Ko-Fi

Saturday, April 29, 2017

This Echo Chamber World

It's 1:36AM and I'm supposed to be writing.  I have a short story that has fought me every paragraph of the way to the end that I have re-written four times.  I firmly believe I have it where I want it but for the last 1/4.  

It's time for the Big Dramatic and Violent End that leaves the reader wondering.  It's time for that twist we all love to read.  

And I'm blocked.  

I don't have a fucking clue how to finish this thing and it's supposed to be sent off in less than 24 hours.  

My brain failing me.  It's not coming up with something awesome.  Sure, it's coming up with all kinds of other bullshit.  But it's just not creating new things.  And I really can't fail this time.  I can't.  

I took a shower to see if that helped and it didn't.  Nothing has thus far.  Usually I make ice cream at these junctures but I haven't done that because the cream I bought is too thin.  It lacks the needed amount of milk solids and the dairy doesn't really give a shit.  

Why not?  They get cream, and they sell it to their biggest client--some butter maker.  The private shits like me buy what is left in the vat.  Since December, the butter maker has figured out a way to scoop up or suck up all of the milk solids from the vat for themselves, leaving behind a thin cream.  That's great for them because they buy the same volume with less waste but it sucks for me.  

It sucks for the little old ladies who buy cream there for their pies.  

That means I have to cook down and reduce the cream base more than usual.  Maybe add more dry non-fat milk, too.  

I can solve that problem but I'm not able to solve this writer's block.  

There's something else, too.  Something most of you don't know.  It's not a secret but it's not something I talk about much.  

I'm a much better poet than I am a fiction writer.  Poetry was my thing from the beginning and one of the first things I ever got published.  I'm a damned good poet when I put my heart and brain into it.  And for some reason I haven't in years.  

That urge is there once again.  It's more than an urge.  Urge isn't the right word.  

The best way I can describe it is when you are with a woman, and she's leaning against you, her back resting against your chest, her head leaning back against your shoulder.  You can smell her hair.  You can smell her skin.  

You put your hands on top of her hands, fingers intertwining.  You look down at her face and it is serene.  She is comfortable with you in that moment.  You.  She wants to be with you.  Of all the people in this world, she has chosen you.  You know all the shit wrong with you and at the moment, you don't want to correct her and tell her she's fucking up.  Instead, you want to lean down and softly kiss her on her neck, just below her ear, just in that right spot.  You want to put your lips to her skin and gently kiss her as she closes her eyes and allows herself to be taken with that moment.  

That is the urge I feel.  The need to press my lips against her skin and make her feel, and know, that at the single moment in time, there is nothing else I'd rather do, no place I'd rather be, and nobody else I'd rather be with, than her.  

And no, I haven't left my apartment in days.  I don't have a reason to.  

But that's not everything.  Not the writing, or the thin cream, or the poetry.  

There's something else.  

When love is drained from a heart it leaves behind a residue.  You can't remove it.  You can't scrub it loose.  It lingers behind.  

So you think of them.  You think of that person you cared about no matter how toxic they were.  No matter how bad of an idea it was.  No matter how badly they hurt you without a care, as if you were a paper airplane on a rainy day just as the sun started to poke through.  Your thoughts still to go them.  And you feel their absence as if it were still the first day of it being over.  

When someone is the first person you think of in the morning and the last person you think of at night for months on end, they leave a mark on your soul.  You know you didn't leave a mark on their soul.  You know you weren't nearly important enough to them to do that.  You were nothing more than cardinal on their lilac tree just outside their kitchen window.  Sure, they saw you, and maybe even watched your for a minute or two, but by lunchtime, they will have totally forgotten you even existed.  
But I haven't left my apartment in days.  People are worried about me again.  I'm gaining weight, my levels are totally out of balance, and I simply don't feel engaged enough in this reality to do much about it.  Other people are just shadows in the fog and they don't see me reaching out to them.  

Six days ago, my heart rate was so erratic it was causing a lot of pain.  I made a mental note to take my potassium gluconate pills then forgot about it.  It got worse.  Finally, there was the fluttering that wouldn't stop.  And the wallops from side to side, as if my heart was a tennis ball inside my chest, and it was trying to get out.  Or a mis-firing motor with crossed plug wires.  

Three days ago, I crossed my arms in front of my chest, gasped for air, and waited.  If it passed, I told myself, I'd take my potassium.  Within just a few minutes of taking it, I felt fine.  Great, even.  But my chest hurt like hell for about half the day after.  

Shadows in the fog.  The smallest light is blinding the and only in darkness can I relax.  

