Learning From Regrets and Mistakes of Others

I was only twelve years old when I heard someone just casually mention something to the effect, a wise man learns from his mistakes but the wisest learn from the mistakes of others.  And those few seconds changed my life for the better.  I then decided I want to live such a life that I would have as few regrets as possible when I came to the end of life’s journey.

I spent my teenage years listening to my elders complain about how much they hated their jobs or how unruly their kids were or how much they and their spouses fought.  Yet I saw almost no one do anything to change these bad circumstances.  I saw almost no one change jobs unless they got laid off or had health problems that prevented them from working.  I saw parents and their kids argue and fight over every little thing to the point the kids abandoned their parents after high school graduation and never looked back.  And the spouses almost never tried to solve their problems and often wound up divorced and bitter.  I looked out at all of this and thought that all of that was stupid. And all I heard from my elders when I asked about this was “Wait until you’re an adult” or “Wait until you have bills to pay”, etc.  All the while I was making notes and planning on how I wouldn’t fall into those traps.

I saw people have bad marriages.  That is why early on I decided I wouldn’t compromise on the woman I would marry.  I admit I was picky about the women I wanted to date.  Granted, not many of them wanted to date me.  Looking back on it, this upfront rejection saved me a lot of heartache down the road.  Why should I spend time with people who don’t want to spend time with me?  I am now thirty nine years old and have never been married.  I don’t have many friends that can say that.  But, I would make a bad husband and father with my mental illness and personality being what they are.  I try not to look back and wonder ‘what if.’  I am not anti marriage or anti family.  I just don’t think either one is right for me.  It is just part of knowing myself.

I have also left dead end jobs.  Everyone probably has worked one of those, especially in their twenties.  My first couple jobs out of college were dead end.  I left my first job out of college when my hours were being cut.  Looking back on it, I was probably being phased out.  So I moved to my current town and found another job within a couple weeks.  That too turned out to be a dead end job in the same industry.  I left after six months to go work at the local university.  I enjoyed the university job, but it was dependent on being a graduate student at the same time.  As it was, I didn’t make good enough grades to keep the job.  And since I didn’t want to go into debt to get a masters’ degree and not be guaranteed a job, I left the program.  Turned out to be a wise move.  My mental illness got worse to the point I couldn’t hold a regular full time job.  I applied for disability in January 2006 and it took almost two years to get approved.  I don’t know how anyone survives while waiting for disability to kick in without family support.  But I went on disability without any student loans.  And while I was working fifteen hours a week as a janitor at the courthouse, I was living quite well.

After a few years at the courthouse, I decided another change was in order.  I left that job and devoted myself to my blog, my writings, and my self directed scholarship.  It was a good decision, at least for me.  I have learned to live on little money and appreciate the simple things.  I have studied  several different topics over the years, all just either by going to the library or watching educational videos and audiobooks via youtube.  And it didn’t cost me anything other than internet service fees (which are only a dollar per day for my needs).  For the price of two cans of Coca Cola out of a vending machine, I have access to the knowledge of the ages.  That by itself tells me that right now, in 2019, is a very cool time to live in.  Sure we have our problems and issues, but it used to be much worse for most of history.

In short, I have tried to live my life with few regrets.  I have made decisions, while not popular with my friends, family, coworkers, etc., that made a great deal of positive difference for me.  I don’t know how long I will get to live this life.  But whenever my last days come, I don’t want to be wondering ‘what if’ or ‘should have or could have.’  For the most part, I don’t have a lot of regrets.  At least, not many I could have done much different.

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My Social Activity and Dietary Habits

Another month is off to a decent start.  Got the bills and rent paid, my fridge and pantry is restocked, and I’m now set for awhile.  I don’t have much planned for this week.  I probably won’t be having guests until my cleaning person arrives in a few days.  Since my parents and most of my friends now live out of state, I don’t get much for company anymore.  But then, most of my friends are married and have families of their own.  They have families and careers.  Whereas with a mental illness, I was forced into early retirement I guess.  But even though I don’t have a paying job, I still try to stay busy.

