Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Archive for the month “December, 2017”

No goals for 2018

I don’t do “goals.”

Goals are black and white. You either succeed or you don’t.  It doesn’t allow for exploration, for sidetracking, and for finding out what is along the path.

Bruce Lee said that if you focus on the finger pointing at the moon and the moon itself, you miss all of the heavenly glory inbetween. Neal Peart said in a song lyric that the point of a journey is not to arrive.  JRR Tolkien said that not all who wander are lost.

So, I don’t have goals. I have themes.  When you have a theme, you can explore, find out what works for you and grow as a person, rather than have a goal that you either meet or fail at.

My theme for 2015 was health. I had been diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure and, with medication, exercise, meditation and changing my eating habits, I brought it down to where my health is pretty damn good.  My other theme was service.  A person came back into my life who asked that I assist them with getting their life back together.  Along the way, I learned that I am pretty damn good at helping others, and made it a major part of my outlook.

The theme for 2016 was growth. I wanted to grow my podcasts and get better at getting the word out.  I tried a lot of things, live broadcasting at conventions, adding three new podcasts (two of which have stuck) and expanded my social media reach.  I quickly learned that I no longer cared for going to conventions, that one of the podcast additions was harmful to our long-term growth, and that I had made mistakes in who I trusted, so the theme for the rest of 2016 was fixing what had been broken.

Going in to 2017, the theme was recovery. I had a full-time job with decent pay for the first time since the great recession, and benefits for the first time since then.  I had a LOT of dental work done, replaced by beloved old car, finished up a wonderful therapeutic program for my anxiety issues, and build up my finances better than they have been since the glory days of the 90’s.  As other things fell into place, my theme became exploration.  I took road trips, I visited places I hadn’t been before, I got involved in subcultures other than the comics ones I have known, and am starting to explore even more.  I will be blunt, I do dislike going places alone, but you have to look at places to see where you belong.

So, for 2018, what’s the theme? I have a few.  First is to continue to explore.  We have a lively classic film society here in the Twin Cities, a wonderful arts community (actual art, not crafts, which is its own thing), and one of the most active theater communities around.  I want to start going and doing more.  I want to see indy wreslting, art openings, open mike poetry readings, grindhouse film showing and the like.  I want to get in my car and see where it takes me and learn everything I can stuff in my head.  I also want to create more finished content.  I want to put out at least two podcasts a week, get my novels up on Amazon, and bring a notebook with me everywhere I go.  Will I do all of it?  Probably not, but I will have fun exploring what happens along the way.

Much love to friends old and new, and if you can only do one theme this year, do the one that I have done since 1999: Be kind. Always be kind.

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What kind of week has it been

I don’t talk about my full-time job much. First, there isn’t a lot interesting there as it’s a pretty standard office/benefits job.  Second, I am happy to have the job after searching for a stable full-time job for quite a few years after the Great Recession, no matter how uneventful it is. And third, I simply see it as a way to pay for my life, not my Purpose.  The podcast, writing and in some ways, the group home job are my purpose.

However, I only want to work a job where I am helping people, and working in benefits does help people.

This week, I had a day that was disturbing. I started the day by reposting a thing I wrote a year ago about not going out of your way to hurt people, no matter what they have done.  It’s a big part of my outlook on life, and is probably the biggest change I made in how I see the world I made in 1999.

I got a call from a women whose estranged spouse had changed their medical coverage for the coming year without telling her. She was being moved to a medical plan with a deductible from an HMO plan with no notice other than a letter stating that she will be dropped from her HMO on 12/31. She called in tears, as she was dealing with her son’s severe health issues and her own health issues, and she didn’t even know if she would have coverage.  Once I assured her that she would, she didn’t know how the deductible plan works, was scared about the heavily increased out of pockets costs, not knowing if the doctors who were treating them were with were in the plan and how the change would be happening.

I explained what I could, and got her to a phone person at the new medical plan, who stayed on the phone with her for an hour making sure to get everything set up and squared away. We assisted her in finding community resources to help her with the steep deductibles and other issues resulting from the change, and it all made me feel crushingly depressed.

But one thing that she said sticks. “How could he do this to us?”

There have been a lot of people in my life who have done dirty by me. From the bullies in grade school to the jerks who see everything as a competition, to people who are mad at the world when they cross your path, company weasels who discard you with the promise of a few more dollars of profit, and people who discard you when it works best for them after they have taken all they need from you.

There have been times when I have been in a position to exact revenge, make their lives worse, twist the knife a bit harder, or worse. Since 1999, I haven’t done it.  To repay people in kind just means that everyone loses, everyone gets hurt, and the darkness grows a little more around us.  It feels like most of the people in the US, at least, as simmering pots of resentment, looking for someone to lash out at.

“Somebody has to pay for this!”

“If we can’t be friends, we must be enemies and I destroy my enemies!”

