Browsing Tag: mattmcgee

    Miscellany

    2020 Was the Year

    December 31, 2020

    It’s December 31. We have about 3.5 hours left in 2020 as I type this. As is often the case on New Year’s Eve, I’m in a reflective frame of mind. Aside from going to the occasional minor league hockey game, which is a Dec. 31 tradition in the Tri-Cities, I’ve never been much for the end-of-year party scene. Heck, most years my wife is asleep by 9-10 pm so I’d be going out by myself! But I do like to write, so here’s how I’ll remember the strange year that’s about to end.

    2020 was the year that I learned to live with my family in a constant state of close proximity. Now I hear you already thinking, WTF does he mean by THAT? I’ll explain. I’m an introvert to the core. I’ve always needed “me time.” I’ve always needed space and to be away from people, including my family. When working from home, it was always nice during the school year when everyone would be out of the house by 8:30 am and I’d have the place to myself until the kids got home from school in the afternoon.

    That went out the window with the pandemic. At first, it was just like summer vacation. I enjoyed having everyone around for a few weeks … then I started getting itchy for “me time,” for having the house to myself. But that itchiness went away after a couple weeks. The four of us are basically home 24/7, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I welcome and value having everyone here at home. Safe. Together.

    2020 was the year that I learned to love grocery delivery services. As I wrote a couple months ago, there’s a good chance we keep doing grocery delivery even after things return to “normal.” I think I’m all in. The convenience is unbeatable, even if it costs a bit more.

    2020 was the year that I learned the names of my biological parents. To be fair, I knew my biological mom’s name several years ago. It was printed on some adoption paperwork that my dad sent me before he died in 2015. But I stashed those papers away in a non-obvious spot and didn’t rediscover them until this spring. That started a more serious effort to identify my bio-fam (as I like to call them). In a matter of a couple weeks, we identified my biological dad’s name, too. It was an amazing moment. Chills.

    I’ve tried to contact both of them, but no luck so far. The most likely reason is that the contact info I found for them is several years old, but I’ve accepted the possibility that they read my emails and chose not to reply. That makes me a bit sad, but I understand why they’d do that. Perhaps I’ll try again in the new year. Perhaps with better luck.

    2020 was the year that I said goodbye to @U2. I’m not sad that it’s gone. The site had a great run of 25 years, but all great things eventually come to an end. I’m fine with it being over. I’m only sad about how it ended — with a lot of stress and frustration that made life even more difficult than it needed to be for too many people.

    2020 was the year that reminded me that social media isn’t a good idea. Social media was a battleground this year. I didn’t participate, but I saw far too many wars of words on both sides of my own family. I hope and I want to believe that those fights didn’t cause any lasting scars, but I’m not sure they didn’t.

    2020 was the year that I watched more TV than ever. Just me? Probably not. And I discovered a lot of great shows, especially on Apple TV+. None were better than Ted Lasso, something I never saw coming. It’s not only the best show of 2020 for me, but it’s also one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. I can’t wait for seasons two and three, and hopefully many more beyond that. I liked it so much that I dressed up for Halloween for the first time in about 40 years.

    2020 was the year that I learned this country … the whole world, for that matter … is seriously lacking in critical thinking skills. For the past several months, I’ve seen social media arguments from people who oppose mask-wearing and oppose closing restaurants and churches because “we tried it the other way and that didn’t work, so we may as well go back to normal.” Nine months into the pandemic, they say things like “If grocery stores can stay open, restaurants should be able to!” They question how the medical experts could have gotten it “wrong” on certain aspects of the virus and changed their recommendations … ignoring the fact that this virus didn’t exist until one year ago and they’re figuring things out the same way we all are.

    Where did our critical thinking ability go? How is it that educated adults don’t understand the difference between essential and non-essential businesses? I love eating out as much as anyone, but my favorite restaurant is a luxury, not a requirement.

    2020 was the year that reminded me of the value of empathy and sympathy. As I type all this now, and as I’ve been thinking on this during the year, I’m doing my best to remember that my views and opinions are shaped by the position of privilege and blessing that our family finds itself in.

    We’re extremely blessed that Cari’s real estate business was only shut down for about 3-4 days in March. She’s had to work with a variety of rules and restrictions in place, but she’s had a successful year. Likewise, the company I work for (not a local company) remained open and I didn’t miss a paycheck.

