I Opened My Mind to All the Love Forsaken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth is That Our Youth Was a Carpet Laid in Stones.

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 45 years of my life that I’ve completed.

I really enjoyed this past year. I think that’s been pretty obvious by my entries here. By no means has it been perfect, but it’s been very good for me. My mental health has (for the most part) been good. It was a very fun year.

2020 and 2021 basically blend together in my mind. They’re just one long chunk of time when not much happened and I didn’t get to do much, but that goes for just about everyone. I ended 2019 really doing well. I was enjoying myself quite a bit and did a few things that I thought were “surreal.” When the Pandemic started, all of that stopped. But, my mood never changed. Things continued to go well for me, just differently.

When things started to open up in 2021, I was able to somewhat pick up where I left off in that surreal life. And due to conversations that I’ve had with some friends (two in particular), I’ve realized that when you look at my life from the outside, it looks like it’s a lot of fun and just really good. I’m very much aware that what you see on the outside doesn’t always match what’s happening on the inside. But, I think those conversations have helped me feel as good as others think I do, if that makes sense.
And, it’s not lost on me that one of those conversations was with someone that’s a big part of the surrealness.

So while my inward happiness and my outward happiness appear to be in sync right now, that voice in the back of my head that was dormant for a while has started to remind me that this could all be temporary, especially as I’ve looked at my bank account recently. Not much triggers my anxiety more easily than my finances. And while I’m still doing so much better than I was a few years ago, I’m not doing nearly as well as I was just a few months ago.

This is not going to turn into anything to do with politics when I talk about my financial situation. I’m way too informed and aware to know that the world’s economy isn’t great right now and it’s not there’s way too many factors involved for me to place blame, although I can, and even though I said I won’t get political, I’ll just say that a lot of us wouldn’t be in the situations we’re in if there was ever a “Trickle.”
But, I digress…

Anyway…

My bank account is a lot lower than it was a year ago. Yes, things are more expensive than they were a year ago, but I also made a major investment last year. Just about 13 months ago, I had LASIK surgery. And even though I had four years to pay it off, I’m almost done with payments on that. I also bought myself a new laptop computer, which I’ve also paid for in full. While some people may think that fully paying for a laptop and being 80% with the payments for my LASIK in one year is HUGE for me. A few years ago, I was at the point where I was telling people that I couldn’t hang out because I didn’t have enough money for gas and tolls.

Which brings me to my next point:
Gas and tolls. The price of both is so high right now and that has played a factor in my bank account being lower than I would like it to be. I know that I need to adjust my mindset and start thinking more like I used to about doing things.
I do want to make it very clear that while these thoughts about money are in the back of my mind, they’re still just in the back of my mind. They haven’t manifested into full anxiety or panic yet. And before I start going down this path and depressing you, as well as myself, let me quickly get to the end of this entry.

It’s my hope that when I look back at this entry one year from now that I can say that I’m, at the very least, still doing as well as I was when I wrote it. I really am in a good place right now. The good is outweighing the bad. I haven’t always been able to say that. I know that I have a lot of work to do on various things over the next few weeks and months. If I’m able to get that stuff done, I think it’s very possible that this good ride that I’m on will keep on going for a while.

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.

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.

The Sharpest Point is Aimed at You.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Joy You Need, Restricted By One Thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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