What do we do now?

I haven’t posted in a long time, and for a good number of reasons. The shutdowns have beat me up mentally. The breaking of routines, the extended time home, the financial concerns…its all taking its toll. I’ve been facing some pretty bad depression along the way, and I’ve had more than one change to my meds. Anybody on meds knows that that’s a lot to deal with on its own.

I’ve been looking for positives. I really have. Some people are like “oh enjoy the time with your family,” and I do, but that’s not enough to carry through. As an artist, people are saying “work on art, try to do commissions,” and I do, but that’s not enough either.

Most of the coping strategies people suggest, or that we feel may be correct in this situation, miss the mark. They all operate on the concept that if we just make it through this inconvenience, everything will go back to normal. The problem is, normalcy is dead. I mean, things haven’t been normal for a long time, but we could still operate the same way we always did. But this? This has pushed us past the point of no return, and things will never be the same.

That’s a massive blow to our psyche, and it’s really difficult to accept. Add to that the uncertainty of day to day, how so many of us don’t even know how to pay our bills, and it can feel debilitating. How do we move forward from here?

The first thing I suggest is to do your best not to worry about what’s ahead. I know that’s way easier said than done, but right now we’re dealing with so many variables contributing to so much uncertainty, and almost all of it is completely beyond our control. When you worry and stress over things beyond your control, it only makes you feel helpless and small. Most of our actual concern needs to be directed towards things we can affect.

Instead, we need to look at today. What can you do today to make the most of your situation? There’s no one simple answer for everyone, or even an individual. Your personal needs in a time of crisis can change from day to day, or even hour to hour.

Maybe cleaning your house will make you feel better today. Maybe a giant plate of pancakes will. That’s me today, btw. Maybe you have a hobby that you could use to make a little extra money. Write. Paint. Call friends. Sleep in. There’s no single answer.

But the answer is clear. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Work if you can, but be kind to yourself. Spend time with your family, but give yourself space. Eat food. Take showers. Read books.

I’m not claiming any of this is easy. I’m having a hell of a time, and plenty of fuck all days. I was completely down for about a week, and absent from all social media, including Instagram. That’s a big deal for a guy whose career hinges on visual presentation. Shit, I don’t think I’ve been off that long since rehab.

My arcing point is that we’re on the precipice of a massive societal shift. There’s no fighting it, there’s no petitioning and protesting that will return things to normal. A virus doesn’t listen to pleas and bargains. Since normalcy is gone, we have to accept the current state, and guide it however we can.

And no matter how bad it can seem, we have to always remember that none of this is the worst case scenario. There is always something worse. The worst case scenario is that you die, and if you die, then you can’t possibly care that you got the worst because you’re dead. Anything short of dying is victory, and there is hope as long as you breathe.

Don’t give up. You’ll make it through, and find your way in this ever changing world. My heart is with everyone during this struggle. Lean on each other for support.

April 27th, 2020

I rang in my birthday crying. Not a few tears, but heavy, sobbing, compounding pressure in your head crying. In a way it was a relief, because I thought the pharmacy on my bathroom sink had stolen that from me. I don’t think I’ve cried since mom passed.

Life is rarely where you expect it to be at any given time. The forks in the road come in numbers, like metacarpals splaying outward from the carpals, and splaying again like bone fractals that wrap and encapsulate. The road is dark. The brush is thick. Our paths become adventures in guesswork, until they all meet in the same destination.

One would expect to develop immunity to, or at least appreciation for, the black humor that spells out our existence. For every success, a failure. For every victory, a loss. For every signal of recovery, a global pandemic. For the past four years, I’ve said “next year can’t be worse.” I should appreciate the intangible defiance that wishes to prove me wrong.

This isn’t a complaint, or a cry for commiseration, it’s a declaration to the infinite possibilities that brought me here. To the recurring chaos that presents itself as order. To the indifferent executioner’s blade, hungry for heads. An acknowledgment and acceptance of everything I can’t control.

It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel frightened, and not know where to go. The maps have been burned and replaced with the blueprints of madmen. All reason abandoned, like orphans abandoned below towering spires of the houses of god. Like those very spires abandoned by god himself. It’s okay to be lost in a world with no direction.

I don’t want pity, as I don’t give it to others. This is simply the gears turning in the machines of matter and time. We are from the earth until we’re one with the earth. Entropy takes all, just as all is born again.

