Stress and the inconvenience of being a writer

In the last few days, things have become increasingly stressful. Sometimes life throws a curve ball–or fifteen–at you. As a long-time overthinker I have put that character trait to work by allowing myself to get the overthinking down as writing. The big problem with that, however, is writing is no longer optional. In order to wrap my brain around things, I have to put these thoughts down onto the page.

There are times when talking to someone else about things would be wonderful. This is what you get out of therapy, when someone else can see things through a different lens and offer their thoughts that aren’t boxed in by your own perceptions. Sometimes talking to friends helps, but friends don’t (and shouldn’t) want to spend all the time an overthinker needs to spend on a problem. They have their own problems, or after a while they just become exhausted by what is going on in your life. Sometimes I think of how great it would be to have a cooler older brother or sister to chat with. Someone who has their life together and can just floor you with a simple solution that works to fix everything.

But life isn’t like it is in the movies. You don’t go through two acts and have Robin Williams show up and say “It’s not your fault, chief,” and everything is suddenly better. This is another reason to get the words down. You can be your own Robin Williams. And you don’t have to put the heavy burden of being your Robin Williams onto those you care about.

Writing things down can help you make things linear which are difficult to make sense of, given a general mosaic of chaos. You can go through everything one step at a time and fight your battles in succession, rather than facing an entire angry mob of emotions. You can even come back to them after the storms have passed and remind yourself that even though it felt like the world was coming apart at the seams, you survived and those challenges which seemed so insurmountable then would not be so hard now.

├ůs for the good things, I enjoy writing about those too. Putting those thoughts and feelings down on paper allow you to step back in time and always have that memory with you. The scents, the way the light was falling on a hillside, the wind, the rain, the roar of a crowd, or the hum of tires on the road. Whatever you decide to put in that stew of memories will bring about all sorts of levels of flavor later on in ways you never imagined.

Anyway, even writing these thoughts down has helped and now maybe they will let me do something else with my talents, which until now I have been too rattled to focus on for very long. It’s always something, so they say. Right now I have a lot of challenges ahead of me and it’s hard to see what lies over the next hill or turn of the road. All I can do now is to continue driving ahead, moving forward.

Let’s see how this all works out.

Walls

Today is a double post day.

Occasionally a post about personal growth or observation sneaks into the mix. Today I decided to write about one such moment. Typically I haven’t been because my ex-wife loves to stalk my blog and try to indicate where I am a danger to myself and others. Then brings it up in court.

The Best Leonardo DiCaprio Memes Shared on Social Media for His 46th  Birthday
Right there, Cliff! See it!

Jeez, does that shit get old fast. If you haven’t been paying attention, this blog is more or less about personal growth, which is the opposite of that. To be clear, I write about these things too because I know a lot of other readers out there are struggling and part of healing is knowing you aren’t alone. That is if anyone is actually interested in putting in the work to heal. That being said, let’s continue.

Lately I’ve been facing an anniversary.

We’ve all been facing an anniversary. Mine is a little bit different. A year ago, I was nervous about changes that were coming. I was being taken back to court again by my ex-wife. The hearing was set for November. I had no money to hire an attorney either. Also, just on the heels of a romantic weekend in Glenwood Springs with my (then) girlfriend, it was confirmed that there would be layoffs coming at my job. As coronavirus (as it was called back then) began to trigger lockdowns we parted ways on March 13th, with the anticipation that we would see each other again in just a few weeks when the quarantine was ended. We had plans to go to the UK on a couple’s trip where we would visit London and Edinburgh. My hopes of finding someone who would join me on my adventures had been realized!

We never saw each other again. The quarantine dragged out for weeks. We talked on the phone every night and as the panic began to creep in on me about losing my job, child support probably going up, and having to cancel our trip, she decided she needed to end our relationship.

