Thursday, June 8, 2023

Sleep well, sweet Belle

Our sweet Belle is gone.

So is a huge part of our hearts and a key piece of this family. It's been about a month and the hurt is the same as the day the vet showed up at our front door to end her life. 

I keep trying to remember every detail of that day just to have something to hold on to. The suddenness of it all stands out the most — it took forever for the doctor to show up, but it was over before we could even grasp what was happening. I thought about telling him to stop, that we changed our minds and wanted her to be here a little longer, but I knew it was too late, and in my heart I knew it was time. 

I can still hear the yipe she let out when he gave her the first shot to relax her. She hardly ever yiped. It’s the last sound she ever made. About five minutes later the second shot stopped the beat of her erratic heart. We both put an ear to her chest just to make sure, wrapped her in her favorite blanket, told her we loved her, and it was done. One minute she was here, the next, gone and not coming back.    

I’ll never forget the lifeless weight of her limp body when I picked her up to carry her out to the vet's waiting car, her head flopped over my arm. He opened the back hatch, I gently set her down trying not to hurt her, gave her a kiss on the side of her furry face, and said one last goodbye, realizing we'd never see her again. We couldn’t watch the car drive away, so we both just walked back into the house, said nothing, sat down and cried for a while. 

My overthinking brain thought it needed to know things I didn’t need to know, and I made the mistake of asking questions I didn’t want the answers to. We were told, in a caring but clinical voice, that since it was a Friday, Belle would spend the weekend in a freezer until being cremated the following Tuesday. The thought of her cold and alone ate at us for days. The last thing we wanted was for her to think we’d abandoned her. We knew it didn't make sense. But it's what we felt. 

She’s home now, in a decorated wooden box on top of the cabinet in the dining room, surrounded by a few of her best head shots (she was quite photogenic to say the least) and the only toy she ever played with, aka “Baby.” We stop by several times a day to check in, let her know we’re here, and get her up to speed on the latest neighborhood dog news. If talking to a wooden box means you’re crazy, we’re certifiable.  

The house feels emptier and quiet. The stillness that hung in the air for a few days after she was gone has faded, but it’s still there. I’d give anything to hear the clickity-clack of her paws on the floor one more time. And I’d be more than happy to be annoyed by one of her nose jabs to my leg letting me know it’s time to get off my butt and get her some food. I miss her. We miss her. Everybody who knew her, misses her. 

I never had kids of my own. Not that I didn't want any, it's just the way life played out. Choices, chance, and circumstance, or something like that. But I love Belle like I assume most parents love their kids. Some might think that's weird, other’s totally get it. Some might say "it's just a dog, get over it." I choose to not hang out with those people. 

Belle gave me a sense of responsibility. She counted on us to take care of her, protect her, feed her, take her on 20 walks a day. I loved being counted on and I loved keeping her safe. The way she needed me gave me purpose. Some of my purpose went away when she went away. 

Melanie rescued Belle back in 2012. She was a stray found wandering the streets of Milwaukee, hence her scrappiness. Since the first day I met her on my second date with my now wife in January of 2014, I knew we’d be best buddies. In our almost ten years together we built a bond that’ll never break. 

Belle taught us both so much and made us better humans. Funny how a dog can do that without even trying. 

She never looked past each day. It was always only right now. Every walk around the block was her first walk around the block. It didn't matter that it was probably the thousandth time she'd been down that same sidewalk, there were new smells to be sniffed and new things to pee on. Nothing else mattered. 

She was accepting of everyone. If she didn't like you, you probably weren't very likable. This amicable approach didn’t make her much of a watchdog but thankfully her home-protection skills were never put to the test. Any thief with a pocketful of bacon could’ve walked in through the front door and cleaned us out. 

She never complained, even when she was falling apart. If it got to be too much for her she’d wander off to our bedroom and hide under the bed. I think she wanted to get out of the way so she wouldn’t be a burden. 

She was so patient and tolerant. Whether it was getting a bath, taking her daily collection of medicines, or having to wear a doggy diaper near the end, she did what she had to do and dealt with it. No questions asked. 

