Category Archives: Down With The Thickness

Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective

Advice About Marriage For Unmarried People

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Next Wednesday my wife and I will be celebrating our first anniversary as a married couple; and as I’ve reflected on the past year as a married man I’ve come to realize just how much I’ve learned and grown as an individual in this relatively short amount of time. It also made me realize just how ignorant I was beforehand. As I write this, my little sister is planning her own wedding in December, which I will be officiating. My future brother-in-law proposed on Christmas day, and they’ve already booked the location for the ceremony, the reception, the bartender, the D.J., and have gone shopping for the dress. When I hear how much money this will all end up costing them, not to mention how much they’ve already spent, it just makes me glad that my wife and I chose to elope.  That’s the thing about marriage- so much emphasis is put on the day, that more often than not you don’t really think about what comes after (beyond the honeymoon).  Well, dear reader, allow me to share a few nuggets of wisdom that I’ve gleaned about marriage over the past year. I’m far from an expert, but these are just a few things that I’ve learned.

  1. Don’t Wait for Perfection.
    Movies, television, and music have done a really great job of painting a picture of what they think love and marriage should look like. Unfortunately that picture is, like the models in magazines, a doctored up fabrication. Love and marriage isn’t a perfect fairytale. There are only two perfect things in this world- God and The Empire Strikes Back, so if you’re holding out for that perfect love as described in a  Marvin Gaye song you’ll end up a lonely, bitter old man/woman whose gone nose deaf to the stench of your hundred cats.
  2. Wait for the Perfect Person for You.
    No, this isn’t a contradiction. We’ve been so indoctrinated by media by what we think love should be that sometimes it can cause us to miss that perfect person for us. My wife is not “perfect”.  She doesn’t look like a supermodel. She doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight or fart rainbows. She has her faults just like everyone else. That said, she’s perfect for me. To me, she’s the most beautiful person on the planet.  She puts up with my crap with saintly compassion and patience and loves me for who I am, faults and all. She’s my best friend. Do we love all of the same things? No. We certainly share common interests, but she has things that she enjoys that I don’t care for and vice-versa. We compliment each other. Trust me, you don’t want to marry a carbon copy of yourself. You want to find someone that brings balance to your life, and that means that there has to be some differences. Those differences help you to stretch your boundaries and grow as a person. So do yourself a favor and check your expectations at the door. Had I measured my wife up against the expectations of those love songs, television shows, and romantic comedies I might have missed out on the best thing that ever happened to me.
  3. Marriage Doesn’t Solve Problems, It Compounds Them.
    For some reason people think that once you get married all of those problems that you faced as a single person will magically disappear. They don’t. There’s a reason that the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” only shows up in fairytales. When you get married not only do you still have a lot of the same problems that you did when you were single, you now have all of your partner’s problems to face as well. That’s not even counting all the new ones that you’ll acquire as couple (and trust me, problems don’t wait for the honeymoon to be over). The bright side is you no longer have to face that stuff alone. When you’re with the right person, you’ll find that you’ve always got someone to help share the load, and that can make a world of difference.
  4.  In the Hierarchy of Family, Your Spouse Comes First. Always.
    If you’re very lucky you’ll have in-laws that are awesome people that welcome you to the family with open arms and a hug. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Maybe your parents don’t like the person you’ve chosen for whatever reason. That can be a really difficult and awkward situation (especially during the holidays); but ultimately that’s not your problem, it’s theirs. Your spouse should always come first. They are your partner in life and they outrank everyone else- even mom and dad. Yes, that includes the kids as well. This may not be a popular opinion, but hear me out. Your children will (eventually) grow up, leave the house, and hopefully start a life and family of their own. Your spouse (ideally) is going to be there for the rest of your life. As I’ve already said, you’re partners, and that means you always support your spouse (especially in front of the kids). If you disagree, you do so in private. Of course, this is predicated by the assumption that you and your spouse are both doing what’s right by the children. If abuse is involved, in any form, all bets are off. You have to protect your kids (and yourself).
  5. Don’t Fight Angry
    Conflict is inevitable. It happens no matter how well you get along or how lovey-dovey and starry-eyed in love you are. It. Will. Happen. Any time you live with another person things are going to end up annoying you. You’re going to eventually disagree. You’re going to eventually do something stupid to piss each other off. You can’t always prevent it from happening, but you can control how you react when it happens.  In my experience, the absolute best thing you can do whenever it happens, if at all possible, is to take a time out.  Go for a walk. Take a drive. Run an errand. Even just go lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes. Do whatever you need to do to get some distance from the situation,  cool off and really look at why you’re upset. In the heat of the moment it’s very easy to turn something that is relatively not a big deal into something huge where things might be said that you’ll regret. If you take the time to cool off and really look at why you’re angry, I’ve found that you’ll often be surprised at what you’ll find. My wife and I rarely fight at all, but a majority of the time when she’s done something to upset me my reaction has been more about me- either my hang ups, or because I was frustrated by other things and what she did just added tipped the scale- than it had to do with what actually happened. By taking a little time to calm down and then talk to her in a more rational manner, we’ve managed to avoid a lot of grief.
  6. Give More Than You Take
    That old saying that “it’s better to give than to receive,” I’ve found, is very true in a marriage. I enjoy taking care of my wife. I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that I’ve made her happy. I try to go out of my way to do things that I know might make her life easier, and she reciprocates. It’s not about doing something knowing that you’ll get something in return. It has everything to do with showing how much you love them as opposed to just saying the words. When everyone is trying to be loving and thoughtful, everyone is happy, feels loved and appreciated.
  7. “Me” Time is Okay
    Having time to yourself, or with friends, is important. While my wife is my best friend and I love spending time with her, I also need time to myself (away from the house and the kid) every once in a while. She enjoys having “girl’s night” out with her friends a couple times a month.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other. What it does mean is that we’re individual people who occasionally have different interests and don’t want to always be joined at the hip.  Remember, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and nothing will expedite getting on each others nerves more than to spending every waking moment with each other 24/7.   We all need a little space sometimes.

