Reflective Summary Froze Me in a Frame.

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?” I can look back at 2022 and say that, for the most part, I am definitely better off than I was one year ago. 2022 was not perfect. It had its ups and downs, but as long as whatever remaining time in 2022 doesn’t throw me a major curve ball, I can say that 2022 was really a good year for me.

One of the very first things that I talked about in my 2021 recap was how I had managed to still avoid having COVID-19 at all. That streak didn’t last long into 2022. By the end of January, I ended up getting sick with it. It wasn’t bad for me at all. And due to the fact that I (most likely) had a sinus infection at the same time, I think it’s very possible that I wouldn’t have even known that I had COVID-19 if it wasn’t for that sinus infection. But, as I attempt to look at the bright side of things, not only was my experience with the illness not bad, but I got 10 days off from work. And they were seriously some of the most relaxing days that I’ve had in years.

With the world returning to somewhat “normal” behaviors in 2022, I was able to compete in one 5k race. I knew going into it that having one of my best times was not likely to happen. It had been 3 years since my previous race, I was a bit heavier, and just out of practice. Nothing that I said in the previous sentence was meant to be an excuse, the statements were just facts. I probably could have put more effort in, but I didn’t. And I ended up finishing with my slowest time ever. However, the important part isn’t the “slowest time ever” part, it’s the “finishing” part. I finished the race and I’m thrilled to have competed in it.

So, I just said that I was a bit heavier than I had been. That was then, this is now. I’m currently the lightest that I’ve been in a long time. That doesn’t mean that I’m close to the lightest that I’ve been. I’m just lighter than I’ve been for a while. I still have a lot of work to do there.

And building from that is my workout routine. I don’t have one at the moment. I’ve barely done any type of workout since the 5k race a few months ago. I fully intend to recommit myself to that in the new year. My goal is to compete in as many of the local 5k races as I can, and in order to get the most of them that I possibly can, I need to be in shape for them. That will require me putting in a lot of work and if I stick to a plan, I should be able to do it. But, since I mention this ever year, DDPY (formerly called DDP Yoga) is the plan that I’ll be returning to. And unlike in 2021, when I was able to pull it off one time, I did not successfully complete a Black Crow pose.

Every single year that I’ve enrolled in a book reading challenge, I’ve failed to meet my goal. I’ve been doing this for a few years. My goal has always been to read 12 books in the year. It’s always seemed simple enough for me. One book per month. But, I’ve never been able to do it. And in 2022, I did not read 12 books. I read 13. I’m very happy with that. I COULD easily point out that many of the books that I completed were pretty short, but I did not make any rules about the length of the books. It was just how many that I could read from beginning to end within the calendar year. I’m going to keep the same goal for 2023 and I hope to match or surpass it.

Nothing stresses me out more easily or frequently than my financial situation. And for various reasons, my bank account isn’t nearly as high as I would like it to be. But, for the first time in a very long time, there looks to be potential for something to change there. A few things need to fall into place, and that includes me making some things happen, but if all goes as I’m hoping, when I do my 2023 recap, I should have good stuff to say here.

My social life was pretty good in 2022. If I gauge it only on if I have more friends than I started the year off with, then it was definitely a success. As is the case with basically all aspects of life, my social life had some ups and downs. But, when looking back, I really have no regrets. There’s nothing that I would change about my socializing during the year.

One of the things that I’ve said many times during 2022 (and even a bit before) is how surreal some aspects of my life had become. I’m not going to name names, but those that know the names know the names. There’s a few bands that I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve gone from being a fan of their music and their shows, to knowing people that know them, to knowing them personally. That has morphed into being called up on stage to do backing vocals a few times (including at the legendary Stone Pony) to being invited to do backing vocals on an upcoming album. I also got to appear in a music video for another band. A friend once told me that this surrealness would wear off and I told him that don’t ever want it to, because it helps me appreciate just how amazing the entire thing is. And while having some drinks with one of the members of a band a few months ago, I was talking about how surreal all of this is for me, he said “you made this happen. You talk to people and you made this happen.” After hearing something similar from another friend a little while ealier, it was that moment when it finally clicked for me. While I’m not still a bit of an introvert, I’m also out there doing things. It’s sort of a contradiction, but it’s worked out for me in ways that I would never have imagined and’s pretty awesome.