Chop away at the overgrowth in that bone fractal maze; defy the twisting of the vine. Carve order in the chaos, and claim it. When the executioner’s blade falls, meet it with your own. I’m short on time, just like everyone else.

Life may move with repetitive indifference like a Foucault pendulum, and therein lies the only freedom we can have. The knowledge that no matter our pain, no matter our joy, life will plod along without pause. There’s no use in shedding tears and throwing your fists to the sky when your misfortune is simply statistical chance.

Tend to your wounds and move forward, because the ride doesn’t stop.

Happy birthday, Tim.

Artists are nonessential, so rethink your strategy

Lockdown day 38: I actually just counted the days on the calendar, because I barely know what day it is most of the time. That’s 38 days I’ve had my shop closed. 38 days without income. 38 days my staff has no income. As of now, we don’t even know when this will end. And as far as experts are saying, this exact thing will happen again this winter.

Yeah, it’s going to happen again. Only next time it very well could be worse. That puts a lot of us into some strange predicaments. There’s no doubt in my mind that we should be closed, and so should just about every other business. Without efforts to mitigate damage, estimates have put the death toll in America at over 2 million. So, yeah, I’m staying home.

But I’m chomping at the bit. We’re all hurtin for money, our bills keep coming in, and even the shit that’s deferred or the utilities that won’t get disconnected during this time will still want their money. Some of them won’t even wait, and they’ll expect it as soon as you go back to work.

In the same breath, I’m fuckin terrified to go back. God knows how bad shit could actually get, and while I trust my own sanitary behavior, I have zero faith in the general public. People are animals. But hey, just like millions of others, I’ll go back to work because I don’t have the luxury of choice right now.

*side note: I’m super ADD, and I had to google what a million people looked like when I mentioned it. It’s kind of crazy.

And luxury is a key word. The first businesses to open are ones whose workers are most affected by the shutdown. And while this may sound good, like “cool, we’re going back to work,” it’s actually the exact opposite. We’ll be going back to work before the pandemic is over, and the flood of people back into social settings will just cause a spike in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The reason the government is trying to get us back to work before the pandemic is over is because they don’t want to pass the measures other nations have taken to support their people. Things like monthly payments, freezes on mortgage and rent, food assistance. They’d rather just send us back to work and put us at risk of infection. Because ultimately, we’re expendable.

“But Tim, this has nothing to do with the blog title!”

Well, yeah, I know, but you’re interrupting before I can finish. This leads up to the fact that this is what will happen, and we’ll work through the spike of returning to work, and it’ll level out. We’ll work our asses off and struggle to play catch up with the rent and mortgage that didn’t stop accumulating, or the utility bills that didn’t disconnect, but they want their money in 30 days.

And that second wave will hit us later this year, and it’ll be bigger, and worse than the first. Then between COVID-19 and the flu, and a dozen other illnesses that are more severe in winter months, our hospitals will be completely overwhelmed. We’ll be ordered to stay home again, the government will argue about how to take care of us, and times will be very lean.

As artists, the things we’ve been doing seem to be working to bring in a little extra money. Selling prints, gift certificates, taking deposits for future appointments. But how sustainable is it? When we reopen, we’re accountable for the money our clients have given us, and we have to make good on gift certificates, giveaways, and other promotional efforts we’ve been using to stay afloat. And we all know that when someone cashes in a gift certificate, it’s like working for free.

And that second wave. That second wave in winter. Will we be able to put enough away to survive a couple more months without work? Will our clients be willing to walk through the same shit we did during the first shutdown? Will we be able to rely on the government to help us in crisis?

The answer is simple. No. No we can’t rely on any of that and just expect it to work the same way. We need to diversify our skill set; cast a wide net. We have to start practicing the creativity and flexibility that are supposed to be hallmarks of artists, and find ways to generate money. We need to actually *gasp* WORK!

Toni Collette in “Hereditary” 2018

How can we think outside the box? How can we break from our industry and venture into unknown waters? Well, it’s very much a personal decision. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, we shouldn’t trap ourselves into something we hate doing, that’s just a given. But we also need to be open to things beyond our comfort zone. I’ll tell you what I’m doing, and maybe that will get the creative juices juicing for you.

My first step is I’ve started putting more effort and attention into things I already do. I’ve been working through several print on demand sites for a number of years now, producing tee shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve never really pushed it too hard, and upkeep on my profiles has been lacking. I’m going to change all of that.

