This Is a Title, I Guess

I am not known for patience or restraint.

I get frustrated angrily, when people don’t think on the same track as I do, or feel as passionately as I do about a subject, when people don’t listen to what I’m saying or when I work hard on something and it doesn’t work or isn’t successful  (looking at you, Convergence trilogy… in five parts).

And when I feel or do something, I tend to go all-out, even if it’s starting sentences with a conjunction. When I write, I’m on fire with it. When I drink, I go hard. Any drink. If I have a liquid in hand, I’m downing it without realizing it. There are several restaurants around town that know me as “the water guy” and it’s a somewhat known fact amongst my friends that when I go out to eat, the food could be middling, the service could be bad, but my tip is based on how regularly my water glass is refilled.

When I’m in a friendship, it’s important to me that they know I am absolutely loyal and that I will do what I can to help or to support them or build them up. When I’m in a romantic relationship, I make sure that person knows how beautiful they are, how much they inspire me and how much I support their endeavors.

And when I fuck things up… in any capacity, really, I have to fix it. I can’t let things just be broken. I can’t give it time to  heal, it has to heal right away, and my God, I’ve got to be the one to do it. I have to set things right.

It has never occurred to me that time and space can help heal things in their own right. I have always wanted to slip in with gifts and apologies and affection and promises. Believe me, too, guilt over whatever it is I said or did plagues me every second of the day. It fits in nicely with this anxiety disorder I’ve been diagnosed with. I begin to overthink everything. “Oh, she hasn’t texted me. Oh, she seems distracted. Oh, she seems more distant. Oh, she’s talking to other people, she must have given up on me, I should give up in general”, and it’s fucking weird and overwhelming, and it’s always been that way for me. It’s an ourobouros of self-confidence, intensity, and self-destruction.

The last week has been sort of a different thing for me. I’ve been pulling back a lot, in a lot of ways, and trying to focus more on myself and the things I’m feeling about work, family and personal relationships with people. I’ve tried to leave bruised relationships alone entirely, because as desperately as I want to fix them, I don’t know how, or if they want to fix it. I do know that everything I’ve tried before has seemingly made things worse. I’ve even cut back on my writing about things. More on that in a second.

The distance I have been giving situations and people is hard for me, especially in cases where we used to speak every day. It’s difficult to go from that to feeling like even talking to them is grossing them out or offending them. It’s difficult not to text them and hope that things go back to how great they were.

The biggest rub is that I no longer know how to conduct myself in my writing. It’s sort of a Catch-22: I have prided myself on being open and honest about myself and my life, my issues, my successes, my goals and my failures. I have prided myself on being a voice for people who don’t want to talk about their similar experiences and on being a support for people who needed to know someone else was out there going through the same stuff.

It’s that same openness and honesty and lack of restraint that has led to some of my best writing and has driven away people because of my intensity. For the last few weeks, that thought has marinated in my mind and I’ve found it difficult to piece sentences together. For a blog post, for a status update, for a text message. I haven’t done fuck-all for the book I’m supposed to be writing.

I thought my words were broken.

That can’t be right. Maybe I’m broken.

I’m not broken, I’ve just got restraint issues. I have anxiety. I overthink so I overact, and it comes out in everything that I do. It isn’t the words, it’s the level of emotion behind the words. I’m loading a crossbow with a grenade, and then calling in an air strike before the smoke clears, because I have to be sure. And then I hate myself for no reason, because I’m positive I’ve missed the target by a mile.

I’m in a weird position that I never thought I would be in. I’m scared to write to the people I know. I’m worried when I write something positive that people will think I’m either overcompensating or that it’s only a matter of time until I hit a downward slope again. I’m worried that if I post something negative about how I’m feeling or what I’m going through, that it will be too intense for some and drive them away, because this has already happened. I can’t post art because I’m not feeling particularly artistic, except in bouts of frustration in which I try to vomit something beautiful out just to make myself feel better, to mixed results.

