Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Let's Dig In: Depression Part II (the good, the bad, the I need all the potato chips in my belly now dammit)

I was trying to go to sleep when this image popped into my head of a vast open space covered in green grass and flowers with trees off in the distance. The sky is blue with white puffy clouds. It's warm. Birds and happy insects flying about (like the big fat fuzzy bumble bees, not wasps and mosquitoes). Sounds perfect. Looks perfect. Happily, I'm sitting on the ground, in the grass looking up at the sky and around at all the beautiful things... with my feet dangling over the edge of a giant deep dark hole in the ground. So why did I have to get up and write this down in my journal at 4am? What does it mean? It is a visual representation of my life with depression. On my good days I get to sit outside with my feet dangling in the depression hole. The warmth of the sun on my face, the breeze lightly blowing through my hair. I'm never very far from the hole. It's there all the time waiting for me to forget it's there and I fall in.  Some days I even get up and walk around and explore. Other days I trip and fall into the hole. Sometimes I get stuck on a ledge and the sun can still reach my face. Other times I fall all the way to the bottom of the hole. Normal people get to run around far from the depression hole. They may trip and fall and skin their knees, but they never have this constant quiet threat of a depression hole. Damn you extroverts and your bomb social skills. I imagine that bipolar people are one day at the bottom of the hole looking up and the next floating in the clouds. They never get to experience the ground. That's sad. At least I don't have that.

I've been having less bad days with some good days sprinkled in. I'm mostly just right in the middle. Not super happy and not super sad which is how I know I'm not bipolar. A song popped to me on my ipod on a run recently that comes pretty close to how I'm doing. And it's not a Twenty One Pilots song! I know, shocker! Listen if you'd like. It's One Republic - Better. The chorus says this: I think I lost my mind, But don't worry about me, Happens all the time, In the morning I'll be better, Things are slowly getting better, Sing it again.

I've been making slow, steady, small changes, one at a time. Making big drastic life changes all at once, like going cold turkey, only leads to big drastic failure, in my experience. So starting way back in September I made my first small change. I stopped binge eating. Once I got that under control I made the next small change. I went from eating three meals a day to two. Once I adjusted to that I made the next small change. I started to exercise. First just walking (I used walking to the coffee shop to get a drink, to curb the binge food cravings), then the rowing machine, and now running. Once the habit of exercise was reformed, the next small change was implemented. I stopped drinking soda.

I need to work on a few things still. I've been running somewhat consistently now. I signed up for a 5K with my boob. My friend. She calls me her boo and she's my boo too so she's my boob. She has big boobs. Never mind. She's my friend. Yes I have friends dammit. I used to use food or soda as a motivation to exercise. If I went for a run, then I could go get a soda. But I can't do that anymore. I needed to find something, some reward for achieving my goals. What are my goals, you ask? Well, I got fat remember? I got 30 pounds overweight fat. So my goal is to loose those 30 pounds. And I needed to set small incremental goals (every 10 pounds) with rewards for hitting them. So what can I use as rewards? Can't be food. I don't need or want stuff. I hate shopping. So I decided on tattoos. I have wanted to expand and add to the arm band I have. Perfect. So when I reached the first 10 pounds milestone I walked into the tattoo shop and gave my artist my ideas and said have fun designing.

As of posting (I wasn't going to post this till I actually reached it) I have hit the next 10 pounds milestone. So my reward? My first session.

There's 10 more pounds. And from experience, the last 5-10 pounds are the hardest to loose. My body is very well adjusted to the new eating habits. And my body is pretty adjusted to exercise. I will start to gain muscle faster than I loose fat so my weight will likely go up before it goes down again. So I have to run farther and faster. Start weight lifting. Eat healthier foods. It has taken about 4.5 months to loose 20 pounds. It will likely take half that, possibly more to loose the last 10. Because these last 10 will be the hardest, I've decided to break it into two. So I need to figure out what the rewards will be for the next and last 5 pounds. I have an idea, and yes they are tattoos.

The next small change is sleep. That's what I need to work on next. Going to sleep at 4am and waking at noon is probably not the healthiest thing. Even with all the small changes I have made, the daily struggle of depression is always there. There are some days I wake up and I just know, instantly that it's not going to be a good day and I won't be a proper functioning adult. But, there are other days I wake up and I know instantly, that it's going to be a good day.

When I first started writing this in... February, I was having a string of good days. Now that I am finishing this, I have been in a long string of bad days. Today was the first good day in a long few weeks. Not to burst your happy bubble, but that's just how it works. When I started this post, I was sitting in the grass, as I finish it, I'm a few steps up off the floor of the bottom of the hole. That 5K? We never ran it. We were to run it in January, and it's now close to the ides of March. That tattoo I got for reaching my 20 pounds lost goal? I didn't actually make it. I was one pound away. And I've since gained some back. It feels like I gained all of it back. I've had two sodas, two days in a row including today. I binged an entire can of Pringles and a family sized bag of peanut butter M&M's last week. I haven't been wanting to write in my journal. I set three goals for the next day in each entry. They're usually easy like: run, work 2 hours, and do laundry or go for a walk, shower, fix the kitchen drawer. Because I failed to do pretty much any and all for a while, the last one from a few nights ago simply was: get up, survive, go back to bed.

And that's exactly what I did. It's what I do. It's what every other depressed person does. We get up every day. We survive however we can (some days we may not make it out of our pj's while other days we accomplish all three goals and then some), and we go back to bed every night. And do it all again. Keep breathing. Keep getting up.

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I and Part II     Depression Part I    Obsession     Anxiety Part I

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lets Dig In: Anxiety Part I (I may look fine, but I'm screaming inside)

Guess what else I have besides depression? That's right, you guessed it, a two for one special in aisle self worth and doubt; anxiety. Yay

There are several varieties of anxiety, and let me tell you I have them all. I live and deal with them all with varying degrees of ... success? But today we're going to focus on Performance Anxiety. This type doesn't just smack me upside the head if I have to give a speech, or some type of musical performance, oh no. Anytime I have to get up and talk in front of people, have to call someone on the phone, an interview, giving a work presentation (even over a conference call), speaking in meetings, meeting co-workers, bosses, or even co-workers working for me for the first time. You may not think of some of these things as "performance anxiety" situations, but I have to perform. I'm the one in the spotlight. I have a job to do (perform).

A family friend visited my dad and I a week or so ago for the day. He asked if I had done any field work recently. And I was explaining why I don't do field work much anymore. But I had recently done a very small survey for a cell tower installation, and I was explaining how just that simple task can cause anxiety. He was shocked to hear how much preparation I do, even for a simple cell tower survey that took less than 10 minutes to actually do. But I do all these tasks and preparations to keep my anxiety from overwhelming me and keeping me from doing my job. I have to prepare for any outcome. Which vehicle should I take? How many miles from my house is it? Are there alternate routes? Is there a gate? Which road do I use as access? Who do I have to call to say I'm coming? Where should I park? What does the area look like? What's the terrain? I Google Earth the shit out of it. I print out maps and aerial images. Check batteries in my backup GPS unit, charge the phone, get all my field gear packed into said vehicle I chose to take earlier. All the day before I even leave to do the tiny survey. I've learned to just not think, and dial the phone number of the mystery person who answers when I have to call to say I'm coming. Otherwise I flounder and over think all possible outcomes of said phone call and I get so worked up, I can hardly talk and form sentences when the mystery person answers. I didn't say to our family friend that the map app on my phone didn't work, so it was good that I had looked at maps and my route before, and that even though I knew where I was going and what to look for, and what the place looked like, I was having to do breathing exercises to calm my nerves the closer I got to the site.

