Be not disturbed with my infirmity.  If you be pleased, retire into my blog.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, April 7th of 2022, the first Thursday in April this year unless I’m terribly confused and mistaken, and—of course—it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I haven’t been feeling well this last week, or at least for the past several days.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t have any obvious signs or symptoms of any acute respiratory or otherwise localized infection, but my body aches quite a lot.  That generalized soreness, as well as fatigue, is consistent with the experience of fighting some illness or other.  I described it to a coworker yesterday as feeling as if I’d spent the previous day playing tackle football with some of my friends from high school…but they were still high school aged, while I was my present self.

I stayed home from work Tuesday, which is why I didn’t post the next portion of Outlaw’s Mind until yesterday.  I just didn’t feel up to doing much.  I didn’t feel much better yesterday, nor do I today, but I know that staying away from work makes everything all that much more stressful when I come back to the office, since there is so much catching up to do after even one day.  When I have Saturday off—which is every other Saturday—I come in the following Monday and find that there is an inordinate amount of catching up to do.  It’s frustrating.

I’ve likewise done very little guitar playing; whole braces of days at a time have passed in which I didn’t so much as touch or pluck or pick a string.  That’s a fair indicator of how “low-energy” I’ve been.

Given that I haven’t been feeling well, I’ve gotten almost no new writing done, neither on Outlaw’s Mind nor on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado.  Hopefully none of you find that too disappointing.  In any case, this physical process shouldn’t last too much longer—either I’m going to feel better rather soon, or it will kill me, presumably.  I’m pretty much fine with either outcome, when it comes right down to it.  What I definitely don’t want is to continue to feel so rotten.

My walking and other exercise has suffered nearly as much as has my writing.  This may be useful for consolidating the healing of my old blisters, but I don’t want to lose the calluses that may have formed, because then I’ll just blister again when I go back to walking.

I was going to say “Sisyphus, eat your heart out,” after that last thought, but I realize that would be a gross and melodramatic exaggeration of my current situation.  It’s also more appropriate to say “Prometheus, eat your heart out…or your liver, anyway.”  That, unfortunately, would be an even greater hyperbole* regarding my current challenges, and rather pathetic, though at least the imagery is good.

That last little thought makes me stop to wonder, and to wonder what you all might think, about who had it worse in mythology, Sisyphus or Prometheus.  The former, of course, had to do a lot more work, always only to find that his work led to nothing, so he always had to start over rolling his boulder, supposedly forever.  Prometheus didn’t have to take active part in his punishment, but his was surely more painful, at least in the acute moments when he was being fed upon by Zeus’s eagle.

I’ve occasionally wondered why Sisyphus bothered with his task.  There must have been some force or drive operating that led him to need to push his boulder up the hill, lest he face some pain or stress or anxiety worse than the boulder-pushing itself.  If his body just moved on its own, then it could hardly be considered his effort, and then his punishment would be “just” the muscle aches and pains and the knowledge of the endlessness of his task.  Which would make it similar to Prometheus’s punishment.

All of this is pointless mental meandering, but I would be interested to know if any of you have thoughts about which fate you might prefer, remembering that Prometheus at least would have a form of respite, and of course, he was eventually freed.  Not that either figure actually existed, but you know what I mean, I think.

That’s pretty much all I have to say for today.  I don’t really have the energy to write much more for the moment.  I hope you’re all doing well, and hopefully next week I’ll have more productivity to report to you.  If you have any requests or suggestions for topics of my random, walk-in writing, please feel free to share them.  I can’t promise that I would follow any possible suggestion, but I well certainly read and consider any serious thoughts, and it would be pleasant to hear from…well, someone in the world.

I hope you’re all as well as it’s possible for you to be**, and that you are treating yourselves and your families and your friends and any other loved ones as well as you can possibly treat them***.

TTFN

sisy


*I’ve long found it at least mildly interesting that the word “hyperbolic” can mean “of or relating to hyperbole(s)” or “of or relating to hyperbolas”.

**That’s not as straightforward a notion as it might seem at first glance.

***Again, not in some simple-minded fashion like giving them all your money or something stupid like that.  Short-term and long-term outcomes and inputs must be weighed and continuously reassessed.  That’s life.  I can’t unreservedly recommend it.

OK…

OK…

Imagine a story about someone who is trapped in some infernal prison.  It’s not a prison with walls, necessarily, but is instead a prison of the mind, perhaps, and that person is trying to get messages out, calling—begging—for help to get free.  But the messages are “coded”.  The person is allowed to communicate with the outside world, but the jailer is watching and reading all outgoing correspondence and doesn’t want the person to receive any help, even if there is anyone out there who might help him—which is not at all clear.

So, the prisoner is forced to send out these coded messages, without a code key, in hopes that people will recognize them as what they are—as attempts to beg for help.  But every response the resident gets simply makes clear that the others outside don’t get it.  They just see the messages as stories, as hypotheticals, as songs…whatever.  They’re not getting the message.  He’s had to be too subtle, and the message is not getting across because he’s had to be too subtle.

Now, take a step back—or perhaps take a step forward, or a step inward—and we realize this story is not actually a story of a person imprisoned by someone else, but that the person who imprisons him is himself.  He hates himself too much to think that he deserves help, and he hates the prospect of openly asking for help, feeling that he has no right to help from anyone—and so it is he himself who is keeping himself in prison—he himself who is forcing himself to send out only coded messages in a subtle way, and he himself who is responsible for just how much people don’t get the point of his requests for help.  Or perhaps they simply agree that he does not deserve to receive help, the prisoner and the one who imprisons him, both of whom are the same person.

