Episode 30: A Momentary Lapse of Balance

Like LL Cool J sang: Don’t call it a comeback!

It was difficult making my way back to the podcast, creating an original one, but I am there now. I’m still not at my best, still not really mentally settled, but this was necessary.

So, you are welcome to follow me as I skip along the yellow cobblestone street in Philly, “Lions and tigers and bears oh my!” And then stumbling because some asshole stole the friggin’ cobblestone street. Somebody really did that. He stole a few blocks of it, in broad daylight, before he got caught.

It’s a Philly thing?

Like LL Cool J said in “Momma Said Knock you Out,” don’t call it a comeback!

Welcome back to the podcast! Thanks for joining me. I’m your host, Christopher Gajewski.

Let’s unmask mental illness!

It’s been a while longer than I wanted, but I’m back with a new episode. I need to post a new episode. I’m not really there yet to post one, as I am still unsettled and things are chaotic, but I know a part of being unsettled is that I am losing balance. I am hoping the episode will help me regain at least a little bit of it.

It was nothing I did not expect. The entire transcontinental move and then settling back into the Philadelphia area with next to nothing meant I was going to slam into all of my triggers. I knew I was going to have to push aside the side of me, this, that kept me balanced as I focused on building balance–if that makes sense.

The thing I was not expecting was how okay I was going to be with everything. Between us, I was terrified of moving back here. It was like walking into a room barefoot with loaded mousetraps strewn about the floor. Would I be okay, or would I run for refuge in the closet?

There were a few trips to the closet, but it turns out I was okay. Overwhelmed, I did a little bit of backsliding, found some refuge in working too much, but even that was okay. I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I’m still feeling the pull to work too much, escape in that. But the big question was answered.

I’m okay.

I was able to bring with me the lessons I learned while I was away, lessons about balance and boundaries. Lessons about the net and positivity. Lessons about how it is okay about standing still in certain parts of my life without feeling stuck, that it is only a momentary situation that I will move past.    

Before getting into the episode, the important stuff: I just want to remind everybody that I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or any kind of professional with an –ist at the end of their title. I am just a guy who has been there.

If you are in crisis, or know somebody who is, I implore you to reach out to a professional. In the United States, there is now a national hotline you can call or text. 988.

I’ll repeat that because it bears repeating. If you or someone you know is in crisis, I implore you to reach out to a professional. Dialing or texting 988 in the US will put you in touch with a crisis counselor instantly.

Now, let’s get into the episode.

The drive did not start off well. I left Tijuana, made it across the border, and drove a few hours into California. With the sun rising, I made my first stop at a rest area to take some pictures and stretch my legs.

I got back into the car…and it wouldn’t start. Nothing. Nada. Dead in the water, or on the highway. A guy pulled up next to me with my hood popped and I asked him for a jump. He nodded and walked around to look at things.

“I’m a mechanic,” he said. “Want some advice?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“Your next stop has to be an auto parts store. That battery is dead and needs to be replaced. You won’t make it very far. You can have it checked out, clean the connectors, check the cables, but the battery is bulging. That means it’s shot.”

He got my car started and I changed my GPS from Austin to AutoZone.

That’s really where my story changes, where I had an inkling that things were different. The old me would have been pissed off, maybe kicked the car, definitely cursed Murphy and Murphy’s law, and maybe whined a little bit about the unfairness of the Universe. Aye, I was broke and starting a cross country trip. The last thing I needed was to replace my car battery.

That’s not what happened. I just shrugged and accepted it. I owned it. It was not about the universe being unfair or Murphy’s Law. It was completely about me not having my car checked out before I left, not spending the extra time and money to make sure the car was in tip top shape for the journey as I had always done. It had sat in Tijuana pretty much unused for about nine months. What the hell did I expect?

So, after a stop at AutoZone, and $220, I was back on my way. It was a great day for a drive, the music was playing, and I was completely back in my comfort zone. I had a long drive through a desert to look forward to. Instead of being miserable, I just accepted what I had done wrong, and was able to look forward to the trip, something I knew I would enjoy.

While hoping the tires would hold up.

No, the beginning of the journey had not started off well. But it had in a way.

