’s economy isn’t great right now and it’s not there’s way too many factors involved for me to place blame, although I can, and even though I said I won’t get political, I’ll just say that a lot of us wouldn’t be in the situations we’re in if there was ever a “Trickle.”
But, I digress…


My bank account is a lot lower than it was a year ago. Yes, things are more expensive than they were a year ago, but I also made a major investment last year. Just about 13 months ago, I had LASIK surgery. And even though I had four years to pay it off, I’m almost done with payments on that. I also bought myself a new laptop computer, which I’ve also paid for in full. While some people may think that fully paying for a laptop and being 80% with the payments for my LASIK in one year is HUGE for me. A few years ago, I was at the point where I was telling people that I couldn’t hang out because I didn’t have enough money for gas and tolls.

Which brings me to my next point:
Gas and tolls. The price of both is so high right now and that has played a factor in my bank account being lower than I would like it to be. I know that I need to adjust my mindset and start thinking more like I used to about doing things.
I do want to make it very clear that while these thoughts about money are in the back of my mind, they’re still just in the back of my mind. They haven’t manifested into full anxiety or panic yet. And before I start going down this path and depressing you, as well as myself, let me quickly get to the end of this entry.

It’s my hope that when I look back at this entry one year from now that I can say that I’m, at the very least, still doing as well as I was when I wrote it. I really am in a good place right now. The good is outweighing the bad. I haven’t always been able to say that. I know that I have a lot of work to do on various things over the next few weeks and months. If I’m able to get that stuff done, I think it’s very possible that this good ride that I’m on will keep on going for a while.

Tears For a Hopeless Case.

When I first started thinking about what I was going to write about in this entry, I thought about some of the conversations that I’ve had over the last few weeks. I was going to talk about the incredibly kind things that have been said about me or done for me recently. I was going to talk about a conversation with someone that I knew from high school and how I thought she was one the “popular kids” but she described herself as “very depressed” during that time. I was going to talk about how many of friends are doing so many good things and how happy that makes me, but as I sit here trying to figure out what to say in this entry, it’s very difficult to look around at the world and not feel sad. While I am personally (still) doing very well (mentally), there are just so many reminders of things that are wrong and how the “powers that be” don’t seem to want to attempt to fix anything.

As of the time that I’m writing this, the Uvalde, Texas mass-shooting is the most recent mass-shooting of note to happen in the United States. By the time that you read this, it could be pretty far down the list of recent ones. There is no humor in my last sentence and I take no pleasure in typing that sentence, since it’s probably going to be accurate.

Every single time a mass-shooting happens in this country, ther same conversations start. One side says it’s time for action to prevent more of these events. The other side says “now is not the time to politicize it.” And as they argue those two things back and forth, the conversation gets lost in the shuffle until another mass-shooting happens. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Another constant discussion when any sort of gun violence happens is how we should address mental health concerns and not worry about the guns. Well, yes, we should address mental health concerns. We should always address that. But, the fact that mental health issues are worldwide and mass-shootings are not also gets lost in the shuffle. A society that has access to the abundance of weapons of mass destruction (guns) will have significantly more mass destruction than a society without them. It’s a pretty simple fact.

Usually, the blog entries that I have the most difficulty writing are the ones about my own personal stories. In particular, the stories that are hidden deep in the back of my mind. The ones that I say that I’m starting to “scratch the surface” of and that I’ll “re-visit at a later time.” But, I’m really struggling writing with this entry. I was going to say that I’m not sure why, since gun related deaths have not impacted my close friends or family, but I think part of what has me so emotional about this topic is how easily this could impact the people that I care about. Not just my friends and family have kids or are teachers. But, anyone, since the American epidemic of mass shootings is not relegated to just schools.

Accidents happen all of the time. Some accidents have tragic results. We may be powerless to prevent those tragedies. Mass murders are tragic, but they’re not accidents. They can be prevented. In order to prevent them, action must be taken. Laws and regulations need to be passed and changed. We’re in the 21st Century and it’s time for society to evolve past the senselessness that doesn’t help anyone.

I don’t want there to be any more stories about Americans being shot to death in malls, places of worship, movie theaters, concerts, schools, or wherever. I didn’t specify “Americans” just now to proclaim any sense of patriotism for America, I did it because as the facts show, over and over again, America is the only place where this happens, over and over again.

Our indifference to human beings getting killed for no reason whatsoever is, quite honestly pathetic. Change has to happen. For the sake of humanity.

Refill the Porous Shell With Words That Mean So Many Things.

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?” 2021 was a year. It happened. For the most part, I enjoyed it. There’s truly very little about the year that personally went too badly for me. Not all of it was perfect, but it didn’t suck.

