Saturday Morning Musing

When this eventually posts, I’ll have been awake for five hours and working for at least three. Not because I have to, but because I’m a team player and mostly looking for something to for a bit of overtime that doesn’t require staying late during the week. Actually, it’s mostly the latter, though I’ll admit I do feel a little compelled to help out because the work needs doing.

The team I work for, “The Misfits” as we aptly call ourselves, given that we create stage machinery for use in theaters while working for what is ostensibly a theater lighting company, are in the middle of moving to a new location at our facility. It’s an entirely new section of the building meant to house all of Research and Development. Plus Marketing, it seems, which was a weird last-minute addition I think happened because they wanted to work in the cool new building. That’s an understandable sentiment, really, and it should be fine since this new building is a part of my company’s plans for growth. You can’t hire more people if you’ve got nowhere for them to work!

I’ve been with this company, and a part of this team, for almost two years now. I love the people I work with, I love the job I’m doing, and this company feels like home in a way my previous one never could have. I still struggle with impostor syndrome sometimes, mostly when I’m doing something like pushing a new process I’ve developed or trying to solve a problem that isn’t my responsibility, but that’s growing less over time as my coworkers and my manager support me. Which is probably the biggest change from my last job to this one. If I see a problem that needs fixing and actually do the work to figure out how best to fix it, people here see that and do their best to support my efforts rather than try to tear me down or get me to believe that everything is fine the way it is despite constantly complaining about things (which is literally what happened at my previous job). Even if doing all the work and trying to be the extrovert needed to push whatever changes are needed leaves me exhausted and unable to move from my couch to my kitchen at the end of the day, I know it’s worth it. Knowing I’ll be able to go in the next day and see everyone pulling with me rather than pushing against me (okay, maybe not EVERYONE, but most people) makes it worth it.

I don’t exactly wake up in the morning and feel excited to go to work, but I don’t dread it. Personally, I prefer it this way. Being that excited about something sounds exhausting and draining. I’ve got enough going on these days without spending all my energy on being excited about going in to work. I like what I do, the company I work for, and the people I work with, but genuine excitement is a rare thing for me. I spend a lot of energy trying to stay calm and relaxed as part of dealing with my anxiety and OCD, so I then to be enthusiastic without being excited. More of an enduring constant application of personal resources than a quick expenditure of emotional energy.

It’s a nice change, from two years ago. My life isn’t perfect and neither is this job, but it’s a good deal better than it used to be and I often find myself in need of a reminder. Not because I think it’s worse or because I’m miserable about something, but because it’s important to keep in mind how much things have changed over the years and how that change has tended toward being a positive change rather than a negative one. As I struggle to deal with all the curveballs life is throwing me lately, I need to keep myself focused on the arc of my life because it’s difficult to remember during times like these that the general trajectory is upward. It hasn’t always been, but it is right now.

It’s not something that snaps me out of my depressive episodes, but it’s something that makes it a little easier to rest at night or to release the tension I’m holding in my shoulders. I don’t think there’s any way to snap myself out of this one I’m in right now since it’s probably the first legitimate externally-sourced period of sadness I’ve experienced in a long time and it’s a time-oriented thing. It’s not going to go away for a while. It’s something I’ll need to learn to live with and part of that is contextualizing it. Finding where it fits in the landscape of my life. It’s going to take a while, but enough reflection and contemplation will get me there eventually. All that remains at this point is to make the time for them and that’s going to be difficult since I’m shorter on time than ever before.

Sorry if today’s post is a bit of a downer, but yesterday’s poem should make it clear that I got some back news just recently and I’m still trying to deal with it. I hope your month is going well and I hope you’re having a good day.

 

NaNoWriMo 2019 Day -335 (Saturday Morning Musing)

I did it. I broke one hundred thousand words in a single month (since I wrote this post last night). I ended this post with a total of one hundred thousand eight hundred thirty-five words for the month and I am immensely proud of myself. I even bought a bottle of champagne–excuse me, sparkling wine–to pop as soon as I finished this post and, while I’m too cheap to buy good champagne, it was nice to just have something to pop at the end of the day. It tasted alright, too, but I can’t really tell the difference between various wines and I don’t really care that much about it so I’m cool with that.

It was nice to actually manage this goal, given how my month went. So much happened…  Honestly, I’m pretty curious about how much I could accomplish in a month if I didn’t have to spend a lot of it learning to cope with my grandfather’s mortality and the constant stress of trying to lead my team at work into a new process I developed. If I actually had energy when I got home from work… The thought of just how much I could get done is staggering. I’ve done an average of three thousand three hundred thirty-three words a day and yet my actual median is about five thousand. If I could do that every day, I could do fifty percent more words in a month, and that’s at my current pace with my current levels of energy. If I keep up this writing thing, I might be able to get even more written during a focused hour than my current record of two thousand words. If I get a better handle on my mental health, especially my anxiety and depression, I’ll have more energy and get even more done in a day. There’s always room for improvement and I’m excited to see how I continue to improve.

