August Journaling Day 21: Baseball

Baseball was my first love. When I tell you how much I thought about and played baseball as a kid, it’s crazy to think about. EVERY DAY I swung a bat. Inside, outside, rain or shine, didn’t matter. I spent countless hours scouring statistics, reading books, and soaking in any and everything to do with baseball. And after seeing the movie Eight Men Out, I became obsessed with the Black Sox. My poor mother used to drive me all over the Puget Sound area looking for cards or memorabilia or anything to do with the 1919 Sox.

Most of my best childhood friendships came from baseball. My first travel experiences to the eastern US, Chicago and New York, were both because of baseball. So many stories and good memories are from baseball. Yet nowadays, I don’t watch it or care about it nearly as much as I used to. I will go in small waves of following, but mostly I check the scores and standings once or twice a week, go to a couple games a year, and that’s it. This past spring I did go to a handful of Clearwater Threshers games and followed them closely for a couple months and really did enjoy watching more baseball.

I can’t pinpoint where it was that my love for baseball seemed to fall off. Because in 2001, the year dad died and the year the Mariners won 116 games, I must have gone to 40 home games and watched every other game on tv. However fast forward to the mid 2000s and horse racing had replaced baseball as my most passionate sports follow. I think the real separation started when I moved to Portland full-time, where baseball is only played at the minor league level. Because when I was in Cincinnati I watched Reds games all the time. But once I got to Portland my focus went much more towards racing and honestly just other things in life like music and dating.

I can’t write about baseball without thinking about my Dad. He was a very good player in high school and was a full scholarship player at Washington State University in college. He would often tell me stories about his glory days and to say I was transfixed with hearing them would be an understatement. I remember reading his scrapbook that my grandma Beem kept with all the articles of his pitching exploits. One story I remember was Dad telling me about how during a football game he was playing Quarterback and the little nose tackle got to him and there was a dog pile on top of them. To quote my dad “this little fucker reached down and squeezed my nuts like a vice when we were under the pile.” Fast forward to spring baseball and the nose tackle was the leadoff hitter for the rival team. Dad planted a fastball just above the guys ear, sending him to the hospital. He seemed oddly proud of doing something that could have killed the guy, but to hear him tell the story made it somehow seem funny. The coach for that other team accused dad of doing it on purpose, so later that game dad attempted a pick off move to 3rd but threw the ball right at the coach in the third base coaching box, hitting him in the ribs. He said he sacrificed the run to get back at the guy. I don’t know if he was telling the truth about either of those stories or if they were embellished, but they 100% sound like something he would have done.

My dream as a little boy was to be a professional baseball player and I think I held onto that until around age 14. Then I downgraded my goals to getting a college scholarship, preferably to Arizona State. By the time I was 16, I just wanted to make the high school team. I got cut as a sophomore and to my opinion and my dad’s opinion, it was because of some politics. Dad coached the top 18 year old summer team and my high school coach coached the other one. So he cut me even though I probably should have been on the team. So I switched high schools the next year, just for baseball. I knew two people at the new school and had no guarantees of making the team there. But at the time baseball was maybe the only thing I had in my life that I felt good at. I had a few friends and never had any interest from girls, so this was my one thing where I kind of fit in. The school transfer was a massive blessing as I just seemed to fit in better at that school in all avenues of school life, including baseball. When we played my old school my senior year I had a big go-ahead double late in the game and remember staring back at the other coach waiting for him to look at me. He never did, but years later he did send me an email saying I did good. So that was nice.

I had a couple of junior college offers to play ball, but I was kind of over it by the time high school was over. My dad being our coach and just being how he was made me want to distance myself from it a bit. And I’ve mostly stayed distant from baseball with a few exceptions. In the spring of 2021 I got the chance to coach little league with my friend Chris as his two boys were on a team. It was absolutely some of the most fun I’ve had as an adult. The kids were such good kids and they tried so hard and really wanted to be good ballplayers. I would love to get to coach again someday but I just don’t know if my work schedule will allow it.

Baseball is a great game and I do hope to have it a little more in my life than it is now or has been really the last fifteen years. My dad’s coaching mantra used to always be “play harder, longer.” Whenever I think about him these days that quote often pops into my head. “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

My dad and I at Kent Memorial Park on May 18, 1998. It was my 18th birthday and that ball I’m holding had just an inning earlier gone about 460 feet off of my bat. Ok maybe 380, but that shit was crushed.

August Journaling Day 20: Food

I feel like there have been a few topics that were well timed this month and some that were not. I picked the topics and didn’t really assign an order for any reason other than these were the 31 that came to my head and I wrote them down. I did mix up mom, dad, sister….just because those three together seemed logical but also a lot to do in three days. So those are the three I spaced out. Everything else is just where it came out in the order of thought. So….food. Ok here we go.

