When you think of a giant, you don’t think of a five seven, one hundred and twenty pound man (at most), who appeared even smaller than that due to the ravages of scoliosis and a life spent in a wheelchair. Yet, my dad was huge. He was a mountain. Despite being unable to stand, he stood taller than any person I have ever known. His presence in my life will forever be massive. He was a giant.
When you think of a teacher, you don’t think of someone who never left their home, who was basically a shut-in. Yet every time I saw my dad, he taught me something. He taught me how to persevere. He taught me gratefulness. He taught me Delco. He taught me how to live my best life and the importance of enjoying it, and he taught me all of this and so much more without even trying to. He taught me with his example. He was a teacher.
When you think of a strong man, you don’t think of someone whose hands started shaking the moment he picked up a fork, a knife, or a morning cup of coffee. Yet, my dad was the strongest person I will ever know. He did so much on his own, more than he should have had to, and more than what was right. And he never complained. He just did it. He was strong. He was so strong.
When you think of a lively man, you don’t think of someone who habitually slept vast portions of the day away. Yet, if you got into conversations with my dad, if you engaged him on topics ranging from sports to current events to the importance of family, he would sit up straighter, talk a little louder—okay, a lot louder—and dominate the conversation. If you put his grandchildren in front of him, he would simply light up, and the smile he was never able to quite muster for a photograph suddenly appeared naturally. He was lively.
When you think of a proud man, you don’t think of someone who was continually unkempt. Yet, if you saw how concerned my dad was with his hair, if you ever popped his cap off and helped him tame his untamable cow lick, you would have seen just how much his appearance mattered to him. If you talked with him about family, about his children’s or grandchildren’s accomplishments or his siblings or his nieces and nephews, his pride was evident. He loved his family more than anything and would have done anything for anyone, and he was proud of everyone. He was proud.
When you think of a healthy man, you don’t think of someone who battled a degenerative brain disorder for decades, who suffered from respiratory issues for years, and who was in so much pain he continually sought out new treatment modalities—none of which ever really worked. No doubt about it: my dad was a medical mess. But he was emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, at least most of the time. Life beat him down, but it never beat him. It never defeated him. He was always so happy to see you, so excited to spend time with you, and so understanding if something prevented you from visiting. Plus, let’s get this right: Despite all of his myriad health issues, it took a pandemic to finally take him from us. I have to repeat that, because it’s stunning in so many ways: It took a pandemic to finally take him from us. He was healthy, at least in some ways.
My dad defeated the odds far longer than we ever expected him to. He kept fighting, he kept smiling, and he kept loving right up until the end. He was my hero. He was the best father I could ever have hoped for. I love you, Dad. I will miss you every day.
On Thursday afternoon, Kate, Mike, Meg, and I said our final goodbyes to our father without knowing how much longer he would last, without knowing how long his ever-present resilient streak would keep him alive. We said our goodbyes over FaceTime. Over a fucking video chat. I’m grateful for it, to have had the chance to gather with my siblings and say goodbye to him, but at the same time, I hate that it happened that way. I hate that we were in the hospital, literally on the same fucking floor as him, but we couldn’t see him face to face. We couldn’t touch him. He couldn’t feel our physical presence. We couldn’t surround him with love and let him know that we were there, by his side, for his final journey.
I understand why. I mean, Covid. He had Covid, and all the requisite precautious were put into place. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. That doesn’t mean that I have to like that he spent his last week and a half with us locked away in isolation. I hated knowing that as we spoke with him, he was so close, yet so far away. He deserved better. After fighting for so many years, he deserved better than to die while being isolated from his loved ones. But that’s how it went down, because 2020-2021 is an absolute shitshow and Covid sucks.
He passed early Friday morning, before sunrise. His strength, which had carried him year after year, departed into the moonlight.
He was given such extraordinarily good care during this last, final battle with his health. All the nurses and physicians were rooting for him to beat Covid, but with his history of respiratory issues and his already frail nature, I don’t know if he ever stood a chance against it. But they tried. They really tried. And so did he. His respirations went up and down and back up like a yoyo. There were even times that his respirations almost came back to normal. As crazy as it seemed, we actually considered that he was possibly going to beat it.
But then the bottom dropped out. And when it became obvious that his condition was worsening, when it came time to place him in hospice, his caregivers cried with us, shed tears with us, and I’m so grateful that I could feel their empathy, their warmth. Even though they had only known my dad for a short time, we knew they genuinely cared for him and did not want to see him suffer.
If you never met my dad, you’re worse off for it. I have no doubt about that. I don’t believe in saints or blessed people, but I do believe in the power of everyday people. Those people who wake up day in and day out and inspire others through the sheer force of their own will. Through the sheer force of their existence.
That was my dad.
I’ve long thought about what I would say, what I would write, upon his passing. Honestly, I’ve had decades. Literally fucking decades. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen within two months of my mom’s death.
Fuck. You. 2020-2021.
There are many cliches I could share about my dad, many thoughts I know you’ve heard before about many people. Today, I’m going to strive to avoid all of those, though I know I’m going to fail at that endeavor.
So be it.
I really began to know and understand and truly love my dad in the summer of 1995. That’s the summer I moved in with him after five years in the Marine Corps. I can remember the phone call that changed my life. “Hey, Dad, it’s Will. I’m going to change my residency to California. Qualify for their in-state tuition. Go to school for oceanography.”
“Well, my family thought you’d come home and live with me.”
That’s all it took. That simple statement. Within seconds, I knew that he needed my help, that he needed me by his side. Back then, I had no idea how sick he was—and I certainly had no idea what the next 25+ years of his life would look like, but I knew that was his call for help.
So I did what I would like to think most of us would do if put in the same situation: I got on an airplane, in utter tears as I left the best friends I had ever known, and traveled “home” to a place that felt as strange to me as an alien planet.
Thank fucking god I accepted that mission. That fucking god I honored his request.
Thank fucking god that age 22 I decided to come home and take care of my dad.
If not, I wouldn’t have met Beth. If not, I wouldn’t be Squirt’s dad. If not, I wouldn’t have the awesome, supportive, close-knit relationships that I have with my siblings. If not, I wouldn’t have made the friends that I’ve made.
