The Burden of a Time Lord is There’s Never Any Time.

As I’ve stated a few times in my late June entries, my birthday is in early July. Because of that, I really do see my calendar years as distinct halves. Yes, I know that it’s genuinely the half way point of a year, but I’m saying that I see a year as more of a complete half (if that makes sense) than someone that was born in (let’s say) March or September might.

Because of that split of a year and because of my birthday, I’ll usually look at the progress that I’ve made. Not just within the past 6 months, but in my entire life. This year, because of all that’s going on, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I really don’t know what to say. So, bear with me as I plow through this entry and attempt to make sense of things.

To my surprise, not only am I mentally and emotionally doing pretty well right now, I almost think I’m thriving. I’ve joked that as someone with social anxiety and because I’m basically an introvert, the lock-down and social distancing that has come about because of the pandemic is something that I’ve been training for my entire life.
But, on a serious note, my tendency to question why things are good has started to pop up. I almost feel bad that I’m doing so well for myself in a time that so many people in the world are suffering.

As I approach my 44th anniversary of my birth in a few days, I’ve made some observations about time. It’s always been evident to me that time seems to move quicker as you get older. But, six months into 2020, this year seems to be the longest 15 years that anyone has ever so quickly experienced in a 6 month period.
While I absolutely know that April and May happened this year, I barely remember them. They’re a complete blur. And that blur is not due to my newly found fascination with whisky or vodka. Time is just barely a concept right now.

I had plans to run more official 5k races than I had done in previous years. Last year’s results were some of the slowest ones that I’ve ever had and I wanted to do better in 2020, but shortly after I signed up for my first race, the pandemic hit and one by one the races started getting canceled.
In addition to my slower finishes last year, another reason that I wanted to run more races this year is that I had gained weight last year and at my annual physical in January, my doctor recommended that I lose a few pounds. By a few, I mean at least 20. I had started on that path, but when the races were canceled, I pretty much stopped training. I haven’t gone for a run of any kind since probably mid-April.

Speaking of things that I haven’t done for a while. I have not seen anyone in a face to face social setting since the end of March. In any other time, something like that could easily trigger a massive depressive episode for me, but I think I have enough perspective to know it’s for the best right now. Also, thanks to the wonders of social networks, I participate in regular online video chats with friends and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Something else that I often talk about in my annual-almost birthday post is my bank account. Well, it’s doing very well. I wish I could tell you that it’s doing well because I’m making so much more money than I was at this point one year ago, but I’m not. I’m literally making the exact same amount. However, with EVERYTHING canceled or postponed, there’s no places for me to go. I’ve put gas in my car a total of 3 times since March. That’s a lot different than two years ago when I was filling up twice per week only because of my commute to and from work.

I’ve found ways to manage time. The routines that I’ve come up with to fill the rest of my days when I’m not working not only help keep me sane, but to some degree, they help me (sort of) keep track of what day of the week that it is. Although, the way time has worked in 2020, I’m still often confused about all of that.

At various points last year, I lamented about not being able to find enough things to write about. I’m pretty much dealing with that again right here. How can I give you my standard progress report when I’ve done so little in the time period that I’m reviewing? I know that isn’t because of me, there’s things going on that are much bigger than me right now, and it is what it is. I don’t like using that expression, but it’s how things are now.

I don’t want to keep this entry going much longer because I’ve realized that, after two full drafts of this and a few edits, it’s painfully obvious to me that I really don’t have much more to say.

In just a few days, I’ll be 44 years old. At 43, I can still cling to the “early 40s” thing. That’ll be officially gone in a few days. I’ll officially be in my “mid 40s.” 44 years have gone by very quickly. And if the next 365 days are anything like this past year has been, I won’t know where at least 5 of the months went and I’ll have aged another 20 years by the time I write this entry next year.

The Scars that Bind Us.

Since I’ve started (somewhat) regularly writing entries here, I’ve often talked about how music has gotten me through so much of my troubles. I’ve spoken about the friendships that I’ve forged through concerts and message boards related to bands. This entry is going to be another one of those, and while it may repeat things that I’ve said before, it may also go a little deeper.

I’ve had a concept for this entry in my head for a long time. I pretty much knew that I would be writing it for this month’s entry. But, between the time the concept originally popped into my mind and now, a pandemic hit. I thought about putting this concept on hold and writing something else, but then I realized that what I’m going to say may be even more important now. So, please bear with me as I attempt to flesh out this idea.

Of all of the bands that I listen to that have lyrics that have impacted me the most, Katatonia and Life of Agony are at the top of the list. Their lyrics generally deal with depression, anxiety, despair, desperation, and other topics in the misery range. I’ve been listening them both since the 1990s. Their shows aren’t just concerts for me, they’re experiences.