This topic is well timed because after a 12 hour drive from Clearwater, Florida back to Richmond today, all the while inhaling shitty road trip food, I have some feelings. My first issues with food I remember starting pretty early. I was always a big eater and never a healthy eater. When I was 8 or so, I had to lose 6 pounds to be able to play on my local football team. So I went on slim fast. At age 8. It still annoys me thinking about that just because I wasn’t a fat kid, I was just a big kid, and what a strange way to organize football, by weight instead of age.

One thing I do have some vivid early memories with food was the shame associated with it. Binging on candies or stuff like that. Going through a whole bag or box of chocolates and hiding the evidence. I remember my dad getting really mad at me for eating a box of mint meltaway’s over the course of a couple days. I popped them like tic tacs. My mom never got on me about my eating habits, my dad very much did. He hated that I was overweight. I can’t even imagine what he would have said to me at my heaviest a few years ago, let alone what I look like and weigh now. I think that’s where a lot of my shame around eating comes from, was the fact that I had to hide it. That it was embarrassing and I was embarrassing.

The number of unhealthy meals that I’ve eaten alone in my car is easily in the thousands. Going to fast food places or regular restaurants and getting food to go. Getting into the car and stuffing myself until I was sick. What I think brought up the feelings today and now as I write this was I kind of did that today, and it’s not something I’ve done all that much the last year or so. I had a good breakfast, but i settled for fast food and gas station sweets (licorice) for lunch and dinner. I feel bad about myself and bad about what I ate. I know that one day of eating bad isn’t going to do nearly anything in terms of my weight loss I’ve been on, but maybe it just feels a little too much like the past? I already have my nutritious meals planned for tomorrow and have the food in the fridge ready to cook. And I almost always eat healthy when I announce races, so I logically know today was just a little tiny blip on an otherwise good trend. But I still feel bad.

Part of my diet has been every week or two having a “cheat meal”. The purpose is two fold, to not only allow yourself to have a rich or high calorie meal and satisfy a craving, but also to shake up your metabolism which apparently adapts quickly to the new reduced calorie diet that has become my regular routine. But I honestly don’t like doing the cheat meals because it brings up all the old bad feelings around food, particularly not healthy food. It’s not an enjoyment, it’s just a quick and soulless experience followed with guilt and shame. I won’t even let myself enjoy the two times a month I have something sweet. I just immediately feel bad and beat myself up.

Overall I do feel my relationship to food is a little better than it used to be. A year or so ago a friend of mine told me that she really just views food as fuel and nothing more. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that mental framework, but I do more and more try and take a loving approach to food and tell myself I’m nourishing myself better and I’ll perform better in all avenues of my life with better nutritional foods. It works most of the time lol. But if I have a healthier meal and feel satiated, my mental well being does seem to be better than when I eat bad. I don’t know if that’s the result of the actual nutrition or just me not berating myself and instead talking nicely.

One realization I had in the last year was how much I used food for celebration. Now first of all, I think food is a great thing to use for celebration. Nice dinner to celebrate an accomplishment, a favorite restaurant on an important day. That feels like healthy food celebration. I don’t really drink or do any of those type of celebratory things that a lot of people do. So I realized that when I’d have a good day at work or something good in my life happen, I’d often turn to food for the physical celebration of that news. Any time we have a big day at the track, the adrenaline that’s run through my body during the card is still pumping. It’s strange to go from the pressure and excitement of a big crowd and calling those races, back to the quiet of my apartment alone. It’s nice to decompress but I also find myself in those moments itching to do something to keep the rush going. So often I’ve turned to food and eaten to excess. Being more aware of that nowadays, after big days I try and do a meditation and some push ups when I get home and focus on eating a healthy meal.

I probably need to do some more work on my relationship with food and try and work through the shame aspect. Because it’s a cycle that I still do, even though I do it much less. I feel like so much of my life right now is focused on my mantra of just trying to do a little better each day in as many avenues of life as I can. And I’ve done that with food, but it just seems like it’s always ready to rear it’s ugly head on a day like today. Today felt like a small step backwards, but it is just a single step. I’ll move back forward tomorrow.

August Journaling Day 19: Sister

Writing this morning from beautiful Clearwater, Florida as I had to come here for some personal business. Good to be back in FL if only for a couple days. So today’s topic is my sister. I just talked to her the other day on the phone for the first time in a while, so the timing for this seems appropriate. I’m a couple of years older than my sister but I certainly don’t remember a time with out her around. I wouldn’t say we were close as kids as much as she was just always around. We fought, a lot, but in the way young siblings fight. Over stupid stuff. Growing up she was my test subject for trying every WWF wrestling move on. She became extremely adept at escaping both the figure four leg lock as well as the sharpshooter. On my left arm I still have a scratch from a tussle we had when I was maybe 11 or so? Her fingernails were a powerful weapon!

