Glad That Is Over

I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

– Tom Petty

For those who may be unaware, Tom Petty is my favorite musical artist. It has been that way since 1979 and my fandom has not wavered over the past 41 years.

The song “Learning to Fly” is among the many great songs penned by Petty and it also resounds with me on many levels. Evens as I grow older, I continue to learn to fly and this past year in particular, I have come down hard.

But the thing about this song is that you always come back. You keep trying and despite a crap year, I am determined to keep trying.

Let me say I am not sad. In fact, if you are reading this on July 17th, I am probably hiking somewhere in Southern Oregon. I love day hikes, I love being on a mountain as the sun rises. It’s one of those activities that keeps my anxiety at low levels and my positivity at high levels.

Probably hiking in this area

And you can be sure that at some point today, I will be sitting on my relatively firm runners ass at a winery with some of my favorite people (my Sister Laurie and my Aunt Candy to name a few) enjoying a glass of excellent Oregon red wine.

INTERRUPTION! Please accept my moment – You know what, I just realized “shrubs” is a fun word to say. Shrubs… Shrubs… Shrubs… – OK, the moment has passed, thank you for the indulgence.

As humans, we are fond of endings and beginnings. A chapter that closes; a brand new start; and so on. We put significance around certain dates. New Years Day is always popular for a new start. The end or beginning of a fiscal year is something to celebrate or maybe not. Even our birthday signifies an end to another year and an opportunity to begin something new.

Today I turn 58. And as my 59th year on this rock begins, suffice to say, I am happy to see the last year in my rear-view mirror. It started with a deteriorating relationship that would end a month and a half later. Sadly, the other half of the relationship has no idea why the breakup was so hard on me and something I still struggle with today. So, it is likely better the relationship did end, even if it resulted in a bout with depression.

I found out I was suffering from depression because I went to the doctor because I could not sleep. Next thing you know, I am seeing a therapist, which is a good thing. I have suffered from anxiety my whole life and depression can be a by product. I have opted not to see a therapist for my anxiety and until recently never shared that anxiety is part of my daily life. The diagnosis of depression prompted me to see a therapist and, as mentioned, that has been a good thing.

A few short months later, I was off the depression meds and back to learning to fly. My anxiety will always be present, but I have a new found awareness that helps me manage it much better

Unfortunately, right as things were looking up, I had my identity stolen which is a whole crap ton of work that nobody should have to do. I got lucky as it was caught early enough to where I was able to put a stop to it before any real damage was done (knock on wood).

Things kind of sucked, but I still rocked a kilt!

Additionally, some douche nugget decided to use my LinkedIn information to create a profile on Elite Singles. Ladies, allow me to tell you upfront there is nothing elite about me. I am just an ordinary, average guy with a bunch of non-elite quirks.

Finally, as my 58th year was winding down, I was diagnosed with autism. I am not too terribly high on the spectrum, but high enough so that it does impact my life and at times the lives of others.

All that being said, there were and continue to be blue skies overhead. Although the covid-19 pandemic has hit many very hard, I have been fortunate to get to sit at my desk and work every day. I work for a great company (Microsoft) that is at the forefront of caring as much for their employees as they do the bottom line.

Anxiety and autism? Anxiety has been with me all my life and the autism is new. Sure – it is a big deal, but also a little deal. Little deal because I have a small core of friends who accept me as I am and who I enjoy hanging out with.

I also have a good therapist who is helping me with both my anxiety and to a lesser extent, my autism. And by the way, awareness and acceptance is half the battle. Once you have awareness, you can commit to doing something about it. One thing my therapist suggested is exercise is helpful for people with anxiety. Hence, I started working out consistently and my friend Bernadette has even mentioned I am starting to look a little buff. Bernadette, if I was in my 20s… 😊

My friends are good friends. Bob and Kristin have invited me down to fart in their pool multiple times this year, which is always a good time. Frolic, I meant to say frolic. Either way, some good moments. And my other good friend, Danielle, took me to a Texans game. Go football!

