Fear Is Life

There comes a moment when I realize that I have left myself behind. It lies at the edge of contentment and envy, when I peer into the places that others occupy and wish I were there. When I see the trail of might-have-beens I have laid in my wake my soul shrinks. I fall into despair, knowing I can’t reach back and grasp them. They are gone forever.

It is when I go out my front door and take a walk along streets lined with neatly trimmed lawns and home security signs that I understand. Nothing’s chasing me, you see. There is no panic reaching down my throat and gripping my heart in its inexorable fingers. I haven’t gone to the precipice and leapt – no, not once. I have stood idly by while others took the plunge, and I am worse for it. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one more traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Please send Robert Frost my apologies.

The easy life, the dull life, seems secure, and security is sublime. It cradles you like you’re a child, and who wouldn’t like, even once, to go back to childhood? Knowing what adulthood holds in store, who would thrust away the spoon heaped with food as it came to feed them? We work for security and ease, do we not? The big TV, the easy chair with the vibrating back, that car that turns eyes toward us. That’s what it’s all about: security. Repeat after me – security is life.

Wrong! Nein! Nyet! That’s the sublimation talking, fella. Security isn’t life. Fear is life. I can’t climb back into the womb, I wouldn’t even try. It’s a cold cruel world, a hard-knock life, or some other cliché filled turn of phrase. Life is the growl of hunger driving you onward, not the gurgle as the food settles in your fat belly. Life is paycheck to paycheck, not housekeeper to nanny. Life is the split-second burst of adrenaline before those headlights bear down on you. Life is a neck on a guillotine.

Security is the chain that enslaves me. I see the wonders before me, but I am held back. Nothing is pushing me except sinew and will. There are no lions snapping at my heels, no chainsaw murderers breaking through my wall. It’s just little old me, and all the cages I have lured myself into in the name of security. I’ve never watched the zombie hordes shambling closer with one bullet in my pistol.

That’s what I need. I need to toe the end of the high dive with a million reasons why I should just walk away running through my head. I need to pass by the bouncy castle, kick off my shoes, and take a stroll across the burning coals – although people really shouldn’t put fire walking courses near places where children play. Just sayin’. I need to go into the woods and siphon the gas from my tank. I need to stand naked in front of a classroom, then run like Hell when the cops arrive.

What I need is fear. Only then will I truly find life.

First-World Problems

My day started out bad. I woke up with acid reflux. At worst it blocks my air tubes and causes me to struggle for breath so badly I know what it feels like to start asphyxiating. At best it burns in my chest and sends its nasty acid vapors into my nose and mouth for a few hours after waking up, all the while causing me to cough and increase the sensation each time I do. I’ve eliminated it for the most part, but it decided to slip in and give me a swift kick in the throat this morning.

After my stomach acid so unceremoniously woke me up my father asked me if I could take him to a city that’s just under an hour away by car. I did my best to say yes with a burning throat and watery eyes and needing to pee really badly. The reason I mention this is because my father has next to no mobility on his own, and taking him out for any errands or appointments can be a tiring affair as I have to do most of the heavy lifting, and moving a fully-grown human around all by myself is tiring and makes for a lot of back problems. I’m not trying to complain; taking care of my father in his time of need has been a highlight of my life. But the boots on the ground truth of it is that it is physically taxing.

My father also needed to stop off at the bank and to avoid me having to lug the wheelchair out of the trunk and lift him out of the car and into the chair, he just gave me the ATM card and told me the PIN. Only the PIN didn’t work. So I had to lug the wheelchair out of the trunk, lift my father out of the car, wheel him down to the end of the sidewalk because the heartless bastards who designed the shopping center couldn’t manage to put the handicapped parking spaces anywhere near the venues they were accessing (on a side note, I’ve found myself noticing the rather sub-par accessibility measures in place for the handicapped since I’ve been helping my father get around.) Anyway, as I was saying, I wheeled my father into the bank, he did his business, and then I got him back into the car and wrestled the wheelchair back into my trunk. All because the stupid PIN wouldn’t work. Nothing’s ever easy, it seems.

