I wonder how many people remember me? It has been a little bit of time I suppose since the last time I was here. But as is true with so many things it is sometimes the littlest briefest experiences that have the most profoud impacts on life. A single muzzle flash will likely impact you far more than a month of stress at work. The moment before you are smiling and carefree, the moment after the world rapidly changes.
For me that muzzle flash was the corner of a stair. In 2016 I slipped on our hardwood stairs and took a single stair to the sacrum. It doesn't sound like a lot but apparently the body doesn't need much. Immediately my lower back felt like it was on fire. Take a moment to imagine molten metal being poured down your back. Now imagine that feeling every minute of every day for years.
You never really get used to it. Or at least I haven't. I remember walking out of the doctor's office when they told me this kind of injury either heals itself or it doesn't and weeping. Grown man walking down the city streets of Los Angeles with tears rolling down my face. I was miserable in a way I hadn't felt in a very long time.
The only position I can be in to actually reduce the inflamation and the pain is standing. I don't know about you but that really limits the options for genuine relaxation for me. Sitting is pain, sleeping is pain, as Mr. Meeseeks would say:
I withdrew a lot because of this. I kept telling myself that it would get better. Around this time Hank Green made a video called "The New Normal" and I remember it making me miserbale. He basically lays out how awful things can and will happen to you, that they'll ruin your life but you just adjust and that becomes your new normal.
I remember sitting there thinking "I don't want this to be my new normal." And yet, as time went on that is where we are. I've rambled to people about the Hedonic treadmill before, but I've begun to wonder if there is some kind of antithesis to that. A Dejective treadmill, where you keep reaching some kind of new low. Where the good days are far worse than what your old bad days used to be. And over time you become used to this low and move further down the spiral.
Last year I suspect I got pretty close to whatever is the absolute bottom of that journey. Sitting on my bed having taken far too many anti-anxiety pills and feeling a cold chill run across my muscles. I was having a panic attack that was so severe I could barely breath, the thought of being filled me with dread and the idea that this could ever come back was not something I wanted to deal with.
In my fear I ended up mixing a bit too much of a few too many things and I sat there staring at my hand. I kept clenching and opening it watching as my motor skills got a bit more and more off. I wondered if I had just accidentally killed myself and if I wasn't going to be breathing soon. I think what surprised me the most in that moment was that I got it. I wasn't scared at all, more surprised that I had hid this place. That I had gone from someone wishing to live forever to this guy thinking he might be dying and just completely fine with it.
I don't know how much of that was the pain or how much of that was the medication. They do warn you that they can give you suicidal tendencies. Regardless it was an enlightening experience and clearly I did not die. I did spend quite a few hours struggling to control my muscles which I can't recommend.
Sometime in these last few years I started going to the local Equinox. Equinox is a wildly expensive gym that has a lot of pretentious marketing. But it is also literally a five minute walk from my house. I realized if I was going to try going to the gym I should make it somewhere close. Otherwise I'd find all sorts of reasons to not go.
We, and I'll be using We as shorthand for "My wife and I", signed up and started going fairly regularly. I had no real plan or guidance when we started. I just kind of walked in and started walking on the treadmill or using the eliptical machines. I would go on to meet my first of a few personal trainers there. He got me off of the cardio machines and onto the weights.
This was a fairly pivotal step for my workout experience. Lifting weights is a lot like martial arts in that it can help you stress your body just enough to help release. However it wouldn't be the first trainer that would really open my eyes. That would come a while later, but I dont' want to get ahead of myself.
Next I started taking a class called MetCon 3. It is instructed by a fellow named Jayen Wells. There is an old line that you should "never meet your heroes" but I've been thinking lately that maybe people just need better heroes. Jayen is definitely one of mine. The class is intense, it is a sequence of ten exercises with tiny breaks that you do three times. It is 45 minutes of glorious hell. His passion and drive for training is intoxicating and I found myself excited for the class every week.
He'd break you down and build you up each time. And he'd give me the first piece of advice that I'd go on to apply to the rest of my workout routines. "Squeeze the glutes." It might sound simple but this one little bit of advice is something that a lot of people miss.
I can't say that this class saved me but it definitely helped me a lot. It gave me goals and by finishing the class I could feel a certain sense of achievement. The next handful of days I'd be functionally useless too as my muscles repaired themselves from the extreme workout.
In the middle of my gym time I had a few more meltdowns. Unfortunately the constant pain means that I haven't really had a genuine rest since 2016. Imagine someone stabbing you randomly every day for years. No hint to when it is coming, just bam.
A new class got added to the roster of courses at the gym. It is called Restorative Yoga, and it is headed by a man named Chris Tilley. Again, we meet another hero of mine. Chris is in many ways the embodiment of joy and compassion that you might remember from Mr. Rogers. Chris is considerably more playful than Rogers but when it is time to teach Yoga he has a persona that is undeniably soothing.
