Saturday Morning Musing

The best decision I made in the past year was to start writing every day. It was also the dumbest. And the wisest. Probably not the most lucrative but definitely the most valuable. And it’s been nearly a year since I started, even if I’m still a month and a week short of the decision to keep what I started for National Novel Writing Month 2017 going for an entire year. I planned a month of blog updates: thirty posts about writing, what inspires me, and prompts to help people get working on their own National Novel Writing Month projects. This upcoming Wednesday’s review, the one that will go up on October thirty-first, will be the 365th post. I have a hard time believing I’ve almost done it and, at the same time, it doesn’t feel like a big deal.

I literally put everything (well, everything but the bare minimum I need to keep my life going) behind writing and posting to my blog every day. I haven’t played more than a couple of hours of video games a week since early September so I could make sure my blog got updated every day and I wrote every day even when I was working twelve-hour days. Because of this level of dedication over the course of a year, now the idea of not updating my blog or not writing every day feels foreign. I didn’t even stop to consider no longer updating this blog every day once the year was up, I just started planning all of my November blog posts so I could get some of them out of the way ahead of time and put more of my energy toward getting my National Novel Writing Month challenges done.

I have made zero money as a result of this writing, so far, and I doubt I’ll ever make much off this blog, even if I decide to add advertisements. That’s alright, though, because being able to write every day and to have writing projects to work on every day has lent my life an incredibly amount of meaning and satisfaction. The only thing that compares to a day of writing or posting a popular piece that gets a comment or two is what I felt when I played through Breath of the Wild for the first time, in March of 2017. I have gotten more, personally, out of my decision to push my limits like this than out of any other writing project I’ve ever done. It feels really good to have a purpose and a goal every day, even when work is slow or so busy I feel like I’m just being swept along by the tidal wave of work that needs to be done. Something that feels like forward progress when I can’t seem to make any in the other parts of my life.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t handle free time well. I suck at doing nothing and I will probably have a mental breakdown if I’m ever forced to just tend to my house or do small bits of gardening or whatever when I retire. I need projects. I need challenges. I need to feel like I’m growing or improving myself in order to enjoy my day-to-day life. Without that stuff, I start to feel like I’m stagnating or like I’m wasting my time. Most of that comes from my anxiety and isn’t reflective of my actual life in any way, and it would probably be more healthy for me to address the root of why I feel this way rather than fill my time with things to do, but finding projects is easier than analyzing my deepest mental health issues. Plus, I can do both. Analysis takes a long time and constructive projects within reason aren’t a bad coping mechanism. Working myself to the point where I’m too depressed and burned out to feel anything but tired is a bad coping mechanism. It’s also something I do far more frequently than I should. It’s also why I have several days off over the next week, because I pushed myself that far and a couple of friends plus my therapist all agreed that I really need to let myself take a break. Hell, even I agreed I need a break once I started being caught up in my own dumb attempts to convince myself and them that I was doing just fine.

I think I’m going to add a little bit more to my “writing every day – year two edition” challenge. I’m going to try to increase my efficiency so that I still have time for other stuff, like exercising every day and having downtime for stuff like playing video games or spending time with my roommates. Or dating again. Haven’t had time for that in a couple of months. Which is unfortunate because that was around when my desire to date came back following my breakup at the beginning of the summer. I haven’t had the time for a lot of stuff, like dealing with the four stacks of books on my floor, shredding junk mail, or cleaning out my closet. I’ve taken the time to keep all of those things orderly and organized at least, but I am getting a little tired of needing to step carefully through my bedroom door so I don’t accidentally trip on one of the stacks of books and knock over one of my bookshelves on the way down. For the next year, I’m going to take the time to do all that stuff and keep writing. I’m even getting started now! I’ve measure the one bit of open space I’ve got and I’m going to be using my vacation time to go find a shelf that will fit in that space. Maybe get my oil changed or, shit, get a haircut. I haven’t gotten a haircut in two years, as of this week, and I’m getting really sick of the whole “long hair” thing because ponytail headaches are the bane of my existence.

All that aside, I really do believe that writing every day was the best decision I’ve made in years. I feel excited by the prospect of working on all the projects I’ve got tumbling around my head, and I’m ecstatic to see the comments from my editor (whose advice and guidance is responsible for most of my growth as a writer) go from big notes about story structures and character details (especially about female characters) to minor comments about typing “then” instead of “them.” Without her support and assistance, I’d probably have given up on this daily writing thing a long time ago. But here I am. Four posts short of a full year. It’s a good feeling and I’m excited to show what I’ve got in store for my 365th post. You haven’t got long to wait, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I have been.

That is the point, though. Ultimately, anyway. I do this for myself and I’m enjoying the shit out of it, even if I’m so exhausted I dozed off while writing this half a dozen time.

