Reflective Summary Froze Me in a Frame.

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?” I can look back at 2022 and say that, for the most part, I am definitely better off than I was one year ago. 2022 was not perfect. It had its ups and downs, but as long as whatever remaining time in 2022 doesn’t throw me a major curve ball, I can say that 2022 was really a good year for me.

One of the very first things that I talked about in my 2021 recap was how I had managed to still avoid having COVID-19 at all. That streak didn’t last long into 2022. By the end of January, I ended up getting sick with it. It wasn’t bad for me at all. And due to the fact that I (most likely) had a sinus infection at the same time, I think it’s very possible that I wouldn’t have even known that I had COVID-19 if it wasn’t for that sinus infection. But, as I attempt to look at the bright side of things, not only was my experience with the illness not bad, but I got 10 days off from work. And they were seriously some of the most relaxing days that I’ve had in years.

With the world returning to somewhat “normal” behaviors in 2022, I was able to compete in one 5k race. I knew going into it that having one of my best times was not likely to happen. It had been 3 years since my previous race, I was a bit heavier, and just out of practice. Nothing that I said in the previous sentence was meant to be an excuse, the statements were just facts. I probably could have put more effort in, but I didn’t. And I ended up finishing with my slowest time ever. However, the important part isn’t the “slowest time ever” part, it’s the “finishing” part. I finished the race and I’m thrilled to have competed in it.

So, I just said that I was a bit heavier than I had been. That was then, this is now. I’m currently the lightest that I’ve been in a long time. That doesn’t mean that I’m close to the lightest that I’ve been. I’m just lighter than I’ve been for a while. I still have a lot of work to do there.

And building from that is my workout routine. I don’t have one at the moment. I’ve barely done any type of workout since the 5k race a few months ago. I fully intend to recommit myself to that in the new year. My goal is to compete in as many of the local 5k races as I can, and in order to get the most of them that I possibly can, I need to be in shape for them. That will require me putting in a lot of work and if I stick to a plan, I should be able to do it. But, since I mention this ever year, DDPY (formerly called DDP Yoga) is the plan that I’ll be returning to. And unlike in 2021, when I was able to pull it off one time, I did not successfully complete a Black Crow pose.

Every single year that I’ve enrolled in a book reading challenge, I’ve failed to meet my goal. I’ve been doing this for a few years. My goal has always been to read 12 books in the year. It’s always seemed simple enough for me. One book per month. But, I’ve never been able to do it. And in 2022, I did not read 12 books. I read 13. I’m very happy with that. I COULD easily point out that many of the books that I completed were pretty short, but I did not make any rules about the length of the books. It was just how many that I could read from beginning to end within the calendar year. I’m going to keep the same goal for 2023 and I hope to match or surpass it.

Nothing stresses me out more easily or frequently than my financial situation. And for various reasons, my bank account isn’t nearly as high as I would like it to be. But, for the first time in a very long time, there looks to be potential for something to change there. A few things need to fall into place, and that includes me making some things happen, but if all goes as I’m hoping, when I do my 2023 recap, I should have good stuff to say here.

My social life was pretty good in 2022. If I gauge it only on if I have more friends than I started the year off with, then it was definitely a success. As is the case with basically all aspects of life, my social life had some ups and downs. But, when looking back, I really have no regrets. There’s nothing that I would change about my socializing during the year.

One of the things that I’ve said many times during 2022 (and even a bit before) is how surreal some aspects of my life had become. I’m not going to name names, but those that know the names know the names. There’s a few bands that I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve gone from being a fan of their music and their shows, to knowing people that know them, to knowing them personally. That has morphed into being called up on stage to do backing vocals a few times (including at the legendary Stone Pony) to being invited to do backing vocals on an upcoming album. I also got to appear in a music video for another band. A friend once told me that this surrealness would wear off and I told him that don’t ever want it to, because it helps me appreciate just how amazing the entire thing is. And while having some drinks with one of the members of a band a few months ago, I was talking about how surreal all of this is for me, he said “you made this happen. You talk to people and you made this happen.” After hearing something similar from another friend a little while ealier, it was that moment when it finally clicked for me. While I’m not still a bit of an introvert, I’m also out there doing things. It’s sort of a contradiction, but it’s worked out for me in ways that I would never have imagined and’s pretty awesome.

