What Was I Doing Again?

It’s been difficult to write blog posts lately.  I start writing them in my head, sit down at the computer, click my word processor button, and while I’m waiting for my computer to boot the program (a whole second), I boot another program.  While it’s booting I’ll have time to check everything on the internet right?  I really should read all of those blogs I follow, and, hey, there’s a link, that looks interesting.  Before I know it, I have 30-50 tabs open on my computer screen.  It’s 3 A.M.  I meant to go to bed by 4 at the latest.  It is time for bed.  But no, I can’t go to bed.  Not yet, because I forgot to eat today, and I forgot to do the dishes so that I could make food.  My work clothes are dirty and I should wash them.  Well, I’ll just start by filling up the sink and doing a presoak.  Then I’ll finish reading the tabs.  No, I’ll have a cigarette while I pace rabidly.  That’ll perk me up, help me focus.  I could have coffee, no tea, no, too much caffeine.  It’s 3:30 A.M. now, and I have to be to work by 2 P.M.  Maybe I should set everything out for tomorrow so that I’m not late for work.

Everything’s all “Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey,” as a well known television Doctor would say.

 

Okay, I’m back inside from my cigarette.  I take off my glasses because they’re steamed up from coming in from the cold, and see my hotpot.  Right, tea.  I fill up my hotpot with water.  I’ll just sit down at the computer again, and then I’ll…well, it would be fun to play a video game, right?  I’ll just shut down the Apple side of my computer and load the Windows partition.  What, computer?  I still have fifteen tabs open?  I’d better read those.  Read 3 tabs, open 16 more.  I should really get up and make dinner, but I’ll just finish reading these.  Of course I won’t open any more webpages.  But this one looks interesting.  Okay, it’s opened.  I’ll read it in a couple of minutes, after I read this other stuff.

 

There’s that eerie water sound.  Oh, tea!  I wasn’t supposed to make tea, because that has caffeine and I need to sleep.  I guess I could drink something herbal.  I’m supposed to be making dinner.  There are those dishes in the sink that I’m supposed to be washing.  It’s getting really late.  I’ll just wash the ones I need for dinner tonight.  Maybe I can get up early, or I’ll do them the first thing when I get home from work tomorrow.   All right I’ve washed a pan and plate.  I’ll just set those down right here next to the hotpot.  Oh!  Tea.  Right.  Okay, set that down over there, where I can drink it once I’ve made dinner.

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Crud.  I’m tired.  One more cigarette then I’ll make dinner.  I swear.  Back inside, I finally pour my food into pans and start it heating.  While the butter is melting I might find the time to brush my teeth, and set out a few things for dinner, so I start doing that, but every 30 seconds I’m running back to look at the butter to see if it’s melted yet.  I’m not used to these electric stoves; my timing is off compared to work, but finally I get to dump in the hash browns.

 

I realize I can’t see.  Where did I put my glasses?  One of those fifteen spots I lay them down?  Oh, golly, I have a lot of clutter.  I really need to clean the house.  Tomorrow I’ll…

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The glare from the light in the kitchen is painful and pretty at the same time. Those streamers of light are so interesting. I wouldn’t be able to see them if I was wearing my glasses. I should really find my glasses.

 

I ask Mr. Wonderful if he’s seen my glasses, and the third great glasses hunt of the evening begins.  I should really stop taking those things off my face.

 

The hash browns needed to be flipped, now.  I ought to start the eggs.  Where’s that other pan?  I never washed it, of course.  Resume cooking dinner, but it’s dreadfully dull just waiting like this.  I’m used to have 50 meals going at once.  I’ll read a book.  By the time I finish making dinner I’ll remember the five other things I needed to wash to make/eat dinner.  I’ll set the book down, wash another dish, pick up another book.  Okay.  Dinners done.  I walk back over to my computer and realize that I forgot to bring dinner with me.  I start reading again.  Eventually an article reminds me of something in my house/Mr. Wonderful manages to get my attention.  I glance over.  My dinner is cold.  I eat a few bites of it.  “Five more minutes, please?  I promise.”  I mean what I say to him, but when I look up at the clock another 45 minutes have gone by.  Mr. Wonderful is giving me that look.