Today is My Birthday

After a certain point in high school, I haven’t been super fond of my birthday. To be honest, I never really dissected that. I don’t know if I ever spent any energy on why I’m decidedly neutral on the subject of my birthday before today. I’m all about other people’s birthdays and throw myself into celebrating them as much as I can with my limited means and social energy. But not mine. I like to mark them, sure, but mostly by gathering my friends around me to do something like we’d do any weekend. Hang out, go hiking, play D&D, maybe watch a movie or play a game together. Hell, last year I got a cake to celebrate moving day two weeks after my birthday and otherwise pretty much forgot on my own birthday.

If I’d had to say why I wasn’t very interested in my birthday before a couple of years ago, I’d have said that I’d rather celebrate personal achievements. Sure, birthdays are a celebration of life, but I’d rather just do that as a part of living it rather than taking a day to specifically celebrate a particular life. I didn’t really want attention back then and I much preferred to do things on my own terms than try to accommodate people’s desire to mark my birthday. I wouldn’t stop them, of course, I was never that much of a Grinch, but I wasn’t about to encourage it.

Now, I see that birthdays are a chance to let people celebrate you. Structure is super nice and while we should let people we care about know that we appreciate them all year long, it’s still nice to use their birthday as a bit of an excuse to make a production of it. To kick it up a notch or do something special just for them. Which is why I’m more interested in other people’s birthdays than my own. I like letting people know I appreciate them. Any resistance I currently feel to celebrating my birthday is because August has never really been that great of a month for me and I don’t really keep track of my life in terms of years. Sure, I know my age, but that stopped being a measurement of my growth a long time ago and now I keep track of time since big events.

My life has had a lot of big events and there are definitely a few that are sort of definitive moments that I know had a big impact on my life. Looking back on them, I can see how my life would have been incredibly different if I’d made a different choice and how the choices I made contributed to me being the person I am today. There’s a wide variety of events and while reflection on my life is the purpose of this birthday post, I’m not going to go deeply into all of them. Some of them were moments I don’t want to share because they mean more to me for being private or because I don’t feel ready to share them.

The first one, and one that actually was two forks disguised as one, was my parents telling my three siblings and I that they were going to have another children who would wind up being twelve years younger than me. I fell out of my chair laughing and wound up being almost a third parent to my younger sister since my dad worked a lot and my mother was homeschooling us at the time so she needed all the help she could get. I eventually realized that this was the moment that I decided to deal with the crazy randomness of life and (mis)fortune by laughing instead of crying. There’s more behind that, but this isn’t the post to go into it. I also realized that I enjoy taking care of and teaching people. It really helped me to learn to cope positively and how to be patient and compassionate.

The second is not something I’m willing to write about in any detail online, but I learned how I respond in a crisis and that there’s a certain part of me, beneath the compassion and desire to just love people that will stay firm and act when I feel like I don’t have any other choice.

The third was the college I chose. I grew more than I thought possible, in ways I never expected, and learned things I never knew I didn’t know. I met a lot of amazing people, a handful of terrible people, and discovered that we’re all the heroes of our own narratives but sometimes that means we’re the villains of someone else’s. I made mistakes and I hurt people. I made mistakes and hurt myself. Like I said, I learned a lot. Without the place I chose, I’d have been an incredibly different person, to the point of it being useless to try to guess what or who I might have been. I’ve got no frame of reference for who that other Chris could have been, so how could I ever guess? The other side of my college choice is that it also resulted in a giant pile of student debt due which has left me feeling like I’ve been forced to put my life on hold until I pay it off. Even though I don’t regret my choice and think that the choice I made was the right one, I still struggle with the prospect of all my student loans and how much of my money I’ll have sunk into them by the time they’re paid off.

After that, there’s my move to Madison and my first job after the move. It didn’t go well, but I really figured out what was important to me and what my limits were. Tied to that is another thing I don’t want to share online, from two years ago (almost to the day), that irrevocably altered my life. There are some questions you never want the answers to and, throughout my life, I’ve gotten two of them I’d prefer to have never come across. But it reinforced my resolve and sense of self. The two experiences, my first job and the thing from two summers ago, weren’t positive influences on my life, but I learned a lot from having made it through them. “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God” (Robert F. Kennedy on hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.).

It’s been a long twenty-seven years. I’ve hopefully got many more years ahead of me, but I wouldn’t mind if they were a little less eventful. I’d prefer if my next major life event was something good, like being able to write full time, getting married, or buying a house. Those would all be nice, even if there’s less to learn from the happy moments than the difficult ones.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming to Bring You…

Angst. Not really. Sort of? Whatever.

I’m taking a break from my usual writing program/schedule/practices to focus on writing that’s going to help me with some things I’m trying to work through right now. I’ve been staying off Twitter more and more, lately, and it has gotten me thinking. I’m not exactly staying away from Twitter these days so much as kind of realizing that my brain’s a bit full and having a hard time saying anything without a whole bunch of unrelated stuff coming out. I feel like I need a break, but taking a break hasn’t changed anything. I’d really like to confidently push on like I have been because determination, discipline, and hard work are my strongest virtues, but part of me is starting to believe it might be time to take a break from moving forward. I haven’t spent much time on me, and I think I need to.