My sister and I have primarily lived in different cities for most of the last fifteen years or so. Most years we usually see each other for a couple weeks when we’re both in the Seattle area or on the occasional chance I pass through the southwest where she lives. But we generally text on occasion and talk on the phone on lesser occasion. I’ve always thought her and I were very different personalities with different interests and hobbies. But as we get older and talk more about serious topics or just our experiences within our lives, I think we’re a little more alike than I used to think. I mean, we obviously both had the same in-home experience as children. We’re both extremely close to our mom. Both played sports. Both dealt with dad’s illness and death. Both went to law school, although she decided to actually finish it.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about my sister is when we do have to talk about a serious topic or navigate through something, we work together pretty well. I think sometimes I’m very guilty of using my status as the older sibling to be a jerk or talk down in some way to her. In my head it’s not malicious and it’s me joking around, but I can see how it would be annoying on her end, especially as we’re both around 40 years old now. So that’s something I want to work on with my sister, just kind of doing away with the weird attitude i’ve often had being the oldest towards her.

I hope we talk more in the future. We’ve had such separate lives as adults and when we’ve had real conversations in recent years, they’ve really been wonderful. I feel like I’m getting to know the real her more instead of just what I see through pictures or social media. I’m in the process of doing something right now and she’s been a wonderful guide through that process as she’s been through this particular journey. Not only is it great to get her advice, but it’s also just nice to be able to connect with her more.

My sister has put together a life that she wants and I admire the hell out of her for it. She decided what she wanted to do, she’s pursued it, created it, worked hard for it, and she’s succeeding at it. She helps people and it’s just a wonderful thing. What’s funny is of course I mention my older brother attitude earlier, and really she’s easily the more mature Beem child. Kind of always has been. On the rare occasions I post about her on social media, I often say “I’m a proud big brother.” And I am. My sister is a good person and she’s motivated by good things to do good things.

Family dynamics certainly change as we age and I think moving to different parts of the country has only accelerated that change. I think we grow apart some of course, but in my experience, generally once we’re together again, things fall back in line pretty quickly. I want to say a few more things about my sister. I want to keep a lot of this vague just because I want to respect her privacy. One of my favorite things about my sister is our shared sense of humor, particularly about pop culture from when we grew up. We sat together and watched Full House and Mrs. Doubtfire and a slew of other movies and shows together and to this day we can still quote and laugh at them together. I love that. We both still have lines from the 90s that we’ll use in our day to day lives and it’s so funny because we might be the only other people who get the joke. Last thing I’ll say about her and our relationship. I have zero doubts ever that my sister has my back and wants what’s best for me. She’s never put me down or questioned me or my life, especially during the anxiety years. Thinking back about it now, she’s been nothing but supportive and wants her big brother to be happy. I’ve never felt jealousy or real resentment from her. Annoyance, sure, she’s definitely been annoyed with me. But that’s temporary. I love my sister and I am a proud big brother, for good reason.

Probably 1984 or 85? We were cute!

August Journaling Day 18: Exercise

I’m having trouble deciding on how to start this entry. I mean, I know the value and benefit exercise has played in my life and I also know how much I avoided it for so long. So let me start with the bad times with exercise and then we’ll get to the good. Once high school was over my exercise routine was to pretty much not exercise. I mean I would walk around and do normal day to day stuff, but I almost never formally exercised during college. My weight ballooned and when I was like 23 I finally started working with a trainer and did a proper diet. I had great results and lost like 63 pounds over the course of a year. But I didn’t keep it up. In 2003 I had my first panic attack and that really shut down any real exercise program for me for a long time. I had bouts of going back to the gym but they were always either short lived or very light on exercise. How come? Laziness? Well partly. But mostly because exercise mimicked anxiety and panic.

Think about it. Racing heartbeat. Sweating. Vision narrows. All sorts of chemicals running through your system. Fatigue. For years when I would try to exercise and would end up leaving the gym the second I started to get a sweat going because it started to feel like anxiety. This of course crept into my life outside of the gym. I’d avoid any kind of activities that involved any type of activity that would result in an elevated heartbeat. So my fitness became extremely poor and of course I gained weight.

I remember going to a trainer briefly in 2014 because when I went back with my counselor she set conditions that I see a nutritionist and a trainer. The trainer was named Laura and I told her the first day that I had panic attacks and that I was in very poor shape. We did a five minute walk on the treadmill. Then did ten squats. No weights, nothing. I felt like my legs were going to cramp. We went to do some lunges and again my legs felt like they were going to cramp. I told her I needed to go outside and I walked as fast as I could towards my car. I remember standing there crying because my anxiety had kicked in and I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in. Luckily Laura was awesome and we very slowly worked up to more and more exercise. By the end of six months I was doing 30 minute walks and 30 minutes of exercises. Then I went to Louisiana Downs.

