A bundle of nerves

That’s what I am right now.

But I am striving to be cheerful about it.

There’s no particular crisis going on or anything. I only wish I was sane enough to only feel panic when there is legitimately something worth panicking over.

In fact, the cause of my heightened state of agitation is actually something good : long time friend of the blog William “spuug” Graham is going to take me to dinner and a movie tonight. His treat!

The dinner will be at Old Spaghetti Factory and the movie will be Isle of Dogs.  And I am sure I will have a lovely time.

And yet, it’s a change, it’s different, it means I have to rearrange my usual Friday schedule (which is why I am blogging now, at 1 pm, instead of my usual 7 pm), it means I have less time for things like napping than usual, and hence I am experiencing mild panic accompanied by terror and dread.

While also really looking forward to a pleasant evening.

I lead a complicated life.

In fact, sometimes it feels like I am lost in a never-ending maze of my own devising. I expore the maze constantly while never getting any closer to escaping it because I also generate the maze faster than I can solve it.

That guarantees that I remain lost in my own obfuscations, illusions, and blind alleys, and never have to deal with the real world that I am supposedly eager to reach.

Well it’s easy to be eager to get something and work very hard to get it when you know you have absoluitely zero chance of success.

That way you can comfort yourself with the illusion of progress. After all, it’s not like you aren’t doing anything! You’re exploring the maze all the time!

That should be enough to convince the world (and yourself) that you are definitely trying and are therefore can’t be accused of refusing to help yourself.

Look at me, world! Watch me try! Aren’t I cute with all my trying?  Doesn’t it make you want to hug me and squeeze me and deal with the world for me so I don’t have to?

This is what happens when you don’t go through emotional puberty. A lot of my behaviour patterns can be seen as a subconscious attempt to attract the kind of attention and nurturing I never got as a child.

Part of me is still trying to convince people to love me and take care of me. And a big part of that is my learned helplessness.

After all, if you can do it yourself, nobody will do it for you. So you have a vested interest in not becoming competent.

And god damn it, it works,. I have had someone dealing with reality for me nearly my entire adult life.

Always in the form of roommates. It makes me wonder why they put up with me.

It pays to be cute and funny, I guess.

But all in all, I would rather be competent. I think. It would certainly do my self-esteem to be able to show the world that I can take care of myself and that I don’t have to be a burden on others.

Or at the very least that I can use my talents to earn enough money to pay people to look after me and deal with the nitty gritty realities of modern life.

Maybe some people are not meant to be independant. I dunno. Maybe some of us are hothouse flowers who are lovely to behold but entirely dependant on the careful care of gardeners and an entirely arificial environment to survive.

I can’t accept that, though. Not about myself. To think that I will spend the rest of my life in such a state is intolerable.

And not just because it makes me feel helpless, although that’s bad enough. When you can’t look after yourself properly and therefore are depedant on the kindness of others, yoiu have very little say in what happens in your life and your ability to captain your own ship is severely limited.

But it’s also humiliating. It puts me in a permanently subservient role. You cannot possibly develop much self-esteem when you are in such a position. Just thinking about it makes me feel weak and pathetic and worthless.

Now I understand why biting the hand that feeds you might occur.  It would come from misplaced anger being directed toward the source of your dependance. If it succeeds in discouraging the one doing the feeding from ever feeding you again, then it has succeeded in ending said dependence.

And there is such a thing as gratitude fatigue. There is only so long a person can remain grateful for what they are receiving before they need a break. Taking such a break would be indistinguishable from taking things for granted to an outside party.

And the person doing the feeding gets sick of it, too. There is an underlying assumption in all forms of aiding your fellow humans that said aid is temporary. That you are helping someone get back on their feet, not agreeing to carry them for the rest of your life.

A learned helplessness pattern like my own violates that assumption. Hence my guilt over being a burden on others. I know that they didn’t sign on to take care of things for me for life but I also feel helpless to fix it.

The only solution I can see is money. If I can build a career as a freelancer, or even get a permanent job somewhere, then I can hire someone to be my majordomo and they can take care of things for me.

I think I would still feel bad for needing someone like that, but it would be better than what I have now.

Either that or I need to move to a bachelor suite somewhere and thus force myself to learn to make it on my own.

I don’t know.

But I do know that something has to change.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Enter the fox

But gently, please. It’s been a while.

Hello nice people. I feel like I have been talking at you, not to you, for a while and I thought I was fix that tonight.

Sorry if that freaks you out. I mean well, but I have boundaries issues,.

My default (and preferred) mode when I am communicating with others [1] is casual, informal, and direct. I detest what I see as artificual barriers between people and I bristle at the very thought of having a lot of rules to follow (what some call “etiquette” and I call “bullshit”) instead of simply connecting with one another directly.

Seems like an odd philosophy for someone with huge issues connecting with others like myself, I suppose, but I never said everything about me made sense.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’m just an informal kind of person, dear reader. It’s how I’m made. I understand why some people like to have manners be about following a set of rules to the best of your ability but those people are a lot more order-oriented than I.am.

It’s part of my creative mindset. The creatve mind instinctively wants to minimize the rules and maximize potential for connection. It’s those connections that are the basis for all creativity and creative people want there to be as many potential connections as possible at all times.

Hence the need to maintain an “open mind”. Open to what? Connections.

Therefore, the sort of stuctured, ordered, filed presses and folded life of the “a place for everything and everything in its place” type person seems stifling and artificial and quite frankly horrifying to a creative type like me.

But to them, my rule-minimizing life would seem like madness, chaos, and anarchy. They need all that order in order to feel safe and in control. Their whole lives are patterned about this need for structure and so, for them, a trip to my mind would be like being abandoned on some layer of Hell.