And that brings to me something that another friend recently said to me. I told him what I’ve said recently about my life and how “there’s never been a better time to be me.” He looked at me and said “there’s where you’re wrong. There’s never been a bad time to be you.” That was a “WOW” moment for me. The only bad thing about my friend’s statement is that I really like my own phrase and want to keep using it, even if I think it’s lessened by his great affirmation.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2023 to be better than my 2022. 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 2022. I think the biggest motivation for me to put forth all of the necessary effort is that I’m pretty sure that I’m at the point (or beyond it, depending on your perspective of “norm”) where I have no choice. I need do to more to achieve more. When I look back one year from now, I hope to have good things to say about that.

So, to summarize this entry which has taken me way too long to write, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” I think the answer is defintely yes. I have my anxieties, frustrations, and other issues, but I really do feel like I’m in a good place. And like I just said, I hope that I’ll have similar things, if not better things to say at the end of next year.





The Healing Through Years. So Obscured By the Tears and the Strain.

I’m doing well. I’m doing well. I’m doing well.

The reason that I repeated that just now is that I’ve found myself needing to remind myself lately. There’s just so much good going on with me. I’ve been a part of so many amazing moments over the past year. I’ve increased my social circle a bit over the past few months. I’ve had a lot of fun doing a lot of things. I’ve started taking steps to be healthier (physically and emotionally). There’s just so much good happening.

And yet, there’s also that lingering doubt in my mind. The doubt that creeps in when things are going well. The doubt that tells me that the good stuff isn’t going to last. The doubt that tells me that I don’t deserve to enjoy myself. The doubt that continues to make sure that I can’t fully enjoy any moment. It’s always there, even in small doses, but it’s always there.

There’s a lot of how I’ve been programmed to think, feel, and behave in various situations that I’m trying to work on. I need to re-program a lot of the wiring in my head. The reason that I have any hope at all at being successful with that is that some of the praise that’s been heaped on me by various friends has made me think more about what they’re saying instead of my usual instinctual dismissal of it.

So often, I’ve found myself justifying my relationships with the very people that I was hanging out with. I’ve often wondered “why am I here?” I’ve thought that I’m unworthy of being associated with some people. My mind has told me that I’m in over my head. But, a few times recently, that thought process was challenged by something that said to me or a situation where I felt completely welcome. That type of feeling isn’t something that I’m particularly used to, but I kind of like it.

I’ve always known that my interests aren’t usually the most popular things. And, for the most part, that’s never bothered me. I like what I like. It hasn’t always been easy to find other people who have similar likes and interests. I think that’s why I’m someone that has really thrived on social media. I’ve always managed to find groups of people to discuss stuff with. And this isn’t new for me either, I was doing it on America Online in the mid 90s. And from doing that then, there’s people that have been friends of mine ever since.

My obscure interests also have a downside. They’re definitely part of the reason that I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’ve been shunned a lot. But, to be honest, there’s LOTS of reasons for the shunning and the outcast thing that aren’t related to my interests. A LOT of it has to do with the amount of times that I wasn’t allowed to do anything based on parental restrictions. And this is where I start to clam up and become unwilling/unable to get into details. If/when I’m able to say more there, I will.

One of the things that I’ve told people lately is that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” And while I really do mean that when I say it, the doubting voice in my head has had me thinking about it. I’ll start to think “Really? What’s so great about now?” “How is now any different?” “You still haven’t changed anything.”
Those thoughts are there. I don’t know if I have a definitive answer, but I just know that something is different. Earlier in this entry, I said that I believe the praise of friends instead of immediately rejecting it. That alone is a HUGE difference for me.