If not, I wouldn’t be me. I’d be some weird alternate version of me. I assume I’d still like punk rock and have tattoos, but my life and experiences would be different and I never would’ve met the people who are now closest to my heart.
To hell with all that.
So in 1995, I came home, and in the years since, I’ve been honored to call William Welsh my father.
There are so many things one can ask of their dad. You can ask him to be strong.
You can ask him to be tenacious.
You can ask him to be resilient.
You can ask him to be joyful.
You can ask him to be supportive.
You can ask him to be resolute.
You can ask him to be the strongest motherfucker you’ve ever known.
Check motherfucking check.
And you can ask him to be inspirational.
Check. One hundred times check.
My dad was all of that and more, despite the world spitting in his face, telling him off, and making him work for every smile he ever put across his face.
That dude…he was my hero.
Have you ever known someone who makes your day better just with their sheer existence? Who prevents you from having a bad day, just because you know their day was a tad bit—or even way more than a tad bit—shittier, and despite that, they keep on smiling? And they do so day after day after day?
That was my dad. I don’t think there have ever been too many people quite like him.
He didn’t allow me to have bad days. He didn’t allow me to feel self-pity. He didn’t allow me time to ponder the shitty days or the shitty weeks or even the shitty months.
You know why?
Because he didn’t have what most of us would consider a single fucking good day for DECADES.
His good days were not shitting himself.
His good days were feeling well enough to eat.
His good days were being able to stay in bed because he was too weak or in too much pain to do anything else.
His good days were falling and somehow not injuring himself.
His good days were pushing through so much pain and frustration but still saying, “Hey, guy! How are you?!” the second you walked through his door.
His good days were measured in the tiniest of moments. And god damn if he didn’t make you feel it.
This is not to say that he wanted to make you feel bad. It’s not to say he was trying to lay a guilt trip. He was honestly interested in knowing how your day was actually going! He wanted to hear how good it was! He wanted to know the joy in your life! He wanted to know where your smiles were coming from, cause guess what? That’s where his smiles were coming from, too!
He. Would. Not. Let. You. Have. A. Bad. Day. Because. His. Good. Days. Were. Way. Worse. Than. Your. Worst. Days.
His health started to go awry in the late ‘80s, when he began to notice that his balance was off. While walking, he would just start to stumble, like he was drunk. After some time, he was diagnosed with olivopontocerebellar ataxia, a rare degenerative neurological disorder that slowly robs you of your motor function. His balance was the first thing to noticeably deteriorate, and over time all of his motor functions began to suffer. He would have intentional tremors. His speech became incredibly hard to understand. Even the process of eating became difficult—because what is swallowing but another motor function? And around 20 years ago, he became wheelchair bound.
It was an impossible life, but he lived it with so much dignity, a dignity that was more powerful than a simple glace at him could tell you. Because, trust me, Dad was not the most dignified-looking person. His appearance? Let’s just say that it wasn’t regal. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. Poor guy was constantly disheveled. He had a head of hair that I will forever remain jealous of, and it was a perpetual mess. The remnants of his last meal or snack were always smeared across his face or in his lap or both. His clothes were a way, and by “a way,” I mean a fucking wrinkle bomb. Yet, if you saw past all of that, what you saw was a guy who decided to live in an apartment on his own and on his own terms. He’d ask for help when needed, but he would try not to. He didn’t want to be a hindrance, a burden, he didn’t want to hold you back from living your life.
If only he knew that he was the opposite of a hindrance. He taught me how to live life, and he did so from the confines of a wheelchair.
Another thing to know about my dad is this: Dude loved arguing. I mean, he would take the opposite side of an argument just to do it, just to piss you off, just to get into a debate with you. And this guy, he was good at it. He would somehow take the most benign of conversations to ridiculous levels. I can remember having to leave his apartment multiple times just because I couldn’t continue with the conversation, because I was so incredibly frustrated by his argument or his line of thinking, and as I walked out the door I could hear him laughing, because he knew he had won.
He loved pushing buttons.
There were also times, though, that he enjoyed deeper conversations, conversations about life and its mysteries. I can remember one day in particular. We’d talk about religion often, about how his family was Catholic and I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and yet there I sat, completely nonreligious. He’d poke at me fairly often about this. It bothered him, not because I wasn’t religious, necessarily, but because I was breaking family tradition, and tradition was important.
One day, we found ourselves conversing about it for the umpteenth time. This conversation, though, was a long one, way longer than normal. He kept on it, kept pressing me. He really wanted me to express myself, to hear my line of thinking. And then at some point, we just stopped and he looked at me. He took a pause and said, “I’ll give you this, I think you know why you believe what you believe more than most people ever will.”
I can’t tell you how good it felt for me to hear him say those words, not just because he finally knew where I was coming from, but because he took the time to actually listen and understand.
That moment meant the world to me. It still does.
Outside of arguing and debating, he also loved needling people about things. He loved giving people a hard time, and the more he loved someone, the harder he’d attack. Sometimes he’d take it too far, get a little too personal or say something a bit too on the nose, but he didn’t know any better. At least that’s the excuse we always made for him. And by and large, when that occurred, someone would let him know, and he’d correct course.
He’d keep that smile on his face though, the mischievous fucker.
I don’t know where I go without my dad. All I know is this. I will love him forever. I will honor him forever. I will never have another person in my life quite like him.
No one else will ever force me to have good days like he did, to force me to see the bright side of life, to be grateful for the smallest things, and to honor and respect my own body’s capabilities because I know full well, thanks to him, that not everyone is lucky enough to have a body that works. So if you do—and I’m speaking to the person reading this right now—if you have a body that works, be grateful for it and push it, make it sweat, make it sore, and keep it in shape, because you…you’re one of the lucky ones.
I’ll forever praise him for being my inspiration. I’ll forever praise him for being my good day, my smile.
I will forever miss him.
There are many times throughout life when you hear the phrase, He or She was the best of us. It’s not always true. I’d say most of the time it isn’t true. Very often, it’s just a catch phrase. It sounds good, right?
