On the Spectrum: Stoic Strategies for Parenting and Mental Health

I wrote a post for Brittany Polat’s Stoic Care website on being a practicing Stoic and being neurodivergent:

It’s a typical weekday, and I’m trying to get my five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter to keep their masks on before they start licking the floor of the Monroe County YMCA. I’m trying to sign them up for swim lessons. This is the second of two errands I’m running in the hour window we have using our one family car on Christmas Eve. We dropped my wife off at vaccinated-only yoga in Bloomington, Indiana’s Fountain Square. Then we ran to the post office to send Christmas presents to her family members in Michigan that we won’t see this holiday season. And we have no childcare for two weeks as my kids’ pre-school is closed for the holiday season.

I’ll also be appearing at the April 23 Stoics Care Conference. It’s free and open to the public. Register here.

Now for Winter 2022

That’s the end of the blog.

I won’t be updating this blog for the foreseeable future because:

One. I’m writing a memoir about how philosophy and comic books helped me get through half of my life with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, anxiety, and depression.

Two. I’m writing a more regular newsletter that will feature what I read. If you liked my content, here, then the newsletter will be to your taste. This will probably happen about once a month, and it’s still free. Though I may do a paid tier in the future, I’m not going to do that yet.

Three. I’m going to be swimming laps.

Four. Playing with my kids.

Stay warm, stay healthy. See you on the other side.


Current Status for Fall 2021

Writer/Director Billy Wilder’s gravestone, printed out on my writer idol wall.

Technically the first day of fall is not for another two weeks. Still, it seems like many people go with the idea that fall begins when the schools reopen, and for this East-Coaster, that’s after Labor Day.

Here in Indiana, school started a month ago, on August 4.

I’ll never get used to that.

This summer, I queried agents and submitted an original essay that is like an 18-page overview of my memoir and the ground it covers. I submitted to four agents and just as many publications and have not heard anything back from any of them, which means they’re probably not interested.

This is fine, mainly because it’s something out of my control—all I can do is revise and reshape and read and power through. As William Irvine writes in a Guide to the Good Life, practicing Stoics set internal goals that are not outcome oriented. They’re about the process.

I also started a podcast with my best friend TJ Brearton. It’s called Stories We Tell, and mostly we shoot the shit about what it means to be writers in the current moment. It’s not AmWriting or Scriptnotes, which are for and by writers who are established in a traditional atmosphere like screenwriting, nonfiction, and traditional fiction; or The Writer Files and OtherPPl which is interviews with established writers. It’s about two best friends talking about their respective writing lives and how that collides with their personal lives, the environment, and their health.

The first season is now available here. We’re newcomers with this, so forgive us while we work out the kinks with sound, and get it to the other podcasting platforms like iTunes and such.

This season’s updates will not be daily, but instead weekly. I’ll get into how my practice with the Zettelkesten method went, what I read this summer, Memento Mori, and a bunch of other stuff. Then the blog posts will end for good before the holiday season.

What I’m up to Now for Summer 2021

I’m spending the summer trying out the Zettelkasten method How To Take Smart Notes: 10 Principles to Revolutionize Your Note-Taking and Writing indexing my notes. I’m not so interested in randomizing messages through a serial number—that just sounds like too much of a headache. Still, Tag Conventions, search, and Sedaris-y seasonality will probably do it for me. That way, I can compare notes. Really it’s so that I can create an index of my notebooks and my reading notes and marginalia to sort through and warm up.

Other than that, I’ll be submitting my memoir to agents and an excerpt to magazines and journals.

We’ll all be back to school in the fall, which means short posts perhaps daily and something new to the podcasting world, I believe. Still, you’ll have to subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak preview of that.

Current Status for summer.

a cover job sketch of a pencil portrait of Whiteface Mountain

This time last year was, again, a moment of transition, and this year not so much. Employment has been suitable. It works with our schedule and our kids’ needs, and our personal needs.

Last week we were on vacation, like last year, but this time we decided to do a staycation which was maybe not our best idea with two young kids. Last year also had me reflecting quite a lot about what I was writing the memoir; since then, I’ve written a 40 + page proposal for the book—which was the worst. When I complained about it on Twitter, Brett Lewis tweeted at me about baking bread a year before you make the bread.