I went right back to the no exercise routine and kept that for a long time. As I mentioned in my weight loss blog back in March, I started losing weight back in 2018 when I was at my highest weight of 443. I really just started with walking and did more and more walking all the way until this last December. I started with a trainer again and this time I really seemed to have put the anxiety/exercise connection away. I’m able to do much more intense workouts than I’ve ever done and have learned to once again enjoy the feelings of being tired, of working hard, and of sore muscles. It’s been a great last 9 months of being on a really good, increasingly challenging workout program.

Exercise, starting with the walking in 2018, has played an absolutely necessary part in my recovery from anxiety issues. I really think of the many important things that have helped me, it’s at or near the top of the list. The mental benefits for me outweigh the physical ones and the physical ones are obviously great as well. So feeling very grateful about exercise being back in my life and being a part of it.

August Journaling Day 17: Self-esteem

So I gotta admit, after the last couple of topics, this one I’m more excited to write about tonight because it’s been a central focus of mine the last year or so. I mentioned in the therapy blog that I haven’t done therapy in a while, but I did a while back make a conscious decision to try and work on my self esteem. I’d been doing better in most avenues of my life yet I still found myself constantly doubting myself, putting myself down, and sometimes loathing myself. So I read a book on self-esteem. It was an enjoyable read and it had a lot of practical exercises and ways to try and reframe how we think about ourselves. It is a little bit of ‘fake it until you make it,’ and I feel like I’m still faking it, but I’m closer to making it.

What I mean by that is I generally do think I’m becoming better at accepting myself, caring for myself, and loving myself. But I’m not all the way there yet. I do still find that I’m being hard on myself when dealing with rejection. It’s like I need to affirm someone’s rejection of me by piling on. If they somehow don’t think all that much about me, then they must be right and I am awful and on and on and on. Some recent examples would be someone saying I’m bad at my job or asking someone if they had interest in a date and them saying no. Neither ones should be taken as total indictments on me, they’re just someones opinion or answer. Yet I would still find myself afterward beating myself up and talking down to myself. So that’s something I’m still trying to work at in regards to self-esteem.

Where I think I’ve really made strides though is how I view myself and react when I make a mistake or just am assessing where I might be with something in my life. Like with work, when I first started announcing I would get really down on myself when I would make a mistake in a racecall. And it would rattle me for a while and i’d be even more susceptible to making mistakes. Which looking back seems ridiculous because 1) it’s a job that things happen very fast and it’s quite easy to make mistakes and 2) I was still young and learning, I should have accepted mistakes as part of the learning process. Now I make a mistake in a race i’m pretty good about shaking it off. If I miscall a horse in the stretch or make a mistake because maybe I was lazy in my preparation, then I might get more miffed. But little stuff or a stumble or something, water off a ducks back. I think I just try to allow myself to be more forgiving when I make mistakes. Calling races isn’t easy and mistakes are going to happen sometimes. I’m human and I’m not Tom Durkin. And even he made mistakes!

Another area I think I’ve improved my self-esteem is in regards to my weight loss. Not the results per se, but more just the fact that at this point it’s coming off pretty slowly and I’m not getting frustrated or mad at myself. Or mad at just the results not happening faster. I’m sticking to my processes and what has worked and what is still working, it’s just not working as fast as I wish it did. But I’m proud of myself for sticking to my goals and continuing to do the work. And when I have a hiccup on the diet side of things, I’m getting back to my program very quickly. In the old days once I fell off the wagon, within a day or two I’d be eating everything in sight. I think though that with a better attitude about my processes and a more forgiving attitude when i fall out of line with them, I’m able to more quickly get back to the path i want to be on. Plus the occasional treat should be a good thing, not looked upon as a failure.

The one thing I got out of that self-esteem book and that I’m finding in my real life is that self-esteem actually takes work. It’s not something you just have or get. Well maybe people with nice supportive parents do. But I think it really does take work. I think by doing things that are nurturing and beneficial to our lives, we’re able to feed the positives in our lives and in turn feel better about ourselves and what we’re doing.

