The Coming of My Ruin, Age Tears the Spine.

My previous entry was about how good my mental health is doing. And before I go any further, it’s still doing well. But now that I have my mind in order, it’s time to get the rest in order. I need my physical health to be as good as my mental health. There was a point where I thought being physically healthy was easier than being mentally healthy. I don’t believe that now, although, then again, I was younger and had better metabolism back then.

All kidding aside, I have not put forth the effort to keep myself in shape like I used to. I need to find the time to do that. Or more accurately, I need to make the time. I need to lose up to 30 pounds. I need to put in the effort to do that. I need to be committed to that goal. I need to reach that goal. Even if it’s for a reason as simple as vanity. There’s a few really cool t-shirts that I have and they’re too tight on me now. I want to wear them comfortably.

Almost every single month, I “re-commit” myself to working out. And then something happens that derails my efforts and the next thing I know it’s the middle of the month and I say that I’ll re-start at the beginning of the next month.

I used to run 5k races. I’ve done as many as nine of them in one year. They stopped when the Pandemic started. I enjoy doing them, even the more difficult courses. I’ve said this many times, but no matter how quickly or slowly I finish each race, I feel good afterwards. Knowing that I’ve set forth a goal and completed it always feels good. The last batch of races that I did in 2019 were some of my slowest finishes. After those few races, I truly learned the definition of “exhausted.” I would expel every single last bit of energy that my body had to complete those races. Once I got back to my house, I would fall asleep almost immediately.

A few years earlier, after completing a race, I would be full of energy. I would want to run more. I would be able to do stuff afterwards. I want to get myself back to that place. I want to be able to get back to completing a 5k course in under 30 minutes. Well, let me be more ambitious than wanting to do it. I NEED to do it.

I am aware that by saying “NEED” and not “want” that I’m putting more pressure on myself which very well could impact my mental health if I don’t see progress. But, I believe that I’m consistent in my effort, I SHOULD see some results. I just need to be consistent.

I’ve never been “ripped” or “jacked” or anything like that, but a few years ago (before age 40), I was able to do a full pull-ups. I was able to complete a 5k race in under 29 minutes, even some of the more challenging courses. I want to be able to get back to where I was at that point. But, as I just mentioned, I’m older now and it’s legitimately a lot more difficult for me than it used to be. I don’t know if it requires twice the effort that it used to be, but definitely requires more than it used to.

Being overweight and out of shape is an obstacle for my physical health. I’m currently too out of shape to get good results. That means I need to put forth more effort to get results, but being as out shape as I am makes it difficult. It’s a circle of difficulty. However, honestly, the biggest challenge for me hasn’t been my physical challenges, it’s been mental. I’ve said this in previous entries. It’s so much easier for me to quit, stop trying, or just not commit. I don’t think it’s as easy for me as just telling myself “you need to do this.” I think I need to tell myself that and then force myself not to quit, while still trying to be positive about things. It’s going to be challenging for me. But, right now, failure isn’t an option.

This entry is being published on the last day of a month. That means that I’ll be re-committing myself to my physical fitness goals tomorrow. Although, to be honest, I’ve done a few workouts recently. I’ve even (slowly) completed 5k on a treadmill recently, so I’ve not been completely slacking.

I use these entries to get my thoughts into the world. I feel that if make some of my thoughts, sentiments, and fears public, I have to commit to the concepts that I’ve discussed. This is my public commitment to my physical health. I’m going to make progress. It won’t be instant. It may not be as quickly as I want it to be. It may be a lot more strenuous than I want it to be. It may be very difficult, but I will make it happen. I have to.

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

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” 2021 was a year. It happened. For the most part, I enjoyed it. There’s truly very little about the year that personally went too badly for me. Not all of it was perfect, but it didn’t suck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2022 to be better than my 2021. It’s simple, it’s to the point, it’s achievable. But, I think it’ll require a bit more effort than I put forth in 2021. I hope to be able to things during the year. I hope that the Pandemic ends. I want to not have to worry about that any more.

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

A lack of reason that makes a mortal man.

A common theme in my blog entries is my search for balance, or at least how I feel balance impacts my life. It seems like I can never just be happy. There has to be something weighing me down, even if it’s just my own thoughts. I think I’m experiencing that again right now.

