Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Beast is Dead

I wanted to let it be known, the chapter that has been giving me an endless amount of grief fell victim to my fingers today. I choked the fucking life out of it with my bare hands. I clacked at the keyboard like each tip of my digits was its own tiny fist bearing its own bastard sword. And the beast fell. 

I was tempted not to write at all today or to take a stab at one of the blog ideas I've been scribbling notes for in my notebook. I have company over and they are asleep. I was jolted awake by habit or something greater near the same ungodly hour I usually do my writing and I was so afraid that they would come downstairs and see me raw and mangled, defeated again by the chapter that has bested me every day for more than a month. I was afraid that if they had come downstairs and I had just spent the last hour staring at a blank screen that I couldn't take it. I'd be a wreck and inconsolable. No mood for company. No pleasure to be around.

But even though many disagree, this is why I don't want to be on medication. Why I sparingly use the emergency prescribed anxiety meds I've been given. It takes a certain amount of friction to make a fire, and today, baby, I'm on fire. 

Just thought you'd like to know that I am fucking today up like a car crash. So if you see me coming and have anything but high fives on the mind, you better beware. I have already killed today and I won't hesitate to do it again!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nothing Works Today

My anxiety has been building for a few days now. I took one of my emergency pills last night to stem the tide. I may have bought another day. I tried not to think about it. I tried to think heavily about it. I went to bed early, stayed up late. But I can feel the panic attack dogging me around the corner of every day, waiting to sink its teeth in and shake until my flesh comes loose of the bone.

Every little thing goes wrong. I'm fumbling all that I touch. A pen goes tumbling against the tips of my fingers as if it were sand, falling through the fluttering gaps, helplessly. I only half try to catch it. I bend over to pick it up and I'm not surprised when my ipod falls out of my shirt pocket, crashing sharply against the ground in the process. I pick up the ipod and drop the pen again. I set the ipod on the counter and try to reclaim the stupid fucking pen.

I go to write something down and realize there was a pen laid across my open notebook all along. I exhale evenly through gritted teeth.

I spent all day feigning sincerity, trumping up my good will and selling off mental real estate to my employer. I'm not a mean spirited man, but being nice isn't enough in my place of work. We need to stand out. We have to give a larger than life customer experience- so I have to deliver vaudeville performances of customer service. People are genuinely offended if I don't act like their presence is the most important thing that will happen to me today, and my employer will not stand for anything less. People will say things like, "What's wrong with customer service this day and age?" when the worthier question might be, "What's wrong with customers?"

I've been spit at, cursed at, hung up on mid sentence and completely ignored when greeting people five feet away. Today. And I've only had five customers.

Entitlement has spoiled us all. Since we mostly hate the work we do, resent its necessity, we perpetuate the cycle of abuse that we receive at our own places of work by shitting down the throats of customer servants whenever we get the chance. Some of them are more deserving of that blow, but I am not. It hurts most because I care and I can't make myself stop. I can't separate the good experiences from the bad. I feel it all. I am a paid punching bag for your bad day. Your unruly kids. Your small dick. Your cheating, whore husband.

It's wearing on me. My skin feels thin and translucent. I want to be more than my job, but I am growing closer to the image of what they expect me to be and further from the image of myself that I drew when I was 9.

I put the pen I had trouble holding onto into a drawer, mentally noting where I put it so that I can retrieve it once I've inevitably lost the one resting on my notebook that I now remember leaving in that location so that I could find it when I lost the pen before.

I breathe deep for a second, closing my eyes and trying to let go of the tension in my shoulders. The tendons that reach into the back of my skull ache, they're pulled tight, like weathered, overplayed, rusted steel guitar strings. I open my eyes and look down at the page, blank now as my mind.

I forgot what I was going to write.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bad Writing

I wake up and within seconds I am starting the shower and beginning the process that will determine how I rate the rest of the day. As I brush my teeth and wait for the shower to produce steam, I look around at all the familiar sights of the bathroom that I am in. I play with my belly flab in the mirror and wonder if I am losing weight or gaining weight this week. I crawl into the shower and start the mechanical process of making myself ready for the writing desk, all the while I am cold booting my brain. Shaking off the cobwebs that spiders nested in my eyes while I was sleeping. Everything seems fuzzy, but as I wash my hair it starts to sharpen. These are the formative moments that determine whether or not I will end the day with a sullen, empty pang in my chest while my organs seem to tie themselves in knots. 

Or perhaps today I will end with enough momentum to enter dreams with a little something left in the tank. When I am on fire, when writing goes well, I could stay up all night and work through the whole next day with one hand tied behind my back. I am invincible. When writing goes poorly, I am made of glass. I feel as if all the world can see through me and knows just how little I think of myself today. A gentle breeze could topple me and shatter my ego into shards that only manage to cut my hands more deeply as I try to pick them up. I can no more control my stream of thoughts in this state of early morning meditation than a weatherman can force the weather to follow his claims. No matter how much I try to drag the mental conversation back to the book that I am trying so desperately to finish, when I am drying off and shaving, I am often surprised to discover what it is that has filled in the open space of my mind this morning- like a goldfish, spinning circles in his glass bowl, who is surprised by the little castle and scuba diving figurine stuck at the bottom with him every time they pass.

