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Friday, August 12, 2016

The Eastern Arts of Relaxing

So I don't think it's been a secret that I've not been my normal happy self since I lost my job at Wells.

I wouldn't say I've been depressed, but it's been more of a constant state of anxiety and exhaustion. Since March, I think I've only woken up feeling refreshed maybe 25-30 times.

When I first lost my job, I combated the anxiety by working out a ton. I would run the 2 miles to the gym, bust out an hour workout, and run the 2 miles home. When Sal got off work, we'd go for a walk, maybe hit the gym a second time, and I was constantly cleaning and working on house projects.

This kept the endorphin's flowing enough to where the anxiety didn't paralyze me into a state where I was sabotaging myself interviewing for jobs as you all know, I landed another job pretty quickly.

I like my job a lot. I love the company and people. I know that it's going to click. Most of what balls up in my neck and chest is the anxiety of not knowing how to do my job. It's also this snowball effect of constant adult anxieties that have been building since essentially I started high-school. Every year, it gets a little larger, even when I see some relief in things causing the anxiety.

Now that I'm working again, at a pretty demanding job, I find my workouts have gone out the door. Heck, I'm lucky if I can get up from my desk for more than 2,000 steps a day. (Comparison, at wells, I usually ended the day with 3,500-4,000 steps)

So exercise isn't holding off the demon anymore.

So, getting desperate, I started trying some non-traditional things.

First, I went to acupuncture. I told them that both my leg still hurt and that I constantly felt stressed and tired.

They popped about 20 needles into my leg, arms, and head and I sat in a room for 45 minutes listening to calming string music and water moving.

I think I went to a different place during this. I went to some state of nirvana. The 45 minutes felt like 5. When they came to take the needles out I felt incredibly refreshed and ready to take on the weekend.

I'm going back today and there's some battery inside of me that is yearning for it.

The second thing I started doing it meditation.

A guy I listen to on a podcast started talking about how meditation has changed how he lives life and how it really relieved a lot of stress and anxiety. He had a hard time considering meditation because of the instant picture most people get in their head when you talk about it, IE people think of hippies with pony tails and Asian robes chanting while sitting cross-legged.

And that's why he recommended Dan Harris' "10% Happier" book. Dan Harris hates those hippy types, but meditation did change his life. So it's written from the perspective of an average Joe.

Dan is a news anchor personality who had an anxiety break-down on air after not working on his stress for years and started seeking ways to fix himself.

I've been doing it for about 10 days now. I wouldn't say I'm getting close to Nirvana, but it is nice to have 5 minutes a day with no noise, with my eyes shut, just thinking about breathing.

And it's starting to have an affect. Part of my anxiety and stress has come from the unknowns of the future, or dreading the future, or missing the past.

Every Sunday night, I start dreading signing into work Monday morning because I just don't feel relaxed enough.

I stare at how much we still owe on student loans, medical bills, and our car every other week and just feel like the balances will never be close to zero. It puts me in a very nihilistic frame of mind where I think, "Why am I on this hamster wheel at all? What's the point of working so hard if most your money is going to these things?"

And then nostalgia kicks in where I think about a simpler time like college. I was working 50 hours a week and going to school full time, but I knew what I was doing. I had relatively low debt. My rent was cheap. My body was in good shape and I just want to crawl back into 2006 like a warm blanket.

Meditating is about staying in the present as much as possible. It's not saying don't plan for the future and don't look back on the past with a smile, but it's saying recognize the moment you're currently living in. Realize how much you're enjoying that sandwich or how great the wind feels against your face while you ride your bike.

I'm starting to realize how much I lean on the future dread and the past. I haven't exactly figured out how to stop it from negatively affecting me yet, but the fact that I'm noticing it feels like real progress.

So I'm hoping by continuing acupuncture and meditation, I'll get to a good spot.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

That Mushy Brain

I can't wait to have some autopilot at my job.

I still love it a ton, but I still feel like I know very little. The application support borders on coding which I haven't done since high school. The business aspects of the job are understandable but out of my range of innate abilities.

Basically, I dread signing in every day because my brain hasn't recovered from the previous day.

I miss having 3-4 hours of my day where I could go on autopilot because I knew what I was doing. Right now, it's still 8 hours of new information. I actually don't know if I've ever had to concentrate for that long of a time.

My previous job, even when I was learning it, there was downtime between calls. I would come home tired, but not completely destroyed like I am now. I maybe had to concentrate 5 hours when I first started in tech support and browsed video game forums in between calls.

College, I maybe had to concentrate 3 hours a day if I had a heavy 3 class day.

High-school, hell, besides math, Spanish, and maybe a few science classes, I could auto-pilot the crap out of history, English, health, social studies. So besides having to wake up at the ungodly time of 5:45 am, it wasn't so bad. I maybe had to engage my brain for 2-3 hours a day.