Practice what you preach. I preach regularly about attitude. I really do believe that a healthier lifestyle begins and ends with the right attitude. For many years, decades, I had had a pretty shitty attitude. Murphy’s Law, the universe was against me, life was more unfair to me than others, etc. My life had reflected that. I had learned things and was finally putting them into practice. I was learning it made a difference.

Tijuana had been a refuge of sorts, an oasis. As one friend put it, it was fantasy land. It was like what my mom was told a very long time ago, to give up her kids, and life in general, and go and live on a farm where there were not any triggers.

My world in Tijuana had become very small, even more so after I broke my ankle. It was a tiny, safe place, living in an apartment complex that was open inside. I couldn’t do anything so didn’t do anything. Beyond crutching my way around the corner for groceries, I could sit in my chair and indulge my fantasies.

Yeah, there was the entire lack of funds things, but I was okay. I settled into a routine where I could play at a job search and switching careers, be a writer and concentrate on my book and podcast. All my triggers, life, existed outside of the oasis. I found simpler routines, simpler ways of doing things, simpler ways of existing. I found a certain kind of freedom and health completely restricted inside of an oasis that was about a square quarter mile.

I knew that things were happening in the outside world, and that I would eventually have to engage in it, but, for a while, I could exist completely inside of the moment. The question became: could I carry it with me outside of the oasis?

At a rest stop in California, I had the idea that I could. I was still carrying a part of the oasis with me, as long drives are my sanctuary and peace, but I was heading to something. First: Austin. Friends and house sitting for a few days after an 18-hour drive through sunshine with the music playing.

Then, there would be another 24-hour drive back to Philadelphia, the place I had run away from. There would be bills to pay, a company to get started, a home to find and settle into, and more complex routines and a much more complicated life.

Could I take the lessons I had learned about balance and boundaries and build an oasis, a refuge, while I reintegrated into life? Could I find peace while being at rest?

I made it back to Philly, where I immediately slammed into all of my triggers. There was a lack of funds, struggling to find a home, the pull towards my drug of choice, co-dependency, and the pull towards my other escapes from the world.

I was Dorothy again, “Lions and tiger and bears oh my!”

I can really get into that my sense of humor slamming into my Philly. “Lions and tiger and bears oh my! Lions and tiger and bears oh my!” Me in my Irish cap, skipping along a golden, cobbled street. Then stumbling to an abrupt end where the cobblestone street had been stolen. Some guy actually did steal a few blocks of a cobblestone street here. A golden one would be gone in no time.


Instead of being terrified, though, with the lions and tigers crouching along my path and the bears whuffing not too far from off the tree line, a new theme entered the composition. There was a harmony to the discord. There was, well, Will Smith.

Yeah, I watched the clip of the movie a half dozen times at least, about the field, about looking upon it with soft eyes as opposed to a dragon to slay. Instead of a turbulent storm, I found myself drifting into a harbor, typing up my Subaru Outback filled with most of my life’s belongings inside, and disembarking into my new reality. I got to work.

There were things to do, lots of things to do. There were pressures from outside and within.

Aye, right now, as I type this, there is the thought in the back of my mind to run away. First, a pitstop in Austin. Then, a run down to Tijuana. I even have the justifications for it. I can justify anything. Hell, I even got a reminder that my many, many American Airline miles are about to expire, and I have to do something with them.

But, I’m not. The stuff in Austin can wait. I’ll visit my friends and oasis in Tijuana when it is okay to do so.

For now, I am looking upon things with soft eyes.

Dragons popped up all over the new landscape. Big, terrible things, gouging the earth with their massive claws, crouched, prepared for battle. I looked upon them with soft eyes…and they disappeared.

No, there are no dragons to slay. But there is work to be done.

The first choice, the toughest choice, was this. The podcast. I was able to stumble through a couple of repeat episodes while I was in Austin. When I returned to Philly, though, I knew I would have to put away the laptop for a while. I just still haven’t learned the trick of sitting down in a coffee shop, or garage, and allowing my mind to unfold and fly through the wilderness of thoughts and ideas.

The laptop became, as it had to be, a thing of work and work projects. I had investors to consider and a business to build. The birthing of Axiom Orthodontic Studios became my goal that I had to focus on. Without the other things in place, like a home, I had to allow myself to stumble away from balance and fully into that realm of existence.

