Enema of the State – 20th Anniversary

Enema of the State – blink-182 – 1999

Back in 1999, I was a fourteen year old kid still listening mostly to stuff his parents liked and occasionally venturing into classic rock. I was testing the waters of a handful of different bands like Everclear, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and some other bands that I had heard on the radio before. I was starting to look for something that spoke to me and who I was at that age.

Along comes a little band called Blink-182 and their racy album with a porn star on the cover. I didn’t know much about it at the beginning until All the Small Things hit the radio and MTV. It blew the roof off music at the time. We were living in the Lou Perlman era of popular music. Boy bands were being cranked out of a factory and that was the thing most accessible for a lot of us, but we needed something else. Blink came along with their fun lyrics, Tom’s unlikely singing voice, and an accessible form of punk rock that would create a rift between kids who liked that, and purists who only believed in bands like The Dead Kennedys or Screeching Weasel.

I finally got a chance to pick up this parental advisory stickered opus and my musical world was blown right open. I didn’t just hear songs that I could toss to the side. I heard a way music was being played that called to me. I grew up avoiding rock completely. I didn’t even think Green Day was something I should listen. For some reason the bright tones, fast guitar, and drums of Enema of the State pulled me in. From track to track to track, I was enthralled.

I eventually bought a red electric Squier stratocaster from the music shop in town. It was one of those deals that came with a small 13″ amp and was just enough to get started. I got home with it and called my best friend Patrick to tell him what I did.

He had done the exact same thing and bought a bass.

It was a match that worked for us and we will always have that musical camaraderie that I don’t think I’ll ever find anywhere else. We learned every song that we were capable of on that album. We played All the Small Things until we could play it in our sleep. We enlisted our friend Jason to play drums and before we knew it, we were in a band, learning songs, and trying to be as good as all the bands we were learning about.

I found MxPx and Green Day first, then Sum 41 came along and just about every band on Drive-Thru Records followed. Pop-punk wasn’t just a genre. It was the music that I could identify with. It didn’t spend all of it’s time on politics, anarchy, or global turmoil. In the pop-punk/emo world, you could hear songs about things that actually mattered on a micro level. Not only that, it was perfect for high school me.

Enema of the State is still one of my favorite albums of all time. The difference in Mark and Tom’s voices give each song a different flair. Tom’s guitar playing is fast and aggressive, but it’s also bright and melodic. Mark’s bass is a perfect accompaniment to it. It goes without saying that Travis Barker is one of the greatest drummers in the world and his skills are on full display here. What luck it was for this “crappy punk rock” band to get Travis on their drums.

I have a Tom Delonge signature strat in my closet that I got for Christmas at 16. It still has a warm place in my heart. I took that guitar everywhere. I bled on that guitar at shows that my band played when I nicked my finger on the strings. I wrote an album with Patrick and Jason with it. It’s a treasure to me and despite my musical tastes developing to a place where it doesn’t do everything I need, I still love it. It’s a gorgeous, bright yellow music machine.

Blink-182 is still around these days with Matt Skiba as the guitarist in place of Tom. I love Matt Skiba. I think he’s great. But this isn’t my Blink. The combo of Mark and Tom was something special, and it created a few very special albums that worked. New Blink is fine, but it’s missing a crucial element in the sound that I can’t put my finger on. There is something about Tom’s playing that will always be missing. Same goes for Tom’s band, Angels and Airwaves. It’s missing something in the melody that Mark always brought to the table.

I’m feeling very nostalgic as I listen to this stuff. I miss my high school days, and playing music in the garage. All I can really do now is play when I get an opportunity and maybe introduce Sam to this stuff some day. If he wants to play music, I’ll be right there to support whatever grabs his attention. I know when Blink got me, I was never the same. A world opened and I wanted to see what I could find. Sam is going to find a door to his own world, and I’m pretty pumped to see what’s behind it.

The Reading List: Not a Fan

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the reading list, and I read this book a while back without actually writing about my thoughts on it. It’s unfortunate because I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would love to have had fresh thoughts on it. In the future, I’ll try to be more disciplined with this reading list so you guys get a better understand of where I’m coming from and what I actually got out of all this reading.