While I’m sure plenty of people write more than I do, even if I do get up to one hundred fifty thousand words a month, I’m not looking to compare to them. Personal accomplishments count more to me, anyway. I’d rather beat my own record than compete with someone else for the high score, in both video games and my personal life. I love a challenge, I love having a rival, but I’m more about support and helping each other achieve new heights rather than trying to out-do each other or trying to be top frog in the well. As much fun as it might be to say I’m the best, that’s not really what motivates me. Striving to be the best is a journey with an end. Striving to be better is a journey that can take you from the day you start to the day you die. I’m all about the long-term, really, in everything thing I do. Finances, career, self-improvement, romantic/platonic relationships… Everything. I’m good at predicting outcomes and I rely on that skill to guide me. Trying to always be better than myself only ever leads me forward and upward.

As much fun as this was, though, I’m really looking forward to a thirty to fifty thousand word month. I need some rest and the winter holidays are going to be stressful enough without trying to spend every second writing. I mean, I’m not going to stop myself from writing when I want to, but I’m not going to force it again. I need a break to rest my mind. Since your brain is like a muscle, in that it gets stronger the more you use it, it is just as important to give it a chance to rest after pushing yourself to new heights. So I’m going to let my brain rest and recover these next few weeks and then we’ll see just how much stronger it’s gotten as a result of this month by trying some new personal challenge. Or, you know, just adding a reasonable amount of book writing in addition to my blog writing. It doesn’t need to be another month of one hundred thousand words. I’ll probably just aim for a thousand extra words a day of book writing. That seems reasonable but also ambitious enough to keep me moving forward. I’ll probably aim for a total over a month rather than a daily limit so I can deal with busy days that don’t leave me room for writing without feeling stressed out about missing a thousand words.

Honestly, as much as I really want to outline my plans for the next year, I think I need to rest before I do that. It’s not even nine and my brain is already so fuzzy that I have to go back and read through sentences I just wrote to figure out what I’m trying to say as I write them. I’m also looking forward to sleeping in. And an end to stress headaches…

As much as I want to keep going, I think I’m going to call it here. It’s time to rest and, while I plan to continue to update my blog every day, I think I might take an entire day off of writing for the first time in several months. Just… play some video games or something. It’ll be nice. Thanks for taking this journey with me and I hope something I posted was of use to you. I also hope you’re continuing to write. It’s a pretty great feeling to see your words on the page or screen, so I hope you get to enjoy that for a while longer.

Today is day -335 of #NaNoWriMo2019 and I’m excited about next year already! Really, though, this is a Saturday Morning Musing post and I wrote 999,999 words last month so I’m gonna rest now. I’m so tired.

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.

Saturday Afternoon Musing

National Novel Writing Month is coming up. That’s a bit of big deal for me because I’ve at least participated every year since 2013 and won every year but 2016 when I was applying and interviewing for a new job. I also created a challenge for myself, to raise the stakes, every year since 2014 when I found myself a little bored with just writing 50,000 words again. The year after that, I wrote an entire story in a month (which is big deal for me since I am anything but concise). Last year, I wrote 50,000 words of a new story that wound up being more foresight than fiction, ran a support group for my friends who were trying National Novel Writing Month, and updated my blog every day of the month (which was a part of the support since it was stuff about writing, about what inspires me, and some prompts to help them push through when they feel stuck). This year, though, I’m struggling with what my extra challenge should be.

The support group could be fun to do again, but the only people I know who are doing National Novel Writing Month are people who have been doing it as long as I have been, or longer, and who don’t really need support to write. A space for us to connect and talk about writing is always good, but I won’t really need to actively support them. I still plan to do the blog posts, but that’s just the same thing as last year. There’s nothing new to this challenge, which means it isn’t challenge. It’s just the same thing all over again and that means I’m not actually going to try my best.

I could make the argument that I’ve never been this burned out, worn down, and just all-around-exhausted when starting a National Novel Writing Month before, so it’ll be difficult enough for me to get anything done on time or according to whatever plan I come up with (as evidenced by the fact that half my blog posts are “late” these days, showing up in the afternoon instead of their typical nine or eleven in the morning time). That feels like a cop-out. I dislike cop-outs. It gets to easy to let them slide in the future if you start using them now and I am all about staying firm and focused on my goals. I didn’t get to almost a year of writing every day and posting on my blog every day by letting myself compromise, so doing that literally the day after I hit 365 consecutive posts would feel like I was spitting in the face of my own accomplishment.

One of my friends suggested I write a humorous romance novel and, upon hearing that, the rest of them took up the call. Suggestions from something involving characters from a D&D campaign that ended a while ago to a romance novel about a modern male protagonist trying to live his normal 20-something modern life while his girlfriend is someone out of a highly-sexual romance novel that pokes fun at the sort of contrived situations involved in a lot of cornier (and absolutely amazing sounding) romance novels. Seriously, there’s a whole series about some vampire/angel/insert-monster-template-here brothers who kill vampire demons and are actually immortal vikings who sometimes time travel. How is that not a story you gotta hear? I can’t find the link my friends provided while trying to convince me to write a romance novel, but it was a riot. It would definitely be a challenge since I’ve read only a handful of romance novels and it isn’t something I’m normally interesting in writing. Being able to stay focused and working on a project that isn’t something I’m terribly interested in would be a good skill to have, though, since a lot of good writers wind up writing what the publisher wants rather than strictly what they want. Being able to do “made to order” fiction would be a good skill to work on.

