And If It’s Morning, It Must Be Morning Again

I hadn’t realized how important my morning routine was until it changed. In recent months, I’ve taken to a schedule of purposefully not working until 9am, if I could possibly help it — this really translates to “Not writing,” because I almost always use the time before then to read and do research for future things I will write, including making notes and sending myself links and the like. But I’ve come to consider everything pre-9 as, say, research time as well as breakfast time. A quiet, understated start to the day.

And then, for multiple reasons, that went to hell for the last four days. Deadlines and other things conspired so that, as soon as I was awake, I was writing — I had to be immediately on — and it utterly wrecked me in ways that were genuinely surprising. Without the slow ramp up to it, the checking in on the world through email, Twitter and news sites, the chance for my brain to engage at its own rate, my mood was worse, my anxiety greater. I felt more short-tempered, more behind the curve and needy to catch up.

What made this such a surprise is that, until very recently, that was how I started my day for years. I’d wake up and immediately get up and consider myself in work mode and ready to go. I’d wake up and get to my office straight away. That’s not to say I’d always be writing as soon as I woke up, but I told myself I was ready. Eating happened after 9, and I’d always try to have something accomplished by that point.

It’s only now, having tried this other thing, that I realize how much expectation I was placing on myself, and how much stress I was choosing to put myself under without knowing it. It’s only now that I realize there are better ways to start the day.

Preferably With Less Of A Fetish For The Fall

I think about John Peel too much for someone who rarely listened to his show, way back when. (I did, however, listen to a lot of Home Truths, his Radio 4 show  about families and, well, life; it was filled with his gentle humor and understatedness, and it was a way of connecting to my mother across the Atlantic, who listened to it, too.) But the Peel myth looms large in my head — a man who became famous, if not beloved, because he stayed true to his own taste and rarely compromised it, instead introducing new music and new ideas to people continuously, including himself.

I often find myself wondering who the John Peel of [Insert Media Here] is, looking to find someone who could be trusted as a tastemaker in the same way in different fields, but the older I get, the more I realize that any true John Peel of today wouldn’t look anything like John Peel. It’s that whole contradictory thing, again; what we’re looking for doesn’t look like what we expected. Instead, they’re out there — a gender neutral term because, let’s be honest, the likelihood of a new John Peel being male is very small indeed — looking like themselves and doing their own thing, waiting to find their audience, or for their audience to find them.

There’s something very reassuring about that thought, to me.

That Background Ache

I have been massively overworked, lately; I went from saying yes to too many jobs to preparing for a trip — a work trip, of course, I haven’t done a non-work trip in lord knows how long — and at some point, the obvious happened: My body decided it was done.

It started as an ache in my legs after a long walk, which didn’t fade beyond a certain point. A day or so later, I realized that I was still feeling this dull ache, as if I was recovering from a gym session that had never actually happened. I felt consistently, constantly, exhausted. Not sick, per se; just always tired. I’d go to sleep tired. I’d wake up after seven or eight hours, tired. I’d go to work tired. I’d finish work tired. No matter what, tired.

My solution, such as it was, was to just cut back as much as possible. Take care of the things that had to be done, but let everything else fall away, whether it was being social or pushing deadlines out further. To try and create spaces where absolutely nothing was expected of me, and all I could do was marathon Project Runway or whatever. To eat better, too. (Although my love for Twix bars remains.) And, most importantly, to stop myself feeling bad about feeling tired or rundown.

That last part has been the hardest, but arguably the most effective. There’s something to be said for just… stopping. I still ache, I’m still tired. But when that happens, I just stop for a bit and try to prevent myself from nagging me back into action. Turns out, I just need a rest, now and then.

A Rose By Any Other Etc.

I was sitting in the airport when an announcement came over the speaker system, asking for Jack Cross to go to some gate or another. I heard it and thought, Jack Cross, what sort of a name is that? That’s not a real person, that’s a spy in a really bad thriller, and then I suddenly had this wave of empathy that was entirely unexpected.

Imagine, for a second, that your name was Jack Cross. Can you imagine the pressure you’d feel to live up to the images such a name conjures up? You’d feel as if it was your responsibility to at least have some kind of adventure on a regular basis, and preferably one that involved at least one person bleeding or at least sweating heavily at the end of it.

I’m only slightly exaggerating. “Jack Cross,” or a name like it, has a weird set of preconceptions built into it when you hear it. You hear it, or read it, and your brain starts to fill in blanks in a manner that very likely has nothing to do with whoever actually has that name. It’s not a bad thing, we all do it — but imagine being Jack Cross (or whoever), and knowing that. How would you feel if even you felt disappointed by the person you were, knowing that your name left everyone expecting more than you could deliver?

