Brandon's Journal

2021 has been one bitch of a year. Starting around March, everything fell apart. I don't want to go into all the details, because I've definitely spent way too much time complaining and processing those feelings and thoughts throughout the year, but let's just say it was tough.

Then almost like the skies opening up, things have gotten better. Slowly... one thing at a time, things have been improving. Things aren't back to the way they were say in February, nor do they look like they will get that way anytime soon, but things are on the up. It feels like our luck has finally taken a turn for the better.

Earlier today, I was journaling when a quote came to mind from The Big Lebowski.

The Dude is asked how he's doing and he replies:

“Oh you know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs.”

I always loved this quote and its such an interesting way to respond to such an effortless question that is asked over and over throughout the day. And as I was journaling about the change in the things outside of our control, this quote emerged.

I could easily say we've been bowling gutter balls the past few months. It's been tough and our scorecard has been low, but it seems like we are throwing a few more strikes right now. Our average is going up and in doing so its bringing our general uneasiness into contentment and I like that.

So, I guess I'm writing this for anyone who is going through a tough time. Just remember strikes and gutters. Sometimes its totally out of your control and you just gotta go with the flow.

-The Wannabe Dude Out

Earlier this week, I ran across a reddit post mentioning Matthew McConaughey's book, Greenlights. This book has been on my radar since it's release last year, but I've been hesitant about reading it. After a glowing review of the audio version, I decided to use up one of my wife's Kindle credits and give it a listen.

The book is only about six hours, which was much shorter than I was expecting. I finished it up today and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it as it's been on my mind all week.

I've been a huge Matthew McConaughey fan for some time now. I was the guy defending him while he was taking it easy in the rom-coms and I'm the guy whose seen Fool's Gold at least a dozen times unironically. What appealed to me about McConaughey was his chill attitude. I've always been fascinated and attracted to people who truly let life come and go, because that is what I'm always striving for. It's who I want to be. The guy who let's all that truly does not matter slide.

I was enamored with his tales of RV living, traveling the world, and being a genuine person in Hollywood. I loved his taste of music when he launched his JK Livin Records, and went and saw his sole signie Mishka in concert twice. I also rocked a JK Livin shirt and even went as far as having a custom license plate. I loved the concept of just keep living and for a period in my life it truly defined me. One might call it a phase, but I see it as a chapter in my life.

McConaughey's career took back off, I got to hear a lot of “Damn, we were wrong” comments from my co-workers, and McConaughey's life changed quite a bit. He went from living in various Airstreams to buying a house, getting married, having kids, and settling down. I wasn't able to relate quite so much to his simple family life, so I stopped following his career as much and moved on with my life.

With that being said, a book written by the man who once idealized the lifestyle and free spirit that I desire to have sounded like it would be perfect for me. So why was I so hesitant to read it? Well, I'm less naive now and I knew there would be things in that book that would break the image of McConughey and the JK Livin lifestyle I once adored.

Early on in the book, Matthew (who you will come to know him by), mentions this is not a memoir or a self-help book, but an accumulation of stories he's pulled from journals he's kept over thirty years. He's putting together this book as a sort of bookend to the first fifty years of his existence in preparation for the next fifty years. This is important to keep in mind, because once he get's started, it's hard to tell what and who the book is actually for.


The Good: -The audio book is well read but a bit overacted. With that being said, I felt connected with author in an incredible way. His accent really helped bring the story to life and I'm not sure I would have finished the book if not for this.

-Within the book are some incredible stories. One of my favorites was how he got his role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Next Generation. Another great one discusses his time in living in trailer parks and the pros and cons with doing so. Although, the best story is about his time spent as a foreign exchange student in Australia with a unconventional family.

-He doesn't make excuses. As you'll see in “The Bad” section, there are some troubling stories about his family, particularly his parents. While I do feel he hero worships them too much, it's nice to see he doesn't dive into a pity party or spends half the book complaining about his upbringing. Then again, if I had his upbringing, I might spend half the book doing so because it would feel justified.

-His use of the word greenlights represents the various things that occur in our life that we like. The things that help us get to where we want to go. I do enjoy him applying the word to various situations and even showing how red lights or yellow lights ultimately can become green lights.

