A week

A lot can happen in a week.

Certainly, a lot did happen the week before last. Going backwards from Sunday:

  1. Moved all of the baby stuff and 90% of my wardrobe back home from my parents-in-law’s place
  2. Came back to my parents-in-law’s house from a cabin-on-a-lake trip with my guy friends
  3. Kayaked on a lake – including once at 1am with an awesome full moon and once where I watched my friend slowly sink. It was hilarious. [mostly Saturday]
  4. Left my parents-in-law’s place and, amidst confusion, arrived at and checked in at the cabin. Met a guy in a neighboring cabin who got married at that cabin ten years ago. [Friday]
  5. Enjoyed a blissfully work-free evening. [Thursday]
  6. After coming home from work, worked my ass off being my wife’s assistant. [Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday]
  7. Spent all day keeping the baby out of my wife’s hair, and when I could, perform assistant duties for my wife. [Sunday]
  8. Drive the in-laws to the airport so they don’t have to leave the vehicle at the airport during their vacation, and then immediately go and move all the baby stuff to their house. They pay me some money to watch the house and tell me that all the beer they have in the fridge and cabinet is specifically for me and Amanda during the week. Spend the evening being Amanda’s assistant. [Saturday]

I am not normally one to make exclamations about how busy I’ve been. I will say here that parenting is some pretty time-consuming stuff, and a massive deadline from my wife’s work makes it even more busy. And then add house- and dog-sitting to that whole mix, and I don’t think that I had done anything except work that entire week.

It was a week so busy that I am only getting to writing this post almost two weeks later.

I am going to keep writing posts.

Juggling

I haven’t updated in a while. I don’t really even know if anyone actually reads this – if they do, then I can’t tell because no one comments and there are more bots crawling my page looking for an email address to spam than there are live humans (also, I definitely have a USA Department Of Defense IP address in my analytics. Not sure what they think I am up to here).

The reasons I haven’t updated are many and varied. After I took a vacation in May it was easier to have the pattern of “not worrying about that right now”, and I am slowly working my way back to full website-productivity. The other things that I work on (when I get a precious moment free from parenting, husbanding, working and otherwise maintaining the household and life) tend to be video-game related, and I’ve been using the “I need to relax” excuse. But it’s an excuse 80-90% of the time. I can relax while writing – or I can relax while reading, which is something that I know helps my writing.

I think that I am no longer going to do the “==>” podcast – I don’t especially care about it and I think that it deserves more of an “audio drama” than “one guy talking into a mic” I still have all the files, but I think I’ll take them off of libsyn. I will start it up in the future if someone asks me to. Also the guise of “reading it to my daughter” is a pretty bad idea – she is going to start picking up words pretty soon, and Karkat is way too intense for her not to figure some of those out.

I am also working on finding a new job (current job doesn’t pay what I need – if you have a job that pays 35k with benefits or 45k without, email me seth . kleinpaste @ stumblestoryinn . com ), and a new apartment (current place isn’t the right size or shape for raising a getting-in-to-everything toddler). So yeah. I am legitimately busy right now, and I am figuring out what next to be podcasting. Hopefully it can be something with another person.

Basically I am using this post to prove to myself that I really can write a post on lunch at work. It’s not impossible, and I really don’t have more important shit to do.

The Lily Story, Chapter 2: The News

Like I may have mentioned before, Lily was quite a surprise (By the way, do not ever call a child a ‘mistake’. They are either planned or a surprise). We were not actively trying to have kids, we were on birth control, we were getting used to deflecting the ‘when will I get a grand-child’ questions. So the story of getting the news is a little dramatic. Well. Dramatic for me.

After she was done with a bout of stomach gastro-intestinal issues (which was confusing, long-term, and expensive) about a month went by without anything really happening in our life other than thinking “Man, paying off these bills is going to be awesome! Here comes an actually useful savings account!”

And then she started to get nauseous again, which was the primary symptom for her previous GI issues. So we waited a little while to see if it was temporary as her systems got back to a pre-medical-intervention state, or if we would have to go see a doctor specialist. Again. It was certainly much less severe than it had been, and her other presenting symptoms (notably: pain) were absent.

In case you can’t tell already, this was “morning sickness” (which I now know: it rarely, if ever, occurs consistently in the morning), and we just thought that our doctors would once again call for some strange tests.

