Pit Stop

I’ve been writing nonstop for the past two-and-a-half, almost three years, whenever I can, wherever I can. It’s been nothing particularly profound, mostly silly magical adventures, with a few romances and one epic sci-fi/fantasy thrown in, but it’s my art and my reason. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I hadn’t been structuring my new life around writing, I never would have made it through this divorce. Even as I’ve been working these endless strings of fifteen-hour days, I’ve managed to find a cumulative hour a day to put pen to paper.  

And with that in mind, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I just finished a novel that I think is good enough to shop to agents after I give it a once-over and a polish, and for the first time since I started this marathon in 2017, I don’t have an idea for my next piece. I’m not calling it Writers’ Block, because that connotates an outside force keeping me from inspiration, when in fact, I just haven’t let my mind wander as much as I usually have (probably those aforementioned fifteen-hour days). I’m also not sweating it. If I take some time off from writing, I might actually do things like finishing unpacking my room or read a book. I’ve committed to doing some editing next month, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I was scribbling and typing furiously away every time I wasn’t working, sleeping, or doing laundry. 

But I can’t deny, it’s weird not to be stressing out about when I can find some time to sit down with my notebook or wondering where the characters are going to go next. It’s like writing was a job, and I just got laid off. I talked about free moments earlier, but when I’m in full writer mode, I don’t have free moments. I’m constantly occupied by my novel or short story. Well, now I have free moments. Who knows how long that’s going to last until inspiration gooses me, and I get back to work. 

What to do, what to do … 

All by Myself

In my life, aside from my Facebook friends, I have three people I call my good friends. Two of them I see about once every other month, and the other is my roommate, who I see, if I’m lucky, once a week. I have two jobs where I interact with people regularly, and I have warmer relationships with some and simply professional relationships with others. During my time off, what little of it I get these days, I spend it writing, going for walks in the city, watching movies, and because he absolutely insists, cuddling with my cat. Someone recently expressed concern that I was lonely. 

I’m not. This is how I want my life to be. Maybe not working sixty-plus hours a week, but otherwise, like this. Writing is my passion. It means more to me than anything, and it’s a solitary pursuit. Also, I want to watch whatever dumb movie I want to watch without having to negotiate with anyone else. Walking in the city is something that can be done with others, and when she’s available, Nicole does it with me, and we have a great time. I like talking to people and hanging out, but I don’t need to, and after a run of long days at two jobs, I don’t particularly want to. 

I think maybe people overestimate the time Kate and I spent together. Toward the end of our marriage, I saw her for, at the most, an hour a day, and she used that time to check Facebook and play Charmed in the background. I was lonely for a long time with her—I didn’t have any friends at all when we were together—and I eventually grew to enjoy my own company. I’d been pretty solitary before that, even during my most social (2002-2003), and by this point with Kate, I had become a hermit. Not all of that has gone away. I don’t want it to.  

And so, if you want to hang out, that’s great. I love hanging out with you. If you don’t have the time, that’s too bad, but don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I now have some extra time to work on what I think is the best novel I’ve written so far.  

In short, I may be alone most of the time, but I’m not lonely. Not even a little bit. 

Paranoid

I’ve come down with a bad case of paranoia.  

Something I’ve learned from nine months of job searching is that, if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. And so much about this job looks too good to be true. I won’t go into all the details because I’ll make myself crazy, but the crux is this: I was recruited to apply for a job I’m only marginally qualified for, and less than fifteen minutes after an interview I was positive I’d bombed, they offered me the job. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to me. It happens to exceptional people, and I’m not exceptional. (Some of you may want to argue with me on this point because you’re really sweet, but really, I’m not, and that’s okay.) 

It doesn’t look like a scam. The recruiting agency is real, and the recruiter herself has a page on LinkedIn (where she found me) that doesn’t look like it was put up on the fly. The company I interviewed is real, and there was nothing artificial about the office. (But still, Jeremiah, the job offer came from the recruiter, not the employer. Yes, Jeremiah, that’s how staffing agencies work—you’ve done work for four of them in the past six months, and it’s always like this. But she got the offer when I was on the phone with her, Jeremiah—that doesn’t happen. Good point, Jeremiah.)  

I’m losing my mind. So I ask you, how can I just relax until my (alleged) start date next Thursday? How can I trust that this one thing is actually working out for me? Help! 

Total Recall

I have ADD, and it’s really bad. If I wasn’t taking a steady dose of time-release methylphenidate, I’d be like the guy from Memento. It’s bad enough that I got disability from the government for a while. And even with the drugs, and with the endless rituals and reminders I need to function, whole conversations, events, and important details simply don’t implant themselves in my brain.  

People don’t have a lot of patience for this, especially people I’ve been married to (who were more than happy to cash the checks when they came, but never to answer my questions). Nobody likes to repeat themselves, I get it, but I’m not asking you twice because I’m a flake or because I smoked too much pot or because I’m lazy, or even for fun. I can’t fake a functioning memory like I can fake a smile when I’m depressed. This is a serious medical condition.  

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is knowing you should know something, but it not being there? It’s like having a word on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite remember what it is, but on a grander scale. When you add in the dread of someone I care for biting my head off because I had to ask something twice, this is really awful.  