The Bad: -His authenticness is often offset by his pretentiousness.

-Many of the stories come across like fisherman's tales, where the details have been exaggerated in order to enhance the story. Unlike a fisherman's tales where the size of the fish is the only thing exaggerated, Matthew's stories tend to be so outrageous and outlandish I found myself muttering to myself often, “Yeah, right.”

-There is an inconsistency in his messaging. For example: he spends a lot of time discussing how much his father valued honesty, but then spends just as much time discussing what a crook/con his father (as well as himself) was. It's hard to hold space for this “virtuous man” who fights his kids, gives beer to his eight year old kid, gambles, robs trucks, etc. etc.

-The first story in the book is about his parents and his mother calling his father fat because he asked for more mashed potatoes. The fight goes from verbal to physical and involves knives, broken bottles, and then them having sex on the kitchen floor. It's that absurd and horrifying, yet McConaughey seems to honor his parents throughout most of the book.

-The stories are broken up by random philosophical ideas he's come up with or bumper stickers, which I think are also mostly made up. You pretty much tune out of the reading during these points because it feels like an excuse to cram as many big words into a small place as possible.


By the time I reached the end of Greenlights, I hated it. In fact, I definitely left thinking less of Matthew McConaughey after reading it, but I can't lean into completely disliking it. I think the reason for that is because the book is not a memoir or self-help book, as he explained before he started. It was just one man going through his notebooks and making them public.

I guess, the one thing I pulled away from Greenlights is that Matthew McConaughey is who he is. He's not a well adjusted member of society and deep down, I'm not even sure he's a good person. But he has some interesting stories to tell and an intriguing outlook on life and that itself made my listen to Greenlights not a total waste of time.

Watching The Gathering so many years removed from watching Babylon 5 has been an interesting experience. I see the groundwork for this magnificent story as well as the seeds of these incredible characters, but there is also some stuff that feels so alien. For example; the lack of Ivanova and Dr. Franklin. And while, those characters were missed, I gotta say I did enjoy Tamlyn Tomita's portrayal of Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima and I feel like the character had great room for growth.

I won't comment on the special effects, because that story has been repeated several times over, but obviously they leave a lot to be desired. I think the most startling thing to me was how some of the more lit scenes looked like they were shot on video. It reminded me more of an old Dr Who episode at times than say Star Trek.

Some of the makeup, especially on G'kar and Delenn, is pretty startling since it's different from what the finished product would end up being. Some of the performances are a bit wooden, if I'm honest, had I watched this when it originally aired, I probably wouldn't have continued watching the show. It's not terrible, it just doesn't really have all the elements of Babylon 5 that I love. It lacks the cinematography, the music, the lighting, and the pacing of the show to come. It very much is a pilot made to craft a universe and hopefully sell a show.

I should note that the version on HBO is the TNT Producer's Cut, which is supposedly superior to the original movie that aired. It's put as the first episode on HBO Max and I feel like that is a huge mistake. As I mentioned earlier, I don't know if I would have kept watching the show following The Gathering and it lacks some of the main characters we all grow to love. It also helps that the first episode works as a sort of a pilot and you don't need to have seen The Gathering to appreciate and dive into the story.

What The Gathering does do well is setup the mystery of why the Minbari surrendered and what happened to Michael Sinclair while he was unconscious. The untrustworthiness of both G'kar and Lando is established. People question Garbaldi's decision making and the world of psychics are made known. All of these things play into the storyline that permanents through five seasons and a series of movies. So, in a way, The Gathering is a novel way to look back a the very basic beginnings of Babylon 5 that I think is best watched after you know what is to come.

I spent quite a bit complaining about The Gathering but it was fun going back to Babylon 5 after so many years. It's still a wonderful world that I love to be immersed in. I normally despise television shows with politics, but there is something about the way Babylon 5 handles it that I enjoy. Maybe it's the disconnection I have from the alien species that makes it less jarring than say human on human political discourse.

I've forgotten a lot of the story of Babylon 5. It was actually a recent listen to the Alienating the Audience podcast that really fired me back up about watching the series. The co-hosts were so enthusiastic and explained the history and backstory of Babylon 5 so well, they pretty much sold me on watching it again.