I’m left posting funny pictures I find online and watching a Hell’s Kitchen marathon to distract myself, and to keep my phone busy so I’m not tempted to text anyone I shouldn’t.

You know, it’s funny. The last half a week or so is the least anxious I’ve felt in a long time. The medication helps, even if it’s half a pill every three days or so. The anxiety is slipping away, but nothing is really better. The words won’t come, and three weeks of out of character action has completely fucked everything else up for me. Now when I’m lonely, I can’t even ask to go out for beers. I can’t even put that shit on Facebook. Hell, I don’t even want to drink about it, anymore.

I know what not to do, I suppose. I still don’t know what I should be doing.

Oh, right. Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay is my spirit animal.

Maybe I Had Too Many Apples

It’s been a couple weeks since I updated last. I’ve been having difficulties getting words to line up right in my mind and there’s been somewhat of a dearth of material to write about on top of it. Work and stress, dashes of greatness and a whole lot of mental fuckery.

I’m not sure exactly what kicked it into gear as fully and intensely as it has been, but I’m willing to bet it started with my having an emotional break-down in Montana. It was a vacation in the sense that I did fun things with a long-time friend in a place that wasn’t home, but it was also so intense for me. Emotions I thought I had processed three years ago, when I lost my grandparents, apparently had simply laid dormant, waiting for the right stimulation to bring them out again.

Couple that with my returning just to have the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing land on a particularly stressful work day, and my mind has been in a state of overdrive for the last few weeks. This has happened before a few times over the years. When it does, it usually culminates in my ruining friendships and relationships, pushing away the people l care about. Lo and behold, that exact thing started to happen again, except this time, someone made a point of driving home what I was doing.

I need help. I need help compartmentalizing my emotions and being less anxious and being content with who I am and what I’m doing with my life, and that help can’t fall exclusively on the shoulders of my friends. It’s exhausting for them and overwhelming, and not only is it not fair to them, it only serves to placate me for a while until the cycle inevitably starts over.

I reached out to my work and found out that they provide five sessions with a local psychiatric provider for free through an Employee Assistant Program. After those five sessions, I expect to be able to continue going at least twice a month. I want to better myself so I can be better with the people I care about.

Today was my first session, and I really like him. He’s a little eccentric, but laid back and good-humored. Hell, our session started when he greeted me on crutches and said, “You’re not allowed to laugh at me.” What else could I say but, “Likewise”?

A few other choice exchanges:

“Are you on any medication?”
“Does whiskey count?”
“You wrote whiskey with an e here, so not scotch, then?”

“I don’t know, fuck.”
“That’s Doctor Fuck to you. I went to school and earned that.”
“Pardon my language.”
“There’s nothing wrong with ‘doctor’.”

On describing bi-polarism:
“It’s like Ben and Jerry’s. 32 flavors of bipolar but it breaks down into mania vs hypomania. Are you familiar with the difference?”
“I’m not.”
“It’s like MGD vs Miller Lite. Same great flavor but not as filling.”

At no point did I feel scrutinized or ashamed to be there. In 60 minutes of mostly asking questions to get to know me, we touched on several issues that are typically very sensitive for me. For once, I felt like it was okay for me to be not okay because someone was going to help me fix it and get better.

I’m still worried about losing some great things in my life, but I left that doctor’s office feeling a bit more in control than I have been lately, and with some advice to get me through the week. This was long overdue. I look forward to keeping this up.

Late Thoughts

It’s two in the morning here and I’m sitting in my work-discarded, cushy, swiveling office chair racking my mind on what to write. I’ve asked people for suggestions at this point and been given nothing, which, good. “I’m a writer, right?” I said. “Shouldn’t be taking the easy way out.”

If only it were that easy. I’m finishing up a novella of sorts and have yet to start my next novel, so there’s nothing update-worthy there. I’m back home from Montana a week now and already back into the work routine. My life is as regular as ever.