I did have some health concerns earlier in the year, but after a few visits to some doctors, those concerns were alleviated. My gratitude for my health insurance has never been higher. I don’t know if I would have even asked any doctors about any issues if I thought things wouldn’t be covered by my insurance. And to be perfectly honest, I would not have been able to afford any of the tests that were done if I didn’t have my coverage. The first day alone would have financially broken me.

I managed to avoid COVID-19 for the entire year. Unfortunately, I know too many people that weren’t able to avoid it. I didn’t lose anyone to it, but I know some people that were pretty sick from it. I really hope to not have much to say about COVID-19 in my 2022 year-end blog entry.

At the end of last year, I spoke about how I didn’t run any 5k races in 2020 (for somewhat obvious reasons). I had hoped to get back on track (literally) in 2021, but that didn’t happen. Some races did happen in my area. But, I didn’t participate in any. I certainly wasn’t in good enough shape to compete in them. And while I’ve often said that finishing a race, regardless of my time, is an accomplishment to be proud of, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have any finishes that wouldn’t upset me if I had competed. Which brings me to my next area of opportunity for 2022.

I’m ending 2021 at basically the same weight that I started it, which is heavier than I should be. I did get back to the gym a little bit during the year and I did workout a little bit, but I didn’t do enough. I know that. I am going to refocus my efforts to getting myself back into somewhat good shape in 2022 and hopefully, I’ll lose the weight that I wasn’t able to lose during 2021 (and 2020). I’m basically going to start at the beginning again of a workout program and go from there. I’m not able to start off where I was. I need to get myself back to that point and then beyond it.

And speaking of workouts, each and every year that I write this year-end entry, I lament my inability to have ever done a Black Crow pose during a DDP Yoga session. This year, I can proudly report that I did one well enough that I think I would be given credit for doing it successfully. Granted, it was only once, but I can no longer say that I’ve never done it.

Another goal that I miss every year is my goal of reading 12 books during the year. I got through 7 in 2021. I started 8. I’ll finish that 8th in a few days. I will try for 12 (or more) again in 2022. I really do enjoy reading, but I don’t seem to find the time to commit to it, which gets more and more difficult every year as I get more and more responsibilities and other things happening.

If there’s anything that is drastically different for me at the end of 2021 is that I now have 20/15 distance vision. I had LASIK done during the year and I no longer need glasses to see things far away. It’s made my driving, watching a baseball game in person, and attending movies experiences a bit different and better. I do need reading glasses now, which I’m wearing as I’m typing this. The LASIK basically reversed my vision. I no longer need help seeing things in the distance. But now, I can’t see things that are directly in front of me. That’s ironic, because some people have been accusing me of that for years.

Financially, whether I’m better off than I was one year ago is debatable. My bank account is about 1/3 of what it was at the end of 2020. However, I didn’t do much in 2020. I didn’t go on many long drives. I didn’t go to many concerts or events. I also didn’t start financing my LASIK surgery or my new laptop in 2020. In 2021, I did attend concerts and sporting events. I did go on a few long drives. I did start the aforementioned financings. I also had the pay for one of my job responsibilities get reduced due to the significant decrease in time needed to dedicate to the position. However, I also do make more now in my base salary than I did one year ago. So, there’s no complaining about my finances for 2021.

In some ways, I really feel that I became more comfortable with myself during the year. I’ve really started to appreciate a lot of things that I didn’t before. In many cases, those things are simple things that I like. And it really is simple. It bring me joy, I appreciate it. Those things are as simple as my social networking routines, my TV watching habits, or even the podcasts that I listen to. But, I also really do appreciate the relationships that I have. I’ve made a few new friends during the year, and I’m grateful for that.

In an early 2021 blog entry, I mentioned that there may be an “Easter Egg” hidden throughout all of my 2021 entries. I was able to pull that off. I’m not going to reveal what that is yet. There was one very specific thing that all of the entries has in common. I will offer the old-school Marvel Comics No-Prize to whoever figures it out.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2022 to be better than my 2021. 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 2021. I hope to be able to things during the year. I hope that the Pandemic ends. I want to not have to worry about that any more.

But, to answer the question that I asked at the beginning of this entry, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Honestly, yes. I really think that I am. I hope that I’m able to say the same thing again next year.

That Joy You Need, Restricted By One Thought.

As I was laying on an MRI table this afternoon, there was a lot going through my mind. And it wasn’t just the radioactive chemicals that had just been injected into my system. I had a lot of time to think while needing to be still for between 10 to 15 minutes. And the fact that I was on that table on the date that I was on it, made those thoughts a little more impactful.

