8/28/2015

A depression day

No need to panic. No need to cry. No need to worry, either.

But today is a depression day. Actually, this whole week has been like that. 

I didn't want to get out of bed today. I woke up at 6:00 and my fantasy is that I can somehow become a morning person. But, I never want to leave my dreams. I fell back to sleep and woke up again at 8:00, but still couldn't get out of bed.

I'd spent the night before writing about guns and rage and anger on Facebook, trying to get conversations going where people can at least acknowledge there is a problem. It seems that's a role I can play, or want to play.

But then I wake up, and I don't believe in myself. I dread that I said awful things and that I'm going to be punished for voicing an opinion. I stay in bed and don't want my day to begin because I dread bad news and notifications of needs for corrections and other things that bring me a great deal of stress.

I'm in a cycle, I know this. If I had gotten up at 6:00 and gone to the gym, I'd likely feel so much more capable than I do now. But I had to get to work to begin writing a story, a story that is not proceeding so well as I write this. I can't seem to connect to it, and the voice of doubt is screaming at me that I'm not good enough to write this story.

I confess my vulnerabilities. My therapy in part is to be honest about the way my biochemistry works and about the way I cope with the sadness that flows through my bloodstream. I've gotten very good at challenging myself, but I need to get better. I should have run, but I panicked that I needed the time to write the story.

I don't write out why I have the sadness, and maybe I should. It relates to poor decisions I have made but writing about those poor decisions and the isolation I feel as a result can be counter-productive. I want to move forward, but I never quite seem to get ahead. I have a very hard time believing in myself and I have an even harder time believing that I have any worth to anyone else. 

Another trap, but one I can't escape. 

I'm trying to. Me writing here is one way to get all of this out of my head. I need to understand it better. I have deliberately chosen a non-medicated way to deal with my depression. I believe that sharing my feelings, albeit with an anonymous audience, is a good way to shake my fist at the demons. One day maybe I'll be able to believe in myself for more than 20 minutes.

At the end of the day, I'm not living the life I want to live. I don't even believe I have a choice anymore. This literally depresses me. 

But I'm a fighter, and I get through the day by going through my job anyway, slowly piecing together stories. The doubt shouts at me, and a feeling like being punched from within pulses and pulses. I imagine the worst thing that ever happened to me is happening again, and I just have to take a very deep cleansing breath and remember the best things that have happened to me. I think of my children, I think of how I want to help them with any emotional difficulties they have. I want them to never let people take away their self-confidence from them. I think about the kind of life I want to live, and how I might be able to cut through the furious vines that keep me in place. 

Maybe one day I'll get there. 

Today, though, is a depression day, and I'm fighting it. I got out of bed, I'm writing my story, and I will find room in my day to run. Running makes everything better. 




8/26/2015

Numb

I'm numb. Because this keeps happening.
We go to Bridgewater Plaza several times a year. It's a place my children love. Two people I didn't know were murdered there in cold blood, doing the same job that so many of my friends do. All because some asshole couldn't get a handle on his anger and he had access to a tool that allowed him to impose his hatred onto the world.
And it'll happen again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.
That's why I'm numb.
This one's weird because I've spent so much time in the exact spot where they were murdered. I've watched my nieces and nephews grow up there, and my own children delight in going to the arcade. My own sense of place was shattered in exactly the same way that it was when the massacre at Virginia Tech happened and exactly the same way it was when my friend's cousin was murdered by an angry man with a gun when I was in high school.
How much longer until we have one of these murder-suicides happen here? I keep wondering when one will happen at City Council, or on the downtown mall. 
I want to spend today just thinking about these issues, thinking about how to protect my children, how to talk with their mother and stepmother about how to talk to them about this. 
Journalists are killed all the time throughout the world and we turn our backs on it. I don't want to turn my back on this. I want somehow for all of us to sit down together and talk about anger, talk about ways to help people cope with it. Because somehow we're churning out a whole lot of men who seem to think the world owes them something, and when they don't get it, they pick up a gun or guns. 
And we'll keep avoiding the tough talk and I'll be quiet again because I'm not supposed to talk about this.

