Writing Something

September 29, 2018

I was going to write a blog entry about writing a page of my play finally. Something’s wrong with that.

Maybe it’s the quiet desperation of celebrating one page of writing done. Maybe it’s the need of attention to have done anything. Maybe it’s the long time in between pages of this project that irks me. I’m not sure it’s not exactly something worth celebrating. Maybe I’m not celebrating the writing. I might want to yet again talk about how I’m overcoming mental illness to get things done. That’s worth celebrating, but I tend to wallow in it and make more of it than I should. Maybe it’s simultaneously showing off and a cry for help; surprisingly I can do that. Maybe I just need another blog post to satiate readers. Anyway, I realize I’m not writing something that I’m fully into, so it’s best not to write.

However the one page written got me thinking about something: I need to get my process together again.

I used to be good with writing on schedule. After work, I came home and wrote; then dinner then wrote; take breaks for snacks, bathroom, etc. (though sadly including Facebook) when needed, keep writing before bed. I was good at it and I got stuff done. Even with taking Sophia on weekends, I still got things written. My financial and mental downward spiral and becoming a single parent was the one two punch that threw the whole system out of whack, and it never got back on track. I certainly never had another daily writing routine to follow again. I need to get some semblance of it back. To that end, I’m going to do the NaNoWriMo event this year.

I talk about whether or not I’m going to do it every year. It’s mostly for novelists, but I’ve done it for blogs and essays, as well as scripts. Knowing I have a project that I’d like to finish and needing to turn my writing back into a daily habit, I want to do the month right/write. Wish me luck.

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Seven-Month Ordeal

August 27, 2018

It’s strange how everything you do that you hope will radically change things doesn’t.

The first half of this year was dedicated to moving to a new place. Actually more than that. The second we got back from New Year’s in Las Vegas—which seems like years ago already—we had to prepare for a Section 8 inspection of the apartment. We passed, but the inspector failed the building for the landlord to fix. Shortly after the first fail and before the follow-up, my landlord—actually the landlord’s daughter, because the real landlord was moved to a senior living center—told us she wasn’t going to renew our lease and wanted us to move out. She said the costs of the inspections they kept failing were getting to her. There was also talk of her getting out of property rental for a number of reasons. Whatever the real reason, we had to leave. First if was supposed to be March 31 based on the old lease, even though I signed the lease in late April; We later got it pushed back to May 1. Most of the pushback happened because Section 8 moved slowly in getting all our paperwork looked at and sent to me; only then could we look for a place. That brought us to late March.

Still finding a place I was in my budget and still in the Boston School district—I was not about to let her lose a spot in Boston Latin Academy—was near impossible. I found a lot of places but it seemed my credit score was too low and got in my way. Many people said that made no sense because with a Section 8 voucher the landlord is guaranteed their rent. However the credit checks help ensure landlords won’t take Section 8 holders. It’s against the law to discriminate against Section 8 voucher holders, but a low credit score gives the landlord an out: they can say the applicant was rejected for bad credit not because of Section 8 per se.

My past also came back to haunt me. My credit score was low (needed work actually) because I filed for personal bankruptcy a decade ago. It’s better, but it shows up on my credit score as well as weighs it down. Another big issue was my eviction from the boarding house in Everett. No landlord wants to rent to someone who has an eviction history, for whatever reason. So all that kept me from finding a place at a reasonable price within a reasonable time frame. And staying where I was wasn’t an option—even though it was; all I had to do was renegotiate the leave date with the landlord and Section 8 would cover it. The problem was staying put with that landlord was trying for most of this year by now. While she tried to appear to be a nice person, I felt she was being unreasonably intrusive in a number of ways (e.g. daily phone calls that bordered on harassment; demands to know if I’ve found a place and wondering how I’m looking, etc). After conversations with a friend who used to be in the building proved to me that this wasn’t al lin my mind: this is how she acts. The stress of looking for a place was hard enough without the downward pressure from a landlord, so May 1 was a firm move date for me.

When that day came and we still hadn’t been able to get a place to move to, it was a different stress. Where could we go? What would we do? Was I doing the right thing? Whether right or wrong, I made sure Sophia would be with family for as long as possible. On May 1, Sophia stayed with her brother in JP for a week, we moved out all the stuff I wanted to keep into storage and left the rest, then I went to spend a week with a friend of a friend in Weymouth.

