Groundhog’s Way.

Sometimes I think of my life as a poor man’s version of Groundhog’s Day. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, shame on you. Go watch it.

I make this connection because I find myself in the same situation over and over again. Beating myself up for the same mistakes. Falling into the same bad habits. Lamenting my current state but rolling out of bed into the same shit. This happens over and over again. This blog is full of the same complaints. My journal (it’s a manly writing tablet, not a diary, dammit!) is almost a broken record. Why do I continuously think one way but act so differently?

At least in Groundhog’s Day he’s improving himself. Learning new skills and figuring out how to avoid repeating his mistakes.

Me?

I don’t know, man. Obviously some part of me must like the frustration and misery that comes from years of the same old. Otherwise, wouldn’t I find a way to avoid these mistakes? This time around, it’s coupled with living with my girlfriend in a new town with her relatives. Before, in these situations where I grow frustrated with myself, I would essentially hit the “reset” button and try to start fresh, but I don’t have that luxury. I have to keep supporting her until she figures her stuff out, and keep pandering to her relatives so that I may continue to live there. Not ideal.

But wait. Maybe I’m using that as an excuse to let myself wallow in self pity though. My brain is adapting to the new scenarios and finding a way to re-frame the same old narrative and keep me from feeling like improving things. I’m sure the latter is more likely than the former.

I’m allowed to change for the better any time I want, situation be damned. In fact – on that note, I recently wrote this little note to myself:

There is no secret to success.
People aren’t more successful simply because they know more than anyone else.

Think about it – most people have an understanding of what they need to do in order to achieve their goals. Or some people have “dreams”. But what is a dream but a goal for which you haven’t prepared?

People like to talk about these goals and dreams. They like to talk about waiting for that “perfect moment”, for a break to go their way, for motivation, or for things to “calm down” in order to achieve their goals.

Successful people don’t wait. They don’t have a laundry list of excuses. They simply act.

No matter what your goal in life is, you can’t achieve it by simply talking about it. Every moment where you aren’t actively working towards something else is a moment that can be used to further yourself in your own life.

But you’d rather watch some Netflix. Check the latest update on your favorite blog. See what’s trending on twitter. Maybe you’re feeling so very tired and need to just relax.

Meanwhile, the successful person is elbow deep in the grind. They understand that time is all we get, and a very limited amount at that.

Your priorities are what you do in your free time.

People like to say they prioritize exercising, creative arts, achieving whichever goal they have.

But if you spend all your free time wasting time, then how can you possibly say that and mean it?

Or are you saying it because you don’t want to admit you prioritize being lazy. Being unaccomplished. These are your priorities because these are what you work towards in your free time.

Time.

So very little of it is ours for the taking, but there is one silver lining.

It consists entirely of the present moment. You are not tethered to your past. You are not stuck waiting for the future. You are present.

And the gift of presence is ever rewarding. Have you been lazy? Take this very second to get up and change that. You are not who you were. You are who you are. You are given each minute to change your life as much or as little as you’d like. That decision is always and completely up to you.

So.

What will it be? Will you turn on captions for Netflix so you can talk loudly about your dreams?

Or will you roll up your sleeves and use every precious moment given to actually accomplish them.

It’s like – the more I don’t want to do something, the more I should realize that I probably should do that exact thing.

I can sit here and write the perfect motivational speech to myself all day, every day. But motivation comes after you start progress. Not before. I’ve got to decide if I want to fully live my life or simply exist, and lament how “I’m not where I want to be”.

I’m going to try scheduling my weekdays out. See if that doesn’t get me in a groove. And I’m serious about it this time, which is nice. I’ve said “my life needs more structure” a billion times before, but never done anything about it. This time, I’ve at least written out a schedule and set alarms to go off on my phone for each new item on the schedule.

I think it’ll be good for me. But here’s hoping I can stick to it.

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A comedy of profound sadness

I recently watched some of the John Oliver stand-up series. As a stand-up fan, there are some great moments, and I’ve been introduced to some new faces that I’ll be sure to follow.

One moment in particular stood out to me. The comedian was Michael Che, and he joked about how he finds that love is overrated. He’s content to like people, because love is just like + obligation. He continues on with that bit with some hilarious insight, and I highly recommend it. In fact, here’s the link.

But after I laughed, I sat. And then I stewed. I almost missed the rest of that great bit, because (like most great comedic bits) there was truth there, and I could not help but dwell on how that truth relates to my personal situation.

