Barf City: Panic Attacks & Me (And tools for YOU!)

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve thrown up. No. Not alcohol induced, not because of a simple stomach bug. Not an eating disorder either. It’s the final stage of my panic attacks: I barf. My writhing stomach needs to expel whatever is in there for me to finally calm down.

I had my very first panic attack at the age of 16. I honestly thought I was dying. I was in a small Chinese restaurant with two very close friends and I thought that I had might have eaten something bad. It came over me so quickly, in the middle of a conversation, and suddenly I felt like I was trapped in a dream. I remember getting dizzy, sweaty, and unable to comprehend anything coming out of my friend’s mouths. I stood up wordlessly, left the restaurant, and promptly threw up.

I went home that evening thinking I was sick. That I had contracted some crazy dumpling-related virus and that this was the end of me. Oddly enough, when I got home, I felt, well, okay. Unbeknownst to me, the attack had run its course and it was now over.

I avoided any form of Chinese food for years. I’m not kidding. “It just doesn’t agree with me,” I’d say. Turns out, it wasn’t the food that wasn’t agreeable.

On multiple occasions following, I found myself having this same sensation: my stomach would start to turn, it grew difficult to focus, and I needed an escape. ASAP. I HAD to remove myself from whatever situation I was in, no matter where I was when these feelings came over me. Turns out, I was having panic attacks, and pretty frequently.

It was a disaster. It was exhausting. I began to avoid certain trigger spots. Restaurants, movie theaters, church, friends’ basements—any sort of situation where I felt stuck. I started to think I might be claustrophobic.  Quickly ruled that out because the bedroom I grew up in was about 12×7. That couldn’t be it. Maybe some form of social anxiety? Not that either—I got these attacks when no one else was around, especially if I was anticipating something coming my way.

I started to avoid people in fear that I’ll barf in front of them. I started avoiding certain foods, trying to pin down the problem. My world grew very small, quickly. So, what does a middle-class-suburban mother of a teenage boy who chooses watching Digimon repeatedly over ever going out do? Put that child in therapy.

I started working with a counselor my junior year of high school. Truth be told, my mother had a motive. We were going to go on a family cruise to Bermuda. To a ‘regular’ teen, the reaction to this news would have filled one with glee. Me? I cried after I heard. Sobbed, actually. I was terrified at the thought of being stuck in the middle of the ocean surrounded by strangers as I repeatedly threw up.

My therapist and I quickly worked on some techniques. Breathing. Mindfulness. Understanding that, no, I was in fact not dying, I was having panic attacks. This was a revelation for me. There was a word for what I was going through, for what I felt. It was something temporary and even though it never feels like it at the time, this too shall pass. I wasn’t crazy. I didn’t have the plague.

Fast forward to today, nearly seventeen years later. I do consider myself to be an anxious person still. I am not medicated, but I did start therapy again a couple years ago to get another grasp…or rather, a tune-up. I am still on my panic attack journey. They happen FAR less frequently than they ever did in my teen years, though, and I now understand them on a different, more manageable level.

As a result of talk therapy, I even realized that I had a few attacks in my childhood years, too, I just didn’t know what they were then.

There’s a lot of talk these days about anxiety. We ALL have anxiety. Some have far greater levels of it than others. Some anxiety is crippling. It was a burden for me. I started to think something was WRONG with me. I started to try to connect the dots to figure out the origin of my own. Why was this happening? Maybe, I thought, if I found out the root, I could unlock the secrets of my mind. It’s an enigma in there, but I did start to piece SOME things together.

However, this didn’t seem to magically ‘cure’ of my attacks. Think of it this way: The alcoholic. The alcoholic may have his or her reasons for excessive and unhealthy drinking, but simply figuring out that reason behind it doesn’t magically make the person stop drinking or solve the problems that led to it in the first place. The drinking is only one symptom of a greater thing. It’s a pattern. It’s a habit. It’s an addiction.

My attacks were also a pattern. More importantly, my reaction to the attacks became a pattern. I had to leave, I had to go to the bathroom, I had to step outside, I had this nasty mental spiral of telling myself, “you’re weak,” “something is wrong with you,” and the most vicious, “this shouldn’t be happening, I thought I got better at this.”

I am 31 years old now and I still get panic attacks. Much less frequently, but they still happen. My family knows. My closest friends know. Everyone I’ve ever dated knows. I barfed on my 30th birthday. I was humiliated. The guy I was dating at the time had taken me out to dinner and I spent 80% of the time in the bathroom.

The point is, it’s still a journey. BUT. I am writing this post to reassure anyone else who may also experience these attacks. There is a way to get through them, to make it easier, the anxiety more palatable. Take it from me. The guy who happens to be a bit anxious.

Here’s what has helped me immensely:

1) The anticipation of an event is worse than the actual event.

Anticipation anxiety has typically been the real killer for me. I invent these tales of grandeur of how things will play out before they even have the chance to. I also find that once the event or situation actually does occur, it’s nothing the way I had predicted.That is exactly what anxiety is: thinking and predicting the non-existent future. Challenge your thoughts. Is this the truth or is this a lie? It hasn’t even happened yet.

2) What resists, persists.

This is one I am still working on, but it’s also the one that has had the most positive influence on me. I’ve had fewer than five attacks in the last two years. Two of those, yes, were pretty major, but still—only two really bad attacks in as many years? That’s so crazy to me. I used to get them DAILY.

However, despite my progress, my inner dialogue during those last three or four attacks was very different than those prior. Instead of, “Oh my god am I dying,” it was, “You shouldn’t be having these now. I thought you were past this? Are you serious, this is still happening?” I was trying to resist the actual attack (Why wouldn’t I, they suck!).

This self-berating only caused more distress. Instead of it letting the attack run its course, I was trying to hush it out. Repression never works. In fact, it makes things worse. My body and mind were demanding attention….and trying to FORCE your thoughts to act another way is stressful!

My last attack had only a few nights ago. I was on the phone, talking about an upcoming event, and I lost it. My friend knew exactly what was going on. I did barf, but you know what, the conversation continued. It ran its course, my friend stayed on the phone, and we even started to laugh about it. That’s what I call a good friend!

Point being: accept the attack. When you accept and stop resisting, the attack loses its power. “Okay silly mind, do your thing, I know in my heart I’m okay. My friend right here with me knows I’m okay. I’m verbalizing everything that is happening. Run your course and be gone.”

3)  Have patience with yourself.

