Tag Archives: stress

Knife’s Edge


With every play I’ve ever been a part of, there’s a period of time where you’re just not sure if the show is going to “make it”.

There are so many elements that have to come together: the actors and their performances, the set pieces getting built, all the painting to be done, people bringing in costumes, lighting effects, sound effects, blood sacrifices to appease the theatre gods… there’s just a *lot*. And it’s kind of miraculous that theatre happens at all, sometimes; getting that many people on the same page is hard enough when you’re dealing with normies — to try it with artists is a truly herculean task.

So there’s always that time where you look at the state of the thing, shake your head, and say “I just don’t know, man.”

Usually that time is short. Usually it strikes within a couple weeks before the show opens and it dissipates after you get a tech rehearsal or two under your belt.

But this year? In the plague year? That time started roughly a week after we had the show cast and it has not let up since.

Between kids getting quarantined and extracurriculars being cancelled by the district due to severe weather, our rehearsal time just isn’t there, and we’re unfocused and stressed and it’s getting close to panic.

But I also know that no matter how disastrous things seemed in every other play I’ve been a part of, you come through that time and the show survives. Somehow (probably all the blood sacrifices) the theatre gods smile on your show and allow it to come to fruition… and sometimes, to even be *good*.

When will that time arrive for this one?

I just don’t know, man.


We Has It


COVID has come to my house.

Wife had symptoms at the beginning of the week, felt bad enough to get tested by the end of the week, and last night got her positive diagnosis. Meanwhile, I started feeling … ehh, not great about on Friday, and that’s developed into full-on yuckiness by today.

I got my nostrils roto-rootered out this morning, but that feels like a formality at this point. We have the bug.

And the big surprise about it is not that we have it, but rather how long it took for us to get it. Wife and I both work in schools, which — here in the South — have taken a bit more of a “we’ll take our chances” approach than schools in other parts of the country. Masks are optional. Social distancing is enforced “where possible”, etc.

But we — my wife and I — have tried a little harder than most, I think, to keep ourselves and others around us safe. And now we are forced (by our own sense of conscience more than anything else) to grapple with some tough questions. Who did we see in the past week? Where did we go? Did we really need to do those things? How many people might we have exposed, and how much responsibility do we bear?

This is a lot to think about, and for anxious sorts (like my wife and I — more so my wife than I but I, too), it snowballs pretty quick. So now we’re sitting at home with some unexpected days off, feeling gross because of this bug (though none of us, thankfully, are having any serious symptoms), but also feeling gross out of guilt and worry.

A plague on our house.

I’d love to bring something creative or insightful out of this, but I’m too cloudy-headed to think clearly about it.

Stay safe out there. Wear a mask.


Metaphor Tuesday (Let’s not kid ourselves): Weird Little Dials


Do you know what a tachometer is?

I only know because I played video games like most people breathe when I was a kid — and not only did I play them, I read about them religiously. Strategy guides and reviews. I had a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine. I read the instruction manuals with new games, for goodness sakes. And one of the racing games I played (It might have been Top Gear or something, before that was a TV show), of course, had the display that looked like a car’s console. This console featured, in addition to the course map, rearview mirror, and speed (the only thing a kid really cares about), the tachometer.

That was a long way of saying your eyes probably pass over the tachometer on your car every day. It’s that dial next to your speedometer that tells you how many times your engine is turning over in a minute. Ever step on the gas while the car is in park? The tachometer spins up even though you’re not going anywhere. It measures not how fast you’re going, but how hard your car is working. Which, by certain metrics, makes it a much more important indicator in your vehicle, though one we hardly pay attention to.

We watch the speedometer, because we want to know how fast we’re going. Or maybe because we want to avoid the flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror. Or because the guy in front of you is moving maddeningly slowly and you want to know EXACTLY how slowly because that information will surely benefit you, somehow. We watch the scenery passing by outside the windows, because that tells us where we are. Trees and buildings; keep those a safe distance from the side of the car. Other cars get to drift in and out of that space; all fine as long as they’re pointing in the proper directions. And of course, we watch the road ahead, because if we don’t pay attention to where we’re going we’ll never get there, and we may in fact fail to get there very very quickly.

But we don’t watch that meter that tells us about the vehicle we’re taking the journey in. Or, at least, we don’t watch it until we have reason to — when something may be wrong. When the engine’s overheating and we’re struggling to maintain speed, or the transmission has slipped and we can’t get out of a lower gear, or … I dunno. My lack of car knowledge betrays me, here, but you get the idea. All of a sudden, we’re just not GOING like we want to, and we check that little tachometer and, huh, holy cow, that thing’s pushed all the way into the red. That can’t be good. So you limp your car (or, given my luck lately, you more likely tow it) to the shop and find out it’s gonna cost a couple thousand dollars to get it fixed and you sit there and question your entire life leading up to this moment.

That’s when you realize how important the tachometer is. If you had noticed it earlier, seen the engine was working too hard before you ran it into the red, you might not have broken whatever you broke to find yourself here on the side of the road with a useless vehicle. You could perhaps have treated the problem or replaced an overworked component before the whole engine melted down. But you didn’t. And here you are.

Or rather, here I am.

For months I’ve been focused and wrapped up in all kinds of stuff. The play in production. The novel(s) I’m trying to write. Running and exercising every day. Day-to-day work and planning for my classes. Playing Mr. Fix-it around the house, or paying people to come in and do the same (or, sometimes, paying people to come to the house only to tell me that their contract forbids them from fixing that particular problem, so hey, you get to play Mr. Fix-It after all, less a couple hundred bucks). To say nothing of being a dad and husband who isn’t a complete jerk.

