Monthly Archives: July 2016

Living with Anxiety

This afternoon, I had an episode of anxiety laced with depression.

It wasn’t like it sometimes is, where it’s following in the wake of a runaway stress motorboat. It also didn’t descend over me like a blanket of smoke — the kind where you wake up into it and realize you can neither breathe nor see a few inches past your face.

It came on a beautiful, quiet day, when work wasn’t sucking and I wasn’t at odds with anyone. It came without any provocation, when I had been eating well and stretching and exercising and drinking lots of water. It came like a flaming toilet hurtling from outer space.

It happens. Like shit.

And it’s easy to get angry. I did, scrubbing tears off my cheeks and all but flinging them across the room. Because while one part of my brain was having a meltdown, the other part was standing over top of them going, “Dude, what is wrong with you?”

And there isn’t an answer when this happens. You can sort of take note, recognize it for what it is, but it is literally a whirlpool. And the more you fight, the more tired and aching you get.

A few reminders when you’re going through this (for you as much as me):

  • You are not broken. You are not damaged goods. And accepting that means also accepting that there are no returns.
  • There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Be calm and approach someone you trust and explain the situation. Let the love in, as much as you are concerned about being “annoying” or “clingy.”
  • Breathe. Just give yourself some time and some space. You are okay.
  • This too shall pass.

 

Woe is You, Maybe, But WHOA is Me!

I read a piece in the New York Times today that I found during my nightly looksie of the Twittersphere. It was tucked away between political ramblings, San Diego Comic Con calm down and adorable doodles. It was about writers and their perspective on their body of work, and how there seems to be this constant malaise after pieces are done. According to this writer, at the end of the day, writers can’t even stand to look at what they’ve done, and there is this terrible feeling of disappointment.

And I found myself tipping my head and feeling really, really sad.

During my twenties, I owned the whole image of ‘serious’ writers as these downtrodden, perpetually anxious, sighing lot. “Writers are supposed to be miserable,” I was essentially told. “Happy writers aren’t good writers.” Being a writer meant, if the ‘classic’ examples were to be any indication, hating the process, loathing the words themselves and doing it because it was a calling. For if we did not, then who would? It all came off very masochistic. And not even in the good way.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to the twenty-something me, shake her a little and go, “Yeah, okay, that’s garbage. Stop looking at that shit and go write something you’ll love.”

And I don’t just mean the content itself, but the whole process. Write something you’ll love making. Write something you’ll look forward to looking at. Write something that you can hand off to a friend and be like, “Hey, man, I wrote this thing. All of these words came out of my brainstuffs!” Don’t look at what you’ve written as some sort of reminder of your mortality or some posse of gargoyle antagonists sitting on your shelf, waiting for you to go to sleep so they can whisper thoughts of fear and failure in your ear. Put party hats on your books. Sure, the early stuff probably is ripe with terrible prose, but laugh at it the way you would at baby pictures.

Yeah, dude, we’re all going to die (unless someone is here and willing to give me robot parts, because seriously, sign me the eff up). So if you’re going to take on something as your art and you are going to be spending at least a decent portion of your waking hours doing it, then maybe you ought to at least like it, right?

Ouch (On Being Bad)

It’s been a while since I’ve been bad at something.

Normally, when interviewing for jobs or discussing things that I want to try out, I usually boast that I can learn most things after watching it once or twice. That’s how I learned felting. That’s how I learned karate. That’s how I’ve picked up on sketching techniques, so long as I’ve been focused.

Don’t get me wrong, that has not meant that I’ve mastered these things after once or twice, but I can at least pass.

Right now, I’m learning to play the ukulele.

My fingers hurt.

I’m stumbling over the inch between a C and a C7.

I can’t strum. I’ve even bought felt picks so I can focus on the chords (which I’m not good at — see prior point).

I want to play because I know I can sing. Now there’s something I can do. I’ve always been able to sing, through no real effort other than maybe some choir practice when I was a kiddo. It just comes out of me. But this? It’s really damn hard, guys.

I’m not giving up, but it’s hard to keep from getting discouraged when you see something that you think you should be able to do but can’t. Why is that? Why are we always afraid of being bad at something? It’s not like I’ve signed up for a one-person uke tour or anything. The only people who have heard me play are my dad and my husband. And yet every time I pick Lilo up (yes, I named it) I’m like, “Okay, I’m ready to be perfect.”

Slowly, I’m trying to learn to let go of that.

You’re never going to be perfect starting out. Sometimes you’ll feel good. Sometimes you’ll feel like you can see how it will eventually be something really awesome. And sometimes, your fingers will hurt. It’s just a part of the process.

What’s the last thing you tried that you wanted to be good at? How have you overcome the discouragement? I’d love to hear about it!

The Simplicity of Giving Advice with Neil Himself

This weekend, I got to watch something really cool on Twitter.

