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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Every life has its challenges. Most challenges here in the First World are fairly inconsequential. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, where I will sleep tonight, or my physical safety when trundling to the bathroom (floor-flopping cuddle cats aside…). There are millions of people in the world whose lives are far more difficult than mine. And yet, I spend my days crippled by my own mind, fighting to get out of bed and then wondering why I bothered.

My depression tends to be worse this time of year. Summers in SoCal are always hard on me. From that great, searing microwave in the sky over the course of the longest days of the year, to temperatures that would make the devil himself wish for air conditioning. The last weeks of August gave us more humidity than usual in addition to eight days straight with temperatures over 100F. Have I mentioned that I don’t do heat? I look out a window too hot to touch only to see parched, dead yards in between pale suburban cookie cutter houses lining asphalt streets blurred by roiling waves of temperature refraction. And people wonder why I don’t want to leave the house.

I miss my Sequoias and my fog and the smell of the ocean. I feel energized and at peace when I’m in that environment. A daily walk in that would go a long way to helping me feel better. But home is 700 miles away, which makes dropping by for a walk a little inconvenient. Yeah, I’ve lived in SoCal over thirty years, and been in this house with my husband for over fifteen, but none of it has ever truly been “home.” Maybe that’s just a manifestation of the bad chemistry in my head, never truly being satisfied with anything, despite there being nothing wrong.

Or maybe I’m not really home…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjjh_PRmU8

 

Usually when I get like this I hide in one of my computer games. Nothing like killing zombies to avoid the real problems of the world. But these last few weeks have found me spiraling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. After the usual fare of stupid human tricks and cute cats doing silly things, I wandered into the music halls of my youth: Queen, The Police, Def Leppard, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Van Halen, and – of course – Journey. These musicians helped sustain me through some of my toughest college years. Years when migraines lasting for days would visit me every two or three weeks, when the medication prescribed for those migraines had annoying side affects but no actual effect, and when my chronic depression was undiagnosed and out of control.

If I was down, I’d listen to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” or Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever,” over and over and cry my eyes out. If I needed a pick-me-up, it was Van Halen’s “Panama,” or Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” Everything was done according to my mood, which could languish in darkness for days, then change in an instant. Music was my greatest love and my greatest comfort, and those musicians all have special places in my heart, for without them I’m not sure I would have survived. And it gives me great comfort to know that most of them are still out there performing, in one form or another, and still selling out venues. Just goes to show you what it means to have real talent instead of just computerized backing tracks and autotune.

Yeah, there were a lot of bad days, but, ironically enough, those years were also some of my best creatively. I was immersed fully in fields that I loved. First there was music for my undergrad, where I was playing and composing daily, surrounded by talented people who loved what they were doing just as much as me. Then there was graduate work in film, in the heart of the industry – Los Angeles – spending every waking hour in some aspect of production, from writing to directing to editing, and meeting the giants of the field – John Huston, Oliver Stone, Roddy McDowell. Long days, short nights, lots of hard work and frustration and disappointment, and I loved every minute of it.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIZofPB8ZM

 

Listening to the soundtrack of my life from then has made me finally realize what I’m missing now, what I’ve been missing for nearly thirty years – that creative environment. My fear and insecurities forced a detour into corporate America, where I had all the things that people said would make me happy: regular paycheck, house, car, etc. And yet I wasn’t happy. What I really need to be happy is music and writing. And to get back to doing both on a regular basis, I need immersion. I need interaction with other musicians and writers to keep me on track because otherwise I’m just an amoeba, formless and directionless, swimming along in basic survival mode and not accomplishing much more.

I know I have the ability to be successful. Despite the additional roadblocks put up by my gender and my weight and my grey hair, there’s something inside me that will not give up, no matter how depressed and hopeless I feel. I have great family and friends who are supportive, and a husband who is convinced of my future status as a best selling author. But isn’t that what those people are supposed to do, asks the depression. Aren’t those people closest to you required to love and support you no matter what?

Yeah, depression sucks like that. Always finding a way to bring you down. But even at my worst, I still want to live off my writing. Every time I’ve convinced myself that I should just give up such pipe dreams, that little voice in the dark, cobwebbed corners of my mind protests. Not loudly, not angrily, but just enough to not be ignored. One thing being at AFI taught me was that success would come if you work hard, have the talent, and are given a chance. I just need a little help on that chance thing, for I am not as brave as some may think. Certainly not when it comes to promoting myself and networking. That requires people skills that I am sorely lacking. And a confidence I’m not allowed by that damn demon clouding my brain.

