The Persistent Push

Last week I was getting snippy with the individuals I support, and I was also taking it out on my team. I was terse and more sarcastic than usual, to the point of nitpicking things just to start confrontations. Being mindful of my emotions, I recognized that I was in a shitty mood, and I saw that I was being cynical about my surroundings.

Yoda on Dagobah
Negativity leads to frustration. Frustration leads to hopelessness. Hopelessness leads to depression.

Since I expect so much of myself, when I become aware of my inability to influence the environment, I grow increasingly negative. Regardless of how grandiose my visions are, I fester on my failure to actualize those aspirations, and those bad vibes spiral out of control. It’s this feedback loop of negativity, where I’m frustrated that I can’t do what I want, and I beat myself up to the point of expecting nothing to improve because it hasn’t yet.

Venting to my closest friends about those feelings helped a bit. I was convinced that my awareness of that negativity would help me through it. Unfortunately, I was stuck on how each of the previous days were slogs, and I woke up every morning expecting the worst.

When I was receiving therapy for Persistent Depressive Disorder my therapist introduced me to mindfulness. I have become a proponent of its efficacy and I’m constantly reminded of how powerful that sense of awareness really is. Over the last three days as I realized I was slipping into a negative space, I used my favorite mindfulness technique (essentially the mini-mindfulness exercise at that link) to raise my cognition of myself in the present.

Spaceballs fucking nailed the feeling of now.

The present is awesome. It’s now. It’s not what just was. It’s not what is about to be. It’s now. This awareness allows the opportunity to react to what is actually happening, rather than what I expect to transpire. There’s incredible power in that ability.

It completely diffuses that negative feedback loop. I’ve found that removing my preconceptions brings me into a more positive headspace overall. That positivity defeats my feelings of burnout and depression. When I’m living in the now, I don’t waste my time and energy dwelling on what if’s, could’ve beens, and what-will-be’s.

Each day, each hour, each moment, and each second begins anew. Use that to your advantage and push forward. Persist.

I've been fairly open about my journey with depression. Catch up on the series if you want:
 The Final Push
 The Renewed Push
 I've pushed enough. Let's wrap this shit up.

Settling In

Keith's Toy Collection
Some of my favorite items on display in my collection. Boba Fett, Transformers, He-Man, and some sentimental items with family ties.

I’ve been in the final stages of setting up and cleaning my new home office the last two days. There’s only about half an hour of cleaning to do at this point, so I’m sitting down to write. It’s my preferred option for task-avoidance.

Will, my best friend and podcast partner, made a salient point last week that’s been bouncing around my head since we stopped recording. He mentioned that he doesn’t set a New Year’s resolution because he’s constantly striving to better himself. It felt arbitrary to set a goal and work on it when he’s doing his best to improve every day. Comments like that are why we’re #bffls.

The conversations we’ve had over the years were more significant that those I had with other people in my life. He’s challenged my positions and views like few others, and he helped me become a more open-minded person. My second workiversary is coming up this week, and it seems like a fine marker to use in judging myself.

Since my last anniversary at work, I’ve done a lot and I’m not sure I can even begin to write it all out. Let’s do a CliffsNotes version of the last year!

  1. I moved out and lived in my own apartment. It felt like the only way to express how seriously I needed things to change and improve between me and Dorena. I also wanted to take some time to just focus on myself and have independence and solitude.
  2. Dorena and I did a lot of work on our relationship. We have been together for half of our lives, and we never truly grew up and adapted as we aged. We were stagnant and didn’t know what we needed to move forward. We had to first find out what we wanted, and then we had to learn how to communicate that with each other. It took months of trial and error to find our voices and the best ways to speak with each other.
  3. I moved back in with Dorena. It felt right to do so, and it’s us again, working toward common goals while supporting each other.
  4. Personally I’ve made strides tackling my flaws. I regained my confidence, and my ability to be direct and pointed with my communication. I’ve learned how to convey my feelings more clearly than ever before in my life. I’m taking steps toward improving the important relationships that I value. I’m learning to let go of some of my OCD habits, and to wrangle my untoward expectations. I’m finally starting to accept when I’ve done well instead of pushing for “perfection.” (He says as he incessantly rewrites these paragraphs to make them sound better.)
  5. Professionally I’ve become a stronger leader. I’ve always been a “take charge” person, but this year it’s really clicked how to express my vision and to get people on board with me. I’ve become an effective leader of a team with vested interest,  rather than just being a charismatic guy that people latched onto.
  6. I’m being creative again. Along with starting a podcast with Will, I’ve been drawing again, and I love it. My cartoons are starting to feel decent again. Something I haven’t been able to say about my drawings since high school. It feels great!
A couple quick cartoon sketches
Look! I have some cartooning talent back!

