This year I kept better track of what books I was reading. I even have the finish date for most of them. I read a few more books this year and listened to a few less. Once again, I’ll be linking out to the Goodreads listing of the book. Books marked with a are audio books (duh). As a side note, I had quite a few books get added to my Did Not Finish list this year but I did not keep track of them. That might be an interesting future post as well. Something to consider for next year I guess. And without further ado, my list of books from 2023!
This list was originally published on December 5, 2023. Any books listed with a future read date should be noted as an edit to the original post.
Well, we made it to another year. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I remember at the end of 2020 thinking that 2021 just had to be better than the previous year. It’s amazing how wrong that sentiment was. Then 2022 rolled around and it just got worse. Now we’re welcoming 2023 into our lives and I just can’t help but wonder what new hellscape awaits for us as the months progress. Surely it can’t get any worse? Famous last words, right?
Below is the list of books I’ve both read and listened to over the course of 2022. I’m disappointed because I felt like I did more reading this year. I also feel like I’ve missed a book or two in this list. This upcoming year I will keep track as I read them. These are listed in no particular order. I will also update the list as the year finishes out. As a side note, all the eBooks are books I’d never read before, except for Rosemary and Rue, but in the Audio Book section, only The Midnight Library was a new listen.
Grief is weird. It’s different for everyone but mine is always sporadic. I know I’ve talked about my emotional disconnect before. I’m pretty sure my inability to grieve ties into that. When I lose someone I care about, truly care about, I don’t grieve like a normal person, if there is normal person grief. In a lot of ways, my grief is like a canker sore in your mouth. I’m constantly poking at the loss, checking to see if it hurts. Sometimes it does, most of the time it’s just numb. Sometimes it hurts so much I find myself gasping for air and unable to even breath. This last for 30 seconds to a minute until I can squash the emotion and then it’s gone. Other times, it just feels sad, but it’s always there, just under the surface. I know some people think that sounds like a nice way to handle grief and maybe it is. There have been very few things in my life to truly devastate me. It’s happened twice and both times were caused by the betrayal of someone who I loved and thought loved me. For some reason, when I trust someone with my heart, the barriers are down and I can’t block the emotions. Other than that, most grief is as I described. Brief and very intense and monumentally sporadic. And the problem with this approach is that it’s always there, waiting to pounce and bring me to my knees. But I don’t know how to fix it. I can’t force the grief out. I’ve tried. It only works a little. My grief gets felt in its own time.
It matters today because a very close friend of mine, one of my very best friends in fact, died unexpectedly a few days ago. Out of the blue, shocking us all. And I’m truly devastated by the loss. The lack of him in my life is going to reverberate for years. He was so important to me. A confidante and friend I could always count on. And now I have to let him go. And because life is busy and I can’t just stop everything, I keep forgetting that he’s gone. I keep thinking, oh I need to tell him about this later. And then I remember I can’t. And I’m sad. And sometimes the grief hits but sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m sad all the time now. It absolutely kills me that he’s gone and it makes me so angry that he died so young. But I will survive. I will move on. And I will miss him so very much.
I’ve been thinking about my life lately. How I approach things. How I avoid things. How I tell myself I want to do things but then never do. I have a list of things a mile long that I very much want to start doing again but somehow, when my free time comes around, I’m always just too tired or too unmotivated to take up any of those activities. I just sit in my chair and watch TV or a movie or play video games. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing those things, but I also enjoy doing the things I want to do more of. But those other things take effort. Anyway, I’m a fairly introspective guy. I know myself pretty darn well. I know the things I will and won’t do. And I know from 47 years of life on this planet that this is the status quo. I have things I want to do but I choose not to do them. And the other day, a thought hit me out of the blue. I wonder if I’m depressed. Not ragingly so. Not suicidal. Not so deep in my misery that the world is a dark uncaring void that I only want to escape from. Rather, that insidious quiet sadness that just sits behind your ears, never really saying anything but weighing your heart down just a bit. Making you think you’re not quite good enough. Making you think that maybe your friends are only there because you can give them something they need, not because they’re truly your friends. And this quiet sadness just seems to align with everything that’s happened in your life up to now, making you realize that things will never change, this is as good as it gets so you might as well just relax and let the world pass you by. Do you know what I mean? It’s funny because many times in my life, I have been so beaten down by life and it’s reality that feeling the way I do every day now would seem like a gift. But I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, there could be more. Maybe I just need to find a way to lift myself just a bit higher. Recognize that the quiet sadness I feel isn’t my fault and doesn’t belong in my life. But that also takes effort. And I’m not good at that.
True creativity only seems to come when I am deeply sad or distressed. Times of emotional turmoil and utter despair wring out the best of my creativity. I find myself inspired to write more, sing more, create more. At times, it’s the only way I can get out the feelings welling inside, even when I don’t know what they are or why I’m feeling them. I’ve gotten better over the years of recognizing when I’m upset, but it’s rare that I know why, unless it’s a reaction to something that happened just then. Often times though, when I’m driving home from work or sitting watching TV or making dinner or whatever, a tightness will grow in my stomach, like a vice tightening on my inner soul. It grows tighter and tighter and eventually I think, “Huh, I’m upset about something. I wonder what.” Sometimes I’ll try to figure it out. I’ll go through my day, think about what happened and who said what and, in general, what could have upset me. Sometimes I figure it out, most of the time I don’t. Those are the times when I grab my guitar and sing a few songs. It makes me feel better, the tightness goes away. Problem solved. Though not really. Since I never knew what was wrong, I never addressed the issue.
