Let me start by saying this isn’t a “Poor Me” post. But sometimes a little whining is therapeutic.
I was knocked out for a week with laboratory confirmed Flu A. One of the clinicians I work with told me that people who’ve said they’ve had the flu and miss work for a couple of days really haven’t had the flu. I’m starting to think that’s true because as I think back, it seems to me that I haven’t been sick like that in a long, long time. I’m pretty sure I was delirious the first night.
Anyway, I got better but damn if it wasn’t the exact wrong week to miss work. It was a week of project deliverables, most of which made it in. But some didn’t, and still haven’t. So the week I came back (last week) was catch-up week, and I don’t mind telling you it was a harder fight than surviving the flu. I’m still chipping away at it, even as I’m processing this week’s work.
Thing is, all this happened about a week after Boskone, at a time when I just felt I’d recaptured a sense of urgency about my writing. I’m not talking “inspiration to write.” I’m talking about a feeling of something I could harness, aside from my own willpower, to leverage myself out of the writing slump I’ve been in for a couple of years. (Yes, I’m in a slump, despite an upcoming publication.)
But it’s hard having to constantly climb out of a pit, and that’s kind of where I am right now. Not ready to give up or anything, not by a damn sight. Not even as I still feel some lingering effects of something-or-other (shortness of breath, a cough that still hasn’t gone away, near constant malaise and fatigue). My boss (who’s a registered nurse by training) finally chided me enough to give my doctor a call tomorrow.
Here’s what’s on my mind lately… POST-CON BLUES. I love going to cons, but they often put me off of my normal writing routines. And when I come back, they tend to keep me off my writing routines because of follow-up, exhaustion due to people overload, and obsessive but fruitless worrying about how to leverage my last appearance while trying to force my way BACK into a writing routine–which is arguably the best way to leverage my last appearance, at this stage of my career. Well, one step at a time…
READER’S BLOCK. Because OMG is my backlog out of control. I just cannot make up my mind, strategically, about what to read next. And no, “Read what you’re in the mood to read” is of no help, because strategery!
It’s been a lot of quickie reviews of things I’ve been reading and watching lately. So let’s do something different today, yeah?
1 RIP Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, and also actress Arlene Martel, who I met at the Rod Serling Conference last year, still trying to keep herself out there in typical L.A.-style. This isn’t one of those, “How dare they forget such-and-such?” notes. Just a nod to the one I had a brief connection with…
I once met this very good writer. She told me that sometimes she comes upon a metaphor or a description and she writes it down on a notecard and keeps it in a box. Then when she writes a story and her character is taking a walk, she thinks OK, I’ll take a walking image from my box of notes. And I said to her, ‘Why? The guy is already walking.’ I don’t think a text should be beautiful. We’re trying to say something, to help something. It’s like sticking a feather on a guy’s back. You know he either grows wings for evolutionary reasons or he doesn’t have feathers. That’s my attitude to writing – although there are writers whom I love who I can see obviously don’t write this way.
3 Who wants to see where I spent my preteen mallrat years in a state of urban decay?
These photos break my fucking heart. The building is still walking distance from the house I grew up in. I haven’t been inside it in at least 15 years. Those lounge pits you see are exactly as I remember from the ’80s, except the vinyl covering the seat cushions was a red violet instead of blue, if memory serves. And there are a lot of memories. Buying 45s, then, as technology progressed, cassette singles at the record store. The Burger King that came, went, and came back where I got many a lunch after swimming lessons and learned the joys of the bacon double cheeseburger. The Waldenbooks where I’d buy the Target novelizations of classic Doctor Who episodes, and perusing other books that no 10 year old had any business going through, but I got away with it as long as I wasn’t anywhere near the Playboy section of the magazine rack. I was never ever asked to stay away from the “personal massagers” section of the Spencer Gifts, for that matter. All the classic Star Wars action figures and other collectible toys that sell for hundreds of dollars now that my parents paid the ’80s equivalent of hundreds of dollars to Kay Bee Toys back then… ah well, the past is past.
4 Next up in my movie queue: Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.
So I made it through my second yoga class the other day without stopping (or dying!), and I was warmed up enough that when I walked home, I barely noticed that the temperature had dropped to a balmy 7 degrees.
This time around, I was a touch less focused on just surviving the class, and could pay attention to things like exactly what my limits are right now (more than there used to be), and exactly how my body was having trouble moving (ways that never used to trouble me before). I did do every pose though! The quality sucked near the end, but I pushed myself as far as was reasonable I think. That’s what matters.