The hardships pretty much end there, as the rest of the trip went smoothly. It’s not a terrible burden, and I’m glad to be my father’s Johnny-on-the-spot. In fact, I only bring it up because of something I noticed much later in the day. As I was walking by the living room The Bachelorette was ending and they were showing previews of the next show. Andi Dorfman, the current Bachelorette, was crying and saying “It’s so hard,” or words to that effect, and later there was footage of her tearing off her mics in frustration and storming out of view of the cameras.

Now I’ll begin by saying that I’m not trying to pick on Andi. I’m just being opportunistic in using this one televised snippet to illustrate a broader point. I would guess that she isn’t a chronic whiner. We all have those “Woe is me” moments, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t stew in our self-pity. But at that moment I thought to myself, “I’d gladly trade places with you, Andi.” I understand she’s serious about trying to find a spouse, but let’s face it, she’s getting national exposure on her show and others, she’s having no-expense-is-to-great dates with dozens of hand-picked men in exotic locales and may even be getting a paycheck to boot. As I approach the beginning of my fourth year without steady employment and I face the prospect of having to start from scratch at age forty-three in some crappy minimum-wage hellhole of a job because the jobs that I have thirteen years of experience for never bother to even contact me when I apply to them, I can’t help but think that her problems are pretty damn good.

And when it comes down to it, my own problems are pretty damn good. Despite being completely broke, I haven’t gone a day without three square meals, shelter, and the ability to watch satellite television whenever I want. Yeah, things could be better, but they could be a Hell of a lot worse. I’m not wheeling a shopping cart filled with all my earthly possessions to a store to buy a loaf of bread with the pittance I panhandled from my cardboard box home on the sidewalk.

The thing that made me think this was blog-worthy was how Andi’s moment of frustration was sandwiched between two very different stories. After her show came the eleven-o’clock news, and the first story they featured was of a couple who had no running water in their house. The husband was disabled, so he couldn’t work, and he relied on his wife, but both were getting up there in years. They had a well, but it had run dry and digging a deeper one would run them up to around 25,000 dollars. Seriously? What kind of rip-off artist charges 25,000 dollars to dig a hole? I couldn’t help but feel for them, and it made the scene with Andi before that seem much more frivolous.

Prior to The Bachelorette was Dancing With the Stars. I admit, I watch that show. One of the stars this season is Amy Purdy. She is famous for medaling in the Sochi Paralympics, where she competed as a snowboarder – with two amputated lower legs. She has been quite frankly tearing it up in DWTS, and is rumored to be the favorite going into the final. That night she put on an incredibly moving dance that really summed up why she has been so inspirational on the show. She even ended the dance by twisting around in mid air holding a rope with one hand. Hell, I have two healthy legs and I can’t do that!

And let’s not forget the person who had been watching – or more likely sleeping through – The Bachelorette. My father is far worse off than I am. I’m sure he’d take my jobless woes for the ability to walk without falling down and speak without slurring his words. Sometimes when I’m feeling like my life is the Worst Thing Ever© I need only look across the room at my father and realize that I not only have it better than a lot of people, but even in my low moments I have the ability to help others. Putting a little perspective on my problems really does wonders for my morale. Funny how that works.

Dr. Jenlove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fail

(Note to my WordPress followers: this is based on a Twitter conversation with @GameplayJenny, so it might be a little strange out of context – or in context, for that matter.)

Welcome, viewer. You have entered the YouTube channel of GameplayJenny. Your place at the Mad Hatter’s table has been set.

You may be disoriented right now. What is a GameplayJenny, you might ask. How did I end up here? And what is behind her obsession with cheese? Do not fret, viewer. That is why this guide has been created – to orient the new viewer to the unique world that is Jenny.

