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.

As I’m Walking I’m Breathless, I’d Welcome Clarity.

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s OK, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – the Doctor

Why did I start off this entry with a quote from an (allegedly) fictional character? That’s really simple, because when I was thinking about this entry, that quote came to me. I interpret that quote from the Doctor as a way of saying that you need to change. You need to grow. You need to evolve. Specifically, you need your views on life to evolve.

Way too often I see people criticizing modern kids for spending too much time playing videos games, looking at their phones, and not doing more “manly” things such as sports. What I think people fail to realize is that they’re doing things that are right for them. They’re also doing things that some of us didn’t have the capability of doing. While I did have video games to play at my house when I was a teenager, I didn’t have the capability of playing with people all over the world. I was THRILLED when more than two people could play when multi-player games were available.
We didn’t have cell phones when I was a kid. And when cell phones were first available to me, there were barely any features. Heck, the first one that I had didn’t even have a clock on it.

People my age and older that would go outside and do play in their yards did that stuff because we didn’t have as many ways to entertain ourselves as kids do now. Our grandparents didn’t sit aorund and watch television when they were kids, because that wasn’t even a concept yet.

I remember back in the late 1990s when Pokemon cards first became really popular. I did not understand what the big deal about them was. And to be honest, I still don’t. But, to some people, they mean a lot. Their value isn’t necessarily monetary, it’s personal.

I don’t care about cars, football, or motorcycles. That doesn’t diminish me in any way. It just means that I have different interests. Just like the kids that collected Pokemon cards. Their interests were different.

I started this off with a quote and I’m going to use another one that I like, this one is from the late, great Bill Hicks. He said “All your beliefs, they’re just that. They’re nothing. They’re how you were taught and raised. That doesn’t make ’em real.”
I think that quote shows the point that your ideas can and should evolve.

When we were children, there were a lot of fairy tales that we were told. We were told about the existence of various fictional characters. We were told some of those characters would bring us gifts, give us money, or deliver candy in the middle of the night. Ignoring the fact that some of those things seem pretty creepy when you think about it, but there’s also a time when we stop believing the existence of those characters.

My point about brining up the belief of those characters and things that we’re told is to emphasize part of what Bill Hicks about beliefs not necessarily being based on reality. WE need to evolve how we think about things, people, and society. WE need to realize that just because someone is riding an electric scooter instead of a motor cycle that the person on the scooter is not failing to live up to a standard of manhood. Again, it’s just something different that wasn’t an option before.

I’ve done my best to change how I look at life. By evolving how I think about life, I’ve become a lot less jaded and angry than I was in younger days. I don’t look at things that I don’t understand and belittle them. In fact, If I don’t understand something, I may use my phone (which has all of the technology that I didn’t have as a kid) and do some quick research on what I don’t understand. And maybe, just maybe, by doing that, my way of thinking about something will evolve.

Tears For a Hopeless Case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 lack of reason that makes a mortal man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.