People grow more and more resigned—or gleeful or whatever—knowing that the prisoner will never escape, that no one will ever come to help, that there is only one way out, and in the long run, that will be the way he must take, to the horror or perhaps to the glee of those in the outside world.

Now, imagine that this isn’t the story at all, but is something happening in the real world, at this time, in the present moment, as we speak, as we write, as we read.  Is such a thing possible?

Will the prisoner ever receive the help that he needs to escape?  Because it is not possible for him to escape on his own.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the blog

Hello.  Good morning.  Thursday.  Blog post.  You know the drill.  Or at least, you get the idea.

I don’t really have much to say or report.  I did a quick, off-the-cuff post on Tuesday about a subject that has been frustrating me more and more (the relief for which I am less and less suspicious will ever arrive, for me at least), but I don’t know that I have anything to add to it.  If anything occurs to me, and I have the energy to try to convey it, then that’s what I’ll try to do.

I’ve stalled out on reading the last 14 pages of Outlaw’s Mind so far, after having read up to that point by Monday or Tuesday.  This is after having optimistically* taken paper and a clipboard home over the weekend hoping** I’d make short work of finishing the reread and then getting on with writing.  I like the story, and I know where I want it to go and, as they say, the rest is just scratching and scribbling.  Instead, I did essentially nothing at all this weekend—apart from throwing away a bunch of the things I own because I can’t see any point in having them and they were just annoying; and preparing some other things to bring in to give “to the office” so to speak.

I wish I could say that the weekend of doing nothing was at least restful, but if anything, I felt more tired after it than I did at the beginning, not that I expect I would have felt less tired if I’d worked all weekend or anything in between.  The last time I remember waking up feeling rested was sometime in the mid-nineties (which, I just realized, is half of my life ago).  If anything, I tend to feel worse early in the day, but I wake up very early whether I feel rested or not***, so it’s quite frustrating.

Basically, I’m just tired, and getting more so (or so it seems to me) as the future becomes the present and then the past.  And I’m alone.  It’s hard to see this becoming gradually more so as time passes quite in the same way tiredness does, but I feel more alone all the time—ever more like an alien or a changeling who really doesn’t belong here, nor has any purpose here, and who has no realm or planet to which to return.  No respite appears available, and more and more, the only viable escape seems like oblivion—which would not be a relief, obviously, since relief is a state of mind and oblivion is the lack of any states of mind, but it would at least mean cessation.

There’s a moving episode in the 5th season of modern Doctor Who called “Vincent and the Doctor” in which the Doctor meets Vincent Van Gogh, and after they defeat an alien together (of course), the Doctor brings poor Vincent to a future museum so he can see and learn that he would eventually become a beloved, respected, nearly worshipped artist, one of the greatest of all time.  It may sound silly, and in a sense, it is, but it’s actually very moving—well-written, superbly acted, beautifully filmed and directed, and if your eyes are dry after the scene with Vincent in the museum, I don’t know what to think of you.

But of course, the saddest part is that, on returning him home, and then coming back to the “present”, the Doctor (and Amy Pond) discover, not to the Doctor’s surprise, that Vincent still killed himself, only a few weeks or months after their meeting, just as always.  The Doctor makes a lovely, and I think insightful, little “speech” about how the good things in life can’t necessarily correct or eliminate the bad things, but that the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things.  Vincent was still ill with whatever mood disorder and possible “neuro-divergence****” he’d always had in his own time; that hadn’t changed.

Still, it would be nice to imagine Van Gogh having been shown just how revered and admired his work would one day be, albeit not within his lifetime.  In the real world, he never had so much as a hint or probably even much of a fantasy that such a thing might happen.  It would be nice for any artist, or anyone, really, to learn that his (or her) work and life deeds had been important, and to see some of the ways in which it was so.  But it wouldn’t change much in the here and now…and it’s always now.

And sometimes “now” seems to go on forever and it can be so, so very exhausting.

I wish I could rest until I felt rested, and if that’s impossible, then just keep resting.  Making one’s quietus with a bare bodkin is an intimidating prospect with a comparatively high wall of activation energy.  But the wall is not constant, and at certain times, in certain states, in certain circumstances, the barrier becomes lower, and it may then be surmounted.

TTFN

to sleep


*I know, what the hell was going on in my head that I would be optimistic about such things?

**Hope is always foolish.

***Which I guess should go without saying, since I just said I haven’t felt rested after a night’s sleep, or anything else, since the mid-nineties.  Duh.

****He only too clearly didn’t see and experience the world quite the same way anyone else did or does.

Please don’t expect (or tell) people who really NEED help to help themselves. It’s stupid.

This is just a brief post expressing a pet peeve of mine that applies (and has done so often and at length) to me personally.

I’ve encountered this issue anew, eliciting ever-increasing tension, stress, anger, irritation, despair, etc., in my research into Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder, as people “on the spectrum” are quite often plagued by anxiety and depression, among other things, including frequent suicidal ideation…and of course, much well-intended advice is given (it being the worst and most prevalent of all vices).

The issue involves people* making suggestions such as, for instance, that those who are troubled by depression should exercise regularly, because regular exercise often seems to help depression**; or that they should talk to close friends or family members (a particular problem with “Aspies”, or so it seems to me, since communication difficulty, particularly of emotions and the like, is a major part of the condition); and that, if one is severely depressed and self-loathing and having suicidal thoughts (or intentions), one should seek help right away.

Or similar sentiments.

This all feels so condescending and simple-minded and contradictory.  It’s a bit like telling an actively drowning person that getting swimming lessons would be really good for helping them not drown, or that being helped by a friendly dolphin (or any kindly member of some other strong-swimming aquatic species unrelated to the drowner) would be quite beneficial for them, or that they should really come quickly to shore and grab a flotation device before they drown.