Well, I’m here to tell you that my dad was the best of us. And if you don’t believe that, it’s only because you never knew him.
On Friday, February 26, my mom passed away. She was 71. She was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in September, and she battled the disease hard. We thought we were losing her in November, but she bounced back and continued fighting. Following her last chemotherapy treatment in December, she even had a short spell where her strength seemed to return and she seemed somewhat robust, all things considered. She continued to receive immunotherapy treatments, and those hit her hard, physically and emotionally, but she fought back as much as she was able. My siblings and I even had to tell her to slow down, to not do so much, to rest.
Eventually, however, the cancer came roaring back, and when it did her decline was swift. She passed away with all of her children and her brother and sister-in-law at her bedside. I believe it was as peaceful for her as it was for us. We got to say good-bye together, as a family, which was a very special moment, especially considering that many families are not able to gather in this way thanks to the pandemic.
In the days since her passing, I’ve experienced myriad emotions. I’ve grieved my mom; worried about my dad, even though they’ve been divorced decades; laughed and cried with my wife, daughter, siblings and their families, and my aunt, uncle, and cousins. The time I’ve shared with my family has been incredibly special. We’ve gotten closer than ever, and I’m super grateful for them all.
I’ve also been lonely. Dreadfully lonely. Mostly when I’m not surrounded by a group of people, which is more often than not. And I feel the need to write about it, not only to help me process what I’m experiencing, but also to share my experience with others so that if you have friends or family who have lost someone close to them during Covid, you might have an idea of what they’re going through.
Following my mom’s death, I was grateful for any and all communication with the outside world. Text messages came in, as did messages via Instagram and Facebook Messenger. I had multiple friends check in on me multiple times, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated those check-ins. Because, fuck, this shit is hard.
A week after her passing, we had her viewing and a small, family-only memorial service. We wondered about attendance. Who would show? How many people? Would it be lightly attended? Crowded? Somewhere in the middle?
If I’m being honest, I think we expected light attendance, perhaps very light attendance, to be standing by her casket for 90 minutes without very many people stopping in to pay their respects.
Thankfully, we were very pleasantly surprised. My mom touched many lives during her decades spent as a childcare provider, and so many of the children (many now adults) she cared for over the years turned out for her, as did many of their parents. It was heartwarming and touching and I ended up hugging a ton of people who I hadn’t ever met—and will likely never meet again.
My brother’s friend circle came out in force. If you don’t know my brother and his friends, it’s hard to explain just how tight-knit this crew is. They’ve been incredibly close for as long as I remember, and they’ve remained close despite life pulling them in different directions—professionally, personally, and even geographically. Yet they were all there, and it was beautiful to see. It was special.
Overall, it just felt good to see people, to connect. Even though we couldn’t see each other’s smiles, we knew they were there because we heard the laughter and we saw eyes wrinkle up as they only do when smiles are big and bright.
Weird to say, but my mom’s viewing was a much-needed break from the isolation of the past year and the crushing weight my siblings and I had been experiencing since September and especially the week prior.
Then…the weekend hit, and outside a few hours spent with my family at my Mom’s, things got quiet. I became lethargic. Gray. Just completely out of sorts. Then Monday arrived, and as I walked into the spare bedroom that my wife and I now share as an office because we’ve worked from home for the past year, I felt myself shudder. The last thing I wanted to do was walk into that office. I would’ve much rather gone into my office at work, the one that’s downtown, the one that would normally be filled with energy and faces I haven’t seen in 12 months. The one where I would see friends’ smiles, where people might attempt to cheer me up or console me or just say, “Hey, I’m really sorry. Let me know if you want to grab a coffee or something.”
Instead, I’m sitting at my home computer, writing this, where people can’t see me, and it just has me feeling lonely and isolated and in need of people in a big, bad way. And there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. It is what it is. We’re all in this isolation bubble and when you need people, even when you really fucking need people, people just aren’t around.
And please don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying people should be doing more or more people should have shown up at the viewing or anything like that, because hell…Covid. I understand our options for connecting with one another are limited right now. I do. It just sucks that this is the case.
If I have a piece of advice, it’s this: If you have a friend or a family member who loses someone important to them at this moment, it’s very possible that they’re feeling very similar to how I am right now—especially if they’ve taken the social distancing precautions seriously. Reach out. Say hello. A simple text message or a short five-minute phone call could very well be the highlight of their day. I’m no expert on grief, but my experience tells me that it’s cosmically harder to pull ourselves out of a grieving funk without the help of others.
A few things about myself. I enjoy writing. I enjoy other people reading what I write. People have told me they enjoy reading what I write. All of this is well and good, right?
But… (There’s always a motherfucking “but,” isn’t there?) … I’m not good at writing for myself. I don’t do it. This means that almost everything I write outside of my daily journaling gets published in some shape or form. There’s this site. There was an old site, one that I can’t remember the name of anymore. (Probably a good thing.) There was/is @verytinytales, a Twitter account I used to write and post microstories to. For some reason, I never deleted it, never got rid of it. Some of the stories are good. Many aren’t. Most are at least interesting. A bunch are pretty dark. I think I’ve kept it open because I’ve always considered going back to it and then pulling the stories together into a book of some sort, but when Twitter decided to increase its character count limit I lost interest.
Why do motherfuckers need to be so wordy?
Why am I saying all this? Because after some time thinking about all of the above, I’ve realized that I have a bit of a problem: I’m a good writer, but perhaps I’m at my best when I’m writing about my fears, my challenges, my insecurities. When I open myself up and let myself bleed onto the page. Or the keyboard. Or whatever it is I’m using to write that day.
Unfortunately, what this means is that all the things I write and then publish online uncover a bit of my soul.
Fuck, just that sentence above exposes me. I can peek into a person’s head right now: Look at this guy, going on about how emotionally vulnerable he is. What a goon.
Before going deeper, let’s get this one thing straight: We’re all emotionally vulnerable. Each and every one of us. We might show it in diverse ways, might express that vulnerability differently (or not at all), but we all can find ourselves feeling paper thin and ready to tear at the slightest bit of added stress.
We’re all fucking fragile.