What I need is a mentor. Someone who will be equal parts cheerleader and advocate. Someone who will challenge me, but can also be a friend. A musician or writer already in the business who wants to get some extra karma points by taking on this old rehab project. I’m trying to find ways to make those kinds of connections. AFI has a mentor program, and supports independent writing groups, both of which I’ve signed up for despite the logistics of getting into LA at any given time. I have long been a lapsed member of the musicians union, but maybe it’s time to get those chops back, too. I did manage to rescue the Casio from the spare bedroom a few days ago. Combine that with the MIDI connection to GarageBand on my iPad, and I can doodle some compositions – something I haven’t done in what seems like forever.

I don’t just want to be creative, I NEED to be creative. I MUST write, I MUST play music, or I die, little by little, like I have been these last three decades. And if you’re someone in the business who’s managed to stumble through this blathering, and thinks you might be able to help despite me, I promise to be a good student.

Bonus fan girl swoon if you’re Steve Perry.

 

 

https://vimeo.com/61213949

 

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Most of us, at some point in our lives, have dreamed of working for ourselves. We sit in our office cubicle, or other equally dismal assigned work space, and wonder what it would be like to not have to answer to that asshole of a boss anymore, or sit next to that whining hypochondriac, or deal with the petty power plays of the supply clerk over the next set of copy paper requests. We imagine how nice it would be to set our own schedule as we tool away at our dream job training unicorns to tap dance. Or maybe something equally a fantasy, like being a writer.
I certainly entertained those thoughts. And when the day came that my husband agreed I could give up the (fruitless two year, hundreds of resumes sent) job hunt and stay at home to give my writing a full-time chance, I was giddy with joy. FINALLY, I could live the life I wanted. All those stories that had been dancing around my head, all those characters demanding to be released, could actually see the light of day. No more alarms, no more power suits, no more office bullshit, and no more disorganized bosses. I stopped being a Certified Administrative Professional, and became a WRITER.
Yeah, you can stop laughing now…

 

lol-cat

I love the smell of folly first thing in the morning…

 

My grand plan was to get up every day when I felt like it, write for a few hours, have lunch, piddle around the housework, fix dinner for the hubby, and finish off the day with a few more hours of writing. I went and bought myself some spiffy writing software (Scrivener is awesome!)*, a cool electronic pad that captures hand-writing (Wacom is awesome!)*, and smooth heavy-bond paper for my fountain pens (Levenger is awesome!)*. I fussed over how my desk should be laid out, whether I should go for time or word count, listen to music or not, have the TV on or not, and about a bazillion other silly things that really didn’t matter but did because I’m a little obsessive/compulsive that way.

In the beginning, I actually did get some stuff accomplished. I (slowly) finished a novel and some short stories, made pretty regular entries here at this old dump of a blog, and did at least two articles a week for an on-line “news” site called Examiner.com, now defunct. I did that gig mainly to get myself back into writing shape, knowing I wouldn’t make a living off it, and left well before their fall. I have made queries and submissions for both the novel and stories, essentially to a large field of crickets, it seems, given the non-responses I’ve received. And I started a second novel. So, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it doesn’t seem all that bad.

Appearances are definitely deceiving.

That early enthusiasm soon fell victim to my own lack of urgency. When I don’t HAVE to get up at a certain time, I don’t. In fact, I’m very cat-like in that regard. I’ll take a nap just about anytime. And when I say nap, I mean at least four hours of unconsciousness cuddled with the actual cats in a cool, dark room. And being naturally a night person, night was when I was awake. I’d see my husband off to work in the morning and promptly head off to the vault for my day’s snooze.

And not being responsible to anyone else’s agenda, when I was awake I wasn’t nearly as productive as I could have been. Hey, look! There’s a game I haven’t played in a long time. Maybe I should make something out of this fabric I’ve had for the last twenty years. Wow, I sure do have a lot of books I need to read – better get started. It’s amazing how fast time disappears when you’re not accountable.