Breaking your patterns takes time and effort. But if you focus, you’ll find it’s mostly time with just a wisp of effort. Think of it this way. I’ve had panic attacks for YEARS. My brain and its neural wirework are now accustomed to triggers and a certain way of thinking. Gently do your absolute best to change that way of thinking. It won’t get better overnight. It’s a discipline. I used to get SO frustrated while in therapy. I couldn’t understand why my therapist couldn’t help me magically get better and rid me of my panic attacks. But that’s not how it works. You must, and I can’t stress this enough, you MUST, be gentle with yourself because at the end of the day, you’re the only self you’ve got. I guess that last sentence wasn’t so gentle. But you get the point. This may be the way you’ve been for years. That doesn’t mean this is the way you’ll be forever. Don’t expect yourself to be a brand new person in a week—remember, what resists, persists. New patterns take time to create. Be patient. Work with your mind and not against it. And, most importantly–celebrate the small victories.

4) Laugh

It has been scientifically proven that smiling can change your mood. Even if you’re faking it. Try it. Don’t take yourself too seriously. When I have opened up about my panic to close friends, they were first shocked. I do present myself outwardly as confident, collected, and positive. However, these attributes are not completely separate from being anxious. We have anxious moments. We have positive moments. The only time when you’re completely at peace is when you’re enlightened or dead. Chances are you are neither—and that is okay. Try your best to turn reactions you don’t like into a joke and try laughing at yourself. There’s a recurring gag joke (no pun intended!) in South Park where Stan, one of the main characters had a crush on a girl named Wendy. Whenever she would speak to him, he’d throw up right in her face out of sheer nerves. This used to make me laugh so hard because I connected to this. Stan’s experience was an animated version of myself and I could laugh at it, take joy in it.

5) Be Honest with Yourself and those Close to You.

I have been MUCH more vocal in recent years about what is happening to me when an attack is on-coming. I used to hide it. I used to think I might RUIN something for someone else if I had to excuse myself. I quickly learned that some people just don’t care. My closest friends today know exactly what is going on. Get some lifelines. Find people you trust. It’s wonderful.

6) Have a Healthy Toolkit

When you start to get familiar with the bodily sensations of a panic attack, you start to also figure out what is comforting for you and what isn’t. For me, it was excusing myself. I HAD to find something I could control because what was happening in my head was uncontrollable. Removing myself was something I could handle, that I could enact on my own. Try to self-meditate. Try to express exactly how you feel to a nearby individual (if you are that friend for someone suffering anxiety or an oncoming attack, please, oh please, do not try to calm the person by saying, everything is alright. Your presence and willingness to just listen is enough!). The point is, find some sort of healthy coping mechanism to help you bear the panic attack. To each their own.

7) Do your Homework.

I have an assignment for you. Open up a new doc and create three columns. In the first column, write down the pesky thought that can arise when you have an attack. In the second column, write down the most likely origin of that thought. In the third column, counter your original thought. You could even add a fourth column and write a counter to the counter. I find that a panicked mind is a mind that scrambles to find some sort of excuse or lie. I have my column sheet active in my Google Drive. This is part of my 2017 Tool Kit. I bring up this page whenever I start to get very anxious. I just beam it up right on my phone and it’s there for me.

Here’s an example:

Column 1: Oh no. I’m stuck here in this restaurant. There are no windows. It’s crowded. I don’t know where the bathroom is. I don’t know where the exit is. This scenario typically freaks me out. My stomach is starting to turn. I’m going to throw up and everyone is going to think something is wrong with me or pass judgement.

Column 2: When I used to dine with the family, I used to freak that I’d ruin the family meal if I grew anxious. There were a few instances while growing up…that the bickering family would create a tense environment and make me anxious. I would grow so nervous and have to throw up. This started at a young age.

Column 3: Sure. That did happen a few times. But has this happened EVERY single time you’ve eaten out? Has this happened EVERY single time you’ve eaten with your family? Do you ALWAYS feel sick to your stomach when its time to eat? No.

Column 4: Well screw that, it’s going to happen this time. I’m sure of that! SO. Why don’t you get up and see where the bathroom is? The restaurant is crowded but that probably means it’s good. I can’t imagine EVERYONE in here being a total asshole. I’m sure if something were to happen to me there would be SOMEONE in here would help.

The point is. Collect your thoughts BEFORE the event.

Anxiety can arise at any time. You can have those moments of feeling good, loving life, and then when the panic comes about….all that straight, un-bothered, positive thinking goes right out the window. This sheet will be there for a gentle and clear reminder.  So. Do this assignment when you’re feeling calm and good and it will be there for you when you’re not.

Friends of mine my Sophomore year of college put together a quick birthday get together for me. In sheer anticipation, I freaked. I panicked and called a friend. I’ll never forget what she said:

 “It’s your birthday, you can barf if you want to.”

It changed my way of thinking which resulted in a change of feeling. So what? Let’s say I did barf. SO WHAT. And guess what, I didn’t. Friends, I by no means am a therapist or counselor. What can I say though, from personal experience, is that you aren’t going to get rid of the anxiety completely. And yes, that in and of itself can be terribly frustrating. Panic attacks suck. I won’t sugarcoat it. I used to feel so unbelievably embarrassed about having them. I was so afraid of the judgement. But the only one really judging me has been me. Take that pressure off.

I have met a few others who have had similar experiences with panic attacks, but everyone’s experience is different. Some get the racing heart, some get the short breathing, but to each their own really. I recently YouTubed panic attacks just to listen to what others had to say. Well. A LOT of people have a LOT to say about the matter. It’s much more common than you might think.

One particular video from a twentysomething panic attack-sufferer stood out. The video had one simple instruction: try to force yourself to have a panic attack right now. Like the loser I am, I of course tried. I TRIED REALLY HARD. I couldn’t get myself to do it. It was as much something a couldn’t purposefully induce as it was something I couldn’t get rid of. The knowledge that it’s not me that’s doing this to myself means something. It’s just another lemon life has thrown at me, but I can learn to make lemonade from it, and so can you.

The point, plain and simple: you are not your thoughts.

Imagination Junction: Create Your Mental Characters

According to the wonder that is called “Google”, personification is defined as “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form”. I attended Portland State University in the great city of Portland, Oregon a few years ago in the hot pursuit of post bac. biology credits.  I honestly had no idea what I was doing – at least with my life. I was an anxious wreck. I have always had some anxiety issues ranging from a little discomfort to full blown panic attacks and in this chapter of my life I was very uneasy. I then took full advantage of the free college counseling. It was here that my world opened up to spirituality, Alan Watts, and a shift in perspective. I was very fortunate to have met a wonderful, young counselor-to-be. He used a wonderful tactic of applying what I knew, was familiar with, and ascribing traits of my personality to therapeutic techniques. He began to teach me how to use my wild imagination for my benefit.  I have always been obsessed with superheros and villains….and that’s exactly the arena that we entered: ascribing my thoughts to characters. This technique has helped me make ‘light’ of situations as well as turn anxiety into a mental Marvel movie. Personify the thoughts! Try this! You can use my characters or create your own!