    What about you? If you’re married, what would you add to the list? Feel free to comment below.

    J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Down With the Thickness: Writing, Family Life, and Dealing with Depression

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It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and actually wrote something. My last blog post was in September. Before that I’d only done one other post for the entire year, which makes me incredibly ashamed of myself. I’ve toyed with edits on my new novel off and on, but I haven’t sat down and really tried to write since I got married. I’ve been telling myself it’s because I’ve been adjusting to my new life as a stay-at-home dad. It’s been an experience and my kid can be a handful. That’s true, but it’s not the real reason that I haven’t been writing. It’s taken me months to really nail down exactly what my problem has been, but for the past few days I’ve come to the realization that I haven’t been writing because I’ve been struggling with depression and thus have been actively avoiding writing, or really anything that requires motivation and a sense of self worth outside of the things that I HAVE to do.

That realization surprised me.

Struggling with depression is nothing new for me. I’ve battled it my entire life. For years I couldn’t go more than a month or two without depression rearing it’s ugly head, and a few times a year those funks would dip low enough where suicidal thoughts would come and go as well. The thing is I haven’t had a bout of depression that bad in over a year. I had honestly thought that I may have finally slayed the beast once and for all once I got married. For as long as I can remember the one thing that I’ve wanted more than anything was to get married and have a kid. I always felt like that achievement would be the crown jewel in my life. It’d be the key to my happiness and once it happened all the feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and all that other junk that depression likes to torment me with would all be rendered moot.

In a lot of ways I was right.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever really been in my life. I don’t feel lonely anymore. I don’t feel completely worthless or like I’m unlovable. My wife is the most loving, supportive, and understanding woman I could ever hope to find. My kid is an adorable, smart, hyperactive, spoiled pain in the arse and I love him more than I thought it was possible to love another human being. The fact that he isn’t my “blood” doesn’t factor into it at all for me. He is my son in every way that matters and both he and his mother are the answers to decades worth of prayers, wishes, and hopes. I couldn’t ask for a better family.

Which is why this current bout of depression has caught me by surprise. The depression has evolved. This time it didn’t attack me in the way it used to. Before, depression would come on hard and fast and put me on my ass for days. The world would go dark; I’d be a moody pain in the ass; and after a few days I’d emerge exhausted mentally and emotionally, but generally intact. But all of the old stuff that it used to use against me doesn’t work too well anymore, so it’s found new avenues to attack that are more subtle. In fact, I think it’s been something that I’ve been struggling with for months and I just didn’t fully recognize it for what it was until now.