Then came a couple scary events involving hospitals, bill collectors, and mortgage companies. The depression seemed to envelope me whole and what little productivity I’d managed rapidly fell off into nothing. Soon it was mostly sleeping and computer games, because nothing really matters, least of all me. Hiding is what I seem to do best. It’s so easy to put things off when there are no hard deadlines, no people to be responsible to, and no requirements beyond feeding the cats and the husband. And that little dark cave in my mind that began as a refuge, slowly transformed into a prison…

 

Wearing all black

But only until they come up with something darker…

 

I follow several other writers – a couple best-selling/award winners, and a few crawling up the ranks – all of whom are further along their journeys than I. Somewhere along the line, I began dissecting their schedules (if they didn’t outright tell their readers). They all blog more frequently than I, and post on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram numerous times a week. They usually write, or are at least engaged in some aspect surrounding writing, like editing or marketing, everyday. The up-and-comers send out dozens of queries and/or submissions a month, while the established pen mavens have to figure out how to balance all those offers with their already tight schedules. They talk about having to pay the mortgage, dealing with children interrupting their writing time, and imposter syndrome. They are going through all the same issues I am, but they have managed to keep the keystrokes active. They press through even on those days when it seems that writing is more a chore and less the passion they thought it would be.

They do it because they HAVE to, not just because they want to. They are beholding to their families, their editors, their readers, and any number of others involved in the chain of production from inception to publication. Don’t get me wrong: they still love what they do. But like with any career, once it starts rolling, there are other people to think of, and you’d best not let them down.

And that’s what I finally realized I’ve done. This writing thing isn’t just about me. My husband is carrying the household expenses on his shoulders while I piss away my day killing zombies. My family and friends support me and offer encouragement, despite me sleeping curled up with the cats all afternoon. There are even people who aren’t any of the above that read this blog regularly – or at least as regularly as my erratic entries allow – and still follow me regardless.

And that’s why self-motivation is an oxymoron. It doesn’t exist for me. I don’t give a crap for myself, so it doesn’t matter if things get done or not. You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t care. But I’m not operating in a bubble. I know that now. And I just can’t stand to let others down.

So things are going to change. Even if it means using that damn alarm again…

 

 

*   Disclaimer: I have received no monetary sponsorship for these claims. I really do think they’re awesome and use them often!

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She’s not at all what you would expect.

No shroud of murky darkness. No raving anger. No muttering excuses. No whorls of swirling depression blasting everything else to bits.

Just a sympathetic smile.

She sits on my desk sipping from a delicate teacup, as if her appearance in the middle of the night – and the middle of my writing – is a perfectly normal occurrence.

Okay, maybe it is a little more normal than it should be. But it’s not any less annoying.

Looking for all the world like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, I half anticipate her guzzling from a jug of “rheumatism medicine” instead of that dainty china doll accessory. But then, I’m not entirely sure of the contents, and she’s the type that hides that kind of stuff in plain sight.

“It’s all right, dear,” she coos. “It’s for the best.”

I just glare at her. I know what she means, and what the rest of her litany will entail. I’ve heard it my whole life. Every time there’s a bump in the road. With every obstacle, every challenge, every rejection. Even with the successes, too. Always that little whisper just off my shoulder.

A raging monster would be easy to ignore, by comparison.

“It’s just the way of the world now.” She takes another sip, pinky out, and rests her cool blue gaze on me. “And it’s ALWAYS been the way of the entertainment industry. You’re battling terrible odds on the best of days.”

She’s right about that. I’m no spring chicken and ageism is rampant, even for novelists. It should be about the product – it should ALWAYS be about the product. But people are what they are. Prejudice dies hard, if at all. And being a good writer isn’t always good enough.

“You can’t help support the household with rejection slips.” Her gnarled hand rests gently on my arm, with a little pat for emphasis. “Maybe you should just stick with what makes money. There’s no shame in that.”

No shame.

No shame in settling. No shame in giving up. No shame being good, but not quite good enough. That’s the story of my life.

All my glory days were long ago. All the genius, all the talent, doesn’t mean anything in a world that favors the loudmouth, the provocateur, the bombastic. Give the masses a sequined three-ring circus and blow up the MC as the finale, and you might get some attention. Social Media is god and goddess. Repeat the inane enough times and it turns into a catchy phrase. Watch that catchy phrase all tarted up for Sunday dinner at the whorehouse win the presidency.

“No one wants smart anymore.” Granny pulls out her big brown jug and chugs a few. I’m not sure what happened to the teacup – there’s no sign of it amidst the clutter of my desk. “It’s all about fake news and alternate facts and screwing everybody but the rich in the name of Jesus H. Christ-on-a-cracker. That’s just not for you, dear.”

Ain’t that the truth. But someone has to be the light keeper. Someone has to be the repository of reason and common sense and fact-based intelligence. Who better than a science fiction writer?