“The world is laughing at us, but they won’t laugh at us anymore!”

Repaying darkness in kind simply makes the world darker. Revenge doesn’t make you feel any better and while it may be best served cold, it’s not a filling meal.

“How could he do this to us?”

Because he’d been told by society that there must be winners and there must be losers and if you aren’t winning, you’re losing. Because he’s been told that we need to exact revenge against any perceived wrong or you aren’t “strong.”

Because we focus on our differences and disputes rather than what we have in common and our agreements.

I don’t have answers, kittens and kaboodles. I know when I would lash out at people, it was because I was hurt and I wanted someone else to hurt like I did.  Thankfully, I have learned that I don’t need to be like that.  There may be people out there right now who are planning things to tear me down, throw roadblocks in my path, or whatever rather than simply telling me that I made a mistake and they are angry about it.  Or, they have told me that and feel the need to keep attacking.  I can’t do a damn thing about that, so I TRY not to worry about it and hope that someday, they will find a measure of peace and joy to replace the hurt and anger.

I’m not a Christmas guy. Too many years of bad holidays, too many times of working on festive occasions and too many years on my own have drained me of that, but I have replaced it by trying to be kind and wishing people joy every day. I know that me seeing Christmas as just another day causes some people discomfort, but I see it as just deciding to do my best for other people every day instead.

Much love to friends old and new and remember, you don’t need a specific date to do good things…or at least refrain from doing hurtful things.

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Fight me. Fight everyone!

Trump has been quoted recently as telling people working in the White House to think of the Presidency as a TV show where they vanquish their enemies. Support him or not, you have to admit that he’s at least honest about that.  The things he has done since taking office have all been about taking things away from people.

That is why, when my right wing friends say “Is there anything Trump could do to win you over,” I think of that quote. I have come to realize that there are people I just have a fundamental disagreement with and will never EVER see the world their way.  I used to be friends with someone who said on a routine and regular basis “If we can’t be friends, we must be enemies, and I destroy my enemies.”  In my observations, as time has gone on, the number of friends diminishes and the number of enemies will constantly increase, and the only person who gets destroyed is the person sowing enemies

The people in power, in my opinion, are put there to help us, not to fight us. They are to work toward making lives better, both for the people they govern as well as the lives they can assist around the world.  It can be through making it easier for people to learn the skills needed for the jobs of the future, finding ways to assist those who can’t function in the modern society as easily as others or simply by showing kindness as a possible and preferred solution.

When you wake up every day looking for a fight, you’re going to find one. When you wake up every day looking for a way to help people, you’ll find that as well.  The world is what it is.  You can’t change it very much, so you have to change how you interact with it.

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Today’s thought

Peace of mind that transcends any and all objectification of accumulated creature comforts or the opinions of others who confuse wealth and public recognition with character and self-respect. Peace of mind is available to anyone willing to pay the wages of disillusionment. To let go of the child’s concept of a world that never has or ever will exist is the cost, but the reward is tranquility.

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2017 Year in Review

In the spirit of the year in review, I like to go over how the years has gone and give myself an honest assessment of things went. So, here’s what I thought of 2017.

As we finish up the year, I am generally pleased with how things have gone. After the nightmarish dumpster fire of 2016, this year was busy, with the group home throwing me tons of hours that went into my savings account, a retirement account and finally, into a new car. I have already moved up two spots at the full time job, and am working on becoming HR certified (1st of 3 tests on the 29th). Like most Gen Xers, the job market has been pulled out from under me repeatedly through my “career”, but thankfully, I keep landing on my feet.

Podcast wise, I didn’t ALL of my marks for the year, but we have our 300th episode of Kray Z, started “Series in Review” and “Bad Advice”, and with my crew, we will have produced over 150 hours of content.  The show moved into 2017 better than it had been for about a year and a half and I am proud of how we’ve grown in our skills, topics and entertainment value.  If you quit listening in 2016, come on back, as we’re better than ever.  It’s not just ME saying that, but the listeners have been giving us solid feedback about how we stepped up our game.

I had some amazing guests on the shows, lots of good comic talk and growth in listenership to where we routinely get 1000 downloads of a podcast the first week, so thank you for listening, telling people and I am glad we entertain you. We’re about to start year 8, and baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Writing wise, I finished up a novel and got 50k words into a new one, and will be buying myself ISBN numbers so that when they are ready, they will be all professional like. Dan still has copies of the first World Wide News collection, and it makes a great Festivus gift!  Buy two, they’re small!  And, for those of you who prefer digital, we will be releasing that book in that format soon on Amazon!

In my personal life, my anxiety issues are being helped with medication, meditation, and awareness. After the nightmarish year that was 2016, I have made huge gains in dealing with that.  I also removed the things that were exacerbating the issues and haven’t looked back. Retiring from conventions and removing toxic people from my environment has done wonders for my outlook and returned my life to doing things I enjoy with good people.  I traveled more, read more, and have done more socially conscious stuff that I am proud of.