I usually do this blog an average of twice a week.  It has been a regular thing for over five years now.  While I have no delusion I will ever earn enough to get off disability from my writing, I still write.  At this point I don’t really care if I do get discovered and make money.  I enjoy having creative freedom and having a niche audience.  I suppose I write this, in part, as cheap therapy and as a public journal.  It probably isn’t much more than the day to day struggles and victories of a rather ordinary man with schizophrenia.  Even after living with this illness since my late teens, I still don’t have it all figured out.  Some things change over the years.  I don’t do much driving or going out in public as I used to.  But I have less desire to wander and am less restless.  I find it easier to concentrate on mental tasks than even a few years ago.  I have also found I have lost some of my physical strength and endurance now I am almost forty.  But I don’t get sick as often anymore.  It’s been something like four years since I had a cold.  Haven’t had to take anti biotic medication in at least ten years.  Haven’t been to a mental hospital in six years.  Haven’t been an overnight patient in the hospital in almost ten years.  So I must be doing some things right.  As I have lost some strengths and abilities, I have also picked up others.

I guess I’m not bothered by the fact I am entering middle age as much as I thought I would be.  When I was in college, I found it easier to imagine myself as a seventy year old than a forty year old.  I guess the only thing about getting older that bothers me is how aches and pains can come up for no apparent reason.  I am now planning my days and activities with pains in mind.  Sometimes certain foods can make pain worse.  I have found too much caffeine can make my muscles tight and sore.  I found that eating too much grain based food can leave me lethargic and weighed down.  Too much sugar can make me jittery.  Lots of leafy green vegetables make me feel pretty decent as do most fresh vegetables and less sugary fruits.  Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese are about the only dairy products I like anymore.  And I don’t eat much for salty foods.  I occasionally get a craving for Doritos chips, but after a bag or two that craving will be satisfied for weeks.

 

August 4 2019

Been a decent last few days overall.  Spent this afternoon cleaning some in my apartment.  I may have a cleaner come in once a week, but I do feel guilty if I don’t bare minimums on my own even with my limited mobility.  Haven’t needed as much sleep lately either.  Been usually going to bed around midnight, sleep three hours or four hours, stay awake until sunrise and then sleep again until ten a.m.  Haven’t been reading or writing as much as I would like this summer.  At least I have reestablished more regular contact with friends and family.  I felt guilty for not going to my family reunion last month.  But I wasn’t feeling the greatest and I didn’t want to have problems around people and scare them.  Sure my family would be more understanding than most families, but I don’t feel right taking out my issues on others.

Haven’t had any real bad meltdowns in months.  I have had a few close calls.  Fortunately, I have managed to not take them out on others.  I have had to avoid contact with people some days just so not to cause problems.  Even after twenty years with a mental illness, I am still afraid to have a meltdown in public.  I fear most people who don’t know me would not understand.  And many people are already more stressed than normal these days.

Found that listening to music helps sooth me.  So I’ve been listening to more music this summer.  I used to listen to music almost every day.  Even though heavy metal and blues were my favorite styles, I really didn’t have a style I didn’t like.  Youtube and Spotify are gold mines of good music, and my Spotify costs like 12 dollars a month for the service without advertisements.  It is not uncommon for me to have music on while I play Civilization or the Total War series.

Haven’t watched as much baseball this summer.  The Rockies are slightly below .500, so they won’t likely make the playoffs.  Haven’t watched much for sports since the U.S. women took the World Cup.  I got to see most of those games.  I have been watching old football highlights on youtube, mostly Nebraska from the 80s and 90s, to get ready for football season.  First college games are in only a few weeks.  Summer is definitely drawing down.

I guess I have been taking it easier than normal this summer.  I still lift weights three times a week and do the exercise bike a few times a week too.  I try to socialize some every day, even if it is just online or over the phone.  Social media isn’t as stressful for me as it was a few years ago now that I have figured out how to better use it.  I have lots of friends on my lists, but only a handful I actively follow on a day to day basis.  I spend a lot of time with small tech enthusiast groups.  I try to avoid the larger groups as they can sometimes become kind of irritable with each other on controversial topics.  I don’t post as much as I previously did, sometimes I’m more content to read linked articles and discussion threads.  I try not to get involved in heated or pointless discussions.  I make efforts not to feed trolls and troublemakers.

