Tears For a Hopeless Case.

When I first started thinking about what I was going to write about in this entry, I thought about some of the conversations that I’ve had over the last few weeks. I was going to talk about the incredibly kind things that have been said about me or done for me recently. I was going to talk about a conversation with someone that I knew from high school and how I thought she was one the “popular kids” but she described herself as “very depressed” during that time. I was going to talk about how many of friends are doing so many good things and how happy that makes me, but as I sit here trying to figure out what to say in this entry, it’s very difficult to look around at the world and not feel sad. While I am personally (still) doing very well (mentally), there are just so many reminders of things that are wrong and how the “powers that be” don’t seem to want to attempt to fix anything.

As of the time that I’m writing this, the Uvalde, Texas mass-shooting is the most recent mass-shooting of note to happen in the United States. By the time that you read this, it could be pretty far down the list of recent ones. There is no humor in my last sentence and I take no pleasure in typing that sentence, since it’s probably going to be accurate.

Every single time a mass-shooting happens in this country, ther same conversations start. One side says it’s time for action to prevent more of these events. The other side says “now is not the time to politicize it.” And as they argue those two things back and forth, the conversation gets lost in the shuffle until another mass-shooting happens. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Another constant discussion when any sort of gun violence happens is how we should address mental health concerns and not worry about the guns. Well, yes, we should address mental health concerns. We should always address that. But, the fact that mental health issues are worldwide and mass-shootings are not also gets lost in the shuffle. A society that has access to the abundance of weapons of mass destruction (guns) will have significantly more mass destruction than a society without them. It’s a pretty simple fact.

Usually, the blog entries that I have the most difficulty writing are the ones about my own personal stories. In particular, the stories that are hidden deep in the back of my mind. The ones that I say that I’m starting to “scratch the surface” of and that I’ll “re-visit at a later time.” But, I’m really struggling writing with this entry. I was going to say that I’m not sure why, since gun related deaths have not impacted my close friends or family, but I think part of what has me so emotional about this topic is how easily this could impact the people that I care about. Not just my friends and family have kids or are teachers. But, anyone, since the American epidemic of mass shootings is not relegated to just schools.

Accidents happen all of the time. Some accidents have tragic results. We may be powerless to prevent those tragedies. Mass murders are tragic, but they’re not accidents. They can be prevented. In order to prevent them, action must be taken. Laws and regulations need to be passed and changed. We’re in the 21st Century and it’s time for society to evolve past the senselessness that doesn’t help anyone.

I don’t want there to be any more stories about Americans being shot to death in malls, places of worship, movie theaters, concerts, schools, or wherever. I didn’t specify “Americans” just now to proclaim any sense of patriotism for America, I did it because as the facts show, over and over again, America is the only place where this happens, over and over again.

Our indifference to human beings getting killed for no reason whatsoever is, quite honestly pathetic. Change has to happen. For the sake of humanity.

Lights Around are Flashing and in Meat a Razorblade.

The reason that I started this blog is to “unpack my baggage.” I wanted to use it as an outlet to express my thoughts and opinions on things. I really wanted to do it for the sake of my mental health. I also started posting on this particular site because MySpace was no longer a viable place for me to write blogs. But, regardless of where I post these entries, I’ve done them pretty consistently for a while. According to the “dashboard” on my site, this is my 119th post.

The two biggest problems that I’ve encountered while writing entries have been not having anything to say or realizing that there are things that I just can’t talk about. “Not having anything to say” is usually a good thing for me, since the majority of my entries have been dealing with depression, anxiety, and whatnot. If I have nothing to say, that probably means that I’m doing well, which I have been lately.

Often, I’ll “scratch the surface” of an issue that I think that I’m comfortable talking about, but then as I start the writing process, my anxiety will start to spike and I’ll have to stop. Whatever the topic usually never gets published. It’s something that I’m either just not able to discuss or not willing to publicly share. There does seem to be a common thread of topics/areas that fall into those categories, but for reasons already discussed, I’m not going to get into them now.

Whether I can or cannot discuss certain topics doesn’t diminish the value that I’ve found in writing the blog. It really is a healthy outlet for me. It’s a (public) journal of my story. Sometimes I’ll go back and read older entries to get an idea of how I was feeling at a certain time or about a certain topic. I usually walk away from those re-visits with the feeling of “I’m so much better off now.”

Some of my entries have been a lot more deliberate and planned out than others. For example, I may have had a thought about being bullied and over the course of a week or so, I’ll write notes to myself of things that I may include in an entry. There’s been times when I’ve had two or three entries at a time in my mind. There’s also some entries that I go into without a single concept for and struggle to find anything to say…

This is one of them, sort of.