What is the difference between just a concert and an “experience?” Well, the best way that I can sum it up is this. In 2016, I attended various days of a local music festival. Clutch played there on Friday, Life of Agony played there on Sunday. I ended up going to Radio City Music Hall on the Saturday in between to see Opeth, it was a long weekend. But anyway…
The person I was with at that festival on Friday and Sunday made a comment to me after Life of Agony’s performance. She asked me “What was that?” I didn’t quite understand her question, so I asked her to clarify. She said “I saw you watch Clutch on Friday and I saw you just now with Life of Agony, and you were totally different.” I told her that I go to see Clutch to have a good time. I go to see Life of Agony to “let it all out.” I don’t know if she understood the difference that much, but once I said that, a lot more things made sense to me about those experiences. Clutch shows have more of a “good times” and “party” vibe to them. Life of Agony, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and other other bands’ shows are emotional experiences for me.

Going back a few years earlier, at another Life of Agony show, I had a moment that I can only really describe as an epiphany for me. This particular show took just a little more than a month after the death of Robin Williams. The reason that’s significant and sticks out in my mind is because of two people that were with me at the show. The day after his death, I wrote a blog entry. At the time, it may have been the most emotional entry that I had ever done. It was raw and unlike most of my entries, published without much editing.
Just minutes after hitting “post” on that entry, I received a text from a friend. She told me that she had just read the entry and started telling me about some of her own issues with depression and self harm. She asked me if she could reach out to me when things got bad. Minutes after that, someone else sent me a message letting me know about her own issues with depression and also asked if she could reach out to me. Of course, I told both of them yes.
How do these two people and Robin Williams tie in to a random Life of Agony show? Well, it’s simple. There was a moment when I was watching the concert when I was standing between the two of them at a bar in the venue. I was the only person that realized how strange that was, because up until a few minutes before that, those two had never met. I did not tell them about how they both texted me within minutes of each other, but I did enjoy hearing them both praise me for being a good friend.

During that show, Life of Agony played one of the songs that is usually in their set list, “Weeds.” For some reason, that song never really did much for me, until that day and that moment. The first line of the song is “If tomorrow never shows, I want you all to know that I loved you all, you’re beautiful and I had myself a ball.” Because of where I was mentally and emotionally at that point, as I sang along with that line, I got choked up.
The band ended the show with what was their (and still should be) traditional closing song, “Underground.” That song is about members of society being cast out, and coming together to positively express their emotions. I remember looking at the crowd during that song and realizing that the people in the crowd are MY people. There’s a good chance that I didn’t personally know 98% of the people in the crowd, but it didn’t matter. We were all there for the same thing.

The people at that show, the fans of the band, we come from different backgrounds. We’ve had different life experiences. We have differing views on life. But for the 90 or so minutes that Life of Agony was on stage, NONE OF THAT mattered. And at that particular show, at that particular moment, it started to sink in.

As the Coronavirus pandemic spread through the world, concerts and other events started to get postponed or canceled one by one. There were two Life of Agony shows that I was planning to attend that have been postponed. Of course, that bothered me, since it’s an outlet for me and because I’ve made some great friends from their shows, and at this point, those friends include band members and their families as well as the crew members of the band. But, as the virus spread, I was glad to see the shows not happen. I would rather not see the shows now and have everybody be healthy than have them happen and not ever be able to see some of those people again.

Katatonia, who I once drove from New Jersey to Cleveland to see, and then from Cleveland to Montreal to see, did an online concert a few weeks ago. I knew I would enjoy that show, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. I watched it from the comfort of my bedroom. I had the lights out in the room and the concert was being streamed on my TV. From the very first note, I got chills and tears were flowing as I was happily singing along to some of the most depressing songs that I’ve ever heard. I was also texting a few people that were also watching the show and having similar experiences. And the friends that I was talking to during that time live in various parts of the country. But, that wonderfully miserable band brought us together. Some of us even joked that it was “our first Katatonia show together” since we’ve never actually attended any of their shows together.

Now, how does all of this tie together? That’s simple. Sometimes, none of our differences matter. When we’re at those shows, we’re with friends. Some of those friends are more like family to us than our actual relatives. We’re all hurting. We’re all there with our own demons and issues. We’re there to forget that for a little while. We’re there to let our aggression out. We’re there to hear every voice scream. We’re there for the words and music. We’re there to see beyond our darkness. We’re there for the message in the music. We’re there because the scars that bind us brought us there.

It’s very possible that we won’t see any shows in person for a while. But, as I said before, I’m okay with that if it means we’re all healthy. If I go to a show and someone that I expect to be there is missing, I want to know that they’re not there just because they couldn’t get to the show. I don’t want their absence to be because they’re not with us anymore.