 

“What?” I demand defensively.  “If you’d stop distracting me, I could get this done.”

 

He sighs, “Nothing.”

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Yup. Mr. Wonderful looks just like this.

 

I look up from my computer fifteen minutes later.  “It’s not nothing.”

 

“Huh?”  Mr. Wonderful has given up on me and started playing a computer game.  I can’t think with all that noise.  I glare at him.  He rolls his eyes and puts on headphones, but I look at the clock and finally the panic clicks.  The effect of my procrastination has finally dawned on me: if I don’t get my act together now, work tomorrow will be like slogging through waist deep sludge.

 

“Fine,” I say, forcing myself to shut my computer down and dragging my dinner over to the television next to him.  “Let’s watch something.  I need to eat anyway.”

 

I will do everything I didn’t do today tomorrow.  I mean it this time.  I will be better.  I can’t sleep for thinking about the thousands of ways I will be better.

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This is probably how other people see me. Worse, I believe it about myself.

 

The next morning when I wake up and stumble groggily around my house, I will find a cup of tea that I never drank, a plate half full of food on the floor next to the couch, five books on the counters/dining room table/sitting on a chair.  I won’t know where my keys or glasses are.  I will be frantic that I am going to be late again, even though I set my alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier than the day before.  I can’t figure out where my coat is.  When I go to put on my work clothes, I realize that they are still dirty and I forgot to wash them.

 

I will do it all when I get home in the evening.  Except that I won’t.

 

But…this whole scenario?  That’s if I even get to my computer.  I think I might need my ADD medications back.  If only I could focus long enough to find my phone and call my doctor.

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Deadlocked

I’m standing on the other side of the door, trying to reason with my mind, which always seems to have at least half a dozen reasons why it won’t do what I want it to do.  I want my mind to grant me access (It’s my mind!  Come on, already!) so I spend considerable time arguing with it, constructing logical arguments, and building creative keys from scratch so that I can barge my way in.  Most keys only seem to work once; winning a debate usually results in ominous silence.

I imagine my mind’s part of the conversation is something along the lines of:

What’s that?  You want to actually write something?  Well, that’s too bad.  Haven’t you heard you’re closed for construction?  Why?  We had to replace the lock after the last time you broke in.  Oh, and did I mention that tomorrow I’m taking a mental health day?

Curse you, brain.  I’m not a victim of a writer’s block, not really.  The logical part of me knows that if I sit down and write something, even if it’s crap, eventually the crap will get better.  I’m a victim of myself and my perfectionism, complete with constant questioning and self-doubt.  Being a victim of myself seems silly, but there it is.  Why can’t I just kick myself in the pants?

I think about writing all the time, but lately I haven’t been doing any.  I could whinge on about being sick, or all the things I keep trying to do instead, because they are, after all, really important, doncha know?  My old self wouldn’t have bought it; heck, my old self wouldn’t even be in this mess.  Old me would have ignored the pile up of dishes and trash, if not the paying of bills.  She would have told Mr. Wonderful she needed half the evenings in the week just to write and that he’d have to find his own something to do, would have called off sick even though she wasn’t just to get a writing day, and would have a notepad or laptop with her anytime she could have been writing while doing something else—and then she would have forgotten what the other thing she was doing was.  Now I go outside for a cigarette and rehash the same plot points in my head, search hopelessly for a meaningful blog post.  I don’t write a word, and if I do manage to sit down and start something, I wind up scrapping it for one of the following reasons: incoherent, stupid, potentially offensive, boring, and where is this going anyway?

At some point, I confess, I became disgusted with old me.  It’s not that she was a bad person, but she was a little arrogant, at least when it came to writing.  Old me would never have plotted or outlined or researched something she wrote or even recognized that those things could have utility or apply to her.  When old me wrote, she would look back and be reasonably satisfied with what she wrote, maybe even elated.  A few days later old me would decide she could do better, oh yes, but she hadn’t found something loathsome in every word she wrote, sometimes even before it spilled on to the page.  Old me thought she could figure everything out on her own, and blast advice and planning.  She had a story to tell, and she was going to tell it.