The house hopping was another problem in itself. I had to find people able and willing to put me up for an allotted time and hope I don’t overstay my welcome (that happened a couple of times through my own circumstances to blame). Also I had to arrange for places for Sophia with family or have the place I hop to next take both of us. I could deal with couch surfing but I wanted to spare Sophia from that if I could. And I couldn’t. The second week Sophia stayed with her aunt while I was able to housesit in Medford for a friend from church. By this time my first real estate agent gave up and gave me back my money saying she did everything she could and couldn’t find anything for me. And I was still looking for a place to live permanently on top of all the temporary housing. I kept after online leads and called a few agencies and people who specialized in helping people like me in this situation. The third week we were able to stay with friends from church at their place in Haverill. All this time, I’m working because I can’t afford not to, but now the commute was about to get nuts. From Weymouth to Lexington by mass transit is hard, Medford to Lexington is circuitous but better, but Haverill was nuts. The only way to get Sophia to school on time (she still had school through the end of June) and me to work from there and then back again was to rent a car for the week. It was very tricky, but at least from the third week on, Sophia and I were together in the same place. We went from Haverill to Medford (for two weeks) then back to Haverill for the rest of our stay in limbo, but it was easier because we were in the same boat together, not in separate boats trying to survive.

For me, everything stopped. The only focus was finding and seeing rentals, work, commuting, sleep, and repeat. Somehow we made it to one protest against Trump’s family separation policy and caught Incredibles 2, but it was an exception to the routine.

Somewhere in mid June, my third real estate agent got a line on an apartment that would work. It was an apartment complex in Dorchester that wasn’t too bad (there were at least two places in Dorchester that were among the sketchiest areas I’ve ever been in). By this time we had been turned down by every other place we applied for (except for one in Roslindale that we both loved, but was slowly fading away). Once we got an approval from that landlord we had to go for it. Sophia didn’t want to move there because a car backfired right outside that sounded too loud and more like a gunshot than it should and scared her. There were other fears she had that I think came up in her past, but we had a long talk about all of it. That helped her be okay with the move.

Now we had to wait for Section 8 to inspect, approve of the place and have me sign all the paperwork before we could move in. By this time it was July and we were running out of time in Haverill quickly—they planned a large family gathering and we needed to be out by July 12. Luckily with a bunch of phone calls to different people (supervisors and other agencies), things fell into place. I got the keys on July 11, we moved in July 12.

Since then we’ve been trying to settle in, unpack, and get used to the place. Sophia has to deal with seven weeks of boredom because any summer plans for her were shot as of May 1. I know I had a couple of days off of work, but I couldn’t tell you when they were because I’ve felt busy and making up for lost time. I’ve been busy working, commuting, and putting out residual fires from moving and trying to coordinate multiple bureaucracies. We still have a way to go before we feel settled, but at least the seven month ordeal is over. It feels weird 75% of the time, but it is a better situation than I started the year with. I’m still as stuck as I was back in January, but it’s a different place. Hopefully things will get better when the school year starts.

July 25, 2018

Dearest Sophia,

I hope this letter finds you well in Montreal. I know you would much rather be down here bearing witness to this Second Civil War, but not even Boston is a good place for a teen who would identify as “Fake Media.” It was not an easy decision for a father to make but definitely a prudent one. It is better you are with your brother James and his family in the relative safety of the Northern lands with the chocolate dipped ice cream and poutine.

I am well. Not too much danger in the Green Zone of the Greater Boston/Metro West loop, but I fear for a lot of those in the dark lands between Worcester and Springfield. Not many venture past the 495 connectors, but those who do have returned with harrowing stories often set upon by roving hordes of people in wife beaters and red MAGA hats. Most are armed with improvised Harpoon IPA molotovs and bats wrapped with barbed wire (makes me wish Walking Dead wasn’t SO popular). Some are armed with guns, but aren’t very good shots if you’re lucky. Some are, and we’ve had a few casualties shot squarely in the ass. Some gang members from Dorchester and Roxbury are planning manneuvers to drive their numbers down sometime soon. They have been called “the 2nd 54th” after the first Civil War all Black regiment. I would love to see it but have other things to take care of. A number of us drivers from Mass and Vermont will blockade the last of Central Mass’ supply pipeline from New Hampshire. This would be the last of the holes to plug that would starve their supplies. We know their alcohol supplies are running low and most Massholes can’t shoot straight sober, so this would give us Easties and chance to push further west. We are hopeful.

