The Process of Trying to Act Unharmed.

For many of us, life can be a journey through pressure. It can overwhelm us so easily. Sometimes the difficulty of dealing with that pressure can be too much to handle. It can make day to day activities seem impossible to manage. Even the simplest of things can seem like burdens due to pressures that we experience.

I feel pressure very often. I feel the pressure to improve my situations in life. I feel the pressure to save money. I feel the pressure to not be single and sometimes the pressure that being in a relationship brings. I feel the pressure to live on my own. I feel the pressure to just survive.

All of the pressures I feel are connected. They stem from expectations put on me by my parents, my friends, my peers, my job, and society in general. Sometimes, the biggest source of pressure that’s put on me comes from myself. But, why? What am I trying to prove and to whom am I trying to prove it?

How someone handles pressure is key to survival, I think. Very often, I’m guilty of letting things build up inside. Of course, I come from a household that thrives on that. Positive expression of feelings was not something I dealt with a lot. Any negative feelings I had were belittled and often dismissed. I was conditioned to not be able (or allowed) to express myself. It would often cause me to feel lots of internal pressure and anxiety.

Expectations of how things should be versus the way they really are can be crushing. Trying to make ends meet when there’s no end in sight. Paying off bills just to watch more pile up. Looking forward to that next paycheck just because you know you’ll be able to put a full tank of gas into your car when you get that paycheck.

I deal with those scenarios. I deal with them endlessly. Some days are easier than others. Some day are a lot more difficult than others. What can I do about it? What am I doing about it? What options are there? I don’t know if doing anything different would matter. I wake up, I go to work. I work 40 hours per week. I have nothing to show for it. I don’t have any savings. I work so I can afford to get back to work and have enough food to live. I don’t feel like I’m succeeding at life. But, am I failing? Why are so many people that work a full 40 hour work week struggling? Are they failing the system, or has the system failed them?

I’m not going to get too into my financial situation in this entry. I have ideas for an upcoming entry about that. But, I don’t think it’s possible for me to talk about anxiety and pressure in my life without at least mentioning the burdens and pressure that borderline poverty bring.

I do place a lot of pressure on myself too. I think and I think and I think some more. I overthink scenarios in my head. I have visions of how they’re going to unfold. Then when it comes time to confront the issue head-on, I get very anxious. The pressure mounts and when the situation doesn’t go as expected, which is often the case, I don’t feel the sense of relief I was hoping for. In fact, my mind has already started thinking about the next step, or the remedy, to the situation. The cycle continues.

There are some situations in my life that I am intentionally vague about when I talk about them. There’s things I’m not particularly comfortable talking about in forms like this. Those situations are some of the biggest pressure cookers in my life. What makes it worse for me is that I see no way to escape them. There is no way to alleviate those pressures, at least not positively. Way too often, a boiling point is reached. And, there’s usually no change in anything as a result. It just starts building again.

I know that as bad as I may think my life’s situations can be, there’s a lot of people dealing with things much worse. I don’t take any pleasure in that. It’s not a comfort to know that people are worse off, but there is a slight bit of comfort knowing that I’m not alone. Commiseration is not necessarily bad. It can be a bonding experience, and it’s one that I don’t run from. Which is odd for someone with as many social anxieties as me.

But, even with all of that perspective, on an almost daily basis I wonder if I’m good enough. I wonder if I’m just a constant disappointment to everyone around me. Some people say I should do more for myself, but what if what I’m doing is the best I can do? What if this is the best it’s going to get? What then? Should I be proud or should I be ashamed? All of those thoughts add to the internal pressure.

Like my other entries when I start digging into this stuff, I’m not writing them for a “woe is me” tale. I’m not writing them to get sympathy. I’m writing them so I can get understanding. I want you to understand me. I want you to know I went through this, and I’m still going through this. If you have a similar story, I want you to know you’re not alone. I want you to know there’s someone that understands.

I try my best to not be ashamed of my situation. I know that a good deal of what I go through isn’t necessarily my fault. A lot of my situation is due to circumstances. A lot of those circumstances have gone wrong. Or maybe I just think they have.

See, I doubt things I don’t even have to doubt…
Or do I?
I really don’t know.

This confusion just adds to my anxiety and the pressures I feel.

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I Don’t Know Where I Belong or Where it All Goes From Here.

2017 is just about over. This entry will be my annual look back at the year that was as I ask myself the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Last year, it was easy for me to answer. I simply said “YES.” I actually did use all capital letters to emphasize it. I can’t say anything as certain as that this year, in fact, I’m not even sure if I am better off than I was a year ago. There’s just too many questions to have definitive answers.

