I sit down to write, choosing a book that I haven't looked at for over a month as my target project. I do everything I can to sneak up on the page, sideways and peripherally, I sit down with my coffee like it's no big deal. Before I start, I reread the last two sentences. I know them by heart already. I have been here quite a while. I have opened this document and closed it a dozen times. I like where I am. Of all my projects, it feels like it's the closest to completion. The best shot I have of turning my morning torture sessions into something viable.
I was spaced out before I reached the end of the two sentences, coming into consciousness as if I'd been physically knocked out. Gaining awareness over my surroundings first and then wondering where my mind had gone, I realized that I was dissecting a problem from work again. I've been trying to distance myself, make my staff more responsible for the daily maintenance of our store and keep the boundaries between my work life and personal life more secure, but I have failed to find that balance. My mind is not my own. I rely on tricks and mental traps to keep it from bursting, but I can feel a beast feeding on my patience, adapting to my tricks and traps, watching me back. It's like staring down a wolf, both frozen, each waiting for the other to make a move in a deadly game of chicken. I know that if I stay perfectly still, the wolf is helpless to do the same, but it's only a matter of time until fear provokes action and we both know it.
I feel like I've sold off mental real estate to the company I work for, trading it for security and a house full of things that are not my dream. I can't blame my job- the truth is, I like my work and I'm good at it. Yesterday, in fact, I was just granted the highest Leadership Rating any other in my position has received to date, out of roughly 4,500 people. Part of me was proud, but there was a trade happening and I knew it. That rank cost me time spent. Years of working steadfast towards someone else's security, fulfilling someone else's dream. My mental real estate didn't hold much value to me ten years ago, when I first started here and was about to be a dad. When I fell in love and had to rise to the challenge of being an adult, providing security for the people I love most in the world in order to be worthy of holding onto them. Obviously, this is not their fault either. I love to put more pressure on myself than what's required. I fill my head daily with the imagined thoughts of others, with guilt I harbor for things that I have thought about doing. I feel guilt over relaxing and not working. I feel ashamed when I am working and not writing. I feel disheartened when I am failing to produce any written material that furthers it as a career, that I have traded time to fail at writing rather than invest in my relationships with my son, with my fiancee, with my family and friends.
Mental Real Estate was a booming market in my early twenties. Partially out of naivete and part necessity, I traded space in my head to develop the skills and attention I needed to advance my career. In a lot of ways, the trade prepared me to be a better dad, a better partner, and even a more structured and disciplined writer. The skills I picked up and the maturity I have gained has made me a better person, but it hasn't yielded fruit towards my dreams of making a living as a writer of novels. Piece by piece I've tried to buy back the landscape in my head, but it's not for sale. I want to make better use of my time, but it's not really mine anymore. I've locked eyes with the wolf. Hypnotized, but coming into consciousness. Waiting for the memory of that thing that drew me towards the edge of the forest in the first place to light my muscles like a spark, to set me off running with the wolf no longer in front of me, but rather nipping at my heels.