Pandemonium, perhaps. Or Bedlam.

The world needs both types, of course. And nobody is all one or the other. There are things about which I am intensely fussy (language and logic being the biggest ones) and I am sure that even the most buttoned down order oritented bookkeeper has a creative side lurking somewhere.

One of the differences is in faith in your own judgment. For orderly types, often the worst thing they can imagine is being asked to make a judgment call.

By that, I mean a decision for which there is no proven, tested, reliable method by which they can derive the right answer. They would have to rely entirely on their own understanding and perception and make a gut-level decision.

To them, that sounds impossible. How could they get the right answer – let alone KNOW it’s the right answer – if there is no set procedure to apply? What kind of madness is this? Are they expecting you to have magic powers?

These are the people with a lifelong hatred of English class. To them, being asked an open ended question like “What do you feel is the main theme of the story?” or “What is your favorite character and why?” is like being asked to do the impossible and then being punished for not doing it.

And it is impossible… if you can’t see outside your frame of reference.

What English teachers need to tell said people is that these questions are meant to test your ability to articulate and express your thoughts. That’s why it’s called English class – it’s where you learn to use the English language.

Therefore the actual answer to the question is secondary. The primary idea is to give you a chance to practice expressing yourself.

And that’s entirely possible and not unfair at all.

English teachers tend not to understand the orderly mindset well enough to tell kids that, though. They often don’t know it themselves.

Ironically, they lack the ability to articulate it.

Now gentle readers, I have heard that somewhere there are English teachers who tell the kids that there are no wrong answers then tell kids their answers are wrong.

That is such a deep and horrific betrayal that it makes me want to beat these teachers senseless with a whiteboard.

Seriously. At the very least, the teacher ought to get a pretty stern talking to for playing such a dirty rotten trick on the kids. If I was the principal of that school, I would come down on them like a ton of bricks.

But I think that at least in some cases, the people claiming to have had these teachers are describing how it felt, not how it was.

I don’t blame them for this. It can be very hard to tell the difference sometimes. I myself often confuse the two and start thinking that how I feel – that nobody cares about me, that everyone resents me for being a burden, and so on – represents how it really is in the world when I know that it’s not true.

I might not always be able to feel the love, but it’s always there. The sun still shines in winter, after all.

And I can see how someone with a different mindset than mine might be so overwhelmed by this feeling of the cruelest injustice that they hate English class, the arena for this traumatic experiences, for life.

That’s what gym class was like for me, after all. Constantly being asked to do something that all the other kids could do but for me, it was impossible. People saying “Just do this!” and me asking “But how do I do that?” and them saying “Just do it already!”.

And boy, do I still hate gym class. With a vengeance.

But I also wonder about the logic of declaring something to be impossible when those around you are doing it.

I mean, gym class might have seemed impossible FOR ME, but I never thought it was impossible period. That would have made no sense.

But then again, maybe I can only see that because I have the kind of creative, flexible mind that can see outside the walls of social reality.

In which case… dammit, I just dunno.

Maybe we just need to get bettter at recognizing that different kids have different needs and different learning styles and different strengths, and teach them accordingly.

Or maybe I, too, am limited by my own mindset, and so I can’t see the solution.

I just know that it seems like a crime that so many people I have known have gone through this kind of trauma.

Surely we can do better than that.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. As opposed to when I am communicating with myself.

First assignment of the new age

Yup, I am making you nice people read my homework again.

I landed a gig writing a speech for a Facebook Live talk in the form of a  funny story from a nice woman’s business and the implied awesomeness of said business.

Trust me,. I will be subtle. I’m good at that. No, really!

Anyhow, tonight’s blog will begin with my first draft of said work.

First off, we have a rough and dirty outline of the anecdote :

1. Client calls and says they can’t get a hold of Director

2. Nicole calls Director

3. Director sounds drunk and/or on cough syrup – oh shit

4. Nicole calls client, says Director is sick, but she has all the relevant information and can do the job

5. Client is happy and another crisis is averted by…. the Virtual A-Team!

Those are the main beats. Simple enough story. Here’s my first stab at telling it :

So one morning the phone rings and it’s a client of ours who is freaking out because they can’t get a hold of the Director assigned to their task. 

That can’t be good, I thought, and called that Director myself. 

They answer the phone and I could tell right away that I was in trouble, because they sounded drunker than the proverbial skunk. 

I could almost smell it on their breath through the phone! I have my client on the other line and now I have to explain to them that the Director I assigned to them is far too drunk to do their job. 

Talk about an “oh shit!” moment. Right? 

Thinking fast, I told the client that their Director was “sick” – which was technically true, alcoholism IS a disease – but that I had all of the relevant information I needed to step in and do the job myself. 

The client was relieved and so was I. I mean, could you imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t been there? The client would have been SSOL – um, for you kids, that stands for Sweet Something Out Of Luck – and mission critical operations might have had to wait till a certain someone sobered up. 

Thank goodness that didn’t happen! 

But that’s just another day in the office for us here at Virtual A-Team. 

Hmmm. Not bad. Needs polish but I am going to get the client’s go-ahead first in case she looks at it and says “OH GOD NO!” and I need to start over.

This seems like it could be a fun gig. If the first one works out, the client plans on doing a series of these vids and that would mean a series of paydays for yours truly.

And I talked to the client via voice chat this afternoon, and she seems like a fun kind of person with a good sense of humor. She used to be a stage actress, so I already know she is probably at least somewhat “cool” by my standards.

We creative types have a certain wavelength in common. Even when our disciplines are as different as writing and acting.

It’s exactly like the wavelength I share with my fellow nerds. There’s a level of connection and commonality that goes deeper than merely having interests in common or liking the same sorts of things.