I took a trip down the Mississippi River road, taking my time and exploring the small towns and stopping anywhere that looked interesting which revived my love of road trip with no destination. Now that I have a new car and no worries about breakdowns, I look to spend more time doing that.  I have many fond memories of getting in my car with a notebook, spare time and no destination, and there will be a lot more of that in my future.

Where I stumbled this year was that I wasn’t able to move forward on turning to Novelcast novels in eBooks, mostly because I got bogged down in final edits and keep finding new things to rewrite or fix. I also didn’t record as many episodes of Novelcast as I should and had long gaps between episodes mostly due to the intensive time commitment is requires.

I didn’t do as many solo podcasts as I would have hoped, again due to the time commitment needed. I did spend time with friends and family, but not as much as I would have hoped I would have.  I also didn’t do very well in my commitment to fitness, gained some weight back and didn’t exercise nearly enough.

As with any reassessment, I am working on making changes to that and hope to do better in the near term.

So, overall, as the year comes to a close, I am happy with how things have gone and feel this year was a marked improvement over the last two. I was looking for 2017 to be a year where I got back on course, since 2016 was a year where I was finally able to find a full-time job, completed an assessment that let me know how anxiety was driving me and where I worked on a lot of different ideas for harnessing my creative stuff.  2017 was about bringing it all together.  2018 will be a year of growth, surprises, and exploration.

Much love to friends old and new. How about you?  How did you do this year?  Did you move forward?  Did you have fun?  Remember, we’re only here for a short time, so try to have as much fun as you possibly can while helping people along the way.

 

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State of the Internal Nation

So, I have been talking about my anxiety and such for the past year or so, and I want to give an update. Partly because I don’t get to talk to people as much as I’d like and partly because when someone gets diagnosed with a mental health issue, a lot of people don’t know how someone gets “better”.

Before I got help, I had always dealt with the anxiety, even though I wasn’t quite sure what it was.; I know that I had racing thoughts, that when I was over stressed I would feel completely overwhelmed, and there were times when I HAD TO FIND SOMETHING, and even when I found it, I wasn’t calmer, so IT MUST BE SOMETHING ELSE I NEED TO FIND.

I had serious issues with it before. In college, my Junior year, I had a long-term relationship end and for the first time in my life, school wasn’t so easy that I could do well by just paying attention.  I had massive back pain, and through therapy learned relaxation and meditation techniques.

When I had a horrific job in 2011, I was hospitalized for stomach issues, and eventually had to quit the job due to cascading panic attacks. I could also tell I was overstressed by forgetting little things, where my wallet or keys were, what day of the week it was, if I had completed small tasks because my brane was racing on other issues.  I can remember times I would be driving to work and realize I was driving to the wrong job (in one case, I was driving to a job I hadn’t work at in a couple of years).

So, in 2016 (worst year for me since 1999-2000) I again started having cascading panic attacks. I knew the external cause and got rid of it with help from my Tribe, but I kept having the issue, so I decided to get some help.  I completed a therapeutic class, got on some anti-anxiety medicine, worked harder on the meditation, and set up some mechanisms so that I wouldn’t completely overwhelm myself with Stuff To Do.

It’s been about a year, and I have only had a couple of nights where I have had full on panic attacks, whereas by July of 2016, I was having them daily. I have a relaxation routine, make sure to give myself days off, don’t force myself to do too much, and, most importantly, I take time off.  From the internet, from writing, from working, all of it.  I feed my brain, I enjoy what I have and I do what make me content.  Not Happy, content.

The anxiety is still there, but it’s maintainable and I can once again use it to help me complete things rather than giving in to it.

For those who have never gone through it, I explain that if you take how much you worry about things on a scale of 1 to 10, what normal people feel at a 3, I feel at a 10 and what normal people feel at a 5 makes me mentally shut down and go through the motions of what I have to do each day to survive. But now, it’s manageable.

Things I still do:

  • If someone doesn’t get back to me, I feel that they have obviously not longer like me and I should just leave them alone
  • Believe the worst case scenario will happen
  • That horrible thing someone said to me when they were mad? That’s obviously the real truth about me.
  • Overschedule myself so that I feel that I am needed somewhere
  • Really want to go do things, but as it gets closer to the time to do them, want to get out of it and just stay home

So. Last year in August, that list would have been about 20 items.  I’m getting better, but it’s a slow process, and to be honest, some of the things will NOT get any better, so I am learning how to deal with that.  This doesn’t mean I’m not happy.  I had a lovely Thanksgiving of doing things that I enjoy, this week I set aside an hour or two each night to have pure fun and writing this year’s November Novel made me giddy as I was doing it.

But it does mean that I feel bad if I haven’t gotten in touch with you, that it can get lonely from time to time, and I am still working on getting better.

Much love to friends old and new and thank you for your care and understanding.

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