I have to do varying degrees of this preparation for any part of my job that takes me out of my house. I work from home these days, by the way. The more I do something, like say drive to Turlock to do what we call Records Searches at CSU Stanislaus, the less anxiety I feel. I know how to get there. I know several, and have driven several alternate routes to the school's campus. I know where all six car charging stations are on campus. I know where all the pay stations are. I know where the building and room is now. I know my way around the stacks and file cabinets, and how finicky the copy machine is. But do I still get anxious? I do. The last time I went there, four of the six charging stations had blue screens of death. There was a car charging on the fifth one. I was lucky that the sixth and final one was open and working. Otherwise I would have had to find somewhere to charge the car... in the middle of The Central Valley. I have an app for that, but still, I was starting to panic a bit driving from parking lot to parking lot and seeing the blue screens of death. Another good example of what happens when even with all the preparation I do, everything goes wrong, and what happens to me is here.

I have a trifecta, a triple threat. I'm an introvert with depression and anxiety. Let's all have a panic attack! Wee! I know now from life and job experiences I have had what will and could give me anxiety. I know how to control my breathing. I know what works and doesn't work when I get nauseous from said anxiety. I know how to curb it, lessen its effects on my body and psyche. I know to prepare. I know when to say no. I know what I can and cannot do and what I am willing to put myself through. I know all this now. When I was a kid or even a teenager? I had no idea.

When I was a kid, I was shy. I knew that. I took piano lessons from about age 6 to 16. All but I think one of my piano teachers was a wife of a pastor. Whether they were the head pastor, associate pastor, or music pastor, their wives gave piano lessons. Was that a prerequisite back then? As a kid, I loved the piano. We had a piano in the house. I had keyboards. I had piano key wall paper in my room. It was the compromise with my mom when I said I wanted to paint the walls black. As I got older, I got better at the piano. I liked playing for people when they came to visit. I played a song on my little keyboard for show and tell in elementary school. In fourth grade I started learning violin in school. I was in the middle school orchestra and high school orchestra. And I took private violin lessons for a few years in my early teenage years. It was during my teenage years that performance anxiety started to creep in. Playing the violin in the orchestra was fine. I liked it. Playing with a group was fine. I started having problems when it was just me. My private violin teacher had all her students compete in a competition that I can't remember the name of. But if you won your division, you would go on to compete state wide. Anyway, being one of her students, I entered the competition. My dad took me to the competition. It was in a school auditorium I think. I just remember being in this large room and there was a music stand next to a piano and you stood in front of a long table of judges, and behind them was the "audience" (all the other competitors and their parents). Well, the girl who went right before me, nailed it. And it happened to be the exact same piece of music I was playing. I made it through. I was shaking so much. I finished. I did horrible. And after the judges made their comments and such I left the room and puked. Apparently my teacher saw the terror in my face. She pulled me aside after the competition was over and said, "I will never make you do that ever again". She was true to her word (bless her). I never had to enter a competition or perform at her recitals after that day. Some time later, I was in high school, I stopped taking private lessons in violin. My teacher and I agreed that I wasn't going to get any better. She saw my limitations, and I came to realize them as well. I continued on playing in the high school orchestra... in the back row. And I was fine with that. I even continued to play in college a bit. I minored in music and so played in the beginning orchestra for a semester, and played it for a bit, before learning the trombone, in the MLJ's (Marching Lumberjacks).

 My experiences with piano are bit more sinister. Like I said earlier, as a kid, I loved playing and performing on the piano. As I got older and better, I started signing up to play the offertory on a Sunday morning at church. My teacher and I would pick out a song and work on it for my performance. The day would arrive, and I'd get nervous. Sweaty hands and the shakes. My ears would burn hot. I would get through the song. I'd usually do a pretty good job but I would always make at least one or two mistakes, that to me were very obvious. But I'd get done, everyone would clap, and I'd get a few accolades after the service from people. I felt good after, and determined to do better next time. Well one of those next times ended up being the worst experience I ever had while sitting at a piano. Even my mother was pissed off, not at my horrible bombing at the keys, but at what happened right after.

Well I had this big cool idea about how I was going to tell this trauma tidbit, but I couldn't find the song book this particular song came out of, and I can't remember the name of the song, or even how it went. It must have been quite traumatizing if I actually got rid of the book and can't remember anything about it. Anyway, here's the less dramatic version: I bombed. Everyone knew I bombed. But I pushed through and finished. I was almost in tears. I stood up and was about to walk out of the sanctuary to go hide in the bathroom for the rest of my life when the asshole pastor that was there at that time called me over to him... ON STAGE. I don't remember his exact words anymore, but said something to the effect of "good job on powering through that. Go practice some more, you obviously weren't ready, and come back and play it again", then patted me on the back or something. By then I was balling my eye out, snot was running from the nose, face red from extreme embarrassment. I'm an ugly crier. It's one thing to say something after I left the stage, but it was extremely embarrassing and very traumatic for me to be called out, told to walk to center stage where he was and be both "comforted and scolded" in front of the entire congregation. No one would have seen me crying, had I been allowed to flee when I wanted to. I have to note here too that this pastor had very poor people skills, which is why I put comforted in quotations. He thought he was doing something good and encouraging for me when what he did had the opposite effect. After I was excused, I went and sat down next to my parents and cried some more. My mom was pissed he did that to me. She knew how nervous I would get. She wrapped me in her arms and said "do you want to leave?", I nodded my head (since I still couldn't speak), and she took me home. Maybe a month or so later I was slated to play the offertory again, and I was going to redeem myself and play that song again. I practiced my ass off. The Sunday arrived, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't get up on the stage. I told my piano teacher (who was the church pianist) that I couldn't do it. She said okay, and she took the sheet music from me and played it herself. She bombed. Not nearly as bad as me, but she made noticeable mistakes. That made me feel slightly better, knowing that even my teacher couldn't get through that song without messing up. She later told me during one of our lessons that that song was hard and not my style. So we chucked it. But from that point on, my performance anxiety got worse. I got even more nervous. It's at the point now, that I will start getting anxious or nervous days before I have to do whatever it is I have to do.