Getting married hasn’t eradicated my insecurities or made the world a perfect place. My wife and I have had several very stressful things we’ve had to struggle with already. That’s just life. We’ve gotten through them together and we haven’t let those things affect our relationship. In fact, it’s only made our relationship stronger. That’s how marriage is supposed to work. That said, while the old insecurities may have been hammered down by the love of my new family, new ones have taken root and sprouted to take their place.

I have medical issues. They’re issues that are genetic and thus they are issues I’ll have to deal with for my entire life. They’ve caused a lot of physical problems, problems that have gotten progressively worse in the last couple of years.  As a result I’m unable to do much in the way of physical activity, I’m in constant pain, and I’m unable to work.  The dynamic in our house is my wife works full time and I stay home and take care of our little Tasmanian devil. I try to do things around the house: take care of the dishes, keep the house from being a complete disaster area, cook on the days my wife works, etc. I can’t do everything I want to do. I get tired and my body rebels on me after only short bouts of activity, so something that normally would take maybe ten minutes might take me half an hour or better. In a given day if I’m able to empty and load the dish washer, make dinner, and keep our kid from doing something that might hurt himself or others I call it a win. I’m not writing all this to throw myself a pity party or to garner sympathy. I’m just providing a bit of perspective.

I know that times have progressed. Gender roles aren’t what they used to be. I know that it is just as okay for me to be a househusband and stay at home dad as it was for wives to be housewives and stay at home moms. I know that having my wife bringing home the majority of our income doesn’t make me less of a man. I know that my wife understands my physical limitations and that she knows that I do the best I can with what I’ve got to work with, and that I work hard to provide for her in other areas to make up for what I lack in being able to help in the physical ones.

I KNOW all of this. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still bother me. That doesn’t mean that depression can’t use it as ammunition to assault me, and it has, because I was wrong.

The “war” with depression that I thought I won wasn’t the real war at all.  I’ve realized what anyone who has battled depression all their lives can tell you- it’s what Superman would describe as a “neverending battle”. Once you win one skirmish the enemy will find something new and attack again. It’s a war that you only win when you’re on your deathbed surrounded by your family and other people who love you and you realize that despite it you still lived a full and mostly happy life. It’s a war that you win by refusing to let IT win. Now I’m in a new battle with depression, but now that I’m aware of how it’s attacking, with the help of my loved ones, I’ll win this one too. Then it’ll be something else, but that’s okay. I have a family and friends that love me. I have a dream of becoming a published author.

I have things worth fighting for.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re struggling in the neverending battle yourself. Maybe you’re in the thick of it and it’s hard to see around you. Maybe it’s hard to focus on what you have to fight for. Just know that you aren’t alone and that the only way you lose the battle is if you give up and let it win. Don’t give it the satisfaction.

Carry on.

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Announcement: The “Holy Crap, We Need Exposure” Sale! All Digital Books $0.99!

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Yes that’s right! We need to get our name out there! Starting Monday (4/15/13) through Sunday (4/21/13) all digital copies of our books will be $0.99! So for all you procrastinators out there (and judging by our books sales, that means most of you) now is the perfect time to try out a book or three…or four. Please help spread the word! Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell that weird guy giving you the stink-eye on the metro! This sale will last for this week only!

Don’t forget, those who purchase Just Super have a chance to participate in our Just Super Sweepstakes! Entries are due by May 3rd!

You can read descriptions, preview chapters, and find links for all of our books here.

Don’t own a Kindle? No problem! The Kindle App is a free download for all smartphones, tablets, and computers (PC and Apple).

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UPDATE: Thickness and You Only Die Twice Paperbacks Are Available

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Just a quick update. Both Down with the Thickness and You Only Die Twice paperbacks are once again available and actually have page numbers!

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The Day a Superman Died…

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(Awesome photo by Sharon Berger)

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since we lost Mark. I feel better knowing that the book we worked so hard on for so long is finally available for others to enjoy. I know how much it meant to him, and I’m forever grateful to all the family and friends that helped to make that happen, especially Mark and my mutual best friend Shawn Skvarna, who did the covers, and my cousin Cathy Holder, who edited/is editing for us after three years of starts and stops. In honor of Mark, I’m reposting a chapter from Down With the Thickness, a book that he pretty much forced me to do. :-p

The Death of a Superman

On January 7th, 2010 I got a message from a mutual friend and the artist that did the amazing art you’ve seen in this book, Shawn, and Mark’s sister that Mark had passed away due to complications from his diabetes.  I don’t think we ever got a direct explanation, but the going theory was Mark’s blood sugar dropped fatally low during the night, he went into a diabetic coma, and then his heart stopped. He was 25.