I am ready for some football!Thanks Danielle

My amazing sister, Laurie, and I continue to share awesome bottles of beer (and wine) with each other and our friends. Bonding with friends over food and drink is another one of my favorite things – everything in moderation though – except the joy! Nothing illustrates that more than the 21st iteration of The 12 Beers of Christmas, an annual holiday party I have hosted for – well, 21 years. It may the last one for a while, but it was attended by my best friends and favorite people and was one my most enjoyable parties to date.

Yes, there have been some dark clouds in my life this past year. But the weather always changes.

People come and people go. This past year saw someone I love very much move on, but at the same time I met some new folks to build friendships with. I want to especially shout out Brad, who is my brother from another mother. He gets me (I wonder how he looks in a dress. Wait, did I just say that out loud…). Brad has been a great addition to my community. My community may be a little smaller, but quality trumps quantity.

Nature is the best

I am also spending more time with nature. It is always good to be outside. Since relocating from Pearland to The Woodlands, I have been spending much more time outdoors. There are trails behind my residence, state and national parks just north of me, and the city of The Woodlands is built for people to be outside, with plenty of hike and bike trails. Nature and the outdoors has a positive effect on mental health, so more goodness surrounding me.

I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

Shit is going to happen, but a new day will dawn. Each day I will learn to fly. And each day I will come down. But on the good days, I come down on my terms. Here’s to more and more good days.

Trail Running – Mostly Good For You

Today is my first day of vacation and I opted to begin with a trail run at Huntsville State Park.

(Me, a trail and nature)

For those who are runners, trail running can give you a bit more bang for your buck than road running alone. Plus, you get to be in a natural setting and do not have to worry about idiot drivers, many of whom have not excelled at the whole evolution thing.

Most road running or sidewalk running doesn’t challenge runners from a coordination, agility and balance perspective. If you are running on a technical trail, which likely contains rocks, roots and is chock full of uneven terrain, you are working muscles and training yourself in a way that road running cannot match.

On a trail run you will likely be negotiating steep slopes, cutting around sharp corners and landing on unstable surfaces. Additionally, your gait is constantly changing and even the surfaces can change quickly. All of this helps help build your overall athleticism.

(Sometimes nature wins)

The more agile, coordinated and balanced you are, the less likely you are to fall. As you can see above, I have work to do. I have been up to Huntsville a half dozen times over the past few months and each time I have fallen exactly once. So yeah, there is that…

Technical trails require focus, so you have be wary of noises and the desire to take a look see. A few weeks ago, it was a woodpecker. I heard the familiar tap, tap, tap and made the cardinal mistake of looking up. And nature stuck a root in my path.

But even with a fall, it is always good to be hanging out with nature. In fact, science tells us that being outside is beneficial mentally. So trail runs are not only helping you strengthen your legs as well as improve your agility and balance, they also have a positive impact mentally.

(Happy to be here – I went that way!)

Balance, agility, coordination and strength are essential for all runners and trail running is a great way to improve each. If you are primarily a road runner, but have access to trails, you might consider working a trail run into your weekly routine.

Think Again

There is a lot going on right now and a majority of our country is screaming for change and rightfully so. Unfortunately, there is a roadblock to change and that is people of every race, color and creed are dealing in absolutes.

Over the past several weeks I have been told the following by opinion pieces in the press, protestors on the news and even Instagram:

  • Because I am white I am automatically a racist.
  • I cannot support Black Lives Matter and also support the large number of men and women in blue who serve and protect the right way.
  • If I don’t speak up, I am complicit.

These are absolutes and when we speak in absolutes we divide people, which is exactly the opposite of what we need right now.

Absolutes stem from duality thinking. Duality thinking is either/or thinking. Duality thinking, or the dualistic mind, contrasts things like good/evil, beautiful/ugly, smart/dumb, without realizing there may be a many degrees between the two ends of each spectrum.

