Category Archives: Depression

Office Life: Thar Be Meanies

In Virginia, there’s an esteemed literary magazine called The Virginia Quarterly Review.

There, an editor has committed suicide, and the Review has been shut down amid a new investigation that the suicide was as a result of workplace bullying and harassment.

I found the story fascinating on a couple levels.

Photographer unknown.

One, there’s a strange perception, I think, that these sort of things don’t happen in intellectual/cultural offices, and I think this sheds light on the reality that people can be mean fuckers whatever their aesthetic tastes.

Two, it continues the realization I’ve had since reading William Styron’s Darkness Visible years ago — that is, to be literary is to be predisposed to depression and potentially suicidal tendencies. The “Overthinky Syndrome” comes on something fierce when one is closely aligned with literary pursuits.

Three, I don’t think we really give enough weight to mental health on the job when it comes to the people around us.

A few years ago, as I was descending into the darkest depression I’ve ever had, I was working at an office where I felt put down and distrusted daily. It was a very difficult environment to work in, but I had no choice, I’d run out of employment insurance and had to take something.

Given my declining emotional state, I didn’t really trust my feelings — maybe I just felt like shit. Maybe I was misreading the things said and done around the office.

One day I was sorting through papers and found legal documents relating to a case involving one of the company’s principals and the province’s labour board. Apparently there were allegations of psychological abuse by the company’s principal, made by former employees.

I suddenly felt a little vindicated. It wasn’t just me, this person actually was kind of mean and cruel.

A year later, I was working for another employer who would mentally beat me down now and then because I wasn’t sacrificing myself for the job like she was. (I don’t own the company, woman, and I was told it was 9-5, not 55 hours a week, and I was getting paid for 40. Liars.)

I know what it’s like to have the opposite kind of bosses, too.

I’ve had a lot of employers who’ve been people who stopped me from doing negative self-talk, who told me how valued I was. I’ve had a lot of luck working for good people.

There’s a world of difference between going to that kind of job, where a bad mood is just part of life’s occasional fluctuations, versus one of the jobs where I’d be lucky to make it through a day without some mocking, blaming, or guilting kind of assault happening, where a bad mood would spiral into dread about returning the next day, and more dread about enduring five full days in a row with no escape.

One of the reasons I want to be self-employed is, the good people I was working for are in a precarious part of the film industry and job security is a thing of the past. I’m pushing 40. I could’ve handled that uncertainty in my 20s, but I can’t anymore.  I can rely on myself, though.

Another is, my last experience looking for work landed me in both of the above jobs, and I do blame both experiences in part for the depression I then spiralled into.

I also credit them with making me ANGRY enough to change my life.

But some people don’t get to reach angry.

Some people get beaten down day after day, told they’re stupid, useless, and lucky to even be employed. Management puts hurdles before them they’ll never overcome, and the economy ensures more hurdles.

The hopelessness of being stuck in jobs like that, in the face of an economic climate like we have now, it makes sense it’d be driving people to suicide.

And our dearly departed editor? Well, there’s not really a growing market for literary review editors, is there? If he felt trapped, if the university was looking the other way on complaints just to avoid controversy, if daily badgering and emotional assaults were happening, if he was your typical overly-analytical literary genius, then… tragically, it does compute.

Workplace bullying is as bad as childhood bullying, if not worse.

At least when you’re a kid there are potential adult figures who might ride in and save you from bullies.

When you’re an adult, there’s a veneer of judgment that comes with admitting you’re being bullied at work. Most reactions are along the lines of “Suck it up” or “It’s just a job” or “Hey, just three days till Friday! Chin up!”

When a job becomes your jail, you try shrugging it off. One can logically think “Oh, it’s just a paycheque”, but there’s a toxicity that comes from being exposed to these people on a day-in, day-out basis.

Like a river can passively wear down even the strongest of rocky terrain, just running over the same ground day after day, so too can a person’s soul and spirit erode.

