You just published a book, but you’ve been kinda quiet, what the heck?

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It’s been about a month since I’ve released Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. In that time, I’ve posted a single blog post about this, done a hand-full of tweets, paid for a bit of advertising on Amazon, and shared it on Facebook. Really, it’s not much, and I should be posting a lot more and working double-time on writing the next two or three books I intend to publish. I should also, at very least, be blogging about my experience launching a book impulsively and what I’ve learned. There isn’t any good excuse for why I haven’t. I mean, there is an excuse, but as with any excuse, it’s an excuse not really a good reason. To put it in a word – Anxiety. I can’t seem to get over it.

I am at the tail end of two weeks of vacation as I write this and just made the mistake of rechecking my work e-mail. I’ve been keeping half an eye on it just to make sure if something came up I had to deal with, I could. I went from a wee bit more relaxed to full-on stress-ball in the span of three heartbeats. It’s completely incapacitating. These past two weeks were intended to be time spent with the kids, write, blog, advertise, unwind, and generally catch-up on personal life stuff. None of that happened, really. I’ve been avoiding literally everything to the point where all I can do is play video games – which is usually a reinvigorating escape for me. Not this time. I have what I can only describe as a video-game hangover, and I don’t feel anything like rested up and ready to tackle work tomorrow (Tomorrow was supposed to be another day off, but things being what they are, I’ve got to go back a day early.)

There are what you could call extenuating circumstances here, making things worse than they might otherwise be. Right now, in the state of Alaska, my home, the governor has just vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. I believe it is the largest set of budget cuts ever for this state. Ostensibly, these cuts were made because the state can’t afford it. However, any state that can pay out thousands of dollars every year to its residents can’t possibly be so broke it can’t fund essential services – just one example is the emergency broadcast system – this for a state frequently beset by natural disasters and hazardous conditions.

I did keep my job after the cuts, and it’s looking pretty okay for the foreseeable future, but it’s not clear for my wife. Part of the cuts involved the elimination of all funding for the appellate courts. This is the state supreme court and all courts you might bring a non-criminal case to. I want that to sink in for a minute – he eliminated funding for the most critical aspects of the Alaska court system – if this part of the courts isn’t funded, Alaskan residents won’t have any legal recourse when something goes wrong. For any libertarians reading this-this is what happens when you don’t have a government, you don’t have a voice. It’s not a good thing. Reports are that the budget has the goal of reducing the state’s population. Read: Make it an unsuitable place to live for people with families, unless you’re already wealthy.

The bottom line is that this governor and the people who voted for him are working toward a place that is wholly impractical for my children to settle when they reach adulthood – no education, no services, no safety. I grew up here. This is home. In spite of the fact I make noises about moving to New Zealand or some other state, this isn’t realistic. I did leave for a year when I couldn’t find work, but I couldn’t make it elsewhere. I came back fully understanding that I might very well end up living in a shitty apartment, working two minimum wage jobs. As it was just the two of us at the time, we felt we could make that work. Now, with kids, the calculation is different. It’s not about me anymore. Regardless, this is home, and it will be, even if I’m holed up in a homeless camp at the edge of town with thousands of others in the same boat. The same can’t be said for the people making the cuts. They aren’t, actually, from here and will likely leave in the future anyhow. One of them came here specifically to implement these cuts and then leave immediately.

Even then, for me, it still gets deeper and harder to cope with. I do work for the state. Yes, I still have a job after the cuts, something conservatives say I should be grateful for, but for the first time ever, the cuts have been so dramatic that I’m unsure that I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations to the state, which are written in state law. The hard part about this is that it’s not my fault, but I get to be blamed for the failure. The politicians have taken away resources necessary to be successful and will then point their greasy fingers at people like me and say, “look at that lazy bastard.” So, when I look at my e-mail and realize that I’ve got six weeks of work due in something like the next 10 days. I’m feeling super extra fucked, a failure, and someone else made it so. I don’t like letting people down or just walking away from things, but I’m in a position to do just that.

Alright, so that’s the core of the anxiety, climate change is the other aspect, but I already went semi-viral on a particular rant there and don’t care to repeat the experience. The rest boils down to being impulsive and releasing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks when I did. I don’t actually think I was personally ready for this. I have had a lot of support and positive feedback, but I’m still learning, and it’s committed me to things that I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cope with. I mean, I will with a smile and as much gusto as needed, that’s how I am –recall that I build most of a house with just the help of friends in two years because I was too stupid to know I couldn’t. That house withstood a 7.1 earthquake. However, as it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, I don’t know if I can pull it off. I’ve goofed around with advertisements and things, but it’s pretty clear that the only books being sold are to those folks I routinely interact with or know IRL. Which is fantastic, but it’s not getting reach beyond that. It’s a lot of effort to go through, and I don’t know if I’m doing it right.

As a result of all of this, I’ve been effectively immobilized. Every time I start thinking about something, the weight of everything else breaks in, and I just can’t properly concentrate. So that’s it. There’s my excuse and what’s going on with me. Now I’ve gotten it off my chest, I will (hopefully) be producing more content and really getting to work on more books.

