A quiet night at home

Lately I haven’t been feeling like myself. My writing has been put off for over a month now, other than the occasional notes that I feel compelled to put into my phone. Those cannot be helped, since they come upon me suddenly, in traffic, watching TV, at the store. For a few days now, I have struggled to sit down and even put a single word down. This bothers me as I sit and stare at the screen, once again sucked into the triangle of social media, flipping and scrolling: Facebook, Instagram, Email.

The days go by. The things that felt so important to write over a month ago feel like they are fading. The emotions that were driving that have become almost rote. At some point, I got to the point that the things that I have let go of a lot of the things that used to cause so much anguish in my heart. They no longer bother me. And that bothers me.

I have other battles to fight now, other storms to endure on dark choppy seas. I have decided to make a major decision in my life, and unfortunately the last court hearing has taken some wind out of my sails here. One of my posts was used as an exhibit in court. I feel almost violated by this tresspassing. It has caused me to censor what I say here because someone is always watching. You would think that would eventually fade, but it doesn’t. I don’t like being stalked. I don’t like having to suppress my voice because someone can go through a million words and cherry pick what they want and pull something out of context to use against me. My own words, things that I have chosen and put down for others in a writer/reader relationship…it just leaves me feeling dirty inside.

I’m moving. After 20 years (plus another four for college) in the same town, it is time.

So that has been on my mind lately, as are the expected reprecussions of my decision to do so. There is very little holding me here, and if you are somewhere you aren’t valued, then you need to go somewhere you are. So the expense, the ensuing calamity, the timing, and all the work to be done still are weighing heavy on my mind. Am I moving forward or failing? Right now it is hard to tell. In the meantime, I need to be Dad, I need to make money, I need to hold everything together as best I can. This year has been like stress BINGO. At this point I’ve almost got Blackout. Throw in Christmas and of course COV1D, and I’m feeling the weight of things.

Tonight I was visiting with a friend. She echoed my sentiments of how heavy everything was these days. The weight of having to always be strong. Not only for her kids, but for everyone else. It is exhausting and it never stops. We weigh ourselves down with how we are supposed to be to others on the outside that her idea of a perfect day could have been taken as selfish. Just a day to herself, isolated, relaxed.

As parents we are told by other parents how we can’t have a minute to ourselves. If we do, we are judged. Probably because other parents want so desperately to just be left the hell alone for a day or three. To not have to hear “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!” or “Dad, can you drive me someplace?” or “Buy me that!”

As single parents, we get no help. We get no sympathy. Our kids get bored with us too because we are tapped out. We don’t want to play the board games, we don’t want to fix the toy. As awful as it sounds, sometimes we don’t have the energy for our friends either. The ones with the relationship problems (at least they have one that is driving them nuts), the others who are just bored and always know we are available to entertain them.

I could relate to her fantasy. Just a day for someone else to take care of her and then leave her alone. There is nothing wrong with that at all.

My fantasy was similar, but echoed one of my own experiences. I wanted a day and a night of just walking around a city I’ve never been to before. It is drizzly, like a Dashiel Hammett novel. I’m warm and dry in my wool coat. I just walk the city and observe. I feel the ideas soaking in. Filling my mental tanks again. I don’t think about moving, money, loss, the future, making meals for my son, uncertainty of the years ahead or the years long gone, sex, death or any of the things that occupy my thoughts these days. I am just taking everything in and being present in the moment. That is selfish too.

As parents, we are expected to be focused on being parents all the damn time. So many of us lose sight of who we are ourselves. I am more than Dad. She is more than Mom. Why then are we made to feel so guilty when we want something for ourselves? When will people learn that we show our children how to take care of themselves by letting them see us take care of ourselves?

When I went to London in 2019, there was a night I got on a double decker bus and just let it take me all over the city. It had been raining, and the raindrops were lit up on the glass with the blues and reds of the city at night. I got off the bus at Marylebone and walked and took the tube back home. I walked all over that city and had never felt more exhilerated, lonely, and even at peace until then. I was forced to think about only THIS moment. That night, the city was mine and everyone else around just dissolved into that damp night. I didn’t think about the relationship that had vexed me, or that I was alone in another country. Or that nobody else would ever want me again. I was nervous about venturing out, but as the night progressed, I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I miss that these days. I hate moving, but I need to. This is a move upwards, instead of just hunkering down and hoping the wrong people forget about me and finally leave me alone. Or that I am right where someone else left me so they can come calling if it suits their whim.

There is so much more to life, and I’m tired of living for other people. I’m tired of not taking chances for the same reason I didn’t for the last twenty years. I didn’t have “permission.”

It’s time to get on that bus and see where it takes us.