When I quit the job that had me working daily for six months just 10 feet away from the most toxic, negative, and belittling woman I’ve ever known, it took me more than a year to start finding the positivity and hope in myself again — the things I said were just nothing like the person I used to be. That negativity changed who I was.

And I’m a pretty strong chick.

That was six months, just six months of being broken down by intimidation and judgment and belittling.

What about others? How far does that daily treatment go, how much worse does it become over time? How deeply does it seep?

This kind of treatment isn’t business as usual.

It shouldn’t be overlooked.

Employees should have greater rights about how they can expect to be treated, especially if they’re performing good work and delivering results. (Some useless fuckheads who don’t care about their jobs or quality could use a little yelling at, but all within reason.)

If this was just another unhappy Wal-Mart or McDonald’s or city-sanitation type job, the story would’ve been dismissed. “I’d commit suicide if I had that job, too — har-har.”

But all this guy had to do was read and write for a living. These were literary people, they had soul and the ability to communicate well.

And yet, here we are.

Cruelty and harassment knows no boundaries. There is no class distinction. Intelligence isn’t immune to meanness.

We’re supposed to be a kinder, gentler society. Maybe now we can stop with the lip-service and get on with the reality of being better than our predecessors.

Mental Health: In Which Steff Calls a Spade a Spade

A couple months ago, I proposed to talk about writing for therapy, how to kinda “go there”, via blogging.

The conference was yesterday. It was an “unconference” put on by end-patients and people who work on the peripheries of mental care.

Why did I want to get involved?

For a million reasons. I’ll get to most of them shortly.

But, first: I proposed my talk without knowing the conference’s “reputation” or anything like that. I just wanted a forum to talk about depression.

Unbeknownst to me, I stepped into the thick of a controversial “unconference.” It wasn’t until Friday that I really realized just how controversial it was. Whether it’s because ballsy speakers like Steven Schwartz speak in dismissive vernacular, saying edgy-yet-funny adjectives a lot of boring people object to, or because of who was organizing it, or even the press some of us speakers were getting, the reactions were ridiculously sharp and pointed.

Late Friday night, I saw comments some anonymous dumb fuck left on the Mental Health Camp’s website, and I got pretty riled up. Since then, all the comments were deleted, which I take serious issue with.

Me, I never would have deleted the comments. We convened the camp to fight stigma against the “idea” of mental illness, so why would you delete, and not fight, that stigma when it stands up and attacks you? Deleting and silencing the attack does nothing to neutralize it. But that’s where I stand and it’s not my blog. So, yeah. Moving on.

The asshat’s comments varied, but the most offensive of them all were that a number of those involved in the Mental Health Camp were doing so only to propel their image and get their allotted moments of Warholian fame. Media whores, basically, all faking their interest to get noticed.

Heh. Yeah, okay. Fucking shrewd, that.

A line in the comment made me wonder if I was one of the people they alluded to, just because I had the audacity to do an interview with CBC about the conference.

Here’s the deal, all right?

I’ll be the first to admit there were organizational issues with the conference. That’s what happens with not-for-profit amateur/volunteer organizers, people who have organized a conference just to have discussion and don’t have experience organizing them.

Oh, well. That’s life. It happens. But it’s not about the organizing.

It’s about the messages explored — mental health, stigma, and the fact the lives are destroyed by mental illness every moment of every day, and the fact that EVERYONE in their lifetime will experience mental illness at some point, and YET we don’t talk about it.

Well, I do, and I have for years.

I’ve been writing about depression, weight issues, self-esteem, lack of confidence, and everything else I’ve battled in life since 2005, and blogging since 2004. I’ve been getting real fuckin’ raw and honest since 2006.

There are a whole lot of things I’m willing to do to have success as a writer. Do you know what the least smart of them would be?

Letting myself in any way be any kind of poster girl for any mental illness.

Let’s see, when was the last time a Hollywood publicist suggested their celebrity client embrace their mental illness for the public as a means of netting better starpower in the press? Um, never.

Know why?