I had to stumble back into the thing that had dominated my life for a long, long time. I had to start working again.

But isn’t that what balance is all about? Isn’t that what I am all about? It is not about existing on a farm, in an oasis. It is about creating a harmony in balance among all of the things going on around me, among all of the things I need to get done.

In creation, there is chaos.

I needed a place to set up my coffee maker.

I needed to relearn how to use QuickBooks.

When I was in Tijuana, I got into a very weird sleep schedule. I’d go to bed around 9-10, wake up between 4 and 5, write, and then nap for a few hours around 8. I swore I was just on east coast time. I’d get back into a normal sleeping habit once I was back.


For over a month now, I would open the laptop and go directly to the work partition. Do not pass GO, collect the $200, and get your ass to work. Aye, you try building a business from scratch. The coffee flowed and I got done what I needed to get done.

Building the business is much like life I have found. Or at least it is that way for me. You need the foundation in place, a strong foundation. The devil is in the details. The imps and demons are in the feedback that forces me to go back and adjust the foundation. Tinker here, nudge there, rip up and start over in places.

It’s done. I did just write, “for the most part,” but I deleted it. No, it’s done. The foundation is in place, and it is a strong foundation. There is just a little bit of waiting and some fine tuning to do on the structure built upon the foundation.

My home is the same. I found a nice little place in Ridley Park, outside of Philly, in an old Victorian home. It is not as grand as I once had, nor as secluded as I had in Tijuana, but the foundation is in place. Rent is paid, the coffee maker is set up, I have a bed, and I even added a few odds and end, the necessities that I need to be comfortable.

Like with the business, I write “It is done” and want to add, “for the most part.” But, like with the business, that’s not true. It is done, the foundation is built, and now I just have some fine tuning to do with the structure I built on the foundation. In my case, it means hitting the “purchase” button on the things I picked out on Amazon when I get my next check.

Now what the hell do I do?

The undertow is so damn strong. The old Chris is rising up and screaming, “It’s not done! It’s not finished! Everything needs to be in place before you even attempt any more steps forward! That business needs to up, running, and turning a profit in record time!”

That’s exactly what enfolded me and consumed me yesterday. On a Sunday, I did what I promised I would not do anymore: I worked. But the video needed to be made? I had to tinker with the website a little bit more.

That’s when Bryan stepped in. He gives me the gentlest kicks in the ass I have ever received. He is a friend, that I am supposedly not allowed to call a friend. My brother, Mr. Business, says he is a business partner and that is it.

He keeps nudging me in the oddest ways, ways that are unexpected. See, he knows me, knows my past and knows all about this podcast. He knows my journey and probably understands it better than most.

He is also my lead business partner, the one who got the other investors on board that got me to come back here. The business needs to be self-sustaining soon, quicker than most start-ups. This is what he does, this is what he depends upon and is expecting from me. He, of all people, should appreciate the time and effort I put into the business on a Sunday, the time and effort of waking up at 4 am and starting work.

“So,” he asked me yesterday, “get to work on the new podcast yet? It’s important.”

He’s right. He knows that he is right. I know that he is right.

I told the old Chris to go scratch his ass this morning, grab some coffee, and leave me the hell alone. I ignored the Axiom partition of my laptop, opened up the podcast portion, and got back to work on this.

One of my goals for the day is to find the cords I need to hook the microphone back up. After some more coffee, after another nap, after I get some work done on Axiom. It will get done. This will be recorded and uploaded.

Thanks, Bryan.

I’ve been unbalanced, only making brief forays into the things that will balance me. It hasn’t been enough, and I have been feeling the effects. By only making brief forays, by allowing myself to drift too far into my old ways, I’ve been feeling the gathering pressure towards unhealthy things.

I’ve been looking at my airline miles often, wondering about a quick drive, escape, down to Austin, feeling the pull that makes the “fine tunings” into necessities. I’ve been sitting at night wondering what to do with myself, lost. When I am not lost.

I am exactly where I need to be.

Yeah, I have work to do.

