Tag Archives: anxiety

Monday Afternoon Ramblings – 8/12/19

I’m happy.

No qualifiers, no hyperbole, no BS. I’m happy.

I can’t explain exactly why. My life is far from perfect, and by many objective standards, my career has been a failure. I don’t have many creature comforts, and I basically live day to day financially. However, when I wake up each day, I’m grateful for the food in my fridge, the roof over my head, the opportunities in front of me, and the people who are close.

Many of my clients have plenty of money, but I wouldn’t classify any of them as happy people. Some are too petty to find joy in anything. Some are too selfish to appreciate the warmth that comes from sharing with those less fortunate. Some are just miserable individuals. I wouldn’t trade lives with any of them.

I know that a major contributor to my happiness is the gratitude I feel for the positives I do enjoy. If you are not happy and want to change your life, that’s the first and most important step you can make. Find the good aspects of your daily life and take a moment to feel real, sincere gratitude for those items or moments or people. That simple act transforms your perception. Instead of dwelling on all the things you don’t have, which is an infinite loop of dissatisfaction, you will begin to appreciate the little stuff that enriches you.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Happiness is choice. So is misery. You are in control of which way you perceive the world.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/19/2019

One of the most important lessons I have learned in life is to stop worrying about the things I cannot control. I have zero influence over politics, so I no longer give politics my energy. That change alone has made me so much happier and healthier than I was back when I was plugged into the “daily outrage machine.”

I have no control over other people’s actions. The only thing I can effect is my reaction to their actions. After losing so many friends and family members, I had to teach myself to let go and move on. I simply cannot dwell on what others think of me, no matter how close we may have been. There are people I miss, of course, and from time to time I reminisce about our friendships, but overall, those people are quite simply dead to me and are not welcome in my present reality.

I cannot control overall market forces. I can, however, pay attention to and anticipate how those forces will affect my life. In terms of risk management, I try not to put myself into volatile situations. From being at the very bottom, I learned that there are always jobs out there that people don’t want to do for whatever reason (hard labor, dirt, danger), but they will pay someone else to take care of it. In that regard, the market for my services is relatively stable, as long as I’m willing to and capable of handling it.

I can’t control what memories or emotions bubble up on a daily basis. I can control my reaction to them. If anger comes up, I let it pass and move on. I can’t let anger consume me. If I have a twinge of self-pity, I push it aside as quickly as possible. That won’t help anything. Every single day, I make a concerted effort to focus on the blessings and positives in my life, and that focus has done more to heal me than anything else.

That’s all for now.

Friday Morning Ramblings – 2/3/17


Another fan has asked me what are the biggest obstacles to writing that I deal with on a regular basis. If you struggle with writing regularly, hope you find this post helpful:

5) The Day Job – If you’re like the vast majority of writers, you have to work at an outside job to pay your bills.If you’re like most Americans, you need two. I’m no exception, and the grind of juggling outside employment and making time to write can take its toll. Back when I still worked in education, I usually had to do the majority of my writing during the summer months. Now, I work at two different jobs, one outside the house and one from home, and some days I struggle to find the energy to write. However, I also know that in order to accomplish my goals, some sacrifices have to be made. More often than not, when I feel too tired to write, I force myself to sit down and write at least a couple of pages. Any progress is positive. You don’t have to write thousands of words every single day in order to complete a manuscript; you just need to make steady progress on a consistent basis.

4) Time Bandits – The distractions of TV and video games can eat up a lot of time if you allow them. Some days, when my energy levels are low, I find myself longing for the simplicity of vegging out in front of the tube or a game. I love movies, so there are times when this temptation can be great. But again, I have a writing schedule, and I intend to stick to it. I have to make a conscious decision to turn off the time bandits and focus on the work I have to accomplish.

3) Fear/Anxiety – “Fear is the mind killer” as Frank Herbert warned. Whether it be fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, or fear of fear, many of us have to face these fears on a regular basis. If you have ever dealt with regular anxiety, you already know how debilitating it can be. For creative people, anxiety can obliterate ambition because the fears can overwhelm our creative drive. For me, anxiety is a relatively new development, so I’m still learning how to deal with it in my daily life. However, in terms of writing, my answer may seem rather trite, but I tend to ignore it and press on. As a writer, I simply cannot allow fear to clog my creative process. No matter how bad the anxiety may flare up, I force myself to sit down and hit my page goal. The way I convince myself to overcome the fears is by reminding myself that no matter what, if there are words on the page, I can polish them later.

2) Brain Fog – For those of you who don’t know, I suffer from a neurological disorder (most likely MS, though I don’t have a confirmed diagnosis). One of the worst symptoms is the brain fog it causes. Unlike the previous entries, this one simply can’t be pushed through. When the brain fog is bad, my thoughts become too disconnected to concentrate on composition. It might take two hours to write a hundred words, and there’s simply no way to write effective fiction like that. My only course of action is to wait until the brain fog passes and write while I can.