My issue is, in order for me to be at my creative best, I have to tap into that fragility, that vulnerability, put a fucking needle into it, and then let it flow onto the page. And then to make it worse, I have to put it on display. Let the world see it.
Let the world see me, with all my flaws. Or at least the flaw I’m talking about at that moment.
It makes me wonder if this is a good thing. I mean, is it? I don’t know. Is this what you’re here for? To read about someone else’s vulnerability? To know that you’re not alone? That someone else is going through shit, too?
I’m no self-help guru. I’m not an expert on self-improvement. I don’t have any special insights or training or anything else that makes me qualified to give advice. And that’s not what I’m really trying to do. Instead, I’m just writing about my own challenges and insecurities, and then choosing to share my thoughts. That’s all. If it helps you, good. Great, in fact! I’m glad.
Does it help me, though? It must, because I keep doing it. But this whole post is one big question mark: Am I doing a good thing?
Seriously, let me know. Leave me a comment. Send an e-mail. Shoot me a text or a message on Insta or Facebook if we know each other via one of those platforms. I’m honestly curious about your thoughts on where I’ve taken Villain Complex.
As 2020 came to a close, the family and I celebrated Christmas Day at home and then took off to spend a week in a small beach shack in the Outer Banks.
I’ve always wanted to get away from the dizzying nature of the holidays, to escape the stress of the usual onslaught of social commitments, and just be somewhere else. Anywhere else. Bonus points, though, for a place where life is allowed to be slow, the schedule is clear, the screened-in porch is inviting, the sunrises and sunsets are glorious, the sound of the waves is hypnotic, the beer is cold, and where you may find yourself wondering what in the hell you’re going to do in order to fill all the hours of the day.
It’s not that I don’t love my family or enjoy seeing friends, because I truly do love spending time with them all. What I perhaps don’t like, though, is how so much of this visitation is crammed into a span of 7 to 10 days.
I mean, fuck, there are 51 other weeks in the year to get together. Do we really have to shove and compress and overschedule our holidays to the point that it causes stress and exhaustion? Is it truly necessary?
It’s very possible that you’re reading this and feel the exact opposite way. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you think I’m a massive grinch or a party pooper or something similar. And, maybe, just maybe, I might agree with you.
So, I have to admit, the forced socially distant holiday was pretty spectacular. The beach wasn’t exactly warm, the water was straight up fucking cold, and it started getting dark around 5 p.m. instead of near 9, but I got to hang out tons with my wife and daughter and we weren’t rushing around from place to place like a trio of rabid Santa Clauses trying to deliver last-minute gifts.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
One of the things I managed to do during this getaway was watch Bad Religion’s third Decades show featuring a unique setlist from the aughts. (In case you missed it *cough*likely*cough* they released four unique virtual shows, one show for each of the four decades they’ve been together, the 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s.) And a couple weeks before this show, I caught The Bouncing Souls virtual Home for the Holidays show, which was straight-up spectacular.
Watching these concerts has been refreshing in a way I didn’t expect. For example, prior to watching them, I haven’t been a fan of watching bands or musicians perform on TV. It’s never been my thing. I’d rather put an album on the stereo and listen rather than sit down and watch. (Is that a thing people still say, “the stereo”? Good lord, I’m old.)
Now, though, after having not been to a show since at least March, I’m super grateful for the escape that these virtual concerts have provided. It’s not normal, but it’s an abnormal I can embrace. At least for now. At least until my favorite bands start touring again. And maybe even longer.
Why longer? Well, this question ties back to the whole socially distanced holiday thing I brought up at the start of this blog. I want to throw something by you and get your thoughts: Remember pre-pandemic, when it was time for an evening out? I don’t know about you, but I can tell you a little thing about me, something you may have already guessed: Very often I was the guy who just did NOT want to leave the house. More often than not, my anxiety would build up and I’d just be like…ugh, I really don’t feel like having to do this tonight. I really don’t want to go. And sometimes I wouldn’t. I’d make excuses and wouldn’t go, disappointing people along the way.
At times, this tendency of mine would show up in extreme ways. The end-of-year work party? Yeah, I’m the guy who has felt so awkward that I’ve shown up to the main party, always held at a hotel ballroom, only to disappear to the hotel bar or lobby until I figured that it was time to head back before being missed. I’m the guy whose anxiety gets the best of him so badly that very often the only reason I show up for big group events is because I know I’m expected to. When this happens, I’m freaking the fuck out on the inside and wanting to be anywhere else but where I’m standing. I eventually calm down, and I’m not sure if anyone has ever picked up on the extreme level of uncomfortableness I often feel, but it’s a thing.
The worst of it, at least for me, is when I’m at a thing with lots of people and find myself by myself, because that means I need to find a group of people to insert myself into. I need to be the person who walks up to a group that’s already in mid-conversation and stand there waiting for someone to move over six inches, to invite me in, all the while hoping to be accepted.
Now, let me say this: Rational Will, the Will writing this blog entry, realizes that 99% of the time this is not a concern I should have. It just isn’t. I think it’s fair to say that people generally like me and I get along with almost everyone. I know that. That doesn’t mean, however, that in the moment before I’m about to step up to a group I’m any less anxious about the situation.
Ugh. When you’re 48, you should be better at life than this.
Now, let’s take that anxiety and add in a year or 18 months of NOT really being able to go out. A year of not forcing myself into uncomfortable social situations. A year of limited isolation. I don’t know about you, but I can already see how I’m going to struggle when things go back to normal. I have social anxiety. I have imposter syndrome. And the past year has allowed those personal attributes to stay hidden and unchallenged.
For as much as I say I can’t wait to go out and see people again, to mingle and socialize, I’m curious what my actions will show. I rarely feel 100% comfortable socially because I always fight the feeling that I don’t quite fit in with those around me. It’s a character flaw that I’ve never gotten over, and it’s one that has also convinced me to stay at home when I know I should go out. And while I don’t know this for sure, I assume it’ll have gotten worse when it’s time to enter the world at large again.
And I know I’m not alone.