All of my other ideas have something to do with my blog. For instance, I could keep up with daily posts with National Novel Writing Month support and encouragement posts, but also include my serial science fiction story and reviews. Maybe even throw in my flash fiction updates, too. Basically just keep up the popular part of my blog, the fun part of my blog, and the only story I’ll have ever finished if I keep at it. If I keep that up, I’ll probably finish Coldheart and Iron on Christmas Day and post the epilogue on New Years Day, which feels like a damn fine way to start 2019.

Of course, I could also do this regardless of my National Novel Writing Month. If I work my ass off over during the rest of October, I could have all my blog posts written. That’s only 50,000 words in addition to the 14,000 I have to do for this month’s blog posts. Totally possible to do all that in eleven days. I mean, that’s only six thousand words a day! Easy-peasy! No sweat! I could do that in my sleep! I mean, I’ve basically signed up for 50,000 plus 30,000 plus whatever my extra challenge is for next month unless I find a way to work ahead this month. All on top of my normal work hours, my usual obligations, and the fact that I’m going to need to work out or at least go on a long walk every day so I don’t turn into a pile of pudding. I really suck at taking it easy, don’t I?

But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? This isn’t supposed to be easy. I’m supposed to be working on stuff in order to grow as a writer. I want to widen my horizons, improve my skills, and try things I wouldn’t normally try. Fifty thousand words is all well and good, but I’ve done that five times so far. I want to do something new, try to push myself in a new direction, and maybe lose myself in something bigger than my own problems. I’m going to struggle with my mental health, but I always do. I may need to find better ways to cope with what’s going on in my head, but that also means I won’t be able to let it have as much sway as it does on days like today since I won’t be able to spend four hours writing a blog post that’s just over one thousand words.

As I’ve learned throughout my live, and during the past year especially, I work best when I don’t have room for error. Pass or fail scenarios are my jam, even if the chances of passing are small. I’m going to pick some dumb, ridiculously huge goal, try to cram a month’s of writing into eleven days so all my blog posts are written ahead of time, and then I’m going to create a made-to-order romance novel in order to force myself to improve my ability to write things that aren’t necessarily something that thrills me.

To that end, here are my three ideas:

  • Something based on some D&D characters from a really old game (that happens in a D&D world, with quantifiable numbers and stuff, rather than a “typical” fantasy world).
  • Aggressive Romance Novel Woman meets normal 20-something dude and worlds collide. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Astronaut/Werewolf/Demon/Mole-Person man meets Basic “Becky” and falls madly in love, but only during Pumpkin Spice season.
  • Air-Force Pilot/Old-School Vampire/Faerie/Lizard-woman falls in love with a hipster trying to French press his coffee in his yurt in the woods.

Comment your preferred option(s)! You can pick as many as you like.

Saturday Morning Musing

We’ve all been there. Someone you love, perhaps a friend, or maybe just someone who shares a social circle with you, posts something on Facebook. It’s some alarmist post about candy-flavored crystal meth or the dangers of dihydrogen-monoxide. Maybe it’s something political, accusing some public figure of operating a human trafficking ring out of the basement of a single-story, basement-less pizza parlor. Heck, maybe they bought into the “QAnon” bullshit and think “The Storm” is about to drop the hammer on every politician they’ve been told to hate. You don’t really believe it, or maybe you do because that candy-flavored crystal meth thing seems like just the sort of horrible shit a no-good drug dealer would get up to in order to start reeling in a bunch of child customers. The point is, the pictures are really sad and the idea sounds just plausible enough that you share it to, or maybe you just think about it for now but then decide to share it later after you’ve seen it come up a few more times.

This is why I’ve temporarily (with the option of taking it permanent) deactivated my Facebook account. There’s just so much absolute garbage getting chucked around the web by people who would rather just share whatever horrible, terrifying thing they read to be on the safe side. It’s not like it costs them anything to click that “Share” or “Retweet” button. They just pass it along in case it might be true like someone refusing to take a stance on whether or not they believe ghosts exist because it’s immaterial to trying to address why all the lights on that side of the theater keep burning out so quickly. Except it’s not really the same, is it? If you don’t state whether or not you believe in ghosts, you’re effectively ending a conversation. It’s not like you’re going to walk around yelling that you don’t want to say you don’t believe in ghosts just in case they’re real, you just believe it, share it with people who have some common experiences with you, and move on. When you share stuff on social media, it appears to be an endorsement of sorts and other people who value your opinion will believe something they otherwise would not.

