“C’mon, baby. Come to papa.” I’m on the edge of my seat, like a top college athlete and the team rep is on stage about to announce their first round draft pick.
“It’s mine. All mine.” I excelled in the combine. Took the tests and failed/passed them all. I show all of the signs and symptoms. I’m a classic case!
“Show me the money! Give me the diagnosis!”
And then instead of being at Radio City Music Hall, about to put on the jersey of my new team, ADHD, I’m on the Maury show.
“The test have revealed: you are not ADHD.”
Instead of the cheers of my new adoring new fans, I hear the mocking laughter of the audience.
Damn but I wanted that diagnosis. Needed it. It would have explained so much. It would have been a foundation I could build upon a healthier life. There might even have been a magic pill involved, something that could help me focus.
One ball, two ball, three ball, four. Twirling through the air. Five ball, six ball, seven ball, eight, reaching and gyrating to keep them all weaving through my life. And then they all drop to the floor.
My multitasking skills are non existent.
It was a shitty day at work. It’s an old story. Cliché. It has become so frequent throughout the years that I make jokes about it. My friends and family makes jokes about it. I even think it is funny most times. On better days, during better weeks, during better months, during better years.
So I have a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, a bad year. Where the balls are laying on the floor and I am scrambling in search of the most important ones, to at least get one or two up in the air again. And I flounder in front of my iPad. The need to keep the balls in the air push at me, pressure me, and I retreat from the assault into computer games.
I invited it in this time. I already had so many balls flying through the air at work and home, and then I tossed in a couple more. I wanted to be a writer again. A published writer. So I came home, took off the hats of the business owner and advertising guy and research and development guy. I took off the hats of the husband and father and home owner. I even took off the hat of the self published columnist. I took out one single short story. Put one more ball in the air…
From Radio City Music Hall to the Maury Show to the circus. Opening a tiny box and a dozen balls are flying out. Stories and magazines and publishers and literary journals and marketing and cover letters and query letters and research and 30 years in and I still cannot classify my writing…
…oh look, a shiny thing!
And this is where I don’t want the metaphors anymore. I’m not a top college athlete (though at one time I may have been a top collegiate writer?). I’m not on Maury and I’m not at the damn circus. I’m just a very frustrated man looking for answers. Looking for THE answer.
How can I be successful in life and fail so miserably at the same time? How can I meet and exceed the expectations that others may have placed upon me, that I placed upon myself, and then utterly fail at even scratching at the potential that I know is within me?
“I wanted the fucking diagnosis!”
Yeah, I’m hard on myself. And there are times that I loathe myself. I am the big old piece of shit that provides for his employees, takes care of his family, fulfills all of his obligations and debts. And then stares at the computer screen or some stupid game when I have free time. I become the poster boy for wasted potential as I wander aimlessly through my home or my business, wasting time as I try to remember what I was walking towards.
Then, it spirals.
The wandering and wasted time leads to frustration. The frustration leads to anger. The anger leads to a reactionary arrogance and I try to impose my will on my life. That leads to greater frustration at the failures. Which leads to depression. That leads to an unraveling. Which leads to…
The diagnosis would have helped. I wanted it so bad. It has been this way for thirty years now. Without the diagnosis, I am lost, wondering what the hell is wrong with me?
Is it a manifestation of the depression? Are the maelstrom of thoughts and inability to act that old demon making an end run around my sanity? But it doesn’t feel like that. I’m in a good place, feel good, wake-up well, sleep well.
Is it that I just don’t possess the mental tools and coping strategies that I need? I have written a lot about the idea of the sprint versus the marathon, that I was always damn good at sprinting, at reacting to that crack of the gun, and expelling every ounce of effort in a concentrated burst. When it came to the long game, though, whether good study habits or a planned research and publishing schedule, I would run a lap and then wander over to the side of the track to look at a shiny thing.
I know it is not lack of ability. I know it is not a lack of knowing what to do and how to do it. I can write a hundred essays and columns on exactly what you have to do to succeed in various fields and endeavors. I can preach a damn good game, but the practice part leaves me frustrated and angry.
Is it a fear of success? That if I show myself I can succeed that I will beat the living hell out of myself for all of the wasted years? For all of the lost time?
…bear with me here; I’m struggling to find something…
I did bring it up in counseling once. There are many examples of this behavior, this wrongness, from 8 hour days at work that turn into 12 hour days, to never learning how to properly type, but I stuck with the publishing.
I laid it all for the counselor. They replied that I should make it a point to submit something for publication each week.
Yeah, no shit Sherlock.
One ball, two ball, three ball, four. I have now bought at least 20 issues of Writer’s Market. It outlines all of the steps you need to take to be published. I have spoken with friends/editors/professors during my most frustrated times, begging for direction, and they have always helped, always offered me the advice that I already know with glimmers of new tips and tricks.
That ball is flying through the air and I want to catch it and examine it, but I know it all too well. I can describe every feature of it, every nuance and color and curve. Hell, ask my daughter: I have lectured her extensively on what it takes to be a successful artist. The work involved, the business aspects, the time and dedication.
Five ball, six ball, seven ball, eight. The scrutiny slaps at me, stings my subconscious, and I know I need to head into work now. I need to get a few of those balls going to finish the projects and free up some time.