Today happens to be the anniversary of the date that I lost my mother. I’m not going to discuss that too much here since I have before, and you can read that by clicking here. But, as I was on that table today, I was very much aware that the majority of doctors that I had spoken to over the past few weeks had told me that there probably isn’t anything to worry about, but we should check stuff out anyway. The reason that I brought my mother into this entry isn’t just due to the date, but because she refused to see doctors and who knows how things may have been different if she had seen any.

The reason that I was having tests done today is that I didn’t feel right for a few weeks. I never had any pain, but I had enough discomfort to know that something wasn’t right. I also had a slight shortness of breath at times, but this was a shortness of breath that felt different than if I had been exercising. As I said, things just didn’t feel right. So, out of an abundance of caution, I called my doctor. After the initial exam, it was suggested that I go to an emergency room “at some point soon.” After going to the emergency room the next day and having all of my tests there come back good, it was suggested that I see a cardiologist “at some point soon.” The cardiologist examined me and said “I don’t think we’re going find anything wrong,” but let’s schedule some tests just to be sure.

I took a lot of comfort in the lack of urgency from any of the doctors that I talked to. But, I know that heart issues do run in my family. My dad’s had some issues, and his dad did as well. I’ve already said that my mother did not go to doctors. So, I’m going to learn from the examples of both of my parents and get myself checked out.

When I started this process a little over a week ago, I told someone that I don’t know if I would have done any of this if I didn’t have the great health insurance that I have thanks to my job. I would probably have genuinely been afraid that whatever tests were done (and whatever the aftermath would be) would have been too expensive for me to deal with. The fact that anyone has those thoughts is awful. Nobody should have to put off getting themselves checked by doctors due to financial concerns. But, it’s a reality for a lot of people. The amount of money that my emergency room visit a few weeks ago costs is an amount that I would not have been able to pay just two or three years ago. But, luckily for me, I don’t have to pay anything more than my co-pay.

I’ve noticed how much less stressed that I am over the past two years than I was before. The fact that I have a job that pays me more than I’ve been paid before and that I have great health insurance is part of that. This may sound like an exaggeration, but for a little while, I was working basically so I could afford to get back to work. I would be able to go out and do things every once in a while, but almost every time had me spending my last dollars to do so. I’m in a much more comfortable financial position right now and it’s definitely helped my mental state. Money may not buy happiness, but having enough money to not worry about if I’ll be able to put enough gas in my car to get to work (and not needing to look at your bank account numbers to confirm it) is quite a relief.

I know that some of you have never had the concerns about money and health that I’m talking about in this entry, and I’m slightly envious of that. But, those concerns are quite real, and not just for me. There’s way too many people on the planet that will die because they don’t see doctors. The fact that some people can’t afford to see doctors should enrage you. Being able to afford health care should not be a bigger concern than the reason that someone is seeking that care. You can’t say that people have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” if the “life” part isn’t taken care of.

Getting back to my exam from earlier today. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any concern from doctors that I’ve spoken to. But, the way I’m looking at it now is that maybe today I found out what’s not wrong. I may need to see more doctors if my discomfort continues. Well, to be more accurate, if it returns. Ironically, since I’ve started seeking help with this, my symptoms haven’t really shown up. Naturally, why would they? But, I’m in a position to be able to get myself checked out and not worry about it. I’m lucky.

Today’s date reminds me of loss. The past year has shown me a lot as well. As we’ve been locked down with not much to do because of a Pandemic, I’ve really learned to appreciate things a bit more. Now, we’re starting to get back to “normal.” I am fully vaccinated. I have begun re-integrating myself into society and I’m grateful that I’m able to do that. I try my best not to take anything for granted. I’m in a good place right now. I’m able to enjoy myself. I’ve learned that I don’t NEED to go out to concerts or sporting events to have fun. I don’t NEED to be in an in-person gathering of friends to enjoy their company. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do all of those things again.

As I look past, I appreciate history. As I look forward, I appreciate opportunity. As I look at today, I just appreciate things in ways that I never have before. It’s a good thing. I hope it lasts.

I Raise a Sunken Smile.

I’m still in a bit of the malaise that I talked about during last month’s post. But, I’m taking steps to improve my situation. I don’t usually start off a post by immediately continuing the theme from the previous month. Who am I kidding? Almost all of my posts from this time last year were about how I’ve done very little because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. And that’s going to be my topic this month, but a little bit different from my previous posts.

We’ve all be dealing with this Pandemic for over an entire year now. Some of deal with it by being socially distant. Some of us deal with it by wearing masks. Some of us deal with it by staying away from people as much as possible. That’s basically been my year. It’s been easy and difficult at the same time. But, I’m dealing with it. I’m doing this for the well being of every single person that I care about. Some people very important to me recently let their guard down ever so slightly and ended up with positive COVID cases in their household. It’s that easy for this to keep going.