She was tough as nails. Her innocent face and button eyes were a disguise for her grit and resilience. Bigger dogs didn’t phase her. Gophers didn’t stand a chance. Lyme’s Disease was just an inconvenience. And her blindness never slowed her down. She figured out her routes and stuck to them. Sure, she banged her head into the furniture here and there, but always shook it off and carried on. 

Everything she did, she did for us. I think she held on longer than she needed to because she thought we needed her to. 

Her health started to decline about two years ago. Cataracts took away her eyes and heart failure robbed her of her enthusiasm. But she never turned down a walk, even when she could only make it halfway around the block. And her personality stayed the same through it all. She got tired and frustrated as she got older, but never ornery or mean. 

Heart failure shuts down the entire respiratory system, so she was exhausted, a lot. And the fluids that collected in her belly made her move like a Weeble Wobble. We had the fluids drained twice, but she didn’t bounce back as well the second time, and the bloating just kept coming back anyway, so we decided there wouldn’t be a third time. We couldn't do that to her again. She was ready to be done. 

Maybe we held on too long, but it’s so hard to make that final decision. Death is forever, and forever is a long time. We didn’t want to rob her, or us, of any remaining days. The only thing that makes any of this even remotely bearable is knowing how hard the last few months were on her, and us. Seeing someone you care about struggle, takes a toll. 

I have no clue what happens when we die. None of us do. We all have our beliefs, and that's cool, but whatever we choose to believe, there’s no way to know for sure. The older I get the more I realize some of the things we believe probably exist just to help us get through the reality of existing in the first place. Sure, I hope there's more than this, but if there's not, I’ll never know. And yes, I hope Belle is somewhere peaceful right now with eyes that can see for miles and a heart that beats like new, chasing gophers in a field filled with flowers made of turkey bites. But if she’s not, she'll never know. 

What I do know for sure is that Belle is alive and well in both of us, right down to the soul. And if that's what life after death means, I can live with that. Because I have to. 

We miss you, Bellezee. You made being here better just by being here. My only hope is you know just how much you’ll always be loved. 

You can rest now, girly dog, you’ve earned it. Maybe we’ll get to see you again someday. I’ll bring the turkey bites. 


P.S. I miss you too, Patch. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Streetlights people

I met up with some old friends I haven't seen in a while last week. A bunch of former coworkers getting together 10+ years after leaving the same soul-sucking marketing agency. A "survivor's reunion" if you will. 

I almost didn't go. It was an interruption in my boring, but comfortable, daily routine. And it was an hour's drive away. But I went. And I'm so glad I did. It was good to get out and be around good people. (In small doses at short intervals of course. Let's not get carried away here, I'd still rather sit home and watch sports by myself.) 

The get-together served as a nice reminder of who I used to be and where I am now. Those four years more than a decade ago taught me so much about myself and the world around me. I learned what to do, what not to do, who I wanted to be, and who I never want to be again. Bottom line: I wouldn't change a thing. 

The conversations were fresh and energetic. The kind of discussions you have with faces you haven't seen in way too long. And even though those faces were a bit more worn, especially by the last three years, it felt like I'd seen some of these people just yesterday. Life changes, but for the most part, it stays the same. 

About an hour into bouncing around and shooting the shit with as many people as possible, I got the chance to catch up with one of my favorite introverted overthinkers from yesteryear. We used to walk around the pond behind the office building at lunch and talk about the frustrations of the work day, and how every day seemed to be a little harder for those of us with beautifully broken brains. In one of our therapy strolls we discovered a shared awareness of a curious happening — street lights that seemingly shut off when we walked by. Not all the time, and not every light, but it happened enough to notice. 

Was it coincidence? Probably. But how many times can something happen and still be a coincidence? Did we have special powers? Probably not. But maybe we had a unique aura with transcendental abilities? Or maybe we didn't. Whatever it was, it was a little creepy. But also pretty cool. And knowing somebody else experienced this same strangeness made me feel less weird about my inability to feel normal. 

