Life is All the Pain We Endeavor.

We all deal with our own personal issues. Some of us deal with things better than others do. We all deal with our issues in a different way. Any comment that you make to someone may not get the same reaction if you make the same comment to someone else. No two experiences are ever exactly the same, no matter how similar they are. These are things that we all need to realize.

A few years ago, I was with some friends for a small gathering at their place. I don’t remember how we started discussing various mental health topics, but we did. Two of us, in particular, were going back and forth describing various things that have been said, or done, to us. It was almost a game of one-upmanship as we were trying to see who really had it worse. She and I could “go there” in our discussion because (I think it’s safe to say that) we’re comfortable with our individual stories to discuss them in that manner and have a bit of humor about them. However, some of the people in the room with us couldn’t believe what they were hearing.

But, while that one friend and I could do that, I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that not everyone else handles things remotely similarly. I have definitely made comments to people that seemed innocent or humorous enough to me, to others and had incredibly bad reactions. I’ve apologized for such things when necessary. I’m not proud of offending anyone that I consider a friend, but I do look back at those experiences as learning experiences and I’m glad that they happened, for the sake of my own personal growth.

Even though the friend that I talked about earlier and I were able to compare our experiences and pretty much joke about them, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to compare your situation to others. I know that, by many definitions, a lot of people have had more more difficult lives and experiences than I have. That doesn’t mean that my own personal story is easy. It just makes it different from theirs. And from my own experiences, I would like to think that I’ve gained some perspective on life and from that perspective, I’m able to know (and maybe sometimes believe) how bad I haven’t had it. But, again, that doesn’t mean it’s always been good.

Just telling someone that something that’s been said to you makes you uncomfortable may not be enough though. I can tell you from my own personal experiences that I’ve done that. I’ve told someone that what they’ve said to me was cruel or mean and sometimes it’s been resolved. But, there’s also been times when I’ve been told “you should be glad that I didn’t tell you what I really think” or “that’s just the start of it.” It does wonders for someone’s already frail self-esteem when you’re being belittled and the person doing it is letting you know that they’re holding back on their real opinions. It’s even better when it’s a family member and you’re not in a position to break away from that scenario. It’s also better when that scenario repeats… often.

As I’ve looked back at some of the personal relationships that I’ve had, I do look at a lot of them differently than I did before. I may think about a particular situation where something was said or done and how I may not have realized it at the time, but it was pretty damaging to my ego. It could be something as simple being in a conversation with someone from my past and her asking me a question about someone that we both know. In my reply I said that he was a Professional Wrestler and I started mentioning specific things that I’ve seen him do, only to be told “yeah, I don’t care about wrestling.” To some of you, that comment is not a big deal. But, to others, it’s diminishing someone’s personal interests. Why something as seemingly simple as this matters is that it was part of a repeating behavior of comments and antics that belittled me. I just didn’t do anything about it, because, as I’ve noticed, I’m really too used to it happening to me.

The scenario that I just mentioned really goes back to the stuff that I talked about in my most recent entry. For so much of my life, I’ve always felt that the things that I like weren’t good enough and the fact that people who were close to me (often) let me know about it gave me (a few) complexes about publicly enjoying them. I really hope that I haven’t done anything similar to anyone. I know a lot of people that like many of the same things that I like. But, I don’t say “that’s stupid” when they bring up something that I don’t like. But, I also put serious effort into not making people feel the same pain that I’ve felt.

In the past few years, I’ve heard some stories about former classmates of mine that used to bully me (and others) a bit. I’ve heard about their home life during those days. A common theme there is emotional, mental, and (sometimes) physical abuse from parents and siblings. The kids that were the bullies were often bullied at home. How they dealt with it was to lash out other, seemingly easy, targets. I was often that target. I don’t want my anxiety levels to spike right now, so I’m not going to attempt to remember many specific incidents. But, of course, as I’m writing this, a few more things came to my mind.