But at the same time, it was a period of mourning last year. I am glad that those days are behind me now, but they came roaring back last week in the form of dreams to a certain extent. I’ve been dreaming about Warren Ellis. This time last year also saw all the allegations come out about his grooming, harassment, and assault. At the time, none of the accusations were surprising—he’d always been playing a character that seemed to be okay with this sort of thing even though I didn’t think it was true. Like it was an inside joke, and due to not being great with social cues as a part of my Asperger’s Syndrome, I did not perceive that character as well as I should have been. I’m not trying to use my symptoms as an excuse, just that I have to work harder than most to not be so socially gullible.

Anyway, I was disappointed, and I’m still disappointed. I was so disappointed that I threw out all of Ellis’s work that was in my library. My reason? I have a daughter, and I could just not have him anywhere near her, even tangentially with his books. When he resurfaced last week, it was coincidental. I had been having dreams about him where I reasoned with him. We were at my favorite bar in my hometown—the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, another place I’m mourning. About why I couldn’t let him in my house anymore, but that I wanted to not be disappointed by him. I want to give him another chance, forgive him, but only if justice had was served.

This doesn’t mean that I will repurchase his work because that’s unlikely. I haven’t bought Cameron Stewart, Brian Wood, Scott Allie, or countless others’ works anymore in years. Even if they are with artists like Grant Morrison, and Mike Mignola. Because men like Ellis and the above have had minimal professional repercussions due to this movement, look at Kevin Spacey, or Bryan Singer, or Joss Whedon. All of them I won’t support even though I previously respected and liked their work a lot.

Finally, I stand with So Many of Us. I’ll be watching because I hope Ellis will be the kind of man I thought he was—that many people thought he was—and not actually playing a character. That’s why I’m disappointed and hurt, especially for the women he hurt. I won’t let Ellis’s work in my house because I thought he was not actually playing a fictional character. Still, it turns out he wasn’t playing pretend. He was that character.

So that’s where I am at. Looking back in prospective retrospection and being grateful that period is behind me. This week, I’ll discuss the books I’ve replaced Ellis’s work with this past spring.

Current Status for Spring 2021

The backyard office

The flowers are planted, we’re growing seeds, and I’ve returned to the outdoor office.

I’m still working on the novel. I’ve got another two novel ideas percolating in the background and writing some essays for publications to drum up interest in my memoir. I’ve been vaccinated. My loved ones have been vaccinated. It seems like we’re beginning to come out of this—a year later—more assertive, more resilient, and not taking anything for granted.

But the year has honestly ground us down to the quick of a nail. It’s been hard for you too I’m sure. I mean, we’ve had 600,000 families who lost a loved one. This is why I’m so, so grateful that our family isn’t one of those families. Though we’ve been touched—by the virus here and there–none of us have been positive.

Throughout this, I’ve been working like a bat out of hell as a parent, a husband, and a storyteller. If there’s one thing this year has made clear to me: I don’t know if I’m going to live one day to the next, or if any of my loved ones will also, but I’m going to make the most of the time I do have to be a kind and loving parent, husband, and storyteller.

This week, I will share some lines from what I read and what they meant to me. Thanks for being here.

What I’m up to now for Winter 2021.

Squibbish at Yellowwood Park.

I know I said that I would do a 40 Things I’ve Learned in the 40 Years of my life, but it seems like I need more time to generate that much. So that’s it for this season.
Between now and the spring equinox, I’m working on finishing the last two acts of the SNOWDEN BOOK 1. Then, complete the memoir proposal and do the edits on an article for medium related to that memoir.

Regarding the non-writing life: I’m working and almost completing my Virtual Assistant platform and making some headway in terms of getting some copywriting clients.

Stay safe. The winter is likely to be a long one but I think that if you stay productive and focus on some of the deeper parts of your life, we’ll make this winter better than last winter.

Current Status for Winter 2020

Welcome back. Thanks for hanging with me. Here’s what’s been going on here.

In the last five weeks, we’ve had the kids home four of those weeks. We’ve had two near COVID scares, which turned out to be nothing, and we hadn’t seen relatives for more than three days since October when I went home to Lake Placid to help my parents pack up our home for the last forty years because they sold it.