At some point, concerts will resume. I will see you again. This will all end, we will overcome and we will be able to scream those words, together. And for that brief time, just like the words of the Allman Brothers Band, we can “leave our blues at home.”

Still My Guitar Gently Weeps

I lost my mother 10 years ago today. That sentence is even harder for me to believe than it is to type. We’re all currently going through a time in which days and weeks blend together. Yet, I remember almost everything about that day 10 years ago. And as I’m sitting here right now, a lot of it is coming back to me. I know what was said in the morning before I went to work. I remember where I stopped for breakfast and what I had to eat. I remember where I was when phone calls started happening. I remember the exact look of the local highway as I was driving back to my house. I know that I can keep going, but I think the point was made. I remember that day very clearly.

I knew that I was going to write an entry today. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, probably months. I kept going back and forth in my head about what I should say, what I could say, and I would say. It’s a very complex topic. Not just my mom’s final days, but her life, and my relationship with her. There’s things that I’ve never publicly spoken about. Was this finally the time that I was going to do that? Well, the answer is no. It’s not just that I don’t want to say some things, but I really can’t. My anxiety is through the roof as I’m typing this.

My typical blog writing process starts with me coming up with the concept, when I have one. It’s usually two or three days later that I’ll finally publish the entry. But, that’s after a lot of edits and possibly entire re-writes. I purposely didn’t do any of that with this one. I’ve always wanted it to be raw and emotional. But, as I’ve already said, my anxiety levels are shooting up. They rose any time I thought about what I would write.

Yesterday, I logged in to my site and I re-read my entry from five years ago. I realized that entry said almost every thing that I wanted to say today. And, it included something that I wrote 10 years ago. And honestly, it’s really all that I need to say.

My mother was very complex. She did what she thought was the best things for her kids. Whether they were or not is open to interpretation. But, we are who we are because of her. Not just because of her, but partially in spite of her and despite her.

So much has changed over the last 10 years. There’s been more loss. There’s been some wonderful additions too, in particular my nephew and my niece. The world is different than it was 10 years ago. I’m different than I was 10 years ago. I would like to think that I’m in a better place than I was then, and I would like to think that my mother would approve of where I am now, but would I be where I am if she was still here? I’m going to do myself a favor and not think too much about that question right now.

What is posted below is my blog post from July 8, 2010. It was originally posted on MySpace. At the time it was published, it was the most personal and “real” blog entry I had ever written. Also, at the time it was written, I was not very comfortable talking about me. I had not ever seen a therapist about myself and kept most of the my emotions to myself. And I certainly did not talk about my mother. The entry is a bit vague in detail, but it did what it needed to. As I’ve said, one day I may touch on certain subjects, but until I feel that I can (at least publicly), I believe this is the best way for me to handle it today.

Thanks for reading…

My Guitar Gently Weeps
July 8, 2010

Being that my birthday falls in the beginning of July, I see my year split into equal halves. I’ve discussed this in previous blogs. I’ve also discussed how I usually get very reflective during this time of year. I look back on the year and try to figure out where it’ss gone and then figure out where I need to go. For the past two months, I’ve been more reflective than ever. I’ve not just looked back on the last six months, but I’ve looked back on 34 years that I had with my mother.

I lost her at the end of April and it’s been a rough few months ever since. I’m not going to get into details about the circumstances, as I don’t feel the need to do so. As a generally private person, I feel there are certain things that should remain private, so that’s what I’m going to do here.

For almost 34 years, she was here with me. For almost 34 years, I had a meal waiting for me every day. For almost 34 years I knew what I was coming home to. And since the end of April, I don’t have any of that.

One of the things I’ve noticed about my memories of my mother is how perspective on them has changed. Many of the things that had negative thoughts associated with them have been pushed aside and positive thoughts are prevalent now.

My mom and I were both die-hard New York Yankees fans, but didn’t go to games. She spent a great deal of her childhood in the Bronx and went to countless games at the Old Yankee Stadium when it was in its original form. It tore her heart out when they renovated it in the 1970s. She often told me of the tears she shed while going past it on a train and seeing the walls being torn down. She was pregnant with me on April 15, 1976 when they had the grand opening of the new Yankee Stadium. The changes were so severe that she never wanted to go back. While I was always a bit upset that she didn’t want to take me to games, her stance on the ballpark helped to create my old school baseball purist mentality. For those of you asking why my dad didn’t take me to games, well, he grew up in a National League/Yankee-hating household, so it wasn’t an option.

When old enough to go to games on my own, I finally did. I managed to see some good ones too, including David Cone’s Perfect Game in 1999. Ironically, my mom was originally going to go to that game with my sister, but the heat was too much for her that day and she backed out. Her not going allowed me to go.

