So Much for a Year

Where has the time gone?

It has been a lost year for many of us.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around so much of it.

Loss of what we all used to know.

Loss of connection.

Loss of loved ones.

Loss of sanity for some.

Loss of the world.

For some of us, we struggle to rebuild our lives.

To make some sense out of a world that seems to be run now by those who can shout the loudest, be the meanest, and do so without compassion or regard for others. A population of people who think it is more important to be “right” than it is to be kind.

I’m doing all right. The Man in the High Castle in my own right. Out here on the outskirts, looking in, running out of Motrin from all the facepalming I’ve been doing lately. Glad I’m back where I came up from. I’ve found ways to find fulfillment that a year ago, I wouldn’t have considered. I took a lot for granted back then. I was complacent with other things too. I lived under the impression that waking up next week wouldn’t be much different than a month or a year.

I was wrong about that.

Sometimes I miss the damp, heavy air of a crowded room. The feeling of too many people in one place. I dream of stupid facemasks now. It’s better to just stay at home and keep busy with something else, rather than encourage those kinds of dreams.

This isn’t the Somme. This isn’t the Berlin Airlifts. This isn’t the Flood.

It’s annoying. It’s reminiscent of times I hoped were gone. I just look away and try to stay busy.

I check in on old connections sometimes only to find that we probably could no longer be friends. This world continues to divide. I don’t think things will go back to how they were either. That’s okay too. I never liked those parties all that much anyway.

A year ago, we were riding that wave, which broke soon thereafter. Just a few weeks and it would all go back to how it was.

In some ways, I miss that world, and in other ways, dealing with how things have become have opened my eyes to new possibilities. I have gotten new opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I am blessed and I am grieving all at once. I find myself better off now than I was a year ago in some ways. Like losing a close family member and getting an inheiritance.

What a weird place to live. A strange time.

Stay safe.

We’ve gotten lazy

I tend to share a lot of personal things on this site and there’s a good chance if you are in my life, your stories might find their way here. I always try to do my best to obscure the originator, since I’m just relating their story based on my own lens. That’s what people have done for centuries. They share each other’s stories, they tack on their own bits and push this collection of things to the next person. Entire civilizations have been built this way.

I contacted my friend last night because I was working on a chapter of the book that sampled heavily from a conversation we had at a New Years Eve party a few years back. We hadn’t visited in person for probably sixteen or seventeen years at that point, only keeping in touch via social media or Messenger. When I arrived at the party, it felt strange because everyone aged so rapidly from my memories of us all being in our early twenties to all of us being middle aged. I was like hanging out with everyone’s parents, pretending to be those kids I knew from so long ago.

As the night progressed, I was in the middle of a FOMO attack. That’s Fear of Missing Out. The woman I was dating at the time was off with “Friends” for New Years. Always so vague. It’s hard to be with someone like that, especially if you have trust issues. Especially when you find out later that these friends wanted to be a lot more. As I was moaning over not being included in this woman’s life, yet again, my friend–always the cool one of the group who did her own thing, made her mistakes, and somehow turned it around to seem like she had everything under control–gave me some perspective.

She said, “You used to be so cool and confident. Now you are sweating some basic bitch. What happened to you?”

It was a psychic ass-kicking, which I probably deserved from an evening of whining about my disasterous romantic interests. Back then, I was irritated by it. I had been through a lot. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was really worthy of anyone’s affection. It was always a constant struggle with my kids, who were caught in the middle of a high-conflict divorce. My oldest was peeled away from me the year before. The “relationship” I was in was toxic, since it mostly depended on whether or not she thought she wanted to spend time with me. I won’t even get into how my marriage served to break me down over the years to where I doubted everything about myself, and was still healing from that.

I had a lot of stuff going on, I guess. No, I wasn’t that cocky, confident guy at 20. I too had aged. I had my battle damage and I also wanted to know what the hell happened to me. In the years between getting married and finally filing for divorce, I lost everything. My friends. My family. I was isolated from all of my support systems, and made to think it was my decision. When you come back to people you lost a long time ago, your confidence is shot. It’s almost like you are apologizing. Asking for permission to be around them again. Not worthy of the love and respect they probably have waiting for you right where you left off.

She is living in a beautiful country right now, and I sometimes see the gorgeous photos of her travels in South Korea, with its colors and life that look like they are straight out of National Geographic. You see something like that and it’s hard to think they aren’t just having a blast. Last night as we were chatting, I caught up on a lot of her life via her blog. I’m a multitasker. I hadn’t even known she wrote one. Since this pandemic bullshit started, she has been physically cut off from friends and family, so she keeps up online. Like the rest of us, she has been segregated from her personal connections there too, with the hopes that social media and texts can still overcome that solitude. It works about as well as you’d expect. I mean we’ve all had our share of Zoom meetings.

Texts and emails are great, but they are no great substitute for a hug or sitting down and having a conversation. She really didn’t sound okay. In some ways, it was difficult to get her to engage in the conversation. I felt for her. Yet in some ways, I knew that it was like that New Years party. We were all catching up after a long hiatus. I remember that night and thinking “How come nobody checked to see if I was okay during those fifteen years?”

They didn’t know. When people are silent, sometimes the rest of us figure that they are just out there living their best life. We are hoping for that anyway.