Sort of.

Every so often I have to remind myself why I write. I don’t think I’m necessarily very good at it, but it’s cathartic, it’s a nice hobby, and I like to make things. I have friends who don’t like to read and others who don’t like fiction at all. But I do. I fucking love stories. I love lives and all the drama that goes into them. I love plot twists and strange worlds, magic and new tech, break-ups, make-ups, births and shocking deaths. I love stories, ones on the page – typed and illustrated – and ones on the screen.

I love stories I make myself. I like to think I’m not boring, that I have stories I can tell that will entertain or educate or make you think. I write books for other people, and this blog… well, mostly for myself, I think, sometimes, but also because I want people to know me and understand who I am and why I am the way I am.

But entertainment? I love it. I love making something, relationships and locations and histories out of nothing but frustration and airy imagination. I like to give these things to people and take them out of their troubles and concerns for a while.

Creating a product and putting it out is one thing, though. Getting feedback is something else entirely, something nerve-rackimg, devastating and euphoric. Getting a good review is like a drug. For a guy who struggles daily to try and figure out what his purpose on this planet is, hearing that someone is excited to read or having had read something I cooked up in this clusterfuck of a head is like snorting cocaine on a rocket flying to an intergalactic strip club made of candy. Or something, I don’t know, I put words together in a line, I’m not a metaphor doctor.

I have to say, though, I hate pitching my work to read. I feel pretentious, hocking my version of art to someone. But if they read and like it, hell, I love talking about it then. Hearing what their favorite parts are, who their favorite characters are, talking about why I wrote certain things certain ways, or how and why I developed certain characters. I love seeing people enthusiastic about my work.

I’ve got an accomplished comedian friend tell me she’s got my first novel in her bookcase and she proudly shows it off. I had a girl find me and with excited eyes tell me she found in her pocket the napkin I wrote the names of my books on. I’ve sold copies to customers at my day job when I started talking about the Kindle app they downloaded. I’ve had friends read my books multiple times or reach out to me to say they can’t wait to finish them or for me to write the next one. I’ve had a woman who doesn’t likr fiction at all talk to me excitedly aboht my writing because she likes that I don’t think the way she does, that I see and appreciate things that are foreign to her.

Most of these things have happened as recently as the last week. Also in the last week, a woman – an immensely talented artist in her own right – saw my office. It was messy, cluttered, full of books and notes and a fridge with microwaveable shit food. I haven’t shown my office to many people. It’s my sanctum sanctorum (that’s for you, Dr. Strange fans), my think tank, the place I get down and dirty with my feelings and my fictions. It’s my safe place, and I feel nervous showing it because… well, I’m a writer. Right? I feel like garbage about myself sometimes and I worry about what people are going to think about this workplace that means the world to me. And she sees this, this person I want to make the best possible impression to, and she gets it. She looks at me with just unbridled excitement and happiness. She knows what it means to me and she threw her support behind her smile 100% when she saw it, because she knew as fucked up and messy as it was, it was my baby there.

It’s a rush to have people like what I do. It’s a rush to talk about it and spill my secrets. It’s nice to know I can make people smile, make people escape, male people think and feel. It’s a rush to know that artists…artists of all kinds, those creative people, people I care a lot about and whose opinions I hold in high regard… it’s nice to know they think I do a decent job and that they support my endeavors, regardless of where I carry them out.

I have a lot of love for my craft and for my fans, honest to God fans. I never thought I’d see the day.

I put my heart on the page and into my office. Every day I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by even trying to write. Then I remember that napkin. The re-reads. The excitement. The private messages. The look on her face. I spent two hours trying to figure out what to write about tonight.

Writing. For me, it’s always writing. For you, well,

you’ll always get stories from me.

How Handy

“I know ___ like the back of my hands.”

I’ve always liked that saying. It’s tossed around here and there without much thought, but the content of it implies a confident, (mostly) non-sexual self-intimacy. These are my hands. I know them, these things I work with.