I’m truly in a good place right now. Well, at least emotionally, I am. I’m enjoying my day to day life. I’ve been social. I’m doing things again. It’s a good time to be me. And honestly, there was a time when I wouldn’t have believed myself if I said that last sentence out loud.

But, of course, there’s a downside to being me at the moment. My mental and emotional self is doing well, but my issues now are mostly physical. I’ve put a few pounds recently. To make it worse, I put a little bit of effort into losing weight and it just didn’t happen. There’s various factors that have gone into this and I know that some of what I’m going to say will sound like excuses and not legitimate reasons.

Just about two months ago I decided to rededicate myself to getting into shape. I was going to start working out at home more frequently again. I was going to start running again. I was going to start going to the gym more frequently too. I had it all planned (in my head). Unfortunately, I was truly very busy with other things for a while and I did not have the time to commit to any of the concepts of workouts that I wanted to achieve. My motivation to get it done went away as I realized that it wasn’t possible to get where I wanted to go.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve decided that I’m going to start waking up earlier than I do and get an at-home workout in before I go to work in the morning. I also cannot tell you how many times I hit the snooze button multiple times in the morning and get nothing accomplished before I leave for work.

Sleeping as poorly as I do doesn’t help any of this for me. Waking up and getting out of bed is quite possibly the most difficult thing that I do each day. I don’t think that my inability to leave my bed is a depression related thing, although I know that it has been in the past. I don’t think I’m necessarily going through a depressive episode, but there’s also too many things that are telling me that I am.

I’m fully aware there’s a lot of contradictory thoughts, behaviors, and actions. And I’ve been thinking about that and how it ties into my “balance.” At many points in over the past decade, I would go to the gym more often or do longer home workouts during some of my more obviously depressed times. Now, things are going well for me and I’m not doing any of that. I understand that there’s other factors at play too. My work hours are different. For a long time, I worked retail jobs that would have me start a shift at 6am and I would be done no later than 2pm. I still had a lot of the day left to do stuff. I could get to a gym and get a lot in by 4pm. Now, I work an office job from 9am until 4:30pm. If I go to a gym after work, I’m tired and I don’t have the motivation to do anything.

All too often, especially over the past year or so, I’ll start a workout and lose all motivation to continue doing it. I don’t know if it’s fatigue. I don’t know if it’s a depression thing. But whatever it is, whenever that voice in my head says “we should stop now” or “I don’t want to do this anymore” I’ll first feel a conflict inside me trying to rationalize the need to stop. I know that I’ve been on the treadmill for 20 minutes. I planned for 30. That 30 seems like it’s too much. Quitting there becomes a feeling of relief. And, there isn’t a feeling of disappointment for not getting to 30, there’s a small sense of pride for getting to 20. At the same time, I know that at 20 minutes, I should be looking at 30 as the finish line and know that I’m not there yet.

To anyone that read the last paragraph and thought “why don’t you just do the final 10 minutes?” My answer to you is, I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Am I too happy to workout? I used to do so much better when I was truly miserably depressed. Is it because I haven’t had any 5k races to run in over two years? Was getting myself ready for those races the key to my motivation? I did try to convince myself to train like I was going to run races this year, but I just didn’t keep up with it.

I really don’t know what is causing this apparent mental block for me right now. It could just be as simple as me not listening to the voice in my head that tells me to stop and just continuing to move forward, because I know that right now the only thing this is moving up is my weight, which is not good for me.

Like I often say in these entries, this is not me feeling sorry for myself. This is not a “woe is me” thing. This is me putting my thoughts into words and putting them out there. I’m hoping that this makes sense. I’m hoping it makes sense to me before it makes sense to anyone else. I know that I have work to do. I just need to get the work done. I am going to revisit this topic in the near future. I hope to have a better story to tell.

I Become the One You Haven’t Seen For Years.

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” 2020 has been a weird year. It’s been like nothing that we’ve ever experienced and I hope that none of us have to experience anything like it again. The COVID-19 Pandemic that hit us this year changed so much about how we go about our daily lives. I will usually look at my year-end entry from the year before to make comparisons. I want to remind myself of where I mentally was when I wrote whatever I wrote in the previous year. I want to know what I thought I may struggle with. I want to know what my goals were. I want to be able to accurately gauge my personal progress. But, in a year when I wasn’t able to do much, there’s a few things that I can’t compare. I also can’t get upset about it.