One of the things about myself that I’ve never really been able to be completely sure about is if I really do enjoy the solitude that I often have or is it just that I’m comfortable in it. Is my comfort a defense or is it a true comfort? Am I by myself because I truly enjoy it or am I by myself to avoid further anguish? I have a strange dichotomous social life in which I actually do enjoy my friends and doing things, but I also really enjoy being by myself and doing nothing. I ponder reasons for this often and I may try to dig deeper into it in a future entry.

And while on the subject of future entries, I’m going to wrap this one up because I think if I keep going, I’m going to drift even further from the original concept that I have. And while I know that they say that time may heal all wounds, how long do those wounds need to stay open? Sometimes they do close, but something can very easily open them. In my case, I don’t know if I’m looking to heal my wounds or just live with them. I know that my yearning for a change will eventually lead me onward.

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.

I Become the One You Haven’t Seen For Years.

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” 2020 has been a weird year. It’s been like nothing that we’ve ever experienced and I hope that none of us have to experience anything like it again. The COVID-19 Pandemic that hit us this year changed so much about how we go about our daily lives. I will usually look at my year-end entry from the year before to make comparisons. I want to remind myself of where I mentally was when I wrote whatever I wrote in the previous year. I want to know what I thought I may struggle with. I want to know what my goals were. I want to be able to accurately gauge my personal progress. But, in a year when I wasn’t able to do much, there’s a few things that I can’t compare. I also can’t get upset about it.

Because of the Pandemic, my social life pretty much came to a screeching halt in March. There were no concerts, no sporting events, no BBQs, and no parties. I have barely seen anybody on a social level, in any capacity since this started. I attended a concert (Mr. Bungle) on February 11th and I saw a comedy show (Daniel Sloss) a few days later. Since then, I haven’t done anything in any type of group setting. This is completely not like any year that I’ve had in recent memory. Concerts are what I do. I usually attend many shows in any given year, and I had some plans for a few in 2020. I had some road trips planned. None of that happened.

I was hoping to compete in more 5K races than I had done in previous years. I was looking to add one or two that I had never done before, but again, the Pandemic happened. I figured that training for the races would allow me to drop the extra weight that my doctor had recommended that I lose when I saw her in January. However, when the races started getting canceled, I pretty much stopped training and I ended up gaining weight. I am glad to say that I’m basically back to where I started and I’m making sure to do my DDP Yoga workouts daily. I’ve recently started doing some more intense and longer ones. And just like every single year-end entry that I’ve ever written since I’ve started doing DDP Yoga, I still end the year not being able to do the Black Crow pose. However, the last time that it came up during a session, I was closer than I’ve ever been before. Maybe it’ll finally happen in 2021.

I spend A LOT of time in my entries and social media talking about Mental Health. I know that 2020 has been very difficult for a lot of people. I ALMOST feel bad saying this, but my mental health is great. Social anxiety is a big thing for me. I’m not comfortable in group settings. Regardless of how often you may see at a party or with a few people, I can assure you that it’s not easy for me to be there. However, that really hasn’t been an issue for me for much of the year. All joking aside, I feel great. My social anxieties are more calm than I can think of at any point since I’ve become aware of them. However, I do fear that my re-integration to society could be difficult for me when things calm down and we can get back to “normal.” But, I’ll slowly cross that bridge when we get to it.

Another bright side to doing practically nothing in 2020 is that my bank account is doing better than ever. I am an “essential” employee. I didn’t lose a cent of pay during the year. I understand that not everyone that I know can say the same. I am beyond grateful that I have a job that made sure the employees are taken care of during this unprecedented time. There’s been so many points in my life where I was so worried about money. I would have to cancel plans with friends because I couldn’t afford to keep them. That isn’t a problem now. It hasn’t been for a while. It’s an amazing difference. There’s been a few times during the year where I had to replace something that broke or pay for something that would previously have financially ruined me. It’s not a concern for me right now. I have the financial “safety net” that I’ve never had before. I’m actually almost confused by the level of comfort that I have here. But, I’m not going to let it be a bad thing.