The night flew by and more old friends I wouldn't see for another five years headed back to their current lives. A few of us stragglers stayed behind but ran out of things to talk about, so the conversations felt a bit more forced. The talk shifted from "Holy shit, remember that time?!", to the score of the basketball game on the tv behind the bar. As my introverted overthinking friend was leaving she asked if the street lights still turned off for me. I told her I hadn't really noticed lately. And then I thought about it — maybe I hadn't noticed because I haven't been paying attention. A noisy head never gets out of its own way long enough to fully engage in all the cool strangeness and sudden serendipity all around us, all the time. 

So thank you, friend with the beautifully broken brain, I appreciate the reminder to pay more attention to what might not always be right in front of me. And thank you, cohorts from an often crappy place to work, for still being who you used to be. Life goes by fast. Gotta stop and take a look back now and then to remember where you ended up. 

Oh, and thanks to the handful of you who asked about my blog. The fact that a few of you said you actually enjoy reading it hit me right in the feels and made me want to write a new post. So here you go. (Insert heart emoji here.)  

I appreciate all of you and I'm grateful for that time in my life. See you next time. 

And don't forget to keep an eye on the street lights. They might be trying to tell you something. 

Or not. 


Friday, September 16, 2022

It takes a toll

A couple quick questions for you: Has the world gone to shit as much as it seems to have gone to shit? Or does it just feel that way because the shit is constantly in our faces? 

I tend to think it's a bit of both. Sure, we're inundated with negative, mostly useless information every waking moment. But you have to be blind to not notice the world falling apart at increasing speeds. Weekly mass shootings, rising temps creating angrier weather, crooked politicians doing everything in their power to take a seat at the dictator's table, and a split down the middle of the country that gets wider every day. What happened to us? And what happens from here?

It's hard to get away from the negativity and nonsense. The constant noise from social media, the non-stop depressing news with a revenue-driven slant, radicals with huge platforms, so many talking heads with nothing to say, too many who can't see more than two inches in front of their own noses. 

It all takes a toll. Especially when you're an over-thinker. 

My perspective on life has changed. I'm angrier than I used to be. I have this constant feeling of helplessness, knowing there's only so much I can do to change things. Friendships have ended over a difference in values. The inability to see eye-to-eye on important issues has created family tensions. I used to be a somewhat social guy, now I'd rather just sit home and watch sports by myself. I was once much funnier, now I'm a lot more bitter. Back in the day I saw more gray, now I have a hard time budging from my own point of view. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt, now I only trust a few. I assume things I shouldn't about complete strangers. I draw conclusions based on zero facts. 

I hate it. But I can't seem to shake it. 

It changes us. At least those of us paying attention. It either pushes us to want better, or reprograms us to not care. If you're in the "I just ignore it and live my life because none of it impacts me anyway" crowd, congratulations on your ability to shut it all out. Also, you're naive. And selfish. And way more privileged than you care to admit.

You don't have to overthink it like I do, but come on, at least act like it matters. Because it does. 

It directly impacts every single one of us. Some get hit harder than others. Those who get the worst of it are those already struggling more than they should. But go on with your apathy. If it makes you feel better to know somebody else has it worse than you, than you do you. The rest of us will figure it out without your input. 

(And that's the end of that rant. Back to the point I was originally trying to make before I so rudely interrupted myself: I'm tired of this bullshit.) 

As I was saying... people with money and power have zero accountability. Those pulling the levers control our daily lives. I'm not cool with that. Bad people get away with bad things. The part that really bothers the shit out of me — we keep trying to vote those bad people in so they can keep doing bad things. It's not necessarily the bad people, it's their cult-like following. Again I ask, what the hell happened to us? 

There's not a lot I can do about any of this, other than blog about it. And vote. And maybe run for office someday. I have considered that last idea, but not sure I want my dirty laundry aired for my small town to see. And, how am I supposed to sit home and watch sports by myself if I'm out there trying to drive change in my community? I'll think about it and get back to you. Alderman Schultz does have a nice ring to it. 

