Dispatch From Inside the Paper Bag

 

It’s a common criticism of an average or below average boxer to say he “can’t punch his way out of a paper bag.” Sometimes, even “a wet paper bag.” It implies a hapless palooka who is too weak/inept/cowardly to effectively land a punch.

Well, folks, I am that boxer.

My fight is against depression, as many of you know. Unfortunately, two of depression’s harder punches are loss of interest and lack of concentration.

So basically, I don’t even feel like fighting, usually. Hence, the long period of no posts on this blog. I’ll start a few of them, but following through is next to impossible; I can’t concentrate, and I don’t care.

Sucks, right?

I’m still here, though, in case you were concerned. And maybe sometime, I’ll finally land a punch. I do want to win this fight, really.

But I’m afraid we’re gonna go several more rounds.

 

And How Was Your Day?

 

The surprises life occasionally drops in your lap can sometimes be nothing short of incredible.

 

I drive a shuttle bus five days a week for a particular business. I’ve been driving it for two years, now. In that time, I’ve gotten to know several of the folks who ride it on a regular basis. I know many of them by name, and enjoy talking with them when they ride with me.

We’ll talk about just random stuff: music, sports, the job, the mercilessly hot weather (currently), whatever.

And, somewhere in the conversation, I try to get a laugh or two out of them; maybe make them forget a few seconds about the stress of the day. Some people, I can joke with relentlessly, because we know each other that well by now.

This one fellow, who shall remain nameless, and I are like that, but one day, we got a little deeper in our dialogue. I don’t recall how we got to this subject, but I shared my depression struggles with him, which led to him opening up about his depression, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

He told me he’s thought about it “logically”, i.e., exactly how he would go about it.

I told him about how I wrestle with those same thoughts, and recommended that he get help, as I did. Because, like I’ve said before on this blog, that’s way too big a dragon to try and slay on your own.

He thanked me for the talk, and we haven’t brought it up since. Which is probably bad; I should have followed up on it with him. But, I don’t see him as much, now; since relocating to the main office, he doesn’t need to go to the other facility too often. Not that that’s any excuse.

So today, when I walked into the office, the lady at the security desk, who I also know, had a card for me from him. Now, we both expected it to be something funny, because he and I sometimes leave snarky little notes for each other with her. She kinda gets a kick out of being the go-between, I think.

Not this time. Instead, it was a thank-you card. Inside was a generous gift, and a note which read:

I really struggled on a daily basis with depression during my old job. Part of the reason I was always on the bus was you. Thank you for making me laugh and smile.

 

I just stood there for a minute, looking at that note, totally dumbfounded. I genuinely didn’t know what to think. I’m still trying to get a grasp of the significance of it.

At the very least, though, it’s immensely gratifying. I have no idea if I’ve helped anyone with what I’ve written on this blog; I can only hope. But, I can take some satisfaction in knowing I helped him.

With just a few jokes. Who would have thought?

I don’t know what this story will mean to you, if anything. Like I said, I’m still processing what it means to me.

But, have you ever been at a point in your life where you never envisioned yourself being, wondering why you were there?

I don’t know for sure, but maybe, this guy was the reason I’m right here, right now.

Which blows my mind just a little.

Love one another, y’all.

 

 

My Final Year As a Quinquagenarian

 

In other words, I turned 59 today.

Anyone between the ages of 50 and 60 is a quinquagenarian. It’s a word you use all the time, right?

Are you kidding? People that age get worn out just saying it. Who the blue devil came up with that title, anyways?

Never mind, here I am, standing at the threshold of 60. A threshold I thought would take a lot longer to show up. Truly astonishing, how fast life runs when you’re not looking.

It’s unfair, too; by the time you come to appreciate just how precious your days on this earth actually are, they’re mostly gone.

But enough gloom and sadness. The larger point is, I’m still here! And, as that noted philosopher once said, “Any day above ground is a good day.”

(Even with the guy we currently have as President, but I digress…)

Also, considering that I’ve spent the last several years with depression as my constant companion, occasionally urging me to just cash it all in, it’s a small miracle I’m still around.

And, on the whole, I’m glad I’m here. Despite what I try to tell myself sometimes, life actually is worth living.

Especially when I can get in some naps. Us old folks need those, you know.

So, have a piece of cake for me. Heck, indulge; have two.

Just don’t make me blow out any candles. I’m still a little winded from saying that word.

 

 

 

Treading Water

 

I’m sorry, folks.

The truth is, lately, I just don’t care about anything enough to write about it.

And I don’t know when I will.

But, even if I did, I’d likely tell myself you wouldn’t care, so why bother writing? That’s due mainly to my rather low opinion of myself these days. Depression, and all that.

Besides, trying to write anything lately is like trying to swim in mud. I just bog down at some point.