1) Depression – The worst obstacle I face, not just in writing but also in life, is depression. Ever since my head injury when I was 16, I’ve struggled with depressive episodes. Most of the time, they are mild and I can get through them with a little effort and some sunshine. However, sometimes, I slip into deeper episodes that can be completely debilitating. These times are the biggest obstacles to writing because, as anyone who has experienced real depression can attest, it robs the individual of all motivation and drive. The only way I can get through these episodes is with medication, and I urge anyone who struggles with it not to suffer needlessly. Depression is a serious illness, but it can be controlled with medicine.

So those are my five biggest obstacles to writing. Despite dealing with them, I’ve managed to write the longest book of my career in about six months, and if I can do it, anyone can. You just have to make a conscious decision to fight through whatever difficulties life puts in your way.

Dragon*Con Ramblings


I expected this to be a much different post.  I expected to write about what a good time I had hanging out with friends and talking about literature and meeting new readers.  But that is not what happened with my second experience at Dragon*Con.

First, a little background.  Some of you already know about my accident, but for those who don’t, in 1989 I was struck in the head by an 8 lb. shotput.  I suffered a concussion, brain contusion, and brain swelling.  Fortunately, the only major long-term effects from this injury have been sensitivity to light, a shift in my internal clock, a little difficulty recalling specific words at will, and disorientation in crowded places.  I’ve learned to live with all of these and typically function without any trouble.  However, on top of this, ever since my children left my home, I’ve also dealt with some anxiety issues.  It’s never been terribly serious, but occasionally I get rather anxious for no discernible reason.  The feelings will sometimes linger anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, but they’ve never been so bad I couldn’t handle them.

On Thursday night, my disorientation in a crowd and the anxiety combined to create a rather unpleasant experience.  I had decided to arrive on Thursday so I could pick up my badge and find the areas where I would be before the crowd arrived on Friday.  Let me emphasize here, I had been to Dragon*Con before in 2009, so I pretty well knew what to expect.  I had seen the lobbies on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  I had waded through the Atrium level of the Marriott to reach a panel on time.  I knew what was coming.  I just didn’t expect it on Thursday night and was caught off guard.

It started as I walked my friend Andi Judy, who was gracious enough to offer me a place to crash for the weekend, to the Sheraton to pick up her badge.  At about 8:30 or so Thursday night, the line for badges wrapped around the block.  She assured me she would be okay in line, so I left and walked a couple of blocks over to the Marriott to pick up my badge.  There were few people on the street, and even fewer when I entered the lower level of the hotel, so I figured there had just been some snafu at the regular registration, which had created a log jamb.  As I rode the escalator up to the lobby level, I was not prepared for a crowd, so when I saw the lobby packed like a Saturday night, it was like a sucker punch to the gut.

I had to cross the lobby to find the hallway I needed, so I turned left and walked around the edge of the crowd, trying to avoid all the commotion.  It’s the chaotic motions and sounds of a crowd that disorient me.  It’s too much to process at once, and my brain kind of shorts out, which is hard to describe.  I literally (not figuratively) feel confused and lost, even in places I know well but especially on unfamiliar territory.  By the time I reached the far side of the lobby, I just needed out of there, so I blindly turned down a hallway to get away from the crowd.  Luckily, I had turned down the right hallway and found where I needed to get my badge.  That area was quiet and peaceful, so I leveled out and felt okay.

After that, I had to go up one level to find the Young Adult Literature Track.  The Atrium Level was twice as packed as the lobby, and I thought I remembered where the panel rooms were, but navigating the crowd and finding the hallway pushed me a shade beyond my limit.  That’s when the anxiety started.  I had never experienced the disorientation and anxiety together, but it was not pleasant.  I hung around the YA Track mixer for as long as I could handle it, which was about five minutes, and then headed for the exit.  Unfortunately, I had to go through the crowd again to get outside.  I went through the first doorway marked exit I found and ended up on a dimly lit stairwell outside.  I wasn’t exactly sure where I was, and I was in one of those urban dead zones where I had no phone signal.

I had never experienced a full-blown panic attack before, so at first, I had no idea what was happening to me.  That only made things worse.  It was one of the three or four scariest moments of my life.  I’m not used to feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by a moment, and I’ve been through some heavy stuff.  It took at least thirty minutes to pull myself back together, and when I finally did, I continued to tremble for hours.  I made my way back to the Sheraton to find Andi, who was still outside in line (at least an hour and a half later), and waited with her until we got inside.  Outside, with everyone moving in the same direction, I was fine, The moment we stepped inside and there were people moving in every direction, the disorientation started again, so I found a quiet corner and waited.

The next morning, when Andi and I returned to the Marriott, I had hoped to find the other tracks I was to participate in and be prepared to move from one hotel to the other relatively efficiently.  While the lobby wasn’t as crowded as the previous night, it was still pretty crowded and hectic.  Andi was working as a volunteer for the show, so I was on my own again, and maybe things would have been different if I had been with someone to help me navigate.  As it was, alone and disoriented in downtown Atlanta, I found myself unable to go anywhere.  I just sat down on the steps outside and watched the cosplayers walk by, and that’s when I realized things were only going to keep getting more crowded and more hectic all weekend.  Though it was a difficult choice to make, I decided to leave the convention and head home.  I’ve never bailed on a convention before, even some that probably should have been left.