8/24/2015

The end of romantic foibles

After at least three dozen uncomfortable and awkward dates, a couple of really good first dates that didn't lead anywhere and one broken heart I've still not recovered from, I have decided to pull the plug on my online dating account after nearly seven years. I am not going back.

With that action, I confirm that I have officially given up on dating for the near future with an option to give up on romance the rest of my life.

 I can't write publicly all of the romantic foibles I've had. At this point, I can't imagine anyone wanting to be with me for more than a few minutes. This might be due to reading profile after profile of people who want someone to go exploring with. Usually these people don't have children, and still have the option to have lives of leisure. I don't have that option.

I'm a walking red flag, so I'm waving a white one I surrender to being alone.

But I am not surrendering to loneliness. I plan on working seven days a week starting now to make sure I can get to the next level for myself professionally and spiritually.

I feel much better already.

I would have posted this on the site, but my profile is deleted, so this is my way of saying something about it. I do wish I could write about romance as a twice-divorced person, but I can't do that publicly. I think there's a lot of humor in it, but there's a lot of sadness, too.

I just want to be happy. I've found happiness inside of me and I'm going to nurture it.

8/23/2015

Notes That Were Episode #6

So, I'm going through all of the audio in my archive in the hopes of sorting it out somehow. And I came across this episode of The Notes That Were, a podcast I did from 2005 to 2007 but never published because the content is likely not palatable to most people. 

One of my formative influences is Negativland, and I wish they were a household name because it would make explaining myself so much easier. But they are not, so you'll have to look it up yourself.

This is me chopping up all kinds of comments when I was an evangelist for podcasts in 2005 and 2006. I really wanted to make podcasts and I still do. Making audio is when I feel happiest. I think I'm going to go ahead and just do that and see what happens.

Here it that episode. I'll explain if I have to, but just listen and see what you think. 

Time travel back to 2005

I don't think I can listen to this, but maybe I should. 

In November 2005, I was part of a panel discussion sponsored by the Virginia Piedmont Technology Council on blogs, podcasting and RSS. I may have even written about it in the past on this blog, but I'm not sure. 

That was a different era. But maybe it's the same era. 

I don't know. 

All I know is this is the second day in a row I'm experimenting with things, organizing things, and trying to figure out how to get back into the podcasting game. I'm not making a quick move towards that, but I feel I've lost touch. I must get back to it.

I'm experimenting with different services. I'm working with some friends to produce a podcast they want to do. Moderately intelligent sports talk is what you'll hear on the Cool Stove. I'm using a service called Podomatic on this one to test out what one of these podcasting sites offer. I can easily embed each episode here. I'm curious to know what you think. It was frightfully easy to create this. I produced the show from their raw interview, just to whet my appetite to produce more and more. 


The Charlottesville Podcasting Network still exists, but I don't own it or operate it anymore. I had to turn it over to someone because I couldn't afford to pay for its upkeep anymore. I'm still associated with it, but I barely know how it works anymore. For instance, I can't give you an embed of the file from above. I can only send you to the site.

In any case, what would I hear if I heard the podcast of me from almost ten years ago? I would hear someone who was in a very different era, with so much going to happen. Do I feel pity for that person, or compassion? I can't change anything now. And I wouldn't want to. Things are pretty awesome, or at least, I am finding it easier and easier to get back to 42.

Any questions?


8/20/2015

The power of making music

When I am in my most stressful moments, snippets of lyrics I've sang in the past generally save me. 

I don't share all of music with the world, because I don't have the time to perfect it. I do it for me, because I need something to save me at times of severe stress.

I'm in times of severe stress frequently. My beard is going grayer much sooner than I thought it would. Every single day brings with it some crisis that has to be solved.

And they're almost always solved. 

Since 2009, I've made at least fifty hours of songs, all improvised as I play my guitar and try to let myself go as much I can. I become this weird version of myself when I sing, and I love being able to have the luxury to spend some of my humanity to capture this stranger who lives inside of me.
That stranger saves me all the time.

I can't explain it, but I want to. I'm one human being among way over seven billion now. So many people, so many potential points of view. 

I want people to be able to shut out criticism in order to create something that is helpful to them. I create things to understand me better. I have renewed this blog in order to try to understand me better. 