Last thing I'll say, for now: Please, please, please! don't tell me to stop posting about it, writing about it, or worrying about it. None of those three things will ever happen. This is how I deal. We all have our coping mechanisms. Some dwell on it. Others ignore it. Ignoring it is, in my opinion, one of the weakest methods of coping, but a method nonetheless.

I can't and won't just sit back and watch. My overthinking approach comes with a hefty price tag. But it's a price I'm willing to pay if there's even a half percent chance I might make a difference. It might sound corny, but it is what it is. Don't like it, ignore me. 

Now, leave me alone. I'm gonna go sit in the Pick 'n' Save parking lot and try to guess the political leanings of people I've never met based solely on how they look. Then, I'll probably come home and watch a baseball game. By myself.

It takes a toll. 



Thursday, June 30, 2022


Heads up: If you don't like f-bombs, you won't like this post. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

I got a question for you: Who are you? No seriously, like WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? Not your first or last name. Not your Instagram handle. Not your nickname from high school (come on, that was like 75 years ago, stop it.) Not your job title. But, WHO are you? 

Do you ever ask yourself that question? I do. All the time. Probably too much. 

Over the years, and through many a tribulation, I've forced myself to take a long look at the man in the mirror. The truth is, I'm a lot of things, some great, some slightly less than tolerable.

I'm still figuring it all out, because you never stop figuring it out, but what I know so far: I'm an overthinker. I'm a writer. I'm a rockstar wannabe. I'm a believer in accountability and integrity. I'm sometimes selfish, always empathetic. I'm angry. I'm a perfectionist. I'm a cynical realist and a disgruntled idealist. I'm an over-judger of others and of myself. I'm a smartass. Sometimes a dumbass. I'm a husband with a lot to learn. I have a gentle soul but a quick frustration trigger. I'm a lover of animals and a hater of bullies. I'm broken, but I'm cool with that. I eat too many Chewy SweeTARTS. I'm a wandering soul with a functioning moral compass. I battle anxiety but keep fighting the good fight. I don't believe in a magic guy in the sky, but I have faith there's still more good than bad out there. I'm typically funny and often annoying. I'm not a people-person but I know how to switch on the social charm. I'm not a conspiracy theorist... 

I could go on and on about me, but in summary: I'm a decent dude with a shit ton of work to do.

That list is constantly growing, and I don't have it all nailed down, but one thing I know for sure: I'm one self-aware sumbitch. I know myself — ugly spots and beauty marks — I just don't always know what to do with that knowledge. 

So, when I ask "WHO are you?" What I really mean is what do you stand for? What drives you? What do you value? And in the words of Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, "what do you give a fuck about? Because what you give a fuck about says a lot about who you are." 

Fuck it, let's make a list.

To help me figure out what I give a fuck about I'm currently working on my "fuck-it" list. Nope, not a bucket list — those are weird and remind me that I'm going to die someday. A fuck-it list is a long list of all the shit I want to stop caring about so I can care about more important shit. 

For example. here are a few "fuck-its" that have made the cut so far:

  • What people think about me. (Spoiler alert: Most people don't think about me.)

  • What was, what isn't, what might be, and what I think should be. (In other words, trying to live in and accept the present moment.)

  • Having everything figured out before I decide to start. (Perfectionism kills.)

  • People in my life no longer in my life. (It happens.)

  • Brewers and Packers wins and losses. (Ha! Right. Good luck, me.)
Building yourself a "fuck-it" list, (alongside a gratitude list of all the great things you've got going on), will give you a good sense of what makes you, you. And you never know, a fuck-it list could be life-changing. Because when you know what doesn't matter, you make more room for what does. 

And, if nothing else, knowing more about WHO you are will give you more awesome stuff to share on your Instagram page. "Hey, here's a picture of me being me. Hope you like it! No, seriously, please like it."

So, grab a pen and make two lists. The first one: Write down what makes you, you. Yep, it's awkward and somewhat corny, but you'd be surprised what you learn when you write shit down. Be honest with yourself. There's a lot of good in there. And some not-so-good. But you're human, so whatever you write down is cool. Unless you write down that you're a serial killer. Then stop writing, stop killing people, and seek immediate professional care. You're crazy. 