I've been dabbling with the before mentioned HTML site as of late, and it got me thinking about the various blogs and websites I've ran over the years. I decided to put together a Junkyard page that would consist of old banners and screenshots of forgotten blogs of mine that I was able to retrieve via Archive.org.

I spent about an hour and a half trying to remember old web addresses and flipping through the various days that were archived. It was both delightful and enlightening. Delightful in a nice trip down memory way and enlightening at how much I've grown over the past twenty years.

I look back at some of the stuff I wrote with pride but I equally look back with disappointment. I stop short of calling it shame but the ideals of a 23 year in comparison to a 38 year old are vastly different. Sure, I may still love many of the same elements of pop culture and have an affection for the past but I do not miss the arrogance or crassness I once wore like a badge of honor. I do not miss the pandering or desperate pleas for attention. Quite frankly, its downright embarrassing.

But that is part of maturing, I suppose. You shouldn't look back on every element of your life with great pride. By doing so, I would think you haven't shown any growth and since none of us are born 100% emotionally mature I think we all have room to grow. Heck, I feel miles away from the guy whose writing I recently re-read and I feel like I still have plenty of room for improvement.

I've been working on a project over the past several weeks. It's not something that is going to bring me any sort of success, but it is something I feel that I need in today's world. I've decided to utilize a basic HTML static site which is very Web 1.0 as my sort of main hub into the internet. One might argue that it's a homepage. Remember those?

For almost ten years, I've been tinkering with this website. It's undergone several names and designs, but it wasn't until earlier this year that I finally put it online. I mentioned it briefly in a blog and there it sat until a few weeks ago when I started working on it some more.

I realized, especially after my issues with Wordpress and my webhost, that I missed the simplicity of just writing some basic HTML and having the site react the way I wanted it to react. I also missed when sites were written with more permanence in mind and not something as fleeting as say a blog. When you made a website in the 90's, you made it to last (although they were quickly abandoned). The pages that went up took so much time and effort you just added onto it, like creating puzzle, linking one piece to the next. I miss that. You could learn so much about a person and their interests by exploring this puzzle of pages they created and put online.

I realize that Web 1.0 is not coming back. We traded creativity for capitalism and it's here to stay. There are some small communities popping up that are attempting to resurrect a more simple web, but I also saw dozens of these pop up alongside hundreds of blogs last year when COVID began and they too are now abandoned. But I for one, would like to have a little spot on the web that is my own and is totally under my control. I want to be creative and I want to tap into nostalgia with the occasional ugly background and scrolling text. I want the internet to be more fun, like it used to be.

I realize that not everybody will care about this, and that is why I've made a choice to keep my blog on an actual blogging platform so that people may subscribe and keep up with RSS feeds. I'm still bouncing between Listed.to and Write.As, but I will hopefully figure out where I want to plant my feet by the time I officially launch the website.

I was reading a great little Webzine called the Yesterweb Zine that is dedicated to old school interneting. There was a great quote that reminded me of what I loved so much about old school websites. It was the authenticity and personal connection that people attempted to make.

It was “Come and visit me again soon!” rather than “like and subscribe”.

I hope you'll choose to visit.

Sometimes, when I know I don't have enough time to really watch something that's very long, I turn on YouTube. I like to utilize the app on our Apple TV or my Playstation 5 and well... I don't use it all the often. In fact, I only have a handful of subscriptions and none that I have just “have to watch.” I don't care of streamers or YouTube commentaries, so its mainly things like wrestling, Angry Video Game Nerd and well... yea, that's it.

But I do use YouTube for watching trailers. So, when I got home today, I decided I wanted to check out all the cool trailers that were released during Playstation's Showcase last night. I started up Spiderman 2 and I sat through a fifteen second ad. I got to around the ten second mark when I realized that I was watching an ad just to watch an ad. I was letting some random company advertise to me, so I could see the advertisement I wanted to see. Then, right as the ad hit fourteen seconds I backed out of the entire app and deleted it from my Playstation.