My attention span doesn't allow for control. Not in any useful terms. I ask myself what I would think of my writing if I could force that kind of tunnel vision. I think I would not be pleased with the result. It's the spatial deformity that tickles me about my own writing. It has a shape that doesn't match the rest. A philosophy I've preached unto myself since childhood: You will never get a different result by adding up the same numbers over and over again. It is why I decided against piano lessons and favored teaching myself by ear. It is the unique thing that gives me what self value I have. I used that mantra to protect me against people who didn't share my vision. I used that way of thinking to deflect thoughts from penetrating, that might of helped make writing some deal easier, but would have sanded the edges down and made my product a mass production of something you could get from anyone else with the time to put words in an order that makes sentences make sense. 

People see me struggling now and instinctively want to help me, offer advice, suggest how I can be better or achieve my goals. Nice people. People I don't want to offend and so I smile and nod and tell them I might try that out, but I know my way. I know how my mind works. I am predictably non-conformist.

Which, unfortunately for today, means that as I come out of my morning haze I start to realize I've been working on work problems. Nothing major. I'm good at my job and I've been at it for a long time, so there aren't a lot of unique situations for me to deal with there. Still, my subconscious seems to want to straighten out that part of the day for me instead of keeping its attention turned on the whole reason I am awake. The whole reason I wake up an hour and a half early in the first place- my writing. As if getting ahead at work will help me personally, as if that was even possible. 

I make my fiancee's breakfast and set it in the refrigerator for her, like clockwork. My coffee is finished just as I am done and I pour it into a tall mug. One the best days, I forget it's even there. I sit down to the computer and come out of a haze when Marissa comes downstairs and taps me on the shoulder, startling me. On those blessed days,  I realize my coffee cup is still three fourths full but I have adrenaline pumping through my veins anyways. I don't need coffee on those days. Today I've lifted an empty cup to my lips a half a dozen times, surprised that there is nothing left to do with that mug.

I open the document that I started yesterday. A draft of a chapter that seemed mechanical last week. It served to get characters on to the good bits. It wasn't interesting to me, and I struggled with it for almost a month now- writing, writing over, deleting and so on. Then I had a break through. One lucky day while I was shaving. Have you ever known something, said it to yourself a hundred times, but you knew it hadn't clicked? Something in your life that wasn't working, a way of thinking or philosophy that seemed right but you just couldn't make yourself believe? Well, I knew the chapter was uninteresting and that's why I couldn't get my mind to work on it when I needed it to. I was using the chapter as a dull bridge and I knew it going in, but I asked myself at some point in my subconscious that morning, "How do I make it more interesting?" That was a puzzle worth solving. So I spent the morning mulling it over, I jotted down some notes. All that day at work, my mind was occupied with this thing, instead of my writing time being stolen by work thoughts. The next morning, before I even got into the shower, I knew what I had to do. I excitedly ran through my morning necessities and sat at the computer. That day was a trance day. Marissa came down stairs and tapped me on the shoulder and I felt good. Accomplished.

The next several days between then and now, I have read and re-read the bit that I wrote and I understand the concept. I remember what I wanted to accomplish that wasn't just moving the plot forward. I remember how it fit the theme so perfectly. I just couldn't get there. Again, it was relegated to an idea that I knew seemed true enough, but I couldn't force myself to believe.

So now, after two days of being exhausted, having no real juice to give my dream, I write these timeline thoughts down in hopes that I'll better understand what went wrong, secretly hoping that this entry will fill my glass skin so that I can't be seen through today. I'm not exactly proud of this work though. It's just the equivalent of mental masturbation. I'm putting together words for the expressed purpose of putting words together. I don't have anything to say, so I'm trying to make a topic out of that. Every letter feels forced. It hurts the soft, padded tips of my fingers. I pause often to ask why I am bothering to continue.

I've started this entry more than half a dozen times, worrying about the phrasing and editing. I'm so far down now that I don't care what it sounds like any more. Writing anything has got to be better than knowing you sat in front of a screen for a combined total of 6 hours this week and accomplished nothing. It makes it harder to get out of bed each following day- harder not to hit snooze. 

I've worried that I'll come off as too whiny or depressed. But I am whining. I am depressed. I'm upset with myself and I know that being upset with myself won't help the creative process, which makes me feel more idiotic and upset. I worry that people who care to read might think something is seriously wrong with me. But I'm already made of glass, so what's the worst that can happen?

Just know that this isn't a cry for help, it's a trail of bread crumbs that I hope to follow back to the other day, when writing came easy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Infinitely Ricochet Headed

I'm taking a break from writing about being a ricochet headed space cadet... but I really wanted to use the phrase "ricochet headed," which might be this week's favorite way of describing myself. Sounds old timey enough that I can imagine Grams using it to describe me to her friends while hangin' laundry, but paints a pretty good picture of exactly what's going on. The ideas just don't stick so easy- for the most part, they go bouncing off in unintended directions or get burned up in the atmosphere altogether, and all the bread crumb trails in the world couldn't help me find my way back home to the original point- as I'm sure you are about to discover first hand.

The fun part is dreaming up and creating all of the places I end up, like Alice visiting Wonderland. The hard part is often communicating those ideas to others. That's not a condemnation on the intelligence of others nor is it meant to be a back door compliment to myself- it's a personal flaw that I am diligently working at every day, to become a better writer. Having a hard time conveying my thoughts (more verbally in my case) is probably the worst consequence of being wired like this.