Now this same piano teacher, who was the church pianist, was grooming me to take her place. She didn't want to be the church pianist. I wanted to learn Chopin, Debussy, and Joplin. I didn't want to be the church pianist. That style of music and playing was not in my wheelhouse. She was shoving church music down my throat when what I really wanted was to learn Rags, Nocturnes, and Concertos. But I never said anything. I was timid. I just wanted to please her and everyone. I eventually stopped practicing what she assigned me. I'd make up excuses (sometimes they'd be legit like when I'd jam my fingers playing softball). And eventually I stopped showing up for my lessons. I quit. I stopped playing piano at church. I lost my passion for it. Had I had spoken up and said, no, I don't want to learn this. I want to learn to play this, perhaps I'd still be playing today. I eventually taught myself to play Chopin's Prelude #4 in E Minor from an "easy" book, but what I wanted to learn and couldn't teach myself was Chopin's Nocturne #2 in E Flat. Which one is that, you ask?

After that traumatic experience and being taught what I didn't want to learn, I lost the desire to perform. I found that the nerves would not go away, no matter how prepared I was. And I became increasingly frustrated by my own limitations. I was a good pianist. But I lacked the simple ability to be a great pianist. There comes a point where I just stop improving, no matter how hard or long I practiced. Not everyone has the ability or talent to be a great pianist, and I was slowly coming to terms with my limited ability. It was so frustrating. I just wanted to be able to play certain pieces, and I just couldn't.

That piano teacher eventually left the church for another (her husband was a music pastor). I did not fill her shoes when she left. I did play the violin as part of the "worship team" for a year or so. Which I was completely fine with. Playing with a group on an instrument that wasn't front and center was fine. No nerves, no anxiety. And playing church music on the violin was not difficult.

In high school and college I could pick up and learn a new instrument easy and fast but no matter how hard I tried or practiced,  I could only reach a certain skill level. I always wanted to be better but my fingers just couldn't do it. It was so frustrating to the point I would just quit. I picked up classical guitar, electric bass, and trombone. I took lessons in each, and learned on my own. And every one, I quite out of frustration. What that has to do with anxiety, I don't know. It doesn't, I guess.

I so wanted to be a musician when I was younger. I wanted to be in a band. I wanted to be in a symphony orchestra. I wanted to tour the world and play music. My dad had bought me midi software for our family computer that I could plug my keyboard into. I wrote so many songs. I loved recording and layering tracks. I was showing off a piece I was working on to my then extended family. My then sister-in-law was so impressed (I still think she was just catering to me, but whatever) she wanted to use the song in her wedding. So I worked on it and worked on it, and my dad worked on how to get it onto a cd, and it was used in her wedding. I was so proud... and frustrated, because I heard all the little mistakes I made. I'm sad that all those songs I created are lost and gone forever.

So in my last years of high school and into college, I knew that my dream of being a musician would not happen because of two things: my lack of skill and my performance anxiety. Even if I could have concurred one of those things, the other would have still stopped me.

You know what I just realized while writing this up? I have little to no pictures of me actually playing any instrument. The only one I could find is in here above (my dad found the one of me playing my bass). That's kind of sad.

Well, so now you know a bit about why I'm not a professional musician, public speaker, teacher, or anything involving me being in any kind of spotlight. And I didn't even go into any details about panic attacks, stress induced anxiety, self image/doubt anxiety, travel anxiety, or social anxiety. Oh yes, all those are so fun too.

So until next time... Don't be offended when I don't answer your call, say no to your invite to a crowded bar, or trip to the mall on a weekend. I have my reasons.

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I and Part II     Depression Part I    Obsession

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

But I'm a grown-up

I have to keep reminding myself that I am a grown ass adult. I can do whatever I want. If I want to stay up til 4am watching random YouTube videos, I can. If I want to sit in bed all day in my cat PJ's, I can. There's no one telling me I can't or shouldn't do that, but me. There's nothing wrong with staying up til 4am. I don't have a job where I have to perform brain surgery at 8am. No. So why do I think that it's so wrong? It isn't. Maybe it was a bad idea when I was still in school or had a job that started at 8 or 9am. But I don't. What's the big deal? Why do I hate myself?

Why does that voice still have so much power over my choices? Why do I still believe it when it tells me staying up til 4am is bad? Or that waking up at noon is lazy? Or that wandering around my house in my PJ's all day is pathetic? Hey, I don't wear them to Wally World, okay? I don't even shop at Wally World! Get off my back, man.

Growing up we're told as kids and teenagers by our parents that you need to go to bed at a "decent" hour, and get your proper 8 hours of sleep, and get up every morning and put on proper "you're going out in public" clothing. Go to school, do your homework. Did you brush your teeth? When did you last shower, you stink.

I think that it is so ingrained into my psyche that it has become this annoying nag of a voice in my head. So that every time I don't want to sleep and watch video's or read weird articles on the internet or play farm heroes on my ipad til 4am, I feel this overwhelming sense of guilt. Or when I just don't want to go outside my house and only get dressed from the waist up (bra's are important to me), and stay in my cat PJ's and Dr. Who slippers all day, I feel like I was a lazy slob or crazy cat lady shut-in who just wasted an entire day of her life doing absolutely nothing? I may have actually accomplished many things in my PJ's, but I'll still feel like I just wasted away, sitting on my ass on my bed surrounded by my cats. I only have two cats, I'm not an official crazy cat lady yet. Wait, how many cats does it take to become a crazy cat lady? Are their rules or requirements? Hold on, let me check... the INTERNET!!!!

A cat lady is a cultural archetype or a stock character, often depicted as a woman, a middle-aged or elderly spinster, who owns many pet cats. The term can be considered pejorative, though it is sometimes embraced.
Women who have cats have long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood. In more recent decades, the concept of a cat lady has been associated with "romance-challenged (often career-oriented) women". Specifically, it has also been embraced by lesbian and queer women.

Oh Wikipedia.... Wait there's a syndrome? Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome? What's this? Oh, it's just toxoplasmosis, a very common parasitic disease that in healthy people shows in flu like symptoms or no symptoms at all. It is contracted by eating poorly cooked food or infected cat feces. Ahhhh, okay. Wait, I said that wrong. I'm not implying that people eat cat poop... well I'm sure some people have. The human species is quite dumb. So some cats have this parasite, they poop it out, and some stupid human cleans their little box with their bare hands? Who does that? They make poop scoopers people. You never have to actually touch the poop. Gross. And wash your hands. Wash your goddam hands... with soap!

So yeah. Wash your hands, wear a bra, and then do whatever the hell you want. Tell that nag to fuck off!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Let's Dig In: Religion Part II (where my existential crises and limited philosophy skills play together)

These are some of the rabbit holes my brain goes down when I'm off on an existential crisis. A majority of times I'll stop myself from going down the rabbit hole because I don't want to think about such things, and because there really aren't answers to the questions, at least not satisfying ones. But it is important to think about such things... sometimes. You just also have to stop yourself because it could drive you bonkers. So for me, maybe writing these things down will help me to stop before I go completely bonkers. Also it's important to stop oneself because these thoughts often get dark and can lead to dark corners of the mind that house the negative voices. And giving them a voice can lead to bad behavior and wrong choices and ultimately harm others or oneself. So on THAT lovely thought, here are things and concepts I struggle with:

One of the first things you learn in church is that god created the heavens and the earth. *He created the world in seven days, and created "man" in his own image. I know as an enlightened individual that all the earths creatures were not made in a week, but what a day is to god is probably not the same to us humans. We equate a day as a single revolution of the earth. So if god is sitting up there in the universe looking down at our little spinning ball, it's probably spinning pretty fast in his eyes. Basically I'm saying time and space are irrelevant here. So yes, I think those who take the "god created the heavens and the earth in seven days" thing literally are a bunch of ignorant fools. Now if I take the stance of only science and that gasses and quarks, atoms, and space dust floating around and banging into each other and slowly over billions of years making planets and stuff, I can understand it to a point. I get evolution and the slow creation of plants and animals. But you cannot create something from nothing. So where did those elements come from? Okay so there is stuff out in the universe. But where did it come from? The worlds religions answer that with a being who created the stuff of which we and the universe is made of. Ta Da! This is how many people of science are also religious. The god got it all started. But do I believe that? I can't wrap my head around that concept. So if I can't even believe that fundamental element of faith of pretty much every religion in the world... am I just screwed? I can't explain the something from nothing.