I’m sorry to disappoint any of you.

I don’t know if I should even post this.

But I just want you to know, I’m still here.

That’s about all I want to say for now. I love you all.

The “Terrible Twos”?

 

April 13, 2016. I unleash the inaugural post of my new blog on an unsuspecting world.

And the rest, of course, is history.

Well, my history, anyway. So, here I am, still writing two years later. And, to my amazement, you’re reading what I write! Some of you have even been with me for the whole ride.

This leaves me mystified and gratified, all at once. Even more so, my work has been read in 66 different countries around the world, by now. THAT is incredible to me.

 

As I’ve said before, I write primarily because writing is easier than talking for me. This is a way for me to put out there what I think and feel, but could probably never bring myself to say aloud. I’ve always kinda been like that.

At times, though, even writing isn’t easy. My depression holds me back sometimes; gets in the way of me finishing the four or five posts that I’ve started. That’s why you haven’t heard from me recently; I’ve been stuck in the Land of Half Way.

I guess, the 2-year milestone gave me some added impetus to see this one all the way through to the end.

So, I’m glad to have this outlet. And, I’m especially glad so many of you have found it interesting enough to read – more than once, in many cases. Thank you so much for visiting. You’re definitely welcome anytime.

I love you. Later, y’all.

 

Versatile Blogger Award

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Well, check out your boy, now.

I recently discovered that another blogger nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award! Many thanks to Becky’s Open Book  for this honor. You would do well to visit there sometime. Lots of book reviews, for you readers in the audience, but she offers her take on other subjects, as well.

Please tell me there’s a cash prize involved.

No? Oh, well…

 

Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award (VBA):

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award. (Yay, I won!)

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  • Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

1. Thank the person who gave you this award. Okay, done.
2. Include a link to their blog. Also done.
3. Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!) Fifteen? Okey-dokey, here goes, in no particular order:

The Off Key of Life

Look For the Good  Spoiler alert: my niece writes this one. And it’s darned good.

Extra Dry Martini   

Endless Bitchen Summer

cheekiecat ZekeFor the kitty lovers 🐱🐱

Stuff That Needs to Be Said It really does.

Girls and Their Cats See cheekiecat Zeke 

Giddy Up America

Ends and Beginnings Longtime favorite of mine. Same as the next one.

I Am Begging My Mother Not to Read This Blog

Note to My White Self

Sascha Hjort This girl will stimulate your mind, guaranteed.

Katie Kuo

boy with a hat

Let Me Be Frank With You This guy is funny!

Whew! Did it.

4. Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site. On it.
5. Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself. I did that; she found them fascinating. 🤨

Thanks again to Becky’s Open Book for this recognition. Long may you write!

Keep Them Tools Sharp

 

So, the reason I started seeing a therapist again last year, after a nine-year hiatus, was the hope that said therapist could perhaps provide me some tools to help me cope with my ongoing depression.

And she has. She recommended some sites for me to visit online, that gave me some practical steps to apply, and I thought the information was very valuable.

Yay, I’ve got some tools, now!

But, as any skilled craftsman will tell you, one good way to keep your tools sharp longer…

Is to not use them.

 

Why don’t I put into practice the things I’ve learned? Maybe, for a few reasons.

One, making a habit out of anything new is tough. Especially, anything good, right? We’re settled in to all our bad habits and, even though we know they’re bad, we’re kinda slow to let go of them, aren’t we? How many times have we declared ourselves on one diet or other, only to fall in those familiar traps on the path? How many newly started exercise regimens have we abandoned, not because we really wanted to, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to get up and run today, or whatever?

Maybe it’s just me.

Two, on the subject of exercise, you know how it feels when you do something physical, that works muscles on your body you haven’t used in a long while? (Stop snickering, I know what you’re thinking…) It’s not comfortable, is it? And, the next day, maybe you’re a little sore in those places. ( I said, STOP it!)

Well, I guess the mind and the emotions are like that. Let’s say, for instance, I have a “self-forgiveness” muscle, that’s pretty much atrophied at this point. (Hypothetically, of course.) When I ask it to try and function, chances are, it won’t be comfortable. Might even hurt.

Then, how ready will I be to try it again?

Three, I’m the kind of guy who likes to mark time, to hit the Pause button, get everything set up like I want it, then press Play, and continue on.

There is, of course, no Pause button. You would think a fifty-something-year-old man would have figured that out. We’re stuck in Play, all the way to the end. (Feels more like Fast Forward, though, gotta say.)

I guess I just have to do this thing on the fly, which I’d rather not.