But, here he are. One year in. It’s been a long and winding road. We’re not at the “light at the end of the tunnel” yet, but I believe that we’re in the tunnel. I have received both my two COVID vaccination shots and in just a few more days, I should be fully “good to go.” However, since we’re not 100% certain if I may still be able to transmit COVID from one person to another, I will still be doing my part to stop the spread. I won’t be as social as I was before. But, then again, I wasn’t very social before.

As much as I have enjoyed my solitude over the past year, and honestly, I have made the best of it, I want this to be over. I want the option of doing things and not having to worry about COVID. I very much used to wearing a mask for much of my day, but I look forward to the time when I don’t have to. And before any of you start with the “You don’t have to now” crap, let me make this very clear. Yes, I have to. I have to because it’s the right thing to do for myself and for you.

I will be returning to the gym in a few weeks. I look forward to being to use treadmills and ellipticals. I look forward being to able to do some things that I haven’t done in over a full year. I know that I’ll be required to wear a mask while at the gym, but I’m okay with that.

There’s other things that I hope to be able get to do over the next few months. Maybe I’ll able to get them done. But, more than anything else, I just want things to be better. I want them to be better for me and I want them to be better for you. Me wearing a mask, getting a vaccination, and staying socially distant is me making an effort to make things better for you.

But, as far as making things better for me. I have a vision of how I want things to be for myself. The key word there is vision. I’m not going to say more about that right now. Some people may know what I’m talking about, but I won’t discuss specifics yet.

A few times over the past year I’ve mentioned part of what ruined my motivation to get myself into better shape was that there were no 5ks for me to run. I had planned to run at least 8 of them in 2020 and they were all canceled. Well, now it’s just about the time of year when I would be getting myself ready for my racing season to begin, except there’s still no races. But, I’m hoping to get out there and train as if there are races in my calendar. I need to do that. I need to get myself in shape again. I know that I will face some mental blocks along the way with this, but I’m going to do my best to get past those and just keep going forward. Hopefully, I’ll be going forward quick enough that I’ll be completing 3.1 miles in 30 minutes or less. We’ll see how that plays out.

I’ve never liked the word “normal.” I’ve gone into that before. What’s “normal” for me may not be “normal” for you. But, I want to be able to return to the sense of “normalcy” that I had before the COVID Pandemic. As much as I have enjoyed my #PandemicLife “normal,” I don’t think it’s fulfilling enough for me. And now that a decent amount of people in my social circle are vaccinated, or will be soon, I think returning to the old “normal” may be something that could be possible soon.

We’re not there yet. But, we’re closer than we were. Progress is good. Let’s keep moving forward and let’s bring as many of us with us as we possibly can.

An Archaic Way of Thinking, So Monstrous and Absurd.

If I publish an entry that is blatantly political, I know that a vast majority of my few regular readers will just skip over the post. This entry is going to deal with some issues that are in the news and are linked to politics. I’m going to do my best to stay away from directly referencing political aspects of it, while attempting to make sense of things that, to me, don’t make sense. I’m also going to try to explain how I got to the point that I’m at with my own beliefs.

I’m a middle-aged white male. That means that there’s a lot of things that I don’t need to worry about. I don’t need to be concerned with whether or not I have access to birth control (pills, abortion, etc). I don’t need to worry about not being paid equally because of who I am. I don’t need to worry about being profiled and harassed based on the color of my skin. I am someone that has White Privilege.

White Privilege does not mean that I don’t need to work hard to advance in life. And it doesn’t mean that non-whites get by with hand-outs. It just means that I have a head start, based on who I am. White Privilege doesn’t mean that I won’t get pulled over for speeding. It means that I’m more likely to not be harassed for doing it. But, this post is not about my White Privilege.

Throughout the 40+ years that I’ve been alive, I’ve been picked on, made fun of, insulted, harassed, and even beaten up. I deserved none of that, but often I thought that I must have deserved it. Sometimes I felt scared to go to school. I didn’t want to tell my parents or my teachers about what was happening to me because I was afraid of retaliation. I never acted out or really fought back, because I was always afraid of consequences.

How many times have we heard stories about a high school kid that shoots his classmates? How many times have we heard stories about a high school kid that dies by suicide? In many cases, both of those horrible actions are the result of someone being treated like I was in school.

Beaten down. Figuratively, literally, emotionally, mentally. How much can one person take before there’s a breaking point? Imagine yourself in my shoes in high school. It wasn’t pleasant for me.

I was one person. I was afraid. I felt that I was nothing. I didn’t know what to do. I had a few bad experiences with some teachers and counselors. They made me feel that I was at fault. I was told that I was lazy. I was told that I didn’t work hard enough. They failed to address what my real problems were. They didn’t do anything to solve or even help me get past those problems and they certainly never held anyone accountable for what was done to me, even if they witnessed it.

