#transparentTuesday* Week 2: Somehow it’s Thursday

I’m a big fan of music.

Years ago I had a tumblog called Breakfast with Timothy’s. On this blog, my sole goal was to write about and share only the music that I loved. I spent a lot of time “digging” for music on Soundcloud, Twitter, and other blogs for something new. It was an obsession, it was a passion, but ultimately it was a secret.

I ran two Twitter accounts. One was for general usage, and the other was for the blog. Despite my general account having a larger following I never once posted a link to my posts. Why? I was ashamed of this labor of love that consumed a great deal of my free time.

While I never portended to be an expert on music the idea of sharing to a wider audience made me feel like a fraud. Not only did I not “know enough,” I felt as if my writing wasn’t good enough. I felt that people who I conversed with on twitter, who pursued careers in music writing, were inherently better than I was. So I stayed on the sidelines.

A deeper reason for this shame? This feeling of fraudulence? I was deep in the throes of depression. I worked, went to school full-time, and put all my energy into a project I hid. My motivation for writing died, and the blog posts slowly came to a halt.

The death knell for Breakfast at Timothy’s came when Tumblr flagged multiple posts for illegally posting songs. I did what many under this dark cloud would do… I completely deleted the blog.

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#transparentTuesdays

Years ago, my psychologist asked what I thought my life would be like if I didn’t suffer from social anxiety.

The question was a chance to picture a world where I was free to do what I wanted, be who I wanted, and live relatively free of limits. It was a question that was set to tap into the inner optimist. The problem was the question filled me with fear.

Why? Why would thinking about a life without this severe limitation make me uneasy? It is because my entire life was defined by the very limitation. To lose it would be to unsettle everything and set it into uncertainty. I didn’t see a freedom being gained, I saw a definition being lost. I found an unhealthy comfort in social anxiety but I knew it. Whatever existed in the world beyond those limitations was strange and to be feared.

Over the years since I have worked on myself in fits of stops and starts. Through this journey, I have, hopefully, been trekking closer to the person I want to be. Who is that person? I don’t know, but I hope I recognize him when I see him.

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In November of 2016, I got a job at the NBA office in Secaucus. My official title was Assistant Video Coordinator. My duty was to transcode files and review files sent up from Turner. Basically, I just watched basketball, talked shit with coworkers, and waited for something to go wrong (they often did).

One way things went wrong was at home. My marriage was on the ropes, but it wasn’t any different than it ever was. We coexisted, but we worked together to manage raising a child. It wasn’t romantic, by any means, but we were a team. The job at the NBA was a night job. It was also an hour away. We went from being together every day to seeing each other for an hour at night, and a half hour in the morning. We merely passed Cameron back and forth like a baton.

I went to the NBA thinking it was the next step in my career in video. What it was instead, was the first step to a huge change in my life. But change, even necessary change, has been the bane of my existence. Sometimes the idea of changing will cause anxiety that will freeze me in paralysis. With the paralysis comes a feeling of helplessness comes… you guessed it… depression.

I spent the next nine months trying to half-heartedly save the marriage. In truth, there was nothing to save. Milk doesn’t salvage stale cereal, but I thought there’d be hope. I went back to therapy and began to change how I was. I would go in on Thursday afternoons and feel like I was making monumental changes only for any adjustment to be seen as minute. There was a wide gulf between us and my reach wasn’t long enough.

If I was honest, I didn’t want to be married any longer. I said as much to my therapist once, I said it to my ex once, I spoke on frustrations of the situation to friends at other times. Yet, I found myself clinging on and attempting to resist the inevitable.

Why did I do that? I was afraid of change. I wasn’t happy. The relationship was cold, but I didn’t want to move on. I held on not tightly, not convincingly, but I refused to let go.

Out of all the people who were married in my family, only my brother Rich, my Aunt Janis, and my sister Polly never divorced. So it wasn’t foreign, but I didn’t want to fail the same way. So I held on as she looked for a house. I held on hoping that things would miraculously get better even as we made a pact that we’d separate were things not to get better.

In October of 2017, we both moved. She moved ten minutes away in the same town. I moved 45 minutes down I-295. Even with almost an hour of distance, I held on. I held on to hope that one day we’d all be under one roof again. That we would be the family we weren’t the first go round.

By this time I was no longer working at the NBA. Instead, I reversed course and took on a teacher’s assistant job in a high school. Which became something that fulfilled me and gave me the direction I thought I was getting when I began working in Secaucus.

