Lately my life has been in tremendous upheaval. Most of the people I consider friends have fallen away. My closest relationships are not what I want them to be and, since I’m being honest, not a healthy situation for anyone involved. Throughout all of this I have been clinging to am outdated idea of what happiness looks like to me. It is not that my idea of happiness is wrong, but instead my idea of happiness is unachievable. What I want is to be part of something larger in a familial sense. What I want is to come home to the love of my life and share my evening with her and wake up with her in my arms.
None of that is possible.
What is possible is to take the time to redefine what is going to make me happy in life. I know what isn’t possible. I know what is not going to make me happy. But what is? Long I’ve structured my life around other people and relationships. For example, a base level of happiness required me to be in a loving relationship (read: family and someone to come home to). I have no desire to go out and look for that again. There are two reasons for that. First, I won’t find anything as good as I had, because what I had was amazing, special, and once in a lifetime kind of love. Second, I have no desire to intertwine my life with another person. I don’t have the energy or desire to develop a love for them and their family and deal with their history. Bonus: I have stupid high standards and one person meets them. Lowering those standards is settling for something and I am not devoting my heart if I am merely settling. Honestly, I don’t have a heart to give anymore as it has already been given.
So, love is off the table. Writing ought to be that thing that fills the space, but again, if I’m being honest, writing does not make me happy anymore. I don’t get that thrill from writing. It doesn’t make me feel like I belong. It isn’t something I look forward to doing. I still do it because I have to and because I hope that one day I will want to again.
At least I’ve reached the point where I know what isn’t going to be that force for happiness in my life and I am allowing myself the freedom and the space to discover what is. I am also allowing myself the freedom and space to discover that it could be nothing. Often people can’t find what makes them happy or that ship has sailed. They live with the regret of it and wallow until they die. I’m not going to wallow if I learn that I’ve blown it completely. I’ll merely surrender and devote myself back to making others happy, so at least someone gets to be.
Here is the truth: I woke up every day this week openly wondering what I had to look forward to. Save for a few moments with my partner the answer turned out to be very little. The depression continues to be a real thing. It isn’t so much about a chemical imbalance but a purpose deficiency. I stopped caring about video games so much. I stopped investing my heart into youth football (I’m just here so I don’t get fined, but I will do a great job and prove my worth while I am). The writing has long been in a place of flux, so it wasn’t enough to make me excited to get up in the morning.
So I’ve turned to fitness.
This is not the ‘washboard abs’ moment. No, I recognize that I weigh 20-30 lbs more than I want to and I intend to shed that weight and try to remain spry. I guess the kicker was realizing that despite not eating all that much food anymore, I am gaining more than losing. That is entirely about an open lack of activity. I feel like any chemically based depression is grounded in that as well. It is hard to completely sort it all out, but I have to believe that part of how I feel every day is the result of how my body feels every day. If I can turn that around just a little then I can start to feel better about this life I was given (on loan I suppose, because in the end that life force is taken back).
So this is my real fitness moment. I don’t entirely know what that means for me. I think I am going to take a walk around the block once I’m done here. Then I’m going to stretch a bit and try not to overdo things all at once. I have to do this gradually if I expect to develop it into a habit. All the tools are already lying about the house or loaded on to the phone–I’ve been marinating the idea for a terribly long time–and now is the opportunity to step forward and make something happen.
Looking at my office walls I can see that I’ve become a version of what I always thought a writer was as a kid. The walls are covered with pictures and cool framed passages of writing–some of it my own. There are magnetic strips in the places where I sit to collect my thoughts and there they are, collected in scribbled blacks and reds and blues on little yellow squares of paper or on the backs of things that weren’t meant for notes and suspended from the walls on colorful round magnets.
