Sometimes before I write an entry, I’ll go back and read some other ones just in an effort to not repeat too many things. I haven’t done that today and I don’t plan to. I know that I’m going to be repeating some things from older entries, but I think it’s okay in this case. Because, I’m still in a good place and I want to attempt to get into that a bit.
One of the biggest problems with my own mental well being throughout my life has been my lack of ability to believe that things are good for me. Even when I may be at a peak, I’m waiting for the rapid decline to happen. And there were a lot of factors there. It wasn’t just that I was a pessimist, but I had very strong influences in my life that were putting me down, insulting my interests, bad mouthing my beliefs, and in general not being supportive of me. After (many figurative) trials and (too many judgement) errors, it doesn’t seem like many of those negative influences are around me any more.
There wasn’t one specific moment when a light went on or one any specific thing that turned my mindset around, but I think it was more a series of things. Various people, places, and things have helped me a bit there. The simplest way for me to look at thing is that maybe I all of my mental health puzzle pieces were in poured out and I was able to piece them together. The isolation of 2020 and 2021 really did contribute to that, I think. My solitude helped. My ability to appreciate the simple things was heightened.
Back in 2014, I was at a specific concert. At that show, I realized how much that specific band, its fans, and their shows meant to me. I had seen that band many times before then and I’ve seen that band multiple times since then and the members of the band have become friends of mine.
Just a few years ago, a friend of mine was listening to me talk about some of the experiences that I’ve had and she said something about how great my life seems to be. I did what I would normally do at that time. I dismissed the comment. But as time went on and I continued to be amazed by how surreal my life can be at times, I started to believe it. And now, I’m at the point where not only do I believe it, I accept it.
I’ve often said that “it’s good to know people.” Well, that’s true. Knowing the right people can be beneficial. But, more importantly knowing good people can increase the quality of your life. And right now the people I know are good people and they’re the right people for me.
Just about two months ago, I happened to be briefly seen on television. The circumstances behind that go in hand with what I said about knowing good people and the right people. A lot of people contacted me after that moment. The one comment that stood out to me the most was how incredibly happy I looked and how it was obvious that I was enjoying it just based on my big smile. Once again, I believed the comment. And I accept it.
None of what I’ve brought up here is to brag about people that I know. I’m bringing it up to emphasize that the good/right people that I know are positive influences in my life that provide me with positive experiences. For far too long, I had too many toxic people in my life. Way too many people that would make it impossible for me to experience such a smile that I mentioned a few minutes ago. I would also cling to that toxicity. I felt that it was where I needed to be in life and my where I was supposed to be.
To be honest. I still don’t where my life is “supposed to be.” By most conventional standards, I’m not where I’m “supposed to be” at this stage of my life. But right now, I’m where I need to be. And I really think that knowing the right people, who are good people, has helped me realize all of that. I know where I’ve been. I’m not focused on where I “should be.” I’m where I am, and for once, I’m not questioning if it’s good or not.
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.
1- Amenra – De Doorn 2- Garbage – No Gods No Masters 3- Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility 4- Steven Wilson – The Future Bites 5- Whitechapel – Kin 6- Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra – Songs for the Apocalypse 7- Lord of the Lost – Judas 8- Dave Neabore – Retro Inferno 9- White Stones – Dancing into Oblivion 10- IDLES – Crawler
For all that was wrong with 2021, and there’s a lot, it was a really good year for new music. Six of the ten bands that are in my Annual Top 10 list are appearing for the first time. I actually gave some consideration to doing a Top 15 for the second time, and I easily could have, but I kept it to a Top 10. Yes, I did copy this paragraph from last year’s entry and just changed the year.
Amenra is a Belgian band that I had never heard of before 2021. While watching an interview with Professional Wrestler, Malakai Black (aka Tommy End), I heard him mention Amenra as one of the bands that he had been listening to a lot of. I went to YouTube to find what I could find from them and I was blown away. I also noticed that they had a new album out in 2021 and I ordered a copy of it. What I got was De Doorn. The vocals are not in English and feature a lot of screams. To be honest, I have no idea what they’re saying, but it doesn’t matter. The melodic sound of this album works so well. There’s only five songs on De Doorn, and they all flow together. I won’t recommend specific songs on this album because it’s something that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. It’s such a good listen. I’ve also recently purchased a few other albums from Amenra and I hope to enjoy those half as much as De Doorn.