    So while I sit here and express my dismay over how others are responding to the pandemic, I also wonder how I’d respond if Cari or I were in different lines of business. What if, like those restaurant or salon owners, the state’s rules left us unable to pay our mortgage? What if we were going 5-figures or 6-figures in debt just to keep our business open and have a home to live in? I very well might be reacting the same way they are. I think it’s important to be sympathetic toward the situation those folks are in, even if I don’t like how they’re responding to it.

    2020 was the year that my daughter began her college education at Western Washington University … from her bedroom. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, especially for a young adult who had been looking to get away from home for so long. We were able to visit the campus (pictured above) for a couple days in September, but those few hours were her only direct time on campus grounds. I should mention, too, that this was the year my son continued his Columbia Basin College education from his bedroom. And my wife did most of her real estate work from the office in her/our bedroom.

    2020 was the year that we, like millions of others, truly realized the importance of home. This year our homes became classrooms, offices, family entertainment centers, and so much more. If and when we move and buy a new home, this experience will have a huge impact on what we want.

    2020 was the year that I discovered foods like purple cauliflower, Dot’s pretzels (so good), and Caramel Macchiato cereal (pretty good). I’m sure there’s a lot more than that, but those are the ones that come to mind at this hour.

    2020 was the year that we had about three weeks of round-the-clock orange skies because of forest fires all around us.

    2020 was the year that I had a 3-week friendship with a praying mantis. We hung out together night after night out on the back patio. I’d sit in my favorite chair reading, relaxing, listening to music, and playing iPad games, while she’d sit on the chair across from me or maybe the sofa in between. I swear sometimes she was dancing to the song that was on. She loved to pose for pictures, too.

    I know it sounds strange … hanging out and making friends with a praying mantis.

    Hey. This was 2020. Strange was normal.

    Here’s hoping for a wonderful … and slightly less strange … 2021. Happy new year to you!

    Miscellany

    Young Pepperdine Sportscasters (Circa 1989-1990)

    July 19, 2020

    This photo is a snapshot of what hope and dreams looks like … or looked like … back around 1989 or 1990.

    That’s me on the left and my Pepperdine sportscasting partner, Kent Justice, on the right, at a men’s basketball game. I really have no clue when and where the photo was taken, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s from March 1989 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. That’s the night Pepperdine beat New Mexico St. in the first round of the NIT tournament. Kent and I somehow got the Communications Dept. to a) let us travel to New Mexico to broadcast the game on campus radio KMBU-FM, and b) pay our expenses!

    We were both full of high hopes and dreams for lengthy careers in sportscasting. For me, the dream lasted about 7-8 more years. I got out of TV and radio sports in 1997 after being told by news directors in two bigger cities that I was their #1 sports anchor candidate, but they couldn’t hire me because I was a white male … and they were under orders to hire a female/minority. Seeing the writing on the wall, I got out of the business altogether, taught myself how to build and market websites online and the rest is history.

    Kent, IIRC, has been in and out of the TV industry just a bit, but has settled in Jacksonville for some time now, and is currently the political reporter and weekend news anchor at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Fla. We spoke a few months ago and he’s happy and doing well.

    That makes two of us.

    Life doesn’t always lead where you hope or think you’ll go, but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up somewhere great.

    Miscellany

    I totally get it if you didn’t recognize me in 2019

    December 31, 2019
    me on January 4, 2019

    The “me” that woke up on January 1, 2019, didn’t like where I was going.

    I was a U2 fan … albeit a very unhappy one. I was still managing @U2 (the U2 fan site I founded in 1995), but doing a poor job of it. That often happens when your heart isn’t in what you’re doing. I was frustrated with the band. I was frustrated with the @U2 staff. I was frustrated with U2 fans, in general, and a few fans specifically.

    I was miserable, frankly. But it took a few months of prayer and internal debate to sort things out. What I wanted to do (leave @U2) wasn’t the same as what I felt I should do (stick around). Complicating things was that I’m generally averse to change; @U2 wasn’t fun, but it was familiar. Being a U2 fan wasn’t fun, but it was comfortable. Change = risk.

    In early May I finally told the crew that I wanted to leave, and would do so as soon as they were ready for that to happen. Over the next few weeks, I realized that I needed to leave U2 itself behind, too. I unchecked U2’s entire catalog in iTunes and Spotify and haven’t listened to a U2 song in its entirety since.