Don’t worry, I’m not just going to complain about this today! I have a solution! The rest of this post is dedicated to giving you some tips to figure out if something is true or not. I will also make a few blanket statements that you can take as true just so we can get them out of the way. First, vaccines don’t cause autism, though I will say the debate still goes on about whether or not autism causes vaccines. Additionally, the world isn’t fucking flat. I’m not going to cite this one because I will reach across the internet and belt you one or, in less hyperbolic terms, just block you if you ever argue that the world is flat. Google or even Wikipedia will provide all the evidence you need for that one and it isn’t difficult to find unlike good sources for the vaccines thing now that the anti-vax movement has learned how to market itself on the internet.

The first thing you should look for on a Facebook post of dubious fact is the original poster. Almost every asinine thing that shows up on your timeline was posted by some random person and then shared repeatedly until it made its way to your wall. If you can find the original post, you will often discover some interesting information. The few times I’ve actually been unsure enough to look, the original poster has had a lot of “fake profile” flags. Usually their username is random (you can check that by looking at the URL of their page in your browser), they have some random assortment of jobs and such that make little sense. They also generally don’t have a lot of friends or old photos of themselves. Additionally, their profiles are usually pretty open to the public as well, so it makes it easy to realize there isn’t much information attached to that profile other than inflammatory comments about some kid getting his mouth blown up by grape-flavored crystal meth. If that doesn’t settle it one way or another, give the story itself the sniff test. No actual drug distributor is going to great crystal meth in fifteen different flavors and sell exclusively to children for so little money it’s laughable to event consider.

If all that fails, or if the post originates in a news site for one particularly hard-leaning side of the media or another, check out Snopes.com. Most of the time, for all the big controversies, anyway, Snopes will investigate the controversy, rate its truthfulness, and provide a ton of information available to the public that backs up their rating. I’ve yet to see Snopes actually get something wrong and searching their website doesn’t show any promising results. Searching on google provides me with a list of results that themselves could use a check on Snopes, so I’m comfortable saying the site is reliably accurate.

If the post is on Twitter and it’s making the rounds through your various friend groups, Snopes is still a good place to check, but actually following it back to the first tweet and discovering the context of the quoted tweet will shed a lot of light on the quote itself. Additionally, a good thing to check is the profile of the person sharing it on your time and the profile of the person who originally posted it. You can usually tell whether or not either person is a trustworthy source by the contexts of their profile blurb, the things they like, and what they tend to comment on or retweet. If you find any conspiracy theories are aren’t shared as an example of the moronic things people sometimes believe, then I suggest ignoring them and everything they share entirely.

Probably the biggest rule is to think critically about everything you read. If it feels suspicious, then it’s probably fake. Not everything will be fake, of course, but a lot of the shit that passes through five meme groups, a profile for long-term child-rearing advice, and some kind of group that has a name like “The blankity-blanks for the unification of blankness” is probably not trustworthy. So much of it is the political/social equivalent of the emails that claimed you’d die if you didn’t send the email on to twenty more people before the next time you went to the bathroom. Find yourself a few trusted news sources or news aggregates (I prefer direct sources, though most of the aggregators tend to be good at providing direct links) and stick with them rather than what Mr “Aree-al Mahn” posts to Facebook.

Saturday Morning Musing

It took a while, but I think I finally figured out the complex feelings I had about where I grew up when I helped my parents out last month (mentioned in this post). Since I left after my first winter break during college, I haven’t gone back to visit for more than a week or so at a time. I stayed at my college for almost every break after that, working and living in the dorms aside from the few holidays I went back, like Christmas or Thanksgiving. I lived in the dorms and got used to staying quietly by myself when the campus was almost completely deserted aside from the foreign exchange students during the holidays. My little college town became my home, even though I moved at least once a year, from one dorm to another. The campus became the place I belonged and I stopped calling my parents’ house “home.”

I realized during one of my recent meditations that I no longer even think of their house as home. My old neighborhood is no longer my home. It’s the place I grew up and haven’t done more than visit in several years. I don’t really recognize it anymore. I know where it is and I’ll always know how to get there, but it’s just as foreign as the neighborhoods I used to park in when I drove myself to high school. I can navigate through it and I’ve got a basic idea of what it looks like, but I don’t really feel any connection to the place. I’ve still got that for the actual house I grew up in, but it fades a little bit as my parents make changes or slowly replace parts of the house. When I was spending time with my sister, I realized I didn’t know where anything was kept anymore and that I was essentially a stranger in the kitchen where I’d learned to cook.

I’m sure that’s a feeling many adults have to cope with from time to time, and I’m sure there are people who have similar (but different) feelings about visiting their parents because their parents no longer live in the home they grew up in. I even sort of expected it as I grew in college and started to see what it meant to me to have a place I’d chosen to belong. I wasn’t surprised when I finally felt it, just uncertain as to what it meant and why I felt it.

I’ve spent most of my adult life with a lot of difficult emotions tied to the place I grew up. I even spent a lot of time seeing it as the same place with the same people I’d left behind. It was static in my eyes, unchanging and always representing what I’d endured. Since my last non-holiday visit, I’ve been working on letting go of the emotions and memories connected to all those past painful moments, so I can finally start to see my family as they’ve become since then. I think finally seeing the places I grew up, the streets I had walked down and the yards I had cut through, as someplace foreign to me is a sign that I’ve finally started to achieve that. Those places are no longer static, no longer a time capsule to a past I want to leave behind. I feel like I’m seeing them for the first time since I essentially am, now that I’m not seeing them as they were a decade ago.