These are my characters:

“I can’t this do.” – Guess who that is? General Doubt. General doubt is the unapologetic naysayer. General Doubt will fill you with the ‘what if’s’ and ‘I can’ts’ and the ‘I shouldn’t’.  General Doubt also loves to plague your head with ‘resistance is futile’ and nothing is going to work out!

“It’s over.” – Commander Doom. Failed that test? Thinking what the results are on that medical test? Didn’t get that job? Savings account is lower than you thought?  Commander Doom knows that it’s over. Commander Doom wants you to throw in the towel. Now. It’s over. The universe is working against you.

“They won’t like me.” “Everyone thinks I’m lame.” “I’m such a screw up.” – Deceitful Joe. This guy is a true asshole. He’ll do whatever he can to convince you that you are indeed a loser and make you lose sight of all your strengths.

And now…..the FLIP SIDE.

I can do this.” – The greatest hero of all, Colonel Confidence. Colonel Confidence    is incredibly attractive, both mentally and physically.  Colonel Confidence counters General Doubt using his own medicine.  “Yea, well, what if things workout?” “What if this is the best idea I ever had?” “What if this does work out and your life will be better for it?”

“It’s a blessing in disguise.” – Optimistic Oliver is that friend that everyone needs.  Optimistic Oliver puts that positive spin on everything. He’ll challenge you for sure, maybe even make you a little uncomfortable.  He’ll pose the question, “Have you thought maybe the universe is working FOR you?”

“Stop lying to yourself, you’re not a loser.  You’re great!!” “It won’t play out EXACTLY like that!” – Captain Honesty is the best. Like you, he doesn’t know how things will play out exactly but will also remind you….you aren’t an oracle.  He’s that honest friend that will gently tell you that you’re simply your own worst enemy.

If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to see Pixar’s film Inside Out.  The principal is the same, however, the characters are much more black & white. We are complicated creatures and some emotions mix, match, and blend. I want you to try this the next time you are feeling anxious. Really zero in on the emotion. Who is taking charge here? Commander Doom? Deceitful Joe?  We all have characters in our heads…some very persistent and powerful.  Gently counter them with your mental ‘heroes’.  I’d love it if you guys could share who is in your head! I’d also love it if someone drew some of these creatures!  Comment/Share/Post!

The Best Doormat.

Here’s the thing about the internet (okay, okay one of many things, but this is the thing I’m talking about):

A lot of people use this infinite void of social media, listicles and clickbait to fill their egos, seek validation, or, as I have both witnessed and have caught myself doing, for throwing epic pity parties.

I want to share with you a story. It’s a story I have been hesitant to write because, well, I don’t want it to feel like a pity party. I never wanted the reader to feel sorry for me. It’s not a “woe is me” story, but it’s an important one, and so is one I have to to tell. Why? Because, and I kid you not, the experience relayed in the kick off to my whole “Self-Help-Vision-Board-Self-Worth-Self-Love” journey. You know that cliché, “Everything happens for a reason”? Well, there might just be some truth to that. So bear with me here. I’m going to go ahead and really open up. I want you, the reader, to know how little I once valued myself, and the crap I was once willing to tolerate because of it. The crap I have no time for anymore. Have I figured it all out? Hell no. I am still a mess (I’m human) and am still trying to excel in this course called life. I’m still, and always will be, a student of life. But this particular experience was truly an eye opener for me.

It starts the way all great stories start: I was the best man at a wedding.

The honor. The prestige. The role. THE ROLE. A childhood friend had asked me to be his best man and the time, I was living out in Oregon. He (and the wedding) was in New Jersey. Did the distance from coast to coast even cross my mind at the time? Obviously not. I was wanted! Needed, even! Honestly, I put zero thought to what was signing up for before I said yes. There were about 2,800 miles between us, but I figured, meh, I’ll deal with it when I have to. Well, I was stupid. And even with that mileage gap, it wasn’t enough to mitigate the amount of complete lunacy it turned out I signed up for.
Here’s the thing. This friend I had already been growing apart before I was asked. Not out of resentment, not out of bitterness, but simply because time was passing. We were becoming our authentic selves and well, those selves were becoming different, evolving separately. And that’s okay. That happens all the time. However, what I began to sense was a desperation from his part, clinging on to nostalgia, and thereby dragging me into what ultimately became more a circus than a wedding.

The closer the wedding came, the more apparent it became that we were drastically different. Not only different from the kids we used to be, but different from each other—incompatibly so. It was starting to get awkward. It was becoming such a chore. But what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t back out—not now. I couldn’t risk offending someone!
A few weeks before his wedding, I threw an enormous birthday party for myself in the city. The soon to be wedded couple did not come. I found this odd. It was at a gay sports bar and friends from all corners of my life showed up to celebrate. It was actually a fantastic night. Believe me, I rarely ever throw parties, let alone for myself, but, it was wild, fun, and so cool to see so many people in my life come together under the same roof.

So many people except for the friend who was supposed to value me above all other friends. I was the best man in his wedding, for goodness sake! Needless to say, I was hurt and downright confused when he didn’t show up.

Then, the bachelor party. Yes, that time-honored tradition. I had put together a little something, as I thought was my role in this wedding. Another friend, however, had other ideas, took complete control of the situation, and my duties of best man-who-plans-bachelor-party were completely lost. So we ended up at a strip club. How original. And    my friend and his soon-to-be father-in-law each got a lap dance—side by side. Talk about zero boundaries. Barf city. Later in the night, while my friend and I sat next to each other watching two girls go at it on a pole, he turned to me and said, “Is this what gay bars are like?” Oh god. Gay strip clubs but, yes, but, I don’t think it’s the standard for anyone in any bar—gay or straight—to walk around in the nude.

Suffice it to say, the whole situation was just odd. And, yet again afraid to rock the boat, I said very little. Until I asked if I could bring a date.

This conversation was bananas. I—the best man—asked if I could bring a date to my supposed close friend’s wedding. One would think that my bringing a date was a given. One would think wrong. Instead, I was told seating arrangements have already been made. I was told that only “serious” relationships were catered towards. I said I would pay for my date and call the venue and arrange to have a chair added. I was then told that this wedding was not about me. By this point, I had begun to put the pieces together and figure out what the real issue was. When I asked if this sudden reluctance to let a best man bring a date to a wedding was because I was gay, he confirmed my suspicion saying, “It would be a little tense if you brought a guy.”

