Category: Life As I Know It

01
Feb
2020
20:53

My Abandoned Corner

I feel like when Twitter and Facebook took over the internet, it mostly killed blogs. People don’t want to leave their walled gardens for content. My blog never had a lot of traffic but these days, I figure there’s next to none. And of course, that isn’t helped by the fact that I never post here because I’m always posting on Facebook. But I also post more there because that’s where the people are so it’s a bit a snake eating its tail, chicken or the egg kind of scenario.

Sometimes though, I find this a bit comforting. Like there was a thought I had and kind of wanted to express but didn’t necessarily want a lot of attention on it, and I thought this blog seemed like a perfect place. It scratches that itch of expressing the thought and yet probably no one (or very few people) will see it. A strange middle ground I know. I’m not even sure why it feels good to express stuff like this if you aren’t looking for reactions, sympathy, or comfort or something, but it does.

I’m not sure why I hesitate expressing personal, vulnerable things sometimes. My best guess is that it’s because part of me thinks “Why? What’s the point in posting that? I don’t want sympathy or comfort and people probably don’t want to hear it any way,” or maybe it’s some fear in me about being judged or exposing myself like that (though I tend to be a pretty open book), or some combination of these and other factors. My mind does love analyzing these things though. I knew from a young age that if music and acting weren’t my calling, then psychologist or psychiatrist would have been a career path for me.

Any way, the thought that inspired all these other thoughts was simply this: it has now been just over a year since my last electronic communication with her (about 2 years since our last non-electronic communication). I never in all eternity thought we would end up here. Completely disconnected as if we didn’t know each other and had never met. Not even polite holiday greetings. I thought at the very least, we would always be friends and in each other’s lives. Then again, I thought we would always be together, so what did I know. I was wrong about a whole plethora of things.

06
May
2019
14:16

Farewell And Fair Sailing, Carnival Liberty

1 month of rehearsals in Florida.
52 cruises over 26 weeks.
107 band shows.
5 shows as the only vocalist (co-singer was out sick).
1 show as solo vocalist and guitar player (guitar parts learned in the hours leading up to the show), while the normal guitar player covered the bass parts on his guitar, pitch shifted down an octave because both the bass player and female vocalist were out sick).
1 show as bass player and co-vocalist (bass parts learned in the hours leading up to the show).
2 shows missed due to being sick (I was hoping for none).
A handful of shows with a very sub-par voice due to illnesses.
100 America Rocks Shows (Theater production) .
Approximately 31000 nautical miles traveled.
Approximately 177,000 total guests (No way to know how many actually saw us perform, of course).
We leave as the #1 band in the Entire Carnival fleet of 26 ships.

Personal Accolades (braggy, I know):
Volunteered as the Entertainment Department Safety Representative.
Chosen as “Star of the Month” (Entertainment Department only).
Nominated for “Team Member of the Month” (This one is shipwide).
Multiple trainings such as “Crowd Management and Control” and how to pilot and command a survival craft as well as it’s layout and vital information and such.

I got to turn my brain off for seven months and make a good paycheck doing what I love 6 nights a week. No hustling or wondering about my next job or how much money I would make next month. I got to sing and play great tunes with an amazing band for enthusiastic, appreciative, and hyperbolically complimentary crowds. I performed with an amazing cast and crew in a great theater. I worked alongside an international crew of amazing people all over the ship.

For the first time in my life I performed as (mostly) just a singer and front man, something I had been a little worried about as it’s not normally what I do and I feel a little naked without an instrument, but I settled into it fairly painlessly and rose to the occasion (according to my own self-assessment as well as my evaluations by management). I educated myself on how to treat myself as a “vocal athlete” and trained to do my best at meeting the incredible demands of singing 6 nights a week. I honed my instrument to be the best and sharpest it has probably ever been (when not hobbled by cough, colds, phlegm, etc., but more on that in a moment).

I had my ego and confidence boosted and reinforced and can confidently say that I am good at what I do. I had my ego and confidence bruised and humbled by the fact that I have limits and can’t always do anything just because I put my mind to it or because I want to. I learned how use my voice in new ways. How to best use it when it’s not fully functional. Different techniques and approaches. How to feel out where it was on any particular day and gauge how well it was operating so I could adjust accordingly. I developed alternate strategies and plans for when it was not operating at peak efficiency. I learned how much I could really “go for it” in a given night while still being able to do it again the next night and when to pull it back and take it easy to preserve it.

I learned the huge variety of ways my voice can be adversely affected by cold, cough, illness, phlegm, etc. You open your mouth and only have maybe 40% of your normal voice. While you are normally a belter, that doesn’t work tonight so you have to sing in a completely different way to just eke out as much sound as you can. Sometimes your high range is just gone so you have to do a lot more falsetto than normal (strangely, through all of it, my falsetto was always there). Some nights you just have no stamina, vocally. You start out feeling like your voice has finally recovered, but then as the night goes on, it deteriorates. Some nights your mouth and throat just seem determined to be a barren desert no matter how much water, tea, lozenges,and throat spray (multiple types) you use, and again, your voice quickly deteriorates. One night, the only way I could get a decent performance was to constantly keep Grether’s Pastilles in my mouth while singing, and all night long I was super paranoid and careful about making sure I didn’t suck it down my windpipe. There were just so many different ways in which my voice could be hobbled by illness and each had to be dealt with in its own way. Some nights my voice was just unpredictable and erratic. With singing six nights a week, I could really tell the difference after our one night off. The next night everything would be so much more effortless. So much so that I would sometimes overshoot or overpower a note. I got to know my voice more completely than ever.