I hope to continue working on being better about dealing with rejection like I talked about above. I don’t think that means not feeling anything when I’m rejected in some way. I think that’s natural and ok. Where I want to improve is how I talk to myself and treat myself following those rejections. I don’t need to add to the bad feeling. I don’t need to pile on. I need to keep perspective of who I am and what I’m working on and what I’m working towards. And I do think I’ll get there with that. Like I said, I feel like I’m getting closer.

obligatory smiling photo for blog about self-esteem

August Journaling Day 16: Horse Racing

Well we’ve rounded second base! On the Back 9! This exercise of writing every night has felt a little tougher the last couple of nights, but only tough in the sense of getting started. I feel like once I get typing it seems to come out fast and when it’s over I’m glad that I did it and I feel good. It’s a bit like exercise in that way, which we’ll get to on Thursday 🙂

I figured there’s a lot of ways to approach the topic of horse racing. Since I already wrote about work on day 3, gambling on day 10, and have to write about animals on day 30, I wasn’t sure what way to approach this tonight in a way that’s maybe different from how I normally talk or think about horse racing. And maybe it will just be the same old stuff. We’ll see where it goes and how I feel. To me having a set path with journaling defeats some of the purpose. Just let it flow.

What’s obvious is that it’s one of the central points of my life. It’s my occupation. It’s my passion. It’s where most of my friends reside. It’s where I travel. It’s where I spend a majority of my time, effort, and passion. So it’s big. Horse racing was not my first love. Baseball was. But racing was kind of always number two from the time I was a little kid up until I finished my schooling. Once I could no longer play baseball, racing bumped up a slot. My first job in racing was in 2004 at Emerald Downs as a press box assistant and that year was one of the best racing years of my life. It was all so new and so fun. It was my first taste of getting on the backstretch, meeting trainers and jockeys, meeting the announcer. But when that season was over, I immediately went and started another job. I got my real estate license and sold a single house in that year. I felt like at the time I was constantly trying to think of how I wanted to spend my career and at some point I made the thought that I was going to pursue something I liked to do. After some inspiration from a call by Vic Stauffer in 2005, I started practicing racecalling and really loved every part of it. That time was a great example for myself that if I want to do something, I kind of just need to go do it. Same thing I did with my book, I just started writing. No real plan, but I was never going to get somewhere if I didn’t just start.

So flash forward 17 years later and it’s been my career pretty much ever since then, with a small uber/grocery auditing detour in 2015. Do I have regrets that I made my career in horse racing? Maybe some. I don’t know if it’s possible not to have regrets in any avenue of life. But the pros have so far outweighed the cons that in 2022 I’m still glad it’s been my career. And I hope it stays as such. I still get very excited to go to work or to go to the track as a patron. It’s still fun for me. A good friend of mine told me once that the people who work in horse racing and REALLY care about it, REALLY love it, either eventually leave, or they get the passion zapped out of them. It’s sometimes not easy loving something that brings you so much frustration or heartache. But I have to think that’s not uncommon in any career, especially one you’re passionate about. No industry is perfect and no game is perfect.

That’s not to say I haven’t had major frustrations. There’s things I see in racing all the time that make me shake my head. I realize that people within the game all have their own viewpoints and experiences, so we’re all going to have different solutions and ideas. One of my biggest frustrations is that it seems like 90% of the people who work in racing think we’re selling a sport first, even though 90% of our customers are consuming our product as a gambling event first. Of course safety of our athletes equine and human are always the top priority, but in terms of marketing, rules, betting, etc, shouldn’t all that be looked at through the lens of our customers, who are the gamblers? Any decision we make beyond safety of horses and jockeys needs to be thought about firstly as “is this good and fair to the bettors?”

But just because I get frustrated doesn’t mean I want to give up or do something else. If I was the announcer for the Seattle Mariners I guarantee you I’d get pissed about things they do all the time! So racing will have me as long as they’ll have me. I really do believe that. I mean if some other industry comes along and offers me half a mil a year to do something, then peace out horse racing. But that ain’t happening. I make a good living doing something I love in a game I love, with and for people I love. I really do want to be a catalyst for good in the sport and see it grow and succeed. I know I’m just a tiny little member of the community (figuratively not literally), but I’m proud to be so. And I hope to be so for a long time.

Me and Mystacallie back in like 2010 or so

August Journaling Day 15: Politics

I hate politics. The end.

Part of me wants to just make that the entire blog post. I’m tired and have a super busy week ahead and I legitimately hate politics. Don’t like talking about them, don’t like following them. I think what I really like least about politics is how divisive they are. I won’t even say how divisive they’ve become, because I’m guessing it was always like that. Social media just obviously made the bullhorns a lot louder.

I didn’t come from a political home at all growing up. I don’t remember my parents ever talking about politics or even about politicians. I suppose I grew up as a lot of kids did, patriotic because we were told to be and supportive of the president. I remember in sixth grade we did like a mock election in class and I was in the Ross Perot group. So as you probably remember, we came in a distant third.