DEPRESSION – A new angle for me 

I’ve mentioned my depression and anxiety on here before. In fact, come the 1st of 2015, my new work insurance kicks in and I plan on having a doctor visit to check in with how I’m doing on that front. But I digress.

Where depression has taken a new angle for me is that it has overcome my girlfriend. And I don’t know what to do.

We moved to Seattle together from Alaska, and let me put it right out there that neither one of us have regretted that decision. Where things get tough is that she was feeling depressed before we moved. She was hoping that moving would magically make her feel better and kick her life into gear, but that was not to be. Instead, she’s been severely depressed since we got here. Hasn’t made any efforts to establish any sort of life in this new city. No networking, no real socializing, no job hunt. No nothing.

Maybe I should have pushed more, but a month became two became three and nothing has changed. I didn’t want to press her, because with my history of depression, I bristled at the suggestion to “move on” or “toughen up” or “snap out of it”.

Over this period of time, my enthusiasm for our time together has waned. She’s not herself (obviously, as is the symptom), and I find it hard to relate to this person that I fell in love with. She became argumentative and petty. became argumentative and petty. Over nonsense. Like, whatever the internet happened to be outraged about for the day – we’d argue over. I was getting frustrated.

Then her mother passed away. And I wish I could at the very least say it was expected, but it was a car accident on Thanksgiving. That’s not easy. Her entire life hasn’t been easy – with awful things like that being more common than not.

So I backed off. Even though I was frustrated I knew to step back and just be there for her. And let her cope.

But that frustration has been creeping back in. And I’m torn between wanting to yell at her to do something, and feeling completely ashamed at even having that thought.

Depression keeps you at an impasse, because it makes you never want to go out and do anything, and then shits on you for not doing anything, making you feel even worse and then making it that much harder to go out and do anything. Rinse, repeat. A vicious cycle, to be sure.

But for me, and this is just how it was for me, once I became aware that I was depressed, I was able to fight back a little bit. Be more aware of my negative thoughts. Try to accomplish one thing a day, no matter how small, just to say I didn’t waste a day. I would make exercise a priority, because of the huge, huge impact it has on boosting your mental health.

Basically, I would start taking steps to get better. And no, it certainly wouldn’t happen overnight, and there were instances of regression, but I tried.

My current frustration lies with that I don’t think my girlfriend is trying. It got to the point where I had to voice this concern with her, even though times have been tough, because I couldn’t stand to come home and tip toe around her again. I didn’t want to come home from a day of work to babysit her.

Our discussion, if you can call it that, was brief. She mainly shrugged and said that she was waiting for it to blow over (depression never just “blows over”) and seemed content with that. I see that as giving in. Had the last 3-5 months not indicated to her that once depression takes hold, it’s hard to shake loose?

I could tell this talk was upsetting her, so I dropped it.

Emotionally, I feel like our relationship is the equivalent of a toddler throwing a tantrum by going limp. Doing that “dead weight” thing. I keep exerting myself trying to drag her along, but I can’t force her to support herself, and I only tire myself out in the meantime.

And now, now I’m back to feeling terrible, because I know just how difficult depression can be and for me to say such things about her is probably unfair. And rinse, and repeat. Frustration, shame, guilt. Frustration, shame, guilt. I keep cycling through these each day and it is completely tiring me the fuck out.

Both of us have insurance kicking in on the 1st of the year and I so very desperately hope we each get what we need through doctor visits and possibly therapy because I don’t know how much longer I can live like this. I want to support her, I want to be there for her, but I don’t also want to burden myself with a lost cause. I need to look out for me as well. Frustration, shame, guilt.

I wonder if I was attracted to her so strongly in the beginning because I recognized the dysfunction in myself reflected back through her – and I thought, hey, I can fix her! Getting together under the pretense of fixing someone never works out. With my own struggles of depression, I worry that I’m burning myself out.

Ironically, with her being so depressed, it has kept me (mostly) out of falling into my usual winter depression. I think that’s because I realize a household of constantly bickering married couple, a screw up of a son, and a severely depressed couple is a terrible idea for a sitcom, let alone our actual lives.

So I trudge on and I try to be as understanding as I think I need to be but it is becoming so burdensome. Even the act of going out to the grocery store is an ordeal with her and I try to be supportive and I want her to get better but if this continues, I don’t know what to do.

Frustration. Shame. Guilt.

I’m so tired all of the time now. This love has got me feeling so obligated to stick this out and be with her until something changes. Either her, or me. But I know I wouldn’t be feeling this way if I just happened to be in like.

