Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What I want...

...seems a dead stupid thing to think about right now, given the situation as reported in the previous post. At the moment, I have very little, and am three days away from losing it all.

But I need a break from making calls to various support agencies (and getting sympathy but no help), leaving messages in friends' voice-mail boxes, and a steadily increasing run of panic attacks that accompany staring personal disaster in the face.

I hinted at the "what I want" notion below: Time and experience have boiled down my desires to the essentials for happiness: a roof, regular meals, a place to work, and freedom from constant stress. Maybe, as a bonus, the ability to take an occasional trip or even a stay-home vacation. Companionship? Love? Gave up on those.

Having a roof overhead and food in the larder should be a common attainment for all human beings. No explanation of my desire for them is needed.

But work and freedom from stress are another matter. Everyone who has read my journal for any length of time knows I have for years made my living -- sometimes decently; sometimes, as now, pitifully -- as a writer.

It would be a dumb kind of career except for one important point: I love writing. When a story begins to flow out from between my ears to my typing fingers, there is a joy that's hard to describe. When I read finished copy and feel I've done well, I'm as happy as anyone can be.

That love has lasted, despite the ups and downs of dealing with publishers. When they act unethically -- and, in my corner of the business, most do, which is a far cry from the situation that existed when I started 24 years ago -- the basic love isn't soured.

I was reminded of this by the friends with whom I have spoken today. One linked some of my work to a post she sent out to friends who might help me find a gig. I took a moment to re-read the articles, and was reminded of the pleasure I got from writing them. They were, if I say so myself, pretty good.

The other friend is a writer as well, one whose words perform a stylish, rhythmic ballet across a page. Good as I am, I find my work somewhat clumsy by comparison. That's fine with me, however; If I were still editing a magazine* I'd hire her in a heartbeat. I always tried to sign up people I judged to be more talented than I.

So I love writing. With a passion. I might be forced to leave it (for a while, anyway) but, even if I someday were to became independently wealthy, I'd continue to write and do my damndest to be published.

Stress is another matter. The stress of doing work is acceptable. In good times, I sometimes had a full load of assignments and still accepted more from people who, for one reason or another, I didn't want to refuse. Sleepless nights? Yes. Eye strain from sitting too long at the computer? Definitely. A feeling that I was missing out on whatever was happening outside while chained to my desk? Absolutely.

But that kind of strain left no harmful aftereffects in its wake. The current stress is all about survival. That exacts a destructive toll from both mind and body.

The vacation/time off thought needs no explanation. I will say that there was a time when my work helped provide the vacations.

Companionship and love? That does need at least a small correction. There are some people who have rallied to me during the current mess. Though geographically far away, they are expressing both companionship and love. I need it, am intensely grateful for it. If certain elements are missing, they are not missed, at least right now; I'm in no shape to either give or receive them. I would rather think with great fondness of what is being offered, and can only hope that the day comes when I am in a position to do something to make great days for those people even greater**.

Writing this doesn't change my circumstances, of course. But, in the spirit of making myself fully understood, I wanted to say that my love for what I've done, and what I want to keep doing, is bruised but not dead.

And posting this gives me a chance to express open gratitude for people who bring the word "friendship" to life. That's not at all new or unusual for them.

* Which, some years ago, I did for a short time (two issues) that was brought to an abrupt close when the publisher took the advertising money and paid off her personal debts, leaving me, the writers and photographers I hired, and the printer high and dry.

** I won't say "I hope I can help them equally one day." They should not have to deal with a situation like mine. Ever.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This is reality.

I apologize for violating the new rule I imposed on myself in the last post, but things have changed since then. For the worse.

An official, no-exceptions, no-discussions notice to vacate my apartment was slipped in the front door this morning. I feel no anger toward either the owner or management company who have gotten sick of late payments since I moved here. I suspect I would do likewise in their shoes.

I cannot find another place. There is no time for that, no money, and no landlord would accept me given my rotten financial state.

So it's time to abandon the last of my possessions and hit the streets. I'm not saying this to be dramatic. It is the sole option.

About nine months ago, facing a crisis slightly less severe than this, I woke up one morning with the feeling that my mind had failed me. I couldn't think, reason, or do any more than dress, drink a cup of coffee. All my tattered mental processes would allow me to do was walk out the front door.

Which is what I did. For two days, I walked, snatching bits of sleep here and there: in a park, behind the wall of a parking lot, on the porch of a vacant house. I got about 30 miles from here before my mental circuit breakers reset themselves and I turned around.

It was a horrifying experience. I saw many homeless people, saw how they acted, what they did, knew I was on the verge of falling into their world forever. Hieronymus Bosch at his most gruesome could never have conveyed the horror of their world.

But I had a place to come back to. I began, again, to make an attempt to pick up the pieces and make a small place for myself without the constant harassment from creditors and the stress that comes from fighting for crumbs of work that are never paid for on time.