I improvise everything when I sing. I am incapable of writing songs. I need to live through the things I created, which is probably a reason I don't share them with many people. I don't want my lived experience to be taken away from me. 

That's the power of making music for yourself, as opposed to just consuming others. That's crucial, yes, to study others and to know forms and the like. I don't know. My song self doesn't think about any of that, to be honest. My song self is just me in a crystallized moment. 

When I hear bits of those fifty hours, I'm energized. I think I am me in this moment and all of the other moments. I hear a voice is alive, that is fallible, that is human, a human is connected to is own humanity. 

But can I let anyone ever hear it? If I think about that, I immediately say no. I don't want to take away from what it means to me. Is this selfish? Self-protective? The right idea? 

I don't know, but I'll finish this post with a video of a song that also goes through my head. Novelty by Joy Division, whose lead singer killed himself in 1980. The words in this song shout out to me from the time when he was alive and they resonate with me. He lives on. When you hear this, just think of me as a person who is only as good as the last story he wrote.

So they say. One day courage will come. 


8/18/2015

Malcolm Tucker and the Doctor

I was just getting used to finally accepting Peter Capaldi as the Doctor when someone at Buzzfeed decided to point out 21 ways in which we can swear like Malcolm Tucker.  If you click, it's decidedly not for people who can't handle profanity, obscenity, abuse, or any of the other lovely things I came to appreciate watching The Thick of It.

For me, I was very skeptical of Peter Capaldi being named as the Doctor. To me, his face was so associated with the amazing spectacle of Malcolm Tucker, the spin doctor for an unnamed party in British politics in that fictional show. I first watched it on a trip to England in 2012 and fell in love based on Capaldi's ability to so easily display concentrated hatred that could be used for political ends.

So, when he was announced two years ago as the replacement for Matt Smith, I was completely flummoxed. I watched the presentation on a live stream from the BBC with my children present. I didn't know what to expect, but when his named was announced, I was about what kind of Doctor he would play. 

Thinking about that moment two years later, I remember he came out with his thumbs in his lapels, a stance that is associated with William Hartnell's grumpy first Doctor. That made me think he would be carrying over Malcolm Tucker into the character of the Doctor. 

At that time, Matt Smith still had three episodes left. His Doctor is youthful, enthusiastic, and confident about his abilities to defeat his enemies. 

Capaldi shows up at the end of the last of those episodes, at a time when the character has been given a new lease on life thanks to other characters in a way I'm not going to explain. None of this makes sense if you don't know the show, and I get that. But I still want to explain anyway because this is about how an actor can transition from one iconic role to another.

Capaldi appeared in the last minute, and he had short gray hair and said a few things that indicated he wasn't quite with it. When his debut took place, the same vibe continued. 

And now we've had a full season of him, and during that time I've thought about a lot about grumpiness in a person's character and how it's ultimately unbecoming. It takes until the very end of Capaldi's first series during the Christmas episode to understand that he is capable of experiencing joy.

Which brings us to now. The new season begins in a month and in the trailer Capaldi shows signs of continuing to evolve into a role that has seemed purposely tentative. 

There's a real reason I enjoy this show. I identify with a character who is ever-changing who is written in a universe that more or less it knows it is fictional. 

Malcolm Tucker is not the Doctor.

Peter Capaldi played both roles.

Any connection between is in my head, but then I think that I'm not the only one who was concerned. The role was played perfectly, and I eagerly anticipate the season that's about to begin. The trailers don't show an actor anymore. They show a character who is evolving, and that's what I care about.

Because I'm also a character who wants to evolve. The best fiction inspires that in people, don't you think? 


8/13/2015

It worked again

I felt grumpy all day. Nothing felt right. I had a 9:00 meeting so I didn't get to run. I opted instead to spend about half an hour cleaning before I went out to meet my friend at Brazos. 

I also had to cover a meeting at which I didn't get to say anything. I was a ghost in the room taking notes and attending to my work correspondence. 

I started several blog posts but they were very depressing and that's not the side of me I want to present to the world.

I'm tired of being grumpy.

