Unlocking Happiness

The year 2022 was a complete disaster for me.

To say I was struggling with my mental health would be an understatement.

The misconception clouded my thoughts that losing weight would solve everything. I spent so much time consumed with how I looked I forgot about caring for that thing between my ears.

It’s tough when you look in the mirror at 38 and realize you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Then your kids run into the room, and you remember you are grown up.

I hallucinated I would be in a world without self-conscious thoughts when I lost weight. 

I now know that my brain shifted the focus rather than ridding me of intrusive self-conscious thoughts. 

Good news? I no longer say mean and hurtful things to myself when I look in the mirror.

Bad news? You don’t need a mirror to tell yourself that you are a failure, behind the rest of the world, and/or destined for a life unfulfilled when you’re driving home from work.

You may be familiar with the following cycle. 

  1. Something inconvenient happens during your day. 
  2. You search for something or someone to blame. (I start with myself, but if that doesn’t fit or make sense, I blame the expanding infinite universe for having it out for me.)
  3. The hopelessness creeps in, and you get sad. 
  4. Your mood affects your family’s mood, so no one is happy now. 
  5. Dissociate in whatever way possible.
  6. Go to sleep.
  7. Repeat.

I envy you if this cycle is not familiar because, let me tell you, it is awful. 

I felt lost. Then one day, while scrolling through TikTok (see step #5 in the list above), I came across a video referencing a TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal titled How to Make Stress Your Friend. 

Fourteen minutes and 28 seconds later, I felt something unlock in my brain. I looked in the mirror and said, “Well, that unlocked something….”

Regardless of your relationship with stress, watch the aforementioned TED Talk. If it resonates with you, I recommend reading her book, The Upside of Stress

If you’ve read anything on this site, you know anxiety or stress has played an enormous role in my life. It is something that I have carried with me, like a bag of rock salt in a Baby Bjorn.

Any hint of stress or anxiety would lead me to obsess over how to make it disappear. I tried breathing exercises, meditating (not sure I’ll ever understand how to do that), or removing myself from the situation if I could. 

None of it would work. 

The stress and anxiety would remain.

Next, I would feel guilty and broken because I could not manage my stress. 

The stress of work and parenting two children led me to multiple panic attacks in 2022. I hid under the desk of a cubicle at work twice until the tears and shaking hands stopped. My wife found me in the shower sobbing uncontrollably once (not the other two times, though). There were a couple of times legitimate reasons for a breakdown (at least I thought so), but the other times it came out of nowhere. 

I am linear in my view of the world. For example, I can cook good food with a recipe. However, if you were to hand me all the right ingredients and let me go, I would be flooded with anxiety and terrified of using too much or not enough of every component. 

In life, there are recipe writers and recipe followers.

I have lived my life as both simultaneously. I constructed a recipe by observing others live their lives and have followed that recipe without question.

I have concluded that my recipe is shit. I don’t like the recipe and am no longer interested in sweating in the kitchen trying to make it. 

My 38th year will be the year I break free from that recipe. I am going to have fun in the kitchen of life.

I have no interest in living a life overcome with stress, anxiety, and sadness. I’ve given it a chance, and it turns out that it is not for me. 

If I can lose 77 pounds and shift the way I view stress to make life happier and more manageable, I can come up with a way to make a living that involves doing things I love with inspiring people I love.

I admire those that enjoy networking and looking for avenues to advance their career. I can’t do it. I can’t write resumes for jobs I am less than enthused about. I can’t pretend to find people fascinating, insightful, or intelligent when they are not, just because it might help me get an interview for a job I will not enjoy. And I am running out of patience dealing with people who make six-figure salaries that can’t think themselves out of a wet paper bag. At the same time, far more capable people are being passed over for arbitrary reasons.

To begin with, I am renewing my commitment to writing here. I appreciate everyone who reads the stories I write here. I appreciate your kind words, ‘likes,’ and shares. 

From now on, I will make the rules for how my life moves forward. Well, as long as my wife approves. 