Just under two weeks ago marked my 1 year anniversary at my job. In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I liked it, so far. Well, after one year, I still like it. I don’t know if I could say that I got off to a rocky start there, but it was a totally new environment for me and I had to learn something completely from the beginning. Over the year I’ve become one of the more trusted and relied upon associates in my department. And those words aren’t just coming from me, they’ve been said to me by higher ups. I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t do nearly as many 5k races as I had in previous years. In fact, I only did three in 2017. I made excuse after excuse as to why I didn’t run them. Sometimes there were schedule conflicts and other times I just said “I’m not ready.” I didn’t come to close to setting any new records for myself during the three races that I completed, and I actually ran my 2nd slowest ever during one of them. But, I did finish all three. I hope to do a few more races in 2018. And I’m going to do my best to erase the reasons/excuses that held me back in 2017.

One thing I am very proud of us is my (small) contribution to making one of those races happen. I am part of a committee in my town that does a lot of community organizing and events. Getting my town’s 5k race back from the dead was our crowning achievement. Many people in the group did A LOT more actual work than I did to get that race going, but I did have some contributions and as I said, I’m very proud of it.

Last year I wrote about how much better my social life was than one year earlier. I was in a relationship that I was very happy in. Sadly, that relationship did not last. But, there’s no regrets or ill will in any aspect of it. Sometimes those things just can’t be sustained. It happens. And as 2017 ends, I’m actually hopeful about my social life. I think there’s a chance for something. I’m not pushing the issue. I’m letting the cards fall where they may and I’ll see how it plays out.

I said that two of my biggest regrets in  2015 and 2016 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself, yet again in 2017. I didn’t come close with either. Maybe in 2018…
Maybe…

One aspect of my life that isn’t better than last year is my financial situation. I’m in a complete paycheck to paycheck cycle. I don’t know if there’s any way out of that at the moment, but I’ll keep going. It’s what I do. Of course, the political climate and situation in America also contributes to the fears I have about my finances. I don’t believe for one second that the direction we’re going will help me, or anyone in my situation.

Building on that, I do have hope for America’s future. I saw a lot of things happen in 2017 that give me the feeling that we will see a change. I think we will see a progressive movement that will help the greater good of society and not just a select few. That change has actually already started, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Much like 2016, I saw friendships develop and strengthen in 2017. Some people that were just acquaintances became very good friends of mine. I reconnected with some people that I hadn’t talked to for a little while. I even talked to someone (online) that I hadn’t heard from in close to 20 years.

My overall mental health isn’t too bad. I still have my reoccurring feelings of isolation, a lack of belonging, desperation, anxiety, shame, and overall depression. I’m pretty sure they’re always going to be there in some form or another. But, as weird as this may sound, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be depressed. There’s such awareness and so many support systems available now through social media that I think people have new ways to reach out. I know that I often browse various forums and will reply to posts about depression from people I don’t know. If nothing else, I want them to know that they’re not alone.

My blogs got some attention in 2017. As usual, some got more than others. One entry that I’m particularly proud of was the one I wrote about Brian Pillman. In my mind, I wrote that entry for me and the few members of the “Cannon Cult” that used to talk to Brian on AOL in the mid-90s. I thought a few others may read it, but I didn’t expect it to get such attention from Brian’s son. I also didn’t expect someone that was writing a book about Brian to read my entry and then (through a “Cannon Cult” member) reach out to me for stories. And believe me, I certainly didn’t expect to see my name in that book as a contributor after one of my stories was used. I’m so proud of that. It’s actually a bit surreal.

But now, with 2018 only a few hours away, one of the questions I’m asking myself is:
How does one truly start fresh in a new year when we just start our routines over?

I have 365 days to figure that one out. I have a lot of things to figure out in 2018. I have things I want to accomplish. I have places I want to go. I have things I want to do. Some of my goals are really simple. Some may not be as simple. But, like every single year, my resolution for the new year is just “to make it better.” I don’t know what exactly that means yet. But, as I said, I have 365 days to figure that out. With any luck, when I write my 2018 recap, I’ll be able to say that I hit goals and accomplished a lot. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

Can’t you see? All circuits are busy. Please try back again.

I had a blog entry ready to go. I just had to put the finishing touches on it. That usually means I would scrap it and start over, but keep with the theme. But instead, I’m saving it for later and writing this one. This will be a jumbled mess of random thoughts. I know that already. It’s just the mood I’m in.