Disheartened and crushed, I had to accept that it wasn’t that he didn’t want me to bring a date. The truth was, he didn’t want me to bring a guy as a date.
I ended up continuing my duties as best man, even though I didn’t feel very “best man-ly” anymore. I couldn’t back out now or else I would have been signing up for drama for years to come. I think?

I was a godawful night. Truth be told, I actually left right after the reception. The next morning, my newly married friend texted me asking if he could get a copy of my best man’s speech.

Guys, it was just flat out ridiculous.

We have not spoken since this wedding. I have since heard that the happy couple have a gotten a divorce.

But that’s not the important part. Here’s why I wanted to share this with you.
I was treated like crap and at the time, and I was okay with it. I let it happen. Being kind, being forgiving, having spiritual values is great, really it is, but it can also come with this fun bonus that someone else MIGHT take advantage of you. Why wouldn’t they? You let them! “Yea, ask Rob, Rob will just do it.”

Looking back, I should have just said no. I know that now. However, I am damn proud of myself that I went through that shark tank ALONE. What I would have done for a shoulder to lean on during the entire ordeal. I mean, it wasn’t all rotten—some of the other guests were lovely—but Bridezilla and Butthead McGee were the central pieces of misery and unfortunately, were my main connections to the whole fiasco.
I could sit here all day and fill in other pieces to this story (this is just the tip of the iceberg), but I don’t want to lose you. Instead, here are some important things I have learned from this experience, though it’s taken me a few years to really understand:

1) You, yes you, do NOT deserve to be treated like the extra, the role player, the expendable side character. I was the best man and treated like a doormat.

2) Speak up. Sometimes people don’t know how hurtful or their words or actions are. Hence, why some people continue to be so hurtful—they don’t KNOW that they are being assholes. I left the wedding and wasn’t asked where I went. Hard to believe, but I promise you, some people are so oblivious. To this day, I don’t think what happened was out of malice. I don’t think the intentions were, “How can we make Rob miserable at our wedding?” But, when you’re dealing with self-absorbed people, if you care about the outcome at all, it might be up to you to at least attempt to bring them back to reality.

3) Holding on to friendships that are now dead is a terrible idea. Yes, people come and people go, people change, some people don’t, relationships strengthen, relationships weaken, life is all about flow. It’s okay to be sad that a friendship has faded away—it doesn’t mean that the friendship itself wasn’t important and necessary in the time that it thrived. Some people come back into your life, some people you never see again. You do have a lot of power in this one. You have some control who you want in your life. Once you start forcing the relationship, however, you are destined for problems. I was on the receiving end of this and it sucked. It felt weird. It like completely wrong. Like, it wasn’t meant to be.

In the end, if you take nothing else away, remember this: trust and LISTEN to your gut. It’s typically right. I was not listening to my gut at all. I was the Yea-sayer when I should have been the Naysayer.

I feel like “love yourself” has become such a buzzword. Well, let me tell you a little something about only ONE part of self love. Self love is feeling confident and comfortable establishing a boundaries. As the great blogger Mark Groves once said…”Walls keep everybody out. Boundaries teach where the door is.”

Here’s to learning how to establish healthy boundaries 🙂

 

The Nerd Gospel.

Sometimes it can feel like the universe is always against you.  Or that God has those days where he’s a little bit of a sadist.  On other days, it just seems like that you’re plain destined to have it bad. And the funny thing is, whenever those days come around, we often don’t stop to think about everything that has gone right in our lives.

But that’s life. We’re constantly being dealt all sorts of cards, some we asked for or worked for and some are just random. Either way, when things are going poorly for us, it’s very easy to spiral thinking our cards dealt are unjust.

Nerd alert.  I grew up watching every single animated superhero series. You might think I’m exaggerating, but then you are underestimating the amount of time I had on my hands…and my commitment to superheroes. My comic book collection was at one point so big that it became a concern.  But it was more than just a love of justice being served or the bright colors and heroic feats. I found something else there, too. The Power Rangers assisted me in discovering my sexuality.

I used to have to be dragged to church Sunday morning twitching, my mind elsewhere because of course Dragon Ball Z aired Sunday mornings on the WB right before mass. Receive the Eucharist? Oh silly Mother, I need a senzu bean.

I love a good story.  If the story isn’t compelling, I’m not interested.  If the characters aren’t richly developed, peace out.  Give me characters with dimension.  Give me the conflicted hero.  Give me the villain with an awesome backstory. I want it all.  Which brings me to the message of this post.  I have always been captivated what makes a hero, well, the hero, and, on the flip side, what makes the villain the irredeemable bad guy that he is.  The art of storytelling has ALWAYS touched on this human condition. We’re able to find this dichotomy everywhere.

Take two people and have them both go through terrible experiences. See one character turn out better and see the other become the monster. Why? It’s all in how you process what has happened, how much you feel that the world is against you, that the world itself is “doing this” to you—how much control you feel that you have over your own fate and your own reactions when fate doesn’t always give you rainbows and unicorns. Have you witnessed this?  Have you seen amazing people become awful?  Jaded?  Bitter?  Then there’s the flip side. Terrible people who have “seen the light” so to speak.

Hear that siren? Louder…nerd alert!

J.J.R Tolkein, the author of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy did a fantastic job at giving an answer to this question: Gollum.  Once a Hobbit, Gollum is this disgusting, pitiful, and demented character bent on getting the One Ring and obtaining all power.  That’s the part everyone knows, but Hhre’s the important part: he once had the ring.  He then lost it.  He was once a cute and cuddly Hobbit who became the monster.  With the loss of the Ring, he also lost everything good he had in him and became hellbent on getting it back, sacrificing EVERYTHING in the process. A good guy gone bad.

]We have a choice, though. When fate intervenes and delicately laid plans go awry, trauma befalls us or even just a dozen or so tiny annoyances start to build up and build up, it is completely within our power to choose the way we react. Do we rage at the world because of the injustice of it all, or do we sit down and figure out how we’re going to get through this? The choice is not always an easy one to make.

The only answer that I can come up with as to why being the good guy, choosing the path that may actually seem more difficult at the outset, is the way to go, is that at the end of that road is happiness.  It’s not that complicated.  Stephen King has said it perfectly and ever so cryptically, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” To be CONSUMED by our demons, well, we lose.  We become miserable.  We become Gollum.