I believe that, overall, social media is a good thing. I also believe in free speech.  And when free speech and social media gets combined, it allows me to find out what people are really like quickly.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not.  But if privacy and deception aren’t dead, they are certainly on life support. Social media makes it easy for someone like myself who wants to have friends and be involved but doesn’t have great social skills.  I am a bit socially awkward in person, so that is probably why I didn’t make a lot of friends until I went to college and met people even more awkward and quirky than myself.  I don’t hide the fact I am eccentric and odd.  As a grown man, I don’t feel the need to try to please people I’m probably not going to please to begin with.  It’s too bad I couldn’t tell this to my teenage self.  But it comes only with experience.

Being A Sports Fan With Mental Illness

Things have settled down a great deal the last couple weeks.  So I guess I haven’t had much to report.  Been staying close to my complex and avoiding the mid summer heat wave.  And the days are starting to get shorter.  School will be starting in about three weeks in my home state.  Fall sports practices start in a few days.  Pro football’s training camps are already going.

Football is probably my favorite overall sport to watch, followed by baseball, soccer, and basketball.  I love the strategy involved in football.  I like baseball in that it is played almost everyday and is more relaxed than football and basketball.  I always did enjoy going to baseball games.  When I was in college, I used to go to my college’s home baseball games all the time, at least when I didn’t have classes those afternoons.  It helped that I had a few friends on the team and my best friend played baseball in high school.  My college didn’t have a football team, but the local high school played their home games near our campus.  So a few of us who were football players in high school would go to a few games a year.  We did have a soccer team.  I didn’t start following soccer until a few years ago when the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup.  If the U.S. men’s or women’s team is on, I’ll make it a point to watch.  But I really don’t have a favorite pro team.

I do like watching football.  For several years it was the only reason I kept my cable hook up.  But now I can get most of the live games I want to watch online.  For a few years I would have the Nebraska Huskers game on my tv and another game going on my computer.  October is always a favorite time of year for watching sports for me.  Football season is going, baseball playoffs are starting, the European soccer leagues are going, basketball practice is starting, and hockey is going too.

I bring all of this up to mention that even mentally ill people can like sports.  One of my old friends from one of my support groups was a living football almanac even though I don’t he ever played outside of youth leagues.  Huge Kansas City Chiefs fan.  And we had a lady who was the exact same way but a huge Denver Broncos fan.  Naturally the group leader occasionally had to redirect the discussions to include everyone else.  And we had a third man who was a huge baseball fan.

Granted sometimes the ribbing between fans online and in person can wear on me, especially if I have been having a rough time with the mental illness.  I admit I take things more personal than is healthy.  But this is the nature of the illness.  I usually excuse myself from such discussions.  At least sports fans aren’t as hostile to each other as people are about politics, not from my experience anyway.  Because of the ribbing some fans give each other, and sometimes I get kind of jittery during close games, I usually don’t watch ballgames with anyone besides close friends and family.  I’ve been to sports bars and restaurants with friends, but usually not when my Huskers or Rockies were playing.  I know some people really love how a sports team can bring a diverse community together, but I guess it is a solo intellectual pursuit for me (as are most things).

I do love watching a good sporting event.  But I guess I can do with less heckling and trolling from other fans.  But since I can’t control everyone else, I just don’t engage in that kind of activity to start with.

July 25 2019

Feeling pretty decent overall the last several days.  Got some errands done I had been pointlessly putting off for a while.  Our apartment inspections were last week and as far as I know we did alright.  I think we would heard if we didn’t do well by now.  So things are starting to settle down again.  My neighbors and the complex staff seem to be less on edge this week than the last few months.  I still usually spend much of my time at home even though I make it a point to leave the apartment at least once a day, if for no other reason to check my mail or buy a snack out of the vending machine.

I think I’m losing weight.  I notice my clothes feel looser and when I do get winded, I recover quite a bit faster than even three months ago.  The big things I’m doing are I have cut out most sugar and carbs, lift weights three times a week, and do a stationary exercise bike a few times a week.  I usually eat only twice a day, usually protein rich lunches with water and fresh vegetables.  I don’t do fast food or fried food anymore.  I think I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s in almost a year.  The only caffeine I have most days is a cup of coffee when I wake up for the day.  I usually go to bed around 11pm and wake for good around 6 am.  Most days I’ll take a nap in the afternoon.