Much like the Black Crow Pose not being achieved in 2020, I also didn’t achieve my goal of reading 12 books in the year. Both of these things seem to be common issues in my year-end entry. But, as I said earlier, I got close to the Black Crow. But, I didn’t read nearly as much as I would liked. I spent more time watching old TV and movies than reading. I will try to make the 12 books (or more) goal happen in 2021.

I noticed that one of the things that I wrote in my 2019 end of year entry was that I had a hard time writing entries in 2019 because I had a good year and I felt that I didn’t have much to talk about. I had the same problem in 2020. And as weird as 2020 was, I don’t have much to complain about. I do know a few people that got sick with COVID, but I didn’t lose anyone to it. I’m lucky there. Too many people can’t say the same thing.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2021 to be better than my 2020. But, in addition to my own personal efforts to improve things for myself in 2021, it’s my wish that everyone else does their part to get through the Pandemic, so we can put in behind us. I really do hope that the entry that I write on this day in 2021 will have a little bit more to talk about. But, as I wrap this up, I’m very glad that I have enough perspective to know just how good I have it right now. By no means is this how I thought my year would be, but I also cannot complain about it. I’m healthy. My friends are healthy. I may not see my friends in person, but I have plenty of ways to communicate with them, and I do. 2020 was weird for me, but it wasn’t bad for me.

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

In Your Mind I’m Fed With Distrust.

I’ve spent the majority of 2020 inside. Not just inside my house, but inside my head, as I explained a bit last month. It’s been a weird year for all of us. I don’t need to get into that, and to be honest, I’m trying to save some of it for next month’s 2020 recap entry. But, as I continue to tell people that I’m doing fine, all it takes one is one thing to trigger a feeling, memory, or emotion that makes me question all of it.

A day or so ago, I saw a video online of someone acting out her relationship with her mother. It was a DEEP video. It was my trigger. I went from being content to “having lot of feels,” as the kids say. I am not capable of getting too deep inside my own thoughts enough to convey what exactly that video did to my psyche. Or at least, I’m not able to properly convey it.

As much as I’m capable of saying in this forum, there’s still A LOT that I’m not able to say. Maybe one day I will be able to, but today is not that time.

One of the things that I said immediately after seeing the video was that I was starting to “question everything.” I started to wonder if I’ve been honest with myself over the past few months. I’ve told people that I’m really doing emotionally and mentally well during the Pandemic. I mean, I think I am, but what if I’m not okay and I’ve just convinced myself that I am? Yes, a video about someone’s toxic relationship with her mother made my mind go there. It hit very close to home, literally and figuratively.

I have a lot of defense mechanisms. I make a lot of jokes at my own expense. I’ve told people that since I’m not doing much of any socializing during the Pandemic, my social anxiety levels have never been better. And, there’s definitely a level of truth to that. But, I’m now questioning how true that is and if I’m just making it up to convince myself that it’s true. This goes back to the self doubt that I often talk about in these entries. A LOT of that self doubt comes from things that were said to me by my parents.

I don’t want to use this entry to go down a dark path. I know it could easily go there. I’m NOT in a bad place. Well, I think I’m not. See, it’s happening. I’m not just putting the doubtful lines in here as humorous diversions. It’s really how I think. Am I fine now? Am I not?

My routines keep me sane throughout the days. I need the order. I’ve continued to find comfort in the things that I discussed in last month’s entry. But, am I looking for the comfort there to compensate for other things that are lacking? Isn’t that something that we all do? Am I different? There’s always more questions for me than answers.

Part of the reason that I’ve said that I’m doing well is that I’ve been isolated for so much of my life. So basically, I’ve been practicing for Pandemic Life.
I was not allowed to go out and do things with my friends as much as others were. When I was allowed, I would always have to check in multiple times, or else. Those patterns of behaviors and guidelines definitely set me on the path to social anxieties. I got to the point where I started to not ask to do things because the disappointment of missing out was easier to deal with than the denial of permission.