Deep down inside, you always know what the right thing is.  Listen to it.  You’ll be better off for doing so.  Most importantly, you’ll be happy.

Let it Flow.

“Let it go.”

“Suck it up.”

“Get over it.”

“Could you just move on?”

The next person to say any of version of these phrases directly to me or anyone in my radius will get in return an eye roll so large that a portal to another dimension will open.  For anyone who has gone through something painful or traumatic (read: most everyone), the ability to flip a  switch and to just “Let it go” is far too simple.  If it were that easy we’d all be blissful ninnies.  Hey Elsa!  Emotions are meant to be FELT. You ran away from your problems and locked yourself in an ice castle. Not exactly the healthiest reaction, either, huh, princess?

We’re told again and again, whether directly to our faces or through what we’re shown in the media that dwelling on a ‘bad’ feeling for longer than a minute is weak, unproductive. The moment we feel ‘off’ or ‘bad,’ our initial reaction is that there is something WRONG with us. However, there is a significant difference between, “I don’t want to feel this” and “I shouldn’t be feeling this.”  Feeling crappy is, well, crappy.  But it’s normal. It’s healthy sometimes.

Now, of course, as with anything there are extremes. If you lock yourself in your room for weeks on end and wallow in your misery (like Elsa, for example), we got a problem.  Feeling low or down and out is okay. Again, and I can’t repeat myself enough here,  emotions are MEANT to be felt.  We live in such a crazy culture, one that advocates burying feelings, denying emotions, and distracting ourselves from anything that that makes us sad.  At 30 years young, I have witnessed all sorts of coping mechanisms–some healthy, some not so much.  We all have our personal coping mechanisms that we turn toward—we think we know what works for us.

The strongest individuals, though, are not those that “suck it up” and “move on,” essentially shoving those painful feelings deep down inside never to come out again in a healthy way, but are the ones who face them head on. Who feel them and process them. Who go through the turmoil.  Not get over it.  Not let it go.  But go through it.  It isn’t easy, but it’s immensely beneficial.

And so, there are plenty of the walking wounded out there. Everyone’s got a story. Some have many. The real benefit of feeling your feelings?  You begin to understand that you are human.  You begin to understand that your emotions won’t be the end of you.  You also get to understand how strong you truly are.

Forget “Let it go.”  How about, “Let it flow”? How about let the emotion run its course.  Great times don’t last forever…and neither do bad times.

Ubermensch Rating

First rule of being an Uber driver: Don’t tell anyone you’re an Uber driver. It’s very similar to the first rule of Fight Club. No one can be trusted. When word gets out that you’re a driver now, suddenly everyone needs a ride. Everyone. I’m not kidding. I’ve had former bosses call me in the middle of the night, “Hey, I know it’s 2:30AM, but…ya think you could pick me and a few friends up?” Sorry, no, I am asleep. Actually, here’s where the second rule of being an Uber driver differs from the second rule of Fight Club and I learned it VERY quickly: The “night-crowd” is very different from the “rush-hour” crowd. This is a rule that must be taken into account seriously, unless of course you don’t mind passengers spilling their cookies all over your backseat.

I’ve witnessed the full gamut of Jekyll to Hyde transformation in people starting as early as 5:00PM on New Years Eve and wrapping up only a little bit after the ball drops. Seriously. People literally transformed. I’ve driven the walking wounded home early on Saturday mornings all with a smile on my face. I’ve been referred to as a saint, an angel—one young man REALLY stroked my ego when he commented that I looked like Stephen Amell (thank you my friend, thank you…he even wrote it in my review, so feel free to fact check).

So it’s not all bad. Before I go on, let me make this one thing clear. Overall, driving for Uber has not been a bad experience whatsoever. It has been just that: an experience, like any job that would have you interacting with others on a daily basis. My whole Uber experience has made me appreciate and RESPECT cab drivers far more. So, please. If you are a frequent passenger, understand that you are in someone’s car. Also understand that your driver, like you, is a human being.

My passengers are a completely eclectic collection of people. And people are funny. People are kind. Parents LOVE to brag about their children. People LOVE to complain about their jobs or lovers. People flirt. People can be awkward. People can also want nothing to do with you. When the ear pieces go in, that is the passive aggressive way of telling you, the driver, to shut up.

People also love to bend the rules.

I once pulled up to what initially looked like a garage sale. Turns out, the guy was moving. And I, apparently, was his mover. I ended up putting the majority of his crap in my car because I HATE cancelling rides. I have to keep that 4.5 star rating. I have to give the guy some credit. Pretty crafty. I was far cheaper than renting a U-haul. I think? Don’t U-hauls have wonderful deals now? Regardless, that anecdote highlights an aspect of the job that is pretty nerve-wracking. You TRULY have no idea what you are signing up for.

When I started working for Uber, I intended it as a quick scheme to make a few bucks on my own schedule. That part panned out and is the BEST part of the job. You work when you want to work. And! Unlike freelance work, you are guaranteed some business. People need rides. Every minute people need rides. Like most jobs, some days are better than others for sure. And like most jobs, you find creative ways to keep yourself engaged and entertained. Me? I have turned ‘surge’ pricing into a game. There were a few months there where I was chasing the surge. Let me explain.

Surge prices. Or as I like to call it, Uber Blitzkrieg, is when drivers try to optimize their road time to make the most DOLLA BILL$$ BEEEITCH. Like the passengers, the drivers are alerted that prices have gone up and then, IT. IS. TIME TO GO. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work, but here’s the problem. I always seem to miss the surge. And by the most frustrating intervals. Like, by a minute. I’ve started to document this because no one believed me.

Here’s a play by play:

Part 1: The Call. Make that money Robert James.

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See that blue arrow? That’s me and my Nissan about to crush it. That honeycomb looking region by Ramsey? That’s the cash money. That’s the surge price region. In the surge price area any passengers looking for rides have to pay me MORE. Well BUCKLE UP, because I’m about make some extra bucks for my trip to Cabo….

Part 2: The Journey. The Adventure. The Quest for Cash.

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It’s now 8:45AM. Nissan and I are flying. It’s an absolutely gorgeous day over here in Allendale, the birds are singing, the sun is shining and every song on the radio is better than the last. We’re making good time, Nissan and I, and we’re about to enter the nest of cash money.

Part 3: The Hero’s Arrival

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It’s 8:47AM and Rob has landed. I repeat, Rob has landed. I am now in the nest, ready for those high-price passengers and….

Part 4: The Disappointment / Cabo Cancelled

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WAIT WHAT?! It’s 8:48AM! ONE MINUTE AFTER I ARRIVED AND THE SURGE IS OVER?! WHAT HAPPENED!?!?!? POOF! GONE! WTF!?