All I can do is do my rituals and reminders and take my meds and try to not be annoying when I ask for clarification. I don’t really have a choice if I want to function in society. 

I’m just tired. 

Phantom Vapors

I have been smelling a phantom, hallucinatory scent for about two years. It smells like someone mixed gas and barbecue sauce together and set it on fire. It’s pretty rare, maybe once or twice a month for an hour, so I didn’t think much of it, but I told my psychiatrist about it a few months ago. He did a ton of research and crossed the medications I’m taking off of the possible causes, and he has referred me to a neurologist, who I will be seeing next month.  

I’m not worried about having a tumor or anything. Like I said, it’s so infrequent that I barely even think it’s a thing. What I am worried about is cost. If I’m prescribed an MRI, how the hell am I supposed to afford that? I don’t have a steady job (but I still make too much for Medicaid), and my insurance is garbage.  

I allegedly live in the greatest country in the world with a health care system that I have been assured by those in power is also the best in the world, yet a procedure that would be a minor inconvenience to a Canadian or anyone from Europe is cost-prohibitive. If I do have a tumor, I’m screwed.  

My appointment is September 16. What happens after that is up in the air. God bless the USA. 

Assembly Line of Inspiration

In February of 2017, I ended my two-year writer’s block by cranking out a story for publication (rejected). I then signed up for a writing contest, and that kept me busy for a while until I got voted out. And then, that spring, I made the conscious decision to write a novel (I add that distinction because I wrote my first novel by accident). When that was done, I wrote another one. And another. I never knew what I was going to write, just that I should sit down and do it. And so, I proceeded to work on short stories and novels constantly through the next two and a third years, rarely missing a day, until the wall I just hit. 

I can’t overstate how many times I’ve finished a chapter and informed a friend, “I have no ideas for the next one,” only to start work on it the next day. This is different. But this is an unfamiliar feeling, thinking about my novel and coming up with absolutely nothing. 

I’m not worried, I will write again. But I am a little unsettled. 

Enter Sandman

Want to hear something that’s going to make some people absolutely hate me? I have full control over my sleep. I can stay up as late as I want (within reason), wake up as early as I want (though it might take one or two snooze buttons for me to roll out of bed), and—and this is the one that’s going to annoy people—go to sleep within ten minutes of closing my eyes in bed. The other night I went to bed an hour early because I wanted to wake up an hour earlier, and I was out like a light, even though I’d had two glasses of iced tea with dinner. Also, I can sleep through anything, which helps because my roommate comes home late from school and has dinner, and there’s only a curtain separating the kitchen from my pillows. 

This didn’t used to be this way. I used to toss and turn for hours and rise from bed like a rotting zombie, but I changed somehow, I don’t know how, and I do not, for one minute, take this skill for granted. 

Funny You Should Mention

For a little over a year, I’ve been lamenting the loss of my humor. One of the side effects of finding the calm and emotional stability that I needed to function in the everyday world seemed to be that I ceased to be funny. I used to make people laugh, it was one of my sources of pride. I was sorry to see it go, but I had come to accept that this was who I was now. It was one of these Doctor Who-style regenerations I’m always going off about during my birthday. People would hear tales of me telling a joke, and the person they’d be hearing about would be as foreign to them as the hard-drinking Jeremiah is to anybody who met me after 2007. 

And then an interesting thing started happening. People started laughing again. It started as I was living in my parents’ place, when I’d made jokes and they went over well with Mom and Dad, but also with the long-distance friendships I was rekindling, and later, with the new roommate/long-lost friend I’d found. It really hit home when I made a comment about the menu in the pizza place that got my roommate’s friend guffawing so loudly I thought we were going to get kicked out, that maybe my humor hadn’t died, it was just resting.  

Over the past two months and a week I’ve been learning to live a brand new life, but maybe it’s also giving me a chance to welcome an old one back too. 

Year in Review

My one-year review at work was earlier this month, and it could have gone worse. Basically my biggest area that needs improvement is “Teamwork,” and it needs it bad. I was told that to improve myself here I need to socialize more. I said I’d try, and I’ve made several attempts, but I am so lost. How am I supposed to talk to these people? What am I supposed to say? Do I have anything in common with them? How would I even know?  

This didn’t used to be so hard. I mean, I’ve always been shy, but I’ve always been able to fake it. Now I don’t even know how to hold a conversation.  

My first assignment from my supervisor was to learn three things about a coworker and report back to him. I learned four things. It’s a start. 

Bonding

I don’t fit in at work. I’ve been really self-conscious of this lately as I’ve watched the teasing and banter my colleagues have with each other. When they work closely with one another they chat away; when I work closely with someone there’s silence. I know I’m not imagining things because this came up during my last two evaluations*. 

It’s not like there’s anything wrong with my coworkers. They’re not cliquey or rude. I just can’t get the hang of small talk. I used to be able to. I don’t know what happened. That’s one of the most frustrating things about depression—even when you’re having a functional day, you still remember when you were well, and the person you were then is so foreign to you. 

I’m not sure what I should do, except go to work and keep trying. 

_____ 

* What also came up is the fact that I don’t smile enough.