The most important thing to note is that I haven’t felt a tinge of depression at all over the last year. Even through some tough times I felt resolved and determined instead of hopeless and defeated.

Before my conversation with Will about resolutions, my only goal for this year was to focus on more than just mindless internet browsing for my personal entertainment. I wanted to get more out of my one to two hours a day of relaxation, and I’m off to a good start. Don’t get me wrong, I do see the value in the mindless refreshing of social media. I’m not trying to judge and discourage others from using that to veg out, but being a web designer I spent so much time online that I’m a little burnt out on the whole social media thing.

I’ll be varying my experiences in my free time to get a little more fulfillment out of my activities. I’m hoping they’ll be more memorable when it’s said and done than hitting F5 on my Reddit dashboard was. We’ll see. I’ll check in again after I finish establishing my new approach.

A Time and Place to Relax

My mother and father regaled me with stories of my youth, as I expect everyone’s parents to have done. One of my favorites involves my first month alive on Earth. I had colic, and as such I cried a lot.

I originally set to tell the story myself, but looking for photos of me camping with them, I came across the story in my mother’s own words in my baby book.

Pop-Up Camper at Scenic View Campground in Bolton Landing July 1983
Pop-Up Camper at Scenic View Campground in Bolton Landing July 1983

June 29, 1983
Daddy and I decided to go camping on July 4th through the 6th. You’re coming too — it’s just too bad you won’t be able to remember it. We’re hoping that the fresh air will help you sleep better. You’re having a terrible time sleeping because of your being so colicy. You keep us up for hours (7-10) because you’re in so much pain.

Pop-Up Camper at Scenic View Campground in Bolton Landing July 1983
Another shot of our Pop-Up Camper at Scenic View in 1983

July 13, 1983
We took you to Bolton Landing July 4th to July 6th. We couldn’t believe it was you who went with us. You didn’t show any signs of colic while we were there. You slept through everything including four long walks through Lake George Village two nights. You’ve been just as good since we’ve been home. At least now you and I can enjoy each other more and it’s less strain on our relationship. Daddy likes the new you too!

The story has always sounded like one of those perfect weekends. The weather was fantastic, the Yankees threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on Independence Day, and I never cried again. Dad’s not sure if it was the camping, the Yanks, or the pine scent. I think it’s the lake itself.

Lake George from the Southern Tip
Lake George from the Southern Tip – September 4th, 2017; 6:30 PM

I’ve fallen out of my love for camping as I’ve gotten older, but walking through the village and being on the lake still has that same effect on me. The breeze off the water, the sound of the water rippling as the Minne-Ha-Ha’s pipe organ plays in the distance…

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Serenity.


I’ve been going through a pretty emotionally draining time over the last few weeks. There’s been a lot of deep contemplation about what I want to do about my marriage. I’ve been trying to come to a decision if I am up to the task of investing more energy and patience into it in order to see if it can metamorphose and satisfy me for the rest of my life.

For a few hours this evening, I got to stop overthinking and just chill out by the lake. I’m no closer to a final decision, but my mind is refreshed!

