Discouragement

Today I’m posting here because I’m still working on setting up the other website. I have been needing to write and lately, my procrastination has known no limits. Yesterday, my son and I mudded the room we have been working on for a few weeks. And by working on it, I mean my dad and I put up drywall and the process was pretty exhausting, and all I have had the heart to do is fill in some seams with caulking.

Yesterday, the kiddo and I mudded the heck out of the seams and the screw holes. Today, we sanded them smooth. It isn’t professional quality by any means but we did it together and had a good time in the process. To finish off procrastinating for the night, I also washed the dog. it has been a couple months since her last bath and in the meantime, she had rolled on the beach, played fetch in the dirt, and probably drunk out of the toilet a dozen times or more.

Right now she is whining at the front door, asking to go out, because what bath is complete without rolling around in the dust with wet fur? None!

This isn’t my first rodeo with wet dogs, so I am ignoring her right now.

So, the title of this post. It’s not about procrastination or dogs or home DIY. It’s about words that I have heard many times (and yes, I have been guilty of saying them myself) that just knock the wind out of anyone’s sails.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have been excited about going somewhere and been met with the most lethal words you can experience when it comes to going on an adventure. Ready? You’ve been warned…

“What would you want to go there for?”

There. Bad grammar and ending a sentence in a preposition is just the icing on the cake. Asking someone “Why would you want to go there?” isn’t much better. I’ve heard these words many times. They used to really hit home. I usually heard them from family, friends, random people I was talking with over drinks (which is why I’m probably not much fun at a bar anymore), or especially someone who has already been to the place I’m daydreaming about.

It’s just like the question they ask mountaineers who climb sheer mountain faces. The answer: because it’s there.

Or in my case, “Why the hell not?”

Sure, it’s less poetic, but they’ve already pissed me off. The thing about going anywhere is whether it is the perfect destination or not is all a matter of perspective. Going to an active warzone like Afghanistan or Myanmar might not be what I’m looking for in an adventure, but who am I to say to someone “What would you want to go there for?” I wouldn’t want to go there myself. Because I’m allergic to having my head cut off, but I do have all sorts of allergies other people don’t.

What’s worse is I have said these words myself. I try to check myself, but sometimes they just fall out of my mouth. I’m not always good at this. I have judged someone’s destination, wrongfully, and found myself chewing on size 10.5 shoeleather. It’s not my business. And making it such says more about me than it does about them.

I’ve caught myself lately saying this, and…crap, I just remember all the times someone else said it to me.

“What would you want to go there for?”

As though I am so ignorant to not understand the drawbacks literally everywhere in the world has. I’m an American, and I have seen that to much of the rest of the world, we are notorious for having mass shootings and shitty healthcare. Does that mean that nobody should ever come here to visit? I’ve been confronted by others who have said, “Hawaii? What would you want to go there for?” Apparently people fear headlice so much that they have crossed Literal Tropical Paradise off their destination list. I was put off on visiting India for 20 years because someone I was married to was freaked out about food poisoning.

Every place has its degree of suck, which is why you do your homework and figure out how to avoid that. Just as you would with finding out what is going to more than make up for it if you can’t avoid the suck.

Not everyplace is everyone’s cup of tea. But there are better ways to have conversations about this. If you want to go someplace, don’t let someone’s prejudices about them overshadow your interest. Sometimes people are just travel snobs. They look down on your ambitions by indicating you are some kind of rube when they are so worldly. Look at all the stamps they have in their passport! Granted most of them are just from stepping off a cruise ship for three hours before getting back on again. But hey, whatever…floats their boat.

My advice is this. Go back to the fifth grade and spin that globe. Hold your finger over it and where it stops, consider it at least. We are only here for a set number of rotations around the sun. Might as well enjoy the journey.

And don’t discourage other people with things like “Too dangerous, too commercial, I’ve been there and it wasn’t that great”. Bullshit. We all don’t like the same things. Don’t assume they will get the same experience or feel the same way you did about a destination.

