Winter Reading

Suicide Woods by Benjamin Percy. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Percy, so I dug this collection. I liked some more than others, for obvious reasons. I finished it while doing Cal Newport’s Analogue Challenge. My favorite stories are below:

The Balloon, considering where we are now, hits a little too close to home for right now. But that’s what makes him so good. He can turn the contemporary moment into a horror story. Too bad right now it seems like everyone is living inside The Balloon or The Dead Lands prequel.

Some more marginalia from The Dummy—which I would teach if I was still teaching creative writing. Some day.

My favorite story of the bunch was the novella The Uncharted which I poured over while writing my novella. This book is why I love Percy’s work.

If you like it, you should check out his Skillshare class which is just like Thrill Me, but live, and he will critique your work. If you want a sneak peek at my novella check out the class.

Delivered from Distraction by Dr. Ned Hallowell and John J. Ratey, MD: I think it’s impossible to say how much this book was valuable to me over this winter, much more so than its predecessor Driven from Distraction. It gave me the concept of SPIN and SLIDE and so many other tools to harness my diagnosis which has been one year this season. A year ago I was diagnosed with ADD, Aspergers, Anxiety and Depression and Hallowell’s work has given me so many insights to help me this year. The battle with the diagnosis continues as it’s 38 years of misunderstanding but I’m confident that some day soon it’ll be a characteristic, a quirk, rather than a detriment. But I still have a lot of work to do moving forward.

The good news? I think my way through is in the memoir I’m writing now. I think that book is how I break through the resistance my diagnosis throws up.

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde. I used to be intimidated by Fforde’s work because it just seems so much like The Human Library series I’ve been working on for the last five years. But I realized that after reading this book—it’s totally different. His work is more like Douglas Adams wrote a police procedural with literary characters. Mine is more like the Hughes Teen Films with literary characters (though not so suburban and white.) I read this on Kindle at night—and I really had to hold myself back from laughing out loud while Baby Girl was asleep in the Pack and Play right near my side of the bed. I read most of these books on Kindle because that is just how my reading life is right now.

You should check out his Instagrambecause it’s filled with beautiful black and white photographs of Wales. His website is a lot of fun. In fact , I definitely want this website to be somewhat like his in the future.

First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner. This book was recommended to me by Kelsey Wharton and I used it to write the first draft of my memoir. I found a lot of it to be overdoing it for my sensibility in terms of outlining a book. I’m more of a Neutral Plotter anyway. And this book is definitely for Lawful Plotters.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. Meggan recommended this book to me and I thought it was great. I listened to it on Audiobook. A hilarious romance novel about a Fight Clubish group of baseball players who read romance novels to woo back their wives. And since there isn’t any baseball right now—much to this family’s chagrin—I loved this book. Definitely something off the beaten path for me and that’s why I always endeavor to read my wife’s recommendations because she’s so great at that sort of thing.

I did the Daily Stoic Read to Lead Challenge over the winter and rather than starting a commonplace notecard system, I just dedicated a notebook to reading. I ordered this notebook from Out of Print and started filling it with my notes on reading by theme and by book. Like below are the plot points for Undiscovered Country #1 by Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, and Giuseppe Camuncoli and company!

After the Comics Notes page there’s a collection on the theme of Parenthood and Dad Life. I like this because it blends together fiction and nonfiction and different authors and it gives me space to come up with new ideas. I believe Joe Hill does something similar.

Kids Books! One of my favorite things about being a dad who is a reader and writer is reading to my kids. It’s something we as a family deeply value. I loved Hattie and Hudson, Be Kind, and we started Squibbish (3-year-old son) with Little Feminist Book Club. It’s a great selection of books sent to us every month. His favorite is the Proudest Blue but I really dug Reading Beauty.

Obviously this was a long one. But I hope you find something you like. I find that I try to read at least one book in each of my principles (fatherhood, mental and physical health; on writing fiction and nonfiction, and–of course–comics. I hope you find something you like here!

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy. His first novel.

