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, and EcMFW were all proud members of the “Cannon Cult” and 20 years later, we still are.

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

#CannonCult4Life

I Don’t Catch My Breath Until the End of the Day.

From reading my entries, you may have come to the conclusion that I do a lot of reflecting on my past. Well, you’re right, I do. And I usually do that even more so towards the end of the year and right before my birthday, which happens to be just about in the middle of the year. My year is broken up pretty evenly by that. This entry is another of those reflections and somewhat of a response to something I wrote a few ago when I was discussing what I felt to be the lack of progress in my life. I said I would write a follow up to it and with my birthday just days from now, it’s as good of a time as any to do it.

I feel very overwhelmed by life at times and very underwhelmed by results. Many things that I have enjoyed doing have become more a burden than a joy. I struggle with getting the motivation to do things that I know I should do. I think it’s a bigger issue than just being depressed. And I don’t know what the issue is.

I’ve written a few times about running races and how good those experiences were for me. Often I would be doing a practice run on a treadmill and think I couldn’t go any more, but I would will myself to do it. Nowadays, there’s so much doubt in my head about running that stopping a lot earlier than I originally planned is a relief for me. I don’t like that, but there’s a mental block that I haven’t been able to break through.

I felt that my social life was better over the last year than it had been in a very long time. I was in a relationship that really enjoyed being in. I felt it was easy for me. Many of the negative issues I had with previous relationships weren’t there. This one was just good. It was fun. I felt that it was good for me too. However, it wasn’t sustainable and it recently ended. Unlike other splits, I’ve had, there are no hard feelings here. For reasons on both of our ends, it just wasn’t able to be keep going as it was. Even without the animosity, there was definitely an emotional setback for me. I think my job was good for me there. It distracted me from the split, but I also think that distraction from emotions isn’t good sometimes. I think you need to feel the emotions you’re supposed to feel when you’re supposed to feel them and I don’t know if I did.

Much to the surprise of many of my co-workers, I genuinely like my job. It’s a desk job, but after working various forms of retail jobs for over 20 years, a desk job is beyond a pleasant change of  pace. In many ways, it’s actually ideal for me. I’m paid more per hour than I have been in many years. I work 40 hours per week. I’m still not able to make progress. The bills and expenses keep adding up. They keep coming. If I make more, the expenses increase. It’s a vicious cycle. This topic will most definitely be revisited at some point, but maybe not in this entry.

Getting back to what I said about being overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. I’m still searching for that elusive balance. I want to just be whelmed. And honestly, I don’t even know if that’s an actual word, and if it is, if it fits this context. But, if overwhelmed and underwhelmed are things, why isn’t whelmed. Anyway, I digress…

I want the results of my life to match the effort I put in. But wait a minute, I just said that I’m having trouble finding motivation to do things. There’s likely a correlation there that I haven’t really put together yet. Unfortunately, the effort and the malaise aren’t in the same areas of my life. I work hard and get nowhere. I lose motivation to do things, but I still work hard. I do what I need to do, but I often wonder if it’s enough.

Where exactly am I supposed to be? Where exactly should I be? Are they the same? Am I there now? Who gets to decide these things?
Those questions are somewhat rhetorical and not rhetorical at the same time.
As I typed that last part, I was reminded of the first entry I did on this site. I guess not much as changed after all.

I’m sure anyone that reads this will think that I just need to change things in my life. Well, what are they? I said I was going to plan things out more to make sure I get things done, but I don’t even know how much time I have to do things. HOWEVER…
I’m going to plan things. Over the next few weeks and months, I’m going to do all I can to get myself into better physical shape. I will do my best to break through whatever mental barriers I have in front of me. Maybe this alone will be a big catalyst for me. Who knows?

I said earlier that I think it’s important to feel what you’re supposed to feel when you’re supposed to feel it. Sometimes that’s actually difficult and that leads to more stress. Last month, I touched on what it’s like for me to know a depression is coming on. Not being able to properly express myself at times can lead to that stress. It’s not good, and I have to work on that as well.

I write one entry per month right now. Maybe I won’t limit myself to just one. I have ideas for entries, so maybe I’ll just go with it when an idea comes to me. Although, I don’t want these entries to be less meaningful and thought out. I do my best to be constructive and to vent my frustrations in a somewhat positive manner. I have baggage to unpack and the more I unpack, the better off I should be.

I want to attempt to keep this particular entry as short as possible and not have it go into too many topics, so I’ll wrap it up now. I started my 40s very content. A few things have changed since one year ago and I’m not as sure about my direction. Malaise or not, depression or not, stress or not, I’m not done yet. I have absolutely no idea what 41 and on will bring me. I don’t know where it will bring me. I just know I need to get there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Every Dream That is Left Behind Me, I Take A Bow.

