January Reflection

Well. I didn’t make it through the whole month.

Worse things have happened though. I’m not entirely bummed I didn’t make it 31 straight days posting. Mostly because, upon closer look, I’m not terribly proud of anything I’ve written this month. I’m glad I was writing – don’t get me wrong – but if I want to finish any of the long-form work I have planned, it’s going to take time. Prioritizing publishing over content is not going to help me in the long run.

It’s been great forcing myself to write every day, even if it’s supremely messed up my sleep schedule. I’m hoping to carry that fire into November and work on something, anything, at least a little every day. But with my limited time and energy, I can’t push off my larger projects because I know I’ll miss a day on this scatterbrained blog.

I’m not giving up, though. There are still things that I want to say, and stories that I want to share. But I do think I’m going to tone it back on the postadays. I might try posting once a week in February, just to get a feel and see if I can still keep it up without getting distracted.

So from here on out, you can expect to hear from me slightly less. But hopefully when you get one of those emails, it will have a link to something I’m proud of. A thought out article rather than a mish mosh paragraph I squeezed out of myself at four o’clock in the morning.

I’m hopeful for things in the future. But at the same time, I can feel that New Year magic wearing off, depression and frustration seeping in. I’m exhausted, and a lot of times I find it difficult to keep up the pace. I’m trying to find other productive things to do that aren’t quite as creative-heavy, like reading a book about screenwriting, or watching a movie while keeping my own creations in mind. Still, it’s hard to keep morale up when I’m in the same place I was last January, and it’s cold and unforgiving outside.

I hope February is better, for you and for me.

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A Problem in 13G

To be fair, they had warned me the apartment was haunted.

It was the third or fourth building I’d looked at, and the only one that was realistically in my price range. It was older, and nothing inside had been refurbished, but it offered a little more space than the others. I figured I could deal with tiny cabinets and creaky stairs if it meant I didn’t have to donate half my closet to the church.

“Now I know the walls aren’t in the best shape,” offered Jan the building manager as she walked me through the living space, “and the molding definitely needs some work, I’ll admit. But it adds character, you know? Plus, it has a ton of natural lighting.”

She waved her hand like a regular Vana White, gesturing to the large windows on the opposite wall, which offered a fantastic view of the next building’s brickwork. There was probably only about five feet between them.

“Absolutely,” I agreed with a smile. “And what did you say the heating situation was like?”

“Oh, well uh…we have a baseboard heating system, which is…at the moment—I guess it really depends on the lodger, you know? Some folks like it warm, some folks like it cold, so we get different opinions on the situation all the time. But if it ever became a problem, I’d be more than happy to take a look at it.”

“You do your own heating?”

The woman’s face blanched, and she brushed past me.

“Just wait until you see the kitchenette. The cabinets are a little on the worn-side, but this has a lot more counter space than you’ll see in most apartments at this rate.”

The tour hurried on to the rest of the apartment. It was adequate, I guess. The bedroom had a large crack in the wall, but more floor space than others I’d seen. The shelving in the linen closet was lined with some awful, peeling paper, but I was too surprised by the presence of an extra closet to care. And the bathroom was grimy at best, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t solve in an afternoon with some bleach and a toothbrush. I was hoped so, anyway.

“Well thank you so much for showing me around,” I said tepidly, as we headed back to the main room. “I really appreciate it.”

“Oh no problem at all, not at all,” she said. She slapped my arm lightly. “Although, erm…there is one other thing that—well, technically I do have to tell you.”

I immediately steeled myself for the worst. The price of the building was nice, and most of the problems I could live with. Even a history of mice I could probably live with. But if she was about to drop the c word I was out. Roaches were where I drew the line.

The building manager ruffled her shoulders, raising her eyes to the ceiling as she prepared her words.

“A couple years back, we did experience a certain…incident with one of our tenants.”

“What kind of incident?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“Well, the mortality kind.” She giggled, as if that might soften the blow. “Nothing messy—thank the Lord. Just some poor girl, late twenties. The police said it was self-induced, but of course we didn’t find that out for a few weeks. It had already been a few days when they found her.”

