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.

All You Know-It-Alls With Politic Views.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Prospects Have Become Less Promising.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Have to Drop Before it Stops?

There was not a school shooting in my hometown. But, there was reason to believe there could have been. The other day, a student in the high school that I attended made a threat to “shoot up” the school. Another student reported the threat, police and other law enforcement agencies came in, the student was arrested. No shots were fired, although a gun was found at his house during an investigation. This happened about two weeks after the latest mass shooting at a school that got national attention.

Guns are a problem. I’m not going to sugarcoat my opinion on that. Some of you may stop reading this after that last sentence.

Mental illness is a problem. Do I still have your attention?

Are we allowed to discuss both issues in conjunction with one another? Or are the abundance of mass shootings in America only due to mentally ill people that happen to have illegal guns? The gun used in the Florida shooting was legally purchased. What now? How can we debate that? Oh right, the shooter was sick in the head, and that was the only issue. Let’s offer “thoughts and prayers” and go about business as usual.

The United States of America is THE ONLY COUNTRY in the “developed world” that has a gun violence issue like this. We continue to ignore the issue and claim that the 2nd Amendment is under attack if changes to gun laws are proposed. Well, how about we think about things this way. We are allowing people to be killed because we’ve done NOTHING TO STOP IT.

Metal detectors at schools are not going to solve this. Armed guards at schools is not the answer. Giving guns to teachers is not the answer. To be honest, I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that whatever we’ve done so far, which is nothing, isn’t working.

Last year there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas. It was from a window or a hotel. People were gunned down while they were enjoying an outdoor concert. If more people had guns there, do you really think it would have solved anything? No, it wouldn’t have. It would have been more chaotic and more deadly. That, I’m sure of.
What action did we take with this incident? I know, we offered more “thoughts and prayers.”

We need help. We need help from Congress. We need help.
We need access to mental health care.
We need less access to guns. I’m not arguing pistols and hunting rifles. That’s a different topic for a different time. There is no reason for any person at all to own a machine gun caliber weapon. Nothing anybody ever says to attempt to justify that one will work.

We hear the slogans “America First,” “Americans First,” and “Make America Great Again” from the President. I don’t like him. I never will. I think he’s going have disastrous long-term effects on the economy, race relations, diplomatic relations with other countries, and so many other issues. However, if decent gun regulations are put into place that make it more difficult to buy a gun while he’s in office, I will not only support the move, I will praise him (if he is indeed a part of the process), and I will say that he’s put “American First” and taken a step to “Make America Great Again.”

I’m not looking for the removal of guns from law-abiding citizens. That’s not what this debate is about. And first of all, if you’re a law-abiding citizen, what are you worried about? Continue to abide by the law and you’ll be fine. But, buying a gun should not be so simple. There NEEDS TO BE more tests to determine if someone can handle it. This needs to be universal.

This is not about race or religion. Although, it’s obvious that some pundits try to turn it a discussion about that. I’ve heard people bring up inner-city violence. I’ve heard them talk about “black on black” crime as evidence that minorities are more likely to use guns. That’s a load of garbage. It’s a distraction method used by people that don’t want to discuss what the real issues are.

I can go on and on about how this isn’t just about an abundance of guns, it’s not just about a mental health issue, how (in some cases) it’s about economics, but what am I doing other than ranting? What good will come of it? Well, that depends on you. It depends on me. What are we going to do about it to make sure the mass shootings stop?

We talk about protection. How about we focus on prevention. No more empty talk. No more “thoughts and prayers.” It’s time for action. It’s time for us to realize causes. It’s time for us to realize that there’s more than one factor. It’s time for us to do something. Innocent people, sometimes children, are being killed. They’re being killed by people that society has failed. They’re being killed by outcasts that have been pushed too far without getting help. Instead of saying that someone is acting out because he or she “just wants attention,” how about we GIVE THEM SOME ATTENTION. Just sitting with someone for a few minutes and listening to what they have to say can make a world of difference.

Yes, I know this entry has gone in various directions. And I know that what I’ve written in a bit of a ramble. I was going to write about this topic a few days ago, but I wanted to clear my head and not be too emotional when I wrote it. That concept didn’t work. I’m full of emotions as I’m writing this. This is a serious topic. Actually, it’s various serious topics. We’re not doing enough to talk about them. And we’re definitely not doing enough to address them.

If you think it’s only a mental health issue, there’s nothing I can do to change your mind. But, I do implore you to do something about it. Do whatever you can to make healthcare more available and affordable to those that need it.

If you think it’s only a gun issue, then doing something about it.

If you think it’s both, do something about it.

“Thoughts and prayers” are meaningless without action.

And no actual action is killing us…

in mass.

Because, the next time something happens in my town (or yours), maybe we won’t be so lucky.

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.

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?