like a cactus

What matters? Oh, what a difference a week makes! Or, as some would tell me, a few months.

What matters to me… God matters, but the way and amount in which He does changes and decreases less and less, affecting me less. Family used to matter. A lot. Family was paramount to everything. But tragedy, misfortune, and many years of apathy have worn down the sharp edges, leaving things soft and porous. Leaving me wonder how so much could go wrong without me even… caring.

Friends. Career. Personal well-being.

I can’t pretend someone stole away my regard for the important things. I made choices, though my understanding of the results of those choices came very late. Love, of course, must be nurtured or it withers. Friendships can fade or even turn sour, misunderstandings widening the rift. Working relationships falter, even fail to take root. Trust turns into disappointment and, finally, resentment.

The restoration of the lost, precious things is like losing weight. It is so easy to add on pounds but takes sweat, dedication, and not a small amount of humility at realizing the necessity of it all. You let it get this way. You let yourself go. Now you need to put in the time to gain back what you lost–assuming you can gain it back at all.

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shut up. i’m talking now

I understand that sometimes depressed people can be a major drag. Trust me. I’ve been there. They’re not real fun to be around. They’re a buzzkill. I get that sometimes you’d rather remove your own fingernails than hang out with a friend in the midst of depression. I get it.

Excuse me for saying, though, and pardon my language but sometimes–especially in those moments–we depressed folk need our friends to fucking be there.

There is nothing worse than feeling alone–except realizing you actually are alone.

Do we expect you to spit out some magic bullet that’ll make us feel better? No. But in a manner of speaking, your presence makes the difference. By sheer virtue of demonstrating (not just saying) that you give a shit, by making yourself available, you become a balm in an otherwise unbearable circumstance.

Do we expect you to put your life on hold? No, and don’t you dare ever suggest that. We feel shitty enough reaching out in the first place. We know you’d probably prefer to catch up on House of Cards. But if you’re a friend–if you say you’re a friend–then act like it and stop making us feel like the bad guy for practically begging you for a little bit of time.

If I seem upset, it’s because I’m not speaking rhetorically. This isn’t a hypothetical exercise. And no, I’m not too dependent on others, and no, my happiness doesn’t count on other people. When you need a friend, you need a friend. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And if you don’t have a friend and you need a friend… well, then you know what it’s like.

friends in strange places

I have trouble making friends.

I have trouble keeping friends.

But I’ve been… fortunate, lucky, blessed–whatever you would call it–to be making new friends. In unexpected places. I recently made a new friend while doing some freelance stuff. On the other hand, I’ve neglected my other friends. I don’t know why. I know it’s not “cool” to do that. To those friends who read this blog, I’m sorry. Really, I am. I promise to rectify things between us.

Socializing is hard. Maybe for everybody. I imagine there aren’t many people for which it comes naturally. But it’s especially difficult for an introvert. (I talked a little about this in a previous blog post.) Oddly, sadly, horribly, this struggle can apply even to my friends. Some understand this. Others don’t.

Maybe I’m a jerk for it.

I was just telling a buddy today that, although I’m not happy right now, I’m as close to it as I’ve been in a while. Some things are going pretty well. I’m writing and developing. I am socializing… just perhaps not everywhere I ought to be. I’m even losing weight, which astonishes me more than anyone. These are all very good things. Sometimes it feels like my life’s on hold, but that’s not always a bad thing. Maybe it’s the Chicago Cubs fan in me. It’s a rebuilding year, right? (It always seems to be a rebuilding year for them.) I want to believe that I’m rebuilding myself, and I’ve been doing it from the ground up. I need a lot of work, too. There are issues that run to the core I’ve wrestled with for years–or worse, ignored for years. So much scar tissue.

There are… many things I want to share. Words spilling out of me like a broken spigot, except I wouldn’t know how to turn it off. Stuff would tumble out: water, dreck, rust, who knows. Ugly things. Shameful things. Repugnant things. Things I desperately hope to keep locked away, maybe forever, at least until I can figure out how to face them and overcome them. I wonder, do I disappoint?

Today I tried to repair things with someone, a friend, a potential… something. I made a bad choice, a stupid choice. I knew what the right one was, but I didn’t make it. I didn’t know how, was afraid of what might happen next.

