Things change

On my drive to work today, I thought of many things that I have figured out over the last five years.  What prompted this assessment?

Tomatoes.

As I drove away, I thought of the empty planter pots on my driveway and how last year at this time, they were filled with heirloom tomato plants which my daughter was supposed to water when she was watching her brother.  Several weeks of neglect and finally a hailstorm ended those plants.  Out of $50 worth of plants, I think I might have gotten about ten tomatoes off the vine.

Several of them were green, which I fried.

This year, I didn’t buy plants.  The reason: I really don’t like gardening.  I also had hot dogs and baked beans for lunch because even though I am a good cook, I really don’t care what I cook most of the time, so long as I am providing myself calories and nutrients.

Five years ago, gardening and cooking were my escapes.  Everyone left me alone when I did these things and really gardening and cooking are unpleasant experiences, but not nearly as unpleasant as the alternative at the time.

In the last five years, I have gotten a chance to re-evaluate what I like and what I don’t like, based on experience. Some things are still the same. Some aren’t.  Here are some lists.

Don’t like

  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Loud clubs
  • Tequila
  • Goodbyes
  • Birthday cake
  • Beer
  • Ice cream
  • Dating
  • Carnivals
  • “We need to talk.”
  • Cats
  • My day job
  • Classical music
  • Nu-country
  • Crab cakes
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Camping
  • Decorating for holidays
  • Kids’ birthday parties

Do like

  • Rainy days
  • Doing laundry
  • Cider
  • Rum
  • Walks in the moonlight
  • Notes on the bathroom mirror
  • Dancing
  • Travel
  • Road trips
  • Good food
  • Watching fireworks displays
  • Days on the lake
  • Trains
  • Talking to strangers
  • Helping old friends
  • Playlists
  • Dogs
  • Writing
  • Riesling
  • Paying my bills
  • New experiences
  • A nice, quiet, boring night in
  • Sitting in hot springs
  • Music
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Green chile
  • Taking pictures

Indifferent

  • Concerts
  • Burlesque shows
  • Cocktails
  • Other people’s kids
  • Church
  • Going to the gym
  • Tacos
  • Fishing
  • Massages
  • Tattoos
  • Lighting fireworks
  • Holidays
  • TV and movies
  • Social media
  • Wine tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Throw some pills at it

I had a weird conversation with my dad a little while ago.  We were discussing my depression.  Yes, I struggle with it.  But I choose to not see it as a mental illness.  It has been more of a symptom of some highly stressful and extremely depressing situations.  There’s a difference.  It’s the reflective pain of something that has hurt me.  If you hit your thumb with a hammer, that pain it telling you that you have just been through some trauma.

It’s not the trauma itself.  The pain is just an indication there might be broken blood vessels, bone damage, a split nail, etc. When the pain goes away, that is an indication of healing.

Now, if I had a condition where I didn’t hit my thumb with a hammer and it just started hurting for no reason, I think that is more like what mental illness would look like.

I have been to therapy (yes, I have been asked this before).  There were some rough spots over the last several years.  I asked my therapist if I needed to be on any medication.  She basically told me I have situational depression.  It isn’t chemical.  She could prescribe pills, but really, it wouldn’t do much for me.  I had no chemical imbalance to set off my depression.  Things were just really, really shitty for me at times.

For me, taking pills would just be like loading yourself up on painkillers before building a house, that way you never had to feel when you smacked your thumb with a hammer.

The conversation with my dad went this direction, and I can’t begrudge him.  He watches me struggle sometimes, but he basically said I should get some medication for being bi-polar.  As a parent, I get it. You just want your kids to be safe. Happy.

I’m not bi-polar.

Sometimes things just suck, and sometimes I get to feel genuinely happy.  I might be closer to PTSD, since even the moments that don’t suck come with an awareness that this moment of joy is merely temporary.  And time and time again, this notion is proven.