I’m reading a lot of first novels by writers I respect like Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact, Drew Magary’s The Postmortal, and short story collections like Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds. This book, from one of my favorite living writers, I finished over the spring and it is the sort of book that I hope mine for the next novel I’m going to write, which thematically is sort of like this. It’s about generations, the limits and educations of those generations, and they are in a no-win situation. Here’s some of my notes:

My marginalia is copied slightly from Sam Anderson’s style. I love writing all over books because it means that I’m really enjoying it, but it is work. So often, I’ll read a book once for enjoyment and just take notes as I go. Then I’ll read it again to study it: the turns of phrases, the plot points, and then I’ll synthesize and think about what I learned. On one of the end pages. Usually highlights will get uploaded to Bear. I try really hard not to make it like work, because then reading becomes a job rather than a joy. And I’d rather stick with joy.

One of the interesting things about the end of this book is a short essay from Percy about listening to music while writing fiction. He only listens when he’s revising. I know so many writers listen to music during the act of writing, and when it comes to revision–it’s silence. That’s me. I can’t revise what I’ve written with some music in the background because I need to read it aloud otherwise I don’t catch mistakes. So Percy supplies some of the tracks he listened to while revising this book.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield

As a result of yesterday’s video this led me to purchase the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield [tk link]. The result was a breakthrough.

The major identification I made while reading this is what I used to call the Victim’s woods, or what my diagnosis manifests as — to use Pressfield’s term— Resistance. The characteristics of resistance are: self-sabotage, self-deception, and self-corruption.

Resistance is:

It’s always lying and full of shit. It’s implacable it understands nothing but power. It’s one objective is to prevent us from doing our work. ..Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. It’s target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, and the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us.

The cure, Pressfield writes is to apply self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work.

Ultimately, being a victim compels others to come to the rescue or to behave as the victime wishes by holding them hostage to the prospect of illness and one’s own meltdown or by threatening to make their lives miserable so they do what the victim wants.

This, all of this, is what I’ve been doing for the last two years. Sure, you could say resistance is pain, addiction, mental illness. It’s all of those things and more.

For me, Resistance manifests as not doing my work, which generates as my mental health symptoms: Aspergers, ADD, Depression, and Anxiety. Now this does not mean that these things don’t exist, it’s just that I’ve been resisting the fact that they do exist for most of my life. In that denial I don’t engage in my work, or my life in a meaningful and honest way. So while reading this book, I realized what my “work” actually is: teaching books, what goes into writing those books, and writing my own books.

Not realizing your resistance generates pain, which leads to impulsivity, reactivity, anxiety, depression and that exacerbates as a lack of attention and a desire to change, make new friends or be aware in social situations. It’s basically a lack, or inconsistency of attention in all aspects of your life full stop.

But most of all Resistance is strongest—for me anyway—in addiction. That’s true of creative people. Why do you think so writers, artists, etc are drug addicts and alcoholics? Despite their ability to go professional, they still let resistance get to them through drug addiction.

My addictions are different and I think that’s why I’m on the Autism Spectrum—which manifests as wanting to keep the status quo. The comfort zone. But the addiction, specifically, is to home. Lake Placid, the mountains, the woods of upstate New York. Really New York period. My people there. Resistance wants me and you to go back to the way things were, whereas the Muse, (again: Pressfield’s term), the creative unconsciousness, God—whatever you want to call it—wants you to move forward to create something that hasn’t been seen before. Sometimes that’s being a parent, or a teacher, or an entrepreneur. But most of all there’s no going back to the way things were, and that push and pull is what makes human life.

This became clear to me when I watched a 20 minute video my friend, Tim—the novelist TJ Brearton—made of his family camping and I could literally smell the pine, feel the wind twist through the air, and shake the trees and know what the pond they were swimming in felt like. I can hear and feel the crunch of the dead pine needles under foot. It was right there in my face, under foot, in my nostrils, in my hair—while I watched the video in my office in Indiana. Now that sounds like addict behavior, right?

That’s what resistance is—it wants me to go back and not do my work. It attacks me with the way things used to be with people I love and don’t see anymore. It attacks you with addiction, which is self-sabotage.

Those people are still with me, because I brought New York with me to Indiana, but in doing so I brought my addiction to the state with me.

This attacks everyone. No matter whether you’re a writer or in business. It actively prevents you from doing what you know is your work. And that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of it, because it points us towards what we know is our true selves.

So, in closing, Pressfield writes:

“Are you a born writer?…The question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it.”

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

I started this book over Christmas and finished it in March. It’s the only fiction book I read and reflected on over the spring because there was a lot of research reading I was doing as a result of my diagnosis. That was planned. Other than Drew Magary’s novel The Hike, this book, and starting Benjamin Percy’s first novel The Wilding, I didn’t do a lot of fiction reading. I realize that’s problematic for a developing fiction writer, but, there’s only so much time and I felt a great need to understand my condition better. 