Another word that I’ve used a lot to describe my life is “surreal.” Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around how great certain experiences have been. For a while, one of my friends has pretty much insisted that I should have a podcast or write a book at some of my experiences. I really don’t know if my stories of celebrity encounters have enough details for either of those mediums, but I’ve also recently found a forum where I can drop an anecdote about some encounter I’ve had and get a pretty good response. But, I digress…

The point about the “surrealness” of my life is that while I’m thoroughly enjoying so much of it, I’m also fully expecting it to come crashing down at any moment. I think that because I’m programmed to think it. I’m programmed to think it because of reasons that I’m not even sure of. Is it the influence of my parents and their lack of encouragement? Is it because kids in school were downright cruel to me? Do I doubt that I belong in social settings because I was shunned? Do I prefer to be by myself because it’s a defense mechanism that I built up due to being left out or do I just prefer it?

I don’t know the answers to the questions that I’ve asked. The more I think about those answers, the more my anxiety builds up. If my anxiety builds up, the doubts in my head are magnified. It’s a vicious cycle. I may know the answers one day. I’ve seen some gradual changes. The answers will come to me, just probably when I stop looking.

Shrouded in Autumn’s Graven Ascension.

Bad days happen. Everybody has them. And recently, I had a few. There wasn’t anything big that bothered me, but a various things were getting to me over the course of a few days. It set me down a path of withdrawal from people, and some of them noticed it.

I’ve often said lately that I’m “in a good place.” And I really still am. My social life is good. My job is good. I’m healthy (as far as I know). I’ve told people that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” And yet, without warning, I was going down a mental health spiral. And that’s the thing about depression. It’s not a phase. It’s not being sad. It’s always there and can flare up at any time.

I’m not completely sure about what started my downturn. As I said, it was various things. I’ve had a lot on my mind. Some were good, some were not so good. My default way to process things is to focus on the not so good. Maybe I was doing that. I’m not always aware of it. Focusing on good stuff does take effort from me.

In a recent entry, I posted about being feeling alone even when in crowds. I was pretty sure that I would feel that way again over this past weekend. There were a few events that I was going to be at and quite frankly, I didn’t really feel like doing them. I didn’t think they would be good for me. But, they ended up being the exact opposite. I could chalk it up to lowered expectations, but I’ve had the “I don’t want to be here” feeling many times before and didn’t walk away glad that I was there.

I’m currently in a form of a weight loss program. Although, that’s a simplification of it. It’s more of program designed to coach my eating. I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks, and I’m very enthusiastic about the lessons that I’ve already learned from it. And the reason that I’m mentioning in this particular entry is that it’s been teaching me to modify how I do things. It’s about re-training my thinking. And I’ve been trying to do that in various aspects of my life.

I’ve said that my default is set to miserable. How did it get there? That’s a loaded question that I don’t know if I can easily answer. But, can I reset my default? Can I train myself to not automatically default to miserable? I’ve been very carefree over the past few years. I’ve been much more mentally healthy, or so I think. But, I’ve always wondered if it was real of if I was faking it. You see, that’s my default. I doubt my happiness. I doubt whether I deserve happiness. I question why people are happy. I don’t trust happiness.

I am aware that no situation is perfect. I know that I cannot control every aspect of my day. But, can I control how I think about things? Can I control how I process things? Can I control how I react? That’s something that I’m working on. It takes effort. Change is good. Progress is good. Change and progress are also scary. They can also cause me anxiety. Was my recent setback caused by anxiety over a change in eating habits? I’m going to try to not think about that too much right now, since going through that thought process may result in a spike in anxiety. Yes, that’s how it works for me.

Here’s what I do now about me right now. I am going through the process of changing things in my life. And it’s deliberate. It’s not just a concept. I’m trying to make improvements. Even with my little setback last week, I still feel that I’m in a good place. I never fully went to a dark mental place last week. I was very far from it. I was just slightly distant and slightly irritable. It took a few people to say a few things to me and I snapped out of it. I’m always afraid that I’ll snap right back into it, hence my discussion of default. But, my awareness of things may be what stops it from happening.