“There’s already so many good ones out there.” She winks at me and swigs another gulp off the jug.

I hate that she’s in my head. I’m never really free of her. And I hate that she’s so often right. There are a ton of good writers out there, already. The David Gerrolds, the John Scalzis, the Chuck Wendigs, the Jim Wrights. All fabulous writers with scathing wit and near-prescient powers of observation. They’ll not only keep the light burning, they’ll weaponize it and napalm the hell out of the stupids. I live barely in their shadows – a cockroach hoping a crumb will fall my way so I can feel like the gods have blessed me.

The jug is proffered in my general direction. “It’ll take the edge off.”

Like that’s a good idea. Just hide in your poison of choice. Hide in that world someone else created because you can’t handle the world you live in. Or the world you should be creating. Real writers write. Fake writers dream of publishing deals while killing orcs.

Too bad I’m old and have tits. I’d probably be a damn good game writer.

“Of course you would, dear.” The jug is tipped over and drizzling its contents down the side of my desk. “Everybody loved having you run games in college. Thirty-five years ago.”

She may look like an innocent little old lady, but her delivery would rival Dame Maggie Smith’s best Downton Abbey snark.

On the downhill side of middle age, and nothing to show for my efforts. So much of my life spent dreaming instead of doing. Because of that little bitch perched in the middle of my soul.

“It’s too hard for you, dear.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you are – you don’t know the right people.”

“You’re good. But not good enough.”

“You don’t really want success, do you? Just think of all the crowds you’d have to deal with.”

If she were an ugly monster, beating her would be easy. Heroic, even. But Granny is a sweet little thing, always looking out for my best interests, of course. Protecting me from the hurt. I won’t get rejected if I don’t put myself out there in the first place. I’m okay right where I am. I have a nice house and a great husband and there’s no need for me to get myself all beat up over something that’s really a pipe dream. Let’s face it – everybody wants to be a writer. And they’re a dime a dozen. So many of them will write for free. And so many of them will write badly. The world is littered with terrible copy under noisy videos claiming to be news, and no one seems to care.

“That’s right, dear.” The teacup has returned, held between finger and thumb like it is a dirty diaper and there’s no pail in sight. “No one cares about quality anymore. So you shouldn’t waste your time.”

I lean back in my chair and scowl. “Fuck you, Granny.”

 

 

Worst thing you write

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This year has been an egg-sucking space monster, as we all know. In the midst of all the prominent people who have died, a raging goat-fuck of an election, and rising prices combined with stagnant paychecks, the little every day things that help us get through took on greater importance. For me it’s being able to play with my cats, and holding hands with the best partner a woman could have. I figured I could survive anything as long as I could have those two. But no, this year was going to shit on those, as well…

hellno-kitty

My sentiments exactly…

So I’ve already told you about my husband’s summer adventure here. As if dealing with that wasn’t enough, the gods saw fit to hand me another flaming bag of poo in the guise of a sick kitty. Roan, the neighborhood stray I adopted (and talked about here), started having some intestinal issues at the end of May. It didn’t appear to be serious, and he was still doing all the other normal cat stuff like playing and eating, so I thought it was just a temporary thing because cats do that sometimes.

Preoccupied with helping my husband’s recovery, it’s over a week later before I realized Roan was still having problems. In fact, he made a point of walking me into the bathroom and having me watch him use the litter box to bring the issue home. He was straining a lot, and producing very little. My first thought was that he’d eaten something that had bound him up. While I try to be careful with all the different kinds of string I have around here, cats are notorious for getting into things they aren’t supposed to, and string is top of the list for delectable devouring. After consulting my pet medical manual, I started dosing him with hairball gel. It’s supposed to help things move more smoothly, as it were, and would theoretically allow him to pass whatever it was stopping him up.

 

Mommy, I haz a tummy ache.

Mommy, I haz a tummy ache.

But a few days later, things hadn’t improved. Roan was still eating, but not as much as before, and he wasn’t as interested in playing. I decided it was time to head to the vet. How to pay for it was hardly a thought, because, well, you just don’t worry about that with your children. The local clinic attached to the shelter was booked solid the whole week. Since he was still eating and drinking, they didn’t consider it an emergency situation, but would put me on the waiting list for a cancelled appointment. I agreed but it nagged me for the next few hours until I broke down and called the vet I’d used for my last batch of animals. I hadn’t been to them in nearly two years because they were more expensive and farther away than the clinic. But they remembered me, and could get me in that afternoon.