Back to the perpetual loop of uncertainty in the morning…

The Layover

It was nearing the second hour of my scheduled forty-five-minute layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, en route to Albany, NY. I waited in line for twenty minutes to speak with the attendant to see if any other accommodations could be made. When my turn came up, I could tell the airline sent a veteran to handle our increasingly turbulent group of passengers. She was in her mid-50’s, and her gray-streaked hair was pulled into a tight bun. Her uniformed blazer and skirt were immaculately tailored without a hint of lint. She wore a solid gold American Airlines nametag on her left breast pocket, with a red and white striped kerchief peeking out behind it.

She glanced upward from the computer screen, barely moving her eyes enough to make eye-contact with me. Her eyes were hardly visible over the scalloped frame of the dark red reading glasses residing at the tip of her nose. “Sir, there are no other flights leaving Charlotte, heading towards Albany.” It felt like she was feigning empathy, but it was hard to pick up through her strong Hispanic accent.

Albany. Not Al Bunny, Esmeralda,” I snipped back. My filter was long lost to impatience. She rolled her eyes and sighed at my remark. I took a deep breath, and spoke again. “I’m sorry, I know that you’re not from around there, but I really want to get home.”

“I understand Sir. Everyone in this terminal is trying to get somewhere. Please understand that there is nothing we can do, and your safety comes first. Any issue, however minor, needs to be addressed before the plane is ready for departure.”

“Are there any flights on other airlines that I can switch to?”

“Sir,” she said, with clear frustration in her tone, “I do not have access to other airlines. You are more than welcome to inquire about availability at their counters. When we have updates, we will announce them across the terminal. Thank you for your continued patience.” She looked down at the computer and started typing.

I walked through the terminal to seek refuge at another airline. As I approached Delta’s desk, I heard a mother yelling at her preteen daughter about taking something from the souvenir store. It snapped me back to my fourteen-year-old self. The words that kid heard were going to be stuck in her head for the rest of her life, just like the time I got caught stealing in middle school.


“You cannot imagine how disappointed I am in you!” Ma’s face had reddened and she had grown furious. “I thought I raised you better than this! How could you steal something?”

“Ma,” I began sheepishly. “I am so sorry. I just wanted a new Walkman, and I knew you couldn’t get it for me.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me, Harold Joseph Winston!” She huffed and puffed like I was a plump pig in a stick house. “You should know that all you have to do is ask, and your father and I will do our best to accommodate you!”

“I know, Ma, but with you getting divorced I didn’t think you had money for that.”

“How do you know about that?”

“There was a letter left on the table when I came home from school the other day.”

Ma’s face had turned sullen, and the flush crimson color in her cheeks faded to a pale blue, like a foot of pristine snow under a full moon. “Harry, I’m sorry.” Her eyes had welled up with tears. “You weren’t supposed to know yet. I was waiting to tell you until I had living arrangements for the two of us.”

“The two of us?”

“Yeah, Harry. Me and you. We need to get away from your father.”

“Dad said you’d try to turn me against him!” Ma was the disciplinarian, and I sensed my way out of culpability. I continued my offense. “If you want to leave me and dad, go ahead!”

“Harry, if you really want to stay, I won’t fight your decision.” She had begun to weep openly. “Someday, I hope you will understand, but I cannot stay here with you and your father.”


After I struck out with Delta, I went on to also fail with Southwest, JetBlue, and United. Defeated, I went to the airport’s lounge to get a drink.

“What’ll ya have?” the bartender asked, in a way that sounded like he was trying to make a new friend.

“Whiskey,” I said sternly. “Neat.”

He took a rocks glass and set it down on the bar gently. His collared, blue shirt was buttoned to his neck, and his black vest appeared brand-new. There was a matching black bowtie symmetrically tied precisely at the center of his neck. He poured the spirit so softly that not even a drop landed outside of the glass.

“Ya doin’ alright, pal?” he inquired, while carefully sliding the glass toward me with one hand, simultaneously reaching for payment with the other.

“Yeah,” I answered, with no intention of divulging. I handed him my card. “Keep it open, buddy.” I took a swig, and it hit the back of my throat hard. I lowered the glass slowly, and stared at the auburn liquor in the glass as I swirled it around, thinking about the first time my mother and Florida were joined in my memory.