I’ve been playing music for 36 years and singing for around 32 years. Vocally, I’ve always been kind of wild, chaotic, untrained and quite frankly, lucky that my voice has performed so well all these years under those conditions. I come out of this journey with so much valuable experience, knowledge and wisdom. I come out of this a better singer, performer, and just overall a better person. It didn’t solve any life problems or banish any ghosts or demons (you can’t run away from those, no matter how hard you try or how far you run), but I think it gave me (mostly) what I was looking for from it and more.

I will miss every single person who I have crossed paths with in this adventure and I emerge from this a richer person than I entered it. Time for new adventures, of which I already have many waiting when I get home.

To quote Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books (a quote I’ve used before and will again as I find it so powerful in its simplicity and context), “Well, I’m back.”

Or, you know, I will be after a week at Disney World and Universal Studios.

14
Mar
2019
12:02

The Story Of Kaylee Ane Me

I’m thinking about my “ex-dog,” Kaylee, tonight for some reason and feel compelled to write about our story together. I’ve always loved animals, but never wanted any myself as I didn’t want the expense or the responsibility. Being a freelance actor and musician, I’m gone a lot as well, so not the best home for an animal. Kaylee belonged to my ex when we started dating and so I started spending a lot of time with her, watching her and walking her a lot (Kaylee, that is…not my ex). When we moved in together (all three of us), Kaylee very much became “our” dog. It was never like “Hey, you need to get your dog some more food,” or anything like that. My ex had a regular day job, and so I, being a freelancer, could spend a lot more time with Kaylee at home, on walks, for vet appointments, etc. She was a very quirky dog. Not in any bad way. She was a poop diva. Very particular about where she went, and almost always had to poop twice per walk instead of getting it out all in one go which was slightly annoying and used a lot of doggy bags. She was very enthusiastic and loving in her way but not the most affectionate dog you’d ever meet. Never the less she was sweet, good-natured and I loved her immensely (Kaylee that is, though that also applied to my ex).

When my ex and I broke up, it was the first time I’d ever had to deal with losing a pet in the process (as well as a girlfriend, a home and neighborhood I loved, and such that made it feel like many breakups in one). Now once again, my aim here is not to gain sympathy or paint my ex in a bad light. It was complicated and she had to do what she felt was right so there are no villains in this story, to be clear. My ex soon after got a job traveling a lot so, much to her dismay, was not really in a position to keep Kaylee (and neither was I), so Kaylee went to live with my ex’s parents which is actually a great life for Kaylee. She has another dog to be with who she loves, a great climate, attentive humans, a yard, and wonderful scenery. All in all, her life likely got majorly upgraded.

Maybe all this thinking was prompted by the latest Radiolab episode which had a part about dogs and their behaviors and such (specifically whether they can be “racist”) and it made me wonder how much emotion, thinking, and anthropomorphism we put on them and how much is real. Like, I haven’t seen Kaylee in probably 2 years and I wonder if she would remember me and how much she loved me, or if I would just be like any other stranger to her now. Was it simply that I fed, walked and took care of her? Do we imagine these bonds because we want them to be true? I don’t think so. I do think there’s enough evidence throughout history to support these ideas to some degree, but I just wonder if it goes as deep as we want it to. I hope she would remember me. Sometimes I still send her thoughts. I hope her doggie brain still thinks of me sometimes. You’re a good girl, Kaylee. I know you’re happy. I just hope you don’t forget me. I’ll chew on a squeaky stuffed snake in your honor.

29
Jan
2019
16:21

My Journey To Atlantis and Beyond

I had an item. The exact details of this item are unimportant, personal, and will not be detailed here. It was a special item to me that I had acquired shortly after my last breakup, over two years ago. It was a totem. A token representing love to me. I have a tendency to anthropomorphize a little too much so this item was alive to me. I spoke to it. Especially when I couldn’t speak to her. It was also a conduit, a connection.

Now, I’m sure many of you at this point are probably thinking that it sounds like something I should have been rid of long ago, but we each have to walk our own path, be true to ourselves and no words will do this item, or my relationship with it, justice. For me, it was a symbol of unconditional, unwavering love, despite any obstacles, storms, or logistically unfortunate circumstances. It was a symbol of a promise that I had made. A badge of being a steadfast Love Warrior. I figured I would probably keep it until such time as someone new entered my life, if that is to happen, or else until such time as it felt like it was time to let it go.

A while back, I started using a dice rolling app when I was having a hard time deciding between two things. I would ask the universe which way I should go, and then use the virtual 2 sided “die” to get my answer, choosing to believe that it was universe answering me and not just random digital bits giving me a meaningless random outcome. Over the last two years, I had checked in with this item at least a couple of times to see if it was time to let it go. The last time I remember was just before I left for my six month journey on the cruise ship. When I asked then, it told me that it should come with me, so I brought it. Over the course of my time here (at this point, I’m just about at the halfway point of the 6 month contract), I started to get the feeling that maybe one of the ports of call would be its destination of release.

