Problem or Solution

Do you want to be a part of the problem, or part of the solution?

This is a question I’ve seen asked over the years but especially in the last month or so on a national political scale. But what does it mean?

I would think of it like this: to be a part of the problem is not acknowledging there is a problem, or minimizing the scope and depth of a problem, or worst of all, saying you’re not a part of the problem at all because you’re not doing something wrong.

Now I could write about this on a national political scale but I’ve decided to narrow it down to my own life because I’ve had a bit of a light-bulb moment and want to think it through out loud here.

My initial thought when that light-bulb came on in my head was like everyone else I have problems. But then I asked myself: what am I doing to solve them? Am I just putting out fires and putting band-aids on things? Or am I working towards long-term solutions? And if I’m not working towards long-term solutions, why?

That last question usually gets answered with: ‘It’s complicated.” My response to that now: “Like no shit, really?”

Why not work towards long-term solutions? Am I afraid someone’s going to come after me if I do? No, I’m not afraid of some mythical asshole or some whining hand-wringing asshole either. Now I’m telling myself this on a daily basis, and sometimes more than once a day: if someone has a problem with me or what I’m doing, or not doing, then they can put on their grown-up clothes and come to talk to me about it.

I think today’s light-bulb moment is coming from the realization that I’m not wanting to sit and wait for shit to come down that won’t be coming down unless someone makes an effort. And in the grand scheme of things, my piddly-ass existence doesn’t warrant that level of a shit-storm. I know shit can happen all the sudden like a 18-wheeler barreling down on you out of nowhere on I-10 downtown. But all I can do is what I do when I’m on that freeway: keep going.

For so damn long, I have felt like I have to just sit and twiddle my thumbs while waiting outside the principal’s office waiting to get called in then passive-aggressively chewed out over some bullshit. But here’s a newsflash for the world: I’m not a school-kid anymore and most of all, I don’t have to put up with passive-aggressive or hand-wringing bullshit even if it’s just inside my damn head.

Now I will freely admit I’ve made a shit-ton of mistakes in my life. But guess what? SO HAS EVERYONE ELSE! I used to think everyone else in this world had their shit together and I didn’t and never would. I’ve known that’s total bullshit for close to six years now.

Just because you get knocked on your ass doesn’t mean you can’t get up and keep going. Yes, I know there are people in this world who are fucking assholes and want to keep you on the ground. Don’t let them do that, and don’t let them live rent-free inside your head even if they don’t know they do. Evict their sorry asses once and for all say: You’re not my problem so you’re not my solution either.

We all know what our problems are. And we know we can find solutions to them. It’s just finding the will and the determination to make those solutions happen. It’s something I’m trying to figure out but that’s okay. But in encouragement here I want to say this to my readers here:

Be a part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

Not Afraid Enough

Yesterday, I wrote that we haven’t been afraid enough. I was talking about the covid-19 virus and all the assholes in this world who have thrust their ignorant asses into the world saying this virus doesn’t kill or maim near as much as it has.

This virus is like ‘The Terminator’ and it reminds me of what Kyle Reese told Sarah Connor when he first met her about the Terminator. He said the Terminator was a machine, and it didn’t feel pain, or pity, or remorse, and that it wouldn’t stop until she was dead. That’s what the covid-19 virus is, a Terminator and yes, we should have been scared shitless of it once we learned what it could do and how it could do it.

So why weren’t people scared shitless of something like this?

Fear.

But not fear of what they should be afraid of, which is a virus that has had tons of years to evolve and hone itself despite being a simple cellular organism. It’s fear of what other people will think of them. Now most ignorant dumb-asses won’t admit to this but I think that’s what drives a lot of misplaced fear. And fear of what other people will think of you is a fear I have lived with all my life, but in the last couple of months, I’ve realized I’ve truly let go of it.

I say let go of because that fear was one I had to work through, like untangling an incredibly-intricate set of knots of memories and emotions. I can see how hard it can be to not only work through fear and anxiety caused by mean or just ignorant dumb-asses who act like their shit doesn’t stink. But peer pressure as I was taught back in my pre-internet school days is very real. And also total fucking bullshit.

I say peer pressure is total fucking bullshit because I have learned people only have power over you if you give it to them. And we give people power over us and let them live rent-free inside our heads because they’ve barged in and shit all over us, or taken advantage of our better natures. I know there are people in this world who are truly evil and mean, people who will use their power to hurt. But they can be conquered too when we fight like hell to take their power away from them. Most of all, we can start by evicting their free-loading asses out of our heads.