Because of the Pandemic, my social life pretty much came to a screeching halt in March. There were no concerts, no sporting events, no BBQs, and no parties. I have barely seen anybody on a social level, in any capacity since this started. I attended a concert (Mr. Bungle) on February 11th and I saw a comedy show (Daniel Sloss) a few days later. Since then, I haven’t done anything in any type of group setting. This is completely not like any year that I’ve had in recent memory. Concerts are what I do. I usually attend many shows in any given year, and I had some plans for a few in 2020. I had some road trips planned. None of that happened.

I was hoping to compete in more 5K races than I had done in previous years. I was looking to add one or two that I had never done before, but again, the Pandemic happened. I figured that training for the races would allow me to drop the extra weight that my doctor had recommended that I lose when I saw her in January. However, when the races started getting canceled, I pretty much stopped training and I ended up gaining weight. I am glad to say that I’m basically back to where I started and I’m making sure to do my DDP Yoga workouts daily. I’ve recently started doing some more intense and longer ones. And just like every single year-end entry that I’ve ever written since I’ve started doing DDP Yoga, I still end the year not being able to do the Black Crow pose. However, the last time that it came up during a session, I was closer than I’ve ever been before. Maybe it’ll finally happen in 2021.

I spend A LOT of time in my entries and social media talking about Mental Health. I know that 2020 has been very difficult for a lot of people. I ALMOST feel bad saying this, but my mental health is great. Social anxiety is a big thing for me. I’m not comfortable in group settings. Regardless of how often you may see at a party or with a few people, I can assure you that it’s not easy for me to be there. However, that really hasn’t been an issue for me for much of the year. All joking aside, I feel great. My social anxieties are more calm than I can think of at any point since I’ve become aware of them. However, I do fear that my re-integration to society could be difficult for me when things calm down and we can get back to “normal.” But, I’ll slowly cross that bridge when we get to it.

Another bright side to doing practically nothing in 2020 is that my bank account is doing better than ever. I am an “essential” employee. I didn’t lose a cent of pay during the year. I understand that not everyone that I know can say the same. I am beyond grateful that I have a job that made sure the employees are taken care of during this unprecedented time. There’s been so many points in my life where I was so worried about money. I would have to cancel plans with friends because I couldn’t afford to keep them. That isn’t a problem now. It hasn’t been for a while. It’s an amazing difference. There’s been a few times during the year where I had to replace something that broke or pay for something that would previously have financially ruined me. It’s not a concern for me right now. I have the financial “safety net” that I’ve never had before. I’m actually almost confused by the level of comfort that I have here. But, I’m not going to let it be a bad thing.

Much like the Black Crow Pose not being achieved in 2020, I also didn’t achieve my goal of reading 12 books in the year. Both of these things seem to be common issues in my year-end entry. But, as I said earlier, I got close to the Black Crow. But, I didn’t read nearly as much as I would liked. I spent more time watching old TV and movies than reading. I will try to make the 12 books (or more) goal happen in 2021.

I noticed that one of the things that I wrote in my 2019 end of year entry was that I had a hard time writing entries in 2019 because I had a good year and I felt that I didn’t have much to talk about. I had the same problem in 2020. And as weird as 2020 was, I don’t have much to complain about. I do know a few people that got sick with COVID, but I didn’t lose anyone to it. I’m lucky there. Too many people can’t say the same thing.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2021 to be better than my 2020. But, in addition to my own personal efforts to improve things for myself in 2021, it’s my wish that everyone else does their part to get through the Pandemic, so we can put in behind us. I really do hope that the entry that I write on this day in 2021 will have a little bit more to talk about. But, as I wrap this up, I’m very glad that I have enough perspective to know just how good I have it right now. By no means is this how I thought my year would be, but I also cannot complain about it. I’m healthy. My friends are healthy. I may not see my friends in person, but I have plenty of ways to communicate with them, and I do. 2020 was weird for me, but it wasn’t bad for me.

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

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.

Step Aside the Scruples in a Stratagem of Strain.

Writing these entries are sometimes difficult for me. Very often I’ll have ideas for something that I want to discuss and I just find it hard to put my thoughts into words. Sometimes I’ll have topics I want to dig deep into, but there’s something preventing me from getting into it. I use this forum to Unpack My Baggage and to express emotions that I’m sometimes not able to express elsewhere. Sometimes I’ll do a quasi-political rant here.