I saw an article a couple years ago where a woman referred to herself as “politically homeless.” That resonated with me just because I’ve truly never felt connected to either of the two major “teams” in the sport of politics. In fact I hate that there are two teams. Are there really only two ways to think about tons of super complex issues? It just all seems so ridiculous how it’s set up.

My lack of political allegiance shouldn’t be confused with me being an independent. I usually vote for one particular side like 95% of the time. But I dislike them as a group just as much as the other guys at the political level. On a personal level I have friends and family who are strong left and right people and love and respect them, even if I disagree with them on some stuff. I feel like we’re only a few paragraphs into this and I’ve already used the words hate and dislike a bunch. I think it’s just the divisive nature of politics that disturbs me. Let me be specific, not the divisive nature of the topics, the divisive nature of how we communicate and discuss them. I actually enjoy the occasional political discussion with someone who I trust and prefer when it’s someone who maybe I see things differently then just to try and see their side of things and maybe learn. But more often than not it’s crazy to watch when people discuss politics and disagree on something, the tension and air in the room change and change quickly. I remember being at a work related dinner last spring and everything was going well. Then someone brought up Joe Rogan and immediately two people began arguing about it and the entire tone of that side of the table just got really uncomfortable.

One thing I do know about myself is I’m painfully easy to manipulate. I remember different points in my young adulthood where my politics swayed from side to side based almost strictly on whatever news channel I was watching. If I watched Fox News by the end of the show I’d be like “These damned Liberals ruining everything!” I’d watch Rachel Maddow a week later and think “these elite right wing assholes have no soul!” I try and read and digest media nowadays and pay much attention to where not only the bias of the author/newscaster might be, but how my bias will interpret the information. But I know of myself that I’m not that bright of a thinker and easily swayed. I don’t like conflict and politics is almost all conflict.

I remember in grad school all my classmates were talking about going to a protest on an issue they were passionate about. I talked to the professor and said “I agree with them but I don’t want to go to a protest.” She told me “Neither am I. I try and initiate change at the micro level, not the macro level.” That resonated with me. I’ve never been comfortable speaking out that much on politics publicly and I admire people who do, because blowback is anything but comfortable. I know comfort is the enemy of change in any avenue, so maybe it’s something I need to work on. I always think it’s so strange when someone in racing speaks out on politics and someone tells them to “stick to racing.” I mean they are multi-faceted human beings capable of thoughts and opinions on topics other than racing. Plus if they agreed with the person of course they wouldn’t tell them to shut up. Silencing people cause they disagree with you, lame AF.

But I also don’t feel I have much if anything to add to political discussions other than my vote and my support. I hate this topic and I hate this blog and I’m stopping now. Have a good Monday everyone.

August Journaling Day 14: Dating

I’m not sure why the next few days of topics all ended up in order together, but they’re probably the four that I’m most nervous about writing about. Which on one hand is good because I want to face my fears and nerves and just be open and honest when I can. However as someone who isn’t all that private, a few of these topics are things I usually keep to myself or my close friend group. However part of this exercise I think is to be open, honest, and vulnerable, even on topics with which I might not be comfortable doing so fully or at all.

I’ve started and deleted this paragraph a couple of times now. I don’t think I want to just write about my dating history and how I got to this point in my life as a single person at age 42. But I think I want to write more about how I’m viewing dating now and going forward. No doubt my dating history has led me to where I am now and probably how I might feel about dating in the future. But I also feel like such a different person now than 2018/19 which was my last real relationship. I think a lot of my dating for much of my adult life has been in an unserious nature. I always gave priority to my career and dated with the thought that I was going to have to pick up and leave at any time for a new job opportunity. And a couple times it did happen where I left as I was dating someone and they generally just kind of ended right there and then.

I didn’t date at all really from 2015 to 2018 because of my anxiety issues. I had a long term relationship for much of 2018 and into 2019 until I left for Monmouth and Colonial to announce. Knowing I was going to be gone for six months and likely going to be gone a lot going forward, we decided to split up and just stay friends. Which we have done. There were other factors as well, but distance was kind of the last straw.

I figured with moving to Tampa and making that area “home” going forward that I would really try to actively date there when I got down there. My heart wasn’t really in it though for reasons I don’t want to write about here. I met some very nice people but no true matches. It became a bit discouraging just because i knew after May I’d be on the road for a while and it’s obviously hard to start something when you’re one place for a month, another for two months, etc. So right now I’m not really dating. Although, I really feel that I’m in a good place that if I do meet someone, I really want to do the work it takes to make it work. I know because of my situation with work I’ll always be apart from someone part of the year. And that’s a deal breaker I’ve found for a lot of people. But I feel like I know the work it takes to make long distance work, if and when it’s necessary. I’ve never dated anyone in racing just because I’ve always wanted to keep work and personal life separate. But that’s easy to say when nobody in racing has ever been interested in me haha. I do think I’m more open to that now just because it’s possible someone who works in racing will understand the lifestyle a little better.