Yesterday, I stood out on the bow of the ship, held the item in my hand and found myself afraid to ask it the question. In fear that it was time. Part of me laughed at the ridiculousness of all this, but never the less, it was a real feeling. So I told it to show me a “1” if it was time to let it go, or a “2” if I was to keep it around for now. I hesitated tapping the screen, and then willed myself to do it, closing my eyes for just a moment. And there it was on the screen. “1”. Tears filled my eyes. I rushed back to my cabin and cried for a few minutes. Tears that I felt had been just below the surface for quite some time, and yet at least partially surprised me at their appearance. Tears that come back now as I write this. I let the feelings and tears flow until they were done and then made peace with it. I spent last night, another “Elegant Evening,” walking around the ship with the item in my pocket. Eating, listening to music, just feeling the energy of life and all the people around me.

This morning, after a safety drill, I left the ship with the item. My initial plan was to go to a nearby beach spot behind a hotel and let it go there, but then I remembered that across the water was a popular resort called “Atlantis,” and something about that just called to me. Plus, I liked the fact that it was a bit of a trek. Not much, only a mile or two at most, but still I liked the idea of having a walk and making it feel a little more like a journey and a mission. I walked across the huge Sydney Poitier bridge and as I neared Atlantis is was starting to sprinkle a bit. As I got closer it started raining harder but I would not be deterred. Besides, it’s not like there was anywhere I could really go. I arrived at Atlantis soaking wet. It was impressive. Very cool Atlantean decor. I went inside and wandered around a bit, enjoying some huge indoor aquariums. It very much reminded me of the two posh resorts where I had stayed in Cancun with my ex when we were dating. Unfortunately, I found there was no beach access unless you were a guest so I headed back out. I eventually found out through messaging my band mates and talking to some locals that there was a public beach further down the road in the opposite direction, so I set out that way. Eventually I saw the “Beach Access” signs and followed them to a beach (Cabbage Beach, I think).

I was in luck. It was high tide and there were huge, crashing waves. I found a spot a little further down that was less busy where a couple were enjoying playing in the giant waves. They looked about as high as a person not very far out, and were coming way up the beach. I took off my shoes and put my phone, wallet and ID in them, then stuffed my socks in, and wrapped it all up with my NASA shirt, and set the bundle on a beach chair, safe from any incoming waves. I walked just a little way toward the ocean, and each wave would bury my feet up to the ankles in sand, and threaten to pull my legs out from under me. I took the item from my pocket. I had contemplated the ramifications of letting the ocean have it, and determined that I didn’t think it would do any harm. Nothing, plastic or harmful. Somehow, this is just what felt right. I thanked the item for its support and comfort over the years, and said it was time to release that energy back into the universe and the largest, most powerful force on the planet, the ocean. I said a lot more to both the item and to the ocean, but those words were just for them. As another huge wave rolled in, I plunged my hands deep into the sand and let the item go. I stood there for a while, with each powerful wave moving lots of sand. I never saw the item go, but I’m fairly positive it would have been carried away powerfully and quickly.

This wasn’t goodbye. This wasn’t a death. This wasn’t grieving or mourning. The item wasn’t her and she wasn’t the item. For better and worse it was too easy to anthropomorphize the item. This wasn’t any admission of defeat or hopelessness. It was simply a step in healing and letting go of the past. Trying to always be more present. This was saying that I trust the universe. Releasing control. Believing that whatever path I am on is always the path I need to be on. This was knowing that even if some crazy timeline brought this woman back into my life in the future, it would be a new beginning and not a continuation of the past. The item was a token of love, but it was also a token of pain and desperation. Too often we hold on to our pain. Swaddle ourselves in it. Weave identities from it. It is a particularly human trait that I’ll never understand. I don’t need the item to be a Love Warrior, or to send wishes of love and happiness to her into the universe. It has no bearing on any connection I may or may not have. Like almost everything in life, I have a choice as to how I view all this. It doesn’t have to “a thing.” It doesn’t have to be painful. It can easily be viewed as positive. A new beginning. Leaving behind pain. Letting go of that which doesn’t serve us. Our perspective is quite often much more in our control than we think. I’ll never forget the item. I’m sure I’ll even miss the item when my ego and pain body starve for food and try to poke the sore places, but its watch is done. As is this step of my spiritual journey. In the end, I walked over seven miles. I hadn’t eaten all day so on my way back, I stopped at Phoenix Chinese food, where I had eaten once before and had some of the best Chinese food I have ever had. As I write this back in my cabin on the ship, I feel like Samwise at the end of Lord of the Rings. Don’t get me wrong, my journey was nothing like his, but it was epic in its own very small way.

“Well, I’m back,” he said.

13
Oct
2018
12:40

The Rigidity of Your Hopes and Dreams

11 days into my new adventure and it’s been a wonderful whirlwind. I find myself with a lot to say to say, so buckle in for the signature Heath tome of verbosity.

This adventure is a great catalyst to being present. Naturally, many have asked me what I will do when this contract is over. Will I take another one? As humans, we are almost always far too wrapped up in the past and the future. Worrying about things that did or didn’t happen in the past or what will happen in the future. Planning our path. Trying to make it happen. We have our hopes, dreams and goals, and we need to find the road to them. I haven’t even boarded the ship yet. I have no idea how I will feel in 7 months from now. Maybe I’ll be sick of being confined to a ship and be homesick and miss my friends, my bands, acting, Austin, and my life there. Or maybe I’ll feel like I’ve found the best life ever and never want to stop doing it. I don’t know. So my best choice is to just focus on today and enjoying it. I’ve had conversations about future contracts, and possibilities if I decided to stay on with Carnival for more contracts. Maybe I could become a Music Manager and direct my own band. Who knows where this will lead, who I will meet, or what opportunities may present themselves?