The first step to acclimatizing yourself to the Wonderland that is GameplayJenny’s channel is to unlearn what you have learned. Do not think in terms of efficient leveling, equipping a character in gear that has the best stats, making sensible roads that don’t meander worse than San Francisco’s Lombard Street only to end up at a dead end. Upgraded spells? Those are for suckers. Maximizing the resources in a city? Not when more posh places and giant spinning hamburgers can be erected. Healing crippled limbs? There’s a guy hanging on a cross that needs to be looted first—after he is discreetly knocked unconscious, of course. You’re in Jenny’s world now, and it’s always 6:00. Now wake up the dormouse because it’s time to switch seats.

Next is learning to see the world through Jenny-colored glasses. Has Jenny just dropped some valuable ebony armor on the ground to make room for cabbage? Has she “wasted” a bunch of time picking mushrooms she’ll never use in a potion on her way to confront a dragon priest? Does she place a water tower on a space with no water in SimCity just because it goes better beside the powdered milk factory? Don’t focus on what the game mechanics demand, focus on what Jenny demands. Then enjoy the show as a robe-wearing Jenny shouts Kyne’s Peace at a dragon while shoving 50 bowls of apple cabbage stew down her gullet as she tries to defeat it with a spork in one hand and the spell Flames in the other.

Do not worry if the path to Jenny bliss is difficult. Be patient, and watch the videos nonetheless. Before you know it the barriers of sensibility and logic will fall to the wild and wacky antics of the Mad Gamer herself, and you may just find yourself getting upset when she fails to notice a perfectly good set of calipers lying on a table in Oblivion, or crafts enough potions to keep her from having to eat the entire cheese aisle of a grocery store just to stay alive in Skyrim, or actually finishes a quest in Fallout: New Vegas instead of blindly wandering into a deathclaw den, or makes a freaking straight road in Bendypondtacoville. When you arrive at that point, congratulations. Your Alice has become the March Hare, and there’s no getting out of the rabbit hole.

Coming Out

Folks, I have an announcement to make. I have thought this through long and hard. I’ve never talked about this to anybody over the years, all throughout my life. I think the time has come to reveal my secret to the world.

 

I am heterosexual.

Now, I fully expect the media to come around and hold extensive interviews with me. This is big news, after all. This defines me as a human being. This is what matters when it comes to who I am and what contributions I can have to society. So I will sit here patiently and await the presumably short time it takes for the press to read this and come calling.

Anybody?

*crickets*

Okay, well, maybe not. I guess nobody cares about my sexual preference. Despite my previous act, I’m not surprised that this gets no attention for a two very good reasons. a) It really is nobody’s business besides my own and b) I’m a nobody, an unknown schmuck who has very little exposure or celebrity at this point.

Now, in case you haven’t heard, Jason Collins is gay. Who is Jason Collins, you ask? Don’t worry, I didn’t know either until recently. He is, apparently, a fairly mediocre basketball player. Probably would have barely registered in most search engines and on sports news broadcasts. But now everything is Jason Collins. All because he told us he’s attracted to men.

I greeted the news of Jason Collins’ coming out party with a particularly hearty yawn. Didn’t care, still don’t. The news folks are gushing all over it. Historic, it seems. The first openly-gay active player in major professional sports and all that. What an accomplishment! So brave in this day and age to tell the world who you like to have sex with. Thank God we’ve progressed so far as to be fascinated by people’s sex lives! Why, the President even called him to congratulate him. The first black president called the first openly-gay basketball player. Whoopee!

Maybe I’m missing something, but how exactly does this relate to his basketball career? What difference does his sexual life have to do with anything that is any of our business? Do people think that his sub-par performances in games should be ignored in favor of elevating him for his sexuality? I hope not, but it sounds like that’s the case.

I suppose I’m just baffled by this because I’ve never understood the bigoted mentality. I’ve never understood the thought process that places different worth on human beings based on sexuality, skin color, religion, gender, etc. I’ve always been taught to love my neighbor, not to favor one group of people over another, and that all people are created equal. As such, I wish Jason Collins and anybody else would keep their sexual lives to themselves. It’s none of my business, and they have no business shoving it in my face, either. I wouldn’t call to congratulate him any more than I would call to chastize him. It’s neither good nor bad – it just is. So freaking what?

