Stand-er Things

A couple weeks ago, a friend recommended I check out Stranger Things, and I proceeded to blow through the 8 seriously-why-are-there-only-eight episodes twice in the space of a week.

It hit me in practically every nostalgic squee that I had, particularly all the weird, dark 80’s horror nooks and crannies. All of that came wrapped in a thick, comfy Spielbergesque blanket and I found myself in a swimming pool on a hot summer day I never wanted to get out of (Oh, Barb!). One part ET, one part Poltergeist, with a generous splash of John Carpenter and Stephen King, it homaged so many vivid pop culture muscle memories it was impossible to NOT fall deeply and madly in love with it.

This pleasant feeling lingered long after finishing the show, and other than gaining a deeper and immediate appreciation of all the fan art and memes I’d been seeing popping up on Reddit and Tumblr in the weeks prior, I also now had to grapple with the deep-seated and utterly reliable post-nostalgic need to seek out more media to prolong the feeling.

It’s an almost universal compulsion brought on by a particular type of nostalgia that anyone that pays any amount of attention to pop culture immediately recognizes. It’s the same compulsion that’s been feeding the culture of remakes, reboots and sequels (which is not a 100% awful thing, but I’m not going to get into that now). And I feel like the wave has finally caught up to my weird “Oregon Trail” demographic of the Millenials.

Maybe it’s because we’re the cohort that finally has a little bit of money now that after a decade of following our dreams and making the last of our student loan payments, we have all that disposable income we kept getting told we were gonna have after college. And maybe that also means that people who’ve been toiling in the artistic fields this whole time are getting bigger budgets and higher profile projects, so they’re making the stuff they want to make.

Is this a useful thing to market to? Absolutely. I don’t see nostalgia as a bad thing. I see it as an inevitability. I am in my 30s. For the most part, all of my formative moments are behind me. There are scars all up and down my psyche from all the experiences I’ve had and art I’ve consumed over the years. It’s hard to look at anything now and not have a complex mixture of emotional reactions to them. Nostalgia is the direct result of the texturing of our experiences. That I get to choose how and when I remember certain times and feelings is one of the great things about the internet, because I now get to go back and experience those things over and see what the world once looked like to me and everyone else. That’s fucking valuable and becomes relevant to where I’m about to take this blog-ramble.

In any case, that nostalgia inspired me to go back and rewatch all the movies Stranger Things pulled from, which then got me to rewatching some Stephen King adaptations, and now I’m sitting here thinking about the changing depictions of good and evil in media over time, and the underlying assumption of the sad puppy mindset where we would all just be better off as human beings if we were all the same and all liked the same things and all wanted to live the same way.

 

Despite my macabre reading tastes as a pre-teen, King was never my cup of tea. I was more of a Clive Barker/H.P. Lovecraft kinda kid. But there was a part of me that found the movie adaptations of King’s stuff to be a sort of horror comfort food.

It’s a bit surreal to watch now. There’s this presumption in so many of these adaptations (I can’t speak for the books since I haven’t read any of them, though King did write the teleplay for the adaptation of the Stand, so I guess I can speak to that in this case) about what the world should look like, and it’s hard for me to get past the adorable quaintness of it all.

For example: the first scene where bad guys are introduced as characters (beyond the brief flashes of The Literal Devil in the cornfield), they’re driving a red corvette and listening to ZZ Top (one of them even lops ZZ Top so much that they specifically make a note to turn it up). Or in IT and Stand By Me, where the human villain in the script was a white kid in a leather jacket with a switchblade. I wish evil were actually this banal. Or had ever been this banal. I find it hard to believe this was ever the epitome of a “bad element.” But it was to to large segment of the population that spent the most money on media in the 80s and 90s. I can admire the feeling of optimism that’s behind it – that the world would be a better place if the worst person in the world was someone in a black leather jacket on a motorcycle.

But we live in a world where Winona Ryder’s character had to remind the owner of the store she worked at for years that she had never missed a day of work when he denied her request to take a few days off to look for her missing son. And there is evil in that momentary lapse of empathy, just as there is evil in the monster’s indifference to the meaning its prey finds in living life.

