I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

A few days ago I decided to swear off social media. This was for a few reasons. Mostly, I watched the Netflix “documentary” The Social Dilemma, in which the creators of social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others explain that these programs were built to be addictive but no consideration was taken as to the long-standing effects of this addiction. How the algorithms used to mine your personal information also channel different kinds of information. According to the show, if you are using social media, you are the product.

I don’t like that.

I think that the creators of social media applications are no better than tobacco companies, quelling any controvery or research that their products are actually killing people. So I dropped off. Fittingly enough, I got a little bit of pushback from my friends who are on Facebook. Things like “You do this about every six months, you’ll be back.” So supportive. I wonder if AA meetings are like this. I know that bars are. That is why it is hard to quit drinking when all your friends are at the bar.

That being said, I have been a full on Facebook/Instagram addict, spending upwards of six hours a day scrolling through my feed, sometimes just staring at the same crap I’ve already looked at, hoping somehow that it will somehow refresh and I’ll either get that dopamine bump for getting a like or a notification, or something new will appear for me to comment on. Life for these last several months has been lonely. As with many of us, these might be our only outlets of social interraction. I think it’s time to get off that bender.

For the last few days, I have had a lot more time to work on my book. Last night, I finished a 10,000 word chapter. Written in around two or three days. It’s hard to determine how quickly I got it done, since it was a hard chapter and I wrote some other scenes. The writing for the last few days was hard, and sometimes it nearly broke me. But I’m pushing on ahead.

Sometimes I get the doubts that there is no reason for doing what I’m doing. Who will actually read it? Who will care? Then I’ll have moments like the other day when I was buying coffee and the barrista asked me what I was working on. When I told her, she said she had a similar experience. Even just the idea of it resonated with her. So, maybe what I’m working on is important. At least it might be important to at least one other person.

No, it’s not Harry Potter, though some have told me I should write something like that and get rich. Which is a myth. I’m not interested in writing stories for children anyway. There is enough of that out there, and God knows I’ve tried my hand at fantasy and nobody cared. This story is writing itself right now and I’m just holding on for dear life.

Without social media, I’ve been reading more too. I re-read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and recently I started reading Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Hemingway really wasn’t a novelist. He was a short story writer and all he did to get that novel length was to string a lot of pointless short stories together. But I have enjoyed the language and the glimpse into 1920s Paris.

I have a first edition copy that I’m working through. The smell of old paper, vanillin, the feel of a hardbound book in your hands. No eReader can compare to it. I’ve decided I dislike eBooks. Everything that I have read on a tiny screen fades quickly from memory. I can’t hold onto it. With a book it is an immersive experience. Much like how I got through college, you participate. You turn the pages, you hear the clock on the wall, you can associate what you are reading with what you are doing at that time. I can pick up some books and turn to a page and know approximately in the story where I have landed. I’ll also remember what was happening around me when I was reading it last. I don’t get that from an eReader.

If I want content, I’ll read an eBook. If I want a reading experience, I’ll read a real book. There is a difference.

Too long didn’t read for this one: I’m learning how to use my time better. Sometimes I get lonely. And I guess I’m still a little old fashioned. I’m still moving forward.

Plans

I have the whole week ahead of me, which should mean lots of writing, lots of working on projects, and all of that. But it’s Monday, which usually just entails getting my bearings and trying to get my life together. It’s always hard to see my son go back to his mom’s for the week. You can’t help but wonder if you have done enough, and it is exhausting dealing with his needs, school, keeping a ten year old mentally engaged enough to not be bored out of his mind. Especially since right now he has no friends, and the schools seem to be concerned only with making sure the state and the Department of Education recognize that the teachers are earning their cut. Hence the Zoom meetings peppered all throughout the day which demand that you are sitting in a chair, interacting with the general chaos of the classroom online.

There is no middle ground.

When he is gone, I miss him like I have lost a part of myself. The house is too quiet. That takes over for about a day and I experience a sense of loss until the evening when I can actually feel productive. Throughout the day, my body becomes an experiment in equilibrium. Enough caffeine to keep me moving, then enough food, protein, sugars, fibre, etc. to keep my moods in balance. Too much sugar and I want to sleep and then I get depressed. I gain weight too. Too much protein and I’m always hungry, and protein isn’t cheap. I only eat a couple meals a day anyway. When you are alone, meal prep is time consuming and pointless.

This week, my plans, once I get going again, are to try to write ten pages per day, seek out leads for travel writing, post at least a few times here and on my travel site, and hopefully get a podcast in. I have been paying for extra time and indexing on my podcast site, but with everyone on lockdown, I dislike the idea of sitting around talking to myself for any length of time.

Sometimes it feels like writing is just sitting around talking to yourself too. As with talking to yourself, you start wondering if you are crazy, if you are saying anything worth saying, and are you wasting your time.

When I did almost nothing during the day at my day job and they rewarded me with money, that was such a weird experience. Now I work my ass off, and not getting paid.

I also have that fear that once this project is done it will just reveal what a complete prick I really am. And nobody will buy it. And I might as well have been sitting around eating paint all day instead.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…

This morning I woke up to something that I haven’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t sure what time it was and was surprised to find that it was just after 8am. I had gotten to bed at around 1:30 or 2am, after a lot of writing. I was very productive. I woke up to a sense of peace, which is something I haven’t had in a very long time. It was the exact opposite to how I felt on Monday. Mondays are hard, as I have established in the past more than a few times.