I see so much of it. Someone “comes out” on a late-night talk show. Gossip magazines have articles about whether certain celebrities are gay or not. Co-workers come up to me saying, “Do you know so-and-so is gay?” To all of which I say, “Who cares?” I don’t care. Newspeople, stop encouraging this. The more we place emphasis on something irrelevant, such as a basketball player’s sexuality, the more we feed the flames of bigotry. Placing emphasis on sexual preference is the opposite of what an unbigoted society should be doing. Jason Collins as a basketball player should be judged solely on his on-court actions and abilities. Jason Collins as a human being should be judged equal to any other human being on the planet. Jason Collins as a lover should be judged by his partner, and none of us. I wouldn’t be surprised if this announcement gets Collins some endorsement deals and perhaps even more play time than his basketball performance merits. All because he’s attracted to men.

This transcends even homosexuality. No human being should be defined by sexual preference, race, gender, etc. Genetic differences do not equal differences in worth. Until we stop treating these unimportant things as important, we will never attain a truly unbigoted society. The media should be concerned with two things only regarding Jason Collins: his basketball performance, and the fact that he is a human being. Anything else is and should remain irrelevant.

Our Thoughts and Prayers

There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot of lately. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.” I hear that same phrase during any major disaster or massacre. Sometimes it seems almost obscene how readily people thrust themselves in front of the camera to utter those words. It has sadly become almost clichéd.

I don’t say this to be critical or unfeeling. I know that even the clumsiest of these attempts is heartfelt and well-meaning. During a time of trauma people have a general tendency to sympathize with victims and anyone else affected by a tragedy. There’s really little else most of us can do. I am across the country from Boston and I have no way of providing any substantive assistance to anybody there. As a matter of fact, they probably have so many people in the area anxious to help that I would be nothing but a fifth wheel.

That phrase carries with it a few things. This first is the aforementioned sympathy. Who can look upon such destruction and not feel something? I can only imagine competing in a grueling marathon only to have my supportive loved ones harmed in a senseless act of destruction. The pain and suffering and sorrow would probably be a near-impossible burden to bear. It is an event that refocuses our eyes with sobriety on the terrible toll of human suffering enacted every day by the malicious or negligent among us.

The second thing that phrase evokes is a sense of frustration. Thoughts, no matter how fervent, will do nothing to help anybody affected by this tragedy in any substantive way, except for those who might possess the power of telekinesis. Prayers could be said to be helpful, but their benefit is nebulous at best. They certainly don’t hurt, but the real power to help these people lies with those who are physically near the victims and their families and who have the training or ability to provide benefit. I have to face it – as much as I’d like to be Johnny-on-the-spot during these tragedies, I am forever relegated to the role of spectator.

In fact, acts of terror like the Boston incident tend to remind us all too well how helpless we truly are. One of the striking realizations is how many security personnel were in the immediate area. They were so close that they were already congregating on the victims in the matter of seconds between the two bomb blasts. I have heard of no egregious lapses in security. What could they have done, after all? Without giving up a frightening amount of freedoms, attacks like that probably can’t be completely avoided. It’s scary to think about. Terrorists aim to strike fear into the hearts of their victims and to demoralize them. Sometimes it seems like their tactics are effective and the evil worshippers of death and destruction are winning.

But then I look at the people involved in these incidents. I see terrified people, sure, but I also see people running to the place where a bomb just exploded without thought of their own safety. I see people who are undoubtedly dehydrated and exhausted from running a marathon digging deep and thinking nothing of themselves and wholly of those who stand in need of help. And I realize after seeing those images that they, like the phrase I mentioned, are also something I have seen over and over again. Only this isn’t clichéd. This is humanity at its strongest.