There is, of course, the fear that if I decide that it was fun but I want to resume my life in Austin, that it won’t be easy because I’ve been away from acting and networking and all the bands I played with and I’ll find myself with no way to pay the bills so I’ll have no choice but to take another contract and now I’m trapped just like any other job. Of course, that’s just fear rearing its ugly head like it does. It has also made me think about the rigidity with which we think about our “hopes and dreams” for life. Is this an awesome job? Absolutely. Is it what I’ve always “dreamed” of doing? No. I never thought “Oh man, if only some day I could sing on a cruise ship! That is what I want to do with my life!” Now of course, my dreams have never been super specific. I dreamed of fame and fortune in music and acting. Touring with my own band, playing my originals and being somewhat “famous” for lack of a better term (though “fame” isn’t the goal at all). Or touring as a side man with some big band. Playing for Sheryl Crow or Lady Gaga, or anything like that. Putting out my music and people buying it and coming to see my concerts. Starring in movies, television and theater as a renowned actor and making a good living doing so. Being a sought after voice over actor.

For some reason, I now actually feel more cut off from those dreams. Like being so isolated in this very specific situation, there’s no chance of any of that. Now of course, that’s just fear again as, like I said before, I don’t know what kinds of contacts and opportunities might come along here. But while I was a freelancer in Austin, it felt like I was at least playing “the lottery.” That big audition could come along. Playing in 8 bands might lead to something. Now I feel like I’m not even really playing, so as they say “You can’t win if you don’t play.” I’m not going to be doing any acting, obviously. No auditions. Now, sure, I’ve already met amazing people and will be playing 6 nights a week on the ship, so that’s definitely something.

However, there’s another, slightly darker undertone to all this. Two years ago, I first started pursuing all this because of a devastating breakup that made me just want to run away from everything and turn off my brain. I wanted to curl up and die, but I also didn’t (really) want to literally curl up die (at least not deep down, though sometimes I thought I wanted that). I considered crazy shit like taking some kind of job at a remote post in Antarctica or something. The equivalent of a “living death.” I didn’t want to actually die, but I kind of wanted to just become a vegetable and live out my remaining days as a zombie. In some ways, I saw this cruise ship opportunity as a better version of that. I could at least be doing one of the things I am here on this earth to do, being on stage and playing music, but aside from that, I could just turn off my brain, look at the ocean and let the remaining days of my life slowly wash away with each wave.

This is not my “dream” life. I do however recognize that it has elements of it. I am paying the bills playing music and singing. And again it makes me wonder about the rigidity of our dreams. Are my dreams too rigid? I don’t know, but they are what they are. I know (in very general terms) what I’ve wanted as long as I can remember. What I feel I’m here to do. Do we make ourselves unhappy by being too hard and unbending in “what we want”? Do we perhaps need to let our dreams redefine themselves along our journey? I don’t know. I do know that we are fear-based beings and that a tremendous amount of our decisions are fear-based and probably the vast majority of our energy is spent catering to fear or trying to fend it off.

What am I going to do 7 months from now? I have no idea. I want to spend more of my energy on today. Enjoying this moment. We will never know what the “right” thing to do is, and many times there probably isn’t even a “right” thing to do. The best we can do is relax and let the river take us where it will. Don’t fight the current. Though you might want to at least gently paddle in a particular direction.

08
Sep
2018
0:57

A New Adventure

It all began two years ago after a sudden, blindsiding breakup that shattered me into a thousand pieces and made just want to go to sleep and never wake up again. In an effort to find a more positive channel for that energy, I had the desperate desire to “Run away and join the circus” as they say. Join up with a touring band or some touring play. Something to get me away from my life, out of my mind and out of this city whose every inch was supersaturated with associations and memories. On a whim, I looked at jobs on Carnival Cruises. There was an opening for an “Ensemble Guitarist” to play with the house rock band. I culled together whatever crappy videos I could find of me playing guitar live with bands and cobbled together a demo. I submitted all my materials and the website said I should hear back within 90 days. 90 days cam and went so I assumed that was the end of it.

Then months later, I had a response. For round 2 they wanted me to video myself play guitar to the backing tracks they sent me for “Le Freak,” “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I did so and submitted those along with an automated video interview where I just recorded answers to questions on my webcam. More months went by. I got another email now wanting me to take the “sight reading” portion of the interview. Gulp. I don’t sight read. Or really read music much at all. I can read music very slowly but I learn everything by ear. If I hear something I can generally play it very quickly. Well luckily for me, this “sight reading” test, wasn’t really “sight reading.” I downloaded the music I was supposed to “sight read” but then could take as long as I wanted with it. I’d heard that there wasn’t really much sight reading in this position so I hoped I could still do the job despite that not really being a skill I had. The emails also said there was no deadline and that you could do the interview at your convenience. Well, apparently there was a silent, invisible “within reason” appended to that because when I finally got back to tackling this beast many months later, my application had expired and I was told there was no way to resume it. I’d have to start from scratch again.

I was little disappointed in myself for procrastinating so badly, but decided it was actually for the best, as now I could watch for the “Acoustic Soloist” position instead which would pay more and would mean that I had my own cabin instead of sharing with someone else. And I’d be a solo acoustic act, which would be fun. Eventually that position opened up so I went to putting my solo acoustic demo together from the videos I had online, though they weren’t really appropriate as they were generally me solo in my room doing songs and not live performances with an audience which is more what they wanted, but I hoped my talent would shine through. By the time I went to submit, the position had closed again.