I went by myself because riding in the car was so painful for my broken husband. And Roan was young and healthy otherwise, so I just didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. But an hour and a set of x-rays later, and my optimism was shattered. Roan had three large masses in his abdomen. One the size of a baseball had squished his intestines into near uselessness.

Cancer. Fucking cancer.

 

Yup.

Yup.

I just stared at the pictures as the vet explained the situation as gently as he could. The prognosis was terrible. Even if I’d had thousands of dollars to throw at it. A few weeks, at best, and Roan would only suffer more and more each day. I made the only reasonable decision that could be made in that situation – I released Roan across the Rainbow Bridge and to the Summerlands. He purred in my arms to the very end.

I barely remember the drive home. I cried the whole way. My husband had pulled himself out of his recovery chair and was waiting for me when I came through the door. I cried on him. I cried on my pillow. Devastated, I sank back into that old familiar friend, depression. I wallowed in my tears and hid in my bed. If it weren’t for the need to help my husband, I might have disappeared entirely. It was days before I realized I wasn’t the only one grieving.

Pip, my other rescue (I introduced her here), was looking for her wrestling buddy. She would race up the cat tree and then stop and look to see if Roan was following, like she had always done, but he wasn’t there. Doing her funny little tribble trill, she would dart up the stairs, then stop at the top and look around. Nothing. Perplexed, she started sitting by the back door as if asking out to go search for him. Soon she developed a circuit of the house: living room window, kitchen door, office door, bedroom window, sewing room window. Around and around again, restless and confused. I gave her as much attention as I could. I got the toys out and played with her. She accepted my efforts, but the truth is I’m lousy at racing around the house at 3:00AM, and without a protective coat of fur, I don’t stand up well to her version of wrestling.

I need a wrasslin' buddy!

I need a wrasslin’ buddy!

It became pretty obvious that we needed to get her another companion. Normally I wouldn’t get another animal so soon after losing one, but circumstances dictated otherwise. Within days of making that decision, the friend of a friend on Facebook sent out a notice they were looking for a home for kittens they had hand-raised after being abandoned by their feral mother. Specifically, two long-haired ginger kittens, a boy and a girl, the latter of which was polydactyl. My husband gave his grudging approval, and a few days later we were bringing home a couple of darling furballs.

Pip watched us intently as we brought them into the house. I kept them in the back bathroom the first night, and she sat by the door sniffing for information on the newcomers. Within a couple days, the kittens were exploring all over the place under the watchful gaze of a black shadow. A couple weeks later, Pip was grooming the orange fuzzballs.

It’s been over three months now, and the three of them seem to be doing just fine. The “kittens” are nearly eight months old and big enough to wrestle with, which seems to be a favorite past time for all of them. Plus Pip has grown more affectionate with me, actually asking to sit in my lap on a regular basis when she didn’t used to be interested at all. I can’t go anywhere in the house, including the bathroom, without an escort. And who needs blankets when you have cats? For all the pain this year has wrought, it’s amazing how a purring feline can make everything seem just fine.

 

Pip, Regan, and Westley suffering through their hard life.

Pip, Regan, and Westley suffering through their hard life.

 

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It is Tuesday afternoon. The sinus headache searing behind my left eye has been with me since Sunday afternoon. Molten-lava-hot needles of pain swirl from one side of my head to the other with the slightest movement. Lights are too bright, sounds are too loud, smells are too strong, stupid is as stupid does. Thinking is a chore. Motivation is totally gone. Not surprising, given how little I had to start with.

Annoyance is high.

Annoyance threat level a

Sunday was a day spent in hiding, hoping to get rid of the damn headache. I accomplished nothing. Didn’t even get out of the pajamas. Not that I do that much anymore, either.

Monday was a busy day. More issues with the truck. That meant getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to drive the husband to work. Hit the grocery store on the way back. 7:30 on a Monday morning is a nice time to do shopping. No crowds, no screaming kids, no villages and their idiots blocking aisles trying to figure out the difference between the fifty-eight cent house brand and the exact same stuff packaged under the Name Brand for twice that. And everything all nicely stocked and neat, not looking like it had just been looted like it usually does on the weekends.