And the second one is your fuck-it list. What are you tired of worrying about? What do you want to stop caring about? Fill up that fuck-it bucket and feel the weight lift. Ahh, freedom. 

If you're feeling extra introspective, make yourself a gratitude list too. Jot down all the great things you're thankful for — and I'm talking all the things. From your family, your dog, your house, your new lawn mower, all the way down to the little things you take for granted — like the fact that I can get to Kwik Trip in less than three minutes and have a delicious Fountain Dew in my hands whenever I want one. 'Merica.  

It'll feel weird at first. Taking time to check yourself can be uncomfortable. But it works, at any age. And it doesn't cost a dime. Now go away, you've got homework to do. Let me know how it goes. I'm curious to see if there are any "fuck-it" trends. 

Also - if you need some help making your lists, I highly recommend this book by Mark Manson. (That's him in the pic. He's got way more hair than me.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Because, Dogs.

Dogs. Am I right? I love animals in general, but dogs man. To me, they're the greatest creatures on earth. And I've been lucky enough to have a few of the best ever in my life over the years. 

We always had a dog growing up. Crispy was the first one I can remember. We were little then, so I don't recall a ton about him. I think he was a him. Whatever, doesn't matter — he/she was a good dog. He'd sit with us at the top of the driveway while we waited for the school bus every morning. And be the first to greet us when we got back home. He sadly became the first victim of the busy highway we lived by. That was my first experience with death and loss. I was a kid, so I recovered fast, but it's a feeling I'll never forget. 

Then there was Scamper. He had the greatest smile. And so loyal. Almost every sunny day in the summer I'd ride my bike to a fishing hole about three miles from the house. That darn dog would follow me the whole way. No matter how hot it was he was right there, tongue hanging, legs never stopping. I'd tell him to go back home so he wouldn't overheat, but he always insisted on running alongside me as I clumsily tried to balance my 65 pound body on a bike with 20 pounds of fishing gear in tow. 

He too met an untimely end on the busy road. We found his lifeless body when we walked up the driveway to wait for the bus. I cried the rest of the day. He was a good, good dog. 

After Scamper, Jessie. She was Jessica, aka Jessie, because my youngest brother was supposed to be a girl. When he came out a Justin, we decided we still wanted a little sister, so Jessie it was. 

My parents brought her home as a surprise from the humane society, our first true rescue pup. As soon as she walked in the house, she shit on the shag carpet. We fell in love with her from the get go. The sweetest, kindest, most loving living thing I've ever met. She had the biggest heart, but was fiercely protective. She lived a good long life. Had a few litters of puppies. After too many puppies she went to the vet to get spayed. They botched the procedure. Morons. She suffered a major infection from the surgery and had to be put down. Again, broken hearts all around. Even my hard-ass dad had a tough time. But as much as it hurt to lose her, it was worth every second we got to spend with her. 

Boomer was next. If I've got my story right, he was named after Boomer Esiason, my brother's favorite NFL QB back then. Boomer was a Blue Tick Healer. Strong and wide. Built like a truck. But sweet as could be. I moved out of the house a few years after he showed up, so I didn't get as close to him as I would've liked. My dad, aforementioned hard-ass, was an old-school thinker who thought dogs were outside animals. That meant Boomer lived in a barrel filled with hay in the back yard and spent a major portion of his life chained to a tree. (My blood pressure is rising as I type this.) I hated my dad for chaining that dog up. So many years wasted staring at a fucking tree. When my dad passed, Boomer found his freedom. He never spent another day with that tree. But as strong as he was, he was just as dense. His life cut short by taking his freedom too far and losing a battle with a car. Three out of four dogs lost to the highway. There was no such thing as an invisible fence back then. Knowing Boomer probably did just as much damage to the car brings me some peace. My brother, now the man of the house, buried Boomer in the woods. And if there's a doggie heaven, I hope he's still running today, fast and free, no tractor chain around his neck, not a care in the world. 

