[I spent a while thinking about how to write this post. I never came to a conclusion so I just did it. If it sounds like I’ve gone full snowflake; I haven’t. I’m still the same grumpy self-reliant asshole I’ve always been. Please chalk any overlap between this post and narcissistic whining to my inferior communication skills and an attempt, no matter how ham handed, to speak to folks feeling a bit desperate. Are we cool? Cool.]
I’m thinking of how Christmas is hard on some folks. I’m writing for them today. I can’t make it better, but I can tell ’em they’re not alone
Sometimes shit gets out of control. We’ve all been there. If it hasn’t happened to you, you’re either a saint, a very fortunate child, or lying. The rest of us get it. All of a sudden you’re looking at gorgeous holiday decorations on the neighbor’s porch and wondering when you’ll find enough… you… to keep up. Take heart. Christmas isn’t a competition. Let it go.
I just rode out a small personal tornado of chaos. It kicked my ass. That’s why I haven’t been blogging much lately. I had to let some crap slide; my blog among them. For the most part, I’ve already emerged on the other side. Basically unscathed. I’m almost embarrassed at how worn down I let myself get, but nothing worse than that. I’m lucky.
As Christmas approaches I thought I’d share a little positive nudge for folks who are currently frazzled. Of the people out there who look perfectly together, more than you know are in quiet desperation. You’re not alone and probably the things that weigh heavily on you at the moment will pass in due time. In all likelihood you be fine when it’s done.
Even though I felt like a candle burning at both ends, I know my complaints were tiny. I’m winning the lottery every day by being a free, healthy, solvent American. I’ve got a loving family, my Dodge starts, the freezer is full, and my dog likes me. So I’ve got nothing to bitch about. But we’re all human and plain old life, mundane as it may be, occasionally starts to wear one down.
Not due to any particularly bad decisions on anyone’s part, things got hectic. My schedule started to double back on itself. When you’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it, everything feels like an infinite loop of suck.
I’m not going to mention details. A wise man keeps work and the rest of his life separate. And for a reasonable definition of “like”, I like my job… mostly. So, just as I said, I’ve got nothing to complain about. All I’m saying is that in the usual ebb and flow of the workplace sometimes a couple cycles will get in sync (or out of sync depending on your point of view); and things feel grim. You start to get that thousand yard stare, like it’s forever. Sure, other people have it worse, but that doesn’t mean you’re in your happy zone.
Of course, any sane person who’s overbooked gets grumpy.
And the solution isn’t merely to work more. I worked my ass off but it was just too much to do and not enough time to do it. If your problem wasn’t caused by being lazy, it’s possible that it can’t be solved by working harder.
Of course, when it rains it pours. I’d hired a guy to do some work on the homestead and that went over budget. Lets face it, every home improvement project always goes over budget. If it doesn’t, you’re a magician.
I tried to fill in with the project. Working nights and weekends and taking time off my job. It didn’t seem to help much at all. All I got was more tired, letting more other stuff slide, worrying even more about my job, and of course… shocking myself while wiring electrical boxes. Nobody thinks straight when they’ve got too many irons in the fire.
Meanwhile, the guy I was working with was like the baby below:
I found myself exhausted, on a ladder, at midnight, in a 10 degree building, holding a trouble light in one hand and a wrecking bar in the other. Trying to nudge along the construction project. To finish it before I went broke.
Then it dawned on me. I was toast. I wasn’t gonna’ win. Just like my hero While E.
So I pulled the plug. As we approached a good stopping point, I warned the carpenter; “When we finish this upcoming task, that’s it.”
“We complete this part and we’re done.”
“The project isn’t finished.”
“No, but I am.”
The carpenter is a good man. He earned every penny. He does good work and works hard. I apologized that I’d run out of both time and money. He was pretty cool about it. He could tell I was dead on my feet. He knows I’m not sitting on a hidden trust fund full of cash too. We had an informal arrangement and we were 90% done anyway. I hadn’t agreed to any special amounts, just so much an hour for his work. (I pay all the materials myself. It’s basically cash for labor.) Also, he’s got other jobs lined up. A good carpenter is always busy.
I shook his hand, thanked him for his good work, and cut a check for all the money I owed. All of it. Right then. We both wanted to build more but a check in hand probably helped his attitude while he packed his tools. I hope so. I like and respect him. I ran out of steam, not him.
This is where a survivalist mentality and careful sacrifices in the past paid off. I’m “tapped out” but that doesn’t mean I’m maxed out. It means the money I’d put aside to do the project was gone… and then some. Not that I’d just crammed my nuts in a vice and twisted it with debt. In fact that’s why I’d been working so hard, to keep the project from going too far off the rails.
Tapped out ‘aint no big deal when you’re prepared. A few weeks eating out of the larder and no shopping whatsoever. Done it before and will do it again. We’ll be on an even keel again soon. This is just a speed bump.
And that’s my story, vague as it is, the outline is true.
I had to say “Fuck it. I’m out.”
Sure, it’s not the deepest thought. Who cares? Life is what it is. And it worked. With one less ball to juggle, I soon managed to get a handle on work. As I caught up on that I had one less worry crammed into my head. Eventually I’ll catch up on sleep. In a few weeks, life might be boring again. Huzzah!
I have humble plans for Christmas. I’m going to stagger to the couch and go comatose…. for days.
You know what? It was only a few days ago I shut down the home improvement project and I already feel better. The project isn’t done. I’ll fight that dragon another day. I might even have time to blog again shortly. After all I left squirrels in a gunfight. That can’t stand!
So my whining is small potatoes. Nobody died. I’m not talking about a heroic battle against cancer. I’m not writing a book about how I overcame being hit by a truck while bankrupt to succeed as a motivational speaker.
I’m just saying that no matter how much you’ve got your shit together; sometimes entropy wins.
If this is where you are today, I’m pullin’ for ya! Tomorrow’s another day. Etcetera.
Besides, it’s almost Christmas. Drink a beer in honor of Baby Jesus and watch Die Hard. There’s a reasonable chance things will work out on their own. Good luck.