Garbage is one of my favorite acts, and their albums are usually very good. No Gods No Masters is no different. Although, I do remember when I first heard the album, I recognized the distinct sound that Garbage produces, but I thought it may need to grow on me. And since I’ve ranked it as the 2nd best Album of 2021, it’s safe to say that it did grow on me. The lyrics on the album really do reflect the times and Shirley Manson’s take on the world. If you’re a fan of this band, I wouldn’t skip this album.
Some of my favorite tracks from the album include the title track, “the Men Who Rule the World,” “Uncomfortably Me,” and especially “Godhead.”
I never know what to expect from a project that Mike Patton is a part of. Tomahawk is no exception. This group has put out some incredibly rocking albums. They’ve also put out an album of nothing but Native American songs. Tonic Immobility is more of a “normal” album from Tomahawk and one of the better ones from their library.
The opening track, “SHHH!,” hooked me and the rest of the songs kept me interested all the way to the last track, “Dog Eat Dog.” I also recommend “Fatback” and “Business Casual” as songs to listen to.
Steven Wilson’s the Future Bites was originally supposed to be released in June of 2020, but it was pushed back until January, 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Wilson’s solo work is a hit or miss with me. But when it’s a hit, it’s usually very good. This album was a hit. The first single “Personal Shopper” (released in January, 2020) features a guest cameo by Elton John and really made me want to hear more of the album. When I finally did, I liked a few more songs on it as well.
I recommend tracks such as “Self,” “12 Things I Forgot,” and “Eminent Sleeze.”
Whitechapel was recommended to me a few years ago when their last album, the Valley, was released. I liked it and it made my 2019 Top 10 list. Their latest album, Kin, is another good one. There is so much raw emotion in their songs. It’s sometimes difficult to convey that with growling vocals, but they pull it off very well.
Some of the tracks that stuck out to me include “I Will Find You,” “A Bloodsoaked Symphony,” and “Orphan.”
Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is another act that is new to me this year. I saw a friend raving about their album, “Songs for the Apocalypse” on Twitter and decided to check it out. The first song that I heard was “Bring Out Your Dead.” I couldn’t get enough of that track.
“Down in a Hole” (not the Alice in Chains song), “Alone in the World,” and “Born of the Sun” are also good songs to check out.
YouTube suggested Lord of the Lost to me in 2020. While they’re basically a gothic metal band, I found them to be an interesting mix of styles. Reading more about them, I learned that their lead singer and founder, Chris Harms, says that he’s been influenced by Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Lady Gaga. As I said, an interesting mix of styles. Their 2021 album, Judas is a double album with 24 total songs on it. I expected to lose interest while listening to the album, but I didn’t. It held my attention. That says something. By no means are all tracks great, but there’s definitely enough very good ones with “For They Know Not What They Do” as the best one.
I also like “Priest,” “Viva Vendetta,” and “the Heart is a Traitor.”
Dave Neabore is the bass player from one of my favorite bands, Dog Eat Dog. Horror movies and movies scores are a big interest to him. During the year, he released Retro Inferno, an album of 1980s style synth music. If I wasn’t already aware of him, this album would not have been on my radar. But, I gave it a listen and I really enjoyed it. The opening track was good enough to keep me interested and I kept listening.
“Space Driver,” “Destroy All Robots,” “Electric Sky,” and “Samhain” are currently my favorite tracks from the album, but it’s a good listen from start to finish.
White Stones was founded by Opeth’s bass player, Martin Mendez. Their 2020 debut album, Kuarahy, sounded like Opeth demo tapes and songs that didn’t make the cut with Opeth. However, their 2021 album, Dancing Into Oblivion, is MUCH better. It’s so much better that I may go back and listen to Kuarahy again just to see if I like it any more than I did originally.
Some of the better songs on Dancing Into Oblivion include “New Age of Dark,” “To Live or To Die,” and “Freedom in Captivity.”