Needless to say, this came as a complete shock. I’d just talked to Mark minutes before he went to bed the night before, and had I known that it was the last time I’d get to talk to him, there are so many things I would have liked to have said. They’re all things he knew. He knew I loved him. He knew what an inspiration he’d been to me. He knew that if it hadn’t been for him I’d have given up on life a long time ago. He was my brother. He knew that. It was all things we’d said before, but it’s still things I would have liked to have said again, just once, before he was taken from us all, especially given how hard life had been treating him pretty much all his life, but particularly in those last few months.

My cousin Jennifer and I drove up to PA for his memorial service. It was a pretty surreal experience all around, not just because of the suddenness of it all, but because I found myself surrounded by a lot of people I’d been hearing about for over a decade, but had never met before in my life and they all knew me too. I wish to God that Mark could have been there for his service and heard the things that everyone said about him. Mark was such a humble person that he never really knew, nor accepted, that he impacted everyone round him. He never realized just how profound an affect he’d had on so many people. Mark was a shining example of the man I strive to be each day. He was far from perfect, as we all are, but even with his faults, Mark was the very personification of compassion and love. I’m saddened that he never really realized just how special a person he was regardless of how often he may have heard it from me and others that were close to him. He was our Superman, and he made me believe.

Denial- Not Just a River in Egypt

Like Superman, Mark had his own never-ending battle, only his was with diabetes. While he’d experienced some close calls, even Superman “died” once, he always bounced back and fought on. While there are several “world without a Superman” comics floating around out there, I’d never imagined I would be forced to live in one.

Mark’s blood sugar had dropped a few days before his death, and he’d had an episode where he zonked out at work and didn’t remember what had happened. It took his co-workers almost an hour to find him when they realized he wasn’t at his post, but by then, he’d subconsciously eaten a candy bar and drank a soda and he was coming back to himself. He told me he found himself crouched in a corner of the break room with a half-eaten candy bar in one hand and a soda in the other. He couldn’t remember buying them. The experience shook him, but like always, he seemed to have bounced back. He had been low on insulin. Had I known I would have made sure he got what he needed. I was led to believe that he had, but that was Mark. He never wanted people to worry about him.

As I said before, I’m pretty sure I was the last person to speak to him before he died. He’d called me around midnight, just before he went to bed like he always did. He’d had a really crappy day. He hated his job. His truck, which he had just gotten back from the shop earlier that day, died on him again on his way home. He was just generally not in a good mood. I tried to cheer him up a bit, but after our usual banter back and forth he told me he was tired and wanted to turn in a bit early and get some sleep. The next morning when I got up I shot him a text. It was a simple, two-word phrase that we sent each other daily; our own little mantra to help get us through the day – Carry On.

He never got to see it.

I was working on something for work when I got two messages on Facebook. The first was from his sister with a simple one word subject – Mark. In it she asked that I give her a call because it was important. I’d recently changed phones so she didn’t have my new number and the investigators, I found out later, had taken Mark’s cell. The next message was from Shawn, also titled Mark. He told me how sorry he was and how shocked, and if I needed to talk to feel free to call him.

Understandably at this point I started to freak a bit. I called Mark’s sister but got voicemail. I called Shawn and asked what was going on and he broke the news to me. I don’t think I’m a good enough writer to be able to really describe just how I felt at the moment. It’s like my body was being electrocuted. My mind just stopped and all I could say was, “Holy s#*t! It’s not true.”

I’d just talked to him. There was no way he died. It just didn’t happen. Someone made a mistake. Maybe he was in the hospital. Maybe it was all just a sick joke. He wasn’t dead. He couldn’t die… he was Superman.

Anger- Bulk Smash

I lived in the “anger” stage of grief for a long time. In fact, I still visit it from time to time just to see how it’s doing. I was angry at everything and everyone. I was angry at Mark’s family for the Hell they’d put him through all his life. I was angry at God for letting such a good man suffer. I was angry at Mark for leaving me. After all, I was supposed to go first. I was angry at myself for not being able to save him. Ultimately, you realize that all the anger in the world won’t change what’s happened and that you have to let it go or it’ll just consume you.

Bargaining- Throw in a Side of Guilt and You’ve Got Yourself a Deal!