I loved that story too much to continue destroying my storytelling through hubris, but I curtailed my pride so sharply that I let my perfectionism take control to the point of inaction.  I’m so afraid of failing my story and characters that I can’t even toss out a sentence, but if I don’t write, won’t I be failing them in the worst way of all?

At least this blog post is something…about not doing something.  Heh.

Poor Excuses for Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

Hello.  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I mean, it’s been a month or so since I posted, and I really ought to fix that.  I’d like to say that I’ve spent my hiatus profitably, churning out chapter after chapter with the efficiency of a printing press, or that at the very least, I wrote a poem or short story or two, but that would be a lie, and we all know what happens to liars, don’t we?

I imagine this condition results in enlarged nostrils, and as such is not recommended. Of course, there are other ways to grow an exceptionally long nose. If you’re a klepto princess who spited some hard working soldiers, for instance, you should be wary of people in disguise offering you pears. Or was it an apple?

Okay.  The truth is I tried to write a few poems, and I spent a lot of time trying to come up with short story ideas.  These efforts were largely unsuccessful.  I even have a few partial and completed blog posts resting on my computer, but I either was unable to finish them or found them too offensive/whiny/depressing for publication.

I might be a wee bit afraid of controversy. You’d think anonymity would free me from this fear, especially since controversy is a great way to attract readers, but it doesn’t. I’m settling for inserting large amounts of pointless pictures instead. I hear people love pictures.

So what have I been doing?  I’m sure my readers want a blow by blow of every tedious aspect of my life in the last month, so I’ll let you in on the joys of my coveted existence.

No, shockingly this image isn't of me. You should be jealous anyway.

I’ve been sick a lot, probably because restaurants, the places that ideally should not have sick people running around infecting the rest of the population, seem to be overrun with them.  There’s never enough labor to go around in a restaurant, and someone usually has something.  Or several somethings.  Or several someones have somethings.  No one’s going home, and no one’s going to work for anyone else, and we’re all tired and run down and catch everything from each other, let it mutate, and then pass it back to the people who infected us.  Also, despite all of the perfectly normal, wonderful customers out there, there’s always someone like this:

Customers like this encourage substance abuse, and alcohol and cigarettes depress your immune system, folks.

As a friendly aside, I recommend that if you’re prone to catching every bug you come into contact with that you avoid restaurants during cold and flu season.  Likewise, if you are sick, maybe you should stay home and have chicken noodle soup or something instead of infecting the rest of us, yeah?  If you’re an entomologist, you shouldn’t be able to catch a bug in a restaurant, anyway; if you can, please call the health department.  ‘Nuff said.

While I was reclining on my couch, feeling thoroughly unmotivated, I thought I’d catch up on some video games.  If a bizarre obsession with saving virtual characters from scrapes made me a “good” person, I’d be an angel by now.

Virtual me: defender of justice!

In the meantime, my house cleaning went from poor to preposterous.  The instant I felt better, I was compelled to clean.  One can only eat so many dishes off of paper plates.

Then my car broke down, and I discovered that it had two leaks in the engine, so I had to have it towed to the dealership so it could be fixed.  I know, dear reader, that you’re probably thinking that having it taken anywhere else would probably be cheaper, but the last time I let someone else work on my car, the consequences were nearly catastrophic.

If I hadn’t taken it in when I did, this would have been the end result. Explosions are fun in the movie theatre, but not when you’re sitting in the vehicle in question.

Mmm…fire.  Sorry, what?  Right.  I was telling you, um, stuff.  The day I got my car back, I made the brilliant nutritional choice of having nachos for dinner.  Normally microwaves leave the middle a little undercooked, but my microwave, after making weird whiny sounds for the last month, thought that catching the middle of my nachos on fire was a great idea.  I decided to take that as a sign, so yesterday I bought a new one, and that led to more housecleaning.

It’s really hard to write when one’s house ought to be declared a national disaster area.  Do you think I could use my poor housekeeping as a deduction on my taxes?  No?  Oh, okay, then.

The positive news is that none of these things were really as horrible as they sound and they’re all taken care of now.  Also, I’m going on vacation in less than a month, and I get to see my parents and my grandparents!  Ah, life.  It’s really not so bad, even if I could be more productive.  Maybe while I’m on vacation?

