Awake, Alive, After a Year of Swamps and Shadows.

I’m awake now.

After living the last school year in a state that felt like a long sleep filled with dreams of murky swamp water shadows, me sitting down beneath, looking above like someone sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool in one of those movies or shows, though without wash of summer sunshine, looking up at lily pads floating overhead like alien intelligences whose designs I cannot fathom.

I lived my life, underwater. I did my job, underwater. I spent my weeknights and my weekends, underwater.

Occasionally I’d have phone conversations with family, friends, underwater. I’m surprised they could even understand what I was saying, speaking thickly through swampwatersludge. Sometimes they didn’t. Most of the time, the people I’d talk to knew I was underwater. They were very understanding.

Teaching was the easiest thing to do underwater. I’d been doing it for so long, it was all muscle memory. Things looked clearest when I was teaching. It still had it’s challenges, however.

Paperwork.

Paperwork was hard. So was communicating with my colleagues, my administrators. Paperwork and communicating with my colleagues, that was pretty difficult for me. Sometimes, I hate to admit, I’d snap at people, speak defensively, I thought I was justified. I’d behave in a manner that was not collegial.

I was being a dick, basically.

I got some write-ups. I couldn’t help myself sometimes. They didn’t know. They didn’t understand how difficult it was to work underwater – especially swamp water. They didn’t understand, and it was hard to explain.

Neuroplasticity, my psychiatrist called it.

My ADHD medication was rewiring my brain from randomly spouting flashes and spurts of half-completed ideas to producing clear, organized and orderly rational thoughts, complete with beginning, middle and end. The medication was basically acting like a brace for my brain. And it made me feel stupid. But my struggles at work are another story for another day.

Once in a while, my friends would come and stand at the swamp’s edge.

They yelled out to me, trying to reach out and get my attention. We’re going to be having a get together this weekend, would you like to join? You know we’d love to see you. This band is coming to this bar, we’re all going, would you like to join? I’ll try, I said, lying mostly.

I never went.

Again, I tried explaining to them about the whole it’s-kinda-hard-because-I’m-sitting-down-here-at-the-bottom-of-the-swamp situation and now I’ve gotten pretty used to it. Then there’s the whole swimming back up to the surface. I didn’t have the energy. And honestly, I didn’t want to. That’s the closest I can get to try and describe how it felt this past school year.

I was taking my prescribed medication regularly. I was not, however, exercising or eating right. I’d written some previous blog posts during that time describing how I felt. I stayed home all the time. My lethargy was so utter and complete that I would give my older brother money so he could buy my groceries any time he and his partner went to the store.

I wouldn’t even try to talk to women, because first, it required too much energy, and second, I wouldn’t want to go out. I had no energy to be personable or charming. I couldn’t make it to concerts from bands that I had already paid my ticket for and that I desperately wanted to see, like Snail Mail, and a few others. I didn’t even make it to see the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque show, even though I bought a VIP front section table. I never bothered with refunds.

None of my hobbies or loves or passions or desires would get me up and out into the outside world. I stopped going to the poetry slams. Even practicing with our band wouldn’t happen. I even missed most of the meetings for our Laredo chapter of NAMI.

I had mentioned before that it felt like all the energy I’d expend on teaching my students left me completely and totally drained every night, and come the weekend, I felt totally spent from the work week. My body needed a lot of recovery time.

Then a couple of events occurred in rapid succession:
I went the weekend before Spring Break without any of my medication.
And my brother told me that he and his partner had decided to move back to San Antonio.

Due to some miscalculations on my end and some miscommunications on my pharmacy’s end, I spent all of the first Saturday and Sunday of Spring Break deep in a depression sleep. I told my brother. I told my mother. And I slept. All day Saturday. All day Sunday. I finally picked up my medication on Monday. I went to bed early.

Then the strangest thing happened.

I woke up at nine AM Tuesday morning. Without an alarm. My eyes just popped open.
I had rested, a good, long, deep rest. I felt recharged, so I got up, and for the rest of the week, as I began taking my medication regularly again, I was actually doing chores, running errands – it was such an amazingly strange sensation having energy.

I began feeling restless on weekend nights. I started craving going out again. Being around people – my friends. Our band began practicing regularly again. Even my work relationships improved.

Then my brother told me that he was going to be moving back to San Antonio.
I admit I had a moment of selfishness, but it came and went like a Laredo summer shower. Three years of self-reflection, meditation, and medication had finally given me rationality and balance.