I always end the year with a recap entry about how my year went. There’s two months left in this year. I’m still on a good path. I know that I can do more to (attempt to) make sure that I stay on that path. I’m working on it. And I’m as optimistic as my miserable default lets me be.

I Opened My Mind to All the Love Forsaken.

Your perspective on things can really change how you feel. I know that’s a simple and somewhat generic statement, but it’s very true. My own perspective about a lot of things has changed lately, and I think it’s for the better. I’m doing quite emotionally and mentally well and I’m still enjoying myself. I’m going to use this entry to get into that.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have a few friends that have spoken to me about how awesome my life seems to be. While I don’t agree with the level of excitement that they’ve described my life to have, I have finally started to accept that I’ve done some things that some people see as pretty cool. And over the course of the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve really started to appreciate these things on my own. And while I do think not being to do much for a while due the Pandemic played a part of my appreciation, I know that I was speaking about it before that as well.

Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with someone that I knew from high school. This was the first time that she and I had seen in each other since we graduated. She was in my office to discuss some stuff related to my job and we just started catching up. She was someone that I never had problems with in school. In fact, she was always nice to me. The conversation was probably just about 30 minutes long, but it furthered this whole “perspective” thing that I’ve been talking about.

For various reasons, I don’t really have much contact with many people from high school or elementary school. I really did not have a great experience while I was there. I was bullied by classmates, teachers were not supportive, and the counsellors that were supposed to help me would belittle and insult me. I understand that it was a different time and that things would probably play out differently if I was in school now, but that doesn’t help the damage that was done to me.

Getting back to that conversations from a few days ago, we talked about some of the things that I just mentioned, about my own experiences there. And we also talked about what we know now about the kids that bullied me. We now know that the majority of the kids that were the bullies in school had difficult lives at home. They were taking out the home life frustrations on someone like me, who they perceived to be an easy target. I was different. I was the sci-fi geek. I watched Professional Wrestling. I read comic books. I liked hard rock. And I fit the mold of the bullied kid. But, while I do have an understanding of the situations that the bullies had, and I do have sympathy for them, it doesn’t make my experience better.

How does what I just said about the bullies tie into perspective? Well, I have enough perspective now to not have as much resentment towards them. By no means does his mean that I’m going to start hanging out with the people that caused me harm, but I’m able to understand them better. This also comes into play since I’ve recently been told that someone that caused a slew of problems for me is now working at a place that I often shop at. I’ve seen him there. But, I don’t think I’ll be starting any conversations at any point soon. Even if, he falls into the category of all that I’ve just said. I learned a lot about his childhood and his upbringing recently, and it wasn’t good stuff.

Just sitting here thinking about the person mentioned in the last paragraph gets my anxiety up a little bit.

I don’t think there’s a hypocrisy in being able to somewhat get past the issues that people caused you and still wanting to avoid those people. I see it as being mentally and emotionally safe. They have a different perspective of things than I do. It could, in theory, have a perfectly “normal” conversation with them and have them say something like “Hey, remember that time when we did (fill in whatever)” and while they may see it as a happy-go-lucky time, it may trigger a completely different feeling from me.

That reminds me of something that I mentioned in the conversation from a few days ago. I was telling her that another friend was telling me about a mini-reunion that some people went to at a local bar a few years ago. And when he was telling me who was in attendance, one by one I told him about things that they had either done or said to me in school, and why I was glad that I didn’t go to that event.

How did I start off by talking about great things are and then get sucked into a discussion about awful things used to be? Well, first of all, I didn’t write any outline for this entry. I’m just winging it. Secondly, I think it ties in pretty well. It’s all about perspective. I spent so much of life consumed by all that was wrong. I used to tell people that anger was the only thing that kept me awake, like it was my source of energy. As it turns out, that was a lie. The source of my energy is coffee, but I digress.

When I heard friends talking about how good things are for me, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. My mind wasn’t programmed to believe it. My default was set to miserable. I didn’t believe praise. I didn’t believe that there was any hope. I stressed about everything. I had good days, but overall, it wasn’t fun to be me.