We’ve gotten lazy. We rely on algorithms to deliver the news of our friends and family to our newsfeeds every day. Sure, we see a little bit, once we scroll through the ads for mattresses, soap, puzzle games, political punditry, and so much other static that permeates these little places we think are ours. Once in a while a crumb falls through the cracks, and we think of an old friend, and we click on their name and get to see this distorted reality of what their life is like. Usually the extremes of morose, desperately hopeful memes of encouragement, or sacharine pictures of their perfect lives. The truth is someplace in the middle.

I know that through my blog, I’ve seen the level of apathy we all have for each other these days. Back when I wrote on a LiveJournal account, we had networks of people dropping in to read each others’ posts. We would comment, have conversations. Some of my best friends are people I met that way and we have followed each others lives for over a decade now. There were no algorithms then. Just everyone’s stories laid out to share. What a time that was.

Very rarely though do people share like that anymore. We Tweet. We post one pretty picture on Instagram. We vomit our politics onto Facebook. We don’t call. We rarely text. And especially during this pandemic, we aren’t going to coffee or hugging or laughing together like we once did.

I was glad I reached out to say hi, to catch up a little bit.

Check on your friends. They probably aren’t okay.

Better Boundaries

One of the things I have encountered while trying to write full time is how much it just looks to other people like you are screwing around.

Yes, there is some screwing around to be expected, but a lot of what you don’t see is mapping out your thoughts, drawing in information, and trying to get to a state of equilibrium where the outside distractions are at a minimum and your work can begin.

I was talking with a friend last night who was in the middle of helping out a friend with some divorce drama. She had work of her own to do, but being a good friend, she took the time to work things out with her friend who was struggling. After a few hours of this, the end of the evening was closing in and she still hadn’t written her paper. The friend was fine, she probably would have been fine, but for my friend, there was still a paper to be written, an impending deadline, and now a whole bucketload of frustration and exhaustion.

Yesterday was a lot like that for me too. I started off the day after a rough night with the dog wanting to go out at 7:30am. We headed out into the snow, where she took care of business, and then we ran into my dad, who always wants a conversation. I am not much of a morning person. Unlike a retired man who begins every day at 5am and always has some kind of project to fiddle with, my brain refuses to engage until around 10. The reason for this is I often work until 2am. That is when the house is quiet, no kids are throwing Star Wars trivia at me, and nobody has to use my computer for endless busywork projects their online school throws at them throughout the day. Even the dog chills out from her need to be petted, a toy thrown, or let out.

My dad likes to visit. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just I have a finite number of things I have to say in a day, and trying to fill out the early morning pre-coffee with conversation is really pulling the rope a long way in a dry well. So, my day started with guilt.

Are we going to fix the heater in your car today?

No. I hadn’t been planning on it.

Oh. Gonna write some blogs today then?

Fuck. I was. Now that I’ve been guilted about it, I think I’ll do a couple loads of laundry, and about a hundred thousand other things that aren’t writing. Maybe feel like I’m not doing enough to satisfy the production level which is expected of me by my family.

A buddy of mine once told me when I was struggling with some writer’s block and I couldn’t stay off social media, “Avoid garbage words in the morning.” he said.

The old legend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who sat down to pen Kublai Khan and how he was interrupted by the Person from Porlock and most of the great bits of the epic poem evaporated from his head is something that happens almost daily for me. When I have to struggle to talk to people in the morning and force some semblance of conversation, which usually ends in some sort of criticism, I’m not happy. Between my recent daily emails of how I am lacking as a human being from my ex-wife and my dad’s critivisits, it’s a wonder I get anything done.

Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to anybody! Much less someone whose negativity I have to match to make a connection.

The hardest thing about the creative process, whether it is painting, poetry, art, writing, singing, songwriting, broadcasting, etc. is convincing people who don’t have to come up with shit from thin air that you are actually being productive. The same goes for writing papers, writing copy for companies, studying, etc. It’s work. It requires concentration. If roles were reversed, could they just sit down and put their thoughts into some kind of media? Those who can do it well make it look easy. It doesn’t mean that it is. It doesn’t mean that we don’t agonize over details to get them just right, so that a reader can just breeze through it and not appreciate the artistry that went into it.

Think of a cabinet. Somebody planned that, measured the wood, cut it to specifications, planed it, assembled it, stained and finished it, and all the rest. And you just stick your coffee mugs inside of it. Do you ever think for a moment the work and effort it takes to put something together like this? No! Because it is so basic and utilitarian you aren’t meant to throw yourselves at its feet and worship it for the art that it is! It doesn’t mean that passion and thought didn’t go into it. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t step back when it was done and say “I hope somebody really enjoys this.”

We all consume. We all just carry on. To the next one. And the next. And so on.

Stop it.

If you don’t make better boundries, people will come in to your life and grab everything they can carry off. If they get mad about the boundaries, then those boundaries were made exactly for that person. Boundaries filter out the people who just take and never give back. Feel about as guilty at the outrage they exude as you would someone flipping you off in traffic. It’s a meaningless gesture. If what you are doing has meaning. If you are chasing your dream or following a plan to achieve a goal, then keep moving forward. Put up those boundaries and do it without remorse.

Because when your energy is spent, they just go home with a full tank and a comfy bed, and you are the one questioning your life choices at 11:40pm. They won’t feel ANY guilt about it. They won’t be the ones without shit written, a late paper, another sleepless night, a sense of failure, and the whole thing to try to avoid again tomorrow.

We don’t get an unlimited number of tomorrows.