Cease to Begin

I could sleep… I could sleep… when I lived alone, was there a ghost in my house?

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10 Things About Me

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1. I’m from California. The armpit area, or Bakersfield. When I mention to people that I’m from Cali, they usually smile and look at me with that wide-eyed, “Why the hell did you move from paradise?” look. Then I have to explain that I’m actually from Bakersfield, which is a shit-hole full of oil wells and dirty rednecks. The Utopian sunny paradise most people think of when you mention Califorrnia is on the coast and is generally full of plastic rich idiots, actors or people that run wineries. For the most part, California is insanely expensive (except in Redneck country), smoggy, and full of crazy.

2. I used to be pretty heavy into politics but the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve really not given a shit. Perhaps that’s just a bi-product of living in the Washington DC area or maybe I’m simply sick of the whole left/right thing that politics have become in this country. I really have no problem with the conservative idealism of fiscal responsibility, but when some Tea Party jack-ass starts talking about how abortion is evil, gay marriage is a sin, and it’s big brother’s job to stop people from taking drugs, I tune them the fuck out. Don’t wish for a smaller government and then advocate the same government sticking it’s fat nose in American’s personal lives. Fuck off.

The late George Carlin pretty much sums up my thoughts.

3. Since I brought up one of the things we aren’t ‘supposed’ to talk about, I’ll gladly fill you in on the other, which is RELIGION. First off, I was raised Assemblies of God and Southern Baptist. I was pretty hard core into the Christian scene up until my early 20’s. Me and Jesus were cool. Then, sometime during college, I took a comparative religions class that completely changed my perspective on religion in general. It opened me up to the possibility that there are hundreds, no, thousands of different faiths out there and we as humans have no idea which one (if any) is right. That being said, I would now define myself as agnostic. Perhaps there is a God. Perhaps he is a jolly, white bearded guy up in the clouds. Perhaps he is a floating toaster between the moon and mars. Perhaps he is Buddha. Or, perhaps God is more than we can ever comprehend and comprises every atom, quark and particle that exists in this universe. One thing I’m sure of though, is that no religion has a monopoly on God. One religion is not the only path to a next plane of existence. Personally, I have a theory that there is a spiritual universe where we all exist as God… like a giant ocean of life. This universe and that are incompatible. Our spirits, thus, are poured into physical carbon beings in this one – much like diving suits provide life support for humans under water. We live, we procreate, we die…and that life force goes back into the great ocean. This is how I see the cycle of the afterlife.

I’m okay, for the most part, with your religion, whatever it may be… as long as you keep it YOUR religion. The minute you start passing laws or attempt to press your moral judgement on me, you become the problem.

4. I like to curse. A lot. Like a fucking sailor. Hopefully, my parents won’t fucking read this or my ass is toast. I remember that cursing used to bother my mom so much that we weren’t allowed to watch PG13 movies growing up. A few fucks, shits and whatnot and she would make us turn it off. For me, I’ve always believed that a word is harmless without context, much the way a gun is just a gun unless it’s fired at someone. Then it is a weapon. Swearing is like adding a spice rub to your meat… it gives your words flavor.

5. I met my fiancee, Rochelle, on Facebook. For a long time, I was kind of embarrassed to tell the story of our meeting with people, mainly because it’s kind of geeky to meet on the Internets. But I have to credit Facebook and more importantly Pearl Jam, a grunge band from the 90’s who we both share a crazy love affair with, for intertwining our paths.

6. Speaking of Pearl Jam, I’ve seen them 19 times. My first PJ experience was in San Bernardino, CA in late 2000. I had crappy lawn seats and it was freezing. Still, I had a great time. The best show I’ve been to was this past October 19th in Brooklyn. Rochelle and I had rail in the GA section, right smack in front of Stone Gossard. Nothing rocks harder than seeing the band live from the pit.

A week later, we saw the band in Baltimore and met guitarist Mike McCready while wandering around in Fells Point. We talked for a while, got some picks, and were given VIP tickets for free to the band’s next show in Charlottesville. It was an amazing experience.

7. I have an 18 year old son who is working to finish his last year in high school. He lives with his mom in Cali, but will soon be living with us when he graduates. I love him to death but do not see him near enough. It’s so strange to look back at pictures of Chris when he was 7 and 8. He looks so different now. He’s a brilliant kid but doesn’t commit himself to his school work. That’s okay though. Things change.