After this short story gets done (and I think I know how to finish it) I'm going to write poetry once again.  It's time.  And I need to.  I can feel it being My Path.  

I'm going to finish this short story before I go to bed.  I think I know what to do and how to do it.  Once that is submitted, things are going to change.  They have to.  

     

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I Believe I Can Crash

Sometimes madness is a warm blanket wrapped around our shoulders on a cold morning after we just woke up.  Or, as it is in my case, afternoon.  My sleep patterns are still all fucked up.

Yesterday, I was able to get two stories sent off to a couple of magazines.  I'd like to say I have high hopes but the truth is my low self-esteem won't allow it.  Instead it's a weird bet with poor odds.

My mind has been racing lately.  Anxiety is like rocket fuel for these thoughts and then suddenly somebody hits the brakes and I crash into oblivion.  

Oblivion, sweet oblivion.  

I need to submit more short stories.  I need to write more good ones, too.  Instead of being cute and trying to be somebody I'm not, I've found my best work comes when I just need to get the shit out of my head.  I haven't been meditating enough lately, either, so there's a lot of shit to get rid of.

So here's what I'm working on right now:

I need to establish a routine.  I'm so bad at this!  Part of the reason is that routines are something adults have and part of me is still a rebellious teenager who refuses to conform.  But I've rebelled so much I'm not even conforming to humanity.  I'm pretty far out there--almost feral.

So I need routines and patterns.  Another reason I refuse to is how I have clung to the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson a bit too much, specifically a quote I learned in high school, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  That's funny when you think about it, because he preached self-reliance and I'm far from it.  I am, however, unique.  That's one thing I've got going in my favor--I'm not like anybody else you'll ever meet.


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds--Ralph Waldo Emerson


But I need routines.  I need consistency so I can adapt positive and healthy behaviors.  Because right now, I'm a train wreck.

I have found it is incredibly hard to do positive things for yourself when you do not have a habit, ritual, routine, or pattern.  And I'm all over the place.

So that's what I'm working on.  My entire being is fighting against this and that reaction has been difficult to suppress.  I keep wanting to just go do my own thing.  I don't do well in restrictive environments.

But I'm paying for that now.  Years of doing my own thing, not listening to anybody, not following rules, not existing within the confines of acceptable living protocols, have all added up to a series of problems--a crisis of living.

This is more than just me being an obstinate jerk.  It goes far beyond the usual rebellion and like many things in my life, it has a dark history.

Here's what happened:

I've said this before but when I was a kid, I was confident I wasn't a human being.  Between the abuse and a number of other factors, I was disconnected from myself and the rest of the world around me.  I was so isolated I came to the conclusion that I was not a human being.

Because I wasn't a human being, the rules didn't apply to me, either.  In my clouded mind, I decided that I didn't have to play everybody else's reindeer games, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.  I was on my own already, what were they going to do?  Really, really not invite me to birthday parties?  Really, really not go on dates with me?  Really, really make fun of me?

This was a bad reaction to events many humans encounter.  I realized that a long time ago.  In many ways, I'm not dealing with the effects of my past so much as my reactions to those events.  My reactions to those events created a series of issues and those are the things I'm recovering from and surviving, not the events themselves.

I did this to myself.  And that means I need to fix this myself.

I have no idea how.

They say habits are formed by doing something four times.  So, right now I'm looking at simple choices I can make in order for me to start slow with positive habits and routines.  It is way harder than it sounds.  In many respects it feels positively Herculean and I could use some help.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sink, You Bastard! Sink!



Every April, it's the same old shit.  I turn on the television and it's some fucking documentary about the Titanic and how it sank.  At this point, does anybody even fucking care?

I mean, it was a big boat.  It sank.  Big fucking deal.

Yeah, sure, it was a horrible thing.  But life is full of horrible things.  Life is full of atrocities and acts of perverse violence.  Sometimes, these things happen because some captain full of hubris didn't bother to steer away from icebergs in the water.  Other times, these things happen because life is ugly and full of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and syphilis.   Horrible things happen all the time yet for some reason we romanticise the Titanic as if there was something magical about it all.

There isn't.

I'm proud to say I've never seen the movie about it--Titanic.  Never.

It was a huge hit when I lived in Korea.  People thought for sure I'd seen it.  When I told them I hadn't, it was like I hit them between the eyes with a 2 X 4.

I would tell them, "I like movies where I don't already know the ending."  The ship sank--The End.