2008 was the last year the Yankees played in that particular building and I told her she HAD TO go to a game with me at that place. There were no options. On April 6, 2008 we finally attended a game together. It was a chilly Sunday afternoon game. We saw the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 2-0. The score of the game was not important to me, all that mattered to me was that I finally got to a game with my mother.

And a little side note, the Yankees have since moved to their new stadium, and I haven’t gone to it. I wonder where I get that from.

While we didn’t agree on many things musically, there was one artist that we always agreed on, Dion. She grew up in his neighborhood, and kind of knew him from the town. While she was more of a fan of his early doo-wop stuff, I liked his late 80s stuff and the blues albums he did over the last few years. We got to see Dion perform in 2009. I knew it was going to be a special time, but I had no idea how special it was going to be. The smile I saw on my mother’s face that night was amazing. She had been brought back to her childhood and the more simple things that go along with it. He played all of his classic songs and told stories of the neighborhood, and my mom was hooked on every word. It was seriously one of the best things I had ever seen, she was overwhelmed with joy.

Ironically, my mom often said I go to too many concerts and didn’t think I needed to see the same band over and over again. Dion was playing in our area again a day or so after the show we saw and she had thought about getting us tickets to that show as well, but unfortunately for us, it was sold out.

Obviously, there was a lot more to my mother’s life than the Yankees and Dion, but they played a huge part of her life. It’s all about her time in the Bronx, and one those two particular days I was able to bring her back to things from her childhood, and what I saw in her face those days was just magic to me.

I’ve had to learn a lot of things very quickly over the last few months. Things that I probably should have known earlier, but didn’t need to know, since she took care of them. Things like cooking and how to properly take care of our birds. I think I’m doing a decent job adjusting to that. The cooking part will take some work, but what I’ve done so far has been good.

Another thing I learned, and again, I probably should have realized this before is just how incredible my friends are.The support they’ve given me during this time has been downright amazing. They’ve greatly helped me get through my days and provided me with a great outlet when I need it. But should it surprise me? That’s what friends do. I just hope that I can be as good to them when it’s needed as they’ve been to me.

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.

Constant Noise Behind the Overcoming.

The feeling of malaise that I described in my last entry is still prominent, but it seems to come and go. There was another potentially big setback in recent weeks, but it didn’t drag me down as much as it could have. Of course, I did joke with people that I had hoped for a major depressive episode because it would help my efforts to lose weight. (Un)fortunately, I didn’t have that major episode.

I want to point out something from the previous paragraph. I said that I joked with people about my issues. The joking part isn’t my focus, it’s just the people part. I recently had a conversation with someone that suffers from major depression. He does not treat it. He actually barely acknowledges that it exists. He is barely active. He does nothing that can stimulate his mood or emotions. He’s stuck where he is. He will not admit to fault in any situation and believes that everything will just fix itself. Yet, it never has.

During that conversation, I mentioned about all that I do with my friends. All of the concerts, sporting events, and other things that I do. But while I was talking about it, it really started to hit me that what I was doing was significantly more than just going out with friends. It really was helping my mental health.

Last month I mentioned that when my downward spiral began, I was at a bar with friends. I also mentioned that if I hadn’t already committed to being there, I probably wouldn’t have gone. If I had stayed at my house that night, I would have probably watched TV and gone to sleep. I would have probably had very little communication with anyone. I would have just sat there with the TV and with my thoughts. And while I would have wanted to do nothing but sleep, my thoughts would probably have kept me up all night.

Recently, I’ve been posting some things on social media sites that may have had a slightly darker tone than I usually post. And, they were being posted a bit more frequently than I would usually post things like that. A few people reached out to me to make sure that I was okay. Something as simple as that should NOT be taken for granted. I try my best not do take it for granted. It’s amazing how much a simple text message can make a difference.

I went to a baseball game with a friend last year. He bought the tickets and met me at the stadium. He never asked me to pay him before the game. When the game was over, I asked him what I owed him. He said “nothing. I just enjoy the company.” That should NOT be taken for granted.

I don’t post things on social media to draw attention to me. I’ve never liked being the center of attention. Although, maybe that’s because I’ve felt so ignored and insignificant for so much of my life. Before I go way too deep into this potential exit ramp, let me say that I’ll probably revisit this topic later…

ANYWAY, as I was saying, I don’t post things about mental health on social media to draw attention to myself. I do it to draw attention to mental health issues. Sure, the topics I’m posting about are things that I’m probably dealing with, but it’s not about me…

Or is it?

Now, I’m questioning that a bit.