I used to count the end of our time together as April 30th, but really, it ended that night she left my house in the rain on March 13th. I could feel her slipping away, and when I would try to talk to her about it, she just told me she wasn’t going anywhere. That I was overthinking. Of course that was until she did go somewhere. I felt that trust begin to unravel two days before we were over. I played Thomas Dolby’s “I Love You Goodbye” on repeat for most of an evening before she dropped the final bombshell.

Previous relationships and of course my tumultuous marriage have left me with a lot of pieces to pick up. This one hurt. No, it went beyond that. It left a lot of damage behind. Mostly damage to my ability to trust others in relationships. It is something I struggle with. Strange how building something together that showed me it was possible to love again damaged my ability to trust so badly.

When I met her, I had been healing from another relationship, which I have talked about often on this site. Rather than get into all that BS again, I will say that it was hard to realize it wasn’t me, but seriously them. I had value. Which I had all along but had forgotten over years of isolation and abuse from before. I was fine with being Alone. I was enjoying my own company. Then I met someone who showed me all the effed up things that other person was on about for three years. Namely how badly I was being treated–even though it was significantly better than my marriage.

She never pointed these things out. It was always revealed by things that she did. Her actions. Things like calling me when she got home or not being vague about her “friends”. She treated me as an equal. We built each other up, encouraged each other. We indulged each other’s weird hobbies or activities and accepted them. We gave each other bad habits and enjoyed them together. Damn, was that nice. Each of us had a past but we chose not to let it haunt us too much.

I allowed myself to trust and slowly those walls I built to protect myself began to come down. When she ended things, the walls went back up immediately. They were twice as thick and the tower I stuck myself in this time was much higher. Unless someone was somehow on my side of the wall when that happened, there was no getting in.

The walls stay up.

Sometimes a little light gets let in, but it is with reluctance. With the light, sometimes you get rain. It’s hard to trust for those of us who have been hurt. It’s harder to not cling to that victimhood because it gets you a pass. That is something I am really wanting to be rid of. I am bringing it up today because I want to help others. I want to show them that sometimes being brave is just getting out of your own way.

Sometimes you get into your own headspace and the story you are telling yourself…well, that’s just it. It’s a story until you ask the right questions. It’s hard to ask the right questions because sometimes you are afraid of the answer you might get back. It’s hard to not beat yourself up and say you believed answers another time too, until those changed.

Sometimes you knock out one brick and replace it with two more. You might be afraid of setting yourself up to lose everything all over again, and sometimes its safe and warm behind those walls (you tell yourself it is anyway). It is really hard to be open to trust again. It gets to the point where you don’t even trust your friends. In your 40s, relationships are hard. Especially after a life-changing event like a divorce.

If your situation involved being isolated from your friends, family, or anyone else you were close to (even co-workers) you might find yourself starting all over again. The strong bonds you had with people have been stretched thin by time and distance. You are no longer in the inner circle of those relationships. You start over. This time with a layer of cynicism. You feel jaded. At some point the fear of caring about someone new is overwhelming because you keep expecting the other shoe to drop. Attachment anxiety ensues.

When you are in your 20s, like a hangover or the days after an all-nighter studying, you bounce back pretty quickly. In your middle years, it is much less so. Like the sounds you make when you try to extract yourself from a comfy chair or struggling to walk across a cold floor to the bathroom every morning, it takes a lot more. You don’t bounce back. In friendships and relationships you are also pretty hardened off and set in your ways to some extent. In your 20s you are maleable. Adaptable. Less broken. Like little kids who approach each other on the playground and say, “Hey! Wanna be friends!” and from that moment on, they just are. Best friends even.

Boundaries are important, but they aren’t the same as walls, even if they sometimes serve the same purpose. But those walls you build just get thicker and stronger. Because you can’t be hurt that way again. Sometimes you just wish you could step outside of them and be like you were when you were young and beautiful.