So that Michael Che got me to thinking, pretty hard. At least he made me laugh about it.

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I like lists

I like jotting down all the things I think I need to do in a list. I like crossing those items off. Problem is, I think I like making lists more than I like completing lists.

I need a list of all my unfinished lists.

I think I have a problem of thinking too big. It’s like I see a large river I need to cross, and plan on making it in one leap, instead of taking time to give myself some stepping stones. I want to write more? I write down “finish X stories”. I want to exercise more? I write down “be 30 pounds fitter”. I want to meet more people in a new town? I write down “make friends and network”.

You might be able to see the problem here. Where is the process? How can I make these goals obtainable instead of just putting the end result as a “step”?  You know the saying, can’t see the forest through the trees? It’s talking about getting caught up in the minutiae of something, and missing the big picture.

Well, I’m like the opposite. I can’t see the trees because of the forest. I’m like, whoa, cool a big forest! And while I’m staring up in wonder at the overhanging canopy, I walk face first, smack into a tree. Then get deterred from ever coming near said forest and try to find ways to walk around the forest instead of just making sure I pay attention to how I’m getting through.

This way of thinking keeps me paralyzed due to the extreme undertaking I put in front of myself. Better to do nothing than fail at something so big, right? Terrible way of thinking, I know.

So I think I need to start super small. As Dr. Leo would say : baby steps.

First, I want to make a kind of ‘daily activities’ list. This should be the smallest of small stuff, that I can make sure I get into the habit of doing. Stuff like specific exercises (run 1 mile) or quantifiable activities (meditate for 10 minutes / write 500 words). Then, I can move on to the short term goals type of lists.

This list can work in tandem with the dailies. If I stick with the daily type stuff, I should be able to accomplish the short term goals relatively easy. This can be like “finish a short story” and “run for 30 miles for the month”. Stuff like that.

Then I can swoop in with the big, overreaching goals that I put forth originally. Make those the long term goals. This way I can have the steps laid out in front of me on just how to accomplish these long term goals. I can start big and work my way back to see how to accomplish a goal, or I can start small and look forward to see what kind of achievements are possible if I stick with a process.

Alright, cool.

Side note – perhaps my favorite thing to do besides making lists is making suggestions for stuff I need to do. I’m always saying, I need to do this and that and I should be more whatever and I should be like….

I talk the talk. As much as I like to think I am not one of those people that is all talk and no substance when it comes to achieving personal goals – I don’t have much of a history when it comes to proving it. Instead, just a whole lot of talk. Eh. At least it’s my talk.

But, seriously. I need to walk the walk. Helps to start small. Just need consistency.

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I think I’m becoming an adult

I believe it started with my priorities. Before, my priorities were to get through the work day as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Then, I had all that free time after work to go ahead and get messed up on alcohol and weed while playing video games until I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I would pass out. That was fun, or so I thought.

Now I find myself with all these new (desired) priorities and habits. I find myself playing video games less and less, and on  the times that I do – my attention wanes quickly. I still get excited for new and upcoming games, not as much so, but it’s almost as if I enjoy reading about and watching games more than actually playing them.

I also find myself not running away at that mere hint of the word “responsibility”. It was weird going through the interviews that I had when I first arrived to Seattle. I made it a point of emphasis that I wanted “responsibility” and that I was seeking the opportunity for advancement. Where this came from? I have no idea. But it wasn’t just interview speak, it was something that I felt.

I’ve long suffered depression and anxiety and lowered self worth, and I think one of the reasons could be because I never had faith in myself to BE responsible and to get my priorities straight. And now I find that the more I come around and steer towards these goals, the more my self worth is creeping towards ideal levels.

I find myself wanting to structure my life. I have several goals for myself this week, including building a personal budget and setting up a weekly planner to help keep track of what I want to accomplish for the week. I’m not content to sit around and piss away hours on the internet anymore. I’ve found that if I’m going to read, I’m wanting it to be a book, and not some “Top 10 lists of hilarity found on the internet between the hours of 2-4 pm on this day” or whatever. Those lists are usually too specific, and the hilarity is way overstated. And what do I get out of them? I usually forget every single thing that I read the moment I hit that little Red x.

So I find myself wanting to read, and exercise, and meditate, and accomplish things. I find myself cleaning more, and not just to put on airs for my girlfriend and her family (whom I’m staying with). But for myself. I find myself wanting to cut back on habits I know are bad for me. I find myself, becoming more and more….responsible.