His voice trails through the air like some kind of angelic gossamer. It was in this class that for the first time in years I ended up feeling rested. He speaks softly and guides you through various yoga poses that you hold for upwards of a minute or two at a time. I'm not a very flexible person which leads to a lot of the poses being fairly uncomfortable, it is amusing to see the difference between my wife and I.
Regardless each time the class is over I feel my heart beating slowly. And for a brief period of time I feel complete and whole. I'm not a religious guy and I recognize biologically a few of the "whys" to the yoga class aren't actually factually correct. I'm not squeezing out toxins whenever I do a sleeping swan pose. But the benefits of relaxation and stretching are without question. And you honestly couldn't meet someone with a more soothing voice than Chris. If he started doing ASMR he'd dominate the entire market.
Sometime after this I bumped into one of the staff at Equinox and she mentioned offhand that there was a boxing class coming that weekend. "I like hitting people and getting hit!" I thought. So I asked her if I could sign up my Wife and I. She said "Well normally when we say bring a friend we mean someone from outside of the gym but sure!" I felt a little bad because I know this is a recruiting tool for them but here we are.
Anyways, I take the class and partway through it one of the trainers walks up to me and says "Were you in martial arts before?" and I smiled and told him yes. I was a TKD instructor in my teens. He mentioned that my stance gave it away and I quickly noticed I was the only person in the room that wasn't standing square with the bag.
If you were ever curious you never want to square up with someone to fight them. Your torso and pelvis are packing a whole lot of stuff you don't want to get hit. Turning your body to the side and facing your shoulder to your opponent allows you to narrow the area they can strike and also means that if you punch or kick them you'll be doing so by twisting your torso. This will put most of your body weight behind the strikes which will give you incredible stopping power.
But I digress, we started chatting about sparring and martial arts during the class and after he asked if I wanted some free classes with him. I said sure and we started training.
The classes were an hour long, the first half was fairly intense strength training and the latter half was sparring. I ended up signing up with him and doing twelve more classes after this. At the height of the training I literally put on two pounds of muscle in two weeks without any body fat gain. These days I'm sitting at 150 pounds up from 130 with most of that being muscle.
Dan T (his last name is too complicated to spell out) is the third pillar of this hero trifecta for me. They definitely aren't the only people at this gym that have changed my life but for the purpose of this ramble they are the most pivotal.
I would be still training with Dan but unfortunately my work had layoffs which strongly impacted the security of my income. Twice.
It was during these layoffs that I realized I'd seen some kind of turnaround in who I am these days. While my coworkers, those who weren't hit, were all having nuclear emotional breakdowns I just kind of took it. This placid response has seeped into a lot of what I do and in many ways it has been very helpful.
The negative drawback is that it also hits a bit of the positive parts of my life. When good things happen there is a solid chance that I will respond to them with a resounding shrug. But I suppose you must take what you can get when the alternative is bad events nearly killing you.
Somewhere in this whole mix I ended up deleting my Facebook. It is funny when you do this, Facebook actually gives you 30 days to change your mind and reminds you that you are making a mistake sometime therein. When that final day hit and my account(s) were annhilated I felt a swell of calmness.
Facebook in particular did nothing for me. Much like Reddit and Twitter before I aggressively muted nearly everything, it is this source of needless conflict and despair. Knowing that your family has morons in it is not something I think many people want to be reminded of. And watching those people fight constantly over petty bullshit is even more heartbreaking.
I wouldn't say I'm ignorant of the going's on of the world. I just take the information in much slower than most everyone else. I don't need the constant daily reminders that a Tangerine is trying to drive the US through the floor. I can get updates every few weeks or every month and be just as clear as my stressed and strained acquintances.
There is probably more, it has been a few years. And as I think I said at the beginning I don't even know how many people know who I am anymore here. But here we stand. I think I'm going to start blogging from time to time here and give people updates on projects that I think might interest them.
A lot of what I was doing before I left fell through the ground as that back injury literally drained my will to live. But as I do more and more at the gym I am finding some drive to get back to it. I'd like to become self sustainable so that I can move out of this relatively toxic environment that is the professional games industry. Turns out that everyone having layoffs regardless of financial outcomes is not great for employee mental health.
If you happen to be someone that enjoys watching random people play random video games I'm going to be somewhat regularly streaming on Twitch again. I have a suggestion box underneath my videos where you can suggest something for me to play, or even a game idea you'd like to see made, and I'll work through them in order of popularity.
Otherwise I hope your lives are going well. If things get dark for you I can't promise there is any light on the other end of the tunnel but it can't hurt to at least check first before you stop walking.