So it’s sometimes hard for me to watch things like The Stand, between the nostalgic comfort of my familiarity with its type of wholesomeness and the cognitive dissonance over the simplistic impossibility of it all.

https://gfycat.com/ifr/SentimentalNextBobwhite

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Smoke or Nausea

Getting older is full of all kinds of small unfairnesses.

Since I had a weird lung cold at the beginning of the year that gave me what felt like an ongoing asthma attack for about a month, I decided that I really should stop smoking once and for all.

So I had an appointment with my butt doctor since the last time I tried to quit, one week in I started getting a really bad flare up, which cleared up immediately upon me starting smoking again. It hasn’t helped that I seemed to have adjusted to the controller medication I have to take every day. I still get mild flare ups pretty regularly and smoking was one of the things that could clear that kind of stuff up. She prescribed some colon-specific steroids for me to take for the next two months while I quit smoking to keep any flare up I might get from getting too bad.

I’m a week in. Three days ago I developed a headache that comes and goes and persistent low-level nausea. And I’m starting to have a mild flare up.

I hate that I get to make a choice every whether or not I want to feel sick and not smoke or stop taking the meds and have to start smoking again to keep my colon from trying to kill me.

The kid in me wants to scream about how unfair this whole situation is, but that would mean that there would be someone to blame for this. It’s ironic enough that it feels like there should be – I want to do a really good thing for my health, which in turn makes me significantly less healthy.

It’s too early to tell if this is even going to work. I might get through the course of steroids and immediately get a flare up and have to start smoking again. Or everything could be totally fine and I can go about my life with one less thing to worry about for the time being.

And I’m feeling a bit better today, so maybe my body’s adjusting to the medication. And the flare up seems to be getting a bit better too (provided I can stay away from the GF’s gelato in the freezer).

* * *

I’ve been slowly working my way through Buffy for a fourth time over the last month or two.

I’m into season 5 – or, as I like to call it, the season where Buffy gets a massive taste of the unfairness of adulthood.

The show is fucking great when it comes to betraying expectations. It pulls generously from the high school drama and horror movie trope bins and mashes them into a delightfully absurd and deeply affecting story.

And in season 5, when she comes up against two forces she can’t fight (her mom’s illness and the, at times, face-palmingly ridiculous Glory), a large amount of narrative energy is spent exploring her grief for her sense of fairness in life.

Because it’s certainly one thing to intellectually know that the world is unfair and to experience that unfairness firsthand. And that experience of unfairness really is inevitable.

* * *

I dunno.

Maybe when I figure out the source of this cynicism, I’ll stop blogging about it. Or maybe it’ll just consume me.

Hard to say. Too early to tell.

But I do have a suspicion it’ll all work out, even if it’s not in the way I expect it to.

Go outside. I bet it’s a beautiful day out there somewhere.

 

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Less Dirt, More Seawater

You know what’s a great song? The Rain Song, by Led Zeppelin.

You know what’s also great? Then She Did by Jane’s Addiction.

* * *

I find myself often at a loss for what to write about on his blog anymore. I used to blog incessantly. About pizza and weird shit I saw during the day, trying to fix broken pieces of ancient early 90’s technology and way too much information on whomever I happened to have a crush on at the moment.

Then I locked that shit down and moved to another blog platform where I blogged almost exclusively about feelings because there were only a handful of people who ever read that shit.

Then I locked that shit down again and decided I shouldn’t blog about feelings or weird inane shit that happened during the day anymore, which stuck me with a format of long essays, which wound up mostly being about feelings anyway.

I don’t know why I decided that blogging had to be substantial in some way.

Sometimes I miss not knowing anything about anything and just using the shit around me because it was new and it was there to be used. Just like I miss spending four hours sitting around in my bedroom playing guitar along to a relentless parade of grunge and classic rock songs.

Basically I think I’m just starting to get a little sick of being an old. I keep wondering if this cynicism that keeps trying to creep in around the edges of everything is saturation ennui. If there even is such a thing.

I went to a show the other week in a tiny bar where three 80’s shoegaze synth bands were playing, and I spent the entire show overjoyed to be there. I had some serious hard core delight going on.

