Weekend In The Neighborhood

•September 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Well, this was a weekend of ups and downs.

On Friday, I blew up a bunch of my goals for the month. One week in and I was already off my game. The Curmudgeonly Lion was working a late shift, which meant that I was going to have the house to myself.

“This is going to be great!” I told myself, “I’m going to get so much done!”

And then I came home from work, watched about a third of “Baby Driver” on TV while eating lukewarm pizza and drinking cheap wine and then fell asleep on the couch at nine o’clock. At midnight, I was awoken by the sound of the Lion coming in through the front door, manage to get myself upright long enough to stagger to the bedroom and then flopped over into the bed and fell asleep again for the rest of the night. So I didn’t practice the bass. I didn’t do my planks. I didn’t brush my teeth, much less floss them. So much for my goals of doing these things every day for the month.

Boom. ‘sploded.

Saturday morning I awoke, mossy-mouthed, at six in the morning to watery gray twilight and a nudge from the Curmudgeonly Lion.

“Hey, you going running?”

“Hmmmffrrrrmmmf.”

I did eventually get up to go running. I was glad that I did, but also just wanted to come straight home and fall back asleep and pretend that I wasn’t annoyed at myself for falling asleep instead of putting in the work on my goals the night before.

Much of the rest of my afternoon was already spoken for: a pre-meeting phone call with my writing partner (I shall refer to him as Captain Unicorn), followed by a video shoot with a bassist friend for most of the afternoon (I shall refer to her as Notsixx), followed by a screening of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor“, the Mr Rogers documentary at a friend’s house for the rest of the evening. There wasn’t exactly going to be a lot of time to play catch-up.

By the time I made it to the screening I was feeling more than a little bit emotionally wrung out. My recent round of depressive symptoms had sapped a lot of my energy: taken all my emotional “spoons” as it were. So I *might* have been especially susceptible to the emotional tonic which is Mr Rogers. There was quite a lot of ugly-crying going on during the course of the movie. I console myself with the reminder that everybody else was crying too. It’s amazing how rare it is to hear anybody saying that they like you just the way you are. Especially as an adult. Especially in these sarcastic, nihilistic, confusing, angry times.

Getting out of bed this morning happened later and was even more difficult. I dragged myself upright and went for a brief, unsatisfactory run that did not do much to lift my mood. The Curmudgeonly Lion sat and talked for a while, which seemed to help clear some of the tangles from my mind before we started the day.

Today’s agenda was similarly busy: in the afternoon I had a meeting with Captain Unicorn and another writer with whom we hoped to collaborate, who was marvelous. We both came away from the meeting feeling enthused about the script and the progress we hoped to make as a new team. And then in the evening came my Writers’ Group for the first meeting after several weeks of being dark, so it felt good to come back to the weekly routine.

I’m getting to be back on an even keel again, I think. I’ve finally cleared some of the fog that has been gathering around my mind since the beginning of the month. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to start the week tomorrow with a clean slate and a fresh outlook.

One can hope.

 

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•September 6, 2018 • 6 Comments

My Mom read my posts from earlier this week (Hi, Mom!), and was evidently worried about my recent angst. She called to chat while I was still at the office so I waited until I was walking my commute to call her back so that I wouldn’t have a dozen office-ears listening in on the conversation.

“I read your blog from earlier this week…” she said, and I already knew how the rest of it was going to go. Not in a bad way: just the usual Mom-worrying-about-your-well-being-and-did-you-eat-your-vegetables way.

“You know,” she said. “Nothing says you have to get this book written by the end of the year.”

I know I harp on my writing a lot, and spend a lot of time making and tracking impossible goals for myself, but the truth is that my writing, no matter how frustrating or quixotic is my only shining beacon sometimes in a drab and infuriating world. It’s my escape from my mundane life. It’s a goal towards which I’m able to make measurable progress. It’s a hope of something better: a golden bridge leading to the possibility of wealth and acclaim.

It’s the thing I’m clinging to the most right now while everything else seems futile and stupid. I may have to get up every morning and carve off twelve hours of my youth to go write payroll checks, but as long as I’m making progress on the writing, I can tell myself that payroll is just For Now and doesn’t have to be For-ever.

How did I get stuck in this rut anyway? I keep trying to figure this out. Back in June I struggled with this same kind of intense directionlessness which led to some soul searching and self examination and then July and August seemed to be a new me. But here I am, right back to where I started and falling back into bad habits made worse by that fact that now I ought to know better.

Ah well- two steps forward, one step back I guess.

Intrusive

•September 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Lately, I’ve been beset by intrusive thoughts. They come into my mind unbidden, and wick my attention away from my work. I wouldn’t mind so much if these were just distractions or daydreams- my mind might wander, but I’d find my way back to the well lighted path without to much struggle.