When people greet me and ask me how I’m doing, I usually answer with “good,” “fine,” or “okay.” Most of the time, most people will answer that question that way. It’s more of a Pavlovian response than an honest one. While we’re all conditioned to answer that question that way, many people are conditioned to not know how to reply if we really told them how we’re doing. If I replied with “I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip,” I don’t think people would react quite the same. Even if that was the honest answer.

Or, it’s also possible they would completely understand that reference and really worry about things.

I’ve noticed that this entry is becoming one of my rambling ones that isn’t necessarily tying one single topic together. But whatever, that’s where I am right now. I’m doing well, but I’m not. I’m doing better than ever, but I’m not. I’m where I’ve always been, but I’m not where I was.

I don’t even know what the point of this entry was supposed to be anymore. I’ve done in so many different directions, but that’s how my mind works sometimes. I think the point was that by going out and doing things with friends, I’m actually improving my mental health. I think part of the point was also that I have friends that care and do good things for me. I know this particular topic will come up again.

My friendships and improving my mental health by doing things are topics that I want to go into more detail about at some point, and maybe that will be soon. I have ideas for future entries that I hope to write. And maybe some of the things that I’ve written here can be incorporated into those. But, I have no idea what my mood will be when I start writing my next entry. I hope it’s good and I can just go with one of those ideas, but we’ll see how things play out.

Hold On, Face to Face. Damaged by the Sad Disgrace. But, All I Need is a Simple Reminder.

I spent much of 2019 stating that I hadn’t had a major depressive issue in a while. We’re a few weeks in 2020, and while I still haven’t had one, I feel like I could be on the verge of one.

Last week, I discovered a slight financial issue that won’t necessarily majorly impact me, but it will set my plans for the year back a little bit. That isn’t really a big deal, but sometimes something as simple as that can be the incident that triggers an episode. Especially, when things just haven’t been great. And, they haven’t been.

I want to make it very clear to any person reading this that I’m not in any danger. I’m not near rock bottom. I’m not even near a figurative cliff, but I am in a slight slope on my own emotional roller coaster.

A few days ago was when I was probably feeling the lowest that I’ve felt in a very long time. I went out that night to see my friends’ band. They were playing at a local bar. For a good portion of the night, I sat by myself, and that was my own choice. I wasn’t being shunned by anyone. In fact, I had a good amount of friends there. And as a side note, considering how busy that bar was, sitting by myself could actually be considered an accomplishment, but I digress. One particular person there actually insisted that I join a group he was sitting with. I did that, sort of. I still sat off to the side, pretty much by myself. Again, it was my choice. It’s just where I was, because that’s where I needed to be.

While I was at the bar, I genuinely did have a good time. I talked to many of my friends. I had a few drinks. I enjoyed the music. But, it didn’t change my overall mood. And unless I had told you that I was not doing well mentally, you wouldn’t have known it. Apparently, I’m pretty good at going through the motions. And, sometimes going through the motions is good.

If I didn’t have those plans, there’s an excellent chance that I would have stayed at my house that night. I may have watched TV. But, depending on my how great my attention span was, it may have just been short YouTube videos. Is staying at my house by myself a better or worse choice than going out when I know that not much will change for me? I guess that’s a matter of your perspective.

One thing that I know very clearly about Mental Health issues is that my issues are MY issues. They’re not your issues. While you and I may be experiencing similar things, how they impact us is not the same. And how we deal with them isn’t the same either. The funk I’m in now is something that I need to go through. I don’t mean that in a “I need to suffer” way, although, I have felt that many times before. I just think that I need to go through this to let it run its course, just like I would with a common cold. There’s not much anyone can do for a cold, except let it happen.

It’s very possible that people reading this may not agree with what I said about me needing to just go through this, and I understand that. I am struggling with some things, but I am attempting to force myself to remain active and get through my days. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I get through what I need to get through.

Very recently, a friend of mine reached out because she was really not in a good place. She said that was down on her luck and near her breaking point. I offered some supportive words and let her know that I was glad that she reached out. Her luck changed very shortly after that and things definitely turned around. Not long after that, she I went out for dinner and some drinks. I know she needed it, but I did too. I don’t do good things for other people to know that I do them. I do them because it’s the right thing to do. I felt good after that.

I have other people that are very important to me that are going through difficult times. They all deal with them differently. I cannot force them to be social. I cannot force them to reach out. I cannot force them to break out of their slumps. But, I can (and will) remind that I’m available for them. And, I do.

There are days when it’s more difficult to get out of bed and go through the motions than others. I’ve had a few difficult days with that recently. My alarms go off every morning and I hit the snooze buttons multiple times. But, eventually I do get out of bed and I’ll go to work (always on time). I’ll do what I have to do at work and then do whatever else that I have to do during the day. Whatever things I’m obligated to do, I get them done. I’m highly functional like that.