Duality thinking is where stereotypes are created and perpetuated. Think about autism and one or more of the following comes to mind:

  • People with autism are savants/geniuses – The Rain Man (w/Dustin Hoffman) stereotype
  • People with autism have no feelings or empathy
  • People with autism are violent and are a danger to society
  • People with autism have no language skills
  • People with autism need a caretaker

Guess what? I have autism and none of the above applies to me. Tell someone I have autism and they will reply, “but he seems so normal” as if it is an impossibility. This is the result of duality thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, duality thinking is not inherently bad. We need a dualist mind to function in everyday life. In professions such as science and engineering, duality thinking is a must. For many types of decisions, we want a dualistic mind. But the lesson here is, we should not apply duality thinking to everything.

Now is the time for a little non-dual thinking. I know it can be hard to hold two seemingly opposite concepts to be true, but we have to try. We do not need to fit people into different boxes to determine if they are with us or against us.

I will continue to support Black Lives Matter AND I will continue to support the men and women working in police organizations across the country who live the ideal “to protect and to serve” every day.

I will support the men and women who don a police uniform every day to keep our communities safe AND I will acknowledge that reform regarding how and when we police is necessary.

I will support equality regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation or creed AND I will still care for the relative who thinks homosexuality is a sin.

The changes necessary to prove we all care that Black Lives Matter and the changes necessary to ensure people, regardless of background or origin, feel welcome and have the same opportunities as anyone else require a TEAM effort. And we need the biggest team possible. I want anyone who supports the cause to be on the team. And I don’t care if they like brussell sprouts or not…

Words Are Nothing Without Action

I do not know where to start unpacking the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests that have grown not just beyond Minneapolis, but the United States as well. Saying the death of Floyd is a travesty seems to fall short of the mark. So, what do I say?

White people, like myself, are having a tough time with this and that is a good thing. We need to be uncomfortable right now.

It makes sense to want to comment about an injustice that has been the norm for longer than I have been alive. It makes sense to want to talk about supporting the cause of equality that has been too long coming. But what exactly do I say?

I am being told that if I am silent, my silence makes me somehow complicit. Hence, I should make some sort of statement. My white voice apparently needs to be heard.

But is that what the black community needs? I cannot speak for the black community; however, I would argue many of those who are speaking might be better off listening to the black community and then acting. When does the black community tire of the speeches and platitudes that ring hollow because they are they same speeches and platitudes that were trotted out the last time this happened…and the time before that…and the time before that. So many speeches; so many words; so little action.

The time has come to put the words aside and act. How does a white person act?

Activism. Show your support by marching arm and arm with the black people in your community.

If protesting is not in your DNA, then consider a donation to any one of a myriad of organizations that fight racial injustice. Or in these moments, perhaps donate to a group that is helping people protest safely and peacefully.

Perhaps the pandemic has left you economically challenged. There is still a way for you to act. In fact, everyone can and should do this. Vote. Voting only costs you time. Vote for politicians and leaders who will do something to not just promote racial equality, but act to get it done. November is rapidly approaching. Make sure you are registered to vote so you can push racist assholes like Trump out of office and bring in those who are committed to change.

I am registered to vote. And if a leader wants my vote they better have a plan for racial equality and they better have a record for getting things done.

My Brain Feels Like It Is Racing Uncontrollably Downhill

Anxiety is considered a hidden illness. Over 80% of people with a hidden illness downplay their true feelings to make others feel more at ease. I am one of these people.

There is a movement afoot to bring hidden illnesses to light; to help others understand what may be going on behind the mask.

If you think someone with a hidden illness is simply broken, there is no need for you to read further. But for those who would like to understand what can happen to a person who suffers from anxiety, feel free to continue on.

Imagine being unable to tell the person you love how much. Imagine being unable to tell a friend what they mean to you. Imagine not being able to make a simple decision. For many people (even most people) these are things that are easy to do and something people do on a daily basis. Me, not so much.

