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.

Turn the page

When I was a kid, my mom used to sing songs from church to help me sleep. Being the night owl that I was even then, I would often stay up long enough to see my dad at the door when he would come home from the mine at around midnight. I’m certain I got up at about 6am to watch cartoons too, bright and early and ready to glaze over watching Popeye and LooneyToons.

One of the songs she used to sing was “I Can’t Feel At Home in this Word Anymore” which even then I thought was a little morbid. Church has changed a lot in the last forty years. The last time I went to church the songs were all bland, hardly memorable, and easily forgotten. I’m glad they flashed the lyrics up on a screen, otherwise I would have never been able to tell one from the other. But those old songs from back in the day are haunting. They are the kinds of songs that people would hum or sing when they weren’t at church. I don’t go to church anymore, and I don’t miss it. It wasn’t for me. Something was lost from those days. Maybe the darkness.

Maybe something else.

I’m starting off on a new path soon and it scares the hell out of me. But like they say, everything you want is on the other side of fear. I can’t help but think of that old song my mom used to sing. I have seldom thought of it in the way that Christians are supposed to. The transcendence from our earthly design to a heavenly purpose. Usually I just think of how weary I have become of this life. These days, I have felt especially weary. Six years of just maintaining, surviving, getting by.

There’s not a lot holding me to this place, to this position in life. Two of my three kids are out of my house. My job ended. I am not in a relationship. I am comfortable in many ways, but ways that will eventually fade into quiet desperation. When I went to London in 2019, I made it my goal to do something everyday that scared me.

So, I’m making some changes in my life. Might as well. The world is not going back to how it once was, so I might as well ride the wave of that. Ahead of me lies opportunity. Here is just scrambling to hold the pieces together of what I built for the last twenty years. Honestly, I don’t feel at home in this life anymore. I feel like everything has moved on.

So, it’s time to move on myself.

Watch this site for updates.

Start Running

Recent events in my life have definitely thrown me for a loop. I have around a week of the day job left. The final bits of an event in my life that has lasted for nearly 19 years. After that is the uncertainty of freelancing full time. I have a lot of uncertainty about that. Most people have already switched jobs about half a dozen times at the very least in that amount of time, but not me. I’ve stuck it through during recessions, housing bubbles, tech bubbles, and now the Higher Ed bubble. When I was married, it was the only stability I had. The job market where I have lived for the last 19 years hasn’t been all that welcoming to my skill set; not when you are the sole source of income for a family of five. Quitting would have devastated my family as we had no savings and were usually behind on bills. Long story short, kids, marry someone who is on the same page you are when it comes to making a budget.

I’ve lived modestly, biding my time for when I could finally try my hand at writing. That moment arrived this year in a sink or swim kind of decision. The stability of the boring day job is going away next week. I am thrilled and I am terrified. I see my university as being the canary in the coal mine. It won’t be long now before people recognize Higher Ed for the Ponzi Scheme it really is.

Even the place I am leaving had a $10M deficit each year and these cuts were supposed to curtail that. We had around 108 days of funds left barring any natural disasters…then COVID-19 hit. Now the university looks to be sporting a projected $15M deficit and counting. Per year. That’s up around 50%. I’m glad I took the severance and won’t be looking back.

But the idea of filling my days writing articles and copy for companies is a little panic-inducing. I guess I’ll just have to adjust. It could be the best decision I ever made.

The end of a wonderful 10 month relationship has left me teetering on the edge of just move on with my life and being bitter. Today I choose to just get on with my life, rather than dwell on the details. The whys of “Things were going great and then…they are over.” That just plays into my abandonment issues, trying to change myself to suit what I imagine their needs to be, etc. Nobody asked me to do any of these things. This is just life. Sometimes things just don’t work out, even if you thought they had been.

I was watching a Chris Voss video the other day. He’s the FBI negotiator you might see on YouTube ads. He said something particularly interesting about psychological stress and leverage. As someone who was in the equivalent of FBI special forces, he said uncertainty is the biggest obstacle we have to face. On his training, he said they didn’t do things like torture them or haze them for the final test. He said they picked them up in a car and said, “Let’s go for a run.”

They dropped the trainee off and said, “Start running.” We are all built to know how to pace ourselves if we know how long we have to endure something. He said he could do a six minute mile, but that involved knowing that it was only going to be so far and for so long. When someone says, “Start running” you don’t know if it’s going to be ten minutes or six hours. You just start running. You wonder if you are doing it right. You wonder if you are going to last or wash out. What breaks people is the uncertainty of when, or rather IF it will ever end. Hostages and their loved ones wake up every day without knowing if today is the day that they can stop running, for one reason or the other. It is stressful. This is why routine is important. Run until this, you can make it another 100 yards. You can make it to the next 100 yards. Keep going.

Chris Voss said he had to run for about 45 minutes, but it was one of the most challenging moments of his life. If felt like hours and hours to him. Right now, I feel like that is what I’m up against. I don’t know if freelancing is going to be successful. I don’t know if I will ever meet someone again. There is a gap between right now and what is coming up and I don’t know anything about what to expect.

I am being eaten up by this uncertainty. Someone told me to just start running. I saw an inspirational meme that helped out some. It said something about the space between what is happening now and what you expect is filled with uncertainty. Don’t be frightened about the uncertainty, but be curious about the possibilities.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

All I can do is trust that I’ve made it this far and I have plenty of tools in my toolbox to prepare me for about 80% of what happens next. That’s a lot more than a lot of people have going for them right now. I’m looking down that long road ahead, unsure of what will come next other than the distorted lens my experiences have given me on Trust, future plans, or committment. Too many sad choices. I’m in my forties. I don’t have a lot of faith in people left anymore. God knows they all have their baggage too. I can focus on a few things right now. Getting my business going. Raising my son. Being open to whatever good things are just over the horizon. The list is getting shorter though, I must admit.

I hope to show gratitude for the good that has happened in my life and patience for the moments that challenge me. The work keeps me company. My memories help fuel the work. I have the rest of my life to run. Starting…now.