The world continues to open up even during what still remains to be a crazy time. I know many want to declare the pandemic over, but it just simply is not true. Through all of this, we are still trying to get back to a normal feeling. A comfortable feeling. We crave a feeling some of us feel we have lost. We have come a long way. We have changed. How could we not change? It happens when we are deep within our second year of “figuring life out as it presents itself to us”. I know I have felt blind sided, steam rolled, and quite frankly, I am exhausted. The pandemic has taken a huge toll on me. The pandemic has taken a huge toll on all of us. But here we remain. We don’t have much of a choice, but to figure life out and keep moving forward. I made a huge jump forward, this past weekend, and made my triumphant return to the live music scene that I love so much. I was able to get back into one of my elements. I was able to get back into an activity that makes my soul tick. It was great…it was really hard…it was great, but I am exhausted, right now, to be quite honest.
I tend to go see a number of concerts per year. I’m a huge Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band fan. I tend to see them a couple of times in a tour. People always ask me how I can see them so many times. That’s easy…they are two bands that mix up their set lists for every show. No two shows are the exact same. It provides a “wonder what they will play tonight” mentality. It is fun to try and guess what we will hear, especially when seeing them two nights in a row. You get the songs the first night and now the time to wonder “what will we get the second night” starts to play through your mind and plays in the conversations with your buddies you are there with.
One of the things I have struggled with a lot through the pandemic and the shutdown of the world is not seeing live music. Now, some of the bands performed live on social media, which was great, but it wasn’t the same. The bands I like, tried to do what they could for all of us and for themselves. You know these bands craved playing live in front of us, but had to settle for an empty venue and a virtual crowd was substituted in. It had to be weird trying to keep the energy up when you were staring into a dark room and couldn’t feed off the energy of the crowd (A Foo Fighters performance comes to mind). The bands I like to go see, you can tell we feed off of their performance, but I know they feed off of us and how we are reacting to each and every song. It is a give and take of energy that is palpable. You can absolutely feel it and it is great. The energy of a great show feeds my soul.
The pandemic threw a wrench into this craving of energy I get from going to a concert. I still have tickets for shows which ended up not happening. I keep them as each show is labeled “postponed”. Each of these shows have the potential to be epic and they are also not easy to come by unless you want to spend a ton of cash. I was within 2-3 weeks of seeing Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden, a bucket list show for me, when the lights got turned out and we were left trying to figure out what the hell was going on and how the hell to do life.
Live music is a huge mental health builder for me. We each have our thing and this is a huge thing for me. I know it is a luxury, but it is something my soul craves none the less. And then it was taken away. So much was taken away during this pandemic. Especially, during the initial onset of the world being shut down. We had too, by no choice of our own, figure out how to keep our flames lit while flying by the seat of our pants. I know I am not alone in this, but I had to hang my head and let out a huge sigh. And then I tried to inhale and begin to move forward in a world that wanted to stand still.
My mental health journey was still very much a new experience when all of this decided to change what was already confusing to me. I was gaining clarity with each and every step I was taking, but I was far from figuring it all out. Enter the shutdown and the fact we were being told to stay home and…BOOM. The clarity I felt became much less clear.
Before, I could still venture back out into the world and test this new and improving me out. I took baby steps when needed and I had some huge leaps and bounds as well. I was learning a lot about myself. I was learning a lot about what it means to not do everything myself and to include others in my re-tooling. I was learning a lot about an amended me. I was changing, but I was still me. I had a foundation to lean on and a lot of floors that needed some renovation.
The pandemic stole away a lot of my tools. It completely changed the game for me. I had to learn to re-insert myself back into the world while being at home. How does that work? If you have the answer, I would love to hear it.
Initially, I was on board with a break from the everyday madness. In my mind, I hoped this shutdown would be short. In my mind, especially within my nurse brain, I knew it wasn’t going to be short. It wasn’t short at all. We are still living it to this day. We are still flying by the seat of our pants to this day.