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Almost a year later, and I’ve had time to grown in my skin and to reflect. I’ve given myself space, and I’ve finally let go. Not only did I let go, but I fought off the urge to shove someone else in the opening my life.

I’ve worked too much and struggled a lot, but the change wasn’t scary. Not once I let it settle in. Instead, the change let me realize what I wanted and who I wanted to be. What I wanted to get back.

I no longer look at divorce as a failure. To quote Dan Savage: “every relationship ends except for the one that doesn’t.”

When I wake up in the morning I don’t see the person I want to be. I don’t come home to see a place that I strive to live in forever. What I see are things that I’m happy with now, things that I live with now but ultimately things I don’t have to be stuck with for the rest of my life. Why?

I don’t know, maybe change isn’t so bad after all.

Think Piece’d: Fame, Empathy & Pain

“Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive.”

Kim Etheredge was the publicist for, then Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Terrell Owens and she was trying to put out fires. Days earlier she found Owens non-responsive after taking painkillers, and now she was faced with convincing the sports world he hadn’t attempted suicide. Where she went to make, that argument was the amount of money Terrell’s contract with the Cowboys was worth. While she thought it was a good defense, it is a problematic correlation people make all the time.

When we see celebrities, athletes, musicians, and other entertainers we often see people far beyond us. These people seem to have everything we want, and thus we don’t see any reason why they would be depressed, or have any struggles in life. It’s as if reaching a level of fame strips away the humanity that they inherently possess because they do something that puts them on the world stage.

I remember when the story broke people made light of Owens and whether he was depressed. It became another red flag for people who never shared a moment of time with him. Another talking point for sports radio, and the endless parade of gas bags presented by ESPN or whatever network decided to cover the incident. This mocking doesn’t stop with TO but touches upon anyone who falls short of perfection while in the spotlight.

A few weeks ago, First Take star Stephen A. Smith ranted about Phil Jackson’s failures as the New York Knicks’ President of Basketball Operations. These televised tantrums are so expected from Smith that they are the reason he is one of the biggest personalities on ESPN. What drew the most attention to this rant wasn’t Phil Jackson, but where he went next:

Smith attempted to soften the blow by saying how much he loved Odom and was praying for a full recovery. That love doesn’t lessen the insensitivity of the mention. It makes it worse because that love should allow a friend, or family member, to see the humanity of the one who is hurting. But as I know firsthand that’s not how things often work.

Two weeks ago, Lamar Odom shared his story on the Player’s Tribune. He walked the reader through the death of his mother, his introduction to cocaine, the death of his six-month-old son, the deep darkness he fell into, and how his children are helping pull him through. It was a brave, and raw account of his struggles that we don’t often get to see. He went as far as to acknowledge how he still wanted to get high despite knowing it wasn’t what was best for him.

The major through line of Odom’s piece was how you can’t run away from your pain. It doesn’t mean that you must succumb to it, but if not addressed it will exist right around the corner. A successful career, recognition, accomplishments, or monetary gains don’t cover that. It’s an obvious thing to say, but in the west (and especially in America) we can focus on the external and hope that it will change how we feel inside.

We see the star and say, “if I had that much money I wouldn’t have any problems.” This thinking completely overlooks the fact that everyone has issues. Depression is real, and it isn’t a weakness. Pain doesn’t have a price or success threshold. That is the major point of note here.

In 2017, we saw both Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington take their own lives. The news sent their fans into deep mourning. To realize someone who helped them through their own struggles carried a burden so heavy that they chose to end their own lives allowed people to see their humanity. To realize how their fame, success, and notoriety wasn’t enough to erase whatever pain they were carrying.

The news of those losses was met with, almost, universal acknowledgment of the tragedy that suicide is. People responded by posting statuses mourning and sharing the number for the suicide hotline. Yet, if they struggled and weren’t open about what they were fighting against we would see more harsh criticisms lobbed their way.

When looking at celebrities and how we relate to their struggles there is a greater lesson to be learned about how we deal with people in our own lives. That we’re all facing something, and just because it isn’t our struggle doesn’t deny the heft of the cross they carry. That a new job, a raise in income, new friends, graduation, relationship, or location doesn’t suddenly cleanse what is going on inside of us. That while no one is happy all day (and happiness shouldn’t be the goal), we should seek help when we need it and not feel afraid that people will use it as a mark against us.

This isn’t all to say that there is nothing good that comes from the outside but it could just be a layer of paint over mildew.