Tag Archives: stress

… The More I Stay The Same

You would think that on a day in which the number of my paid hours didn’t exceed a half-dozen, I wouldn’t find myself so exhausted, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve been doing work stuff since I got home, as we’re looking down the barrel of another seismic shift in staffing levels at the restaurant. I don’t disagree with the move, as sales haven’t been what we would have liked them to be, and we’ve cut down the Front of House staff to be able to pull this off without losing too many people to frustrated attrition, but the Back of House has been generally protected up until now, with full staffing and full-time hours even during the fortnight of belt-tightening, and I worry that this move might cost us people will we need going into Halloween. It seems that I have become more conservative in staffing levels as I have gotten older. I used to be the bloody hatchet man, chopping away at “warm bodies” and never giving it a second thought, but perhaps I’ve just felt the effects of too many unexpected rushes to be willing to get caught again with my pants around my ankles (metaphorically speaking, obviously). The restaurant industry is a dangerous game, and even when you manage to get everything spot-on, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll still be open in a year. Statistically speaking, it’s almost certain that you won’t. Part of me would like to run and hide, get out of this and try to salvage what I can out of my career and unpaid writing.

There are only two problems with this: I still have to pay off my credit cards which supported me while I was on sabbatical earlier this year, and, sadly, I still kind of enjoy this work, and the logic puzzles which it provides. I’m finally getting enough data in that I can start running scenarios for failure in my head, and the more problems which I can troubleshoot now, the less likely I am to be blindsided by them in the future. There are countless ways in which this can end in failure, and only a handful which could be considered some variety of success. It’s my job to find the best path to the most attractive outcome, and find a way to get us there, whether or not that’s actually in my job description. All that time I spent as General Manager has forced me into this mindset, and even it means that someone else will get the glory, I will know what I have done, and that will have to do. It’s not like I am ever going to mention my successes in this industry when I get around to pounding out my bio for the jacket blurb. More than ever, my time away from Food Service has made me realize that I do not want this to become my career (never mind that I have been in this industry for nearly half my life, whereas I haven’t (to date) made more than $100 in writing sales). I mean, while I’m here, I’m going to keep giving it my all, but at the end of the day, I’m in it for the challenge, and, more importantly, the money to pay off my debt.

There is a possibility that I will wind up only working four days a week, which is actually okay with me. I know that it will push back my credit card payments, but it may also afford me the opportunity to keep working on my writing. If only I could somehow stumble into about $10,000 (to pay off the cards and medical bills which Flor and I have accumulated), then I wouldn’t have to worry about some sort of reduced schedule. I could be one of those part-timers whom I despise. I’m hoping that by March, I will have managed to pay off the majority of my debt, allowing me to consider taking steps to find some sort of balance between what pays the bills and what renews my soul. I suppose that there is still a chance that someone will read this blog (which I have just remembered that I will have to pay some fees towards in the beginning of December) and offer me a job writing things for them. I’m not going to hold my breath, but it never hurts to dream. As I may have mentioned a time or two before, I am bad at this whole “balance” thing. I wish it wasn’t so, but the fact is that I have kind of always been an “all-or-nothing” sort of fellow (from falling in love at the drop of a hat (rich, romantic aching, and drunken butterflies, etc.), to all of the other self-destructive behavior in which I have all too readily engaged), and it’s kind of ridiculous to imagine that I might start “adulting” right now. The more things change, the more I stay the same.

Maybe there’s still hope, though: I have started writing again, now that things have started falling into a rhythm (though not nearly as frequently as I might desire), and I’ve even managed to get some strings for my guitar (which I unearthed from deep within the pile of crap which resides before my closet), and started to play again. I’m still not any good, but at least I seem to have gotten a little better (from my years of not actually playing or anything), and I’ve even begun working on a “new” song, which is only 40% directly lifted from another song which I had written. I even use different chords and everything! There’s even a time change! That may not sound like much, but it’s pretty amazing for me. Death Trudge is making a comeback! Within the narrative which I’ve constructed that I might find meaning in my life, everything I’ve done has been for some sort of reason. I’m hoping that this time around, I get the chance to make some connection which allow me to pursue my dream of writing. It could be that I’m doing this so that when my brother-in-law finally gets around to opening his place, I’ll have the nuts and bolts of restaurant launching down to an art, but I really hope that it’s the writing thing.

