Sunday, March 10, 2013

Update - Unpacking Life's Baggage

I didn't do the posts I wanted to do last week, and I might not do as much as I want this week.  The serial, with Mick and Casey and the Divas, will continue without interruption.  And you'll see the next Miss Leech cartoon (though the art may be rougher than it has been.)  I have no problem with creative work. 

I am having a problem with blogging -- I've got lots of things I want to say, but my mind seems to be processing too much.  Which is odd, except... well... here's what poured out of my head when I just sat down and opened a vein:

Brats and Day Dreams

I've really had it with brats.  The writing culture has always had it's share of them. The internet attracts them like flies to a festering wound. 

But right now I'm feeling really unusually intolerant of bratty behavior.  I can't even abide behavior that really is only moderate on the scale of brattiness -- things I've even done myself at times.  This is a sign of a very full gorge. My reaction is out of proportion.

Meanwhile, I find myself replaying an old day dream that I used to use to relieve stress about ten years ago.  I don't feel stressed, but I get an unusual amount of pleasure out of it even though it's not a particularly interesting day dream.  I haven't even been been adding new details to it to make it creative or new.  It just keeps playing for no reason whatsoever, occupying more of my time than it should.  It's like eating potato chips. I just keep dipping in again and again....

A ten year old day dream.

Ten years ago...ten years....

Ten years ago a particularly nasty gang of brats were running rampant at work.  They had staged a coup maybe a year or two before, and now the place was a hellhole.

They were incredibly destructive, but also incredibly incompetent.  (They would do things like hold required meetings in non-handicapper accessable buildings in hopes of punishing handicapped colleagues for non-attendance.  Then they'd get their asses handed to them by HR.)  But even though they were thwarted at every turn, they were freaking persistent, and it took the rest of us every ounce of effort 24/7 to fend them off and keep the ship afloat.

They liked to pick victims; single out folks they thought were the weak links (like people with disabilities).  And I was a part-timer.  Furthermore, I was a part-timer in a position to feed all sorts of info to my colleagues.  So yeah, I had a target on my back, and I was made the center of a lot of stress. But they were incredibly stupid, and I was not actually easy pickings.  Most of the time it was like a Tex Avery cartoon.  I was Droopy or Chilly Willy, footling along and minding my own business and then I'd sidestep the anvil they tried to drop on me, which would bounce and land on their heads.

But it was a constant barrage of petty hostility.  Hostility will always raise your stress level, no matter how unflappable you are, or how petty it is.  Malice is an ugly emotion.  And if you get fed enough of it, you start to feel it in return.  (We started "counting coup" that year.  We had handprint stickers to mark victories.)

Well, eventually, our diligence in holding off the ravening horde of brats paid off.  One by one, they were "moved along" as they got caught in one of their own traps, or higher ups just got tired of dealing with problem after problem.  Eventually the top brat got "reorganized" ....  

And peace ruled the land (more or less, kinda sorta -- we still had to deal with the more ordinary level of institutional idiocy). And I myself was rewarded with a new and magnificently sensible boss.

It took a while to sort out the emotional baggage from this.  Unpack it, acknowledge it, toss it out.  I think a couple of my colleagues are still struggling to get over the stress, but for the most part, life got better, and we have moved past the stage where we told jokes and stories about it, and into a new stage of life. Onward to new struggles.

But now, years after the removal of the brats, and a full five months into retirement, when I am very relaxed and happy, I find there is just one bit of that emotional baggage packed away in the back of a closet somewhere.  And my unconscious has pulled it out and begun to unpack it.

Leaving me with a complete intolerance for brats, and a weird and boring stress relief fantasy playing in my head like elevator music.

Why am I telling you this? What has this to do with anything?

Just that it is interfering with my writing, at the same time it's part of a blossoming of creativity.  (I'm having some amazing and creative night dreams, even if that day dream is boring and repetitive.)

Life changes take time.  They do things to you.  They unleash things.

I think what's going on is that I am growing impatient with baggage.  Not just the stuff that reminds me of those hard times, but any baggage.  Life is short.  I used to tell myself and others "These people aren't paying rent on our heads.  Evict 'em."

Right now, I'm evicting a lot of things from my life -- things that aren't toxic, but I don't need them.  Sorting out the junk, rethinking what I really want, and I think that resonated with the old feelings.  That's what brought the baggage out.

So it's slowed down my writing. It's interfered with my blogging.  But it's all good.  Those deadlines?  They're baggage too, or at least the feeling of duty is.

Two more bits of baggage from that time -- beautiful bits.

In the midst of that troubled time at work, Robert Altman made a movie of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion.  That radio show is one of the things that held me together back then.  That's a part of where I learned that whole unflappable Tex Avery cartoon hero thing.  (Also, Garrison Keillor's voice will relax you better than a prescription tranquilizer.)

There is a song at the climax of the movie, sung by Jerrilyn Steele, that hits the theme of what I just said above:  The chorus asks "Why do you work so hard to get what you don't even want?"  Here is a video of the song: The Day is Short

And here is a song that expresses the opposite feeling.  It's about a life that has been stripped of the things you don't even want, when the birds sing with angel tongues and small stones in the driveway are like diamonds.  Simplicity.  In the movie, this song took the place of "The News From Lake Woebegone." One of the most peaceful things I've ever heard: Slow Days of Summer

On that note....

See you in the funny papers.


Suzan Harden said...

I love this, Camille. Not the stupid hell you went through, but the Tex Avery advice of side-stepping the brats. Thanks!

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, Suzan.

Yeah, it was like a Tex Avery cartoon much of the time. Or like a Fellini film, or maybe that was David Lynch....

We had an excellent team of very creative people who pulled together to keep things working. All of us fans of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. So we always had a laugh track even in the worst of it.