I don't mind watching an ad for some homegrown content like the stuff over at Cinemassacre. I have a couple of Patreons of bloggers and podcasts that I like that I donate to. I have no issue what so ever with folks getting paid for their work. Where I do have an issue is giant companies making advertisements like the ones I mentioned beforehand common place.

I've noticed YouTube ads have gotten longer and more frequent and I cannot express how much I hate having a video interrupted with an ad. So, today, I had a decision to make:

  1. Do I shut up and tolerate it?
  2. Do I pay for YouTube Premium?
  3. Do I decided to no longer play the game?

I think folks who know me, know what I chose.

I'm done. I can't say I'll never visit YouTube again, but I will not utilize it without an ad blocker installed or with NewPipe. This is not okay and I'm not going to sit back and participate. My life would probably be a little better if I didn't feel compelled to watch advertisements for video games that I then in turn go spend money on.

Last Thursday, I posted a blog titled Hope. I wasn't happy with how it turned out and the next morning I deleted it from the blog. I had hoped to re-write it on Friday, but we were in the process of moving and I guess I wasn't feeling very hopeful. Now, a few days later, I'm ready to give this topic another go and hopefully I'll express myself a bit better this time around.

I'm not sure when I gave up on hope, or even why. Who really keeps track of those sorts of things? There was no sudden moment where something happened that destroyed the hope inside me. Instead, it just dissolved until one day, I realized it wasn't there anymore.

It was a friend, who first pointed out that I had lost my hope and that moment has been etched into my mind for over ten years now. The conversation came about when I showed my friend some footage from my Skin Deep DVD that I mentioned in the last post. He watched me ramble on about my film making in this old video and he just casually mentioned, “You had so much hope in your eyes.” The comment took a second to settle in and then I looked at the younger and happier version of me on the television screen and I knew it was true. I had no more hope left in me.

How do you get hope back? I think it's similar to trying to find religion after you've lost it. The experience is entirely familiar, but getting back there is a near impossible feat. The think both finding hope and faith again are so difficult because you've already been there before. You once had it in your grasps but then it broke and you were forced to come to terms with this broken thing inside you. You try so hard to put it back together, but no matter how hard you try gluing it back together just isn't the same. You know how fragile it is and that makes it hard to lean into.

I thought it was fate last week that during a conversation my buddy Alex mentioned a great quote from The Shawshank Redemption.

Like Red in the film, I too was scared of hope. It seemed way too dangerous of thing to deal with. It made people feel invincible in a world where no one was. In my eyes, it was just a way to build you up so that your fall is even harder.

This manifested a variety of ways in my personal life. One of the most noticeable of ways was when planning to do just about anything. For example: if I planned a vacation or a trip to a convention, I automatically assumed it would go terrible or would be cancelled. I never allowed myself permission to get excited because by doing so I felt like I was setting myself up to be crushed. It was just easier to assume the worst and hope for the best.

So, why talk about hope? Well... I found some inspiration for hope in the most ironic of places, the television show Raising Hope. A few weeks ago, I started watching the series on Hulu and I came across an episode where the family decides they have to give up on the small things that offer them hope. For the father, it was a weekly lottery ticket. For the mother, it was hoarding various high end items that the family could fill a bigger home with in the future. For the son, it was constant trips to the grocery store to flirt with the pretty cashier with a boyfriend. They made a pact to each give up these little indulgences and in a typical sitcom fashion it doesn't go so well.

Everyone became irritable and grumpy. The family the show is centered on is a poor family who struggles as is, and taking away these little wishes from their life gave them very little to look forward to. I sat watching and recognizing how real this situation was. What do people have to look forward to if they won't allow their imagination to run a little wild? It's not like the family was putting every dollar into lottery tickets, they just bought one a week and then talked about what they would do with the money. In my eyes, that $52 a year is worth hundreds of dollars more in what the family actually gets from it.

I realized that after spending most of my adult like hopeless, I needed this back in my life. I needed to dream a little. I needed to lead into some crazy ideas that probably won't work out, but it won't hurt trying. This is one of the reasons that I was even open to the idea of making a movie. I knew I couldn't glue my hope back together and pretend like it was the same, but I could grow and cultivate some new hope. It took some time and some self-awareness, but I feel like I planted a seed of hope that I hope will grow into a little bit more. I think my mental health and just life in general could use that. Hope is the depression killer.