I plan on primarily reading fiction this summer as I write short stories, some comics, and some film.

Anyway! This book was freaking awesome. It took me some time to figure out what I thought of the book, some of my margin notes read like: “Like every line is constructed for laughs and then what the—?! Moments, then a final emotion hit.” 

My final note, though, is after the title story: “Magic For Beginners.” And it talks about I learned. That I need to make my novel series: The Human Library more fantastical. 

I also loved the stories Catskin and The Great Divorce. But most of all what I learned from this book is that it’s okay to lean into my weirdness, my sense of humor, and sense of the fantastic.

My diagnosis makes me a quirky guy and that’s okay–I’ll layer that into my fiction. 

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

A leisurely time writing at Needmore Coffee

The introduction to this book struck me, but like a lot of Newport’s work the first half is like beating a dead horse from an argument standpoint—because that’s his training as an academic. But the second half is filled with helpful suggestions. The introduction, however, is argumentative gold. He uses early modern and modern sources and ancient. There were a lot of notes:

If you can’t read my notes, here’s what it says. “I call it digital minimalism, and it applies the belief that less can be more to our relationship with digital tools.” Obviously, the less can be more aspect of things is exactly what I’m talking about.

He goes onto quote Henry David Thoreau (“simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.”) and Marcus Aurelius. “You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?” 

Newport argues that the key to living well in our connected world is to spend less time using technology. When I read that line, I left the Political Science advising office at IU Bloomington and as I walked the mile to my car I counted how many IU students were walking and staring at their screens, or listening to earbuds rather than talking with each other. In the book I left a count in the margin after the above line—28 students versus 8 that were either talking with peers and two just being in the world. Looking around. Most of the latter were probably freshmen. Still in wonder at the place they found themselves. 

Newport ends his introduction with a quote from Henry David Thoreau from Walden: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation…They honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. (Newport XVIII)” This applies not just to my digital life, but my personal one as well—my horrible, debilitating pattern.

Most of the first half is pretty standard academic arguments, but the biggest part that struck me was in the Digital Declutter chapter. It asks: 

“How am I going to use this technology going forward to maximize its value and minimize its harms?” 

He follows with the Minimalist Technology Screen. 

So I asked myself in the margins of these pages how will I use these digital tools like Twitter, Instagram, this website, and my newsletter. What won’t I use and who will I follow? It came down to this: 

1. Twitter is to share my blog posts and links and stories that I find interesting, basically just fodder for the newsletter. It’ll mostly be a collection of links. I’ll only use it four times a year and if something occurs to me to share it on there I’ll use Twitter for that. Like getting a short story published. I’ll follow writers and creators that I’ve actually read and enjoy. That’s about 75 people. That’s it. I’ll only look at it in the evenings, about 8pm. 

2. I’ll use Instagram as a kind of visual diary for the same amount of time as Twitter. Both apps will be on my phone for one week and totally blocked from use from 4am to 8pm during the blogging opening of each season. Both apps will be removed after the week is over. 

3. My website will be about all that I learned the previous season and the newsletter, a kind of seasonal review of what I learned. Like a Sunday New York Times—the season in review. And after the season’s blogging opening, I’ll use the newsletter for basically what I used to use Twitter and Tumblr for but instead, more like a letter from me to you and less time spent online and more time spent writing things that matter to me. 

Finally, I came up with a philosophy:

Marginalia translated: my phone is for taking photos, talking to friends, hearing interesting stories (podcasts) and making notes about my own writing in Bear. So why do I need an ipad?

Later in the book, Newport talks about Zadie Smith who uses the app Freedom so I thought, while reading this book, that I would try it. “Zadie Smith, who thanked Freedom by name in the acknowledgements of her critically acclaimed 2012 bestseller, NW, crediting the software for “creating the time” needed for her to finish the manuscript. Smith is not alone. Freedom’s internal research reveals that its users gain, on average, 2.5 hours of productive time per day.” (226)

I started using it, and I block the websites that distract me. Especially Newport, Austin Kleon, and Warren Ellis’s websites. I could wander around in those websites all day and not get anything done. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc of course. Including Google News and other websites. I don’t know how much time it saves me from being distracted, but it does help me be more deliberate with my time and if I can’t distract myself with websites, well, it keeps me writing because otherwise—symptomatically—I’ll get distracted easily. It’s called Attention Deficit Disorder for a good reason.  