Smarts comes in all sorts of shapes, but even being a genius on its own doesn't matter if you can't explain your ideas in a way that makes sense to everyone else. That's what makes some of my favorite scientists of today (Neil Tyson Degrasse, Bill Nye, Phil Plait) extraordinary in their respective fields. They all realized at some point on their quest to learn stuff that it doesn't matter how much knowledge they amass- some day, they're taking all of those secrets with them to the grave. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. You can give a man a fish, or you can be the lightning rod in his head that helps him to invent the fishing pole. It's that concept that stoked the fires of my passion for writing. It's that same line of thinking that named my blog, actually. The idea that I had been holding onto all of the ideas that burrowed into my consciousness,  herding and funneling all of my thoughts through a pinhole, trying to concentrate on just one idea at a time while I wrote on this book or that. It seems so counter productive to how I started out, but I really want to finish a book. Like, really. It makes me afraid to think that I could be struck down by lightning tomorrow or have a heart attack (the latter is more likely given my sedentary preferences and predisposition towards stress). I don't want to drop dead before getting these novels out of my head. I like my current job a lot, but I don't want my legacy to be how successfully I ran someone else's business. I want to do something with my life that the future couldn't live without. Is that too much to ask?

So, I'll write here about whatever it is that I'm thinking at the time. Even though it isn't always going to be dressed up in a sweeping narrative that takes you to a far away world and inspires one of you to create something as fascinating as a fishing pole. Until I wrap my head around how to finish those books, at least if I go splat tomorrow, I know that these particular arrangements of letters belong to me and have been cast into the thought ocean as far as my fingers can throw them. I was holding on to each little idea like a little secret between me and myself, waiting for the right time to give it seeds in a novel- afraid to step on my own toes by revealing what lies behind the curtain of a story before I had even shared the story itself. After a while, the queue in my head was so backed up, there was no room for new ideas to come through. Just changing the way that I process information, by writing it all down or sharing it immediately, has changed the way that new ideas are forming. It's kind of awesome. If I stay on track mentally (which is 50/50 bet at best), I've got a real doozie of a thought to share with you next time.

So, that was a pretty long rant about how I'm not going to be talking about my ricochet headed, space cadet nature, wasn't it? In the future, I should probably stay away from discussing the things that I am not going to discuss. Discussing them ensures that I will definitely discuss them... Ha ha!

*Abrupt Segue*

What I set out to talk about was from a commercial, the likes of which I must have seen a hundred million times in my lifetime and only this once did I see it while in the midst of an agoraphobia-centric, near panicked state of mind. It was for the Today show. Yes, that Today show. That show's been around since I was zero, I'm pretty sure. This time I watched while dealing with a personal intrusion of privacy. Some of you may know that I also co-host the podcast United We Geek. I love doing it. It's one of the healthiest creative things I've done for myself in ages and I have my brother, Tim, to thank for putting it together. In its inception, it was about scheduling creative time for myself on a regular basis, well before I woke up early every morning to get my 1-2 hours of writing in before doing anything else each day- a habit which is instrumental to me now, but may not have ever come to be if I hadn't been a part of my brother's podcast venture.

It was also about getting together on a regular basis to create something with a group of guys that I don't get to see in person often enough. It was, and continues to be, a way of making myself responsible to other people whom I love and admire and would hate to let down. Fear of letting other people down is probably one of my largest sources of drive, so I try to tap into that (which I realize is like dosing myself with the  flames of anxiety I am half the time trying to squelch) when I need to get something done that I am not entirely excited about doing.

Anyways, because my job is in the nerd field, I try to keep my podcast and work life separate so that there's no grounds for a conflict of interest. I am also the big boss at work, so I don't want to lose any of my managerial authority because somebody listens to me talk about foreskin parachutes and blue Professor Manhattan dongs, or whatever nonsensical rant I feel like making. I don't want to be penalized for having a life and personality outside of work that just so happens to deal with some of the same nerdy stuff I do at work. I guess you  could say... I'm all nerd, baby. At work, at home. When I sleep. In front of the computer. I'm a giant nerd, like, e'ry day!

So a few weeks back, somebody got a hold of me on our United We Geek Twitter account (@uwgpod, tell your friends) and mentioned that he really enjoyed what we were doing and had been a listener for a while. Then he noticed that Twitter exposed my location on one of my posts, and that I just happened to live in a city 20 minutes away from him. For those of you who know me, I'm never more than a stone's throw away from going coo banana pops mental. I've got a touch of the paranoid already, so having someone "track me down" and the threat of all my lives crashing into each other just about fried my circuits.

He started asking questions about me, and out of fear that he was going to recognize me or put things together and somehow figure out where I worked, and then proceed to blow my cover at work, I explained to him where I worked and asked that he help me keep it on the down low. I felt like I would be less worried about the exposure in the long run if I just got that conversational elephant out of the way. Usually, calling out the source of my anxiety, sometimes even making fun of it (see my famous Costco Breakdown Fiasco via Twitter all about the time I had to go shopping in the belly of my nemesis and forgot my Clonazepam at home) helps me to laugh it off and avoid calamitous implosions of the psyche.