It’s like we’re the same kind of person. Like we all started from the same blueprint, or like a certain level of IQ naturally creates the same basic personality over and over.

Or maybe the personality creates the IQ. Hard to say.

I also have another gig. Someone wants me to help them develop their idea for a novelty/gag gift type product. I have no idea what the job will actually entail, seeing as I put a bunch of my ideas in the application, but we shall see.

It feels very good to have something productive to do. It’s so much better than killing time playing video games. I was really feeling the weight of all my free time lately. Getting back out there to freelance is a great idea.

Update : I had the same sort of panic attack near the end of my hour on Upwork today. Not entirely sure what is going on. I suppose it must be that everything I do on UpWork, even if I am just checking out the job listings, adds to my background anxiety level, and eventually that kettle boils over and I feel terrible, like I am going to die.

But I was ready this time. When the panic came, I just kept myself busy doing this n’ that and waited it out. And sure enough, the flood came and went and there I was, sodden and saddened but still there.

Take that, my depression/anxiety! I got proof positive that your predictions are bullshit today. I defied your panic and nothing terrible happened. I went through a bad patch, sure, but it was not the end of the world. I survived just fine.

And with my self esteemed boosted to boot!

That’s the pattern I want for my future. Let the black clouds of depression darken my sky and soak me with its cold, deadening rain. Go ahead and try to scare me with your thunder and lightning. Throw the whole special effects budget at me. I don’t care. I still won’t do what you want me to do.

I will just put up my umbrella, wait out the storm, and continue doing what I want to do when the clouds part and the sunshine returns.

I see through depression’s bullshit now. I see how it lies, exaggerates, distorts, misdirects, cheats, distracts, destroys, and deceives.

I know its game.

And I know that the world will not end if I defy it. I have felt the sunshine on my skin and it feels so good to finally thaw out from my long emotional winter and return to life.

And nothing will make me stop fighting for air, least of all failure. That’s one of depression’s dirtiest tricks : convincing you that if you falter even one tiny bit in your new commitment, that means you have failed and you should just give up.

Bullshit. One battle does not a war make. And some fights are worth fighting even if there is no chance of winning.

Better to go down swinging than to give up your pride in order to get it over with.

I see you now, depression.

And you have no power over me.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

One eye slightly open

So I spent some time on UpWork today. Almost an hour. And I applied for a bunch of stuff. There’s plenty more where that came from, too.

So, yay me.

It’s quite strange how my self-loathing disappears and I am suddenly all sunshine and confidence when I am applying for a gig. Perhaps it’s because I have an audience, one I am allowed to go all out to impress.

But I have always had a sort of on again/off again relationship with self-confidence. Within my little wheelhouse, I have bulletproof confidence.

It’s the confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you can and cannot do and thus being able to put yourself forth with the confidence of certainty.

It’s very INTJ

This confidence must be the source of why I have been told that the way I say things makes it sound like there is no possibility of disagreement. It’s a strange charge to level again someone because I could argue that if I believe something and state it as though I believe it, like everyone else, what’s the problem?

That was my attitude (and what an attitude) in my last year of high school and first year of college. It was both ego and cluelessness. The ego part is obvious – i was this super bright student who kicked ass at school and I was more than ready to flex my muscles and show the world what I could do.

I mean, college is supposed to be the holy grail for us brainy types. After a lifetime of low challenge and even lower respect, we were finally going someplace where academic skill is valued and encouraged and where they’d challenge me and intellectually engage me and everything would be SO AWESOME.

In retrospect, if I had wanted that, I should have gone to a better school.

Anyhow, the cluelessness on my part was my inability to imagine myself as someone who did not have my overcharged intellect and arrogant self-confidence and so I was blind to the fact that I was trampling all over people who were weaker than me when I charged to the fore in every class discussion.

In my defence, that wasn’t something I had to worry about at home. I come from a highly verbal, intellectual, intelligent family and so none of us felt like we had to slow down or simplify things.

In fact, I got trampled myself. Being the youngest and not as smart or confident as my siblings in my formative years. I was the one constantly running to keep up with their conversation and waiting for a chance to get a word in edgewise because I could not yet shoulder my way into the conversation like everyone else.

Picture me as the runt of the letter trying to get to a teat despite all the shoving and jostling from the full size piglets and you get the basic idea.

Perhaps that is one of the sources of my endless need for attention. I got so little of it and had to fight so hard for it that I am in constant starvation mode.

I see I have wandered off on a fascinating intellectual tangent again. Dammit. So what was I talking about again?

Oh right, job hunting on UpWork. I did it for almost an hour but had to stop because I had a pretty nasty panic attack near the end.

Suddenly I felt exposed and frightened and wrong, and so I had to lay down and read in order to let the stress chemicals drain away.

In retrospect, drinking Diet Coke with lunch was probably a bad idea. Caffeine might be great for giving me energy but it also overcharges my anxiety batteries and so it is no surprise I had a panic overload.

Tomorrow I will eschew the caffiene and go into the enterrprise alert to the possibility of panic and prepared to use various techniques to calm myself down.

It’s the sort of thing that makes me understand why so many writers drink heavily. The talent and the madness go hand in hand.

They are, in fact, two halves of the same whole. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I think there has to be something broken in a person in order for certain life energies to only be able to be expressed through art.

I come to this conclusion partially via observation of others, both in person and via media, but mostly from self-examination. I have found that my verbal talents stem from an overwhelming need to communicate plus an inability to do so via “normal” means.

This desperate need to communicate, in turn, stems from being unable to connect with others on a human level. For me, the verbal-intellectual road to connection is the only road I know, and so all my energies get routed into doing that.