Thank You, Friends, Thank You Again

I have found myself thinking, more than once lately, about the fact that I wish I could give more money to more Patreon campaigns. I already contribute to a bunch via the shared Patreon for the Wait, What? podcast — Jeff and I agreed when we launched that, that a percentage of what we made would be passed on to other campaigns — but there are more people I find myself wanting to support. The problem is, affording that.

In the wee small hours of the morning recently, I found myself imagining setting up another Patreon, just for me, not the podcast. It would be something where I could support personal writing and have more time and space to write the World That’s Coming, I told myself in a sleepy haze, but I was actually imagining a system with which to raise funds that I could then turn around and give to others.

Maybe I should simply set up a crowdfunding campaign explicitly targeted at funding other Patreons. Call it the Help Me To Help Others campaign. Just be blunt about it.

Everyone Round Here Lives In Silence

At some point, I stopped discovering new music.

Once upon a time, doing that was easy. I was young and in the UK in the 1990s; I just listened to Radio 1 all day, through the Britpop daytime and into the evening Evening Sessions, Mark And Lard, John Peel, whatever. New music came to me that way, or during the weekly weekend trips to record stores where I’d buy singles based on their cover artwork or how strange a band’s name seemed.

A decade later, and it was the era of the mp3 blog, an online network of friends I’d never met sharing the sounds they’d discovered for themselves and gotten excited about. It wasn’t the same as before; it was slower and less passive, but I discovered a number of favorite acts that way. (Curiously, most of them being solo female performers; I don’t know whether that was a bias on my part, or the bloggers.)

Now, I rarely find new things. Perhaps it’s my age, or that delivery systems have changed again. (I’m on Spotify, I promise; I just rarely use their Daily Mixes or whatever.) I find myself reading reviews of things and then searching them out, instead of things finding me with the lucky happenstance of before. Occasionally, it still happens — I’ll hear something by chance and have that What was that, I have to hear more response — and it’s especially thriling when it does, now. But for the most part, I’ve stopped discovering new music.

It’s something I miss, dearly.

We’ve Got To Try

I’m having a very surreal and emotionally scattered weekend. For one thing, as I write — although this will be in the past as you read this, because of scheduling and choices I’ve made that make sense in the moment but likely won’t when this appears — I’m in Chicago, because I’m working Star Wars Celebration for THR. It’s a strange show, because, well, it’s literally a strange show for someone used to covering comic book conventions: It’s five days all based around one property, as opposed to four or so for an entire medium and multiple other related media. It’s exhaustive, sure, but also exhausting and arguably too much.

There’s a thing that normally happens to me at a long-running convention, you see. By “long-running,” I really mean, “more than two days.” It’s traditionally been at its worst with San Diego every year, in large part because that runs Wednesday through Sunday and is entirely immersive; it takes over my life for those days and the outside world ceases to exist. Now, factor in the fact that Star Wars Celebration is that length, but only about one subject. It’s as if the rest of the world has ceased to exist.

And yet, at the same time, at the back of my head, I’m hyper vigilant in a background radiation-type way of the fact that this weekend has also been the weekend where Eisner Award judges are meeting and deciding the nominees for this year’s awards.

It’s not just that I was a judge last year and feel nostalgia for the surreal process of the entire thing — although that too, yes — but also, I submitted THR’s Heat Vision for the Comics Journalism category this year and ever since I did so, awkwardly and apologetically because I can’t get over my anti-ego that easily, I’ve been unable to wait patiently to find out if we’ve made it to the nominee list or not.

I’m fully prepared to not make it — not only because, hey, maybe we weren’t that good, but also because I’ve been a judge and I know how wacky the process is; not making it to the list isn’t necessarily a sign of anything other than the process itself. That said, I am unreasonably excited by the prospect of being able to call myself an Eisner nominee, if it happens. More even that potentially winning, I think, I just want to be nominated. I want that far more than I expected, before I submitted.

So this weekend, I’m feeling disconnected from the real world, running around surrounded by Stormtroopers to a constant soundtrack of John Williams music, and dealing with ambition and a desire to be recognized for my efforts, all at once.

It’s a disorienting experience.

All I Used To Be Will Pass Away And Then You’ll See

There was a time, not so long ago now, where I believed firmly that I didn’t get to be happy, per se. I could have moments of happiness, sure, and events or circumstances could make me happy, but long term, sustainable happiness as a baseline was an impossibility.

This, I suspect, would shock a lot of people who know me. I am, after all, a mostly upbeat, optimistic person who seems happy almost all the time. People have commented on that to me, more than once; that I appeared to be happy and upbeat no matter what was going on around (and to) me. So, if that’s how I presented to the world, the idea that I didn’t think that I “got” to be happy feels like a significant disconnect.

And yet.

The trick was that I just didn’t believe in optimism for me. The rest of the world deserved the best, I wholeheartedly and fervently thought, but not me. It was this strange, inexplicable (Well, almost) idea that I was special because I alone was a failure, a bad person, someone who didn’t amount to anything worthwhile deep down. I know some reasons why I thought this, and they’re no longer present in my day-to-day life, but where this attitude came from originally remains a mystery. That part’s important; because I couldn’t explain it entirely, I decided on some level that it just had to be true on a cosmic level.