    I formally left @U2 on June 10 and immediately felt a huge weight leave me. I felt free. I felt my attitude change. I felt like a different person. (A lot of U2 fans have asked me — on Twitter, mostly — to explain what happened, but that’s easier said than done. “I changed” is the TL;DR answer; maybe someday I’ll try to explain more. But I totally understand and respect the “Who is this guy and what is he doing?” spirit that was alive in those questions.)

    With all of that in my proverbial rear-view mirror, my musical focus shifted squarely on Gang of Youths. I’ve listened to them practically non-stop over the past 20 months, and I can’t get enough.

    I think I’ve become a better person since I discovered Gang of Youths and fell in love with their music. My mental health is light years better. I believe I’m more empathetic to people around me, and the struggles we’re all facing. I believe I’m more honest and vulnerable — with myself, my family, my co-workers. I believe I’m more real when I talk with others. I’m more aware of our humanness — my and your faults and limitations, my and your strengths and gifts. Most important: I believe Matt the Gang of Youths fan is a better person than Matt the U2 fan was.


    The “me” that woke up on January 1 was working with my wife as her real estate marketing guy, a role I began back in 2017. We’ve done well together; since I came on to help put marketing and business systems/processes in place, to create a brand for her and help her launch a real estate team, business is up about 33%.

    But by this spring/summer, working with Cari had become a part-time gig. My responsibilities didn’t change; I had the same tasks as always, but after almost two years I was able to do them much faster. There were plenty of days that I’d finish my work for her and then watch TV or play games on my iPad for the rest of the day. Sounds fun, huh? It was for a little while, but my personality demands that I be productive and do things. That makes me happy.

    So I started looking for a new job to keep me busy. I asked around if anyone in my network had open roles that fit me. I prayed a lot. I sent out maybe a dozen applications for jobs I thought would be really fun, and then did what I normally do when looking for a job: nothing. (I’ve always sucked at following up with companies where I applied, and instead preferred to let them contact me … which was kinda arrogant in a way, because I was assuming that my resumé and application would stand out so much from the crowd that of course they’d want to talk to me!)

    Then I did something: I went hard after a job that I knew was a perfect fit for my skills and background.

    The company was HomeLight — a real estate startup — and the job was something like “content marketing editor.” It was pretty much exactly what I spent almost 10 years doing at Third Door Media and the past two years with my wife.

    I wanted this job pretty badly. I asked around my network if anyone had contacts at HomeLight, but nope. And then I did something way out of character … I went right to the company to go after the job:

    After that short back and forth, we took the conversation to DMs, where I mentioned that I’d recently sent in my resumé and would love to talk to someone if the position was still open.

    As it turns out, the person on Twitter that I was chatting with is the same person who posted the job opening. I did two phone interviews the next week, went to HomeLight’s offices in San Francisco a couple weeks after that for more interviews and accepted a job offer about a week later. The person I chatted with on Twitter? He’s now my manager!

    HomeLight Matt is energized by the work that I’m doing — no time for watching TV and playing iPad games during the day, but that’s perfectly fine by me. The work I’m doing is the furthest thing from easy, but it’s a Good Challenge — like working on a tough puzzle. HomeLight Matt is part of a team of genuinely smart and warm people. (And at the end of the work day, I still get to help Cari with her marketing and business ops, too.)


    A couple weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook News Feed when I came upon one of those inspirational graphic messages you often see on social media — but this was a new one for me:

    “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

    A lot of inspirational quotes are kind of bullshit, y’know? But not that one. I’m living proof that that one’s true.

    In 2019, I did some things that were totally out of character … things I wouldn’t have done a year earlier … things I’ve often encouraged others (including my kids) to do, but never had the balls to do myself.

    I’m a better, happier, healthier person for it.

    I’m still getting to know this new version of myself. I’m sure there’s still a lot of change to come and mistakes to be made, but so far — praise God! — I really like where all this is going.

    Miscellany

    Mom & Dad, Why Did You Let Me Eat This Stuff?!?

    October 5, 2019

    I’ve been chatting with my daughter over the past several days about all the strange (and probably unhealthy) eating habits that I had as a kid.

    There was the phase I went through around 8-10 years old where I constantly ate uncooked hot dogs straight from the package. I remember polishing off an entire pack of hot dogs in a single day — had them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yuck, right?? I shudder just thinking about it.