My brother had stepped in when I needed him the most. He uprooted his life with his partner in San Antonio, after years of living on their own, to come down and help me out, moving into his bedroom, with his mother. I knew what that felt like. I knew how hard it was. And it was hard, but we tried to make the best of it. And as hard as it was, it was hardest on his partner, who for those three long years would apply for countless jobs and never be hired. He had his own mental health issues and it was taking a toll on him.

So I understood. They were living a half-life. I wouldn’t have survived the first year after my father’s death without him. My oldest brother stepped in and shouldered the burden, along with his partner, of feeding my mom, balancing her checkbook, fixing up the house.

My brother and I had made an agreement, when my father was ill: I cared for our father and did my best to see him through to his passing, and I would do the same for our mother, when the time came, while during that time, he would see to the day to day running of the household. He allowed me time to recover and to rest.

And I did.

He gave me that gift.

I’ve said before that meditating – along with the medication – had allowed me to get in touch with my body. I’ve said that I learned to listen to my body, learned to surf on the crest of it’s ebb and flow. I knew my days of resting had a limited shelf life.

Then, weeks later, my brother and his partner went to San Antonio for a few days to scope things out. When they came back, they both returned with secured jobs. Now if that isn’t a sign from the Divine, then I don’t know what is. It was meant to be.
Our lives were about to change drastically once again. Gone would be the days of me lazing about.

My mind knew it.

My body knew it.

Then the wheel turned, as it always does, and summer came.

And on the first Saturday of the first weekend of summer, I began doing my laundry, which had piled up in layers of strata months old. I cleaned my room. I cut the back and front yard grass. I grabbed a saw and I began to trim the branches of my Three Sisters out in the backyard. I began working out again. I went back to drinking my protein shakes.

I was asked to be in a play and I said yes – the first play where I portray a character that has the most lines I’ve ever had. I went to a cast party.

I hosted a birthday party for myself. I actually grilled fajita and chicken, after not cooking anything for almost a whole year. I helped my brothers organize and pack for their big move.

That last week before they left was a hard one – for all us.

The boxes gathering like the accumulating gray cloud gloom of a coming downpour.

I broke down twice.

But we talked. I told him how much I’d miss him, and I thanked him. But my room was clean, my brother saw me getting up early, saw me work out a daily routine.

Before he left I told him not to worry about me, or mom, that I would be able to take of everything now, that I could manage it, and he knew it, because he got to see it before he left.

Am I cured of my mental illness? Of course not. There is no cure, only management. But over the course of these three past years, I learned to manage my depression in positive, healthy ways. I know I will have bad days, but I know that I’ll survive them.

Today marks the third official day of me and my mom being on our own, and we’re doing fine.

We slip into routines easier now. I spend time watching TV with her. She colors. I write. We talk. I’m out and about now. My mom will be around for a long time, so I definitely need to stay in shape in order to keep up with her – but it benefits me as well.

The murk is gone now.
My mind and body purged it – as soon as my brother had told me, everything cleared up almost instantly. My body knew, and it was ready, and snapped to. I’m ready to shoulder responsibilities again – mine and my mother’s.

I am her companion, her guardian, her protector – and honestly, I know that this is how it’s supposed to be. I know that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

I’m happy.

I’m at peace.

I’m not worried about any problems in the future.

I know it’ll be okay.

I know I can handle it.

My energy is back.

My eyes are open.

My head is clear.

I’m awake now.

What Fat Thor Taught Me About Being Okay With My Weight and My Depression.

The uproar over Fat Thor in Avengers Endgame was, to put it simply, idiotic.

Quite the contrary, Fat Thor was brilliant.

Methinks the mindless twits on Twitter with their groupranthink doth protest way too damn much.

Apparently, the fact that Thor having a gut was too offensive for their delicate sensibilities.

Added to that, their accusation that some of the remarks the surviving members of the Avengers in the film made at his physical appearance was a form of “Fat Shaming” is beyond ridiculous.

The Avengers are comrades, they’re friends, they’re like an amiable bunch of athletes. You are going to dig on your friends for two reasons, because they love your quirks and because they call you out.

They did it with Captain America in Age of Ultron with the running “language” bit. They also did the same thing with Hawkeye being old in the same movie. They always dig on Bruce Banner for being geeky and socially awkward.
It’s par for the course.

Before I continue, however, I feel I should be as transparent as possible and establish my bonafides.

First, what qualifies me to talk about the subject?

I’m fat.

I know, it’s a shocking revelation.

I’ve lived most of my life heavier than thinner.

Currently, I’m hovering around the two hundred and thirty pound mark.

According to the height ( I’m 5’11 ½” ) and age chart at my doctor’s office, I am considered clinically obese.
Last year, I was around two hundred and fifty pounds.

There were a couple of years were I weighed a lithe two hundred and twenty pounds.