Here’s the bummer. You drive, you put the mileage on, and suddenly, it’s over before it even started. Dreams crushed. Vacation cancelled. Okay, you’re probably wondering, “Why does this guy have this documented? Isn’t that a little…much?” I have this documented because this has happened multiple times. I have become part of the rat race. Literally. And more often than not, I come in last place. In the difference of a minute. I started taking the screenshots because after the third or fourth time, it started to become almost comical. It was a joke. I sometimes wonder if the Tech Team at HQ watched me and other drivers run after the surge for a sick kind of joke.

Le Sigh.

Where am I going with all of this? I’m not really sure, actually, but I did want to give you the picture of what it’s actually like driving for Uber (or Lyft, or any driving service, really). For anyone thinking about going down that road (ha ha pun intended), here’s something to consider. Yes, it is AWESOME setting your own schedule and only working when you want to work. Make sure, though, that you don’t overlook the downsides. The wear and tear on your vehicle, for one. You’ll add miles and guzzle gas. Yes, you CAN score big with the surge prices (unless you’re me and then you’re just out of luck and doomed forever). Weigh out the pros and the cons, rather, the costs, and you CAN get stuck in this Uber equilibrium.

The best part about the job? The people. Despite everything I said at the start of this post, I’ve met all sorts of characters. I love finishing working for Uber and having tons of stories to share with families and friends. The job is entertaining in and of itself.

Once, a young man entered my car only minutes after breaking up with his girlfriend. He sat in my front seat, looked at me with so much worry in his face and pleaded, “Can you please get out of here as fast as possible.” He was now a fugitive of love. I was his getaway car. His girlfriend, pardon me, his now ex, threw one of her shoes at the Nissan. She was pissed.

He let out a huge sigh and turned toward me again. “It was going to happen sooner or later.”

He was one of the greatest and most thoughtful passengers I ever had. Why? I felt for the guy and he was beyond grateful. “Dude, you just saved my life.”

Now, was my time to shine. We’d just left his relationship in the dust and hightailed it outta there to safer roads and I felt my true calling beginning to emerge: Uber driver became the therapist and compassionate philosopher. (Mind you, my love life is in constant shambles and by no means am I Aristotle, or whoever you think of when you think of sage advice, in this department.) But, we connected. We had this miraculous breaking of the bread if you will.

He called me his hero…which also totally made my day.

Nietzsche (since we’re on the topic of philosophers now) coined the term “Ubermensch”. It is used to refer to an individual as being superior—the next step in human evolution.

It was in that moment where this guy got out of my car that I felt like I had actually made a difference…and evolved…into the Ubermensch.

Social Media….is Media.

I am not going to lie: I am so happy that I did not have a smartphone or a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Gmail account in high school. Or even middle school. Or even elementary school! Former 4th grade students of mine had Instagram! How!? Why!? It would have destroyed me. I can’t imagine being a kid today with all the technological connectivity there is available. Kids used to call me “Acne Acres” in middle school and I could only imagine that becoming a trendy hashtag. Schools are constantly dealing with bullying issues and social media humiliation. I know myself and I am no angel. I would have thoroughly enjoyed posting passive aggressive posts about who I like and who I despised or who I found hot and who was not. “Brett is a total babe and I saw him in the locker room today and God is real.” #BrettandRob4ever” (Brett couldn’t stand me in 6th grade, just saying)

At 30 years young, I’ll be the first to admit that I can get sucked into the social media vortex. Friends are getting married, babies are being popped out, homes are being bought, and the South Pacific islands have never looked more beautiful. Kay Wills Wyma, author of  “I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really)” puts a twists on the acronym OCD and addresses that we live in an age of “Obsessive Comparison Disorder”. You cannot tell me that you haven’t scrolled through Instagram and at some point thought to yourself, “Gee, everyone else is doing great and looks so happy as I sit here on my ass, broke as hell, and single AF. Might as well sit here by myself and rewatch every episode of “Stranger Things” because then I can shift my focus from the hashtags, pics of the South Pacific, or my friends new born baby. REGARDLESS! Is EVERYONE happy? No. Definitely not Barb. Some definitely are. There are happy people out there. But is everyone doing BETTER than you? No. Social media is riddled with lies and you (and me) have definitely attempted to portray that we are doing just great but deep down inside know that begging for likes is as empty as my unsweetened vanilla almond milk carton currently in the fridge. What the hell are we doing!?

I’d like to share with you a few observations and experiences I’ve had with this new phenomena. I cannot stress this point enough though: You are seeing the best of the best on social media. You are seeing pictures. You are seeing small little moments and have absolutely no idea what is true or what is not. Social media is here to stay. There is no turning back now.  And that’s okay – but, please, take care of yourself by hopefully starting to understand the grand illusions. Breathe.  Focus on YOUR business. You’re doing better than you think 🙂