But that is life.  Nothing lasts forever.  And for me, I wouldn’t want to walk around “happy” all the time.  Where would the contrast come from?  Where would you get the appreciation that this moment is truly wonderful when compared with others?  I think taking a pill to remove that would just about kill me.

Everything would be just flat.  No surprises.  It’s a big reason I hate being drunk.  Any joke I hear, any story I am told, is unremarkable.  It’s just numb.  The memories literally get pissed down the drain.

Why bother?

If I’m ever on the rollercoaster, it’s not in my head.  It’s struggling to deal with the ups and downs of life.  And truth be told, I usually handle those challenges like a boss.  I have some friends and family who don’t handle things so well.  Anything from being cut off in traffic to how their food is prepared when they go out to eat.

I am generally chill about that.

This morning, my son woke up and he was in tears.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said he didn’t want to go to summer camp.  He wanted to stay home and spend the day with me.  Man, that pulled at my heart strings, but I have to work, and he needs to be around kids instead of hanging out at home all day.

It still hit me right in my feels though.  Should there be a pill for that?  After all, I had a change in emotion.  If there is, I wouldn’t take it.  Not every morning is one where we wake up and smile at the sunshine and sing in the shower.  Some days are just blah.  Some days are magnificent.

That is just life.

Today, my son woke up with a blah.  I woke up wishing I could have slept another hour.  I hadn’t decided on the day just yet.  It’s nearly 4pm as I write this.  I’m still undecided.  Does that sound like I need to be medicated?  Or maybe just that I am apathetic to my day (other than my kid)?

My job sucks.  My blog is largely ignored and I don’t see how I could ever transition it into a career.  I miss my kids.  I work hard to break even.  But I am grateful to God for every day I get to be here in this amazing world.   Other than being bored and broke sometimes lonely, etc.  I think this life is a gift.  It always has been.  I love every minute of my life.  Even when it gets tough.  I think at those moments, I see what is happening as someone messing up a really great thing we should all get to enjoy.  The majority of my stress is external.  Usually because of assholes–of the not me variety.

For that I am grateful.

Hearing birds sing or seeing a sunset or talking with a friend are all things that give me joy.  Getting a hug from my son.  Hearing about his plans to spend his toothfairy money.  All of these things are a joy.  Even the 43rd hour of a week when he tells me all about Spiderman or Captain America, as though he is telling me about something I know nothing about.  That is a joy too.

Now, if they had a pill that would let you vividly relieve the happiest moments of your life for an hour or two…or maybe just one that lets people appreciate the good times while they are happening. Write me a scrip for that!

In the meantime, I plan on not hitting my thumb with a hammer if I can help it.

The takeaway from this is try not to be an asshole to yourself.  There is a long line of people out there happy to be one to you.  They don’t need your help.

The Cure for FOMO

I don’t know if it’s a cure, but it has been a remedy.

As I have mentioned a few times here before, for many years, I might as well have been living under a rock.  All my years of wanting to travel were not only blocked with my own personal hesitation, but decisions that were made at home, meant that we would never have enough money to go abroad.

This year, in case you haven’t been following along, I took my first international trip.  (Other than a night in Canadia in 1993).

In the nearly five years that I have been on my own, I have had grand aspirations to travel.  Divorce is nearly as expensive as a bad marriage, however, so my dreams of doing what I wanted to do all those years ago have been on hold.  Until now.

In that time, I have been jealous of those in my life who have gotten to travel.  I’ll admit it.  I’m not proud of it.  Living vicariously was no longer enough.  I wanted to go, but somehow, I still couldn’t get it together.  There was always something to come up that would stop me. Someone once told me, “I don’t know that you actually want to travel, or else you would have done it by now.”  That stung.  When other people were building a legacy while they were married, mine left me with two bankruptcies, drained bank accounts, and almost nothing to my name.

They just didn’t understand. What’s worse, for a moment, I believed them. I was comparing myself to them.