Some of my designs for Teepublic

My site of choice has been Teepublic, but I’m going to put more energy into Society6, which allows you to upload designs for a wider range of products, focusing heavily on decor and home goods. That means more pattern and print, as opposed to the imagery I use for shirts. That will allow me to use a huge amount of my abstract paintings and mixed media pieces. Maybe I’m not 100% sure of myself and comfortable with designing a fuckin bench, but I’m willing to put myself out there and learn.

I’ve also been stepping up the sale of vintage goods and repurposed/recycled artwork. I’m an avid collector and pack rat of old shit and weird, unique items, but my joy is in acquiring them, not keeping them. But the sale isn’t the fun part, so I’ve always slacked on it. So now I’m stepping up my eBay and Etsy sales. This has never been anything more than a hobby, and has only brought pocket change in the past, but right now it’s becoming a necessity to get better at it.

There’s a lot more I’ve started dabbling in. I’ve done a tee shirt design for a fledgling company, I’m working on an Instagram ad for a podcast. I’m trying to figure out how to put together a Patreon that would bring enough value to be worth a subscription. The sketchbooks and coloring books I published on Amazon will be available as digital downloads on my website, as well as a book on cover up tattooing that I’m working on.

And that should be the takeaway here. I’ve been telling people for years that we were bound to hit a devastating economic downturn, and that only the flexible artists will survive. We’re going to see a lot of tattoo shops close, and a lot of tattooers quit and get real jobs. You won’t survive tattooing unless you work in multiple styles and you get off the high horse and serve your clients instead of your own ego. Even then, you may not survive unless you can diversify your skills and work outside of your comfort zone.

You think the landscape is bleak right now, just wait a while. We’re early in the game. Start making moves now if you haven’t already. You’re going to need it.

Being in Quarantine is Traumatic

Kunduz hospital air strike 2015. Not comparing quarantine to war, I just know people feel like this picture. I sure do some days.

I’m a person who’s heavily focused on productivity and growth, and the quarantine is constantly grinding against my willpower. It’s been 27 days since they closed nonessential businesses, so that’s 27 days I’ve had no steady income. We’ve canceled every order and every account that isn’t essential. My amazing wife has spent weeks on calls and online contacting creditors, lenders, and account managers, digging endlessly through city, state, and local guidelines and websites, deciphering baffling legalese to try to find any assistance possible. Like many small business owners, we’re skating on thin ice.

Despite all of that, this isn’t the time to panic. This also isn’t the time to stay positive and reflect on life either. The fact is, the business closures and quarantine is traumatic. We’ve all had our daily routines completely disrupted, with no promise when it will return to normal, if ever. We’re in financial limbo. We’ve been stripped of our livelihoods and I’m basically forbidden from practicing the craft I’ve practiced for 22 years. It’s a 180° shift from what we’re accustomed to.

I don’t say this to pound negativity at you, I say this to outline the reality of the situation. Recognizing it for what it truly is is the only way to be able to learn to cope with it. Any effort that isn’t grounded in the severity of this truth will only be a mask to cover it. You can’t cover up trauma, you have to confront it and reconcile it. And the truth is, a lot of trauma can’t be reconciled until it’s over. This is ongoing.

Look, I’m not trying to say people need to give up hope, or stop trying to find the good amidst the bad, because doing those things is essential at all times. I’m saying we can’t abandon our real time experience in favor of an idealistic concept of the growth we will experience, or the opportunities we will find. We can look toward growth and opportunity as a result of what we’re going through, but we can’t skip the step of experience.

That means you need to let yourself feel this, and process it. Don’t indulge in it, but feel it and process it. Sometimes that could mean you cry, maybe a lot. Or you are angry, maybe all day. You might be irritable, depressed, anxious. You could be feeling abandoned, helpless, frightened. These are normal feelings right now.

Getting through this isn’t about filling your head with catchphrases. It’s about existing within this framework you’ve been forced into, and doing your best through it. Whether you’re feeling highs or lows, experience them and remind yourself that as long as you try and you don’t give up, it will improve at some point.

Look, this is likely far from over. There will be ups and downs as we move forward, and it will probably feel like there’s no going back at times. In a way, there is no going back. Things will fundamentally change. Don’t long for how things were, or spend time wishing, because that’s not reality. Stop thinking about how your plans for the year are messed up. There’s no choice but to roll with the punches and reevaluate our actions as we go.