  1. Seeking Validation = Disappointment – I want you to read this slowly – you are worth far more than ANYONE’s approval or validation.  I urge you to please NOT use social media as a tool to seek validation. Listen, I post. I too fall into that trap to make sure people know that my life is great and that everything is just gravy and butter biscuits. But if you’re SOLELY posting to make yourself feel better about yourself BECAUSE you need people to give you that feedback, you’re setting yourself up time and time again to feel worse about yourself. You don’t NEED someone’s LIKE to remind you that you are gem to this world. You know how to make yourself feel GREAT? Start a fundraiser via social media.  Inspire others to travel, run marathons, work in a soup kitchen, whatever! Could you imagine if we stopped trolling each other on the internet and instead, inspired, motivated, and cheerlead those we love?
  2. 5000 Facebook Friends?  You’re Fake – For the past four New Years, I’ve done this Facebook purge, where I defriend individuals who I have lost touch with, who I once friended thinking a love story would unfold (and didn’t), or just simply someone I don’t want seeing my social media life (I.E.: Former boss). People have called me out on this thinking it’s cold but, the truth is, I don’t have the mental capacity to keep up with everyone: especially someone I don’t particularly and honesty care about. Anthropologist and Evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar, came up a number, that we, as individuals, can maintain stable relationships with. The number is 150. That’s it. We aren’t capable of maintaining stable relationships that exceed that number. Haven’t you stumbled across someone’s Facebook, and you feel HONORED that they have accepted your request? I have. Then I looked at their friends. If it’s a very high number, chances are, you’ll get lost in the cyber pool of others. Or, if you’re like me, a hopeful romantic, you’ll STAND OUT with your cool and attractive profile picture, brilliant statuses, and cover photo portraying that you have keen insight on how the world works. Ugh. This hardly ever works. Remember: Quality. Not quantity. Now we have science with Dunbar’s number to back that statement up. I have actually begun to feel as though those with the SMALLER friendship list…or the ones you can trust.
  3. You’re Seeing the Best of the Best – In April of 2016, I managed to get myself to Yosemite National Park. I went on a personal California pilgrimage because I was so upset with my job, my love life, and financial status. I was a disaster. So! What better than to clear my head in one of the greatest National Parks our country has to offer.  I had to document the whole adventure and posted pictures religiously. I was solo. I was a courageous adventurer. I was a nut. I had posted a picture of Yosemite Falls (with no filter might I add) and it was definitely National Geographic quality. I was proud. The “likes” and “comments” were pouring in and everyone was super jealous. Here’s what the audience didn’t see. I cried majority of the time I was in Yosemite.  Not JUST because I was overwhelmed by its natural beauty but because majority of the trip, I was alone with my thoughts, and realized my life was a complete mess. I was in bad shape. But Instagram-Rob was having the best time. You not only don’t know what’s REALLY going in people’s lives through social media, you also have no idea how people actually feel in that captured moment, or what their emotional status is.
  4. A “Like” and a “Follow” does NOT constitute for a friendship –  I’ve heard friends of mine speak of others insisting that they are still friends with so-and-so because they “follow” each other. This is a friendship!? Nay! Factors that make up a friendship: Contact does (Skype, email, phone call, letter, smoke signal, fax (do people still do this?!)). Seeing each other does. Genuinely enjoying each other’s presence does. Supporting one another’s dreams does. Friendship is something that needs to be cherished and this digital era has kind of tweeked what a friendship is. Yes, it’s incredible that today we are able to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world. Distance is obliterated because of technology, I speak to my friend currently teaching in South Korea every now and then via Skype. But we both make the effort for our ‘chat-dates’ and we both have an idea what we are both up to. Don’t half ass it and think “liking” a pic or having someone ‘like’ your pic means you guys are buds. That is the most minimal effort you could possibly put in! Step it up! A “like” is not the same as getting some coffee with your homedog or gettin’ crunk with ya boy.
  5. You’re Missing Out  – James Altucher summed up spiritually perfectly in his book, “Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream”. Being spiritual is being present. That’s IT. Next time you’re waiting for the bus. Next time you have a few minutes at work. Next time you are sitting in a restaurant or cafe. Take note of how many people are looking at their phones. It’s horrifying. When we are scrolling excessively, we aren’t present. At all. We are absorbed in a virtual world. We are looking at pictures of that party weren’t invited to, experiencing ‘FOMO’, but the only missing out we are experiencing is the very moment we are in. True story: After gorging myself at a diner, I stumbled back to my car. I noticed a red-tail hawk devouring a squirrel up in a true.  It was unbelievable. This majestic winged warrior was about 12 ft. away from me.  There was a man, in the same parking lot as me, directly below the perched avian beast. However, he was looking at his phone.  A squirrel was being ripped apart, guts and fur flying everywhere, and this man didn’t even notice. Not to mention!  Some squirrel fur was falling from the tree…slowly on to him and he was oblivious.  What?!  Put the phone down every once and awhile.  You just might miss something so incredibly bad-ass.

Finding balance in just about anything is hard. To go cold turkey is asking anyone a lot….I am not suggesting you deactivate your Facebook, delete your Instagram, and stop the snaps. It’s fun. I’ll be the first to admit it. But. I want to challenge you. Can you sit down…while eating with a friend….phone in the pocket…and start and finish the meal and conversation WITHOUT looking at the phone? Can you go for a twenty minute walk with your phone on AIRPLANE mode (that way you can still listen to your tunes!)? Try it. Believe me. We ALL love distractions and in this day and age with everything at our fingertips, it’s so easy to NOT be present. It’s DIFFICULT to be alone with your thoughts. For some, it is terrifying. I would love to hear some stories on their own experiences with social media. I would love to hear whether you managed to sit down during that meal without taking the phone out. Did you enjoy yourself more? Where you tense fearing that you might MISS OUT?

Think of it this way: you can have a good time too. Allow yourself. Give yourself some credit. You’re not THAT boring.

6/14/17 We are ALL Doug Funnie.

The “Doug Funnie Syndrome” and Questioning our Thoughts

I am the product of 90’s television. Kind of.  I am not a 90’s kid, I was born in 1986. However, as an elementary school child, I was blessed with some of the most amazing cartoons to be bestowed on television.  In the beautiful summer of 1991, Nickelodeon’s animated “Doug” immediately became a sensation. I’ve seen every episode. I think it’s fair to say that most people near my age can either hum or whistle the opening credit sequence. It was such a memorable animated series. Who could possibly forget a name like Patti Mayonnaise or Porkchop or Mr. Dink? Each episode consisted of two 15 minute shorts following Doug in his everyday life, going through the motions of growing up, and confronting all sorts of dilemmas. Doug’s personality traits remained the same throughout the entire series. Doug was neurotic, a self-sabotager, and his pessimistic imagination always conjured up worst case scenarios. In a personal favorite episode, entitled “Doug’s Dinner Date”, Doug embarks on an anxiety ridden journey to convince himself that he can enjoy eating liver and onions. He had been invited to eat with Patti, his crush, and he turned a simple and kind gesture into this potentially horrific and doomsday experience.

I do this all the time.

I try to might light of my own neuroticism…by now calling it “Doug Funnie Syndrome”. Perhaps this term will find its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders one day. I kind of want credit. Perhaps you can relate: you screw up, you say or do something dumb, you’re uptight about tomorrow for whatever reason, and your imagination runs rampant. You have a headache and or your lower back is sore, you look up your symptoms on WebMd.com and suddenly you have brain cancer or some rare spinal fracture. Or Zika has mutated into a super virus and the clock is now ticking!  It’s over. Noooooooo.

I’m not kidding. This is how my head can sometimes work. Look at this story of grandeur. ANXIETY.

Let’s fast forward 24 years later from “Doug”‘s premiere.  In the summer of 2015, two convicted killers, broke out from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. The two had managed to bust out by cutting a hole in a steam pipe, stuffed their bed to create decoys, and found freedom. Now, there was me. I was headed to Ithaca, N.Y. for a personal retreat.  I had discovered a little ‘sanctuary’ on AirBnb the summer before and was desperate for a recharge. Of course, I had heard of this jailbreak a little bit before my departure and my “Doug Funnie Syndrome” spiraled out of control.  I had convinced myself that these two convicts were going to find me and kill me. Why wouldn’t they? They totally had a bone to pick with me. They of course needed to leave cryptic clues of their whereabouts. I just Google mapped the distance between Dannemora to Ithaca: 272 miles. Not to mention! Ithaca is in the complete OPPOSITE direction of Canada, where the two were headed. So then, why was I freaking out?