Everyone Else is Doing It…

Originally I had no intention of making a New Year’s Resolution.  Why wait for that one day a year to roll around only to inevitably fall behind for a day or two, beat myself up for it, and then glibly excuse myself entirely within a few days or weeks of making the resolution in the first place?  I can do that anytime!  I already have, in fact.  Whatever happened to three blog posts a week?

5 months ago, my laptop screen decided it had a pinched or breaking wire somewhere and refused to display unless it was held at an exacting inward angle, requiring this unfortunate writer to slouch, hunchback fashion.  Not being the sort of individual who enjoys having my nose brushing against my fingers as I type, I decided it was time for an upgrade.  Sure, I could have handed my laptop off to a tech-savvy family member for a week or two and gotten this little problem fixed free of charge.  But no.   No one takes my favorite writing tool away from me.  Ever.  I’m particular that way.  I once cried for two hours because I lost my favorite writing pencil.  I was fifteen.  To be fair, it wasn’t exactly a pencil I could replace.  Luckily for my suffering mother, who had to listen to my incessant whining all evening, I found it the next day and I still have it.

So, because I’m a bit quirky, and maybe a bit of an obsessive control freak, especially when it comes to my writing, off I went to peruse the internet for a financially sound, sane purchase that met my needs without being too glitzy.  My computer must meet one criterion: transportable word processor.  I don’t care about how quickly it can compile code, if the graphics are pretty, or what the video and audio card specs are so that I can play the latest PC game.  Although…RAM is nice.

30 minutes later, I was suffering from a massive case of buyer’s remorse.  I’m not exactly sure how I found myself in this state, but I know now how the advertising department at Apple earns their paychecks.  I never made it past that first internet page of glossy photos and alluring descriptions.  They’re good!  I’m normally fiscally prudent and violently resistant/skeptical when it comes to advertising, but this time, oh, this time I needed that computer.   My thoughts, roughly, at time of purchase:  “Oooo…shiny!

Now I had a ridiculously expensive computer, far beyond what I could actually want or truly need.  I did try, before Enheduanna (the laptop) shipped, to convince Mr. Wonderful that I should cancel the order.  “Oh, but you deserve it,” placated he who hasn’t been in charge of the checking account in years, even though I explained in deep, depressing detail the sort of financial trouble I might have just gotten us into.  I think he thought he’d get to play with my shiny new machine.  Hah!  I’ll share a great many things, but tools of a craft are personal.  Besides, he has his own computer.

Having obliterated my savings account, I naturally had to get my money’s worth out of Enheduanna to justify my ludicrous spending binge.  I explored every application.  My favorite, besides the word processor, turned out to be of the generic, life organizing program variety: iCal.  I have fond memories of sitting down on a daily basis with a sibling and scheduling every moment of my summer vacations to their utmost capacity (of course, we used scrap paper).  We accomplished an extraordinary amount that summer; we were happy.  I am always happiest, and at my most productive, when my life is rigidly scheduled.  Normally I am a messy house, scattered, chronically tardy, disorganized, completely ADD, “Mr. Wonderful, have you seen my glasses, keys, phone, etc.,” kind of person.  Schedules help me function like a typical human being, and the more exacting they are the better.  Oh, how I love iCal.  I have it set as a start up program, so it greets me the second I turn on my computer.  For the first few weeks I made fantastic progress on my goals, but then I stopped using it.  Every time my little life changing program pops up, I click the close button.  Of course iCal was the first thing I saw when I turned my computer on today, and suddenly I was reminded of what a big difference such a little thing has always made in my life.

My New Year’s Resolution is to stop clicking that close button.  I’ve found that scheduling encourages me to be cognizant of how much time I have and how realistic I’m being about my goals.  Even if I slip sometimes or go outside of the scheduled time frame, I’m still accomplishing more than I usually do.  I know when the last time I did x important thing was.  I know how much more time to allot for next time so I’m not disappointed that I didn’t get everything I thought I could accomplish done that day, and I waste a lot less time.  I get more housework, writing, and other hobbies done.  I am more organized, more punctual, and less dissatisfied, all because I took ten or fifteen minutes a day to plan out a framework for action.  This is a New Year’s Resolution I can actually keep, and even if I forget for a day or two, it’s easy to get back on track.  Besides, Enheduanna will remind me.