And as much as I love Red's quote from The Shawshank Redemption, I think Andy counter it's quite well in his letter to Red at the end of the movie.

Growing up, I didn't aspire to be much. I had a short phase where I wanted to be a Navy SEAL and another one where I wanted to be an NBA player. I had a fantasy about becoming a professional wrestler in middle school and I spent my high school years thinking about joining the ministry. But once I reached the end of high school, there was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to be: a filmmaker.

I had grown up with a love of film cultivated by years of hanging out in video stores and collecting various movies. The 90's independent scene was red hot with names like Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino breaking out and making the type of movies they wanted to make, not the normal stuff the Hollywood machine churned out. Even better, all three men were film geeks like myself, and that gave me something to aspire to.

The earliest origins of my film making dream can be dated back to sitting in study hall my freshmen year of high school. It was here that I spent my free time writing scripts for the movies I wanted to see which were mostly sequels of the films I loved. I wrote a sequel to The Rock as well as Ghostbusters (the opening scene was pretty awesome with the Ghostbusters fighting off the ghost of Andre the Giant in Madison Square Garden.) I dabbled with some of my own original ideas and eventually decided it was time for me to break out my dad's old camcorder and make my own short. I wrote an Evil Dead inspired script that would take place in the shed in our backyard that sadly I never made.

It wasn't until I found myself working at Blockbuster and dreaming with my buddy Matt did my dreams of film making begin to come true. With his unrelenting support, I found myself standing in a Black Friday line at Best Buy at 4:30 AM hoping to get my hands on an entry level MiniDV camera. I did not freeze my gonads off in vain, as I walked out with a camera and I immediately got to work at writing a script.

I took some advice from Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew, a book I read over and over again. I thought about what I had access to and then wrote my script around that. I knew I had my buddy Matt, my friend Anthony was coming into town for Christmas, and two females. I had my house, my girlfriend's apartment, and a park. I started crafting a story around these people and locations and what emerged was a short film titled Skin Deep. It was quite progressive for 2004, as it was the story of a black man who falls in love with a white girl online, but she has no idea he's black until she shows up for their first real life date. She rejects him and afterwards we see the fall out her actions in both of their lives.

I'd be lying if I said it was amazing. It wasn't. It was written quickly and I had one meeting with Matt to go over some notes and then we started putting things into motion to get filming as soon as possible. I assembled a home made steadycam, bought a MiniDisc player to record audio on, and started loosely putting together some props. It was a practice film and it was what would hopefully be the first in a long list of films that Matt and I worked on together. We were already bouncing ideas around for the next film and we had high hopes that we would learn all that we needed to on Skin Deep so that we could get serious the next go around.

Sadly, it just wasn't meant to be. The production was hindered by all sorts of issues. It took some significant sweet talking to convince Anthony (who never wanted to act) to join our little movie. My girlfriend was even less enthused about possibly taking part. Then once we began filming, a freak ice storm hit Memphis and production grinded to a halt. Even worse, my father who did not approve of my hobby/career of choice, did just about everything he could to discourage me including shutting down our production the day of.

We ended up with 40 minutes of useless footage that we got alot of laughs out of. I cut together a blooper reel that was quite funny and Matt and I recorded not one, but TWO commmentary tracks for the DVD. We also recorded intros ala Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier on all of his early DVD releases. As much as it was disappointing to not have a finished product worth watching, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every minute of the process and I had hope the next go around would be even better.

Life got in the way, yet again, when my father's alcoholism got the best of him and I found myself crashing in the corner of a bedroom trying to make ends meet. Eventually, I gave up and moved to North Carolina to be near family that could assist me in finishing up school and getting back on my feet. Matt and my dream died when I left Tennessee, and despite a few starts and stops over the years, I had pretty much given up on the idea of ever filming something again.

In fact, the reason I've focused so much on my writing is because it's such a solitary act, I knew I wouldn't be reliant on anyone else, nor could I let anyone down with it. I could just craft a story as I seemed fit, and then walk away when I was done with it.