I still have a long way to go, though. I’ve gotten better about letting my family be whoever they are now, but it can be difficult to avoid the old habits and to not see them as the same people when some of the old problems still crop up. For instance, I didn’t find out my parents had gotten rid of their landline until I called it and was told the number was no longer in service. Panicking, I called every member of my immediate family with a cell phone and no one answered. Eventually, one of my sisters called back and explained what had happened. This was the summer I’d officially moved out for good, so it created feelings of disconnection from my family. It was startling to realize I hadn’t called the landline in months and that we hadn’t even talked in that time. The same sort of thing happened with the trip my parents went this summer, which was the whole reason I was in Chicago to spend time with my sister. I hadn’t gotten the group text or emails they’d sent out to the rest of my siblings about their trip and the need for us to lend a hand with our youngest sister, so I had made plans during most of the time they were gone. It was rather frustrating to learn about it only a couple of weeks before they needed help, and a bit late too since I’d fallen asleep that afternoon and missed the conference call they’d set up the week before.

That being said, I’m the only one who hasn’t lived near or with them for at least part of the year. Two of my siblings permanently live in the same general area and one of my siblings stays with them between employment engagements. The youngest is still in high school. I’ve lived in a different state for several years and only visit on the major holidays for the most part. I’m not much of a phone caller and I’ve always been pretty independent, so we don’t talk. It’s pretty easy for me to miss out on a lot of big news as a result. It can be frustrating at times, but I could also make a point to call my mom or dad once a week and I do not. I’m sure they’d love to hear from me, so it’s not like it’s all their fault or anything. It’s just difficult to remind myself to view my family as they are now rather than as I remember them when we’re having the same problems I remember us having.

Saturday Morning Musing

When this post goes us, I’ll be busy attending to my soul and mental well-being by going on a hike with a small selection of my favorite people. After several weeks of being too tired to do much and a constant lack of days we can all gather, those of us who are available tomorrow are just going to do something regardless of the fact that half our group is missing. It isn’t ideal, I’d rather spend the day with all of them, but I need to get active and to spend time with people who help me forget myself for a while. With all the stress and anxiety that have been building the past three months, I need to ignore my desire to stay home alone to work on processing review suggestions and actually go do something I know I’ll love.

I’ve always enjoyed walking. I like losing myself in my gait as I wander from place to place, maybe listening to music or just taking in the sounds of wherever I’m at. Hiking is a sort of extension of that, because it takes me out of areas that always grate on me, cities with the constant hum of cars and neighborhoods with the quiet noises of people going about their daily lives. If you pick the right hiking location, you can go the entire hike without encountering anyone. You can embrace the quiet of nature and the irritating hum of modern life that most people only notice when it’s gone disappears completely. You can lose yourself in trees and the quiet emerald peace of a nature at its strongest. If you’ve picked a place with some nice elevation changes, there are a ton of great places to stop and admire the world around you. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the horizon and having an unobstructed view of the sky and there’s just something wonderful about getting both of those things as a result of being on top of something that rises above the area around me. Only in hiking trips can I get all of that at once.

Even though I’m going with my friends, I’ll be able to enjoy that. These are all people who know me well enough that there are no awkward silences to fill. I don’t need to worry about how to maintain a conversation or how to segue from one thought to another because they all just get how my mind works enough to not always need an explanation. I can just be myself around them and their presence doesn’t intrude on my sense of peace and quiet. For the past several years, we’ve always done at least a couple of hiking trips every month, though we’ve been doing fewer of those lately because of how busy everyone has been. They’ve been some of my fondest memories and include some of my favorite pictures. All of the background pictures you’ll ever see on my blog are pictures I’ve taken while hiking. If I could, I’d do all my thinking and writing in a spot that overlooks the surrounding area and has an unobstructed view of the entire sky. My dream house idea focuses mostly around a taller tower with what is essentially a glass dome on the top so I can sit up there and read or write as close to the sky as I can get. Heck, the whole thing might just be a tower of some kind. But it would have to be on the side of a mountain or on the top of a tall hill somewhere. That would be amazing.

After hiking, I’m planning to do the Pokemon Go Community day since I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the game now that I don’t have my ex to give me a reason to keep playing it. I don’t really feel like it “our thing” anymore, thankfully, but I still wonder if I’m just wasting my time on something that isn’t really adding anything to my life since I have a tendency to play the game alone and let it distract me from the main purpose of my frequent walks. It’s so easy to bring alone and leave running in my pocket, but I’m not good at ignoring it when it’s in there and will start to feel anxious if I don’t check it for a while. It works the same way as notifications on my phone do. If I know they’re there, it will always cause me more stress to just ignore them than to skim through them and either open them or dismiss them. In order to save myself from needless stress, I’ve started disabling certain notifications on my phone and setting up hour-long notification silences so I won’t notice when they show up until the hour is over. I’ve also removed most time-waster games from my phone for the same reason. I also repeatedly install and uninstall Imgur as I cycle between just needing something to kill some time and realizing that I’ll just sit on the couch and browse through Imgur for an hour instead of going to bed or starting my writing. Which is why I’m still on the fence about Pokemon Go. I definitely benefit from still having Sudoku on my phone because it often works as a way of doing some mental stretching when I’ll feeling particularly tired or fogged up from how focused I’ve been on my work.