A Simple Decision Can Be Overwhelming

Many years ago (before flat screens is how many years ago) my TV died and needed to be replaced. I did my research (like I always do) and went down to the store (Circuit City – yup, that many years ago). It’s a pretty straight-forward transaction. Pick the TV you want; pay the money; boom – new TV.

Except…

I was a full-time college student, with a full time job, with another job on the side, trying to make ends meet. And, I suffer from anxiety. Trying to choose between two nearly identical TVs, at roughly the same price ($10 difference), with the same recommendation caused my anxiety to spike. When this happens, my brain goes into uncontrolled overdrive, like I am running downhill like a wild stallion loosened from any restraints. I pace incessantly or randomly walk around. From a decision making standpoint I am paralyzed. Much like your computer being frozen.

This may make absolutely no sense, but I need to do something entirely unrelated to get my brain to stop. My reset button (to tap back into the computer metaphor) is to do something disparate or un-linked to the moment at hand.

I walked out with a CD player.

I did not need a CD player. Sure, it was an upgrade, but a college student on a budget (no student loans thank you very much) doesn’t get to splurge.

This is how I operate with anxiety. The more anxiety I have, the more clear cut a decision needs to be, or I cannot make it.

A Day Without a Phone is a Really Good Day

It is not that I do not want to call (or text) the one I love, good friends or family. It is because I cannot. My anxiety tells me that I will interrupt their day or a call or text will be bothersome or worse, they could care less whether I contact them or not.

“I am thinking about you” or “I miss you” is a simple text to type and send to the person you love. Calling or texting a friend to see how they are doing should be easy. But for me, contacting another person is like overcoming an obstacle – like a giant boulder in the road. If you have received an unsolicited text from me, I probably deliberated for an hour or more and likely typed and deleted that text more than a few times, because in any given week I will type many more texts than I send.

You Mean More to Me Than You Think

I have not been in a lot of relationships and friendships are below the mean. The problem is me; or really my anxiety. My anxiety prevents me from knowing (feeling, understanding) where I stand with someone. So oftentimes I do not say what I truly feel and I do not do what I want in order to show I love and care about people.

Because of my anxiety, the easiest thing to do (or say) is nothing, but unfortunately nothing is not the best thing to do. However, this is my world.

In my world it took over three months to write and post this. But because I finally clicked on the publish button, I get to say this:

There have been people that have come and gone and there are people in the here and now. Please know there have been many smiles on the inside that were maybe not so apparent on the outside. I appreciate the times (whether they be few or many) and the interactions.

If I was in a relationship with you, I loved you more than you could probably imagine. I apologize for often seeming so closed off and for not telling you how much you meant to me.

Jana (Tater) – you are one of the coolest and most fantastic people I have met and I am privileged to have been your friend for so many years (decades even).

Danielle and Bernadette – you guys are far too young to be hanging out with an old guy like me, but I appreciate that you often make me laugh and smile.

Colleen – Best bartender ever!

Jeff – we are more than just co-workers and it is awesome we can talk about pretty much anything.

Kristin and Bob and John and Kris – You are my people. There is never enough time, but the moments are always worth the time.

Jon and Lynette – Running (and likely craft beer) has been the thread of our friendship over the years. I sincerely hope the running and the beer continues.

Coby and Fran – How can I not smile when you guys are around.

Casey, Kadi, Holly, Jett – I am not your dad, but you are the closest thing I have to a real family of my own and you guys mean the world to me.

LMSD – You are the best sister a brother could have. You are my buddy and you are my friend.

Casa Jamoosh – Vacation Review

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you slice it, I have been on an extended “vacation” at Casa Jamoosh thanks to the Corona virus, which I am led to believe is a result of drinking Corona Seltzer.

What is your virus flavor…

I can neither confirm nor contradict the veracity of this, but Casa Jamoosh, which was once a Bed and Breakfast is now a Bed, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and occasional Snack. So let’s take a moment and review the accommodations, shall we.

