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Sometimes I read about people making stuff or about people saying “go make stuff” and I get jealous. Because I am not artistic. I don’t paint or draw or knit or craft or stitch or build. I don’t make anything you can hold in your hands or hang on your wall.
I write. I put words on a page. And I’m in the middle of editing and rewriting a book. A novel. That I wrote. I work at it every day. I put my heart and soul and all my spare time into it. I craft those words. I build those sentences. I stitch together a story.
But I never feel like I’m making something in the sense people talk about. Is writing making something? Am I really building, creating, making? Is it the same thing as making a piece of furniture or designing a book jacket?
I have nothing to show for what I am doing but words on a page. A lot of words. And in the end, if I can’t sell a publisher on the book, I’ll really have nothing to show for it but a thick manuscript that becomes a door stop.
When I’m writing I feel like I’m creating. But when someone says “go out and make stuff” I wonder if writing - whether it be a book or an album review or an essay - counts toward that. Or does writing a book not count until that book is published and sold and you can hold it in your hand?
Last day of five days off. I feel like I didn’t make enough of this mini vacation. What did I do with the time? There was Thanksgiving. And I put up the tree. Got some writing and editing done. Ran a couple of errands.
I relaxed. That’s what I did. And I needed that, desperately. So why do I feel guilty that I relaxed and spent a lot of time on the couch reading or dicking around on the internet or playing games? Why do I feel like my time could have been better spent? I have such a hard time with feeling like I earned my down time. Or that I deserve down time.
I’m going to cram a bunch of things into this last day off. I’ll vacuum and dust and go to the grocery store and probably make a big dinner. Maybe I’ll even work out at some point. Just because I don’t want to feel like my five days off were wasted on being restful and feeling relaxed and at peace. How stupid is that? I’m about to head into a really busy week at work, the pressure of Christmas is here, the need to get it all done in the next 23 days, the whole hustle and bustle of the season and I won’t allow myself one last day of nothingness?
My editor is a harsh taskmaster (as he should be) and I have a ton of work to do on the story today. Hours worth. I should just do that. And maybe watch a movie with Todd. I have a good feeling his unemployment is going to end soon and I should enjoy these days off I have with him.
But I’ll just end up calling myself lazy and forcing myself to do things that don’t really have to be done today just so I can feel accomplished because lord knows I’m not worth anything if I’m not actively accomplishing something at every second of the day.
I need to learn how to relax without guilt. And to be kinder to myself.
Day 24. Today is the day! Make that list of loved ones you need to buy presents for.
Day 23. How many of those people do you really like enough to spend money on? Whittle that list!
Day 22. Big day! your mom will call and guilt you into hosting Christmas dinner. She asks if you have enough Christmas china. You just bought a package of 100 green plastic plates, so you say yes.
Day 21. Drag out last year’s decorations from the attic. Examine the teeth marks in baby Jesus and call an exterminator.
Day 20. Cross Aunt Betty off your shopping list. Who knew exterminators were so expensive?
Day 19. Get wish list from kids. Explain to them that Santa’s elves don’t make digital cameras or iPhones.
Day 18. Accept the fact that your kids stopped believing in Santa years ago and they know you are to blame for all the crappy presents.
Day 17. Give kids a three hour lecture about the shitty economy. Use phrases like “In these economic times” and “Obama says…” Tell them to choose between food and shelter or an iPhone.
Day 16. Receive heartfelt, manipulative note from kids about how much they love you and cherish you, complete with photo of them smiling like cherubic little angels. The letter is served with a mug of spiked hot chocolate, chocolate covered pretzels and a heaping dose of Catholic guilt. They serenade you with your favorite Christmas carols.
Day 15. Go to the Apple store and purchase two iPhones. Stock up on mac and cheese.
Day 14. Cross two more aunts and a friend off your list. Man, those iPhones cost a lot of money.
Day 13. Go to the mall to get the accessories for the iPhones that you forgot to get the first time. Get in a fight with a rude salesperson. Kick a small child who has wiped their snotty nose on your pant leg. Walk around for three hours in the cold because you can’t remember where you parked your car.