The entries that are the easiest for me to write are the ones that I do when I’m at some of my lower emotional points. I find it very difficult, if not impossible to write anything of substance when I’m “in a good place.” That’s part of the problem I’m having now. I’m in a good mental and emotional place. I’m not hurting emotionally at the moment. However, I can’t say the same about my physical well being.

I’ve been dealing with what I (currently) believe to be the longest lasting lower back spasm that I’ve ever dealt. In these entries, I’ve often said that I hope that my readers don’t fully understand some of the pain I’ve felt, because that probably means they haven’t experienced similar issues. I can say that again here about the back spasms. They’re not fun.

The simple fact that I’ve been able to walk without the use of a cane today is a bright spot. Not being able to support my own weight while trying to stand up is not a good thing.

People, like myself, that suffer from some form of depression will often talk about how difficult it is to get out of bed in the morning. It’s been very difficult for me over the last few days, but not because of mental or emotional issues. I’ve physically been unable to do it easily. I’ve had to pull myself to the edge of the bed and slowly get to the ground and then try to stand up.

Before you comment that I should see a doctor about this, I want to let you know that I have. I’ve already been to my chiropractor twice (as of when this is published) and I went to another doctor that prescribed some medications for me. Part of the reason I’m in a good emotional and mental state is that I don’t have to worry about affording doctor visits or medication because I have a good health insurance plan. I know too many people that don’t have that and something as simple as back trouble could cost them a lot.

This back spasm that I’m dealing with started over a week ago when I sneezed. I’m not kidding. It was just a sneeze that triggered it. It wasn’t particularly bad when it started, so I felt comfortable enough to go to a gym the next day. I was on a treadmill for one minute before I knew I should stop. I did some other cardio machines that had less impact and I felt fine, but I was probably making things worse. I felt a little better two days later and repeated the same thing at the gym, but again, it probably wasn’t a good idea.

If you saw me walking today, you wouldn’t notice a problem. If you saw me walking a few days ago, you would see someone in complete agony. I try my best to not take things for granted, but it’s something we all do. It’s just natural. But, not being able to stand up without assistance is not something I’m used to. Not being able to easily get off of my bed is not something I’m used to. Those are things I never want to be used to.

As of the time I’m writing this, I’m not suffering. I’m in SIGNIFICANTLY less pain that I was a few days ago. I’ve taken the pills I’m supposed to take. I’ve used ice packs on my lower back. I’ve done very little in the way of physical activity. I find it very ironic that I know of some DDP Yoga routines that are good for lower back pain, but I was in too much pain to do them.

I am getting better. There’s still some discomfort. But, like everything else I go through, I just have to take it day by day. I’ve done some stretches and I’ve done some simple DDP Yoga routines. I’ve been able to get out of bed and stand up without help. It’s weird for me to say that like it’s an accomplishment, but after the last few days, it is.

I will get through this. I will be better when all is said and done. If I have to take it easy for a few days and not do any strenuous activity, I’ll do that. If I have to forsake training for races, I’ll do that. I have time to get myself going for those. For now, I just need to get myself to 100%, or at least as close to it as I’m capable of doing.


In the Still Eclipse, Every Light is a Heartbeat.

I end every year with a blog entry where I ask the question “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” It’s not always an easy answer for me. There’s so many variables in it and it’s often difficult for me to say for sure one or the other. This year is very easy. I am absolutely better off than I was at the end of 2017.

As I’ve stated in a previous entry, I started a new job in September. That job may end up being one of the best things to ever happen to me. I make more money than I did before, the commute is barely a thing, and I enjoy the job. I really can’t ask for anything more there.

The job and the pay have made my financial issues a bit less worrisome. The stress relief there is almost immeasurable. By no means I am financially set for life or even close to that, but I’m doing A LOT better there now. I’m actually spending more now, because I can. Over the past few months, I’ve had to replace two household appliances. Buying them wasn’t a concern. I could afford them. I didn’t have to worry about if buying them would prevent me from being able to afford enough gas to get to work before my next paycheck would arrive. Again, I really can’t describe how much of an incredible feeling it is to not have to worry about that right now.

My social life is basically where it was at this point last year. Throughout the course of 2018 I went from optimistic to disappointed to very happy to very disappointed and back to optimistic. I don’t have any regrets about the choices or pursuits that I made in 2018. The various disappointments came from issues that were basically out of my control. That doesn’t mean I’m deflecting blame or responsibility, it really means that there was nothing I could do to change the outcomes, because of things that were set into motion long ago. I would like to go through 2019 without the disappointment. But, we’ll see how that goes.