I had a lot of plans this year. We were finally recouping from a rocky 2019, both personally and professionally. I had finally started revisiting major business plans I’ve had on the back burner for years, and had been getting side projects in order. It’s all been completely derailed, and now I’m just in survival mode. All that while still trying to think of my employees, family, and friends.

But I’ll roll with the punches. We don’t really have a choice, because this is what we have. Damn straight I’m going to have some breakdowns, and lose my temper, and air out my frustration and sense of disappointment. We’re entitled to that, and we don’t have to shove it down to show how hard we grind or hustle, or how the strong don’t do that or some other macho bullshit. Shove it up your ass. These are hard times, and we are allowed to admit it in full, and how it’s affecting us on a personal level.

And then I’ll get up and do what I can. Some days it won’t be much, and I’ll be kind and forgive myself. Because right now, we all need kindness and compassion more than we need motivation.

Sometimes we face challenges not because we’re capable of overcoming, but because we have no choice.

I know where you can put your false positivity

I’ve been on home restriction for 20 days, and I’ve been promised at least 25 more. Now isn’t the time to lose our shit and spiral into depression and aggressive behavior. It’s also not the time to polish up our smiles and act like this is positive, or to downplay the severity of the situation.

I’ve been watching it happen nonstop for days now. People trying to spin crisis, people trying to create opportunities from devastation. And a shit ton of people saying that mindset will save you.

Nothing is changing what’s happening, and cheery positivity is a slap in the face of the sick and dying. You motherfuckers need to learn what stoicism is, and learn how to read a situation and apply proper behavior. Right now, total positivity is an intentional detachment from reality. Total negativity is an attachment TO reality. Both are bad.

Since it’s easy to understand and sympathize with those having a difficult time overcoming the negative, I’m using this blog post to confront the positive. Yeah, you heard me. And I’m going to target by my own boxed and defined labels of the type of person and form of positivity they push.

The Marketer

These are the ads you’re getting pitched that try to appeal to the situation. “Times are hard, here’s 40% off.”

Come on, dude. 40% off your bullshit socks or shoes or discount furniture isn’t what people need right now. You don’t give a shit about how hard times are for others, you’re worried about your drop in sales. It’s a legitimate concern, but it’s a transparent ploy.

You may also see these guys pushing a product or service with the pitch written in a way to make it sound like said product or service will help elevate you beyond the crisis at hand, and give you some sort of strength in the face of adversity. This is using dishonesty and the vulnerability of the public to sell.

I get it. My business is closed and my income is gone, so I need to sell everything I can. And when I post something for sale, it’s known that’s the reason why. And when I say I care, I offer myself to vent, to talk to, and I share my own experiences through this ordeal to help others. That’s what caring is. Caring isn’t 40% off shower fixtures.

The Guru

Everyone knows this guy. This is the person who maintains that a positive mindset is what will pull you through. All you need to do is find the silver lining and then throw out the cloud.

Trick, please. A positive mindset is something that’s difficult work when shit is normal. We’re in a god damn meltdown right now, you think people can just think positive? If this isn’t something you’re already real fuckin good at, now’s not the time you’re going to master it.

I don’t discount the effects of positive thinking, and I am a huge advocate of pragmatic optimism. Finding the good in a situation is essential in everything. However, you have to acknowledge the situation before you look for the good. And when you look for the good, you also have to assess how bad it is or could become.

Mindset doesn’t stop the pain and grief of loss, and that’s what so many people are experiencing, and will experience over the coming months. Encouraging people to fix their mindset is essentially telling them to shove aside their feelings. You can’t halt emotions, you have to work through them. If you don’t, you risk causing long term damage to your psyche.

That said, you have to try to find the best out of every situation, because if you don’t, you’ll be crushed by existential dread.

The Hustler

THIS guy. This is the person telling you to look at this as an opportunity, instead of the disaster that it really is. This approach comes off cold to me. They drastically understate what’s happening, and instead encourage you to find ways to capitalize.

Not that I’m opposed to capitalizing! Like I said, I need to sell right now, and find ways to support my family amidst a crisis. However, I won’t be painting this as an opportunity. I won’t call it an opportunity. You know what word goes along with opportunity and disaster? Opportunist. And nobody likes an opportunist.

Look, I want and NEED to stay productive, and utilize everything at my disposal to find any advantage I can use. I think we all need that, because so many of us are struggling, but we also need to do it in a way that is beneficial to others. There’s still bills to pay and a pantry to keep full, but that’s everyone’s story right now.