No one wants to be thought of as “nuts”.

Why?

Because people who are strong, intelligent, articulate, engaging, and well-liked don’t come out and admit their mental illnesses. They don’t talk about them. So stigma exists because all we see are the nutty fucks you try to avoid in hallways, or the whackjobs they put on television shows.

But those are extremes.

When assholes like that anonymous commenter attack a conference whose only purpose is to bring the overly-shamed and constantly-silenced issue of mental health to the forefront only because they dislike the people behind it, and they use that opportunity to suggest it’s basically Starfucking by those involved, it’s an insult to the seriousness of the issue.

It also suggests they have no fucking idea what it’s like to have been, in my case, an otherwise strong and intelligent person who took the wrong medication and considered suicide before spending the next year-plus trying to claw my way out of the depths.

It suggests they have no idea what it’s like to live under the clutches of your mind, body, and chemistry’s whimsy on a day-in, day-out, year-by-year basis, never being able to rise above a sick world of fear, chaos, and hopelessness that can’t manifest outwardly, that you hear inside your head every time you wake or lie down to sleep.

It suggests they don’t fathom that mental illness is the most costly and insidious of sicknesses in society — it destroys the fabric of life, of all the lives around the sufferer, not just the body of the afflicted. It ends relationships, destroys marriages, causes debt, and is the largest reason for employee leaves of absence in the modern workforce.

I don’t WANT to talk about depression.

But I need to.

Because what happened to me can happen to anyone.

Because it happened to my mother, and, as a 17-year-old girl, I walked in on her attempting suicide with the very pills that caused her chemically-induced depression — one like I myself would experience 17 years later.

Because doctors will tell you birth control pills don’t cause depression.

Because I know my birth control made me want to kill myself and feel like life could never have hope again.

I need to talk about depression because I’m tired of bi-polars, schizophrenics, and other more acute or rare mental health concerns having the limelight in “mental illness,” when it’s depression that’s most likely to touch, and destroy, the average life.

I feel like their more “stereotyped” afflictions make it less likely for seemingly average Jolenes like myself to come out and say, “I’m not that afflicted, but it still really fucked me up, too, and no one saw any big signs…”

I am a good writer. I’m a really, really good writer. I’m a passionate speaker who will not mince her ideas. I don’t back down from a fight. I’m engaging, funny, and even self-deprecating. I’m a great communicator with friends, family, everyone.

And yet depression almost took me out of the game of life.

But I survived.

I made it to the other side. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m happy most of the time.

Still, I’m surrounded by people I see who are skating through life with the cool indifference of someone struggling with depression. I see it everywhere. And we’re NOT TALKING ABOUT IT.

You want to attack my IDEAS? Go for it.

But don’t fucking attack ME or any of those people who’ve had the STRENGTH to write about all the things YOU make fun of, that YOU won’t trust, or YOU can’t admit about yourself.

We’re out there only for the reason that we can’t be silent anymore. Society can’t AFFORD our silence anymore. We need to hear our thoughts expressed on the page, we believe our experiences are real and representative of the whole, yet largely ignored by the mainstream.

And we’re not going to be quiet about it.

Not anymore.

Until you’ve lost your job — like I once did — for writing in the public eye about your darker self, until you’ve had the courage to write without tempering your weaker thoughts and fears, until you’ve been able to admit you have an affliction the majority of society can’t understand and doesn’t know how to act around, you have no right to criticize us for the moments of acknowledgement we might finally receive after years of having the courage to tell our stories no matter what the prices have been.

Now it’s easier for me. But where the fuck were you in 2006 when I wanted to commit suicide only 9 days after writing the most harrowing things I’ve ever published? Where were you when my traffic dropped to nothing as I used my blogs to work through my depression? Where were you when I lost a job and nearly my home for having a voice on less acceptable topics? Where were you when I struggled to maintain faith in speaking out? Where were you when I constantly had to lower my voice when I said what I wrote about?