And elementary school before that was was breeze. I was usually done with my work by 10 am, free to leisurely read in the bean bag chairs.

But right now, 8 hours is brutal. I can't wait until I just know a few things, just so I can run with something and with minimal brain effort get it done.

I miss wanting to do my hobbies outside of work.

Brewing, I really had to push myself to do that this weekend and I'm still exhausted from it.

Haven't written anything outside of a blog in nearly 4 months.

Even video games, a hobby where I can slouch down, drink coffee / beer, and save the world with relatively minimal effort has been hard to do.

There are times where I start fearing that I'm slipping into an early mid-life crises. I start thinking, I may never have the energy to push myself to do something awesome again. Is this what there is? Is this what that angry, trapped feeling 15 year old couldn't wait to have access to?

I turn 32 next week. 32! I thought for sure I would be a cartoonist, a musician, a great American writer by now. I felt like I had the talents but never developed them enough. Never pushed them enough. But I never felt it was the end of the line on those until recently, and that scares me.

But I know it will pass. Everyone I've talked to says it is really hard for six months and then it just sort of clicks. It's really the thing that keeps me coming back because I really do like my co-workers, I liked the company, I can believe in the company, but my brain constitution just wants to give up and let me go work at a Chipotle... because they have some dope burritos and that would be the easy way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pokemon Go Biker Gangs

Sal and I both recently got bikes. We haven't had any since we first moved into our house and discovered and our garage door was on the same frequency as someone else's. We discovered this when one Friday, I wandered outside with a beer, saw the door wide open, and both our bikes and scooter taken.

So we have bikes again and are determined to use them. And we had a blast.

Our general rule has been live where you play with our goal being that you park your car on Friday and try not to get back into it until Monday.

We hate driving. We hate when things are so far apart that you have to drive.

We've managed to live this way pretty well for the past 4-5 years. If it's less than a 60 minute walk, we're good with walking. If it's a nice autumn day, we may walk 90 minutes somewhere.



But having bikes has opened up a giant part of the city.

This coincided with a dumb phone game called Pokemon Go coming out. It's a game where you success depends on you getting out of your house, seeing some cool landmarks around you, and going to catch fake creatures in populated areas.

I was never a huge Pokemon fan as a kid, so I wasn't nearly as pumped as 50% of my Facebook friends, but being someone that doesn't like to miss pop-culture phenomenons too often, I figured I'd download it and at least see what this thing is.

We rode our bikes over 30 miles this weekend. It was a new perspective on a lot of our normal haunts. You start noticing buildings you've not before, cool graffiti, cut through roads that make sense on a bike. Hell, you start memorizing street names and get a feel for how the city actually fits together.

We went to Union Loafers for lunch Saturday, road through Dutchtown, down Broadway to Perennial Artisan Ales for afternoon drinks with my brother, then back home for some pizza and board games with friends.

Sunday we woke up early and went to Cafe Osage in the Central West End with our family and then over to Forest Park and the zoo cutting through Tower Grove Park on the way back.

And there were tons of people outside. Groups of 15-35 year olds were wandering as a group, pulling their phone up every few steps to see if new Pokemon jumped up.

Sal and I hung out by a memorial bench in the zoo talking to a 6 year old girl and her mom catching water Pokemon together.

We swapped tips of where rare Pokemon were with a group of 30 year olds wandering from pavilion to pavilion in Tower Grove park.

There were groups of people, laughing, collecting Pokemon, and because the app needs to run for stuff to happen, they were actually having conversations instead of checking their Twitter feeds. This game is bringing back this sense of community that I remember as a kid, but was starting to think it never really existed.

And yes, I heard about the robbery in Ofallon. And yes, someone did stumble upon a dead body while searching for Pokemon. (CNN Story of both, be warned, it has an auto-play video)

Guess what, when you leave your fortress and go outside, you might scrap your knee, you might get robbed or hit by a car, and you might see some really cool stuff in your city.

It's like the news channels are trying to scare people back inside to watch more news and sell more advertising or something.

But I've also seen the positive. Besides people getting out and talking to their neighbors I've seen Pokemon forums suggesting litter pickup days while searching for Pokemon. I've seen people suggest charity events. I've seen people post testimonials about how they were depressed and just couldn't find a reason to leave the house. And I've seen people say this is the most exercise they've had in years.

Yeah, Pokemon Go is an overall broken and dumb game. But it's getting people to do stuff they haven't done since basically the internet became widespread, and that to me is pretty cool.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hotel Life

Sal left not too long ago. It sucked. It definitely highlighted how tired I am of the hotel life.

I'm getting irritated at not being able to cook whatever I want to, when I want to.

I'm tired of hearing the AC unit kick on and off every 90 seconds.