Part of me wants to take this as a lesson in upping my procrastination game by going out and doing things more. But at the same time too I’m starting to get hardcore writer guilt that I haven’t produced as many words as I had wanted to by this point this year. But I’ve also been super happy and have been able to hang out with some really excellent people and done things and been to places that were novel to me.

I’m still struggling to find a balance between hedonism and discipline. It’s hard because that hedonism has really done wonders for my depression and artistic inspiration. It’s been harder to find time to sit down and write, but I feel like when I do sit down, there’s been a marked improvement even over last year.

But, of course, that improvement could have happened if I’d been working hard too. Also, I have a strong suspicion that the longer I go between long writing sessions, the lazier my prose gets, which leads to much head-desking in the revision stages (which contain more than enough reasons to head-desk without the incomprehensible run on sentences).

Meh. My band’s got a CD release show coming up for our second EP, which I got to record in a recording studio for at the end of last year. And we got to take band photos last month too.

IMG_7315

The circle perpetuates itself.

I’m gonna be 34 in less than a month. I’m having just about the right amount of feelings about this one. And for my birthday this year I’m asking folks to write me a letter or a note about anything they want to write me a letter or a note about. So if you’ve got something you want to write to me about, go for it. I’ve got a submission form on my about page.

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“Who invented time?”

Just sent off two grad school friends back to the airport and New York this morning. We drank. We watched Star Wars and then spent two days arguing about it. And about music. And science. And lots of other things because it’s pretty much our favorite thing to do – sit around drinking and arguing.

With some folks it never feels like any time has passed. This feel is especially pronounced when you go on a drunken 2 mile hike on a Saturday night on a quest for whiskey and burritos.

There’s a new Radiohead album out today. It’s the exact kind of Radiohead album I wanted, but didn’t know I needed as of a week ago. Choral arrangements, Strings, synths and Thom Yorke being Thom Yorke. Which also means new Radiohead music videos.

And in a fit of inevitable wonderful, this video is a also a thing:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165171240″>Radiohead – Burn The Witch (Feat. Nicholas Cage)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user51801819″>Andrew Washington</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Some new books I ordered just came in –

Last First Snow by Max Gladstone (book 4 in the Craft Sequence). These are so deligtful. They’re vibrant and fun and exciting with the kind of worldbuilding and atmosphere that makes me think of a Sword and Sorcery Law and Order. I got into these books on the recommendation from my friend Nicole.

Inherit the Stars by James Hogan. Had never heard of this before a friend of mine in SD recommended it. He me to read it so we could talk about it later, so I picked up an ooooooold used copy that was printed in ’82 – the year I was born. There’s a quote on the cover from Isaac Asimov comparing Hogan to Clarke.

Word of mouth recommendations are the lifeblood of all art. Give me recommendations from friends who know or share my taste. Give me an empassioned rant over beers. Tell me what it means to you and why. Tell me why you hated it and what could have been done better and why. Tell me why you were disappointed or surprised. Then let’s talk about how it could be done better.

Sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons I’ve been able to forestall what I used to believe was an inevitable decline into cynicism as I got older is because I am never not in search of new art and people to talk to about it with. Almost like I need that hope in the future that my heart will always beat a little faster as I wait for brand new Radiohead tracks to finish downloading so I can spend all morning listening to them.

I’ll be another year older next month. I’m still getting used to the feeling that time just keeps getting stranger – it passes, but doesn’t pass at all. You change, but never change at all. Forever, everything always in one instant.

Everything is always horrible and wonderful at the same time.

Thankfully, there are some pretty damn wonderful things out there right now.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a bit of Yorke-ception.

 

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::POOF:: Catharsis.

Last year, my therapist had me read a book. It had an appropriately schmaltzy self-help type title, and involved a lot of scenarios about people who had a hard time feeling appropriate emotions for the situations they were in. I remember walking away from reading it with a few small reactions, one of which was that I was struck by how I was very much not an angry person.

That’s gotten me to occasionally wonder if it was a personality trait, or if I’d gotten so used to taking situations I was in and turning them around to see in which ways I was at fault.