I’ve lived with fear and anxiety all my life and I let it control me. I still feel both things on a daily basis but now I respond so much better to both of them, mostly telling both of them to fuck off several times a day now. But in order to reach this point I had to severely isolate myself and wall off my emotions to the world. I don’t recommend this at all because it’s very hard to do. But at the same time, isolation does burn away a lot of shit that needs to be burned to ash. This is why people chuck it all and go off into the wilderness and things like that.

My late father used to say fear is what keeps you from stepping in the path of an oncoming bus. The covid-19 virus is a speeding bus and to keep from stepping into its’ path we have to follow public health guidelines such as masks, hand washing, and social distancing because you don’t need to step into the path of something that will hurt you if given the opportunity.

But some loud-mouth ignorant asshole telling you to step into the path of a virus unprotected is NOT someone to listen to no matter how loud they’re yelling, or how hard they’re getting in your face. I think this is what’s driving a lot of anti-mask, anti-vax assholes but it’s no excuse for their behavior. To them I say this: your fear is in the wrong place for the wrong thing.

I think this last year has been my trip into the wilderness. It’s where I’ve burned away the last of the bullshit in my life. Oh, there are still a few strands clinging to me like pet fur but I can sweep those off now. What I’m feeling is a courage rising in me, something I’ve never, ever felt before in my life. It’s a courage born from pain and the burnt remnants of fear and anxiety, and evicting people from my head that weren’t supposed to be there in the first place. It’s the courage that had me telling some lecherous old man one day in a store to back up and quit breathing down my damn neck by simply saying, “Social distance. Now.” (and he backed off because I was just not having any of his kind of shit anymore in my life)

I do fear the covid-19 virus but at the same time, I know with real courage and knowledge, we can fight and win the battle against this damn virus. Now we just have to take it to the next level and fight against ignorance and misplaced fear.

Uber Tales, A Tale of Two Different Conversations, Edition:

A couple of days ago, I had two different conversations that were as different as topics discussed and how well they went.

First off was picking up a lady at the airport who started spouting that this pandemic wasn’t as bad as people said it was and that we were too afraid of this virus. I told her we weren’t afraid enough and over four-hundred thousand people are dead because of that. That shut her up fast on that topic and then she started talking about just taking vitamin-d and everything will be alright. I almost asked her if she was trying to sell me something but I didn’t. I think if I had pushed it she would have gone full-on Karen on me because she struck me as a Karen-type, pushy know-it-all.

Before 2020, conspiracy theories could be humorous and I wouldn’t really respond to them. But now they’re getting people killed and I can’t stay silent in the face of those deaths and all the families grieving. And if you don’t like this, too damn bad. That line about not being afraid enough probably cost me a measly tip but it was worth it to stand up to someone on principle.

Luckily, my day then took a turn for the better when I picked up a guy a couple of hours later for a cross-town run. He was friendly and early on he quoted a line from the movie ‘Bull Durham’, which I immediately recognized and we were off to the races. We quoted and talked about that movie for a while then he asked me if I’d seen one called ‘Long Gone’.

I went, ‘Oh heck ya!’ and we were off the races on that one. ‘Long Gone’ was made back in the mid-80’s for HBO and starred William Petersen and Virginia Madsen. It was about a minor-league baseball team in the early 1950’s in south Florida. William Petersen played the manager of the team and Virginia Madsen played this really hot and sassy beauty-queen he got together with. The movie has a ton of quotable lines like ‘Bull Durham’ though my favorite is from a scene where William Petersen’s character panics and asks her if she’s pregnant. To which she replies, “Unless there was a star in the East last night, no.”

My mother was fond of quoting that line at doctor’s offices and such because as a woman, you get asked if you’re pregnant or think you might be a lot anytime you go in for a workup or for surgery. When I went in for neck surgery, I was in the pre-op ward and I was tired and not quite thinking straight when I said that in reply to being asked if I was pregnant or thought I might be. I brought the house down and had every woman in that room laughing her ass off when I said that line. I then told them I wasn’t the original on that but it’s a good one to use, ladies.