So again, I went to checking the listings periodically again. The next appropriate position that opened up was “Rock Band Vocalist.” A male and a female singer front a 4 piece cover band (the one I initially would have been playing guitar for had I got that position). So once again, I went to putting together demo as quickly as possible and submitted. And again, many months went by before I received an email inviting me to the second round, once again consisting of an automated recorded webcam interview, as well as 4 backing tracks I was supposed to sing along with and record via video. You can see those videos here if you like. When I was initially learning and practicing the songs, I noted how they were all fairly challenging. I figured they did that thinking “Well if someone can handle these four, they can handle the rest of the set.” One Saturday, I tried to record them but after learning and practicing all day, I was pretty vocally fatigued after the first tune, so I decided to put it off to another day so I can learn them more thoroughly first and then just record them in one day later hopefully. Strangely I also find that I can sing much better, higher, and longer live with a band, but in this solo recording at home scenario, I get all in my head and everything seems more difficult somehow and notes that I could normally hit with ease, seem shaky. I took a couple of voice lessons on a whim after a friend randomly posted recommending Megan Sherrod. I’d been singing professionally for 30 years but I knew I had some bad habits and no matter how long you’ve been doing something, you can always learn and better your craft. Megan was awesome, and I felt like a total newbie tearing everything back down to basics like I was re-learning to walk. I only got to take two lessons before I completed my audition, as I really wanted to get it done.

I uploaded the videos and all the rest of the video interview, and figured, like every other step, I’d probably not hear anything for months. 15 hours later I had a contract offer via email. I was in shock. Now it was real. Two years later, here was this opportunity to “Run away and join the circus.” I immediate set in motion trying to get all my affairs in order. There was much to do. Firstly, I had the rare animal that is a steady acting gig. I was the Lead Actor/Director/Stage Manager for the Suicide Prevention program at Fort Hood every Wednesday. As an actor this is like a minor lottery win. I play in 8 bands, 6 of which are fairly active and had gigs on the calendar. I have directors and theatre troupes who contact me directly to offer me cool roles and opportunities. I have an agent who submits me for film, commercial, and television work. I did ask Carnival is there was perhaps a later contract I might take so I could fulfill all the various things I had on the calendar through the end of the year, but they couldn’t offer me anything specific, just keep me in the “talent pool” for future contracts that might come up, so I figured I better take the “bird in the hand.” I set things in motion and sent several difficult emails. As a freelancer, I’ve spent years growing roots, expanding my network, building a professional reputation, and now I’d be leaving that all behind (at least temporarily). I feared losing my momentum. That there would be nothing for me when I came back as the world would have moved on and forgotten about me. I hated leaving people high and dry as I take pride in my work ethic and professionalism and when I make a commitment, I take that very seriously. But I felt like I had to take this opportunity for so many reasons.

Firstly it was just an amazing opportunity. I’d be making a very nice living as a singer. Doing one of the things I love, for an actual good, steady paycheck. That’s like a major lottery win. This would be chance to finally knock a huge chunk off my credit card debt that’s been looming over me for as long as I can remember. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to make a “living” through my various and many irons in many different fires without a day job for many years now, but not enough to hammer that debt down. I feel I need a spiritual reboot. I’d be living on a ship (vocalists also get their own single cabins I found out, much to my surprise and extreme happiness), with no food expenses (one of my biggest expenses). No constant hustling and wondering where my next audition, gig, job would come from. I could just turn off my mind, sing to packed houses 6 nights a week, eat for free, see ports of call, continue my health goals with the aid of the gym on board, and hopefully meet all kinds of new people. I’d be pushed outside my comfort zone and routines in a way that I think will be good for me. And who knows what opportunities could come my way during this adventure? It just seemed like something I could not say “No” to. Something that I need and will indeed help me grow and heal and come out of it a much deeper, better, more textured and layered person.

Also, when I really analyzed all the things I was leaving behind, as much as I love them and have great gratitude for them, none of them were anything I should be basing life decisions upon. Most of them will most likely never be anything more than they are now. That’s not an insult, that’s just their nature. Of course, they could lead to other things, but in and of themselves, they most likely will not ever grow in any way. The money hasn’t changed. The venues haven’t really changed. And like pretty much everything in life, they all had their own set of cons along with the pros. I tend to be a very nostalgic, sentimental creature of habit, so it was definitely hard to let go of all these things, even temporarily. But when I really took a hard look at everything, I knew I had to go on this journey.

It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s likely the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m trying to just be present, grateful, and to just focus on all the positives, which are numerous. I will miss you all, I will miss my bands, I will miss acting, I will miss nature, I am almost depressed by the fact that I will literally miss all the good weather. I will leave just before it’s gets cool and come back just when it’s getting hot again and that really hurts me. I don’t know what the future holds. So I will try to simply enjoy my present and let go of the pain of the past and the fears about the future. I will use my time to read, sing, play guitar, meditate, and find other ways to better myself. There’s a Learning Center on the ship where you can learn languages or study other things. I will have internet to some degree though it may be painfully slow at times and I do have to pay (a discounted rate) for it, so I won’t be completely off the grid or anything.

My apologies to anyone I disappointed or had to bail on. Hopefully you all know me well enough to know that is not my way and this is truly an exceptional circumstance. And there is never a “good” time. There’s never a period where I just have nothing on the calendar for 6 months. I’m still in shock. There is still much to do (Medical exam, dental exam) before I go to Florida for a month for rehearsals 6 days a week before shipping out on the Carnival ship “Liberty”, sailing from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas which will be my home for six months. I’ve collected a ton of names who want me to send postcards (if you would like one, add your name and address here). I don’t think it will seem real until I’m there. I’m a believer in surrendering to the universe and letting it take you where it will. And this process has demonstrated that for me. Out of the 3 positions I applied for, I think I ended up with possibly the best one. I’ve never sung 6 nights a week so I’m hoping my voice holds up. I’m studying better habits and routines for voice health.