One thing I don’t think I really did enough of in my earlier dating life was be open and really communicative. I think because of years of shame about my weight and mental health, I kept a lot of my pain and issues to myself. So even when I was with someone, I wasn’t being real about where I was either good or bad. I just wanted to always keep things kind of light and fun and stuff like that. When I was struggling I’d pull away without really talking to them about it until I just completely detached. I think all the work I’ve done in counseling and with my mental health will hopefully help me when I do find someone to pursue a relationship with. In a weird way I’m actually kind of excited to have those hard conversations with someone just because in my friendships I’ve found that level of communication to be both very connecting and very important.

So we’ll see what happens going forward. I’m open for what’s in store and I truly do hope to find love and make a special connection with someone. For so many years I was so hard on myself and often saw myself as unlovable. I used to always have the thought that I’m the kind of person someone settles for when they’re like 60 and realize they don’t want to be alone the rest of their life. I’ve worked hard to fight those thoughts because they aren’t true, even if I do sometimes want to wallow and believe they are. But mostly I believe that I can be a good partner and that I possess some good qualities as a person and partner. I’ve had good fortune to meet and date some amazing women in my life. I’m still friends with a few of them and they’re meaningful people in my life. Relationships and feelings are so complex and it’s amazing how they can change, grow, etc.

I think it’s easy to get down on dating when it’s not really happening or is frustrating. Or when you get your feelings hurt. I’m trying to stay optimistic and I am hopeful.

August Journaling Day 13: Jealousy

When I made the list of 31 topics to write about this month, I mostly just picked things that were on my mind that night I made the list and that I thought were key factors in my life. There was a prompt list that I saw where I read about the monthly journaling idea and jealousy was one of the suggested ones. I don’t remember exactly why it stood out to me two weeks ago, and yet today I need to journal on it. I mean it seems like a perfectly fine subject to write on, I just don’t remember why I added it to the list. But here goes.

I think in my lifetime, jealousy is something that has gradually waned from something that I had a significant amount of to something that is a pretty rare thing I deal with. I think it’s as much to do with shifting to a practice of gratitude as it is anything else. Trying to be more happy and content not only with myself and where I am and what I have in life. But also comparing myself less and less to others and what they are or have. Let me give a few examples.

When I was a kid, particularly a teenager, I remember feeling legit jealousy towards other people all the time. Whether it was because they were better at sports, or their family had more money, or because girls were interested in them. I think this came from a lack of self-esteem but also from a mindset that I was entitled to things in life. Granted there are things a kid probably should be entitled to like support from parents and teachers, sustenance, health care, etc. But being good at sports or having a girlfriend probably isn’t one of them. But that didn’t change my jealousy and resentment towards people who had those things. I wanted them.

What’s funny about that is I think if you’d have asked me when I was younger if I was a jealous person I’d have said no. I think I absolutely would have denied it. I know I would deny it today. And maybe I still am somewhat today. I don’t feel that I am, but I want to at least be open to the idea that maybe you don’t ever fully erase yourself of jealous thoughts or behavior. I do think any jealousy I have today is stemmed from possibly seeing something that someone else has that I might want for myself in my own life. But i don’t think it comes from a place of resentment like it did in the past. I don’t want them to lose what they have so I can have it. Quite the opposite, I want others to have successes.

In regards to work, this is an area where I think I’ve maybe made the most strides in terms of jealousy. When I was first starting out in racing I was wholly content with the jobs I had and where I was in my career. I was just excited to be in the door. I was at Portland Meadows from 2006 to 2014 and I remember in those later couple of years, starting to feel some resentment that I hadn’t moved on towards any bigger opportunities. I had applied for some jobs but really never got an interview or any interest. I think in my mind I thought that next step would come quicker than it did. Again going back to that feeling of entitlement. When the Monmouth Park announcing job opened up in 2014 I applied and didn’t get it. But I remember getting the “sorry we’re hiring someone else email” from them. Added to the bottom of that email was a “For what it’s worth, you were in our final round of people we were choosing from and we think you have a real ability.” I’d never felt so good about not getting something in my life. It was a flicker of hope. I was happy when my friend got that job but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of his ascent at the time. We had started our careers at the same time and I think it was a natural comparison for me, but it was also unrealistic to compare myself to someone who had a better skill set and probably worked harder at it. Unrealistic isn’t the right word here though, because after I typed that I thought “no that seems a situation perfectly realistic to feel jealousy.” What’s funny is of course I did get to take a step up to the next level in my career in 2015 at Louisiana Downs and my anxiety/depression issues had me falling flat on my face there.