Now imagine that an entire community of people that go through the same thing. Imagine that community is treated like they don’t belong with “the rest of us.” Imagine that people in that community are constantly threatened and harassed by the people in charge. Imagine that people that are supposed to protect that community are seen as threats instead of help. Imagine that when something goes wrong for that community that nobody assists them, and instead they’re constantly told that they’re at fault and deserve what’s happened to them.

What I vaguely described in the paragraph above is how I see issues facing the Black Community in the United States. It’s also why I empathize with them. I’ve been the person that’s felt how they feel. Just so it’s clear, I am by no means trying to make the comparison of my personal struggles with Blacks in America. I would diminishing them if I did that. I’m just trying to say that I understand.

In the past few months, we’ve seen more and more stories about Black Americans being shot, beaten, and harassed by authority figures. We’ve seen others in positions of power not step up to help, and in many cases, criticize them for being upset about what’s happened to them, and how they’re handling it.

Like the scenarios that I described earlier about the high school kids that snap and do somethings drastic, that’s where the Black Community in America is now. They’re that beaten down person that has had enough and is lashing out.

When your pleas for help are constantly ignored, you lash out. When you’ve always been treated like you don’t matter, you may not know what to do. When you have no way to improve your situation because there isn’t a system in place to help you, what can do you do?

I already know how some people will react to this post. I know how some people may criticize me for making the comparison that I’ve made. I know how some people believe that one side of the political aisle has done more damage (or more to help) to blacks than the other. To be honest, none of that really matters right now. To me, the issue is simple. The issue that we can say that all people have the same chances and opportunities in the United States, but that’s not true. It’s never been true. White males have always had an advantage and have made the rules. Those rules don’t benefit everyone else as much as they benefit themselves.

I’m doing my best to not turn this into an us vs. them post. I don’t want to get into politics here, but I know that what I’m going to say in the next few sentences is going to spark a certain response from some.

There was a time that I wouldn’t say “Black Lives Matter.” I felt it was silly to say that people are equal and then separate anyone, so I wrote someone on one of my social media pages about how we should all say “All Lives Matter.” I saw who was agreeing with me, and who wasn’t. The “Black Lives Matter” people were people whose opinions that I usually agree with and I thought I was agreeing them in my reasoning, but it looks like I didn’t get it yet.

Without publicly stating it, I did change my views on that. But it wasn’t until the George Floyd story happened when I first started publicly stating “Black Lives Matter.” I even wrote a retraction of my original post from a few years earlier. I really have no concept of time in 2020, so I don’t know exactly when I came to the realizations that I did, based on the comparisons that I spoke of in this entry, but I’m glad that I did.

I am an advocate for Mental Health Awareness. My experiences in that area over the past few years, and from what I’ve learned about myself and others, really has made me much more empathetic. I don’t want anyone to feel as bad about themselves as I have at times.

This entry isn’t as cohesive as maybe it should be. To be honest, even though this is something that I’ve given a lot of thought to, I didn’t plan to write this today. I didn’t come up with an outline for it. I actually had another entry half written before I even started this.

In my entries, I’ve often said that we need to do better. And we really do. “We” means all of us. Society continues to leave people behind. WE have to stop that. The people that believe and proudly say “All Lives Matter” need to do more to make that true. Because until Black Lives Matter, not All Lives Do.

The Scars that Bind Us.

Since I’ve started (somewhat) regularly writing entries here, I’ve often talked about how music has gotten me through so much of my troubles. I’ve spoken about the friendships that I’ve forged through concerts and message boards related to bands. This entry is going to be another one of those, and while it may repeat things that I’ve said before, it may also go a little deeper.

I’ve had a concept for this entry in my head for a long time. I pretty much knew that I would be writing it for this month’s entry. But, between the time the concept originally popped into my mind and now, a pandemic hit. I thought about putting this concept on hold and writing something else, but then I realized that what I’m going to say may be even more important now. So, please bear with me as I attempt to flesh out this idea.

Of all of the bands that I listen to that have lyrics that have impacted me the most, Katatonia and Life of Agony are at the top of the list. Their lyrics generally deal with depression, anxiety, despair, desperation, and other topics in the misery range. I’ve been listening them both since the 1990s. Their shows aren’t just concerts for me, they’re experiences.