This year’s trip almost didn’t happen.  Due to changes in child support, half of my tax return was claimed by the State.  But by then, I had already bought the tickets and all that needed to be done was to pay for the AirBnB.  I had just enough to do it, in spite of concerns about my budget. Fewer day trips.  No Chunnel train.  Sacrifices.

My writing gigs supplemented the rest.  Putting in some extra work was well worth it.  Those fives and tens add up when you let them.

My destination: London and wherever my whims took me.  I was no longer experiencing the Fear Of Missing Out. I was finally getting to do what I had wanted to do for the last 25 years.  I was immersing myself in a foreign city.  Jumping into the deep end to teach myself how to swim.

I don’t want to sound like I’m crowing about my accomplishments, but considering how far I’ve come in five years, I crow a little bit.

One day on the trip was a little difficult, I must admit.  It came about when I was having a little bit of trip burn out.  All the walking, museums, shops, etc. started to blur together.  I watched young couples sitting on benches in the park, about my age when the travel bug first bit me.  The summer of my seventeenth year.  I was those young couples, in love, sitting on park benches, seeing the world.  This day, however, my legs hurt.  I felt like I hadn’t done enough.  Like I had wasted a day.  The FOMO was beginning to bubble up.

That evening, I messaged a friend back who asked if I was going to go to any clubs.  I was tired.  In pain. Burned out, and a little bluesy.  I said I wouldn’t even know where to find a club.  The conversation went to how to find a club.  I started to feel bad, like I wasn’t trying hard enough.  Like I needed to get out there and get my flirt on.

FOMO.

I’ll be honest, I really don’t like clubs all that much.  I’ve tried them, and for the most part I find myself shouting into someone’s ear half the night and pretending I’m not as deaf as I am while trying to read their lips. Lots of nodding and smiling.

I’m not the kind of guy who goes cruising for hookups either, which a lot of that is what clubs are for.  I like to dance, but there is a difference.  And flying solo as I was, I just wasn’t feeling it.  But, I started to feel that FOMO raising its ugly head.  I didn’t want to go to a club, but shouldn’t I?

So, I went on a walk that night.  I hopped on a double decker bus that took me on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  I write about it here too.  It was a challenge I needed to overcome.

By the time I got home, I was happy again.  Even though I had a few moments of FOMO, I broke through it all and realized it was MY trip.  I wasn’t there for the clubs, or hookups, or any of that. I wasn’t there to live someone else’s vacation.  I was on a journey of my own discovery.  And that is what I did.  It was a low point of the trip, but I bought a souvenir to commemorate it.  A coffee mug from the place where I realized how ridiculous I was being.

I was tested, and I felt something fall away from myself.  Changed by the experience. In all honesty, I think had I taken the trip with another person, it would have changed the nature of the whole experience.

I was comfortable in my own skin, accepting of my faults, my mistakes, my regrets.  My aging body that wasn’t handling uneven streets the way it would have in 1993.  I wasn’t there to chase women.  I wasn’t there to prove anything to anyone.  I was there to be present in the moment. To drink it all in.

I used to think the expression “Wherever you go, there you are,” just meant you couldn’t run away from yourself.  Really, what I discovered was at some point you are always going to be you.  So, you might as well enjoy their company, because it is some pretty good company.  Wherever you go, you will be content if you can just be comfortable in your own skin, whether you run and see all the sights of a distant city, or if you are at home watching a movie on Netflix with your son.  You can’t run away from your demons (you have to face them at some point), but you shouldn’t run from your joy either.

I wasn’t missing out on anything.  Even all those years I lost when I was married couldn’t make me feel like I was missing out on my own life anymore.  I was living it.  I was right there, in that moment, doing exactly what I wanted to do.

I didn’t have FOMO.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.  Even today, I’m not missing out.  I”m right here.  In good company.

“The pathway to salvation is as narrow and as difficult to walk as a razor’s edge.”  Sometimes I walk it, and sometimes I fall.  From great heights. On fire. Into a pool of piranhas. But, I do get back up and try to walk it again.

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