At some point, possibly in the near future, this minor episode will pass. I’ll be in a better mood. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe it’ll linger for a while. Maybe it’ll even get worse. I really don’t know how much personal control that I have over that. I just have to keep doing whatever it is that I need to keep doing. And some of what I need to keep doing is just getting through each day, waiting for something to change. It could be something really good, it could be something simple. It could just be a simple reminder.

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.

2019 Album of the Year

1- Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
2- Lacuna Coil – Black Anima
3- Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
4- The Allman Betts Band – Down to the River
5- Those Poor Bastards – Evil Seeds
6- Within Temptation – Resist
7- A Bad Think – The Savior
8- Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
9- King Hobo – Mauga
10- Whitechapel – The Valley

Life of Agony’s 1993 debut album River Runs Red is their masterpiece. That’s pretty much not debatable. That album was a concept album about someone going through a very rough time and at the end of the album, it appeared that the main character had killed himself.

They’ve put out some very good albums since then, but none of them had the impact that The Sound of Scars had, in my opinion. The Sound of Scars is the follow-up to River Runs Red, in that it tells the next chapter of the life of that character. As it turns out, he didn’t die and this album is that story. This album is also, (in my opinion) easily, their best work since River Runs Red.

The day that The Sound of Scars was released, I made sure that I had free time in my day and listened to the album from uninterrupted, from beginning to end, while reading the lyrics. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when any new album gave me the emotional response that this one did. I often get goosebumps when discussing it. Yes, I think it’s THAT good.

Usually, I’ll recommend a few tracks from each album that stand out as my favorites, but I feel doing that here does the album a disservice. This album is intended to be listened to from beginning to end. If you are a fan of Life of Agony and have not heard this album, you’re missing out. If you haven’t listened to Life of Agony for a while, this is when you should start again.

Lacuna Coil’s last album, Delirium was my 2016 Album of the Year. When talking about that album, I said it was ” was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for.” Well, they followed it up with Black Anima, which I consider to be just as good and they almost got the top spot again this year.

They’ve embraced a darker, heavier sound and it really does work for them. Their “new” style is continuing to evolve and I hope it continues on this path.

Tracks I recommend from Black Anima include “Layers of Time,” “Sword of Anger,” “the End is All I Can See,” and especially “Reckless.” Although, I do have to say the video for “Reckless” was a bit, ummm… interesting. If you watch it, you’ll understand.

Slipknot has been around for almost 25 years. While I’ve known about them and have heard their songs, I’ve barely paid attention to them until recently. I am completely willing to admit that I have probably missed out on a lot of good music. We Are Not Your Kind is Slipknot’s 6th studio album, but the first that I’ve ever really listened to. I think it’s a really good record and I’m glad that I got it. At some point I’ll go back and listen their older stuff.

Some of the tracks that I think I really good from We Are Not Your Kind include “Unsainted,” “Solway Firth,” and “A Liar’s Funeral.”

Between 1996 and 2014, I saw the Allman Brothers Band in concert 45 times. You could say that I’m a fan of their work. When I heard that Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the sons of founding Allman Brothers Band members Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts (respectively) were forming a group called the Allman Betts Band, I was intrigued. They released their debut album, Down to the River, in the summer. Without hearing a single song from it, I purchased the album. Any fan of the Allman Brothers Band should love this album. Not only does it sound like early Allman Brothers’ albums, but Duane Betts sounds almost exactly like his father. He looks like him too. In all seriousness, there are a few songs on Down to the River that could easily be on the Allman Brothers’s albums such as Idlewild South or Brothers and Sisters, and I think that is a big compliment to them.

Songs that I think stand out “Autumn Breeze,” “All Night,” and especially “Shinin’.”

I’ve been listening to Those Poor Bastards for a few years now and while I have liked some of their albums more than others, they’ve yet to disappoint me. How many American gothic country doom bands do you know? I mentioned earlier that I like that Lacuna Coil was able to put out consecutively good albums, but not only did Those Poor Bastards do it, they’ve done it two years in a row. 2019’s Evil Seeds gets the 5th spot on my list 2018’s Inhuman Nature was ranked as the 8th Best Album in my list.

Tracks to check out on this include “One of Us,” “Just Tonight,” and “Wake Up in the Gutter.”

I’ve thought that Within Temptation has relied on guest vocalists too much in previous years. Many of their songs have had a second singer on them. But, there’s something about them doing it on Resist that really worked well. They have a very rich and elegant sound that not many other bands that they’re associated with also have.

Some of my favorites from Resist include “Endless War,” “Raise Your Banner,” and “Supernova.”