It’s missing the point(s) entirely.

If one could exercise regularly, one would already obviously not be THAT depressed.

If one could easily talk to people (especially if one is on “the spectrum”***) and had people to whom one felt one could talk in a relevant way about the relevant subject(s), then that would be an obvious thing, and probably already done.

And if one is feeling utter despair and profound, demonic self-loathing, then availing oneself of help of any kind–including life-saving help–seems not only impossible but frankly immoral.

You don’t do your best to give succor to or save the life of someone who is utterly reprehensible and an unadulterated malefactor who has no chance for reform or to be redeemed, right?  Would you save the likes of the next Hitler or Stalin or Charles Manson or Mark David Chapman?

If someone is lying on the ground having a heart attack or a stroke or has just been hit by a car, we don’t advise them to get up and get themselves to a hospital, do we?  It’s absurd.  It’s insulting.  It’s irritating and it’s idiotic, and it makes the world and the rest of humanity seem even less worth sticking around for****.

I wish people would stop it.  When someone really needs help, it’s means they can’t survive and/or thrive by their own actions.  Thus the metaphor “in over one’s head”.

I’ll close with an a related cartoon that captures more than one aspect of my (not quite domesticated) peeve (apologies, I do not know whom to credit for it):

drowning in depression


* Well-meaning, one must admit or at least assume.

**I have my own suspicions about the direction of causality here.

***Especially if alexithymia is one of their afflictions.  I myself score 157 out of 185 on the online test of this, such as it is.  I have a hard time even knowing what I’m feeling at any given moment, let alone communicating it clearly.

****It can even make it seem tolerable to end a sentence with a preposition, or to allow sentence fragments to stand alone on a line of type for dramatic effect.

I can’t think of a good title for this post, but look at the picture and use your imagination

It’s Friday of my first week in a very long time without working at all on my fiction writing.  I guess I’ll round the week out with one more non-fiction bit of blogging, not that I have much new to say.  But we’ll see.  Maybe I’ll say something that’s useful.  Probably not.

Those who don’t live inside my head* won’t know this very clearly, but the fact that I haven’t written any fiction this week is a truly grave fact.  It’s been many years since I’ve gone this long without writing fiction.  Even when I was in prison, I wrote every weekday, right after lights on (which happened at about 3 to 3:30 in the morning), about three to four handwritten pages every day.  And after prison I continued that.  When I didn’t have a portable laptop to use on my then three-bus trip to work in the morning, I actually wrote quite a bit on my tiny little, fifty-dollar smartphone.  That’s how a goodly chunk of Son of Man was written.  I’ve continued some version of that (writing or editing, anyway) basically every weekday when I wasn’t frankly, physically ill since then…up until this week.

I took my miniature laptop home last night thinking maybe I would take the train in to work today and use that time and that setting to try to recapture some feel and the impetus to write on the way, but I couldn’t be bothered to take the train in the end, and if I had, I don’t think I would have written any fiction.

This is not about writer’s block.  I have story ideas and plans and all that; I know where the stories are to go, I know the characters, I know the universes, it’s all up there but for the scratching and scribbling, scribbling and scratching.  This is about “living block” if you will**.

As anyone who follows (and actually reads) my blog regularly, here and/or on Iterations of Zero, knows, I am troubled with chronic depression/dysthymia, and I have been for basically my entire post-pubescent life, though it’s become more common and more persistent over time.  It gets worse at this time of year, even all other things being equal, partly because the days are getting “shorter”***.

Then one can add in the fact that it’s holiday time (Hanukkah is already over, Christmas and New Years are imminent).  I haven’t seen my kids for over eight years, and I don’t expect that I’m ever going to see them again.  And I’m down here in the distal portion of America’s Dong****, like one bacterium in a syphilis chancre…though Treponema pallidum are more community spirited and possibly more intelligent than many Floridians, particularly the government and the courts and the law enforcement community.  They’re certainly better organisms than I am.

And I don’t remember how to make or maintain friendships.  I’m not sure I ever knew.  I think friendships just happened when I was in school and university because I was just there with other people who were also there, and they were good people, and they were okay with my weirdnesses, and we got along well and so they became my friends, because that’s the kind of people they were.  Are.  They were and are all far better than I have ever deserved, certainly.

I’m many hundreds of miles away from my siblings, and from everyone I was ever really able to connect with and be close with, with the exception of my ex-wife and my kids, but again, they are doing their own things, and I don’t ever see them.  My son won’t communicate with me at all, not in any way.  I can’t blame him; I’ve been a very disappointing father.  I do some texting with my daughter, and she’s great, she’s the greatest, but she’s in college now and I have no interest in burdening her in any way.

I can’t practice medicine anymore.

I’m in chronic pain for about the last nineteen years or so, literally every day, every waking minute.  I’ve had tinnitus in my right ear for the last fifteen plus years, roughly.  That’s mainly just annoying, but it means I can’t really take advantage of stereo production stuff for music, because I can only really hear on one side, so anything I record and mix basically sounds mono.

My brain really doesn’t work quite “right”.  I don’t think it ever has, probably, it turns out.

I really want to scream and cry for help, honestly…and not just helpful and supportive words or whatever, however kindly and honestly and generously they are meant, but serious help, like medical emergency kind of help.  But I hate myself too much, and I don’t know how to express myself properly, in any case.  (It’s like the lines from the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out):  “This machine will…will not communicate these thoughts and the strain I am under.”)  I also don’t even know what I would need, what would be helpful, what would be useful, if anything.