Like, for instance – I recently spent time in NYC with my brother and his beautiful (now!) fiance. And I’ll admit, I was a bit jealous. While their schedules were pretty hectic and the stress resultant wasn’t necessarily the thing that I wanted, I found myself appreciating that they were pursuing their interests. They had a wonderful apartment in a fantastic neighborhood and great friends and all these places they were regulars of that they loved and…. And I want that kind of lifestyle.

I want to quit blowing off work and working for the weekend, when all I do on the weekend is fuck off. I find myself wanting to spend time writing more, something that scares the shit out of me (which makes me know I need to do it more). I want to read more.

I don’t even fall into the old habits as quickly as I used to. During said visit to NYC, I was at the party where all the friends showed up to celebrate the engagement. Normally, in a situation such as this where I know practically no one, I would turn to alcohol early and often and hide in the corner, until I felt sociable. This would usually be after one too many drinks, and I would stumble and slur and make a fool of myself, causing me to keep drinking to chase the shame away. Not ideal.

This time, however, I sipped on a few beers and even went empty handed at moments (something I wouldn’t dare to do in the past) and made sure to go up to people and make small talk. Some of the conversations weren’t earth shattering, of course, but practice makes perfect and that’s something that I can be proud of. My brother even commented on the fact that I seemed so “laid back” when it came to that evening. He’s seen me when I’ve had too many, and we both know it ain’t pretty. I seemed to have ditched the crutch and started relying on my own muscles to get me moving.

And that seems to be the case for a lot of things in my life. I’m wanting to kick away my safety nets and try living, truly living, for the first time in, I don’t know, ever? I find myself wanting to quit caffeine because I know it exacerbates anxiety. I find myself wanting to get myself out there and throw myself into uncomfortable situations, simply because I know that it’s impossible to know how I’ll handle them until I actually do it!

All these changes, and they haven’t necessarily been at the forefront of my mind. They’ve just gradually happened. I’m staying with my girlfriend’s family, and they have a son (Also named Joe, go figure) who reminds me so much of me from a couple of years ago. Always wanting to get high, to go drinking, to fuck around with his friends, to skirt his responsibilities, getting into arguments with his parents, coming up short at his job and currently jobless….

Reminds me so much of me. And I can’t help but shake my head and be thankful that not only am I NOT that kind of person anymore, I don’t want to be that kind of person anymore. And I think, is that what it feels like to become an adult? It doesn’t happen with a bang, like a balloon popping. It happens slowly, over time, like a bucket left out in the rain, slowly gathering what life has to offer. I think I’m finally going to use that bucket to water some of these new seeds that I’ve gathered in my last couple of years. Feels good.

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Moving is interesting. It’s like hitting a reset button. Here you have your established life, friends, habits, hobbies, and you leave them all behind to carve out a new chunk of personal experience.

I left my hometown about four months ago. I felt like I had reached the extent of what opportunities I had there. I commonly blamed my (perceived) lack of “success” on the town. This was an easy cop out, as the things I want to achieve can be done in just about any setting. Just human nature to blame where you were raised as “holding you back”, I suppose.

I’ve made it to the city of Seattle, after a 3 day ferry/car trip. I’ll tell you what, there’s something insanely rewarding about sitting behind that wheel, purposefully distancing yourself from what has been, and steeling yourself for what may be. It was a fun three days. And I had actual poutine for the first time ever, Canadian style. Good stuff, and I’ll have to wag my finger at the bar in my hometown. That stuff you had there? That ain’t poutine.

I digress.

Upon arriving in Seattle, we (I made the change in location with my girlfriend) set up home base with her aunt and uncle. Great people, even if it was only for the fact that they’ve allowed us to stay rent free up to this point. Incredibly calming, knowing that you can job hunt without the fear of money tugging at your feet.

They live in a pretty nice, quiet neighborhood in the West Seattle area.  A smaller house that has been lovingly added onto, making it deceptively large on the inside. You’ve got the basement/garage/TV room, the main floor and kitchen, and the upstairs, which I currently inhabit.

The aunt is a character. She works with patients with spinal cord and other debilitating injuries. And, from what I’ve heard as she comes home through the door with a whirlwind of stress and chatter, she seems to be the only one working there. She’s a talker, and she can just go off for 15 minutes at a time, if you’ll let her (I usually start trying to inch my way to the door as she’s talking). I guess there’s been some trouble in paradise, however. Her and her husband tend to argue, and the noise often rises to levels that you can’t ignore, no matter where you are in the house or how many doors you’ve shut along the way.