The couple of times I put together some script outlines or even discussed the possibility of shooting something I let people get into my head. Unfortunately, I'm not surrounded with folks who support the creative arts, so I gave up deciding that this was just one dream that wasn't meant to be.

Recently, however, I've been giving a lot of thought to dying and what I might regret. It was during some of this self-reflection that I remember something I used to say, “I don't want to be forty and have never made a movie.” This thought rattled me as forty is just over two years away for me and well... I haven't made a movie.

As fate would have it, I found myself watching a lot of Kevin Smith films recently, my original muse. I also discovered Mr. Inbetween, that was spun off a documentary created by one man, who wrote, directed, produced, and acted in his film. Then this past weekend, I was attempting to finish Stuart Gordon's Space Truckers which has been a bit of a struggle for me. I decided to search and see what people thought of Space Truckers on reddit when I ran across a post that recommended watching Space Trucker Bruce, an extremely low budget film shot over a several years inside a man's house where he built all the sets out of cardboard.

It dawned one me then that neither Anton Doiron (director of Space Trucker Bruce) and Scott Ryan (creator of Mr Inbetween) did not let a lack of people, support, or money stop them from telling the stories they wanted to tell. Sure, there movies may look a bit amateurish or “B movie” style, but the went out there and did it, something I've failed to do after all these years.

I found myself researching no-budget/micro budget film making and exploring what options might be available to me. I quickly began formulating a story concept in my mind for a short film starring just two people. My research led me almost down the dangerous road I've been down before of too much information and too many people tell what to do and what not to do. There is so much information out there its easy to become a student of it all and a dreamer and not an actual doer. So, I've decided to only research specific topics I need advice on (gear, sound recording) and try to allow my own common sense get me by.

I'm not sure when I'm going to get a chance to shoot my movie. Obviously, in the midst of moving right now is not the best time, but a seed has been planted. I'm going to get something done before I turn forty, even if it's a two minute film about nothing. But for right now, I'm going to seek out no budget inspiration, begin experimenting with getting good shots with my phone, and allow this dream to come back into my life.

A few nights ago, I sat down to write this blog. It ended up going a little sideways, but there was still a message inside here that I wanted to talk about. It's the potential to make yourself better, or more specifically, the potential inside me to make myself better.

It took a me a long time to realize that any given moment is an opportunity to change the way I think, live, and aspire. Every morning, when I wake up, I make conscious decisions that aren't always easy. About a year ago, I read this interesting article on StarTrek.com about Anson Mount's portrayal of Captain Pike in Star Trek: Discovery. The article, goes into detail on why a good, righteous character seems to refreshing in a world of anti-heroes. As the tagline to the article states, “It turns out that the story of a good man is still one that's worth telling.”

One of the aspects of the article that stuck with me for so long is the concept that it's difficult to choose to be good. Everyday, you wake up and make a choice on whether to be good or bad. A choice of being rude of polite. A choice to love or hate. We make hundreds if not thousands of these choices everyday and it's an accumulation of those choices that make up the very being that we are. I like to think that there are always better choices to be made deep down inside, it just takes courage and effort to make them.

When I realized my mental health was declining far quicker than I could handle, I made the decision to purchase a book called Mind Over Moods. It not the most revolutionary book I've ever read (like the reviews promised) but it gives me something to work on everyday or every couple of days, which keeps me focused on improving my mental health. I think that sort of consistently is what garners the most results. Ya know, the whole practice makes perfect idea.

Somewhere around fifteen years ago, I read a book on Wicca. I like learning about different religions and cultures, and this book was pretty enlightening. It helped rectify some of my false beliefs about the religion/lifestyle/philosophy but what I took most from it was the idea of casting a spell. See, in my mind, I assumed that Wiccan's casting spells closer resembled cosplay or wishful thinking than anything that would actually be helpful. But I remember the example the book gave for a money spell. It was simple, everyday when the person came home from work, they'd place a dime in a dish next to a green candle (to represent money) and then light the candle. That was it, that was the spell.