As Buckaroo Banzai says, “No matter where you go, there you are.” I don’t know where I’m going, but here I come.

13
May
2018
20:04

Heartbreak Vs. Death

I find it interesting that in general I am very hesitant to post things of a darker, heavier nature. It’s always more pensive and philosophical in my head, but I fear it sounds more depressed or depressing when expressed. I find it also interesting that this is why I am am expressing these particular ruminations here on my blog. Because, generally, not many read it and people are pretty hesitant to leave the walled gardens of Facebook and such to read things externally. SO in a weird way, the fact that my website gets next to no traffic makes it a safer, more private space. And yet, if I’m writing something publicly then why do I care about “privacy” at all? I could not write it or write in a private blog or journal. I do not have an answer for that question. I just know I want to express these thoughts, but not necessarily to the widest audience possible but I’m also not afraid of anyone finding or reading this. So, in short, I don’t understand my brain either, but here we are.

I’ve discovered that, for me, heartbreak is worse than death. Death as in losing a loved one, not as in my own death. Because while I don’t fear death and have on occasion, kind of wished that my time was up, that’s a very “permanent solution to temporary problems,” as I’ve heard it put. Now I feel there’s a few very important facts related to this highly individual and personal opinion:

  1. I have lost people I was very close to including my father, so I do know that kind of loss.
  2. BUT, I am also someone who deals with death very well. I am very zen about it. It’s a part of life and I know that my loved ones would not want me to be sad or suffer when they’re gone, just as I wouldn’t want that of others. I believe our culture really fears it and feels that we should be utterly shattered and devastated by it. This is really a whole other can of worms, as I believe we have far more choice than we think we do about our feelings, but I also know that it’s not as simple as “Well, hey, just don’t feel that way!”
  3. This is simply an expression of my thoughts and opinions and not at all an attempt to sway anyone else’s opinion. However you feel about it all, your feelings are completely valid and there is no “right” or “wrong” here. This is in no way meant to diminish or trivialize any loss anyone has felt or feels. It’s all so personal and individual.

In death, someone leaves this plane of existence as we know it. We miss them. It sucks. Depending on your personal beliefs on death and what, if anything, happens afterward, your experience with it will likely be completely unique from anyone else’s. I’m not sure exactly what I believe, but the scientific law of Conservation of Energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. So nothing is ever “destroyed” or completely gone. Our energy continues to exist somehow. Maybe it gets reincarnated. Maybe recycled into stars, trees, rocks, gas, everything. Maybe there’s ghosts, souls, spirits. Many possibilities, but it is science that our energy will definitely continue to exist in some form, whether it be sentient or not.

In general, we are not given a choice about it. My father didn’t choose to die of pancreatic cancer. He most certainly didn’t choose to die of pancreatic cancer because I was somehow not a good enough son. I don’t think I even shed a tear (again, I”m pretty good at dealing with death). Sure I miss teh hell out of him and wish he was still here, but I’m at peace with it, as he would want me to be.

Now in a heartbreak, especially and particularly a non-mutual breakup, someone makes the active choice to no longer be with you. Now there can be any number of reasons that this supposedly has nothing to do with you or your worth. They just need to “figure their own shit out,” or sometimes despite you both being great people, you just aren’t compatible as a couple. I’ve heard many different, totally legitimate reasons from people who weren’t just full of shit or making excuses or whatever. And to be clear, I’m talking generally, not about just my own personal experiences.

But in the end, that person chooses not to be with you. People will tell you, “They’re an idiot. If they don’t see your worth, you deserve better any way,” or any other number of platitudes. The thing is, even if you know your self worth, even if you have great self-esteem and love the hell out of yourself, it doesn’t change the fact that the one person you choose, does not choose you. And that one indisputable fact lodges in the back of your mind like a little, black, poisonous seed. It infects your subconscious.

“I’m very happy with who I am. I think I’m a good person!”
But not good enough for them.
“I am special. I’m an amazing partner. I am seriously a magical unicorn of a catch.”
Hmm, and yet they had no problem moving on and deleting your existence from their life.
“What we had was true love. Magical. A bond beyond this world. No one will ever compare to me!”
Except that new person. And probably a bunch of other people. Maybe you’ll wind up in the top 10.

It will fuck with your self-esteem. Like Wormtongue to King Théoden of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings books (and films). I consider myself to have a very strong mind. A very strong mindfulness and meditation practice. An extraordinary sense of self-awareness. Yet even my tools and defenses are not enough to make me impervious to this insidious poisoning. You question everything you think. Everything you know. Unlike a death, this is a choice. And you know this person is walking through life everyday. Without you. Each day, a constant reminder of their choice to not be with you. Might as well set a Calendar alert. “DING! Tuesday: [person’s badly mispronounced name] still chooses not to be with you!” Because somehow you fell short. You were deficient. You were not good enough for them to want to continue sharing a life with you. It doesn’t matter if they’re “wrong,” “blind,” “stupid,” “self-destructive,” “delusional,” or any other adjectives anyone wants to apply. The end result is the same. They do not choose you, Pikachu. It’s almost like reliving a death daily.

