Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I spend my time and resources exactly how I want to because I deserve to have that freedom as payback for all the crummy years of my childhood.

Today is the first Wednesday of September, and because of that special occasion, I'm once again taking part in the Insecure Writer's Support Group. For more information on that, click on this link HERE.

This month's question that we participants answer is: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

This question is actually pretty easy for me. My life isn't as full as some others, either because of choices I've made in life or through a lack of distractions due to my own personality. I think I do really engage with people, but I engage with them in non sexual-tension-filled ways (not my choice...believe me...I'd love to be the flirty one that gets all the attention). For example, I'm the person that people always go to in order to solve a problem (which I actually hate) but they never go to when there's something fun to do.

In other words I just emanate a general aura of "Oh...Mike is uber responsible and will never drop the ball...but...yeah...we don't want him at the party because he's uncool. If he wants to PLAN the party...that'd be great...." And just so you know, I'm 45 so this is a far cry from teenage angst. It's how I actually feel as an adult, and it's based upon decades of behavior that I've analyzed in an attempt to answer the question, "Why do I feel that people just want to assign me unpleasant work to do?"

But to be fair, I'm quite capable of self-criticism. On the subject of "spontaneity" (and my lack thereof) it's something I will own up to (you will never see me use my iPhone to make cute videos filled with laughter and warmth). It's hard for me to cut loose and dance and to be comfortable in my own skin. However, I think its fair to say that my ability to be cute and fun loving was destroyed by years and years of psychological and emotional abuse that made my childhood kind of a living hell, but at the same time it inoculated me to the harshness of the world. In a way, my father and mother simultaneously managed to be the worst/best parents (if that makes any sense) that they could possibly be. And just to be clear, I would never wish the kinds of things I went through on anyone. However, the "emotional skin" I grew in order to deal with the psychological abuse made me able to deal with life in ways that I could never have imagined. Events that absolutely crush/devastate people (that I know) are barely ripples to me on the Sea of Fate, and I actually love that. But the side-effect is that I don't naturally cuddle with dogs and talk about how new babies smell and take selfies with everybody. I wish I could do these things comfortably and naturally, but they always feel awkward to me. What doesn't feel awkward is scrubbing toilets, because for the longest time, that's how people treated me. I was the person people always called upon to scrub the toilet and clean out the garbage.

So needless to say...I don't have people banging down my door to do "Happy Fun Time." And with no partner, this leaves me with a lot of spare time after work and on weekends. I fill that spare time with whatever I want to do. It could be an art project (which I started this weekend) or perhaps it could be another writing project. When I get bored of one, I go and start another. So yeah...I've got the luxury of time...and I know that's just not something that most people have an abundance of. I truly wish I was one of those people with such a full life that I had to juggle everything. As a caveat though, I also guard that time like a zealot. Allow me to explain.

I've got used to saying "No" to people. Believe me when I say, there appears to be an endless supply of people knocking on my door with the goal in mind to put some brown-skinned single Asian guy to work doing some shitty task they don't want to deal with (the "scrub my toilet!" theme fits nicely here even though that's not what they want). A lot of people consider that the "bar offriendship" when it comes to me. "Hey I've got something shitty that I don't want to deal with. You're my friend...I could use you to help me out with it!" Unfortunately for them, I don't share this viewpoint on life. I think true friendship is deeply reciprocal and is built upon a foundation of immense respect. If I knew a task was even remotely unpleasant, I would never foist that on a friend. If I did ask for help, I would compensate them monetarily with hundreds of dollars (that I toiled very hard to get) or not even ask. Friendship is to be treasured and not exploited. Maybe that's the Japanese in me...a belief that one "honors" friends and keeps all the unpleasant things in a closet to deal with on my own time.

