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Did Hemingway inspire my very own witching hour?

29 Jan

First, an answer to yesterday’s question, did I catch my inner critic, and put my own inactivity behind me, in time to keep the day from being a failure? In short, yes.

But the yes came with a bargain; I continued to put off my main priorities (a single job application and a handful of personal letters) for another day, and rolled more than one more joint throughout the day, but I did make a fantastic dinner and spent some quality time with the boy in Call of Duty. I even cleaned up the kitchen afterward, including hand washing the half dozen pots and bowls with various caked on messes from the meal’s preparation.

Today I find myself in a similar situation and time, not long after my own personal witching hour, 11:00 a.m.

For the last few weeks, as long as I’m up and have my first coffee and meds before 8:00, I’m usually optimistic about the day’s prospects, even anticipating my wife’s pride in recognizing my day’s accomplishments. I can sustain these feelings too, for the entire day if I do things right.

I need to put serious work into one of my top priorities, and I need to be at it before 11:00. Immediately after that, my self-confidence and optimism for the day take a nosedive. I start to minimize, then write off entirely, my prospects of touching my main priorities for the rest of the day. My thoughts shift focus from all the time I have to be productive, to the limited time I have left to myself before the boy and my wife get home.

I describe these feelings as mental momentum, something I have to keep up before I hit my witching hour. If I keep my mind in motion on my priorities, I drive through it. If not, it’s the immovable object that puts me at rest.

Oh, and why 11:00? I think it’s because there’s still time to make the morning productive, so I can see something that’s come from the day being half over. But that’s not all; I’m fairly sure I’ve heard virtually the same sentiments expressed by a famous writer. Hemingway was known for doing his full day’s writing before 11:00, at which time he’d say, “Eleven o’clock. What the hell, it’s noon in Miami. Let’s have a drink.”

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway, but could he be my unconscious inspiration? And if so, is he inspiring my writing…or just my lifestyle?

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Quick confession before church

27 Jan

I’m on my way to church – that’s my new code for my weekly group therapy – and I’m sharing a quick confession or two so I can at least report some work-oriented progress to the group.

My confession is that since my last post I’ve done virtually nothing on the job front; still no application, no networking emails or calls. Not even making the amends I feared would be a distraction from the job hunt.

No, instead I worried myself into a tailspin of familiar habits; smoking pot, watching TV, playing the boy’s Xbox, and dreading my wife’s return from work out of shame for having obviously done so very little.

As I write this, I can already see a way out of this week’s rut, or at least the way I’m thinking about it. And if nothing else, I’ve got a familiar tale to tell the church crowd tonight.

Thank you therapy

16 Jan

In what seems to be a recurring theme, I’m starting today’s post with another tale of yesterday’s failures…and small victories.

It was about this time yesterday that I was tallying my accomplishments up against my expectations for the day. I had been more productive and kept myself busier than any day in weeks – almost no television, putting together a real, immediate plan for my job hunt, even daring to rough out a cover letter for the job I want to apply for by the end of the week – and yet I was dangerously close to chalking up the day as a failure.

Why? Because I didn’t think I’d get to my new daily blogging. I’d set manageable expectations for the day, and did far more than I set out to do, but one relatively minor task left undone threatened to ruin my entire day’s work (or at least my feelings towards it).

I’m often torn about the value of certain therapies – like my weekly group therapy or “going to church” as I sometimes call it – but this week its worth was obvious.

For starters, I was reminded yet again of how irrational and vicious my inner critic can be. With yesterday as a perfect example, I was *this* close to writing off the day of major accomplishments because of a single, minor missed expectation…one only I would ever notice at that.

After hearing the group’s reaction to my thinking, and seeing it now in writing, it’s obvious that my self-criticism was ridiculously harsh and shame inducing. As you’ll soon learn, this is a lesson that’s taking me some time to learn.

The other benefit the group provided was the reassurance that, while I’m crazy on many fronts, I’m certainly not alone. There’s always one person who’s having a day as shitty as mine, and that company feels good. I wonder how many of my church friends – all juggling substance, mental health and interpersonal issues – find the same solace in my misery.

Funny…that was a comfort I used to find at my favourite watering hole, when alcohol was my anxiety and depression medication of choice. Even as I drowned my sorrows and avoided my own demons, I was able to look at my drinking buddies with a sense of pity, empathizing with their pain while temporarily numb to my own.

Suffice to say, group therapy’s working a whole lot better than drinking ever did.

Today was another productive day, similar to yesterday in that I didn’t do everything on my to do list, but I did much more that wasn’t. With luck and yesterday’s therapy reminders, I’ll end this day a success.

Fast forward to today

24 Sep

Today I’m in my early forties, I blew ALL the money I made in the dot-com boom, and I’m on my way into work making minimum wage as a sales clerk at a bookstore…where I’m older than most of my co-workers by two decades.

I’m getting by only because my wife has (miraculously) stood by me, bailing me out of my financial woes and sticking with me long past the point most people would have kicked my ass out on the curb.

I know, suck it up, right? The burst of my dot-com bubble, what triggered my descent into depression, was almost 15 years ago. I’ve had two kids since then and even enjoyed a successful career for 10 years. Get over it already.

If only it were that easy. If only there wasn’t a day – an hour even – when I didn’t think of all the things that could have been.

WTF? Another self-help blog?

27 Sep

So I’ve had some rough times and I see a shrink.  Why do I need to write a blog?  Why does the world needs one more self-help blog or one more diary of a self-proclaimed recovering addict with a weird childhood, to add to the millions that are already out there?  A few reasons:

1) The message isn’t getting through – Benjamin Franklin once said (in frustration I imagine) insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome.”   By this measure all of humanity is certifiably insane, but crazy people are particularly prone.   One thing that stands out among all the crazy people I’ve met  is how much their own stories – of decline and recovery – so closely mirror my own. Why do we put ourselves through such pain just to learn a lesson that so many have learned (and probably told us) before?

2) I’ve earned it – Sure I’ve made mistakes, burned bridges and dropped off the radar with old friends.  I’ll even agree that I’m chiefly to blame for my own mental health woes.  But none of this takes away from the pain I’ve been through and burdens I’ve carried with me over the years, and if that’s earned me anything I think it’s a voice.

3)  I’m not supposed to be here – I know what you’re thinking, that everyone’s innocent in jail.  But I really wasn’t supposed to be end up crazy.  My dad’s crazy, but I made it out of childhood unscathed.  I went to a private school and a good university, and I always did well.  I was a dot-com millionaire before I turned 30, by then accustomed to working with CEOs twice my age, billing myself out for $200+/hr,  and usually being the youngest person in the room.

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