I think this is compounded by the fact that I’ve never really “dated.” It’s really rare for me to connect with someone on that level so I only really bother when it feels like something really special that might last a lifetime. So if that ends, it feels like a tremendous loss of something exceedingly rare and precious. A loss of a huge part of life. So much time and history invested and now you’re back at square one.

“Buck up, Buddy! Time heals all wounds!”

Shut yer platitude hole. I know them all. Yes, I’m working on “me” and self-improvement. Yes, whatever I feel is valid and okay and I don’t beat myself up.
The Law of Attraction says you can manifest any reality you want by just picturing the way you want it and then genuinely feeling the feelings and gratitude of having that thing! Live and think as if it’s already reality!
But Eckhart Tolle says all pain comes from resisting what is and not accepting the now and living in the past or future. Now I quite like both the Law of Attraction philosophy and Tolle’s writings but these two things seems directly at odds to me. (Please keep any disparaging opinions on these or any other philosophies or new age ideals to yourself; my intent is not to bag on them but to point out that sometimes even our own beliefs can be contradictory and confusing). Can a person walk in two worlds simultaneously? Not giving up hope while also continuing forward?

I know it’s all about perspective and so much is just the lies that our egos and fears use to feed themselves but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. So, while I understand it may be a controversial statement and not true for many others, for me, heartbreak is worse than death.

Well, shit. I don’t know how to salvage this into some cheery ending. Go Google some cute baby animal videos or something. Those are always awesome spirit lifters!

19
May
2017
12:38

Let’s Have A Real, Raw Talk About Suicide

The subject says it all. This post will contain real, raw, vulnerable talk about depression and suicide. You have been warned.

In the wake of Chris Cornell’s death being ruled a suicide, there has been a lot of talk about the subject. This great article talks about “When Suicide Doesn’t Make Sense” and really got me thinking. I realized that the Chris Cornell situation resonates with me more than usual. Because I too have felt that darkness and I believe that I too fall into that category of people where others would be horrifically surprised if I ever committed suicide. I don’t think anyone would say or think “Well, it’s sad, but not surprising. He was someone who seemed to have a lot of demons to battle,” or anything.

Now just to head off any alarm bells or concerns, I am fine and I honestly don’t think I could or would ever kill myself. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t laid in bed at night and just wished for a quiet death in my sleep and to not wake up to another day. I have felt that darkness. The darkness that is a lie but seems so real. I have called a suicide prevention line. I have composed suicide notes in my head and once even wrote one out, not because I actually had intentions, but just to see if actually writing it helped as an exercise, or an emotional purge like many say journaling can be. I have contemplated the ways in which I would do it if I ever did. The most painless. Ways in which I would just disappear and never be found and no one would know what ever happened to me. I have fantasized about running away and starting a new life under a new identity and “Heath Allyn” just becoming a mysterious unsolved disappearance (though when followed through, this idea is laughable to me as I could never do that either).

When Owen Wilson attempted suicide, many had the same reaction as to Chris Cornell: wonder and disbelief. “But he’s rich and famous and has a great life!” At that time, I was lucky enough to also not understand. I didn’t condemn him or judge him at all, I just didn’t understand what could have possibly driven him to that. Then I distinctly remember a day not too terribly long ago when I came to the realization that I now understood. I didn’t want to. I longed for that time when it was a completely alien concept to me, but now the understanding was there.

I think a key point that people don’t seem to understand is that when people are driven to suicide, it is usually because the person legitimately feels like everyone and the world in general would be better off without them. It is a delusion but it is not out of selfishness or weakness or whatever other stigmas exacerbate mental illness and its ramifications. In fact, this is one of the key details that tells me I am not in danger of becoming another victim of mental illness. The fact that even in my darkest hours, I could never kill myself because I know how much it would devastate those who love me. There have been times I felt trapped by that, in fact. I didn’t want to be here any more but I “couldn’t do that to other people.”

I am generally a truly, genuinely positive person who strives to be a shining light in the world. I constantly work on myself and have come a long way. It’s not a front or a happy face I put forward to the world, it is truth. Few see, experience, know, or hear about the darkness I’ve experienced and that’s why I think my suicide would fall into that category of shocking and unexpected. I don’t write this for sympathy, pity, or because I need help or anything. I write this for everyone out there fighting their own demons and battles to let you know you are not alone. Every single person you see is probably fighting some degree of unknown, unseen darkness. People that you would never expect have anything in common with you. It’s a tragedy that help is so hard to get in this country and usually the hardest for those who need it most. I love therapy, but I can’t afford it (Update: I can now thanks to the amazing organization, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and The SIMS Foundation). That’s probably a pretty common situation, but keep fighting. Keep searching. There are many avenues. Talk to friends. Call a hotline. Try yoga. Read Eckhart Tolle. See a psychic. Read a book. Listen to music (that battles the demons, not that feeds them). Watch movies (again, seek out material that helps support you, not that helps you spiral).

Another very insidious aspect is that when you need that help, you don’t want to reach out for it. I know there are countless people I could call and who would want to be there for me, but when you are in that darkness, you often do not want to reach out for help despite all the people who have offered to be there or all the postings about suicide prevention numbers (800-273-8255 for the record).

One thing I find so interesting about the human psyche and depression specifically, is that it is self reinforcing. It makes you avoid all the things that would help (out of protection for itself, I suppose) and seek out that which feeds it and strengthens it. I don’t care who you are, the world is not better without you. It needs you. If we can each bring even a tiny, dim light, together we can be a supernova. We can defeat the darkness, though it will try its hardest to convince you otherwise.