Originally, I was going to write an entire entry about the three 5k races I ran this year and while I completed all of them, I was disappointed in the race results. The last one I did this year was the fastest of the three, but the 2nd one was my 2nd slowest ever. Somehow I thought I could stretch that story out into an entire blog. It was too whiny and that’s not the tone I wanted.

Then I thought about writing about the slew of sexual harassment allegations coming from Hollywood and TV. I was going to say how incredibly normal this type of thing seems to be in their bubble. How things that are being alleged now had apparently been talked about behind closed doors within their community for years and nobody did anything about it.

Maybe I would write a full entry about gun violence and how every single time a mass shooting happens we (as a society) say “now isn’t the time to discuss the issue of gun control” and it then fades from our memory until it happens again and we say “now isn’t the time to discuss the issue of gun control.”

I could talk about how the President of the United States says outrageous, slanderous, childish, and often untrue statements on Twitter on a daily basis. I was going to say how I’m not surprised, shocked, or even phased by that any more. I could have stated how I’m really bothered that this has become our normal.

I considered writing a blog about how bad my blogs had become, in my view. I felt even stronger about that one after reading one I published on year ago today, which you can read by clicking HERE if you want to. That one was actually one of my better ones.

As I’m living paycheck to paycheck, I thought about another financial rant. But what’s the point of that? Writing about that again isn’t going to help my financial situation. Well, maybe it could if someone with influence reads it and publishes my work and I get to be a famous author. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I almost wrote a blog about complacency and depression and I thought I was straddling the line between the two. At one point in that entry I was going to say that I was depressed about how complacent I am about certain aspects of my life, but also how the complacency almost keeps me away from a full depression, so maybe it’s good.

There was also a chance of me talking about relationships. I haven’t been in one for a few months. When the last one ended I didn’t get nearly as depressed as I thought I would. I was bothered by that. I was also bothered by being bothered by it. It didn’t make sense to me. None of that does. But, it made perfect sense to me at the same time. How messed up is my head that a lack of depression upsets me? Seriously. Think about that. Was it because my expectations weren’t met?

As far as relationships go, I could talk about how I’m cautiously optimistic about things right now. Maybe something is going well, maybe I’m delusional, maybe nothing is there.  Maybe I’m working myself up worrying about it as I’m writing this paragraph.

I could write about the news in Manhattan today. There was a mass murder. I don’t know more details, because they aren’t available yet. However, I’ve already seen a drastic difference in how it’s being covered depending on the ideology of who is talking about it.

Or maybe, just maybe I could tie all of these unrelated topics into a tight little knot. I could say if we took better care of each other, if we provided for each other, if we made sure that people on the lower end of the economic system were helped up, maybe just maybe a lot of the issues I could have talked about today wouldn’t exist.

I could write about that, but who would read it? My audience is small. Who among the few readers I have would, or could, do something that can truly help the world? Could I be the one by writing this? Could you be the one that reads this and gets inspired? Of course, that all depends on if you can navigate your way through this maze of randomness.

It’s possible I could just write about how I doubt myself so much that I don’t know how to end this entry. It really bothers me that I don’t know how to end on a high note. I’m almost comforted by knowing that I don’t expect this entry to be read by that many people. What does that say?

 

Proud to Serve the Country that Served him Weak.

Just a little bit more than one year ago, I was having a conversation with a celebrity. He had just finished talking to a group about some of his issues with depression. I thanked him for speaking out and told him that his voice holds a lot of weight because of his fame. I also told him about my blog and how I don’t believe my voice is as impactful as his. He made it a point to let me know how I was underestimating myself and even if I’m not reaching as many people as he may be, I may still be reaching somebody. I thanked him again for speaking out and for saying that to me. It stuck with me.

While, the celebrity was right, I may reach someone, the power of a celebrity voice IS powerful. As of the time I’m writing this, I have 225 followers on Twitter. I have barely more followers/friends on another site. The amount of people that could see my writing is not that large, and the amount that actually do read it is pretty small. But, that doesn’t stop me from sitting down (at least) once per month and writing something. I have something to say and if ONE person gets something from it, I’ve done well.

Celebrities often get criticized for expressing their opinions on social issues. I don’t understand why. As I said, their voice has more relative weight than mine based on the size of the audience they can reach. And that is exactly why I’m proud of the players in the NFL and MLB that took a knee during the National Anthem recently. This goes back to last year and Colin Kaepernick not standing during the anthem. I wrote something about it then, and I’m writing about it again because the issue is quite newsworthy and it needs to be discussed.

Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to social injustice. At no point was his protest designed to do anything but that. That’s what the issue was about and that’s what it is still about. It was never a protest of America or a protest of the anthem. It’s a Constitutionally allowed gesture that he did to get attention on himself so he could get attention an issue he felt strongly about.

A flag is just a flag. An anthem is just a song. Saluting them is not a mandatory thing in a country that prides itself on freedom. It’s not a mandatory thing in a country that allows freedom of expression and assembly. It’s not a mandatory thing in a country that was founded on and prides itself on peaceful protest. It will never be a mandatory thing as long as the founding documents are upheld.

The NFL stars that did not stand are not protesting the United States. They are not anti-America. They are not anti-police. They are not anti-soldier. They are anti-injustice. I’ve seen pictures go around recently of Rosa Parks with the caption “Thinking NFL players are ‘protesting the flag’ is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation.” I’m not going to explain to you who Rosa Parks was. Quite frankly, you’re a lost cause if you don’t know already. But, I brought up the thing about her because of how relevant it is. Don’t let the story be something it isn’t. This is about social and racial injustice. It always has been and it shows how while we’ve made some progress, we still have miles to go.

Some critics of the NFL protests are saying that the players should be proud of the flag and what it stands for. I agree, they should be. But the flag is just a symbol of the country. It’s a symbol of a country that brags about being #1. It’s a symbol of a country that says it’s the “land of the free and home of the brave.” It’s also the symbol of a country is which minorities are treated like they don’t matter. The middle class is treated like they don’t matter. The poor are treated like a burden. The flag represents those people being held down. It doesn’t currently represent them being lifted up.

Donald Trump ran his campaign last year talking about the “forgotten men and women” in the United States. What about the people that aren’t forgotten, but barely acknowledged? What about the ones that are ignored? What about the ones that don’t have a fighting chance? What about the ones in which the American Dream is just that, only a dream? That is what the protests are about.

People need to be more offended by policies that allow the Middle Class and minorities to be driven into poverty. People need to be more offended by government officials that won’t properly condemn true racism. People need to be more offended by racial and ethnic profiling that exists in the country. People need to be more offended by people being oppressed and suppressed by a system that isn’t designed for them to succeed.

I’m a 41 year old white male. Some of you think I’ve had all the chances in the world to make something for myself. But have I? I’m a 41 year old white male that lives paycheck to paycheck. Any time I come close to getting ahead financially, I face a setback. I admit that I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and yes I am aware that I do have certain advantages because I’m white. That isn’t a good thing, by the way. It’s part of the problem. Why should the color of my skin matter? But, this entry is not about me. I’m not trying to make it about me. I’m going to keep struggling, but I’m going to keep fighting. If you’ve read my other entries, you know I’m a survivor. But, I digress…

The main point of this entry is this: The celebrities and athletes speaking out are the voices of the voiceless.

I know some people stopped reading this entry the second they saw Colin Kaepernick’s name. They have their pre-conceived notions about him, his protest, and his reasons. They won’t pay attention to any facts about the protests. They just believe what they’re told to believe about who and what the protest is offending.

But, a song is just a song and a flag is just a flag. They both stand for something, but until every single one of the citizen of this country are given truly equal rights, equal freedoms, and equal opportunities, the flag and song don’t stand for much. And if I were a celebrity with a bigger audience then the small amount I reach, I wouldn’t stand for the anthem either. I don’t stand for injustice. I don’t stand for inequality.
You shouldn’t stand for it either.

I Will Feel Great Without My Weight Pulling Me Down.

This entry is an amalgamation of two of three that I’ve been thinking about writing and even one or two that I didn’t want to write. There’s just A LOT going on in my head right now and after writing an initial draft of a blog, I realized how connected all of the topics I’ve been thinking of are. I was going to write just about how tired I am and I have no time for anything. Then I was thinking about how my finances aren’t good. Then I was thinking about how I’m just stressed out about other factors in my life. Then I realized, it’s all connected.

I’m 41 years old. I’ve never moved out on my own. I can’t afford to do it. I can’t even afford to take that chance. I make more than $5 over my state’s minimum per hour wage, I make over $8 less per hour than the minimum needed to live in an apartment in my area. And by live, I mean LIVE. Not just survive. Not eat rice and beans every day. I am well aware of how my living and financial situation very likely hinders my social life. I know how unappealing it makes me in the dating world. I just don’t know what to do about it.

