Christmas.

The last few days have been quite the event.

With every passing day, I have been back on the mend. The left arm gets a little stupid from time to time, but it becomes less and less frequent.

With everything that has gone on, it becomes more and more clear that some of my current options need to change, be approached from a different angle, or just disappear entirely. And I’ve thought on that, and what all of it has been worth, and what my life is worth.

Part of it, admittedly, is that I had a personal crisis of faith. I had grown stagnant for a while. I wasn’t enjoying things that brought me pleasure, or simply stopped doing them entirely. My routine had been interrupted some time back, and I never really returned to being “me” again. Well, not the “me” that I liked and want to be: The video gamer. The writer. The actor. The guy who went everywhere from the beaches of Kauai to the deserts of Burning Man, or just had an adventure within his own city. I didn’t feel like that person anymore, and I panicked, feeling that my most “interesting” days were behind me. I didn’t want all of that to be over.

But as I had realized earlier, I remain the very definition of those old stories, and they will remain a part of me wherever I go. They are “over”, so that I can keep moving forward and adding new ones. If I ever need to revisit them, all I have to do is tell that story to bring it back.

In realizing this, I took a look at those stories, and noticed the patterns that take place in each one. Some of my best were shared, and as independent as I have always been, I realized that it was time to no longer go alone. Not that I have been, mind you. I’ve had someone by my side for quite a while now, but I never stepped up properly like I should have. Too proud of my eternal “Toys R Us Kid” lifestyle, I suppose. It’s not so much that I owed the next step, as it was more the proper thing to do. It wasn’t a compromise in any way, but a compliment to the life I’ve lived.

And so I hatched a masterful plan within the last few months. Granted, there have been obstacles. The “sue” thing put a damper on some, and my body shutting down was another. It’s not been a cheap ride, let me tell you. But I was determined. A few traditional bills could remain angry at me for a little while longer.

And so I found the one item that said “This is the one”, same as one chooses a puppy, or the wand chooses the wizard. I made my payments, and smuggled it around like Gollum for several days until this morning. And it culminated with this:

The one ring.

The one ring.

I asked Jen to marry me. Properly. No “implied”. No “You know where this is heading anyway” or “We’ll get around to it eventually”…. No more half-ass from me. She deserves better than my occasional half-cocked and overzealous stupidity.

Of course, life has a funny way of making things happen. A flu bug has been growing in me the last few days, making me a globby, wheezing mess of a human being (just in time for Christmas, of course). But as the last gift, I made her close her eyes and wait until she again opened them to find me on one knee with ring in hand saying: “I suppose you’ll know the next four words: Will you marry me?”

(To those wondering, after the initial squeak, the “Yes” came quickly.)

And so, Christmas took on a whole meaning this year, one where I put shared needs over anyone or anything else, the return to a clearer path of getting back on track for my life, and learning that love can also come in the form of a 1980 Lando Calrissian themed Burger King glass.

I am, admittedly, a little melancholy about Christmas as years have passed. I love the cheerfulness that the season brings, the lights, the music, and even that brief moment where everyone behaves a just little longer, and acts a little nicer. But I do miss my old home at times, the family that lived there, and even old friends that have long since gone.

And like my life and the things I’ve done, I realize that none of that can ever be taken away either. There will always be those frozen moments in time where I laughed and loved with my Mom and Dad, my grandparents, Sparkle, Junie…. And I can return to them with pictures and videos, and memories that I will never forget. It’s not as direct as I would like at times, but in a sense, I will always find ways to “return home”. This year reminded me of that with revisiting old homes, reunions, and a picture sent to me of my Dad that I had never seen before. It brought me a moment of comfort seeing his face again.

But it’s time for new memories. New traditions. New doors to be opened, and all new paths to explore. And none of it has to change or replace the old ones. I wouldn’t want it to. I just find a new area of canvas to fit them in and keep building on. Unify everything into one picture of my life that I have been painting for a very, very long time. And it’s time to restore my routine, and no longer be limited. I should have done that a long time ago. Turns out that I don’t have to grow up after all. Not entirely, anyway.

My life is not perfect. It is not always easy. But I am reminded that friends and family, and friends that have become family, will be there beside me as I stride into this next evolution to make sure that I am not alone.

No one is alone. Not completely.

The next chapter.

The next chapter.

And for those wondering, Dad once told me many a year ago that if I ever chose to go down this particular path, then I would have his support.

Merry Christmas.

Life.

It’s been a long road the last few months since I chose to follow my “Quest for Happy.”

No path is a straight line, though it started off well: I crossed off a few overdue “bucket list” items, reunited with aspects of my childhood in some very unique ways, and added some new adventures to my backlog. It was very much “typical” me, and how I have always done things.

I wasn’t expecting life to change so drastically once I got back from Texas.

To be fair, some changes were well in the works before my “quest” began. Some aspects of my life simply weren’t working, and although getting sued just absolutely sucked, I suppose that was simply its time in coming (though I didn’t know that those particular events could go down like that). But it stressed me out, and put me in a several week-long funk. In our “Ultra PC” society where no one ever wants to call things for what they are, I fell into a depression over it.