Last year I lamented about how I only ran in 3 5k races. Throughout 2017 I kept saying that I “wasn’t ready” or whatever excuse/reason I had for not doing more. I did 8 races in 2018. I’ve done a total of 31 since I started and 3 of the first few that I did this year are in the bottom 5 of my slowest ever. But, the last one I did was .4 seconds away from being a top 10. So, I ended my year a lot better than I began it. As for my slower ones, I am a little bit bothered by the results, but knowing how completely exhausted I was after each one, I know that I could not have possibly put any more effort in during those races. I literally exerted every bit of energy I had. It’s not possible for me to sign up for the races yet, but I already know the dates of a few races that I want to do in 2019 and I have somewhat of a plan in place to get myself ready for them.

Again, I didn’t come close to reading as many books as I hoped during the year. I think my new job will allow me to have more time to read. No, I don’t mean I’ll be reading books while I should be working. I mean that I have more free time than I did before with this job and I’m also a lot less stressed. Even if I only read a little bit on weekends, I’m so much more relaxed that I’m able to get a few chapters in during a sitting.

Just like every single year since I started doing the program, I still haven’t been able to perform a Black Crow pose in DDP Yoga. One day I will achieve that.

One of the biggest complaints I have about the last few months since I’ve started my new job is that I haven’t been able to listed to the various podcasts that I enjoy so much. I’m not in my car nearly as much as I used to be, and that really cut down my podcast listening time. If that’s one of my biggest complaints, I’m obviously doing a lot better than I have been.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring me. I have some ideas for things right now. I have some plans to fix a few things in my house that haven’t been looked at or thought about in years. I want to live in an environment that is as stress free as possible I know that being completely stress free at home is not possible, but if I can make a few changes here and there, it’ll alleviate some of the stresses I currently deal with.

My New Year’s Resolution is always the same. It’s “I want to make it better.” I think I did that this year. Despite some really dark and depressing days for me in 2018, I’m leaving the year better off than I started it. I’m really not able to look at 2018 and say it was particularly bad for me. There were enough highlights. I’m hoping to be able to say the same thing about 2019 when it’s over.

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.

A Roman Candle in the Wind

On October 5, 1997 I was at Madison Square Garden watching the New York Rangers in the in their first home game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. The game ended in a tie. When I got back to my house that night, my sister was waiting for me at the door. She asked if I had heard about Brian Pillman. I said “No, what did he do now?” She said “he’s dead.” I questioned what she was talking about before she repeated it and assured me that it wasn’t a play on words. I stood there totally stunned before I just sat on the floor for a few minutes trying to process what I was just told.

There’s a good chance that many of you don’t know who Brian Pillman was. He was a Professional Wrestler. His death obviously had an impact on me. I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to such news and I wouldn’t be writing about it if it didn’t. But, it wasn’t just his death that had an impact on me, it was his life.

From the first time I saw in him 1989, I was a fan. He was a great performer and in many ways, ahead of his time. When he became a villain in 1992, I wasn’t sure he could pull it off, but did he ever. He was great in the role. Not long after that, he was placed into a tag team with “Stunning” Steve Austin. They were the “Hollywood Blondes.” The two had instant chemistry and remain one of my favorite teams to this day.

In 1995, Pillman started to act weird on TV. His character started to “snap” and it got to the point where you never knew what he was going to say or do. He managed to convince his then employer, WCW to let him go. The plan was for him to go to ECW for a while, become a bigger star while being “nuts” and then return. He ended up signing with WWE and became a bigger star that way. For various reasons, including a horrific car accident, his WWE career never took off like it was expected (or hoped). But, this entry isn’t about Brian Pillman’s career. You can go to Wikipedia to read all about that. This is about how Brian Pillman understood the power of Internet way before anyone else. This is about how Brian Pillman took a bunch of fans under his wing online in the days when it wasn’t easy to interact with fans. This is about the bond that was created with those fans and how what it means to me (and us) today.