Our time here is very limited. I want to make the best of my time, but I don’t know if I have enough time to do that. I barely have the time to write this entry.  My free time on a day to day basis seems to be even more limited now. I feel lots of pressure to get stuff done in that limited time. But, I have so much that I NEED to get done that I sometimes have trouble deciding where my focus should be. It doesn’t help that I probably suffer from some kind of un-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. I don’t know where to begin, as this entry may really indicate.

I believe that I’m surviving in an economic system that isn’t designed for me to succeed in. The pressure that adds to me (and so many others) is very intense. I work a full-time office job. It’s 40 hours per week, but due to the distance I have to travel, it takes up 50 hours of my time each week. That’s a lot of time. No, getting a new job closer to my house that pays better isn’t necessarily an option. There’s a reason I have that job. It’s what was available to me. And it’s still a better situation for me than I was in at this time last year when I was working multiple jobs for about the same money with only only one guaranteed day off per week.

I worked in the retail world for 20 years. There isn’t a lot of money there. For the most part, I enjoyed what I did. But, I never made a lot of money doing it. Nobody makes a lot of money in that world without a lot of sacrifice. In order to make a good living there, you need to be a salaried manager. That also means you’ll probably be working 50-60 hours per week and get paid for 40. It means you’ll work holidays. It means you’ll have no time for friends or family. I don’t know if I could do that, even if I was given the chance.

As it stands now, I don’t have much time for socializing and I don’t have much money for it either. But, I still do what I can. I go to concerts. I go to some wrestling shows. I try to entertain myself as much as I can. I need the relief. But, every single thing I do stresses me out. I’m stressed when I lounge. I stress over making leisure time for myself. And when I’m in that leisure time, I’m stressed about how much it’s costing me or how I could be doing something else or how little time I have for any of it.

Part of why I have so little money available to me now is that everything I do is paid for out of my pocket. I have not used a credit card in well over seven years. I got into a lot of trouble with those before and even though I paid off ALL of my credit card debt, in some ways I’m still paying for it. And I fear I always will. I see irony here. I can’t afford to take a chance on debts because credit card debt cost me so much more than just money. It cost me time and I can’t ever get that back.

Would I be less burdened if I had more money? That’s very possible. Maybe I could move out. Maybe I wouldn’t move out and I would just fix up my house. And trust me, it’s in dire need of a lot of work. I’m the only one willing to do anything about it, but I don’t have the money and I certainly don’t have much time to do it. Being in this house is another serious source of my stress. I don’t like what this place has turned into. I don’t like what it represents in my life. I don’t like that I can’t fix it. And the word “can’t” is one I’ve tried not to use in my life. But, this house is a world of “can’t.”

If I had my own place, I would be free of the stress that my house brings me. But, my financial burden would be so much greater. It’s a trade off that I don’t have the option of making. There’s literally nothing I can do about it at the moment and that alone sometimes and unbearable burden on me.

I work so I can afford to get to work. That’s what it seems like to me. I got my car in 2000. It now has over 200,000 miles on it. If it stops working I won’t be able to get to work. If I can’t get to work, I won’t make any money. If I don’t make money, I won’t be able to fix the car or get a new one. But, if I could afford to get a new one now, I probably would. This problem is a source of so much stress for me and so many other people in my generation. I read a book that went into a lot of details about that a while back and have referenced it before, but read “Hand to Mouth” by Linda Tirado and you’ll see how serious it is and how there’s so many people in my situation. And so many of those people feel completely helpless and hopeless.

If I had more money and time, maybe I would go back to school. Maybe I would go for something beyond my associates degree. But, unfortunately, I have neither the money nor the time to even consider it. And I certainly don’t currently have the mental space available to think about adding that burden.

I stated that I’m in an economic system that isn’t designed for me to succeed in, and I believe that with all of my being. I’ve read so much about the subject and I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the situation I’m in, and the situation that so many others of my generation is in, is due to the policies enacted in the 1980s that have never truly been reversed and have failed EVERY SINGLE TIME they’ve been in place. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone in the Middle Class in America to thrive until there’s a massive change there. I really don’t want to get very political in this entry, but this needs to be said. We need a NEW New Deal. We need to go back to the system that we had in place after the Great Depression. It allowed the Middle Class not just to survive, but thrive. It allowed business to thrive.

I’m not an economic expert, but I understand the simple rules of “supply and demand.” Many people in power today believe if you create a supply there will be a demand. But it’s not that simple. Many retail chains are failing because we can’t afford their supply. Therefore, there isn’t a demand. If there were less financial burdens on Middle Class people, such as myself, we would have money to freely spend without worrying about we could afford to buy more than just Ramen noodles for lunch. Give us access to more money and we’ll create the demand for the supply that the demand makes necessary. Then the demand for supply would create a demand for jobs. And all of that should allow businesses to have enough money to pay more than they have been. It seems simple enough to me.