8. I proposed to my fiancee, Rochelle, at a pre-party in Brooklyn… in front of some 500 people. I worked with the party organizers to make it happen at just the right time. I was called up to the front as a winner and provided with a poster tube. I quickly opened the tube, called Ro to the front, and took out the ring. After reading the lyrics to “Future Days”, I got down on one knee and did the deed. Yes, she said yes.

Rochelle is all I ever wanted in life. She is perfect for me. It may be corny but I’ve never felt like I really wanted to spend my life with someone else prior to meeting her. It sucks that we didn’t find each other prior to our 40’s, but we are both prepared to spend the rest of our lives together.

9. Southern Comfort is my alcohol of choice. SoCo with coke is even better. ScCo 100 is the best.

Dirty martinis are amazing as well.

10. For once in my life, I am excited and anxious to know what comes next. Life is good and I know it will only get better. I’m happy. I have a great family. I have a wonderful life. I have a rewarding job. For once, I believe in myself and am proud of what I’ve become.

How I Choose to Feel is How I Am

Really, there’s no sugar coating it. August and September were some very hellish months in my life. The worst of it is over, but I’ve really came to terms with some deep seated personal flaws and issues that have been haunting me for over 20 years.

A few years ago, a doctor had clinically diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I took her diagnosis lightly at the time and shrugged off the suggestion of medication and therapy. At the time, my anxiety improved and I forgot about the episode.

In late July of this last summer, I fell again into a severe anxiety spiral in regards to my health. I let stress build up withing, worrying about financial issues, family issues and life in general. Over weeks, I began to feel ill. I began worrying constantly, mostly about my health. I would spend hours scouring the web, trying to diagnose myself based on what was hurting or feeling odd any particular day. My legs felt weak. My shoulder hurt. My ears rang. My neck was stuck in a permanent state of tension. My muscles twitched and my head often felt as if it was in a vice. Symptoms seemed to rear up like a three-headed hydra. Every time one would leave, another two would pop up. In mid-August, I was reaching mental and physical exhaustion. My doctor wrote my issues off as pure anxiety and put me on an SSRI.
Things got worse. I could barely crawl out of bed. Depression set in and I slowly built a wall between myself and my loved ones. Rochelle was at a loss. My behavior was becoming more erratic and self-centered. I didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to go out. I could barely tolerate work and menial things like going grocery shopping seemed like torture. I really only wanted to sleep and be alone. I had come to accept that I was going to die. I felt it to be as real as the sky is blue.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe what a dark place the world had become to me.
Reluctantly, I stuck with the SSRI (Celexa) and pushed through the negative thoughts. I began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sessions and slowly…very slowly I’ve improved.
I would say at the moment, I’m roughly 70% recovered. I still have random symptoms but I don’t spend time worrying about them. I’ve learned that I’m a much stronger person than I give myself credit for. I’ve learned to be at peace with my thoughts and fears. Most of all, I’ve realized that life doesn’t come with any guarantees. I can only live in the moment and follow my heart from that point on.

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Andrew has changed his relationship status with Facebook to It’s Complicated

ImageHi Facebook,

It’s me again. Drew. I’m sure you remember me, I was logged into you about 10 minutes ago, browsing memes of funny cats. Prior to that, I spent two hours on your site arguing with some conspiracy nut over whether the Boston Marathon bombings were an Illuminati False-Flag event, meant to lure us further into the government’s evil socialist grasp. And yes, that was me “Liking” my friend’s photo of her lunch as well. Guilty as charged.

It seems like I’ve been giving you a good amount of my time lately. More than I thought I would. I find myself perusing your posts at work, when I should be well, working. Sometimes, you send me notifications late at night while I’m trying to tune out the day and drift off to sleep. I find myself sleepily reaching across my nightstand and grabbing my iPhone to satisfy my curiosity, only to realize that you just updated me that my friend Joe has just checked in at Hooters. It seems to me you may be coming off a little..what’s the word.. clingy. I’m sure you can see where I am going with this.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Please understand a little bit about my history here. I’m a gen-X’er…a child of the 80’s and 90’s. I grew into an adult with the internet. We’ve been through thick and thin together, you know? Back in the late 90’s, I fell into chatting. I remember spending hours online, back when my ISP actually charged me for the time I was logged in. I would chat with people around the world. For someone who was a little on the shy side and socially awkward, the internet allowed me to develop friendships and relationships that would have been difficult in real life. For better or for worse, I was hooked. Later, in the 2000’s, I discovered blogging. This wonderful new social platform allowed me to write, something that I have always loved to do but never seriously committed myself to. Over two or three years, I developed a nice following on a liberal leaning political blog. Like many fads in my life, however, it faded with time.