What is the difference between just a concert and an “experience?” Well, the best way that I can sum it up is this. In 2016, I attended various days of a local music festival. Clutch played there on Friday, Life of Agony played there on Sunday. I ended up going to Radio City Music Hall on the Saturday in between to see Opeth, it was a long weekend. But anyway…
The person I was with at that festival on Friday and Sunday made a comment to me after Life of Agony’s performance. She asked me “What was that?” I didn’t quite understand her question, so I asked her to clarify. She said “I saw you watch Clutch on Friday and I saw you just now with Life of Agony, and you were totally different.” I told her that I go to see Clutch to have a good time. I go to see Life of Agony to “let it all out.” I don’t know if she understood the difference that much, but once I said that, a lot more things made sense to me about those experiences. Clutch shows have more of a “good times” and “party” vibe to them. Life of Agony, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and other other bands’ shows are emotional experiences for me.

Going back a few years earlier, at another Life of Agony show, I had a moment that I can only really describe as an epiphany for me. This particular show took just a little more than a month after the death of Robin Williams. The reason that’s significant and sticks out in my mind is because of two people that were with me at the show. The day after his death, I wrote a blog entry. At the time, it may have been the most emotional entry that I had ever done. It was raw and unlike most of my entries, published without much editing.
Just minutes after hitting “post” on that entry, I received a text from a friend. She told me that she had just read the entry and started telling me about some of her own issues with depression and self harm. She asked me if she could reach out to me when things got bad. Minutes after that, someone else sent me a message letting me know about her own issues with depression and also asked if she could reach out to me. Of course, I told both of them yes.
How do these two people and Robin Williams tie in to a random Life of Agony show? Well, it’s simple. There was a moment when I was watching the concert when I was standing between the two of them at a bar in the venue. I was the only person that realized how strange that was, because up until a few minutes before that, those two had never met. I did not tell them about how they both texted me within minutes of each other, but I did enjoy hearing them both praise me for being a good friend.

During that show, Life of Agony played one of the songs that is usually in their set list, “Weeds.” For some reason, that song never really did much for me, until that day and that moment. The first line of the song is “If tomorrow never shows, I want you all to know that I loved you all, you’re beautiful and I had myself a ball.” Because of where I was mentally and emotionally at that point, as I sang along with that line, I got choked up.
The band ended the show with what was their (and still should be) traditional closing song, “Underground.” That song is about members of society being cast out, and coming together to positively express their emotions. I remember looking at the crowd during that song and realizing that the people in the crowd are MY people. There’s a good chance that I didn’t personally know 98% of the people in the crowd, but it didn’t matter. We were all there for the same thing.

The people at that show, the fans of the band, we come from different backgrounds. We’ve had different life experiences. We have differing views on life. But for the 90 or so minutes that Life of Agony was on stage, NONE OF THAT mattered. And at that particular show, at that particular moment, it started to sink in.

As the Coronavirus pandemic spread through the world, concerts and other events started to get postponed or canceled one by one. There were two Life of Agony shows that I was planning to attend that have been postponed. Of course, that bothered me, since it’s an outlet for me and because I’ve made some great friends from their shows, and at this point, those friends include band members and their families as well as the crew members of the band. But, as the virus spread, I was glad to see the shows not happen. I would rather not see the shows now and have everybody be healthy than have them happen and not ever be able to see some of those people again.

Katatonia, who I once drove from New Jersey to Cleveland to see, and then from Cleveland to Montreal to see, did an online concert a few weeks ago. I knew I would enjoy that show, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. I watched it from the comfort of my bedroom. I had the lights out in the room and the concert was being streamed on my TV. From the very first note, I got chills and tears were flowing as I was happily singing along to some of the most depressing songs that I’ve ever heard. I was also texting a few people that were also watching the show and having similar experiences. And the friends that I was talking to during that time live in various parts of the country. But, that wonderfully miserable band brought us together. Some of us even joked that it was “our first Katatonia show together” since we’ve never actually attended any of their shows together.

Now, how does all of this tie together? That’s simple. Sometimes, none of our differences matter. When we’re at those shows, we’re with friends. Some of those friends are more like family to us than our actual relatives. We’re all hurting. We’re all there with our own demons and issues. We’re there to forget that for a little while. We’re there to let our aggression out. We’re there to hear every voice scream. We’re there for the words and music. We’re there to see beyond our darkness. We’re there for the message in the music. We’re there because the scars that bind us brought us there.

It’s very possible that we won’t see any shows in person for a while. But, as I said before, I’m okay with that if it means we’re all healthy. If I go to a show and someone that I expect to be there is missing, I want to know that they’re not there just because they couldn’t get to the show. I don’t want their absence to be because they’re not with us anymore.

At some point, concerts will resume. I will see you again. This will all end, we will overcome and we will be able to scream those words, together. And for that brief time, just like the words of the Allman Brothers Band, we can “leave our blues at home.”

These Weeds Have Grown Where the Sun Once Shown.