And that brings to me something that another friend recently said to me. I told him what I’ve said recently about my life and how “there’s never been a better time to be me.” He looked at me and said “there’s where you’re wrong. There’s never been a bad time to be you.” That was a “WOW” moment for me. The only bad thing about my friend’s statement is that I really like my own phrase and want to keep using it, even if I think it’s lessened by his great affirmation.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2023 to be better than my 2022. 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 2022. I think the biggest motivation for me to put forth all of the necessary effort is that I’m pretty sure that I’m at the point (or beyond it, depending on your perspective of “norm”) where I have no choice. I need do to more to achieve more. When I look back one year from now, I hope to have good things to say about that.

So, to summarize this entry which has taken me way too long to write, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” I think the answer is defintely yes. I have my anxieties, frustrations, and other issues, but I really do feel like I’m in a good place. And like I just said, I hope that I’ll have similar things, if not better things to say at the end of next year.





The Healing Through Years. So Obscured By the Tears and the Strain.

I’m doing well. I’m doing well. I’m doing well.

The reason that I repeated that just now is that I’ve found myself needing to remind myself lately. There’s just so much good going on with me. I’ve been a part of so many amazing moments over the past year. I’ve increased my social circle a bit over the past few months. I’ve had a lot of fun doing a lot of things. I’ve started taking steps to be healthier (physically and emotionally). There’s just so much good happening.

And yet, there’s also that lingering doubt in my mind. The doubt that creeps in when things are going well. The doubt that tells me that the good stuff isn’t going to last. The doubt that tells me that I don’t deserve to enjoy myself. The doubt that continues to make sure that I can’t fully enjoy any moment. It’s always there, even in small doses, but it’s always there.

There’s a lot of how I’ve been programmed to think, feel, and behave in various situations that I’m trying to work on. I need to re-program a lot of the wiring in my head. The reason that I have any hope at all at being successful with that is that some of the praise that’s been heaped on me by various friends has made me think more about what they’re saying instead of my usual instinctual dismissal of it.

So often, I’ve found myself justifying my relationships with the very people that I was hanging out with. I’ve often wondered “why am I here?” I’ve thought that I’m unworthy of being associated with some people. My mind has told me that I’m in over my head. But, a few times recently, that thought process was challenged by something that said to me or a situation where I felt completely welcome. That type of feeling isn’t something that I’m particularly used to, but I kind of like it.

I’ve always known that my interests aren’t usually the most popular things. And, for the most part, that’s never bothered me. I like what I like. It hasn’t always been easy to find other people who have similar likes and interests. I think that’s why I’m someone that has really thrived on social media. I’ve always managed to find groups of people to discuss stuff with. And this isn’t new for me either, I was doing it on America Online in the mid 90s. And from doing that then, there’s people that have been friends of mine ever since.

My obscure interests also have a downside. They’re definitely part of the reason that I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’ve been shunned a lot. But, to be honest, there’s LOTS of reasons for the shunning and the outcast thing that aren’t related to my interests. A LOT of it has to do with the amount of times that I wasn’t allowed to do anything based on parental restrictions. And this is where I start to clam up and become unwilling/unable to get into details. If/when I’m able to say more there, I will.

One of the things that I’ve told people lately is that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” And while I really do mean that when I say it, the doubting voice in my head has had me thinking about it. I’ll start to think “Really? What’s so great about now?” “How is now any different?” “You still haven’t changed anything.”
Those thoughts are there. I don’t know if I have a definitive answer, but I just know that something is different. Earlier in this entry, I said that I believe the praise of friends instead of immediately rejecting it. That alone is a HUGE difference for me.