Early snow

Today was Labor Day in the USA. It used to mean the end of summer vacation, but since schools have been converted into state paid babysitting for the last 20 plus years or so, Summer vacation typically peters out in about mid-August for most people these days. When I was a kid, summer Vacation began with Memorial Day and ended on Labor Day, giving us around 100 or so day of summer. Of course where I grew up, this also meant these were the only relatively snow free days of the year. Give or take a week or two either way.

I used to dread snow, because it meant being trapped in the mountains for any of eight months per year. We had two seasons: winter and mosquitos. I still have nightmares about needing to get out of town before the roads closed.

This year is different. The running gag seems to be that this year things can’t get much worse. Truth be told, things can always get worse, don’t fool yourself. They’ve been worse. They will be worse at some point. 2020 is not the high water mark. According to some, 12,500 years ago, most of the human inhabited world was either suddenly under water or on fire. This is definitely worse that a game show host being the President of the USA. If I have to remind you of this, then you need to check your priorities.

This year, a big chunk of Colorado is expected to get around a foot of snow. We need it. For the last week or so, ash has been falling from the skies like snow. Some of the chunks I have seen are recognizable. Pine needles, flecks of bark, wood, pine seeds. They are now reduced to ash and we have been breathing them. I’ve had a wicked sinus headache and trouble breathing for a few days now. If you think COV1D, let me remind you that it has been snowing ash for the last week here. The smoke cloud hit 45,000 ft. in altitude the other day. It has blacked out the sun and it has been dark all day here.

Already the winds have cleared out the smoke in town and you can feel the chill in the air. A good snow storm will do more to control the fire than all the fireline crews and helicopters full of slurry we can throw at it.

Spending most of my time indoors for the last week has been a good thing for my creativity and productivity. I’ve been writing like crazy, taking off only a few days. My average word count on days I have been writing has been right around 4500 words. Some days has been 6500 and others have been 4000. I’ve been able to sit down and write a chapter a day in many cases.

Today, my son came back for the week, and it being Labor Day and the worst smoke yet, we decided to buy him some new shoes for the school year, heading south to Denver just to get the hell out of the smoke and ash. I took the day off so well that after he went to bed, I didn’t even know what I wanted to work on for the book. Every other day, I have had an idea for a chapter forming in my head, but today it has been a wash. I moved plants in from outside. I took a nap. We got settled in.

In a few days, I’ll be 45. Usually this time of year I get a little maudlin. Considering the challenges 2020 has held, I won’t veer into that territory. The last year has been some of the best times of my life. Also some of the most heartbreaking at times. A year ago, my son got me sick with some crud he brought home from school. I got pneumonia, which persisted until November. I still struggle with breathing problems. I dealt with more bullshit from my day job until the writing was on the wall and layoffs were imminent. I threw my hands up in the air and stops trying to please people who would never think my effort was ever good enough.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who have left my life ever think of me. If they ever miss me the way I miss them. Hell, there are times I still think about the people I knew in elementary and high school. I can still see their faces in my memories. It’s a good thing I have been gifted with the ability to write, because I have been cursed with a long memory. In the fifteen years I was married, some of my dearest friends moved on without me. My life was complex, a world of constant conflict. In many ways it was easier to just drift apart. At least they couldn’t see my destruction and I didn’t have to hear them try to save me. When I emerged from that cave, they were all changed, and I was trying to be the man I started off as when I went down into the dark.

Maybe they don’t. Most people have short memories and shallow hearts.

In a couple days, I’ll be 45. I’ve learned how to let go of some things and how to hold on to others. Mostly I try to walk away from toxic people, situations. I have turned my focus from chasing and chasing to pushing forward. I’ve put my long memory to use and am working on building a world that others can relate to. Right now, my big fears are being a good enough dad, pushing through an entire lifetime of being told nice things are for other people, more talented, well-connected people. Not some middle-aged guy who grew up in a poor Colorado mountain town.

“Quit these pretentious things, and just punch the clock,” as Arcade Fire says. But it’s hard to do this. I cannot begin to tell you how hard this is.

I punched a clock for 20 plus years. Now I get to work on my own, set my own schedule, and maybe the payoff will be everything I ever hoped for, or complete failure. At least the choice is mine now. I would say that it’s better to learn this at 45 than it is to learn it at 65.

I might not have worked on the book today, but I wrote here, and I suppose that is worth something.

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.