It’s a really nebulous balance and I’m probably going to be working on it my whole life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to just figure out how much work to do and how much relaxation to put in and when it’s already to simply escape instead of doing something genuinely relaxing. Even though I love writing and reading, they’re still work. Even though I’m super excited to start reading all of the amazing books people have written and mentioned to me on Twitter, there’s still a lot of work to do just to find all the links, titles, and authors. I want to just wake up in the morning and dig right in to my to-do list, but I need to take time to relax and hike and let my to-do list remain undone. I’m still doing at least four hours of writing or book recommendation collation a day, so it’s not like I’m slacking off, I just always feel like it’s hard to justify taking the time to wander through the woods or spend a few hours walking around the city with some friends while we catch Pokemon. I’ve only got so much time, after all. I want to get the most I can out of it and it’s, no matter how long I live, I don’t think it’ll ever be clear how to do that.

 

Saturday Morning Musing

It is difficult to reconcile the world I was raised to believe existed and the world that actually exists. Like a lot of people in my age category, I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough and that there was a benevolent being somewhere above us who loved us individually and only wanted what was best for us. A lot of it was reinforced as I grew up because I was constantly told how smart I was, how capable I was when I focused on something I really wanted, and how frequently things just worked out the way I wanted. My home life might have been difficult, I might have had some issues crop up in my family that I’m still dealing with to this day, but I pretty much just walked through my childhood and teen years without ever really being denied anything I tried to obtain. I had pretty low expectations and didn’t try for much, to be fair, but I still managed to get everything I wanted one way or another. It felt pretty believable that I was capable of anything and that there was some force watching out for me.

As I went to college and started to come to terms with what I’d endured growing up, how I felt about my family, and my own limitations, my once-strong faith was the first thing to go. I’d describe myself as agnostic now, but it’s a little more complicated than that. I really want to believe in some higher power, but I feel like higher powers get used to get out of fixing things more frequently than I’m willing to put up with. Religion is frequently used as the justification for a lot of bad things but that doesn’t make religion itself bad. It works really well for a lot of people and it appeals to me because of the frequent focus on forgiveness, love, and respect for others. I just want to focus on doing my best here and now, to help as many people as I can now, because it feels like helping and loving is more important than figuring out which faith is the right one. That always feels like a cop-out to me, but I don’t really know how to explain it any better. I just hope that whatever greater power there is out there, whatever got things going at the start of everything, either doesn’t care or understands that I was just trying to do my best by my fellow humans.

A few years after that, when I got my first permanent, post-college job, I eventually realized that not everything works out. I wasn’t even trying to believe that everything works out well, just that it eventually comes to an end and there is some kind of conclusion. Unfortunately, closure and completion aren’t always guaranteed. Sometimes things just stop and you’re left wondering if they’re over or if there’s maybe more down the line. I’ve had a couple of relationships end like that, a few moves away from jobs, and even a few friendships that abruptly ended, and I can definitely say that that’s almost never the case. Recently mending bridges with one friend is pretty much the only time that’s ever been true and it was for a friendship I thought had concluded. It was one small, simple, enormous step that showed me sometimes things “work themselves out” without really ending. But it’s one thing in a world full of times things are just over and it’s up to me to figure out what to do with the unsatisfying end.

I spent over a year denying that it was time to move on from my old job. I spent more than a few months trying to salvage a relationship that had ended mutually due to distance but blown up afterwards because of immaturity and poor communication. I spent fifteen months trying to work things out with a roommate when I’d already known it was never going to happen. I’m really bad at letting things die when they don’t have a clear-cut end or conclusion. I spend way more time and energy trying to make things work out to what feels like a real end because there’s still a part of me that believes I can do anything if I work hard enough. I know it isn’t true, I know there are real limitations to what people can accomplish based on the factors of their life, and I know that hard work is rarely enough to achieve success, but the idea of working hard is so ingrained in my soul that I usually just double-down and convince myself that all I need to do is work even harder. Then, surely, I will achieve the success I desire.

Nothing in life is guaranteed, though. Life is short and people leave yours all the time. Days are long and you could dash yourself to pieces against the wall you’re trying to break through. You could live a lifetime in two years, full of vows to change the way things had been before and to never make the same mistakes again, only to realize you’ve in a position not that different from where you started. Maybe progress is too slow to really see and you’ll wake up one day to realize everything is different. Maybe You just need a little more time or one last push to finally break through that wall. You never know. Maybe you’re one day, one conversation away from achieving your every dream. Only time will tell if you’ve pushed too hard or if you haven’t yet pushed hard enough.