Sure, now you know about me, but I’ve been doing this for a long fucking time and I’ve paid a LOT of steep prices for my honesty.

But I’ve paid ’em and now you can’t shut me up. Just try it, honey. You’ll only wind me up more.

If I finally have an audience and a wider means of getting my message out, you’d have to be a fucking moron to think I’d walk away from that opportunity.

Oh, and being single and getting press for having gone nuts, been suicidal, and longterm depressed? Yeah, that’ll be a fucking brilliant way for me to get laid. I hear men are wild about that shit.

Marketing GENIUS, clearly.

Whoever you were, you anonymous spineless motherfucking commenter: Grow up. You’re a fucking idiot. Open your eyes. See that some battles need to be waged with faces on them.

At least I have the guts to show mine.

In Which Steff Talks About Mental Health

Come Saturday I’ll be giving a talk at Vancouver’s “Mental Health Camp,” where the goal is to get people thinking about stigmas attached to a wide range of mental conditions — from ADHD and depression through to eating disorders and compulsions all the way to harder-core afflictions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Me, I’ll be talking specifically on two things — one, I’ll give a 45-minute session on blogging for therapy in my solo “Ripping the Scab Off through Blogging” talk, and two, I’ll be on a panel discussing how each of us 4 panelists have used social media to share our psychological struggles and what it’s meant for us.

This posting is sort of to just touch on both of those, in support of the event, and to let you know what’s going down.

_____

I’ll be honest: Yeah, I’m not particularly wild about talking at something called “Mental Health Camp.” There is stigma, yeah. Damn right there is.

I also know that if there’s anyone who can overcome such stigma, I’m probably at the front of the line.

I’ve spent much of the last five years already writing about myself in very open ways as I take the journey of going from She Who Was Very Unhappy to this much more interesting and fun-to-be-with version of self I’m excavating from under years of neglect.

Writing about myself has been a huge part in how I’ve been able to accept where I was, where I needed to be, and what it would take to get there.

By learning how to write in an open way while still hanging on to details that weren’t really necessary to share, I’ve managed to be open yet keep some of my struggles inside, too. Snapshots, that’s what y’all get.

In homage to one of the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, I call the writing technique “surfacing” and it’s pretty simple to do, it’s just a matter of perspective. Shifting that perspective ever so slightly creates a whole new reward from the writing.

I’ll be talking about it in  detail on Saturday, and don’t want to blow my hand by writing all about it here and now.

The talk will include a lot more than that, though.

I’ll look at the differences between journal-writing and blogging, and point out all the pros and cons of turning to the web for an audience. I’ll tell you who should be blogging more openly (almost everyone) and who shouldn’t (and there are some).

I’ll tell you the top 10 reasons I think anyone willing to blog should be willing to be more personal, and why blogging for therapy just makes sense from a societal point of view — both from solidarity and healing perspectives.

I’ll also share the prices I’ve paid while attempting to cash in* on living the revealed life. It’s not something one should enter with the foolish notion that “I’ll write it and they’ll read it.” There’s a lot that can go wrong. There’s a lot that can play out well. There’s much to consider.

____

Later, I’ll be on a panel with three friends — all of whom have had far, far harder mental health journeys than I have — discussing how we’ve been “out” about our lives and the prices/rewards it’s cost/yielded us.

In both situations, I’ll briefly outline the facts: I lived with mild depression for most of my life. I’ve learned that, when it comes to natural depression FOR ME, it’s controlled with diet and exercise. I have indeed been medicated on a few occasions, both for “situational depression” as well as ADHD.

I’m on no meds now. It’s not a prize I’ve won for being a Good Mental Health Patient. It’s just that I’ve found a way to mostly regulate my chemistry.  When I was ON meds and began eating well and exercising, what WAS a good level of meds went sideways fast as I started building my own seratonin and dopamine.

Do NOT fuck with meds just because I’ve been able to get off mine. It’s NOT about the meds, it’s about what’s safe for you. Talk to doctors!