For now, it’s not something I’m overly worried about, despite the 1200 words that preceded this sentence. It’s a flaw I know I need to address, and maybe typing this out and sharing it with the world is the first step to correcting it. We’ll see. Until then, I’m going to hunker down, wait out the winter, and anticipate the arrival of spring and its blooms. In 2021, all those new blooms may contain more meaning than they have in quite a long time.
Seven and a half months. Seven and a half fucking months we’ve been dealing with Covid and its repercussions. Just a year ago, most of us were gearing up for Halloween and starting to map out how we were going to survive the holidays and the bludgeon of commitments they bring. Now, however, we’re left to debate if it’s safe to send your kids out trick-or-treating and, if so, the precautions that need to be taken in order to keep them safe.
2019, the second the kids enter the house: Parents quickly hide the alcohol they started drinking the moment the kids left the house. “Okay, kids, let dad go through your bags and make sure there aren’t any razor blades lurking in a candy bar.” Dad takes off into a corner with the candy and immediately begins to inhale as much as humanly possible in the next two minutes.
2020, the second the kids enter the house: “WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! WASH THEM NOW! THEN EMPTY OUT THE CANDY AND BURN THE BAGS YOU WERE USING AND GARGLE WITH MOUTHWASH 20 TIMES OVER THE NEXT HOUR!”
Instead of wondering how you’re going to pretend to love Aunt Jackie’s salmonella-flavored stuffing and dry ass turkey, you’re trying to figure out how to get Nana, who has never held a cell phone or used a computer, logged into Zoom for a socially distant Thanksgiving. And instead of practicing the smile you’d give after opening up yet another year-long subscription to the Ugly Ass Tie of the Month Club, you’re left wondering if it’s even worth the hassle of putting up a Christmas tree because you’re pretty confident the only soul you’re going to see in 2020 is the Ghost of Christmas Past.
So, yeah, it’s a pretty dire situation, and now that fall has arrived and winter is on the way, things are looking really bleak for the next few months.
You know what, though? That’s okay. Because you’ve got this. You’ve got this because you’ve had this. And over the past seven months, you’ve learned so much about yourself. You’ve become a better, stronger person, even if you don’t know it. Even if you don’t see it.
How do I know this? I know this because you’ve had major fucking successes over the course of the past seven months and that in order to achieve those successes, you’ve had to overcome incredibly difficult obstacles.
There are positives about 2020. You just have to look for them. Here are a few. I bet that you’ll see yourself in at least a couple of them.
You can do hard shit. If you’re reading this, you’re a survivor, because let’s face it: Making it this far hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been physically easy, and it sure as hell hasn’t been emotionally easy. Yeah, you’ve had a few breakdowns. Maybe more than a few. Your eyes have had this horrible habit of getting a bit watery. (Stupid allergies.) And there are times when you’ve just stood still and thought to yourself, I can’t. I just can’t. Not today. I can’t handle the monotony for one more moment. I can’t walk into that room and sit in that chair one more god-damn day. But you know what you did the moment that thought left your head? You walked into that room and sat in that chair and began your day. You sucked up the Groundhog Day-ness of it all, chewed it up, and spit it out.
I reiterate: You can do hard shit. You’ve proven it. Own it. Be proud of it. YOU CAN DO HARD SHIT.
You’ve identified the shit you care about. I can guarantee that over the past seven months you’ve found yourself waist deep in at least one or two interests. Maybe it’s your work. Maybe it’s locating interesting hikes. Maybe it’s trying to humiliate 12-year-olds at Fortnite. Maybe you picked up the guitar that’s been lying about collecting dust and starting strumming. Perhaps you rediscovered your love for cooking because you’re home so much more. Whatever it is that you’ve been doing, I bet that if you look over the past seven months you’ve been doing so much more of it than you ever thought possible—and holy shit, you’re actually enjoying it.
You’ve identified the people you truly care about. This is a big one, because let’s face it: You’re simply not around people as much as you used to be. All those co-workers you used to see five days a week? Yeah, they’re all working from home, too. Random acquaintances that you’d see out and about? Well, you’re not out and about and either are they. Relationships that seemed easy because they were convenient aren’t convenient anymore. Now think about the people you’ve made a concerted effort to reach out to over the past seven months, the people you’ve kept in your circle just by shooting them a text and saying hello once a month. Maybe you’re shocked by some of the people you’ve decided to keep close, and maybe you’re shocked by some of those who have kinda slipped away. Either way, now you know who is important, or at least you know who you have treated as important. Make a note of who these people are and why they’re the ones you’ve kept close. And if there’s someone you do care about and haven’t kept close, it’s never too late to start.
You’ve identified the people who care about you. This works hand in hand with the above, and it’s very possible that you’re shocked by some of the people who have decided to keep you close. What a nice surprise! In some ways, this list might be more surprising than the one up above, because you might have not expected these relationships to continue during the weirdness of 2020 but they did despite all the nonsense. Of course, it might be a difficult list to look at as well, because there might be people who you expected more out of, people you expected to reach out who haven’t. Lesson learned about those people? Maybe not. We’re all dealing with 2020 in our own ways, and it’s certainly turned some of us into recluses. So don’t write someone off who is important to you just because they’ve been quiet. Reach out and say hello. Maybe they’re waiting for you to prove that they’re important to you.
You’ve found ways to cope. So, if you’ve been coping by drinking a 12-pack of Milwaukee’s Best each night, you might want to bypass this section. I’m going to guess, however, that’s not you. Instead, you’re probably someone who has found a healthy coping mechanism, healthy diversions. Maybe you’ve found an online support group or joined a book club or decided to turn your garage into a gym. Maybe you started crocheting the hell out of some shawls (okay, this sentence amuses me because I have no idea what you crochet; crocheting a shawl is a shot in the dark), taken multiple walks each day, started learning a new language, baked goods for neighbors, or spent the first 30 minutes of each day practicing yoga, breathwork, or meditation. Regardless of what it is that you’ve been doing, guess what, it’s working, so keep fucking doing it! You’ve found your grace, so make sure to keep at it!
2020…it’s been a shitshow of massive proportions, but that doesn’t mean it’s been all bad. You’ve had wins this year. Big ones. Take the time to celebrate them. Pat yourself on the back and appreciate the good in your life.