Enter Patch. A stray who found his way home in 1999 or 2000. (That part of my life is kind of a blur, so not exactly sure when he showed up.) Again, I didn't live at home, so although I loved the little fella, I wasn't as close to him as I could've been. Until 2005. That's when that dog saved my life.

I hit rock bottom around the end of May that year. Anything and everything that could've gone wrong, did. I was going through some major life shit, lost my girlfriend, lost my job, lost my entire sense of self. It wasn't pretty. It was a deep, dark, hopeless time. I don't wish that feeling on my worst enemy. Not trusting myself to live on my own, I holed up on my mom's front porch for what seemed like a month. I was stuck to the uncomfortable couch unable to do anything other than stare out the window and take long naps. Patch never left my side. He would lie right next to the sofa, always there to make sure I was still breathing. We'd go for long walks in the woods and sit together on what is now referred to as "Jason's Hill." He knew I was hurting and wasn't about to let me try to get through things on my own. He was my best friend, by far. He never judged me, never gave up on me, and he took his role seriously. He knew I needed him, so he made sure he was always there. It's not even a question — I owe that dog my life. 

I eventually got through the bullshit and came out the other side a better person. At least I think so. And Patch lived another 10 years. The bond we had stayed strong. I'd call home several times a week and the first thing I'd ask was "how's Patch?" I drove home to visit him almost every weekend. It was nice to see my mom, too. 

He taught me so much about life. He was a fighter and survivor and put others' needs before his, every time. He lived to be about 16 and stayed around as long as he could — I think he stuck around so long because he knew how much we all needed him. The day we put him down is one of the worst days I've ever been through. But it was his time. He had his subtle ways of letting me know it was going to be ok, even with him not here. Miss you buddy. Every day. 

Now, there's Belle. 

I was in a much better place when I met her. I had fixed some things about myself and been though the stuff I needed to go through. And it lead me to where I needed to be at exactly the right time. I stopped by to pick up my now wife for our second date, and there she was, staring at me with an uncertain look in her eyes through the open door of her little crate. I think she barked when Melanie introduced us, a little jealous maybe, but we warmed up to each other fast. It's been nothing but love ever since. 

Belle was a rescue, abandoned and left to fend for herself on the streets of Milwaukee. (Melanie found her at Underdog Pet Rescue in Madison. I highly recommend that place if you're looking to adopt.) She's little, but she's tough. And there's not much that can keep her down. A scrapper with a heart of gold, she loves almost everybody. If she doesn't love you, it's you, not her. And her sometimes goofy, often annoying, always persistent personality can make you laugh and yell profanities at the same time. But again, I think it's the traits in our dogs we wish we had more of in ourselves that make us admire them the way we do. 

She's a professional beggar. And a lover of long walks. When she wants something, you're gonna know about it. An aggressive push of the snout into the side of your leg means get off your ass and get me a treat. A non-blinking staredown means I gotta poop. A kick of the back legs post poop means I'm the boss around these parts. And a gentle nudge of her nose at about 9 p.m. every night means I'm tired and it's time for everybody to go to bed. 

She has a vice-like grip on my heart. And I can't imagine life without her. 

I never had kids. I chalk that up to choices, chance and circumstance. But she's like my child. She relies on me/us to stay alive. She counts on us to keep her safe. And she puts her faith in us to give her the love and respect she deserves. 

Belle isn't a spring pup anymore. And with age comes a long list of ailments and medications. She's officially in heart failure according to our vet. But what does she know, right? She coughs a lot because her enlarged heart is pushing on her other organs which in turn put pressure on her esophagus. And she's about 90 percent blind, her eyes clouded over by cataracts. But she perseveres. She's still the best beggar I've ever known. She still jumps halfway up the door when it's time to go outside. And she still somehow knows exactly where she is no matter where we are on our walk. She's pretty incredible. And doesn't care who knows it. 

I mentioned this to Melanie just the other day — when I look at Belle, my heart is happy and hurts at the same time. I'm filled with gratitude for these last several years with her. But I know our time together gets shorter with every passing day. I can't even think about how empty this house will feel when she's gone. I piss and moan when it's my turn to take her on her 27th walk of the day, but can't imagine a day when I don't get to walk with her. She's such a little thing, but she's filled so many peoples' lives with so much  big joy. Sappy, I know. But true. 