Not a Fan is certainly not a book for the faint of heart. It’s a book that basically tells you whatever you’re doing is not enough when it comes to following Jesus whole heartedly. I struggled with my own life decision while reading it, but in a good way if that makes any sense. There are plenty of times when I have been more of a fan than a follower, and I’d argue that it’s more of my baseline than the exception. It’s not that I don’t absolutely believe with 100% of my being that Jesus is the Son of God and the way to a full life. It’s that that way can put you in some really tight spots and as a person that generally avoids conflict, that can be more challenging for me.

It basically boils down to the fact that a fan may throw on a WWJD bracelet (sorry for the 1997 reference), or slap a Jesus fish on the back of their car. A real follower will go to the homeless shelter on weekends, not pass up an opportunity to share the gospel with anyone they find, and do some seemingly irrational things in order to keep themselves in line with what God would have them do.

This probably occurs in America more than a lot of places. I would imagine because we are a country that for whatever reason considers ourselves a “Christian nation.” I don’t really know why, but that’s a topic for another post. We are just pretty happy for the most part going to church services when it’s convenient and acting like we’re doing the right thing just because we say we believe in Jesus. It’s not that we don’t, or we’re going to Hell or whatever. It’s just that we’re not getting all that a life of following Christ can give us. I don’t mean stuff either, for you Joel Osteen fans. That life is a hard one and the fact that we don’t discuss the sacrifice more often is kind of a shame.

Being a follower of Jesus cost early Christians everything. These days, we can just sit around and act like following him will provide all the things we want. This book was all about saying that it might cost you that trip to the beach you wanted or that new car because someone else needed you at the time for some greater good.

This book opened up a whole lot of questions for me and brought a lot of things to light that I had not thought about in a long time. I’m still not in line with where I probably should be, but I’m thinking a bit differently about it. Thinking isn’t going to get me any points at the end of the day, but if I’m a bit more mindful then I can be more conscious of the steps I need to take.

Next up on the list: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Red Dead Redemption II

There are games that I’ve played that have left an impression on me. Each one for a different reason. It’s kind of why I have an issue with top 10 lists. I don’t know how to create a top 10 list because I might have three games that all deserve the top spot but for different reasons. Maybe it’s for the gameplay, the story, the graphics, the challenge, or any other category. Red Dead Redemption 2 might be the first game that carries all of them for me.

RDR 2 starts a few years prior to the original game, so it works as a prequel to the story of John Marston, which I won’t get into here. It’s 1899 and civilization is encroaching on the Old West and the outlaws that run it. Some folks welcome the opportunity, while the outlaws see it as an encroachment of Uncle Sam on their freedom. You play as Arthur Morgan, an admittedly bad man, but one who holds to a code. “Kill those that need killin’, save those that need savin’, and feed those that need feedin’.” So these folks are bad people, but they aren’t bad people. It’s hard to make sense of that until you see how they all interact with each other.

Arthur starts out as a bit of a clean slate for the player. Play him how you want. Be a killer or a hero. The game rewards you with honor points based on your actions and they absolutely effect the way the world operates for you. Do enough bad deeds and the world reacts in kind. Do enough good deeds and you might see that people are more kind, and more doors are opened to you since you aren’t a notorious killer. This basically boils down to never shooting first and never stealing from people that don’t deserve it. It’s not hard to be a good guy despite the fact that the games missions routinely make you stand on the wrong side of the law.

I’ve played it the entire way through as a good guy. I helped people when they asked, I made the good decision when it was offered to me, and I generally didn’t rob from random strangers. As I started my second play through to see how the game plays as a bad guy, I find it incredibly challenging. I read through Arthur’s journals, which is an entirely optional thing though I would recommend it, and what I read is the thoughts of a decent man. I have a hard time playing as a ruthless killer, when the man himself is actually a decent human being. He even has thoughts on the things that I’ve made him do. I’m too empathetic to be the bad guy.

It’s a weird thing to feel empathy for characters in a video game but if there has ever been a video game that does it, it’s this one. The animators did an amazing job making these people feel real. It’s not just the animators though. The voice acting is absolutely incredible. There are times when I’m convinced I’m watching a movie. There are heavy moments in Arthurs journey and there are facial ticks, and emotions in the eyes I didn’t even know were possible with a video game. I’m not going to lie. I cried more than once in my play through. There are some truly heartbreaking moments, and of course, huge moments of redemption.