Now, bad days happen. Bad things happen. Setbacks happen. It’s part of life. But, my perspective is different. I’ve escaped into a part of my mind where things are good. I enjoy my routines. I enjoy doing things. I have fewer toxic people around me. The support system that I always hoped for is actually there. And my perspective now lets me know that they’ve probably been there for a while, I just couldn’t see it.

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.

Fallen Blind to the Cruel Hysteria That’s Constantly Challenging.

As I always state in my late June entries, my birthday is in early July. Because of that, I really do see my calendar years as distinct halves. And I will always start to look back at what’s happened over the past six months and, in this year’s case, look at the 44 years of my life that I’ve completed.

Unfortunately, a lot of these almost-birthday entries seem to take a darker tone. They’ll even cause some people to be concerned about my mental state. I do appreciate that concern, especially if what they’ve read is as dark as some of my previous entries. As someone that has rarely ever exceeded expectations or risen above average, it’s easy to feel less than. It’s easy for me to visualize all of the things that I haven’t accomplished instead of the things that I have. That is what probably happens right about this time, every year.

A few of my friends have pointed out how far I’ve come from where I’ve been. And, while I do appreciate those comments, and recognize my own growth (to some degree), it’s still very easy to look around and see how so many people my age (and younger) have seemingly accomplished more than me. I actually cannot stress enough how easy it is for me to see that.

Here is where I’m tying to remain positive. Or at the very least, not get negative. I DO HAVE enough perspective to know I AM MUCH BETTER OFF than I have been before. Yes, I have faced some adversity this year. I’ve had my health scare that I spoke about. I’m making a little bit less money than I was before. I’ve had my share of expenses recently (naturally). But, the very simple fact that I’m okay and not worrying about these things like I would have in the past IS a GOOD thing. That type of perspective keeps me relatively sane.

I’ll admit that the not going negative has been difficult for me recently. I could sense the darker thoughts creeping into my mind over the past few weeks. I had a concept of some things that I wanted to accomplish before my birthday. I did not meet those goals. There were some other things that I won’t be able to accomplish that are slightly beyond my control that also started me down the darker path.

But, as I’ve said, I have perspective. While I haven’t achieved the goals, I’m working towards them. I know that. I would like to tell you for sure that I’ll succeed, but I’m not sure. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep on keeping on.

However, it’s not just the short term goals that have me questioning things though, it’s the bigger picture things too. Should I have more to show myself at this age? Am I behind the curve? Am I where I’m supposed to be? The thing is, I don’t have any answers to any of these questions. Sometimes, I don’t even know if I’m asking myself the right questions. Notice how this is going. This is me telling myself that things are going okay while reminding myself of the bad things, even if I’m not sure what the bad things are.

If I focus on anything in particular in the next year of my life, it may be what I just talked about. I need to not dwell on what I don’t have. I need to not dwell on what I’ve lost. I need to not dwell on what I can’t have. I need to focus on the good things. I know it’s easier said than done, but as I said many times over the past year, I really did enjoy my time during the Pandemic. I’ve found ways to make the best of my days.

Before this entry gets me too distracted and goes into a long winded repetitive direction, let me do my best to wrap it up. I think the bottom line is that while I’m not where I think I should be, I’m where I am. And for the most part, I like it. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve become. It’s the perspective that keeps me grounded. And even the darkest parts of my mind are aware of that.

I’m Learning the Highs and the Lows of the Panic Inside.

It never ceases to amaze me how much can change in such a short period of time. Since my last entry, just one month ago, there’s been changes in my life. Some good, some not so good. But, let’s start where I left off last in my previous entry.

Last month, I spoke about some health concerns that I had. I went through a series of tests and it turns out that nothing appears to be wrong with my heart. For very obvious reasons, I’m very happy about that. And as I stated last month, I’m beyond grateful for the job that I have that provides me with the health insurance that allows me to have various tests done without having any financial concerns.

