Writing in the Fall

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything original for this blog, and I’m sorry for that.  As you probably know, I’m currently trying to make Chocolate Diamond Media a real job, make a feature film, and I’m working a day job, and have my family to spend time with.  So that’s part of it.

The other big part of it, is that I don’t write well in the fall.  This is a tough time of year for me, and even right now (the last year or two) when I’m at my most productive, the fall is tough.  I’ve talked a lot about seasonal depression before on here, and this is that time of year for me.  I’m not nearly as bad as most years.  The truth is that there is more daylight down in North Carolina than in Massachusetts, and for the last month, I’ve been waking up nearly every morning an hour earlier than I used to, in order to go run.  These have done wonders for the more overt symptoms of depression, namely I don’t feel sad/bad.  And it has helped me to want to be more productive, and more motivated than I would normally.  That productiveness has translated into editing, and filming, and forcing myself to work, but it has not helped as much with writing.

When I get to this part of the year, I don’t have any shortage of ideas, they still click into my head at the same rate as the rest of the year, but for some reason I have a hard time pushing them out into words.  I’ve started 10 blog posts, and as many short story/novel/film ideas, in the last week, and got no more than a sentence deep before abandoning them, but had pretty clear ideas, just couldn’t get them started.  Imagine you’re in a train car, and you see the train tracks laid out before you, and you know once you get on them you’re going to chug away and ride off into the sunset, but there’s 100 feet of tracklessness that you need push the train car across before starting on that.  That’s what I’ve been doing sitting on the train, staring at the tracks, and not sure how to get the cart on them.  Today, for some reason, when I woke up, the train was on the track, and so I’m pumping the coals into the fire (it’s an old train because I like the visual representation better, don’t worry coal burning is totally clean in my metaphor world) while I have track in front of me.

I hope that this will keep going, and when I wake up tomorrow I’ll be on the tracks again, but I guess I won’t know until tomorrow.

In the mean time, if you’re in the mood to see some of the creativity (non-written) that I’ve been producing while I haven’t been writing, please go check out the Chocolate Diamond Media YouTube channel.  I think I’m starting to get things into a groove over there, and there is some of the same sensibility (although an honest effort to remain unpolitical over on that channel).

My Son Says I’m The Incredible Hulk

There is a numb tingle across my lips and body,
my eyes are unable to focus,
it is urgent, I need to focus, my brain and my eyes,
but my eyes are unable to focus.
Light swirls with darkness, and everything is fuzzy.

I’m told hours have passed, then days,
…but I counted the seconds, and it’s only been a minute.
The temperature has shifted rapidly,
my spine is cold, and my skin is hot with sweat.

What happened while I was gone?
Where did I go?
Why can’t I get a hold of myself?

Suicide and Jokes

Suicide has been talked about a lot lately.  First there was August Ames’ suicide, then Logan Paul going to the suicide forest in Japan, and before either of those.  It’s a serious topic, and it’s one that deserves serious discussion, but there is a different side to it that should be discussed too, and that is jokes about it.  I will not be minimizing the topic in this post, but I will be talking more about humor and jokes surrounding suicide.

The reason I’m bringing this up, is Logan Paul.  Now, you should understand, that I didn’t watch the Logan Paul video, but I saw clips through many other stories talking about it.  I personally don’t want to see a dead body in video, and so I never watch anything like that.  That being said, me not wanting to see it, doesn’t mean you can’t show it.

Ok, disclaimers aside, I saw some of the clips of Logan Paul joking, as well as laughing.  Now some of the jokes, seemed like they were in poor taste, or insensitive, but some came across as nervousness, and I think that’s a totally natural response.  We often laugh at what may not seem the best time, because we don’t know what else to do, it’s natural.

Now, some of what I personally didn’t care for with what I saw of Logan Paul’s video, wasn’t joking about suicide, but joking about someone specific.  That may seem weird, but follow me for a second.  I personally, have laughed a lot at suicide jokes, but I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed about suicide jokes that involved someone real or specific, as much as the idea of suicide.

But Mike, suicide is never funny!

Suicide isn’t, but suicide jokes can be, and they can be helpful or good.  As you may or may not know, I am bi-polar, and have not only struggled with suicidal thoughts, but a couple of attempts.  When I was 24, I swallowed a bunch of pills, and was hospitalized for a week, and made to swallow liquid charcoal to neutralize the toxins of the pills.  It was a miserable time for myself, and my family (probably worse for them if I’m being honest).  When I got out of the hospital, I saw my friend Jimbo, and Jimbo’s first thing he said to me was:

“Hey, next time you try to kill yourself, you should get a whole bunch of chicken wire, make a noose, put it around your neck, duct tape your hands to your head and jump off a bridge in front of traffic.  That way, the noose will cut your head off, and it will look like you pulled your own head off with your hands!”