Day 12. Take the family out to buy a tree. Listen to your kids fight over who gets the final say. Listen to the other families fighting and wonder if that’s what yours really sounds like. Lock kids in car and pick out the damn tree yourself.
Day 11. Discover that the box of fragile Christmas ornaments was stored under a box of books. Run to the dollar store and purchase cheesy, faded ornaments. While you are there, pick up some lights that were made in some third world country that doesn’t believe in electric codes. Plug in lights. Blow ten fuses.
Day 10. Consider selling a kidney so you can finish off the rest of your Christmas shopping. Your partner suggests that standing on a corner in a green bikini and red fishnet stockings while holding out a cup might work better.
Day 9. Make attempt at baking for the holidays. After six hours of intensive labor that has left your kitchen in shambles, drive to Dunkin’ Donuts and purchase two dozen of their festive donuts. Eat them all yourself.
Day 8. Explain to children that they will not get anything for Christmas if they continue to behave like wild animals. Watch as they roll their eyes at you because you have never, in all their lives, followed through on that threat. Cry as the ungrateful little bastards walk out the door to spend time with their friends instead of decorating the tree with you.
Day 7. Return iPhones. Buy two used Sony Walkmans at a garage sale for 50 cents each. Include cassette that plays nothing but Mr. Roboto.
Day 6. Panic. Even though your kids have been rotten to the core and even though you have sworn not to buy presents for the seven generations of cousins, aunts and uncles this year, you find yourself at the mall again, frantically trying to finish off your list.
Day 5. The first credit card bills come in. The Christmas tree caught fire. Your mother informs you that seven more people will be joining you for Christmas dinner. Your son has invited all of his musician friends over for a rock and roll Christmas jam. Your daughter says she is going to protest Christmas dinner if any animals were harmed in the making of. Renew Xanax prescription.
Day 4. Do a reverse Christmas shopping. Go to Target and start buying whatever is on sale. You’ll figure out later who to give the items to. You’re sure Uncle Fred will adore the stop-motion animation version of It’s A Wonderful Life, even though he’s deaf and blind and consumed with hatred.
Day 3. Stand on the street corner wearing nothing but a green bikini, red fish net stockings and a “Will work for Christmas cash” sign. Your sister uses her Christmas bonus to bail you out of jail. You swear to fight the sexual solicitation charges.
Day 2. Make a last dash to the mall. Return all the presents you bought for your 27 distant relatives you only see once a year. Go to Best Buy and purchase two iPhones because it will be a cold day in hell before you let your kids be disappointed on Christmas, because that will pave the way for them to blame you for every single failure for the rest of their therapy-filled lives. Your daughter will write a book from jail titled “The Christmas That Ruined My Life” and your son will hit the Billboard charts with an angst-filled punk rock song which contains the refrain “all I wanted was an iPhone. Just one iPhone. And she wouldn’t give it to me.”
Day 1. Christmas morning. Your kids find you curled up in a ball under the Christmas tree, humming South Park Christmas songs and stinking like cheap rum. You’re still wearing the bikini.
I’ve been up since 4:30 just sitting in the living room, all the lights off save for the twinkling of the Christmas tree. No one else is up. I’m alone with my thoughts and while that’s usually a dangerous thing, today it’s ok because I’ve just been thinking about the positive things in my life. meditation of sorts.
It’s possible to feel a sense of peace even when you’re full of anxiety. You just have to work at it. Find the things that make you happy. Find the things that make you smile. Think about the things in your life that make you feel fortunate. Pile all those things up. Weigh them against all that is giving you anxiety. Now pick off the anxiety side all those things that you give more weight than they deserve. Take away the things you have no control over. Remove your irrational fears. The scale has just been tipped in the favor of good.
I chose to revel in that this morning. The weighing of the good. It doesn’t make the negative things go away; it just gives you a different perspective. Counting up the positive things in your life and truly feeling thankful for them, really appreciating them in a way that makes your heart feel full, that empowers you to deal with the other side of the scale in a healthy way.