Some don't take my "No's" very well, and verbally attack me, pointing out (obviously) that I have resources that could help them. There's no arguing that fact at all. So I make it very clear that I'm saying "No" because I am choosing not to help them and am perfectly happy with that decision. Of course, this really pisses some people off and causes them to throw all sorts of insults at me (which I don't deserve but it happens anyway). It's almost like people are punishing me because I have a lack of blessings in my life, which seems ironic if you dare to look at it from my point of view.

The way I see myself, I'm a survivor/former victim of incredible psychological and emotional abuse. As a result, I'm abrasive enough and uncharismatic enough (in real life) that people only seek me out when they need help with something (no "Happy Fun Time" with Mike). If they do seek me out, they are sure to crowd enough other people into the hang out time that spending emotional time with me is vastly diluted. So (essentially) I have a lack of fun activities planned by others to fill my hours with (but I sure can get people interested in "Happy Fun Time" activities when I organize everything and do all the work) when the "average person in America" has the blessing of a house of children, a partner, a spouse, etc. to help them deal with life. Admittedly, a lot of those things happened because a person was born the right race, the right religion, the right politics (and world-view), the right sexual orientation, etc. to be "attractive" to peers to bring on those kinds of invitations (and had the emotional well-being to survive a society of narcissists). They were born into bodies that had very little challenges (as far as disabilities go) and into families that genuinely loved them and gave them trophies for participation and actually "valued" and would talk through their feelings one on one. Again, please know that I'm not complaining (because I sure as hell know I could be a lot worse off). Rather, what I'm trying to do is explain to you (the reader) why I have so much free time outside of work. The answer is simple: a life-history of a lack of inclusion.

On that earlier topic, I guess what galls me the most is when I get verbally attacked for saying "No" to a person's request to feed at the trough of my resources is that I know that the other group of people (those with children and partners) can say "no" and the person asking smiles and easily understands the rejection. But when I say "no" I get verbally attacked. These are "facts" in my mind, even if there's no way for me to prove them. However, it is very interesting that the guy who has probably suffered the most trauma is the one that continues to get assaulted by people who see him only as a problem a resource to be used and abused in their tool belt...because life is too difficult for them to deal with and they think (because I have things together) that it must be easy for me and therefore it's my duty to help others. To say it a different way, "the guy who lives a pretty miserable life (by average standards) is the one whom miserable people choose to use as a punching bag."

Anyway, this has been a long, emotional post, but I think it explains a lot about me that I wish more people knew regarding how I manage my time, and to some extent, the resentments I feel toward people who do nothing but try to take (instead of give). And yeah, I have no problem at all saying "No." It's time for someone else to scrub the toilet because this guy is not going to do that (for others) anymore.

I hope that if you take one thing away from this post it is this: it answers the question of "How do I manage my writing time in my 'busy' life?" And the fact is, my life really isn't all that "busy" due to intentional design. I spend my time and resources exactly how I want to because I deserve to have that freedom as payback for all the crummy years of my childhood. If I choose to spend that time writing or drawing, then it's because those activities make me happy. Would I rather spend those hours with a person who appreciates having me around? Yes, yes I would. But as I learned a long time ago, "You can control all the things in your life except love. There is no force in the universe that can make someone love you." And in this sense, the word "value" can also be used interchangeably with the word "love" and still ring true. It is my frustration to this truth--which then leads to acceptance--that (for me) is perhaps the greatest motivating factor behind my creativity in any form. It's why I write, I draw, and I read. At the end of the day, this world is cruel and mean and filled with a lot of nasty people (I know there are a few good ones), and my mind wants to seek out better worlds where I feel respected, wanted, and loved. Stephen King wrote:

"Writers remember everything...especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he'll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory."
My memory holds a lot of scars and most of them aren't pretty, but at least I know who I am.


  1. At a certain age, you learn to just say no.
    I do a lot of work for my church. I don't get paid, but everyone there knows to come to me with things that are basically 'We don't know what we want be we know you'll make it awesome.' Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think...
    Cool that you are doing an art project. Hope you share it later.

