It’s been about two weeks since I’ve published a post. I’ve written a couple, part of an extended metaphorical discussion of mental illness that I’ve been adding onto for maybe two months but have yet to feel like it’s “complete” enough for publishing.
Probably that doesn’t matter. I don’t need five or six or maybe seven posts on backlog, although that might not be a bad thing since school starts again in two weeks.
The truth is, I want to write meaningfully. Cheap writing isn’t my style. (Not that cheap writing doesn’t have value; it’s just not the right fit for me.) But this often means I’m struggling to find inspiration. Which is often shorthand for “my depression is making me so lethargic and lackluster that I’m not sure I could write something even if I tried” or “my anxiety is keeping me so strung up that I can’t stay still long enough to even think about writing.”
I’m a work in progress. The world is a work in progress.
I love reading, and I love books, so much that I have the habit of trying to read too many books at the same time–the highest I’ve counted was over a dozen.
While this does allow me to indulge many interests simultaneously, it also prevents me from making significant progress toward finishing any of these books–which, in the grand scheme of things, I feel holds me back from achieving and experiencing everything I want to read.
So today I’m going to look back at my reading list for the year and try to map out my next steps–to possibly, hopefully, just maybe reach my goal of reading 40 books in 2020. (You know, because it’s 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40, I mean, that’s valid, right?)
“I hope you’re pleased with yourself,” Hermione Granger said to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley on page 162 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “We could all have been killed–or worse, expelled. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”
Ron responds: “No, we don’t mind. You’d think we dragged her along, wouldn’t you?”
The movie plays differently: a slight inversion at the start and a spot of humor in the end.
“Now, if you two don’t mind,” Hermione begins, “I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed–or worse, expelled.”
And Ron says, “She needs to sort out her priorities.”
Which is precisely why, dear reader, I’ve brought you here today.
When I spoke to my therapist in early April, he suggested reading Hardy’s article to help me get some ideas for “what works,” you know, that post I procrastinated writing until a few days ago.
Likewise, even though I opened Hardy’s article while I was still on the phone with my therapist, and I kept it open for the next two weeks, I didn’t actually sit down to read it until two days before my next appointment–what happens, I thought, if he asks about it? (Spoiler: he didn’t.)
As I read through these 30 things that promise to make me unstoppable, I felt a plethora of feelings: some of it reminded me of what I read in The Four Desires; some of it sounded too prescriptive, like the “shoulds” that instill shame which Brene Brown warns us against; and some it made me wish for something more, like inspiration and imagination.
But part of me also realized, as I read Hardy, that it’s been a long time since I actually evaluated the big PVGs in my life: my priorities, my values, my goals.
I figured this all out, once, so I’d figured it would end there. But it never does.
Two weeks ago, after my second telephone therapy session, I opened a new window, typed the title, and then promptly did everything humanly possible to avoid writing this post.
It all stems from the conversation we had that afternoon: He had asked me “What works?” The words were simple, two syllables in total, but the implications behind them were bothersome, if not worrisome: What does it mean to have a routine that “works”?
Hidden beneath the words, there was something more insidious, something I once knew but have since ignored: What are your goals? Your aspirations? What are you trying to do?
Damnit. There’s a reason I’ve been so loathe to finally write this.
Has it been a tumultuous two weeks, or is it just me? Between mental health uncertainties, shoulder-deep feelings of burnout, work difficulties, and not least of all the spread of a novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the last two weeks have run past like an Arcanine using Extreme Speed. And now, as I write this, I’m sitting on my couch at eleven in the morning because all Wisconsin schools (and many others around the country) have been closed indefinitely.
They were closed Friday afternoon.
For at least the next month, but quite likely much longer.
So what’s a homebound teacher with wavering mental health supposed to do?
My first full-length book was an unintentional experiment in proving the fact that quantity does not imply quality: At the time I believed that “real books” had to be a certain length, and based upon a non-representative sample (the Lord of the Rings), I believed I needed to write a novel at least 150,000 words long for it to ever have a chance of getting published.
The year was 2006 and I was a first-time NaNoWriMo participant. The challenge of National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words–which while shorter than the average novel today (which is between 80,000 and 100,000 words), was a lot closer to the ideal length of a breakout novel than I realized: turns out most publishers won’t even touch something bigger than 150k if an author hasn’t already been deemed profitable because of before-published book sales.
Anyways. I digress. I want to talk about story, not statistics.
Can you believe I’ve been blogging for ten years? It’s true: I first created The Writingwolf on January 1, 2010. (That’s why my Twitter and Instagram handles are Writingwolf2010.) A whole decade of blogging has passed. My life has changed in many insurmountable and unpredictable ways, but one thing has always remained: My love of Pokemon.
On the surface, Pokemon is a game about collecting and competition. There’s the challenge of getting all the things, then there’s the challenge of battling and defeating all the other things. It’s the best possible fusion of stamp collecting and Rock-Paper-Scissors that has ever been made. And yet, if this is all you get from Pokemon, you’re missing a lot.
Pokemon–as I’ve addressed at various times throughout the life of my blog–is also a game about adventure, overcoming adversity, and constantly challenging yourself to explore, fail, get up again, learn, grow, and then repeated the process to become a better person. It’s a perfect parable for the journey of life itself.
I’ve been wanting to do a grand reflection on my last ten years of blogging, but I just haven’t felt inspired. Then it came to me: Why not use my unending love for Pokemon as the vehicle through which I explore the last decade of my life (and then some)?
About a year ago, I turned keto. I had meant to talk all about it, how much I loved it, how great it made me feel, how it was grounded in science not fanaticism, but I didn’t.
I just kept saying, “Let me wait a few more weeks, let me see if this is the real thing or just a placebo.” A few weeks would pass and I’d tell myself, “I’m just so busy, I’ll do it later.”
Then summer started. Vacation came and my mental fortitude went. I found it increasingly hard to keep keto, drawn by my mental health toward high-sugar, high-carb foods and hindered by my low energy to make at home the more satisfying food I needed. So then my excuse for not writing was that I wasn’t doing keto anymore. To talk about it would be hypocritical, and besides, I didn’t have energy to write about it anyways.
So now I’m trying to get back into it, because it’s a lifestyle change that I actually liked a lot, but I’m struggling to make it happen. All my will has turned to won’t, and I can’t seem to muster the motivation I need to stick to it. The irony is that I’m right now teaching an elective called “Stress and Resilience,” which focuses foremost on stress and then on willpower.
As I write this, my kids are writing about how overcoming their willpower challenge will help them reach their bigger goals. Now I’d be the hypocrite if I don’t do the same.
I wanted an epiphany in 2019. I wanted to have my eyes opened through the pursuit of Story. Except I don’t feel it ever happened. Maybe if I had read all the books I’d wanted, I would have reached this point… or perhaps I was counting too much on vicarious living to have my own life awakened. There is a time for reflection, for looking back, and that introspection is especially important for self-discovery–but if we spend too much time looking behind us, we’ll miss what’s in front of us–or worse, walk into unseen pitfalls.
So now is the time to set aside the unfulfilled goals of the last year and forge forward, to open my own eyes and look toward the perfection vision of new year.