When Belle does decide her job here is done, we'll take time to grieve and give her the respect she's earned by waiting to adopt another dog. But we will certainly adopt again. Because even though life will never be the same without her, it just wouldn't be right without a dog around. 

I admit it, I relate to dogs more than I relate to most people. I say that not to come across as a disgruntled old man who can't get along with his neighbors (although there might be some truth to that.) I say it because it's a fact. Dogs love unconditionally. They're always honest, never fake. They're loyal. They listen. They don't have shitty opinions or screwed up beliefs. They don't talk behind your back. They stand up for what's right. They don't judge. They love you even when you fuck things up. Their main wants in life are love, food, walks and naps. And they take their responsibility to be there when you need them seriously. People with all those traits are few and far between. But dogs with all those traits are pretty much the norm. 

So, if you have a dog, tell him or her how much you love them. If you don't have a dog, think about getting one. A rescue of course. They'll change your life for good. I just wish they lived as long as we do, because the pain of losing your best friend never goes away. 

Here's to Crispy, Scamper, Jessie, Boomer, Patch, Belle, Koda, Chewie, Pearl, Pickle, Seamus, Boo, Bailey, Alex, Aspen, Dubs, Thome, Benny and every other dog everywhere. Thank you all for everything you do. 



Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Anxiety rules. (But it doesn't have to.)

How do you always get the best of me? 
I'm out here living in a fantasy. 
I can't enjoy a goddamn thing. 

Why am I never were I'm supposed to be? 
Even with my lover sleeping close to me. 
I'm wide awake and I'm in pain."

It's the opening verse of a Jason Isbell song. And it explains anxiety better than I ever could.

Outside looking in, everything is all good. But inside, it's a mess. Sound familiar? 

I've lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I was a nervous kid. From kindergarten through high school, I don't remember a day without that queasy feeling in my gut that something was about to go horribly wrong. 

I thought maybe it would get better as I got older. It hasn't. Prescription drugs, therapy and ongoing attempts at a "don't-give-a fuck" attitude help, but it's still there — watching and waiting for me to be happy about something or enjoy a minute of peace so it can swoop in and take over. 

For me, there doesn't have to be anything stressful going on for the anxiety to kick in. Something as mundane as a midday drive to KwikTrip might be the only trigger needed to flip the switch. I assume it's part of my brain's wiring by now. It's who I am and probably always will be. I've learned to shove it down, do my best to put on a happy face, and move along. It works some days. On the days it doesn't, I'm not a whole lot of fun to be around. 

I say all this not for sympathy, but to let those who deal with the same shit know they're not alone. Living with daily anxiety doesn't make you weak or a freak. It just means you've got a little extra work to do to make your way through everyday life. 

Anxiety is part of the deal. And dealing with it in manageable portions can be a good thing. Fight or flight is in our DNA. And a little stress can be motivating. But when anxiety prevents us from enjoying the little things in life or negatively impacts our relationships, that's when it's time to do something about it. 

The current state of things definitely doesn't help. There's a shit ton to worry about these days. We're surrounded by so much uncertainty, unrest and unbelievable bullshit. And when this present bullshit is over and done with, there'll be a fresh steaming pile of bullshit around the corner. It's best to keep your shovel handy at all times. 

That's why learning to manage anxiety is such a big deal. Because no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you got in the bank, there will never not be something to get anxious about. I think accepting the fact that anxiety is here to stay is one of the best things we can do to manage it. 

Meditation, exercise, walking the dog, music, writing in my blog — all things I do to help ease the burden a bit. Social media, watching the news, sitting around and overthinking — all things that pour gasoline on an always smoldering fire. 

Maybe you're thinking "So what if you feel a little nervous all the time, deal with it." If only it was that easy and the consequences weren't so harsh. Constant tension can lead to a long list of bad stuff: A quick anger trigger, irritability, high blood pressure, chewed-up thumbnails, eating too many Big Macs, drinking too many big beers, alienated spouses, inability to focus on anything for more than 30 seconds — oh, and early death. I often wonder how many years of my life have been cut off by overthinking every situation I've ever been in. Yeah, no. I don't want to think about that right now. Let's move on. 