Lessen the burdens on people like me and you won’t see me so stressed about my time. You’ll see so many people less stressed about how their compensation doesn’t live up their productivity. You’ll see so many people less worried about whether or not they can provide for their family and kids. You’ll see people not needing to work multiple jobs just to stay financially afloat. You’ll see a much healthier world.

I’ve sometimes given thought to jumping into the world of politics. I have good ideas. They could be useful. I’ve been asked about running for local office. The answer I usually give as to why I won’t do it is that I don’t have the time to do it. That’s true, unfortunately. I don’t have the time to commit to things that could improve my life and possibly others. That last sentence is actually pretty sad.

I’m scared. I’m afraid that nothing will change. I’m afraid that this is how my life is going to be. I’m afraid that all of the effort I put in will make no difference. I’m afraid that I’ll be forced to do NOTHING socially just to have a few more dollars in the bank account. I’m afraid of the stress that would cause me. I’m stressed out about possible future stresses. I’m scared and stressed about how I’ve been programmed to not have confidence in myself and the stress of the situation I’m dealing with amplifies that. I barely have enough time to get a good night’s sleep and all of this stress is preventing me from sleeping well. I scared that this cycle won’t break. My depression is keeping my energy levels down and it makes it more difficult to do any of the things I want to do, and since I know how limited my available time is, it adds to all of the stress.

I want to be able to enjoy myself. I want to be able to travel. I want to go to local historic sites and take pictures. I want to be able to be in a healthy relationship without having to worry about travel and expense. I want to be more available to my friends, which I feel I haven’t been lately. I want to be able to do all of these things without worrying about how much it’s costing me financially or how much time it’s taking away from other things. I just want to stop worrying. I want the choices I make to not weigh so heavily on me. I want less burdens. I want to stop surviving day to day. I want to truly live. But, I don’t know what I can do to make that happen. I don’t know what options are available. I just know that a lot needs to change. But, I don’t even know who or what can make that happen.

I guess the point of this post is that I’m really feeling the pressure right now. There aren’t any new reasons for it. Nothing has changed for me since my last entry, but for some reason, the burdens feel heavier. The weight of them is getting to me and I’m starting to feel the way I described in a recent entry, but it’s more prominent.

I will definitely revisit this entry and its topics later. Because, while my struggles continue, so do I. I have no interest in quitting, regardless of how much stress, anxiety, or other issues it causes me. Of course, that adds to the stress and anxiety, but well…anyway…

One Year From Now, Will I Be Strong? Will I Stand Up for What I’ve Become?

At the end of every year I write a blog trying to sum up my year. I weigh the good and the bad and try to answer the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” I’ll say that on a personal level, the answer is absolutely YES. I am better off than I was one year ago. It’s actually simple to answer this year. Although, there were some hiccups along the way.

I was working multiple jobs throughout most of 2016. I was getting by. I was making enough money that I could pay my bills, put gas in my car, have enough food, and occasionally have fun. To some degree, savings happened as well. That’s all a good thing, other than the fact that I needed multiple jobs to do it. However, just a few weeks ago I started a new office job with the highest hourly salary I’ve had in over 5 years. So far, I really like it. And as a result of getting that job, I’ve left the others. I’m now down to one job. I’m not yet able to clearly see the impact the new job will have on my finances. I’ve only received one paycheck, and it not a full pay cycle. In a month or so, I’ll be able to see how it all plays out there. But, I think I’ll be fine. I’ve learned to survive on minimal money, so we’ll see how I do with the new pay scale.

I ran a few 5k races in 2016. My results were mixed. I am not disappointed with the results, but I’m not completely satisfied either. I know that I did the best I could in each race that I ran, but I still think I could have done better. That makes sense to me. I joked that my slower results happened because I turned 40. But the truth of the matter is that my age didn’t have anything to do with it, my weight did. I was between 15 and 20 pounds heavier than I was when I did those same races in 2015. Unfortunately, I’ve gained more weight since then. I now see my extra weight as a challenge for 2017. I’m going to come up with a specific workout plan with various goals that I need to meet. I’m also going to attempt to eat a little bit better. My weight should get better with those things falling into place.