Also, in other news: A good friend of mine unearthed some photography of mine from half a lifetime ago. She will be sending me the copies, and once I have them, I will share them with all of you. In the meantime, here is a photo of a photo which I took eighteen years ago:

Actually, this was one of my favorite photos from that era.
Actually, this was one of my favorite photos from that era.

Anyway, it’s very nearly my bedtime, and I have an exciting day at work tomorrow. Have a good evening, everyone!

Walking On Sunshine

So I am a published author, kind of. Maybe it’s not the way in which I ever thought that I would make my first money as a writer, but everyone needs to start somewhere. I was hoping to have sold more than the two copies which I have currently managed, so that I could talk about raking in the tens of dollars, but as it stands now, I basically have enough to repay my wife for that pack of smokes and energy drink she bought me yesterday, so I can’t really complain. And, if I am to be completely honest, I wasn’t really counting on a collection of things which I have shared with everyone for free for months to be a money maker. Sure, it’s convenient, and it’s only $5, but it’s nothing new for those of you who have been with me since the beginning. Terracrats is a step in the right direction, being fiction and all, but it’s only a short story. I’m not going to get down on myself, though. This is more than I have ever done in the twenty-eight years in which I have known that I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve waited so long for this to become a reality that maybe a little longer won’t be the end of me.

I just wish that I didn’t feel so damned… chipper. I mean, since yesterday evening, I’ve been wandering around with a bemused grin, uncertain exactly what’s going on, but somehow pleased, nonetheless. It’s positively infuriating. I just want to slap the smug joy off of myself while sternly reminding… me… that it’s all well and good, but unless I somehow manage to connect with a lot more people, I’m still basically in the same position I was yesterday, but with some pocket change in a month and a half. Wow. It’s sobering to equate my writing sales to date as a ten dollar bill which I’ll find in the pocket of a jacket that I haven’t used in months (and yet don’t remember having misplaced any money the last time I used the jacket). But as jarring as I find all of this optimism oozing from my everywhere, I have to force myself to remember that it’s better than feeling miserable all day, no matter how much I love to remain curled into the fetal position. I guess there’s just no pleasing me.

So what lies in store for me in this slightly happier world,where things appear to be just a little bit more positive, and I might stand a tiny chance to be able to do something I want to for the rest of my life? I don’t even want to imagine a world like that! Where things happen as they are meant to, and I don’t feel like finding clever new ways to just end it all, playing them over and over again in my mind. I’m not prepared in the slightest to face a lifetime of contentedness. My whole “thing” up until now has been to be a mopey type of individual, railing against injustices and complaining that those damned kids need to get the hell off of my lawn. I haven’t the slightest clue of how I am supposed to function in a reality where I am not facing constant disappointment. I mean, it hurts to smile. Years of scowling at the world and its inhabitants have carved my face into a grotesque mockery of me, and now that I am feeling rather chuffed, my whole head has begun to ache, though the stabbing pains behind my eyes might be the key to my salvation.

I suppose that there are plenty of things for me to still get bummed out about, like the fact that, for the most part, the novel which I have begun exists only in my head, or that I still have bills and rent to pay, and pocket change just isn’t going to cut it. Ah, there it is: the sweet agony of self-doubt. Oh, how I’ve missed you these past several hours. It’s nice to see you once again. What say you and I find somewhere kind of chilly and overcast, and spend tonight cuddled up beneath that bridge I found when I was wandering?

See? It’s no use! I’m finding amusement in almost everything, including my misery. Is this what it means to finally grow up, because, if so, I want no part of it! I would much rather sit in shadows and write about how sad I am than risk a moment of pure joy. Okay, that’s not technically true, but it’s still hitting a little to close to home for me to feel entirely comfortable writing it. Perhaps it’s because the future is infinite, at least as far as it applies to my own life until the moment that I finally expire, and full of uncertainty and variables which I may not have taken into account. The past, on the other hand, has already happened, and it is infinitely more soothing to my savage brain. I can pick away at my mistakes at whichever pace I choose to set, and take the time to really examine all the ways in which I managed to screw up. Also, everything seemed better back then. Of course, that could be because there is no impending stress left in the past, whereas the present is chock full of it, and the future is nothing but decisions which I will probably fail to settle to my satisfaction.

Ughhh… this is beginning to unsettle me. I guess that it’s time to get thinking about shiny puppies and the whatnot.

Anyway, overall, I guess that I am doing better than I was the week before. Or the week before that. I suppose that I will have to discover how to survive the pitfalls of success, with all of the brand-name cigarettes and microbrews which it is purported to afford its victim. Now it looks like it is time to get back to work, so cross your fingers to grant me the courage to sit through an electronic editing session of Terracrats with my Kindle Fire. Just turn the sunshine down a little, will you?