Now, this isn't near as interesting as anything I've ever seen on television, however, I saw where it could be useful. The idea of  keeping up with a dime daily and making an intentional act in placing the dime and lighting the candle, meant that how you handled money was always on your mind, or at least it was once a day. This sort of daily reminder could easily guide into making better choices, which could in return, help grow your bank account. I see it as a sort of WWJD bracelet for Wiccans.

Those daily practices may not make perfect, but they do making improvements in your life. So, I've been attempting to utilize as many as I can to help me better myself.

Another daily tactic I'm using is listening to podcasts that can inspire or teach me better ways to handle the struggles of daily life. I recall a few years ago when I had a much longer drive to work, I'd rotate out the podcasts I listened to almost daily, but I always kept a Buddhist teaching and What's This Tao All About in my rotation. It was almost as if I was attending church during those drives and it gave me new tools in my toolbox to manage everyday life.

As my commute shortened, the amount of time I spent listening to podcasts or talks of this nature dropped dramatically as did my interest in these topics. I stopped making time for them and in result, I stopped feeling the positive effects from them as well.

Nowadays, I listen to podcasts while I'm working and I like smaller podcasts that get right to the point. So, I've been listening to the Stoic Coffee Break amongst a few other Stoic philosophy based podcasts. These short bite sized lessons are easy to consume and almost always gives me something to think about in regards to my own reactions in life. Most importantly, because the lessons are short, I'm able to listen to them on almost a daily basis which like the green candle and dime, it helps keep my mind focused on being present and working through my emotions.

Things aren't perfect in my life, nor will they ever be, but I feel like I'm working towards being a better person and being the type of person who can handle adversity a little bit better. I plan on talking about the role of hope in a future blog and how that has played a positive role in helping bring me out of this funk.

I've spent the past month moving my belongings into storage. My wife and I are in the processing of moving into my parent's house after a freak turn of events occurred back-to-back. I'd be lying if I said I was excited about it. In fact, I'm downright dreading it. I was as comfortable as I've ever been in my adult life and the idea of living in a tiny workout room at my parent's house and losing the freedom and privacy that come with having your own place, is just not something I'm thrilled about.

I've been forced to face down a lot of negative self-talk. I've beat myself up quite badly and blamed myself for having to ask my parents for a place to stay. I conveniently ignore the role of a global pandemic and a greedy apartment complex played in this while telling myself I was a loser, but I'm finally moving into a mind space where I can stop the mental abuse and look forward to what comes next.

I've always been pretty self-aware about my mental issues. I know I struggle with depression and anxiety and over the years, I've experimented with a variety of different ways to combat the negativity. Meditation, philosophy, Buddhism, comfort television, intentional music listening, exercise, etc. have all been tools to help me make it through life a little easier. I felt like a couple of years ago, I finally found a good balance and I was coasting along with everything under control. Then this year happened. One set back after another set back occurred and I lost my ability to manipulate or will myself into contentment. I woke up every morning to a mountain to climb and after several weeks, I was too exhausted to do it anymore. The depression and anxiety crept back in and I spent way more time writing about suicide then I'd like to admit.

It was as if all my tools were no longer working, or they just weren't strong enough for the job. So, I began trying other things like prayer, which unfortunately didn't offer me the relief I was hoping it would.

Luckily, I'm blessed with some pretty great friends. Several people began checking in more regularly with me and one friend even opened up quite a bit about his own anxiety. It's been nice to have these little lifelines that always seemed to pop up via text just when I needed them.

I realized two weeks ago, that I needed to start putting more effort into my mental health as well as some self improvement. I began reading a book called Mind Over Moods which has helped a smidge. It's not life changing, but it's helped get me back on track and has allowed me to recognize the “automatic thoughts” that occur in my head on a daily basis.

I also began listening to some podcasts that deal more with philosophy and psychology. I guess, I managed to surround myself with some new tools and new ideas to explore.

This blog post was originally going to be about bettering myself and I guess in a strange way it sort of is, but this was definitely not the blog I was planning to write, but maybe it was the blog that I needed to write. I want to spend a little less time discussing pop culture and a little more about life. Sort of like what I was experimenting with the podcast a month or so ago.

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