I’d like to blame…

myself.  Gluten-intolerance.  Random bouts of illness.  The restaurant industry.  The chaotic nature of fate.

Does it matter?

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog like I said I would.  I haven’t been doing much writing, either.

When I started my novel for what felt like at least the hundredth time, I wrote the first four chapters in a month, one a week, a page or four a day.  I wrote the next two chapters the month after that, and chapter 7 was finally finished sometime that August.  I think.  I started the current rewrite in December 2009.  I “finished” chapter 12 last week.  Less than thrilled by my lackluster progress, I’m now back to trying to buy a ticket to forward my novel along by plane.  This covered wagon nonsense is getting stale.  So are the hard-tack biscuits.

If I could eat biscuits.  Sigh.  Well, that’s one explanation for why everything in my life seems to be on standby.  After the first 15 years of non-stop headaches and stomachaches, my body realized I still hadn’t gotten the message and decided that, hey, maybe organ failure would be a more pertinent clue.  I remained oblivious, so my body escalated its tactics.  By the time I finally got the idea that, hey, something was seriously wrong, I was doing my utmost to simply remain upright at work without passing out and tumbling into a fryer or landing on a flat top.  Mr. Wonderful was carrying me to bed, propping me up while I took showers, and putting up with the fact that I was too exhausted to brush my teeth despite my “delightful” descent into cigarette and coffee addiction, because hey, funny thing, smoking helps mitigate some of the symptoms of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance (even if your body is still destroying itself from the inside out).  Smoking was the only thing holding my wildly swinging mood in any sort of check, and coffee was the only way I could function at work.  I frequently couldn’t walk without limping because my joints kept swelling up.  It was a daily struggle to remember where I was and what I was doing, never even mind why I was there.  I couldn’t play video games, or look at a television, or even read a book, because I couldn’t concentrate and it was too exhausting to hold a book open or push the buttons on the controller.  Besides, bright light was excruciating, and staring at a neon screen even more so.  Mr. Wonderful kept having to grab my hands to keep me from itching all of my skin off.  I spent all of my days off staring at walls for hours until I heard my husband’s key turning in the lock and started wondering where the time had gone.  I couldn’t sleep despite the exhaustion, and when I woke up I felt worse than when I had gone to bed.  Eating was almost impossible.  I ate once every seventy-two hours, watching my body distort into an emaciated wreck and hating it, but food tasted terrible, and swallowing and chewing were only achieved by conscious effort.  Besides, I had to plan for an extra half hour after every meal just for the after effects.  I’d look in the mirror and see a pregnant skeleton, protruding belly and ribs.  I wondered if I was anorexic and didn’t know it.  How could my stomach be so out of proportion with the rest of me, especially when I hadn’t eaten anything?  Surely I had to be seeing things, but I always felt even worse after I ate.

My doctors were as clueless as I was.  Worse, they thought I was a hypochondriac, because they’d ran me through every battery of tests they could think of, and I’d come back with praise worthy blood pressure and blood tests that looked like they were taken from a medical text book for the ideal numbers.  They recommended that I get some more exercise.  I began to believe it was all in my head, too, or that I was simply weak, and my job was too demanding.  “My job is killing me,” became my favorite joke, and then I started repeating other little phrases: “I think I can,” to myself, “I’m fine,” to inquiring friends, coworkers, and neighbors, or to my husband when he found me passed out on the floor a few too many times.  There was “You’re just lazy” and “Just get up and do it”.  Honestly, though, I wanted to know why I couldn’t find a single speck of joy in anything I used to love or care about, and that was probably the worst thing of all.

If you think this sounds like an excuse, it’s because it is.  I’ve been gluten-free for about eleven months now, and every day seems like a miracle.  I’ve done more in these past eleven months than I did in the five years of my life previous to that point.  Everything except writing.  If you look at the dates above, you’ll see I wrote over half of what I’ve written of my novel so far while I was still ingesting gluten.  Part of that was because trying to work was so painfully aggravating to the condition that I was reaching for even highly improbably chances of escape.  Ah, motivation.  The other part was that writing was the only thing I had ever cared about that still gave me any sort of satisfaction, and I needed that “fix”.  Oh, yes, I did.  The point remains that, despite the fact that writing was a struggle, I still did it anyway.