I was redlining, and I didn’t know it. Instead, I was paying attention to the road ahead (fraught with obstacles as far as the eye could see) and the scenery creeping past (moving not nearly as fast as I would have preferred). I just wasn’t getting enough done, and that shortcoming was all I could think about. Not enough words written. Not enough miles run. Not enough paperwork finished. Not enough.

Boom. Blowout. All of a sudden, I’m afflicted with some sort of creeping crud for the third week in a row: congestion and cough and all that good stuff. My heel goes haywire from some phantom injury and I can’t run. A week’s gone by and I haven’t even opened my novel. I’m barely making it out of bed in the morning in time to get the kids up and dressed and off to school, and it feels like I’m accomplishing nothing during my working hours.

The tachometer is a metaphor, then, for something on the body, I’m just not sure what it is. Maybe it’s your sleep schedule. Maybe it’s your blood pressure, or your stress level, or whatever else. Point is, whatever it was, it was out of whack with me and I didn’t pay attention to it and I spent a couple weeks with the car in the shop and taking the bus to get around, as it were.

I make a lot of noise about momentum and staying busy around here, but the fact is, I think I’ve been overdoing it and not being honest with myself about the fact. Residual stress from the move this summer. Frustrations at things going wrong (and costing us lots of money!) around the house. Unforgiving standards for my creative endeavors. Dogged insistence in my exercise habits. It all adds up.

But the play is over, as of this past weekend. And you know what? All of a sudden — the very next day, even! — I felt lighter, calmer, better. Just knowing that that particular source of stress was gone (for now, at least) made the next breath of air come in that much cleaner.

Maybe I need to find a way to relax a little.

And I definitely need to pay more attention to the weird little dials.


At Sea


I was literally sitting down to type out a few words on the current situation — two days from moving, literally living out of boxes, eating off paper plates and bed in the middle of the living room floor — when we got the call.

After two delays of almost a week apiece, we’re delayed again. Indefinitely, at the moment.

It’s a source of great shame that despite the summer and the great heaping piles of free time, I’ve gotten next to no writing done. This is the reason. My daily ration of fargos is going straight into the ever-deepening stress pit that this move has become. Or at this point, the lack of move. My brain is shot. The wheels have come off. The ship’s run aground.

I keep thinking that if I were a believing man, this would be a sure sign that the almighty were trying to steer us away from this particular course; that there’s something wrong with the course we were on. But then I remind myself that if the almighty were involved, we wouldn’t have found ourselves on this path to begin with. Things don’t always mean things. This is just some really, truly, deeply, unfortunate luck. (And almost certainly some heinous idiocy if not incompetence at several stages.)

Can’t quite share details, because this is all still in the air. But once things are settled, oh sweet fancy Moses, do I have words. At any rate, to my regular readers, I apologize for the lack of material and my general absence. We will restore normality as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.


Infrequent Air Bubbles


I am so tired. I’m poking my head up through the fog of exhaustion just to send a little signal that I’m okay. Or maybe that I’m not. But I’m still here. And some of the waves may be washing over my head, and maybe there’s a bit of water in my lungs, but I’m still floating, if just below the surface.

I’m a big proponent of the concept that we all have the exact same twenty-four hours in the day, and it’s just a question of what you apply those hours to. I also think I’ve been pretty good about carving out pieces of that time for my various exploits. This week, though, time has got my number.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I think I need to invent a time machine. I only need to take a few courses in temporal engineering and discover dark matter and invent some new laws of physics. Luckily, I have a rocket scientist reading this very blog, so I have some good backup in that arena. Stay tuned. Or to be more correct, you will have already seen the fruits of my inventions by the time this post may have been written.

Then again, discretion is the better part of valor, and as much as I feel I need to press on and keep working until the work is done, maybe it wouldn’t be a horrible thing to consider a little break. However — and this is one of the things I’m maybe a little bit crazy about — I’m terrified that if I stop pushing forward, all the momentum will bleed out like a punctured waterbed.

On the one hand, part of my brain is telling me that the circumstances I’m claiming are getting the better of me are no better or worse or more demanding than at any other time over the last 8 months of this adventure I’ve been on. On the other, I feel as if the klaxons are sounding and the deckhands are scrambling for the lifeboats as the other part of my brain tells me that no, really I’m trying to do too much. The core temperature is increasing. Bubbles are rising to the surface, fewer and less frequent.

The end of the first edit is so close. Even if I’m artificially claiming that closeness, it needs to be close. I’ve been going back and forth with it so much that like bread left too long in the oven, it’s crusting over and turning black around the edges. I feel like I felt toward the end of the first draft: I’m getting sick of the work and I need a break from it. But the only way out is through, and the quicker I finish, the quicker it’s done.

On the other other hand, it’s possible that all this is simply normal mild parental exhaustion exacerbated by the fact that our 8-month old handed my wife and me a surprise sleep-deprivation treatment last night. It’s possible, in that vein, that I’m just loopy and moderately delirious and is that pink stuff oozing out of the vent? THAT’S PINK STUFF OOZING OUT OF THE VENT OMG IT’S GHOSTBUSTERS 2 COMMAND ME LORD VIGO

Manufactured, imagined, or actual, I think it’s fair to say there’s some stress settling in on my brain parts. I need to finish this edit.


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