I have a funny relationship with my hands in that I realized exactly how much they do relatively early on. I was eighteen when I lost use of one of them for a month and a half partying too hard at Oktoberfest. That’s the kind of thing that opens your eyes to the little tasks your hands accomplish. Tying your shoes. Buttoning your pants. For a while I resigned myself to a bleak future full of velcro kicks and sweatpants.

I got my hand to work again, but now it’s got personality. One full of snark. Sometimes it likes to let go of things I’d much prefer to keep a hold of. Sometimes it spasms, like those full-body shivers you get for no reason, but at a fixed point. Sometimes it shuts off altogether and the static feeling coursing through the meat of my hand stresses me out with the thought that maybe my recovery from paralysis was only temporary, a last-minute pardon with an expiration date.

You know what? Fuck you, left hand. You’re like that friend that does favors but then never lets you forget about them.

More than tools, though, my hands hold history. A couple knuckles click into place when I clinch my fists, consequences of hitting faces that were much harder than I expected in fights that never should have happened over things that probably didn’t matter in years long past.

Scars cover the backs of both hands, marks I’ve collected since childhood being clumsy or stupid or emotional (and stupid). There’s a scar on my left thumb that came from burning mattress glue. My friend and I were tossing out a ruined mattress and he decided to set the thing aflame once we got it in the dumpster. I told him to put it out. He blew on the fire and sent molten adhesive onto my hand.

On my right hand, I have two pairs of parallel scars. One sits in between my ring and little fingers. I was playing beer pong at a friend’s house and reached under a bookcase to retrieve a wayward ball. A screw poking through the bottom of the lowest shelf caught me going in and coming out.

The other pair sits between my middle and ring fingers. They’re faded now, but the memory lingers. Same house, different night, an ex-girlfriend came over with a mutual friend to meet my other friends for the first time. She got drunk and spent the rest of the night emasculating me in front of everyone because she knew I wouldn’t say anything back. I took out my rage and hurt on the steering wheel of my car and came away with a bloody hand and a cracked knuckle.

I also have a mosquito bite right now on one hand. Fuck mosquitos and their bites.

…..it’s funny now, looking at my hands, to consider how little I think about them from day to day, but how much they impact other parts of my life. I don’t mean the little tasks I take for granted that I listed above. I don’t mean it as far as dictating my future, either: the creases in my palm are smooth and seldom converge. I’m no palm reader, but that seems to me to imply a simplicity far removed from the reality of my life.

I mean that hands are very sensual. That touch is intimate. I find I’m not just a pretty sexual man (in that I like sex; I’m not implying that I’m sexy), but that I crave closeness as well. I’m content to cuddle on a couch, to hold someone near in bed just to talk. When I’m sitting next to someone I like, my hands reach out to send lights scratches along their back or to rub their leg.

Looking at my hands, I think of the love letters I’ve written along a woman’s arms, the poetry I’ve traced along the dip in her back at the base of her spine. I think about fingertips on goosebumps, feeling skin shudder under my palms. I think about sending strength into my fingers and the ball under my thumb to knead out knots or to pull her closer to me. I think about holding hands and running my thumb along the back of hers. I think about holding the nape of her neck, fingers curled under her hair while my lips kiss lips, cheeks, freckles, everywhere. Hands and hips. Hands trailing a serpent’s trail along her frame.

My hands have been violent when they needed to be, and expressive much more often ( – peace – hang loose – blown kisses – fuck you), and useful constantly (except for left hand, which took that vacation and occasionally calls out from work). But I love using my hands for affection, even when I don’t realize I’m doing it. I register the warmth. The closeness. The way she sinks into my touch and the tension disappears beneath my palm.

My hands aren’t the greatest, though. I can’t end this on that assumption. My fingers are kind of short and I bite my nails because I’m anxious all the time. But! But!

At least I’m not this lady.