I had never heard of A Bad Think until this summer. I didn’t know they were a group. I honestly didn’t know they existed. But then I started seeing ads for their new album pop up all over my social media sites. I remember one saying “If you like Blackfield, you’ll like A Bad Think.” Well, I finally checked out songs from A Bad Think on YouTube. I don’t understand the Blackfield comparison at all, but I ended up liking A Bad Think. A Bad Think is Michael Marquart, a former member of Flock of Seagulls. A Bad Think is his project. I believe it’s him doing every instrument and writing every song. And it’s good. I’m glad I gave in to the advertising pressure online.

“Feel Me” and “Falling Star” are good tracks to check out.

I don’t know what to expect from Opeth albums now, and at the same time, I do. I know they’re probably not going to feature any death metal growls, but they’ll still take me on a ride like they used to. Their latest album, In Cauda Venenum, is a good example of that. I do have to admit that this album took a little while to grow on me. It’s got a bit more of a jazzy tone to it than previous Opeth albums do. That isn’t an issue for me, but I don’t know that I expected it. See what I’m saying? The songs on this album flow very well together, almost to the point that I don’t know where one song ends and the next begins. That’s almost a flaw in the album, but I still liked it enough to rank it as the 8th Best Album of 2019.

Songs I was able to figure out the beginning and end to that I liked include “Dignity,” “Lovelorn Crime,” and “Universal Truth.”

King Hobo formed by accident. During the 2005 Sounds of the Underground tour, members of Clutch and Opeth would hang out and jam between sets. That sparked a friendship and eventually their self-titled album in 2008, which I ranked very high in my Top 10 list that year. Their second album, Mauga, is also very good and worth checking out, especially if you like Clutch, “stoner bands,” or “jam bands.”

The opening track on Mauga is “Hobo Ride” which immediately became one of my favorite songs from this year. The title track and “King Blues” are also good ones to try.

Finishing off my Top 10 list is another band that I wasn’t aware of until this year, Whitechapel. Apparently, their 2019 album, the Valley, is their 7th studio album. Who knew? Well, actually a good friend of mine knew and she texted me about one of their songs and she said it was “depressing as Hell. It’s amazing.” She got my attention. I watched the video. It was very emotional. It “went there” in ways that I’m not used to seeing. It was actually a very graphic video, which she warned me about. But, based on that, I wanted to see/hear more. I got the album and listened to the whole thing. Wow. They have a new fan. They’re classified as Deathcore and Progressive. That’s a weird combination for bands, but it works for them.

If my vague description of the Valley didn’t do enough for you, check out their video for the song that my friend recommended to me, “When a Demon Defiles a Witch.” But, be warned that it deals with serious stuff. My other favorite song from the album is “Doom Woods.”

Other albums that were in consideration for my Top 10, but just didn’t make it were Le Butcheretts’ bi/Mental, Corpse Flower from Mike Patton and Jean Claude Vannier, Signs by the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Agonizing Love from Lonesome Wyatt (from Those Poor Bastards).

The Black Keys put out Let’s Rock during 2019 and I just think it’s very forgettable. That’s a shame, because I’ve really liked their albums up until this point. I saw them in concert this year and the new songs didn’t win me over.

I became aware of Jinjer during the year and liked one song that I heard. I got the album, Macro, and thought it sounded too much like other bands that I’ve heard. I lost interest quickly.

Imperial Teen’s second album Now We Are Timeless really isn’t timeless.

I’m not too aware of which bands will be putting out new albums in 2020. I believe Paradise Lost and Clutch may have ones. I’m hoping to discover a new band or two during the year. Who knows, maybe social media ads will work again. But, I hope that 2020 gives me a few good albums to enjoy. If any of them are half as good as some of the ones in this year’s Top 10, I won’t have much to complain about.

A note about eligibility for my 2019 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2019.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

The Road to Happiness I Never Knew.

As I’ve said in recent entries, things have been going well for me. And as I’ve also said in some recent entries, that worries me.

Just a few weeks ago, I told someone that I had not had any major depression episodes in 2019. Instead of looking at that as an accomplishment, I actually see it as something being wrong. Yeah, I know that’s not a good thing.

I’m in a weird emotional place right now. I’ve in a much better social, mental, economical, and (possibly) emotional place than I’ve been in years. I’m happy with my finances. I’m happy with my job. I’m happy with my friends. I’m just not happy with myself.

So, what’s causing my unhappiness? Is it the (somewhat simple) fact that I’ve gained some weight over the past few months? I know the cause of the weight gain and (in theory) it’s simple to reverse. Is it more than my weight? Is it deeper? What’s the problem?

Of course, I know that none of my problems are necessarily simple problems. Or are they? Yeah, this is what keeps me up at night. Seriously. It does. I have trouble shutting my brain off at night and I keep thinking, and thinking, and over-thinking my issues. That causes me anxiety, fatigue, and an overall reluctance to do anything.