My journey with Arthur was much like a lot of other peoples, but Rockstar did an amazing job making it feel like he was my Arthur Morgan. Almost like he was a living, breathing human who was just trying to find a way to be free of the life he’d led and become who he really wanted to be.

SPOILER ALERT

Along the journey, Arthur ends up getting tuberculosis. I never saw it coming, and when it happened, it was a major shock, and a game changer. How does a man approach his bad life when he’s facing certain death? My Arthur approached it by helping everyone he came across and handing money over whenever given the opportunity in order to see someone else live better. The game changes dramatically after the TB diagnosis, and I can only imagine that it was a huge decision amongst the developers to decide that the hero we’d been riding with was going to die. There was a certain urgency brought to the game when it happened. I’m so thankful for that story decision, and the roller coaster ride it took me on.

I’m in my second play through now, and I’m taking my time with it this time. The first time through I was just tryin to beat the game, but the second time, I’m trying to explore and enjoy the world that the fine folks at Rockstar built. This game feels tailor made for me in terms of subject matter, story, and gameplay. I love everything about it. Some folks got completely immersed in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and found it to be endless in terms of activities. I’m finding that same joy in Red Dead Redemption 2. I’m still enjoying it, and I probably will for the forseeable future.

I haven’t even tried the Online stuff yet. Can’t wait to dive into that with Jacob and start wandering the Old West in our very own posse.

Reading List Update

If you follow along with my reading list, you know that I planned to read One Thousand Risks by Chad Johnson. It sounded like a great book about living with less fear because you have Jesus. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Lots of stuff about randomly approaching strangers and praying over their broken leg, or back pain, or whatever ailment they may have.

I’m not down on faith healing or anything. I think I serve an amazing God who can perform all kinds of incredible miracles, but this book was a bit focused on it. I feel like there can be a danger in promoting it all the time. Imagine you’re a person who has just been diagnosed with some sort of illness and you heard tale of a person who was praying over folks and then they found themselves healed. Man, that would get my hopes up for sure. Then, let’s say the guy prayed over my illness and I didn’t get better. What would that do to my feelings about how God cares about me. I think I might feel pretty let down.

Anyway, I’m just not keen on folks acting like prayers are going to save everyone from any ailment they have. It just doesn’t work that way. God isn’t a vending machine. Now, Chad sounds like a wonderful guy who has done and seen some amazing things. I just couldn’t get into the book. It didn’t speak to me. It might speak to you, but I just couldn’t get through it. I rarely intentionally put a book down, but I had to with this one.

In other news, I picked up Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. It’s legit. It’s terrifying. It’s powerful. It’s exactly what I was looking for to dive into a deeper understanding of what a relationship with God should be. I’m enjoying it in the right way. Feeling convicted, and learning how much we can do when we’re properly aligned in God’s will for us. It’s not a self help book. It’s a book about understanding what it means to truly follow Jesus rather than just play by the “rules.”

I’m reading that one if you’d care to continue this reading list journey with me. It’s good. I’m almost done, so I’ll have a full write-up when I am. It’s hard to put down.

The Reading List: John Adams

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

I bought this book a few years ago as I was headed down an educational path to learning about our founding fathers and who they *really* were. I’m aware of the god-like status we’ve given all of them, but I wanted to get down in the weeds with them and figure out what kind of people they really were. What were their flaws? What did they really believe? What characteristics have we ascribed to them that they actually didn’t have? There are a lot of myths we’re fed about these people and it’s important to journey back in time in order to separate the fact from fiction.

I could not have picked a better book to read at this time in our country. We think we’re in a place where our country has never been so polarized. Where news media is hellbent on spreading messages directed at a certain demographic without bothering with facts. We think all this stuff is new. I’ve learned through reading David McCullough’s incredible book that we have not changed in the slightest. The animosity between parties during Adams’ term as president and leading up to it can not be overstated. People were at each other’s throats regarding which president was a secret monarchist, and which cabinet member was going to destroy the new government from the inside. Newspapers sprung up everywhere trying to prove one side or the other, often without any evidence. There were opinion pieces galore trying to influence the population to one side or the other.