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Unplugged my table saw for the last time

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My wife and I have been working on cleaning up our living space and removing things we no longer need or use. We’ve been talking about it for a while now, but after watching the Marie Kondo Netflix series, it got us moving. Well, that and the disastrous economic situation awaiting Alaska over the next few months. Better to sell things now than wait until everyone is broke.

Anyhow, I had been planning on hitting the workshop slightly later in the spring, but someone already offered to buy the table saw. So, I need to get it ready to go. I also needed to get in there to make space for another shitty task planned for the weekend. As you might imagine, this required more than just shuffling things to the side. I actually had to start going through things and organizing them. You know the process, “This goes here, this is trash, what the hell is this for? etc…” No problem.

Then, I actually got to the saw and unplugged it. It was a totally flippant move. I didn’t think about it, wasn’t really thinking about it, just going about my business getting things together. I set the plug on the table top, as one does, next to the push-block I used to use. It’s yellow and narrow and can be used as a square plus it fits really neatly right in a slot on my fence. It hit me. I won’t ever be using this saw again. Maybe never make another stick of furniture again.

I had no idea getting rid of that saw was going to feel so much. When Stacy and I talked about getting rid of the tools, which was my decision, by the way, I said if I wanted to do it again, I could start over with better tools and purpose. Looking at my little push-block sitting in its usual spot made me realize that’s total bullshit. The minute I unplugged that saw I was done. For good. I was not prepared for that realization, and I am not happy about it.  I mean, I legitimately teared up and had to step away for (it’s why I’m here instead of finishing the job.)

I used to spend hours behind it getting covered in saw-dust as it ground through all manner of projects. When I was feeling stressed, I would get out there and work on shit and it always involved that saw. It was my work-top, my work-horse, and my thinking table. When I stood out there, wearing my ear-protection and goggles, all the ills of the world just melted away. It was like meditation for me. The only thing that mattered was not fucking up whatever was in front of me, to include my fingers.

Marie Kondo tells people to keep the things that bring them joy. It sounds like great advice, but like so much sappy shit on TV or online, it’s just a fucking platitude that’s been dressed up with different words to seem new and fresh. I don’t want to get rid of that saw, I really, really don’t. I’d much rather be out there making things and taking the edge off, but it’s not possible anymore. Life has gotten too busy for things like that, and I don’t see it getting better. This isn’t just about me wanting to spend more time writing, or even about my wife working more. There’s a lot more here that I could bitch about for hours, so I’ll leave it at this. I’m pretty upset by this, and tomorrow is going to be a lot worse for totally different, identical, reasons. In any case, this is a decision I’ve already made for a lot of good reasons, so the tools are going, and a pretty important bit of me is going with them.

Cheers,

Dave

Well, here we are, we made it… [Twenty years later]

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I wasn’t sure I was going to write this post out of fear it would sound petulant or petty, but I’m going to give it a go largely because – milestone.

I graduated high-school twenty years ago this year and while I don’t remember the valedictorian speech, I’m sure it included the phrase: well here we are, we made it. And so now here we are, twenty years later. This weekend is the carefully planned and coordinated reunion. It’s more than one event, actually, and I’m not going to any of it. I’m not busy and the events are just ten minutes away. Nevertheless, I’m not going. The thing is, a lot of classmates aren’t going to make it, some because they are too far, some because of scheduling conflicts, and others yet who had such a terrible time that they’d literally rather be in prison. I’m actually none of these. In all, I’d say my high-school experience wasn’t as awful as it could have been. Sure, it wasn’t great, but who the hell had a ‘great’ high-school experience? Virtually everyone didn’t.

The thing is, twenty years is a long damn time. I’m further from my date of graduation than my graduation was from my birth. On one hand, wouldn’t this be a great time for a reunion? On the other, most of the folks planning on attending were basically strangers to me in high school. Yes, I know their names and recognize their faces, but aside from that, we didn’t know each other then and we don’t now. I’m not saying that any of them aren’t worth knowing, just that I don’t. Plus, outside of high-school stuff, I’ve got no context here. I don’t even remember high-school that well. It would be the equivalent of walking into a brew-pub and striking up conversations with random folks. That CAN be fun, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. Largely because you can’t slink off into the digital ether if you stick your foot in your mouth as you can with social media, where I will absolutely tell strangers shit I wouldn’t tell anyone else.

Twenty years since graduation, however, is a milestone. When the talk of a reunion came up I did think about it. Spent a lot of time thinking about it, actually. Not so much about going, mind, rather I thought about me twenty years ago and the folks that I spent time with. I’m not sure any of them are going to make it at all, which would be the only port in that storm of nostalgic conversation from which I’d be pretty much left out. With the benefit of hind-sight, I realized that graduating wasn’t even the most memorable thing to happen to me that year. Hell, high-school, middle-school – all that, is less time than I’ve spent working my current job.

While this is a milestone year for myself and all of my classmates, I can’t help but look at it and just sort of shrug and hope everyone has a genuinely good time. And with that, I’ll leave you what I think about when I hear 1997.

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