We’re currently living through one of the most important, most trying, and possibly the strangest time of (many of) our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is literally impacting every single one of us in one way or another. I doubt that I’ll have anything really profound to say, but I’m going to write a bit about it anyway, to the best of my ability.

I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve never seen anything like this and I hope to never see anything like again. I’ve never seen the majority of the world shut down like this, not even after September 11, 2001.

I’m not going to use this post to discuss any specific political views. I could easily go down that route, but I don’t want to do that just now. This is about where we are and we’re going from here.

The entire planet Earth is impacted by COVID-19. It isn’t just the United States. It’s not just China. It’s not just Italy. It’s the entire planet. We need to realize that and we all need to do our part to slow down the spread of this disease and eventually wipe it out. We, as human beings, not as Americans, or Chinese, or Italians, or Iranians, or Russians, or Spaniards, as human beings, need to come together to fix this. Yes, that we means we may have to isolate our selves from friends, family, and loved ones for a while. But, it’s for the greater good. I saw something online today that “You’re not trapped at home, you’re SAFE at home.” That’s very true.

As far as I know, I’m healthy. At the time that I’m writing this, I do not have COVID-19. At least, I don’t believe I do. I say that it way because it can sometimes linger for a few weeks before showing symptoms. However, if I did have it and I go out and have any type of contact with you, then you may have it. You may pass it on to your friends, you may pass it on to your children, you may pass it on to your parents, you may pass it on to an elderly person that may not survive. This needs to be taken seriously.

As businesses have been forced to shut down and people are being laid off from their job as a result of this, I feel for them. I’m considered an “essential” employee. I work for my town. And as tremendously grateful and appreciative as I am for my employment situation, I almost feel that calling what I do as “essential” is an insult to truly “essential” works such as first responders of any kind, anyone working in healthcare (nurses, doctors, etc), and even grocery employees. I work in an office. Yes, I’m helping to move along processes of every day life for people, but what I do isn’t nearly as important. I don’t feel I’m putting myself down by saying that, I just feel that I’m looking at it through a level of self-awareness and perspective.

There was a brief period of almost a full week when my office was closed due to a health concern for a co-worker. When I first realized that I was not going to be working for a few days, I thought about all of the things that I was going to do. I did almost none of them. I had no plan for those days. I had no structure. I had no routines. I’ve previously discussed how I’ve been called a “Creature of Habit” by some people. And they’re basically true. I do a lot of specific things on specific days. I’m now working half days, but that may soon change to working as much from home as possible, as we’re starting to get set up for that.

Even if I start working more from my house. I still need a plan. I need to map out what my days are going to look like. I had told some friends that I may dedicate an hour or two per day to listening to podcasts. I may spend up to an hour reading a book every day. I will definitely be doing at least one DDP Yoga workout per day. If the weather permits, I’ll go for a walk or a run. I don’t have access to gyms at the moment, so I need to figure out things to do for exercise.

The one thing I know that I can’t do is NOTHING. I’ve discussed nothing before. Feel free to go back and read about nothing if you want. My mental health has remained pretty good during the last few weeks. Yes, I’m experiencing various forms of anxiety, but it hasn’t become too much. I have not had any depressive episodes during this time. As I just said, I’m mostly mentally healthy. My concern is not about me, it’s really about the people that I care about. It’s also about what things are going to look like when this is over.

I truly hope that America, as a whole, realizes from this situation that the systems that we’ve had in place are not good. A health scare like this can financially ruin a person, family, and business. We need to look at ways to go about fixing the system to truly ensure that everybody has the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. As someone that has OFTEN worried about whether or not I could afford to put enough gas in my car to get to work the next day, I know what it’s like to worry about money. I’m beyond grateful that I’m not in that bind now. But, I easily could be again.

I have a few friends that are currently out of work due to this. They’re hairdressers, bartenders, waitresses, and book store employees. I’m more worried about them than I am about myself. I have a job. I’m being paid. They’re not being paid. And it’s possible that their jobs won’t be there when this is over. That is horrible. It’s frightening. These friends, out of no fault of their own, and out of no fault of their employers, may not have jobs to return to. I think that is definitely a sign that the system is broken.

I’ve joked that as someone with social anxieties and other various mental issues, the concept of “Social Distancing” isn’t difficult for me. But, it’s one thing to want to be isolated for a while, it’s another thing to truly need to be. There is nothing more that I would like to do than to go to a local bar with a friend for a beer (or two… let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be just two). But, that isn’t an option. Even if any local bars were still open, it’s not safe to go to them. And yes, I do know that there’s irony there since just recently I wrote about a time when I did go to a crowded bar and I absolutely wanted to be left alone.