Rooms

The rooms are a little small, but the beds are made promptly every morning, so that is a plus. I am in the biggest room, but have the smallest bed. I am not sure what that is about, but the bed in my room is comfortable and I cannot ask for more.

All rooms have their own on-suite bathroom which is also a plus. However, while I try to think of spiders as my friends, I also like to shower alone, so I am happy the manager has provided a can of bug spray in the bathroom.

Food

Weekend BBQs? Yes please and thank you!

The food is generally good and sometimes it is downright excellent. I get excited when the chef breaks out the smoker to satiate my meatatarion leanings. Ribs, pulled, pork, smoked sausage – all delicious. I hope I am here long enough to experience the pork belly again. Yum and double yum.

Sundays are also great because of the Sunday brunch. Bacon and sausage are a staple and after that it is random deliciousness on rotating Sundays. I have heard a rumor blueberry pancakes are happening this weekend and I don’t know if I have the patience to wait that long.

Cleanliness

The facilities are mostly clean. The vacuum runs once or twice a week and the kitchen and bathrooms are cleaned on a regular basis, but housekeeping needs to get out and buy a swiffer. Look closely and it is obvious somebody does not like to dust. I have been meaning to talk to management about this.

Theme Nights

One of the things that has kept me sane during this extended stay is management has theme nights every once and while.

Look what the manager put in my tent. Indoor camping at its finest.

Camping Night was fun, especially since I was provided an air mattress for underneath my sleeping bag. My bones are little old to be sleeping on a hard floor… Additionally, management set up a fan to simulate an evening breeze. So thoughtful and I was asleep in my tent within minutes.

Yeah – no girls aloud!

Then there was Fort Night. Not to be confused with Fortnite. Fort Night was the best. As you can see, no girls allowed in the fort and there is even a tiger guarding the entrance. Hello tiger! The manager ensured there was a fully charged tablet as well as plenty of pillows to lounge around on. This manager thinks of everything. And by everything, beer and cheese included in the fort. Needless to say, me and the tiger had a most excellent evening and we were not interrupted by girls once!

Views

The views here do not suck. One side of the accommodations provides a view of a courtyard and the side with the balcony is all nature all the time.

Nature says”hi”

The balcony is a great place for relaxing with a glass of wine or beer. Cardinals and blue jays are in abundance right now, so it’s great for bird watchers too.

Amenities

Other amenities include a workout room, free wi-fi and the bar has a solid selection of beer and wine. Sadly, no hard liquor. What kind of bar is this anyway – no hard liquor? Not only that, the bartender cards me every-single-time. I have been stranded here for over two months, you know me!

On the entertainment side, the music selections are awesome and I truly enjoy when management fires up the turntable in the evenings. Casa Jamoosh also has a decent selection of movies, so movie night is always something to look forward to. That said, how many damn Marvel movies in a row am I going to end up watching…

Overall

Casa Jamoosh isn’t quite perfect, but it is not a terrible place to be stranded. So I give it four out of five stars.

See the source image

Can we do another fort night…

Some Things I Know to be True – Covid-19 Edition

Barry Manilow writes the songs – dammit.

Normally it’s dogs. However, I have heard more kids on conference calls this past week than I have the entirety of my 34 year IT career.

Therapist: Now, what do you do when you get anxious?
Me: Walk confidently to the beer fridge.
Therapist: Uh, no.

The most important thing I learned from my first marriage is separate blankets on the bed.

I am going to be seriously pissed if the world ends and I did all this therapy for nothing.

Hamster butts…

When all this is over, feel free to continue staying six feet away from me.

Ladies, if you are over 45 and looking for someone who is dedicated, devoted and loyal, I have toilet paper. And a bidet. Just saying!

I guess us homebodies have been flattening the curve all along.

Dancing bears in the wild!

A microwave really only needs two buttons: popcorn and +30 seconds.