“Harry, you know how your aunt and grandmother are moving to Florida?”

I nodded passively, because I still had not come to terms with their decision. After Mom and Dad split up, they became my primary caregivers through high school, and my aunt was the co-signor on my college loan. My mother and I had an on-again, off-again relationship through my teen years.

“Well, I am going too.”

“Why? We’re just starting to patch things up!”

“I know it’s been rough since I left your father. But we are doing better.” She had placed her hands on my upper arms, and gave them a couple quick squeezes, like she was checking a cantaloupe for freshness. “You’ll be so busy with college in a few months that we wouldn’t see each other much anyway.”

I was disappointed, but I was determined to make our arduous relationship building pay off. “Alright, I’ll visit on breaks from school.”

“See? That’s the ticket!” The left side of her mouth had curled into a wry smile. “You’re already using me as an excuse for vacations!”

“Yeah, right. Besides, we’ll call each other all the time. It’s not like we’re going to stop talking after getting this close again.”

“That’s right! It won’t even be that bad when I’m gone.”


I looked around the bar as I finished my glass of whiskey. I saw some familiar faces sitting around me, though I didn’t know any of their names.

I summoned the bartender for a refill, and the second glass went down far easier than the first. While mulling over the third glass, I was staring at the local news on the TV. The closed-captioning was on, but I didn’t want to focus on a story about a book drive at the elementary school. I lost myself in the swelling hum of the crowd. My thoughts drifted, and brought back a conversation I forgot about.


“I don’t know how to say this, Harry, but I’ve been feeling weak lately, and my legs are always swollen.”

“Swollen? What do you mean? Swollen?

“You know, swollen. Puffy. Squishy.”

“Well what’s going on?”

“I’ve been to three different doctors, and none of them know what caused it. I’m suffering from late-stage kidney failure. They aren’t filtering how they should, and my legs retain fluid.” She paused, seemingly trying to find the words that would comfort both of us. “There’s things that I can try to mitigate the swelling.”

“Ma, come back to New York so you can see a real doctor.” I mustered a giggle, trying to change the tone. “Don’t let those bumpkins try to take care of you.”

“There’s real doctors here,” she said seriously. “We’ll figure it out. It should only take a few months.”


Ma’s few months turned into two years, and her kidneys worsened exponentially. She received hemodialysis three times a week to flush the toxins out of her blood that her kidneys refused to. The treatments were rough on her, and she was in a state of recovery every other day.

The bar’s hum had turned into a legitimate calamity. I’m barely able to get the bartender’s attention.

“Whaddya want?”

Dude, it’s my sixth one!

“Whiskey. Neat.” I look at my watch to figure out how long I’ve been sitting here. It’s been an hour-and-a-half since I first saw this guy, and his appearance has certainly declined.

His forehead is glistening with sweat, and there is no sign of his bowtie. His vest is open, and as he moves I can see the wrinkled shirt it once ensconced. His plush arm hair billows around his rolled-up sleeves, and his chest hair protrudes proudly from his unbuttoned collar. As he withdraws the whiskey bottle, I hand him my glass. Our hands graze, and for the first time, I notice how rough his hands are. He must be a carpenter or something.

The neck of the whiskey bottle seems like it’s going to snap under the pressure of his calloused fingers as he sloppily pours my drink. Maybe he’s a landscaper.

“The bar’s not drinking it, man, I am.” Ah, oil under the fingernails. He’s a mechanic.

“Yeah, whatever, pal. Ain’t ya had enough, yet?” He looks pissed as he shoves the glass across the countertop toward me. The liquid sloshes about, spilling over the edge. I lose my train of thought as I scan the room for napkins.

Two-and-a-half-weeks before this disastrous glass of whiskey, my aunt called to ask for help with Ma. Her blood pressure plummeted at dialysis, and she was rushed to the hospital for monitoring. While there, she suffered a stroke, and they weren’t sure that she was going to make it. For the last seventeen days, my aunt and I sat by her side in the ICU as she recovered.

