Happiness in a New Normal World

“It’s all good.”

Why does everyone keep saying that when I know good and damn well it isn’t all good? I remember when hippies used to say it in their tie-dye and drug-rugs, baked to the gills and it meant something different back then. It meant they were so high that nothing was going to bring them down. It was a Zen state back then. Now it has become the Diet Coke of my least favorite expression:

“It is what it is.”

I hate that expression. Fucking hate it. Why is that? Because two kinds of people use it.

  • Someone who has given up and resigned themselves to their fate of being miserable.
  • Someone who already has everything they want and they aren’t sharing.

Even though Dylan Thomas was a complete prick, he had one thing right.

“Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas

We waste so much of our lives saying things like we are “surviving” or “tomorrow I’ll do X” or just biding our time until the Big Black Car comes to pick us up one last time. Or waiting for things to improve. There isn’t tomorrow. There is only today, what we do right now. Whether it is laugh or cry or work our asses off, tomorrow does not come with a guarantee and for whatever reason even though we are living in times when people are dying all around us from an engineered cold, we still just keep grinding.

Why can’t we just be happy? Why don’t we just do whatever the hell fills our tanks?

Right now we are living in a time when people should realize that a big chunk of what we do can be done differently. People could work at home instead of fighting rush hour traffic. They could be comfortable. They don’t need some Overseer staring down at them in a cubicle maze. They don’t need to feel the stress and frustration of the day to know that they have earned their paycheck.

I did that shit for over twenty years. At the end of my job, my bloated waddling supervisor acted like I did nothing, and what I did was never good enough. My pay never changed, but they were happy to heap more responsibilities onto my list of duties. Things really got shaky when they wanted me to do training on some ridiculous LCD TV bulletin boards in the hallways. A university that was $10mil in debt every year decided we needed monitors in the halls to display things that were going on in the college. You know, like those corkboard thingies that had been there for 40 years did for free.

Not only did the refusal to pay me more for constantly updating that shit go against the standards I valued when I accepted the job, but blowing money on stupid shit while they were laying off 70+ people (myself included I would find out) seemed to go against any sort of logic.

So, I said, “No.”

The job was bullshit. So, on top of being exposed to asbestos, lead paint, no raises, inept leadership, gaslighting, watching administrators and faculty flaunt their wealth (and cry about it), I knew that place was just polishing brass on the titanic. Why did I stay?

It was a comfort zone.

“It is what it is.”

Right now, being self-employed scares the absolute shit out of me. I don’t know when my next paycheck is coming. I have to push myself every day to create content, to pitch, and then there is the frustration of knowing that almost nobody is going to respond. So, yes, I’m hemorraging money, trying to build something for myself. I’m taking advantage of this “New Normal” because working from home is suddenly on the table for a lot of us.

I hate that when I pitch an article to a magazine, or I query a venue to ask them if I can write about what they have going on, not only is there rejection, but more often than not (about 95% of it) there isn’t even a response. I can’t help but wonder what they hell they are doing over there at their job when they can’t even respond?

But you know what I hated more? Having someone drop a steaming pile of bullshit on my desk, tell me it’s all my fault, and then flounce off to go jabber about some show on TV or talk with the other mucky-mucks about their last trip to Thailand. Or complaining about how expensive something is when they make four times what I did.

So many of my friends (and believe me, it’s a decent number of them) are struggling right now and are absolutely miserable in their jobs. It’s the constant influx of bullshit they are dealing with. They aren’t respected. They are taken for granted. And because everyone has bills to pay, they don’t have a lot of choice on what else they can do. It’s the return of the Company Store.

Well, there is always a choice. I had a choice at UNC, but it offered stability in exchange for just suffering through asshattery. Along with the promise of hemorrhoids and ulcers and constant stess and stiff necks and weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart problems and knowing that you are a parent who has provided for others and kept them alive and somehow some fuck who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with instructions written on the heel comes in and degrades you for not doing a good job were just a small price to pay for stability. Taking that every day or scaring the hell out of myself with doing something else was my “It is what it is” moment. Until they laid a bunch of us off and started paying new people half of what we were making.

We need to be better.

Our leaders are no longer leaders. They are nitwits living in positions of privilege. The metric of their leadership is putting their employees on blast and not even knowing what they do. Our “essential” employees are burning out. Most of them could quit and get a job at McDonalds for better pay. We are working for other people who aren’t even paying us enough for a decent funeral, which most of us will have to call in sick to have ourselves buried when the time comes.