There is a topic that I want to discuss now, but I want to make sure that I put the necessary effort into that entry. By no means is it about a deeply hidden dark emotion story from my life, but it’s just something that needs to be done correctly. That means that I need to put thought into it and there needs to be the right amount of references to other entries. There will be research for this one.
It could very well end up being next month’s entry, or it could be a few months away. That may depend on how the next few months go.

I’m still riding the highs that I’ve been on over the last few months. I’ve had a lot of good times lately. I’m still enjoying what I consider to be a pretty surreal ride and I’m still just doing well. The downside to me doing well is that I really have nothing to discuss right now. And, to be honest, that doesn’t bother me at all.

I Was Born in Another World, Strictly Connected to a Piece of My Mind.

I’ve often talked about the lack of a sense of belonging that I’ve had. To be honest, that goes pretty deep and it goes very far back into my story. It’s not just outside of my house, but within it as well. Even amongst the people that I’m genetically closest with, I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’m not going to use the entry to bash anyone and I’m not just going to discuss familial issues. There’s baggage there that I’m not necessarily emotionally able to unpack. But, I am going to attempt to scratch the surface of some deep stuff here. Some of it may be repeats of themes from previous entries, but I think it all ties together and leads me to where I am now.

I’ve been on the outside looking in for so much of my life. It’s been that way for so long that I really don’t know if it’s a choice, reaction, or instinct to keep a distance. But, I’m also at the point where I’m a part of so much that if I withdraw a bit now, it’s not an issue.

I don’t have religion in my life. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. My lack of religion comes from my choice, partly due to parental behavior, and partly just to do a lack of religion. For a very long time I’ve been good with this. I’ve grown to despise the concept of organized religion for many reasons, but I’ll not going to get into many of them here. My household was a mixed religion house. That was basically never an issue until every holiday season when my parents decided to make it an issue. As a child, I was told that I would be allowed to choose which one I wanted to belong to, while one of my parents strongly pushed me in their direction and would also flat out get very upset with me if I indicated anything other than wanting to chose theirs. I chose neither. Not one of theirs, not another option, none at all. Again, as I said there’s various reasons for it.

For much of my life, I didn’t have strong bonds to family and relatives. Again, there’s various reasons there. Some of which are as simple as a family feud that I got dragged into. But, while others patched things up, I took a bit longer to do that. I’m sure someone with a degree in psychology could dig deep into why I stayed away longer than everyone else, but I don’t really think that matters too much now. I have open and (somewhat) regular communication with the limited amount of relatives that I have.

When my classmates started forming all of their cliques in junior high school days, I was pretty much out of most social circles. Every once in a while, someone would invite me to something, but that was rare. It was even more rare if I was allowed to go, but that’s a different story for a different time. However, sometimes I would hear gossip about how some people were saying stuff behind my back at those few things that I was at. It made me not want to attend things much.

As I’ve said before, I spent a lot of time by myself. While most kids were doing things outdoors during summer vacation in high school days, I was probably in my room watching re-runs, late night talk shows, and movies. I was reading comic books. I was very much in my own world.

I didn’t always feel safe in high school. The long-haired kid with glasses and an over-bite was an easy target for bullies. And target me they did. So, retreating to my own world was what I did.

My interests, Star Wars and sci-fi movies, Marvel Comics, Professional Wrestling, to name a few, were very much fringe things that it wasn’t “cool” to like then. I didn’t have the Internet or ways to discuss my interests with people.

I was by myself, even when I wasn’t alone. I didn’t belong anywhere.

Fast forward to the last few years.

I still spend A LOT of time by myself, but I’ve never felt less alone. Ironically, I’m probably more emotionally distant from most people than ever before, but I’m so much more content and so much more connected. This is definitely a topic for another time, but I digress.

As I was saying, I’m not alone. I have found so many ways to channel my interests. For someone that has as many “strange” interests as I do, message boards, social media, and streaming services are a wonderful thing. If I want to find a clip of a talk show that I watched 30 years ago, I have access to it. If I want to discuss that with someone, I can go to a group online to discuss it. I even have a decent amount of “real life friends” that share some of those interests and we can have long talks about them.

I am definitely still in my own world. I’ll always be there. I’ll always be a bit of an outcast. But, I’ve found people and places that accept that. I’ve found people and things that welcome that. All of the old-school social norms that people cling to that I’ve rejected of I’ve been shunned from are very far back of my rear-view mirror. I don’t need them. I’ve found what I need. And right now, it’s just to be where I am. It took me a long time to get there, but where I am now is where I belong.

The Coming of My Ruin, Age Tears the Spine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closed Was the Door to My Past Perception.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 Album of the 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.

A Kind of Anguish I Don’t Need…

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.

A lack of reason that makes a mortal man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The distant smile, banished denial, no more denial.

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.