I used to think that everything on some level was my fault, and if that’s the case, I felt like it wasn’t appropriate to get angry at the other party(ies) for something that was due to a failing of mine.

Hindsight and a lot of therapy later, I know now that when I would do that, it was my depression feeding itself.

Now that I’ve got a better handle on my depression and my opinion of myself has dramatically improved, I find I have been getting angry about things. And I’ll say, it’s weird to feel happy that I’m angry about something.

But I am happy. My friends and GF have been really wonderful this weekend since I got some, in the end, unsurprising and infuriating news.

I’ll say this much: you can always count on an emotionally manipulative, self-serving pathological liar to lie.

I was upset. I spent the last year of my life grieving for someone who didn’t deserve a drop of it. How could I have let myself get suckered back in so completely? How could I have opened myself up to so much more damage at the hands of this person who has damaged me so completely before? How could I have been such a gullible fool?

Fuck this shit. There is no more forgiveness in me. There are no more doubts. Take the unearned grief, you piece of shit. That’s yours now. That’s all you’ll ever get from me again. Now take my anger. All of the anger I should have felt rather than compassion the first time. All of the anger I should have felt rather than the guilt. Fuck you for taking advantage of my kindness and empathy. You don’t get to feel proud of me because I became the person I am IN SPITE of you rather than because of you.

I am angry I had to take today off of work because of you. I am angry you get any kind of feelings from me whatsoever. You don’t get my guilt. You don’t get my grief. You don’t get my sadness or kindness, my joy, my delight, my empathy, my pain. You deserve none of it.

Those I reserve for the people in my life who actually and demonstrably care about me.

Happily, go fuck yourself.

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Book of Faces and Other Fables

I decided six weeks ago that I was going to stop using Facebook every day. There was something about it lately that whenever I would go on there I would come away feeling anxious and sad.

I couldn’t put a finger on what it was, exactly, that was doing it, but I figured if I felt better in its absence, it might give me a bit of insight into what, exactly, had gotten to be so dissatisfying about it.

I loved Facebook when it first came out. I was in grad school and was already notoriously bad about keeping in touch with the people who had been important to me but were now geographically far away. But Facebook made it so I could know what’s going on in my friend’s lives, and they could know what’s going on in mine. And we could comment and like stuff and generally remind each other that we exist and that we care about each other.

And that was fucking great.

I’ve always kept Facebook curated to people that I know very well, know kinda in real life, or that I’m meaningfully connected to in some way. That’s my private space, where I feel safe to write what I wanted to write. It’s always been that way for me.

So what the hell changed?

I started dipping back in after a few weeks to check for event invites or other things that have become facebook-only over the years, and also to kind of see how I would react to it.

At first I wondered if I had succumbed to that phenomena that all those articles written about image crafting and putting your best face forward on social media outlined. Was I feeling  dysphoria in seeing my friends’ perfect lives. Was that it?

Fuck no, turns out. I find that the folks I’m friends with on there don’t do that kind of thing all that often, and when they’re on there being cute-gross and love-y and stoked, I’m happy for them because I know about the awful shit they go through too. Because they’re the kind of people that share both sides of themselves.

So that wasn’t it.

So what the hell was it then?

When I would go back on, I started scrolling down a bit past the notifications bar to see whatever curated posts Facebook wanted me to see first and I think what was going on finally clicked.

Whenever I would go on there, I would think about all the time I spend by myself, and how little I actually do with other people. That sounds like it’s a bad thing, but for me, it’s really not. That’s time I spend reading, writing or watching movies/TV and analyzing stories. It’s time I play and listen to music and think about everything. It’s time I spend working out or running errands and trying to keep myself physically and mentally healthy. Having time like that is a physical need for me.

But Facebook was making me feel like I was being a selfish asshole. That there were all these wonderful people doing wonderful things and loving each other and here I was sitting around at home by myself reading a book. It started to make me feel like high school again, where I always felt like a secondary friend  – someone you say hi to in the hallways but don’t invite to grab coffee or watch a movie with. Someone you make half-hearted plans with but don’t follow through on. Eventually I thought it would be healthier for me to never ask if I could come along because if people wanted me to come do things, they’d invite me. I don’t invite myself to stuff. I’d rather be home by myself than risk forcing my company on people who weren’t into it.