At my heaviest, back in the mid-nineties, I weighed two hundred and eighty-five pounds.

I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life.

I’ve worked out more often than not for the past ten years, so there is some muscle, but more strength.

Oh, and I still bear the scars of childhood bullying from mean little assholes. The trauma is gone, but the memory is not.

So I feel that definitely qualifies me to talk about this particular subject.

Oh, and I guess I should have prefaced this blog with the words *SPOILER ALERT!!!!!* typed in all caps, bookended with asterisks, followed by a slew of exclamation points, in bold, and underlined.

But really, if you haven’t seen the movie already, then what in the hell is wrong with you?

So, back to Thor.

When I saw Avengers Endgame in the theater, and Fat Thor first appeared, the first of two thoughts shot out into the night sky of my mind and flared like a Fourth of July firework:

Holy crap – that’s me!

That immediate gut reaction was to his physical change.

That was me up on the screen.

I was represented.

Granted, I looked nowhere near as handsome as that damned Chris Hemsworth. His body shape was also slightly different than mine – my gut is not so prominent and my arms are not that muscular.

Nevertheless, I felt the strangest sensation watching him. In a way it was like being home. Like I could breathe comfortably.

Then there’s the scene where Hulk and Rocket Raccoon go to Thor’s home in New Asgard and try to convince him to rejoin The Avengers. There is a lot of comedy in that scene, and it’s easy to miss if you’re viewing it on a purely superficial level, but the mess, the bottles of beer and pizza boxes strewn everywhere, the way Thor’s dressed.

Then there’s Thor’s demeanor – the look in his eye, the way he talks, the way he carries himself. Those are all the telltale signs.

And this is the pure beauty, the sheer genius of Thor’s story arc:

Thor is sad, Thor is beaten, Thor is bruised, Thor is broken, Thor is depressed.

This was the second firecracker of a revelation I saw.

I saw and I understood.

That’s how depression looks like for some people. That’s how it was for me.

Not note for note, of course – because everyone’s battle with depression is different. But it always has to do with slowly being unable to things that others do with no problem, or even with things that you were able to do before with ease that seem impossible now.

Depression can come suddenly with the loss of a loved one. Depression can come with a sudden and drastic life change. Or depression can hover over you like a specter since birth, and wait, biding its time to slip into the cartilage of your joints.

During the course of Phases 1 through 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we saw in his struggles, pieces of him hammered, cracked, then chipped away, but he persisted.

He had a duty. He felt it was his job to solve all the problems that were destroying his world and the ones he loved. Only he could do it. He shouldered everything. He didn’t ask for help. Then when the killing blow was struck, it was not he who had won – it was Thanos.

And that was it.

Thor crumbled.

He tried as hard as he could to hold himself together, to put on a brave face and soldier on. Then when he tried again one last valiant time – nothing.

To me, Thor was the image of my depression. In Thor, we see a god-man, once bright and beautiful and unbreakable and unstoppable just pure focus and vision and charm and wit, just the very best of how we see – or want to see – ourselves, and we see him simply break in two.

And the sad genius of it was that it was laid out well in advance, and it happened over time – since The Dark World. We saw him slowly crack. And it’s a scientific fact that if you hammer away at an object with the right tools, in the right way, it eventually cracks.

He lost his mother. Crack.

He lost his father. Crack.

He lost his friends. Crack.

He lost his hammer. Crack.

He lost his home. Crack.

He lost his brother. Crack.

He lost his half his people. Crack.

Then he lost half the life in the Universe. Crack.

And then, finally, he simply lost. CRACK.

Thor lost everything that he thought he was. He lost everything that he thought defined him. He tried everything, and nothing worked.

We all saw it onscreen. We saw the result:

All that was left was a man, only a man, a scared man, a raw, vulnerable, frightened human.

It was frightening to see onscreen. It’s even more frightening when you are actually going through something like that.

When you have a job, a task, a responsibility, and the weight of carrying it for so long, in silence, without asking for help, or refusing any help given, but with each step forward you can sense the small cracks underneath you like being on a frozen lake that you can feel breaking, but you ignore it, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

And that is the devil hidden deep in the details when it comes to depression – especially with male depression. We bear our burdens silently, because asking for help is admitting weakness, and admitting weakness is a Cardinal Sin for many of us. It is the fatal flaw in our own, personal Greek tragedy that destroys us in the end.

For me, it was starting up a brand new relationship just eight months after being divorced to my high school girlfriend, the last five years of which was highly toxic. Crack.

My new relationship with my ex-girlfriend, who needed special attention because she struggled with so many mental health problems. Crack.