This sense of peace was more a matter of the heart. The last four months has been especially difficult, what with the end of a great relationship and the end of an abusive one. The strange thing is that both have occupied similar real estate in my brain. I have been grieving the sudden departure of someone I was romantically involved with, and grieving the loss of a job that I had held for the last 18+ years. Today, I will have been broken up with someone I was quite serious about nearly half as long as we were together. Two nights ago, I was taking it hard. Today, I woke up and felt at peace with it. I don’t know if I am finally letting go or what, but I have learned some things that I wanted to share in the hopes that my experience resonates with anyone reading this.

A couple days ago, I was taking it hard. The grief of the end of a great romance ebbs and flows like any grief. I was missing someone intensely. I visited with a few friends and talked about it. One friend wanted to fix things and the other just listened. The one who wanted to fix things gave me the usual “You’ve got to get back out there! You aren’t pushing yourself to find anyone!” speech. Which didn’t make things any better.

The other friend just listened and because they had been through a similar situation, they told it to me straight. I didn’t need to go out there and find someone else. It felt good to be seen like that. The first friend really just proved what a problem I have had my entire life has been: nobody fucking knows me. I dislike my birthday and Christmas for a big reason: it just proves how nobody gets me or even attempts to make the effort. Ever since I was a kid, this was the case. I have spent nearly 45 years smiling and thanking people for stuff that I don’t even like. It’s not that I’m all that hard to shop for either, but if you talk enough about something you would think that those people closest to you in your life might eventually catch on to what your interests are. The first friend was telling me what they wanted, seen through a lens of how they would have reacted to my situation.

The other friend was sympathetic, knowing me pretty well, and knowing that filling that crack in my heart with someone else wasn’t going to fix anything. So, I guess I should say that I have an elite crew of people who do know me pretty well in some regards. I think that was the hardest thing about this breakup. I had found someone who saw me, someone who accepted me, and really got me. I thought I got her too. I don’t think anyone can possibly understand how rare that has been in my life.

I tend to hold on to people like that, or try to at least. Maybe I need deeper connections, instead of attachments. I thought I had both in this case, and that has been very hard to come to terms with. Combine that with the usual cursory band-aid answer of “There’s plenty of fish in the sea!” and you’ll have a full on riot on your hands.

First of all, there aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. Whoever believes that is an idiot. It’s hard out there. And it gets harder the older you get. It might be the case when you are in your 20s and impressionable and willing to tolerate a bunch of horseshit, but when you are an adult and have actually experienced life, you are less willing to deal with it. This means that your options become significantly limited. Also, the older you get, the less governed by your hormones you become, which further removes a layer of rosey tint from those glasses. In fact, you start looking at some people and wonder how they function in life due to their trainwrecky nature.

Here are my options for dating in my 40s. (These are the normal options too).

  1. Join a club. Full of other people my age, who have joined a club because they have run out of options, either because of themselves or the shit they have experienced. Either way, this club is the Island of Misfit Toys.
  2. Go to a bar. Yes, because all good decisions orbit around the dispersal of alcohol and dim lighting. No thanks.
  3. Join a church. No. I’ve been to church and nowhere will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villany. Church is for people who NEED Jesus. I’m good.
    3a. Plus I don’t need to sit by myself being reminded at the pathetic nature of my own singleness by young people in their 30s who haven’t been divorced yet
    3b. or broken down people who have been utterly destroyed by it.
  4. Get set up by friends. Most of my friends couldn’t pick out a birthday present for me (as I have mentioned above). How do you think they are going to do when it comes to finding someone I would be compatible with…especially given that many of them have even more limited social circles than I do?
  5. Settle. NO.
  6. Online dating. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!! That is the most genuine hysterical laughter of my life! IT’S REAL!
  7. In COVIDworld? Your odds of meeting anyone, much less seeing their face, are exponentially more difficult. Impossible. Plus, I’m just not interested.
  8. I’m not pushing myself, because I miss the person, not the role they played in my life. There’s no replacing that.

But there is another option.

I woke up this morning and this is what I chose: I can’t replace what I have lost. So I’m just going to be fine with it.

I got up. I drove to Ft. Collins. I took a 12 mile bike ride. Then I came home and read. Tonight, I will work on my book. I’m going to live out the rest of my days being grateful for the opportunity I had (even so brief as it was) of being seen for who I am. I’m going to thank God for those moments. I’m going to let those carry me forward.

Honestly, I’m done. I know who I am, and I’m not in the mood to compromise that anymore. I don’t need someone to complete me. I did the chasing thing already and realize how much I hate it. I’m too old to deal with drama, at a point in my life where I’m not going to raise any more kids other than the one who is with me, and I really don’t want to be with someone who does TikTok or talks about summervibes or any of that bullshit. I’m not interested in psychoanalizing a potential partner, worrying if I make enough money to be good enough for them (I don’t), and frankly my odds are entirely shot if I do meet someone and they turn out to be vegan, celiac, a drug addict, into Magic the Gathering, swinging, or have cats.

I rolled the dice. I met someone who was compatible, someone who was as crazy about me as I was them, and it still didn’t work out. I’m thinking the odds of finding “the One” are pretty much Zero.

So, I’m just going to get on with my life. I’m going to write my stories, see places, and yes, I will feel lonely sometimes, but I will do my best to just get over it and enjoy the life I’ve got left.

As for mourning my job, that is a whole other kettle of fish. Mostly because of how toxic it was, and how relieved I am to be done with that place. Fuck those assholes. I hope the earth opens up and swallows the entire place whole.

To the one I loved, and lost, I wish her nothing but happiness and a long life. Thank you for sharing some time with me.

I’m going to spend some time now with the person I’m stuck with for the rest of my life: me. Might as well get to know him while I still can.