Got home and put the groceries away. Had a nice breakfast with the pain pills and watched the latest episode of Once. Set up the crock-pot for dinner with a nice roast and potatoes and carrots. All done just in time to take the truck to its appointment at the repair shop. Another code with the transmission. We’d just spent our tax refund rebuilding it less than two months ago. But the warranty from that visit will take care of this one. All I have to do is wait in the lobby for about an hour while they do the work. Thankfully I brought stuff to read, and the lobby is clean and brightly lit. Not-so-thankfully, the chairs are tiny plastic things that I suspect have been stolen from the nearest elementary school. My butt goes numb after about fifteen minutes.

And, of course, the job takes four times longer than initially estimated. By then I’d given up reading because of the headache. I also can’t find my feet. Could have sworn they were attached when I got up this morning. It takes me ten minutes to bring them back online, and only after I unwedged myself from that damned tiny chair. I leave the shop just in time to fetch the husband from work.

Traffic is more terrible than usual. It’s overcast and there are scattered rain showers around the area. I like rain. But not when I have to drive in SoCal. These people have no idea how to drive in anything but full daylight – yeah, okay, maybe not even then. I learned their ways when I lived in L.A. And I have a BAT (big-ass truck). A little assertiveness and 9,000lbs of steel gives me the right-of-way. We still don’t get home until after 7:00pm.

Oh, and who had opened the windows for the first time in months because it was actually cool and nice out? Yeah, this idiot. The weather app didn’t say anything about rain. So of course the skies opened up just as we were getting off the freeway. The master bedroom was a little damp by the time I got the window closed. Thankfully not the bed, though by that point I likely wouldn’t have cared.

By bedtime, my head is screaming, my hips are on fire, and my mind can barely focus on brushing my teeth. For once maybe I’ll get a decent night’s rest.

I must have cussed the husband out when his alarm went off, because he came back to bed long enough to apologize for waking me. The next thing I know I’m packing a mesh bag with essentials, which for some reason include embroidery supplies and cassette tapes (but no player) and bells, as I decide not to wear the rainbow-striped hippie-hoody because it’s too noticeable, and leave a collage of clothes, shells, string, paper, and whatever as a clue to those who might be wondering where I’m going since I can’t wait because the aliens are about to find me and all I have to defend myself with is an old stick and my cats. And that’s when my alarm went off.

Yes, I’m trying to be a responsible adult. No, it’s not working out that well. It took me two-and-a-half hours to get downstairs, and all I’d managed to do in that time was take my morning meds. I have a crap-ton of stuff I should be doing, but instead I’m hiding in video games and streaming media. Every night I chastise myself for my lack of effort and make a list of what I’m going to accomplish the next day, and every morning I’m hiding in bed trying to convince myself I really should at least get up. Every morning dread. Every evening frustration. Every day disappointed at myself.

I know somewhere inside I’m the one setting this trap. The self-doubts and lack of self worth are a constant contrast to the dreams and desires, an endless Mobius loop of internal turmoil that ends up in a stalemate. And I’m the only one that can get rid of the trap. Reprogramming the internal monologue of depression is one of the hardest things anyone can do. You’re probably wondering how hard is it to just think positive thoughts? Immensely hard. Amazingly, astoundingly, excruciatingly hard. Because the depressive’s brain is hard-wired for the black hole that is depression. It is automatic and unbidden and pervasive. It is at the instinctual level of the lizard brain, where everything hides and is so deeply imbedded even metaphorical dynamite won’t dislodge it.

So you pick just one thing to work on, and go after it with a dentist’s pick and the patience of an archeologist on a dig. It will be slow going. Some days won’t see any progress at all. That’s normal. Other days will be a veritable flurry of activity. That’s normal, too. Piece by piece, grain by grain, eventually, that one thing will be rooted out. There will be a crack of light in the darkness.

Pick the next one thing to work on. Repeat as necessary. Don’t give up. Let people/medication/pets help. Celebrate your victories. Ignore everything else.

Did I get everything done today that I wanted to? No. And I’m making myself not care. Because today I got out of bed. Today I played with my cats. Today I wrote a blog.

TODAY I WROTE A FUCKING 1,000+ WORD BLOG!!!

Yeah, one more crack in the dark. It’s a long, hard fight, but it is SOOOooo worth it.

 

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Does there come a point in your life when you have to realize your dreams are really delusions?

As children we all had grand ideas of what we would be when we grew up. Cowboys. Ballerinas. Darth Vader. Astronauts. Firemen. Spiderman. Rock star. Most of those childhood dreams fade over time. A lucky few actually do grow up to be ballerinas or astronauts, but the rest of us have to settle for more mundane lives as administrative assistants or plumbers. In the grand scheme of things, almost nobody gets to realize their life-long secret dreams.