Despite all the fuss and fighting at our country’s inception, these folks seemed to build an incredibly strong foundation for government, despite their differences. Adams in particular was one of the strongest voices for independence in the entire continental congress. He was willing to stick his neck out for unpopular opinions, and risk his reputation to ensure that fact and truth ruled above all. We’re talking about a man that actually defended the British soldiers during the trial for the Boston Massacre. The people of Boston wanted to burn these folks at the stake, but Adams insisted that a free people must be a people ruled by laws, and that barbarically putting these men to death without trial would ruin any hope the aspiring nation had. He actually managed to get these men acquitted of wrongdoing in Boston by a Boston jury. “Facts are stubborn things,” was one key quote I pulled from this defense. He was not a loved man after that, but he was a respected one, and I believe it’s this defense that led him to be a representative. He was reluctant, but like many of our founding fathers, found that it must be his duty to perform the task asked of him.

One hero from this tale that shines above so many others was his wife, Abagail. She was a thinker and a fighter in her own right. She spent years away from her husband, raising children and tending the farm. Their letters to each other tell an amazing story of two people sacrificing greatly so that they, their children, and their children’s children could have a future with a secured freedom that they longed for. The way they addresed each other in all their correspondence was so sweet, but even they bickered in letters as they dealt with all the challenges. Adams was away in France for years trying to negotiate deals, and was often too busy to write. Abagail took great offense to only receiving a letter every month or so. She was so frustrated in writing that John Quincy, who was with his father, wrote her to tell her to give his dad some slack.

This is an amazing portrait of life in the 18th century that we should be so thankful to have. In the acknowledgments of the book, I read that there miles of microfilm containing John Adams letters and correspondence. He never got rid of anything, and thankfully we have the privilege of seeing his life through his own eyes and the eyes of those who worked closely with him. The picture you get is of an honor bound, trustworthy, bold, appreciative, kind, angry, vain man, who so aware of his own flaws, tried to be the best he could be. He attempted to give everything he could from his life so that others could have one more fruitful. That being said, he enjoyed his time. After being president, he retired to his farm and spent his remaining days in the quiet. He worked hard, walked three miles a day, and even managed to ride horseback until his early 80’s. I got the picture of a man at peace as I read of his twilight years. He was proud of all he had done, and was able to look forward to the next great adventure. In contrast with Thomas Jefferson, his life long rival and friend, who wanted to do go back and give it another try.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you aren’t into history, you might want to skip it, but if you are the least bit curious about the life and times of an incredibly interesting man from the 18th century who just happened to be the second President of the United States, then I say give it a shot.

Next up: One Thousand Risks – Chad Johnson

The 30 Day Challenge

I alluded to participating in a 30 day challenge in my last post, and I promised to write another blog post about it. I’m eleven days in and it’s about time I let folks in on this whole shebang and what it means to me.

I watched a documentary called Minimalism on Netflix a few weeks ago, because it’s a subject that fascinates me. I actually listened to the dudes who made it on their podcast, The Minimalist Podcast, well before I watched the movie they made. The doc focuses on people who have learned to remove compulsive purchases from their lives and live on what they absolutely need, or what brings them joy. I’ve learned a lot about this concept and I started exploring their website a little bit as well.

The main gist is that we could all really get along just fine if we threw out all the things we thought we need but could really live without. The idea is that we end up with so much stuff that it does the opposite of what we hoped it would do. We wanted it to complete us or make us happy, but what happens is it starts suffocating us by just piling up and eventually becoming this hulking ball of stress in our lives that we need can’t get out from under. Now that’s me talking about myself, but I’m sure this story matches a ton of folks out there. So the 30 day challenge is all about trying to get a handle on this by routinely getting rid of stuff that doesn’t give you joy.

They wrote a much better post explaining the whole thing. I’m basically getting rid of a certain amount of things per day equal to that day of the challenge. So day 1, I get rid of one thing. Day 2, I get rid of two things. So on and so forth. It starts out really fun, then it starts to get tough. I have to start making decisions about things that mean a little more to me than average trash. Pieces of art, books, little trinkets I’ve had for years, all that stuff is hard to get rid of. I basically have to sit there and look at it and decide what the feeling is that’s attached to it. Sometimes it’s not strong and I can easily throw it away, but other times I really have to think through it.