As a bit of background because you may be new here, I think Neil Gaiman is a pretty cool guy (and the Award for Understatement of the Year goes tooooo…). His fiction is great, the people in his life are awesome and inspiring (I interviewed Cat Mihos for How to Have a Day Job, and she is a really fantastic lady), and he is a wellspring of cool.

On Sunday, while waiting for his plane to take off, Neil took questions on Twitter. About anything: writing, love, publishing, John Hodgman (well, I think John just showed up to the party), etc. And I found myself really moved by the simplicity of his answers. Not even in that ‘you only have a thimble’s worth of words to use on Twitter’ but just how straight to the point it was. It felt like finding little stones at the bottom of a rushing stream. I found myself moved and inspired.

A few of my favorites included:

“I have a lot of ideas, and even more unfinished stories… How do I pick up the pencil from here?”

“When’s the best time to write?”

“And advice to someone who want to start writing?”

“Advice to self-doubting writers-in-training who got extremely rusty after a long time of not writing?”

Notice a theme?

Always write. Even if (especially if) you don’t know what you’re doing. Make it happen. Let the words come out. Make the art. Your hands will learn what to do, but only if you hush up the brain and let them move.

And remember, whether you’re an artist or a human being:

“How do you get over heartbreak?”

 

How to Have a Day Job: On Multitasking

howtohaveadayjobsnow

This week, I’m in an extensive training at my day job. It’s essentially eight hours of training, although we still have to keep up with our normal tasks. The topic is expansive and very mentally consuming, and I’ve found myself having to really focus in on understanding what I’m learning to do.

At the end of the day yesterday, we got done with about an hour to spare. I’m rocking the equivalent of mental bed head, and the trainer goes, “Okay, I’m going to set you all loose to go back to work so you can finish whatever you need to for the day. But you were probably working on it during the training too, but that’s alright! That’s what power users do!”

I stopped and sort of squinted my eyes because I was a bit thrown off that this guy – whose entire role at this point was to teach us a job – was essentially accepting if not encouraging us to give half of our attention.

As I’ve given more thought to it, though, this seems to be a talent that is fostered in the corporate workplace. You should be able to juggle tasks. You should be able to split your attention. You should be able to work and work and work and if you aren’t getting it all done, there is a problem. It essentially becomes a new evolution to ‘quantity over quality,’ even though the ‘quantity’ is a number of tasks rather than a massive amount of a single one.

And as I gave it some thought, I realized that this mindset has seeped its way into my every day life. I am constantly thinking how I can get multiple things done at once, dividing my focus so at the end of the day I have a grandiose list of all the things I’ve done (even though they’ve been half-assed). And when I can’t get all those things done? I get discouraged.

And all of this after I had made a determination some time ago to be more ‘present.’ News flash: hard to be present when you’re being present in five different things at once.

So here are some brainstorming ideas I have put together for kicking the habit of having too many habits:

  • Create a list of priorities daily: it’s easy to go ‘here are the things that are the priorities in my life right now’ but how often does one go ‘here are the things that are a priority today’? This is different from a to-do list, though. It is not a questionable list of fifty things that you swear you are going to get done today. Pick three. For example, my priorities today were my writing, my art and my day job. Once I accepted those priorities, I felt much more focused. Likewise, once I accepted what was not a priority, I found what was really important.
  • Portion out time for specific tasks, even if there isn’t anything to get done: this is something I am really trying to do at my job. Instead of having a huge group of items that need done all in a pile, I’m setting different piles of what I know I need to do on a day to day basis. For example, checking my voicemails. If I have any voicemails, they are being done at a specific time. If I don’t have any voicemails? Cool. Time to move on to the next pile. The point, however, is that I am stopping to acknowledge that this is the time I am doing this thing.
  • Keep notes: recently I’ve been trying out the bullet journal method, which has been very helpful, but when you’re sitting and working and suddenly go, “Oh man, I wanted to do this other thing!” don’t stop and try to figure out how to do that thing. Jot it down. Something simple that you can remember later. Then, at the end of the day, look at this list and think when you can schedule these things to be a priority. Plan accordingly.

How do you feel about multitasking? Am I the only one who is tired of this madness? Is there anything wrong with being, say, a rechargeable user? Tell me about it on Twitter or Facebook!

 

Draw Your Heroes

I can’t fly or deflect bullets with my hand
But I can put pen to paper and create worlds

I can’t commune with the dead or crush resurrected corpses
But I can draw new beginnings and better times

I can’t wave a wand and summon marvels
But I can shape creatures out of clay and cotton

I don’t have a shield or a belt or a thousand mechanical servants
But I have a voice that can sing or scream or comfort

I don’t wear a cape or a suit of armor, for battle
But I do have comfortable shoes and soft clothes, for getting to you

I don’t have super powers

But I am full of love

And I can’t turn the world back but I can keep people looking forward