My trying to be a good man and a good father to her daughters. Crack.

My trying to be a good, responsible son and care for my father who went from having severe Crohns disease to getting terminal cancer of the gall bladder and the liver. Crack.

Me, trying to handle all of this on my own, by myself, not talking to anyone about it. Crack.

My slow-slipping down into reckless behaviors, behaviors which caused my girlfriend and I to break up. Crack.

My father passing away. Crack.

Fortunately, I finally sought help. I saw a therapist, who then said I should see a psychiatrist. I went to my doctor, who referred me to the man who saved my mind.

Almost five years later, I’m still around.

Thor survived, and even fat he stepped up. Even after breaking, with the help of his friends, and his anger and his courage, he helped his friends, he helped them win. Greater still, he overcame his fears.

And though I’ve had days where all I’ve wanted to do was stay home and stay in bed – even with medication – I’ve stepped up and helped those friends and family who needed me. I’ve failed them sometimes, but I’ll never stop trying.

And I will continue to step up, grow stronger, grow calmer, because I have a little eighty year old mother whom I love dearly who, like my father, will need me to see them through to the end.

I know it will be hard.

I know it will devastate me.

But I have friends now, who stubbornly insist that I not slip into the Darkness.

I have family who I am no longer afraid to ask for help.

And I have Fat Thor, beautifully portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, with pathos, grace, and humanity.

Thank you, Chris.

Thank you, Kevin Feige.Thank you, Russo Brothers.

Thank you, Stan Lee.

And thank you, Fat Thor.

Thank you for showing me – this fat, broken, socially awkward old geek –

that I am worthy.

This New Year, Resolve to Make No New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m laying down on my bed as I write this, surrounded by pillows, covered in one of the most comfortable blankets in our home ( it was in a closet, no one was using it, so now it’s mine – no harm, no foul ), my go-to comfortable slouchy beanie on my head.

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, looking at all the people I follow, and, since it’s January 1st, 2019, reading the occasional but unavoidable posts on New Year resolutions.

I left the site.

You see, after I was diagnosed with Major Depression and adult ADHD, and after talking to my psychiatrist and my friends and family, I realized three things about myself:

– Being on social media for long periods of time becomes a sensory and information overload for me.

– I’m an empathetic person.

– I’m a natural problem solver.

I’ve always been a pretty good speed reader since I was a child, but now that I’m on my ADHD medication, I can take in and process a greater amount of information a lot faster.

So, with that particular combination, taking in and processing too much information and/or too much emotional information means that my head becomes filled with people’s problems that I either want to solve, or that I feel terrible about, and I know there’s nothing I can do about it.

So, what’s the point of all this?

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

I definitely believe that the very nature of the winter/holiday season lends itself to self-reflection, self-assessment.
Nature lies dormant, weathering out the cold until the sun’s warmth returns. All we see around us are ( mostly ) bare trees, slate gray skies, snow, if you’re lucky.

The calendar year, arbitrarily beginning in January, in the middle of seasonal winter, also forces us to feel as if we only have three hundred and sixty-five days to undergo some sort of amazing transformation, and as a result, forces us to feel as if we are some kind of failure in the eyes of our peers.

Social media only heightens this perceived pressure.

Many movies and shows make us feel that our lives are supposed to have a clear, definite beginning, middle, and end.

So after struggling for years, we’re told that we are supposed to overcome our problems, our weaknesses, our illnesses, our addictions, in a much shorter span of time, then proclaim ourselves free, new and improved, washed clean of the stains of our personal problems.

People in the public eye, be they celebrities or politicians, love to broadcast that narrative, and by doing so, make us believe that it’s the norm.

I don’t know about you, but I hate deadlines.

I love guidelines, but deadlines are crap.
Having depression has made me realize that growth is not a linear thing.

Spending time out in my backyard almost every day for the past year and a half, watching the leaves and flowers sprout and bloom, wither and fall, then sprout and bloom again, watching the constellations revolve above me, has taught me that growth is cyclical.

Growth is not linear.

That idea was the creation of some white scientist centuries ago whose belief system was a locked, rigid, racist, classist, patriarchal ideology. That idea, that way of thinking, is wrong.

Growth is cyclical.

We set a goal for ourselves. We often invariably fail at least once, if not more. We achieve that goal. But it’s rarely ever just one goal at a time. It’s many.

It’s growth in our careers, yes, but it’s also growth within ourselves, and without.

Growth in our interpersonal relationships.

Growth as men and women.

Growth in realizing our gender and sexual identity.

Growth in realizing just where exactly it is we belong on this insane planet, third from the sun.

Growth in being a good person to those who are good to you.