When I was young (14ish) a friend and I were picked up for shoplifting. My mom, as moms are want to do, overreacted. Decided it meant there was something seriously wrong with me and sent me to a therapist. Nothing really came of it except learning one thing. I repress my emotions. Shove them way down deep and hide from them. I do it so well, I don’t know I’m doing it. It makes for the most fantastic explosions of anger and rage when you least expect it over the dumbest of things. Combine that with my issues with anxiety and for much of my life, I’ve been a bit prone to angry outbursts. That changed about 10 years ago. Suffice to say, I made a change in my life that removed a huge part of the anxiety. That didn’t fix the suppressing of the emotions but it did take away a lot of the continual rage.
My therapist at 14 (and also later therapists in my adult life) attribute my emotional suppression to the environment I was raised in. Not to say that my parents didn’t love me. They did. They loved me and my sister immeasurably. However, love is not enough to make a good parent. They parented as their parents did: with rage and fists. I never doubted my parents loved me. Of that I was always sure they did. But I also never doubted their inability to control their anger and rage. Dad was much worse than Mom though they both used their hands to solve problems. Never with each other though. Only with us. I learned to hide what I was feeling no matter what because the wrong expression could cause so much more problems. I can sum up my emotional childhood this way: In the 5th grade, when I was 10, we went around the room and shared with the class the thing we were most afraid of in the world. Most of the kids said things like nuclear war. When it got to my turn my response was simply my dad. There was nothing more terrifying or immediate to me than my father’s rage. If you’re wondering why this didn’t trigger any calls to social services, this was 1984/1985. Child abuse wasn’t really a thing back then. As long as you didn’t come to school covered in bruises or with repeated broken bones you were considered fine. And, for the most part, we were. I learned early on how to take care of myself and not to trust anyone. Ever. It made for a very lonely childhood but I survived. Unfortunately, that trait carried into adulthood and it’s one I still hold close. Mainly because every time I’ve loosened up and trusted someone, I was forcefully reminded why I adopted that stance on life at such an early age. Humans can’t be trusted. They will always disappoint. Maybe not today or tomorrow but at some point when you least expect it, betrayal rears its head and the pain you thought you’d left behind in childhood wraps you in its loving embrace and whispers in your ear “Welcome back, old friend. Oh how I’ve missed you!” And what’s really sad, is that somewhere deep inside, you feel relief at the familiarity of the pain.
I’m trying to up my online presence lately. Not for any real reason. Perhaps just to assuage my own ego? Not sure. Either way, I’m trying to be a bit more consistent in posting content. To here, to instagram, I’ve considered posting to Twitter. Why? No particular reason other than I’m bored. It gives me something to focus on other than video games and watching TV. I guess the point is that I’m trying to flex my brain a bit more than I have been for the past several years. It seems I’ve let my interests and hobbies atrophy. I rarely write anymore. I only occasionally pick up my guitar and play or sing. I have plenty of time in the evenings for these activities but I tend to just sit and watch TV or play video games. That’s it. I haven’t even been reading much. It sounds like depression but I assure you it’s not. I’m not depressed. I think with the pandemic and the lock down I’ve just settled into a habit of just being present but not really doing anything. I feel the need to change that. I’ve considered writing again. I’ve not done any creative writing in a very long time. I’m also trying to play music more. I need to get myself back into a bit better order and then I am hoping to start writing music again. I’ve not written a new song in a very long time. It all comes back to lack of desire. My life has become sedentary. And I think part of that is dissatisfaction with where I am and where I want to be. I need to get my shit together…
Do you remember when you were a kid and you looked at your parents and thought they had their shit together? Like, they knew what the were doing and how things were going to turn out? I vaguely remember that feeling. It went away at a young age for me. I do remember thinking that at some point a clarity of adulthood would settle upon me and suddenly all would be made clear. I would know exactly what to do and how to handle every situation. I was wrong, of course, but this is also the kid who thought the trees made the wind so that’s not surprising. I saw a TikTok the other day of a young woman in her early twenties asking when she was going to start feeling like an adult and it made me smile. The thing is, I still don’t really feel like an adult. I do all the stuff I’m supposed to do. I pay my bills, have a job, provide for my kids, etc., etc. So I know I’m doing all the adult stuff but it still feels like someone else at times. Mainly because there are BIG things that I need to face and deal with that I just don’t want to. Things that impact not just me but others in my life. And so far, I’ve not had to address any of it because of reasons. Bu those reasons are starting to come to a close and I’m close to having to be an adult in how I handle the next portion of my life. And frankly? I don’t want to. I just want my fairy godmother to swoop in, wave her magic wand and “Poof!” it’s all taken care of. Silly? Yes. Childish? Yes. What I want? Yes.