Allow me to break the 4th wall for a moment and reveal a little secret about my blog entries. The titles of them are almost always taken from song titles or lyrics. I do that because the songs they’re taken from are related to what I’m writing about. I also do it because I’ve noticed that I get a few more hits on my blog sometimes when people search for those songs or lyrics. The song I used for this entry is “Weeds” from Life of Agony. The reason I chose that song specifically is because of the line that I used for this title and because of the very first line of the song. I won’t put that line here, I’ll ask that you look it up. At some point in the near future, I may have another entry that discusses why that particular line means so damn much to me. That entry may be in a few months. Yes, I’m trying to create more interest in my blog by saying that.

I could probably ramble on and on a lot more in this entry, but I know that if I do, you’ll probably stop reading, if you haven’t already. Really, all I can say is that I hope you’re all safe, happy, and healthy. I hope you remain that way. I hope that we’re all taken care of in whatever ways we need to be during and after this crisis. And when this is over, hopefully we’ll be able to get that beer together.

Remember What’s Past Ways and What I’ve Become.

As 2019 is coming to an end, it’s time for me take a look back at the past year and ask myself the same question that I ask at the end of every year. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” That’s not always an easy question for me to answer. There’s so many things that I factor in when thinking about that question. Last year, it was a simple “yes” for me. At the end of 2019, it’s even easier for me to say “yes.”

With the exception of a time in late January when I had to deal with the worst, longest lasting, most difficult back spasm that I’ve ever had, I had a really good 2019.

I stated last year (and a few times throughout the year) that my current job is good for me. I’m paid better than I’ve been before, my commute is basically non-existent, and I have good medical coverage. As a result of those factors, there’s not been a single time in 2019 that I was particularly worried about my bank account. There were times that my account was “lower than I wanted it to be.” But, in previous years, keeping it above $0 was my goal. The stress relief there cannot be properly put into words.

For a few reasons, I can say that my social life was better in 2019 than it had been for a very long time as well. First and foremost, I had no major problems in this category. I gained friends, strengthened friendships, and really enjoyed myself throughout the year. Not having to worry about if I can afford to go somewhere makes a big difference.

While I was hoping to participate in more 5k races than I did, I have no regrets about why I did not. I was able to compete in 5 races. And honestly, they were not my best finishes. In fact, one of them was truly my slowest to date. In that case, I was just done with a sinus/respiratory issue that slowed my down. I’m not making any excuses. I did the best that I could on those particular days. My best wasn’t as good as my best during other races. That’s all that means. No complaints whatsoever.

As I said, I didn’t do as many races I was would have liked to have done. One reason was that I had classes to take happened to coincide with the time some of the races were happening. Those courses were in Mental Health First Aid. After the completion of those courses, I am now certified in Mental Health First Aid. I won’t go into details about that here, other than to say that I’m very proud of it. I may write an entry somewhat soon about stuff related to this course and what I’ve done for others in the area of Mental Health Awareness.

Overall, my mental health was pretty damn good in 2019. There’s just hours to go in the year, which means there’s still plenty of time for this to change, but I went through all of 2019 without any major depressive episodes. I cannot remember the last time I was able to say that in any given year. Yeah, I had some days where I was a little down. Things bothered me throughout the year, but nothing was prolonged and nothing was serious. Not everything that I hoped would happen would happen, but nothing bad happened. I feel like this is a major accomplishment for me.

I went to a decent amount of concerts in 2019. Me going to shows is not a new thing, by any means. But, going to these shows without financial worries is new for me. I didn’t have to make deals with friends like I had in the past. I went to shows that I wanted to go to. I could afford them. I even traveled out of state a few times. I visited friends at their houses that I used to say I couldn’t afford to go to. In each of the last 4 months of the year, I spent a few nights in hotel rooms for events that I attended. I paid for those rooms. I could afford them. It’s a good feeling.

Just like in previous years, I failed to hit my goal of reading 12 books during the year. I also never came close to doing the Black Crow pose during my DDP Yoga sessions. Maybe that pose isn’t meant to be for me. I’m not upset about missing either of those goals. Too many good things happened during the year for me to be upset about them.

My New Year’s Resolution is always the same. It’s “I want to make it better.” I did that in 2019. I hope to keep that going in 2020. I’m very much aware that just because 2019 was good for/to me doesn’t mean that there aren’t changes that I have to make. I recently discussed that I’m not happy with my weight. I already have a plan in place to attempt to work on that. If I hit my goals there, I could possibly have better 5k results in 2020.

One of the biggest problems that I faced in 2019, as far as this blog goes, was that I was not really depressed and that made it difficult for me to have topics to write about. What a problem to have!

I hope that when I sit down to write next year’s version of this entry that I either have that same problem or that I come up with some stories to tell about my experiences. I’m going to take 2020 day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. If the year is half as good to me as 2019 was, I think I’ll be fine.