I don’t think that any of these people are bad people. None of this is casting dispersions on their character. What this is shining light on is the importance of the language we use.

The normal way we communicate with our audience is in the shitter right now. We can’t just push our brand and our message the way we normally would. We have to reframe our message, our content, and the words we use in order to maintain honesty, integrity, and to basically not look like a douchebag.

This is a time that presents challenges to the individuals, the businesses, and the entire infrastructure of our society. It’s something none of us have experienced, and hopefully never will again. Stop pushing narratives that ignore the serious struggles we’re going to face if our economy continues to slip, and we remain under shelter in place orders. It’s insulting to people’s intelligence.

Instead of pushing shiny optimism, let’s acknowledge the difficulties ahead with pragmatic positivity. What that means is that we first accept what is happening as being the current reality. There’s going to be a best case and a worst case scenario. You’re not getting either one of them. But as long as you’re not getting the worst, you’re doing okay, even if it’s bad.

The fact is, sometimes life is shit. And right now is that sometimes. Don’t candy coat it, just focus on trying to get the best outcome from each punch in the mouth. The hits keep coming, and if you’re home bound and unable to work, we’re just getting started. But keep rolling with the punches. They’re going to come whether you accept it or not, and spending time wallowing just means you’re getting hit without putting up a fight.

And if anyone is ignoring what’s happening and pushing some form of “everything is fine/positive mindset/THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY” stuff, take it with a grain of salt. They’re most likely just trying to cope with this the only way they know how.

Lockdown Day 5: I’m a Robot


I’d like to say no one saw this coming, but the signs were all right there in front of us. And I’d like to say it’ll all be over soon, but reality is a little more grim than that. We’re most likely still in the early phases of this, and things get worse before they get better. Buckle up.

Now let’s get a few things out of the way that will be very important in the coming months.

  • Practice acceptance. You can’t change the situation, and even though we don’t like it, it’s the reality we are currently in.
  • Stay flexible. The situation has been changing from day to day, so you need to be ready to change with it.
  • Care for your mental health. Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Take time for actual self care, and not just binging Netflix.
  • Stay productive. Continue to get things done, whether it’s just around the house, or working on hobbies or anything job related that can be done from home.

But let’s move on to the meat and potatoes! What are you doing? How are you staying productive? What are you doing now to place yourself to come out of this in the best position possible? If you’re not working, you have nothing but time, so put some plans in place.

I have dozens of projects in the pipeline that I’ve been brainstorming or that are actually started. Basically endless art to work on. That can get tiring because there’s so much to do, I freeze. So I make sure there’s things I need to do around the house. If that’s too much, I’ll write or shoot video. The point is, I stay busy.

One thing I’ve been doing is posting a lot of my smaller drawings for discounted rates. Having zero income is going to be brutal if it drags out too long, so anything I can get is extremely helpful. I’ve put together an album on Facebook, I’ll be updating the website shop with more work, and I’ve put together a sale list in my Instagram story highlights. Even though a lot of people aren’t working, some are, and many are supporting small business and artists by buying from them during this time of need.

A sample of discounted artwork (plugplugplug)

If you’re having trouble setting plans, I wrote a post not too long ago that addresses goal setting and planning. The first half of that post is mostly about having ADD, but the rest of it is productivity and goals. Hopefully that’s helpful.

Why the hell did I subtitle this “I’m a robot?” Well, because my picture edit came out funny, but also because I’m trying to emotionally detach as much as possible from this situation. With all that’s happening, we can’t afford to get lost in sadness, anger, or panic. We have to remain as clear headed and rational as possible. I also chose it because I’m trying to remain as functional as possible and continue to adapt and do my job in whatever way it presents itself.

That’s really what this boils down to. Remaining calm and still getting shit done. It’s funny how we somehow co-opted “keep calm and carry on” yet people are running around like maniacs. We actually have something to learn from that statement now, and that’s to do exactly what the fuck it says. Just stay calm and carry on in whatever way you can. We may not be getting bombed like WWII Great Britain, but we’re in as much danger.

So do what you can with what you have where you are. No, this won’t be over tomorrow, but it will be eventually. Don’t let it break you. Come out stronger on the other side.

