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.

2019. Not exactly like Blade Runner

What a year this was.

Each year, I think about many of the events that have formed my life during the last celestial swing around the sun.  At home, I have a bulletin board on the wall where the kid(s) and I post mementos from our adventures.  Ticket stubs, birthday invitations, wristbands, postcards, etc.  Sometimes it is drawings my son has made or even jury duty summonses.

We start off each year with a blank board and a bunch of thumbtacks and at the end of the year, the whole thing is covered with souvenirs. I also tend to write about my experiences, though this year, I have been keeping up with them as they happen on this blog as well as Gettingoutmore.org.

Here is a list of highlights and low points that comprised 2019.  I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…

I started off the New Year horribly certain about the path my “relationship” at the time had taken.  I had been ghosted.  It’s not a nice feeling, and it speaks very much to the character of the person doing the ghosting. When you get a 2am response to a Happy New Year text you sent at midnight, and have no idea where they are, this is an indication to give the hell up.

This time last year, I had bronchitis, depression, and I was struggling to make ends meet because my child support had doubled at the end of October.

In January, the “relationship” officially ended.  Anywhere between four and six months after the real end had begun.  I read several books on Boundaries, Dating, emotional pain, stress, co-dependency, and over the next several months, those words percolated and allowed me to be much more functional and sure of myself.  Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

I took a roadtrip with my cousin to take him to Tuscon to be a ranch hand.  The trip was 16 hours one way.  We started off in -5 degree temperatures and at the destination it was 45 degrees and rainy.  Unfortunately his employer turned out to be an ex-beauty queen psycho bitch who was using him for slave labor. I’m not exaggerating. He has since escaped (by literally jumping a fence and hitchhiking the hell out of there).  Glad he is off to better places now!

On the way home from Tuscon, I decided to work towards my goal of travel writing, which has been an interesting and yes, fulfilling experience.  I talked with some friends and family about it while walking around downtown Santa Fe at night.  Most of them tried to discourage me from doing it.  That’s not something you hear about much.  hahaha!

I booked tickets for the UK in May as well as an AirBnB.  I had grand plans for where I would go and what I would see.  Then the State took over half of my tax return because of the aforementioned child support increase.  Undaunted, I trimmed back some of my plans.

I took several road trips, dealt with an HR nightmare at work over a review from a supervisor who just flat out doesn’t like me, and enjoyed time with my son.  My insomnia waned.  My depression thawed.  I weathered a series of layoffs at the day job. I reconnected with an old friend at the end of 2018 and we parted ways once again midway through this year.  In other words people come into your life and they leave.  It’s just part of it.

I took my son to church, and afterwards, decided I didn’t want to go anymore.  My faith wasn’t shaken really.  I just don’t believe that God lives in a building.

I went to the UK and had an amazing experience.  It was my first international solo trip.  I have been doing solo trips around the state for years.  The learning curve was sharp and steep, but at the end of my ten day trip, I got a handle on everything and affirmed my desire to travel write.  The first day I landed, I had no idea what I was doing.  At the end of my trip, I was giving directions to Austrian tourists on how to get around in London.  I met myself and let go of a lot of crap.  I was happy with being by myself.  Content for maybe the first time in my life.

I spent the next month writing about it.

At the last minute, I bought a ticket to the 1940s Ball and made new friends and enjoyed the experience without the trepidation I had the year before by myself.  I met my girlfriend at Rick’s Cafe, at the end of World War II.  She appears in many of my adventures and I couldn’t be happier.  Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, I am glad she walked into mine.

My son had a lot of fun with Cub Scouts and we experienced winter camping…in June.  We hit Renaissance Festival again, this time with company.  It’s always a great sight to see someone’s face light up when they walk out of that changing room in a new costume for the first time. ❤

Trips to the grandparents, lots of hiking, bike rides, summer camp, video games, cigars on the back porch, road trips and carousels, Fuzzy’s Tacos, nervously meeting the parents for the first time, people watching, sad choices watching, T-Fury shirts, fire-pits and wine, innumerable stops at Dutch Bros. and so many points in-between filled my summer and fall months. The end of the year was met with a feature article in the UNC student newspaper from a fan of my travel blog.  I picked up a couple copies to include in the box which holds the contents of the bulletin board.  I reconnected with one of my best friends from childhood after 20 years.  It was like we hadn’t seen each other in just a few weeks.  As Dre would say, “we dippin’ again.”

My birthday was a wonderful experience, unfortunately because of some asbestos abatement done by a fly-by-night crew in the building at work, it turned into pneumonia, which I fought all September. Happy 44th.  As a result, I got behind on writing, work, and life.  But today, I am healthy again.  In mind, body, and spirit.  Things continue to grow and opportunities to write keep coming. I’m working on the novel still, but lately I am more focused on this.

Money is tight, work generally sucks, but for the most part, I am happy.  I sleep well.  I am grateful.  And for the first time in maybe my adult life, I am sure of myself.  Confident.  Ready to take on the rest of my days.