Random Thoughts on Colder Weather and Socializing

Been quiet on my end the last few days.  I’m glad the weather is starting to turn cool.  Summers have been my toughest time of year for me for many years.  I guess I just don’t like day after day of sunny and hot weather.  I’m not a lizard and I can wear sweaters, get under fleece blankets, and make hot soup and coffee.  I’m usually my happiest in winter and spring.  Winter usually puts me in a philosophical and reflective mood.  And I’m usually happiest and most active in the spring.  Even as a middle aged man looking at the second half of my life and seeing many people my age the parents of teenagers, I still feel as giddy as a child when it snows.  I like Christmas, but I enjoy the socializing with family more than I do getting gifts now.  As far as gifts go, as a middle aged man I really appreciate things like tools, clothing, and money or gift cards.  Now that I’m a grown man, I understand why my dad always liked getting tools or clothing for Christmas.

As far as getting ready for colder weather, I broke down and bought a jar of instant coffee for the first time in over a month several days ago.  It takes the chill out of my bones and helps me concentrate my thoughts.  But too much can make me jittery and easily irritated.  So it’s more of a balancing act than it was even five years ago.  Caffeine just effects me more in middle age than it did when I was in my twenties.  I also decided to regrow my beard and let my hair get longer.  I more of less shaved myself bald and got rid of my beard for the summer.  Yes, I cut my own hair.  As good as my barber is, I just can’t justify paying her increased prices.  Especially since I usually do most of my work and receiving guests at home and don’t have to be super presentable every day.

Been watching more movies lately.  Watched a few science fiction movies from the late 90s and early 2000s over the last few days.  As far as movies go, I always liked science fiction and historical drama.  I don’t usually watch a lot of westerns, but Tombstone was one of my favorite movies from my teenage years.  I do like some superhero movies, especially the Batman trilogy with Christian Bale.  Haven’t watched much for comedies lately.

Still haven’t had much for socializing lately, at least not in person.  But I’m at the age when most of my friends are busy with careers and family.  All my friends except for my college friend who’s a school teacher in Netherlands are married or divorced.  I don’t hear from my brother much as he’s quite busy with his career and family.  I try to stay in contact with my best friends from high school and college at least a few times a month in spite how busy they are.  I imagine we can eventually pick up on the long drawn out conversations once the careers slow down and their children grow up.  Thanks to social media, my dad has reestablished contact with some of his old college and Air Force friends.

As popular as facebook has become I imagine there are millions of retirees in my parents’ age bracket reestablishing contact with old school friends and military buddies.  Before facebook got really big, my parents told me they were proud of how many people in my age bracket and younger were making more effort to stay in contact with friends from high school, college, and the military.  It wasn’t always easy, and sometimes it still isn’t.  But the efforts were worth while.

Some of my friends I’ve seen only a few times in the last fifteen years, but we can easily stay in contact.  It’s one of the reasons I stay on social media in spite how much negative vibes can thrive in some cases.  I have gotten to where I don’t post much, at least not around people I don’t know very well.  I usually save my best material for friends and family I know will appreciate, or at least tolerate, my eccentric humor and thoughts.

Don’t have much to rant about.  I still occasionally have flare ups.  But in most cases I can ride those out with a few minutes of ranting to myself.  I guess I don’t feel much guilt for the flare ups, at least as long as I don’t take my illness out on other people.  If a flare up occurs, I can usually deal with with after a few minutes of deep breathing, ranting to myself in a normal voice, or just stepping back and disconnecting from socializing for several minutes.

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February 5, 2019

Saw my psych doctor today.  Mentally I’m quite stable and feeling less anxiety.  Haven’t had problems with anxiety or irritability for months now.  Physically I feel better overall.  I don’t need as much sleep and I exercise a little every morning.  I’ve also started stretching every morning too.  That seems to help with the minor and annoying aches and pains in addition to starting my day off right.

Been socializing more than previously.  Even though I sometimes went entire days without leaving my apartment early this winter, I still socialized some.  Granted, socializing online and over the phone isn’t quite the same as connecting to someone in person.  But I do live in a place where not many people share my interests, so I have to make do or fake like I have a serious interest in things I really don’t.  I’m missing my old friends quite a bit these days.  As much as I loved college, I didn’t realize just how special those days were until I was out in the adult world for several years and without much for an in person social network.  Fortunately, thanks to facebook and twitter, it is easier for me to keep in contact with college and even high school friends then even fifteen years ago.

I guess that winter is now half over.  It has been a long time since I spent hours on end outdoors getting lots of sunshine and fresh air.  Even though this has been a long winter, it hasn’t been an unbearable one.  I think it helps that I have learned to manage stress better and keep myself occupied, even if it is as mundane as playing Civilization or Skyrim for a few hours at a time.

I am also listening to audiobooks again.  I’m currently almost done with The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku.  I recently started Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark.  The last ones I finished were Foundation by Issac Asimov and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Hurrari.

