Somehow, I just shut down. I pushed aside everything I’d planned or tried to work on and ended up in some odd little limbo inside my own head. No real goals worked toward, just ideas discarded and never revisited or improved upon.
It’s been successful only in that I’ve been able to whittle down my cookbook collection, take a good look at what I’ve had at my disposal, and fill in the gaps with more relevant cookbooks I’ve wanted for ages.
So yeah, trying to save room and end up spending money in the process. On the other hand, I like the way America’s Test Kitchen presents their recipes (like mini-science lessons in the mix, so I understand why certain things happen in the process of cooking or preparing). So, that made it somewhat worth it.
Otherwise, I’ve had to help out some neighbors lately by taking their kid to school in the mornings, and all the things I told myself I needed to do just kept getting pushed to the back burner. If I was smarter, I would’ve found ways to work on what I needed to anyway. And the lack of accomplishment made my meal-prep and plans slide, too. After a few weeks of victories on that front, it was annoying to see I was falling back.
This good neighborly deed was totally messing up my morning schedule the past month. I could’ve woken up a bit earlier (like I’d planned anyway) and work out til the kid showed up, then got things ready to write a bit later, or just have a shorter writing period til this alternative school period was done and over with and he could ride the bus to his regular school again. Well, apparently he got in trouble and I don’t have to take him to school the next few days, but because he has to stay home, his time at alternative has been stretched out… again.
And that’s when it hit me–I can’t afford to keep putting my life and my schedule on hold, and will have to learn to work around the setbacks. I used having to take him to school as a way to distract myself from doing what was needed, and all those must-do’s kept falling further away. The trouble is, they’ve been falling by the wayside for damn near a year, according to some old notes I wrote down and found.
That little revelation told me something else about myself that has been bothering me for weeks now: What killed my enthusiasm was knowing that if I’m doing the same thing this time next year, I’m gonna be broke off my ass or homeless because I’m too chicken to take risks and do what’s needed, risky or otherwise.
And that thought, which should’ve been a huge kick to the ass, actually paralyzed me.
It took me several days to even START snapping out of it. Didn’t research, journal, or anything. It’s like my paralysis ensured I’d stay away from the very things that could pull me at least into looking at it rationally. I’ve spent the past few days gathering info so I can start properly budgeting for the next few months and really get to work.
There was a feeling in the back of my mind that wouldn’t go away, and it wasn’t til the other day (and being able to talk about it today) that I figured out what was stopping me the most: It’s not so much a fear of failure (or success) that’s stopped me from moving forward, it’s the fear that I’ll get enthusiastic and get rarin’ to go and prepared…
…only to suddenly have nothing to show for it. No work, no ideas, nothing but a blip or whimper.
And I realized that I’ve been there before. Way too often & especially in grad school, the last time I was a mostly consistent writer who believed I could be a writer.
I’ve not gone on with my alternate plans for my own life and career in fear that I will do what I’ve done so many times before: get the groundwork laid to get started, get some supplies at the ready, do the research, organize to death… then just fizzle out before I’ve really started. I think my migraines started in grad school because of this intense pressure I put myself into.
It’s a bad writing habit I’ve developed with research papers where I put so much effort into the research, organizing my thoughts and getting the citations and documentation right. I would outline and outline again til I was pretty sure where certain things were gonna be discussed (and even what quotes I would use where–I’d have a shoebox full of index cards by the end).
Essentially, all my ideas would be ready to write about, ready to go… but I’d put so much of the energy and fun into the outlining and the steps before that I had the hardest time actually writing my first draft… and then the deadlines would start creeping up. I actually had one paper one semester where I hadn’t even started my first draft (was still finalizing the outline) until three days before the final 20 page paper was due! Thankfully, it got done just in time and submitted.
But I’d cut it close too many times, and actually had to go for a 3rd semester to finish my Master’s thesis because of my irregular work and inability to stick to a schedule that helped my mentors and myself.