But that’s only half of friendship. When do I ever invite anyone to go out and do anything? When do I ever make plans for doing stuff? Hardly ever. No wonder it was making me feel bad. It was making me feel guilty for doing the things that make me happy and underscoring some really old beliefs about where I fit in in the world.

Stepping away from Facebook made me feel better about taking care of myself.

But it also made me realize how I was using it as a crutch in lieu of actually hanging out with people. Sure I know everything that’s going on in so-and-so’s life. That means that I don’t need to ask them out to coffee and I can stay home tonight and read for five straight hours. Or I don’t need to go hang out at a bar and catch up with whozzit and whatshername.

I don’t know what a good balance is anymore. But I do know that I miss my friends.

I’m leaving the Facebook app off of my phone for the forseeable future in the hopes that maybe it’ll make me leave the house more and stop feeding that stupid teenager deep inside me that suspects that no one actually likes or wants to hang out with me. Because if that teenager had her way, I would self-fulfill the hell out of her prophecy so she would ultimately be correct.

* * *

And a somewhat relevant song link :

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Zen and the art of bathrobe maintenance

I’ve been trying to make sense of a few peculiar things I’ve been noticing lately. Bear with me while I suss these out a bit.

* * *

The question of how much life is enough life has been bugging me again lately, but it’s coming in at an odd angle this time.

I’m happy. Like, legitimately, substantially, and meaningfully happy. And not just for brief moments here and there, but this has become my default setting over the course of the past year.

So I’ve been trying to figure out why this feels so… wrong.

Is it because I’m not used to feeling this way consistently? Is it because I’m no longer reaching for things that gave me so much motivation in the past? Is that reaching a property of age or personality? Does comfort beget stagnation or does only desire beget desire?

With so many people dying in the last few weeks, it’s been kicking up some feelings (and gave me my first panic attack in a while). Seriously, beyond Bowie and Rickman, there were a handful of others that hit people I know and am close to, not to mention my Schrodinger’s parent situation continues – which I can no longer be sure if I’ve hit acceptance yet or looped back to denial because of the complete communication vacuum. Sigh.

Anyway.

I’ve been asking myself lately that same question that a few years back caught me so flat footed and triggered my last major bout of depression:

If I were to die this year, would I be happy with how things went?

Instead of the firm and visceral “No” I replied with a few years back, I now find myself thinking, “Yeah, whatever.”

I’m a bit surprised by the answer. I’ve always felt like one life could never be enough to feel and do all of the things. It’s one of the primary reasons I love fiction – it lets me live so many other lives, to feel as many things as I can before I die. And I want to feel everything humanly possible before I go.

When I first asked myself that question, I had a whole list of things I had never experienced. Basic life things, too. Like loving someone who loves you back, among others.

So I thought about all of the ways in which I was unhappy and spent the last three years systematically changing those parts of myself and my life.

As a result, I have lived a lot of life in the last few years. I have felt so many god damn feelings and I have gotten all the big life stuff sorted that had been causing me irritation or anxiety.

Now I can honestly say that if I were to spend every week of the rest of my life doing the things I’m doing now with the people I’m doing them with, I would be wanting for nothing.

I should feel accomplished and pleased with myself, and to a certain extent, I do. But beneath that, there’s a question: what now?

I don’t have an answer to that. And I suspect that’s what’s been making me uncomfortable.

* * *

One time, two of my friends were talking about what the hell they should do with their lives. One friend threw out the question: What would you do if you suddenly had more money than you could ever spend in a lifetime?

That’s a useful question in a lot of ways – a way to parse through the bullshit you have to deal with everyday and whittle down to that which you’re passionate about.

(No surprise that my answer would be that I would write full time.)

It’s also a really horrible way to approach something you’re passionate about. (How do you work towards writing full time? Wait, let’s unpack that. Holy shit that’s a lot of fucking work. And oh, hey, look, that’s something that’s no longer a viable option for the vast majority of writers out there who don’t win the Powerball, let alone ones with chronic and expensive health problems like THIS writer has).