As far as restaurant food goes, if I’m going to spend the money on restaurant food, it’s usually delivery pizza and Chinese when they are on specials.  I haven’t eaten at a buffet for probably over two years now.  I just enjoy doing my own cooking and eating at home anymore.  Most of the time now, I’d rather host friends and family than go out to their places.  I’ve hosted Christmas for my family for three years now.  I have to admit I don’t drive much anymore.  I still run my car every few days just to keep it current in case of emergencies.  But, with as good as delivery services have become in the last few years, some public transit in my town, and now that my town has a few Uber drivers, I really have little need for my own car.  Which isn’t tragic for me as I sometimes get overwhelmed with sensory overload when I drive, especially in heavy traffic or bad weather.

Been reconnecting with old friends again.  For awhile I didn’t get to talk to anyone outside of family much.  Some of my friends been having problems with being overwhelmed and anxious too.  Seems like most of my friends are struggling one way or another, whether it is job security or relationship problems or money issues or all three.  Even though I get lonely occasionally, I am glad I don’t date.  Mostly because my mental illness makes me a lousy boyfriend.  But the occasional loneliness is why I keep in contact with the friends I had in college, even though I’ll probably never see some of them again.  I love social media in that aspect.  And I have noticed that people don’t seem to be as short tempered with each other now, at least not like they were 3 to 4 years ago.

Overall I’m enjoying the summer and looking forward to fall.  School starts in my town in about three weeks and the days are getting noticeably shorter.  Winter and spring have always been my favorite times of year, a close second is mid October to Thanksgiving.  I’m even beginning to enjoy Christmas more now that I can shop from home and not have to deal with so much sensory overload in the mall.  Summers can still be tough for me, especially from early July to mid September.

Middle of Summer Stretch

Been quite hot here the last several days.  We had some flooding in my town a couple weeks ago.  It caused a few evacuations in the areas of town near the river.  Fortunately I missed the worst of it as I live on high ground. But it was kind of scary getting flood warnings on my phone every few hours.  My cleaning lady said one of her client’s entire basement flooded.  I’m glad we got it easy in my part of town.

Our complex had a major inspection last week.  We have those every few years, in part to make sure everything is up to speed.  As far as I know we did well.  We usually do.  Even though I live in low income housing, our managers have traditionally been on top of things and made points of dealing with issues before they became problems.  I had maintenance men in here doing some minor work a couple weeks ago.  I have been staying close to home for a couple weeks when we heard inspections were coming up.  Naturally, some people were a little more on edge than normal.  But since things have come and gone, it’s starting to calm down here.

Overall I think people in here, and people in general, are starting to calm down some.  Or maybe I’m able to deal with people easier than earlier.  I still don’t leave my house for long but I can when needed.  I noticed that people seem to be more civil to each other on social media than usual.  Or maybe it’s just my friends and family giving each other more slack.  I do love social media.  It is an easy way for someone who has issues with socializing to connect to old friends and make new ones.  I have a few new friends in my discussion groups, but I haven’t given out my phone number or email address.  I don’t give those out to people I don’t meet in person.

Summer is in full effect.  But it won’t be long before school starts again.  Our schools in town usually start about the third week in August.  My nephews and niece will be starting school in Oklahoma about the same time.  My eldest nephew will be starting high school this autumn.  I still remember the day he was born.  It was the summer after I graduated from college.  The days go slow but the years go fast.

Overall feeling decent most of the time.  I still occasionally have minor flare ups that don’t last very long.  Sometimes just stepping back and taking a few minutes to myself is enough to clear things.  Summers are usually a tough time for me.  But so far it’s been alright.

 

Dealing With Self Doubt

There are times when I am in the grip of a mental illness flareup that I fear that I make no difference.  I sometimes fear I make no difference in anything I do.  I fear I make no difference to my friends, family, neighbors, peers, etc.  I certainly fear that I make no difference with this blog even though I’ve poured my heart, soul, and life into it for years.