Well, I’m not cool with it. You know what? Life could care less with what I am cool with or what I am not cool with. Life says…”here you go”, and throws what it wants at you. Curve balls are hard to hit, now life had figured out a way to throw seven curveballs at once and I had to try and figure out how to hit them all at once. It is an impossible feat.
So, we began to figure out how to handle each curveball on an individual basis. Before the pandemic, I had already realized I am more introverted than I am not. During the pandemic, this got out of control. It was easy to let it happen. I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I had a great built-in excuse to get out of anything. This began to backfire. My introversion took on a live of its own.
My depression ramped up too. Through a lot of my depression I have felt alone. I have felt alone when even surrounded by people I love. I felt like I was on an island with no chance of rescue. How do you shake this feeling of being alone when the government is telling you to stay in and be alone? Again, if you have this figured out, I am all ears!
I went from feeling much better to sinking back into my hole again. It wasn’t as deep as I was when I decided to make some major changes to my life, but it was still that same shitty hole I thought I was out of. Deflating. Demoralizing. Scary. Frustrating. It was easy to tell myself to give up. Everything I had done up to this moment was now totally changed, or at least flipped upside down. Again, the clarity I was achieving was now much less clear.
I could have given up. Yes, I could have. You may not agree with the “giving up part”, but this is my reality and not yours. To live each and every day at maximum effort to not “give up” is absolutely exhausting. I kept going, because I knew I had to. Honestly, I wanted to keep going. I certainly had thoughts of ending it again, but the difference this time is I knew, while thinking it, that this was not my reality. Living was, and is, my reality now. I felt like shit, but I couldn’t stop. Each and every one of us has had to figure out how not to “give up” and to keep going. Each one of us have had to make changes in our lives to survive what was going on around us, with the world being shut down, and with people telling us to stay inside. I know I’m not the only one, but this, right here, is my story. This story is the one I know.
I’ve waded through all of this uncertainty. I’ve figured out how to keep moving forward. I have continued to mold this new life and I’ve done my best to figure out how it fits with my old life and with the foundation I have always possessed. I felt like I was rounding first and heading for home, but there was the catcher blocking home plate.
The shows this past weekend were in the Indianapolis area. My buddy and I headed over on Thursday and our other two buddies were coming over Friday. The first night there, my buddy and I went out to eat (he just so happens to be one of my core peeps). The simple act of going out to eat has become a hurdle for me and I leaped over it. We had a great dinner and had a great time catching up. Alright, I’m feeling this…I can do this. I hope this is a sign of things to come with the first show being on Friday.
Friday arrives and I can feel my nerves beginning to jump. I can handle this. This feeling was to be expected. Getting back out into a huge concert crowd means I have to jump over one of my biggest hurdles yet. I may not have felt totally ready in all honesty, but I was ready to give it a shot.
It is tradition to get to the venue early for a bit of pre-show tailgating. Nerves began to jump a little more. The Dave Matthew’s crowds are notoriously really cool, but with that comes socializing with some cool people. Eek! OK…breathe. Jump in and out if you need to. I told myself all of this. I felt super awkward as well. This was my first tailgate after being a non-drinker for two years. Drinking at a tailgate was another of my favorite activities. Well, it wasn’t anymore. Enter a new me. A non-drinking tailgater amongst many who were drinking. It was tough, but that part wasn’t too bad.
I really was contending with my super charged introversion. I was OK with not drinking. I have jumped that hurdle over and over, over the past couple of years. These next couple of days was all about the people and how I was going to act as a person who prefers to be at home most of the time. I preferred what was now my safe place.
I had to venture out of that safe place. A safe place can become more of a hinderance than a safe place type of thing really easily. I have recognized it as becoming more of a hindrance over my extended time in my safe place over the pandemic. It was time to venture out and I did and I wanted to venture out.