Well, last week my fan showed up in my store while I was on lunch and started asking my employees if their boss had just gone to Comic Con in Seattle last week. I showed up, clocked back in from lunch and eventually recognized who this dude was, trolling around the store giving me the fish eye like he knew me. We were both very friendly and polite, and I really don't think he was setting out to do me harm. I think he just genuinely wanted to make friends. But, after he left, I started to realize that he had crossed a line. (I said that this wouldn't be about being ricochet headed, not that it wouldn't be obvious in my writing that I am, in fact, ricochet headed. I just now realized that I mentioned this was all connected to the Today show, and I'm laughing aloud to myself trying to figure out if anyone among you is fucking mental enough to know where I'm going with this. I'll get there... probably).

So here I was, wondering to myself what the right thing to do in this situation would be. Where should the line be? I didn't want to upset a fan- because it feels really good to have fans (especially because of that whole accountability thing- I feel more inclined to produce when I know that there are people who give a damn, which is kind of what this blog is about too). I'm sure everyone understands the desire to be famous, so in a way it was really flattering that this guy I didn't know contacted me in recognition of one of my creative endeavors. It was a huge ego boost and I was so grateful for it that I did not want to dissuade him or future listeners/readers from making the same attempts at reaching out... just not in my store! I would have loved to go to lunch, or chatted him up online, but especially after having confided in him about my work boundaries and having that line disrespected, I knew I had to find a way to redraw the lines in cement.

Being a writer, or maybe it's just me, I am constantly in one of two states: I am always either powerfully ego fueled and overly self confident to the point of being a narcissist or I am brimming to the point of choking on self loathing, doubt and the black hole void of where my confidence used to be. I don't know what that has to do with the overall point, but I figured if I let you in on that factoid, maybe you'd be kinder in the comments section. You know, really dig in. Don't be afraid to lay it on thick. Or if I did something dickhole-ish to you in high school then I guess I just gave you the keys to my kryptonite safe. Fuck.

I already have an agoraphobic predisposition that pops up from time to time and threatens to turn me Full Hermit. Watching the Today Show commercial (here comes the pay off!) while tackling this issue that rubbed up against some of those tendencies just brought out a little something extra.

I watched all of the people that line up outside of the Today show every day and I wondered- are there really so many people that are super fans of the news that they would stand outside the building, often in the freezing ass cold, just to be near it happening? I tried to envision Matt Lauer on a trading card, or filling  an auditorium with the same number of people who lined up outside his show coming to see him on tour, personally.

I mean, I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the concept- I've been to plenty of concerts. Enough to understand the basic principal. I'm not shitting on anyone else's parade if that's what they're into, but are they really that into Kathy Lee and Al Roker? It seems like such  a strange thing to spend a day on.

Then I realized that it was probably more likely that the greater majority of people were there for the chance to get on the television themselves. That struck me as an equally creepy thought. I mean, what's the end game here? You jump through a bunch of hoops so that your claim to fame can be, "I was on the Today Show!"

"Oh yah, what were you there talking about?"

"Oh... I didn't talk or anything, I was just there! You could see me holding up that goofy ass sign, and if you freeze frame right after the commercial break, you can kind of see Hoda smile in my direction! Yah, totally made a famous person smile, I think. Could have been her reflection though- I'm not sure how reflective those windows are from the inside... I've only seen 'em from the freezing ass cold side...."

Buhhhh.... Creep City. It's not like you are being interviewed for your new hit single or some story of heroics that claimed the spotlight for you. That many people gather every single day, in an effort to get recognized for nothing. This is where my agoraphobic, conspiracy laden brain kicked into over drive.

I know it's super popular to crap on reality television right now and I'm not going to go so far as to say that watching shows like that on its own is bad... but there's a real difference between having a night out, drinking with friends and blowing a homeless dude so he'll let you lick the outside of his empty bottle of schnapps.

We are recognizing people for the action of their grabbing at fifteen minutes of fame. People like the Kardashians and whatnot- they're all famous for being famous. It's an unsustainable formula, because it requires an unbalance to maintain. In order for the Kardashians to hang on to their fame, they need you to be poor and unfamous, looking at them with star struck eyes and wonderment from outside.

Being famous is more important than what you are famous for, and it's not a new concept. The Today show crowd has been around forever, and rather than going out and doing something worthy of being made famous, people are lining up in droves just to be featured on the television set for fifteen seconds.

If you are a super fan of the show, or are relating this in your head to something  else that you are a giant nerd for, then I'm probably not talking about you. Lord knows I've gone to Comic Cons and concerts galore. The thing that scares me most about people in just about any situation is the lack of self awareness. It's the dead eyed folks that can't look at situations like this objectively and say, "Yah, that's kind of fucked up."

It's my belief that if you are aware of why it is that you are lining up to meet someone, watching whatever shows you want to watch, or nerding out on whatever your favorite pastime is, you will be better for it. If you're hoping to draw inspiration from the moment that you are sharing with someone who altered your life in a way that is irreversible and significant to you, go for it. Take it all in and use it to fuel your next personal revelation. If you just want to be enveloped by a pool of people who are excited about the same things you are excited about, to find camaraderie and a sense of belonging to something greater as we are being hurled throughout space on an infinitely empty, unbelievably full universe, be a part of that brotherhood! It can be magical!