One of the things that makes me doubt myself and fear I don’t make a difference is that I constantly repeat myself.  As much as I repeat myself, especially when trying to share some positive news of what is going right, I get convinced my words and actions fall on only deaf ears and blind eyes.  I get burned out on telling people what is actually going right and that most of the doom and gloom that is the accepted spirit of our times are really temporary setbacks and not the end of the cosmos.  But no one outside of a handful of people are listening and what I say means nothing.  At least that is the impression my disease infested mind keeps giving.

Most times I can’t read a person or what they are thinking at any given moment.  I can’t easily gage the moment the moment thoughts even if I can easily trace long term trends and possibilities.  I suppose it’s similar to a military general who isn’t good at winning individual battles yet ends up winning an entire war simply because they are excellent long term planners.  Even as a child I was a much better long term thinker than I was on a short term.  And it used to irritate my friends, teachers, bosses, and parents real bad.  Anytime I tired to explain that they were sweating the small things while losing sight of the entire picture, well I was condemned for having problems with authority and being a hopeless dreamer.  Very few appreciated the fact that I was a long term thinker outside of a few cool teachers, my two best friends in high school, and my grandparents.

Of course this learned apprehension about not making any difference, at least not short term, has been made even worse by the mental illness.  I try my best to remind myself that I am making a difference and I am making people think and question why the status quo is the way it is.  And when I am not in the grips of the illness I know I am.  Sadly, when the illness wins out, I seriously doubt my own abilities and if I am making a difference.  I suppose it’s like a rapid version of the change of seasons or even high tide and low tide.  The human mind is that powerful in that it can make false or distorted perceptions into an individual’s reality.  We think, therefore we are I suppose.

I try telling people about the struggles involved in mental illness.  But during moments of weakness I fear I make no difference.  I know it’s not considered manly to express or feel fear or express and feel anything for that matter.  But I no longer care about the expectations of others.  Haven’t since I figured out at age seventeen that nothing I did would be considered good enough for some people.  Some people will never be satisfied with what I do simply because that is the way they are.  Such people are lost causes not worth even talking to or thinking about as far as I am concerned.  I deal with such people only when absolutely unavoidable.

I try telling people about the advances in science, tech, humanitarian efforts, etc.  But it makes no difference to most people.  I remember a line in The Matrix were an AI named Agent Smith stated to the effect that humans find definition and meaning in misery and suffering and are incapable of accepting happiness and peace.  I find this to be true in many of my day to day interactions with others, even with close friends and family.  I hope it’s the blinders cast by the illness that makes me think this way.  I really do.  Maybe we vastly overestimate how much can be done on the short term but vastly underestimate the changes that can be done medium to long term.

Perhaps that is why the days at a dead end job or raising small children drag on forever but the years and decades pass rapidly.  One day you’re 27 years old and get a bad annual review and a demotion from your boss or your two year old is screaming like he’s demon possessed because you won’t buy him a candy bar in the Wal Mart check out.  Those days feel like a torment right out of Dante’s Inferno.  But, wake up and you’re in your fifties and you’re the boss giving out bad annual reviews or you’re an elderly man on your death bed looking out at four generations of offspring from your marriage and feeling kind of bittersweet for not taking more time to appreciate your kids when they were asking endless questions or for foregoing summer vacations and weekends to work a thankless job that, not only didn’t miss you when you retired or got laid off, but can probably be done by a machine or algorithm better and cheaper.

Every cemetery in the world is full of people who never could imagine a world where their labor or delusional self importance wasn’t needed.  We are living in that said world.  Billions of dead people who couldn’t imagine a world as it is now and getting along just fine without them.  Our descendants will live in such a world that won’t remember us for what work we did or what stupid arguments we were part of or anything for that matter.  Because of genealogy, some people might get their names remembered for centuries.  But no one will remember or care what they believed, how they worked, how they treated their kids and spouse, how they voted, etc.

Rather than being saddened by this fact of life, I am actually encouraged by it.  I don’t have to save the world by myself.  I am not the center of the cosmos (thank God).  I am not responsible for the short sightedness and ignorance of others, only my own.  And I needlessly worry about how others live their lives, especially if it doesn’t directly harm me or those I care about.  I am not a superhero who has to save the world.  I’m essentially an independent scholar with numerous interests trying to encourage those I encounter in this adventure we call life.  Yet, because of my illness, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that I am just one man among billions of humans and that I don’t have to win all battles or save the cosmos on my own.