Another word that I’ve used a lot to describe my life is “surreal.” Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around how great certain experiences have been. For a while, one of my friends has pretty much insisted that I should have a podcast or write a book at some of my experiences. I really don’t know if my stories of celebrity encounters have enough details for either of those mediums, but I’ve also recently found a forum where I can drop an anecdote about some encounter I’ve had and get a pretty good response. But, I digress…

The point about the “surrealness” of my life is that while I’m thoroughly enjoying so much of it, I’m also fully expecting it to come crashing down at any moment. I think that because I’m programmed to think it. I’m programmed to think it because of reasons that I’m not even sure of. Is it the influence of my parents and their lack of encouragement? Is it because kids in school were downright cruel to me? Do I doubt that I belong in social settings because I was shunned? Do I prefer to be by myself because it’s a defense mechanism that I built up due to being left out or do I just prefer it?

I don’t know the answers to the questions that I’ve asked. The more I think about those answers, the more my anxiety builds up. If my anxiety builds up, the doubts in my head are magnified. It’s a vicious cycle. I may know the answers one day. I’ve seen some gradual changes. The answers will come to me, just probably when I stop looking.

Shrouded in Autumn’s Graven Ascension.

Bad days happen. Everybody has them. And recently, I had a few. There wasn’t anything big that bothered me, but a various things were getting to me over the course of a few days. It set me down a path of withdrawal from people, and some of them noticed it.

I’ve often said lately that I’m “in a good place.” And I really still am. My social life is good. My job is good. I’m healthy (as far as I know). I’ve told people that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” And yet, without warning, I was going down a mental health spiral. And that’s the thing about depression. It’s not a phase. It’s not being sad. It’s always there and can flare up at any time.

I’m not completely sure about what started my downturn. As I said, it was various things. I’ve had a lot on my mind. Some were good, some were not so good. My default way to process things is to focus on the not so good. Maybe I was doing that. I’m not always aware of it. Focusing on good stuff does take effort from me.

In a recent entry, I posted about being feeling alone even when in crowds. I was pretty sure that I would feel that way again over this past weekend. There were a few events that I was going to be at and quite frankly, I didn’t really feel like doing them. I didn’t think they would be good for me. But, they ended up being the exact opposite. I could chalk it up to lowered expectations, but I’ve had the “I don’t want to be here” feeling many times before and didn’t walk away glad that I was there.

I’m currently in a form of a weight loss program. Although, that’s a simplification of it. It’s more of program designed to coach my eating. I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks, and I’m very enthusiastic about the lessons that I’ve already learned from it. And the reason that I’m mentioning in this particular entry is that it’s been teaching me to modify how I do things. It’s about re-training my thinking. And I’ve been trying to do that in various aspects of my life.

I’ve said that my default is set to miserable. How did it get there? That’s a loaded question that I don’t know if I can easily answer. But, can I reset my default? Can I train myself to not automatically default to miserable? I’ve been very carefree over the past few years. I’ve been much more mentally healthy, or so I think. But, I’ve always wondered if it was real of if I was faking it. You see, that’s my default. I doubt my happiness. I doubt whether I deserve happiness. I question why people are happy. I don’t trust happiness.

I am aware that no situation is perfect. I know that I cannot control every aspect of my day. But, can I control how I think about things? Can I control how I process things? Can I control how I react? That’s something that I’m working on. It takes effort. Change is good. Progress is good. Change and progress are also scary. They can also cause me anxiety. Was my recent setback caused by anxiety over a change in eating habits? I’m going to try to not think about that too much right now, since going through that thought process may result in a spike in anxiety. Yes, that’s how it works for me.

Here’s what I do now about me right now. I am going through the process of changing things in my life. And it’s deliberate. It’s not just a concept. I’m trying to make improvements. Even with my little setback last week, I still feel that I’m in a good place. I never fully went to a dark mental place last week. I was very far from it. I was just slightly distant and slightly irritable. It took a few people to say a few things to me and I snapped out of it. I’m always afraid that I’ll snap right back into it, hence my discussion of default. But, my awareness of things may be what stops it from happening.

I always end the year with a recap entry about how my year went. There’s two months left in this year. I’m still on a good path. I know that I can do more to (attempt to) make sure that I stay on that path. I’m working on it. And I’m as optimistic as my miserable default lets me be.

Inside My Head, Smokescreen’s Gone.

Emotions are a weird thing. It’s simultaneously possible to be fully enjoying yourself and dreading the situation that you’re in. I’ve written about this before, but it happened to me again recently. I was surrounded by people that I know. But, while fully enjoying that, I was also isolated. I’ve been thinking about that since it happened.