 

Four, and this one may be the hardest to explain:

In a weird way, part of me likes being in this condition, fancying myself the classic Tragic Hero in my own, personal Drama: a somewhat virtuous fellow, nevertheless doomed to suffer. In its own twisted, perverted way, it gets me more attention which, as anyone who knows me can tell you, is a particular lifelong craving of mine.

Now, how screwed up is that, folks? The problem with that is, I’m not the only one who suffers. Which sucks for the other people.

I guess that’s partly due to the artiste in me, grouping myself with the Van Goghs and the Hemingways and the Kurt Cobains of the world. (Not that my work approaches theirs; I’m not claiming that.) Also, my uncle, bless his heart, who was a writer that had depression for years, and ultimately killed himself.

There’s something else, though: the gnawing feeling that the tragic life is the life I deserve. This is what I have coming to me. Nothing good; only bad.

I don’t know why. At least, if I do, I’m not telling me.

 

Mind you, I don’t like admitting any of this. It’s more than a bit embarrassing. But, it’s the unfortunate, ugly truth.

Dr. L, if you’re reading this, (yes, she has permission) just know that I’m holding steady. I know what I need to do; I know what I want to do.

I don’t know. Maybe I need some tools to help me get started using my tools.

That’s sorta funny, but really not.

A Descent into the Maelstrom (Apologies to Mr. Poe)

 

I tell you, friends, this depression thing just sucks, sometimes.

It can come up on me at any moment and pull me down into a vortex of fear and anger that eventually has me feeling as if I’m no good for anything or anyone.

It’s usually triggered by me saying or doing something wrong (which is annoyingly often), but sometimes, all I have to do is think of something I said or did wrong, and down I go.

In that whirlpool of darkness, I see all my failures, all my insecurities, all my wounds, self-inflicted or not, and I feel irretrievably hopeless, and I wonder, really, what is the use, anymore?

It doesn’t make me suicidal, but it does sometimes have me longing for Mr. Grim Reaper to show up.

Because, in those times, I just feel so thoroughly worn down. And I’m ready to simply give up.

And then, it passes, just like always, and I’m back out of the vortex, and life goes on.

 

Yes, I’m on medication, yes, I see a therapist, but that doesn’t mean depression keeps its distance every hour of every day. Unfortunately.

I guess, the one good thing is that, having experienced this plenty of times, I’m self-aware enough at this point to know it will pass in time, and so, I just have to be in it for a little while, and it won’t result in me doing anything harmful.

Unless crying is harmful.

 

I’m telling you this for two reasons.

One, in the spirit of being honest with you about how frightening my otherwise wonderful life can sometimes be. (And it is mostly wonderful, really.)

And two, to assure any of you out there who think you can handle depression on your own:

No, you can’t.

I got help for it, and it can still knock me down, sometimes. If you try to beat it alone, it can kill you. Please, get help. There is no shame in doing that.

BTW, I’m doing just fine, today, thanks. At the moment.

Hit Reset

 

Okay, truth time: how many of you have already gone off the diet you started on the 1st?

I’m sorry. That was cruel, wasn’t it? Forget I asked.

Anyway, here we are. A brand new year is upon us. Is it just me, or did the last year go by in a blink? Jeez, before you know it, it’ll be Christmas time again.

I’m sorry, I did it again, didn’t I? Just SHUT UP, WILL YA??

 

Okay, no more clowning. Seriously, welcome to a brand new year. I hope it has started well for you.

Many of us use January 1st as a marker, a place to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. It’s life’s Reset button. Whatever happened last year is last year’s news; it’s in the rearview mirror, getting ever smaller until disappearing over the horizon line. We savor the good memories, and shed the bad ones.

Easier said than done, I know. Believe me, I know.

But now, our eyes are on the future, who stands before us with both hands full; in one hand, exciting opportunity and possibility, and in the other hand, unsettling fear and dread.

Most of us will take a little from each hand, because we need a healthy balance of fear and optimism, right? Too much dread is just too depressing, but too much optimism seems a bit unrealistic, doesn’t it?

The more depressed among us – like yours truly – will probably take more from the fear and dread hand, because that’s our comfort zone, it’s our default mode. We’d rather not be that way, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as making different choices. If only…

However, I will work harder this year at picking from the other hand; I need to. Because there have been days in the last year when I had no optimism whatsoever about the future. (I don’t think I should have to explain why.) I thought we were absolutely doomed. Everything looked bleak and hopeless.

And yet, somehow, we’re still here.

There is still much to fear as this new year commences. Some of it is fear of the unknown, some of it of the all too well-known.

But this is a good time for me to clear my head and focus on what I need for this to be a better year. Do I need to be healthier? More loving? More open and honest? More trusting? More attentive to others? More appreciative of life, of nature, of people?

Less fearful?

Probably all that, and a lot more.

It’s a good time for a new beginning. I look forward to it.

Mostly.