    That was around the same time that I went through my mayonnaise sandwich phase, where I’d just spread mayo in between two slices of bread. That creation quickly morphed into a ketchup sandwich, and then into a ketchup & mayo sandwich. Just bread and condiments.

    I was telling my daughter that I wish at least one of my parents was still alive because I’d really love to ask them, What were you thinking when I was eating an entire pack of raw hot dogs in a single day, or having a mayonnaise sandwich for lunch? Or better yet, WHY DID YOU LET ME EAT LIKE THAT??!! 😄

    And then today I was in the grocery store and I saw an item that triggered another memory: I don’t remember how old I was, but I used to drink Karo Syrup straight from the bottle, like it was juice. Can you imagine?!?

    Again, main thought: WHERE WERE MY PARENTS??!! Then on second thought:, I can’t help feeling that I’m just lucky to be alive because I ate some really weird shit when I was a kid.

    Miscellany

    Standing in the darkness, laughing with my heel on its throat

    August 16, 2018

    (This might be hard to follow. Today is August 16th. I began writing this blog post on June 6th and titled it “GTFOOYH,” a reference that you’ll read below. I finished the post, which was primarily about some mental and emotional struggles I’ve been going through and how a song by a new band I love has helped me cope. I showed the post to my wife and she said it was great, but I didn’t publish it. I guess I was afraid.

    Much has changed since I finished the original post, and I’ve thought about scrapping it and starting over. But that would give me an excuse to edit out some of the stuff that I found difficult to write about; I don’t want to do that. So I’m going to leave the original post in tact below and then write a lengthy postscript that brings the story to its current status today. And I’m changing the title to reflect where I am, not where I was. Apologies if this is hard to follow and a bit messy. That’s how life is sometimes….)

    [Note: This is what I began writing in early June.]

    Every once in a great while, a song comes along that changes your world.

    It happened for me a couple months ago when I heard a song called “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane.” I was listening to this new band called Gang Of Youths on Spotify and stopped what I was doing as this song played. I knew I’d found something special.

    My wife and I were having lunch recently at a hotel restaurant when I told her about this song. I began reciting some of the lyrics. My voice cracked. I started to cry. I told her, “This is the most important song that’s come into my life in at least the past 20 years.”


    Not long ago, a friend emailed me with an offer I couldn’t refuse: A ticket to see U2’s intimate show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on June 11. What U2 fan wouldn’t jump at the chance to see his favorite band in a small, historic theater with only about 1,500 other fans?

    I thanked this friend profusely and did some quick research on travel and accommodations. Within an hour, I used frequent flier miles to book flights to New York City on Alaska Airlines, and booked a reasonably affordable hotel, too. I was gonna be able to see this once-in-a-lifetime show for about $600.

    Twenty minutes later, the excitement had worn off. I realized I was going only because I felt I should, not because I really wanted to. I canceled the flight and hotel bookings.

    It was the latest weird twist in my longtime U2 fandom. I wrote about some of this a couple months ago — not buying new albums, not chasing down new vinyl releases and so forth.

    My wife is pretty alarmed by this lack of interest in U2. The band, after all, has been part of my life for longer than she has. They’ve been part of my identity. A constant. She wonders if I’m suddenly walking away from them, what else am I willing to walk away from?


    I’ve never talked about this with anyone until that aforementioned lunch with my wife:

    I’m deathly afraid of dying. The thought of leaving this earth — of leaving my wife (if I die first) and kids — scares the hell out of me. This started probably 10 years ago or so, and has slowly gotten worse over time.

    It’s gotten to the point of being mentally paralyzing for almost entire days. There was a day about 3-4 weeks ago that I couldn’t stop thinking about dying, and how afraid I am of it, and I was unable to think about anything else — couldn’t get any work done, couldn’t do anything. I was stuck inside my head and totally gripped by this fear. It was awful.

    Somewhat complicating the matter is that I’m a Christian and I know I’m supposed to welcome death with open arms. For Christians, death is an opportunity to finally see our real Father and spend eternity with Him. We’re taught that this world isn’t our home; Heaven is. And we’re taught that death isn’t to be feared.

    So, in addition to the general fear of sharing this with anyone, there’s also been the idea that talking about it with any of my Christian friends, or even a Christian counselor, would be pointless because I already know what they’d say. They’d be supportive and caring, for sure, but I already know what the Bible says about death and this world not being our home. I know. It’s not helping.