I’ve read the three Truly Devious books, Boom Town by Sam Anderson, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, Listen like a Storyteller by David Sewell McCann, and the Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin, and like a dozen more.

But what I’d like to talk about in this week’s posts is how Stoicism, Idleness (as practiced and espoused by Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler) have helped me make hard choices. I’ve finalized my productivity methods. And I turned 40, so to celebrate I’ve compiled a list of the 40 things I’ve learned in my 40 years on the planet, from the books I read as a kid to as recent as this past season.

Recently, today’s thoughts turned to the Daily Stoic entry for December 27: “Don’t let your soul go first—”It’s a disgrace in this life when the soul surrenders first while the body refuses to.”—Marcus Aurelius. The prompt then asks, “Is my should stronger than my body?” And the first thing I think of is Winston Churchill’s quote, “never, never, never give up, imprinted on a paperweight on my desk.

Here we go. Let’s wrap up this season.

Now for Fall 2020

That’s all for this season’s posts. I’ve been thinking that at some point in 2021 I’ll do a season of daily blog posts, but it depends on where I’m at in my writing projects. It probably won’t happen until summer or fall of 2021, but it’s something to build towards in the next year. But anyway: here’s what I’m working on this fall:

  1. Preparing my third novel for Pitch Wars, which just opened for entries. I’m really excited for this as I’ve spent this summer preparing my query, proposal, and synopsis and I think I have a great shot this year in terms of both my fiction writing ability and the book I’ve written. Wish me luck!
  2. In October, I’ll be developing my Virtual Assistant platform. I took a workshop with Sarah Starrs on developing this as I feel like this year—especially since turning 40—I’m feeling a stronger pull towards being self-employed, because if we’re going to have to go back into lockdown, it will pay to be more flexible and keep money coming in rather than joining the unemployment line.
  3. In November, I’m also going to develop my copy writer platform. I’ve signed up for a course through Mike Shreeve after hearing about this workshop through Copyblogger.

Then it will be the holidays and I’ll probably take December to not work on anything serious while gearing towards the holidays and the next project starting in January.

I hope everyone has a healthy, enjoyable, and relaxing fall!

Current Status for Fall 2020

Hello and welcome back. Happy Autumn! Everything is on fire, and so is my neighborhood.

Here’s how I did over the summer on the things I was working on:

One. The kids have gone back to school and my wife and I find ourselves in the weird situation where we’re the only ones in the house which hasn’t happened to us in four years. It’s weird because we have all this physical, logistical, and mental real estate to sort of come and go as we please and make our own plans. The desk in the downstairs guest bedroom is now mine, and we got a table for Meggan up in the loft space for her to stretch out. Frequently and I use the picnic table out in the backyard that I will use to get some writing deep work done during the morning after dropping the kids off.

Two. I ended doing a little bit of all for keystone aspects of the Deep Life. That’s what I’m going to spend the next week talking about how I did each aspect of the Deep Life challenge Cal Newport talks about in both his blog and his podcast. Everyday I tracked my Constitution: how much sleep I got correlates to my ability to use my strong executive functioning skills to work better with at least seven hours of sleep. For contemplation, I make sure I meditate. For Craft: I’m doing a lot of Deep Work, my new job requires a lot of one on one teaching and progress notes so I’m getting at least four to five hours of deep work over the course of the day during the week. For Community: I’m mostly focusing on my family and being more present, easy-going, and laid back with them and a big source of that is reading The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson, which is not about lazy parenting, but laid-back, less-is-more parenting. It’s about leaving your kids alone to play and just take it easy.

Three. I’m gearing up to submit my novel to Pitch Wars next week so this week’s posts will be short and sweet.

Four. A medication change — I’ve changed from Ritalin to Strattera and started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which has helped with my sleep and anxiety.

Five. The Seasonal Resistance Disease was pretty temperate the beginning of this month with the medication change, more sleep, and a focus on craft to make the transition changes of the kids going back to school, some of my clients going back to school, and managing some of the high priority writing goals for this month. I’m not quite performing to my standards, but then again my standards for myself are high so reading Hodgkinson and listening to Cal Newport’s podcast has helped me be okay with where I am as long as I’m making incremental progress five days a week and going easy on myself on the weekends and making sure I nap and read and get outside.

So, here we go!