I don’t think I can achieve anything and everything I put my mind to, not after failing as often and as severely as I have. I don’t think there’s some force out there trying to guide my life down the right path. I want to believe these things, still, but I feel like I’ve got something more important to focus on. I have one thing I want to do, one big goal to spend my life on. I may never be able to achieve it or find the success I want, but I’m willing to live my entire life in pursuit of it. I feel like having that pinpoint focus is a little more valuable to me in the long run than the potentially erroneous belief in my ability to succeed or to be granted the achievement when I follow the plan of some supreme being.

Saturday Afternoon Musing

I just took a five-day weekend and I already need another. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on recently is that it has been quite a summer. Two weddings because the relationship I was in, the end of the relationship I was in, throwing myself into my writing and my work in order to take attention away from the end of the relationship I was in, working more than ever so I could pay off my car loan, paying off my car loan, tons of flooding in my area, winning the Hamilton lottery, going to see Hamilton, trying to enjoy my long weekend and the game I took it for and being unable to because the internet has been going in and out without warning or pattern… A lot has been going on.

Sure, some of it has been good stuff, like the lottery and Hamilton, but that’s a still lot of emotional energy that gets spent. I can tell I’ve reached a new low because I’m always filled with the kind of existential exhaustion I associated with my depression but none of my other usual symptoms that go along with it. I also find myself spending an hour or more sitting on the couch, doing nothing or letting the TV just run because I know the internet is out again and, sure, I could write in a Microsoft document and just past it into WordPress when I’m finished or I could even just grab my phone and write my posts on it if I don’t want to bother with a bunch of temporary files but that’s a lot of effort and it’s taking all the energy I’ve got to just stay calm about how unreliable the internet has been and how that’s been negatively impacting my relaxation activities. Which isn’t at all a description of how I spent my early afternoon while waiting for the internet to come back so I could finish today’s post and get it online.

It definitely doesn’t help that work has been super stressful as well. We’ve got a big deadline coming up and I’ve had to assert my priorities to some senior coworkers a lot more than I’d like to. I’ve also had to deal with the prospect of getting put on a future project that continues a current project which has been a total nightmare of everything going wrong and one person domineering the design decisions. It’ll be a great product eventually, of course, but a lot of the time it feels like it’ll be good despite some people’s best efforts to turn it into an unholy abomination of things that sound good but are totally useless. I am extremely uncomfortable with conflict, but I keep finding myself gearing up for them at work because I don’t mind telling people they’re wrong or that they’re wasting my time. I’m one of the only people stubborn enough to sit through an hour of a meeting and stick to my (correct) line of reasoning rather than just agreeing so the meeting will end. I don’t blame my coworkers for not being willing to fight to the death like I am because they’ve been dealing with this guy for much longer. Most of them are much friendlier than I am with people who waste their time and none of them are as stubborn as I am. I’m a perfect storm of the right personality traits to confront people like this person and the sincere desire to never be in conflict ever. I’ll fight the battle because I recognize it needs to be fought and, if it turns out well for me, will save me stress and effort in the long run, but I’d also rather just keep my nose down and get through each day as it comes.

Some days, it feels like a lot of my life is like that. Lots of stress and effort now so things will hopefully be easier later. As I see this particular thought crop up in my life, I find myself wondering at what point I stop thinking “it feels like” and start thinking “my life is”? I think the main problem the later is that it’s easy to go from reflecting on how much effort I put into everything in my life these days to a whole slew of negative thoughts. Stuff like “is it worth working this hard” or “I have to work this hard because nothing good ever happens” or “I wish something nice and easy would happen because nice stuff never happens to me,” all of which are false. If anything, this past summer has taught me that this isn’t really a “good” versus “bad” scenario, this is a “work” versus no work” scenario. I did no work to get the Hamilton Tickets. Spent twenty dollars and clicked stuff on an app every day for so long I forgot I was doing it. That’s not any kind of definition of work in my book. That was a good thing that happened to me. It was an amazing thing that happened to me and I’ll be holding on to that happy giddiness for months.

I don’t sleep enough. I take care of myself last of all. I have depression that leaves me feeling listless and unable to do anything but focus on moving myself forward through the day. I get so caught up in my anxieties I can’t breathe. I have a hobby that fills my soul with meaning and helps me set direction for myself. I have good friends around me who care about me and the stuff I care about simply because I care about it. I have terrible luck, but it often turns good in surprising ways and at unexpected times. I can support myself and am only financially limited by my willingness to work extra hours. I make enough that I don’t actually need to work more than my required minimum number of hours to make ends meet. My life is pretty well-balanced, honestly. It’s not bad. It’s not great, either, but it’s on the positive side of neutral. I just have to work hard pretty frequently. Not because my life or lifestyle is in danger if I don’t, but because that’s the cost of making progress on my dreams. I wish it was easier, but then I probably wouldn’t value the time I get to work on my dreams as much as I do. I wouldn’t value a quiet weekend in the woods as much as I do.

Today, I don’t wish my life was different. Today, I just wish I had a few extra hours each day. There’s so much to do… It’d be easier if I suddenly got four extra hours every day so I could sleep more. I bet I’d get a lot more done if I was well-rested all the time. Maybe that’s what I should do with my next vacation. Just go to bed every day at ten at night instead of staying up super late because I know I don’t need to get up for anything in the morning. It’s worth trying, some day.

