Scaredycat

This morning was not a good one for me, brain chemistry-wise. In fact, mornings where I have to go to work are generally not very good. It occurred to me this morning as I sat in front of my laptop, knowing I should be getting ready for work but feeling the tight grip of anxiety keeping me sitting there, mornings are bad because I’m looking ahead at a day of possibilities and feeling anxious about all of those possibilities. Realizing that helped me talk myself into getting up and getting ready. And then another thought smacked me in the head, and a whole lifetime of habits and patterns became a whole lot clearer.

I have the Cult of Done Manifesto hanging in my cubicle at work. I like to Cult of Done Manifestoimagine I’m taking inspiration from it, but in actual fact, I rarely practice what it preaches. My friends, family and coworkers know all too well what a procrastinator I am. I’m usually quite proud of my relaxed, procrastinating ways. But deep down, I’m often frustrated and ashamed at how I put things off and leave so many professional and personal projects half-finished (or finished, but not to the quality that I’d like).

I realized this morning that I don’t procrastinate because I’m “easy-going.” I don’t do it because I’m lazy. And I don’t do it because I’m scared of making mistakes or producing inferior work. I procrastinate because I’m anxious and terrified. Terrified of what? I don’t know. Failure? Success? Maybe I’m not really terrified of anything. Asking someone with anxiety, “What are you afraid of?” is like asking someone who suffers from depression, “What do you have to be sad about?” Or asking someone who’s lactose intolerant, “Why do you hate milk?” My brain chemistry isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing, so I feel anxious about the possibilities of things, so I put stuff off rather than confronting it head on.

Realizing this put so many things in perspective. Putting off writing fiction, not applying for jobs I could have applied for, not asking women out…all because I had this gut-level (or more accurately, brain-level) fear of simply doing it. A coworker gave me a copy of Getting Things Done recently. I’ve pish-poshed the GTD movement in the past, seeing it as “too corporate” and “too type-A.” But I’m reading the book seriously now, looking for ways to be less of a procrastinator. I think it will be a big help in dealing with my anxiety and getting past a lot of the fear that’s held me back for so long.

The Phantom in the Dream-House

One of the earliest dreams I still remember was one I had when I was still in single-digit years, probably 7 or 8. I was attending a party in a huge, labyrinthine mansion owned by an old, very wealthy family. The family was plagued by a mysterious figure known only as “the Phantom” who was lurking somewhere in the mansion but couldn’t be found. The Phantom was never seen, but I knew (in the way of dreams) that he dressed all in white, in a frilly shirt, an ornate frock coat and a white plaster mask. The Phantom attacked the family and the other guests in the mansion in elaborate, macabre, weird ways. One guest walked into a small library and opened a big book sitting on a lectern, only to have a large amount of water gush up from the book, killing the guest, leaving behind a sodden body and a puddle of water on the carpet. Other guests disappeared behind secret panels and into trap doors. I managed to escape being killed or taken by the Phantom before I finally awoke from the dream.

I only had this dream once, but it’s stuck with me all these years.

Once Again…

Once again, I am gobsmacked at the generosity of my friends. Thank you all. In no time at all, Berkie and I are in a position to pay the deposit on our new place without risking bounced checks. We are in your debt–if not financially, then karmically. One way or another, we’ll make good on this and pay it forward.

Another Bump in the Road

I thought the catastrophe was past, but…

The good news: Berkie and I have found a place to live in Lawrence. It’s within our price range, and we’ll be able to save a good amount of money by moving in together. The bad news: the deposit is more than we were expecting and the landlords need it ASAP. Because of some tax checks floating out there (and who knows when those will be cashed?), we’re a couple hundred dollars short. So I’m putting the Paypal button back up. If you’ve already donated, I don’t expect you to throw money our way again. And this is money we’re interested and willing to pay back in October or November, so we don’t consider it a donation so much as a loan. But if you could spread the word, we’ll be extremely grateful. $200 is all we need.

Again, thank you.

Clay

I was fairly shy when I was a kid. I moved a lot and went to 5 different elementary schools in 4 different states. I was scared of asking other kids to play with me, for fear of rejection, which was silly, because I was a pretty likable kid and generally had an easy time making friends.

Me, 9 years old.I was also fairly prolific as a kid. I wrote stories (including having a very short picture book, made of paper stapled between construction paper covers, displayed in my school library in 1st grade with the note “Young Author”), wrote and drew comics, and filled notebooks with illustrations, maps, story fragments and ideas. I also went to school and did most of my schoolwork, read a lot of books and comics, watched a lot of TV, played with my toys, hung out with friends and spent quality time with my family.