As weird as it may sound to some people, very often I’m at my most comfortable when I’m by myself. I’ve been very careful to not say that I’m “alone.” I very rarely feel alone or lonely. Being by myself and being alone are two completely different things, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve found a lot of outlets over the years. I’ve explained this in my entries. For over 25 years, I’ve been on social media sites and have been connecting with people that have similar interests. Those interests range from Professional Wrestling, old TV/movie references, music, and more. I have “real life” friends that I can go to discuss some of my interests, but if I don’t know which of them I can talk to, I have online forums where I can go. Social media can be destructive for some people. But, it’s really been an outlet for me. I really do believe that people that I interact with on those sites are what keep me from being “alone.”

I’m sure that if I gave it a lot of thought, I could pinpoint various situations from my childhood that helped create these feelings. But, I don’t know if I have the ability to do that right now. Detail like that would need a lot of time and effort.

The thing that I need to stress the most to anyone that reads this, and especially to any friend that has seen me recently, it’s very possible that you’ve been with me while I’ve been in one of these moods. I assure you that if I told you that it was good to see you that I meant it. I also assure you that if I said that I was having a good time, I really was. But, I also couldn’t wait to leave. That is more about me than it is about anything or anybody else.

I’ve been telling people lately that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” There isn’t sarcasm in that statement. It’s 100% true. But, it doesn’t mean that anything that anything else in this entry is invalid. It just means that I believe that I have a a pretty good concept of perspective of my current situation. I know where I am and I know where I’ve been. Where I am now is a lot better than where I’ve been.

I don’t know if I would be able to be in such a good place if I didn’t have my means of escape. My escapes are all of what I mentioned earlier, podcasts, movies, tv, concerts, and other events. And yet, sometimes while I’m attending those events, I want them to end so I can leave. And I may be fully enjoying myself while I’m there. I know there’s some mental/emotional contradictions there, but it seems so very normal to me.

If you read this and you start thinking that something’s wrong or that I’m not in a good place, don’t worry. I really am in a good place. But sometimes, I just don’t feel comfortable where I am, even if the most comforting of settings. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, it just means that sometimes I’m very much in my own head. And maybe that’s the best place for me.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to the last few years.

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

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

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

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.

A Kind of Anguish I Don’t Need…

As sarcastic and cynical as I can be, I really do take mental health seriously. It’s taken me a long time to understand it. It wouldn’t be accurate of me to say “fully understand it” because I don’t fully understand it, and I also know that I may never fully understand it. And while not understanding something can sometimes, or let’s face it, often cause me significant anxiety, in this case, I’m okay with not fully understanding things.

Just like it’s taken me a long time to understand things about my mental health, it’s also taken me just as long to arrive at a place where I’m content. This is where I would usually start to doubt all of what I’m saying here and question if me being content is really me being complacent, but at this very moment, I think it’s truly content. I truly do enjoy a lot of things in ways that I haven’t always been able to. I know that what I’m writing today may be repeating a lot of what I’ve said in other entries, but it’s stuff that needs to be repeated and it’s stuff that needs to be said within the context of this entry.

For much of my life, my interests were things that were mocked, belittled, insulted, and trashed by many. Classmates, co-workers, family members. People from all of those groups would find ways to pick apart things that I like. It caused me to be ashamed to like what I liked. It caused me to not want to talk about the things that I liked. It caused me to be afraid to discuss the things that I liked. And if you think that doesn’t plunge someone into the depths of depression, you’re quite wrong.

I’m so lucky now that I have outlets for myself. I’ve found friends that understand and share my interests. I belong to groups on various Social Media platforms that help me cultivate and enjoy my interests. It’s taken me a long time to find all of this and to be comfortable, but it happened.

I like older TV shows. I like old Hollywood stories. I like the larger than life personalities of TV commentators from the 1970s and 1980s. I like Professional Wrestling. I like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other science fiction franchises. I like pretty specific musical acts that are usually not within the mainstream view. I have positive outlets to discuss all of my interests now. I certainly did not have that when I was younger.