It’s a terrible substitute but it’s the only one I have, at least for now.

There’s a control/escape aspect too. Whether it’s me typing away or a painter daubing oils on a canvas or a composer stringing notes together, creating art lets a person disappear into a world of their own devising where they have total control.

So perhaps a need to flee the chaos of the world into my own private garden of the mind plays a part in it too.

So yeah. I get why writers drink. It’s a way to quiet the insanity for long enough to let the talent do its thing.

That way it is almost justifiable, like a business expense.

But I will stick with my video game addiction. Way fewer side effects and a lot less likely to destroy one or more important organs via repeated use.

And I am crawling out from under that one too. The games are losing their ability to keep me from feeling restless and unsatisfied and by doing so, opening the door to things like today’s short excursion into the world of UpWork.

Hey, I got back to the original subject!

What a lucky break!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Feeling political schizophrenia

I am of two minds lately, and they don’t get along.

In fact, I feel like I have a cartoon angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other and they are duking it out via proxy… namely me.

So now I shall attempt to transcribe the words of each side, contrapuntally.


Devil : You know your problem, Trump supporters and other social conservatives? It’s that you are too fucking stupid to understand society. It doesn’t matter what is true or good or right, all that matters is what fits into your tiny pea brain. Anything too big to fit – and that’s almost everything – you judges as being bad and mean and not true because otherwise, you would have to admit just how fucking STUPID you are. That’s why you need everything cut into easy to digest chunks for you by Fox News and conservative talk radio. You’re too goddamned weak to deal with the truth and so you are eager to make a fool out of yourself by believing the most ridiculous bullshit as long as it keeps you from having to think about things. Because that makes your thinky parts hurt!

Angel : But really, we’re all human. None of us is perfect. And you are in real pain. You have been fucked over by rich bastards like Trump. So it’s no wonder that  eager to latch on to whoever seems to offer you a shred of hope, and in language you can easily understand.  And those same rich sons of bitches have paid a lot of money to make sure you blame everybody but them. They pulled a big con job on you, and like all victims of con artists, you are afraid to admit that you got conned because it’s just too embarrasing. That’s totally understandable. And I know how hard it is for you to stand up to true power – the kind that scares you.

Devil : Yeah, ’cause you’re a bunch of whiny little pussies. Oh sure, you talk the big talk about being a defender of freedom and Mom and apple pie, but when it comes to challenging true power, the kind that can actually hurt you, you bend over and spread’m like a five dollar whore. And that’s true whether the power is your father in law, your boss, or your President. And there’s been people like you who support evil things out of sheer cowardice all through history. In the time of slavery, you would have been the Head Slave who felt himself to be better than the other slaves because YOU didn’t have to be whipped into doing the right thing and you NEVER made your owner mad, and you got pats on the head and extra food for that. In the time of monarchy, you would have been a fierce loyalist for the same reasons. Every time in history that an evil regime was overthrown, it was the liberals who did it and the conservative who were fighting them to maintain the status quo. Because you are all authoritarian cowards at heart and can’t imagine challenging real power.

Angel : But people have lives, Devil. They have jobs and kids and bills to pay. It’s all well and good to challenge power when you are young and idealistic and have nothing to lose, but once you have kids you have to think about them first. And really, who are we, the liberal intelligentsia, to demand that people think like us? Are we too stupid to realize that not everyone should (or can) think like us?

What is really important to remember in these trying times is that when people are angry, they say things they don’t really mean just to hurt the people they are angry at. The current political climate is so overheated that the actual issues don’t even matter any more because what people say is motivated far more strongly by the desire to huirt the other side than any true search for the truth. We all need to calm down, remember that we’re all human beings trying our best to cope, and start over.

Devil : Fuck THAT. Some people are just plain wrong and to compromise with them is to comprimise yourself. These drooling Trump droids are propping up someone who is not just the worst President of anything ever, but is dangerously close to being the worst President possible.  It’s hard to imagine anyone who would do a worse job of it. Or how. And real people are being hurt. Minorities and women don’t feel safe, the American economy is circling the bowl, the social safety net is being ripped apart by some of the very people who need it the most, and the USA stands on the brink of all out war with Russia and China, both of whom have nukes. All the while, the barbarians are at the gate, ready to tear society to pieces because they have reverted to the mindset of toddlers and can’t see any reason why anyone should ever have the right to make them do something they don’t want to do ever. And these people have to be stopped or the USA will fall and drag the rest of the world down with it.

Angel : But is open antagonism the best way to achieve that? Wouldn’t it be far more effective to sit down with people and talk over our concerns and fears, and find some common ground? If we do that with an open heart and an open mind, we may find that we have a lot more in common than we thought, and we can unite the people to fight against the real enemy, the billionaires, and with both sides united, the people would take back their government and there wouldn’t be a damned thing that the billionaires could do about it. The billionaires want us to fight each other because it keeps us weak and easy to manipulate. In such a situation, the most revolutionary thing people can do is to get together and cooperate.


So that’s how it’s been in my head lately. The angry side *the devil) has been getting stronger lately and it’s getting harder and harder to remember that people are not their politics and that angry people say things they don’t mean and that the Trump supporters are not the enemy, they are the victims… and it’s up to us to rescue them.

And that can only be done through love and understanding.

And yet, I am so goddamned angry.

It’s a tough time to be alive.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Financial stress, part 2

Well, I did it to myself again.

Namely, I forgot that every GST cheque month is also a five week month.

That’s natures way of making sure poor people never get ahead or feel good.

So I have been spending as if my dough only had to last four weeks instead of five. It’s not that big a deal as I have, actually, managed to get a little ahead in the game and have enough of a surplus that it plus the GST cheque will cover my expenses.