Second thing is the concept of a soul. Humans evolved over billions of years into the species we are today. And if we don't ruin the planet or blow it up in our stupidity we will continue to evolve. So if god created us, at what point in our evolution did he decide this is the point in our development where I give them a soul? We as a species, religious or not, kind of accept that we are conscious beings, the smartest species on the planet, and have something in us that sets us apart from all other species. Conscious thought, a soul. But is it a soul? Is it evolutionary instinct? Intuition? Something happened the day my mom died. And everyone in the room saw it. My mom left her body before her body stopped working. She was still breathing, heart beating, but she wasn't there. Her "soul" was gone. We looked at her and said she's already gone. Just the outer shell was there. Science cannot explain my mom leaving her body prior to her body dying. But religion can. Religion gives an explanation of a soul and what it is. So did her instinct, intuition, and brain (whatever it is that makes us the unique species that we are) stop working first and that's what we saw or did her soul leave first. Did god take her soul prior to her body completely stopping? I don't know. I can go see my mom at her grave. I know that her ashes are under her name plaque. But I "know" she isn't there. What made her her isn't in that urn in the ground. But I don't think she is out floating around in the universe as a conscious being either. And I don't think she is a conscious being in heaven either. I understand that it makes us feel better to think that after we die there is something else. That we continue on in some way. It makes us deal with people dying around us easier to accept. To "know they are in a better place" or whatever. I kind of like the idea that we just cease to be. The brain switches off, the body stops working, and our consciousness just goes to sleep. The end. There's no judgement. No purgatory. No heaven. No hell.

So does this mean I believe in nihilism? Eh..... not really. Because I want my life to mean something. I want purpose. I want meaning. I want to be on this planet for a reason. If I believed that life in general is meaningless and my existence means nothing, then there would be nothing holding me back from just ending said life right now, because what's the point. I don't want that, and I don't think any of you want that either. I need my life on this planet to mean something, to have an impact. I need a reason to live, to keep breathing. I'm not done yet.

If interested, here's some other interesting/funny things I find on the internet:

Here's an 18 year old kid, who at 16 had an existential crisis and his conclusions: NateIsLame My Thoughts on Religion

And here's a collaboration of a young animator (TheOdd1sOut) and a musician (Boyinaband) poking a little fun at living a balanced life: Life is Fun

Lastly for the day, I take issue with religious leaders who play politics. On second thought, I don't want to talk about this. Lets just say that these people are utter shit heads who are horrible, idolize and worship false gods, are power and money hungry (the exact opposite of what a religious leader should be), and give religion and believers a bad name and image to the world.

*In the earliest versions of the bible before being translated into English multiple times, god was not masculine or feminine. God was just god, a being. But in our so called modern culture, god has been given masculine characteristics and prefixes. So growing up in the church, god was always male. And therefore males were better than females. So I always felt this underlying resentment toward the church because I, as a female, was somehow deemed a lesser being. Because Eve was made after Adam and from Adam, she therefore belonged to him. Was less then. That may not have been the lesson intended, but that's what I learned. And no one ever said, "no, no, that's just some dickhead mansplaining bullshit. What god actually said was all humans are created equal and in god's image." Period. End of debate. Male, female, equal. Lesbian, gay, trans, equal. Black, brown, white, equal. Native, immigrant, refugee, equal. Rich, poor, homeless, equal. Autistic, genius, dumb as a doorknob, equal. Whatever you are, you are not more than or less than any other human on this spinning blue ball we all call home in gods eyes. That is what should have been taught in Sunday school. That is what should be taught in Sunday school.

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I     Depression Part I      Obsession Part I

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Have you tried rebooting? I hear it's all the rage

Just turn it off and on again. Instead of New Years resolutions, and yes I know I'm posting this before Christmas, I'm rebooting myself. Every single New Years resolution I have ever made, I've broken. It doesn't work for me. And I'm not saying making them is bad. I think for some people, maybe even many people, they are good. They are suppose to motivate you, to make you want to become better human beings. So be a better human being, dammit! sorry

I've decided to reboot instead. Like clearing your web browser. Or cleaning out your cache and deleting your cookies (your web cookies, not the real ones in the cupboard). Or hitting reset on that game. But more like actually rebooting your computer after it crashes right before your auto save saves so you loose all the work you just did. Yeah, that. So instead of punching my metaphorical computer (myself) or going all Office Space on it every time it crashes (fails at something), I'm going to reboot (start over) it.

I'm also not waiting till next week either (why does everything new have to start on January 1st? It's just another day, it's not like some super awesome most amazing person was also born on that day or anything). I hesitate to say I've had a sucky year because I know that many have had WAY worse times than I, but it wasn't all sunshine, butterflies, and rainbows. Not even a single unicorn.

Part of my reboot was getting help for my depression. Yay. I started journaling, which has helped in pulling the writer part of me out of her dark dank hole (hello blogger, nice to know you still exist on the internet). And today I got a haircut. May not seem like such a big deal to you but I haven't cut my hair in well over a year. I did cut my own bangs (so I could continue to see out of my eyeballs) and I did shave off the back (that was sort of liberating), but still, going out and having some stranger try to make small talk while cutting my hair is a big deal, okay? Geesh. I think I did good though. I think I said enough random mundane things to not make her think I was too much of an awkward, slightly pudgy, crazy cat lady freak show. There were only a few long drawn out silences. I call that a win. Also the "blowout" part where she pulls your hair with the brush thingy and the hair dryer bit felt good. Yeah, I'm not weird at all.

Also today I bought a new shower poof. So out with the old and in with the new. Apparently you're suppose to switch them out every 30 days????? Seriously?? Yeah, I uh.... well... *cough* I have a new one now. I should switch to a new toothbrush while I'm thinking about it.

With the journaling thing I mentioned above, I've been writing three goals for the next day. They are by no means monumental goals. Not trying to save the rhinos or anything. They are usually quite simple, like do all your work assignments, make dinner, go for a run, do laundry, or shower because you stink. Small things. And some days even these small things are too monumental for me to accomplish, but I can usually do one or two. So I am finding that even though some days I can only manage a shower, I've accomplished something that day. I wasn't a failure... at that. And guess what, I ran twice this week. Don't mind that that was last weeks goal, but I did do it. I'm learning to celebrate the little accomplishments. I got out of bed today and put on adult clothes! Woo Hoo!