As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2021. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):
– Anneke van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies are Always the Brightest: As much as I love her voice, this album didn’t do anything for me. – Carcass – Torn Arteries: This is a solid album that could have easily made the Top 10. – Dion – Stomping Ground: Another VERY solid album from Dion. This is a great blues album. – Ministry – Moral Hygiene: If the Top 10 wasn’t so solid this year, this album would be high on it. – Moonspell – Hermitage: A good album, but not a great album. – The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Dance Songs for Hard Times: See Moonspell. – Sumo Cyco – Initiation: This was a fun listen, but I don’t see myself going back to it often. – Those Poor Bastards – Old Time Suffering: This is definitely not their best work. – Tom Jones – Surrounded by Time: Tom Jones has a great voice. I enjoyed this album when I heard it, but it very easily got lost in the shuffle. – Vola – Witness: This is another band that I was introduced to this year. I really liked this album, and it came very close to making the Top 10.
Steven Wilson’s band, Porcupine Tree, has reunited and will release an album in 2022. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet was good enough to be my Album of the Year. Can they do it again? Clutch may also release a new album in 2022. They also had an Album of the Year with 2004’s Blast Tyrant. I don’t know who else will be releasing new records, but I look forward to listening to some new stuff during the year.
A note about eligibility for my 2021 Album of the Year: – the album must have had a United States release date in 2021. – the album must be new material (for the band or artist). – live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.
As sarcastic and cynical as I can be, I really do take mental health seriously. It’s taken me a long time to understand it. It wouldn’t be accurate of me to say “fully understand it” because I don’t fully understand it, and I also know that I may never fully understand it. And while not understanding something can sometimes, or let’s face it, often cause me significant anxiety, in this case, I’m okay with not fully understanding things.
Just like it’s taken me a long time to understand things about my mental health, it’s also taken me just as long to arrive at a place where I’m content. This is where I would usually start to doubt all of what I’m saying here and question if me being content is really me being complacent, but at this very moment, I think it’s truly content. I truly do enjoy a lot of things in ways that I haven’t always been able to. I know that what I’m writing today may be repeating a lot of what I’ve said in other entries, but it’s stuff that needs to be repeated and it’s stuff that needs to be said within the context of this entry.
For much of my life, my interests were things that were mocked, belittled, insulted, and trashed by many. Classmates, co-workers, family members. People from all of those groups would find ways to pick apart things that I like. It caused me to be ashamed to like what I liked. It caused me to not want to talk about the things that I liked. It caused me to be afraid to discuss the things that I liked. And if you think that doesn’t plunge someone into the depths of depression, you’re quite wrong.
I’m so lucky now that I have outlets for myself. I’ve found friends that understand and share my interests. I belong to groups on various Social Media platforms that help me cultivate and enjoy my interests. It’s taken me a long time to find all of this and to be comfortable, but it happened.
I like older TV shows. I like old Hollywood stories. I like the larger than life personalities of TV commentators from the 1970s and 1980s. I like Professional Wrestling. I like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other science fiction franchises. I like pretty specific musical acts that are usually not within the mainstream view. I have positive outlets to discuss all of my interests now. I certainly did not have that when I was younger.
Now I know what while I’m in such a good place at the moment, it could change at any time. My depression could be triggered very easily. I’m aware of that. Just look at my entries from month to month. My opinion of myself varies quite a bit from month to month. Hell, it sometimes varies week to week, day to day, minute to minute. But, right now, at this very moment, I like where I am. I’m not looking for my usual doubts to surface.
Ironically, one of the things that inspired this particular entry is a video that I just saw. This video had a few Professional Wrestlers sharing some of their own stories of their battles with Mental Health. I was so proud of them for sharing their stories. It’s so important for everyone to be able to find a way to properly, and positively express themselves. This is how I choose to express myself. It works for me.
I try my best to use Social Media in a positive way. I’ll use Twitter to express a random thought that popped into my head. I’ll vent a little bit on there. I’ll use other forums to attempt to spark a conversation about something of interest to me. Recently, I watched a pretty funny movie from the 1970s for the first time. I posted about it in a group and I just sat back and watched all of the replies. Something as simple as that is so good for someone like me. A simple validation like that can go A LONG way.