I had signed up for online therapy through BetterHelp, or whatever it’s called, but then my therapist had to go on maternity leave.  And I don’t frankly have the will to try to start again with someone else.  I barely had the will to start in the first place, and I wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t been trying to find out about the possibility that I have undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome*****.  I didn’t get any real help with that, though.  But based on testing of various kinds that I’ve done, my professional opinion is that I do.  But I’m potentially confounded by bias, so who knows?  Maybe I’m just crazy.

My living situation has recently, rather abruptly, changed for the even more isolated…I’m basically now just living alone in a bedroom in a house that’s empty of anyone I know, and literally empty now most of the time.  Even when I’m there, it’s essentially empty, because I only barely exist.  And nothing is really any fun at all anymore.

I’ve long toyed with the idea, off and on, of going up to the Palm Beach County court house, sitting down in front of it, dousing myself in paraffin oil, lighter fluid, and gasoline, and setting myself on fire.  I don’t know, I guess it would be some sort of statement, since that’s where most of what I had was taken from me, or at least where the overt effects took place.  I even bought (and still have) the lighter fluid and paraffin oil.  Gasoline is easy (I have a nicely portable can to put it in).  So are matches and/or lighters.  But I don’t think I have the guts to do that, and honestly, I also don’t really want to inconvenience and traumatize people who just go to work and try to do their jobs there.  Life is hard enough already.

I also bought at least two nonrebreather masks, and three tanks of helium, for possible asphyxiation.  Peaceful, tidy, not too traumatic.  But I had to sort of explain the helium to people, so I donated two of them for parties, one in the office, one for my former housemate’s daughter’s birthday.  I still have a third one, but I don’t think that’s enough, and anyway, I don’t have a good place to use it that wouldn’t be just incredibly rude to a good number of people, which I don’t want to do.  Maybe I’m just making excuses.  Maybe I’m just a coward.  I mean, I know I am a coward, of course, but maybe I’m just a coward and nothing more.

I want to escape.  I want to quantum tunnel into a state of oblivion–or into a better state of existence, if there is such a thing available to someone and something like me, which seems unlikely.

Oh, well.  It doesn’t really matter.  Does it?  I think this will most likely be the last of at least these atypical blog posts.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether I bother to write my usual blog post next week.  Maybe I will.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I don’t know what to do or what to say or how to act or how to continue, or how not to continue.  I am alone and powerless and pointless.

And above all, there’s nothing else in the world I hate as much as I hate myself…and that’s saying something, believe me.

album cover


*Which is everyone but me and my fictional characters.

**Is it redundant to use scare quotes and then say “if you will”?

***Technically, I think the days are literally getting longer because the rotation of the Earth is slowing down ever so slightly over time, but I guess it’s happening very slowly indeed.  I suppose that, the Earth not being quite a perfectly uniform sphere, it throws off at least a tiny bit of energy as gravitational waves, but I suspect that’s a truly negligible drain…it probably wouldn’t make a measurable change by itself over several times the current age of the universe.  I haven’t done any calculations, I’m just guessing, here, so don’t quote me.

****Homer Simpson’s apt description of Florida.

*****They don’t officially call it that anymore, apparently, but I like it better than the newer designation, and I know that all names are comparatively arbitrary.  They’re all just ways to trigger other people to access their mental files of notions and ideas that have shared meaning in other minds, anyway, and I don’t know how much other people and I have in common.  Not much, I suspect.

 

You great benefactors, sprinkle our society with thankfulness. For your own blogs, make yourselves praised.

Hello and good morning.  Once again, it’s not Thursday but Friday, this time the 26th of November in 2021.  I intended to write a blog post yesterday, though it was Thanksgiving here in the US.  However, I’ve come down with a moderate cold this week—nothing horrific, not Covid-19 or the flu, but an irritating and enervating process that includes sneezing, coughing, runny nose, some laryngitis, a bit of achiness, and just generally feeling blah.  So, I decided that I’d take the whole day off yesterday and sleep in, then sleep quite a bit off and on throughout the day.  I have done so, and now here I am, in the office on so-called Black Friday*, writing this week’s blog post.

I did try to make the fact of being sick productive—I recorded a roughly twenty or so minute video reviewing the differences between viruses and bacteria, the different types of illnesses they cause, and the differences in treatment for which they call.  It’s the sort of thing that I would have thought was common knowledge that most people learned and pretty well mastered by the time they were in middle school, at least on a broad level, but this is plainly not the case.  I haven’t edited and posted that video yet, but I will, probably this weekend, unless I’m too under the weather still.

Being sick and so on has seriously diverted me from my work on Outlaw’s Mind.  Between Monday and Tuesday, I only wrote 2450 words, and I wrote nothing at all on Wednesday (nor yesterday).  Part of this is due to the respiratory infection, but another portion is due to the ennui I continue to feel regarding writing any story.  I’m far more stubborn than the day is long, but even I can have difficulty staying motivated.  It’s not that I don’t like the story.  I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite ever story idea, but it’s also far from my least favorite, and no other story that I have waiting in the wings seems eager to push it aside.

Some of my apathy is probably due to the diminishing day length, which leads to worsening of my dysthymia—which has itself been persistent, more or less, in this iteration, for at least a dozen years and probably more.  In fact, the last time I can remember being truly free from it must be from roughly 1996 or 1997 through sometime in 2002 or 2003.  I was well-nigh unstoppable then, though I was in late med school then residency then the beginning of medical practice, and moved states, and became a father to two children.

After that time, especially after my back injury, I’ve been under the pall of depression/dysthymia, overlaid with personal catastrophes of several kinds.  The external stuff is comparably tolerable, however, though that might be hard to believe, since it includes injury, chronic pain, illness, loss of career, imprisonment, loss of family, isolation, etc.  But it’s true.