But while tiny bits of objectification can be healthy and inspire you to reach a place higher than you find yourself today, we live in a world of endless wonders- no one of them is more significant than another. So breathe in the moment, live and absorb the place that you are in right now. Seriously, do it. Then let it go and open yourself up to the next astonishing surprise.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Attention-Deficit, Gift-Condition Experiment

I apologize for how scattered my inaugural post was. I can't say it'll get much better right away, but I'm working on it. I don't know exactly how to blog. My  fiance just reminded me that she told me quite a while ago that she thinks I should, but I didn't want to pull focus from whatever project I was working on then- desperately trying not to get side tracked by anything else. So instead, I waited until I forgot all about her suggestion and came up with the idea on my own. Then it seemed brilliant, of course! She is much smarter than I am, very grounded and often points out the things that should probably be obvious to me but aren't. She also seems to love me enough to understand my condition*  is a  part of me- it separates me and makes me unique enough that she encourages me to be better by thinking that I already am. She knows that I won't stop trying to match the vision of the man she's made me out to be, so without nagging me to change, she just looks at me like I'm something special and all of a sudden, I've got the desire to move Hell and Earth to see to it that I am worthy of her look.

*(I used the term condition for lack of a better word- I know I'm not like the one legged guy who won the race at the Olympics, but I feel like there are things about me that come naturally to most of the population that just don't work for me. So while I don't exactly think it is always a negative, I have to find a way of labeling it because I imagine it will be a frequent talking point in this blog as it is the biggest, most challenging puzzle I've tried solving to date. So far I'm not satisfied with any name I've given it. Saying I have ADD when I haven't been diagnosed properly seems offensive to those who have been diagnosed, calling it a gift seems pretentious, and saying "my condition" sounds like a giant fucking pity party... but at times, any of those terms seem appropriate, depending on the context. So, I'm still searching and welcome any ideas you have).

My ability to stick to topics may actually get worse before it gets better though. That last post and the whole coming to terms with of my likely condition of ADD was the launching pad for a new experiment. Throughout the course of a day, I am so unaware of what's right in front of me that I frequently bang my arms on doorknobs at every turn, I fumble pens at least a dozen times a day, stand in front of computers trying to remember why I pulled up to them in the first place, I trip on my own legs regularly like I am going through puberty and only just getting used to this body I've lived in forever, and I get headaches that feel like my skull is caving in from trying to suppress each little ideas from surfacing- out of fear that they will distract me and I'll lose focus. 

Realizing that if I do have ADD, it has likely manifested itself as these many curiosities about my being that I've frequently wondered about. Tracing the likelihood of having ADD to the core of many traits that are good and others that are potentially harmful to my goals, I realized that if I do have ADD, I could try handling that one major thing in different ways and it might have a widespread effect on each of the many factors about me that it contributes to.

So rather than suppress my ADD nature, I took it out for a walk. I decided that as much as possible, I would give every thought that demanded a spotlight on my mind's stage exactly what it was after. I would tweet about the random ones, I would Facebook post those that could not be contained by character limits, I would jot down a note about the ones that seemed more like the seeds of ideas for novels or characters in novels or thoughts that seemed more appropriate for delving more deeply into at a later time. The first blog post I made was actually Day 1 of that experiment. Today I am just shy of a week. 

Here is what I have discovered so far:

1) I feel more like me than I have felt in ages. I remember talking to a friend once, a couple years after high school. She had moved away and was in town for a visit. After talking for a little bit, she pretty bluntly asked me what had happened to me- and without demanding an explanation, I told her I did not rightly know. I had known exactly what she was talking about. I had been wondering the same thing. After High School, I started working at a convenient store where I was quickly promoted to Assistant Manager. 

In the work world, my inability to sit still and my tendency to want to juggle a lot of different things at once was being applauded as an asset that nobody else seemed capable of matching. Since having been beaten down over it in high school, it felt good to succeed at something- especially in the workplace arena, where I knew that many expected or worried that I would to fail. While Assistant Manager of Circle K doesn't seem all that glamorous to me now, fresh out of school and being trusted with that responsibility at a time when most of my friends had even shittier jobs in the fast food industry, it became a source of pride. I tried to be even better at my job. For the first time in my life, but sadly not the last, I lost sight of what had always been unique about me and I mostly abandoned my aspirations at writing. 

I started mimicking the behaviors of those more successful than I was and making trades on parts of myself that I never knew had value. And why should I? Publicly, anyways, being scatterbrained is never exactly lauded or given a compliment. We all hear the stories about how Einstein couldn't tied his shoes, but nowadays if a kid doesn't fit the mold, we assume he is defective and overlook all of their other amazing traits in order to put a band aid on the one. If Einstein was on Ritalin, how would that have changed the world? Being ricochet minded was never counted as an asset, so trying to temper it down in trade for higher monetary earnings and bigger titles seemed like a winning deal. Try as I might, there were edges that would not be reshaped- I would get into trouble over the little details of things, but it was often overlooked because I was getting the workload of multiple people accomplished on a daily basis. 