This dismay led to many migraines and burning out. Being unable to find a job with an extra degree under my belt sure didn’t help, of course, but it was feeling that my writing habits were more a hindrance than a help just stung.
And I realized, that’s what I’ve feared would happen again when flexing my fiction muscles, or perhaps when writing articles. We’re talking varying deadlines and expectations here, and there’s nothing that scares me more than putting my all into what will become extremely short-term success, and I’ll spend all my days scrambling to make it right.
Of course, doing nothing isn’t doing me any favors, either. But I’m that person at the top of the high dive, knowing what to do, and I just need to bounce off the board and jump. I’ve been up there for hours and my long way down is blocked, and I must go forward, but can’t do it.
(sigh… if only)
I brought this up to my therapist and asked if perhaps I’d been going through manic-depressive cycles for years during the most stressful times and didn’t even know it, because something about that working habit sure resonated with what I’d learned about MD before. Well, turns out it’s very likely in my case.
Now I just need to figure out what to do about it, rather than just sit here and hope for a manic cycle to come along and feed me some good stuff to try (and hope I don’t go completely batshit crazy in the process). I used to have those intense periods of creativity followed by big stretches of nothing. School was predictable and at least the rhythm of the semester worked with me. I think being away from school the past few years made it more difficult for me to see when I had my creative times and my depressive lows. The lows became constant and the highs were little fits and starts, not some lengthy uphill climb with a sudden drop, like a car engine out of gas.
The sheer number of hobbies and ideas I’d collected over the years (and rooms and closets full of stuff for them) make this very likely. I’ve got some books (naturally, being me) coming in the mail that I’ll work on to find some coping mechanisms and get back to some semblance of workable. I never noticed how much I looked forward to those intense periods when the ideas would just flood in and I felt I could do anything, or how I dreaded them at the same time.
I dreaded them because I knew deep down that the feeling of accomplishment was fleeting and soon I’d be back to forcing myself to try and come up with new stuff, only to feel stale and like it was pointless.
That’s exactly what it looks like when that last great idea has just stopped short and my “creative time” has ended for the foreseeable future. Damned frustrating.
I want to keep the creativity flowing and work with it a little every day, not in short weeks vs. months without anymore. I literally can’t afford it, so I’m looking for ways to get through it.
So, that’s what this weekend’s for, planning-wise. All the little things I’ve half-assed the past few months need to be rectified. And all the times I’ve pushed back my schedule need to stop right now. Having to take the kiddo to school was a legit reason why I had to push things back… at least, a little. But those reasons quickly became excuses the more I chose not to address making things better for myself. I may have to operate on an augmented schedule for a bit, but to get back to something that resembles a real plan and real goals being achieved just has to happen.
So, if it turns out I really am a manic-depressive, or bipolar, or whatever the proper designation is, I can hopefully figure out how to work through it and keep a steady stream of work going my way. My currently paying job is gonna suffer, too, if I don’t get over this pattern of behavior, since I keep pushing aside things that are unfamiliar and that I’m not sure how to do right in favor of just doing the same things. I cannot grow for the better while doing this, and I can’t remain stuck in a rut if I hope to save my own life, and the pets around me that depend on me.
That’s actually what kicked me into gear this week when it came to budgeting questions and working and the like: the need to take care of my pets. They help my mental health in their odd little ways, and putting myself in a position where I can’t even care for my pets properly because I’ve let myself get reckless and go broke? Oh hells no, I wouldn’t be able to stand that.
Funny how in the worst times in my life, it’s my love for my pets that gets my brain churning hard. I’m half-asleep sitting here now, so I’m gonna take that as a sign to get some notes written down and sleep this awful mess off (or slowly meditate on it in hopes of being able to approach it rationally before work in the morning).
The dogs are bad enough. If my parakeets and fish ever learn to give me looks like that, I’ll be even more screwed.