Lately my thoughts have been made up of hard edges and sharp corners. They push their way into my mind leaving bruises and cuts in their wake where my emotions well up and seep out begin to pour through the weak spots. I try to distract myself with work, with writing, with music, with anything I can, but nothing seems to keep the thoughts at bay for long: The fear that nothing I do will be noticed. The frustration at being unable to make meaningful changes in my life. The discouragement of dozens of cumulative setbacks. The futility of trying.

I find myself reeling between anger and frustration and resentment and sadness and envy like the Belle of the Malheureaux Ball: everybody wants to be on my dance card. I’m doing my best to pace myself: to keep my blood sugar level, to be constructive in my thought patterns, to acknowledge my rational side, even if my better sense mostly seems to get drowned out in the noise. I took myself off of social media for a forty-eight hour hold, which is a double edged sword because on the one hand I’m not getting wound up about what other people are doing or saying, but in the other hand I’ve suddenly lost ninety percent of my most effective distractions. (A phone gets a lot less interesting when there’s no social media on it.)

So I’m muddling through.

I’m better than yesterday at least.

I promised my Muse that I would get back to work on my writing today so I spent the morning commute considering my next move on my novel. It’s official that if I want to finish this by the end of the year then I need to complete two chapters per week, every week from now until New Year’s, leaving no extra room for holidays or sickness or travel or the inevitable writer’s block, but otherwise is *just barely* within the realm of possibility.

So naturally, today I did not write a word.

Instead, I found myself taking a look at the structure of the remaining chapters. I felt like I was getting mired down in action that wasn’t really leading to the next plot point and I still had quite a lot of this action planned before that plot point happened.

Did I really need it all? There were some fairly major story events happening, but I realized that they didn’t have to be happening right then in the chronology, and actually would work just as well, if not better, if I kicked them down the road.

And once I moved one chapter I had to move the other chapters that it effected. And once I moved them then I realized I could consolidate some things I’d just written and could group these actions there and that action here and… and… and…

So most of my *writing* had actually been restructuring, and it actually “undid” about two chapters that I finished last month, and probably added a bunch of work that I haven’t yet incorporated into my equation for Progress-Needed-to-Finish-By-Year-End, BUT it also feels like a giant step forward over all.

Which, I’m choosing to believe, is what is happening in my life right now: that this sudden sense of directionlessness and demotivation is actually a symptom of my life being restructured to better move me forward to the next plot point and to give me a more compelling arc. Which is likely to be more work than anticipated. And will probably be an ordeal to live through. But should pay off in the end.

I hope.

Christ, I’m a character in my own novel.

Recently I Tweeted a “How You KnowIf You’re A Character In A [Writer’s Name] Novel”, and mine was:

  • The universe suddenly seems to have a perverse sense of humor (check)
  • Your internal dialogue has internal dialogue (check)
  • You can’t win for losing but still come out on top (check… I hope)
  • There’s an unexpectedly lot of swearing. (At least internally- check).

So I guess it’s art imitating life imitating art.

Apogee

•September 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I got out of bed at three in the morning, unable to sleep and went into my office to write for a while. Somewhere nearby a police helicopter was circling and circling and circling which seemed appropriate considering the thoughts that were circling and circling and circling in my head.

September came in like a hurricane, wreaking havoc and destruction for the three days of the holiday weekend. By now the tempest has given way to sunny skies and mild breezes, but I still feel like I’m standing amidst the wreckage and wondering how to start over. I’d been building castles out of straw on foundations of sand: what did I expect?

I’m speaking figuratively, of course. Our actual house is fine. The weather was fine. My health is fine. My job is fine. The family is fine. But for a long time I’d been dreaming of bigger things and I’d nearly convinced myself that they might be within my reach, and it was the dream that collapsed piece by piece and pillar by pillar until I found myself back in the real world, constrained to the limits of concrete reality.

“What’s wrong?” The Curmudgeonly Lion asked over and over as I struggled to engage in everyday activities that now felt meaningless and futile.

“I’ve been made small.” I told him, unable to think of any other way to articulate the feeling of how much less-than I now felt in a world that, physically, had not changed in the slightest.

I coped in the best ways that I knew how: I went running (so much running) because I knew it would override my spinning brain, I practiced the bass because it required all my attention and none of my thoughts, I laid in the hammock and stared into space (until a hummingbird flew overhead for the express purpose of pooping on me), I did planks because they were difficult and I did stretches because they hurt. I sorted the stack of last month’s receipts to clear the clutter. I did laundry and dishes as a tiny act of defiant order in the overwhelming entropy of life. I made a point of going out of the house to be social with friends new and old.

I mean, on the whole, not a bad way to spend a holiday weekend. But I still wish I could forget it.

People keep asking me “how was your weekend?”

Mostly, I just reply “Over, now.”

But it isn’t quite: I haven’t found my new direction yet. Everything just feels like it is suspended, except for my brain which keeps circling and circling and circling with no place to go and nothing meaningful to do.