In those three years where I wasn’t announcing, most of my closest friends in the announcing world all took leaps in their careers. Seeing them have those successes definitely brought a smile to my face, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish my situation was seeing those same moves. Mine had gone the opposite. I was out of the game entirely. I can’t help but think some of that jealousy came from a place of anger that I was having to deal with my mental health problems and they had taken me out. I was very bitter about that at the time.

So when did the change in my attitude and jealousy happen? Well when I started getting what I wanted in life of course haha. I say that in jest but it is kind of hard to not realize that the two kind of went hand and hand no? I will say though that I think the dissipation of jealousy came about a little before finding some successes. Like if I wouldn’t have gotten the job at Tampa Bay Downs I’d have been bummed, but I don’t think jealousy would have been the emotion behind being upset. I’m very much in a place now where I’m aware of my abilities, I’m aware of what I do or don’t bring to the table in both work and a personal life, and I’m quite aware that those things will not be for everyone. But my gratitude for what I am able to do and where I’m able to be at is probably at the greatest levels it’s ever been. And I have no doubt that is in part to both doing self work on my outlook on the world (therapy) as well as not comparing myself to what others do or achieve.

One overarching goal in my life is just to try and be a little bit better each and every day. Better compared only to myself yesterday. If I do that I think I will eventually become the best version of myself that I can be. And I’m the only person I’m ever going to be, so I better get comfortable with that. I think jealousy at times is a completely justified and normal thing to experience pangs of. But I also think how you process and work through it is the difference between letting it be a fleeting feeling and letting it guide your decisions and attitudes.

August Journaling Day 12: Anxiety

So, I’ve done a lot of anxiety blogs on here over the years. I don’t want to go back through the story of it, the depths of how bad it was, or the effect it’s had on my life. I do think those stories have come up in some previous blogs and some future ones. I want to just discuss how it effects my life today.

My outlook on anxiety and my ‘recovery’ is in some ways the way a substance addict looks at their recovery. I will always be an anxious person. If you put me into a situation where I’m very nervous, my body is going to go into the fight or flight reaction that causes panic. I still occasionally get out of the blue anxiety/panic attacks. If I’m in a crowd, I still get that tunnel vision and some sweaty palms. The main difference today versus previous years is that I know it won’t hurt me. I know I’m in no danger. And I know that it will run its course. And maybe most important, I know I can do everything in my life I need to do, even if I’m anxious.

There was no specific breakthrough for me with anxiety. Like I said, I still have it. But my big breakthrough was facing my fears and choosing to live my life with the anxiety. There was a cartoon in a book called the Anxiety and Mindfulness Workbook that still sticks with me. It’s a photo of a person coming to a fork in the road where there’s a bunch of stop signs that say anxiety! phobias! panic! depression! stop! don’t go! and stuff like that. The second photo of the cartoon shows the person with all those signs in their backpack and moving along with their walk. That to me represents the biggest success I’ve had with my anxiety in recent years.

That realization and acting upon it has changed my life. I’ve done and seen and lived more in the last four years than I did in the previous fifteen. By like twenty fold. And as a result of doing so much, despite my anxiety, has seen my anxiety significantly decrease. Anxiety is no longer a constant part of my life. It’s an occasional part, but it no longer dictates my decisions and how I act or what I do. In the old days if someone asked me to do anything my first inclination was to think “can i handle this and could I get out of it if I panic?” Now my first thought is just to decide whether or not it’s something I want to do and if it is I do it. I mean even flying, something I was 100% never going to do again, is something I’d absolutely do if I had to. And I’m finding i’m more and more open to doing it even when I don’t have to. We’ll see.

One thing that has happened in the last couple of years is having a little bit of, for lack of a better term, survivors guilt. As I said, I still have anxiety and I think I always will. But it’s soooo much less severe than it used to be. And I still have friends and loved ones who are in the midst of their struggle with mental health issues. I know how hard and how sometimes hopeless that battle can feel. And I remember for years just hoping and praying that it would stop, or atleast get better. And now it definitely has gotten better. And I don’t know exactly how or why it finally did start to turn. I certainly put in a lot of work to learn about it. I read every book about anxiety that’s been published. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on therapy and maybe even a hundred thousand dollars on medical treatment and hospitalizations. And don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled I’m doing better. My life is so much more fulfilling than it was. But I do still sometimes ask why have I gotten better when so many others haven’t? It just doesn’t seem fair.

If you’re reading this and struggling with anxiety, all I can say is I sympathize with your struggle. I hope you know that there are so many people who are battling it as well right now. Some are having success with it while others are struggling mightily. And I just don’t know what to say other than people care for you. I can’t promise it’ll get better even though I wish I could. But I’m pulling for you. I’m pulling for me. I’m pulling for all of us.