The time arrived for us to head into the venue. I took a couple of deep breaths and off we went. Now, when show time is approaching, obviously everyone has the same idea. “Let’s head in”. So of course we came up to a line. Not a single file line but a long and wide line as everybody was trying to get into one of the multiple entrances into the venue. I was forced to wait within very close proximity of everyone around me. My nerves where now straight up anxiety. I think before, in the parking lot, it was all nerves, but now one of my mental illnesses was up to its old tricks. My palms were sweating and my mind was spinning. I was a bit dizzy. I had to get through this line. I had to get out of this line.
I had two options. Get out of line and go back to the car…no way. I’ve waited for this moment too long. So I kept moving forward one baby step at a time. There was a lot of people after all. We got through the line and were in. OK. Big big hurdle cleared. I may have hit it a bit with my knee as I went over the hurdle, but I was across it and on the other side. Whew!
Now it was time to wade through the people and head to our seats. We got to our seats. Well crap, our seats are in the middle of the row. Now it’s time to deal with this aspect. I had at least ten people to either side of my escape plan. My anxiety tried to convince me I was trapped. Nope. I can’t let it win tonight. I told myself I can always excuse my way through and get out whenever needed. The people began to fill the seats on either side of me. It was getting real. Everything I have worked so hard for is now getting a proper test. I was super nervous and anxious.
Thankfully, we had an extra seat as, unfortunately, one of our buddies wasn’t able to make it due to a family issue. I wish he was there, but I was thankful for the extra breathing room. The extra space was a huge positive, I told myself, and it helped to keep me grounded and quite frankly it kept me in my seat.
And then the first chord was strummed on Dave’s guitar. All the worry, all the anxiousness, all the depression, all of the bad shit I have gone through and worked so hard to get through was gone at that very moment. I finally got what I felt like I deserved and it was PEACE. It hit me really hard. It hit me in a really good way. I stood there, listening to the beginning of the show, and cried. It wasn’t a wailing cry, but a feel good within myself cry. At that moment, I realized I had made it back to a period in my life I missed so much. My soul was being filled with the energy I missed experiencing while going through the pandemic. It was emotional. It was absolutely great!
I was so worried about myself. I was so worried about protecting myself. I was so worried about using everything I have learned over the past couple of years, that I forgot until that very moment, that I was back in one of my key elements. It was overwhelming. I cried. It was great!
Throughout the show, I didn’t worry about the people around me (huge step), I didn’t worry about what I looked like as a man who was showing emotion (huge step), I did what I wanted and felt free. I danced. I laughed. I high-fived my buddies. Guess what? I never once left my seat through the whole show! I didn’t have to physically escape, I didn’t even think about it, because the mental escape I was experiencing was what I needed the most. I was back and for one almost three hour moment of my life, I felt like me again and I really liked this me I was experiencing.
Through two plus years of dealing with so much, through two years of exhausting myself, for almost three hours…I knew my decision to save my life and begin anew was 110% worth every hardship and every bit of energy I spent on myself to get back to this moment.
I didn’t once feel like I was alone. It was such a great feeling. I enjoyed watching the show. I enjoyed watching the crowd. I knew each and every one of us has had to endure struggles of what a world wide pandemic does to each and everyone of us and now we were back! It was great watching how the band celebrated being back and it was great watching the crowd celebrate being back.
It felt great to be back! Honestly, I have never felt like I did at that moment ever before at a show and I have felt some deep stuff at other shows…it was an amazing ride.
What things in your life would you describe as part of your element? Have you been able to experience any of it during or after all of the madness we have been through? I hope you get to feel what I felt when you do experience this moment. Getting back to feeling awesome emotions in a way that really fills up our souls.
Keep going! You are doing great! Jumping hurdles is exhausting, but all of this training can and will lead to a much better feeling than what we are working so hard to leave behind. You got this! I got this! We got this! Let’s keep walking this journey together!
Have a great day!
Jump on over to Jason Kehl’s Basement Of Jams: Rocking Mental Health at http://rockingmentalhealth.com. You will find this blog there. I also have a podcast and have made some videos, amongst some other things, I share there as I strive to push the mental health awareness needle as far forward as I can.