Now, if you’re like my family, you may be reading this thinking that it’s completely insensitive, and disturbing, and you might be mad that it was ever said.  I, however, burst into laughter, laughter like I hadn’t laughed since before the whole thing happened.

I had spent all of the time between swallowing the pills and Jimbo saying that joke, in a state of emotional NPR soft talk, and after he said that, I was listening to music again.  To this day, it is one of the two best comedic experiences I’ve ever had (the other was after an even worse day).

After Jimbo made that joke, we went around and around coming up with different ways that would have been far more memorable.  I like to think no one really meant them, and that the humor was our coping mechanism.  Because even though some people don’t get it, humor is largely a way of people making thing palatable that are otherwise unacceptable.  Humor is important, and not just humor that comes at no ones expense, because really that shit doesn’t exist (watch Mike Birbiglia’s Netflix special “Thank God For Jokes,” about how every joke is at someone’s expense.)

I imagine, if I had successfully killed myself, that Jimbo would not have told that joke, and if he had told it to him, I don’t think there would have been an audience for it, but telling that suicide joke, because I had a different outcome was great, it was what I needed.  So my point is this, suicide isn’t funny, but the jokes can be, and they can be cathartic, and they can shatter our self imposed prisons of ‘sobriety,’ but like anything else, there is a time and a place, and hopefully we can get help for those who need help, and humor for those who need humor.

 

Season Review: NC Autumn

Lots of people can do a movie review, or a book review, or some stupid gadget review, but I wanted to do a review of one of the seasons, since this was my first year in NC, and Fall is starting to give way to winter, I thought it only fitting that I review a North Carolina autumn for you.

Now, if you’ve read my book (which sales figures show you probably haven’t) or read enough of my blog posts, you might know, that I hate fall/autumn.  Hate it.  So why bother reviewing it?  Because, I found something different about it this year.

I moved from Uxbridge MA (adjacent to East Bumfuck) to a small town just outside of Raleigh NC, and things are a bit different in the world of weather.

First off, I get seasonal affect disorder, which some asshole decided to call SAD (probably the same person who named the condition of stuttering “a stutter” or lisping “a lisp.”  Just a real sick kinda person.)  A big portion of this condition is not getting enough light due to shortening days.  Well, here in North Carolina, the sun goes down about 40 minutes later on most days than it did up north, which so far has meant that I’m at least leaving work in the sunlight.  This does wonders for me.

Last weekend, the foliage was in peak color, which makes me think that perhaps the season is just delayed down here, but we’re now less than a month away from the days getting longer again, so I tend to think that perhaps, this is just a better fall as far as light and mild weather are concerned.

I’m not sure it’s accurate to say this is the best autumn of my life, that I feel the best I ever have, but certainly it’s the best of the 20 years (more than half my life).  I’ve felt only the slightest twinges of sadness and depression the last couple of months, and they’ve barely made a blip on my depression-o-meter (if you suffer from depression, I strongly suggest getting a depression-o-meter, they’re a real life saver.)

Now, if I’m being totally honest, I think that there may be other reasons, why this year autumn has been so awesome.  First, my son is at an age where he is incredibly fun to hang out with, and things like Halloween are fun again, watching him waddle around as Yoda.  Second factor, I’ve felt like I’m really making headway towards my goals, I’ve been writing a ton of articles over at World’s Best Media, I started a second paying gig as an assistant editor at a book publisher, I’ve had some smaller successes with articles and things I’ve written, and honestly, it’s just starting to feel like it’s coming together.  Third factor, I’m enjoying my time; all of those things I mentioned before are fun and rewarding, but I’m also spending time with my wife, and with our son, we drive around this new state of ours, and explore.  My wife seems a little worried because I’m more tired than I used to be, but it’s because I’m living more than I used to be, and I can’t do it without her (and frankly I don’t want to try).

So maybe the weather doesn’t deserve credit, maybe my recent happiness, is just a convergence of factors, but at least the weather isn’t dampening it.  At least I don’t feel like a fucking mole person in my day job, going into work in the dark, and being released back into the dark.  Honestly, even with the all of the other factors, that mole-man mentality can really ruin shit, and I’m thankful that I’m not doing it.

I give NC Autumn: B+ (Because after all, it’s still the 4th best season.)

I am a Fucking Coward

Most of us like to think we would be the hero in a crisis, we think we would be the person to stand up to a bank robber, or to risk our own lives for the sake of our families or the greater good.  Most people never are faced with a choice like that, and those who are often don’t act the way they hoped.

Today, not in the face of anything that personal, but something I believe to be as important, I found out that I am not a hero, I’m not even an ordinary man willing and able to do the very bare minimum.  I’m a coward.