I liken it very much and quite seriously to being undead, and not in a cool, darkly sexy, Anne Rice vampire chronicles way.  One of the best literary quotes that describes, for me, what dysthymia is like is when Gandalf speaks of the Rings of Power to Frodo, describing what happens to someone (such as Bilbo or the Nazgul) who keeps one of the Great Rings:

“A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness.”

I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t intend this to be a metaphor for dysthymia, but it really resonates with me.  Interestingly, as I looked up the specific quote above, I realized that I had subtly altered it in my head to read:  “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps a Great Ring does not die, but neither does he grow or obtain new life.  He merely continues, until at last each breath is a weariness.”  The gist is the same, and I don’t know how to account for the differences.  Do those two wordings strike any of you differently, or are they basically indistinguishable?  I would honestly be fascinated to know.

Writing new stories has often been a source of some relief from depression; I’m not the only author to have noted this fact.  But rather like the notion that exercise is good for depression, it doesn’t do you much good if your depression keeps you from doing the thing that helps.  I’ve often wondered whether the causality was misconstrued in the studies of exercise and depression; perhaps the people who were able to do the exercising were already experiencing improvement in their depression, and so they were able to participate fully.  I’m pretty sure that the various study designers thought of that issue, and randomized as best they could to counter it, but it’s not always completely doable.

Anyway, that’s a summary of my status.  Maybe I’ll review all my old story ideas and see if any of them really grabs me and makes me want to write more than Outlaw’s Mind does.  I have this weekend off (after having worked the last two Saturdays), so perhaps the extra rest will help.

I hope all of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that everyone else just had a lovely week and a nice Thursday.  Christmas approaches for those who celebrate it, and even those who don’t can’t avoid its presence in the West.  Best wishes of the solstice season to all of you out there, no matter which one you’re approaching.

TTFN

Thankschristmassy


*Though they’ve started with “Black Friday” sales right after Halloween, frankly, so they’ve rather spoiled the whole mystique of the Day After Thanksgiving being the biggest Christmas shopping day.  There’s no good and interesting phenomenon that we in America—and probably the rest of the world—can’t squeeze and overuse until it’s lost all sense of fun and use that it previously had.

Give me to drink mandragora…that I might sleep out this great blog of time

Goodo and hell morning.  It’s not Thursday—it’s Friday, November 19th, 2021—but this is an edition of my weekly blog post.  I did not write anything at all yesterday, neither blog post nor new fiction nor letters nor emails nor notes to self nor any other kind of writing.  I was lying in bed pretty much all day (getting up to obtain meals and to use the bathroom—which, interestingly, doesn’t have a bathtub, just a shower, a sink, and a euphemism, yet we call it a bathroom).  Despite having gotten nicely into a walking routine over the last several weeks—which seemed to be doing good for my back and other joints—somehow, at the beginning of this week, or the end of the last, something triggered a significant exacerbation.  I’ve had pain and stiffness not just in my back but markedly so in my hips and shoulders, wrists and hands, ankles, knees, and so on.  I wondered if I’d started to develop polymyalgia rheumatica, frankly, given the symptoms.

It’s interesting to note that something called polymyalgia* entails such prominent arthralgia**.  But nomenclature isn’t always accurate, even in medicine; it’s often riddled with historical artifacts.  Take the source of the word “vaccination”, for instance.  How many people know that its origin comes from exposing people to Vaccinia (related to smallpox and formerly thought to be cowpox but apparently more like horsepox***) to engender immunologic protection against Variola, aka Smallpox?

So, anyway, I didn’t write my usual weekly blog post on Thursday this week, and I suppose I could’ve just given the whole thing a miss, but I figured I’d try to be better late than never if I could.  I’m more motivated to write this blog than I am to write my new fiction, anyway, which is a bit sad to me, though I doubt I shall hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth from the general public.  Also, it’s just barely possible that I won’t be writing a blog post next week (though I think I usually do) on Thanksgiving.  It will probably be shorter than usual, anyway.  So, it would be a shame to leave this space blank, intentionally or otherwise.

This is not to say that I haven’t been working on Outlaw’s Mind.  I have.  Even when I’ve had trouble getting going in the morning, and I putter around rereading and—this week at least—spending about twenty minutes each morning lying on the floor to try to ease my back a bit, I still have written eight hundred to fourteen hundred words each on the days I’ve written, which is to say Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I’m just not feeling the same drive and motivation for writing that I normally feel.

I wonder if that ambivalence is because this story has been interrupted more than once.  Part of me wants to put it back on the back burner and just start to write something new that I haven’t started before.  But then, of course, that would mean that there would be yet another interruption in Outlaw’s Mind, and it might never get written.  This is not exactly an epic tragedy, obviously—there are many stories waiting in my head that have not yet been, and may never be, written.  But it would be a minor shame.  Had I but world enough and time—or particularly, had I but a time unmarred by chronic pain with exacerbations and free from chronic depression, or at least with all those things under reasonable control—I could write more and faster even than I already do.

And if wishes were horses, we’d all be neck deep in horseshit.

Anyway, that’s nearly it for this week, I’m afraid.  I apologize for the lateness and for the less-than-optimal post that this is.  It’s a day late and, though not a dollar short, I feel it’s not up to my usual standards.  I’m back at the office, but I am still far from physically comfortable, and that takes its toll.  I hope you’ll all understand.

In the meantime, though, in America we have Thanksgiving coming up next week, and I hope most of you are looking forward to a nice meal with family if you’re able.  Though, of course, be careful if you travel, and do your best not to contribute to a new wave of Covid-19, as well as flu and other respiratory viruses—they all tend to have significant upticks here in the US after Thanksgiving, since it’s the biggest travel holiday of the year.