In 1995, there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter. Interaction with celebrities online was basically unheard of. But, hidden in a sports themed area of America Online was the Grandstand. There was an area specifically dedicated to Professional Wrestling there. A few of us that had already become bored with the official WWE area on AOL would post our thoughts on the product in that area. Also in the Grandstand were folders dedicated to specific wrestlers. Brian Pillman was one of them. He showed up and posted in those folders more than any of the other wrestlers. While “in character” he would sometimes go to the WWE chat room and start trouble and often get his account suspended. His wife, Melanie, often had to plead her case to AOL to get the account reinstated since her name was the “master account” and Brian was just using a name on her account.

Brian was Professional Wrestling’s “Loose Cannon” and a few of us were his “Cannon Cult.” We were the ones he would sometimes ask to start trouble in a folder. Those folders would usually belong to another wrestler that he just wanted to mess with. He would usually pick up where we left off. All of this was in good fun, as we got to interact with one of our favorite personalities, and he got to help increase the awareness of his character and got more attention on himself, even in the days when most people didn’t know what the Internet was.

From time to time, Brian and Melanie would talk to us on AOL Instant Messenger and we became close. As close as possible on the Internet. Another wrestler that was on AOL at the time was “Diamond” Dallas Page. DDP and I would also talk online from time to time. I remember one day in late Summer of 1996 when DDP signed on and I asked him if he had heard from Brian recently. He said no, and that Brian hadn’t returned his calls for a while. I asked him for a deal, I said “if Brian signs on, I’ll tell him to call you. If you talk to him first, tell him his AOL friends miss him.” DDP agreed.

A few weeks later, one of the most controversial episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw ever happened. It’s known as “Pillman’s Got a Gun” and the premise was that Steve Austin was going to break into Brian’s house to injure him more than he recently had. Brian had a gun. Just watch the clip HERE.

I watched the show live that night and I went on AOL when the show was over. Not long after I signed on, Brian’s name showed up on my buddy list. I sent him a message letting him know how great I thought the episode was. We talked briefly and he said he had to go. I didn’t get to deliver the message.

Just a few minutes later, Melanie Pillman signed on. I chatted with her for a few minutes. She wanted to know if her hair looked good. I asked her where Steve Austin was and she told me that he and Brian were downstairs on the couch enjoying some beer. I loved that answer considering I had just seen Brian pull a gun on him. She said she had to get going, but before she did I told her that DDP said Brian hadn’t returned his calls. She said she would get on him about it. I emailed DDP about it. A few days later, he replied letting me know that Brian had called him.

I got to meet Dallas Page in 2013 and I told him that story. He laughed about and told me that he remembered that happening. I’m proud that I played a part in those two reconnecting.

Brian’s WWE career never really took off, for various reasons. Mostly due to nagging injuries. But we didn’t know about his alleged issues with pain killers and other substances. Unfortunately, it all caught up to him on October 5th, 1997. He was found dead in his hotel room. The official cause of death was ruled as heart failure due to an undetected condition.

I have no doubt in my mind that if Brian Pillman was healthy and substance free that he would have been one of the biggest stars in Professional Wrestling during its boom period of 1997-2001. In many ways, much of what happened in the business since his death is due to doors he’s opened online and how seriously he took his character.

To me, his legacy is complex. His in ring work was great. His personality was ahead of it’s time. But, what he did in 1995 and 1996 on AOL is what’s most personal for me. He talked to fans before it was cool to do that. He treated us with respect. He also taught me very early on how much somebody can use the Internet to communicate. He showed me the importance of words and, when used carefully and intelligently, just how powerful they can be.

This post isn’t doing justice to Brian Pillman’s career and influence. I’m not trying to recap his highlights here. I know this entry may make me seem like a “Mark” or a “fanboy,” but so what? Access to someone you thought so highly of was not common in 1995 and I was thrilled to have such access.

He was a big part of what made a few of us lifelong friends. Yes, I still talk to some members of the “Cannon Cult” to this day. It’s something I’m very grateful for.

To some, his death is just another death in a long string of Professional Wrestling deaths. And I understand that. But, as I’ve tried to explain here, this one was personal. He had a profound impact on me and many others. I hope he knew that and I hope he understood that.

CLPTLESS, MFLCannon, IamTheJer, TonyFlair, T725, DelJ, RudoJRM, and EcMFW were all proud members of the “Cannon Cult” and 20 years later, we still are.

tumblr_static_9dy4t1x9bz0go88cokoggwsc4.png

Brian William Pillman aka “Flyin'” Brian aka “the Loose Cannon.”
May 22, 1962 – October 5, 1997

#CannonCult4Life