I'm getting tired of the TV that always defaults to HLN, turns itself off on an auto-timer after 2 hours, and has sound going up and down while you're watching.

I'm getting really tired of paying $20 for 2 mbps internet and not being able to stream stuff from my favorite website.

I'm tired of listening to music from my phone speakers.

I'm just tired and I know Sal is too.

It especially hit when I got an email reminder of a few things I would need to get from Amazon to work from home. I was supposed to be able to go back to St. Louis this week, but some in person meetings were booked. I'll unfortunately be up here for the full 9 weeks. Only 4 to go.

Sal and I had a good time.

We sort of made up for all the time apart and did probably too much while she was here.

It's a shame that I'm feeling so tired of being here because the weather today is about perfect. 68 degrees, nice breeze, enough cloud cover to not burn, but enough sunshine to feel the warmth.

Only 29 days until I sleep in my own bed again. It's a mantra I repeat to myself every time I'm feeling lonely, frustrated, and isolated.

Hotel life definitely loses that glamour when you're living in a room for more than a couple days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dan's Big Day Out

A combination of exhaustion from being in the office, Blues games being scheduled for terrible times, and general apathy for being outside has kept my exploration in Madison to a minimum.

I went to the movies by myself once, I've got for a post work beer with a couple guys a few times, and I've hit all my favorite places from previous trips.

Well, Saturday my buddy Rob had house chores to do and a soccer game in the afternoon and Lacy scheduled a solid 4 hour nap, so I decided to have a Big Day Out.

Rob dropped me off at Johnson and Broom street and my more than 10 mile foot journey began.

It was basically the most perfect weather. Just enough cloud cover to never feel sun burnt, but just enough sun to never feel cold, and a great breeze carrying the lake mist across the land.

My original plan was to take an Uber from around here out to Karben4 brewing, but there was a race in town this weekend and my 15 minute Uber ride was estimated to cost around $30. Karben4 would have to wait.

First, I walked next to the lake to the east side of town to have a few pints at One Barrel Brewing. I arrived shortly after 11 am, right when they opened, and took a seat at the gorgeous wrap around bar. There were only two other people in the bar at the time.



I chatted the guy up who quickly noticed that I was wearing both a St. Louis Blues shirt and a Schlafly hat and called me out on my St. Louis uniform. I swear, I didn't plan it that way.

One Barrel is the type of neighborhood bar where you stop every Friday after work for a pint and catch up with the regulars. I really liked the atmosphere and can't wait to go back.

I ordered a pint and some swag, and soon my relative peace was over.

There's a documentary on Netflix called The Barkley Marathon: The Race That Eats Its Young. I haven't seen it yet, but the 25 bikers that swarmed the bar had, and created the Beerkley Marathon: The Race That Drinks Its Young.





Jess, who appeared to be the coordinator of the race, invited me to join them. She said the only qualification to join was wearing some sort of plaid... which as luck would have it, I changed into plaid shorts right before I left.

So she gave me a race number, 67, and explained the rules. The group was biking to every brewery in Madison that day, and at each brewery you had a beer you had to drink and a special objective you had to complete. The full list is below:


  • One Barrel: Barrel Roll - Roll something that no one else has rolled.
  • Ale Asylum: Seek Asylum - Find a tunnel and go through it.
  • Karben4: Karben 4-en Accents - Speak in a foreign accent the entire time at the brewery.
  • Next Door: Next Door Neighbor - You aren't allowed to pick up your own drink.
  • Great Dane: Man's Best Friend - Adopt a stranger and bring them to the next stop.
  • UW Terrace: Cool off on the Terrace - Use nature to cool down.
  • Vintage: It's Not Old, It's Vintage - Find something vintage
  • Rockhound: Rock Out - Karaoke a song that shouldn't be karaoked. 


Unfortunately for me, my marathon would be short lived since I didn't have a bike. 

After two pints at One Barrel, I wandered down the street to NextDoor Brewing.

Now my biking friends told me that NextDoor has the best cheese curds in Madison. That is a hefty claim because I've had some really awesome cheese curds here. 

They were right... the cheese curds were amazing.

On top of that, I ordered a flight with every beer they had. Usually breweries have 8-10 beers and pour like 3 ounce samples. Nope... not here, 11 samples were delivered to me... and I drank 'em.

With a belly full of cheese and roughly 5 pints, I walked to Brew & Grow a home brew shop, but I got distracted by a skate park across the street. I just stood there, taking in the breeze, watching some really amazing college kids pull off all sorts of tricks. 

After the skate park, I wandered through the east side of town, right to Wisconsin's State Capital. I still haven't taken the tour, but it's one of the most beautiful capitals I've seen. The building looks too clean and it sits on top of a hill, flanked on either side by Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. 