So when Cyndi asked what happened to me, not in a mean spirited or shitty way, but out of genuine concern, I started crying. I told her that I hadn't written in over a year- I didn't really know how to. The ideas weren't coming anymore, the well ran dry. And what time was there? Circle K was open 24 hours, so I was literally on call for work at any minute of the day- an occurrence that happened frequently. She told me that it was strange to see me worry about anything and she didn't like it. 

In high school I was so confident that I used to grab some squeaky toy artifact that looked like it could be an object some quirky teacher used as a hall pass. I'd walk into a friend's classroom, walk right up to the teacher and ask, "Is there a Jeff Sparks in here? Mrs. Kelly needs to speak with him right away, please." I was marked absent from class already, but by waiting it out until a few minutes after roll call, I could successfully break a buddy out of class and keep them from getting the same automated phone call I'd become an expert at intercepting later that night. 

Looking back, I'm happy with the work skills I learned and the paths I took to get where I am now, but I wonder how much easier life would have been if I were more self aware about the reasons behind the way I am. I'm glad that I've been successful at being an adult, but maybe it would have gone easier if I was conscious of the choices I was making along the way? If I was more aware of how much a part of me my own brain's chemistry was, would I have been more successful at writing to this point?  Was I even mature enough to receive that information? It's equally possible that I would have rebelled against the working world as I did in high school and ended up smoking crack out of broken light bulbs, so I don't know if changing things is a great idea. It's like the Biff-a-verse in Back to the Future II. Change one thing, bring back one Sports Book Almanac, and everything goes to Hell. I am really happy with everything in my life today, except my life's main goal, the one I've had since I was a kid, writing my first play in the 7th Grade (The drama program even performed it- it was kind of a big deal. lol). I do hope that if it turns out that I have ADD, I can reeducate people in some way on how we are damaging society by forcing these kids into a box that they don't fit. We are playing Gods over an evolutionary course that we don't fully understand ourselves, and diminishing the expansion of ideas that could benefit our species... but back to the point. 

From that conversation I had with Cyndi, I began to actively, yet slowly, recaptured parts of myself that I had previously undervalued. Maybe I would have been able to put words to it myself eventually, maybe I would have figured out what my spirit was made of, but that conversation quickly became a road map for me. It put shape to what it was that I was trying to regain, and while I have made ground and lost ground in many different ways in the twelve years since then, it was the first time I tried to put shape to the man I wanted to be. It was my compass for many years to come. 

Flash forward to today, and the experiment of giving my brain adequate space to run around, and for the first time, I feel like I am the shape of the man that I want to be- keeping in consideration that some key ingredients to that person are a never ending quest to better understand myself and others, a thirst for personal growth and a discontent with the way things are that makes my journey never ending, never boring.

2) Where did all this energy come from? I have been on a slow, steady tumble into being middle aged for the better part of the last decade. My joints ache from working retail, standing for 40-60 hours a week without rest. Extinguishing thoughts one after another, forcing absolute focus on one object at a time- these things that everyone else around me was doing without a second thought, so I always thought that I should be able to do too- they drained me. By midday of nearly every single day, I was fatigued to the point of needing a nap or a caffeine boost, or suffer through the blaring headaches that followed if I tried to press on. Then I would get home and, as long as I was able to stretch my brain out, reclaim some space and not have to focus directly on just one thing, I'd level out, be back to normal and ready to tackle the at home stuff. 

I've been to doctors about it. Some of them prescribed depression meds, anxiety meds. Others helped me lose a little weight and said that the energy would come back when I was back in peak physical shape (now I see that I frequently used food as an anchor, trying to physically tranquilize myself into being stationary, both in body and mind). None of that stuff ever really worked for me. Sometimes those things would grant temporary relief, but that was the best it ever got. 

Once I made the choice to start writing everything down (another suggestion that my dearly betrothed made that I summarily dismissed and rediscovered on my own terms), it was like a chemical rush of adrenaline was pumping through my body all day long. My mind was in a frenzy, and for the first few days, it was seriously making me dizzy. Part way through day 4, I had to leave work early because I felt feverish, coulped with a vertigo like swirling in my gut. I was nearly spinning out of control. More ideas than I could process came rushing to the surface, one after another. I was working in a way that seemed obviously less organized from an outsiders point of view- my coworkers were asking me if I was okay because my almost militant need for everything to be completely organized at all times was instantly thrown out the window- but it didn't depreciate my own speed of getting things done, and I was able to sort things out in time to have a proper hand off to the next person. It was absolutely exhilarating. 

I couldn't afford to give any of my thoughts more than a few seconds each, but writing it down made it feel like I was telling a child that was pulling on my apron strings, "Okay, okay- just let me finish what I'm working on and we'll schedule some time to play together later." Sated, these ideas would quiet down and stop distracting me from everything else that needed to be done and it cleared the path for new ideas to emerge- ideas that would have normally been backed up as I actively tried to suppress an idea that was fighting to be heard before it. 

I worry what my bosses would say if they saw how much I was working on things that were not work, but if they looked at those days objectively, I got more than my share done and was so full of energy that customers took notice of my disposition and responded very well! One of my customers brought me some chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzels on day two of my experiment because he said that I made a shitty day he was having turn completely around the day before, just by being upbeat and high spirited myself. Waking up in the morning isn't difficult anymore- I've been excited to get more writing done and review the notes I made from the day before to see which of them are fully cooked enough to get more play time, whether in this blog or towards the book I'm working on or even in the form of deeper degrees of note taking. Going to sleep at night was a little harder at first- I actually stayed up until 3:30am one night and was still out of bed by 8am the next morning, with enough energy to write and fill the day completely. 