Odds and Ends: Updates and Errata

I’m sorry that I haven’t been around for the past couple of days. Wednesday wound up being Laundry Day, and my wife was on a grand tour of Bay Area picket lines, so it wound up being an all-day affair. I could have tried to keep up with them so that it wouldn’t take a full day to wash everything, but where’s the fun in that? I started in on the laundry at about 10:30 in the morning, and we finally finished drying and folding the last load a little after 8 o’clock that night. Somewhere in the middle of all of that mind-numbing fun, I had to take my son to his appointment, which ate up at least two hours. By the time my wife and I were done for the day, we kind of just shuffled into bed, as the elderly are wont to do, and I prepared myself for the massive commute that would be Thursday morning. My nephew was flying in from Mexico, and since I am the only one who isn’t making money, I was volunteered to go and meet him at the airport. That’s not to say I didn’t want to go- public transportation and retrieving people is sort of my thing- just that I was the natural candidate.

After taking David and his friend to school yesterday, I gimped back to the apartment, and assembled all the random crap one might need for an all-day excursion into Tourist Country. I’d been told that my nephew had wanted a tour of The City, so in addition to my Kindle and my iPod (to make the commute more bearable), I also schlepped my fancy Nikon along as well. I figured that if we were going to check out awesome places, I might as well get some fancy pictures of them. I left the house around 9:30 a.m. to catch the bus at quarter ’til. The flight wasn’t supposed to arrive until noon, but I tend to get a little nervous when I’ve got to get somewhere that’s so far away. I mean, it’s only a 68 minute ride on BART, but going from one end of the line to the other can rack up delays, and the last thing that I wanted to happen was for me to be stuck in the light rail system while my nephew was milling about in SFO, without a phone, trying to figure out how we were going to meet up. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but that airport is rather large, and it would be so amazingly easy to never find another person if the two of you were wandering around looking for one another, unable to even shoot off a text message to agree upon a landmark where you could meet up.

Two stations before I was set to transfer to the SFO line, my phone began blowing up with texts and emails from BART Operations (I’d signed up for alerts nearly six years before, when the BART workers were set to strike in ’09. They reached an agreement then, but four years later, made good on their promises. I love the BART, and it is integral to the workday for most Bay Area residents (I was going to say Areans, but it just didn’t feel reich), but the work stoppage pretty much paralyzed the entire region, and did as more to fuel their opponents than their supporters. tl;dr: I signed up for alerts and then never got around to cancelling them) saying that there was a massive delay emerging due to a major emergency at Civic Center. I was starting to get nervous, as that was between where I was, and where I needed to go, and there wasn’t really a better option (which I could afford) to get me there if BART went down. I took one earbud out so that I could listen to announcements, and discovered that they were stopping all trains two stops before Civic Center (in either direction). When my train pulled into Montgomery, I exited, and began investigating just what in the hell was going on.

It turns out that someone decided to jump in front of a train. This seems to be happening more frequently, and I’m not sure what, exactly was the tipping point, though I would probably put money on the lack of rain and scorching temperature. My son-in-law, Nerdenn Events, suggested that we put up Suicide Posters of the Golden Gate down in the SF BART stations, as that way our commutes wouldn’t be affected. Let me just say, as someone who has put a lot of thought into how I might like to snuff out my own light, I actually didn’t mind. We came up with some amusing slogans like, “They’re the final moments of your life. Why not choose the Scenic Route?”, and “It’s okay to end your pain, but please don’t punish us.” This may seem callous and cold-hearted, but the fact is that sometimes you just have to make a joke in the face of tragedy so that you can keep your sanity. Also, I’m pretty sure that you can get Road Rage from riding on BART when the trains are packed, and then are forced out of services due to station closures. By the way, I would totally keep the poster for the “Scenic Route” hanging  on my bedroom wall.