And here’s the biggest thing that I continue to take from Newport: boredom is okay. As someone who suffers from ADD, being bored is hard for me. I often say I’m never bored and it’s true, but that’s also symptomatic. So, the biggest takeaway is to cultivate solitude. I take long walks more, or runs. I don’t bring my phone and sometimes I don’t bring a notebook. And I ask a question before my walk and by the end of the walk I write out whatever thoughts came to mind, but I don’t stop the walk for those reasons to note what I see, because, I realize—the notebook is a crutch. Not every thought I have is worth something. They are just thoughts. They grow faster than weeds and most are just as useful. Depending on the day, I get that more than anything else. 

There’s a lot more I learned from this book and rather than list them, I’ll just give you a photo of my notes at the end of the book. 

The pigs were requested by Squibbish. “Draw pig!”

The Journal of Best Practices by David J. Finch

No not this David Finch
This one.

 

Forgive me for this one because there will be a lot of comic book puns.

David J. Finch is like me—a writer, a parent, and husband. At my age, he was diagnosed with Aspergers. But when he was a kid he was also diagnosed with ADD and got help and treatment for it when I did not. It’s because I wasn’t a behavioral problem. I don’t lose my cool. In fact, I’m pretty calm a lot of the time—very easy-going—until I’m not. I can rage, snap, and treat loved ones like the bad guys whenever I like. And will at least once a week. It’s horrible.

After my evaluation was complete it came with a bibliography for future reading and this book was one of them. The fact that it started with journal and best practices and with the subhead of: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband. I knew I had to read it.

My symptoms—my mental health was exacerbated by a life-altering move. It’s still affecting my personal life. This, obviously, is really hard to admit publicly, but I have to take accountability and I don’t want to use my condition as a stick to beat myself up and use my family as a barometer for expectations that I pile on top of myself and then fail to achieve my goals. Here’s something my wife said: “choose you; choose us.”  My symptoms, while not hyperactive, do manifest as tantrums from time to time so I do behave like a 40-year-old toddler. I make my familythe bad guy and I’m not managing myself, which is the key to this book, a journal of best practices. So I started my own journal of Best Actions. Here’s something that I took from this book, something my wife said: “choose you; choose us.” 

I’ve amended my root productivity document after reading this book to help me manage my symptoms:

1. Listen and give your undivided attention. 2. Perform action to what you’re paying attention to and either achieve the goal of what you’re acting on or receive the stimuli from the result. 3. Seek solutions by managing yourself and doing research and asking questions but don’t blame your mind, your body, or your family for how you’re feeling or falling into your victim pattern where you make excuses, blame others, complain, and turn people into the bad guy. 4. Recognize that your mind is unreliable and it is just doing what it’s used to and it is your responsibility to respond as a creator and change your Victim / Creator alternating pattern. So go back to the beginning until you achieve your goal and stay out of the Victim’s Woods, stay on the Creator’s Path and get to the Ideal Life Summit. Remember Aurelius: “You could leave life right now. Let that govern what you DO, say, and think.”

From my Routines document.

Here’s what that means: it’s me, not my wife or Squibbish, that is responsible for my symptoms. I was born this way and it means that I have things to say about it. And on today, our four-year-anniversary, the ultimate lesson of the Journal of Best Practices is to manage myself and let go of my hang-ups. They are a part of who I am, but I’m responsible for them–and so are you. So that means a better routine for managing myself–and it starts with the above. It’s also one that Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners has helped me explore.

How to Talk So Little Kids Listen By Joanna Faber and Julia King

The first symptoms of my conditions are dysthymia and extreme egotism, which—I think—if you read this website you can see that I have that. 