If my current weight is such an issue, I should just eat healthier, workout more, and take better care of myself, right? The thing is that I’m aware of all of that, but there’s a mental block that’s preventing me from going in that direction. I could easily do a workout each and every morning before I leave for work, except that I can’t. And THAT is causing me more stress.

The only stretching that I’ve consistently done in recent months is stretching the time that I get to lay in my bed and hit the snooze button on the various alarms that are needed to wake me from the sleep that I’ve barely had.

It’s possible that this entry will be the catalyst that I need to change my course and start re-focusing on my fitness. However, if I start to do it out of routine and not out of joy, will it seem like too much of a chore for me? Do you see why things are sometimes difficult for me? My mind goes all over the place very easily.

When I started this entry, I didn’t know that I was going to focus so much on my lack of physical activity. I knew that I was going to focus on my lack of self-happiness. But, as I’m writing this (over the course of a few days), I’ve realized that there’s a few things that make me unhappy about myself. And of those things, there’s a few that I don’t necessarily have total control over. And there’s also some that I have no control over (yet). So maybe, I should focus on what I do have control over and do my best to fix that. If my current weight is THE issue that I can fix, then that’s what I should work on.

My brain is sort of like a highway with many exits. There’s cloverleaf exits, jughandles, u-turns, and dead ends. Sometimes the problem with me accomplishing something is that my brain takes the wrong exit or just keeps going in a self-destructive way that stops me from getting to where I need to be. It’s not as simple as just taking the right exit. It’s a long road and the time I spend on that road varies often. But, maybe if I can get my brain to take a detour, I’ll somehow end up on the right road and get there. Of course, I’m not even sure where that destination is. And if I start to worry about that right now, we’ll be here for a LONG time.

It is Time For Deeds to Take the Shape of Vows and Codes of Promise.

I recently heard someone talk about Mental Illness as an “Invisible Illness.” A light went off in my head when I heard that. I thought it was a brilliant description. It’s so accurate. Society does not feel the same way about Mental Illnesses as they feel about other illnesses that they can see. Society doesn’t believe that Mental Illness should be treated as seriously as a physical injury. How many times has someone that is dealing with some kind of depression been told “get over it?” I had a really bad back spasm early this year. I could barely stand up or walk. People didn’t tell me to “get over it.” They insisted that I see doctors for it, which I did.

What I described above is a simplistic way of looking at Mental Illness vs. other illnesses. But, it’s accurate. The stigma attached to Mental Illness leads to so many more problems and it needs to go away. No ifs, ands, or buts. It NEEDS TO GO AWAY.

I live with depression. I live with anxiety. I live with Mental Illness. Like any nagging physical ailment (and in my 40s, I have my share of those), they can flare up at any time. Sometimes without any warning or logical reason. I mentioned my back earlier. I see a chiropractor somewhat regularly about that. It’s not something that people question. They know I have back issues and they know why I see a doctor for it. When I was regularly seeing a psychologist a few years ago, some people questioned why I did that.

I question why things are going well in my life. I expect all good things to end. I anticipate disaster. I get very anxious about things I have to do. I feel alone when I’m part of a community. I can be feeling great one minute and be a wreck the next. All of what I just described is an illness. Why do people think differently about that type of illness than they think of a physical bruise, or a cut, or even cancer? Why are mentally ill people shunned?

I’ve noticed throughout my life that a general ignorance towards issues causes people to act out and be afraid of things. I used to be a bit more judgmental about cynical about Mental Health issues than I am today. I’m not proud of that. But, what I am proud of is where I am now. I am very much aware of my own issues. I am aware of the damage done to me. I am aware of the damage that has been done to others. I don’t like feeling the way I’ve felt and I don’t want others to feel that way either.

I have often felt alone and helpless. And as much as I KNOW that I’m not alone nor helpless, those feelings are often around. They linger. They cause me anxiety and depression. I do my best to remind myself that I’m not alone. I do my best to remind myself that I’m not helpless. And I also do my best to remind others that they are not alone or helpless.

I want to do all that I can to help others. These entries are very therapeutic for me. I don’t know what my readers get out of them. I hope, at the very least, they realize what I’ve realized a while ago. There is a community of us out there. We’re not alone in this. We are here for each other.

My last few entries have been a struggle for me. Not because that I’ve been feeling down and out. It’s been the exact opposite. I’ve been doing well for a while and I’ve felt that I’ve had nothing to write about. Recently, I took part in a class that really opened my eyes to a few things and really inspired me. I’ll be touching on that in upcoming entries. I’ll also be discussing more about how certain bands and their songs, and their fans, have helped me (and others). I have specific things that I want to discuss. Hopefully, you’ll want to read about what I have to say.