My therapist, whom I adore for numerous reasons not least of which being her bluntness, repeatedly talks about the session where I told her that perhaps I “deserved” to be happy as the breakthrough session, the one where everything changed. And that might be true; it definitely happened during a time where a lot of my assumptions were being questioned for a number of reasons, changing how I thought about myself and how I fit into the world.

What followed my saying that was a reassessment of my life and who I was and who I wanted to be. A reassessment of priorities and a rediscovery of the importance of kindness and vulnerability and actually feeling things — that part, I’m still working on — and all the messiness surrounding it. At one point, I asked my therapist, “Is this just a midlife crisis? Am I just being a cliche?” and she said, basically, it’s not and even if it was, midlife crises aren’t automatically invalid in and of themselves.

Now, I feel like I… am happy…? It’s not permanent or complete because, well, shit happens and moods change as a result. But I’m happier, and that feels like something, considering that felt completely impossible just months ago. My therapist describes me as being “more buoyant,” and then laughs at how ridiculous the phrase sounds. Another reason why I appreciate her.

Is How I Feel Right Now

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about the fact that life is time-delayed these days. Last week, I got notice that I had been paid but that the money wouldn’t be available to me for days because of how long direct deposits take. Today, I got notice that my divorce was finalized, and had been for more than a week, but I hadn’t known because the information hadn’t been passed through the system just yet.

Things happen, and then they happen again, days after the fact.

It feels like a lesson in contemporary physics. Instead of thinking that actions and reactions are particularly instantaneous, we learn that’s only true when it comes to events between natural or physical objects. The more abstract the area gets, the longer the delay, perhaps. If I push you, you’ll either steady yourself or fall over immediately. If I push at the edges of an idea, there’ll be the delay where however I push at that idea has to be received by an audience, which then has to translate my new concept into something they understand, and then apply that to the idea in question, and so on.

(To make that last matter more meta; I’m writing this on March 4, 2019, but it won’t be published on this site for some weeks afterwards. See? More delay. Things happen, and then they happen again.)

It’s very strange, and not a little disconcerting, to go through such life-changing events and experience everything that comes with them — all the emotions, all the feelings and thoughts and questions and everything — only to then have a moment of, Wait, this actually happened awhile back and I didn’t realize it at the time. Or, the opposite; to pre-feel everything and panic and stress and know that it’s almost ridiculous because that isn’t actually happening just yet.

I know how I feel right now, but I also know that’s not necessarily based on all the facts at hand.

Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right

I don’t really get angry. Not historically, at least; bad things would happen to me, and I would simply suck it up, accept it as my lot and continue onwards a little bit more hurt, a little bit more grudgeful.

I’m not sure how that attitude got started, and I’ve spent countless therapy sessions trying, believe me. Was I trying not to be a bother to anyone as a kid? Maybe; I don’t remember being a particularly angry child, though, just one eager to be noticed and adored for being helpful and funny. (Not joking about the helpful thing, though — my childhood love of Power Man And Iron Fist comics inspired me to declare that I had started a business called “Helpers For Hire,” based on that series’ Heroes For Hire conceit.)

I wasn’t an especially angry teen, either. Teenage angst reared its head, of course, because I was a teenager and, worse, one beset with acne bad enough to place me on a drug trial for something that never made it to market. But that didn’t make me angry, just sad and lonely and withdrawn, retreating to comics and a small group of close friends despite whatever crushes and curiosities made me want to reach out further to the world at large.

As an adult, anger remained absent. Again, I’d get frustrated and sad and all these alternate emotions, but everything would turn inwards and become self-blame and self-shame. Why get mad at other people (things, events) when I could just get upset at myself and think that I probably deserved it, after all? Not that that was healthy or helpful, because it wasn’t, but such things were never in my head; I just assumed things were my fault on some cosmic level for mysterious reasons that might be the same as those that kept me from feeling anger. Like I said, there’s been a lot of therapy time spent investigating the roots of all of this, with no real conclusions yet.

(That I was sharing my life with someone who was equally happy to blame me when things went wrong or undermine my self-worth didn’t help, of course. But I didn’t realize that for a long time, either.)

I mention all of this because, as I write, I’ve had a particularly stressful week, and very little of it — if any — was my fault. In dealing with it, I’ve found myself getting angry for once and, even more shockingly, expressing that anger to both those responsible and loved ones (not directed towards the latter, thankfully). It’s been a freeing experience in some ways, an educational one in others. But, more than anything, it’s been exhausting. Anger may be, as John Lydon once swore, an en-err-gee, but it’s also something that saps energy, too.

Anger, perhaps, is a young person’s game. No wonder the children are the future.