Your brother Billy is doing fine as you have no doubt heard. His band of Antifa LARPers have been pushing wide swaths further and further south. They have met up with an active group of cosplayers in Rhode Island and have a lot of luck pushing down through Central Connecticut. There is talk of him teaming up with the NYC LARPs and cosplayers to take all of Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania. Listen for the action sometime in August. I know that’s when we’d normally do Boston ComicCon, but they’ve been mobilized that giant push. I don’t think the Dumpsters are mentally prepared to get their heads handed to them by hundreds of nerds in steampunk outfits, handmade Avengers’ costumes, and boffer swords. It should be pretty glorious to hear.

I got your care package. Thank you for the Deathstroke and Darth Vader bobbleheads. They look very good with our already growing collection. Love you much and hope we can be reunited soon at some point when democracy can overcome the crazy. Until then, please write again soon and say hi to Noah and the family.

Love always,

Dad.

Panic Time(s)

April 23, 2018

We’re at serious crunch time. My move out date is 9 days away and I don’t have a place to move into. If you read my last blog entry, you know staying really isn’t an option right now, but I need somewhere to go. It’s not that there haven’t been places, but they’ve gone to other people—lanlord’s choice, not mine. I am either between paralyzing anxiety and walking depression, neither of which helps me.

There are times when I hear myself say “I’ve never been this pannicked before.” Then I realize that it’s not true. This isn’t the first time that I’ve suddenly had to vacate a residence quickly. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to leave with no real place to go tet. It’s definitely harder with a child, but it’s not the first time dealing with that either. I’ve done it all before to one degree or another, and while it was hard, anxiety provoking, terrifying, and a breakdown of self on many levels., I made it through and got what I needed. A friend of mine told me, at a time of similar upheaval, that I am a survivor. Not that I didn’t believe him, but I was hoping to be able to do more than just survive. After getting through that time and knowing where I am now, knowing I can and will survive is a good things. I can navigate through Hell; I’ve done it before. Even if the path through is slightly unfamiliar, I’ve seen it in other forms already. I will survive this and make sure my daughter does too.

There’s a point where I need to make contingency plans and I know what they are. I have friends in my corner and that helps. Plus I am not giving up yet—I have a few places to look at and something will pan out. It’s very hard to be in the middle of this, but knowing my ability to get through all I have in the past means I will make it out of this too.

Life Off the Grid

April 14, 2018

Dropping off the grid is more routine for me than usual. It’s part of growing older I guess. Actually it’s growing older without learning good time management and organizational skills along the way. If I did I’d have time to stress out and write. As such, that which is least urgent suffers.

Coming back from Vegas, a few things immediately popped up. Food stamps required another review after I seemed to have a review last week, and there was another section 8 inspection of the house which also seemed too recent. SNAP always needs a six month review of finances and they try to get it a couple months ahead of the cutoff date; so I always feel like I’m saving paystubs in batches of four weeks at a time just for them. The section 8 inspection was a surprise. The last inspections was our two year inspection with a new inspector who is nice guy and a thorough inspector. He found a bunch of problems that needed to be fixed before he would certify it. Most of it was regular wear and tear on an old building and the rest I blame the cat (yes, I’m sloppy but I don’t damage walls). But I think failing the two times triggered an early inspection in mid-January. So I did what I could, cleaned up the house did the paperwork, mailed off what I could to SNAP and waited for the inspections.

The inspection cae first. As usual he found new wear and tears to the place—mostly to normal usage but stuff that caused another failure on the inspection. One thing was mine and the rest the landlord had to fix. This got the landlord (honestly her daughter) mad that she had to keep spending money on repairs to the house. That and the fact that I “wasn’t keeping the place like she remembered it”—whatever that meant; it was sort of a wistful remembrance of the place as it used to be. Either way, it led them to ask me to leave the apartment. I was a little stung but not surprised. It seemed to be brewing for a while, and I hate to be living under ambiguous assumptions so I took it a time to move on. Oh, and the food stamps were taken away as I was over my monthly allowance; I’m not making a lot of money, but I won’t miss $15 a month.

Finding an apartment is usually pretty simple, but now I had a section 8 voucher. Believe me it helps with the rent and I know I can afford a place to live, but finding a place was a new ball game. There’s a whole process to go through before I could start looking and then trying to find a place that was affordable, within Sophia’s school district, and took section 8 made this an uphill climb; made all the worse by the landlady saying at the end of Feruary that I had to be out by March 31. I took over the lease in late April and thought I had until then to move, but their lawyer was going by the lease as it was originally stated at the time of Sophia’s mother’s death, which was the end of March. I told her I would need until the end of Arpil to move out, but she didn’t really listen to me. First it was “We can give you a little time, but not much,” then it was we need to reinstate the termination date to section 8 so they can pay her for April. Luckily because of an accounting error, I was owed $2200 by section 8 which they were forwarding to the landlady who would supposedly pay me back. Knowing getting them to be that honorable was a bigger battle than it was worth, I told them to keep the money and use that as the rent for April so we can forgo the bureaucratic stuff. I was worth my piece of mind to let that money go to where it was needed.