During that week she basically ordered me to move our bedroom from the attic to the main floor of our home (we rent the 2nd floor and attic) and clean a whole bunch of stuff. This was a little out of character, but not really demanding or otherwise terrible.  Only… she normally doesn’t just tell me to do things. She usually asks. I also didn’t mind: house needed cleaned. Turns out, the “nesting instinct” is a very useful, very powerful urge that many women get when they are pregnant.

Then I went to a class/lecture thing that she had been planning on attending with me, but was instead too nauseous to leave the house. About halfway through the lecture I get a text message from her:

“So, I used that last pregnancy test…”

That’s it. That was the entire text of the message.

I am sure that her head was doing what mine was about to do (more on that next week in Chapter 3), and apparently she thought she was being pretty vague.

I read that text message really quick, and read it again. I put the phone back in my pocket. I Thought about it. Took it back out and read it again. Looked back at the speaker, and tried to focus. Couldn’t focus, too much baby in my head. Tried to not reveal to my friends sitting on either side of me that suddenly very deep emotions were stirring – like an earthquake on the pacific ocean’s floor that is about to make Hawaiians very sad. Almost failed. Got up, walked out of the building. Sat down under a tree in the parking lot, and called Amanda.

I don’t really remember the conversation really well, but there was a lot of “Hooooly crap.” and “What? You already told your mom and dad?” and “Haha, which word of the text message did you think was vague?” and some very brief plans of who we would be telling ASAP vs. later.

After that, my brain got all fuzzy.

To my child

Dear Lily,

This is your dad, and I am excited to meet you.

We are going to spend a great deal of time together. I want to be there for you. This world that you are about to share with your mother and me is an interesting place, and a hard place. There will be people you meet that are amazing and people that are not, and there will be some people that you will love so much that, even when they hurt you, you will keep loving them.

There are bad things out here. Some of them are obvious, like snakes and spiders or hurricanes and tornadoes or house fires and car crashes. Some of them are not, like cancer and depression or corporate advertising and minimum wage or failing school districts and the IRS. Some bad things are people and their actions. Some bad things can’t be helped. There are too many bad things out here to be able to tell you about. You will learn about them, and I will do my best to prepare you for them.

But that’s just it. I want to be here for you. I want to be here to tell you about it when it is happening. When you fall off of your bike, I want to be there put you back on it. When your high school sweetheart leaves the state because of some other person, I want to be there so that you have a firm, safe place to come back to.

I want to keep you safe, but I know I can’t. That fact terrifies me and tears me up inside. I won’t be able to stop your heart from being broken or your bike to keep from crashing, or your grades to keep from failing. But I can be there for you, in successes and in failures. I have found that I am good at that – being there. I will be there for you. I want to fight for you. I want to help you through the events that give you scars, and I want to help you learn to live with the scars themselves.

I want to teach you.

I have so much to show you. Some things that I will only realize they are worth teaching after your presence has shown me their value. Some things you won’t see their value until after you are grown up. The world is opening up to you soon, and it is vulnerable to your touch. I am going to protect you and hold you back until I know that you can use your touch well – and sometimes, you will hate me for it.

But if I teach you correctly, the world will be better for your touch.

Love,

Dad.

Fighting.

I like fighting. The sheer brutality about it. The conquering of something. Sometimes things that were larger than me. Larger than life. I have only been in a few fistfights in my life, one was in middle school – and I lost in a positive way. But as a 21st century westerner, most of my physical fights are exclusively daydreams, or they are not physical fights.

The only physical fights that I daydream about are the ones where I swoop in and kick the ass of a mugger threatening someone else. The one where I take out the office shooter with extreme prejudice. The one where I stand up to some ignorant asshole and send him packing.

But the things that I need to fight? Those things are sometimes hard to even put a name to. They often have names, but learning what their name is can be tricky. Depression is a good candidate for that category. Laziness fits there, too. Ennui and other existential terrors. Sleep.

Sometimes they have no name, and I have to fight for their opposite. Discipline (which is not always the opposite of laziness) with my body, with my money, with my emotions. Time management. Health.

These are things that stop me from doing things that I want to do. They are limiting factors. They are the “things in the way”

So, what stops me more often is myself.

I had to stop writing for a moment and think about that again. I think that I hear it all the time. From myself, from others, from media, from everywhere. I am not sure I really believe it.