Then I had to cover another meeting that I didn't know about, which meant I had to change my evening plans. Those plans were to go the gym and do something to keep building a new habit. I need that new habit so much. I weigh almost 200 pounds, the result of totally giving up on exercise this summer.

I'm not going to chastise myself for letting myself go. I had reasons, and I've taken steps to get back on track.

I got home from the meeting and my mind really wanted me to skip the gym. I didn't have as much time, but I could feel my body sulking. 

So, I went to the gym. I can see into the fitness room from my bedroom, and I saw the rowing machine was free. My plan was to do that instead of running, because I don't want to do just the same thing every day. 

I got to the gym, though, and I panicked because someone was working out very close to the rowing machine. I'm weird about exercising so close to other people. It's why I've never taken a yoga class. I still have fears generated from PE classes in grade school. 

I ran a quarter mile instead to warm up, conquered my fear, and got on the rowing machine anyway. I've not done that in so long and I was so uncoordinated. I threw off my self-consciousness, though, and rowed 2,000 meters anyway. Sweat poured down my bald head, and I looked stupid, but I began to feel great anyway. 

Then I got back on the treadmill, ran the rest of a mile, and two hours later I still feel amazing that I stuck to my program, stuck to the plan to make 42 a better year than many that have come before. 

So, it worked. And I finished this blog post, and I can go delete the drafts of negative posts that I really don't think need to be shared with the world.

I want to choose the positive path. I've always wanted to do this. I have to make this the way of it.


8/11/2015

Away from the fitness

I saved my life by devoting myself to exercise.

Maybe I can do so again. 

There was a time when I had nothing else to do but run. I dropped 30 pounds in four or five months as I ran and ran and ran. 

It's all back. And I'm not sure I have the willpower to make it go away. 

But, I'm trying to fight whatever demon in my mind wants me to stay away from the endorphins and the feeling of satisfaction that comes with being fit. Last week I bought new shoes for the first time in two years. And today I fought off a potential wave of sadness by signing up for a gym membership and promptly went for a three mile run. 

The strategy worked. It's wearing off now, for reasons I can't say, but I so hope I can remember this tomorrow and get some miles in.

I don't quite know when I stopped practicing the power of exercise, but I did. Maybe there's part of me that just doesn't care anymore. I hope that part goes away and that I can make intentional choices. I don't have a lot of control over things that are not me, but I need to get control of my time and insist on activity. 

But here's what happens. I choose work over exercise every single time. My work has taken over almost every aspect of my life. It pervades everything, even my dreams. At least twice a week I have stress dream where there's a permit I have to get or a news story written and none of it goes wrong. I get caught in endless loops, and my waking life isn't much different.

Today, for instance, I knew I wanted to run. But, as I was leaving to drop off my children at their mother's house this loud voice in my head said I should be trying to get to work as soon as possible. I'd taken a day off after my birthday, and I felt like I was somehow out of place. I played tug of war in my head for a bit, trying to justify the run, thinking of the work I needed to do, and finally I snapped and did the right thing.

I need a different direction. A different era. That's only going to happen if I make it happen. 

So, now I'm going to head towards fitness.  

8/10/2015

Sense of perspective

Aside from various projects here and there, Roanoke looks pretty much like it was when I left there thirteen years ago to move to Charlottesville. Of course, my American children and I only spent about six hours there today but my cursory observation is that the place has the same charm and somewhat latent energy it has when I left to come here.

We all have question points in our lives where things could have turned one way or the other. For me, taking an official job in the public radio system was one where perhaps I should have paused a bit. I can certainly imagine the world with me becoming a public citizen in Roanoke the same way I seem to have done that here in Charlottesville. 

The danger of having become a writer and a journalist is that I tend to be able to pick up everything, including my own life. I've written hundreds of thousands of words now, mostly for myself, but I have a body of work covering local politics in my community.

What does "politics" mean to you? For me, it means allocation of resources. That may be a boring term to many, but I look at it in a very holistic way. Politics is the act of deciding what is going to be done in the public sphere, in the realm controlled by our system of government. I'm fascinated to have an up-front seat as an observer. I'm glad my time is spent trying to understand how things work in terms of public policy in my very small part of the universe. 