Growth in realizing the harmful, toxic behaviors we learned through nurturing by our parents, guardians, parent figures; and then trying to break ourselves free from those behaviors so we don’t hurt our loved ones the way we were hurt. The way our parents or parent figures hurt each other.

Growth is spirals.

It’s tree rings, stacked from its base, from its roots, raising high up towards the sky.

We grow in spirals.
And, more often than not, our growth process is represented as many spirals, rising and falling, loosening and tightening, as we try to discover and learn and figure out and master all the complex aspects of ourselves.

We spiral upward. We fall down, and we get back up again.

I have never followed the crowd.

I do things when I want to do them.

I do things when I am ready to do them.

And when I do, I do them slowly, over time.

But I do them.

I do not measure my success by the successes of others. I measure my success by how and what I do today versus how and what I did yesterday.

I spiral.

I rise.

I fall.

I forgive myself.

I analyze and see what went wrong, what I can do differently – not better.

Then I rise again.

And I don’t stop.

I may take breaks, but I never stop. I meditate. I try to keep my mind present. I always ask myself:

“Is what I’m doing truly making me happy?”

“Is what I’m doing hurting anyone?”

And I adjust, as needed. I take time to make sure I do everything I have to do, to learn everything I have to learn, to practice everything I have to practice.

But I do it at my pace, for myself, and not for anyone else, and definitely not so I can crow about it on social media.

So, do you honestly believe that pushing yourself doggedly, cruelly, without ever taking a moment to stop, enjoy, and feel the fulfillment of achieving a goal is going to create a kinder, happier, more loving you?

Instead of making resolutions that, by definition, are designed to fail, designed to make you feel terrible about yourself, don’t you think that you should simply work on being the best person you can be every day?

Don’t you think that’s better than saying, “Oh well, I’ll just try next year,” the very first time you break your resolution – in February?

Don’t you think you should do it in small, achievable steps?

Don’t you think you should nurture yourself?

Don’t you think you should be more patient, more kind to yourself?

Don’t you think you should be more forgiving with yourself?

Don’t you think you deserve it?

I know you do.

Where’veI’veBeen???

“I shut and locked the front door

No way in or out

I turned and walked the hallways

And pulled the curtains down

yeah I knelt and emptied the mouths of every plug around …

I’m in hiding …”

-Pearl Jam, In Hiding.

I am a man adrift on a raft on a sea of my Major Depression management.

It’s funny – I totally believe in medication – prescribed and administered properly.

God knows it’s helped me. But it’s never a cure-all. There’s a mental health saying that goes, “recovery never happens in a straight line.” And it’s true.

I know I’ve gotten better.

I feel it.

My psychiatrist told me he wasn’t worried about me anymore – and that was months ago I’m done grieving – both for my father’s passing away and my breakup.

So I’m feeling a strange kind of numbness.My emotional state goes from numb to even to content.

However, setbacks – predominately at work – really do set me back. I still feel the gravitational lethargic pull to my bed, to fall in, stay, and disappear.

One day I took off from work, I stayed in bed for most of the day. The following day as well. I recover back to neutral.

I go on.

I’ve isolated myself.

People and their problems were too much for me.

I had kind of lost myself in trying to be available to help others – as a way of avoiding my own problems, but also as a way of doing penance for the wrongs I’ve caused others. But people are people, and they’ll do whatever they’re driven to do anyway.

I did.

So I cut off everybody and cocooned myself.

I’d sit outside, smoke my pipe, and think. Sometimes listen to music. Often without, instead listening to the sigh and sway of The Three Sisters.

It’s calming.

Now the school year’s ending.Summer’s coming.

Summer’s coming.

I can feel it.

I’m getting restless.

My energy is coming back, now that it is not 100% focused on my students.

Another change comes with it.

And who I will be after that, who can say?

I just ride the ocean tides.

Feeling Nothing Feels Great: Letting go of everything and cutting off everyone leads to me to a refreshingly odd sense of balance.

Letting go of everything and cutting off everyone leads to me to a refreshingly odd sense of balance.

I’m a bastard.

A cold-hearted son of a bitch.

Heartless, cold, detached – removed from everyone and everything.

If you ask some people what they think about me, that’s what they would probably respond.

Asshole, I believe, would be another fitting epitaph that belongs in that Top Ten.

Why?

Because I’ve let a lot of people whom I’ve met recently go.

I’ve cut them off from my life.

Pointless relationships that have added more stress, more drama, more baggage into my life – a life that has already been overloaded by stress, drama and baggage.

How have I come to this decision?

What led me to this?

Nothing.

Feeling nothing has lead me to this decision.

What do I mean by that?