How many heroes have emerged from tragedies? How many people’s first instinct is to run toward the bomb blast and pull debris off of victims, or to dash up the steps of a burning skyscraper that’s in danger of falling apart? How many people who might otherwise flip someone the bird for cutting them off would claw and scratch until those same fingers were bloody and bruised in order to save a total stranger who is buried in rubble? How many mild-mannered businessmen would tackle an armed hijacker on a plane, or throw themselves in front of a child to take a bullet? There has never been a tragedy that I have witnessed that hasn’t produced far more heroes than victims. When I see people extending their thoughts and prayers, I see people who desperately wish that they could be there, doing something, getting their hands dirty, just to be of assistance to people they don’t know from Adam.

What I see is the opposite of demoralization. If these wastes of skin wish to break the will of the people they attack, they are doing a piss-poor job of it.

MODF

I would like to propose a new acronym. Much like LOL, LMFAO, BRB, and the dreaded YOLO, I will throw my hat in the ring of the Digital Age’s penchant for making acronyms of anything and everything so that teenage thumbs can quickly insert them into their cell phones while the other hand holds the steering wheel. My new acronym is MODF. What, pray tell, does MODF mean, you ask? Well, MODF means My Own Damn (or Darn, if you prefer) Fault. Inspired and ripped verbatim from Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville,” it is a statement of responsibility. To quote the song, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s my own damn fault.”

This is not about a woman, and it is also not about blame. I don’t propose this Internet-worthy acronym so that we all can mull on the fact that a certain problem is due to nobody else but ourselves. Blame is not constructive if it ends there. If I decide that something is my fault and then proceed to beat myself up over it endlessly, that gets me nowhere. If I use it to belittle myself, to believe that I am worthless, or helpless, then it is counterproductive. MODF is not a declaration of defeat in the sense that I want to present it; it is a declaration of empowerment.

Metallica stated, “This thorn in my side is from the tree I planted.” Creed lamented, “I’ve created my own prison.” Mad Season said “My pain is self-chosen.” When I use the acronym MODF, I am not using it to establish blame but rather ownership. I planted the tree, I created the prison, and I chose the pain. If I did all these things, then I have power, and I can do other things that rid me of the thorn, the prison, and the pain. Those who have read my other blog articles may notice some similarities between this and a previous post, including the reference to Mad Season. It is all part of an evolution of thinking that was set in motion when I was laid off in 2011.

I love Mad Season. If you haven’t read my aforementioned blog post, I will tell you who they are. Mad Season was a collaborative effort from the mid-nineties of some of the members of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Screaming Trees. Layne Staley from Alice in Chains was the vocalist. Staley has always used haunting and somewhat depressing lyrics and imagery in his music, probably due to his ultimately unsuccessful battle with drug addiction. But one thing I’ve noticed is that he also shines a light of hope within the despair. As for the above Mad Season quote, taken from the song “River of Deceit,” Staley sings,

My pain is self-chosen

At least I believe it to be

I could either drown

Or pull off my skin and swim to shore

Now I can grow a beautiful

Shell for all to see.

For a song that started out bemoaning the fact that, “A head full of lies is the weight tied to my waist,” Staley brings it to a higher place – a place of empowerment. He has a choice, a classic, almost clichéd choice: sink or swim.

My current circumstance brought this musing on. I am unemployed again. As I stated in the first blog article, when I was initially laid off of my job of thirteen years, I was devastated. I found a job a year later, but now it’s over. The contract expired and I haven’t heard back from them. Worse yet, I am worse off financially than if I had never taken the job in the first place. In short, it sucks.

What does this have to do with MODF? Neither case was my fault. My first layoff came as a result of mismanagement of the bank where I worked, which I had no control over. The second one was possibly a budgetary thing. I have no idea. Whatever the case, I did what I was supposed to do and just got the shaft. This is clearly not a case of MODF, is it?

No, it isn’t. But it is, at the same time. While I didn’t cause my downturn, I did cause the difficulties that followed. When I was laid off I found myself with thirteen years of experience and yet none of my skills meant Jack in terms of employment. I don’t have a college degree or certification. I was never a manager, supervisor, or president – in fact, I shunned such positions of authority. My ambition and drive to improve myself were nonexistent because I was comfortable. I was making plenty of money, had enough to do all the things that I wanted, and I was satisfied. I could have spent the time bettering myself – finishing my education, creating a writing portfolio, etc. Instead I squandered that time, so when I lost my job I was left unprepared for unemployment. THAT was MODF.