After forty minutes of uncertainty, they finally opened up the system to limited service. I hopped on the first airport train, and prayed (in an atheistic fashion) that I would get there on time. Years of being hours early prepared me for this day. I walked up to the airport with two minutes to spare. Figuring that I had some time before my nephew would be out of customs (not to mention all of the delays that come with domestic flights), I found the designated area, and smoked myself a cigarette. Let me go on record as saying that it was better than a post-coital smoke. Having overcome overwhelming odds to not only get to where I had to go, but two minutes early! That’s the kind of satisfaction that primal instincts can never hope to replicate. That, and I didn’t risk pulling a hammy. When I got inside, I saw that his flight had been bumped to 12:40, and sighed, suddenly irritated that I had defied the odds and gods to get here on time, only to be told that I could have slept in a little. As it turns out, these forces of shenaningry were not done with me…


Rising From The Dead

I suppose that it’s not so terrible a thing to take a couple of days off from time to time. I’ve had a lot going on recently, and it was nice to be able to catch up on a little sleep. I just wish that I didn’t keep waking up in the Twilight Zone. It used to happen with more frequency about a decade and a half ago, but from time to time it appears that I am still vulnerable to a shift between dimensions. Before I fall asleep, everything is normal. but upon opening my eyes, I find that I’ve been transported to a realm which appears in almost every way identical to the one with which I have been living, aside from one minor detail: In this new reality, my wife and I apparently do not get along. It probably has something to with the fact that I’m a massive pain in the ass, but what really kills me is that tonal shift never occurs until after I have fallen asleep. At least I’m fairly well-rested when we get into the thick of it, although I would much rather wake to find that I have been transported to a universe where everyone agrees with me and defers to my authority. Of course, I would then face the problem of never truly believing that I’d woken up.

It could be that I’ve just gotten used to a certain baseline of misery, but I seem to always be able to find just the thing to say or do to make everybody angry. It could also be that, after having ridden atop a wave of brightly burning mania, I am now crashing back to earth, wings melted and streaking down my back. I just hate it when I argue with my wife. I love her more than I ever thought possible, and have come to rely upon her in those moments when mere apathy and anger are simply not enough to get me through the day. I just wish that I could convince her that I actually know what I’m doing, instead of having to wait half a year for everybody to catch up to me. For me, it’s enough to know that she is there, standing by my side, a pillar of perfection in the jumbled chaos of my life. But I can see how sometimes it can be hard to keep your head held high when you’re just trying to keep it above water.

I’ve always landed on my feet. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen some dark days, just that I’ve always managed to escape them more or less intact. But it has been a little harder to navigate the streams of uncertainty with a wife and child. It’s not like the three of us (and all our stuff) can fit comfortably on someone’s couch until we get our feet beneath us once again. I’ve learned to keep it at a distance, all this uncertainty and self-doubt. I know just how fragile everything can be, but I also know that all that worry will only tie me into knots. That’s not to say that I don’t know how to really sink myself into a pit of things I cannot change, just that I also keep in mind that things have a tendency to work out for the best. My wife, however, is not familiar with this crippling level of worry. She is an amazingly capable human being who consistently puts me to shame on any number of issues, but when it comes to surviving stress-wound muscles, erupting heartburn, and the sinking feeling that the world is falling down around you, I totally have her beat.

Money doesn’t fix everything, but it sure helps to mitigate the worries. I understand why she is worried, as I’m bound to fall on my face one of these days. Most people would love to see me on that day, as the deflating of an ego so large is something of a spectacle. But should it ever come to pass that my luck actually runs out, my wife will wind up being punished for the crime of having believed in me. I know that everything is going to be okay, and apparently the universe is on my side (although, who knows how it will work in this parallel reality?). I don’t want to get into a lot of details, but every time I think that time has just run out, I’m granted an extension at the perfect time, like a second chance unfolding through infinity until I’m ready to get it all just right. Yeah, okay, I can see how that could look a little crazy. I suppose that if someone else unloaded all of that on me, at the very least, I’d be a little skeptical. It’s a good thing to be in the driver’s seat of your own insanity.

I just wish that she would relax. She runs around, putting out the fires, all the while getting singed around the edges. At the end of the day, the fire’s still burning strong, but it helps her to feel that something’s been accomplished. Meanwhile,my focus has been on how my jeans have been shrinking. We don’t have a scale in the apartment, but I’m certain that I haven’t packed away enough to outgrown all of my pants. I know that I could handle losing a couple dozen of them (pounds, not pants), but to have grown so… large… that I cannot even wear the jeans that I don’t care for… What is this world coming to?

That right there is a perfect comparison of the two of us: She’s focused on the all the things we need to do to keep from going under, and I’m shedding internet tears regarding my descent into flabbery. I just wish that she would accept my assurances that everything is going to work out fine, but she’s too much of a perfectionist to take me at my word, and I’m too tired to argue anymore with her. I feel like something dead, barely registering above room temperature.

A shadow of my former self, from deep within the Twilight Zone.
A shadow of my former self, from deep within the Twilight Zone.