Fortunately, it's not all doom and gloom. If you struggle with anxiety, you probably always will to some extent. But you can make things a lot easier on yourself. The first step is admitting when it's just too much. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Give yourself a break. Take time for you. Walk your dog. If you don't have a dog, get a dog. Listen to more music. Fill your prescriptions. Go for a run or lift something heavy. Watch a good movie. Hang out with somebody you love. Write down the stuff you're thankful for. 

The list of anxiety-inducers might be long. But the the list of good things in life is longer. 

Completely controlling anxiety might not be in the cards for all of us. Don't beat yourself up. It's ok to let some of it happen. But it doesn't have to get the best of you. You're more than the nervous, noisy monsters in your head. Get out there and let the good stuff be louder. (And don't forget to take your meds.)

Now, time to go practice what I just preached. The dog needs walking, the bullshit needs shoveling, and my noisy brain needs a break. I should probably call Walgreen's and get some more happy pills too. Running low. 

Take care of yourself. 


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Only so many fucks to give.

Editor's note: Fuck it. I need this blog. I've been away too long. I don't even care if anybody reads it. I need it. So here's a new post. 

I'm tired. 

Seriously. It's been a rough go for too long now. And when you're an overthinker, all the noisy bullshit is extra loud. Conspiracy theorists, insurrectionists, pandemics, anti-vaxxers, talking heads and dumb asses in general. It gets to be too much and eventually wears one down to an emotionless nub. 

I'm angry and sad and anxious and scared. But at the same time, I'm running out of fucks to give. 

I want to do so much to make things better but instead of taking action another day passes and I do nothing. Partly because I don't really know what to do. Partly because it's easier to sit back and bitch about things then it is to get off my ass and do something about it. But mostly because I'm starting to not care nearly as much. 

Because I can't. 

It wears me out. 

Those who overthink will understand. We can't let things go until we've fixed them. But not all things have a fix. So, we end up running in place and punching the air, draining our soul in the process. 

In my case, I end up spending too much time on social media, pouring fuel on an already raging fire. I want to physically fight every meathead online who believes whatever they're told except the stuff that's worth believing. 

It's literally unbelievable. 

I think I'm smart enough to figure out that a majority of these dildos online aren't even real. They exist to rile up the crowd so the crowd keeps coming back to the site where all the ads are. But, I throw verbal haymakers anyway, thinking it'll make me feel better if I let them know how fucking dumb I think they are. It doesn't.

It's the very definition of insanity. 

I thought things would get better with a leadership change. They did, but it's still bad. The far right is even more fired up now. "Stop the steal!" "Fauci lied!" "What about my freedoms?!" 

It's killing me. 

My friends list is much shorter these days. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes cutting your losses is the best move. But it still hurts. Because I know I can't go back to where things were. It's about values. And respect. Once you lose respect, it's over. 

It's sad. But necessary. 

We sacrificed most of 2020 to give ourselves a chance at a better 2021. We stayed home. We wore masks. We stopped going to Pizza Ranch. We listened to science. And it worked. At least for a while. Now, because almost half the country is either selfish or foolish, or selfishly foolish, we're headed back to where we were. 

It's maddening. 

And exhausting. 

So, what now? 

Here's what I think: Never stop fighting for what you think is right. (Unless you think it's right to be racist, you're certain JFK, Jr. is still alive, you believe the vaccine is jam-packed with microchips, or you're adamant the election was stolen even after 275 recounts proved it wasn't. If you believe any of these things, knock it off. Stop being an asshole.) 

The key: Keep fighting, but pick your battles. Give yourself a break, but don't give up. Decide what to give a fuck about. Too many and your bucket overflows, drowning you in fucks. Not enough and eventually your bucket will empty. And an empty fuck bucket is an empty life. 

I'm gonna go take a nap. Then maybe pick a few fights on Twitter.