I always say in almost four years of Uber driving the only thing that’s predictable is the unpredictability of the job. Yes, you will have conversations go in totally different directions just like your routes will. You’ll meet people who will make you laugh your ass off, and people who will make you want to ask them what they’re trying to sell you and what planet they live on. But yes, there is a possibility that you’ll get a day where you have to shut down conspiracy theories on one ride and quote old movies on another.

I’ll take the old movies, thank you very much.

The Girl Who Is Into Rush

Okay, dear readers, here’s a piece on the lighter side.

There’s a song by the band Nerf Herder called ‘The Girl Who Listened to Rush’ (link here). I am that Girl, one of many, many girls who are into the most-excellent Canadian rock band, Rush. It seems we’re considered an major anomaly in this world but I know there are more of us than any bunch of rock dudes, or dudes of any other musical persuasion realize.

Why are girls into Rush?

Well, I’m only going to speak for myself here but here goes.

First, they’re brilliant. I first got into Rush in 1981 when the band released their album, ‘Moving Pictures’. This album really launched them into the big-time because it’s still freaking brilliant after all these years. ‘Tom Sawyer’ was the very first song I ever remember hearing by them and I still love it even though I’ve heard it probably ten million times in the last forty years. And if I was a filmmaker, I would love to make a video for the song ‘Red Barchetta’ because why in the world no one has ever done that is still beyond me (if you haven’t heard the song, listen to it with your eyes closed visualizing the song in your mind- it’s easy to do because the song creates such strong visual imagery).

One of the big things about Rush was how they fought and won battles against conformity and pressure from their record company to record something more radio-friendly, especially in their early days. In the 2010 documentary ‘Beyond the Lighted Stage’, all three band members (bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart) talk about how in 1976 their record company threatened to drop them if their next album wasn’t a hit. The record company wanted songs they could release as singles while the band was working on one big piece titled ‘2112’. In the documentary, they talked about going all the way with their vision and if it didn’t work out then they’d hang up their instruments and go back home. But it worked out well and I think it was because the band stayed true to their vision and connected with fans because of it.

Another thing with Rush is how well some of their songs have aged and are in fact, timeless. Take ‘Subdivisions’ off of the album ‘Signals’ (1982). Those lyrics describe life in the suburbs today just like they did forty years ago, the aching conformity and fears with razor-sharp lyrics and music that makes you want to get in a car and drive as fast as you can out of those cookie-cutter mazes as I call them. ‘Limelight’ still describes life in the spotlight as well it did when it came out. And ‘Distant Early Warning’ talks of environmental catastrophe as if it was written in the twenty-first century instead of the 1980’s.

This year I want to listen to Rush’s entire catalog in chronological order. I listen to a lot of the same songs over and over like the musical nerd I am but I want to dig deeper. Last year, drummer Neil Peart died and it was a huge and shocking loss for us fans as he hadn’t publicly disclosed his cancer diagnosis. I guess we all thought like so many brilliant people he was immortal though is music and his lyrics are immortal. And sadly, I never got to see them live though I desperately wanted to (that’s a story for another time and place). But I’ve watched videos and documentaries and will continue to come back to those.

I don’t think being a girl means I’m a different kind of fan than my brother or other guys. I think us girls love the music and lyrics that make us think and feel. Rock and roll music has always been seen as a boys club with girls not allowed all the way in though we don’t give up on the music. Hopefully someday that won’t be the case and maybe the music will be fully integrated.

For me, Rush’s music takes me out of my boring-ass reality and makes me think about other things. I can close my eyes and visualize with my imagination fully engaged. Women can do this despite some a-holes not thinking that women have imagination and want to think about things other than domestic servitude or romance. And as romance author and reader, I’m sure that might be a bit shocking to some. It shouldn’t be because women can think about more than one thing at a time. In fact, I’d say we can multi-task in every way possible because that’s what’s expected of us.

So yes, women can be musical geeks and be into many other things. I think us female Rush fans epitomize that to a perfect T.  

Uber Tales: Around the City, Edition

I know I said I’d take things a little lighter and easier here. I’ve got to quit saying stuff like that because this isn’t a light and easy read. Maybe when I get my grove going on my hard books I’ll be able to do light and easy. But today is not that day.

I tell people in my almost four years (yes, it’ll be fours years as an Uber driver at the end of this coming March), I’ve probably been in every part of the city. I’ve been in the wealthiest enclaves with multi-million dollar homes. And places where the homes are worth a fraction of that.

