It’s hard to say which I’ve been losing more of: my courage to write or my will to write. I can’t say it’s a lack of ideas, although writer’s block doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of ideas. In all my life, I’ve never been unable to generate ideas; my head is constantly filled with them. While overload of ideas might be a problem, I’m not sure that the case with me at this time. Thinking it over, I’ve narrowed it down to lack of courage and lack of willpower. They are subtle, but there are differences.

Courage is easier to define. It’s having the balls not just to write whatever comes to mind, damn the critics—both inner and outer—but also the balls to do it regularly. It’s not the same courage that it takes to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and fight for your country; it’s the courage to put thoughts to paper or posts to prevent countries from going to war. That and every bit of sentiment and emotion from there on down. Willpower is the practice itself. It’s the daily effort to stare down a blank page or screen until your eyes bleed or you start writing, whichever comes first. The more often you do it the easier it gets and the more reflexive it becomes.

Mine has always been a struggle between courage and will. There are days I have the time and abililty to write, but my inner voices have me silenced. Other days I know exactly what to say, but get swamped, exhausted, distracted, or all three at once. The end result is the same: months without any writing output and occasionally forced to produce on a deadline. And all that while writing becomes fearful, less instinctive, and less productive.

It’s not effortless to write this, but it’s not easy. This isn’t what I should be writing now, but it’s what I can put out now. I’ve been underusing muscles, not only in the gym, but in my mind. My knees are bothering me, but that can be healed with rest and physical therapy. My stagnation is bothering, but the only way to fix that is to write a little bit at a time. Hopefully I can heal myself, body and mind, eventually.

Solidarity for Paris

November 14, 2015

Stand with Paris as they stand up against terrorists of ISIL. I offer my favorite scene from “Casablanca” for obvious reasons.

Near the end of March, I got my six month review of my SNAP benefits. I had a checkbox review of what had changed and what hadn’t in my circumstances over the six month period. Usually I just check off the checklist and return it, but two weeks before I started the new temp-to-perm job I’m at now. This meant my income changed and I’d have to see what happens next. I knew there would be a reduction in benefits, but I’m not sure if the food stamps would be taken away completely. I got copies of the only two paychecks I received thus far, sent it with the review and hope for the best.

April came and I still had my full allotment of food stamps and was able to buy what I needed and stretched the benefits until the end of April. When May EBT date came along I had no food stamp allotment, but had no food in the house; I paid for it myself. I wasn’t worried about paying out of my own pocket; I had money for what I needed and paid for it.

Later that day, I missed a call from the Massachusetts office of transitional assistance, which handes food stamps for the state. When I called back, they said my case had been closed, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was why. Earlier in mid-April, I got a notice saying my account would be closed if I didn’t mail in my full review to them in the next week, even though I mailed it out a week before it was due and even online they say they received it. So I called customer service rather pissed off. It’s one thing to close my account because I’m ineligible; it’s another to close it because they say I didn’t do something that I actually did (even their computer acknowledges it!).

As it turns out the only thing I needed to include to complete the review was a termination letter from the previous job; I do this and I can get the EBT back. I was more upset that they didn’t notify me of that fact—it’s not even mentioned in the review forms. While talking to the customer service guy I told him about the new full time job elsewhere. He did some calculations with me on the phone to see if I needed to even mail in the termination letter. As it turns out, I didn’t as my new salary put me just over their income level needed to receive food stamps.

And I’m fine with that. I’ve been on food stamps for almost 6 years. This was shortly after I was forced out of WGBH, lost two of the three part time jobs lined up to supplement that loss, and still had to pay full time child support payments. They ebbed and flowed over those six year but it’s been there to use for a good reason: I wasn’t making enough to feed me and/or my daughter on my own. Crunching the current numbers, I now have a little left over each month after all expenses—not a lot, but any kind of cushion is good—and still have a decent weekly shopping budget. It’s one more step in the right direction towards recovery in my life. It’s a mark of success. Things are slowly getting better. The forward momentum needs to be sustained to see serious improvement.

Unexpected Transition

March 20, 2015

When my friend at churh told me this would be a year of transition, he wasn’t kidding.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a temp agency I used to use. It was a standard notification of here’s-what-jobs-are-available email, but it had a job that I thought I was pretty capable of doing. I double checked my resume making sure I that the one geared towards customer service was up to date and sent it out. So the agency called me back wanting to know if I could go on an interview for the company the next day. By the end of Friday afternoon, I was slated to start a full-time temp-to-perm job as a customer service agent in one week’s time. I couldn’t give two weeks notice to my delivery job, but they were really understanding with everything—even letting me know I can come back if it doens’t turn out to be so permanent. That was really helpful. Not that I don’t think I can do the job required of me, but I do remember the last time I tried to transition from part-time to temp-to-perm full time. I was not in a good emotional state and my work suffered because of it and I was let go after a week. I don’t want to go throiugh that again.

This will be the first full time job I’ve had since 2009 and I am nervous that I might screw it up. But I’m almost done with my first week of training and so far it’s pretty good. The work is detail oriented but if I keep focused I can get all the little things I need to pick up on. Everyone I’ve met so far is friendly and helpful and it actually seems like a good fit for me. And my trainer says I’m doing fine so that’s a big relief. 

A new job was actually the last thing I was looking for or expected to find lately, but it is a pleasant and welcome surprise. It’s good to take a chance once in a while.

Courage

September 25, 2012

Writing is an act of courage. I f you don’t put down your own thoughts, feelings, opinions to paper, you can be anonymous, harmless, think whatever you want. The second you write any of it down—either as fiction or nonfiction—you open yourself up to criticism from anyone and everyone. If you’re unsure of what you write, maybe not feeling right about the wording or structure or simply not confident, the criticism aimed at your work feels like it’s aimed at you and feels 100 times worse. This is not a job for the constitutionally challenged.

For the past two years I have been beaten down by life and the times so much that I question my own sanity constantly. While many a great tome has come from the throes of depression and mental breakdown, I can’t do that so well. It’s hard enough for me to fight the inner voices telling me I’m worthless because I can’t get a good paying full time job in a jobless recovery; to deal with those voices on top of the inner critics that come out as I write is overwhelming at the very least. The long spaces between writing are not from lack of things to say. They come from a schedule that leaves little room for error, the desperation that comes from being in survival mode for so long, and the fear of having one more negative voice in my head pushing me over the edge. I’m not the same person I used to be. It happens to everyone but it feels worse to me. I’m much more sullen, angrier, morose and losing hope each day. I’m trying to hang in there for my friends, my family, my daughter’s sake, but there’s very little of me left to hang on for my own sake. As much as I don’t want to wallow in all the crap, I’m drowning in it.

So why bother putting this down on the page? Not sure. Maybe there’s a bit of a spark left that wants to hold on. Maybe I know that within the jumble of noises in my head, there are a couple of ideas that are speaking loud enough to want to be written. Maybe two different conversations with old friends—one who said that my life these days is a saga; another said to reach out more—are bugging me enough to try and get well. Or maybe I just need to write even after a long absence of person and sanity like whales need to come up and breathe after being submerged for great lengths of time. It’s what I do and no matter how hard things are, it’s something I still need to do. Even if briefly.