This week starts Street Parking’s 2020 Julian vs. Miranda Challenge. It’s basically a fun challenge/competition that splits Street Parking members who sign up into one of two teams: Team Julian or Team Miranda. Your boy is Team Julian.
Los Gallos, where you at?
You earn points in eight different ways, split between daily points and weekly points. You earn daily points by:
Supporting your team
Abstaining from alcohol
Drinking water (for me, 80 oz/day)
Weekly points are earned by:
Logging daily workouts
Performing Maintenance workouts
Completing Mindset challenges
Completing bonus challenges.
This week’s Mindset challenge is a good one. It’s choosing which Daily point will be the most difficult to achieve on an everyday basis, identifying three reasons why I typically fail in achieving it, and three ways I plan on overcoming those reasons.
Well, three of the four daily tasks aren’t that difficult for me. I’m a good rah-rah guy. No issues there. Eating veggies a few times a day has become a habit (though I know I can do better), and I swear I’m abstaining from alcohol more than I’m partaking of it these days.
Water, though..I’ve tried water challenges in the past and have failed miserably every single fucking time. I’ll start off strong, pound water the first day or two, and then watch my commitment completely disappear.
Why? What three reasons hold me back?
1. I’m a coffee fiend.
Before working out in the morning, I’ll have pre-workout. It’s not coffee, but it sure as hell gives you that early morning kick. Then, after working out and starting with breakfast, I’ll have my first actual coffee of the day. About 10 o’clock, I’ll pour myself a second cup. And then around two or three in the afternoon, you know what time it is. That’s right! Coffee break time! Iced. Cold brewed. Hot. Whatever. I just want to inject more coffee into my veins.
It’s not healthy. I know. I’m aware. Doesn’t matter. I like it, and it may the one vice that I allow myself to give into whole hog.
I mean, let’s get this right: Coffee is fucking delicious. Water, my friends, doesn’t compare to the roasted bean. It just doesn’t, and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise.
So, yeah. Coffee. Fiend.
2. It makes me pee. A lot. A whole lot.
All kinds of people report that increased water intake leads to increased focus. For example:
I’m calling complete and 100% bullshit on that. Maybe the next month will prove otherwise, but when I’m into deep work, when I’m focused on my daily to-do list and cranking out chapters or animations, having to leave my desk every 20 minutes for a bathroom break sure doesn’t feel like a way to stay focused.
Instead, it pulls me away from what I’m working on—and continues to do so the rest of the fucking day!
3. I’m just not that thirsty most of the time.
Seriously. I’ll pound water during and immediately after a workout, but if coffee is so damn dehydrating, how come I’m not always wanting to drink more water?
Any time these challenges happen, I feel like I’m back in Marine Corps boot camp with Sgt. McFadder screaming at me to finish my canteen in the next 10 seconds unless I want to spend the next 30 minutes doing burpees in the sand pit.
Force drinking water wasn’t fun then, and it isn’t fun now.
So, how am I going to overcome these roadblocks, these barricades to drinking my 80 oz of water every day? Let’s see.
You probably think I’m going to say that I’m going to cut back on coffee. Nope! Think again, Charlie. Like I said, I fucking love coffee. It’s the nectar of the fucking gods and I deserve to have one fucking vice. (Yes, that’s a lot of F bombs, but I’m pretty passionate about this.)
In other words, I’m going to keep pounding coffee like the government is going to forcibly take it away from me.
So, instead, mornings won’t be exclusively for coffee anymore. I’m now going to drink water alongside my coffee.
I think it’s a solid plan except for…
Fuck, the peeing thing. Huh. I guess I’m just going to have to deal and hope that my body adjusts to my increased hydration level. According to this Vox article, you can train your body not to pee as much. Sounds iffy, but why not.
And if I continue to pee a lot, I’m going to look at the bright side. Increased trips to the bathroom coincide with an increase in hand washings—and in 2020, that’s not exactly a bad thing, right?
I’m using the Productive app to track a few different habits (working out, journaling, meditation, ukulele practice, and Duolingo practice, just to name a few). I’m adding in drinking water, and putting that fucker on Boost Mode, which basically means my phone is going to scream at me every 30 minutes to drink more water.
Every time I see that reminder pop up? Chug, baby, chug.
So that’s it. Check in with me at the beginning of September to see how I did. If I’m not in the bathroom peeing, I’ll let you know.
Christmas in July. Woo hoo. Things at Colina de Welsh have been, you know, quarantine consistent. We’re healthy, we’re working (oh lord are we working), and we’re kinda fearing the fall that is to come.
We had a vacation planned for the Outer Banks the last full week of August. Key word: “Had.” Just yesterday, we had to put that bad boy on hold. Pennsylvania is asking its residents to quarantine for two weeks after returning from certain states, North Carolina among them. We were due to return from the vacation on a Saturday, and our daughter’s school year was to start just two days later, the following Monday. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure that meant that if we went away and then followed the quarantine instruction, she’d have to miss the first two weeks of school, or at least the first two weeks of class in the physical school.
Considering that she’s been stuck at home with us for months and months and months, well, there’s no way we were going to ask that of her.
Of course, the state can’t really enforce the quarantine. There’s no way for them to. But if the state is asking us to stay home for two weeks because we traveled to a state with a high level of infections, I’m sure as hell not going to skate around it. The last thing I would want is her to go to school and get a bunch of kids she’s in class with sick—and then they go home and get their family sick and, worst case scenario, someone gets seriously sick and dies.
Nope, nope, and nope. Vacation isn’t that important. For as much as I need to get out of the house, to escape, to be somewhere else and be off screens and to not work and to just enjoy life, there’s just no way I’m going to risk the health of her classmates and their families.
I can’t be that person. I won’t be that person. So vacation will wait.
Lesson learned: Don’t schedule a vacation in another state during a pandemic for the week before your kid heads back to school. Just don’t do it.
In other news, I’ve converted the garage to a full gym. Over quarantine I’ve bought a barbell, bumper plates, a squat rack, kettlebells, dumbbells, rings, a fan to keep the air moving, and stall mats so that I don’t crack the concrete when deadlifting or dropping weights. And for Father’s Day, Beth got me a rower cause she’s awesome.