I thought I had a place, but today I found out I lost it. I think there was enough problems with my credit (which needs work) and an eviction from 2012 that did me in. The realtor who tried to get me that place, which was walking distance from Sophia’s school, is trying to work with me and section 8 to find something by April 30. I’m glad she’s helping out because I can use someone in my corner. I sent out a call for thoughts and prayers, and only recently upped to to offerings and animal or human sacrifices. Either way, I need a back up plan if I can’t find anything. The stress has gotten to the point that my stomach cramped up for the last two days. Not the flu, but it still sucks to try to work with pain and exhaustion. Hopefully I’ll be able to blog more regularly, starting with an announcement that I found a place to live.

It’s one of those times when I can’t complain about things. Work is good, Sophia is doing fine in school, writing is slow but steady, I’m sticking to my meds regularly, getting sleep, and making gym a habit. Things aren’t bad. So why do I feel like my head is about to explode from stress?

For the last few days, I’ve been anxious for no obvious reason. Nothing is going wrong but I’m under this overwhelmning feeling of dread. At church, they had kids (and any willing adults) to light a candle of gratitude for something. I fought off the urge to go up and light a candle to be grateful for Ativan.

I honestly can’t think why I’m on edge. Ages ago, my therapist told me I’m always waiting for the next shoe to drop. While I’m not waiting for a shoe to drop, I still am dreading something and have no idea what or why. Maybe I’m nervous that I’m doing okay. Maybe it’s because I think I’m not doing enough—even though I’m doing plenty. Maybe it’s the nature of mental illness and how it ebbs and flows from dramatic heights to stiffling depths. Maybe it’s a lot of things. Either way, I feel off.

I hate it, I’m used to it, and I hate that the only thing I can do sometimes is ride it out. My anxiety isn’t a curse or a gift, but it’s an ever present source of annoyance. It doesn’t stop me completely, but it slows me down considerably. Still I move forward one step at a time. It feels like molasses but I’m moving.

Redux

August 7, 2017

I hate feeling stuck, especially with writing, but that’s where I am. I’m taking an older project that was supposed to be a web series and adapting for a stage play. The first act is done, but I’m stuck at Act 2, Scene 1, and it’s driving me nuts. I knew how I wanted the act to end and I got it there, and I know where the rest of the play is supposed to go, but where I a now is unsure. I don’t know where I am and how to move forward (story of my life, I guess). Part of it is I’m used to stopping and starting on a dime, moving on from the end point. Not this time. I’m going back to what I wrote and read it from the beginning, plus rereading my character bios just so I can get reacquainted with the material and get where to go. I don’t like it, but it’s necessary.

Some of the blog writing is helping me climb out of this writing rut. Plus there are a couple of inspired prompts that got some creative juices flowing again. It’s been a while and I am apparently much rustier than I thought. I need to rework some muscles and stretch out after a long absence.

Summer Fun

August 5, 2017

Yes, I’m really lost these days and not enjoying a lot of what my life is like today. But I can’t keep writing the same blog over and over again thinking it will do me any good. It helps to get it out, but that’s what therapy is for. I’ll probably blog about stuff like this again because, for better or worse, it is a part of my life I have to deal with. However, right now I feel like I’m dwelling on it too much, so for something different.

Sophia finished her summer Arabic Intensive last week. In late spring, she told e she didn’t want to go to the same camp as she did last year because she didn’t like all the activities she was doing (I think mostly the active physical stuff). That surprised me because she seemed to like it at the time and she said she had fun. Now I was suddenly scrounging for another place for her to go to for part of the summer. I told her we’d try to find something she’d have fun doing; the next day she brought me the application for the Arabic intensive. It’s si-days a week over almost all of July learning to read, write, and speak Arabic. I asked is this really your idea of having fun for the summer, and she said yes. So she signed up, she was accepted, and, the Tuesday after graduating middle school, started digging into Arabic.