But yet parts of our society are just fascinated by this.  Every year in April, around the anniversary of her sinking, cable television is flooded with lurid shows going over the mysterious details as is all of that post-mortem would somehow offer a better explanation.

The boat sank.  That's it.  It doesn't matter how fast the men in the boiler room were shoveling coal.  It doesn't matter how dark it was.  It doesn't matter who had their wireless telegraph machines turned off for the night.  It just doesn't matter.

Yet for some reason, people seem to act like it does.

Easter is full of weird memories like that.  My grandfather passed away in his sleep at the ripe young age of 93 about a week before Easter.  His funeral was the same weekend as the Chernobyl disaster. What I remember most about that was the lack of information.  It was deep in the Cold War and American news was severely lacking.

My mom and I were driving across Iowa, scanning the radio for something decent to listen to, and while she drove her 1976 Chevy Nova, I turned the radio dial.  I stumbled upon a news broadcast out of Canada.  It was two men and they were getting information--real information.  It was through them we were able to learn just how terrifying things had become.

Those of us who were around back then have a different memory of these events.  It started with a curious but grave news broadcast stating that extremely high levels of radiation were detected all throughout Eastern and Northern Europe.  Norway, especially, and they were stating it wasn't from any of their facilities.

People suspected Russia.  Something had to have happened there but Russia, the Soviet Union, said repeatedly it wasn't them and nothing had happened.

And then they said there was a small accident.  But the radiation levels were so high, it was as if a nuclear bomb had gone off.  Radiation filled the skies.

I remember when the radiation reached the United States.  I remember people going outside with geiger counters and getting levels to register for the first time ever.

I remember people going to the store to buy water.

It's curious what a memory will do.  It's curious what we forget.

When I first came back to the US from Korea, I scrapped together money from the two jobs I worked, and sent care packages to my wife and daughter when I could.  The last one I sent was an Easter basket.  It was as large as I could afford.

It was candy, fake grass, and a stuffed, white Easter bunny.

A few years later, my wife sent me pictures of my daughter.  In one of those pictures, she was holding that rabbit.  It was well-worn and had seen better days.  My wife wrote on the back of the photo, "She takes that stuffed toy with her everywhere she goes.  I don't know why."

So I cry every Easter.  A little girl had only a small stuffed animal from her daddy and she carried it with her everywhere she went.  It kills me to think about it.

Horrible things happen all the time in life.  I try to make new memories.  Happy memories.  But that's been far more difficult than it should be.  And the past just won't fucking fade away.  There are no shoulders.  There are no hugs.  There is no hope.  Only tears and a gamble that maybe our efforts can make tomorrow somehow worth living.

I don't have a reason to wake up tomorrow but I'll do it anyways.  Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I'll avoid people as I usually do.  My what's left of my family will all be doing their own things.  I'm scheduled to work.  I'll do things to keep my hands busy because that's how I survive.  I'll make ice cream, perhaps, and plant some seeds.

The past just won't fucking fade away.  And how can it when we're making docu-shit-dramas about all of the horrible shit that happened?  We can't fix it.  We can't change it.

The Titanic launched with all kinds of fanfare and hopes.  It sank as soon as it got in the middle of the Atlantic.

Chernobyl is currently having another layer being constructed around it.  This way, it will contain the radiation leaking out of the damaged reactors.  To this day, tends of thousands still suffer from health problems because of it.  You can't run away from radiation.

And you can't run away from memories that won't fade.

I hope my daughter keeps her stuffed bunny.  I hope she never lets it go.  But if she has to so she can move on, I'll understand.  The Titanic wasn't supposed to sink.  It was made with great care by proud, professional men.  Chernobyl wasn't supposed to melt down.  It was supposed to provide power to millions.

It wasn't supposed to be like this at all and yet it is.  Because horrible things happen all the time.

And you can't outrun memories.  




  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Church of Do

I have some goals I want to meet in the next few months.  These goals are based on what I can do rather than what I hope happens.  Instead of saying, "I want to get X stories published" I'm simply saying "I want X stories in submission to magazines."

The work is on me.  And I like that better than wishing or hoping for somebody else to do something on my behalf.

Simply put--there's shit I need to get done.  Shit that I'm hoping will somehow magically fix me and all the shit that's wrong with me.  And that list is long.

As I sit here and write this, I can't help but feel like a disappointing train wreck of a human being and I'm struggling to get out of this mess.  I'm not going to list the whole, ugly set of reasons, because it's just depressing as hell.  However, I will say, each and every one of these are self-inflicted wounds that have festered.