Like I said last month, I spent days and weeks in my house watching TV. It was there for more. I did that in my bedroom, where I’m typing this now. It’s my sanctuary. It’s where I’m safe. It’s where I was sent as a punishment when I was a child. I’ve become a prisoner in my own Stockholm Syndrome. Yet, I like it here… I think.

The restrictions, guidelines, and mandates that I spoke of earlier didn’t go away as I got to “legal age.” They continued. Even after I was no longer required to check in with anyone, I still feel the anticipation of problems if I don’t do it. And it’s been over a decade since I’ve needed to check. How does this tie-in with me spending time in my room now as an adult during a Pandemic?

I’m sitting here trying to figure that out. I’ve spent some time since the last paragraph ended attempting to put my thoughts together without going back and deleting much of this entry. Some of my friends have recently told me that they’re actually surprised when I say that I’m such an introvert and how uncomfortable I am in social settings. That gets me thinking if I’m really better at being in public than I think I am or I’m just good at faking it.

I really didn’t answer the question there, did I? I know this entry is jumbled. I know there’s somewhat of a vague common theme here, but it’s not going where it could. That’s probably because where it could go is a lot deeper inside of me than I realized it was when I started typing this.

About 20 minutes has passed since I ended the last paragraph. I’ve started browsing some of my older entries. I’ve seen some common themes. I’ve seen some common doubts. I’ve seen some common issues. I’ve seen some common pauses in my ability to express.

I want to believe that I’m doing okay right now. Even though, I’m a firm believer in “it’s okay to not be okay.” So, if I’m okay with not being okay, am I okay? Yeah, I had to ask that. Right now, I’m okay with not knowing the answer to that question or any others that I’ve asked here. And I’ll be okay revisiting these concepts and questions when the time is right. And it’ll only be right when it’s the right time.

But, until then, I’m going to retreat back to me mental and emotional safe space and continue with my current routines. Because, until I doubt them enough, it’s still comfortable there. And that’s where I need to be right now.

An Archaic Way of Thinking, So Monstrous and Absurd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scars that Bind Us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still My Guitar Gently Weeps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading…

My Guitar Gently Weeps
July 8, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These Weeds Have Grown Where the Sun Once Shown.

We’re currently living through one of the most important, most trying, and possibly the strangest time of (many of) our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is literally impacting every single one of us in one way or another. I doubt that I’ll have anything really profound to say, but I’m going to write a bit about it anyway, to the best of my ability.

I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve never seen anything like this and I hope to never see anything like again. I’ve never seen the majority of the world shut down like this, not even after September 11, 2001.

I’m not going to use this post to discuss any specific political views. I could easily go down that route, but I don’t want to do that just now. This is about where we are and we’re going from here.

The entire planet Earth is impacted by COVID-19. It isn’t just the United States. It’s not just China. It’s not just Italy. It’s the entire planet. We need to realize that and we all need to do our part to slow down the spread of this disease and eventually wipe it out. We, as human beings, not as Americans, or Chinese, or Italians, or Iranians, or Russians, or Spaniards, as human beings, need to come together to fix this. Yes, that we means we may have to isolate our selves from friends, family, and loved ones for a while. But, it’s for the greater good. I saw something online today that “You’re not trapped at home, you’re SAFE at home.” That’s very true.

As far as I know, I’m healthy. At the time that I’m writing this, I do not have COVID-19. At least, I don’t believe I do. I say that it way because it can sometimes linger for a few weeks before showing symptoms. However, if I did have it and I go out and have any type of contact with you, then you may have it. You may pass it on to your friends, you may pass it on to your children, you may pass it on to your parents, you may pass it on to an elderly person that may not survive. This needs to be taken seriously.

As businesses have been forced to shut down and people are being laid off from their job as a result of this, I feel for them. I’m considered an “essential” employee. I work for my town. And as tremendously grateful and appreciative as I am for my employment situation, I almost feel that calling what I do as “essential” is an insult to truly “essential” works such as first responders of any kind, anyone working in healthcare (nurses, doctors, etc), and even grocery employees. I work in an office. Yes, I’m helping to move along processes of every day life for people, but what I do isn’t nearly as important. I don’t feel I’m putting myself down by saying that, I just feel that I’m looking at it through a level of self-awareness and perspective.