Ever since last summer, it’s been a constant ritual of mine to go out to my backyard, listen to music, have a drink, smoke, and think. Recently, however, I’ve noticed something. The ritual hasn’t really changed, but the motivation behind it has.

I don’t feel anything anymore.

And I mean that in a good way – in the best way possible. The pain is gone. The sadness is gone.
I’ve realized that I’m no longer grieving. My father, my breakup, my cheating.
The grief has gone.

I’ve accepted.

I’m at peace.

I’m balanced.

And that is such a damn good feeling to have.

Fine, but strange.
I’m not used to this.
I’m not used to feeling even.
The rituals I have created to help me process and manage the pain are have now become the rituals I perform to simply unwind. It is now a ritual of relaxation, a ritual to enjoy simple pleasures.

I still think.

I still ruminate.

I still take mental and spiritual inventory. I practice being in the now, being self aware.

I’ve started smoking pipe tobacco.

I love it.

It suits my contemplative lifestyle, my fetish for collecting objects with I can physically interact with. But it is also a way for me to stay connected to my past – my dad used to smoke pipes. So it’s a ritual with a spiritual aspect, and I need those practices in my life.

It was during this time, when I was taking mental inventory and feeling at peace that I was able to pinpoint other, much smaller, but no less significant areas of stress and anxiety in my life. It was in that state that I was able to itemize the personal relationships in my life.

I’ve been striving to achieve peace. Now I have it. And it’s allowed me emotional distance and clarity of thought.

My life has been a constant struggle to balance a life of solitude with a life filled with having relationships with people whom I always feel I need to validate my life to, with whom I seek constant stimulation from.

I’m tired of that.

I’m tired of trying to impress people.

I’m tired of trying to actively have people in my life who don’t really want to be there.

I’m tired of trying to show people all the good about me that they don’t even have the eyes to see.

I’m tired of having people in my life who feel the need to remind how they don’t have to be here, how they could be doing other things – that their spending time with me is a sacrifice their making.

Who the hell says that to another human being?

Because I never have.

I’ve given my time up freely. I’ve accepted people into my life as is: broken, whole, mental illnesses or physical illnesses. I’ve accepted them because I’ve enjoyed their company.

And I don’t feel that any friendship should come with an asterisk, or with micromanagement. I don’t tell people to stop telling me about Zodiac signs, because I don’t believe in that. I don’t tell people to act this way when they themselves act that way.

I don’t tell my friends how to live their lives – I make suggestions. I’ll bring up the subject – but that’s only if they constantly vent about something in their lives. I tell people how to live their lives as a general statement more on a social media post than I ever have in a one on one personal relationship. And I do that to provoke thought.

And after the life I’ve lived, the mistakes I’ve made, the damage I’ve done, I know that I am no one to tell someone how to live. I can offer advice, that’s all.
I’m tired of trying to make friends I don’t really want and I’m tired of trying to impress or get the attention of women I don’t really care about.

So they’re out.

Gone.

I’ve deleted, unfollowed, disconnected everyone who isn’t important to me, who hasn’t made my life better.
Is that cold, heartless? I don’t think so.

I’m not a fool, nor am I delusional.

I know that anyone that I’ve cut out will be as glad to be rid of me as I am of them. I know that anyone I’ve cut out already has too much going in their lives where they will barely notice my passing. Or if they do, they’ll get over it soon. I know no one I’ve met depends on me.

I know that no one I’ve met would be devastated by my absence. Because most of the people I’ve met and have formed any sort of bond of friendship with since my father passed away have been in their mid-twenties. Any twenty year old is not going to be all broken up by what at best would be considered casual friendships.

Even one whom I considered my best friend for a time, but with her unchecked depression, I would invariably be the one she would dump on. She would tell me not to send her memes on my being a Gemini – I mean flat out text me back, “I don’t believe in that. Stop sending me that.” She would always feel the need to remind how busy she was, and that she didn’t have to be here in my life.

I’m sorry, but who the hell is anyone to tell anyone that they can’t do the little things they do because it’s part of who they are?

Don’t check me like that. I don’t correct your spelling. I don’t tell you not to parrot your college professors – or at least not on the daily. You are as you are and I accept you as you are. Isn’t that real friendship?

I definitely do not need people like that in my life.
I’m sorry, but I feel only two should have the right to correct me – and that’s my mother and my mate – and she was neither, so I forced her out of my life.

I felt nothing when I cut her off, no grief, no sadness, no regret. Actually, I felt good, I felt light. I felt free. Now what does that tell you?

There are some people who I’ve remained on good terms with. People who I would like to have friendships with in the future, if possible. But these are relationships that have been maintained at a constant temperature, with people who are more even-tempered.