See, what I’m feeling with my return to yoga is almost exactly what I’ve been feeling like with my writing lately. I can’t seem to bring myself to feel good about the rebuilding I’m doing. Oh, I do it. I take a step forward and I’m determined to show up and take the next one; lots of people would pat me on the back for that. Yet, I know how far I’ve fallen. I don’t go, “Yay, me! Let’s keep moving forward!” I think, “One step down, 9,995 to go until I’m back to where I was.”
It’s motivation by self-loathing. It’s letting fear and anger fuel me.
It’s the Dark Side of the Force.
Probably not a good thing. But what to do about it…?
From “An Everyday Horror Story” by Harvey Pekar. Art by Gerry Shamray.
Whatever lung pox I had that led to two weeks of paroxysms of coughing has messed up my voice. To clarify, it’s messed it up for an additional week after the coughing is now more or less under control. I’m starting to wonder if it’s one of the two(!) inhalers I’m on. I’m this close to having to having to use one of my Field Notes notebooks to write things out instead of speaking them.
Anyway, it reminded me of a story in Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor (issue 5), “An Everyday Horror Story,” in which our man has a long bout with laryngitis and it starts to do things to his head.
I’ll tell you, I’m starting to relate. It’s not just the voice loss, but these weird muscle spasms I’ve been getting lately.
I try to avoid soliciting curbside consultations from the medical professionals I work with, but a lot of them are just generally helpful by nature. So the other day, some of them dropped some knowledge on me. Now, I knew the muscles that were spasming (my intercostals) are the ones I use to cough but what I didn’t realize is that the reason they can take a long time to heal is because they can never truly rest, seeing as they’re the same muscles I use to breathe.
That’s what’s messing with my head. My voice I can rest, but I can’t stop breathing. Talk about feeling like a supernatural force is messing with you. It’s bad enough fighting my own procrastination, which I do every day. It’s even harder when you can’t talk and have trouble moving, or even sitting. But I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, really. Harvey got his voice back. I’ll likely get my voice back (gonna call the doctor again, though). My intercostal muscles will get better. Maybe I’ll get my groove back, too.
We’re still 18 years away from 2031 when, if I’m still around, I’ll be 58 but still look the way I do now depending on what sort of genetic and/or cybernetic modifications I’ll be able to afford. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like an ancient relic now.
But believe it or not, I’m in a better space than I was this time last year. Just.
Let’s just say that I’ve now lived long enough to get to the point where I can completely relate to what the late, great fellow-Clevelander Harvey Pekar says…
Don’t fret. Our man isn’t that hopeless. Granted, I’ve never been one of those people who fully appreciated the whole “adversity makes you tougher” idea. But I’ll tell you this–adversity has sure made me shrewder. It’s made me smarter. It’s made me hungry for the things I want in life. And it’s damn sure taken my patience away from the things that would stand in my way.
So, I take the ups and downs. Because as Robert Lamm sings…
We’ve all had our highs The lows we can’t command Sleeping through insomnia It is more than you can stand
Boy, is that right.
I have a day off tomorrow. But not the day after. In the meantime, I’ll not be taking comments from the peanut gallery just now. In fact, I’m likely fast asleep. I love time-shifting this stuff.
My goals for the past Memorial Day weekend are clearly stated in the first two verses of this song. And got’dammit I needed it because the pace of my life has been breakneck. Two days back at work, and it almost doesn’t feel like I’ve had a break.
I had I week where I had meetings on 3 out of the 4 edges of campus. I’ve “achieved” the level where I have to leave a meeting early just so I can arrive 10 minutes late to my next one. Where it’s up to me to make executive decisions about which meetings to beg off meetings, or face walks like this.
For these, and other reasons, I’ve been on silent running. Every day is a battle to reclaim energy to have a high-level of executive functioning the next day. I’ve time-shifted this entry–I’m sleeping as this goes out. It’s fine for now. But my life just hasn’t left me much to talk about on teh social medias on a daily basis without sounding like I’m just aching and moaning.
I am catching up, though. I’m closer to it than I’ve been in a long time, but not as close as I want to be. I’ll get there soon. And then, that’s when the last verse of “Funk 50” will become relevant.
I knew this week was going to be bad. It’s started off even worse. But I’m getting by. My coping mechanism of the day has been playing this video on a loop. It’s Joe Walsh playing “Funk #49” with Daryl Hall.
Yes, you read that right. And your brain is short-circuiting at the cognitive dissonance, isn’t it? It’s that short-circuit that keeps me from falling into a black hole of depression, because who can not get fired up hearing that guitar riff?
I’m actively juggling plates. That, and fighting off whatever Andromeda Strain I might’ve picked up at work, hence the extended absence. But these are plates that put me more and more in a position of having to (temporarily, at least) set aside the things that threaten to derail my momentum if any of the seeds I’ve sown are to bear any fruit.
I’ve been doing my best giving those things the Dikembe Mutombo treatment when necessary…