There was a brief period of almost a full week when my office was closed due to a health concern for a co-worker. When I first realized that I was not going to be working for a few days, I thought about all of the things that I was going to do. I did almost none of them. I had no plan for those days. I had no structure. I had no routines. I’ve previously discussed how I’ve been called a “Creature of Habit” by some people. And they’re basically true. I do a lot of specific things on specific days. I’m now working half days, but that may soon change to working as much from home as possible, as we’re starting to get set up for that.

Even if I start working more from my house. I still need a plan. I need to map out what my days are going to look like. I had told some friends that I may dedicate an hour or two per day to listening to podcasts. I may spend up to an hour reading a book every day. I will definitely be doing at least one DDP Yoga workout per day. If the weather permits, I’ll go for a walk or a run. I don’t have access to gyms at the moment, so I need to figure out things to do for exercise.

The one thing I know that I can’t do is NOTHING. I’ve discussed nothing before. Feel free to go back and read about nothing if you want. My mental health has remained pretty good during the last few weeks. Yes, I’m experiencing various forms of anxiety, but it hasn’t become too much. I have not had any depressive episodes during this time. As I just said, I’m mostly mentally healthy. My concern is not about me, it’s really about the people that I care about. It’s also about what things are going to look like when this is over.

I truly hope that America, as a whole, realizes from this situation that the systems that we’ve had in place are not good. A health scare like this can financially ruin a person, family, and business. We need to look at ways to go about fixing the system to truly ensure that everybody has the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. As someone that has OFTEN worried about whether or not I could afford to put enough gas in my car to get to work the next day, I know what it’s like to worry about money. I’m beyond grateful that I’m not in that bind now. But, I easily could be again.

I have a few friends that are currently out of work due to this. They’re hairdressers, bartenders, waitresses, and book store employees. I’m more worried about them than I am about myself. I have a job. I’m being paid. They’re not being paid. And it’s possible that their jobs won’t be there when this is over. That is horrible. It’s frightening. These friends, out of no fault of their own, and out of no fault of their employers, may not have jobs to return to. I think that is definitely a sign that the system is broken.

I’ve joked that as someone with social anxieties and other various mental issues, the concept of “Social Distancing” isn’t difficult for me. But, it’s one thing to want to be isolated for a while, it’s another thing to truly need to be. There is nothing more that I would like to do than to go to a local bar with a friend for a beer (or two… let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be just two). But, that isn’t an option. Even if any local bars were still open, it’s not safe to go to them. And yes, I do know that there’s irony there since just recently I wrote about a time when I did go to a crowded bar and I absolutely wanted to be left alone.

Allow me to break the 4th wall for a moment and reveal a little secret about my blog entries. The titles of them are almost always taken from song titles or lyrics. I do that because the songs they’re taken from are related to what I’m writing about. I also do it because I’ve noticed that I get a few more hits on my blog sometimes when people search for those songs or lyrics. The song I used for this entry is “Weeds” from Life of Agony. The reason I chose that song specifically is because of the line that I used for this title and because of the very first line of the song. I won’t put that line here, I’ll ask that you look it up. At some point in the near future, I may have another entry that discusses why that particular line means so damn much to me. That entry may be in a few months. Yes, I’m trying to create more interest in my blog by saying that.

I could probably ramble on and on a lot more in this entry, but I know that if I do, you’ll probably stop reading, if you haven’t already. Really, all I can say is that I hope you’re all safe, happy, and healthy. I hope you remain that way. I hope that we’re all taken care of in whatever ways we need to be during and after this crisis. And when this is over, hopefully we’ll be able to get that beer together.

Constant Noise Behind the Overcoming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or is it?

Now, I’m questioning that a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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