But right now, all I feel is the need to put myself first.

I’m still working on being me.

I’m still working on solidifying the relationships I’ve already had with the people who have been in my life. I have my relationship with my oldest brother and his partner. I have my relationship with my mother. I have my relationship with my best friend all the way back since our elementary school days who just had a child. I haven’t visited yet, and he expects me too. I need to prepare myself to be more of a presence in his and his son’s life – which he also expects.

Then there’s the relationship with my ex-girlfriend.
I reconnected with her. Things between us aren’t a hundred percent, but it’s the best they’ve been since we fell apart. The space and distance and boundaries I’ve set have helped. We’ve talked. We both know that we may never have the same relationship before. We may never be able to get back together as a couple at all. There’s still so much to work out before that, and our lives are still so different. But I do want her in my life.

I love her.

I always will.

Having her and her daughters as some part of my life is important to me. And after all that has happened, I’ll take whatever I can get.

I’ll be in their lives in whatever way she’s comfortable with – even if that means she doesn’t. It’s her call. After everything, she’s earned that right.
It’s worth it to me. It’s my decision, and it’s a decision that I choose to make, and it’s a decision that I make on a daily basis. And I’ll change it if it’s not beneficial to me, if it hurts me more than helps me.

Who I keep in my life, who I cut off – it’s my choice.

I decide.

And if I no longer see any value or benefit for me, then I’ll cut you off.

I can do that, because it’s my life.

I can do that, because I’ve wasted too much of my time on people who just used me.

I can do that, because I know that I’ve either given, done, or tried something to make that person’s life better.

I have given them something of worth, of value. I’ve given, not taken.

And at least I announce it.

I’m not a coward, some indifferent person who simply ghosts you – that’s simply inhuman.

Every relationship begins with an introduction, so if that relationship must end, then there must be a farewell.

It’s the geometry of life – circles and lines.

I believe in closure.

The equations of relationships, the balance of my life.

Everything must be equalized, calibrated, on the scale of my life.

It’s what allows me to sleep at night, free of guilt, remorse, or what ifs.

I’ve put good karma out in the world. Now, some might say that karma will leave me alone in the end, that karma will have people I care about leave me on a dime, without a word, for the actions that I’m doing in the present.

That’s fine. It’s been done to me – plenty of times. But if they leave me, then they weren’t really good for me in the first place, were they?

If I’m left alone, good, I prefer solitude – especially now that I know who I am and that I’ve learned how to enjoy it.

Life’s all math, isn’t it?

It’s all odds and percentages and additions and subtractions.

Risky behaviors done repeatedly increase your chances of an early and ugly end.
Positive behaviors and habits increase your chances of a longer life.

Then there are those random one thousand-to-one occurrences – like car crashes, terrorist attacks, mass shootings – that come out of nowhere and in a few second’s time rip your world to shreds.

Funny how numbers rule and determine our outcomes.

Odds.

Percentages.

Additions.

Subtractions.

Age groups.

Demographics.

Time, told in seconds, minutes, hours, with it’s ironclad multiples of sixty.

Days, months, and years – dictated by the Gregorian calendar, with its multiples of 12.

Your geographic location – longitude and latitude.

Some numbers we can’t escape.

Others we can proactively do something about, to change our predicted outcomes.

So, yeah, in a way, I am being calculating.

And if you consider that cold-hearted, then I’ll own it.
I play the long game. I follow my in-the-moment, short term-gut intuitions to increase my chances of the best long term life I can have.

Because in the end, that’s all we really do have, isn’t it – ourselves?

This Christmas, the Greatest Gift I Gave Myself Was the Gift of Solitude and Rest.

I’m lying here in the den of The Last Homely House. 

I am alone.

My brothers have taken my mom to spend Christmas Day with her sister and my cousins in San Antonio. 

There are no lights on.

Only the darkening whitewashed water color grayblue of the fading light of the setting sun penetrates what windows it can and serves as the only major light source. 

Aside from that, the Christmas tree lights are on, as well as the lights around the Nativity, the scene of the Christ-child in a manger, sleeping in swaddling cloth upon a bed of straw, with his mother Mary, Joseph, the step-dad to be shepherds, sheep of the flocks they keep, the Three Wise Men, and various livestock that would live in said manger. There is also the soft glow of the candles I’ve lit.

The light is warm, cozy.

I feel safe, calm, at peace.

The TV is off. The music I had been listening to on my headphones is off. Right now, there is only the constant whishing whisper duet of the central heater unit and the overhead fan as they work together in keeping the temperature in here a nice balance of warm and slightly chilly.