I had a passenger one evening say to me as we came into his neighborhood, “Sorry for bringing you to the ghetto.” I told him this wasn’t a ghetto. I said it was a working-class neighborhood because people there worked for a living. I then told him I grew up in working-class neighborhoods and that I’d never had a bit of trouble in any of them. He told me I was alright and gave me a big tip.


I meant every word I said to him. I sometimes feel more at ease in a working-class neighborhood than a rich one. I like looking at the big nice houses but I also see the extreme conformity of those high-dollar neighborhoods where everything has to be in its’ place or you’ll be called a low-rent slob. I see the extreme pressure to look and act a certain way in high-dollar neighborhoods. I’m not saying there aren’t busybody assholes in working-class neighborhoods but you can ignore them a lot more than if everyone on the block is like that. In fact, I had a passenger grousing to me one morning about how all his old fart neighbors used to give him the stink-eye whenever he let his lawn grow out a little.

I also see the homeless encampments under the freeways, the people sleeping in doorways downtown, and the ones panhandling at intersections. And I’m glad the mayor of San Antonio recently told off some dumb-ass reporter when she asked him about what the city was going to do about the homeless tent cities popping up. He told her the problem was much more complex than anyone realized and he’s right. There’s a severe lack of funding for transitional housing, social services and mental health and substance abuse issues.

What I’ve seen on the roads and streets here in this city is the huge income disparities and an eroding middle-class. The term ‘affordable housing’ is a dirty word to so many people, even church-going Jesus freaks. Yet to me, Jesus Christ is in those tent cities giving out food and comfort to those people. If all the wealthy churches were torn down and sold off and all the proceeds went to helping the homeless, the city would be a better place. I love the beauty of our old churches, but when I see new mega-churches and new apartments and houses for people only making money I get sick of looking at them.

Before I hit the road with this job, I thought I was a compassionate person. Now there are days when that compassion hurts like hell. It hurts because of what I see some days, and because I can’t keep my mind from thinking about it so much. Then I come home and read so much fucking bullshit on social media about right-wing nutjobs who don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves. Assholes who turn every freaking issue into a ‘partisan’ issue.

Since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation began in 1932, helping people has become a ‘partisan’ issue. It’s like an ‘us vs. them’ kind of thing. Or some bullshit about how to pay for it all, which is bullshit because the money is there. Now that partisan bullshit has just become deadly as hell with the covid-19 pandemic and tremendous income inequality and systemic racism.

From my perspective on the road, it’s not ‘us vs. them’. It’s not about poor people wanting to raid the suburbs and take them over. It’s not about giving people a ‘handout’ and ripping them apart for accepting what little help there is. It’s about the need to put resources to work where they’re needed to help every person we can.

Most people don’t really go outside their own little enclaves past a certain point, not like I do. I know that all too well. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to judge and deny other people their fundamental human right to not only exist and live in peace, but to not be cold, hungry, and alone.

If you are someone who has to see shit like this up close and personal, or that you have to suffer yourself in order to have compassion and fight for what’s right and help people… all I can say is ask yourself why. Why do you have to make someone’s else misery yours before you’ll do something about it?

What am I doing, you might ask? I vote for leaders who are working to use resources and policies to help people. And I have vowed to use my small little voice here to tell it like I see it, and to try my best to treat people with compassion and kindness. And to those who disagree with me: you know I feel so as far as I’m concerned, the ball’s in your court now. Because today, I’ll be back on the road.

Pre-Set Buttons

Original Pre-Set Buttons (the first ones I ever remember seeing)

Yesterday as I was out and about driving I began to think about my blog here. My first thought was that I didn’t want it to be hard to write here. As I begin writing my non-fiction triumvirate trilogy (Breaking Radio Silence, Stand or Fall, The Road), I have accepted those books will be hard to write. Therefore I realized I needed a place where writing wasn’t going to be so hard. So I told myself to live up to this blog’s title, ‘Not Necessarily My Blog’ and try to keep it light and stand-alone here So here goes:

When I look at the pre-set buttons on my car’s radio all I can think is that I’m stuck in the past and a total dork, too. My car’s pre-set radio buttons are for Sirius XM stations because that’s all I listen to in the car now (I’m hooked on commercial-free radio). So here are my top pre-set buttons:

1) Yacht Rock Radio: Yes, I listen to this station and yes, this makes me a dork of epic proportions. Why, might you ask? The music is from the 1970’s and 1980’s and was called ‘soft rock’. No screaming guitars and vocals, no headbanging beats, no doot-doot-doot keyboards. Just lush music and vocals about things like sailing, driving, going through the desert on a horse with no name, lamentations about how people messed up relationships, and love will always find a way. For me, it’s the music of my very early childhood on the radio in the car with my parents. It brings back a simpler time and as an adult I can appreciate the chill-out vibe. It’s what I listen to when I just need to chill and wind-down after a long day on the road.