I always get very reflective during this time of year. Well, more than usual, that is. My birthday is July 3rd, and that means it’s time for me to look back on a year of life and think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. However, this year is a little bit different. I’m turning 40 on this year’s July 3rd. Yes, my countdown to 40 years of age is now at just 3 days to go (as of when this is being published).

A few days ago, I looked back at a copy of the blog I wrote for my 30th birthday. I had a different, less serious writing style then. From reading that particular entry, I can’t get a good gauge of what I was feeling at that time, but I think that was the point of what I wrote and how I wrote it then. A lot has changed for me over the past 10 years, but then again, a lot has remained the same. I don’t know if the part that hasn’t changed is good or bad.

One thing is for certain, I have a much better perspective of what’s important in life. The past 10 years have seen me deal with significant loss, emotional lows, financial turmoil, loss of jobs, and relationship issues. I’ve documented basically all of them in my entries here, and there’s links there if you want to read more.
The past 10 years have also given me some emotional highs, (a bit more) financial freedom than I’m used to, new jobs, and new relationships. It all goes back to the balance I’ve spoken of a few times. But, it’s also about my perspective on things.

It’s very easy for me to look at where I am at 40 and think I’m not “where I’m supposed to be.” I never thought at this age I would still be living in the same house that I grew up in. I never thought I wouldn’t be married. I never thought I would be struggling paycheck to paycheck as I have. But, that’s where I am. And while it does get to me sometimes that I’m not further along, I also know that I could have it A LOT worse. Trust me, there’s some struggles and strife being in this house, and that’s a topic for a few entries, but at a later time. I do have enough perspective to know that it’s not all bad.

I started my 30s with an overbearing amount of credit card debt. I eliminated that over 3 years ago. Not having that burden weighing me down is an incredible feeling. However, as I’ve stated, I am struggling financially. I am currently a full time employee at a company that won’t exist much longer, while also working part time jobs on the side, just to survive. I have a bit of uncertainty with my current employment situation. I felt much more secure there 10 years ago. I was paid better and had job security, but all of my money was going towards my debt. Now, I’m paid less, have no job security, but no debt. Balance?

In some ways, I’ve given up on the dream of finding that one job that is THE ONE for me, if that makes sense. I am more concerned about being comfortable enough at a job, while not being complacent. I am concerned about that job providing enough for me to live comfortably, and hopefully with health benefits. My priorities have definitely switched. But, don’t get me wrong, if I were in a position to make a little less to do something that I absolutely loved doing, I probably would.

Getting back to what I said about my writing style from 10 years ago, it was definitely different. I would say what I had to say, but it was mostly incredibly vague. I wasn’t able to really express myself. In some cases, I wasn’t really allowed to. And, I was definitely not comfortable enough to do so. I had so much built up inside of me, but it never came out. It just stayed there until it faded into nothingness. This itself is a possible future topic.

One thing I am definitely aware of from when I turned 30 was where my health and weight was. I gained a lot of weight at this time 10 years ago. I had gone up to 230 pounds and was just basically not really active. It was during that summer that I first joined a gym, changed some of my eating habits, and hoped to get healthier. Here I am 10 years later, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I workout daily, I run a few times per week, and I’ve participated in twenty 5k races (as of this writing). I don’t see that changing.

The simple fact that I have pride in some of my accomplishments over the last few years is a big change from where I was 10 years ago. Hell, it’s a change from where I was 5 years ago. The fact that I can write these entries as openly as I do is a big thing for me. I would never have been able to do this a few years ago. But, I realize how important it is for me to have an outlet. There were things in my way. Some were just mental blocks, some were bigger than that. Some of those obstacles are not here anymore and it’s good to be able to express myself. To be completely honest, sometimes I even surprise myself in these entries with my ability to open up.

A few years ago, a friend read a particular blog entry I made and he told me he wanted to sit down and talk to me about some things from it. He’s a few years older than I am, and told me how much his life started to improve at age 40. Here, I am just days away from that milestone and even with a big bit of uncertainty about some aspects of my life, I’m starting to believe him a bit. I’ve noticed recently in situations where my defaults would kick in, they haven’t. My fears have not kicked in. My confidence is higher than I’m used to. But, even with all of that said, and even with all of the losses I’ve had in the past 10 (and even 40) years, I’m more optimistic than I’ve been on a long time. So maybe my friend was right. I’ll let you know in a few years.