So yeah, please stand by while I reboot... it may take a little time... you may want to go get some snacks.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Let's Dig In: Religion Part I

*Trigger Warning* We're going to talk about organized religion and why I don't like it.

I started going to church in utero.  The church I grew up in wasn't the strictest, but it wasn't the most open either. There were rules, and you were suppose to follow them. There were certain things you were suppose to do and certain things you were suppose to say and if you didn't do those things, you were told you were wrong, and you were living in sin and you were not going to heaven because of it unless you asked for forgiveness and changed and conformed. I never felt bullied. There was pressure, but I never felt threatened. I never felt comfortable though either. I never felt like I belonged there.

Being gay was wrong. Being transgender was wrong. Dating or marrying someone outside the faith was very frowned upon. A former pastor was kicked out and his license was taken away because he and his wife got divorced. So growing up in that environment was at times very confusing to me. My grandparents got divorced but my grandma was still a church member. At first, as a child, I just accepted what I was told and taught. But I was at odds with what I was told to believe and do and be and what I thought and felt I was and who I wanted to be. I can remember when I was very little, maybe 5 years old, and my mom or dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. A simple question asked to many a 5 year olds. I distinctly remember saying, "I want to be a boy when I grow up". I don't remember what my parents thought of my answer or what was even said but I vividly remember saying that. I was standing in the hallway at our old house outside my then bedroom. I meant it. And I remember feeling the peach fuzz on my upper lip and thinking when will this grow into a mustache? How old will I be when it starts to grow? (The answer is early 20's) Of course now when I see any random hair that isn't fuzz on my face I yank that sucker out. I also remember thinking when I was in my late teens and 20's, thinking that because I wasn't into dating or boys or having sex that I was maybe a lesbian. But then I thought, I'm not really into girls either. So what was wrong with me? I did figure that one out. I am heterosexual, but I'm also asexual and if you don't know what that is or means, you should go figure that out, go learn something and broaden your horizons on what the range of human sexualities and genders are (there are more than two). This was always a conflict within the religion I was brought up in. There were two genders, there were men and women and they had certain roles to play and if you deviated too much from those roles then you were deviant and sinning and hurting god. Well fuck that shit.

It was okay to be single... as long as you were still looking for your mate. "That poor lady. She must be really sad and lonely. She hasn't found her other half yet." So sorry, that you think I'm only half a person for not marrying.

I know that many of you who read this know me personally from the church, but you also then know that I swear a lot in this space and many of you also know I don't go to church now as an older adult. I finally stopped going every week by around 19-20, and completely stopped by age 21. I only go now for special occasions. When my mom was still alive, she wanted the family to all go to Christmas Eve service. So I went because she's my mom. But I wouldn't participate. I don't pray. But out of respect when my dad or other family or friends do, I bow my head.

I'm just uncomfortable there. I've tried other churches, other denominations, and other religions. I'm not at ease with any of them or within any of their walls. I feel like I'm being manipulated there. They use music, lighting, and the way the leader speaks to invoke certain emotions within me. I don't like that. But that's what they are suppose to do. It's suppose to be a "religious experience". How else are they to do it? I don't know, but I don't like it.

So now do I call myself a christian? No. Do I call myself an atheist? No. Do I call myself agnostic? No. I don't know what I believe. Do I think there is an afterlife? Usually no. But then I find myself in conversations with people and I say things like, "well my mom is happy now, she's with Jesus." When I die, will my soul/spirit go somewhere? I don't think so, but then I think that's kind of sad. Aren't we suppose to think about how great it will be to be reunited with all our loved ones again, like my mom? If there is an afterlife, will I go to the "good place" because as a child/young person I "accepted Jesus into my heart"? Well, that depends on which religion you believe.

I start to question myself and doubt myself and think there might be something wrong with me because I just don't feel or believe in it. And I see these amazing and brilliant people around me like my dad who is super smart and has a very emotional and analytical mind who whole heartedly believes in god and heaven and who knows with every fiber of his being that when he dies, he will see his wife again. How can I then, in my own mind believe that that is all bullshit? That religion is just man made stuff made up to make people feel better about those unanswerable existential questions? Does he feel like a failure because his children aren't necessarily religious? Do other's see him as a failure for it? You better not, because we're freaking awesome!

Then I think well I'm a good person. I try to make the world around me better than I found it. So then if I'm wrong and there is a god and the religion I was raised in is "the one correct" religion will I then go to hell? Because I chose not to believe or do I get to go to heaven because deep down, I'm a good person. Are all the other religions wrong? Because if you look at the majority of the earths religions, the big picture and over arching themes are all the same. It's only in the details where they differ. So then are all religions the correct religion? Or are all these people who believe such things stupid for believing? There are some very intelligent people out there who are religious. They can't all be wrong can they? Then I think well then why do I have such a hard time with the concept?

I was religious for half my life so far. I tried. I tried to fit in. I tried to conform. I was in the scouting program. I was in church musicals, youth group, bible studies, worship team member. Even went to church summer camps and conferences. Listened to christian music, went to christian concerts and festivals. I was never comfortable. I couldn't be who I wanted to be. I couldn't be my true self. I couldn't say what I wanted to say. I was never comfortable in my own skin there. Why would I continue to go to a place week after week, year after year, if I was uncomfortable? That's like a slow torture.

Again, this is mostly about organized religion and churches. I have a long list of issues I have with organized religious institutions. Which is why I won't go to church services. (and that goes for protestant, catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc.) Maybe at some point I will delve into some of them, but not now.

People always tell young people or anyone to "just be yourself". Well I can't do that with these walls and rules and judgement.

So am I a christian (religious in general)? No. Am I agnostic? No. Am I an atheist? No. So what am I then? You have to be something. Everyone has to be something. Well, if you have to have an answer now then, the best I can do is, I am human. You may think that's a cop out or lame or a way to avoid the question and answering it but that's all I got right now. I am human.

Is my dad wrong for believing in a higher power? No. Am I wrong for not believing? I hope not.  What you choose to believe is right for you. What my dad believes is right for him. Everyone's beliefs are individual and specific to each. No two people believe the exact same thing. So what I believe is very different than my dad and neither is incorrect. Both are valid. And belief and faith evolves. It grows and adapts and morphs just like we do. We as individuals grow, learn, forget, adapt, and morph our entire lives. My beliefs will change. And so should yours.