But all this is to say I’ve been to my mental health hell with a chemical depression that took two years of medication to regulate back to normal. I’ve been on the verge of suicidal with a desperate cry for professional help in the past, all while being an intelligent person who felt trapped in this chemical mood I couldn’t shake for months and months.

Before that, I had to overcome a head injury. Since the chemical depression, I’ve had to learn to adjust to an adult-ADHD diagnosis and how it makes me see the world.

So, I’ve had some experiences, and they’re probably more common to the general populace than my colleagues’ are, so I’m happy I can provide a “mental health light” perspective to balance it out.

Being on the other side now, I remember how hard it was to be in the chokehold the disease of depression had on me. I never thought I would escape. Suicide seemed like a smart plan.

Here, now, and looking back, it does shock me how putting my head down and keeping on keeping on, fighting the fight, eventually paid off and has brought me to a better sense of self than I’ve ever known before. Yeah, I’m proud of the stuff I accomplished.

The journey was long and strange, and I feel I’m still on it and I’ll always have to be aware that depression can find me again, but having this kind of self-awareness and openness, as much as it’s been problematic at times, is something I feel that will probably help me navigate whatever stormy waters might one day roll my way again.

The truth shall set you free?

Yeah. Maybe. Let’s talk.

____

People in Vancouver can see these talks, among many other good ones, for a lowly $10 at the door. There are plenty of tickets, and, yes, it’ll be air conditioned in the heatwave. Wahoo. There’s a chance it’ll be streaming live, and if so, I’ll be posting that URL for my followers on Twitter, and you should check there Saturday morning, in case I forget to post it here.

*Figuratively, not literally.

In Praise of Pink Slips

What a difference a day makes. 24 hours ago, I was sitting there sullenly at my desk, kind of loathing my existence. Today, I’ve got a paid day off, and tomorrow I return to the only job I’ve ever known that made me feel like I was part of a family.

It has been 12-13 years since I had a job with an asshole employer. This was the first time since that I’d had an employer that I felt was, well, unfair. I’m not going into specifics. It is what it is, and I have too developed a readership to go slagging anyone.

But let’s face it, not everyone knows how to manage. There are people who have such great personalities that they get overlooked for how they sometimes treat others, and they can be hell to work for.

I’m a big believer in learning from life as it happens. You can just dismiss things and say “shit happens,” or you can ask “why does shit happen?” Everything I ever needed to know I learned from Philosophy 101. Why?

For me it makes life so much better when I assign value to all the things that go down in my life. For every failure, I try to learn something. And whether I want to accept it or not, I was fired. I failed in some capacity, and while I consider myself fortunate to have been uninvited from that particular party, there’s a part of me that knows what rejection feels like again.

Do you ever sit back in your comfy arm chair, watching some talk show, on which is some woman telling of all the abuse she endured through her many years of marriage, and sit there, thinking, “Jesus, honey! Why didn’t you leave?! At what point do you finally clue the fuck in and say, ‘Gee, I think this might be a bad situation?’ Fuck!”

Yet how many of us work every day in jobs we hate? Jobs where you know it’s just a paycheque, baby? How many of us tolerate rude, belligerent employers who don’t know how to sit the fuck down and trust us to do the jobs we’re supposed to be hired to do? It’s psychological abuse, really, when you work in a situation like that. But because they sign our paycheques and keep the roofs above our heads, we somehow feel like they’ve got permission to treat us like they do.

And I don’t give a fuck what kind of job it is, what kind of pressure it is, it’s not too goddamned much to ask that employees everywhere get treated in a reasonably professional manner. I’m not so sure that’s how I was treated of late. Two people there were good, though. Pity about the unbalance.

So, uninvited from the party, I have to tell you that today’s the first time since about… February of this year that I’ve woken up without this palpable fear of whether all the bills are going to be paid and whether I’m gonna have my integrity intact at the end of the day. In the spring I was just financially insecure. Of late, I was underpaid and treated somewhat questionably. Different scenarios, but similar results.