I had created this whole story in my head that I was going to die and that my personal retreat was going to end with an obituary stating that my journey to being cool was cut short. I went to Ithaca, with a whistle and my bear mace (Just for safe measures! I was going to be the NEW type of whistle blower!) Well, I was fine. The escapees, not so much. Google it. I was on the edge of my seat the majority of my Ithaca trip but was lucky to see some great waterfalls and had great weather!  Oh man, and those fireflies put on this spectacular light show for me every night. I highly recommend that you go! My head has a knack for creating these tales of grandeur. I don’t know if this was rubbed off on me from watching so much “Doug” or that my parents have left their own anxious imprints in my head. Regardless, one practice that I have to share with you….is really stopping yourself and asking: is this the truth or is this a lie?

It was my former Youth Minister, Kathryn, who taught me this strategy.  I’m not sure about you, but I have this gift for creating these fictional future realities. I still do it. I’ve got some lifelines that I call when my head goes down the whirlwind of misery. Really ask yourself, “How often am I wrong?” Seriously.  Don’t let your ego and self righteousness get in the way here. Ask yourself, right now, if you have the tendency to be WRONG about what is going to happen tomorrow.  Or even an hour later from now.  Or even 20 minutes from now!

Or try this:  Have you ever entered some sort of situation, so confident that it’ll play out exactly the way you had predicted? Sure, some things might play out the way you had imagined.  But, for the most part, we bullshit ourselves. Forget asking and getting fixated on why do we do this. The more you catch yourself lying to yourself, the easier it becomes to manage and disregard the stress induced feelings. Byron Katie, author of the book “Loving What Is”, is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. She created a simple 4 step formula called The Work which focuses on questioning our thoughts. The bottom line:  it’s our thoughts that cause suffering.  She states that we should approach our thoughts with inquiry.  Really investigate the thought!

I want to gently add one step to Byron Katie’s formula – laughter.  As I had mentioned before, I have some wonderful life-lines in my life who put up with my own bullshit. When I truly have a “Doug Funnie Syndrome” moment, I know exactly who to call.  They are so unbelievably patient with me and the conversation has a tendency end with laughter. We can all laugh at how ridiculous Rob is being. And I want you to do the same. Well, not laugh at me, but laugh at yourself! Speaking on my behalf, my soothsayer predictions can be absolutely absurd. I once ate a peanut butter sandwich at work, loaded the copier machine with a new stack of paper, WITHOUT having washed my hands, and had convinced myself that some poor person was going to have an allergic reaction to handling their peanut-laced paper. I was going to be responsible for a peanut-butter-allergic-reaction outbreak. Remember the 1995 film “Outbreak”? Yea, well, forget the host monkey. The copy machine was going to ruin everything and destroy lives. I was GUILT ridden for about 48 hours. I even called a friend who I knew had an allergy! HE even told me I was being ridiculous! Nothing happened. No headlines such as “Skippy Peanut Butter: Skipping Your Way to the Grave” made the news. I continue to eat peanut butter….and will continue to respect the ‘No-Peanut Zones’. Next time you have your neurotic moment, try to find the humor in it. Laugh at yourself. Once you are able to do this, you are golden. Laughter is the liberator.

Every episode of “Doug” ends with our troubled protagonist writing in his journal, reflecting on some lesson he had learned and relieved that things worked out. At the end of “Doug’s Dinner Date”, Doug forced himself to try liver and onions building up to this climactic point in the episode. He ended up liking it before having dinner with Patti. Furthermore, Patti admits that she was only joking about the liver and onions. They get Honker dogs and fries. Doug had wasted so much ENERGY on something that didn’t even happen. Save your energy. Do you ever find yourself exhausted from your thoughts? They can be so draining! Question your thoughts. And laugh at yourself. You’re fine. And so am I (And believe me, like you, I have to remind myself of this too!)

6/14/17 -Welcome, to Me. Rab.

Hey there! I’m Rob. Some friends call me Rab. Or Bobert. Or butthead. Thank you so much for stumbling across this blog. Now I need to hook you in. See that picture down below? There’s your hook. I’ll even give you a second to scroll down and look. That handsome devil is me – a 30 year old trying to become the best version of himself. Don’t be fooled by that picture though. I may look like I am radiating confidence but I am a worrier, terribly sensitive, and always torn trying to do the right thing. I’d like to share with you real life and uncensored stories that I experienced in this roller coaster of a ride called life. By doing so, I hope to not only inspire but, to remind you that we are ALL human and that we ALL have similarities (as well as embracing our differences!). I’d like to also open dialogue with you, the reader(s), to create a space for positivity and laughter. If we can laugh at ourselves, we’re golden.

Listen, the truth is, I’m an odd duck. Nice guy. But, a little odd. And sometimes, I beat myself up over this. I stress out if I have plans on both Friday and Saturday night. I put ketchup on everything. In fact, I just went to a BBQ last weekend, and my friends family questioned why I would ever put ketchup on grilled chicken.  Is that THAT weird?! The end of the second season of ‘Digimon’ still makes me weep. I like dudes, bike riding, and iced chai tea lattes. I over think everything. Should I ever dine with you, please put me near a window or door. I freak out in situations were I feel stuck. Give me leg room, and arm room, and torso space, in fact, let’s just eat outside.

At this point in my life, I am sick of surface leveled relationships. That rant above about me, that was me making myself vulnerable.  And boy, I tell ya, MANY people are not good at that. Vulnerability is a muscle. Let’s work together on that. Anyway, surface leveled relationships: the ones where you kinda put on a act….the ones where you are hesitant to be your authentic safe because you KNOW that someone will say something….the ones where you have to fit a paradigm of what the OTHER person thinks of you so not to ‘rock the boat’.

My twenties were full of boat rocking and my life is very different now from what it used to be only 7, 8, 9 years ago. I am STILL trying to break some habits and patterns….but, that’s life right? Growth doesn’t happen overnight.

My writing isn’t necessarily the best. You can probably tell from this first post. It’s truly all over the place. I just went from ketchup, to Digimon, to freaking out in windowless restaurants.

But here’s to STARTING. I will hopefully create some doodles, videos, and self help entries for your enjoyment.

HERE WE GO.

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