Closure Announcement

Everyone’s lives are being affected by the coronavirus. Between school closures, shutdowns, and possible curfews, we’re all limited in our actions at this time. In order to stay responsible and follow safe practices, we will be closing Art Machine Productions until at least March 27th, as per governor’s order.

If you currently have an appointment with me, I will contact you with information about rescheduling. All deposits are still valid and will be applied to your reschedule date. I will be opening my books for late April/early May and scheduling new clients for those times. These will primarily be done through messaging in one place or another. I will continue to use my email, Facebook, Instagram, and text line during the shutdown.

I know the next several weeks will be difficult for everyone, but I also know that this is the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Limiting personal contact and attention to hygiene are vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19. I appreciate your patience and cooperation during difficult times, and I look forward to welcoming you back to the studio when this is over.

Staying Focused While…wait, what was I saying?

The eternal frustration in my life is lack of organization. Stacks of books and stacks of papers, boxes of knickknacks and broken typewriter keys. A thousand projects and no semblance of order to accomplish them. A brain that pushes out information almost as fast as it attains it.

It’s not like I’m dumb, or the information is actually gone. I mean, I can tell you how many times they shoot Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leg with tranquilizers during the memory implantation in Total Recall. (It was 7.)

The problem is I draw a blank when I need the information. I try to take notes and make lists; set reminders in my phone. I tried putting everything in my calendar, putting nothing in my calendar, making comprehensive to do lists, making no to do lists. I’ve used a dozen apps and daily planners, but I still forget what I’m doing after walking 15 feet. I was hypercritical of my inability to focus and complete tasks, and would beat myself down for those perceived failures.

I have problems paying attention to anything that’s not in my forefront of thought, which is only occupied by the last thing to have caught my attention. When you’re talking to me and it seems I’m not listening or paying attention, well, I’m probably not. But I swear it’s not deliberate. It’s just that Midnight Oil is on the radio, and I remembered their singer looking scary when I was little, so I had to look him up, and I found out he became an Australian politician and civil rights activist for aboriginal peoples.

Is any of this making sense? I started writing it last night, but now I’m cooking pancakes and not sure if I’m staying on subject.

Every time I recognize that I’m off track, I try to correct course. I’ll go back to the last system that gave me some results, or the one before that. Sometimes it will work again, sometimes it won’t. Lists usually work to some degree, especially checklists. Sometimes scheduling tasks works well.

The important thing is that I don’t completely quit with my efforts to be somewhat organized, even if they look like disasters from afar. It’s sort of like I have to bring all of my thoughts and ideas into one mass and pick through them. Regrouping, refocusing. I’ll make a mini plan of action and set off.

Who knows how long before that plan of action is derailed. I constantly have new ideas and plans, and they start pushing the other ones out. I’m hoping my somewhat convoluted system of note taking will actually create order from the chaos. Or at minimum, keep me in check enough to not be completely flitting about like a drunk pixie.

I’ve read some books on organization and productivity that have helped me immensely. One of them is 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse. Another that I’m pretty sure was good is Delivered From Distraction by Dr. Edward Hallowell. I say I’m pretty sure, because ironically enough, I made it partway into the book, got sidetracked, and proceeded to lose it. I actually did that two or three times.

Today, I’ve combined strategies from everything I’ve done in the past. Just as with coping strategies, there’s the right tool for the job, and the more diverse knowledge you have, the better chance of handling a situation properly. You don’t cut wood with a hammer, you know what I’m saying? Fill your toolbox.

I still use reminders on my phone sometimes. I still put items in my calendar sometimes. I still make lists. But above all else, the easiest and most effective thing I’ve been able to do is simple, basic goal setting.

The idea with basic goal setting is to build an outline of how to achieve the goal. No matter how big or small, goals have steps to achieve them. If you break it down into those steps, you’ll be able to progress. Some steps will themselves have steps, especially for larger goals. In addition, there’s often tasks that aren’t part of any step in particular, but can still be done to aid in the process.

Working on outlines

I know diagnoses overlap heavily and often, and life itself creates distraction, so blaming this on ADD isn’t 100% fair. But to counter that fairness, I’ll be fair to myself by saying I can’t take ADD medication because it’s all habit forming and can be abused. So yeah, let’s blame it on ADD.

How long will this work? Who knows! Will I even finish this outline now that I’ve done enough to include a picture in a blog post? Maybe! I literally closed the book after I got enough for a pic. See how my head goes?