Seriously, remaking Purple Rain is NOT a tribute to Prince when you do it as a country song. Just stop.

Therapist: Let's try this again. What do you do when you get anxious?
Me: Make a blanket fort so I can hide from civilization.
Therapist: You have learned nothing...

Go ahead, I know you secretly want to say “hamster butts” out loud. Just make sure you are muted if on a conference all.

Speaking of things to say out loud, isn’t it fun to say moo goo gai pan.

Now that I don’t have to deal with people on a daily basis, my anxiety is way down.

Hmmm, where should I go this weekend…

Sometimes I look at Instagram on my phone. Sometimes I look at Instagram on my computer. In these times you have to mix it up!

At least when my mom asks if I have a new girlfriend, I can say “coronavirus!”

Therapist: One last time. What do you do when you get anxious?
Me: Make a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup the size of a large pizza.
Therapist: Sigh...

I am smoking a pork shoulder this weekend which means I am going to have a pig ton of pulled pork. Time to get creative. I will not be broken.

I guess now is not the time to go out and recruit minions to facilitate my evil plans for taking over the world.

Be smart; be safe!

Farts!

The fart is under-rated. It is also elicits moments of mock horror when noticed via sound or smell. But the fart is good and yes, I will say it, the fart is satisfying.

Did you know you fart 10-20 times a day? That is a dozen or more little moments of joy nobody should be embarrassed about. Joy indeed.

Let us allow Purna Kashyap — a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, who studies the gut microbiome, breakdown these little joyous moments.

“There are a lot of carbohydrates that we consume — mainly present in vegetables, grains, and fruits — that our bodies don’t have the enzymes necessary to digest,” he says. “These end up in the large intestine, where microbes chew them apart and use them for energy, through the process of fermentation. As a byproduct, they produce gas.”

99% of the farts you produce do not smell, which begs you to ask the question about the other 1%. You know, those one percenters who think they are better than everyone else. Yup, in the fart world, one percenters stink. I think I see a parallel…

So what causes the stank in a tiny fraction of your toots? Beans, onions, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and dairy can cause some unpleasant odors due to the sulfur they contain. However, most of the gas produced by our large intestine is hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. These gasses are odorless, so the funky miasma that escapes our booties from time to time is not as common as one may think.

Farting means you are healthy! Indeed, farting is the result of a healthy, complex ecosystem in your intestines. Let’s check back in with Purna Kashyap:

“It’s a complex ecology, with various organisms coexisting and thriving. When a complex carbohydrate reaches your colon, some bacteria will break it down first, and then some of their byproducts will feed other bacteria. The whole community benefits from a single carbohydrate that you consume.”

Science!

I submit to you the fart is the single most consistently satisfying bodily function; surpassing a poop, a piss and a burp. I admit, in my younger years, taking a dump probably trumped all. However, as I have reached and passed my forties, sitting on the can becomes more and more like work with each passing day. And let’s face it, some sessions can be downright disappointing with respect to how much work is put in. The piss that elicits the heavy sigh of relief is rare and random and is often as much of a “thank god” moment as it is satisfying. The burp was never really in the running. It’s great for showing off in your teens and even twenties, but the satisfaction comes more from others’ reactions than from a physical standpoint.

That leaves the fart, a moment of pressurized vapor that quickly disappears into the ether and leaves you quite content. The fart has been there since day one, bringing a small level of joy (but joy nonetheless) with each release.

Respect the fart!

Thanks to Joseph Stromberg and Vox for some of the information in this article.

Quarantine Playlist – Album Version

Peeps are putting together Quarantine Playlists with any varying number of songs, which is a relatively easy thing to do. I, of course, will take it to the next level and provide my Top 10 Quarantine Albums. Well, at least for today.

Let’s do this, shall we.

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me

I am going vinyl on this one. This album is the reason I purchased my current turntable. As soon as the needle dropped and those first notes played breezily through the speakers, I knew.