Here I sit, sipping on a sugary mess of coffee, wondering what if anything I have to say next. I came to this place last night. I was holding a beer (the remains of which I pushed aside to plant my coffee on the solitary coaster) and grading papers. There were tortilla chips and music in the background and the whole thing felt different. It lacked the reverence of the morning session and even that kindling of desire to be in the space producing something more. I don’t know what that means–if it means anything. Here is what I do know:
Louis Pasteur said (loosely translated), “Chance favors the prepared mind.” I believe he meant to express that inspiration and intuition are cultivated through practice and, ultimately, by creating the conditions that allow for such things to flourish. Lately I have been focused on learning what that preparation and those conditions look like for me. By that I mean the ‘me’ of the present. Often I feel like I am restricting myself by relying on–catering to even–the me of the past and the me that, then, I believed I would become. I can often fall into a set of idealized behaviors and beliefs based upon an outmoded value system. Or, to quote Doc Dre, ‘Trying to turn me back to the old me.”
But he’s dead. He’s a fixed part of history and the new me has new goals, patterns, beliefs, etc. The new me takes his coffee with less cream and drinks the occasional beer. The new me wants different things out of his writing and thinks in different ways. The new me loves differently.
So, if this is to have some warm ending message then I suppose it would be that the way you do things ought to be based on who you are. Not were.
- Call. Coffee. Post. What comes next?
I spent the better part of the last 48 hours thinking about and planning a lesson for this morning’s class on AI in science fiction. The lesson planning was more like lesson learning for me, as it allowed me to advance my own understanding of the no-longer fledgling field of research and the possibilities inherent therein. I suppose from a philosophical perspective the planning was my largest leap in understanding since I began reading Simulation & Simulacra after watching the Matrix all those years ago. I mean for my teaching to be reflective of my own learning process in a way and to ignite the process of others. Movies are meant to cause conversation and discussion and to promote more than entertainment.
One thought that continually stood out throughout the process of creation was the idea of process itself. For example, I have been on the path to ‘habitizing’ this process of how and when I write the blog (2.0) for 13 days now. It takes on average 66 days to form a habit and 21 to break one. I don’t believe I lasted the full 21 in my brief repose from the talisblog, but the formation of this new process should subsist for the entire timeframe. In fact I plan to make the number, 66, something of a goal of mine moving forward academically, personally, etc. 21 is likewise to be part of my process.
I am engaged in a number of transformative processes at this point in time. One is the breaking of my reformed soda habit. I’d like to quit entirely, but I like Jack and cokes and the occasional Red Bull, so the best I am willing to allow is a great moderation. 21 days from now we will see if I’ve broken the habit of simply reaching for a soda in the ‘soda fridge’. In truth, the best option there is to remove the stimulant and replace it with a better substance for me and my jazzed up boys.
In the end it all swirls back to the idea of process and the comfort and security of that. Each morning I wake up, say good morning to my love, go downstairs to prepare coffee and languish in the stages of that process. Then my coffee and I are here at the desk writing for the next ten minutes. That process–that familiarity is extremely grounding. If my kids are with me, they become a part of that process. However, they are not always here and will eventually grow and move on, so the core process remains love, coffee, and words. There is a simplicity and a wonder in that which warms my heart and lightens my soul.
- A friend asked me if I was a jealous person. I said no. I don’t think I was lying, but I feel like the answer is incomplete. In matters of the heart I am jealous to a certain extent. That extent is less physical than emotional. I don’t understand how to share love. That continues to be a problem.
- I don’t believe my writing days are over. I don’t think the stories are gone from my mind or that my access to the stream has been revoked. I believe it is clogged the way a drain clogs from too much rough use. I know this because in moments, in flashes of shadow and movement I see stories.
I can hardly believe it has been a week since my life shifted phases and I restarted the blog. I talked about habits, basically to death, in the first few months of blogging. I probably related a lot to the Little Engine that Could (that relationship is going to be renewed shortly as I am soon to start Stephen King’s The Wastelands). The early ra ra was meant to get me excited about forming this habit. Lately the feeling is more of a settling down into what is right and important in my daily life. Connect to my love, connect with my boys, generate coffee, write. This four part harmony forms the shield over my day. I can take on the world the moment I click publish.
This feeling I get of sending words out into the digital ether reminds me of the sensation of tithing or prayer. I’m giving something of myself back to the storyspace without any real expectation of physical reward. I am not doing it to get famous or even to have people read the blog. Some (one?) do I suspect, and maybe that is part of it. Maybe I cast a phrase that impacts someone in a positive way the way script diving into quote archives occasionally yields beauty. Here’s one now:
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.