You know those diagrams people are always bringing up? “Fast, Cheap, and Good. You get two.” is the one that comes up in most of my professional experiences. “Sleep, social life, or grades, pick two” was the mantra of my fellow college students. I’ve heard of several more, too. These days, I feel like I’m making a similar choice. “Hold a job that pays your bills and student loans, work on writing projects, and maintain mental and physical health. Pick two.” Job and Writing have been my choices for the past 6.5 months and I think it’s starting to show.

Which is weird because while I still feel less emotionally stable than I believe is my norm and like my health (physical and mental) is always teetering on the edge of going somewhere bad, I feel like I’m handling it better than I ever have. All this writing helps me. It provides me a sense of location and a tether so that, no matter how bad the storm gets, I never drift far from where I’ve decided to stay. This doesn’t make the storms smaller, but it makes it easier to get back to things once they’ve passed.

I guess what I’m thinking here is that maybe I dropped anchor in the wrong place? Maybe I need to drift for a little bit? Which is hard, because I’ve grown to rely on the sense of security that constant connection to something gives me. I definitely need to spend time looking inward, whatever that means for my ocean/storm/tether/anchor metaphor. The big thing is, I don’t really know what I need and clinging to what I’ve been doing when it clearly isn’t what I need isn’t going to do anything but prolong this.

Which, you know, looking back on what I’ve been producing lately, seems pretty damn obvious now. Which is also one of the benefits of all my writing. I can see some stuff float to the surface if look back at the right time. Which is to say I’m not going to stop writing. First of all, I’ve got another 6.5 months of daily blog posts to put up. That’s not going to stop because, no matter what else happens during 2018, I will end it able to look back and say “look at this awesome thing I did. I am the shit when it comes to daily posts.” Secondly, blogging my thoughts every morning is a great place to find patterns, test out ideas, and just figure out what’s going on in my head. For instance, this whole post and the decision to change the course of my blog for a bit started as a what was supposed to be a 3-tweet message about why I haven’t been on much.

I need to spend more time untangling the mess that is my thoughts and emotions. I need to spend more time figuring out what it is I want from day-to-day. I need to spend more time investing in myself because, right now, I’m about as in-need for some serious time and effort as the US’s infrastructure. Haha… Topical humor.

I deflect all real attempts at connection with most of my peers using humor and pretending to not be serious. I spend way too much time monitoring myself for idiotic and self-destructive attempts to sabotage my relationships. If people ask me what I want or how I feel when I get emotional or express dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, I honestly cannot tell them anything. I have no answer to those questions. As someone who used to pride himself on his ability to take a look inside and figure out exactly why I felt the way I did or what things were going on that were making me feel a certain way, I’ve done a really shitty job of maintaining that.

I need it back because it was what let me constructively deal with my mental health issues, grow as much as I did, and work on growing healthy relationships with my friends. It wasn’t the only thing and I’m not entirely up shit-creek without it, but it would really help me work on my mental health issues if I could actually figure out how I feel about things that come up with my therapist and what exactly I want out of… well… Everything.

Where I Am

I watch them grow
And I see them change
­                           Here where I am.
I see them move,
With great breadth and range,
                           Here where I am.

I saw them fall
And get up again
                           From where I am.
I watched them learn
What we might have been
                           From where I am.

They walk away
While I stay quiet
                           Right where I am.
I watch them go,
Filled with disquiet,
                           Right where I am.

I’m still standing,
After all these years,
                           Stuck where I was.
I’m stuck standing,
Rooted by my fears,
                           Still where I was.

­

My Voice

My voice can fade from lack of use.

My neck is caught up in a noose
Built according to my own design.
There never was a loop so malign
As the fears so doggedly adverse
And twisted into this evil curse.

The end of the cord lies in shaking hands
That seem to have their own firm plans
Of when to tug and when to let be
Because this rope is not to kill me.

I wove this rope of silence and fear
Of the loss of all that I hold dear,
Despite insisting all of the while
That my thoughts and truths were not on trial.
Lies told by my insecurity
To preserve my sense of maturity.

This lesson I learned as I have grown:
My silence belongs to me alone.

Tending a Garden

I have planted countless thoughts in my garden.
Though many took root on their own,
Unminded and without attention,
More still are those I set in place
With all the tenderness of a mother
Caring for her first-born child.

I have tread the paths of my garden without end,
Watching the ideas shoot through the ground
Even as I continue to sow more.
Some shoots are plucked quickly,
“For the sake of the others” I explain,
And the remainder now flourish

Mighty now are the results of my labor,
Dappled shadow and bursts of color
Leave me in awe even as I know
That they will become greater still.
My life and path lie in their shadow
As I wait to see what they will become.