I guess I shouldn’t say that her and her husband tend to argue. That statement is a little misleading. Instead, I would have to say she just looks to pick fights. Often, as soon as she walks through the door, her fists are up. It gets pretty tiring, especially since most of their fighting is done in the kitchen. It’s like, shit, can you guys hate eachother somewhere else? I’m hungry and you all are making it too awkward to go fridge diving.

I could get more into their style of argument and how it seems more that she just is holding the house hostage, but that involves too much complaining for now. Truth is, when she isn’t being hot headed, she’s pretty interesting to talk to. Very involved in advocacy for women and has an interest in technology, as she sees a lot of advancements at the medical level being used to help her clients (like externally syncing brain activity to movement for the paralyzed).

The husband is hippy dippy. That’s for sure. But he also reminds me a lot of my father. Even in just the way his voice will boom into your ears at the start of a sentence, only to fall off into less audible levels at the end. A sing song quality, but with a deep, gravely voice. He’s interesting to talk to as well, and I’ve quite enjoyed grilling him on the history of Seattle and his experiences with the different sports teams in the area. I feel bad for him sometimes, as he is usually the recipient of his wife’s rage, often undeservedly so.

He takes it in stride though, and I think that’s due to his experience as a therapist for war veterans. He’s probably used to unbridled and oddly focused rage. Besides, his wife probably just uses her angry rants as a coping mechanism for the stresses of work. Not ideal, but if that’s the way they do it, then who am I to pooh pooh their methods?

They have their kid living with them as well. And here’s another funny coincidence: he reminds me a whole lot of me when I was his age. Yes, I can fondly look back to all two years ago when I was his age…I joke, but it’s also true. Sure, he’s only a few years younger than me, but the way he acts and the mistakes he apparently has been making are classic me. Even shares the same name, so go figure. I’m lucky I’ve learned enough over these past couple of years to be able to comprehend where I’ve correctly veered on my path, compared to this fellow. Hopefully he’ll start making some better decisions.

Of course, that certainly isn’t to say I’ve got everything figured out. Far from, in fact. Like, I don’t know what I’m doing with myself at this very second. It’s a Saturday, I should be doing something, but I just don’t know what.

It’s only the second Saturday I’ve had since I started my job. And man, what a job. When I arrived to the city, I fully expected to have to slog my way through months and months of unemployment and hundreds of applications. Not exactly looking forward to this, I put off the whole process for a couple weeks while we settled in and just took it easy. Then, I got to work. Slapping out an updated resume, and applying to about 12 different jobs over the course of the week.

Here’s where I got super lucky, because I actually got called back or emailed for interviews at about four or five of these places! It was something else. Funny story about one of them. I was expecting a call back from one of the places that had called me, because we were playing phone tag at that point. I went to the bathroom, dropped myself onto the seat, and had just started relaxing the proper muscles when the phone rang. I quickly answered it, thinking that it was the place from earlier and I was just quickly going to set up an interview time. It turned out to be a different place altogether, and he asked if I was willing to interview at that very moment! Now, in retrospect, I should have said, “Sure! Let me call you back in just a minute as I’m kind of busy at the moment.” Easy, right? Instead, in my desire for occupation, I quickly said “yeah sure let’s do this!” and proceeded to have an entire phone interview while on the shitter. A first.

It went well, and I was actually extended an invitation to come in for an interview. Bam. Then, the next day, I was called and offered another interview. This one was interesting as the company wanted to interview me for a different position than the one I applied for. I took that as a sign that they saw something they liked in my application and thought it would be a good fit.

I’ll skip over the next little bit simply to say that I got job offers from my first two interviews, and ended up taking the second offer. The one that interviewed for a different position. And what a position. What a company!

I never thought that my first job in Seattle would be something that I enjoyed. I figured I would come in, start at the ground level in some terrible job that I struggled to get through, and try to work my way up from there. Instead, I came in and scored a better paying, better benefits, better atmosphere, better fitting, better everything than my last job back in my hometown. Incredible. This place is a supplier for independent grocer outlets, so it’s located on a huge, mile long complex with several warehouses. And they care about their employees, big time. The amount of kickbacks and neat little things they do is so fun, and something I still can’t get over.

I am constantly marveling at how lucky I am. So I’ve got the job situation secured. I have somewhere to kick my feet up at night. Those are the two biggest worries I, or anyone I imagine, had about moving. Next up is the wants, not needs.

And there are quite a few wants, I suppose. Now that I’ve been working for two weeks, I’m starting to feel ready to try to branch out more for extracurricular activities. Maybe meet some friends. As much as I love my girlfriend, and enjoy the company of her family, I would like some new people to hang out with.