2016 also saw me get more involved in things with my town. A group that I’m a part of will being helping out with of a lot community events in 2017. One particular aspect that I’m excited about with this group is that it’ll allow me to not only run in my town’s 5k, but I’ll be part of the group that will be running it. By that I mean, we’ll be organizing it. And of course, I’ll be participating in it again. I’ve done this one 4 times before and have had my best ever race times 3 out of 4 times. Of course, one of those races was my first ever race, so it was (obviously) my fastest ever. This race should be happening towards the end of August. I see every athletic endeavor I do up until then as practice.

I had almost completely given up on my social life when 2016 began. More specifically, I had almost no hope of being in a relationship again. I had tried dating sites in 2015 and umm…well… some of those stories could be another blog entry. But anyway, I met someone during 2016 and what started out with some text messages back and forth turned into an actual relationship and became some of the happiest months I’ve had in years. I couldn’t ask for more from her.

I said that two of my biggest regrets of 2015 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself. I didn’t come close with either. Working only one job now may help me hit a book reading goal in 2017. Black Crow…
we’ll see about that one. It doesn’t come up often in the workouts I do, but my efforts are not pretty.

As much I personally enjoyed 2016, I almost feel guilty about enjoying it. There’s been so much suffering, so much anger, and so much discontent. There’s been so many high profile celebrity deaths in 2016. And before anybody makes any snide remarks about how that isn’t important, I’ll say that I think nobody can tell anyone else how to feel about anything. Some of those deaths genuinely shook me. Some of my earliest childhood memories were of things related to Star Wars and Willy Wonka. The deaths of Carrie Fisher and Gene Wilder have left a void. Carrie Fisher had become a legitimate hero of mine due to her incredibly honest and open approach to her battles with depression and other issues. I really feel that there will be a blog entry about her in the near future.

I’ve had a lot of friendships develop and strengthen in 2016. I’ve had people that were only acquaintances become friends. My blogs got some attention from people. Some read some of my entries about depression and reached out. I’ll never forget the people that said something about them. One particular person read an entry I wrote and when he and I were at the same place later that day, he just said “I read what you wrote today. I hope you’re doing okay.” A simple gesture like that goes a long way. The word “appreciation” doesn’t do it justice.

As 2016 comes to an end, we look forward to 2017. And judging by what’s about to happen to the United States on a political scale, I say look forward only because it’s what’s ahead of us. I actually dread what’s about to happen here. I fear for the rights and safety of some of my friends. I fear for the overall United part of the United States. I fear for the economy. I have lots of fears. However, I also have hope. I have hope that smart, sane, idealistic people will start to rise through the ranks and secure our future, if anything is left. And yes, you can include me in that group. The involvement in town affairs that I spoke of earlier may just be the beginning for me.

Last year I wrote about how my impending 40th birthday was looming “over me almost like a really large black cloud.” I certainly didn’t imagine how good 40 has been to me so far. And just like every year, my resolution for the new is year is “to make it better.” In 2017, that means many things. I want to get myself into better shape. I want the good things that happened to me in 2016 to continue and to get even better. I just want to make things better. I’m still here. I’m still standing. I’m still improving. I’m even smiling. I actually like how things are in my life. I like what I’ve become and the path I appear to be on. I’m not delusional, I know that things can happen to change my course. I know my depression could act up. I know my anxiety could act up. But, I feel more equipped to handle it. I feel that I have a good support system in place. I feel that I can get through whatever happens.

2016 is just about gone. There’s some aspects of it that make me glad to see it go, but there’s a lot I’m grateful for. I want the latter to continue in 2017.

It Must Sound Too Far Fetched, but You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar I Ain’t Going like the Rest.

I’m 40 years old. I’ve spent much of my adult life struggling with my esteem, my self worth, and my financial worth. I keep trying to crawl up to be above the Poverty Line. I’ve also spent a great deal of my life being told how awful the place I lived was. I was told how bad my house is. I was told how my interests and beliefs don’t matter. I was taught to believe I would never amount to anything. I was taught to believe the place I lived was no good. I was taught not to like my surroundings. I was taught to believe there isn’t any hope. And much of these teachings came from inside my own house.

I’m one person. I’m only one person. I’m one person that’s been in a holding pattern in life. Sometimes I say I’m rebuilding. Sometimes I just think I’m building. But, I’m just one person. I’m one person that has the same opportunity as everyone else in the United States of America has. I’m one person that has the same chances and the same rights as everyone else has, right? In theory, yes, but in practice?