Let's Dig In Series links: Depression Part I      Obsession Part I

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Let's Dig In: Obsession Part I, At it Again... Not quite an addict with a pen

Before we even get into this, I started working on this months ago (literally months ago). So the beginning dates to this past September. And slowly got worked on a bit at a time. And I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea. This took sooooo much time and effort. There's a lot of links. (all links are to the band's YouTube videos whenever possible) And it's not a funny poop story or roadtrip adventure. Maybe later. Okay, so here it is:

My dad switched up his music playlist a few weeks ago (it's back to his usual again - it was a short lived diversion), and thought I should do the same. Actually I've finally moved on a bit from Thirty Seconds to Mars 24/7 finally anyway. Not sick of them by any means, but thought I should put some variety in there. Started slow with the new Imagine Dragons single, Natural. Then I saw that Muse has a new album dropping in November and pre-ordered it and downloaded the singles they have released so far ahead of the album. (Imagine Dragons and Muse's albums are now out) And while I was scrolling through my itunes where I saw that Muse was releasing new stuff soon, I saw that Twenty One Pilots were as well.







Sweet mother of God, these boys! Just... UUUHHHHHHGGGGGGGGGG
Where do I start? First, lets begin where I first heard them... on the radio. They rose to radio over time and then pretty much saturated the alternative, rock, and pop stations to the point of being over played between 2015-2017 (they even won a Grammy in 2017). I heard them on the radio, liked the songs, and then went into itunes and downloaded the two albums that were getting the radio play: Vessel (2013) and Bluryface (2015). I first saw them on TV in 2015, with their performance at the VMA's (that's when I realized they were just two guys). In 2016 they released a single, Heathens for the Suicide Squad movie. And that was pretty much it for me. I would listen to the albums every once in a while, but never really delved into the duo, or their music videos and such. I understood then that their music and lyrics had substance and meaning (how can you not realize this with songs like Migraine and Car Radio, for Christ sake), but for the most part, I kept my listening superficial. I thought they had spent most of their career (I thought they were much older than they actually are) underground (i.e. purposely away from radio, radio charts, being famous, etc.), had a few radio hits and got mainstream exposure, but preferred to go back underground. (after doing some research when I got obsessed, I learned that they were underground and got pushed into the mainstream, and after the (over)exposure, purposely went silent - I'll explain more later). My first impression of them was that they were these intense kinda angry guys, maybe a bit older than me, who hated being exposed to the mainstream. Booooiiiii was I wrong.

And then... I saw a video interview recommended with Tyler Joseph (the singer/song writer) on YouTube (while I was looking at Thirty Seconds to Mars stuff). Yay for YouTube with their, hey you may like this section. It was 35 minutes long and about their new album coming out on October 5th. Oh my goodness. I went into the interview not knowing anything about the band, Tyler Joseph, or anything about their upcoming album. And after, I was intrigued. Not just intrigued, but full on "I have to know it all, and I have to know it now". And so the deep dive into YouTube everything Twenty One Pilots began. I have yet to come up for air. I even re-watched that initial interview after I learned more about them and caught so much more upon the second viewing (I think I've watched it 5 times now-don't judge me). Here's a link to it if you are so inclined. It's REALLY good.

Seriously these two boys are amazing. I'll try and be as brief as possible in explaining their background. Back in 2007, Tyler Joseph made his first record, No Phun Intended in the basement of his parents house (it was never officially released). He was 17, a senior in high school, and paid to put the songs on itunes (He's since deleted them-but nothing is ever truly gone from the internet). He, with two friends (Chris Salih on drums and Nick Thomas on bass) formed Twenty One Pilots in 2009 and self-released their first album on their own, the self titled Twenty One Pilots. While working on their second album (again self-released), Regional at Best, in 2011, both Salih and Thomas left the band and Josh Dun (drums) joined (who met Tyler after one of their shows and they became fast friends). They got the attention of the music industry by selling out large venues in their home state of Ohio and signed with Fueled by Ramen in 2012 (Tyler successfully negotiated to maintain ownership of their previous songs and albums and all future songs. That's amazing for a 22 year old). They released their "first" studio album (but really their third) Vessel in 2013. Followed by Blurryface in 2015. Followed by the single, Heathens in 2016 for the movie Suicide Squad. Great song, horrible movie. They then went completely silent (stopped touring, no interviews, no social media) for 15 months (the dreaded hiatus). And during that time came up with Trench (released October 5th, 2018). I recommend the video series' the band puts out for their releases and tours, starting with Regional at Best, Blurryface Tour Highlights, Twenty One Pilots Goes East, Emotional Roadshow Tour Highlights, Sleeper Series, and the Bandito Tour Series (which is going on now).

Ok so now that you're sufficiently bored, on to the cool part (it's all cool to me). These two have a very passionate fan base which they named the Skeleton Clique. And with any fan base there is drama and screaming tweens and teenage girls, but we won't dwell on that (because that will just make all our heads hurt). What I think truly makes them unique and powerful are a few things. 1: their genre blending (they do not fit into any category) much like Linkin Park. 2: their lyrical content (very introspective, often very dark, but always hopeful and uplifting [you have to pay attention]), and 3: the two boys themselves.

Point 1: These boys blend and merge genres not just in an album, but in songs. Tyler will rap and play the ukulele at the same time or pound the piano keys in a hard rock or electric synth dance song. A few examples: Ode to Sleep and Heavydirtysoul, both of which opened each album Vessel and Blurryface respectively. Many times song structure is completely thrown out the window, as well as time signatures, tempos, and genre. And somehow it never sounds wrong.

Point 2: There are only a few songs that aren't introspective in some way. Tyler has only written two love songs... both of which are to his wife and both are somewhat twisted (Tear in my Heart and Smithereens). He wrote House of Gold (on Vessel) for his mom, and Legend (on Trench) honoring his late grandfather (who graces the cover of Vessel along with Josh's grandfather). He never writes fluff. No sex, drugs, or money bullshit. Which is why I despise most rap music today. It's usually very personal and about his and Josh's personal demons. Their songs are multi-layered. He almost always writes in metaphors, so that listeners can inform their own meanings. One of my favorites off Vessel is Guns for Hands which basically talks about how he has a hard time going to sleep knowing that there are people out there (fans) who are harming themselves or thinking of killing themselves. He writes:

I know [...] That you all have guns
And you never put the safety on
And you all have plans,
To take it, to take it, don't take it, take it, take it

He then goes on to say to take that negative energy and instead of focusing on yourself, to turn it and project it at him.
We've turned our hands to guns, trade in our thumbs for ammunition
I must forewarn you, of my disorder, or my condition
'Cause when the sun sets, it upsets what's left of my invested interest
Interested in putting my fingers to my head
The solution is, I see a whole room of these mutant kids
Fused at the wrist, I simply tell them they should shoot at this
Simply suggest my chest and this confused music, it's
Obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist

He talks a lot about depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Tyler admits that he suffers with depression (like real dark). Josh admits to suffering from anxiety (crippling). Both are very open about their struggles. And although Tyler has never said in public, we can speculate from his lyrics that his depression has led him to some very dark places where perhaps suicide was contemplated. (he writes in Migraine: Thank God it's Friday cause Fridays will always be better than Sundays' Cause Sundays are my suicide days. And in Car Radio: There's no hiding for me I'm forced to deal with what I feel There is no distraction to mask what is real I could pull the steering wheel. Addict with a Pen: My trial was filed as a crazy suicidal head case.) Some fans go as far to say that he may have even attempted it. But again, that is all speculation. However, he freely admits and is very clear that his music and the creative process of making and performing said music saved his life and continues to do so. He delves into this very subject in the above linked interview.