    All of this has been noticeably worse since both my mom and dad died in the past few years — my dad in 2015 and my mom late last year. I’m still not used to being without both parents, and I’m starting to wonder if I ever will be.

    My mom died nine months ago. For the first 6-7 months after she died, not a Sunday went by that I didn’t mistakenly think, “I need to call Mom today,” like I’d done pretty much every Sunday for the past 10-20 years. For the past month or two, I’ve stopped thinking I need to call her, but I haven’t stopped wishing I could.


    I’ve spent most of the past couple years in what I call turtle mode. My tendencies towards introversion have been in full bloom. I’m consciously avoiding many things and choosing to stay in my shell. Earlier this year, I took some initial steps toward becoming a small business mentor with SCORE, but soon decided that I’m too busy these days to make that commitment.

    I am busy — no doubt about that. But I also feel like, if I was in a better state mentally, I could’ve stuck it out and figured out a way to make it work.

    There’s a line in “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” that really hits home for me:

    And it’s strange, all the things that I’ve run from
    Are the things that completeness could come from

    Deep down, that’s exactly how I feel — like I’m running from things that I’d really enjoy.


    As I sat at lunch that day with Cari, telling her about all this — the new song I love, the sometimes paralyzing fear of death, the continued sadness I have about my mom’s death (and my dad’s), I cautiously said this:

    “I feel like I might have some kind of mild form of depression.”

    She started nodding in agreement before I finished the sentence.

    I was — and still am — super reluctant to make that kind of self-diagnosis because I don’t mean to diminish the struggles of people who are really battling through something worse than my current struggle. Depression is a serious word, a serious condition — and I don’t want to be accused of blowing some ongoing sadness out of proportion. On the other hand, I keep seeing lots of messages on social media about how you can’t keep it inside, you can’t be afraid to share what’s going on. And so that’s what I’m trying to hold onto as I type this.

    As Cari nodded, she reminded me that she went into a state of depression in 2008 after her dad died. She even went to counseling for it. (I confessed that I’d forgotten about that.)

    She told me that one of the common expressions of depression is that you reject things you love. After her dad died, she stopped reading. And if you know my wife, you know that reading is just about as important to her as breathing.

    I’m sure there are people who would say the same thing about me and U2.


    I wasn’t there when my dad died. My sisters were, and they called me to share the news. I went back to Pennsylvania for the funeral, but I never had the chance to say goodbye to him.

    That changed a few months later when a completely unexpected series of events fell into place at the last minute, and I found myself at a U2 concert in Chicago. In the middle of the show, I felt compelled to put my camera away and let the music wash over me. As the band played “Bad,” I saw my dad sitting in our house as we watched Rattle And Hum together. I cried a river of tears and, in that moment, was finally able to say goodbye to him.

    I think I went into U2’s current tour expecting the same kind of catharsis about my mom’s death. I saw three of the early shows this year, and that moment never happened. There was no “Bad” moment this time around. I knew it wasn’t (isn’t) fair to put that kind of pressure and expectation on a band, but I also knew that U2 had never let me down before in that way.

    Since then I’ve realized that it wasn’t only unfair to ask a band/concert to do that for me, but it was also unnecessary. I did say goodbye to my mom already. I was at her bedside last year when she died. Now I just need to work on accepting that she’s gone, and that I said what I needed to say before she died. Baby steps.


    In “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane,” Gang Of Youths’ singer/songwriter Dave Le’aupepe tells the story of a dream that he had regularly in which his imaginary wife/girlfriend and their kid die in a car accident while he’s drunk in the basement of their home.

    The song title is a take on a Charles Bukowski line (“As the spirit wanes, the form appears”) and Le’aupepe has referenced a philosopher named Martin Heidegger when talking about the lyrics … all of which is, for me, very reminiscent of U2 and Bono’s lyric writing over the years. So, I love that aspect.

    The chorus is an encouragement — or maybe a reminder — to not waste time, and not waste the gifts that grace has bestowed on us.

    Do not let this thing you got go to waste
    Do not let your heart be dismayed
    It’s here by some random disclosure of grace
    From some vascular, great thing

    It’s an important message and one that I’ve tried over the years to impress on my kids. But it’s at the end of the song, in the last chorus, when the song cuts right to my bones.