“Found her?” I asked. “You mean she…?”

“Killed herself, yes. Technically. But as I said, it was years ago, and the entire apartment has been redone since.”

I raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I thought you said this building hadn’t been refurbished.”

“Oh, refurbished—no. But it has been sanitized and inspected several times since the incident. More than ten! I could even get you a report on that if you’d like.”

“Er—that’s fine.” Ignoring the instinct to cut my losses and hit the pavement again, I cleared my throat. “More than ten inspections? Isn’t that a little excessive?”

In an instant, Jan the Building Manager was clearly full of regret.

“Obviously, our tenant satisfaction is a serious priority. We thought that being thorough…”

“Totally, but—ten? For something that happened years ago?”

She hesitated, and I noticed her eyes trail back to the ceiling.

“We’ve had the occasional complaint about…odd, little things in this particular space.”

“What kind of little things?”

“Just your average old building complaints—drafts, faulty electricity, sounds from the pipes. But with this kind of history, people let it get into their heads, you can understand. All these silly jokes about ghosts and spirits or whatever the PC term is these days.”

I blinked at her.

“Sorry, you’re trying to tell me that this apartment is haunted?”

“Of course not,” Jan the Building Manager laughed, her voice an octave higher. “I’m simply trying to give you some contextual information. I’d rather you get the facts from me than a bunch of whispers from other tenants. And the fact of the matter is that this apartment has been inspected top to bottom repeatedly, and there is nothing about it that couldn’t be fixed with a little TLC.”

That was a bold claim. Jan the Building Manager watched me like a skittish cat, her hands gripping her clipboard with knuckles whiter than the bathroom grout. I stared back, incredulous.

I’d never been particularly superstitious. Bad horror movies aside, I didn’t find the idea of a ghost confined to one apartment all that terrifying. Still, finding out that someone has died exactly where you’re standing is a bit of a reality check. So maybe I was a little shook. But I wasn’t sure what was more shocking—the fact that some poor girl had killed herself, or the fact that so many people had left the apartment because they were convinced her ghost was still raiding the fridge at night.

As I was struggling with that concept, the silence seemed to push Jan the Building Manager to her breaking point.

“Listen, I know that this kind of information can come as a shock. And you’re certainly not the first person to have their reservations about moving into a building with such a long list of complaints—paranormal or otherwise. So I’m going to talk to the realtors, and maybe we can negotiate something a little more enticing, hm?”

She released her clipboard, clicking her pen furiously as she crossed out something on the page. A scribbled note, a final tap, and then she turned the paper toward me once more.

My eyes widened. That was a very nice rent number.

An opportunity was presenting itself, and I wish I could say I just reached out and seized it. But if we’re being honest, it’s more like the opportunity reached out, grabbed my arm, and wrapped my hand around its throat, begging.

“Alright,” said Jan the Building Manager, taking my stunned silence for more supernatural reluctance. She nodded, scribbling again. “How about this?

Well, I wasn’t stupid. Ghosts weren’t real, and my income was pretty limited. The apartment could have been a shithole and I would have taken it for a price like that. Maybe Jan’s desperation should have tipped me off that I was getting into something of a wild situation. Then again, I was also pretty desperate to not be living at home with my parents.

I smiled, and Jan the Building Manager lit up like a holiday light show. She was off in an instant, rambling about the different paperwork and building amenities and how quickly she’d be able to get me a copy of my key. She dragged me back to the hall, and I glanced behind me at the room one more time.

Ghosts, ha. Stupid.


To Be Continued. Possibly.

Diary of 4 AM

I have changed the setting on the fan three times. It was too hot, then too cold, then too hot once more. Now the gentle hum of medium fills the room, filling the empty spaces between my typing.

There are no crickets outside – not exactly. But the silence has taken on a similar sound, to the point where I can no longer discern whether or not that is the true sound of the silence, or a comedic filler my brain is supplying.