The Metric of Success

Today I’ve been struggling a little bit with feeling like a fraud. This is something a lot of creatives go through, especially if they have been living in the other world of punching a clock for some time

Not counting this blog post, today was a 5,500 word day. The problem my brain is trying to cope with is though I have been writing throughout the day, from around 9am until now, I haven’t been paid for a single word of it.

A part of me is panicking a little bit, since for the last EVER many years, I have been taught to equate productivity with how much money you get from the work you do. Never mind that I spent a big part of my childhood doing volunteer work with the Boy Scouts or my school. I even worked at events when my ex wife worked for a non-profit when we lived in Wyoming. But volunteer work is usually reserved for people meting out community service requirements ordered by a judge, or rich people who don’t need to put a dollar amount on their time.

The work I’m doing isn’t either of those things. What I am doing is writing a book in hopes that one of these days someone might want to give me money for it so they can publish it and a bunch of other people will read it. Until that happens, however, I’m working on spec. Which means I could just be wasting my time.

But hey, I wasted eighteen years at a job that gave me the axe and didn’t care what happened to me next. A lot of those years were spent mindlessly, needlessly pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other. And by the time everything was digitized, I just dragged and dropped files. That was work I did for someone else. Sure, they gave me money for it, but I was hardly fulfilled.

Now I feel fulfilled, but I’m scrounging the cupboards to economize. I’m worrying about how I will pay bills. I’m beating myself up thinking how I am wasting my time.

And then I sit down and write 5,500 of some of the best stuff that I have written in my life. The shitty thing about it is we have all been taught to put a price tag on our creativity. When your bank account starts to dwindle, you start doubting yourself. Making a living on writing or art or music or anything that isn’t punching a time clock is for other people. Immensely talented people. You feel like a fraud. A schmuck. A dreamer who won’t ever do anything of note or value. Someone who needs to get a real job.

It’s no longer about getting in your own way, but overcoming a lifetime of training as what we are supposed to do and be. Anything outside of that is punished. Society is a self-cleaning oven when it comes to rewarding people who step outside of their place. They either don’t last long, or they thrive.

Maybe success should be measured in how light your heart feels at the end of the day, instead of how much money you have in your bank account.

Selfie-awareness

Yesterday while waiting in line at Dutch Bros. we watched the young lady behind us take selfies in her car for a good ten minutes solid. From the moment she pulled up behind us to the stoplight on the street in front of Dutch. It was unmistakable what she was doing. The angles. The posing. The coy looks into her phone. That whole “(fill in the blank) hair, don’t care” look. The pouty expressions. The duck lips. The “who me?” the “I’ll have me another coronavirus por favor” pose.

This was a woman possessed.

She must have spent more time on her hair and makeup to take pictures for the Insta than some people spend on their weddings. But contrary to the fact that I am taking the time to write about it, I have to say something about it. Because I’ve seen this kind of behavior SOOOO often working at a university.

Nobody cares about your instagram.

That guy sliding into your DMs? (“Direct messenger” for other people who don’t know or care what that means) He doesn’t care about them either. He’s just someone who wants to get into your pants and waste time on his next conquest.

Other than the risk she poses to other drivers on the road, I guess she wasn’t hurting anybody. Other than cringe-worthy levels of embarrassment on a scale of spilling coffee on your crotch to shitting yourself in an elevator, I would have to say this was up there with being de-pantsed in from of the Bear Valley Girls Soccer Team as a Freshman. *Note how the embarrassment scale is very pants-based.

I have a Facebook and an Instagram account. I really don’t care about either one. Facebook is useful for snarky comments nobody reads and posting recent links to my blog, which nobody reads. Some people maximize the use of these to help out with their social media footprint and self-promotion. I am not a 20 something girl who looks good in leggings and corsets, so the experience is probably not one that is going to do well with my assets. Which are snarky comments. Pithy one-liners. And pictures of me wearing goofy hats or smoking cigars that are going to get me calls from my mother.

I have been thinking of doing a pod-cast recently. I know I won’t ever get to Joe Rogan levels. My GF and and I just watched two of those yesterday. The format fascinates me. It reminds me of sitting around with friends BSing about everything. A long-form platform of communication, which unfortunately has retreated to AM radio where people just blather on about how much they hate the opposing political party.

My problems would be:

  • Equipment
  • Production
  • What would I talk about?
  • Guests…since I don’t get to have conversations with many people in person these days anyway.
  • How do you monetize this whole thing? I like to talk, but if I could get paid for it, that would be cool too.

Anyway, it’s just a thought. It would be sorta like what I am doing here, only with talking. I–like many of you–hate the sound of my own voice on a recording, so that might get old.

Let me know in the comments if you would be interested in listening to a podcast. In the next few months I’m going to have some time on my hands to work on it. Is it as self-aggrandizing as that girl posing in her car? Or is it something else? I’ve seen it go both ways, honestly. Unless they have interesting guests and a compelling conversation, I’m not really a fan for the most part.