Continuing my self directed study too.  I enjoy those ‘What If’ channels on youtube that present alternate histories of what could have happened had even slight changes happened.  Interesting thought exercises to be sure.  Still reading online articles though not as much as I had in previous months.  I guess I’m taking some time to allow my mind to digest and process what I had previously learned.  I imagine the human mind, even as powerful as it is, can only absorb so much over a given period of time before it needs a round or two of rest, recuperation and relaxation.

After a warmup over the weekend, we are back into more winter like weather.  Granted I didn’t get the several feet of snow or the 50 below wind chills that much of the eastern U.S. received.  It was cold enough for me and I avoided most of the cold spell.  An old college friend of mine was telling me that it got almost 30 below zero in her town.

Don’t know much else I suppose.  I haven’t written much the last several days simply because I didn’t have much to report as I was just riding out the cold spell and not doing much.  Sometimes I also don’t write much if I’m feeling more stable.  But I imagine when I am stable is exactly when I should be reflecting on the problems I had in past years.  I look forward to the second half of winter.  I’ll keep everyone posted.

Easing Into Fall and Breaking Out of a Depression

Been rainy and cool the last few days.  Haven’t really gone anywhere over the Labor Day weekend.  Pretty much slept in, listened to podcasts, and talked to family a little.  I think my bouts of irritability and paranoia have passed.  Was having some problems with those for a couple weeks.  I find that sleeping more and avoiding rude people helps me.  So does eating healthier.  I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost but I am down one full shirt size since the middle of June.  And I’m not doing much besides eating more protein, severely limiting carbs and sugars, and lifting weights three times per week.

Overall I think I’m coming out of my traditional late summer depression.  It helps that the weather is cooler.  I always enjoyed cooler weather.  From this point of the year until early April I really don’t feel much pressure to socialize if I don’t want to.  Sometimes in summers past my friends and family would want to do things like go camping, go to baseball games, go fishing, or go to the park.  Sometimes I wouldn’t want to go but I’d force myself to in an attempt to break out of the depression I was in.  More often than not I did break out of it, at least for the rest of that day.  I would be glad I went out with them afterward but I would, unfortunately, be a little resentful when first asked out.  But I did make some good memories in the process even when all I wanted to do was stay home and brood.

I’m enjoying the cooler weather and the rain.  Sometimes during these rainy days, I’ll bring up some jazz music on youtube and just relax.  I like to read to jazz and blues music.  Listened to a lot of Miles Davis, Muddy Watters, and John Lee Hooker over the years while reading.  Cooler and overcast weather puts me in the mood to think, read, and write.  I do enjoy this kind of weather.

My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.

Reading, Beginning of School Year, Music, and Arguing With Myself

Still reading quite a bit.  I started a couple audiobooks in addition to the hardback I’m currently working on.  For some odd reason I prefer to be reading on at least three books at a time.  I sometimes lose interest in one after awhile and concentrate on the other two for a few days.  Then I’ll go back to the one I put on the back burner.  I spend a good deal of my time anymore either reading or working on my computer.  Haven’t watched much for tv or sports for a couple weeks.  As football will be starting again in a couple weeks, I imagine I’ll be spending some of my Saturday afternoons watching college football again.

It’s starting to feel close to fall again.  School started in my town and the college kids will be moving back in this weekend.  Even though I’m in my late 30s and haven’t been in a college classroom since 2005, I always enjoy when the college students come back.  College was some of the happiest times for me during the course of my “formal” education.  The weather has been cooler than typical August the last few days and it gets cool enough at nights that I have to pull up the blankets while I sleep.  I even wore long sleeves for the first time since early April two nights ago.

Been having occasional flare ups of irritability the last several days.  I’ve been going to bed earlier than usual to try to counteract this.  I’m also avoiding negative and rude people as much as possible too.  So I haven’t been socializing as much as I would like.  Such is the price of preventative maintenance.

Been listening to more music lately.  I don’t have any physical CDs or tapes anymore as I look all my music up online via youtube and pandora.  Why pay for tunes when you don’t need to?  My favorite genres of music are hard rock and jazz.  Strange combination I know.  I listened to a lot of country when I was in college but also mixed in heavy metal when I was reading or studying.  There really isn’t much I won’t listen to.  I do prefer the hip hop of the nineties to much of what is popular in that genre now.  I developed a taste for some of the newer techno and dance music in the last few years.  So I guess I haven’t completely shut myself off the newer music.  When I was a kid I used to get annoyed with adults who complained about the music and clothing styles of the “damn kids.”  I promised myself even before I went to high school that I would never become one of those types when I grew up.  Even today I lose my patience with people my own age complaining about younger people.  Makes me wonder why some people even have kids if they’re just going to complain and moan about them all the time.

Other than the occasional flare ups that are gone after a few minutes of inner dialog with the ‘voices’, I feel quite well overall. I’m glad I have gotten this far into summer without any true problems.  Hope things continue to go well.