The past few weeks I’ve had a cold.  So what?

The restaurant is still a grueling, exhausting environment, getting more precariously stressful, it seems, with each passing day.  Every Tuesday, I’m honored with the dubious task of making pizzas and breathing in the swirling flour clouds.  Every workday, one of my employees will inevitably ask me to taste some sauce or some other something whatsit that has been thickened with roux.  If I’m lucky I can usually find a way to bow out, but usually, foolishly, I accede, only to reap the consequences later.  My job, and my own stupidity, are quite literally killing me.

I got roped into this job because I listened to a story character, who insisted that I needed to learn to cook and exist in an industrial kitchen environment if I was going to write my novel with any degree of authenticity.  I can’t quit, because I thought it was a great idea to go to college at one point, and now I have a great deal of crippling student loan debt that I can’t pay if I accept a lower paying job (which is all that’s available at the moment), even if it’s for my own health.  I went to college because gluten intolerance was wreaking psychological havoc, and after I learned quite a few things about dealing with that havoc, I decided that I wanted to share the relief with other people if they were willing.  Besides, knowing basic human psychology has got to be great for writing convincing story characters, right?

It’s days like these when the threads twisting throughout my life, interconnected and overlapping as they may be, feel like a noose closing in around my neck.  Writing gives me a sense of euphoria, accomplishment, change.  It doesn’t matter if I am ever published or if my novel ever nets me so much as a dollar (although both would be nice, no denying); I simply like the work and the way I feel afterwards.  Ah, there’s my ticket.  Best prepare to board the plane.

Doing it for Myself, Pretending I Did it For Someone Else

In the last three days, I’ve finished Chapter 12, completed and posted a poem, and made a thirty item list of potential blog topics.  I may also have settled on the plot of the novella I want to write for a contest.  Social pressure, real or imagined, is apparently an amazing motivation for me.  I’ve never been good about following through on promises I make to myself; I’ll procrastinate until frustration mounts to volcanic levels, or at least until I collapse into a pathetic self-pitying heap and realize that I’ll never stop demeaning myself until I actually do something besides bringing home a paycheck and paying the bills.  Despite a blemish-free history of solitary homework procrastination, where the telltale feel of warm paper slipping into my professor’s hands was always a humiliating revelation that, yes, I had just printed that assignment, I’ve always behaved myself for groups.  I cannot stand to let someone else suffer because of my actions, or lack thereof.  In brief, I hate disappointing others.  When I was 10, my mother woke up at 4 one morning, and seeing the light on in the living room, was mystified (oh, all right–appalled) to discover her youngest child sprawled on the carpet with an ancient, clacking typewriter because I had promised to type the entire report so the rest of my group members didn’t have to.  Did I mention I’m completely craven when it comes to taking on responsibility, even if it’s more than I can handle?

“Of course, I’ll…”

“Oh, it’s no problem; I’ll do it!”

And so on.  Earlier this evening my manager came back from the bar and  was surprised to see that I was still at work while my coworkers had been gone for almost an hour.  “You know you can make them stay and help you, right?” he reminded me.  “Oh, yeah, of course, but it’s sort of my job…” I began in wishy-washy fashion, knowing full well that I could have shoved at least 30% of what I do every night off on the newbies, who I have seniority, and *gulp*, position over (technically; I try not to think about that part).

I finished work and went home, and that’s when I finally asked myself, “When was the last time I did something, just for me?”

Answer: I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe this blog is the answer to that question.  After all, a blog is a pretty convenient way of deluding myself into believing there’s social pressure when in all actuality I’m the one who makes the promises, sets the guidelines, and reaps the benefits.  I could, theoretically, drop off the blogging radar at any time, and the person my disappearance would most effect would be me.  Isn’t the real reason I’m blogging because I know I need an illusion to motivate myself into actually doing something I want to do?  I think it is.

So, in reality, I started a blog as self-manipulation, and it’s actually working.

I’ve never been so proud.