One thing that’s true is that I’m truly getting rid of a lot of stuff that I’m forgetting almost as soon as it leaves the house. I’ve never been one to attach a lot of value to “things.” Most of my sentimentality is wrapped up in letters, drawings, or newspaper clippings and stuff. Those are small things I can keep track of. I do have gifts that have been given to me that mean a lot because they remind me of that person, but memories of that person remind of me of that person as well. Throwing away an object isn’t going to remove that from me. In that way, it’s a bit easier for me than it might be for someone who attaches a lot of emotion to the things they possess.

On day eleven, I’m still feeling super good about the project. I’m starting to have to really dig for stuff as it’s getting hard to find enough items every day. The higher the day goes the more stuff you have to find and the more difficult stuff you come across. At first it might be all trash, but as it moves on things get a littler bit trickier.

So far so good though! Hopefully I can keep it up!

Well, Hello There, 2019

“It’s the new year! Time for a new me!” – Tons of people everywhere

I have conflicting feelings about new years. It’s not like we all go through a major metamorphisis whenever we flip the calendar. We’re all generally the same people with the same lofty goals and the same expectations we’ve always had. That being said, I can respect the feeling that starting a year with a renewed focus can be helpful for folks. It’s actually helpful for me in a lot of ways. I’m a reboot kind of person, so I get it. I actually have a handful of new years goals that I’m working towards as well.

There are plenty of people that make New Year’s Resolutions, but I’m not one of them. I feel like resolutions don’t have the bite that they should.

  • I’m going to lose weight
  • I’m going to the gym more
  • I’m going to watch my money

Those kinds of resolutions just don’t stick. They aren’t S.M.A.R.T goals. Forgive me for using a management acronym, but that thing exists because it works. A goal should Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. We should plan our resolutions around those pillars to make sure that it’s something that we not only actually want to do, but something we can judge ourselves against as we work through the new year. I actually prefer monthly goals because they give you a shorter time frame and therefore less room to forget about them in the long run.

I tried last year to make some yearly goals and fell short so hard. I had some that I wasn’t even in control over. One of my goals was to get promoted at work, and it happened, but to some degree it wasn’t under my control. I did eveything I could to get there, but at the end of the day, it was the decision of my chain of command to actually grant me the promotion. So this year I’m trying to make goals that I actually can be in charge of.

I have a few goals that are blog posts in themselves and I’m going to avoid writing about them here outside of filling you in on what they are.

  • Finish the 30-day minimalist challenge
  • Paint the kitchen cabinets
  • Stay on budget

Those are three goals for the month. Simple, but not easy. We’ve been talking about painting the kitchen cabinets for months, and it’s not an easy task, but it certainly is a simple one. It just takes time. In order to get that done, we have laid out a plan of subtasks that will get us to that goal within the month. The budget goal is one that we’ve always had, but we’re making it a point to focus in on it this month. If we need to spend money on stuff to get the cabinets painted, we’re pulling that from somewhere. We’ve already made some progress on that goal by using the Every Dollar app in order to get a handle on where our money is destined to go. I’ll talk about that app in a later blog post once I’ve had some time to truly use and reflect on it.

This year has just as many hours in it as last year had, and I encourage you to consider how you spend those hours. We can all do the same thing we did last year, or we can choose to live a bit more intentionally. In other words, think about how you are spending those hours. Time is the great equalizer. Everyone has the same amount, the only thing that differs is how we spend it. If you choose to spend it playing video games, great! I hope you enjoy it, but when one of your goals fall short, don’t say, “I didn’t have the time.” We all have the time. Sometimes people will rob you of it, and that’s out of your control, but I would venture to guess that they don’t rob as much as you blame them for.

Get out there. Do the thing. Own your hours, or something else will own them for you.

Hamilton

I saw Hamilton last night and it lived up to all the hype.