But it’s just so damned frustrating. And depressing. I was planning to deposit most of the cheque onto my reloadable VISA card and thus shore up my savings, but now I will be lucky if I have anything left over at the end of the month.

Oh well. The Good Lord giveth and the government taketh away.

The kicker is that I did remember the five week thing. Then I forgot. So I had my chance to avoid this emotional kick to the gut, but I messed it up.

Oh well. It’s not that huge a deal on a practical level.

It’s just depressing, that’s all. And it reactivates the financial stress I had managed to disabled by developing the surplus.

And like I said before, financial stress is really bad for my mood. It erodes my paper thin feeling of security and that everything will be OK.

On the plus side, I applied for a bunch of freelance jobs on UpWork yesterday and today I have two nibbles. So I might be on the way to actually earning some money.

Now I just have to overcome the panicky feeling I get when I get work. It’s a known thing for me and it comes from all that mindless fear that keeps me locked up in this cage of mine. Getting work makes me feel exposed and afraid and that makes me freeze up.

But this will pass. Tomorrow afternoon I will respond to the nibbles and force myself out there into the world no matter how I feel about it, and that will be good exercise for the muscles I will be using to resist the fear in the future.

Neither of the jobs pay much, of course.  I am still a third string freelancer despite my Uno work, and so I take what I can get. Plus I haven’t done any UpWork work in a long time so in that sense, I have lost my UpWork cred.

But I don’t mind. I will be using this experience primarily as a way to practice overcoming the cold, clutching fear that has kept me from having an adult life. It will work just fine for that.

The money is just a nice moment.

For me at least, depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. Thing like these potential jobs reminds me of that. It’s all too easy for me to forget all about the anxiety part of the equation when I haven’t challenged it in a while. As long as I obey the fear in all ways at all times, it doesn’t hurt me and I can forget it’s there.

Sounds like an abusive relationship, doesn’t it? Or life in a fascist regime.

It’s only when I start straining against my bonds that the fear comes. From that point of view, a case could be made for simply never fighting back.

But I have to fight back because this cage is way too goddamned small and keeps me from having any kind of healthy adult life and makes me miserable.

That’s the depression half of the equation. So it’s like being trapped between two awful things, anxiety and depression. If I fight back, I get anxious, if I don’t,  I get depressed.

The only solution is to learn to endure the fear and fight back anyway. That’s going to be tough – panic attacks are a powerful disincentive – but if I keep at it, I will beat back the fear and develop some confidence in myself and my ability to handle things.

And it’s not that big a deal on a practical level. It’s not like I am suddenly be working a nine to five job.

It just means I will have something productive to do with my time now and then instead of dreading filling up all those empty hours.

I’ve realized something about my video game addiction – it has a lot to do with the kind of false sense of accomplishment games give me.

I realized this as a result of another revelation, that I was treating whatever game I was playing like it was a job. Like I was somehow obligated to get as far in the game as I could and if I didn’t, I had failed on some level.

That’s fucked up, man.

I mean, these are video GAMES. Games! As in, things one does for fun. Things which don’t really matter so you can relax and enjoy yourself.

That last thing they should be is stressful. But somehow, as part of the Skyrim addiction from which I am still recovering, the whole thing became invested with this sense of urgency and fervor.

And I think it’s because it become my substitute for true purposeful action. Video games give me a sense of having accomplished something. After all, I pured my energy into it and I got ahead in the game. The proof is that I am a higher level now, and all the cool gear I have accumulated, and where I am in the plot.

So it really is like the game is my job. And that’s clearly wrong. If I want to get out of my cage, I will have to find truly purposeful labour that means something to me.

An my inner demons will howl and scream and I will get anxious and panicky and I will not have some core of inner strength to call upon to counter it.

I will just have to keep going no matter what.

Luckily, I am good at that.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

That’s one fat burger

Ordered from Fatburger (that’s right, we have one up here, I was surpised too) via SkipTheDishes.ca tonight, and so far everything is delicious.

I did something I haven’t done much and paid for my order online. Usually I pay cash for everything because cash is accepted everywhere, my wallet doesn’t ding me with a service charge every time I open it, and cash still works even if the “betwork” is down.

But I got bribed into putting on the card tonight by Skip The Dishes’ “skip credits” program.  The credits are deducted from your tab, if you want them to be,  when you order food online through Skip.

The catch, though, is that you can’t apply those credits to a cash order. Which makes sense,. I am sure, I just don’t feel like figuring out how.

So I ordered online, with my credit card, and got the $5 in discount that Skip gave me for signing up. And I have to admit, it was awfully convenient.

And now Skip has my credit card on file, so the next time I order from them it will be even easier. Just a few clicks, and food will be on my way.

I’m thinking this may be the thin edge of the wedge that will eventually lead me to putting all my money on the card and using it everywhere, like everyone else.

Or at least putting my Saturday Night Ordering In money there.

I am loving Fatburger’s cuisine. My bacon cheddar burger is top notch, with both the savoury components (meat, cheese) and the veggie components (lettice, tomato) adding strongly to the flavour.

And that’s how I like it. To me, the veggies on a burger are not an afterthought. They are an important part of what makes a good burrger taste good.

And Fatburger know that.

And then there’s the fries. Oh, the fries. The fries are very good – best fries I have ever gotten from a fast food chain. They are so good, in fact, that not only do they not need ketchup, ketchup actually ruins the flavour.