Now I know what while I’m in such a good place at the moment, it could change at any time. My depression could be triggered very easily. I’m aware of that. Just look at my entries from month to month. My opinion of myself varies quite a bit from month to month. Hell, it sometimes varies week to week, day to day, minute to minute. But, right now, at this very moment, I like where I am. I’m not looking for my usual doubts to surface.

Ironically, one of the things that inspired this particular entry is a video that I just saw. This video had a few Professional Wrestlers sharing some of their own stories of their battles with Mental Health. I was so proud of them for sharing their stories. It’s so important for everyone to be able to find a way to properly, and positively express themselves. This is how I choose to express myself. It works for me.

I try my best to use Social Media in a positive way. I’ll use Twitter to express a random thought that popped into my head. I’ll vent a little bit on there. I’ll use other forums to attempt to spark a conversation about something of interest to me. Recently, I watched a pretty funny movie from the 1970s for the first time. I posted about it in a group and I just sat back and watched all of the replies. Something as simple as that is so good for someone like me. A simple validation like that can go A LONG way.

As we’re now closing in on two years since the COVID-19 Pandemic started and we had to deal with lockdowns and more isolation than some people were used to, I’ve been able to put a lot of things into perspective with it. My Mental Health issues are well known to my friends. I DO talk about them. I NEED to talk about them. And many of them reached out to me just to check on me when this was all starting last year. My appreciation for that is something that I can’t really put into words beyond saying that I can’t put it into words. But, when I told my friends that I was THRIVING during the Pandemic, I wasn’t joking.

I’ve talked about my social anxieties many times in these entries. Because there was not much available to do, my social anxieties were basically gone. I’m well aware that they weren’t destroyed and will return, but they were gone for a long time. I was very calm during the worst of the Pandemic time. I was able to work on me. I was able to find new appreciation for the simple things that I enjoy and that’s really when I figured out how good I have it, as long as I don’t let the negative voices get to me. And in this case, I’m talking about outside voices and not the voices in my head that cause me so much doubt. Although, the voices in my head are usually just repeating things that other people have said and I’ve come to believe/doubt about myself. I’ll probably write about that at some point (again).

Over the past few months, I’ve been social again. I’ve attended baseball games, concerts, Professional Wrestling shows. I’ve gone to see a few movies in theaters. I’ve watched A LOT of movies at my house. I’ve listened to podcasts. I’ve listened to a lot of albums. I’ve read some books. I’ve been going to the gym regularly. I’m doing things that I enjoy.

I know that my overall good mood can change instantly. This isn’t my doubt talking here. It’s just the reality of how things are. But, I also know that there’s a lot of things that I can do to get back to where I am right now. I have outlets. I have people that I can turn to. I have places that I can go (physical and virtual). And, you have those outlets too. There’s always some person that can help if you ask. There’s not shame in asking. You don’t need to specially say “I need help.” Sometimes just saying “I’m not doing well” or “I’m a bad place” can spark the conversation that you need to start the process.

I’ve written blog entries about my anxieties that cause my anxieties to spike as I’m writing them. This one is one that is actually making me smile as I’m writing it. It’s because of all that’s good right now, and also because I know that if I had written the one that I was planning to write, my anxieties would be through the roof. Maybe I’ll get around to that one at some point.

I know this entry is getting to be a bit long, so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m not finishing this one just because it’s getting too long, but I think it’s almost too much of recap of events and I always save that for my December entries. I need to save some material for that. And when I write that one, I really do hope that my mood is just as good as it is now. If I may indulge my cynicism and my doubts for just a moment, there’s still a long time between now and the end of next month. A LOT can happen between now and then.

The distant smile, banished denial, no more denial.

This entry was inspired by a few tragic stories that I’ve recently heard about. Some were about people that I personally knew and some that I didn’t know personally. But, they all got me thinking about how awful people can be to others and how easily that awful behavior can have devastating outcomes.

One of those stories was about someone that I knew that had been sexually abused as child. The person making that accusation also named the abuser in a post on social media. I started thinking about those two and what I remembered about their childhoods and their families. It brought up a lot of thoughts.