But there’s another question that’s equally relevant:

What would your perfect day be?

(Coffee, reading, yoga, writing, see friends/watch movies/read/play music)

While achieving that Powerball dream would be nice, it’s extremely unlikely (thank YOU, colon!). But that perfect day? I have that day pretty damn often. I’m having that day so far (minus yoga – fuck you, head cold).

You’re sometimes closer than you think to what it is you want.

So while I’ve been neglecting my writing a bit over the past few years, I have been tirelessly working on rearranging my life and seeing a therapist to finally get my head sorted so I can have more of those perfect days.

So maybe I do have an answer to the question, “What now?”

Maybe I’ll pick one of those ridiculous fantasies I had as a kid (rock star/cranky writer in full-time bathrobe) and start working on that. At least now, my failure mode will be “life I have right now and am enjoying immensely.”

Happy new year. Go do a thing.

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An embed, a song, and a slugabed

Today marks the first day of the longest vacation I’ve had since I dropped out of grad school. And unemployment did not really count as a vacation as such.

And oh, how glorious I shall be in my full sloth regalia.

So this is what I’m getting up to tonight: I’m gonna watch the 1979 animated version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I have not seen in probably 20 years.

Then maybe I’m gonna sit around and listen to this song for a while:

Balance.
Repetition.
Proposition.
Mirrors.

Most of all, the world is a place where parts of wholes are described
within an overarching paradigm of clarity and accuracy.
The context in which makes possible an underlying
sense of the way it all fits together,
despite our collective tendency not to conceive of it as such.

But then again, the world without end is a place where souls are combined,
but with an overbearing feeling of disparity and disorderliness.
To ignore it is impossible without getting oneself into all of kinds of trouble,
despite one’s best intentions to not get entangled with it so much.

Meanwhile,
the statues are bleeding green.
And others are saying things much better than we ever could;
as the quiet become suddenly verbose.

And the hail’s heralding the size of nickels.
And the street corners are gnashing together like the gears
inside the head of some omniscient engineer.
And downward flows the garnered wisdom that has never died

Then finally,
we opened the box, we couldn’t find any rules.
Our heads were reeling with the glitter of possibilities, contingencies…
but with ever increasing faith we decided to go ahead and just ignore them,
despite tremendous pressure to capitulate with fate.

So instead, we went ahead to fabricate a catalog
of unstable elements and modicums and particles.
With not zero total strangeness for brief moments which amount
to nothing more than tiny fragments of a finger snap.

Meanwhile,
we’re furiously seeing green.
And the map has started tearing along its creases due to overuse…
when in reality it’s never needed folds.

And the air’s withholding the sound of its wellspring.
And our heads approach a density reminiscent of the infinite productivity of the center of the sun.

And therein lies the garnered wisdom that has never died.

Expectation –
leads to disappointment. If you don’t expect something big huge and exciting…
usually…
I dunno,
just, uh yea…”

Merry Merry y’all.

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A Glass Case of Emotion

I’ve been getting preoccupied lately thinking about what it means to feel alone versus what it means to feel lonely.

There are circumstances in which they overlap: in the wake of heartbreak or loss, during a bout of depression, during periods of isolation, etc. But as I’ve managed to finally sort out a lot of the thoughts and beliefs I had previously about myself that enabled these two things to coexist I was surprised to find that while I no longer feel lonely, I still feel alone.

On a certain level, it just a human thing. You’ll never experience life through any other eyes but your own. The only emotional experience you’ll ever have is in the body you have now. Of course you’re alone. The only constant in your life is you. But it feels strange to me, to be out with friends or at home with the GF, and to still feel alone.

It’s not distressing. It just is. But I have begun to wonder how normal it is to feel this way all the time.

As I’ve become more aware of this general feeling over the past few months, I’ve been wondering how this aloneness quality has informed the decisions I’ve made in my life. As though sorting through the consequences might tell me if it’s fine to feel this way or if it’s making things subtly worse.