The first thing that damages one’s relationship with others as someone with ADD and Aspergers is how self-centered they are, unfocused, and inflexible. They are used to managing themselves through their schedule and not interracting with others. Obviously this is a problem when you have children, are married, and you work with people rather than alone. I think this is one of the reasons why writing for a living was and still is very attractive—I’m alone with my thoughts. I make money from my thoughts, my words, and my imaginary friends. I’m good with words, thoughts, setting intentions, and being creative, but I’m not good at action. (See also: Why I never submitted my fiction until recently.) So when I picked up this book as a part of trying to re-frame how I talk and listen to my son (Squibbish), I was going through my evaluation and one of the things that I struggle with is talking and listening to others. That’s symptomatic of someone with High Functioning Autism (Aspergers, HFA, etc.) They are so rigid in their schedules, routines, and struggle with empathy. For me it manifests as self-centered. We don’t come wired well for empathy. I think that’s why I was so well-suited to memoir and nonfiction and fiction that is strongly autobiographical. But in my evaluation I came to realize that my empathy quotient is higher than most people with Aspergers and that’s why I’m tricky to diagnose. I’m good at playing alone, being imaginative, and creative. I think it’s because I love to read, write, and teach. To be good at any of those things you have to be somewhat good with people. And I am. Another reason why I’m tricky but still not “neurotypical.” 

My first fiction short story that was published was something I actually did as a kid. What happened in the story, the people involved in the story were not people I knew, or how things concluded, but they are extensions of my life—fictional takes on my autobio. 

So I lean into my symptoms when I do that and I write it off as “Well all fiction writers do that to a certain extent. They take elements of their lives and mine it in their fiction.” That’s true, but I probably do it more than others. Writers also stick to a strict schedule or pattern and when things don’t go to plan, they struggle. That is, once again, symptomatic of Aspergers. A lack of attention, of focus, of being able to process feedback as information rather than an attack is symptomatic of ADD. A lack of social and communication skills is symptomatic of both. All of the above make for a pretty rough cocktail when you’re a dad who wants to be a fiction writer. 

What do you do when you have this problem? I read. I ask questions, I try to learn, but when you have a hard time processing information as information and processing words into actions, well, you have a cocktail that makes you stagger around psychologically drunk every other day. How do you combat that? You go to therapy. You go to a group. You read deeply, slowly, and you make notes. You talk about what you learned.

So that’s what I did and How to Talk So Little Kids Listen continues to help me. Sure some days are better than others, but that’s life as a parent. You have to learn to go with the flow of your kids. That’s what I learned from this book. Some highlights: 

  1. “You can’t behave right when you don’t feel right.” That’s kind of my mantra with regard to Squibbish.
  2. Acknowledge feelings with words and avoid using the word “you” when expressing annoyance, irritation, or anger.” 
  3. Take action with limits: “I don’t want to be late for work. I’m buckling you in, I know how much you hate that!” 
  4. Be playful and make it a game. 
  5. Describe the effect on others: “The baby loves it when you make those funny sounds. I see a big smile on her face.” 

But the chapter that really did it for me was Chapter 5: Tools for kids who are differently wired. 

“Our world feels wrong to him—too loud or too quiet, too much touching or not enough, too much to look at, and too exhausting to make sense of it all.” (167)

This nailed the book for me because it helps me approach a situation, hypothetically, when and if Squibbish or any of his future siblings manifest my symptoms. This book, and all of this research I’ve done on my diagnosis will help my wife and I work with that possible future, and hopefully be able to help them way earlier than I got the help I needed. Twenty-four years after my first diagnosis is a tragedy but not one I, or anyone else, had any control over.

More on that tomorrow.

The Method.

The book and my journal–open to today’s entry.

What finally convinced me to read the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius was how frequently it was mentioned in the Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. The other thing that struck me was that Carroll was diagnosed with ADD when he was younger and eventually this led to the development of this method. 

While reviewing the book and taking notes on it into my diary this past winter and spring, I was undergoing an evaluation and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Aspergers. For twenty-four years of my life I knew I had a non-verbal learning disability, which is the school psychologist way of saying Aspergers or as it is now known as High Functioning Austism, but I came to realize that this former diagnosis was not the whole picture, and the realization for why the Bullet Journal worked so well for me in the last seven years of my life was because it was designed by someone like me. 

So when Carroll quoted Aurelius, Seneca, and others in the book I knew I finally had to give the Stoics a chance. And both journaling and Stoicism has helped me come to grips with my diagnosis–twenty-four years after an accurate diagnosis may have helped save a lot of strife in my life. In the chapter on control, Carroll writes: 

“We can’t control our feelings, people, or external events. But there is something we can control and it’s powerful. We can control how we respond to what happens to us.” 

My marginalia in the book, because I’m a nerd.