In addition to having my heart looked at, I had also made an appointment for a LASIK consultation and it was determined that my eyes were healthy enough to be a candidate for the procedure. And just about one week ago, I went though it. I now have perfect 20/20 distance vision. After wearing glasses for close to 35 years of my life, I no longer need them to see things in the distance. The day after my procedure, I drove myself back to the eye doctor for a follow up. Something as simple as being able to read the street signs clearly was absolutely amazing to me. It’s one of those things that I didn’t think would be mind-blowing to me, but it was.

My eye doctor did let me know before the procedure that I would need reading glasses afterwards. My doctor told me that the need for reading glasses would be probably necessary for me even I had good vision before LASIK. That’s due to my age. What happened from the LASIK is that my vision is more or less reversed. I can see completely clearly in the distance, but things close up are blurry without the reading glasses, or “cheaters” as I’ve learned that many people call them. I was also told that this is common with the procedure and a few friends that I know that have had it done have described similar things. I was a bit concerned about not being able to see close up things, since it was pretty new to me, but I was also told that it would get better, and I’ve already noticed a bit of improvement there.

Obviously, LASIK isn’t free. The good news is that I can (and did) finance it. I have two years to pay it off, or else they’ll take my eyes from me. Just kidding. If I don’t pay it off, there’s a lot of interest that I need to pay. My job is the reason that I was able to afford the procedure. It’s also the reason that I was able to afford some repair work to my car last week. It’s also the reason that I’ve been able to afford all of what I’ve bought for myself over the past year. Now, I fully understand that I didn’t do much during the Pandemic, which is why my bank account was as high as it’s been, but my job has been very good to me.

However, getting back to my financial situation, and as much good as I’ve had, I was given a “good news, bad news” scenario with my job last week. I have various responsibilities there. And with some of those various responsibilities and titles came some extra pay. One of those particular responsibilities has seen a very significant decrease in the workload, and it was decided that a decrease in pay would happen. As much as that stinks, they’re absolutely right about it and I didn’t put up any argument whatsoever. That was the “bad news” portion of the scenario. The “good news” is that another position/title had recently become available and it was offered to me. The financial compensation for that job is not nearly as much as I’m losing from the other one, but it’s something and I appreciate it being offered to me.

Part of what makes me so appreciative of my current workplace is not just the initial opportunity that was offered to me about three years ago, but every single other opportunity that has been offered to me since I’ve been there. I know that some of them may have been offered to me just because of relationships that I’ve formed over the years, but there’s also some that have been offered to me because the people currently in charge know that I’m capable of doing them. Being paid for them is a good thing. And having worked at other places that added more and more responsibilities to me without extra pay makes me appreciate all that this job does for me.

Due to a the financial disaster that I created for myself in my younger days, I learned to survive on very little available income. Over the past year, I really enjoyed the financial freedom that I had. Now, I have a few more expenses that I need to take care of with slightly less income than I had been used to having. It’ll take a little bit of slightly stricter budgeting and slightly less spending. But, I have complete confidence in my ability to make it work.

Also, over the past month, I’ve started being social again. I’ve seen a few friends for their respective birthdays. I’ve been to a Yankees games. I’ve been inside a bar for more than just take-out. It felt “normal.” I was very worried about how difficult it might be for me to “re-integrate” myself into society, but it’s been okay. Having received my COVID-19 vaccination, I feel that it’s safe for me to do things. But, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be willing to jump into just anything yet.

The past year has taught me (and a lot of us) to make a lot of adjustments to our lives. Some good, some bad. Some inventive, some creative. New routines and patterns have been created. The past week, due to my eyes and my salary have made more adjustments necessary for me. As things aren’t as good as I thought, hoped, had become used to, I’m very calm. There is actually no panic, at least not yet. I have the confidence to make things work for myself. I know that not all of the obstacles in my life are roadblocks. Those obstacles just make me need to take a few detours. It’s something that I’m very much used to, and something that, for once in my life, I’m okay with all of it.

That Joy You Need, Restricted By One Thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I 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.

An Archaic Way of Thinking, So Monstrous and Absurd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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