And holy CRAP, that’s a lot of fries. As in, covers 2/3 of a dinner plate in a pile two inches thick. I had an inkling that it would be a lot of fries when the

The drink that came with the meal was listed as “diet cola” on the website. I was immediately suspicious. Did that mean Diet Coke, or Diet Pepsi, or…

It meant “generic cola”, which is fine by me. Not only do I also have my handy Diet Coke (giver of life) at hand, but on my leaner weeks I drink generic cola and it’s fine. Not as good as Diet Coke, but fine.

Especially when it’s very cold.

I also ordered 5 mini-donuts, which I have yet to sample. Getting them was extra super naughty because not only is this the kind of sugary treat that is bad for my diabeetus, I have perfectly lovely slices of sugar-free marble cake slices in the cupboard.

But what the hell. Sometimes you have to do what you want to do instead of what is the “smart” thing to do, otherwise your spirit becomes dull and listless and so do you.

Impulses are reinforced by being acted upon and when they are reinforced, your will grows in strength and power, as does your self-confidence.

It’s a lesson I am in the process of learning, and so I thought I should make sure to put it into words to aid me in that process.

It’s much easier for me to act on something when the words for it are out of my head and therefore out of the way.

I know I need to feed my starving soul. It has been starving for a very long time but I have only been conscious of it in the last six months. One of the vital inputs I have been missing is life experience. Life lived in realtime, directly, with no five second delay.

Just had a mini-donut. YUM. Skipping the chocolate dip it comes with tho. That would be way too much.

The inobvious (and for some of us, downright counterintuitive) truth is that life experiences are worth far, far more than possessions or wealth. With every experience, you strengthen your self-worth because you add to the list of things you have been through and come out of it fine.

And that gives you the concrete evidence you need to fight the voice of fear that always makes things seem like they will be far, far worse than they actually are.

I have beenj thinking a lot about that lately. About how the predictions made by our emotions are so often completely wrong. Things do not turn out how it feels like they will turn out, at least if you’re a big bulging bag of neuroses like me, and that means those predictions are absolutely worthless.

But they are all we have to go on. And the human mind would rather act on wrong information than do nothing until more information comes in.

After all, no matter how shitty the information is, a decision still has to be made.

But say I rejected these neurotic inputs due to their unreliability. What then? I suppose I would have to make decisions based on previous experience and reasoned prediction.

In such a decision matrix, the statement “I enjoyed this the last time I did it” would hold more weight than a strong but undefined feeling of fear and panic, as would the statement “my friends will be there and so it won’t be too scary”.

Part of me still rebels against the idea, though. Ironically, it’s the same part of me that makes all those bad predictions. It now predicts that going against its predictions will only lead to terrible (but undefined) consequences.

Well knock it off, o unfaithful Prognosticator. The jig is up, mate, and everybody knows that you make terrible predictions and then actively punish any attempt to verify whether those predictions come true.

After all, if I never go out, I will never find out whether it will be as horrible as you make it out to be, will I?

Well I am done with that. From now on, I will remember that my emotional predictions ain’t worth shit and do my best to make those kinds of decisions based on sensible thinking and true reflection on my emotions, and tell that hysterical ninny in the Data Projections department that he is fired as of NOW.

Don’t make me call security on you, dickhead!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

Another cold case

Once more, blogging without a plan (or a clue). Wish me luck.

I’ve been going through a lot of “stuff” inside my capacious noggin lately. I think my whole “the depressed me isn’t the real me” revelation has causes a lot of the bad stuff in my head to break free of the main mass of my inner glacier and now I am watching tit float out to sea to melt in southern climes.

But until that iceberg melts,. I will feel especially cold inside and have a feeling like I have eaten something very hard to digest that does NOT agree with me.

Like I swallowed an ice cube the size of a watermelon.

I struggle with myself daily. Fighting the depression, trying to uproot all the tentacles it has buried deep into my brain, arguing with that negative voice inside me that I call the Inner Prosecutor and feeling like I am not worth anything because I produce nothing of any consequence, despite my talents.

I think a lot of us grown-up child geniuses are still carrying the phantom of our “potential” around in our heads.

“You’re doing well, but you’re still not usinjg your full potential!” teachers would say.

Well here’s a thought – try challenging me. Everything in the normal curriculum is absurdly easy for me and so I see no need to strive. Accept that I am not a self-starter or an auto-didact and give me something that is as hard for me as regular school is for normal type students.

But no. They left me to be bored out of my gourd. I wish I had made more of a fuss about that. Made a nuisance of myself unless I had something to do.

“You could do so much if you just worked to your full potential!” said another teacher.

I’m sure you’re right. But what amazes me is how you can say that without irony when you’re the one completely failing to challenge me. Again : there is no chance I will suddenly transfoirm into the sort of kid who goes to the library and educates himself on every academic subject because he’s just that big of a keener.

I ain’t that kind of guy. Never will be. I read for pleasure. That means science fiction. I might right up on topics that interest me but never to the point of mastering a subject.

It was your job to keep me challenged and you failed. You chose to just label me “not a problem and needs no help” in your mind and forget me.

Just like everybody else.

“Sure, you’re a straight A student. but if you applied yourself a little more, you could turn those A’s into A+’s! ”

Seems like a lot of effort for so little a reward.

Honestly, though, that teacher had a point, I just couldn’t see it at the time. The point of getting those A+’s was scholarships. But nobody ever told me I was supposed to be trying to get those.

Nobody ever gave me any responsibility or imparted even the slightest impression to me that I was part of a family and therefore was expected to contribute to the group effort to get myself educated.

As far as I knew, all that was expected of me was that I get good grades, and that came naturally to me, so what’s the big deal?

If only someone had told me. I would haved loved to strive for scholarships because they would have been a way to win my parents’ approval and I wanted that more than anything in the world.

Or at least give me a little validation, for fuck’s sake.