After that, I went to Earwax, a vinyl shop that specializes in Punk and Metal. I didn't find much, but I did find a special edition copy of No Doubt's Ska classic Tragic Kingdom. Then, I wandered into A New Hope comic book shop across the hallway and scored two Punisher comics signed by famed Marvel artist Jim Lee. 

Now, I was still feeling great about the day, I had some more podcasts to listen to, and you look at that map below and everything seems pretty close... so I walked back to Rob and Lacy's not realizing I was adding a solid 90 minutes to my walk. 






By the time I got back to their place, my feet hurt, my back hurt, my eyes were filled with dust and sunburned, and I needed a shower. 

I showered, napped, then woke up to watch the Blues beat the Sharks in game 5. 

What a day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Getting Stung

My friend Lacy is incredibly scared of bees, hornets, wasps. Like, obviously, no one really likes to be stung by any of them, but she has an innate terror the likes of which you don't often see outside of horror movies.

We were having a beer on her deck, enjoying a Friday afternoon and she showed me a hornets nest from the year prior that was built in their outdoor light. She basically said, if the hornet comes back this year, she's hiring someone to kill it with a flamethrower.

The ironic thing is, she just got stung for the first time ever a week prior on the bottom of her foot. She admitted it wasn't too bad, but then back tracked and thought maybe that's because it was on the part of the foot that is really tough. The anxiety is still there at the extreme levels it was before.

I've only ever been stung once too. The soccer fields by my house had thousands of those small yellow flower weeds and there were always tons of bees when games weren't going on.

On the other side of those fields were woods that me and my buddies used to play in. One time I went sprinting across the fields towards the woods where adventure awaited.

I didn't even realize what was happening. I thought it was a mosquito until I looked down and saw the bee still attached to my leg. I had those dumb kid thoughts like, "Hmmm, this sort of sucks. Should I react? Do I cry?"

I don't think I did much other than curse, which was something my friends and I had just started doing when no parents were around.

But anyway, this conversation reminded of a time back in third grade. I had this baseball coach I didn't like. He was always yelling at us, his son, his wife, just everyone. He was an angry bastard.

Well, this one game I remember being particularly tired, it was incredibly hot, and when you're on the baseball field and you feel hot and you're wearing those thick baseball pants that don't breath and that dust is getting kicked up... well, let's just say that's all my least favorite things in one experience.

So I'm angry, and I don't like my coach.

I'm sitting on the bench, my time to bat was still at least six or sever kids away. I'm just praying for some sort of relief.

Then, I see a wasp start working it's way up coach's leg. I raise my hand to get his attention and then I hear him grumbling as he looks at the batting order on the piece of paper in his hands. My hand went down, I watched as the wasp crawled up his shorts, and a few seconds later he got stung near ... well you know where near.

He swatted and started cursing and got really red in the face with how angry he was.

I was sort of a jerk as a kid. I think even if someone I didn't like was in the same situation now, I'd probably tell them... probably.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Two Weeks In

I'm about to finish my second week at the new job.

It's been tough for sure.

I really like the company. Actually, working in the office makes me wish I were closer to the office so I could go in there once or twice a week. It's a great loose atmosphere. People work outside on the new deck. Great free coffee is available to every employee. Premier league games are put on the TV Friday afternoons and everyone crowds around with their laptops to watch.

I even joined the brew club and have Sal bringing up a bunch of St. Louis beers for everyone to sample on the deck in a few weeks.

I sort of still don't believe it's a real place.

And Madison is beautiful. They really built the town around nature. There's paths through the woods, a geese rehabilitation nature preserve right outside my work, and it's just so green. The most important thing, almost no humidity still. I saw St. Louis was thick with 90% humidity, and I'm walking to work in gorgeous 70 degree weather with a light breeze.

But it's really hard being away from my home, my dumb cats, and especially my dumb wife.

Hotel life is hard. Hotels are one of my favorite things when it's for a couple days, but going on my second week, I'm tired of not having my own bed, hearing the noises of the other tenants, and fearing that the cleaning crew will bust in on any random Friday morning before I left.

My second night staying in the hotel, some jackass even pulled the fire alarm. We all had to file outside, in the cold, at 2:30 while the firefighters cleared the building. It's just that dumb college stuff I'm dealing with again, except now I'm older and more tired and know what it's like to have control.

I'm breaking the days up by meals and the weeks up by weekends. It's all I can really do.

It's also hard not being around the city while my Blues are doing so well. As much as I love watching the game with my buddy Rob on his couch, it just doesn't compare to being in a bar filled with people dressed in blue going nuts.

I actually might have some tension at work because the guy behind me is a Blackhawks fan, two of the guys I get along with are Penguins fans, and NBC loves to tell me that Madison is Wild country. I'm surrounded by people the Blues had to / will have to crush on the way to the finals.

Two weeks of nine are finished. That's almost 25% done. When you break it down like that, it really doesn't seem that long, but at the same time it feels like infinity.