Difficult? Yes. Impossible. No. That’s what I hope for anyway. Some days are difficult. Do we chisle our way out of Shawshank with a tiny rock hammer or do we ask for more mortar and bricks to make our own prisons? Or do we build a beacon for others?

The title never fits when it’s the first thing you write

All these years we’ve been thinking like readers when we sit down to write. As a reader, other than the cover of a book, the first thing you know about any of it is the title. So when we make that transition from reader to writer, we might have some unrealistic ideas of what to expect from ourselves when we are writing. The title encapsulates the book, either from a line of prose that wraps up the entire theme, to something symbolic. I have news for you; the writer didn’t start off with the title. Why? Because as they were writing, it is likely they figured out what it all meant as they were chugging along.

So why is it in life, we think we are supposed to have our lives figured out so early on? I read the blog of a millennial the other day who was putting so much pressure on herself for not having everything laid out by the end of her twenties. I remember that I might have done the same. A friend of mine discussed out our careers need to be established by 27, and how she was already past her prime.

What a load of crap.

Funny how these days, kids can’t be expected to cross the street on their own, sit in the front seat of a car until they can drive it, or do half the things I was able to do on my own at their age. But they have a window of nine years now to figure out their entire lives, including four years of college, and the massive debt associated with that. Oh yeah, don’t forget to get married and start a family too in those years.

Green as the grass and twice as wet behind the ears as a fish.

Tonight I’m feeling a little melancholy. Maybe it’s from two solid days of DIY on the house and not enough writing. I re-walled one of the rooms, floor to ceiling. I threw in some insulation too. Today I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t do any work on the house. I didn’t do a lot really. Some laundry, visited my folks, slept in, and made acorn squash rissotto. Rissotto is one of those foods that sounds really fancy, and it is tasty, but when you get to brass tacks on it, it’s really just mushy rice.

I would rather have some decent BBQ. Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal with saffron is, I can’t taste it. I can’t even smell it. Never could. Maybe that’s good, because at least I don’t know what I am missing.

Tonight marks an anniversary for me. A year ago, a woman I was seeing at the time and I went on a romantic weekend trip for her birthday. Shortly after that, the whole state was on lockdown. I would only see her once more and then six weeks later, it was all over. It took me a while to get over that one. Someone who said they would always be there…then they weren’t. Something like that makes the walls go up. Since then, my life has changed quite a bit. My job of nearly 19 years ended, I moved back to my hometown because I could no longer afford to live in the Front Range, I got a dog, who at this moment is nagging me to play fetch with her. I have drifted from some people while getting closer to others. I tend to guard myself in talking about these because last year taught me to not get too comfortable sometimes.

Tonight, Facebook brought up a moment in 2018 where my youngest son and my daughter were ice skating. I watched the video and saw the smiles. The genuine smiles. At the time, I wasn’t all that healthy or happy. Bad relationship, bad work environment, a CPS courtroom process finally winding down, resulting in nothing other than a bunch of bureaucrats patting themselves on the back telling each other “Good job!” and nothing being any different.

Six months later, my daughter stopped smiling and stopped coming over to my house. My child support doubled. Work started to look really sketchy as far as job security. The bad relationship I was in finally folded at the end of that year, and it took a while to understand my worth. (She got engaged to someone else six months later–kinda sus).

A year ago tonight, I was sitting in a hot spring with someone I was in a serious relationship with, who may as well have fallen off the face of the earth a week later. I don’t expect a pity party, I just don’t think I could have come up with a title for the last year and the awful and wonderful things that have happened.

The world got crazy and since the St. Patrick’s Day that wasn’t, now everyone hates Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

I’m far from being 27 and I know that I don’t have my life figured out. Other than there are a lot of things I wouldn’t want to repeat, and a few I wouldn’t mind going back to once in a while. In some ways I feel truly blessed, and am working every day on how to just let those blessings be good for me. To not push people away because it hurts when they get close. To just be content in the silence of a house I am lucky enough to fix up.

Tonight I’m playing fetch with the dog.