Anyhow, my point is that I have felt this burden of my “potential” all my life, and with it comes the subtle oppression of higher standards.

With the whole education system knowing I am brilliant to the point of being utterly annoying. merely average grades would have been like failing grades to another. student. I felt this pressure to do more, more. more and yet I didn’t have the type of personality for whom that spurs them to become high-strung high-achievers.

That would be my sister Catherine. Love you, sis! I miss you so much. I even miss you nitpicking my table manners at dinner.

Hey, at least it showed you cared.

Instead of living up to my potential (whatever that means), I hid from it. It seemed like a huge restrictive responsibility to me that was far more than I could bear without it completely overwhelming me, and so I dodged it by not thinking about it.

And I still don’t like thinking about it. I am oinly getting to the point now where I can accept that I am exceptional and slowly take responsibility for my mental amazingness instead of simply negating it then shoving it into the back of my mind.

I guess what I am really afraid of is that if I take responsibility for my powers – if I “own” them – then I would have to DO stuff. Stuff that would take me out of ciozy little rat-hole without any way to escape, and thus be trapped naked in the spotlight.

So to speak.

And that’s one of my worst fears. To be unable to retreat from the harsh light of day into my dark little hole where nobody sees me or hears me or knows me.

Even though that could turn out to be the best thing for me because I would be forced to cope with the situation and evolve the skills to do so.

If you don’t endure, you don’t adjust, after all. Sure, that water seemed pretty cold when you dipped your toe into it, but look at all the people having a good time swimming. Surely that means it can’t be THAT bad.

In fact. it’s just barely possible that they know something you don’t. which is that the coldness fades away if you stay in for long enough and after that, it’s fine.

But you will never learn that if you stay on shore.

So go out there and get wet!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

My financial stress

I have been feeling a lot of financial stress lately, and that’s bad.

Bad because when I feel financially stressed, it makes me feel scared and insecure and that really kicks the crap out of my mood and makes me depressed.

So today I am going to paint a picture of my financial week in order to get that out of my head, then talk about why having enough money isn’t enough for me.

Hmmm. Well, in the financial world, the day begins on Monday, so we will start there. Let’s start with my $150/week budget and go from there.

Monday.  I don’t go out on Mondays,  and hence, I don’t spend anything either.

Tuesday.  Hang out with Felicity and Joe at Felicity’s parents’ place. That costs me around $20 for McD’s and/or stuff from 7-11. Down to $130.

Wednesday.  Same as Monday. No exit, no money.

Thursday.  This is where things get tricky. Thursdays I have therapy at 1 pm in the afternoon then Paragon, where I leave the house around 7 pm. Paragon definitely costs me around $20 for McD’s and such, but depending on how my supplies at home are doing.  I may or may not also need to stop at 7-11 after therapy. And that tends to also cost around $20. So basically, Thursday is a $20-$40 day. We will go with $40. That takes us to $90.

Friday.  Same as Tuesday. 7-11 and/or McD’s. $20. Down to $70.

Saturday.  My “me” day. I order in supper. Budget $30 for that. Down to $40.

Sunday.  My big day. Eating out at Denny’s or ABC costs around $25. That takes us to $15. And my weekly grocery shopping after that costs $40. Which brings us to… -$25.

No wonder I am stressed. My expenses have expanded to exceed my income. I have been scraping by via certain thrift measures like shopping smart  and making that $40 stretch deep into the week so that I don’t need a resupply run on Thursday (+$20 brings us to -$5) and keeping my Dennys/ABC meals under $20 when I can (takes care of that -5 and gets me to zero. Yay. )

But the point is that I am just barely making it. And that’s bad. Not only does it mean that absolutely any unexpected expense can mean I am totally fucked, but it makes it impossible to save up.

And both of those facts leave me feeling very exposed and insecure. I am definitely not the sort of person who can live for today and let tomorrow work itself out. I have to know I have the practical details are taken care of to my satisfaction or I can’t relax.

It’s freaking me out just writing out this shit.

And it wasn’t always like this. That’s what makes my current situation especially stressful. There was a time when having $150/week made me feel positively giddy with wealth. And a time before that when I would have drooled over even $100/week.

But these expenses crept up on me.

For instance, before our building switched to the very stupid policy of wanting all cars in the visitor parking lot out by midnight, Felicty would come to the apartment to hang out and therefore hanging out with her didn’t cost $20/pop. So that’s $40 right there.

Then there’s the Paragon meetings. That’s another $20/week.

Wow, that means my expenses used to be like, $90/week. No wonder I felt rich, I had $60/week of discretionary spending!

Now I have nothing to be discrete about.


Back after doing the Paragon thang.

So what do I do to correct my perilous financial position? Well, like in any business, there are two ways to fix it : increase revenues, and decrease expenditures.

Increasing revenues is possibly a possibility. I still have my UpWork account and could totally go look for more freelance work. I feel that oh so familiar icy hand of fear grab my heart when I think about it, but I have isolated that feeling and my short term plans are to defy it to greater and greater degress until it snaps like a bent twig and dies.

I just have to remind myself that I am outrageously talented and totally deserve all the success in the world and that there is a great big wonder world out there full of opportunities for a super talented writer like myself and all I have to do is go out there and pound on doors until someone out there is smart enough to hire me.

In other words, I just have to remember that I’m awesome and no temporary fluctuation of my brain chemicals is going to change that. I don’t have to feel awesome to be awesome, just like you don’t need to see the sun to know it’s there.

There’s sunshine in my heart. It’s always there.
And it makes me a sweet, sweet honey…. fox.

That song really touches me. And it’s a good touch. I feel like there is something in there that I deeply need. Something like innocence and something like wisdom and something that, to me, feels a lot like love.