That gem from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. is housed at brainyquote alongside other gems from the same learned man. I believe he means to remind us that while the ocean of our opportunities is dark and chopped with frothy fear, it is only at sail that we can discover what exists outside of ourselves.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what exists within me and what I believe I need to feel whole. Those things are separate but exist as part of a larger whole. There is who I can be alone and who I can be when I am connected and loved and loving. I used to believe one form was less than the other. Now I am drifting towards an understanding that they are instead different kinds of living. I am entirely capable of living a life unto myself and absent of connection. It is not the same kind or style of life I would live should I let love in. That other life is not exactly better. It is an apple to an orange. It is a different way of being and the way I prefer.
That kind of thinking represents an evolution–a departure from a shore where I truly believed there was no life in living and being alone.
- I intend to go to Europe in the next ten years and enjoy that part of the world. Then I’m going back to Africa for a while. Then Asia. Ten years here on the grind and then I’m out.
If I were to write a book on love I’d tell you I am no expert–at which point you would put the book down and label me another quack with a concept. You’d be right, but if you bothered to read a bit further you’d learn there are no experts in love, just people who figured out what works for them and assume that it works for you too. I would confess to being different than that. I would confess to being someone who has screwed up love on an epic scale, like one of those epic fail videos but for love. Then I’d tell you about those failures and how I learned from them. Maybe that advice would be a little helpful.
I’m divorced. Afterwards I found the woman who I am truly meant to be with for the rest of my existence (like biblical stuff here–post life and all–the other part of of our shared soul). I’d tell you how I screwed that up fairly quickly and spectacularly and have spent the better part of my existence afterwards understanding the conditions I created in my life which led to the state we exist in now. Obviously the thing wasn’t entirely my fault, but I cannot change another human–even one so entwined in my heart as to be a part of me. Which leads me to explain the relationship between love and priorities.
Today when I woke up I checked in on my love first thing. Checking in on her is the closest I can come to waking up with her between my arms. Instead I roll over, text, and when possible, communicate. Then I checked on my kids, made sure they were handled, know they are loved, fed. Then I came here to the blog where I am doing something for me that represents me and my heart and my growth as a person. After I’ll probably curl into a video game for a while and then do some work. It isn’t entirely me-centric, but it is more than I’ve offered myself in the past. The greater part of reducing the areas in my life is having more time and energy to focus on the one’s I kept and more mental ‘grit’ to continue growing all the while.
So, here is what remains:
- Self Growth
I haven’t committed to the last and I don’t know where the 4th is headed anymore. Still, I know the first three matter and exist in order of attention for today. I also know it is okay for that order to shift, perhaps constantly, so long as I continue to hold all three parts of my being equal. So far, I do.
- I don’t think there needs to be a 3.1 ever, but never say never
I’ll only get about three hours of rack time tonight and that is largely (read: entirely) my fault. I could’ve slipped in between the sheets hours ago, but Minecraft called. I’ve been working through a build that is, obviously, meaningless but it is also something I want to make happen. Creativity needs an outlet, you know.
You might be asking yourself at this point, ‘why aren’t you writing instead?’ Because I feel like I need to see some results right away-ish. I’m anxiously awaiting a small pile of paychecks from past writing work. I got a check for the award nominated piece, but the rest… no dinero. Now this ought not to affect my mood as a writer, because we don’t do it for the money. We do it because the stories have to come out. Still, not getting the $$ leaves me feeling like I don’t want to let the stories out. At least not for those guys–not entirely.
This explains a small fraction of the lazy as well as why the craft obsession lately supersedes the writing obsession/lifestyle. I gotta cut that out though. I need to get to bed at more reasonable hours and through that re-develop (and in some areas develop for the first time) the habits that will make me successful.
These things want to happen. The same biological imperative that pulled me away from eating candy, replacing the sweet-need with an overwhelming desire for oranges is powering me to want to write. I feel like I’m back near the edge of something good in my life, though I need to fight through the brambles to get there.