A Schizophrenic Country Boy’s Journey to Enlightenment

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Starting to read more traditional books again.  For a couple years I had been lazy, by my standards, about reading.  For most of my life I always had a book I was reading on or re-reading.  I had gotten out of that habit for a little over two years as most of my reading was being done online.  I did listen to a few sci-fi audiobooks on youtube.  My favorites were Foundation by Issac Asimov and a few of Cory Doctrow’s short stories.

But I have recently rediscovered how much I love laying in bed with a book under my nose.  When I was in college, my friends thought I was odd in that I would do most of my homework in bed.  In addition to my homework, I was also reading some of the classics of Western literature from the college library.  Levitt Library was such a second home for me during my college years that I took a job as a tutor there my senior year.  I didn’t really need the money as I lived at home during the summers while working 40 to 50 hours a week and saving my summer money for the school year.

During my ‘self directed study’ program, I sampled philosophy from ancient Greece and Rome, read epic poetry by the ancient masters like Homer and Virgil, read lots of history, sampled some of the philosophy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, read some of the major works of Shakespeare, as well as much of the classic poetry of Europe and 19th and early 20th century America.  The works of Emerson and Nietchze resonated with me.  I still have some of their works on my book shelf.  My favorite classical novelist is probably Alexandre Dumas, I especially loved ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’  One summer I read ‘War and Peace’, and it took the entire summer to read it.  The summer after I graduated from college, I managed to slog through ‘The Wealth of Nations’, which is essentially the Bible of free market capitalism.

But my tastes have changed over time, when I was in my late twenties I read all the works of Ayn Rand as well as a lot of military history, namely John Keegan, Victor Davis Hanson, and Barbara Tuchman. In my early thirties, I read many economics and business books.  I enjoyed the works of Napoleon Hill, Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar, and Robert Kiyosaki the most. In my mid thirties, I became interested in all things science and future tech.  To that end, I read some of the works of Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Eric Drexler, Ronald Bailey, Kevin Kelly, and Peter Diamandis.

After a couple years of letting all this reading ferment, I am ready to dive back into serious reading again.  Even though I have spent a great deal of my life reading those famous books everyone has heard of but never actually read, there are still some books I haven’t gotten to yet that are still on my bucket list.  There are still major philosophers I haven’t gotten into much yet, namely Marx, Kant, Locke, as well as Lao Tzu and Confucious.

Before the prevalence of the internet, some of the entries on my bucket list were to visit the Library of Congress as well as all of the libraries of Harvard University.  But, as it stands now, I can get many of those rare and hard to find works online.  I have hundreds of e-books about philosophy and history that I may never get to read.  But I have them on my computer and iPod.  Kind of mind blowing to think that I have access to the treasure trove of the collected knowledge of civilization available in a manner that would have been impossible even in my childhood and for the price of only one dollar a day in wireless internet connection.  I have access to information that scholars were too often tortured, imprisoned, and killed for seeking in past eras and I don’t even have to leave my living room to acquire it.  I have access to the wisdom of civilization yet I’ll likely never have the money to buy my own house.  Only in the early 21st Century.

Yet, I enjoy living the life of a self  taught scholar.  I made myself into one primarily because school by itself didn’t completely satisfy my love for reading and learning.  Tragically, for some people, their school years stifled their creativity and killed their love of reading and learning.  Even though I make poverty level wages, I can get by with my books and writings.  I can do this because I have zero debts.  I will never go into debt again, not even to learn.  I can learn almost anything online anymore.

If there is any one thing I can take away from my years of self study, it is that the path to enlightenment is a never ending one.  I don’t want to stop learning, ever.  If I make it to my nineties and have to live in a retirement home and not be able to bathe myself, I hope at least I can still read books or online articles.  Maybe, by the time I’m ninety anyone will be able to create entire fantasy worlds on hyper powerful computers and share those with other people via powerful virtual reality.  I would love to be able to recreate some of the worlds I read about in books.  But that is still a long way down the road.  Until then, I can visit such worlds by my reading.

August 7, 2018

Been uneventful for a few days.  I’m no longer staying awake all night and sleeping most of the day.  Most of my waking time anymore is during daylight hours.  Mentally I feel stable.  I am starting to get a few more aches and pains I can’t really explain.  But I have been more active than usual.  I’m reading more books again.  For awhile most of what I was reading was online articles and audio books.  I’m currently reading ‘The Inevitable’ by Kevin Kelly.  It’s a future tech trends book.

I watch more live tv now, mostly baseball and soccer.  I still don’t watch most news as most of it is just bad news meant to catch our attention.  All the news that fit to be print, right?  I don’t have any regular shows I watch besides some Star Trek reruns on Netflix.  I do watch a lot of history shows on youtube.  I recently watched Crash Course’s entire world history series.  I always did get a kick out of John Green.

While I do get out more often, I still don’t stray too far from my neighborhood.  Haven’t really been outside of my hometown for almost six weeks.  But I am just comfortable and content to stay close to home and did most of my business here.

I think I’m losing weight again.  I notice my clothes fit looser and I can walk a little farther than I could even a few weeks ago.  I think my aches and pains are from more physical activity than usual.  I can also lift more weight than usual.  Weight lifting does make a difference even after a month.