Honestly, I’d say even more so than making friends, I want to start chasing some hobbies. I’ve been meaning to get into a rec league. Of any variety, really. Ultimate frisbee, flag football, basketball…I just want to play a sport for the fun and the exercise of it.

Speaking of exercise, I do have to mention that I got a sweet bicycle. Of course I have to be thinking about commuting by bike in SeaTown, right? I mean, only Portland seems to be more bike friendly. So yeah, after not having bike ride since I was probably in middle school, I’ve been pedaling around town like crazy. And I forgot how much fun it is. A great way to get around, and you get some exercise. Plus it’s fun to pretend to be a car.

I also want to get into a couple of meetup groups of common interests, or maybe a Toastmasters club. Maybe a writing group? Learn some piano?

This is the reason why I moved here. My options are so, so plentiful. I’m glad I’ve got time to figure all this out, though. I tend to move slowly and I’m not exactly quick to warm up to people and new experiences, so to have a job and a place to call home in the meantime has been freeing. Here’s to a continued life of self improvement.

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Ugh. Gross.

I haven’t bothered to check when I last updated. It might just deter me even more so from getting around to writing this. I’m disappointed, right now, in myself. There’s a bit more that I’ve been wanting to do and I, I haven’t done it.

It’s curious, however. I can’t seem to permanently quit this blog. I’ve propped up a blog in the past on shaky handfuls of posts, only to deteriorate over time and fall into obscurity. Yet I can’t seem to let that happen with this one. I feel drawn to keep adding on, no matter how much I’ve let myself get distracted with randomness.

My goal was to write a short story a week for 52 weeks. I haven’t done that. Not close. I have this thing where I start to feel good about something I’m doing, so I’ll run away from it, wheezing from the effort, but not slowing to turn around until I’m feeling awful about myself. I don’t get this part of me. This fear I have.

I find this fear most strikes me regarding writing. Other crap that I dabble with, I’ll forget about it, quit, and not even give a second thought. But when it comes to writing, I constantly feel awful about not doing it.

It’s got to be some sort of sign.

I like to make constant comparisons between what I’m reading and what I think of my own work. Read some Douglas Adams and whine about how I’ll never be as dry and funny as him. Read some Cormac McCarthy and lament how I’ll never have his grasp on setting and creating visceral imagery. Read my brother’s articles and sob about how I’ll never be as insightful or passionate when it comes to my own craft.

I give myself every reason to quit and never start up again. And yet, here I am, X weeks after my last post, and I’ve been miserable every day. I follow all these writing related accounts on Twitter, and they’re constantly full of quotes talking about how writers write because they don’t know anything else. That they write to live. That they write to dream. That they write because not writing would be death. And I’m slowly starting to understand.

I’ve been struggling through a bout of depression this past month or so. Nothing too major, but it’s been there. And I rationalized not writing because of this. “I’m depressed, therefore I don’t feel like writing.”

I’m looking at it wrong, however. I’m not writing, therefore I’m depressed. The more I think about it, the more I live my life and am subjected to my own thoughts and actions, the more I truly believe that writing is my purpose in life. It fits me. I enjoy it. It makes sense.

But then I push it away and try to bury myself under bad habits, mindless distractions, and poor time management, hoping that it will never find me again. But it does. Every time. And the consistency and frequency with which it finds me is increasing. I believe that it’s getting impatient. I’ve waited this long for you, Joe. But you’re seriously going to have to roll up your sleeves sometime soon.

I hear you, writing. I hear you.

I kid you not, just with these few measly words, I am feeling refreshed. A little less mucky. Writing makes me happy. It feels like I’m doing what I am supposed to. Why I continue to get in the way of my own happiness is confusing as fuck. As many books about self help and depression and anxiety and whatever the fuck the magic word is that I think I’ll need, I still am left to my own devices. And I need to be aware that I am not my best friend when it comes to personal success.

The default version of myself, the me that I become when I slap on “autopilot” and crawl into the backseat, is boring. Uninteresting, uninterested, content to skate by on the surface of life. No deep sea diving for that guy.

And that’s gross. When I am able to snap out of that frame of mind and fight my way back into the drivers seat, I am appalled by just how pointless that existence is. I don’t want it! And yet, I find myself constantly slipping back into that mode, blissfully unaware and carefree.

And that’s nasty biz.