As we’re now closing in on two years since the COVID-19 Pandemic started and we had to deal with lockdowns and more isolation than some people were used to, I’ve been able to put a lot of things into perspective with it. My Mental Health issues are well known to my friends. I DO talk about them. I NEED to talk about them. And many of them reached out to me just to check on me when this was all starting last year. My appreciation for that is something that I can’t really put into words beyond saying that I can’t put it into words. But, when I told my friends that I was THRIVING during the Pandemic, I wasn’t joking.
I’ve talked about my social anxieties many times in these entries. Because there was not much available to do, my social anxieties were basically gone. I’m well aware that they weren’t destroyed and will return, but they were gone for a long time. I was very calm during the worst of the Pandemic time. I was able to work on me. I was able to find new appreciation for the simple things that I enjoy and that’s really when I figured out how good I have it, as long as I don’t let the negative voices get to me. And in this case, I’m talking about outside voices and not the voices in my head that cause me so much doubt. Although, the voices in my head are usually just repeating things that other people have said and I’ve come to believe/doubt about myself. I’ll probably write about that at some point (again).
Over the past few months, I’ve been social again. I’ve attended baseball games, concerts, Professional Wrestling shows. I’ve gone to see a few movies in theaters. I’ve watched A LOT of movies at my house. I’ve listened to podcasts. I’ve listened to a lot of albums. I’ve read some books. I’ve been going to the gym regularly. I’m doing things that I enjoy.
I know that my overall good mood can change instantly. This isn’t my doubt talking here. It’s just the reality of how things are. But, I also know that there’s a lot of things that I can do to get back to where I am right now. I have outlets. I have people that I can turn to. I have places that I can go (physical and virtual). And, you have those outlets too. There’s always some person that can help if you ask. There’s not shame in asking. You don’t need to specially say “I need help.” Sometimes just saying “I’m not doing well” or “I’m a bad place” can spark the conversation that you need to start the process.
I’ve written blog entries about my anxieties that cause my anxieties to spike as I’m writing them. This one is one that is actually making me smile as I’m writing it. It’s because of all that’s good right now, and also because I know that if I had written the one that I was planning to write, my anxieties would be through the roof. Maybe I’ll get around to that one at some point.
I know this entry is getting to be a bit long, so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m not finishing this one just because it’s getting too long, but I think it’s almost too much of recap of events and I always save that for my December entries. I need to save some material for that. And when I write that one, I really do hope that my mood is just as good as it is now. If I may indulge my cynicism and my doubts for just a moment, there’s still a long time between now and the end of next month. A LOT can happen between now and then.
This entry was inspired by a few tragic stories that I’ve recently heard about. Some were about people that I personally knew and some that I didn’t know personally. But, they all got me thinking about how awful people can be to others and how easily that awful behavior can have devastating outcomes.
One of those stories was about someone that I knew that had been sexually abused as child. The person making that accusation also named the abuser in a post on social media. I started thinking about those two and what I remembered about their childhoods and their families. It brought up a lot of thoughts.
The first thing that I thought about was the alleged victim. He grew up in a troubled household. It wouldn’t be described as healthy for anyone. Then I thought about the alleged abuser. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew others in his family. I knew one member of his family pretty well. He was the first person that I knew to utter racial slurs. He was also the first person to ever “beat me up.” I’ve heard other stories about the abuser’s family too. I don’t know how true they are, but there’s enough stories.
What is my point about bringing up the home lives of the people in question? Well, very often, children of mentally and verbally abusive parents will bully other children. It’s an ego boost. They make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. Unfortunately, it’s a very common situation. And while I do feel some sympathy for the situation that the bullies came from, it doesn’t excuse anything.
As a kid in high school that was starting to get into heavy metal music, liked comic books, liked Professional Wrestling, liked science fiction, had long hair, and wore glasses, I was a big time target for bullies. Every single interest that I just mentioned had been mentioned in some sort of verbal (and sometimes physical) attack on me. Finding people that I was comfortable with that shared my interests was not easy for me. I was the quiet kid in the back of the room that sat there because I didn’t want my back to anyone. I didn’t trust people enough not to keep my eyes on all of them.
