Tonight I am a little upset with myself. Instead of working on the novel today, I have been compiling information for court that is coming up in November. The deadline for discovery is next week. I’m not an attorney, but due to my financial situation, I can’t afford one either. So I am making do the best that I can. This morning I was on hold for around 2.5 hours, navigating various phone trees. Some of which actually answered the call after a significant period of time.

The bummer is that writing is fulfilling, and today the only writing I did was writing I didn’t want to do. Things I am tired of. Exhausted by. Soul-crushing shit.

The other problem is by finishing a chapter late last night, I really hadn’t given much thought about what I wanted to work on today in the book. I guess I am accomplishing things right now that need to be done, but I don’t want to do. Which happens sometimes in life.

Maybe tomorrow I can divide my time a little bit better into what I have to do and what I have to do.

Some days are like this, I suppose. Right now it is late and I am very tired, and I need to think about things that aren’t court-related. There is a reason I am reminded why I never went into law. I absolutely hate it.

The Metric of Success

Today I’ve been struggling a little bit with feeling like a fraud. This is something a lot of creatives go through, especially if they have been living in the other world of punching a clock for some time

Not counting this blog post, today was a 5,500 word day. The problem my brain is trying to cope with is though I have been writing throughout the day, from around 9am until now, I haven’t been paid for a single word of it.

A part of me is panicking a little bit, since for the last EVER many years, I have been taught to equate productivity with how much money you get from the work you do. Never mind that I spent a big part of my childhood doing volunteer work with the Boy Scouts or my school. I even worked at events when my ex wife worked for a non-profit when we lived in Wyoming. But volunteer work is usually reserved for people meting out community service requirements ordered by a judge, or rich people who don’t need to put a dollar amount on their time.

The work I’m doing isn’t either of those things. What I am doing is writing a book in hopes that one of these days someone might want to give me money for it so they can publish it and a bunch of other people will read it. Until that happens, however, I’m working on spec. Which means I could just be wasting my time.

But hey, I wasted eighteen years at a job that gave me the axe and didn’t care what happened to me next. A lot of those years were spent mindlessly, needlessly pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other. And by the time everything was digitized, I just dragged and dropped files. That was work I did for someone else. Sure, they gave me money for it, but I was hardly fulfilled.

Now I feel fulfilled, but I’m scrounging the cupboards to economize. I’m worrying about how I will pay bills. I’m beating myself up thinking how I am wasting my time.

And then I sit down and write 5,500 of some of the best stuff that I have written in my life. The shitty thing about it is we have all been taught to put a price tag on our creativity. When your bank account starts to dwindle, you start doubting yourself. Making a living on writing or art or music or anything that isn’t punching a time clock is for other people. Immensely talented people. You feel like a fraud. A schmuck. A dreamer who won’t ever do anything of note or value. Someone who needs to get a real job.

It’s no longer about getting in your own way, but overcoming a lifetime of training as what we are supposed to do and be. Anything outside of that is punished. Society is a self-cleaning oven when it comes to rewarding people who step outside of their place. They either don’t last long, or they thrive.

Maybe success should be measured in how light your heart feels at the end of the day, instead of how much money you have in your bank account.

Anxiety and Depression

This is not meant to be a bummer of a post, but moreso an observation. I know we are supposed to be aware of the dangers of obesity, heart disease, smoking, the ‘Rona, diabetes, and cancer, but I don’t think that any of those are the plagues we have been told they are. I think those are just the symptoms. I’m actually going to back this up.

The actual plagues that affect humanity are anxiety and depression. These two things manifest themselves in every last one of the diseases that I listed above, including coronavirus. How is that possible? Because anxiety and depression affect your immune system. They basically tank it. All that cortisol that your amygdala makes (or tells your body to make due to high-stress situations) is great for keeping you hyperaware of your surroundings, helping with the production of adrenaline, and helping your body store fat because it might be facing a time when there is no more food. It does all sorts of stuff to your body that usually results in long-term problems.

The last time I went in for a physical, I told my doctor that one side of my neck was bigger than the other. I thought maybe it was a lymphnode, or my thyroid or something. Nope. Stress. In men, it is actually an indicator of massive amounts of stress and it is almost always your right side.

Reading blogs, checking out social media, and just talking with people I know has its drawbacks sometimes, but one of the bonuses is that people talk more openly about what is bothering them. Most of the problems are stress related, with anxiety and depression being almost debilitating for some people. Myself included.

So, recently, even though I have been cast aside by the job I worked for 18 years (while all the nitwits and lazy bastards who mostly just made life difficult for the rest of us get to stay) I have to say that I see now that a bad day writing is 1000 times better than a good day working at that dump. My job was probably killing me. My anxiety has lessened. My situational depression has gotten better because that is no longer my situation. And I haven’t missed working at that place AT ALL in the last four months that I haven’t had to cross through that doorway.

Every morning used to start off with being anxious over whether or not my supervisor’s car would be in the parking lot. If it was, I could expect to sit at my desk and work without interruption, or sneers and snarls, or random exhuberance over her weather app or some bullshit she had turned into a crisis we all had to hear about right NOW. Mostly it was the the side-eyeing, the shitty comments, the drama she created. And I don’t miss the constant interruptions from helpless faculty getting paid three times what I was, but I had to stop everything I was doing to fix their problems. And if I couldn’t, they would shit on me to the Dean and I would get a bad review.

The environment I worked in was completely toxic. From the narcissistic climbers to the asbestos that rained onto our desks overnight from the HVAC system.

I have a feeling that most people who suffer from anxiety and depression all face these sorts of challenges. Whether it is at work or at home. Maybe you are struggling to live in an unhappy marriage? Maybe you have your own demons that need to be defeated, and instead you are trying to drown them in alcohol.

I know that I have often said “It isn’t that easy to just drop all your responsibilities and do something else. I’m kinda stuck here.” Well, that was true, but the job that treated me like shit really didn’t care all that much if I needed it to drop me. I got a little bit of severance for nearly 20 years of accumulated knowledge, training, history, and yes bad habits from working there, which I have been using to the hilt to write and do something that is actually fulfilling.

Unlike a lot of people, I have known for a long time what fills my soul. I love writing. Granted, it is lonely, tedious, and you get virtually no feedback or support for your efforts, but I get to work for myself. I can set my own hours too! Most of all, I get to create and solve problems and inspire other people and put something on the page that has been fighting to get out of my heart for a long time.

But when people dread going into work, or worse yet dread walking back into their homes after a long day at work, just remember that you get this life. That’s it. You don’t exist for a job that will replace you a week after you are dead, and you don’t exist for a spouse who is probably sexting an old high school fling when you are at work.

Eventually, the choice won’t be left up to you, and anxiety and depression will still be killing you.

Take these “unprecidented times” to look at your life and what it is you might be getting joy out of, instead of struggling to hold onto a life that was eating you up from the inside out. Start that business. Fix up that old car. Play with your kids. Sew that quilt. Get involved in politics. Swim. Get into a trade profession. Read. Write stories. Paint! Go back to school. Make a bear sculpture out of a tree stump using only a chainsaw! Stop scrolling on social media and wishing it was you in these beautiful places and start finding your own beautiful places.

If you have to wear a mask to go to the grocery store, consider removing the one you’ve been wearing every other goddamned day of your life.