I could spend all my time kicking myself – and believe me I have – but that doesn’t help me. What MODF does is show me the path to climb out of these holes I find myself in. Not the same-old same-old path, but the uncomfortable path. A path that might get me into debt again, or make me push myself to my limits. I’m afraid of that path. I’ve spent thirteen years ignoring that path, sinking into my comfortable hole, content that I could sustain my status quo forever and never have to grow or change. I’ve been deep in debt before. It was debilitating. I don’t want to go to that dark place again, so I use it as an excuse to avoid all things that would bring debt but might otherwise help me. I’ve had no success with love, and my experiences trying to woo the fairer sex have only served to shatter an already fragile self-esteem. I’ve felt happier and better about myself when I have given up on finding love. That has been an excuse, a self-made limit to keep me from experiencing that pain again.

For a long time I have convinced myself that I am limited. I have led myself to believe that I can only do so much. I don’t aspire to greatness not only because the path is hard but because cresting that hill puts me in the crosshairs. When I strive for greatness I bring responsibility upon myself. I don’t like responsibility. I like to be the unknown peon who does his job and gets enough money to live a simple but comfortable life. I hold myself down because I am afraid of what will happen if I rise up.

So here I am, back to MODF. It started as a way to beat myself up for my failures. It has morphed into an impetus. If I can cause my problems, I can solve them. Even those things which can’t really be said to be my fault can be. My unemployment is a result of decisions I made. The hole I find myself in was dug by my own shovel. I’m not helpless, and I need to stop pretending that I am. I’m not the victim, I’m the future victor.

During these times of unemployment one thing has remained constant: my father. When I first lost my job and came to live with my father and my brother, my father had been falling a lot. In his old age, and after a stroke or two, his motor and speech functions are iffy. My first bout of unemployment came exactly at the right time – just weeks before my father had to have 24-hour care. I have been able to play a significant role in my father’s life, and it has been amazing. When I look upon him, I see someone who is truly helpless. Without the funds to pay for professional in-home care or to move into an assisted living facility, my father has no choice but to rely on his family. I have a living, breathing example of helplessness in front of me every day. How dare I pity myself? I should be ashamed every time I sit at the bottom of my hole and mope about how stupid or weak I am. I have a choice: drown or swim. If I can lift my father up, I can lift myself up.

This MODF concept seems tangential to the main message of empowerment. I don’t know if it was the right way to present the subject, but it was how I arrived at it. Owning the problem made me realize that I could solve it as well. Perhaps it just takes a little pity party at the bottom of a dark wet hole to make a person realize that he has power. I have fingers. I can claw my way upward. Sure, a shovel would be nicer, or a ladder, but that ship has sailed. If I can dig the hole I find myself in, I can fill it too.

I hate burdening others with my personal baggage. This blog has served as a sounding board for me, a way to work out my thoughts and feelings during a time of crisis in my life. I never really approached it as a presentation to the world at large. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself. Some I’m proud of and others I’d rather bury while I’m filling up that hole I dug. I am surprised if my mad ramblings have any significance to others. But maybe they do. Maybe like Layne, my journeys into the depths of my psyche can serve to propel others out of their own dark places. I hesitate to allow myself that conceit, but I do appreciate everyone who follows my blog and enjoys it. To you I offer my profound thanks and well-wishes.

A Love-Hate Relationship

This morning I woke up to the blinking green light on my phone telling me some e-mail messages had come in overnight. Aside from a family issue, it was mainly useless stuff except for one more thing: a message from the magazine where my short story submission was pending. I cautiously opened it, waited for my eyes to clear up a bit from the sleep blur, and was immediately fixed on the “we regret to inform you…” bit. I didn’t have to read beyond that. Nobody ever regrets to inform me that they really enjoyed my work and want to publish it.