F*cking introvert issues.

I don’t know what’s going to happen now. Will she accept my apology? Probably. Will she give me another chance? I don’t know, and I can’t say that I deserve one. But I’ll hope for it, anyway.

Small steps. One friendship at a time. And hope they’ll still be there.

forcing it

If there’s anything I’ve learned this past NaNo, it’s that forcing it ain’t fun. Duh, you’re thinking. Well, duh back at you. Sometimes when the words don’t come, you gotta force it or face the blank page forever. Yeah, you can step away for a while. Read a book, go for a walk, watch TV, meditate, eat, etc. But eventually, you gotta get back in front of the screen and put some words down. Even if that means having to force it.

I’ve done a lot of forcing it this month in my mad effort to reach that 50k. So I made it, and that’s that, and wonderful I can move on. But the lesson sticks with me. Sometimes forcing it is necessary. Sometimes forcing it is not the right way to go.

Aside from the writing, part of the hair-pulling insanity has involved the evolution of whatever scene I’m working on. I have a pretty decent, detailed outline that I’ve been working from. But, as in war, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. My outline has been through several changes this NaNo, much to my frustration. Its current incarnation feels alright to me, but I won’t be surprised if it goes through major changes yet again. All that aside, I have been hard at work typing out a scene for it to suddenly try to veer off the rails. And I don’t mean my characters start speaking for themselves. I’m talking a full-on train wreck of the bad variety. When creativity goes wrong–which is totally possible. You’re not happy with the new trajectory of the scene, and you work and sweat and grunt to force it back on track. Well, good luck with that. It doesn’t always work out. But good luck.

This month, I’ve lost touch with some people I wish I hadn’t. And I know what you’re thinking–why not just pick up the phone and reach out? Yes, I could do that. But at this point… that would be totally forcing it. I’m not in a talky mood with most people. On the flip side, I’ve reconnected with a few others, and that’s been pretty awesome. But even that involved forcing it. Yeah. Sometimes with friendships, you need to force it. And sometimes you need to just let things go where they will. Even if that means they go nowhere.

There’s a young woman I’ve been doing the whole on again/off again thing with. Not intentionally, of course. (I’m not that much of a jackass.) But it is what it is, and things have been a little rough with her. We even tried forcing it (it being the relationship, don’t misinterpret me) because we’re obviously into each other. But it’s really not working out, and sometimes it’s okay if things don’t work out. There’s no need to force it just because you’re both into each other. Some people just don’t belong together, for whatever reason. Of course, neither of us seem that willing to call it quits, so… on we go with the efforts to force it!

Finally… and perhaps I mentioned this before, but I reconnected with my old, original writing partner. Well, it hasn’t been the blissful reunion I envisioned. She’s a busy woman, and I’m a depressed, antisocial sort of guy. So I don’t call. When I do call, she doesn’t answer or doesn’t return my call. Or when I do call, she really doesn’t have a lot of time. Sometimes we connect and spend some time working story out, but… it feels like (surprise) we’re just forcing it.

You sense a recurring pattern here? Am I being too subtle? Alas, she’s not so great with forcing it, so trying it in those moments involves some angry feelings about not having to write all the time, especially when we’re not feeling it. Fair enough. Hell, I agree with her. But for me, that leads to flabby writing muscles.

I just had a similar conversation with my mom a couple days ago. Sometimes, the temptation is to vegg out. Do nothing. With depression, this temptation quickly becomes the status quo, and–in my opinion–that is not a good thing. Relaxation is one thing. But lethargy is something else. With me, it’s usually just laziness. I have spent most of my life coasting through one endeavor or another, relying on my natural talent to carry me where I need to go. (Yeah, maybe that sounds a little dick-ish, but it’s true.) I never had to work hard at school to earn good grades. Writing papers was always easy–except for my last year in grad school.

I’ve wasted a lot of time not doing things I should’ve been doing. Why? Well, part of it is the depression. Those of you who are depressed or bi-polar know how hard it is to get started. It’s like running up a hill made of ice while wearing tap dance shoes.

Ironically, I took tap dance as a child. Now if I could just find those shoes…