I probably had/have an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. I often drifted into my own world because of my lack of ability to fit in. I don’t know if I felt a pressure to fit in or if I just looked forward to getting out of school to attempt to return to my own world. But, as bad as I had it, some people have it so much worse.
Nowadays, I often hear people say that kids needs in-person socialization to thrive. I think there’s some level of truth there, but I also think that in-person is most definitely not the be-all, end-all. One of the best things to ever happen to me was easily online chat rooms and social media. From my love of Professional Wrestling to my love of obscure Hollywood references, I have forums to discuss them with likeminded people from all over. I don’t personally know them, but it doesn’t matter. Our common interests are enough of a bond. There’s one particular group that I belong to online that I can’t wait to post in after I watch an older movie. I look forward to the opinions, reviews, and even criticism of that movie that I might see in that group. There’s never a malice. It’s just a good natured discussion. I didn’t have access to something like that in high school. I didn’t have that comfort zone. I didn’t have a place to go.
People should not be made to feel ashamed to be who they are. People should not be made to be afraid to like what they like. People should not be made to hide who they are. But, because of bullies, they often are ashamed, they often after afraid, and they often do hide. It’s not just peers that bully them thought. It’s parents, teachers, siblings, teammates, TV personalities. Bullying can come from anywhere. It has to stop.
This entry was partially inspired by a documentary that I recently watched about a Professional Wrestler that took his own life. He was gay, and did all that he could to hide it. He was made to be ashamed of who he was. I cannot imagine that struggle. in a world of alpha males, he always felt less than. He couldn’t let anyone know who he really was. He was afraid of the abuse that he may be subjected to. I was just into things that weren’t considered cool and mocked for that.
Being made to feel lesser than at all times can drive people to do drastic things. I can cause people to believe that they’re not worth anything. It can cause people to want their suffering to end and sometimes they only way that they know how to end the suffering is to end their lives. It’s a horribly sad thing any time that it happens. But it’s beyond preventable. WE CAN PREVENT this cycle from continuing. WE just have to be better.
I have never had any active thoughts in my head about hurting myself in any way, but I have had the “what if I wasn’t here” thought. Luckily for me, those thoughts were fleeting, never prominent, and led to any desire to do anything bad. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any thought like that at all. I’m in a comfortable place now. I think I’m where I should be now. It may not be where I thought I would be or could be, but where I am is good. I don’t want it to change, even though I know it can, very easily.
Part of what people with mental illness deal with is the constant worry that everything can crumble around them. And that can happen without warning, without a lot of prompting, and it can be very difficult to deal with. That’s why I urge anyone that reads this to do their part to be kinder to each other. Be on the lookout for friends that in trouble. Do something to let your friends know that you’re there for them. Warning signs may be hard to see sometimes. But, if you see anything that you think is a cry for help, or an attention seeking thing, pay attention to it. Do not dismiss what could be the last thing that you see from that person. Be there. If we just cared a bit more, if we were a bit kinder to “different” people, the world would be a much better place for all of it. It’s not that difficult of a path to take, and it’s much better than the alternatives.
We all deal with our own personal issues. Some of us deal with things better than others do. We all deal with our issues in a different way. Any comment that you make to someone may not get the same reaction if you make the same comment to someone else. No two experiences are ever exactly the same, no matter how similar they are. These are things that we all need to realize.
A few years ago, I was with some friends for a small gathering at their place. I don’t remember how we started discussing various mental health topics, but we did. Two of us, in particular, were going back and forth describing various things that have been said, or done, to us. It was almost a game of one-upmanship as we were trying to see who really had it worse. She and I could “go there” in our discussion because (I think it’s safe to say that) we’re comfortable with our individual stories to discuss them in that manner and have a bit of humor about them. However, some of the people in the room with us couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
But, while that one friend and I could do that, I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that not everyone else handles things remotely similarly. I have definitely made comments to people that seemed innocent or humorous enough to me, to others and had incredibly bad reactions. I’ve apologized for such things when necessary. I’m not proud of offending anyone that I consider a friend, but I do look back at those experiences as learning experiences and I’m glad that they happened, for the sake of my own personal growth.