I've tapered off the initial high a bit, but am still coasting evenly at a pace that is much greater than I was used to. I attributed my gradual energy decline to being old, to letting my mind rot by filling it with things I had no real interest in, but now I have to wonder if it was this easy to fix all along. Just let my brain do what it wants, even while spinning the plates of my daily needs and everything will be just fine? Stop trying to control everything to the last decimal place and let my mind work in exactly the way it is wired to? Insane thinking, right?

Conclusion: I still have a lot of details to hammer out. I'd like to consult a professional and see what they think, maybe avoid some pitfalls that I'm not yet aware of. I still have anxiety issues, although some of my triggers don't seem like as big a threat. It's probably too soon to tell whether it's just because I'm riding the high or if it's a sustainable change. 

Most of my anxiety comes from being around a bunch of other people, outside of my comfort zone. I have major attacks during visits to most big stores: Coscto, Target, grocery stores. Something about being in a herd of people that all seem to be focused on their objectives with little or no regard for everyone else around them is unnerving to me- all I can focus on is the people watching until I want to run away. When I lived on my own, I would grocery shop in the middle of the night to avoid those crowds and spent time with a whole different crowd of deranged weirdos. When I absolutely have to go now, I plug in my earphones and try to jump into the music, sometimes even singing out loud like a crazy person and effectively becoming the exact thing that creeps me out. Mostly, my fiance does the shopping though. I do the cooking, she does the shopping. It's nice because after work, cooking is one of the activities that engages my ADD. It lets me calculate several different things at once and I usually am able to spend time on top of that doing some internet research on a few ideas that hadn't been given their fair turn at the forefront of my brain yet. 

My biggest fear with the new way I'm approaching things is that, like everything else I've tried (albeit that I didn't always understand the source of the thing I was trying to address), my biggest fear is that I will see results from this method because it is new and exciting and fresh, but just like my hundreds of alternative approaches at writing a book that I can finish, this will become too familiar and stop being engaging. Once a puzzle is solved, it's not that exciting of a toy to play with. I worry that this will become a familiar, uninteresting way of approaching things after a while, and then where will I be? 

I think I mentioned in my last post that I listen to music without vocals whenever I write, as a means of shutting out the rest of the world. Well, even that becomes stale every so often. When I start to recognize too many of the songs, it starts to lose its effectiveness at holding part of my attention at bay because the tunes don't grab enough of my attention and I drift more easily into things that are not the task in front of me. When that happens, I need to dump another several hundred songs into the mix (always looking for suggestions on any genre of music without vocals, btw). 

I hope that I never learn the melody of this new way of approaching things and welcome anyone who can help suggest ways of keeping myself off balanced enough to be engaged with life and the living of it on a daily basis.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I'm a writer. Unfortunately I haven't finished a book so far, but I've written thousands of pages on several projects that end up dead in the water for various reasons. I've written tons of music and poetry and short stories through the years, but in my mind I have these ideas, these sprawling, interconnected epics. Ilet them out on paper, but I can't seem to make it a fully formed reality. However, my blog isn't really about that. Not directly, anyhow.

I'm also a father. My son is 8 years worth of adorable and a hopeless nerd, like his dad. Despite my best efforts, he's had struggles in school. In honesty, I'd hoped that he'd bypass the problems I had and take after his mother in that regard (we aren't together but we share custody down the middle and cooperatively hand  his upbringing). My son, Hue petting him to be to do wellmy hear one major difference between him and me in the scholastic arena. I remember not caring as far back as third grade, but susphopefully s only when I found the words to voicmakee my contempt for my elementary captors. Of course, he's only in second grade, so I suppose that by next year he could open up to the notion of rebellion. My blog isn't really about this either, but follow the bread crumbs and we'll get there.

I saw the writing on the wall earlier this year at our first Parent Teacher Conference. My son has marks at and above grade level in every scholastic criteria, but is uncontrollable. He can't sit still, finishes his work and starts bothering others, and seems so unaware of his own body that he is very accident prone, often injuring himself or others when he is comically flailing around trying to get a laugh. His teacher wouldn't say it outright yet, but based on my experience with the familiar concerns of his other teachers (and even preschool & daycare staff), I preemptively sought to get him tested for ADHD. I didn't really think he had it, though something was definitely inhibiting his performance. The sweet boy often asked me what he could do to be better at school, to stop getting into trouble, to be what everyone else was expecting him to be. It broke my heart and so in an effort to give him all the tools he needed to be happy, I was more trying to rule out ADHD ahead of time and hopefully find some more skills I could use to make his life less painful. 

As suspected, the doctor conducted a bunch of questionnaires and concluded that he didn't have ADHD, but believed I should go to a children's psychiatric educational professional for more thorough research. After all kinds of insurance hoops, I found a guy that I like a lot and we've conducted about eight hours worth of tests over the last two or three weeks. 

I'm waiting to hear back, and while my son is a very important part of my life and as the people we love tend to shape who we are, this blog isn't directly about him or them either.