I’m really missing that kid this morning.

As an adult, I’ve had my heart broken a lot, and I’ve broken a heart or two in my time. Yet I have no problem throwing myself into romantic relationships. Despite still being shy and insecure at times, I have little problem striking up conversations with strangers and making new friends. But despite feeling a desperate need to create, to write stories and poems, to make up worlds and draw maps, to share my dreams with others, I find myself blocked. Blocked by fear.

Sure, I make excuses: I don’t have time, I’m tired after work, I’ve got other things to do. But those are lies. If I could find the time when I was a kid, I could find the time now. My work requires me to sit at a computer all day and sometimes interact with the public–not exactly body-breaking, energy-sucking labor. Yes, I have adult things to do, like cooking and cleaning and paying bills. But it’s not like those things take hours out of my day.

What am I so afraid of? Why am I afraid to fill the blank page in front of me? Why do I stop myself from playing the way I did when I was a kid? Why am I afraid to do something I enjoy?

I don’t know, but I’m working on ways to push myself past the fear. I’m tired of giving in to the fear. I want to learn to be that kid again.

Crisis Averted, Opportunity Taken

Thank you, everyone who donated to the Help Josh Out fund. In just a couple of days, I’ve hit the goal I wanted to hit. And I’ve got a number of people to send poems or other writings to, which is a big kick in the inspiration pants. I’m feeling much less anxious about the present and near future and much more excited and inspired about writing. I’ve got a few projects to work on now and I’ll be able to move forward with the major life stuff I really need to do. So again, thank you. I’m deeply touched at how people have reached out and given me support I sorely needed.

This is the world I want to live in. A world where people in need are helped, not derided or scorned or asked to “tighten their belts and make sacrifices” just so people with more don’t have to give anything up. I look forward to the day when things aren’t so financially tight for me and I’ll be in the position to give money to people who need help–friends, family and strangers. And in the meantime, I’ll give what I can of my time, my energy and my heart. Because we absolutely cannot get through this life without helping each other out. We just can’t.

The Nature of the Catastrophe

One of the hardest things to do, I think, is ask others for help, even when we really, really need it. We don’t want to feel like we’re a burden, like we’re taking advantage of people. This is especially true when it comes to money. In the US, there’s a powerful undercurrent of thought that if we’re having money problems, it’s because we screwed up in some way, we brought it on ourselves, we deserve it, it’s our own damn fault and it’s nobody else’s problem. It think that’s bunk, but because I grew up here, it’s hard for me to get past the guilt of needing help with money.

But I’m asking for help anyway.

I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck. Bills are piling up. Berkie and I are trying to find a place to live, and we’ll definitely save money living together, but even coming up with the money for a deposit it looking difficult and stressing us out. Julie and I want to legally get divorced, but she’s also living life on the financial edge, and scraping up the money for court fees is difficult. And I just got slammed with taxes. I can’t possibly pay what I owe right now. All of this is amping up my anxiety to stupid levels and making me physically sick.

So I’m asking for help.

I currently have a little over 1,400 followers on Twitter. It occurred to me that if half that number gave me $10, I’d be well on the way to getting out of this financial hole. Really, if I can just raise $300, I’ll be in a position to get back on my feet. I don’t think $10 is all that much. I’ve given more than that to political groups, charities and to friends when they were in financial need. Asking for $10 doesn’t make me feel so bad.

But I’d also like to turn this crisis into an opportunity. Let this be not just a catastrophe in the sense of being a disaster, but also a mathematical catastrophe, a change in the dynamic of my life.

I recently had the idea that I’d like to put together a book of poetry. I quite like a number of my older poems and I like the poems I’ve written lately. Putting together a whole book of poems that I would publish myself is something I’d very much like to do. But I’d like to have more written than I already do. I want to push myself to write more.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m putting a Paypal donation button on my blog. People can donate or not, as they choose. And they can donate as little or as much as they want. In return (and in appreciation) of your donation, I’ll send you one of my poems, handwritten just for you. Suitable for framing, making a paper airplane, origami or whatever. It might be one of my older poems, it might be a brand-new one. Maybe it will be a one-page prose-poem or micro-story. But if you want something, make sure you put your address in the donation information.

I hate that it’s come to this. But I also know that we can’t get through life without relying on each other. So…there we are.

And thank you.