Unfortunately, I’m out of vacation days for the year, and I must go back to work. My aunt said she’ll be able to handle Ma when she gets released, and that keeping my job is more important. We’ll figure out what to do after she gets settled at home.

I can’t hear my phone ring, but the vibration in my pocket drives me up a wall. I pull it out and look at the screen. My heart sinks, because even though the caller ID reads “Auntie,” it says something different to my soul. I don’t need to talk to her for the few moments I do, because I already know what our conversation is going to entail. I close out my bar tab and head back to the terminal.

Esmeralda is not happy to see me again as my spot in line comes up. I leave lasting impressions, huh? Her hair is let down, and frizzy. Her blazer is strewn across the heater behind her desk, with her heels peeking out from beneath it. I can see large sweat stains under her arm pits as she gesticulates.

“Sir, I know it’s been six hours,” she hesitates, as she stands up nice and straight. “However, we have no updates at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are doing everything we can to get you to Albany.”

“It’s okay. I need to go back to Jacksonville.”

Moving, again…

In typical “Keith” fashion, I’m sitting down to write a thousand words instead of packing the night before moving out. To everyone helping me move tomorrow: You’re welcome for all of the shit still left to do! At least you’re getting something fun to read out of it. Oh, and Jimmy’s Pizza! There’s that!

This is the second time I’ve moved on my own accord. The first was eight years ago, when Dorena and I were newlyweds setting out on our own.

Eight years is a long time, but I have friends that have lived three times that long in the same house. When I describe what it was like moving every few years, and how it numbed me to the process, they have a difficult time relating. I got used to the idea of changing locations not because I wanted to, but because I had to. Why bother getting attached to a house when I had no idea how long I’d be there? The idea of consistent household was a concept foreign to our family, as money struggles led to evictions pretty frequently. It’s a shitty thing.

When I think about how I should feel when moving, it’s a lot of sorrow, almost like experiencing a death. I should grieve for losing a close friend; something that was near and dear to my heart; something that literally sheltered me; something that was as much me, as it was its own entity. I don’t feel that way leaving here.

This house has become a physical representation of my failing relationship. The juxtaposition of our spaces is as clear as the difference in our own drive and motivation. The physical isolation from each other is starting to match the emotional distance I’ve felt for the last eight months. I want out of these feelings, and I want out of this fucking space.

I’m compelled to better my own situation, but I feel like a complete shithead doing it. I feel like I’m abandoning Dorena, and I guess in a lot of ways I am. I’m running away from one of the very few people in this world that I should stand by regardless of the circumstances.

‘Til death do we part, right? 

Actually, in my personal vows, I closed with something along the lines of: It’s you and me against the world, kid, and we’re going to fight together ’til the end.

At the time, I presumed the end would be my end. Men usually die younger than women, so I figured I’d bite the dust, and that’s when we’d split. I figured that we’d just adapt and grow together as we had to the point of our marriage, and everything would work itself out.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize what work things out means. I have to cave on a position I’ve taken, or I don’t follow through with holding her accountable to my expectations on how to resolve a raised grievance. I stop caring about what I did before, and not because it really wasn’t important, I just accepted that it wasn’t going to change.

I don’t want to go into the big one, but it was a large concession, and it was difficult for me to accept my new stance. What did I get in return? More of the same.

I guess that’s part of the problem too. We both turn 34 in a couple months, and this year will mark half of our lives spent in a committed relationship with each other. We’ve just started to learn how to communicate with each other this fucking week.

A lot of my frustration stems from the fact that, in my view, my final straw was what actually stimulated the attempt to change. I made empty threat after empty threat, but never followed through. I get that me moving out is a deviation from what I’ve done to this point. I also know that there were attempts to improve our relationship before this, but this is a discernible change. There’s a sense of urgency that was unheard of days, or months, or years ago.

Fight or flight is a funny thing. You’re either gonna fold like a cheap suit, or you’re gonna get filled with vim and vigor and demand exactly what it is that you need to survive. Because it took so long to see that fight in her, it’s having the opposite effect on me. Instead of alleviating my doubts about our future, it’s creating more uncertainty.