My head is free of thoughts.

I’m only focusing on the sound of the AC, the fan, and the gently wavering glow of the candlelit Nativity as it flickers softly.

The family plan was to drive up to San Antonio today, stay tomorrow, and leave Wednesday further north up I35 to Pflugerville, to visit my Brother and his family at Moore Manor – what we call the Pfluggervillian post of the Moore clan –  His daughter – my baby niece – has a birthday coming up, and they were going to celebrate it Wednesday. I think by then I’ll be rested up enough to drive, spend the evening there, and then head back early Thursday morning. 

I was also less inclined to leave due to the fact that I was up late last night from going to the Catholic midnight mass at La Catedral de San Agustín downtown. I haven’t gone since I was a child. It was beautiful. And worth it, but because I normally don’t stay up so late, it really took a toll on me this morning/afternoon. My mom woke me a little after noon, and I said my goodbyes. 

Now it may sound bleak and depressing to you, maybe it sounds like a punishment even, but my depression doesn’t work that way.

To me, this is bliss.

Even though I am and can be a very social creature, who loves spending time talking and being in the company of others, it can also be exhausting – a characteristic common to both introverts and people with depression.

You see, I’m very empathic, I can sense the moods and tensions of those around me, and it physically affects me. I act like a human emotional sponge – I’ll soak up some of what you’re feeling and I’ll feel it too. It can be helpful sometimes, but others, it can be too much, so I have to pull in my sensory feelers and put up a barrier. And maintaining that requires an exhausting amount of energy. So, an empty house means a free me – no additional emotional energy to absorb or block. My shields are down. My guard is down. My sensory feelers can be fully extended and feel nothing.

All I’m feeling right now is a sleepy, relaxed state of bliss.

This is how I recover from my mental stressors: silence, calm, music, resting.

This is how I recharge, restore balance in myself.

But I’m not altogether about living the life of a monk. I began last Christmas building up my talismans, my weapons, my rituals for self-care: my skin care products, my soaps, my beard balms. I invested in that as well as my writing desk and my shelf to create my study. 

Over the summer I did a lot more decorating to my room, and now, finally, I end this year with treating myself to the last of the items I wanted off of my list that I would enjoy. I bought a great pair of wireless Sennheiser over the ear headphones. They’re an excellent brand for audiophiles and I find the gentle pressure of over the ear headphones calming. I got a great deal on a 32″ Samsung Smart Hub TV. It’s HD only – not state of the art QLEV or anything like that, but it does have all my subscriptions: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

I also bought myself a wireless sound bar plus a subwoofer, along with a Chrome book, but those haven’t arrived yet – also Samsung – also great deals since they were mid-range items and not top of the line. 

And I didn’t even spend a thousand on all that. I love quality, but I’m no snob and I’m not stupid. I research and find the best quality I can get for the lowest possible price. With that, I can finally, fully enjoy my time at home, when I’m not reading, writing, painting, or playing the drums.

This is self-care. This is how I take care of myself. These are not substitutions for happiness nor are they status symbols signifying that I have “arrived” at some vague and unimportant level of “success,” showing that I’ve “made it.” No. These are merely the tools I choose to use as entertainments, as diversions.

These are the tools I choose to use to keep me even.

Tools that I was lucky enough to have some money for and that were just the right price for me to afford.

Now I’m forty-two. I’m single. I have no children, and I’ve been blessed to have a pretty decent paying career for almost fourteen years now. I can afford this.

But I have friends who are starting out, in college, or just finishing college, or just beginning their lives. Just like I have friends my age who are married and have kids or who are single parents who have kids, and you’re thinking, “I don’t have that kind of money.”

That’s not the point. The point is what feels good to you: 

What recharges You? 

Your spirit? 

Your soul? 

Exercise? Quilting? Crossword puzzles? 

My point is, it could be anything – as long as it does the trick.

Take care of yourself.

 Put yourself first. 

Now that doesn’t mean you get a green light to become totally self-absorbed and narcissistic, no. That just means that you must make time for you, so that your mind, body, and soul are refreshed and sharp, so that you may be able to properly take care of others. And even if you don’t have the terrible privilege of caring for somebody, still, don’t forget to make yourself a priority.

You deserve it.

These items that I’ve been blessed to treat myself to, they are all great gifts. But the greatest gift I’ve given myself this holiday season – as someone battling Major Depression, as a teacher to twenty-three sharp and intelligent students, as the past caregiver to my father, and as the future caregiver for my mother when the inevitable eventually happens – the one truly greatest gift, and the one I’ll get the most out of, the one I will remember the most, is an opportunity for silence, for rest, and for solitude.