I feel like a fucking mammoth weight has come off my shoulders, is what I’m trying to say. And I’m also trying to suggest that, if you’re one of those people working a job you hate, you really need to start asking yourself if the cost benefit ratio of going through THAT every single day is worth it. I mean, shit. I feel like I’ve just broken the water’s surface and am finally breathing again. I had no idea those many months were taking the toll they’ve now so obviously been taking.

I always said I was lucky to never have really had to work in a bad situation. Now I have. I’m one of those freaks that likes having difficult experiences because then I always grow. It’s my choice to gain from the situation, ain’t it? So I’m having a good day. Friday’s coming and so’s that 33rd birthday. Older? Wiser? Fucking right I am.

I wouldn’t have had the guts to quit without another job to go to. Getting fired was the only way that situation was gonna get resolved, unless one of the headhunter positions worked out. So my perfect record gets smeared. Whatever. I’m glad I’m moving on to potentially better times.

It’s one of those times where you, the reader, gets to sit back and ponder your own life’s satisfaction. Is it really going the way you want? Is it worth it to keep compromising? Think about it. Then remember one of my favourite sayings: Life’s too fucking short.

Hallelujah. I got fired. Uninvited. Ha. And look, it’s sunny out. Go fuckin’ figger.

Lightning Crashes… Or Something

There is a world of difference between saying what needs to be said and saying what you want to say. Words get taken the wrong way and intentions are often lost in the mix.

Hi, I’m Steff. I’m a compulsive foot-in-mouthist, and thinking before speaking is a lifelong fantasy I’ve yet to make true.

And you know what? Honestly, I just hope I keep on failing.

It’s so goddamned much fun when I get to actually say what I think. I do curtail it day to day, but not as much as you might think. I’m not one of these secret-other-self type bloggers who has a total alter ego they only bring out to play on a CPU. I don’t have to hit the bong or scarf a tab or guzzle a 2-4 in order to tap into that inner self. I just have to bite my fucking tongue sometimes so I can yield to convention. But, trust me, most people I know have known me to say incredibly crass things sometimes, and I’ve no qualms about playing a fool.

If there’s anything I miss about my old job, it’s that they’d long ago labelled me as “flippant” and knew me to be an absolute yutz at times, and, in fact, they embraced those moments of utter irrelevance. I miss that, and I miss the fact that I’m not feeling as comfortable being myself as I once was. I chalk it up to the oddities of the recent past: the lack of sex drive, the in-orbit levels of estrogen, the sub-terranean depths of depression, and all that shit. But I feel it coming back to me now. I’m waiting, like a lover in the night, I’m waiting for my own arrival, naked yet comfortable.

And that’s the thing, man. Being yourself. It ain’t just about saying what you’re thinking, it’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin and knowing, without a doubt, that the things you’re doing and thinking are all about who you are. It’s far easier said than done, and far harder to actualize than any of those fucking self-help gurus would have you believe.

Why’s that? Well, ‘cos we live in a shrink-wrapped society that thinks image is everything. Hell, it’s apologies-on-demand in our day and age. (I wrote a little ranty thing about just that on the other bloggie-poo of mine earlier today.)

Y’know, there’s two ways I write best: One, with music driving the cadence of everything I tap out, and two, like I am now, seated in unnatural (to you) silence — my little hearing aids turned off, or not even inserted in my ears. I find that if, one way or the other, I drown out the world, that all that’s left is the rat-tatty-tat of my heart and my fingers on the keyboard. Gone is the judgment, the cynicism, the self-doubt, the angst, the bafflement, the groan’n’drone of the world beyond my far too thin windowpanes. I can give in to autolatry and isolation, and, for once, being myself is just a little easier.

I have the misfortune of working at a company with nice people, but with extreme political aspects to them. And with politics comes correctness, and with correctness comes a realization that I might not ever fit in as I’d like to. But, then, I haven’t been there long, and it took me more than a year to gain the unequivocal fondness of my last employers. (But I was in a bad, bad place when I started that job — borderline alcoholic and drug addict, really.) I suspect I’ll beat the living shit out of that time-lapse this time around, but OHMIGOD does it feel like forever.