Her renewed — I don’t know if it’s new or renewed — sense of motivation to heal herself (and us) is pushing me away more than it’s pulling me in. I guess it’s resentment? That’s a harsh word, but I don’t use it lightly. I’ve felt an uneven level of sacrifice for a long time, and I’m fed up with it, and so many other things.

I’m not blind to the amount she gave up to support me through my depression, but that’s another sore subject now. It’s being held over my head like it’s a life-debt. I suppose that when you’re married you’re already life-debted. Instead of doing what the hard thing would have been: pushing me through my depression with exposure to reality, she enabled me by shielding me from what I was forcing her to do to keep things going. It took me so much longer to recover than it should have because of it.

Obviously I don’t hold her accountable for my depression. I don’t even hold her accountable for my recovery. The depression was my own deficiency, and the recovery process was a responsibility of mine alone. But I cannot deny that I am bothered that the lowest point in my life is being used against me as a way to ensure a longer relationship with each other.

I’m bothered that after seventeen years we still bicker and argue like seventeen-year-olds. I’m bothered that this could work, but the onus is again on me to be more patient. I’m bothered that I’ve asked myself how much time is enough so many times that I’ve lost track.

I’m bothered, but I don’t want to be like this.

It’s often held against me that things need to be my way or the highway, but the amount of concessions I’ve made form a pretty solid track record of compromise. I’m done compromising on my own solitude. I want things to be on my terms for real this time. I want the chance to be truly selfish and indulge in only expending emotional energy on myself for a bit.

Through the last month and a half, there have been glimmers of the qualities with which I fell in love so long ago: optimism, cheerfulness, feistiness, compassion, empathy, and unconditional support. Those glimmers have been few and far between, but they remind of what I held onto for this long. It gives me a hint of hope that things might work out eventually.

This internal conflict is tiring. Do I want to get back to a healthy place with Dorena? Frankly, our ideal future isn’t that dissimilar. I still want the house, the white picket fence, and the two and two-thirds children. That statistic is horribly dated, and I wonder if it still lines up, but I’m taking too long on this as it is. I’m not looking that shit up.

To get there with Dorena would be easier. I could suck it up and get past this, as I have so many other times, and we could try having a kid, and we can start looking for houses. I don’t want that right now. Not with her. Is this bitterness? Is this being at the end of my rope of patience and understanding? Is this just the natural dissolution of a relationship that’s unfulfilling? Is it unstimulating because we’ve grown so emotionally distant? Chicken or the egg?

I don’t know.

Well, I have a pretty solid rationalization of which came first in the chick/egg scenario, but that’s for another post. I really don’t know about us, though.

I thought I knew for sure so many times, but I keep waffling. Those glimmers of hope sure are enticing, but so is the idea of new opportunities and challenges. Dorena’s been pushing me to commit to dating her, with frequent conversations and regular nights out together. I’m not ready for that yet. I’m unsure if I will be. For whatever reason — I’m starting to believe that I’m a masochist, of the emotional variety — I’m still receptive to trying.

That’s the hardest part right now. I’m on this ledge between ending it all and starting over slowly. Both have short and long term benefits, but there’s a shit ton of baggage that can be stirred up at moment’s notice when things turn south. That’s been the methodology employed to this point in arguments, and I’ve grown weary of that.

I know that I want more. Where that more comes from right now is sorta up in the air. I suppose it could work with Dorena, but that’s feeling like a Sisyphean task at this point.

I’ve thought about this topic in almost every waking moment since Christmas. I’m closer to a decision now than ever before, but I have so much uncertainty. I’ve moved so much in my life, I guess that’s what I should do again.

Just keep swimming moving. Forward. Upward. Onward. Move or be left behind, but don’t be brash. I need to be careful, precise, and logical about the steps I take. My judgment is sound, and I need to start trusting myself as much as those around me do.

It’s time to figure this shit out.