There’s also a gentle rumble outside. At first I wonder if it’s thunder; it was raining before after all. But after a few seconds, the change in pitch becomes more distinct. Another descending plane, landing at the airport fifteen minutes away. Hopefully it lands safely. I might be able to hear it if it didn’t.

I run my hands down the face that I forgot to wash, rub my hands over cheeks stinging with barbecue sauce. I had half a sandwich at 8:30, two wild berry Pop-Tarts, and boneless wings at 3 AM. I either eat everything or nothing at all. There is no in between.

My eyelids are growing heavy, but I cannot sleep until I post. Cannot rest until I write. Cannot dream until I finish this diary entry.

That’s what this has become, in essence: a diary. Not a fun place to work on articles, or workshop pieces, or share fiction. Just last minute poetry I’m not fully happy with, and justify by describing it as “full of post-tense emotion.”

How much longer can I keep this up? Not for a paragraph. I’m sure.

 

Fairy Ring

At night it’s worse.

Sometimes it’s after a very long day, or a day where my anger has left me exhausted. Sometimes it’s after hours of feeling nauseous, or feeling my brain pound with a headache. Sometimes, of course, it’s for no reason at all.

I’ll lay awake in bed, and suddenly I can hear absolutely everything. I can hear my pulse in my ear as it’s crammed into the pillow. I can hear the sheets shift when I breathe. I can hear my eyelashes fluttering over the pillowcase, the air whistle in and out of my nose.

The baseboard heating clicks too much when it turns on. The motor in the fridge hums directly below my bedroom. And the clock on the wall is way too loud. Some nights I’ll take it off its mount and lay it in another room. It doesn’t help. I can still hear it.

I can hear the cars on the highway a few miles away. I can hear the late night train as it pulls into the station. There’s a dog on the next street over. A couple of teens driving their golf cart. Some party goers on the stoop of their dorm room.

Somewhere, someone is talking about me. I can’t hear the words, not in language. Just the impossible hum and whistling in my ears. How I can sleep when everything is so loud? Everything all around me at once and it won’t fucking stop for just one fucking minute.

On nights like this, there’s only one solution. I have to trick my body. So I brave the discomfort, and slip in my headphones. I don’t have a boombox anymore, and my laptop can’t play CDs, but I’ve evolved with the times. I pull it up on YouTube, a playlist I’ve made for emergencies, for nights when the sounds are too loud and my thoughts are too strong.

The first chord is a full measure, and even imagining it makes my muscles feel heavy. I don’t even have to hum it, if I’m being honest. I’ve played it so much that my body is trained, Pavlovian conditioning at its finest.

It’s something of a betrayal, isn’t it? To spend every waking moment with your body, day in and day out for years on end, and yet it will never listen to you. I cannot sleep when I want sleep, cannot cure illness when I feel sick, cannot even ask my body to stop clenching my teeth against my will. And yet one note, and my body falls slack.

Mike has gained more trust from my body than I ever have.

Schedule

9:00  –  Wake up
9:30  –  Bathroom
9:32  –  Back to bed
11:30 – Wake up (Part 2)
12:00 – Cry Visit cats
12:30 – Shower
1:30  –  Blowdry hair
2:00  –  Cry Go to work
3:00  –  Work
4:00  –  Work
5:00  –  Work
6:00  –  Work
7:00  –  Work
8:00  –  Cry Dinner Work
9:00  –  Work
10:00 – Work
11:00 – Work
12:00 – Clean
1:00  –  Clean
2:00  –  Drive home
3:00  –  Cry Finish gifs
4:00  –  Cry Write blog post
5:00  –  Cry Sleep. Please.

A Job Well Done

Accomplishments are addicting. I’m not speaking in a literal sense, of course. But on some level, it feels like it’s been so long since I actually did something I was proud of. Or more likely, it’s been so long since I took time to be proud of myself for something that I did. And finding pride in the things you do is a really great feeling.