To give you a bit of history on my journey to this amazing moment, I’ll go back about a year. A good friend of mine told me that he had been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and was really digging it. I had heard that the musical was amazing and remarkably well done, but I had never really bothered to look into it much more than that. I’ve been to musicals before and enjoyed them. I’d even worked at a theatre for a time and ran lights for a show. How could this musical truly be any different?

Then I listened to it. 

I have never been a fan of rap, hip-hop, or R&B, but I have always been a fan of good music. It’s not that those genres aren’t good, it’s just never the first thing I seek out. Hamilton is full of it, and I loved every bit of it. The story is so well told using this medium and these chosen genres of music. It’s both an uplifting and tragic tale told in two acts with striking differences in their portrayal. The rise and fall of one of America’s most forgotten founding fathers. I listened to the whole thing at work … twice. I was humming songs on the way home and had managed to get myself obsessed with it. 

The only real bummer about listening to it rather than *seeing* it, is that you miss all the visual queues, dancing, even characters with the music. There were times on the soundtrack where I wasn’t really sure who was actually singing because I’m not that great at recognizing individual voices and remembering who they belong to. Though the story is just as powerful when you listen blind, there is a layer added to it when you get to see it performed live.

The road crew on this thing was amazing. Anytime I hear about a touring show, I always have a small worry that the people performing are somehow sub-par compared to those on Broadway. I couldn’t be more wrong. These people were top notch performers. Their voices were powerful and familiar to me even after having listened to the soundtrack so many times. The goal wasn’t to find a sound-alike person, but rather a strong performer who could carry the role as it was intended. They knocked it out of the park. The major standout to me was the woman who played Eliza Hamilton. She had one of the most beautiful voices that I’ve ever heard.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to see this show. There are people who wait years to get into it. We were able to get a couple of abandoned tickets from some friends of ours so we could go. I’ll forever be thankful for them offering those up, because this truly was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for us. The likelihood of us ever making our way to New York or Chicago just to see a play is so low. Our best bet was to see it when it came here. 

If you ever get a chance to see this show you should do it. It was beautiful in so many different ways. I laughed and I cried through the whole thing. I’m not the biggest Hamilton (the man) fan as he was a bit of a big government pseudo-monarchist, but that doesn’t make his story any less incredible. It’s worth checking out. It’s a story of an orphaned immigrant with all of the odds stacked against him who fought his way up the ladder despite constant opposition. There’s something to admire there no matter how you feel about his politics. 

Go see Hamilton. You won’t regret it. 

The Reading List: The Stand

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

Boy, The Stand was one long and rough journey. Both for me and the characters in the book. This is one of those books that people will tell you that you should definitely read, and I’m here to tell you that they are all right. You should read it. You should be prepared to work through it, but if you can get through all 1200 pages, you’re in for a very satisfying story.

Stephen King’s novel was released in 1979, but apparently people were upset that he didn’t include 500 pages worth of “extra” material, so it was republished in the early 90’s. I never read the original cut, so I really don’t know what was missing in the original. I do have an inkling of what might have been left out. There are some long rat holes into the lives of what I might consider to be secondary characters, but really at the end it ended up being pretty important. The only review I can give you is on the epic 1200 pages that I plowed through.

The short story is, I loved it! It was such an incredibly well written and well paced story. It took forever to finally get to the summary you read on the back. You don’t get to meet Mother Abigail for maybe 600 pages. Knowing that there was a “stand” coming, but never seeing an inkling of it for almost half the book was a little tough. Though I did find it pretty fun to read each character’s journey and how they found each other. By the time all the main characters got together, I knew who they were. I knew their past and what made them who they were. They were all fully formed humans once the story got rolling.

One chapter in particular blew my mind, and that was Chapter 8. It’s the section of the book that simply spends some time talking about how the plague, Captain Trips, spread from person to person. It was amazing to read how one person took it to three people who took it to another four who then took it to seven people. It’s not like reading geneaologies in the Bible though. It’s not boring. This book is never truly boring. Stephen King has a way of wrapping you into stuff that should be really straight forward and then turning it just a little askew. He shifts the normal just enough that it’s weird and slightly off putting.