Probably the biggest thing it’s influenced is the way I’ve structured my life, since I’ve always believed that the only person I could count on to take care of me was myself, a lot of the decisions I’ve made about school and jobs and the way I live my life have carried the unstated assumption that I’m in it alone, so I better not fuck anything up because there won’t be anyone to catch me.

It’s an approach both cynical and sensible.

On the cynical side, it means my default setting in life is to not trust anyone to support me. Ever. This doesn’t mean I can’t accept support (well, it did for a long time – I still sometimes get a bit squirmy about it). But it does mean I never expect it.

So it’s hard to write about whether that does more harm than good because there are compelling arguments to be made for either side.

It has meant that I’ve made decisions in my life to ensure that I can always take care of myself (and I’m fortunate to have been privileged enough to be able to get the kind of education I got and have the job opportunities that I’ve had). That has meant stability, which, when you’ve been struggling with depression off and on for your entire post-pubescent life, is really fucking important.

It has also meant that I periodically hurt the people I am closest to. I have had some hard times in the past few years. Since my default setting is to cloister myself away and deal with things by myself, it became a source of profound irritation to those who love me and just wanted to help.

I don’t know if it’s even possible for me to feel any other way. This has been such a big part of my personality, and between the chronic health problems and the mortality questions dug up this year, that part of feels emboldened.

Maybe on that existential level, accepting that you’re alone can be protective. But on the day-to-day level, it can be damaging.

I suppose maybe the reason it’s been bothering me lately is because now that I’m not feeling depressed anymore and everything’s actually going well, it’s thrown into stark contrast how it has and continues to inform the relationships I have with other people.

Which means I recently find myself getting trapped in an argument with myself about what I want versus what I deserve. And I can really see how my depression helped foster a massive rift between them.

And it feels uncomfortably selfish because of what it means to me to deserve something. To deserve something is to receive something of equal value to your worth. Who gets to make that determination of worth? The other party. Which puts a ceiling on what you deserve based on someone else’s determination of your worth.

I’m incredibly lucky that the people in my life aren’t shy about telling me why they value me. What I mean to them. It has helped me more than I can say in recalibrating my feelings of my own worth. But as a question it still makes me uncomfortable.

And like any existential question, pondering it is as unsatisfying as the end of this blog post is.

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Deep in the Iris

I’ve had this song on a loop for the past hour while I’ve been working on finishing the rest of the outline for the book.

 

There’s something that gets me in that line she sings in the pre-chorus.

“Because we experience the love that we think we deserve. And I guess I thought I didn’t need much from this world.”

The whole song is about the consequences of falling in love with a broken part of yourself.

It’s a familiar sentiment.

As I was outlining and listening to this song, it got me to thinking about the difference in the kinds of things I’m putting in this story versus the stuff I typically put in stories.

I joke around sometimes with my friends that if your only knowledge of me is from having read the stories I’ve published, you would never guess those stories came out of me.

When I was starting out writing, the strongest emotions I was having at the time were all negative. Depression. Hopelessness. Despair. So I wrote a lot about sad people.

After a few years of not selling stories, I started writing about people who were angry as well as sad. I’ve never really been an angry person, but there’s not much drama in sadness by itself. Despair is a pit that saps the motivation to act, so my stories would be full of angst, but nothing much would happen. Adding in anger allowed my characters to do things. Adding in the anger is what helped me to finally start selling stories.

But if you meet me, I’m never outwardly angry or sad. I only share my best parts when I’m interacting with folks outside of my close friend group and therapist’s office.

Earlier this year, I started wondering why the hell, then, am I always only writing about the broken bits? It took the better part of this year working on a few different short stories to slowly pull myself out of the habit.

I’m not mad about how long it took me to have that epiphany. I don’t think I would have been capable of it before now. I’ve been struggling with existential questions about how I wanted myself and my life to be ever since I left grad school. It takes a long time to figure that shit out, and I’m not saying I’ve got everything figured out, but I’ve figured out enough of the big stuff that I’m finally in the headspace that I can write consistently without getting sidetracked by my depression.

So I made a conscious decision to put some of my favorite parts of myself into this book alongside the broken bits (everybody’s got broken bits). And once I finished the rest of the outline, I have to say, it finally feels like it might be the book it always deserved to be.

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