What does this mean for CrossFit? Well, I’m still Functional Fitnessing…but I did give up my membership at the local CrossFit affiliate. With being worried about parents and really trying to social distance as much as possible, it didn’t make sense to go back—especially now that the garage is fully kitted out. As long as I continue to work out, the garage will pay for itself in less than two years.
I miss my friends, I miss the coaching, and right now I miss the fuck out of the air conditioning in the box, but there’s a lot to be said for working out on your own. For one, my time is my own. I don’t worry about getting into the box “early” or wondering how late the coach wants to stay. I’m not comparing myself to people I shouldn’t be comparing myself to. My ego isn’t forcing me to try things that I know I shouldn’t, and because of that I’m feeling healthier than I have I quite a while.
Plus, I’ve found great programming. Despite having gone to CrossFit for the last three years, I’m still one of the guys who has no idea what he’s doing at the gym unless someone tells him exactly what to do. I’ll just walk around aimlessly, move some weights around, and really not get anything done.
Enter Street Parking.
Street Parking is programming for people who want to do CrossFit style training but are working out at home (though, of course, if you have access to a CrossFit style gym, you can do the programming there, too). They provide daily workouts six days a week with full video overviews, plus a ton of accessory workouts programmed on a weekly basis. They recommend when to fit in these accessory workouts, and they also run friendly competitions and every six months they program once-a-week repeat workouts so that you can check your progress. They also offer maintenance videos (think yoga, from what I’ve seen so far), and offer a nutrition plan for an extra cost. (I can’t comment cause I haven’t looked into it.)
Overall, I’m shocked with all that the platform offers. It’s an amazing resource for someone like me who has nearly everything but the knowledge to program for myself. And, oh yeah, it’s only $20 a month. (And if you’re a veteran like me, $15 a month!)
If you’re into working out, I highly recommend it. Even if you have minimal equipment, as they offer a few different alternatives for their daily programing.
It’s been so valuable for me, because I swear that working out has been a key to keeping me sane. My days have been interesting. I’ll have VERY high days, followed by VERY low days. I’m worried about so many different things, and I’ve never been busier with work. Some days I’m shiny and happy, and other days I just want to cry—and sometimes I do.
Highs and lows. Highs and lows.
At least sports are back. I have the Union-Revolution game on as I write this, and I’ve actually watched the Phillies the past two days. It almost feels normal
I want to get back to writing regularly, but at the same time I’m doing my best to stay off screens. After working out in the mornings, I take 15 to 30 minutes of straight screen-free time. I sit out front with my coffee and just listen to and watch the birds flit from tree to tree. Then, when I wrap up the work day, I head to a little meditation nook I’ve created and sit for about 15 minutes and then journal right after.
It makes for a nice bookend.
I’m ready for this pandemic to be over. I know the vast majority of us are. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to still be with us for a while, and many of us are going to be experiencing a holiday season unlike any other. So strap in, folks.
I’m going to tell you the truth, I have no idea how far we are into quarantine/social isolation. Is it over a month? Two months? Six? I’m not sure. My COVID beard hasn’t gotten embarrassingly long (I’m not picking food out of it yet anyway), so I’m pretty sure it’s been less than a year. All I know is this: The days and weeks blend together rather seamlessly, annoyingly so, and the fact that the Philadelphia area has been experiencing an extended cold snap that has prolonged winter has made things confusing.
I mean, it’s mid-April, and when I took the dog for a walk yesterday morning, it was only 30 degrees.
When last we spoke, I regaled you with all the activities I’d been pouring myself into. It was an extensive list, and when you combined them with working Monday through Friday, there wasn’t a whole lot of time left for me to aimlessly meander around the house. I was attempting to fill every minute of every day because I was struggling to relax, to unclench, to accept the fact that the world as we knew it was grinding to a halt.
It was all a bit too much. I knew it at the time, but I couldn’t help it. My anxiety had taken over.
I’ve gotten a bit better since that last blog entry. I’m still doing all of those activities, but it’s fair to say that I’m pursing the majority of them less aggressively. My workout routine and diet have remained the most consistent, but all of the other activities I mentioned? I’m fitting them in while enjoying some down time.
Basically, I’m allowing myself to relax while refusing to feel guilty about it.
The relaxing thing? It’s important, for all of us. We need to do it. We need to shut ourselves away from the bad news, from the invisible virus that haunts most of our waking moments, and allow ourselves to just exhale. I wasn’t doing that. Now I am, and it feels good.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe working out and eating clean are important right now. So are meditation and journaling. Learning new skills via Spanish lessons and ukulele lessons is keeping me from stagnating like a rancid pond.
These are all ways I’m performing self-care, and there may be no more important thing than self-care at the moment. It’ll keep us healthy, both mentally and physically.
That being said, it doesn’t have to become religion. It doesn’t have to become so all-encompassing that it becomes overwhelming. Whatever activities you’re doing for self-care should be a WANT TO rather than a HAVE TO, because once they become a HAVE TO they leave the realm of self-care and become stressors, and we don’t need more of those in our lives right now.
What am I doing differently? Well, I’m playing video games; watching shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+; and going for walks just to get a change of scenery and some fresh air.
And sometimes I’m allowing myself to slow the hell down and not do anything. To just veg the hell out, make an imprint of my ass on the couch, and relax.
So go ahead…be lazy and enjoy it. Balance it out with activity, with things that keep you engaged, but also make sure to disengage by doing whatever you want to do or nothing fucking at all.
Quarantine Recommendation of the Week: Taco Chronicles
This is a new portion of the blog that I’d like to try and keep up with on a regular basis. In this space you might see video game recommendations, show recommendations, workout recommendations…basically recommendations for any and all sort of things. I’ll try to keep them a bit quirky; you don’t need me to recommend that you go rewatch The Wire for the umpteenth time.
If you’re anything like me, you consider tacos one of the major food groups. They’re not just a favorite, they’re a necessity. You warm up a corn or flour tortilla, stuff lots of Mexican spiced goodness into it, and then chow down. Easy peasy.