Despite the fact that I’m immediately running to the arms of my blog for comfort, it wasn’t a surprise nor do I disagree with their decision. Sure, any rejection stings a bit, but that’s the nature of rejection. This was not some amazing work I had been laboring years upon years to perfect. It was not the pouring of my soul onto the page. It began as a job application, an attempt to fit a coherent and complete story into the five-page minimum the employer demanded – with an emphasis on dialogue. It was a video game company I was applying to. I got the sense that the dialogue was the key part. They weren’t expecting Shakespeare or anything.

I actually believed and still believe that for the most part it was done well. The ending was a little quick and easy, but taking it farther would have been more trouble than it was worth. Besides, it fed into the theme pretty well. Yes, my five-page story had a theme. Rejection or not, I think it was a good story, but that was all. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t passionate. It wasn’t me opening a vein and bleeding onto the page. It was just a fun little story. I took it as far as I could and I’m satisfied with that. Submitting it for publication was just a “might as well” sort of thing.

Yet as with a story I’ve poured my heart into, this rejection still hurt. I mean I was glad, after four months in limbo, to finally have an answer, but obviously a yes would have been more welcome. This is ultimately why I sat down to write this article. For me at least, writing is a very intimate act. It is vulnerability defined. Writing is a tough mistress, especially if you’re a bit under-confident like myself. Unless you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece it’s probably going to suck, but by putting your heart and soul into a piece you open yourself up to the tearing apart of that core.

What makes it even worse is that writing is also a very unforgiving mistress. She doesn’t hold your hand when you’re out of ideas. She doesn’t soothe you when you’re convinced that every word you drop onto the page is pure and utter trash. She just stands there, stone faced, while you writhe in agony. That is, of course, what makes great writing what it is – the authorial struggle as they bite and claw their way through the morass of jumbled words to a brilliant and insightful tale.

There have been times when I’ve considered quitting. Bugger it all, the aggravation isn’t worth it! I sometimes think writing is the hardest thing in the world, and it may be. So somebody climbed Everest. They always had the slope ahead of them to follow. They could always feel their progress in the ache of their legs and the agony of their labored breathing. All I have is whiteness. A blank page – and me. This is me against me, trying to coax my innermost self out of an unwilling subject. (By the way, I wasn’t putting down mountain climbers. Those are representative of the thoughts I have while writing.)

I come back again every time, all sorrys and I-love-yous. In the end I don’t write because it’s profitable or because I crave the adoration of my fellow man. I write because it’s in my genetic code. If I didn’t write I wouldn’t exist. I hate to take a turn for the melodramatic, but I write to live. Without it I would be an empty miserable shell with no purpose. Even if my fears were all well-founded and I received incontrovertible proof that my writing was not worth the page or electronic bytes it was printed on, I would still write. It’s not just a hobby, it’s a need.

As I write this I’ve been tearing up. I often do that when I’m engrossed in the subject of writing. There’s no rational reason for such an emotional show. It’s not due to the rejection. I’ve pretty much forgotten about that by now. I just get that way when I talk about things that are impactful to me. The only other subject that brings out that reaction is my many bad experiences with women. That opens up deep emotional wounds. Writing does the same thing. It is at once my torturer and my catharsis. It can at one moment have me balled up in fetal defeat and at the next moment stretched out in the luxurious euphoria of the perfect prose. It is my dichotomy, my split personality. Writing is the Hyde to my Jekyll, or maybe vice versa. It is my sadness, insecurity, pain, suffering all poured out into an ugly mess. But it is also my joy, triumph, love, and hope at the same time.

God I hate writing, but I love it!