There were a few characters that I loved reading about. Nick Andros, Stu Redman, and Tom Cullen. I mean, there are plenty of other fascinating folks in this book, but these guys were the heroes. There was also Frannie Goldsmith and, of course, Randall Flagg (aka The Dark Man.) Nick was a deaf and mute dude who managed to do more than anyone would have expected considering the world he ended up in. Stu was just a great guy who managed to get rolled in with all the other right people. He was kind of the patient zero in the story. One of the folks that was closest to the original victims but never seemed to catch the flu. Tom was mentally challenged but very much ends up being a key to saving the day. 

Randall Flagg though, man. That guy was dispicable and deranged. King doesn’t hold back in letting you know that he’s some other kind of force in this book. He quickly tells you all about Flagg’s history and his status as Satan’s Imp. He’s a bad dude, and he’s always been around. He just waits for the next catastrophe and tries to capitalize on it to rip people apart. The only good news we have is that he doesn’t win… or does he? You might walk way wondering if the world is going to be awesome after all the dust settles, or if we’re just doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over. Was the haven in Boulder really any better than all the convicts in Vegas? I still don’t know, and it’s something I’m likely to be thinking about for a while.

This is definitely a must read. Give it a try.

Next up: The Heroes – Joe Abercrombie

Empathy

I have always been a magnet for feelings. If I see someone crying, there’s a good chance I’m going to cry. If I see someone laughing, I’ll laugh even if I don’t get the joke. I feed on the emotions of other people, and in doing so they become mine. Even when I was a little kid, a person could cause me to feel any number of things just by feeling that way themselves.

I remember a time when I was in preschool and I was very rude to a little girl who wanted to come into our “hideout” and play with us. She looked so sad and I immediately regretted everything. I sat in my little hideout feeling terrible and just waiting to get in trouble for being so mean. That moment has obviously stuck with me, and I still consider it any time I say something that I feel may have been too strong, especially to someone who didn’t deserve it.

Recently, I had a day when I was just feeling down. I had been doing okay, but I talked to someone that wasn’t. This person just seemed down in the dumps for some reason. I don’t even know the story, but they were projecting their feelings even if they didn’t mean to. I have an uncanny ability, likely because of this empathy thing, to tell when someone is carrying some extra emotional weight. This person definitely was, and I picked up on it. Everything about my demeanor changed. I sat down on the couch and just stewed in this anxiety. 

I’ve been trying to pay attention when things like this happen and not just be sad or anxious, but to figure out why I feel like that. I had a few quiet moments so I sat there and explored. I considered what may have happened. I searched my brain to try and figure out where the feeling was coming from. Stephanie even asked me, “You were fine a little while ago, what’s going on?” I sat quietly, because there are plenty of things that could be wrong, but I wasn’t sure if any of those were what was actually causing the problem. Then she asked the real question that I needed, “Is this feeling yours, or did you take it from someone?”

BOOM

I zeroed in on the problem and it wasn’t my feeling. It was totally someone elses, and I was just sitting around stewing in it. I had lost at least a half hour of my life being worried about something that I had no business worrying about. I was up, bouncing, and feeling great as soon as I learned that it wasn’t mine. It was freedom. I had picked up an emotion I didn’t understand and realized that I didn’t have to. I was as shocked as she was about how light I felt after that weight had been lifted. I’d never had that experience before. 

I’ve come to the realization after thirty-three years that I need to sit down when I feel sad and look for who might have transferred it to me. If I can do that, then I can get over it. It’s not always a solution, but it’s another tool in my toolbox to help me work through things. I very rarely have anything to be too sad about, so generally it is someone else. I guess I’m what they call and “empath” but I don’t have the issue with physical pain that some of those folks do. Some people don’t just absorb emotions, but they also absorb people’s physical pain. 

I see a lot of this in Sam when he is with his peers and one of them is really upset. He feels so bad for them. You can see it in his eyes. It makes him anxious and worried. The good news is that I see it in him now, and if I can figure out how to work through my own issues with it, then I can help him out too. 

Maybe some of this has helped you as well. If you have experiences with empathy being a bit too strong, how do you deal with it? It can be pretty intense. I’m the worst at cheering people up simply because I can’t stay happy when they are sad. I just get down in the dirt and wallow in it with them. Don’t call me to perk up your friends or visit sad kids at a hospital. I’m definitely the wrong person for that job.