Car Radio (on Vessel) talks about how dangerous it can be to be left alone with your thoughts when there is no distraction. How it is both frightening and necessary at times. They've also jabbed at the music industry a few times (listen to Holding on to You, Lane Boy, and Levitate). If you watch Holding on to You, then watch the Behind the Scenes of that video, and then watch the music video again... there is a particular scene in the video involving a rope, that Tyler had a very real moment that was caught in the behind the scenes. Two people in the video saw this moment and tried to help him, only one of them succeeded. But if you go back and watch that moment in the music video... he isn't acting. That's just real, raw, and honest emotion.

My current favorites are as follows: Air Catcher (off their self-titled album). It reminded me right away of an old Colplay song, Politik the opener off their second album A Rush of Blood to the Head (which definitely came out first in 2002 when Tyler was still just a wee 13 year old) I listened to this on my drive home from Arcata way up in Humboldt County recently. It was on repeat until I learned the words and then went on repeat some more while I upped the volume and sung along... very loudly. I feel on this song and on this album in particular you can just feel Tyler's frustration and anger at life and the noise in his head and struggling to understand it and handle it.

Guns for Hands
Which I've already talked about above.
He says: While you're doing fine, there's some people and I
Who have a really tough time getting through this life
So excuse us while we sing to the sky



Cut My Lip

Critics have often said of them that their songs and lyrics celebrate or glorify depression and suicide. They couldn't be farther from the truth. They weren't paying close enough attention. Listen to Neon Gravestones off their latest album. This is one of the only times he doesn't write in metaphors. Yes Tyler writes about his demons. He writes about depression, self harm, anxiety, doubt, and suicide. But you have to pay attention. In every song I've mentioned so far, each is a story, a narrative, and each have a solution or conclusion that ends in victory.... not death. Migraine: And I will say that we should take a day to break away From all the pain our brain has made, the game is not played alone And I will say that we should take a moment and hold it And keep it frozen and know that life has a hopeful undertone

Truce: Now the night is coming to an end The sun will rise and we will try again Stay alive, stay alive for me
He's always offering solutions. Options that have helped him. Whether that be their music, any music, creating something, creating any form of art, faith in a higher power, or reaching out to family or friends. Kitchen Sink (Regional at Best) is a perfect example.

Okay on to point 3: because I can ramble on and on about song lyrics. These two boys are just pure joy. Geniuses. Precious smol beans that must be protected. They really do just radiate positivity.  They are goofy goobers. Complete and utter dorks. They have an amazing bromance. They really are best friends. And they feed off each other and rely on each other. I honestly don't think they would be the young men that they are today or be the musicians they are today without each other. I was trying to find a video or interview that best encapsulates them but there just isn't just one. There are so many little gems and inside jokes and really good interviews (why Taco Bell is sacred, why they are called smol beans, their aversion to bananas, the fact that they make up a new story of how they met any time they are asked). I'll just say if you choose to go digging, here are my suggestions. For good interviews check out the ones by Stryker from KROQ, Donny Fandago from 105.7 the Point, and the "press conference" where fans got to ask questions by ALT 98.7 FM, The Woody Show from 2015. And just because it is freaking hilarious, this 4 minute video of Josh and Tyler's conversation while playing Happy Wheels Adventure (video game) where they coined the term "Use your glutes".

So I said I'd dive into their genius a bit, and I've touched on it slightly already, but if you choose to dig into their music, you notice themes and concepts and an evolution right from the very beginning. Now whether or not they planned this all out from the beginning, I doubt, but because of how Tyler writes and the way they construct their music and live shows and music videos, it allows them the add on meaning and new interpretations onto their older material and continue stories and themes that were started way back in the very beginning. The Blurryface album was about a character named Blurryface and was introduced in the song Stressed Out. A character that represents Tyler's insecurities. And by the end of the album, Blurryface is defeated (Blurryface is manifested visually by the black paint Tyler smears on his hands and neck in music videos and live performances). In the latest album, Trench, and if you clicked and watched that first interview, you know that it is a "concept" album and expands what they created in the previous album. Artist don't really make concept albums anymore. It's quite risky, they risk alienating radio and mainstream media consumers (which they don't care if they do). I can only think of three other bands that have done/do this recently. The American Idiot album by Green Day, Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, and what the Gorillaz do with all their albums. So part of their genius is that you don't have to know any of the story to enjoy the album(s). You may not understand some of the lyrics, but it doesn't take away any of the surface enjoyment of the songs and there is meaning to each song that isn't tied to the concept. There are layers. But for those who like digging and stories and mysteries.... you can go down to the bottom, underneath the insane asylum and get lost in the world they have created. Some examples without going way nerdy on you (since you've stuck around this far):

The Jumpsuit video (Trench) is a continuation of the last video they made Heavydirtysoul from Blurryface. They actually knew and started planning Trench when they made that video. You can see that Tyler isn't wearing red (used as a theme on Blurryface) and Josh's hair color is yellow (Trench's color). The hooded figure driving the car is a Bishop (whom we don't get introduced to until Trench).
The three part story they made in the singles they released in their music video form: Jumpsuit : Nico and the Niners : Levitate are a call back to the song A Car, A Torch, A Death from their self-titled album (the videos tell a story even though they are track 1, 9, and 2 on the album). The song Car Radio (from Vessel) is mentioned in Levitate. The song My Blood has a call back to the lions den reference in Migraine (Vessel). The Nico and the Niners video has call backs to the music videos Stressed Out and Ride. And the car from the Heavydirtysoul video is in the Jumpsuit video as well as Levitate and is used in their live shows on the new tour.  Hype isn't, to my knowledge, a call back to any of their previous work but it just reminds me of my good old days. Very reminiscent of late 90's Oasis or early 00's Blink 182.

Then the way they announced their break (the dreaded hiatus) and the content for this world they created was so cool. There are whole websites and YouTube channels dedicated to it all. I just can't explain it here.

But if you so choose: The dma.org site they created is again genius (you have to start at the bottom of the page). Every couple days or weeks they would post something new to the site over the summer. And you can spend hours, days, weeks picking it apart or you can do what I did after solving just one mystery, go to the subreddit where everyone else already decoded stuff and posted their theories. I can't find the one I read now, but here's someone's synopsis of what went on to the lead up of the release of Trench. It's old now, and some of the theories (one in particular that Tyler is Clancy) have been proven incorrect now. But it's fun to get a glimpse of how fans were decoding things as they were happening. FPE (part of their iconography and tattooed on many a body, from the song Fairly Local, the Few, the Proud, the Emotional) now has another meaning in the world of DEMA (Failed Perimeter Escape) which if you are well versed in the world means so much more than just what the words are. They love doing things like this. Filling words that normally don't mean anything with meaning. Jumpsuit, East is Up, Bandito, Sahlo Folina. Say what now? That last one. There are layers upon layers to that one. Unscramble the letter and it spells out "all Ohio fans". "Sahlo" means to enable in Somali and the name of Folina has a meaning of "happiest when you are expressing in some creative, artistic way, and not conforming to strict routine" so it means "to enable expressive creations". Then in a Reddit Q&A, Tyler responded saying that, it's their cry for help when they're in trench. And then there's this theory, which I like a lot (you can skip to .56 to skip past the ad) Sahlo Folina.