I think Shawn and I have approached this stage of grief in a rather unique way. This is a stage that is usually experienced the most by people who are the ones that are about to die. They want to bargain for more time. For those doing the grieving for a lost one, it tends to be glossed over. After all, there’s nothing to really bargain for. The person you love is already gone. Well, when you’re a couple of creative types, we get creative with our grief. Our way of bargaining for more time was to do what we do (arguably) best – make him live through our work.

I made a promise to myself and to all the rest of his family that I would see every project that Mark helped to create, even the ones that were just in the idea stage, finished. Shawn and a few of his other friends all agreed to help. We figured we may not be able to buy our friend more time in life, but we could help him to live on through his creations. Mark was a special person in more ways than one. He really was a genius, creatively and intellectually. He never gave himself enough credit. He deserves to survive more than just in the hearts of his friends and family. Others should be given the chance to know the man we all loved, even if it’s just through his ideas. He deserved a legacy, so we’re going to give him one.

I finished Mark’s edit of our first novel The Chosen: Rebirthing and our friend Sharon and my cousin are currently working on editing it for us. Eventually, I’ll start working on the next two, but I’m just not ready to even attempt that yet. Shawn and I have started working together on several comic projects that Mark helped to map out and always loved, one of which has morphed into a tribute to Mark himself. Shawn is also providing the cover and interior art for all of my novels, including this one. While we could never take the place of Mark creatively, I know that Mark would be happy to know that two of his closest friends have found that they can work well together.

Depression- “Oh Dear, Bird.”

I’d become something like Eeyore for the first few months after his death. It was hard to not just mope around, feeling crappy about the world in general and my life in particular. I talked to Mark several times a day, by text, and we talked for at least an hour a night on the phone. More often our conversations were several hours or more. He was the one I could vent with and talk about problems or things that were bothering me. He’d do the same. It was Superman and Batman – the World’s Finest in ranting. I’ve always struggled with depression anyway, but not having my hetero-lifemate (bonus points if you catch the reference) there to help share the burden, made it even more difficult.

It’s funny what can set things off for you when you’re dealing with loss. There isn’t a single TV show I watch, movie I love, or book and comic I read that Mark didn’t love or introduce me to. We shared everything, geeked out about everything. Even so, there are certain things that just tended to trigger depression for me out of nowhere, and still do at times. I’d be fine one minute and then I’d see or read something that reminded me of Mark.

BAM!

The loss would be fresh all over again.

It was like playing emotional roulette. Sometimes the stuff that reminded me of him just made me smile and laugh about good times we had or funny things we said about that particular thing and it was okay; but every once in a while the bullet would go through my brainpan and I’d be an emotional mess for the rest of the night.

Acceptance – Time to Shuffle Up and Deal

I don’t think anyone ever just goes through these five stages in an orderly succession. I know for me personally, I’ll be here at the final stage some days and others I’m back to Anger or Depression. I know that over time it’ll get easier. I’ll never stop missing him, but in the times that I’m chilling in the Acceptance stage, I’m content in knowing that he really is in a better place. Cliché or not, if anyone deserved a rest it was Mark. He earned his pension.

I also firmly believe that he’s still alive in more ways than just in our hearts or in the things he helped to create, but in a very real, very spiritual sense. I can almost sense him with me sometimes. I can almost hear him laugh at things I find funny. I know that I’ll see my brother again, and that we’ll spend the first few decades of eternity geeking out about all the nerdy stuff that we always did. I’m looking forward to that. Until then I’m going to honor my brother by living by our mantra.

I’m going to carry on.

I love you Mark.

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Interview

An interview I did with author Richard Stephenson has just been put up on his official site. Check it out!

 

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Ask David Profiles on Our Books

Hey everyone. Ask David (the site with the creepy animated banner) just a did a profile on both You Only Die Twice and Down with the Thickness. Please check them out. If you’ve finished either book and haven’t already, that would be a good time to post a review of your own. We’re working as an indie group, so word of mouth is everything with getting this stuff out there. Right now this is my full time job, and what I bring home is basically what I make in profit on sales. Shawn and Cathy are doing me a huge favor right now by donating their services because, quite frankly, I’m not making enough to pay them anything yet. We’d really like to see this become a “thing” where we can get quality content out to you at affordable prices on a fairly regular basis. Not just novels and short stories, but comics and other fun projects as well. We all really appreciate your support and your help in getting the word out.

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