2) 80’s on 8: The home of three of the original MTV V-Jays, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, and Alan Hunter. They also do the Top Forty countdown on the weekends and also, Rick Springfield has a new show on there called ‘Working Class DJ’ where he plays music and tells stories (he’s really cool and funny). It’s 80’s pop and Top 40 though they do dig out songs that weren’t big hits, too. This is what I put on if they’re doing a decent countdown year or if I want something a tad bit generic for my passengers. I find it funny that I think of 80’s Top Forty as a bit generic music for the masses now because back in my day it was seen as nothing but ‘teenybopper’ music.

3) 1st Wave: Bills itself as 80’s Alternative and New Wave though they play stuff from the 70’s and also a bit of punk, too. I found the term ‘alternative’ a little bit odd at first because I don’t remember it being used all that much until about 1990 when Grunge rose up from the wet and rainy streets of Seattle. Before 1990 I would have used the term ‘college rock’ for bands that weren’t being played on regular FM stations like REM and U2 (they got their start on college radio stations, hence the terms ‘college radio’ or ‘college rock’). But this is a really cool station and I try to catch my favorite DJ Richard Blade when he’s on the air because he’s just freaking cool and knows his music from that era (check out his autobiography, ‘World In My Eyes’ to read his stories from back in the day and find out how awesome some of those 80’s artists were in person).

4) Classic Rewind: Billed as ‘classic rock’s second era’ this is rock from the mid 70’s till about 1990 (no Grunge on there yet that I’ve heard). This is what I call the ‘classic rock’ that I grew up with along with the 80’s pop/Top Forty and New Wave/Alternative. Or as I can also say, this is what a lot of white kids in the suburbs listened though there is a clear lack of real heavy-metal on the station other than AC/DC and the occasional Judas Priest song. But Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony now have a show on there that I hope is a regular thing called ‘Happy Hour’ as both of them are funny and of course like all good rock ‘n’ rollers they tell great stories.

5) Prime Country: This is country music from the 80’s and 90’s. My mother was a big country music fan back in the 80’s and I loved 90’s country like Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and Reba McEntire. The great thing about this station is the huge amount of female country music singers they play because from what I’ve heard, women don’t get played on country radio a lot today. Heck, this station even plays The Chicks (the group formerly known as The Dixie Chicks), which I feel is a slightly-subtle ‘fuck you’ to the jack-asses that ran them out of country music back in 2003.

Now I do occasionally listen to other stations but these are my primary choices. I’m not saying there hasn’t been anything good since 2000 because there has been. But as my dad said to me when my music from the 80’s became ‘retro’ (the Generation X term for ‘oldies’), he told me we learned all about that from his generation (the Baby Boomers). Richard Blade in his book describes how his flashback show back in the 90’s became the top-rated show on KROQ radio in Los Angeles, something which flummoxed the powers-that-be that owned the station. But Mr. Blade also said he’d been told by the guy that originally hired him that this music would always be played and that it was timeless.

Will today’s music be that way? Only time will tell. But at some point, I think people put the brakes on their musical evolution and stay in the past, especially with how fucked up and crazy the world is. I don’t believe things will ever stop being crazy from time to time, but at least there will always be the music.

Waking Up From History

Yesterday was the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the forty-sixth President of the United States along with Kamala Harris as Vice-President. It was a beautiful, hopeful, and moving ceremony. It was a true, peaceful transition of power in front of a place that just two weeks before was the site of the first, and hopefully last, attempted coup in the United States.

My first thought yesterday was that hope had come back to that city on the Potomac River, and to a nation. Yet I know there are people who don’t feel this way. They say we’re in for Hell, that cities will burn, and everything will be destroyed. In the past, I wouldn’t have responded to that at all. Now… I’m beginning my journey to respond to that in my own way.