It is a temporary state. I know this. I keep reminding myself of it: that I’m in the apogee of an orbit and this sense of stillness is an illusion as I change directions. But that doesn’t really make the feeling any easier to manage.

All I can do is wait.

Early Out

•August 31, 2018 • Leave a Comment

And now to spend the rest of the weekend in the hammock.

The office closed early.

I wasn’t expecting to have the afternoon off, so while I was pleased to get to go home early, I found myself a bit adrift about what to do with the free time. I hadn’t made any plans. The bus took two hours to get me home at which point all I could think to do was to plug in my devices to recharge and then fall into bed for a nap.

I didn’t really sleep: mostly I just drifted in a thoughtless twilight state while my body glowed in the heat of the room. It was pleasant, but I woke up feeling slightly unsatisfied, and got out of bed to do something useful with the last of the daylight hours. I was tempted to go for a run, but we had evening plans to meet a friend for dinner and I wasn’t sure I had enough time to run and to cool down enough to stop sweating before heading to her place.

So I went into my studio and put the finishing touches on another chapter of my novel instead. Yesterday I was lamenting that my already-half-written-chapter took eight days to finish, and that surely I was only going to have a chapter-a-week average for the month of August. And today I was finishing up another chapter in a matter of mere hours.

Ahh to have the love of a capricious muse.

The two-hour bus ride had given me plenty of time to second guess and over think and edit and re-write the new pages. I’m still not sure if they’re good, but they’re good enough. And now I’m staring longingly at my bottle of Writer’s Tears knowing that I can’t celebrate until after I break my fast, which will probably mean celebrating alone in the dead of night. Which somehow seems appropriate.

At any rate, the weekend is off to an auspicious, if unstructured, start. Here’s hoping things continue in this vein for the next three days.

Month End Benchmark

•August 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Also, saw this guy at the bus stop who was a dead ringer for my main character.

The chapter should have been an easy one. It was already half written, surely I could turn it around in a day or two, right?

Right?

I took it apart. I put it together. I changed the location- twice. I added a character. I changed the order of the events. I re-divided the action. I added in dialogue. I took out dialogue. I took it apart again. I put it together again. I re-cut the pages that I’d previously considered “done” and stitched them into other parts of the action like a mad scientist creating a monster.

Eight days later…

I guess, just goes to show that there is no such thing as an “easy” chapter when it comes to writing. I’ve worked on it so much that I’ve lost all perspective: it might be good or it might be a Frankenstein mess, but at least it has the right number of fingers and toes.

Sort of.*

At any rate, it is done-enough for now, so I’m celebrating. With this chapter finished, I’ve officially completed five chapters for this month. Regrettably this means I’m back down to an average of one-chapter-per-week, but it’s still progress so it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.

*(Inside joke: the character literally tries to count his fingers in this chapter only to discover that he has the wrong number).

FOMO

•August 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The Fear of Missing Out.

The term recently cropped up on my mental landscape appearing as if it had been there all along, which, if I’m honest, it always was: I just didn’t know what to call it. Suddenly, a whole host of my fears and jealousies and petty grievances fit neatly into a category: the fear of missing out. The fear of not being included. The fear of not being good enough.

For all my independence and the genuine pleasure that I derive from solitude, there is a part of me that longs to be a part of a group and to be included in their adventures. But I’m the kind of person who, yes, needs an engraved invitation- a direct and personal confirmation that my presence is wanted. I suspect that this is a factor of being an introvert- the task of socializing takes such a monumental toll on my energy that I find myself looking for reassurance that the effort will be worth it. And without that reassurance, it is easier to just stay home.

So ‘missing out’ happens pretty regularly and is often a completely voluntary choice. The Fear kicks in when I want to go out and do something and don’t know how to join in, or when someone else talks about doing something that I’ve always wanted to do and I feel suddenly, profoundly inadequate for not being able to just do it myself. Make new friends. Chat up someone I admire. Get into a hip club or exclusive event.

Extravert sports, usually. Things that require a certain facility with people- strangers in particular.

I had a friend who went out of town for a few days over the weekend. Upon returning he sent me a message telling me how he’d hit it off with a Lyft driver: as if it were just that easy to make friends.

I felt a stab of something that I couldn’t quite name: anger? Jealousy? Resentment? Fear? Inadequacy?

Yes, all of the above. I couldn’t even articulate it: I was just feeling it in my guts with force.

It bothered me for days.

The word “FOMO” danced across my awareness and I realized it was the name that I’d been missing: I was angry and hurt because he’d gone and had fun and made a friend and I was afraid it was an experience that I was missing out on.

I brought this up the next time that we spoke, and found that I could suddenly make sense of my feelings and put them into words. And, having been able to put those feelings into words and those words into a conversation I was able to communicate how I’d been feeling.

And suddenly I didn’t feel it anymore.

So if I’ve learned one thing it is that finding the right name for specific feelings can make all the difference in being able to relieve the burden of them.

 
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