Except, really, it’s not! Almost all tacos are good tacos, but the best tacos…they’re special. They don’t come from a box. And creating them is something of a craft.
Enter Taco Chronicles. This Spanish-language (and English-subtitled) six-episode documentary series on Netflix details the rich history of the taco, where to find the best, most authentic version of each variety, and highlights the true artistry that goes into creating the perfect handheld food.
Plus, in a genius decision, you actually get to hear the different types of tacos talk about themselves in the first person. It’s a neat twist that adds just the right amount of personality to what would’ve been an already entertaining show.
In my last post, COVID-19: The Biggest Villain, I mentioned that we all need to slow down, stop, and breathe. With the world swirling full of terrible news, social isolation, unprecedented job losses, and untold hospitalizations and deaths, we’re all dealing with pressures and anxieties that we’ve never experienced before.
In this post, I’m going to explore some of the ways I’ve been able to manage. And in the post after this one, I’m going to touch upon one thing I may be getting entirely wrong.
I’m one of the lucky ones so far. The company I work for has been absolutely phenomenal throughout the crisis. I’ve been able to keep up with my colleagues, and my normal day-to-day working hours haven’t been compromised. We’re meeting virtually, work isn’t slowing, and there’s really no reason why it should. Unless the world suddenly devolves into Thunderdome, our content will still be needed.
Like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.
This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m still not filled with anxiety. I am absolutely, 100% terrified. If I’m going to be very honest, I’ve never felt this much anxiety. Ever. It’s not even close, and it’s motherfucking crushing.
I simply don’t trust the future. But I can’t lose my shit. Not now. Not when I have a 10-year-old daughter at home who is handling this SOOOOOOO well. I mean, she’s at home with two adults and no playmates. Talk about a fucking jail sentence. It has to suck. It just has to. And if she can wake up every morning, smile, and do her shitty schoolwork, I can put on a brave face and not let her know how much this is all bothering me.
To that end, I’ve had to find ways to cope, to release, to escape, to just feel better. Some of my mechanisms may work for you; others won’t. The ways in which we cope are very individualized. We have to take time to discover those mechanisms that work best for us. These just happen to be the ones that are working for me.
I’ve dove headlong into as many at-home workouts as I possibly can. I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised at just how decent my little garage gym set-up actually is for pandemic WODs. I have a padded mat, a pull-up bar, a bench, some kettlebells and dumbbells, and a whole lot of resistance bands—plus a few pieces of equipment I’ve been able to borrow from Broad Street CrossFit, where I usually work out when the sky isn’t falling.
The box’s owner is posting workouts for all the members to perform every day, and there’s also an online CrossFit competition going on featuring movements that are easily able to be completed at home. On top of that, I’m running more, rehabbing my shoulder via my ActiveLifeRX coach’s programming, and also working on various other weaknesses in my fitness regimen.
Who knows, it’s very possible I come out of the pandemic more fit than I was when it started.
Tracking My Diet
This one is going to annoy people. Probably, a lot of people. I’m a macro-tracker. I pay attention to how many grams of protein, fat, and carbs go onto my plate at every meal. I know that many of us have given up on attempting to adhere to a strict diet routine during the pandemic and that prayers to the almighty OREO have taken up a pretty decent chunk of heavenly bandwidth, but I feel like by paying attention to my macros, I’m keeping myself honest. I also know that if I didn’t, I’d be stress eating and all the unhealthy foods we keep in the house would be launching themselves straight into my mouth.
By forcing myself into a very strict diet, I’m limiting the damage. Cause right now? No beers are easier than one beer, and no doughnuts are easier than one doughnut.
This blog came back to life. So did my practice of journaling. I’m holding myself accountable to two blog posts a week and am attempting to journal every day, though I’ve admittedly missed a few days here and there.
I’ve always been in love with writing, but it’s not something I’ve pursued in a while. It can be such a great escape, and the journaling is something that I’ve really come to embrace because you just let yourself flow. It’s not formal writing, but it is writing. If you journal yourself, you know what I mean. And it’s so easy to do. I’ve been using Day One, and if you’re interested, I highly recommend you check it out.
Like the journaling habit I’ve flirted with for a while, I’ve also had an on-again/off-again relationship with meditation. I’m trying to stay consistent with this as well, though there are missed days here and there. It just feels SO IMPORTANT to me right now to get these sessions in. I feel like I’m at my best if I sit and embrace stillness at some point in the day. It forces me to stop and breathe, at least for a little while.
Reading 30 Minutes per Day
Recently I’ve been burying myself in Marvel Unlimited. It’s a magnificent resource if you’re a comic book nerd like I am. I’ve also been reading The Priory of the Orange Tree, a high-fantasy novel by Samantha Shannon. There’s also a whole slew of books waiting on my nightstand that I’m ready for me to dive into.
Want to learn a language? Get Duolingo. Though the app offers a paid tier, you can take lessons free of charge, there are a ton of languages to choose from, and the platform itself is dynamic. I spend about 20 minutes per day attempting to master the next lesson. I’m quite a long way from achieving fluency and walking around Mexico City with confidence, but I’m enjoying the journey.
Learning the Ukulele
I’ve never played an instrument. It’s one of those things that I’ve just never taken the time to learn. For Christmas, though, my wife, Beth, gave me a ukulele, and now I’m taking three lessons per week using Yousician, with each lesson lasting about 30 minutes. The app itself is absolutely made for someone like me because it’s very gamified; it listens to your instrument’s notes as you play and only allows you to progress to more challenging songs and levels when you achieve a level of success at the level you’re currently at. Learning the ukulele has been challenging, but it’s also been very rewarding as I watch my skill grow.
As you might be able to tell, all of this is keeping me VERY busy, which is good, because the busier I am, the more distracted I am, and the more distracted I am, the less time I have to sit and worry about the ever-expanding growth of COVID-19 cases. This level of activity…it feels like a necessary evil at the moment. It’s needed; at least I need it.
Is it all the way healthy, though?
We’ll discuss that in my next post.
For now, tell me what you’re doing to stay busy. How has your routine changed? What new practices have you taken up?