Chris Hadfield as Aladdin Sane

Retired astronaut/rock star Chris Hadfield goes full Aladdin Sane.

http://io9.gizmodo.com/you-cannot-handle-chris-hadfield-as-david-bowie-1440353662

And those that do manage to grab a piece of their desired pie find it comes with a definite shelf life. Professional sports participants often find their age betraying them. Gymnasts peak in their late teens. NFL guys still playing in their thirties are considered ancient. The human body can only take so much. You end up working longer and harder, and dealing with slower recovery, just to maintain what you’ve always had. The growing complaints will eventually make even the strongest among us surrender.

Those of us in the arts would like to think we don’t have age working against us, but, alas, it’s probably the most brutal when it comes to favoring the young over the old. Everybody’s looking for the “fresh perspective” or the “new voice,” and if you can buy liquor without being carded you need not apply. Actors undoubtedly have it the hardest (especially females) because nobody (read: people in charge) wants to look at a grizzled grey-hair. That’s what real life looks like and we’re selling fantasy, dammit, so bring in that big-boobed blonde and we’ll call her Mom.

Other artists can have life-long careers because they don’t depend as much on their faces and bodies as the thespians and dancers do. But you’d better be making your mark in your twenties, or you’ll be left in the dust. It’s hard enough to get noticed in that crowd of wanna-bes when you’re young and beautiful. It’s a rare fossil indeed that breaks through the noise later in life. It does happen, as Susan Boyle can attest, but it almost shocks the world into tears.

I’d like to shock a few people myself. I’d like to be on that list of late bloomers along with Ms. Boyle, Grandma Moses and Harriet Doerr. Circumstances derail some people from their desired paths, while others just keep on keepin’ on until finally something breaks and there they are, published/recorded/acknowledged. I’ve been wondering what keeps people going despite the odds, and especially despite the years of rejection. My scientific side was trying to root out a quantifiable equation that I could plug into my own internal system and then – Voilà – I would be my own success story.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that in real life. There are three factors that most people seem to agree are part of becoming a success in the artistic fields. I examined those to try and figure out how each of them worked in the grand picture:

  • Talent: Some people believe that talent is all you need, but there certainly are examples out there where talent has nothing to do with the equation. The Kardashians fit into the latter category, unless you include figuring out how to be famous for no reason a talent. But if you want to sing or dance or write, you’d better have a smidge of innate ability or you’ll just be another one of the crowd of like-minded also-rans.
  • Skill: You’d think that would be important, being skilled (i.e., well-trained) in your chosen field, but there’s lots of examples of successful people out there who aren’t particularly skilled, and tons of very skilled people who aren’t successful. But even a bad piano player is better than a non-piano player, so some skill in the chosen field is necessary.
  • Luck: Seneca reportedly said, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” And actor Eric Bana believes that, “…luck gets you on to the stage. But it has nothing to do with keeping you there.” It seems to be that one intangible you can’t predict or force, but you’d better be ready for it if it happens.

If you look at any “success story” you’ll find a combination of all three of the above in that story, in various relative degrees. But that still didn’t explain to me why there are so many examples of artists out there who toiled away in obscurity for years – and even decades – before they made a break through. It took me a long time to figure out. A lot of articles were read and psychology studied, only to find the answer was under my nose the whole time (as the true answers are want to be).

“… If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.” Laurell K. Hamilton

Believe in yourself. Behind every success story is someone who believed they would be a success. They believed regardless of what others said. Often they believed IN SPITE of what others said, because sometimes that kind of anger is the best motivator. But believing in myself has never been my strong suit. Depression doesn’t allow you to believe in yourself. It’s imposter syndrome on steroids. Every day I battle to convince myself it’s worth getting out of bed. Then it’s another battle to do the house chores, or weave a new belt, or write this blog. A constant battle just to do the things so many take for granted, to drown out the “You suck – what’s the point?” The more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. Every day – every minute – a battle. It wears you down. It tears at your soul. It tries to drown you in darkness.

Then I realized that – most days – I win. I get out of bed. I do the chores. I do the weaving or needlework or sewing. I do the writing. I play with cats and wash the dishes and muse over story lines in my head. I keep working. I keep trying. That means somewhere – in some distant abyss of my cold, black heart – I actually do believe. I wouldn’t keep fighting the depression if there weren’t something fueling the desire to keep going. Do I get things done as fast or in the manner others think I should? No. Screw them. I believe. Sometimes that’s all that matters.

believe-in-yourself-be-you

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We will all be remembered.