This can be in anything – the things you do, the efficiency with which you do them, or the way you make somebody feel. For me, it was working eleven hours painting and repainting a room at work, and actually achieving a noticeable difference. That was fun for me, because while I’m used to painting and handy-work at my job, it’s not usually cosmetic. More often than not, I’m fixing something a rowdy customer broke, or just fixing up some chipped paint in the lobby. But this week, I really had the chance to pitch in and re-make one of the rooms. It was grueling, and annoying, but by one o’clock in the morning when I left, there was a concrete, noticeable difference. And being able to step back and see that was extremely gratifying.

That was yesterday. Today, perhaps, I haven’t been as productive. I made a lot of gifs for The Score, worked for a few hours, and started a podcast I’ve been meaning to listen to for several months. And yet I’m not going to bed feeling ashamed of myself. Quantitatively, I’ve done less, but I’m not fighting off the feeling that I wasted my day or didn’t utilize my time to its full potential.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that you should be able to take pride in what you do. Not every day is going to be a huge step towards your major goal. Some days will be about getting smaller goals out of the way, or even just making it through and getting to start afresh. But whether it’s renovating your home, sending out another resume, or just picking up a book you’ve been meaning to start, know that you’ve done something good. Everything has the potential to change your life for the better. Don’t lose hope.

For today, I’m going to end on this positive note. I don’t want the bad vibes of yesterday to sneak up on me while I squeeze another page of content out of my brain for the hell of it. Recognize your limits, and know when to step back. Keep moving forward.

Accomplishments VS Self-Care

We all want to work hard in the new year. I’m thrilled that I’ve managed to continue this blog as long as I have, and that you’ve actually been reading. Even though the content isn’t precisely what I set out to publish, it’s been an interesting journey. Plus, it’s only been three weeks. Who knows where the journey will take us from here?

I like my resolution: to not slow down, to keep working, to actively change myself this year. For those of you reading these every day, it might seem like I’m beating a dead horse. But on the flip side of long-term goals, there’s also the question of self-care. When do goals get in the way of your health? When does it become burning the candle at both ends?

This doesn’t necessarily apply to those of us who have made health our primary focus in the new year. If you’re focusing on water intake and an exercise regimen, chances are you’re regulating your sleep schedule and being mindful of what you eat. This is mainly a point for people with success-oriented goals – content creation being my own folly.

There are so many checkpoints I want to cross off this year. I started this blog to build up content for my writing samples and publishing. I started a separate blog to promote The Score, and create content for them and other fans every day.  I joined a workshop with two of my friends so I could jump back into fiction writing. I have started looking at job applications so I can take a step away from a “job” and towards a “career.” I would like to revisit my hobby of writing fan fiction, which I haven’t done in three or four months. I would like to actually write my own work, and finish a story or screenplay for once. I want to pick up a new hobby I haven’t discussed with many people, for fear of failure and disapproval.

That’s…a lot of work to do.

I find that most mornings – or late-late nights – I’m so full of ambition and goals and dreams. Then what little free time I have sneaks up on me, and my goals paralyze me. There’s so much to do. Where do I start? How do I put one thing over another? Most times my solution is, of course, to do nothing. That was I don’t have to choose one goal.

Even when I can force myself to work on something, it’s difficult. Straight from work, to scarfing down a cheeseburger, to making ten gifs for tomorrow’s music post, to writing up this blog post, and by the time I look at the clock, it’s four in the morning. I’d love to get a head start on different goals tomorrow – ones that don’t have such an immediate deadline – but if I keep at a pace like this, I’ll never get the sleep I need. And when I’m tired and cold and grouchy in the middle of the day, it becomes a lot harder to keep those goals in sight.

It’s sort of like living in one of those old Snickers commercials; you know, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” Being tired, being sick, being ill-fed – it will always stand between you and your goals. When your motivation is low, it can seem impossible to achieve even the smallest of tasks. And so you push one thing off and say, “I’ll just do it tomorrow.” And suddenly it’s April and you’ve left your resolution in January’s dust of snow.

So an amendment to my 2018 motto: You can’t break into a sprint when you’re used to walking. We’re training for long-distance here, not a 20-yard dash. So push yourself not to slow down, but remember that you have to pace yourself. The finish line is a long, long way off, and if you use up all your energy now, you’re not likely to finish in first.