Over the last several years, there have been protests that I’ve believed in, but I was able to justify not attending because it was always ten or not hours away.  I lived in Massachusetts, so when the protests were going on in Ferguson, it was easy to justify not going because it was too far.

Now I live in North Carolina, and so I’m closer to where a lot of the protests are happening.  Today, in Charlottesville Virgina (which is only about three hours away from me) the Klan, Neo-Nazi and an other white supremacy groups were organizing a rally in a park called Emancipation Park.

I should be going to counter protest, to lend my body to the ranks of people trying to show they have more support than the literal haters.  But I haven’t gone, and I’m not likely to go.  The reason for my absence isn’t moral ambiguity, or lack of time, instead it’s fear.  The truth is, if there are beatings, or pepper spraying, or God forbid worse violence, I’m scared of the personal impact.

All day today, the more I have heard about this ongoing event, the more I have been overcome by guilt and shame.  I cannot think of any argument that I have been more clear on in my head, and yet my convictions aren’t enough motivation to go stand for what is right.

It may seem less obvious to many of you, but to me, it seems today’s events are a clear movement in a worse direction.  There has been a lot of talk about the ’emboldening’ of racists in this country over the last two years, but this is coupled with a federal government unable to accomplish anything, and talking now about possibly suspending the 2020 elections due to illegal immigrants voting.

I’m terrified and ashamed.  Edmund Burke said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  I think right now to do nothing is disqualifying from being ‘good,’ and I have done nothing, and make no mistake I do not kid myself for one second that this post or Facebook memes are doing something.  Something real must be done, by everyone possible.

My intention in writing this, is that maybe I will be told about something I can do that I will be brace enough to do, or at the very least to shame myself enough to act.

What People Think About Me

I know that I’m not alone in saying that I spend a lot of time wondering what people think about me.  It’s something we’ve come to dismiss as being unimportant, or vain, but all of that isn’t necessarily true. We should absolutely think about what other’s think, the problem is just realizing that we don’t have to think about what all others think of us.

I try not to give a shit what someone I met once and had no meaningful interaction with thinks about me.  I don’t care if they think I’m handsome or ugly— to an extent I hope they didn’t think I was a jerk, but I don’t spend any real time on it.

The people who I wonder about, are my parents and my wife (although in both cases I think they’re pretty honest with me). I wonder what my son thinks, because he doesn’t talk yet, and if I am to believe the expressions on his face, he likes me about seventy five percent of the time—but not when I have to give him medicine, or if I’m slow getting his bottle.  I wonder about the people like my friends, because I know that there have been times when I’ve been an absolute piece of shit to them, same with exes (and my parents and wife).

I’m bi-polar, so there is a decent amount of time, where I seem to fall into a pit of despair about my past.  It’s not necessarily healthy, because I remember individual times I made my mother and sister cry from like twenty years ago, things that I know they don’t think about.  When I’m in that mind state, I amplify everything.

When I’m not on the down-swing, I am aware that there is almost zero likelihood that anyone thinks as much as I do about the little shitty things I did five, ten, or twenty years ago to them, but in those moments of darkness I can’t help but focus on them.

I’ve had a lot of people in my life, and doctors and others who have told me that this isn’t healthy, that I shouldn’t concern myself with any of this the way I do.  I’m not sure that they’re right.  I think what is unhealthy, perhaps, is the fact that everyone else doesn’t obsess over their mistakes the way that I do.  There are some mistakes that I’ve made multiple times, but there are a lot of shitty things that I haven’t done again, because I feel so awful inside about the first time I did them.

Also, because of how utterly disgusted I get with myself, I tend to only hurt people multiple times when it feels unavoidable. If something that is fundamentally me, or otherwise unavoidable to continue living, and hurts someone else’s feelings, I do what I have to do.  Now, I don’t mean for that to sound cut-throat.  I’ll give you an example, a lot of times people argue that homosexuality is detrimental to society, to children, or whatever, and there aren’t really any good examples given, but it is obvious that being gay has hurt many parents feelings.  This is a case of, a person having to do what is fundamentally them.  It’s not their fault if someone has an irrational reaction.  In my life, I don’t think I’ve dealt with anything as important as that, but there are many miniature versions of that you have to deal with in life.  You cannot dive into guilt and self-loathing over these issues.

What I’m talking about is, when you get drunk and tell someone they suck at life, or you end a relationship poorly due to a fear of just facing up to ending it correctly, or if you feel relief, or happiness at someone else’s downfall.  None of these are good for you—and I’ve done them all— and it’s important to not be able to shrug off your own bad behavior. We need to begin to hold ourselves accountable when we’re assholes.