This quote has become the touchstone of my exterior life the last six months. I’ve always considered myself a Naturalist because this is what naturalism is about. The practice Carroll preaches to get this quote from intention to action, or responding vs reacting is to go through what you have to do that day and identify what is and what is not in your control. For example, on Sunday, I wrote that it would be great if I took a nap, but immediately after I did a little premeditation and looked at what I had to do on Sunday—it became clear that a nap wasn’t going to happen. Despite knowing I needed it. I had to look at the manufacturer of our house’s sun-room door, write three pages and do a blog update, write the newsletter, write the week schedule; and primarily, break down the boxes in the garage to be taken out by the recycling service Monday morning. So I resolved that the most important thing that I do is break down the boxes in the garage and get them out of there so we can at least park one car in there. If I did that then I would sit on the couch for a little while and read and put my kid in front of a movie, and I did that and dozed off for about a half hour. 

Most importantly, goals provide direction, they focus on outcomes that are out of our control, so really the only way to achieve anything is to break them down into actions like: use the box cutter to strip the box for the television. Undo the tape on the book boxes and lay them flat so that you can cart them out easily in the morning with the big broom. 

But most of all write down at the end of the day what you’re learning. I do a morning reflection where I talk about what I’m grateful for, what would make today great, and I practice the Stoic method of Premeditatio Malorum, or worst case scenario.  Initially, in my evening reflection, I started out asking of “How Could I have Made Today Better?” Which, if you’re like me, lays blame on oneself for not being “neurotypical.” So instead I flipped that and ask myself: what am I learning? What lessons has [blank situation or relationship] taught me or inspired me to learn? What do I want to learn more about? And finally how will I go about learning it? Because that doesn’t make excuses, or blame others or complain that heads in the direction education and creative problem-solving. It’s staying on the Hike’s path. 

It is one of the reasons why this book led to How to Talk So Little Kids Listen and how I learned how to be sensitive to my son’s needs and how to not just listen to him but others as well, because that’s something Aspie folks like me struggle with horribly. 

Goals Chapter Notes

A Meditation on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Gregory Hayes

I read a lot of Stoic philosophy this season. I started with daily reading of the Daily Stoic blog, which led me to Letters from a Stoic by Seneca, then Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and the latter really struck me. I haven’t finished it, but I find myself going back to it frequently and making margin notes. That’s the thing about philosophy books is that after a while it’s often beating a dead horse. A thing I go back to all the time is his quote: 

“The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.” 

What I perceive as victim behavior is a pattern. I have days, like everyone else, that are A+ Days—where I’m managing my health both mental and physical, my behaviors as father and husband, my reactions as a writer and employee, and on those days I’m at my most creative. But usually what follows is a victim day. Where the grade for the previous day slides completely backwards, cut in half, or a downright failure on every level. I’m floundering, flustered, and FINE. My days frequently alternate. Last week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were victim days. Tuesday, Thursday, and yesterday were very good days in fact—and I know that’s my pattern. My perception. So, I’m trying to change my perceptions of this behavior, this attrition back to the norm of getting lost in the woods and staying on the path.

It’s funny, I started reading Drew Magary’s second novel, The Hike, this season on my Kindle and it’s exactly about the last essay of the spring season on this blog —staying on the creator’s path but instead if you get drawn off you die. The main character, Ben, is frequently chased by two men wearing dog faces for masks. It’s like a twisted Alice in Wonderland about a husband going for a walk in the woods and trying to get back to his family. It’s scary how good it is and applies to where my life is right now. It seems like everything I read now is the exact right thing that should be reading in the moment. It’s good. A real page turner. That Magary must be a professional or something. 

Recently, Magary wrote about his traumatic brain aneurism and that’s the trend of this past season—reading about traumatic brain injuries, because in a way I’ve just come to realize that my brain is not so much injured as not typical, or as psychologists and doctors say: “neurotypical.” 

Depending on what day it is in my pattern, I try to see this perception as a good or bad thing. It goes both ways. Like everyone, but what Meditations taught me—and I’m still trying to learn it is that—is this is just perception and if I believe it to be true if I respond to the Victim / Creator Hike Pattern as being true for my daily life—it becomes true. So I’m trying to modify my perception of The Hike, take ownership and responsibility for it, and recognize that it’s just perception but it’s my job as a human being to respond to it appropriately.