I met Myspace in 2006. She was new and exciting. She allowed me to actually share my thoughts and life experiences with friends and acquaintances. I was rewarded with feedback. While she was young, hip and sassy, she had the ability to get me into trouble. I lost good friends because of her. Over time, I slowly realized she really wasn’t right for me. It was time to move on.

Then I met you.

At first, I just glanced. You didn’t seem that interesting. Your feed was boring. Your layout was mundane. I know it’s horrible of me to compare, but unlike MySpace, I couldn’t customize your pages and change you into something I wanted you to be. When I visited you, I felt like I was given the wrong address to a party. Where was everyone? Where were my friends? Where were my peers and confidants? THIS is supposed to be the NEW media?

But I stayed. I vowed to give us a chance. Over time, you grew on me. My friends came around and I developed a social network with like minded people around the world. It was an amazing time. My feed ran like an endless river of information. I was constantly aware of what friends were eating, where my family was shopping and what my weird co-worker was listening to.

To be honest,  I must confess that I had a very short lived fling with Twitter while I was still using you. I know, I know. That’s pretty low of me, but I must emphasize it was very short lived. Twitter, she seemed just way too flighty and superficial for me. I promise. I never really loved her like I loved you. I just appreciated the quickies.

Despite my short indiscretion with Twitter, I kept you around. You introduced me to some of your interesting friends, like the always humorous George Takei. Through you, I discovered new music and movies. You helped me plan trips and meet ups with fellow music fans. I made long lasting friendships and even met the love of my life. For that, I am forever grateful to you.

But you have to understand something. For as sweet as you may seem, you deliver me a slow poison. I find myself getting needlessly upset at people I don’t know, simply because I don’t care for their opinions. Worse, I find myself sometimes using your pages to air out views that may alienate and even hurt people that I care about, including members of my own family. How can I expect those around me to respect my thoughts and opinions if I don’t make an effort to do the same with them? I know. It’s crazy, right?

On top of all of that, I’ve found that you encourage trolling. I remember during science class as a kid, we once learned about these rats that scientists were using in an experiment to test the psychological phenomenon of addiction. They hooked these crazy electrodes to the rats brains that caused them to sense pleasure every time they pressed a button with their nose. Of course, like any 14 year old boy with a Playboy and a box of tissues, the damn rats kept pushing that button over and over. The pleasure was their feedback for pushing the button.

Like those rats, I find myself trolling for the most part, for feedback, whether it be positive or negative. I’ve joined political discussion groups simply with the forethought of engaging in meaningful dialog, but the results are never as simple as that. More often than not, I find myself becoming offended by stupidity. I devolve, say stupid things, get angry, use curse words. I forget the “sensible, intelligent and caring” Drew and become this angry old man with a myopic viewpoint and the inability to be impartial. You bring out the ugly in me, Facebook.

The thing is, I realize it isn’t just me that you do this to. I see it in friends. I see it in the way that people post insane memes that have no basis in reality. I see it in the way that social media is dividing us more and more. I see it in the way you are shortening our collective attention spans. I see it in the way you suck away our time like a plastic surgeon vacuums away cellulite.

And what do I get in return?

Time is short. We have a fixed number of years, days, hours, minutes and seconds to live out our hopes and dreams. Looking back over the past few years, I’m appalled at the number of those hours I’ve committed to you.

So how long have we been together? Four years or so?

That’s about long enough.

I wish you only the best,

Drew

P.S. Okay, reading this over a few times, I realize that I may be jumping the gun here. I’m very sorry. Maybe we I just need a brief break to work things out in my head. Like I said, it’s me not you.

Oh, who am I kidding… I WISH I KNEW HOW TO QUIT YOU!

Talk to you tomorrow morning. Hopefully, you’ll have some new cat pictures for me.