Despite being quiet all the time about anything and everything, I always asked how she was doing in the sessions. She’d simply say fine and hop on her computer. If I pressed her for details, she was kind of vague about answers. So I let it go and it became a routine for July. The last Saturday session before the intensive ended, she burst into the house carrying three different plastic shopping bags, and yelled “I bought fruit!” The weekend before was their big field trip to the Islamic Center in Roxbury—which I was hoping to hear more about, but no such luck—but that Saturday they went to the farmer’s market is Haymarket in downtown Boston, which had a lot or Arabic and Middle Eastern sellers. They were given a dollar to spend on whatever, and buy and talk to the sellers in Arabic (I gave her allowance that morning so she was able to buy a lot). When she got home she couldn’t stop talking about buying fruit, talking in Arabic, telling me about different character usage in words, and a whole host of other things about the Arabic language that I didn’t understand at all, but she went on for about 45 minutes nonstop. It clicked with me about the farmer’s market because the marketplace is customary in Arabic and Islamic countries, so it made sense that they expose her to some of that directly—though she couldn’t haggle with these sellers as is fairly customary in Arabic markets. We talked about that too and she was pretty much on air the whole time.

The intensive was pretty good for her. She gets some language credit for high school, but she will be taking Japanese when she gets to Boston Latin Academy in the fall. Needless to say she had the right way for her to enjoy the summer.

Things in my life seem to be slipping away. Things that were at the core of my identity, things I could look to and say “this is who I am,” are becoming lost to me over the years. I had creative life goals to work for; now making it through the day is the only goal I hope to achieve. I was a nice guy for so long that it was evident; these days even saying “I’m a nice guy” rings false to my ears. I feel bitter and empty, and it’s showing more and more. I’ve been on a slow downward spiral for close to a decade, even with some financial stability I feel lost. Even though I’ve hit bottom, every time I start to climb out of it, falling back makes the hole deeper.

What’s hardest is I’ve shut a lot of people out. I don’t talk to anyone on the phone anymore, except my parents. Facebook comments to friends are common, but not always updating my status is not so much and vague.Trying to bridge that gap is a major challenge for me. I’ve abandonned them, but I’ve twisted it in my head so they’ve abandonned me. Since reaching out has never been my strongest point, I wind up stuck and alone.

My blog posts are non-existent as of late, I know that. I barely write anymore. I have so much unfinished work at various stages and they are laying dormant. And much like reaching out, it’s not that I’ve lost a gift as that I’ve abandonned those gifts. Instead of the passion I felt to start writing a project, I feel ashamed to try and start where I left off.

Things are a jumble in my hear. It’s all an endless void of suck. Thoughts and emotions get mixed up and I’m lost. I feel bad not that I’m letting myself down, but that I’m letting everyone else down. I always put myself last, so it’s okay, even though it’s not. I’m not in complete despair but, I can recognize the look and details of it as it appears closer. I knew it before sometime ago so I know what it looks like. A blog post won’t flip everything around, but it’s something.

Dear M,

Hi. I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked/texted/emailed/communicated at all, and I wanted to apologize for that. Actually I want to apologize for a lot of things, the biggest is being a lousy friend. That didn’t start immediately after we broke up, but soon enough.

I know we weren’t together for all that long, but the break up stunned me. Even after talking to death about it–how you weren’t ready for a relationship, how we both wanted different things, how we were better of as friends–it’s not something I wanted. But if I pushed harder I’d lose you as a friend. So I talked myself into staying a friend even though I wanted to be more. But even that was, to be brutally honest, cynical on my part, because somewhere in the back of my mind (the reptilian part I pretend I don’t have), I was hoping you’d “change your mind” and take me back. There was a flicker of hope that kept me going and kept up a “friendship.”

I think I was angry that you got over thing so quickly and I was stuck. You lived your life, and I couldn’t go forward. You got married, had kids, look even better now than you did 15 years ago, and I only grew bitter. That wasn’t your fault, but I resented you like it was. Still, to be your “friend” meant ignoring my feelings; so I did and blamed you for it. I became the jerk I was trying not to be.

That changed recently. I was driving a delivery when a song I never heard before came on the indie station. It was “If I Loved You” by Delta Rae. Great song and the final chorus got me bad:

“But I don’t love you much as I want to
I don’t love you, no it would be a lie
And you deserve love, you’re better than a good day
And you’ll find it but just not in my eyes
‘Cause it ain’t here love…”

It’s simple, powerful and everything you were saying to me 15 years ago but I didn’t want to hear.  It finally sunk in and yeah I get it. I was angry for stupid reasons fueled only by my own ego, and held you responsible for nothing that you did. I’m sorry I’ve been such an asshole and sullen and resentful and not considering your feelings. You deserve better that my attitude and I’m truly sorry for that.

I hope you can forgive me for all this, but (I finally realize) that is your decision.

David