And I’ve been thinking about this for a little bit today, how weird it all is when we lose touch with ourselves. It’s like trying to dial up a friend and stoke an old relationship. It ain’t gonna be all love’n’kisses as soon as that cup’o’joe settles on the table between you, you know. Takes a little massagin’ of egos and checking in and tuning up and all, don’t you find? Yet we think that because we’re all of a sudden aware of the distance between who we are and who we’re being that there’s some kinda mental Band-aid we can slap on that gaping psychic wound and suddenly be our uber-ally self all over again. Not gonna fuckin’ happen, sweetcheeks — try though you might.

So, that’s where I am. I know who I am but I know who I’m seeming to be, and who I’m seeming to be’s just gotten her eviction notice and I want her ass on outta here, but I know there’s a holding period before that’s gonna happen. Meanwhile, just call me Marcellus Wallace, ‘cos I’m about due to get medieval on that waste-ass tenant if she ain’ packin’ in a friggin’ hurry, baby.

I’m trying to remember when in the hell it all shifted for me. When was it I lost touch with all the little bitty bits o’ Steff that make me grin when I’m alone? At some point during my recently RIP’d relationship, to be sure, and no, I’m not about to blame the ex for causing me to go AWOL. Sure as shit weren’t his fault, not one iota. He liked the chick I am, not the chick I became, and that’s fact that I don’t doubt. The problem was never him, the problem was that I, like most chicks have a tendency to do, managed to fall into that trap of being what I thought was the right thing to be in a relationship, and somehow, that coupled with the estrogen depression and the prevalence of strife and upheaval in my oh-so-tumultuous little dramatic life somehow sent this kick-ass, fun to be with, always witty, always snappy chick somewhere way the hell out into the stratosphere.

And, dude, it sucked!

There’s nothing (NOTHING!!!) worse than waking up with the side of you that you just don’t like. There’s nothing (NOTHING!!!) cooler than waking up with a grin on your face ‘cos nothing turns you on better than liking who you are at 6:53 am, all right?

And you don’t get to be that person if all you’re ever doing is kow-towing to convention and appeasing all the little perfect (read: no fun, dry, unenviable) people around you. You get to be that person when you say things that catch yourself and others off-guard and you bring a grin to their face. You get to be that person when that gleam in your eye sparkles and you find yourself walking down the street with an unwarranted grin.

Ah, well, I don’t know why I’m writing this, and I don’t give a fuck about it, either. I just felt like it. That’s reason enough, no? I wish like nothing else I had Live’s Lightning Crashes somewhere on this harddrive, but no. I do not. If you read this in the next couple of hours, (say, before 2am PST) perhaps you could email me the song and I can rock-the-fuck-out before work in the morning. Not that I’m condoning piracy. Okay, fuck it. I’m condoning piracy. Sign me up, matey, and watch me rock and roll on the pitch of those waves.

Of Trappings and Traps

So, I was watching Oprah for the first time in a long while, which is nice, and the Big O had Dave Chappelle on. I suspect it’s a re-run, so I’m probably behind the times, but ask me if I care.

For those who’ve been on a desert island, Chappelle baffled the world at large when, just after signing a contract for $50 million and two years more of his show, he up and disappeared, just fucked off to Africa for a sojourn, and didn’t tell anyone but a family member where he’d gone.

To hear him talk of it, there were dozens of reasons, but most of all, it was simply that even $50 million wasn’t worth the hassle he was facing or the pressure he was under. Some people out there probably think it’s clear he’s a fucking nutbag for walking from a steaming pile of cash like that, but I applaud it.

In order to protect my rep and all, I won’t tell you about the situation that occurred when I was 15 that left me thinking often about the phrase “Money isn’t at the end of the rainbow.”