I feel like I let a lot of people down, especially Andi, who was expecting me to be with her to and from the train station, but also my friends and readers at the show, my publisher, the college, and myself.  I’m sorry.  It was simply too much for me, and that’s not easy for me to admit.  I feel embarrassed that I couldn’t pull myself together enough to get through the weekend and that the anxiety overwhelmed me so completely.  In my mind, I should be stronger than the emotions, but the reality is that large crowds are too much for me to handle.  I have to accept the facts and not put myself in situations like that again.  For everyone I disappointed this weekend, please accept my deepest apologies.

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings

Before the separation anxiety created by losing my children, I had never really known anxiety before.  Sure, I’d gotten nervous in certain situations, but I’d never experienced the unexplained waves of fear that appeared out of nowhere and made me edgy.  For the first year after the boys were gone, excluding the times when they were back with me, I lived in a constant state of panic, worried about whether or not they were safe and healthy and happy.  My stomach constantly burned from this fear, and I often awoke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, trembling.  As I adjusted to my new reality, the anxiety waned, and ever so slowly, I began to feel “normal” again.

Recently, the anxiety has returned.  This time, however, it’s not about my children, even though the sensation is much the same.  I can’t say exactly why I feel this way, but for a few weeks now, I’ve not been able to shake it.  There’s no one specific thing I’m worried about, more like a thousand little uncertainties that gnaw at me.  From the erratic weather to the political sideshow to the sluggish economy, I feel like we’re heading for something bad in the next few months.  While I can’t point to any quantifiable thing and say, “Here’s definitive proof,” I just have an overwhelming intuition that the proverbial dung is about to hit the fan.

I don’t believe in the Mayan calendar and don’t expect the world is about to fly apart, but I do feel like our nation, because of the internal strife and chasms we’ve created through our sensationalist parodies of debate and deliberation, is on the verge of a deep, fundamental shift.  I can’t say for certain what that shift will be, perhaps martial law, perhaps financial collapse, perhaps civil war.  I don’t know.  I just know we cannot continue unraveling at the seams the way we have for the last few years.  And again, I can’t point to any one thing, just a feeling I get from people I encounter who either give off vibes of being frazzled and panicked or seem like mindless drones on auto-pilot.

I hope I’m wrong.  I want to feel positive and optimistic about the world and the future.  I much prefer feeling positive energy, but right now, there simply isn’t much to feel good about.  Everywhere I look, things are just out of balance and eroding into an uncivilized frenzy of self-interest.  People are either mad as hell at those who disagree with them politically, distracted by TV, or apathetic to everything.  Few people seem even content with their lives, and I don’t know anyone who feels positive about the direction we’re headed as a society.  I wish I could look at the future and feel hopeful about it, but right now, tomorrow just looms bleak and ominous as we trudge onward.

I’m sorry for writing such a negative piece, but this is how I feel about our country right now.  I can’t pretend like everything is okay when in my gut I have this feeling that something awful is about to happen.

Thursday Morning Ramblings

I started on book four yesterday.  It’s amazing to try to wrap my mind around that.  I’m moving into the final third of the series, and for the first time since this whole process began, I can see the finish line.  While book five is still a ways off, I can now see it clearly as the story unfolds, and my original vision for the overall plot structure is now coming into focus.

For me, starting a new book is a blend of excitement, apprehension, enthusiasm, and anxiety.  The excitement comes from delving into new territory.  The apprehension stems from fear of losing focus on the bigger work or forgetting a small detail from the earlier books.  The enthusiasm flows from the acts of discovery that make writing so much fun.  The anxiety creeps in from an underlying fear that somehow the tank has run dry, the creativity is gone, and the words have evaporated.  I’m not certain if others share this amalgam of emotions, but for me, they are real and sometimes overpowering.

End of Days Ramblings

In case you need any more signs that we’re at the end of time, here are two more:

Yesterday, I quoted a Paul McCartney song to illustrate how I feel.  Me quoting Paul McCartney is like Sarah Palin quoting a real news article.  It just don’t happen.  My good friend Philip pointed out this fact about me quoting Sir Paul, and as I mulled it over, I realized that yes indeed, we are at the end of days.  All that can be done has been done.  It’s all over but the fiery rain and bloody mobs in the streets tearing each other a sunder.

Then, as if me quoting McCartney weren’t enough to scare the hell out you, when I got home I saw the end-all be-all sign:  Dogs and cats lying together.  But not just in any old random form.  No, this was truly twisted and a sure sign of the looming end.  Our female chihuahua was holding down our male kitten and humping him like a politician on an intern.  Jesus H. Christ, what could be more disturbing than a trans-gender, trans-species flesh orgy in a family living room?  If that don’t convince you that the end is near, then I don’t know what will.