So I need more structure in my life. I’ve started small, simply making lists at night of what I want to get accomplished the next day. I find making this lists at night preferable, as nighttime me is chock full of ideas on how to TURN THINGS AROUND OH BOY! While morning me is content to sleep until I have to work. Interesting contrast.

I’ve also vowed to start making challenges for myself. Might have been a little overly ambitious with the 52 stories in 52 weeks, but that’s okay. I forgive and accept myself for that misstep. At least it was a misstep in the right direction. So for now, I aim to give myself little weekly or even daily challenges.

For instance, this week, I challenge myself to not drink. Well, even less than a week, since I’ll be on vacation on the weekend and good luck not having a brew while out of town. But! I aim to avoid drinking until I leave town. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many days of the week I alter my state in some capacity.

Whether it is through a few beers at night to wind down, or a bowl of weed for the same winding down purposes, I almost never go through a full day or two without imbibing some sort of substance. And that, my friends, isn’t healthy. I don’t know if it’s a reluctance to be hanging out with my sober mind, but I aim to rectify that. I don’t want to feel the need to lean on these quick and easy methods of running away from myself.

So no drinking til this weekend. Tonight, so far so good. I aim to meditate every day, preferably upon waking up. Meditating is something I enjoy and that I know is good for me, but I avoid that like crazy as well. Just like writing. Throw in exercising, and you’ve got 3 of my favorite activities (that are also CRAZY GOOD FOR ME) that I love to avoid on a routine basis. I’m not even kidding when I say how much I enjoy these activities. Even exercising. I love a good run. Yet, there I am on most days, figuring out ways to get out of doing any of them.

Why? Why do I do that? Awh well. Time to change all of that.

Change with more structure. You know, I sit here and I get down on myself (on the few instances where I actually commit to writing) about the quality of my work. It isn’t perfect, so why bother!? I find myself saying. Like the thought of having to edit a first draft of a novel seems laughable to a part of my brain, because it should be best at first.

That thinking, is of course, ludicrous.

One of my great interests is stand up comedy. I love everything about the whole deal. Their mindsets, the way they approach their craft, their commitment to the work…everything. My favorite podcasts are ones with stand up comedians talking to other comedians, because I find it all so fascinating. And one of the things you’ll always hear a comedian talk about is how terrible they were in the beginning.

They’ll mention a set they did in some story they’re telling, and they’ll preface it with “I had only been doing comedy for like four years at the time, so I was pretty awful.” Many, many comedians will be quick to say that it takes years, sometimes up to 10, before you figure it out. Before you find yourself with your feet firmly planted on the ground, knowing how to navigate the terrain.

And I have to ask myself, should I really be upset at myself for not being a perfect writer? How often have I actually done it? Can I say that I’ve even written for a year? Here are these guys who devote everything to the comedy lifestyle, and every single one of them say that you have to suck before you can become okay, be okay before you can even think about being good, etc.

And so it is. I need to hold myself to higher standards. I need to treat myself with respect through my own actions. I need to be honest with myself and realize that if this is what I gotta do, then I gotta do it.

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A loaded gun yields no handshakes.

“So, like, I should just leave now, right?”

The cashier wrinkled his brow in confusion, blinking a few times, but didn’t react otherwise. Kyle glanced down at his own feet, toed the dirt in the tile, and brought his gun hand over to scratch his nose before looking back up and repeating his inquiry.

“Like, I’m good, right? I should go. You probably want me to go.” Kyle cocked his head and waited for the answer, nodding towards the cashier.

The cashier fidgeted, his hands still pointed towards the ceiling. “p-please, just don’t kill me. I have a wife and ki–”

Kyle stepped forward, his head bobbing back and forth. “No no no, You’ve got it wrong. I’m not going to kill you.” Kyle smiled wide at this. “You helped me out! I couldn’t do that to you now. What’s your name anyways?”

“Uhm…” The cashier snuck a peek at his nametag, then back at Kyle. Kyle and his smile didn’t flinch, just kept staring ahead at the cashier. There was a pause that felt like hours to the poor cashier, before he finally realized Kyle wasn’t about to pick up on the fact that the nametag was staring him in the face. He stammered out his reply. “It–it’s James,” James the cashier said, pointing at his nametag with his right hand, but keeping his arms reached upwards.

Kyle nodded eagerly at this, stepping around the counter alongside James. “Well Jim, I’m glad you’ve been so helpful. Here, put your arms down. There you go,” Kyle threw his left arm around the cashier, patting him on the shoulder with the gun he kept pressed in palm. “Now, I guess I’m just going to go. You have any suggestions?”