Please, everyone, have a good time with those you love.  And do something, if you’re able, for people who are alone.  Even if it seems that’s the way they want to be, it’s worth checking if they need anything.

But for goodness’ sake, don’t tell them that they ought to be thankful and appreciative and not feel too bad, perhaps because other people have it “worse”.  That doesn’t help anybody; it’s just self-serving crap designed to absolve the speaker of any need to be compassionate.  There’s presumably only one person on Earth at any given time about whom it couldn’t be said that there are those who have it worse****.  What good does it do anyone to be told that, at this moment, they aren’t that person, by someone else who also isn’t that person and isn’t doing anything to make a difference for that person or for anyone else?  If you can’t say anything useful and/or nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.  Silence is preferable to insulting, counterproductive stupidity.

TTFN

desert


*Which refers to muscle pain.

**Which refers to joint pain.

***So many farm animal poxes!  Chicken pox, by the way, is Varicella.  Imagine if our inoculation process had started with chicken pox.  We might refer to the process as varicellation.

****I think we can safely assume that the title changes hands rapidly and often, since such a person probably has a foreshortened lifespan.

So quick bright blogs come to confusion

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for it on tenterhooks.

It’s the first day of July, and in the U.S., we’ll have our founding holiday this weekend—Independence Day, popularly referred to merely by its date, The Fourth of July.  I prefer the more formal term, myself, since it reminds us of what we’re supposedly celebrating.  It’s a nice day to reread the Declaration of Independence, if you’ve not read it in a while, or have never read it.  It’s not very long, and it’s okay to skip the list of grievances if you want.  Actually, it’s okay if you skip the whole thing and just spend the day with your family (if that’s an option for you) and maybe watch and/or set off some fireworks.  It’s not as though any of it really matters.

Of course, if you’re outside of the United States, you probably will just have an ordinary Sunday.

I’ve continued to edit In the Shade, being fairly draconian in my word trimming, and I think it’s having a good effect.  Of course, I don’t know how others will perceive the outcome.  For one thing, no one is going to be able to read it in its first draft form and then compare it to the final draft to see which they like better.  Then again, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever read it but me, anyway.  And if they do, it’s unlikely that I’ll get any feedback about it.  So, again, it’s not as though any of it really matters.

A rather peculiar, or disturbing, or enlightening sequence of events happened to me over the course of this last week, some of the details of which I’m not quite ready to get into, but the general shape of which I’m prepared to share.

As happens sometimes, the YouTube algorithm—drawing from its vast, mindless database of patterns of videos people have watched and “liked” after watching others—presented me with a video on a subject that I’d not seen before.  Not to say I wasn’t aware of the subject, I’d just never watched or sought out any such videos, nor read any but very general information about it.  It’s one I was aware of, as a medical doctor (by training and degree, though no longer in practice), but I was far from an expert in the subject.  Something about the video’s thumbnail intrigued me, so I watched it, and one or two others by the same person.  I was truly flabbergasted by how familiar many of the things this person was saying were to me.

So, I decided to take an online test (it’s created and provided by a legitimate scientific source, not some click-bait website), and I got a surprisingly high result.  Higher than this video-maker had scored when he took the test, and higher than that of some other people who do videos on the same subject.

I assumed that I must have been exaggerating, overestimating, and misinterpreting the test questions, and so the next day I took it again, trying to control for such overstatement.  It came back with a higher score.  So, being me, I watched more videos and bought a book or two* and looked up some research papers and less formal writings, and I’m sneaking myself toward the suspicion that this test may actually be correct.  I’ve even retaken it again since, trying harder not to be melodramatic, and my score went up more.

(I only once took a related, subsequent test, created by the same scientist/group that had created the first; on this one the lower the score is, the more “positive”, and my score was so surprisingly, remarkably low that I think it has to be an error or a fluke of the way I took the test, or a product of my bias, or something like that.  I haven’t taken that one again.  I’m frankly afraid of the result.)

I know I’m being terribly vague about all this, but please try to bear with me.  I don’t like jumping to conclusions, and I’m quite hesitant about my ability to be objective about myself.  I’ve only told one person (my employer) about the results with full information about what it was, partly because of the understanding way he’s always responded to my weirdness.  He was only generally familiar with the subject but seemed almost congratulatory about the result, which caught me by surprise.  I don’t quite know what to make of that.

I also don’t know what to do about all this; at first it seemed like a possible boon, a useful discovery, but now I fear that it really doesn’t change anything or, again, really matter at all.  There are links provided, after one takes the test and gets a high score, to possible people to “speak” to, to find out more, or get “help”, or whatever, but frankly, the thought of interacting with such people, or even of seeking out others who have scored highly on such tests is about as pleasant as being told that, to achieve some moderately desirable result, I need to eat a large bowl of fried eggplant.  That may not sound bad to many of you—you may happen to like eggplant—but even the smell of cooking eggplant makes me physically prone to throw up**.

I can’t even bring myself to seek out a new therapist regarding my dysthymia/depression, which is a confirmed and often dangerous problem for me; I’ve been through it all so often and in so many ways, and I have actual, clinical, expert level understanding of the problem—I’ve literally helped treat people for it, as a medical doctor.

It’s not out of arrogance that I avoid getting the therapy (though I think I am arrogant sometimes); I’m quite sure there are many people out there who could provide useful feedback and input for me, even if there’s no greater explanatory insight involved.  I’ve had therapists I liked, and who helped me, and if I could go to one of them again, I probably would, but none of those is close enough and I have no interest in trying to meet and develop a relationship with a new one.  The prospect is such a huge and daunting chore as to make me feel more depressed (see above about the eggplant).