Even though the friend that I talked about earlier and I were able to compare our experiences and pretty much joke about them, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to compare your situation to others. I know that, by many definitions, a lot of people have had more more difficult lives and experiences than I have. That doesn’t mean that my own personal story is easy. It just makes it different from theirs. And from my own experiences, I would like to think that I’ve gained some perspective on life and from that perspective, I’m able to know (and maybe sometimes believe) how bad I haven’t had it. But, again, that doesn’t mean it’s always been good.
Just telling someone that something that’s been said to you makes you uncomfortable may not be enough though. I can tell you from my own personal experiences that I’ve done that. I’ve told someone that what they’ve said to me was cruel or mean and sometimes it’s been resolved. But, there’s also been times when I’ve been told “you should be glad that I didn’t tell you what I really think” or “that’s just the start of it.” It does wonders for someone’s already frail self-esteem when you’re being belittled and the person doing it is letting you know that they’re holding back on their real opinions. It’s even better when it’s a family member and you’re not in a position to break away from that scenario. It’s also better when that scenario repeats… often.
As I’ve looked back at some of the personal relationships that I’ve had, I do look at a lot of them differently than I did before. I may think about a particular situation where something was said or done and how I may not have realized it at the time, but it was pretty damaging to my ego. It could be something as simple being in a conversation with someone from my past and her asking me a question about someone that we both know. In my reply I said that he was a Professional Wrestler and I started mentioning specific things that I’ve seen him do, only to be told “yeah, I don’t care about wrestling.” To some of you, that comment is not a big deal. But, to others, it’s diminishing someone’s personal interests. Why something as seemingly simple as this matters is that it was part of a repeating behavior of comments and antics that belittled me. I just didn’t do anything about it, because, as I’ve noticed, I’m really too used to it happening to me.
The scenario that I just mentioned really goes back to the stuff that I talked about in my most recent entry. For so much of my life, I’ve always felt that the things that I like weren’t good enough and the fact that people who were close to me (often) let me know about it gave me (a few) complexes about publicly enjoying them. I really hope that I haven’t done anything similar to anyone. I know a lot of people that like many of the same things that I like. But, I don’t say “that’s stupid” when they bring up something that I don’t like. But, I also put serious effort into not making people feel the same pain that I’ve felt.
In the past few years, I’ve heard some stories about former classmates of mine that used to bully me (and others) a bit. I’ve heard about their home life during those days. A common theme there is emotional, mental, and (sometimes) physical abuse from parents and siblings. The kids that were the bullies were often bullied at home. How they dealt with it was to lash out other, seemingly easy, targets. I was often that target. I don’t want my anxiety levels to spike right now, so I’m not going to attempt to remember many specific incidents. But, of course, as I’m writing this, a few more things came to my mind.
One of the things about myself that I’ve never really been able to be completely sure about is if I really do enjoy the solitude that I often have or is it just that I’m comfortable in it. Is my comfort a defense or is it a true comfort? Am I by myself because I truly enjoy it or am I by myself to avoid further anguish? I have a strange dichotomous social life in which I actually do enjoy my friends and doing things, but I also really enjoy being by myself and doing nothing. I ponder reasons for this often and I may try to dig deeper into it in a future entry.
And while on the subject of future entries, I’m going to wrap this one up because I think if I keep going, I’m going to drift even further from the original concept that I have. And while I know that they say that time may heal all wounds, how long do those wounds need to stay open? Sometimes they do close, but something can very easily open them. In my case, I don’t know if I’m looking to heal my wounds or just live with them. I know that my yearning for a change will eventually lead me onward.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could watch weekday afternoon cartoons. GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man and the Master of the Universe, and Voltron were some of the ones that I looked forward to the most. Every day, I would sit in front of the TV in the living room and I would watch those shows. And very often, my mother would tell me how bad the animation was. She would tell me how it wasn’t nearly as good as the cartoons that she watched. This wasn’t a once or twice thing, it was very often.