A Year of Resolution…or Not

thCADYUVBTWell, here we are. Another new year. Last year I was unemployed, without a significant other to be with on New Years, and unpublished as a writer. This year…well, to quote Herman’s Hermits, “Second verse same as the first.” Or in this case, “Second year same as the first.” I don’t even know if I bothered making resolutions last go around. I think I’ve learned by this point that there is no magical transition that occurs on midnight of January 1st that will suddenly make me have the discipline, will, and resolve to do the things I so naïvely hope to accomplish when the year is approaching. The only resolution I could possibly make that I stand any chance of keeping is “Break all of my other resolutions.” However, it’s not really a resolution if you’ve already mastered it.

So what? The Can’t Keep a Resolution Club is a vast one indeed. I’m not upset that I can’t keep resolutions. I’m upset that I keep falling for the silly notion that the arbitrary division between years that serves mainly agricultural purposes would have any sort of impact on me. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t have anyone to kiss or propose to at the stroke of midnight, and I’m not at all enthused by fireworks. New Years has little attraction for me. So why have I had the tendency to fall into that trap of making resolutions? I can’t even keep a resolution to stop making resolutions.

I’ve made the traditional resolutions before: get in shape, finish school, stop smoking, stop robbing liquor stores at gunpoint. Okay, the last two have never been resolutions of mine – I’ve never smoked and I don’t own a gun. I’ve even made resolutions where I tried to stack the deck in my favor: “Finish a few video games,” for instance. I figured the momentum from an accomplished resolution might springboard me into meaningful life changes. Hah!

The most realistic resolutions have been about writing. Finish a project, submit something for publishing – it all seems doable. And it is. But no matter what the resolutions are, they don’t change the fact that the dreamy-eyed idiot feeling excited about the New Year after watching some sparkly ball drop is the same idiot who was such a loser a few minutes earlier that he had to make those broad resolutions in the first place. Did the Earth’s latest swing around the Sun suddenly knock some sense into my thick head? I highly doubt it.

No, what I need to resolve to do is come to grips with the realization that change – realistic change – is a slow process. People can change, but not in an instant, and certainly not cleanly or easily. What I need to resolve to do is stop giving up at the first failure, to stop saying, “To Hell with it!” whenever my resolve is tested. What I need is to stop relying on astrology and ancient calendars to determine my destiny. The only way change comes into my life is to push myself harder in those areas that dissatisfy me. I sit here at the end of each year wondering where my good intentions went. Well, they fled with the giddiness that accompanied the New Year, feelings that thrived for that brief instant before I realized the arm of a clock had clicked upward and a glittery ball had succumbed to gravity and nothing had changed.

So pish to resolutions! Bah humbug to dreams of change! There will be no resolutions for me. I am who I am, and I either have to live with that or find that thing deep inside me that will push past the old habits and start to form new ones. I know what I need to do. No fireworks or confetti or verses of Auld Lang Syne can lull me into a false sense of hope. I have to understand that this is serious. I can and should set goals, but I need to stop relying on the whirling of planets to give me the drive to accomplish them. Nothing out there in the cosmos will give me one sliver of resolve to accomplish the goals I have set for myself. What I have to do is man up, take responsibility, and stop falling for the usual excuses for failure. What I need to do is claw and scratch my way forward until the little successes build to big habit changes. After all, I’ve gone from rarely typing a word into my computer to maintaining a semi-regular blog, all with nary a resolution in sight. Maybe I can get this done without the help of that spinning ball I’m standing on.

Journey: A Love Letter

Concise, well-written piece, although I haven’t been able to play the game yet, she’s definitely put it on my radar.

meginterrupted

When I was little, I remember running as fast as my legs would carry me around the playground in spring. My arms were outstretched as far as I could reach them. My eyes were closed tight. Occasionally I would bend my knees, dip and swoop my body as I streaked across the tarmac. Introducing a few spirited leaps and turns, the fresh air would coolly rush over my skin and through the spaces between my fingers; it would whip and snatch up my hair in its torrents. In my mind –and imagination- I was soaring high from the clear blue hues of daytime through to the pinkish wisps of cloud hanging in the dusk sky. I was flying. But what I remember most about this ‘pretend’ was the very real feeling that swelled up in my chest; it felt a bit like awe, only more… enlivening. I’m also a little…

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