Every time my life gets out of control, every time I start working too much or forgetting about myself, I step back and remind myself that it’s not about money. It’s never, ever about money.

Recently I was in the situation where I went from possibly losing my apartment because I was about two weeks away from running out of money as I needed to get a job ASAP (one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever been through, and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone) to suddenly being so in demand it hurt. I had the opportunity to work full-time at my new job, part-time at my old job, plus do some private work on the side, WHILE trying to keep this blog and my other blog afloat, WHILE trying to learn podcasting, WHILE trying to come up with a new website, WHILE trying to stay present with friends and family.

Is it any fucking wonder then I went off my nut?

It was early last week when I just snapped. I lost it. Totally without question mentally AWOL, or the closest I’ve ever come. Then and there, I cancelled all extra work. Forty hours a week is all the soul I can offer to the gods of social productivity.

Money’s nice. God I wish I had more of it. I’d be an exemplary rich person. My taste in the aesthetic dance of life is hard to beat, and I understand what’s worth a mighty dollar and what is not. Funny thing is, I’m not sure I ever want to be rich. I’d be happy with a hundred grand a year. That’s all I ever need. I kind of want to be famous, but only if it’s the “Yo, Steff, you rock!” kind of fame and not the stalker “Oh-My-GOD-it’s-STEFF!” kind of fame. That’d be fucking whack. Thank god I’m just a chick with a blog, man.

If you were ever in my apartment and I wasn’t around and you wanted to play Det. Snoop, you’d sooner or later find this small pewter book charm on my bookshelves, hidden away, on which a Virginia Woolf quote can be read that says, “If you are losing your leisure, look out, for it may be that you are losing your soul.”

In the battle between my self, my soul, and my leisure, money will always, always come last. A couple years back, I read this book called “In Praise of Slow” by Carl Honore, all about the Slow food, Slow sex, Slow life movement in which people deliberately choose to take a different path in order to slow down the speed of life and enjoy the moment. Then and there, I chopped just 3.5 hours off my work week, worked one hour extra a day, and managed to have three-day weekends every week. Smartest thing I ever did. Too bad that job started to slowly kill me, ‘cos now I’m stuck in the 9-5 M-F hell that most of the rest of the world lives in.

We live by the clock and we live in the age of irony.

For a century or more now we’ve been fed the lie that technology would make our lives easier. Maybe it did, once. It doesn’t now. Now we have no time. We have no silence. We’re constantly in a race against time because we’ve bought the myth of the sands slipping through the hourglass and we stupidly believe that the more we work, the more we live. I don’t subscribe to that, but sometimes I forget just how much I disagree with it. With palm devices, laptops, cellphones, DVD players in cars, and more, we’re so wrapped up in the digital age that we forget there’s organic life around us.

Life’s crazier than ever before. Makes me remember the line from that brilliant philosopher Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Ever ridden on one of those bullet trains? I haven’t. I probably will, for the novelty of it one day, but then I’ll never do it again. What’s the point of going anywhere if you can’t see where the fuck you’re leaving?

You know something? I don’t own a microwave. Every year someone offers me a free one. Every time, I say no. You know why? Because I figure that if my life ever gets so fucking maddening that I don’t have ten minutes to make a meal or reheat leftovers, that I’m gonna use my third-floor balcony as a springboard to the afterlife, all right? Fuck, man. Life’s short and I wanna be present for every goddamned minute of it, come grief or come glee.

I want nothing more than to be able to make a living off my writing and my spoken word. A living. Not a killing. What comes with the killing is a loss of self, most times. You see it all the time, celebs who reach the pinnacle in their professions and then come toppling down from the heights. They have breakdowns, they collapse into drug abuse.

It’s strange how high the price can be for success.

I have nothing but admiration for a man like Chappelle who decides that he can’t play by the rules of those in power, and doesn’t want himself to become just another commodity traded by those with little or no respect for the price he’s paying.

Yeah, I like money. I like the trappings of success, but I’m wary of the trap. I’m staying the fuck away from the trap, man.