I would watch Professional Wrestling shows on the weekends. I would read Star Wars and GI Joe comic books too. And since we spent many weekends cleaning out my grandparents’ house in the Bronx, much of my comic book reading was spent in a tree in the backyard there. Because those books were monthly ones, I would read the same issues for weeks at a time. And very often, my mother would tell me how much of a waste of time it was for me to read them.
When I started finding my own musical tastes in my teens, I would do what most teens do and play songs at very loud volumes. At this point, the bands that I was listening to weren’t as far from the mainstream as stuff that I listen to now. And no matter how popular a band was, how many Grammys they may have won, and no matter how much acclaim they may have received, I would be told that they weren’t as good as the bands that my mother listened to.
I was often told of the faults of all of my friends. Any girl that I was dating wasn’t any good. I wouldn’t want to make plans with anyone because I would hear about how much I was wasting my time with whomever I was attempting to make the plans with. I would find ways to not talk about my plans or just not make them. If I did make plans and no talk about them, I would be accused of “sneaking around” and lying.
While I was in school, my classmates, and even a few teachers (well, one in particular) would make fun of my interests. Star Wars, Professional Wrestling, Heavy Metal Music. Enjoying these things were often easy sources of ridicule by the “popular kids.”
I didn’t have a “safe space” to enjoy myself without judgment. I didn’t have a place to go where I felt comfortable. If was bullied in school (which was frequent), I would go to my house and not want to talk about it. I would go to my bedroom, which was the same room that I was sent to by my parents as a punishment. You know, the old “go to your room” thing. So, I’m my bedroom, the punishment room, and I’m watching inferior cartoons or listening to inferior music.
It’s very easy to feel like you’re “less than” when you’re constantly told that you are, and especially when it’s in various aspects of your life.
Cartoons, Wrestling, Comic Books, and Music have all been very important to me at one point or another in my life. And at various points in my life, I’ve been mocked for liking the things that I like. It’s not easy to dismiss the mocking or the taunts when they’re consistent. It’s not easy to dismiss them when they’re coming from parents, teachers, or other authority like figures. In reality, it’s a lot easier to have their words become permanently part of your thoughts, to the point where they’re subconscious thoughts.
Over the past few years as much of the stuff that I liked in the 1980s has become popular again, I would get excited when I found out something like that a DVD box set of the old Voltron cartoon was being released. I would make sure to buy it for myself, but there was always a voice in my head telling me that it wasn’t any good and that I was wasting my time and money with it.
I think part of what made me think about some of this recently is the COVID-19 Pandemic. In a previous entry, I talked about how I spent much of 2020 in my old comfort zone. But, my comfort zone also includes a lot of baggage. And there’s definitely a lot of baggage.
I’m sure that some people wonder how and why a 45 year old is worried about what people said to him 35 years and longer ago, but it’s because it’s all engrained in my psyche and my personality. I’m often afraid to like what I like. I know that the stigma attached to many of my interests has dissipated in recent years, and I have found people to share my interests with, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy for me.
I really do have a difficult time enjoying things to the fullest due what I’ve discussed here. It’s almost as if a ceiling was placed on my enjoyment levels. I don’t know if I’m capable of breaking through that ceiling and enjoying anything at 100%. There’s always something telling me that I’m doing is wrong, even if it’s not. That voice is always there. And, it’s not just one voice. It’s many.
To be completely honest, I’m not very comfortable talking about some of the stuff that I’ve said in this entry, but I’m going to publish it anyway. I think that I NEED to. I’ve always felt that if I put some of my stories out into the world, it’s very helpful to me. “Hiding behind a computer” and a screen name is good for me. It allows me to maintain my Mask of Sanity a bit. My anxiety levels have risen a little bit since I’ve started this paragraph. This is usually the part where I would scrap this entry and start a new one. But, the voices that are telling me not to publish this one are not going to win this battle. I’m scratching the surface of some stuff here and I think it’s time for me to dig a little deeper as I search for the elusive cure to my own concerns and worries.
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.
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.
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.