Emotionally, I know that this isn’t true – I am good to myself, right? Of course I am. There is nothing that I want more than my own fulfillment, joy, and happiness- why would I short circuit that with some bullshit that gets in my way?

Intellectually, I carefully follow a trail of terrible black footprints round and round the dark caverns in my mind until I realize that I am walking in a circle – the monster I am tracking, the one that keeps me up at night and tells me that I am a terrible person – it is me. and nothing but me. The only evidence I find on the ‘stress’ region of my internal world has all been placed there by myself. I will not take the blame for all the stressful and traumatic things that have happened to me – but my reaction to change my inner landscape because of those people and situations, and to maintain that landscape by emotionally attending to it without emotionally dealing with it is most certainly me.

This is one of the reasons that I hate my inner self. There is this part of me that is convinced that it has to police the rest of me  – out of the fear that the rest of me will start getting into some extraordinarily bad situations if I am not constantly policing myself. It is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only without the amazing super-strength that makes it almost worth it. Jekyll always controlling what situation that he is in, being very careful to discipline his emotions and reactions, while this terrible beast within is raging at him and telling him that he needs to let loose so that he can overpower the world to their mutual pleasure. To get a little Freudian on you, basically my superego has been given too much power.

Only I don’t have a Mr. Hyde. Or perhaps, the normal me is the Mr. Hyde, and there is this annoying little pipsqueak Jekyll constantly telling me that I need to calm that shit down before I hurt something, keeping me out of situations that might upset the very careful balance between me and … other me. But I don’t need him. I am a gentle man. I do not fly off the handle until I know that I am in the right situation – defending someone’s physical body, for example. Or a metal mosh pit (which are a ton of fun, by the way). I am a disciplined man – not as much as I would like, but I’ve been paying my bills (mostly) on time for a really long time now – even though I don’t exactly have a salary that matches my experience.

Sometimes the things that stop me are not me, as well. Sometimes they are other people. Sometimes they are fundamental concepts. Time, for example. Sleep, as another. The importance of my family, as third. My loyalty to my friends. My need for food. My (oft-neglected) need for exercise.

[personification of these things as demons. not in a religious way. not in a physical way]

I like to personify these things. Matthew Inman does a great job talking about the personification of your personal problems in his running comic at the oatmeal. Reading his story about running has helped me to do this well. I have a little graphic of the blerch posted everywhere I have a computer, and one in my wallet. Because I need to fight him.

Obviously, I cannot fight the need for exercise except with exercise. I cannot fight the need for time management/discipline except by being disciplined about my time management. So I turn it around a bit and personify these negative behaviors as little demon thingies that are telling me to do things. This helps me to fight them.

[philosophy of fighting. you fight for a why, not a what or a who. you fight “because…”, not “for…” or “against…” (those are just extra details); you fight to conquer the future and to be free in the present, not to wrestle the past.]

But here is the kicker – you never fight anything just because it is there to be fought. No one does.  You only ever fight because there is a reason to fight. You don’t line up a bunch of dudes near a football because you like making touchdowns, you do it because you like playing football. Matthew Inman doesn’t fight his Blerch because he hates fat fairies, he fights his Blerch so that he can find peace. I don’t fight laziness because I enjoy productivity – I fight laziness because I want to get something done.

Those specific things, the “Whom do we fight?” the “Where do we fight?” the “What do we fight for?” the “Whom are we fighting against?” – these are not anywhere near the question “Why do we fight?” Those are just extra details. These might be important details – so important that you would be otherwise unmotivated. But these are just details. We only fight “Because…”

Because I want to see a more just world. (other details: abuses by the government. Dishonesty amongst friends. My local community.)

Because I want my children to look up to me. (other details: bullies at their school. My job. My overall ability to provide.)

Because generosity helps me to become a better person. (Other details: My job and professional ability. Room in my budget and schedule. People who put a strain on my resources.)

Because personal growth is important. (Other details: Myself. In my head. The alarm clock)

Because I love my wife and my children. (Other details: everywhere. Anyone who endangers them.)

And I have so many of these demons. Despair. Laziness. Depression. Confusion. Greed. Selfishness.

And I will fight back the demons.

Every. Day.

Not because they are demons.

Because they stop me from doing what I need and want. They stop me from giving you something good. They stop me from giving myself the tools that I need to pull myself up. They stop me from empowering me, and from empowering you to be the greatest things that we can be.

A work.