It didn't happen.

Or, to put it more bluntly, I failed. Again.

This time, there will be no "here" to return to. Leaving my (very) few remaining material things behind -- including, of course, this computer -- will cut me off from any possibility of getting any more writing work. And, sadly, cut me off from the last communications link I have with people I care about.

(several paragraphs deleted)

There is no sense in whining about this. The sometimes-booze-addled friend I referred to in the last post was, at one time, a well-known personage in his field. He talked incessantly about his "glory days," and bemoaned their loss. During the last year, I stopped doing that, except in one small instance I won't write about. I no longer care about what I once had, or what I once might have become. I only cared about what niche I might carve out for myself in future, and if it didn't include all the wonderful experiences, acclaim and things that were, for a time, mine, so be it.

A later thought or two: I could have added a hoary aphorism of the "things don't bring happiness" kind, but didn't. And won't. Time and experience have boiled down my desires to the essentials for happiness: a roof, regular meals, a place to work, and freedom from constant stress. Maybe, as a bonus, the ability to take an occasional trip or even a stay-home vacation. Companionship? Love? Gave up on those.

Forget all that. My so-called "future" will now be measured by the passing of hours, days at best. I will have to concentrate on getting through each new moment.

Right now, the only option I see for myself is to use my remaining funds to buy a bus ticket, to get as far away from here as possible. That will save me the embarrassment of having people who know me watch as my world collapses completely around me.

Given my age, physical condition (not that bad, but not up to menial labor) and other factors (my inability to focus, to self-motivate, to make plans, for example), the possibility of again patching together any sort of meaningful life is remote at best, realistically impossible.

So many kind people have supported and encouraged me. I have let them, and myself, down. I cherish them all (definitely including those who will see these words). And apologize to them (you) for not living up to your hopes and expectations.

I wish I had the time and energy to thank each one personally, let them know how much they meant to me. I don't.

So many others have thrown up roadblocks, have exploited me or simply didn't deliver what they promised. I'm not happy with those people, but I bear them no malice. They did what they wanted to do, could get away with. Some people are like that.

I won't delete this site. Time will erase my footprints from this world soon enough; this will be a small reminder to anyone who stumbles on it that I existed. I don't quite understand why that's important to me.

I will almost certainly cancel my other social-networking sites before I head out the door for the final time. I have projected a generally more positive face in them -- which is now revealed to be a total lie -- and why bother to have anyone try to "network" with you when you won't be able to see it?

What a lonely, empty world this has become.

The final irony, which seems all too appropriate given the way my life has gone: the order I received demands that I be out of here by April 4th. My birthday.

Happy birthday, loser.

And that is all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I hope no one reads this...

...because in the six-plus months that have gone by since I last wrote here, the situations and factors that drove me away from writing/venting/sharing here have not improved.

They have gotten worse.

I am at the breaking point. Work has become a 24/7 thing for me; that might be okay if it was a matter of cranking out articles. It isn't. It has become a fixation because I have little work, and what comes in is returning pitifully small sums of money, not enough to clear my debts or even stay current on expenses.

So, when I'm not working, I constantly worry about not working, rack my brain to find new sources of work. Any work.

There are possibilities on the horizon, but there are always "possibilities." When they stay on the horizon, they do no good.

Worse, and this is a big factor in pushing me to the ragged edge of madness, is that people I know (none who would/could read this, thank goodness) have been pouring out their troubles to me, looking for help and sympathy.

I have none of the former to give right now, and less and less of the latter.

Yes, I have needed sympathy and encouragement, too, have been more shameless about seeking it than I should be. But I have tried -- really -- to keep from inflicting my misery on people who are going through their own rough times. And I try to listen to others who still talk to me, return some appreciation and encouragement. Even when it's difficult (as it is when your own troubles seem insurmountable), I do care about friends.

Example: A neighbor has been dumping her problems on me. Incessantly. Daily.

Example: A friend in another state sometimes calls when he's had his nightly snootful and bangs my ear about his problems. Bad, they are, just about as bad as my own, though he, like the neighbor and others, have resources unavailable to me. He called last night; four hours of woozy, boozy repetitions later (at 1 a.m.) it was over.

Do I sound unsympathetic? Maybe I do, and I feel guilty about that.

Guilt over my own situation, which I seem to have no control over, guilt over not being able to pay my bills and debts. Add guilt for not being helpful enough for my friends.

It's a load I'm learning that I don't have the energy to continue carrying. I don't want people I care about to hurt, but then I don't want me to hurt either. I can see and feel the deterioration in my physical and mental health; I no longer have the strength to deal with what faces me alone. There is no reserve left for others.

I'll probably delete this later. It sounds too damn whiny and self-pitying.

Hell, I might come back and delete the whole freekin' journal. I don't really feel my thoughts are worth sharing. They're not good thoughts.

When one has nothing good to say, one should shut the hell up. I think I should take that to heart.