James couldn’t help but keep an eye on the gun, his eyes bouncing along with the barrel as Kyle patted his shoulder. “I–what? Suggestions?”

Kyle swung around to his right, tracing the countertop with the gun as he stepped back over towards the other side of the counter. “Well, yeah! Sure. I mean, you kindly provided me with some vacation funds, so it’s like, where do you think I should go?”

James shifted side to side, clearly uncomfortable. He wasn’t one who really knew much about robberies. In fact, he couldn’t even remember a time when he had heard of any taking place in the plain little podunk town they currently found themselves in. So this was all new to him. Even so, he felt like the people—no…criminals, who perform robberies don’t usually stick around after the crime for some small talk.

James took a long second to take in this armed robber before him. Kyle the robber stood about six feet, if James were to guess. He had a frame that conveyed awkwardness. His shoulders were much wider than his waist, and his limbs were gangly and looping about as he carelessly waved his gun about the air. His eyes, while intense, had a certain sort of aloofness behind them. Kind, even? James couldn’t help but feel like this man that stood before him reminded him of the acne covered, awkward teenage who flipped burgers across the street. Harmless.

Yet here he was, waving a gun about and asking the strangest questions, given the situation.

“Uhm, well, uh, sir, I -”

Kyle tsked at this, interrupting James. Placed the gun on the counter between them, and said, “Now, listen here. It’s Kyle. Not sir. Sir was some guy with a top hat in the 1800s.” He leaned back, obviously pleased with this comment.

“Okaaaay, uhm, Kyle. Well I suppose if I’m being honest, I would prefer you to go anywhere but here. You know, having robbed me and all.” James couldn’t bring himself to look Kyle in the eye, and instead stared at the counter.

Kyle leaned back at this, crossing his arms and tucking the pistol underneath his armpit. He pulled at his bottom lip with his teeth, and hummed in agreement. “Alright, now, Jim. You’ve made yourself a point.” Leaning forward, he started to extend his gun hand, and point it towards James. James flinched backwards at this, reeling against the wall and throwing his hands up towards his face.

“Oh, oops!” Kyle laughed, grabbing the gun with his left hand and re-extending his right, this time in anticipation of a handshake. James stayed frozen, peering out of crossed arms at Kyle, fear plastered across his face.

Kyle paused, hand still out but the smile falling off his face. He pulled back, and rested into an awkward stance. Frowning, he said, “Yeah, okay. Probably shouldn’t have expected that. Well,” he glanced around, bunching up his shoulders, “guess it’s time to head out.”

With a furtive nod towards James, Kyle turned on heel and went to the door. He popped his head out of the door, peering in all directions. Satisfied with his surroundings, he gave a look back to James. A quick, “Later Jim!” and he was gone.

James eased himself into a chair, whispering christ almighty out loud to no one. He allowed himself a minute to calm his nerves. Legs bouncing, the adrenaline was pumping through him, and it took more than a minute to settle down. He threw his head back for a heavy sigh, and tried to think what was the most unnerving – the robbery, or the cavalier way the robber, Kyle, went about it.

Once his chin stopped trembling, James scooted the chair towards the counter, and made to grab the phone that sat nearby. He had just wrapped his fingers around the receiver when an all too familiar, and unwelcome, voice popped up from behind him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Please don’t do that.”

James jumped from his chair with a yelp and backed against the counter. Behind where he sat was the face of Kyle the robber, peering in through the window and frowning. Kyle slowly shook his head, eyes on the man before him, and brought the gun back into view. He tapped the gun twice with his left hand, brought the gun up to his temple and tapped it twice more, then threw his hands out, imitating an explosion.

No words needed, and James understood. Clammy hands gripped the counter so tight, his fingers turned white, and he choked down a swallow before slowly nodding towards Kyle.

At this, the goofy smile exploded back across Kyle’s face. “Neat! Okay well I’m trusting you to not do anything stupid!” Kyle said, winking at James. “Oh hey, Jim, check this.” He straightened himself in the window, filling the frame with his wide shoulders, and gestured as if he was hitting a button in an elevator. Then he slowly sank out of James’ view with a wave.

James gawked after Kyle, unsure of how to handle any of this. Kyle popped back into view, startling James once again. “Elevator, right!?” Kyle exclaimed. “Okay, bye!”

Kyle turned and disappeared from view. James didn’t move for fifteen minutes, convinced the next thing he did would bring Kyle the robber back into his life. Something he didn’t think he could handle again.

 

 

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