This post has, in the writing, turned into a very interesting list of things that I am striving for. It is not very topically interesting for nerds, storytellers, or gamers. But I think that many people might like it, so I am going to post it anyways.

It’s a big damn world, and there is a portion of it that I want to live in. But I’m not in it now.

I am speaking metaphysically – the physical space that I live in right now is actually pretty cushy and I kinda like it.

I was reading an article (this one, if you care. Doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the rest of my post here.), and I came across a quote from Seneca – “If a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favorable.”

I’m not 100% sure that Seneca actually said that, but it is still interesting, and it got me thinking. I realized that this quote is very generalizable, and remains true no matter who is trying to apply it to themselves. It applies to the person who knows the ‘port’ which is their destination by affirming that, yes – you have taken a few steps in planning that can help you find success later. It also applies to the person who is dissatisfied and has no plan by motivating them to answer the question “where do I want to go with my time and energy? At which port would I like to drop anchor, sell my ship, and never return from?”

With my website (that you are on right now) and my podcasts (which are available at these links here), I am trying to get to a ‘different port’. I am in a job that is not within my preferred career and holds little value over a consistent paycheck and interesting coworkers. I am trying to get to a ‘port’ where I can actually shed this daily distraction from my real goals.

And that is the thing that struck me – I want to leave something behind. I’m not entirely sure that I really knew that in a real way before. I want to take all of my life, throw it on a ship, cross the metaphysical Mediterranean, and unload my ship in a city that I have sorta heard about but have not yet experienced because I have not been able to set up shop and walk the streets and meet the people. One problem is that I am not entirely sure that I know the way to get there. Hell – I’m a little worried that I don’t even know where it is that I want to go.

I think that it will help if I further define the port that I want to get to. This may change en route, and I may find that I will have to settle a new country and build a new port if all of the characteristics that I desire are not able to be found in any one city – or if I get shipwrecked along the way.

SO. my characteristics of the metaphysical ‘port’ that I want to get to:

-Independent from larger Corporate Culture: I know that I don’t want to work for a ‘Large Faceless Organization’, and this may be my insistence towards a rebellious mindset, or just that I have totally ignored the ‘American Dream’ ever since…well ever since a while ago. I am not sure if I would be satisfied working with/for a smaller organization or if I want to be entirely independent. I’m not sure that this distinction matters.

-Contribute Clearly : Related to the point above, I know that I want to be in an organization where I am indispensable. Not that I ever think I will be totally irreplaceable – someone out there must have a skill set similar to mine – but I want to be able to see how I contribute and how I do not, and I want this contribution to be meaningful.

-Creative: I want to be able to wake up and have the freedom to sit there and write or speak or draw or something, no matter the particular medium, and scratch my creative itch. This and two other things (included in my next points) are some of the most intellectually satisfying and stimulating things that I have ever done without other people directly involved.

-Learning: I want there to be time in my day for me to pursue knowing something that I did not know yesterday. This could be flexibility in my day-to-day schedule for improving the things I am doing, it could be the ability to enroll in college courses (or even entire degree programs) that I find that I want to learn, or it could be picking up a new podcast about that hobby that I want to try to pick up.

-Flexibility: I want to be able to leave. Not the particular job or occupation (dependability is an important thing), but I want to be able to do my work from home (maybe a home studio?) or from a coffee shop. Or the basement of the library. Or from Tokyo. I’m not sure if I simply want a regular scene change or if I want to be doing my work in these other places… but I know I don’t want to be told to sit in the same office every day. My current coworkers may not realize it, but I change my cube at work every single day. Usually the change is just a new post-it with a cool quote on it, and sometimes is more drastic, but it always changes.

-Empowering: I want to be able to pursue the things that I find valuable. That could mean finding a person that is willing to do all of the administrative things that I no longer want to do, and it could mean making enough money to go give a whole bunch of it to small business owners in Columbus or farming families in the Congo.

-Empowering: I want to be able to help others pursue the things that they find valuable. Similar and related to the previous post, I want to help others achieve their goals, as well. I want to find the family that has done everything it can to find a job and hire the mom and dad so that they can finally pay off some of those bills without worrying about feeding their children. I want to recklessly hire people – people need jobs to get them out of poverty and if I can hire them first and figure out how to use their talents later I will.

I think I know the way to the port. I think I know how to steer my vessel. I think the winds are favorable, even. Time to shove off and get some work done.