P.S. Writing this was difficult. Talking about mental health is complex. I have been more honest about it lately. Those I have spoken with about my mental health have been open, thoughtful, and can (usually) relate. You’re not alone. You deserve happiness. Talk to someone; it helps. If you think you don’t have anyone, I’m easy to find. 


Steering into the Skid: My Journey to Officiating My Best Friend’s Wedding

On November 6, 2022, I received a text from one of my best friends on this planet: “Are you around tonight?”

This is an odd text to get from a friend who lives 433 miles away, but he clarified that he wanted to FaceTime. Since he was engaged, I knew he would ask me to play a role in his wedding. 

I figured I would be an usher or a groomsman. 

“So, we wanted to ask you if you would officiate our wedding?”

Has your heart ever started beating so hard that you can feel it in your ears? 

I asked them, “Did everyone else say no?” I was partly kidding, as this couple has friends and family surrounding them who are much more qualified than myself. They assured me that I was their first choice. 

I kept them on FaceTime and brought my phone downstairs so they could share with my wife what they had asked of me. Her face was instantly covered in shock and worry. 

At the time, I was struggling with my mental health. Navigating my stress and anxiety while trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up at thirty-eight started to take a toll. My wife’s concern was not for my ability to handle the actual officiating. Instead, she was worried the added stress would be too much. 

Everything in my body agreed with her. I had a choice to make. Steer into the skid and become their officiant, or take the coward’s route and let them know it was too much for me.

I grabbed my computer and started writing. The words began to pour out. My fingers had trouble keeping up with the pace of the ideas. As I wrote, I realized that I was smiling. 

It was the happiest I had felt in months. 

I spent the remaining 186 days writing, re-writing, outlining, and rehearsing a wedding ceremony from start to finish. 

It felt incredible. Working on something for two people I care about was cathartic. The writing felt fun and easy again.

You should know that the wedding would be in Cabo San Lucas, on the beach. I arrived in Mexico feeling confident the ceremony would be terrific. 

We rehearsed briefly with the resort’s wedding coordinator the night before the wedding. She let me know that I would be holding the microphone. 

I did not rehearse this way. I felt the anxiety rise, but I kept it under control.

The following morning, the day of the wedding, I grabbed a water bottle to use as a microphone to rehearse. 

I made it 3 sentences in before I began to cry.

I thought, that was weird. 

I had read the words hundreds of times over the past few months, and not one time did I get emotional.

I shook it off and started over. I lost it again 3 paragraphs in. 

Uh-oh, I’ve got a problem. 

Every attempt led me to tears, so I decided to steer into the skid and let myself cry for thirty minutes on our hotel balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

My wife walked out to find me sobbing. Something that she has done quite a bit over the past year or so. She was relieved to find out that my tears were mostly happy tears. She assured me that if I did get emotional, it wouldn’t ruin the wedding. I believed her, but I didn’t think anyone, let alone the Bride and Groom, would want to see me ugly crying on the beach. 

I dressed and went to the best man’s room to take photos before the ceremony. It was the most wind we had during our entire stay. I glanced at the folder in my hand with the wedding as the whole inside and thought, this will make things interesting. 

Fortunately (for me), the groom was experiencing the pre-wedding jitters, which helped keep my mind occupied. 

We got to the beach, and I found a spot to give myself one last read-through. The wind had its way with the pages inside my officiant binder. This meant I would be battling my pages while holding a binder and the microphone.

I did not rehearse this. 

As it turned out, the wind was my savior. It forced me to focus on something other than my emotions. The wind also did a fine job of hiding my shaking legs. 

You may be wondering, how did it go?

I did a good job. 

Of course, there are things that I would change if I had to do it again. 

When the ceremony was finished, the wedding guests had nothing but lovely things to say to me. Their kind words mean more to me than any of them know. 

When I’m old and looking back on life, November 6, 2022, will be a day that changed my life for the better. It led me to May 11, 2023, one of the best days of my life.

Remember when the path of life takes an unexpected turn to hang on and enjoy the ride. Hold your judgment until the moment passes. In hindsight, things we think are good or lousy flip-flops. 

Embrace the anxiety. You never know when the wind that wrecks your hair will end up being the thing that saves the day.