Here is a list of YouTuber's who have really good content and explanations and theories about the new album and stuff. If you're lazy like me and want everyone else to do the work for you:

Pop Song Professor's theories and explanations on the new album Trench (he also does some really good song lyric analysis)
Dema for Dummies Part I click here
Dema for Dummies Part II click here
Dema for Dummies Part III click here

Gingersheep: If Tyler and Josh are smol beans, then Gingersheep is the smol bean of the fandom and must be protected. I'll just link to his YouTube home page because he has too many really good videos. But he is a good source for all things Dema and Towers of Silence, and Vialism, and the dma.org website. The link above about Sahlo Folina is his.

Nalbis did a three part series. He's an aspiring film maker. A bit weird and hokie at times, but really good.
The Dema Universe click here
Who is Clancy click here
Welcome to Trench click here

Wheatmaker: I just found her, she deserves many more followers and views, in my opinion. She's a physicist. I like her because unlike the Pop Song Professor, who can sometimes come off as over emphasizing how religious each song is, she comes at them with the more analytical side of the mind. Yes you can interpret many of the songs to be about god, praying to god, reaching out to god, god, god, god, etc.,  but that's not the one and only way. I think the majority of the Clique is christian (the boys themselves identify as christian), and so that interpretation of the music is most prevalent when looking at YouTube content. However, part of their genius is that you don't have to be a religious person to find meaning in their songs. And Wheatmaker, I think, brings a much needed discussion that the religious leaning Pop Song Professor does not, that the new album is saying there are problems with blind faith/organized religion and there are problems with only relying on science. Both have issues, yet one can't rely on just one or the either. So songs like Morph discuss that juxtaposition.

Some honorable mentions:
Pillow Pilots: who started out as a fan animation page and morphed into all things fun and silly to
entertain the fans during the so called hiatus.
CrankThatFrank: a self professed Emo God, who's reactions to the band coming out of the dreaded hiatus and their music video's is just fun to watch because he is so genuine. His reactions to the video trilogy: Jumpsuit : Nico and the Niners : Levitate

A few more thoughts. I swear I'll finish this soon. I had a few observations on my deep dive into all things Twenty One Pilots. I was never nervous playing in an orchestra or band. Only once in the MLJ's (HSU Marching Lumberjacks) was I unable to play. Which was when I was the only bone player and a song on the set list had a bone solo. I played second parts, not first and couldn’t play the bone solo. So I told the axe major I couldn't do it. We still played the song, but I handed my trombone to a trumpet player (who is an amazing trombone player) just for the solo. Something happens when you put the uniform on. Whether it was the crazy MLJ gold t-shirt or the slick black of orchestra attire. I'm not shy or reserved in a group performance or when in disguise (which is one reason why the boys wear masks sometimes). Individual performances were a whole different story. I would get nervous and anxious to the point of crippling performance anxiety. I puked my guts out after a violin competition. It got worse as I got older, to where I couldn't even get up on the stage. To the point where I quit playing all together. I stopped taking piano and violin lessons, in a way so that I wouldn't have to perform anymore. Tyler and Josh can’t do it solo either. They need each other. Somehow knowing that you’re not alone in the performing or experience allows me to not experience the sometimes crippling effects of anxiety. Tyler has said many times that he would never do a solo project or "go solo". Both of them say that they couldn't get up on those huge stages night after night, show after show, if the other wasn't there. Having that support, the "you're not in this alone" is so vital to people like me and them.

I still can’t listen to Linkin Park (I swear this isn't some random tangent). At least not entire albums. If a song comes on a playlist or radio, it's fine, but I still can't just seek them out and play their entire discography. Especially their last album. I'm not the biggest fan of pop (which their last album sort of was) but also because the band catered to Chester on that last album. His vocal range to be specific. They wrote the lyrics first and then arranged the songs and created them in key signatures that best fit his range. They usually wrote lyrics last. And the lyrics are so spot on to him and his demons. They were hopeful but then in the end he lost his war, which still makes me sad and angry at the same time. Maybe it will change with more time. I didn’t care for The Hunting Party album when it came out. It was too hard sounding. But now it’s my favorite album of theirs. Mike has released his first solo work after Chester's death and is touring and sharing about his time with Chester. He said, I think at an awards show, how after Chester died, Tyler from Twenty One Pilots called him and reached out.

ALL of THAT to say, this band, these two boys and their latest album Trench got me to a state where I was able to write this blog post. The album was released the night before. I listened to it twice all the way through not an hour after it was released at midnight on the 5th. I listened to that quiet one and listened to Vessel in the car while I drove to the park. When I got to the bench, I pumped Trench into my earholes, and that blog post just gushed like flood gates were released. It's rare that that happens to me, where my hand can barely keep up with my brain (unlike this blog post that I've struggled with for almost three months). I wrote so fast, for fear of loosing any of the thoughts that were pouring out. So thank you Tyler and Josh. Thank you Twenty One Pilots for being that first handhold, that first step on my way out of my hole. Because before I was just down there at the bottom looking up at the light, hopeless. The journey out of a deep depression is long I am finding. Which is normal, so I'm told. Also thank you to those of you who read that post and wrote me or reached out. Thank you. Knowing you're not alone and that other people who you know personally have some of the same difficulties you do is affirming. I'm still in the hole, but I'm not standing at the bottom anymore. There are good days. There are bad days. I saw my primary care doctor who referred me to a therapist, who I saw last week. I'm back on birth control pills. And I'm slowly getting back into exercising. Due to the extremely bad hazardous air however, I'm just using the rowing machine in my garage. But I'm learning that small victories are victories. Small steps in the right direction are still steps in the right direction.

And finally, I bought tickets to their show in Oakland, that was on the 11th. The concert was sold out, so I had to buy scalped tickets which were way over original price, but I felt it was worth it. And boooooiiiiiiii was it. I took my BFF (who when she agreed to go with me didn't know who they were) who is now completely obsessed with them. She texts me randomly saying, "damn you, I now listen to them in the car, while working, and at the gym". I'm like a proud mom. We talked and talked about how both of us just needed that night. How special it was. And just the simple thing of looking forward to going to a concert with a friend can literally save your life. She's so obsessed now that she called me the other day and said "So keep May 12th open in your calendar." Uh, why? I ask. "Because Twenty One Pilots will be playing in Vancouver Canada that night and we should go." Well hot diggity. After I got off the phone with her, I went to their website and looked up the tickets. She called me back, and I told her what I was doing and I said I can buy them now. So I did. So BFF, her daughter, and I will be flying to Canada in May for yet another amazing weekend. And I'll get a stamp in my new passport... finally! And that's one more thing to look forward to. That's one more handhold, one more step in the right direction. East is Up.

Let's Dig In Series links: Depression Part I      Religion Part I