Each of us, in our own unique way. Most of us only by our closest family and friends, and then for maybe two or three generations. Some of us may barely touch another soul or two, for mere moments. A few of us may leave something behind that saves our names for the centuries. Or our name gets lost in time while our mark lives on, mysterious and poignant. The most rare of us become transcendent, touching millions, and leaving a legacy impossible to miss or forget.

David Bowie was one of those so very rare. A visionary well beyond the boundaries of mere music, his death this past weekend leaves a void in the creative world that can never be filled. I can’t admit to being a rabid fan, but I always wanted to hear his work, even when I didn’t really understand it. His “Let’s Dance” album was a large part of my college playlist, while “Space Oddity” is required background music for any science fiction writer worth their words. As I browsed through his catalog on YouTube, I found myself relearning just how large a part he played in music, and how much his work contributes to the soundtrack of my life. His passing takes another irreplaceable piece of me.

david-bowie

It’s weird sometimes how people touch your lives and you don’t really understand the depth of that touch until they are gone. I’ve been very melancholy since I learned the news. I didn’t expect that. Yes, I’m always a little sad when someone passes, especially when it’s from something like cancer. I’ve watched several friends die because of cancer. It’s an insidious, hateful disease that wastes its victims to nothingness in so many ways besides just the physical. Fuck cancer. And the horse it rode in on.

But this is more than just being mad at losing yet another bright spot in our universe to that perversion of cell growth. It’s also another mark of time passing by. It’s another reminder that we are all mortal, doomed to take a final step eventually. Bowie’s steps will one day be the metaphorical equivalent of dinosaur prints – forever embedded for countless generations to experience. The rest of us – well, we’ll just have to make due with the few minutes we get before the waves wash our tracks off the beach.

Some – like Bowie – leave an indelible body of work. We still remember Plato and Mozart and Shakespeare, not because of the individual, but because of the tracks they left. For most of humanity, children are the tracks we leave. Our children are our legacy. It is with them that we pass on our wisdom, our experiences, our stories, our existence. For good or ill, it is the children that will remember. And maybe that’s why I’m feeling a little out of sorts about being reminded – yet again – that I’m not getting any younger. Not having had children, who will remember me? What is my legacy? I want to be more than just the eccentric aunt who collected cats and hid in her house, but time is no longer on my side.

When I was a kid, I fantasized about my awesome future. Once I (literally) grew out of wanting to be a jockey, my world became all about music and writing and movies. I was going to be an Academy Award winning writer/composer/director/producer/actress who played in a rock band on the side. Then it was just the writer/composer/producer part, because I wasn’t thin enough to be an actress and didn’t have the patience to deal with people on a daily basis to be a director, and simply didn’t have the chops to be in a decent band. As I became aware of the problems associated with fame, I decided I’d be okay working as a music teacher during the school year and writing award-winning novels over the summers. At least, until the novels brought me enough money that I didn’t have to teach anymore. Then I become an adult, and had to deal with bills and housing and car payments, and it became about doing anything just to get things paid. Somewhere the dreams derailed and were trampled beneath the minutia of real life, and my creative drive was smothered by my fears and insecurities.

It’s been nearly four years since my husband agreed to let me try my writing fantasy full time. Four years I feel I’ve squandered. I don’t write everyday. In fact, most of the last eighteen months – besieged by the blasted eye problems – all I’ve written is this blog. My submission/query list over that four years is woefully short. And I have nothing but rejections to show for them. I’ve hidden in the dark, watching videos and playing computer games, and letting the depression eat me alive.

Yet, despite that, I HAVE finished a novel and several short stories. And while my query/submission list is less than desirable, I at least have the rejections to show for the trying. I’ve also started a second novel and have half a dozen stories in various states of non-completion. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve actually accomplished more than most. Does it meet my standards? Of course not – and therein lies the problem. I am my own worst critic, crippling myself with bars set too high and goals set too large, and then damning myself when I fail.

And here’s where listening to some of Bowie’s works reminded me of what I need to do:

“I, I will be king

And you, you will be queen

Though nothing, will drive them away

We can beat them, just for one day

We can be heroes, just for one day”

Heroes

 Thanks for the reminder, David. Rest in peace.

 

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