My career as a journalist began in Roanoke twenty years ago. I'd been at a student newspaper at Virginia Tech, but I thought I might actually be able to make a go in this profession when I began work as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in the winter of 1995. I got a ridiculous amount of credit hours to spend three eight-hour days learning how to write tight copy, learning how to edit tape.

But, it was really there that I began to learn how Virginia works. The mornings would begin getting a tape feed via satellite from the Virginia News Network. It came down and recorded to a reel-to-reel. I would edit the soundbites from Richmond and write up copy that my mentors told was better than what was coming out of the commercial service. 

The content of those stories is long gone. I can't imagine there's any record of them. Somewhere, though, I do have a huge print-out of all the stories I wrote from that time. Someone who is no longer in the business gave them to me about ten years ago. 

Do you remember where you were in 1995, presuming you were alive? I hope so. Life is much better when we have records of what happened, records that are ours and not simply memories of what was popular at the time. I couldn't tell you much about that, but I can tell you I remember being in the newroom at the station when the Kobe earthquake took place, when the federal building in Omaha was blown up. 

The memories of my personal life in the spring of 1995 are hazy. I still had to work at a restaurant, still had to go to class, and I was in a long-term relationship. 

But I was hooked. I wanted to know how Roanoke worked, and my mentors were glad to teach me. I wanted to understand this place, this city that was the biggest one next to the one I grew up in. I learned about how in Virginia, cities and counties are completely separate political jurisdictions from each other. I learned that the sheriff in the city of Roanoke was in charge of prisoner transports, whereas the sheriff's deputies in the county of Roanoke were more about general law enforcement. 

I don't know if that's still the case, but now I want to check. 

And that's why I feel so lucky. I get paid to ask questions and to wonder how things work. That's more or less all I want. I sometimes think maybe I'm supposed to guide things, or maybe I'm supposed to give my opinion.

But everyone has an opinion, including myself. I can't hide that, but I don't believe I can explain mine in less than 1,000 words on any subject. And I really don't want you to fall asleep. 

I want to listen to others. I want to tell stories about who we are, why we are here in whatever when
I happen to currently be in, whenever the juice is turned on and I have to write something suddenly. 

What I've neglected to do, though, is write off deadline to try to explain some of my worldview. I think maybe it might be of interest as people. 

This blog is my public record, and I've not redacted any of it. There are times when maybe I was more candid than I should have been, but it's a document of my life. This is not my journal, but at times it has served that function. 

So, one day after I turn 42, I leave Lynchburg for a day trip to Roanoke to take my American children to the museums there. For whatever reason, Roanoke hasn't been a destination that pops up in my mind a lot, despite having a lot to offer. 

I'll leave it there for that, as I must get back to some work. But, I plan on writing here daily for a little while, just to see what happens. 

8/09/2015

42

I didn't expect to get this far. I'm not sure sometimes that I did. I've written many times about feeling like a ghost, but today I actually relaxed and allowed myself to feel corporeal. 

It was nice.

42, of course, is the answer to life, the universe and everything. The question is all wrong, yes, yes, we know that. 

I thought I would have answers but I don't have any. I don't have any questions, either. Nor do I have any statements.

Now I am here and it's time to see what that's going to look like. I have my thoughts, but I don't know for sure how long they will last before they collapse on themselves. That tends to happen. 

In the past several days I've had many things to think about, but at the moment I only have this, and it is ephemeral. Yet I shall let it go anyway.

I was going to write something about my music and what it means to me, but the more I get older the more I realize it's best to keep the things truly important to me to myself. That's why I don't write a public journal anymore, for instance. 

I keep to myself a lot. This seems to be good for me. I'm not so sure humans are really supposed to be around each other very much. I think we do best when we keep things virtual. This is just the way I see it, I mean. I've not had much luck with relationships. Not just romantic ones. I mean all of them. I'm best when I don't let people know what's in my head.

And there's the problem, isn't it? 

I want to say more, but there's no one really listening. If I bare my soul, someone will just use that against me. That's the lesson it's taken me 42 years to learn. Best to keep quiet, make other people happy, and take satisfaction from a universe that can be so beautiful. 

Anyway. 42.