The first thing that I thought about was the alleged victim. He grew up in a troubled household. It wouldn’t be described as healthy for anyone. Then I thought about the alleged abuser. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew others in his family. I knew one member of his family pretty well. He was the first person that I knew to utter racial slurs. He was also the first person to ever “beat me up.” I’ve heard other stories about the abuser’s family too. I don’t know how true they are, but there’s enough stories.

What is my point about bringing up the home lives of the people in question? Well, very often, children of mentally and verbally abusive parents will bully other children. It’s an ego boost. They make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. Unfortunately, it’s a very common situation. And while I do feel some sympathy for the situation that the bullies came from, it doesn’t excuse anything.

As a kid in high school that was starting to get into heavy metal music, liked comic books, liked Professional Wrestling, liked science fiction, had long hair, and wore glasses, I was a big time target for bullies. Every single interest that I just mentioned had been mentioned in some sort of verbal (and sometimes physical) attack on me. Finding people that I was comfortable with that shared my interests was not easy for me. I was the quiet kid in the back of the room that sat there because I didn’t want my back to anyone. I didn’t trust people enough not to keep my eyes on all of them.

I probably had/have an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. I often drifted into my own world because of my lack of ability to fit in. I don’t know if I felt a pressure to fit in or if I just looked forward to getting out of school to attempt to return to my own world. But, as bad as I had it, some people have it so much worse.

Nowadays, I often hear people say that kids needs in-person socialization to thrive. I think there’s some level of truth there, but I also think that in-person is most definitely not the be-all, end-all. One of the best things to ever happen to me was easily online chat rooms and social media. From my love of Professional Wrestling to my love of obscure Hollywood references, I have forums to discuss them with likeminded people from all over. I don’t personally know them, but it doesn’t matter. Our common interests are enough of a bond. There’s one particular group that I belong to online that I can’t wait to post in after I watch an older movie. I look forward to the opinions, reviews, and even criticism of that movie that I might see in that group. There’s never a malice. It’s just a good natured discussion. I didn’t have access to something like that in high school. I didn’t have that comfort zone. I didn’t have a place to go.

People should not be made to feel ashamed to be who they are. People should not be made to be afraid to like what they like. People should not be made to hide who they are. But, because of bullies, they often are ashamed, they often after afraid, and they often do hide. It’s not just peers that bully them thought. It’s parents, teachers, siblings, teammates, TV personalities. Bullying can come from anywhere. It has to stop.

This entry was partially inspired by a documentary that I recently watched about a Professional Wrestler that took his own life. He was gay, and did all that he could to hide it. He was made to be ashamed of who he was. I cannot imagine that struggle. in a world of alpha males, he always felt less than. He couldn’t let anyone know who he really was. He was afraid of the abuse that he may be subjected to. I was just into things that weren’t considered cool and mocked for that.

Being made to feel lesser than at all times can drive people to do drastic things. I can cause people to believe that they’re not worth anything. It can cause people to want their suffering to end and sometimes they only way that they know how to end the suffering is to end their lives. It’s a horribly sad thing any time that it happens. But it’s beyond preventable. WE CAN PREVENT this cycle from continuing. WE just have to be better.

I have never had any active thoughts in my head about hurting myself in any way, but I have had the “what if I wasn’t here” thought. Luckily for me, those thoughts were fleeting, never prominent, and led to any desire to do anything bad. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any thought like that at all. I’m in a comfortable place now. I think I’m where I should be now. It may not be where I thought I would be or could be, but where I am is good. I don’t want it to change, even though I know it can, very easily.

Part of what people with mental illness deal with is the constant worry that everything can crumble around them. And that can happen without warning, without a lot of prompting, and it can be very difficult to deal with. That’s why I urge anyone that reads this to do their part to be kinder to each other. Be on the lookout for friends that in trouble. Do something to let your friends know that you’re there for them. Warning signs may be hard to see sometimes. But, if you see anything that you think is a cry for help, or an attention seeking thing, pay attention to it. Do not dismiss what could be the last thing that you see from that person. Be there. If we just cared a bit more, if we were a bit kinder to “different” people, the world would be a much better place for all of it. It’s not that difficult of a path to take, and it’s much better than the alternatives.