So, anyway, for right now, I’m caught in a conundrum, with all the force vectors pushing against each other and holding me, pierced like a dissection specimen, in the center of their arrows.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with a psychologist (not about me, this was in a professional context) who said that in family therapy, in a severely dysfunctional setting, sometimes the only thing they could do would be the equivalent of setting off a stick of dynamite in the family dynamic, and hoping that after the explosion, things would settle back into at least a less dysfunctional pattern.  It sounded awful.  But sometimes I fear that it will require similar metaphorical dynamite for anything to change for me.  I’ve been through such explosions, more than once, and I don’t think the new patterns are better.  I don’t like my odds.

So, anyway, I’m knowingly being nonspecific, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of honest confusion about what, if anything, to do.  I guess it might be nice to find a kindred spirit of some sort, but I honestly doubt whether such a person exists, and the notion of hoping they might be possible and then finding they are not, or failing in some other fashion, is worse than not knowing.  Tennyson was an idiot, frankly, and similarly, Sisyphus would have been far better served just to stop pushing that stupid boulder.  He wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, no matter what he did.  He’d have been better served just to use it as a chair or a back rest and go to sleep.

That’s enough of all that for now.  I hope you’re all well, and that you have a terrific month of July, holidays or not.

TTFN

indecision


*Academic in character—the “personal” ones seemed entirely too subjective and anecdotal, which is probably unfair of me, especially given the nature of this blog post, but I’m trying to learn objective things, as much as possible, and most stories of and by real people, in written form, tend just to spin my head around, or bore me, and aren’t useful for insights.

**I’m not exaggerating.  It’s worse than mildew, worse than the smell of a dead skunk on the highway, and far more nauseating than walking into a camp latrine that hasn’t been cleaned in years.  It’s a physical response, not a value judgement.  I’m honestly envious of people who like eggplant, as with other foods I find intolerable.  They get so much pleasure from them, and it’s pleasure I can never have.

These are blogged in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

It’s been a particularly auspicious week for me, as those of you who follow my blog regularly will know, for this last weekend I finally published The Vagabond, a book I first began when I was in college, more than thirty years ago.  It’s amazing for me to see it out there; I received my own copy yesterday afternoon, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.  I’m always at least a bit nervous before I see the physical form of any book, and this one was more nerve-wracking than most, because it’s a book of such importance and provenance for me.  It’s only the second full novel I ever wrote—the first is truly lost in time, and I can’t imagine any way it could be found, since it was hand-written on notebook paper, and is gone with everything else I owned before 2013.  I wish I had protected it better, or done more with it, but I had no idea that my life could take the turn it did, and I can’t change the past in any case.

That book would have needed a lot of fixing up.  I wrote it in high school, and it was quite a mess, physically, and certainly it would have required extensive editing as well.  As I might have said before, I occasionally entertain the notion of someday recreating it—I certainly remember the story, and most of the names of the key characters.  But it would take a lot of work, and I’m just not sure I’m motivated to do it, or indeed that I’ll ever really have the opportunity to do so.

Speaking of things written in high school, though, I am happy also to tell you that my short story, House Guest, which contributed to me winning an NCTE award in 1986*, has now been retyped into the computer (saved and then backed up in two places!), and I’m beginning to edit it for eventual addition to my planned collection, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I may also add to that collection a short story I started writing in about 2012 but didn’t finish, called In the Shade.  Of course, that would mean that I’ll have to finish it now, but that’s not a big problem.  It was most of the way done already, and I know how it will end.  With those two stories, there will be at least two “previously unpublished” tales in the collection, which seems only fair to those who will buy it.

House Guest is, possibly to the relief of some readers, much shorter than many of my more recent “short stories” which are not quite long enough to be novellas but often tend to be about sixty pages long.  I wonder what’s led to me writing such longer stories than I used to write.  Some of it is no doubt just age-increased patience and practice, but I also sometimes wonder if the fact that I can write so fast on a computer leads me to run off at the keyboard and get carried away.  I may have said it before, but I can type (with a word processor) almost as fast as I can speak, and more coherently.  On the other hand, I wrote Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and my “short story” Paradox City all by hand on notebook paper propped on a “photo album”, under less-than-ideal circumstances, and they aren’t especially short.

So perhaps it’s just me, or that I’ve grown to want more detail and conversation in my stories than others might even like.  I don’t know.  I have received at least one review of my short story Penal Colony that said that they thought the conversation between the two main characters dragged on too long.  It’s a reasonable criticism, and I appreciate it very much—though, to be fair, real conversations do tend to drag on.  And I tried to use the interaction to reveal the quite unusual background of one of the characters in a natural way.  But it’s possible that I got carried away with just pleasing myself.

Of course, if I can’t please myself, I don’t know that it matters if I please anyone else.  But that’s a philosophical question not worth addressing here.

Anyway, I have tentative plans to try an experiment.  Once I’ve finished the stories for the collection, and have then finished Outlaw’s Mind (which is already being written on the computer, and became too long to be any kind of short story but will probably end up as a novella or a short novel) I plan to write whatever I write next—assuming that I’m still around—by hand, on notebook paper, though I’ll use a clipboard this time instead of a photo album sold, for some reason, in the prison canteen**.  It’s not set in stone, but that’s my tentative plan.  At least paper on a clipboard isn’t subject to power outages.