But here’s the thing. My “job” right now doesn’t pay a lot. And sometimes I have to remind myself (and my family) that I’m not unemployed. I’m just not punching a clock and getting regular checks. But I am self-employed. And I am trying. And I am struggling–mostly with just finding a rhythm. And when everytime I turn around and somebody wants another $1000 and I watch my savings evaporate, yes, it would make sense to chuck this dream. But that’s a lot like running a marathon and getting to the halfway point and turning back because it’s so hard. You might as well keep running the race.

I have something right now that 20 years at a university NEVER gave me: Fulfillment.

If I’m going to have crippling and anxiety and fear, I might as well have it because of something I want to do, instead of being afraid someone is going to come around and fire me on a whim.

So, I might starve. But I might also get everything I ever wanted in life too. It’s all good.

Why can’t we be happy?

That’s just the thing. We can. Keep fighting. Keep striving. Keep going. Fuck the haters. Get out of your own way and fly.

You want happiness? Reach out and TAKE IT.

Overwhelmed

Today I have sat at my desk going through the files for my Work in Progress and I have just been overwhelmed by how much there is left to write for the story. In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he talks about how sometimes writing is just shoveling shit from a seated position. I’m really feeling that today.

In a weird way, going through my files is procrastination. I have some chapters that I need to work on and honestly, I have just hit a wall of I Don’t Wanna. There is still so much ground to cover and why can’t I just hand over a bunch of garbage to some editor and they can put the book together for me? Man. I feel really rough right now and I have really been bad with the distractions today.

As you are reading this, you are seeing the fruits of one of my efforts to distract myself.

I have sections that need written, but sometimes the content is pretty…hard. I don’t always want to delve into those places in my mind, so I distract myself. I avoid. Man, I could write the book on avoidance. Maybe I should!

Anyway, we are all capable of doing the hard work and getting it done, but it just means sometimes we have to eat the elephant one bite at a time. We have to keep moving forward one small step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Today is a day I really have to push myself to do this. Today I want to do things like write new fun scenes, which is a lot of fun, but unfortunately it means neglecting the ones that need to be written which aren’t as fun. They are telling the story, but they aren’t what I want to disappear into.

Anyway, enough distractions.

It’s time to get to work. Today writing feels very much like work. And of course there is the burning question of what if it sucks? What if all this effort means that at the end of it it was for nothing? What if nobody wants to buy this book? What if nobody wants to read it? I’ll have wasted all this time. Opening up my heart for this project only to be considered…unworthy of even being published. Like my story isn’t interesting enough for that.

That’s the shit that stings.

The Long Road to Anywhere

Recently I have had some breakthroughs on the novel. I came up with an ending, lots of themes, and some good stuff in the middle. I’ve probably already mentioned this before. What lies ahead of me now is filling in the gaps, but not overwriting the sucker. That part is difficult. There are so many things I want to include in this story, and so many reasons to not include them I think my problem right now is thinking from a marketing viewpoint. Nobody is going to want to read X, the pacing is too slow, who cares.

I think what I have to do now is to just tell the story and chisel away all the flash like it’s a big chunk of marble, to uncover the image underneath.

It just feels never-ending sometimes. And I have a nasty habit of having an end in sight and going off on a lot of little side quests for my characters. They all add up to the same thing, but are they necessary? Who is to say they are or aren’t. I guess if I enjoy writing them, that is one thing. If the reader enjoys reading them, and there are many who probably would, that is another. But the problem is getting an editor to actual care about the story enough to give it a chance.

We are still dealing with gatekeepers in this world. Especially in publishing.

So, today, I plan on writing my guts out, even though a big piece of me wishes it would only take a day and everything would be finished. It will take several days like this. And then come the edits. And the rewrites. And with that comes the doubt in my abilities or the blocks that I get from thinking a better writer could have told it way better and in fewer words, not as many cliches, and their work will sell and make them a fortune, while mine will probably collapse under its own weight.

I guess what I’m trying to get myself fired up to do is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and push forward, because the story cannot write itself. That is why it has asked me to write it. I believe the stories pick us to tell them. Just as the heart of a block of marble chooses its sculptor. I don’t know if that is zen or not, but it’s what I’m going with today.

If I ignore the story, it will bang pots and pans in the house as I try to nap and it will not allow itself to be ignored. It will drive me crazy if that’s what it takes.

So, today I will heed the will of the story and try to write as much as I can.

If you like what you’ve read, consider dropping by my other site and buy me a coffee!