 

Saturday Morning Musing

Ever since the flooding in the Madison area happened, I’ve started to regard thunderstorms and rain storms as actual storms rather than a simple minor shift in weather conditions. I used to enjoy sitting on my porch during storms, drinking a beer or just watching the rain fall. Now I can’t really shake the feeling that I’m looking at one of the first steps required to create a natural disaster. I used to take comfort in rain but now I spend most of the storm wondering if this is going to be enough rain to flood again or if the slow but steady rain over several days is going to make the lakes and rivers around here rise even more. I’m not in any danger, thankfully, but tons of people who live near me are in danger, as are a bunch of people I know.

Storms were once incredibly dangerous weather phenomena because they could knock over buildings, wash away months or years of hard work, and easily ruin the lives of people who were in their path. As humans developed into what we are now, we learned to set up our lives in such a way that it would mitigate the dangers of a storm. Things like better building techniques, irrigation, mechanical pumps, and stuff like gutters or cisterns or aqueducts are all things we’ve developed or learned to use as part of our adaption to storms. Most of them were meant to make it more likely that we’d survive the storms or to prevent the storms from wrecking our things, but some of them were things we built to make the storms work for us. Humanity, ever-adapting, learned to be able to thrive in an environment where chunks of ice, huge globs of water, and the occasional bolt of electricity are fairly frequent over the course of a year.

We got used to the storms and nature’s wrath expressed through earthquakes, giant storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and lava spewing out of giant rocks on the horizon. We learned to adapt and to build our homes in a way that would leave them somewhat more likely to survive the same disaster again. We refused to move away from places we’d adopted as our homes and determined we would master our environment. No amount of flooding, storming, hurricaning, or erupting would stop us from living where we wanted. For a while, that even worked. We built giant walls to keep the water where we wanted it, with complicated doors and windows so we could control where the water went once it was gathered up. We learned how to make big, strong buildings that would not only stay upright in an earthquake, but protect the people inside them. We learned how to predict eruptions and what to do when they started in order to save as much of our community as possible. We figure out how to predict the worst of the storms and then communicated to people that they needed to hide in specially designed shelters. We just adapted to the problems we found in our areas, invented insurance to pay for the homes that kept getting wrecked, and carried on with our lives.

And then we screwed it all up. Thanks to global warming and the fact that the entire world dragged its feet on responding (and many parts of the world still refuse to respond and at least one significant part of the world refuses to accept as fact), we get the leveled-up version of every storm. Hurricanes flood and destroy the costs. Tornadoes rip apart the interior of the US. Earthquakes show up in areas where there never were any before. Giant waves wreck coastal countries. Rainy seasons and typhoons stick around much longer in come areas and disastrous droughts show up in other places. Wildfires burn all summer and destroy ever larger patches of land. All the while, the people leading my country stick their heads further up their asses, people with money decide how best to screw over everyone else, and reactionary politics starts working its way into political systems that seem designed to let them have their way. The world is on its way to hell in a hand basket and it feels like all I can do is watch. And write.

I don’t really think I’ve got the power to change much right now. I’ve got a platform and a voice, but not a lot of people listen. I’m not even the person people should be listening to for these problems. Those people are screaming at the top of their voices and all the systems that should be taking notice are ignore them. It sometimes feels like there isn’t much of a point to trying. I wonder if there’s any point in trying all the time. Not about sticking to writing, I’ve thankfully passed that point in my life, but about trying to make people see what’s wrong in the world. So many people want nothing but confirmation of their own biases or to be told that someone else is taking care of the problem. What’s the point of reaching out if everyone who will listen already agrees with you and everyone else refuses to accept anything that differs from their opinion? In the age of the internet, it’s super easy to find whatever you want to confirm your incorrect beliefs. I mean, we’ve got people who think vaccines are bad because one shitty-ass doctor lied to the world (and lost his license) and we’ve got people who believe the Earth is flat because some people wanted to figure out if they could make people believe something stupid. How the hell do you try to talk to people about scary, difficult topics in a world where people will believe governments are controlled by some fictional “deep state” and that a bunch of money-grubbing assholes are actually prophets of some insider who will shortly expose the “deep state” for the dark cabal of secrecy and manipulation it supposedly is?

The world suddenly got too weird for me to understand it. I want to be a voice of reason, but it’s pretty clear that people care less and less about reason lately and more about emotional appeal. But only emotional appeal that benefits them because screw all the people who die due to, or have their lives ruined by, worsening natural disasters, racism, police brutality, fascism, extreme poverty, or disappearing natural resources.

Normally, I’d like to go sit on my porch and take comfort in the rain that’s gently falling on the area, but I can still see the pile of ruined furniture and carpet sitting next to my neighbor’s driveway if I do, so I can’t really enjoy the rain that’s probably helping to grow mold behind what’s left of the drywall in their once-finished basement. Instead, I’m going to sit here and write something until I feel better about being unable to make the change I want to see.