Imagine the story I just told about myself from a different perspective. Imagine you came from a family in a much more economically challenged area than I live in. Imagine you came from a family of people that weren’t granted equal rights as everyone else until 50 years ago. Imagine, while you were able to go to school and get a job like everyone else, you weren’t paid the same. Now imagine that it’s now illegal for you to not have the same opportunities as everyone else, but you’ve been behind the curve for so long that it’s more difficult to catch up. Now imagine just after you’ve been granted these opportunities, the economic system in the country you live in drastically changes and doesn’t seem to help out the people on the bottom and in the middle as much as it does the people at top. And imagine you’re told by the people in your community that there’s no hope and the people outside your community always look down upon you and let you know it. Just imagine how frustrated and angry you may be?

As I said, I’m just one person. Imagine it’s an entire race, or ethnicity, of people. It’s not hard to imagine, because it’s what’s been happening for years. I know people will read this and immediately start talking about how there’s welfare and other social safety net solutions to help the poor communities, but do you know what would help them a lot more? A reversal of fortune due to a reversal of economic policies currently in place designed to help very few.

When discussing something with a former co-worker, I mentioned towns like Paterson, Newark, and Camden. They’re all in New Jersey and they’re all predominantly minority in demographics. They’re all crime ridden areas. And they were all once thriving areas. When I said something about those towns being bad areas, the reply was “what do they all have in common?” Yes, the implication was they’re all bad because they’re minorities. Well, how about they’re all bad areas because society has left them behind. They’re bad areas because for 35 years, this country has catered to the rich and has left the poor behind. In a cause/effect scenario, they’re not the initial cause. The places they live and the conditions they live in are the effect.

In 1981, the “Trickle Down Economic” plan was put into place. It lowered taxes on the wealthy and raised taxes on the middle class (multiple times). The idea was if the rich had more money, they would create more businesses. More businesses would mean more jobs. More jobs would mean more people would make more money. More money would boost a somewhat stagnant economy. It’s been 35 years. The trickle never happened. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer. And the hopes of many people, communities, and cities diminished.

I have been working multiple jobs for a few years now. I have been spending more money in that time period than I had since I used credit cards. I’ve also been saving money. Of course, I have almost no free time now. Just imagine if I was able to make the amount of money I make per week, working one job, and only 40 hours. And imagine if everyone else had the same opportunity. We would have a thriving economy. It’s a simple concept.

And before anyone states that if I had better jobs or a better education, let me state that I have worked full-time jobs for over 20 years. I’m currently working multiple part-time jobs due to circumstances beyond my control. But while working full-time jobs, I was still under the poverty line. 32-40 hours per week and needing a second job just to be able to afford enough enough gas in my car to get to the grocery store to buy enough food to last until my next paycheck, but I’m just one person. I don’t have children or anyone else relying on my income. I’m just one person.

I’m just one person that has read a lot about history and politics. I’ve read enough to know that after all of the social programs that were put into place in the 1930s by President Franklin Roosevelt after the Great Depression, our country thrived. People had jobs. They had protections in place to make sure they had job security. People earned enough money working one 40 hour per week job that it wasn’t necessary for two parents to work in one household. In many cases, the father worked and the mother stayed home with the kids. That simple trait isn’t an option for most people now.

Our country’s infrastructure was built in the 1940s and 1950s. Our Interstate Highway system was constructed and paid for by tax dollars and tolls. The country’s highways and bridges have fallen into disrepair over the past few years as less and less tax dollars have come in.

Is it a coincidence that we don’t see as many “one bread winner” households now? Is it a coincidence that our roads look the way they do now? No, it’s not. The Trickle didn’t happen. And it never will.

Our inner cities are failing. The people in those places are not to blame. Many of the people in those cities have never been given the chances that their somewhat recently acquired rights have granted them. Those cities don’t have tax revenue. They don’t have anything in place to keep them going.

I admit this entry is a bit disjointed. But, I’m trying to cram in as much as I can into as short of an entry as I can because I actually want people to read it. With more time to commit to the entry, I could probably load it with quotes, statistics, and other researched facts. But, as I’ve said a few times, I’m just one person.  I’m one person that has read a lot about social and economic issues. And I’m one person whose voice has often been silenced.But I’m one person that based on skin tone, many of you think has had a better chance than people that look differently than me. To some degree, I have had more chances, but that doesn’t mean the system is set up to be in my favor. The chances granted to me often come from how I look and who I know. It’s not necessarily due to anything else.

I’m just one person. But, I’m one person that knows how the system is played. I’m one person that knows the game needs to change. I’m one person that has a voice, even if it’s only really heard here, and only by a handful of people.

Change is needed. And change often starts with just one person.