Just close your eyes and you are transported to a dimly lit jazz club with maybe three tables, Norah, and a few musicians. It’s like you are there and Norah is singing to you and you only. The day at hand melts away and your focus turns to the music and the sweet sound of Norah’s voice.

Norah, call me. I have toilet paper…

Pet Shop Boys – Please

If you have a great set of cans (headphones), this album will certainly put them through their paces. I hear something new every time I play this album. It’s also a bit infectious, if I can use that word today.

The song-craft across the album is strong, belying that this is a debut effort, making it more than just an album for the dance floor. Feel free to move and groove at your leisure, because sitting at your computer hour after hour is not good for you.

Steve Earle – Copperhead Road

Steve Earle once said this album was the world’s first blend of heavy metal and bluegrass. I don’t necessarily know about that, but Steve Earle is a story-teller whose songs will take you away from the mundane hours of sitting in front of your computer all day.

I am streaming this one to the stereo because the bagpipe lead-in on the title song must be heard through speakers! And don’t play this through those cheap ass bluetooth speakers. Don’t do it – you deserve better and so does Steve.

Monophonics – Into the Infrasounds

Do you know what the cure is? Funk is the cure. The uptempo horns and groove laden bass lines throughout the album bring on the funk to wash away all the dirt of the day because we know that since you are working from home showers have become optional.

If you are new to funk, definitely play this album and you will be wondering where funk has been all your life. While you are at it, share this with your neighbors, because they will thank you. They are not yelling because it is loud, they are yelling because they want you to turn it up.

Oingo Boingo – Best of Boingo

Let’s face it; you need some fun in your life right now and Oingo Boingo is nothing but unabashed fun. It’s even fun to say Oingo Boingo. Go ahead, I dare you – say it – out loud: Oingo Boingo! Now, don’t you feel better.

The frenetic pace of some of the songs will certainly push the impending sloth away and if the pace doesn’t do it, the lyrics will. Further, if you are the right age you will cheer when Weird Science cues up.

Mark Knopfler – Privateering

This is another excellent album for your headphones. If it has been another long day of conference calls and your eyes glued to a computer, let’s face it – you need to chill. Grab a sipping beverage (maybe a scotch; perhaps an imperial stout; maybe a glass of red), sit back and relax with Mark.

This album is 90 minutes long, so you have some sipping to do my friend.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mojo

If you know me, you know Petty will be on just about every damn playlist I build. But, would you have guessed this one? Mojo reflects Tom and crew’s love of the blues more than any album before or after.

This album feels like the band was just laid back and having fun, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Additionally, there is great storytelling from Tom that let’s you be somewhere other than your living room

King Solomon Hicks – Harlem

Speaking of the blues… These times are made for the blues and if you are looking for something new, allow me to direct you to Mr. Hicks. This debut album dropped barely a week ago and is in high rotation in my abode.

Reminiscent of Robert Cray, Hicks doesn’t go heavy on any song, but provides enough groove and bluesy licks to create a blues sound that will rock – well – your blues away.

Skavoovie and the Epitones – Ripe

And now for something completely different. Take your musical pot, dump in a cup of swing, drop in some jazz influences, infuse a heavy dose of ska, and stir vigorously. Now you have a pick me up that will get you through the evening without a thought about the outside world.

Charles Bradley – Black Velvet

About this time you need some soul and I present you an offering from the late Charles Bradley. This album is dripping with the heart and soul of Bradley and you will feel the emotion and intensity of every song. Listen to this instead of stress eating for sure.

Bradley’s version of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is sung with the passion and evokes the sorrow the lyrics demand. Additionally, his take on Nirvana’s “Stay Away” will leave you speechless, let alone if you even recognize it. And me, I’m all about the “Luv Jones” baby.

And there you have it. Ten albums to help with your quarantine. A dose of this and a dose of that, but all music that will take you, if briefly, to a better place.

Peace my friends.

On Being a Runner with Anxiety

In December of 2019, I came out to my friends. This was something that was suggested by my therapist, so at a gathering, I informed my peeples that I suffer from anxiety.