For so long, I’ve felt like I’ve been on the verge of tears, of just breaking down and letting myself shatter into a million pieces. This was a thought I had yesterday as an emotional wave swept through me. I told myself it might be too much for me to watch the Inauguration. But once that wave receded, I sat down and watched the Inauguration. Yes, I shed a few tears but I also sang along to the songs I’d thought I’d forgotten as the words came back to me loud and clear. For a brief moment, I even felt like I was back in elementary school singing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ feeling like I could walk from one of America to the other and see all the wonders of our great country and meet people from all walks of life.

I’ve had people tell me you can’t live on hope and joy forever. Trust me, I know that all too well as do millions of other people. But the last four years felt like an all-out assault on hope and joy, not to mention truth and justice. In the last four years, I seriously wondered if I was wrong to believe in the good in this world, to believe that change could happen for the better. I seriously wondered if I had to give in to the cynicism and bitterness I have felt more often than I ever should have. And worst of all, I wonder if I should just shatter into a million pieces once and for all.

Thankfully, hope and joy never left me. And I have no need to let myself shatter into a million pieces and give in to cynicism and bitterness, or pain and despair. It’s hard as hell sometimes to hold myself together but it can be done. And I know it can be done without ripping my beating heart out of my chest, and I know it can be done while feeling emotions both good and bad.

Sometimes waking up is hard for me. I wake up with the sheets and blankets tangled all around me, or kicked off altogether. Sometimes I can feel the dampness on my pillow from sweat or drool. Worst of all, I can wake up feeling like I haven’t slept at all. My head may be stopped up, muscles cramped up, and sometimes my heart racing pretty hard. Sometimes my body just shuts down for six hours or so and I feel rested and calm. More often than not, I wake up the other way. And not just in the last four years, but for most of my adult life.

But we all have to wake up and face the day, and decide how we’re going to do that. For me, it means dealing with fact that I am truly ready to begin writing the story I set out to find four years ago. My story, the story of how and why I think and feel the way I do in relation to myself and the world around me. This realization makes me feel scared and anxious, yet also hopeful. It’s a culmination of four years of digging through the deepest and sometimes incredibly painful emotions and memories to find my truth. And it’s also been my way of learning how to deal with all that once and for all.

So as I felt like I was waking up to history, to quote the line from the song ‘Right Here, Right Now’ by Jesus Jones, I feel like I am waking up to my own life. Not in a peaceful and restful way, but in a tangled and restless way. It’s not an easy thing to deal with, but then I was always told by my parents that nothing was really easy. I’m forever grateful to my parents for that honesty, and for their love and acceptance of me.

Honesty, love and acceptance: three things I really need, and have had before, and can have again. That’s what I’m beginning to wake up to now.

What’s Important

What’s important to you?

This question came to my mind right after I felt a sharp prick of anxiety nip into my mind early this morning. I thought about the question instead of letting anxiety invade my mind and turn on the power to maximum.

I’d rather ask myself this question than let my mind run at a hundred miles an hour and not be able to focus on anything like writing. So if you want to know what my answers are to that question, here they are:

1) Not burning up my energy on just letting my mind run wild and not be able to focus on anything. I know things are tight with me like they are with everyone else. But despite the bullshit-lies anxiety loves to tell me, no one is out there waiting for me to stop this hamster-wheel run so they can stomp on me. If there is someone in this world who thinks I should just run on a hamster-wheel like I’m on an endless supply of speed, to hell with them.

2) Writing every single day or close to it is important to me, extremely important in fact because that’s how I’m going to rise up like Alexander Hamilton did (I’ve got the song ‘My Shot’ now going through my head- which is a good thing).

3) Taking at least one hour a day to read. In the last few years, I’ve gotten away from reading and I’m hell-bent and determined to get back to it. It’s a learned behavior now that I have to establish this as a daily habit.

I will say letting my mind run itself out on the hamster-wheel inside my head did bring me a moment of clarity yesterday. A moment of clarity is a precious gift to me and one I hadn’t gotten in a while. It’s not a huge burst of light but just something coming into perfect focus. It can be a thought, an idea, or a direction to go in.

For me, asking the question of what’s important feels like I’m standing up for myself. I don’t feel like I’m being nailed to the floor with it like I have in the past, nailed hard enough to where I could only look down at the floor and mumble. No, when I hear that question I take a deep breath and look up straight ahead. And I tell myself fretting over tight finances, weather, and the health of my sinuses isn’t going to accomplish anything.