This is my fault.  All of it.  And I am so angry with myself for having let it get to this point.  All the while, it feels like I'm rapidly approaching The End.  A stroke or a heart attack, mostly likely, and that's without pondering the other alternatives on the table.

So, no, I'm looking at what I need to do.  The word "DO" being key here.  Do.  I must DO things.

I just went for a small walk and I'm feeling it.  I need to do it again and I most likely will.  More of that whole "DO" idealogy.

Do-ism.  

I haven't been doing enough.  Or, when I do actually do something, I don't do the right things.

So, here's what I'm working on:

I want to have a short story finished, edited, and ready to submit in a few days.  There's a call for submissions that looks rather interesting.  My story took a weird turn and became quite romantic.  I honestly have no idea why.  When I try to write romance it becomes horrid.  I just can't.  My pacing is all off.

So now I need to turn this romance into horror.  Oh how simple that is to do when it's my life.  But in fiction?  This should be interesting.

There are a few calls for submissions I'd like to have things in for this month.  I currently have two short stories and a novella in submission and I can't wait to hear back about that.

As for the video stuff, that's a different story.  I filled my hard drive and so now I'm waiting for an external drive to arrive so I can move some files.  Once that happens, I can go back to making videos.  Plus, I have a new ice cream maker coming in soon.  I'm really excited about that.

I have ice cream projects I want to get to.  Ice cream flavors, as well as configurations, like novelties.  I want to begin making ice cream cakes, pops, coated and rolled confections, and a few other things.
I have goals and this new ice cream maker will allow me to make ice cream faster so I can work on those goals.

There are two projects I have in mind.  Because they are surprises, I cannot say right now, but if they are close to being what I want, they will be my Magnum Opus.  Or at least a crescendo in a body of work that is full of crescendos.

One of the reasons I love to make ice cream so much is the reactions from others are immediate and feed my need to approval from others.  I'll admit that with my self-esteem so low I have become needy as hell for approval from others.  Ice cream gets me that approval.

I'm not going to beat myself up for having that need.  Instead, I will say that maybe one day, that approval with come from within, and I will find a way to value myself for no other reason than I am me.

The next goal I have is to get some seeds ordered for the front of my apartment.  Last year, we had flower pots full of plants and it looked incredible.  That neighbor who did about 75% of the work moved but I have some pots and he's going to help me with some things.  I can't wait!

I'm going to grow all kinds of stuff.  Peppers, herbs, tons of basil again, and a wide variety of flowers.  In fact, I want to have a larger variety than last year.

There is something healing in doing that.  I felt better just for doing that last summer and it meant a great deal to me.  Sure, people used to drive by and look just because it was such a stark improvement over the solid concrete.  But also, people loved how beautiful it was, and we got a lot of compliments.  That offered me approval as well.

So, let's review--I'm waiting for approval from some editors, but while I wait for their approval, I'm making ice cream to get instant approval from folks, and I'll be planting some things soon so I can get approval from people around town.  Because I need approval.  Badly.

One of these days I'll be able to get that approval from myself but for now, I'm at the mercy of those around me.  Of course, who am I kidding?  It's always been that way.  I've never had that confidence and self-love or self-acceptance.  I've always seen myself as less-than everybody else and too much of the wrong things.

But I'm working on it.  I just started reading a self-help book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.     This is the quintessential book for artists who are trying to heal. I read the first chapter last night and it did something.  I was really upset and I woke up this morning just a wreck.  I woke up feeling lowest that I can ever remember.  Never have I woken up in such despair and misery.

I woke up this morning (afternoon) being fully aware of the sum of all of my problems and worse, no hope of fixing them and no reason to even begin.

The reason for this has been an issue for me in recent months.  Is it worth the effort to fix my life?  Am I worth the effort to fix?  Is there anything worth sticking around for?  So much of my life is gone.  So many things have been taken from me.  So many times have passed me by.  So many phases of my life have been destroyed.  And now that I'm in the 2nd half, what could I possibly look forward to?  Is there anything out there for me at this point?  

Will I have to lie to myself until I can gladly allow a baseball bat smash my brains in and tell myself how happy I am to see the pretty colors?  Is that what happiness will have to be for me?  Is that the key to happiness?  Self-deception masked as the acceptance of terrible circumstances?   Admire the pretty pattern of the snake's skin as it bites me over and over, injecting deadly venom.

Is that happiness?

I don't know the answer.  All I know is I'm still alive and I'm still submitting fiction.  I'm still making ice cream and I'm still planting flowers out in front of my apartment.  I have no idea what will come of it.  All I know is that these are the things I'm doing.