    Get the fuck out of your head if it says
    “Stay cold and be deathly afraid”
    Do not let your spirit wane

    “Get the fuck out of your head.” That’s the lyric that I’ve needed to hear more than any other lately. Because I have been telling myself to stay cold, and I’ve been deathly afraid of my own death for so long now. Too long.

    GTFOOYH.

    I’ve made that acronym my Twitter profile, and every so often (1, 2 and 3) I’ll tweet it with no explanation … just a reminder and encouragement to myself.

    If you see one of those tweets, now you’ll know what’s going on. It might mean I’ve caught myself having a moment. Or it might just be me encouraging myself not to have a moment. I’m not looking for sympathy, but I’d obviously welcome the prayers and support of anyone reading this.

    Things are starting to look better. I’ve committed to a speaking engagement next month — my first one in more than four years. My U2 malaise continues unabated, but I’m kind of excited by the progress we’re making on a new atu2.com website, so that’s good. And I’ve got this new song to remind me to GTFOOYH.

    It’s a weird place I’m in. I don’t like it and I want to get back to normal. I just haven’t figured out how. Yet.


    Here’s the song I’ve been talking about. The singer mumbles a bit so it might help to have the lyrics handy if you’re interested in listening.


    [Note: This is the postscript that I started writing in late July.]

    I flew to Dallas earlier this month for my first speaking gig in about four years. My first flight was a short hop over to Portland. It was a really early flight, which is always tough since I’m a night owl. Fortunately, I had a row to myself and decided to lean over against the window. I put on Gang Of Youths’ latest album, Go Farther In Lightness, and closed my eyes. I may have drifted in and out of sleep a bit.

    I don’t know what song was playing, but there was a moment that I woke up and looked out the window. Mount St. Helens was right in front of me, like close enough that it felt like I could reach out and touch it. And as I looked at this beautiful sight and listened to this new album I love, the most incredible sense of peace washed over me. I said a little prayer of thanks, and suddenly sensed that my mom was okay and I would see her again in Heaven. The weight of her death was gone. Whatever difficulties I was having since I was at her bedside last October and saw her take those final breaths — I felt them leave me. It’s hard to explain even now; it was just the most wonderfully peaceful feeling.

    I knew Cari would be awake and I knew I could text her since Alaska Airlines has that free-texting service while you fly. So I sent her this:

    When I explained all this to her, she said that I’d felt the peace that transcends all understanding. Amen. That’s exactly what it was, and is.

    That speaking engagement went really well. I gave two presentations and it was just like riding a bike; I felt very comfortable up in front of an audience again. And it was really good to see some friends from the marketing world that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I enjoyed taking a step out of “turtle mode.”

    In the time since that flight, I’m still listening to Gang Of Youths as much as ever. But “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” isn’t my favorite song anymore; it’s been replaced by “The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows.” This song lifts up my spirits in much the same way that U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” did for years. Specifically, there’s one lyric in “Deepest Sighs” that I’ve clung to lately:

    I will stand in the darkness and laugh with my heel on its throat.

    For me, that lyric is the flip side of GTFOOYH. (I replaced it on my Twitter bio, too.) Once you’re out of your head, you’re not immune to the darkness and difficulties of life … but instead of letting it all get in your head, you put your heel on its throat. Strength over fear. Here’s a live performance of the full song below, and here are the full lyrics.

    Since that moment on the flight to Portland, things are so different and so much better:

    I no longer wake up on Sundays forgetting that my mom’s gone and thinking that I should call her. I still miss her, of course, but it’s not a missing of grief — it’s a missing of gratitude, of remembering all the great times and great blessings she poured into my life.

    That fear of death that had paralyzed me for so long is gone.

    I had the great experience getting back up in front of an audience in Dallas, and taking a step out of turtle mode.

    I feel like that depression — if that’s what it was — is gone. Maybe it was something else, maybe just extended grief and sadness … I don’t know. Like I said, I’m really reluctant to use the D-word in this context. But the bottom line is that I’m in a much better place now than I’ve been for the past several months, if not the past few years, and I’m grateful for the discovery of a new band and new songs that have been a huge help in this turnaround.

    So I’ll just wrap up this really long and really strange post by saying this: If I didn’t seem myself to you recently, and if that included doing or saying something that was hurtful or somehow inappropriate, I’m sorry. I haven’t been myself. I was in a weird place. But I’m getting back to normal now and feeling more like myself every day. I’ve got my heel on darkness’ throat. And I’m laughing.