A little over four years ago, I set out on a quest to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. It’s been a much-more complex quest than I could have ever imagined but I’m glad I set out on that path. And I think where some of my anxiety is coming from is that I’m at the point where I’m truly ready to write down what I’ve learned over the last four years, especially on today’s date, January 20, 2021.

Today is the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the forty-six President of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice-President. These are two people who have asked themselves and the rest of us what’s important to each of us. It’s because of their own answers to that question that they will be sworn in today to begin rebuilding this country and beginning the healing process. Both know grief and loss very well, and both are determined and focused on what needs to be done.

If you answer the question of what’s important to you with a lot of hyperbole and blame, those aren’t answers. True answers to the question of what’s important to you might not be so easy to find, and they may go against what other people think and feel. But true answers to this question are about the real truth, not loud and hateful words, not a disregard for facts and experiences. And most of all, true answers to the question of what’s important aren’t devoid of compassion and empathy or scorn for those things. Excuses and denials of acts and expressions of compassion and empathy are not valid answers to what’s important in this world.

The question of what’s important is not an easy one to ask, or answer because it involves peeling back layers of silence in order to answer it. That’s how it has worked for me, and it is hard to do that, hard to face the grief and pain under the silence. But in the end, the real truthful answers will come along with clarity.

Changing Anxiety

If I had to describe my anxiety I would say it’s like my brain is in a near-constant fight-or-flight mode and working at a hundred miles an hour to deal with that threat response. The problem is, most things don’t warrant that high-level threat response in the first place.

How do you deal with that?

That is a question I’ve been asking myself over the last four years and for me I began to find answers to that question by identifying what flips that switch in my mind and how to find ways to keep that switch from flipping on when it shouldn’t.

I will be completely honest here and tell you this is not an easy task for yourself. It’s hard to work through layers of crap and memories to figure out how you developed your messed-up responses that can result in anxiety. And I think the worst obstacle is people who don’t have this switch flipped on so easily in their minds and think people with anxiety can just not flip the switch in the first place or just flipped it off at-will.

As the lady in the Geico commercial says, that’s not how it works. That’s not how anything related to anxiety works. It’s not a simple flick of the switch or just tossing shit aside. For me, it’s finding out what triggers it and then figuring out ways to control it. And it’s just control, not eradication or a miracle cure.

For the longest time, a lot of my anxiety was driven by a fear of being hurt by other people, by people actively trying to ruin my life and destroy any relationship I tried to build with someone. The story behind this is a long and complicated one, and one for another time. But yesterday I realized this fear is gone from within me because when I think about someone trying to do that, I would have to fight like hell not to rage at them and want to bury their asses. I just have this image in my mind of confronting someone who tries to do that with one seriously-loaded question: “Really?”

This is a good thing as you can see because it frees up my energy to focus on managing the other driver of my anxiety, which is losing what little I have in life and being out on the streets with nothing but the clothes on my back. This one is harder to manage because I’ve lived on next-to-nothing for so long and have recently realized I fear that I have a self-sabotaging streak in me. I have begun to realize that self-sabotaging idea is related to the above paragraph in regards to the fear that if I say or do something that pisses someone off for no damn good reason that they’ll try and bury my ass. I’ve known for a long time that I don’t need to beat the shit out of myself in order to keep someone else from doing it. I don’t have to beat myself up at all if I did nothing wrong, and I sure as hell don’t have to let someone beat me up for doing nothing wrong either. I have to tell myself now and every single day going forward if I have to that I can do what I need to do to survive, and someday thrive. And if I make mistakes or if shit happens, that’s for me to deal with and no one else’s fucking problem.

But another thing with the fight-or-flight response is that it can give you a heightened sense of awareness and energy. But you can’t maintain that forever and it will drain you pretty badly. This is something else I have to tell myself a lot still. That’s okay because if you can see this and feel it, then you can do something about it.

I was talking with a passenger yesterday and he was telling me his girlfriend has had a lot of anxiety over the last year about the pandemic and everything. He was telling me he had a hard time understanding her anxiety. I didn’t really say anything to that because what I really wanted to say wouldn’t have gone very well. I would have liked to have said to him, ‘It must be real nice to have a mind that runs on anxiety and nerves all the damn time. It must be nice to be able to shut things down easily and not have to worry about shit happening all the time. And most of all, it must be nice to think that other people should just be able to shut down so damn easily.’