As far as being still around, yesterday I took at least one step toward making that more likely:  I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.  It’s the Pfizer one, and I’ll go back for my second dose in three or so weeks.  Between the vaccine and having had the actual virus, I should be reasonably protected going forward, assuming the protection is shown to last for a decent time.  Since this deed protects me and, more to the point, those around me, it seemed like the thing to do.  No protection is perfect, of course, and no one is ever completely safe.  “No one here gets out alive,” after all.

That’s a sentiment that the title character of The Vagabond might celebrate, though he tends to think that ordinary death is too quick and easy, preferring to terrify and torment the poor mortals he encounters.  If you like stories about such beings, and about the attempts of accidental heroes to fight against them, then please do pick up (or download for Kindle), a copy; I think you’ll enjoy it.

And while you’re waiting for this or my next works to arrive and/or be available, do please take care of yourselves and each other—for instance, by getting vaccinated, if you’re able, an act which works toward both of these aims.  Stay healthy and safe as much as you can and do your best to be happy at least part of the time.

TTFN

Vagabond pose pic on highway 3 posterized


*So that story is thirty-five years old, but it has in a sense been “published” or at least evaluated before, unlike The Vagabond.

**I guess the idea was that prisoners might have family members sending them photos to remind them of home, which is nice, though it can also be tormenting.  I’d be mildly interested in what the thought processes were behind the choice to make that available.  I’m glad it was, though!

Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, for thee, and for my blog no quiet find.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m still comparatively “out of it”, so I had to double-check that, yes, today really is Thursday.  I woke up yesterday feeling that it was Friday, though that might have been wishful thinking; I thought not only that it was Friday, but that I didn’t need to work on Saturday.  Both of these turn out to be wrong.  (Sigh.  Life is so tiring.)

Despite still obviously being reduced from my peak abilities by the aftereffects of Covid, I’ve had a relatively productive week.  First, I recorded and posted an “audio blog” which I guess counts as a sort of mini podcast, on Iterations of Zero.  It was triggered—weirdly enough—when I woke up the other day with the old Genesis song Land of Confusion going through my head, particularly the line about how “my generation will get it right, we’re not just making promises that we know we’ll never keep”.  I find such utterances terribly irritating, even in what could be considered poetry, and I replied in my head that, well, you might not be making promises that you know you’ll never keep, but you are making promises that you’ll never keep.  And indeed, they have not kept them.

Promising, after all, is easy.  Actually doing something takes work, usually a lot of it.

And of course, the remarks in the song about superman, men of steel, men of power, always set me off; there are no supermen, there are no “men of steel”, there are no “men of power”, and there never have been.  There are just other flesh and blood humans, just other bees in the hive or ants in the hill.

Anyway, I went off on those ideas for about seventeen minutes, since I was still fuming when I arrived at the office, and I then edited it (a bit) and posted it.

I did something a little more upbeat also, finally releasing my cover of the Radiohead song Nude, which is on IoZ and on YouTube:

I really like that song, but the process of having to correct for recording issues in the edit and mixing process finally drove me to buy a somewhat better microphone (closing the proverbial barn door after the equine had exited).  Just in playing with that microphone, I realized how much easier it makes things to have a good USB condenser mic.  I was able to record a draft of a cover of the Beatles song Julia in just one morning, which I embed here in present form.

Of course, I mixed it and did some reverb after the recording and whatnot, and it is a simpler song, but still, that’s a total of maybe an hour’s work or so (not counting learning and practicing the guitar part, of course).  And the microphone I used only cost about thirty-five dollars, so it’s definitely not a big expense.  I probably spend more than that every week on bubbly water.

Of course, I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, but there’s not much new to say other than that I’m one week closer to being finished.  I still enjoy the story, and I look forward to seeing it published and then going on to finish Outlaw’s Mind and then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities and all that stuff.  After all that, I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to write next.  I’m going to write something, though, since it turns out the novel coronavirus hasn’t killed me*, and as long as I’m alive, I mean to keep writing.  I’ll also probably (to a lesser extent) keep doing music—especially now that I have my new microphone(s)—and I’ll probably keep doing little mini-podcasts that I’ll upload, though I don’t know if anyone likes them or wants to listen to them.  I’d actually appreciate feedback on that question, but I don’t think I’ve ever received any despite asking for it, so I’m not going to hold my breath.

With that, I guess I’m done with my weekly summary of events and thoughts, though I’m sure I could have written more**.  I hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you stay well and, if you can, even get weller.

TTFN

Picture1


*I have mixed and varying feelings about this.  In all honesty, life often does not seem worth the effort to me, which is probably part of why I love Hamlet so much.  And yet, even though people throughout the ages have noted that life is often not a net gain, particularly after a certain point, our culture allows, and even encourages, other people to hold us accountable for staying alive so that they don’t have to feel the pain of our death…even if they are not putting any effort into helping make our life worth living.  I’m not saying that other people should be responsible for making my (or anyone else’s) life pleasant or positive or whatever, but if they aren’t, they sure as fuck shouldn’t then arrogate to themselves the right to try to manipulate and coerce someone into enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune just because their deaths would cause that other person pain.  It’s logically inconsistent if nothing else.  It’s also selfishness and cruelty masquerading as humanitarianism.

Anyway, just to conclude this footnote with a request: if you are worried about someone who’s depressed or has some other disorder and you don’t want them to die, don’t wheedle or berate or manipulate or cajole them not to die just because it would make you upset if they did.  What right do you have to insist upon their continued suffering just so you don’t have to deal with their death?  If you really want them to stay alive, then make it your business to help them have good reasons to want to stay alive.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up!

**I can almost always write more.  In fact, an early pseudonym suggestion for me by my father was “Franklin L. Ritemoore”.  It took me about five minutes to get the joke, but I was only in junior high at the time, so I was less advanced at wordplay than I am now.