But it wasn’t just the money. I was learning that some career prospects were far more limiting than I imagined, while other beloved aspects have been simply just disappearing entirely. I have a number of things that I need to get organized and repaired in my daily life, and money had become a little tighter in the last few weeks. Some friends were going down a self-destructive path to where I couldn’t offer support (and was losing the energy to), while others only really seemed to call anymore when they were needing something. There were a lot of annoyances of people turning everything I said into comedy bits, or offering to help and then just completely disappearing when it came time to “cash in the friend chips”. And I felt conflicted by feelings after I came home. Nostalgia versus things have changed, and a bout of homesickness that washed over me really badly. I started physically feeling it as well. And instead of the sensations getting easier, it kept getting worse. My left arm was aching and going numb. I was lacking the energy to do things or go out. And then my chest started aching.

And it wouldn’t stop.

My arm felt like it had died or was on fire. I was breaking out into sweats. I started sleeping a lot more to find some sort of rest, and my chest kept getting worse and worse. It was affecting everything until I couldn’t take it anymore, and finally drove to the hospital and told them my symptoms.

They rushed me to the emergency room and put me on bedrest.

This is not how you do a glamour shot.

This is not how you do a glamour shot.

They poked and prodded me. Drew blood, and scanned me all over, but couldn’t find anything “wrong” with me (but really, who wants the doctors to find something “wrong”?). And when I went to another doctor, it was the same thing, though process of elimination did find two aspects: An old injury that I got back in 2011 from an acting gig had flared up again, and I was undergoing some massive stress, which was causing the other aspect of the physical problems.

People undermine stress in the same way that they undermine depression as it being some “no big deal” kind of thing. And certainly, it isn’t… for them. They aren’t the ones that have to deal with it every morning. But both are incredibly toxic to a person, and in light of some of the people (like Robin Williams) that we have lost this year, the more extreme effects have finally found a public face for once.

But I was sent home and told to stay off my feet for a few days. Rest. Relax.

It gave me a lot of time to think (and a lot of curling up with the dogs). I’ve worried so much about my “past” in the sense that I was once in the video game industry, and a decade’s worth of roles in the acting world have been getting smaller in the last year or two. I felt like I was losing those parts of me. But I’ve begun to realize that no matter what happens, whether I remain in or return to those aspects at a later point in my life, have been and are “mine”. I lived them, and they can never be taken away from me. I have always been that person, but I have also evolved into new things as well.

The same goes for some of the people that I have had to deal with lately: I’ve had people that I have thought were friends rip me off. I’ve had others start to really only see/use me as a tool in order to get things done for them. And I’ve had others that have told me that I am not as good as everyone else, deciding that repetition and routine is the place that I need to be. I don’t thrive without creativity. Or with insult. But at the same time, I’ve been reminded of an old adage that really does ring true: If you really want to know the true colors of who your friends are, have something really good or really bad happen to you. The last few weeks have been a lot of support, and a lack of surprise in many aspects.

But I am trying to take something from all of this, while remaining true to my more humanistic values. This is the first time that I’ve really been sick like this (or in the hospital, for that matter). My wallet was the thing that bled the most from this experience, but there is some genuine comfort in finding out what I don’t have. But I am changing my life up a little bit in a few aspects: I am going to limit some of my social media time. Not everything is “comedy hour”, nor am I under obligation to act as a surrogate CNN. There’s more than enough bad news in the world to easily find via the click of the button. I’d rather spend my time focusing on the good, even if it is smaller. I did an event last month that, instead of the standard birthday party, was a session to create gift bags full of basic toiletries for homeless people. I’ve been handing those out from time to time as I see people on a corner or digging in a garbage can.

I’m not going to be the one-stop “fix all” for people anymore. I will still choose to help people, but when it becomes apparent that “fixing” is the only role I’m playing whenever they do make the effort to call me… well, that’s ending. I am changing up my social life a little bit. I am needing more substance and less drama. For that matter, I think social media was painting me too much with a drink in hand. I have NEVER had a problem with drinking or related control issues, and those are one-offs for days of undocumented events, but I don’t like the image that seems to be getting portrayed, so I have been really toning that down as well. Social media can paint a very skewed portrait of a situation that may not be necessarily true.

And recent events have reminded me of the importance of creativity in my life. I am getting back into writing. I plan to get back into my travel work. I’d love to combine the two one day, along with my love for film. Gaming? I was fortunate enough to be drafted into a gig for the Playstation Experience this last weekend, and that felt like more play than work, and was the first time I’ve really gotten back out. I’ve never outgrown my love for video games, as it is equal parts nostalgic, exciting, and bittersweet. I have so much more to give, and I do not need anyone in my life to tell me that my contributions are not good enough.

Perhaps… all of this that has happened in the last few weeks has been part of my “quest” all along. I needed to really sit down and have the time to view the flaws in my day to day routine that I don’t enjoy, need to be changed, or removed entirely. Part of my growth is going to require me to let go. And part of it is going to be the reminders of days on my childhood beach, or life in a small Texas town that are still very much of who I am, and always will be. I’ve realized yet again that those are my values. And so are my friends and family. If anything, it has renewed my personal journey, and the need to “fix” things. Just this time, it’s for myself.

A very hard lesson these last few weeks, but a needed one. Things that cause me that much (physical) pain need to go, and I need to quit being foolish and focus on the good that is in front of me.

And that… is another announcement to come in the next few weeks….