  2. I worked for years with abused and neglected kids and was amazed by their resiliency, their ability to find ways to work with the cards they'd been dealt. It kind of angers me that people can't see past the protective wall you've put around yourself when obviously you are a kind-hearted, hard-working person. I want to say that although I was born into a very loving family, I wasn't born into a particularly attractive body and had bad acne. I never dated as a teen, was terribly introverted and shy to the point that people thought I was a snob and thus I spent many years very much alone. That said, some how the universe conspired to send me someone, a handsome man who saw past the exterior. This month we'll have been married 31 years. What I'm saying, Michael, is that there's probably someone out there for you as well. The trick is being open enough to recognize the person when he/she arrives.

  3. I've found that relationships come more naturally when one is young. Older people have to work at it more to find the right person. It's kinda like job hunting. You really have to be motivated to do it. (Which in my case, I'm not)

  4. It's important to know who you are, but I'm saddened to hear how difficult this has been for you. As for writing, I usually write early in the morning, my favorite time of day. By afternoon or early evening my creativity is tapped.

  5. I understand. Not the childhood stuff, but the isolation stuff.

    Have you ever noticed that those who get upset over your "no" are the same ones that have no compunction about saying "no" to you? These are not your friends. Acquaintances only. You have every right to say no. Keep on doing it.

  6. I had parents who treated me like a real life Cinderella. It sucks when your own parents seem to see you as part property instead of just their child. But I'm glad you have grown into an independent adult and not let anyone use you as a doormat. There are guttersnipes out there that look for vulnerable people to take advantage off. Tell them to take a hike! Take care of yourself Mike and I had fun tweeting you about some episodes of CW's Flash a while back. You're a cool guy in my book. Be your best self. :)

  7. Ah, Mike my friend, you are such a good and wonderful person. You really do deserve to have a mob of true friends who can see beyond the emotional armor you constructed to survive your childhood. What you've written here reminds me of accounts of abused women who keep meeting abusive men. It's as if their past experiences keep attracting and repeating that which they've known. Anyone who attacks you for not doing what they want or being convenient for them is an abuser, not a friend, and you're better off without them.

    The thing is too, it's not just you. We live in society that's isolating and lacking a true sense of community and togetherness. Our so-called rugged individualism has even gotten worse in my lifetime. Ever notice how shows like Modern Family, Downton Abbey, Big Bang Theory, Friends and so on are wildly popular? Because they're about people being decent and supportive and kind to each other, even when they drive each other nuts. And we watch them because they display what we don't have. As for me, I'm lucky to have at least a couple family members and a few friends whom I trust and love, but I need more good people in my life and a hell of a lot more good times. It takes effort and risks, but I'm hoping to pursue this in the months to come. Ironically (and so relevant to your post), I'm pushing to get a couple of my manuscripts published by November so that I'll feel psychologically and time-wise free again to do what I damn well please, and that's not writing.

    I hope a wonderful someone comes into your life very soon. Like now. Overnight. Take care, my friend.

    1. Helena, Thank you so much for the kind words. I agree with everything you've said here. I know I could use better quality friends, and by that, I think I'd prefer ones that have low quantities of egotistical and entitled garbage. Oftentimes, when I meet a person they are just interested in social networking to see how I can improve their life. In other words, they are already part of a "closed" friendship ecosystem and say that they are looking for new experiences with new people, but what they really are looking for are slaves to do some work for them.

  8. I've seen that you are a strong individual, and I hope you are able to find someone to share your life and activities with. Everyone deserves that. I enjoy seeing your art projects, you are creative and talented, and its a beautiful thing to witness.

    Isolation is something a person gets used to, but its not easily accepted. I spend a lot of time alone, and I treasure the times spent with others. "No" doesn't come easy to me, which is why I isolate myself so often.

    Best wishes on all your projects, and in finding people who are able to see you for the awesome person you truly are.