It is said activity is good for anxiety. Working out, hiking, running and more. I have said many times running is my therapist. Coincidence? I think not. I truly enjoy running. Especially when I am free range running.

For the uninitiated, free range running is just running to run. No pre-planned distance, no route, no time; just run where and for how long the whim takes you.

When it comes to anxiety, running is not the problem. In fact, running soothes my frenetic mind. It is getting to the running that anxiety steps in and makes a mess of everything.

Happy when I am running

I have three stages of running anxiety. The lowest is when I am going out for a solo run. My anxiety at this stage is more of a nuisance than anything. Then there is the group run, where I am meeting people to run at a specified place and time. My anxiety ramps up significantly by adding people to the equation. Then there is race day. This is when my anxiety is off the charts.

It’s In My Head

I normally do not sleep much the night before a race. It is not uncommon to have pre-race jitters the night before. In fact, many runners admit sleep comes hard the night before a race. But my brain is literally running the night before. I run the race over and over in my head, considering every likely and unlikely scenario; with one thing and everything going wrong and one thing and everything going right.

I worry whether or not I have chosen the right gear. I wonder if the pre-race morning I have laid out is correct – Am I leaving too early or too late? Have I allotted enough time before I leave? I even worry about high/low fiving a kid’s outstretched hand too hard or missing altogether.

It’s hard enough when you worry about a race the next day. Add anxiety to the mix and my brain is racing through the same scenarios again and again and again at a pace I wish I could run on race day.

Maybe or Maybe Not

I don’t cannot look at the weather until a day or so before a race. It will drive me insane. And it is not because I am worried about the weather. I subscribe to the wisdom that you can choose a race, but you cannot choose the weather. Whatever the Weather Gods decide is what you get.

However… I will waffle back and forth over what shirt to wear or how many layers with every degree change or wind speed change leading up to race day. This has nothing to do with color coordination whatsoever, because even without the weather element, I will question myself.

34 degrees at race start and I went with a singlet!

It is not that I am making wrong decisions. It’s just that anxiety makes me re-think the clothing I choose even though I know 90% of the time I will wear a singlet. Hence, I don’t look at the weather and I don’t change my mind 367 times about what to wear.

Where Does All the Poop Come From

Some folks may be in a position to say, “hey those things are no big deal, they happen to me too.” So let’s get to the poop. Did you know anxiety can affect your excretory and digestive systems? Welcome to my world on race day. I don’t just poop and I don’t just poop once. I don’t just poop twice. I am a minimum three pooper on race morning. And it does not matter how good/great the first one was.

I poop when I get up. I poop right after I put my racing togs on. I poop when I am ready to walk out the door. And when I get to the race, if there is any poop left, I will poop again, or at the very least I will feel like I have to poop again.

It amazes me that pre-race, runners are standing around, drinking coffee and munching on bars of some sort and I am searching for the shortest port-a-potty line.

Each significant action (for example, putting on my race day clothes; getting ready to walk out the door; etc.) causes my anxiety to ratchet up another notch and with it my digestive system works overtime to evacuate anything remaining via the fastest route. Normally, my butt. I guess it is better than throwing up.

But Here’s the Thing

At Surfside a few weeks ago, the first thing I had to do when I arrived is go to the bathroom. I had to go again right before the race started. Several years back when I ran the Oklahoma City Marathon, I was in the bathroom when the race started. Ack! The Oklahoma City example is not the norm, but it wouldn’t be unexpected. My experience at Surfside is more common.

But here’s the thing. They were both good races.

All that anxiety building up to the race melts away in the first mile. Once I get moving, the anxiety sheds off me like water off a duck (quack!). All is right with the world as I move up a street or down a trail, one foot in front of the other. My brain and the rest of me is at peace.

Peace to my Brothers and Sisters!

Because of my anxiety, it’s not always easy to get out the door for a run. But it is always worth it.