As discussed, and agreed upon by Bryan when I accepted his offer, work now has to become the Monday through Friday, 9-5, that I have on my website and in my terms and conditions on my business materials. It is all about sales now and processing orders. There is not a single person I can reach out to at 4 to 5 am.

I need to dive back into my groups, the mental health groups and others on social media. It is where a lot of my ideas come from for this podcast. The smallest comments or posts trigger something or another and the next thing I know, I have a few thousand words for the podcast.

I need to get back into Instagram. It was always a fun way to start my day when I was in Tijuana. I follow a few people that post videos of themselves doing things they love to do. There is a dancer and choreographer in South Korea, a dancer in England, a skateboarder somewhere or another and a motorcycle wanderer based in Sweden. I always enjoyed starting my day by watching their latest posts. I got away from that somehow.

I need to figure out what to do with myself between 7 pm and bedtime, always my witching hours.

I need to get back on that journey towards balance and integrating the lessons I learned in my oasis into my new life.

Yeah, there is an entire other podcast here. I feel as though as I am just wading into the surf and not diving in.

There was an epic battle last night, Friday night. It took place in a very comfortable chair in my office as I sipped coffee. Without even realizing it, the dragons had come out. I tried looking upon them with soft eyes, but they didn’t go away.

It was Friday night, the end of the official work week! 7 pm. The apartment is done, the work stuff was done until Monday. What the hell do I do with myself? How do I live?

I sat in my chair and thought about things. I had money in my pocket. I crave human interaction and companionship. There were places to go that were only short drives. How the hell do I do this living thing? It was so much easier in Tijuana, in my oasis. In my fantasy land, where I restricted with where I could go and no money in my pocket.

Mind if I switch metaphors? Those dragons that I could not get to go away became sea serpents. Sitting in my nice comfy chair, I was standing shoulder deep in the surf on a bad day with a very strong undertow. Battle was joined as I sipped my coffee.

I remember these days from long ago. Just about ten miles away in another apartment in Havertown. Wait. Just wait. Hold off the undertow until midnight or 1 am. That’s it.

I’d lose most of those battles.

I sipped more coffee as I considered it.

I know that one of the most important things I learned, that I am still trying to integrate into my life, is patience. I know and realize that those sea serpents are not only ready for battle, but I am ready for the battle for something to do. I want them to pull me under and drag me far out to sea. It was so easy back then to allow the undertow to drag me out, let go and join in battle. Indulge in my unhealthy escapes.

That’s where I screwed up my life.

Yes, I laugh about how the Universe got tired of screwing around with me so broke my ankle on purpose to force me to learn patience.

Patience is key. It is kind of necessary when you have a broken ankle and no money. But what about when you have money in your pocket and are mobile? That’s what I sat in my chair and considered.

It is so easy now to not exercise patience and restraint, to be impatient. To indulge in those unhealthy escapes, lie to myself, justify it, and say it is only to pass the time until the right thing comes along. What I have learned, though, is that the right things are blocked from coming along by the unhealthy things.

Bryan talked to me about it. Even in recovery, it is still so damn hard to get off the roller coaster. –sorry, I need to introduce another metaphor. Most of the healthy people and groups of people don’t want to have anything to do with the roller coaster. If the roller coaster is all that you know, though, it is hard to get off, difficult to learn more and healthier ways to live. Staying on the roller coaster is the path of least resistance.

Now I’m about to channel Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman.” I’ll paraphrase as I don’t want to look up the exact words.

“I knew, without exception, the right paths to take. I never took them. It was hard. Too damn hard. Now, Charlie is at a crossroads…”

I am at the crossroads. I know the right path to take. I choose patience.

It really was an epic battle. I guess you had to be there.

I sipped my coffee, ignored the undertow and sea serpents, played around on my phone for a bit, and then went to bed. I guess you can make forward progress when sitting in a comfortable chair.

I know tonight will be easier. A little bit at least. You see, that is something else I have learned. Getting started down the right path is difficult as hell, even when it is clear and visible. The early going can be a real pain in the ass. Once I do get started, though, once I make it past that initial stretch, it gets easier. Maybe I’ll work on my book tonight? It is a project I have been meaning to dive back into.

So, Bryan and Mr. Pacino, this podcast is for you.

With that, it’s a wrap for this episode.


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