Funny thing is, I’m terrible at making momentous decisions. I tend to make really big decisions at the drop of the proverbial hat. No forethought, no planning, no eye on consequences. Just done. And so far, that’s worked out pretty well. Wait, no. That’s total and utter bullshit. It’s not worked out well. My marriage was one of those momentous decisions. No, I would not change it if I could but I certainly would have done things differently. Same with the end of my marriage. I would not change the fact that it is over, but I would definitely have handled things differently. So this past year I’ve been trying to be thoughtful and really consider my coming choices and I just don’t want to. I just want throw the gas on the fire and yell “FUCK YEAH!” and see where it goes. But I can’t. Mainly because there are too many people tied up in the decisions I need to make. Too much potential blow back… Anyway, yes I’m being vague and I realize no one actually reads this so it’s probably fine but still…
Life is hard but being an adult was supposed to be easier. I don’t know why I thought that but fuck me, did my parents fool me.
I’ve not written at all since the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. Since I’ve been work from home since March of 2020 and have pretty much only left the house to go get groceries or pick up/return my children from/to their mother, I’ve not had a ton of desire to add more time in front of my computer screen. However, after a full year of lockdown, the end is finally in site. Last week I got my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. I’m due for my second one in a few weeks. 2 weeks after that second one, I’ll be safe to return out into the world. To go to movies again. To go to bars again. To see my friends again. I can’t even begin to describe what getting the first shot felt like. OK, yes, it was a vaccine shot, but I mean emotionally. For the very first time, it seemed real that this nightmare might finally be closing down. That the ever present specter of death looming over me and my loved ones was finally going away was almost overwhelming. I was able to get the vaccine in the earlier stages because of my role in the IT industry. My parents are all in the final stages of their second shots so their risk is almost gone now as well. I’m honestly not sure what it means though. The world has changed dramatically over the past year. We’ve learned that many modern industries can survive and even thrive with a 100% remote work force. My company went 100% remote a year ago and have had one of our best years ever. There’s talk of returning to the office full time sometime over the summer but there is lots of rumbling coming in from my coworkers who definitely do not want to do that. Personally, I’m of a mixed mind on it. On the one hand, working from home is super nice. I can sleep later, stay up later and wear pajamas most of the day. But I miss the social interactions with my coworkers. I miss going out to lunch. I miss the happy hours after work. I’m honestly not sure where we’ll end up at work. I wouldn’t mind working from home a few days a week and going in a few days a week. I’m pretty sure the CEO wants everyone in the office. We’ll see how that goes. All I know is that soon I will be able to go out and have a drink with my coworkers, go see a movie with my friends and actually get back to some semblance of normality.
So, I do a tremendous amount of things in the computer industry. My current job is focused on DevOps. I maintain the cloud accounts for my employer and help to maintain and configure the architecture all our applications run on. And in that regard, it’s pretty much just me. No one else in the company really has a solid grasp on what it is I do. I also write software for the company when there’s too much for the Engineering team to handle. I’m also the database administrator for all of our MariaDB, PostgreSQL and Snowflake environments. I also function as the main systems administrator and network admin. In other words, I wear a whole lot of hats in my role. I’m definitely in a unique position. But, when people ask what I do, I generally say I’m a software developer. Why? Because that was honestly my first love. Writing code. Creating solutions from nothing. If you ask what my favorite language is I will always respond with C++. Why, because it was also my first love. There is no other language that I’ve loved and hated more than C++. I’ve not written anything with it in probably 12 to 15 years but it’s still my #1 joy. If you ask me what language I would love to program in every day? I’d tell you PHP. Why? Because there’s no language I know better, no language I am better at finding solutions with, no language that I can write faster in. It’s the only language I would ever assuredly, without question, tell you I am an export in. Because I am. :). So what’s all this got to do with? In a word, WordPress. Well, that’s kind of two words smooshed into one but you get my meaning. The thing is, WordPress is the tool that made and continues to keep PHP in the forefront of languages. Keeps it on the scene and relevant and moving forward as a language. And for me, that’s a problem. Why? Because WordPress is a hugely bloated, monster of a software base that’s just terrible. The only problem is, it’s the least bad option of all the options. But that doesn’t make it less terrible. I work with WordPress pretty much every day. Our company runs 100’s of websites and about half of them are WordPress and that number is growing every day. I am the back end administrator of those sites though. I don’t do theme or plugin development. I only pitch in and help when we run into PHP issues that no one else can figure out. Some days I look at WordPress and think, I should join the community, help make it a better product. But then I remember how much I hate it. And then sometimes I think that maybe I’ll go read up on how to make plugins or themes. Refresh myself on how it all works. Because I used to know how. Then I remember how much I hate it. The unfortunate thing is, that no matter how hard I try, I always come back to hating WordPress. So either I suck up that hate and try to help make it better or continue my sullen refusal. So far, the sullen refusal continues to win out though my resolve has been lessoning over the past few years. We’ll see where it all leads…