The trick is in taking that feeling of empowerment, taking that sense of peace you have achieved and carrying it with you the entire day. It’s a trick I’ve yet to master. But I’m learning. I start by giving these moments - the quiet and the peace and the lights of the Christmas tree - a safe place in my head, a place that’s easily accessible so when I feel the anxiety coming on I can reach out, grab the moment, remember what it feels like and use that feeling to ward off the negative feelings.
It’s a process. I’m getting better at it. It’s making a difference.
Sometimes you read a story on the internet and you think, what a great story and man, that person in the story is so great. But then you read it again and you get a different take on it and you read it again and you think, maybe that person isn’t so great after all. In fact, he’s kind of a dick. And then you’re just embarrassed for everyone involved in the story and for yourself for reblogging it in the first place. The internet is full of attention whores and sometimes a story isn’t anything more than a person getting a little attention wanting to turn it into a lot of attention. Exacerbating an already volatile situation is a dick move. Anyway, my apologies for giving the guy more attention than he deserved.
Every year on this day I write a list of things I’m thankful for. Many of us do that. That’s what Thanksgiving is for. A day to sit back and think about all those people and things we are thankful for and acknowledge their place in our lives.
This morning, as I was making out my list, I wondered something. Do I know how to be truly thankful? Is my thankfulness confined to one day, just one single day to recognize what everything and everyone means to me? What if every day were a Thanksgiving of sorts? Would I learn to appreciate more, take for granted less, if I made it a point every day to give thanks to people and appreciate the little things that make my life bearable?
This is something we should strive for every day, to exist in a state of thankfulness. We complain incessantly, about our jobs, our lives, our state of being. We nitpick and bitch about life’s little annoyances. We curse the traffic, the days of the week, the lines at the grocery store, the shitty meal we were served, tv shows, the weather. It’s just human nature. And sometimes we’ve earned the right to complain. There’s nothing wrong with it. We just need to remember to balance it out.
I need to learn how to be properly thankful. To appreciate everything that enriches my life, be it the love of another person or a spectacular sunset. I need to set aside more days in the year to recognize the people who add love, laughter and kindness to my life and to acknowledge the things that make my life better. I need to be more thankful for life itself, for the chance I get each day to make it count, to breathe, to live, to enjoy, to experience.
Yes, in between all those positive things we get to do each day there are letdowns, frustration, sadness and sometimes anger. I’m not saying we should drop all pretenses of negativity and live life with rose colored glasses on, leaving a trail of rainbows wherever we go. Living your life includes adversity. I’m just asking more of myself. To be more thankful each and every day. To be more cognizant of what’s good and beautiful, be it small or large. To speak more of my thankfulness rather than saving it up for one day. To learn how to be truly thankful.
As I get older I find myself dropping more and more negativity from my life. I don’t have time for it anymore. I don’t have time to dwell on the things I want to complain about. I’m trying to be more mindful, more positive. This isn’t easy when you live with depression and anxiety. But the struggle is worth it. Being actively thankful and appreciative of the good things and good people in my life makes my heart feel happy. When my heart is happy, my brain responds in kind.
So I’m learning. I’m learning to be more thankful. I’m learning to verbalize my thankfulness, whether it be telling someone I love and appreciate them or just taking a moment to recognize something that has added value to my life.
I’m thankful for a lot of things; my family, my friends, music and laughter, the roof over my head, the beauty of autumn, the medications that make help me function, my ability to write, the thoughtfulness of the people in my life and hundreds of other things big and small. But mostly, this year, I’m thankful for the chance to experience it all, every day. I’m thankful I still have opportunities to learn and grow and make a difference in the lives of others. I’m thankful for this experience of life and the chance to get better at it each day.
If you are reading this then I have shared part of my life with you and I’m thankful to have you here, even if just for a moment. Whether we have maintained a friendship or if we just know each other from these exchanges of words on a website, I’m thankful that you are a part of my life.