While I was in the waiting room so the doctor could perform his tests with Hunter, they left me to fill out legions of questionnaires. The more questions I answered, the more I started to believe that ADHD was not only a real possibility, but that I very well could have it as an adult. I was tested as a kid when I displayed behavioral issues, but I was always told that I didn't have it and that I was just an unruly bastard. No medical reason required (ha ha ha). I've spent the last half a week trying to determine if I am ADHD or a hypochondriac.

In my latest efforts to complete my most recently started novel, I have been waking up a couple hours before everyone else on a daily basis to get a little writing in before work. Lately, I can't keep my mind on my novel. It's not writer's block exactly. I know precisely where the story needs to go, and I simply can't concentrate on it with the focus required to put one word after another. I blasted through the first 30,000 words in a few weeks and have barely been able to write another 5,000 in the last four months. When I started the book, it was all consuming. All of the possibilities and flesh being fit to bone... it was like a puzzle that my mind was solving day and night. I dreamed about it. I day dreamed about it at work. Before I went to bed, I would envision the next chapter or two and let the unfolding tale sing me to sleep. When I woke up, showered, made my breakfast, it was a race to get in front of my computer. I always knew I had concentration problems, so when I write I wear headphones with voiceless music mixes playing lowly, directly into my ears and silencing the word outside. 

Now I know exactly everything about the characters. I know where they need to go to end the book. I've entered the classic stage (classic for me anyways) where everything I write is boring me to death. So much that my mind would rather be working on unraveling problems at work, or whatever issues du jour happen to present themselves. My mind has already started working on the next book, begging me to leave this one behind and call it a lost cause, but I just can't. I am determined to finish it. In part, that is what this blog is about. But not totally.

As I sat in front of my computer on Monday pondering and beating myself up in equal measure, I came to the conclusion that if not ADHD, than I too possess some variant or predisposition to focus. There's lots of other reasons I could site, but I'm sure those can be talked about in due time. As I sat in front of my computer wondering why I couldn't string together a sentence without getting lost in the middle, I had a thought. I wondered if ADHD had its advantages. I've always been amazing at my job, performing consistently in the too 5-15% of employees. I've even helped develop new ways of doing things that have been adopted company wide. But I struggle with the basic, mundane requirements. Think Office Space and TPS Reports. Even in my spare time, multitasking is out of control. I can't just watch TV or I fall asleep at almost any time of day. I usually need to be playing a video game or working on something on my tablet at the same time. I can't just play video games either (unless it is hyper engaging, but I would not classify most as such. It's like the difference between TV and a movie). I'm usually listening to music alongside the video games, listening to an audio book or in some cases I am playing two games at once- one on the TV and one on a handheld, tablet or phone. In a lot of ways, people look down at that, like I'm not getting the full enjoyment of any of the multitude of activities that I am doing, and I tend to just let bygones be. They aren't wrong and sometimes it is tiring as Hell. I can't slow things down, and possibly what's worse is that I don't think I want to. 

As I started to research the potential evolutionary advantages of ADHD I discovered a few interesting things. For starters, most genetic "defects" exist in about 1% of the population and get weeded out over time, while ADHD is at 5%, which is one of the first clues that this may be a condition inherited and passed along by design and not a defect at all. Think of bees. Most bees gather pollen to make honey, but about 5% serve another function. They act as scouts to locate new locations that might serve as prime real estate for a new hive. Neither job is more important than the other, just because the scouts are more rare- the species couldn't survive without a strong hunter/gatherer base OR the scouts. Maybe it's my ego that let this analogy click for mw, but that's when everything started to make sense for me personally. 

We need a small number of people who are beyond the box, looking at things from the outside. Free to question, be wrong, and do things differently, experimental in nature. Of course classrooms are built for the other 95% right now, and it makes me sad to think that my son will have to struggle because he is different, but I see this trait for the gift it is finally. I'm not done combating some of the less desirable consequences of having ADHD, but I finally why it's worth having.

Without this "defect," I never would have taught myself to play the piano- imagining the sounds of each key on my walks home from school while composing tunes that I would teach my fingers to play when I got home. I wouldn't have ditched school, going home to birth worlds with my writing when it got too frustrating to be put down by students and teachers alike for not having the same set of skills the others seemed to possess naturally. I may not have attracted the affections of my recently betrothed.

On the same token, I get crippling anxiety attacks when I'm over stimulated in crowded public places. I have regularly scheduled nightmares. I often struggle to communicate with others. And I can't focus enough on one thing to finish my life's dream of being a writer. 

My hope is to understand this way of being, more self aware of the ups and downs, to use this blog as an exorcism for the ghosts rattling their distracting chains in my head while I'm trying to focus elsewhere. I write for an hour or more every morning anyways. Now, when it's clear that I am incapable of making progress on my novel, I want to use this space for whatever else is keeping me from it. 

This isn't a blog about being ADHD. This isn't about my home life, my job, my anxieties or fears- though I'm certain that those will all be common topics of conversation. This is about giving a corporeal form and a place to live for all of the thoughts I've been trying to suffocate into silence when I have other things to do, in hopes that after I've given them their space to be, they will leave me alone and let me get back to fulfilling my dreams.