Perhaps it touches whatever scraps of innocence I have left from my all too short healthy childhood. It certain feels like that something that I felt other kids’ families had and mine did not. The thing I longed for with all my being without knowing what it was.

I can’t give that “something” a name, but it’s pure and healthy and strong and filled with sunshine and safety and love.

The other kids felt safe in the world and didn’t worry about things beyond their control and had a vitality and confidence that comes with being part of a loving, supportive, involved family that cares about one another.

I didn’t have that. I can’t remember a time when I felt safe. Not aftet the rape. That left me a broken child whose life force was locked away under sheets of solid ice and who was left timid and weak and unable to speak up for himself.

To this day, I still have trouble making my needs known. After all, I’m a grown man and grown men are supposed to take care of everything themselves, right?

And scared little kids are so afraid of their parents’ disapproval that they will endure constant bullying and a hellacious childhood rather than ask for anything.

Guess which one I am.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Something something dark side

OK, so I couldn’t think of a title for today’s blog. There’s a reason for that.

It;s because I am coming into this blog entry completely cold. I don’t have any idea what I will blog about. I don’t even have my usual echoing shadow of a great idea I had earlier then forgot, like usual.

Nope. So I have no intentions, no plan, and no idea what comes next. I’m winging it.

Let’s see if it makes any difference to the end product. I predict it will not. I never follow any plans I make and I never follow the topic I set out to discuss, so all that is really missing is the vague delusion that I know what I’m doing.

I don’t know what I am doing. And I like it that way. There’s great freedom in not knowing what you’re doing. You are free to make it up as you go along and do whatever seems to make sense at the time.

And that keeps things organic, at least for me. Good art is a single living organism, and writing off the cuff aids that.

I couldn’t do all kinds of writing like that. Like, if I was writing an episode of a TV show,. I would have to at least get some idea in my head of where I want to go with it.

But the thing in my head is not an outline. It’s not even words. It exists only as potential in that hyper-concentrated form that creatvity takes before the conscious mind unpacks and expands it into something words can express.

As you know, I can’t do outlines. My creativity only works when the energy of that bundle of potential has only one way out and that is by me actually writing the thing.

If I do an outline or something like it, the energy is released and I lose all interest in actually doing the thing. It’s over, it’s done, it’s in the past.

It’s not how I would prefer to be, but it’s how I am.

I would rather be a master planner who creates massive and marvelous stories that are finely engineered to glittering perfection for maximum impact.

Instead, I am a poor schmuck stuck with a muse that never ever want to look back at what it has done and refine it.

To my muse, that would be as disgusting as re-using a used Kleenex.

Worse, actually, but you get the idea.

And this is kind of a massive handicap for a writer. Nobody publishes first drafts. But it is not something I can overcome by sheer grit and willpower alone.

I need an editor. Someone who can read what I write and take out their red pen and correct everything they see as wrong, preferably with explanations, and then send it back for me to fix.

It’s something I got in VFS, althought there I never had any sense of progress. I had no idea if my thing was getting better most of the time because VFS writing teachers refused to grade things.

I’n serious. We would sometimes get all our assignments back, graded. AFTER the course was over. And even then, you could tell they had graded them in a hurry and with the least effort possible.

In fact, looking back on my VFS education, the whole thing was done in a minimal-effort kind of way,. The teachers clearly saw their job beginning and ending in class and did not want to even think about it outside class.

I know this because I very gently (but unexpectedly) asked a few of them when our assignments would be graded and they gave me a deer in the headlights look and mumbled something then changed the subject.

I honestly feel like the underlying attitude in the Writing facultry at VFS was, “look, they’re really only here to get the piece of paper that says they graduated from here, and they’re gonna get that, so why put in a lot of effort?”

There was only one teacher – one – who was willing to tell us, “no, that’s not good enough, do it again. ”

And I loved that because it was actual actionable feedback instead of the warm wet ocean of vagueness I got everywhere else. It gave me solid input as to what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, and I need that like cancer needs curing.

But that was the lone exception. Everything else was done by nice people who didn’t want to be the disciplinarian or the authority figure and saw themselves more as facilitaors than “teachers” or “professors”.

It was like a whole school full of overly permissive parents.

And it sucked from my point of view. The point of someone who came to the school looking to be challenged and who really, really wants to learn the subject but who needs some kind of solid feedback, with numbers and stuff, or he feels lost and like there is no point to any of it.

And my god was I BORED in some of the classes. That’s more about me, though, than about VFS. I am always bored in most classes because to me, everything is going waaay too slow and I want to learn at my speed.

Which is, I admit, a pretty taller order because I absorb information extremely fast. I don’t know that I have ever learned at my own speed in class.

I don’t know if it would even be possible for someone to talk fast enough.

Instead. it would have to be very high density content delivered by a highly dynamic and engaging teacher who had a firm on the difference between information and fluff.

But alas, I would have to be rich enough to afford tutors for that. Or somehow manage to get into a gifted kids’ program at the age of 44.

Looking back, I wish I had expressed my boredom and frustration more openly. Maybe that would have goaded the system into figuring out a way to challenge me.

But no. I just faded into the woodwork, and unwittingly gave out all the signals that said I was not a kid a teacher would have to worry about because no matter what, my grades would be high and I wouldn’t raise a guss.

So teachers simply put me out of their mind. And when I tried to remind them of my existence, the easiest and most natural thing in the world was to brush me off.

Just like at home, they wanted me to go back to my easily ignored state.

And I was too wimpy and desperate for approval to fight back.

God, my childhood sucked. Sucked so bad that I am still trying to get over it.

Thank goodness I have you wonderful people there to help me.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.