31
Dec
2015
23:15

2015: A Quick Summary

I don’t usually do these year end summary things but someone said they liked reading them and it seemed a particularly eventful year for me, so without thinking about it too much, here is a quick summary.

  • Had $4000 worth of work done to my car.
  • While that car was in the shop, got rear ended so hard it totaled the borrowed car I was in, spun me 180 degrees into an intersection, and I didn’t remember anything for a few minutes.
  • Elly moved in with me while the condo she bought was being renovated.
  • Got to use my acting and musical talents in the great original play, 100 Heartbreaks, which I loved with a passion. So much so, I’m pretty sure the director hates me because of my impassioned opinions.
  • We then both moved into the super sweet renovated condo which we love so much.
  • On the 4th of July, narrowly avoided getting hit by a truck that was t-boned and flew right at me landeing inches from me on its side as detailed here.
    crash photo

    My view of the crash that nearly included me.

  • About 45 minutes later as also detailed above, I was hit by an oncoming swerving car that luckily hit my back left side, causing me to swerve across the oncoming lane, through a ditch and fence and stopping in a field, totaling that car which had just had $4000 worth of work done earlier in the year.
  • My grandfather, Dr. James F. Cooper died. He was a amazing man and beloved figure in the community and the tributes from all over including so many former patients, friends, etc. (such as this one), really drove home what an impact he made. It also inspired this post from me.

    On Thursday, I paid tribute to the life of Dr. James Cooper on the House floor. Dr. Cooper was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, a physician, and an active VFW member .Posted by Rep. Bill Flores on Saturday, October 3, 2015

  • The day after my grandfather’s funeral, I went to visit my dying father for what would be the last time. On September 16 he died from pancreatic cancer and I wrote this eulogy for him.
  • I played many gigs with 3 different bands, one of which I’ve been with since 1994.
  • I had the pleasure of acting in many different films, commercials, plays, projects, etc. and work alongside many amazing people including a short film with Lance Henrikson!
  • Got out and auditioned (and was cast in) Control Issues, an amazing improv show at The Hideout with some of the best people you could ask to perform with.
  • I started a new journey with a new agent, Jason at Acclaim Talent is the best!
  • I made my living doing only what I love with no day job.
  • I battled a lot of frustration, depression, envy, negativity, etc. as we all do.
  • I started up my yoga practice again and am on 564 consecutive days of meditation practice.
  • I tried my best to find gratitude in every day for all the things in my life.
  • I was lucky enough to have the best, most supportive, amazing partner through every day of highs, lows and all the in betweens. Everything is better and easier with a team, even if you sometimes feel like it’s just two of you against the world.
  • I continued the incremental (sometimes imperceivable) progress in my career and in my lifelong journey to be the best me I can be. And I look forward to the journey never ending.

I love you all and wish you all happiness in the new year. Thanks to those who love me back regardless of my flaws, May we all enrich each others’ lives and the world at large together. Light and love will always prevail even if it sometimes feels otherwise. Happy New Year!

06
Nov
2015
17:52

My Thoughts On Depression

Up until recently, if you asked me “Are you depressed?” I would have said “Absolutely not. We all have our ups and downs but I’m not depressed.”

The more I’ve learned about depression, the more I’ve realized that maybe I am. The thing is, it’s such a vague word. There’s so many levels at which it can exist. And, unfortunately, it’s kind of a dirty word. Most of don’t want to say it, especially in relation to ourselves. We think of it as this huge thing. Like if you’re “depressed,” that a big, giant, serious issue. That’s not to say that it isn’t, necessarily, but not always. It can be insidiously subtle.

I just thought I was lazy. Uninspired. That I have no willpower to do the things I know I need to do. I’m unproductive. I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in in over a decade. My career isn’t what I’d like it to be. And yet, I often act counter-productively. there’s things I know I could do, that I need to do, and I don’t, or feel that I can’t. I continue to eat crap and want to sleep a lot.

One day Elly (who battles depression herself) said “I think you might be depressed,” and my gut reaction was to resist. I’m not depressed! I’m just in a slump, or lazy, or tired, or just down this week.

The point of this post is not to get comfort or reassurance or virtual hugs or support. The point of this post is to let everyone else out there know, you’re not alone. More people than you know are probably in the same boat. It’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to admit. Every time I thought about making this post, it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to talk about it. Or admit it. Or be seen or judged as a “depressed” person. Or be a depressed person.

Now I’m lucky in that my depression (if that’s what it is) is fairly mild and just makes me think I’m a lazy person with absolutely no willpower or discipline (which may be true as well). I truly am, in general, a very happy, silly person with a wonderful life and tons of gratitude for all that I have. That’s not a mask or a front. And that’s what makes it complicated. How can that co-exist with any form of depression, no matter what the “level”? We are complex beings, my friends.

So if you are or have ever been depressed, let me assure you, you are not broken, you are not a freak and it’s not a dirty word never to be spoken. You are in the company of some of the best, brightest, most talented people in the world and throughout history. It does not devalue you as a person. There are so many people fighting battles you know nothing about. Be assured that we are all a community. We are all on our individual journeys but also a collective journey together. Stay strong friends and always remember this: The opposite of Love isn’t Hate, it’s Fear. Love is light. Love is always the answer. Love is my religion. Well that and Jedi. Love Jedi.

Sounds like a band. Or a really bad movie.