How Long Will it Take Until There Will Be Room Again For Hope?

At the end of every year I ask myself if I’m better off than I was one year ago. Looking back at older blog entries I’ve seen that the answer has varied. But, if my biggest regrets of 2015 are failing to read one book per month and still not being able to successfully do the Black Crow pose in DDP Yoga, I think it’s safe to say that yes, I’m better off at the end of 2015 than I was one year ago.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest sources of constant frustration for me has been my financial situation. I have been living paycheck to paycheck for so long. It’s more like surviving paycheck to paycheck. There’s been little to no money left before the next paycheck would arrive. I kept trying to get a second or a better paying job. I would fill out application after application and I would rarely ever hear back from anyone. Then, I started getting replies. I went on some interviews. The first time I had only one interview. The second time I had more than one. I didn’t get hired those times, but simply because I kept going further in the process I had a little bit more confidence. Then something happened, I got hired.

The hiring at this job wasn’t necessarily the good thing I had hoped though. After going through an interview with two assistant managers at the location and seeing them impressed with my resume and what they thought I could accomplish, they set up an interview with the big manager. He also said he was impressed with my resume, but figured I needed a new challenge and assigned me to work in a department that had nothing to do with anything I had applied for. It was an area I didn’t know much about and the pay was commission based. I reluctantly accepted the position, but after just over one month of it, I knew it wasn’t for me at all. Working the two jobs was draining me of all of my energy. Due to the hours I was working and the little amount of time I had between jobs, I was not sleeping much. I had no time to do anything I needed to do at my house. And instead of being depressed that I had no money or food, I was depressed because I had no time to get any good food or to do anything besides work. To make a somewhat longer story than it needed to be shorter, I left that job. But, this story doesn’t end there. I ended up getting another second job that was much better for my schedule. I still have time to do what I need to do and I actually enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living comfortably now. I’m just living a lot less uncomfortably.

If you didn’t know the whole story, you would say my social life isn’t any better than it was one year ago. But, I think it is. I reconnected with some old friends, I strengthened many friendships, and I made a few new friends as well. Sure, I’ve remained single throughout the year and I still have feelings of loneliness, but I also have a feeling of hope that I haven’t had in a very long time. Much like the job situation, I think I’m getting closer with each effort to change that. Each bit of discouragement here is discouraging me less, if that makes sense.

Last month I wrote about the races I ran in 2015 and how proud of my accomplishments I am. I ended 2014 not being able to complete a 5k in under 29 minutes. I ran 9 races in 2015 and only one was above 29, with a few of them being under 28 minutes, and my fastest being only 7.8 seconds away from 27 minutes. I have a pretty clear goal for 5k races in 2016.

In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I couldn’t get my weight under 200 pounds. I had been so close, but I was never able to make it there. I spent much of 2015 in the 195 range. In 2016 I want to stay (or get back) there and possibly get a little bit lower as well. I spent much of my life believing I couldn’t be in better shape, now I know I can. I also know I can be even better than I am. The mental “programming” I’ve spoken of in other entries is being changed little by little. Although, I’ve also learned (and quickly) that my metabolism is not great anymore and as soon as I slow down the workouts, my weight can go up quickly. I’ll be getting back to basics and working towards what I want to achieve.

While speaking of my programming. I did have my share of struggles with depression and anxiety during the year, but it wasn’t as bad as previous years had been. If nothing else, as I get older, I do get a little wiser and I am able to handle and manage my issues slightly better. I know I’ll continue to deal with this, and I’m sure I’ll have emotional setbacks. But, I’ll get through them.

One thing that was definitely a highlight for me in 2015 was the bond I developed with my nephew. It took a little while, but I’ve become one of his favorite people. I have trouble putting into words the feeling I get when I see him smile because he’s happy to see me. And of course, he has a little sister now as well, so yes, I have a niece now too. The overwhelming joy those two bring me is amazing. It’s things like this that motivate me.

As of today, December 31, 2015, there are only 186 days until my 40th birthday. That milestone looms over me almost like a really large black cloud. I felt I hadn’t done enough by the time I hit 30 years old. Now it’s almost 10 years later and I still feel that way. The difference now is that I feel I’m on the right track. I still don’t really know what the destination is, but I’m pretty sure that I’m heading there. Along the way,  I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to have setback. I’m going to be disappointed. I’m going battle my depression. I also know that I can get stronger from all of that. I NEED to get stronger from all of that. I may not accomplish everything I want to, or need to, get done in 2016, but if I can look back in one year and again say I’m better off than I was, then I’m doing something right and I need to keep doing it