My problem is shutting down, at least on the outside, is that I got shit for it. I got told I was a cold and unemotional bitch when inside myself I was a raging basket-case racing around the inferno of Hell. I still fight like hell to contain my anxiety in terms of outward appearances because I don’t want to deal with people’s bullshit about this. But trust me, anxious people are anything but cold and unemotional. That used to make me even more anxious but now it just pisses me off, and that’s a good thing because being pissed off about shit is better than being scared of it.

So for me, my anxiety has changed over time. It’s changed from being afraid of others to being afraid of myself. But I can deal with myself because I know I’m willing and able to dig deep and hard and to figure out how I think and feel. And I can tell with absolute certainty when you do that, you’ll come out on the other side for the better.

Breaking Down the Roadblocks to Self-Care

Warning: My streak of posts without any profanity has ended at one (yesterday’s).

In the last four years, I’ve read about the term ‘self-care’. It’s about taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Like eat right, drink plenty of water, get some sleep, and try not to let shit get to you too much. Yet a question comes up in response to this: why is something so good so hard for people to put into daily practice? Why would it be seen as wrong to take care of yourself?

Well, as I’m fond of saying, it’s a long story. So I’ll summarize it in a short sound-bite: for me, it’s learning how to stop beating the shit out of myself sometimes because other people have done it to me in the past for no damn good reason other than the fact they were being assholes. It’s me feeling like I have no right to be happy or even to relax and take care of myself because if so, then I’m an egotistical failure.

But I’ll tell you a bit of my story here in order to show what roadblocks are thrown up in the path of my self-care, and how to get around them.

In my twenties, I was a caregiver to my mother who was dying of cancer. Her treatments were as bad as the cancer cells rampaging through her. Her energy levels were destroyed and it was a constant battle for her just to get up and do what she could. I took on as much responsibility as I could and yes, I will freely admit I turned into a bitch at times about it. But in my defense I will say this: things had to get done. And I learned I had to take care of myself just enough to stay on my feet. Luckily I had a considerable store of fat reserves to draw on (as I still do now) so I could survive on barely eating and drinking, and function on four to six hours of sleep. I knew if I went down I would prove to the world that I was a useless piece of shit and I wouldn’t be able to help anyone, especially the person who needed my help the most, my mother. It’s not pride that kept me on feet, but need, not my needs, but the needs of others. I have no regrets with how I lived back then and what I did, and I don’t see as a sacrifice.

But the cost of that was horrible and enormous, and I’m still dealing with a few lingering effects of it. The worst thing wasn’t the physical demands made of me, but the mental and emotional isolation I endured back then. Back then, I felt like my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter to anyone, and that I had no right to express them or talk about them. I felt like I was told, ‘fuck your feelings’. I will freely admit I became a closed-off bitch who seemed cold and unemotional as hell. I got that way because I thought that was what people wanted of me, to be seen but not heard. Also, it kept people off my ass more often than not.

This is the biggest roadblock to self-care I’ve had to work through: taking care of myself mentally and emotionally. Telling myself I have a right not only to my thoughts and feelings, but the right to deal with them. If no one wants to sit down with me in person and listen to my bullshit, I can deal with that. I write about it to help others, not myself.

You have the right not just to take care of yourself physically, but to take time to sit and breathe, to ease tension from your body. You have the right to find something that makes you smile, and laugh, and feel happy. And you have the right to look at your life and see what you can do to make it better. You have the right to find your place in this world, and to find your own path.

So if someone throws a roadblock to taking care of yourself, remove it. And if they piss and moan about it, walk away without a word. I’m sure you’ll have the urge to say ‘fuck your feelings’ but that won’t accomplish anything. Instead, take care of your own feelings along with your physical needs. You may have to go it alone but that’s okay because I’m living proof that can be done.

Here’s my self-care guide in three simple sentences:

You don’t have to engage in an endless hustle of tension and bullshit.

You have the right to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

You have the right to make your life better in any way you can.

But I will also tell you:

Remember to eat before you get light-headed, stay hydrated, try to get some form of exercise if you have a job that requires you to sit on your ass all day, and try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep. And most of all, take care of your feelings and keep your mind from getting jammed up all to hell.

And if anyone says shit to you about doing anything in the above paragraph, just tell them to go to hell and fuck their feelings in the process.