Like I said in the beginning, the important thing is that I keep trying, and don’t beat myself up when I fall off track. If you have problems with organization and attention, you have to do the same thing. don’t quit. And for Christ sake, don’t ever compare yourself to people who are tidy and organized and can keep track of their lives. Their brains don’t work the same as ours, and you need to accept that fact to make progress. Like a ten and a half foot, fittin in a seven shoe.

So that’s it. Stay aware and don’t beat yourself up. Or in the words of Corporal Hicks,

“Hey, I know we’re all in strung out shape but stay frosty and alert

It’s official! I’m bipolar!

I’ll tell you what, sentience is a bitch. There’s days I’d rather have no knowledge of self and just be a slave to instinct, like an animal. Then I watch a video of a wild dog eating a gazelle alive and change my mind.

It’s funny how such brutal and aggressive behavior is just natural, and not considered cruel, yet if a human did it, it would be barbaric and evil. It’s funny the standard we hold ourselves to. I’m not sure at what point the conscience evolved, but the shifting moral standards we’ve applied are sort of self righteous.

That isn’t to say that’s bad, I just think it’s interesting. I mean, it’s obviously GOOD that we don’t eat the babies of other males to stop their bloodline from being dominant to ours. It’s good that we kill our food before we eat it.

What does this have to do with my bipolar diagnosis? Probably less than I’m going to say it does. In my mind, there’s a lot of observation of mankind as animals. There’s very often a disconnect from whatever people say it is to be “human.” At times, I go through the motions, but feel very little solidarity with the human race.

I remember the first time I felt that way and could actually form a cohesive thought around the feeling. I was 17, and my friends and I were on a pretty heavy acid trip. It was late, maybe midnight/1am, and I was walking down Broadway in Pennsville, my hometown. My jeans were wet almost up to my knees, as they always seemed to be when we took acid. My teeth would grind. My throat clinched and tingled when I swallowed.

As I walked, arms folded across my chest, I could feel every bend of the hinge joints of my knees. Every bend forcefully back, then kicking forward, almost as if there were spring tension backing it up. Then I started to think about how bizarre it is, to fold the arms over the chest and walk. Their natural position was just too uncomfortable to maintain. But even if it were comfortable, it’s still awkward, as limbs flail back and forth with the momentum of locomotion. And as they flailed, five tiny fingers at the end of each awkward limb.

I thought about how strange we would look to an alien species. Why don’t our knees bend backwards? Why don’t we have two knee joints? None of it really makes sense, other than natural selection millions of years ago that dictated those decisions. And I’m sure plenty of it was the LSD talking, but I felt a disconnect from humanity. I could see that we were awkward animals scurrying about the earth, applying meaning to everything for fear of meaninglessness.

That stuck with me. I always assumed it was the acid, but it stuck. It took more than a decade for that thought to develop into what I feel today. Or at least what I feel when I’m in a down cycle. It also showed me that not matter what I’m feeling, it doesn’t matter and really doesn’t make much sense.

That’s simultaneously terrifying and comforting. This idea that our natural thoughts often don’t make logical sense, and then the follow up idea that it doesn’t matter anyway. None of it really does, and oddly enough, that’s what gives me comfort. The idea that all of this is inconsequential, and over time it is all lost. Even the greatest of mankind becomes bones and dust, and all they did will be undone. It relieves the weight of all the trivial things we claim as important. And you should be terrified of that, and then you should feel freedom to do as you please.

I’m not sure where I’m taking this. I’m fucking ranting, as I always do. There’s too much to express and not enough words. Not enough time. If I wrote all day every day, I still couldn’t express these things the way I want. This obviously isn’t a discussion on bipolar from a manic stance. Look, I’m just working through things as they pop up.

So it’s official! I’m bipolar. And nothing is different.

Uncertainty and Doubt During Periods of Growth

I’m pretty sure I don’t give enough to others. The greatest value I can be is through sharing my experiences. Not as an entrepreneur, or a recovering alcoholic, or artist, but as a human.

When I struggle with my mental health, I draw parallels between myself and others. When I’m face to face with my drinking and I’m trying to silence my ego, I see that the emotions and stages of working it out are the same as any other person’s problems, and that it’s only the circumstances that are different. It’s in that recognition that I can understand we all are dealing with the same exact bullshit.

That’s the reason I feel I don’t do enough. If I’m dealing with the same bullshit you are, and I’m finding my way through, why aren’t I sharing it? I’m not some Buddha or enlightened master, I’m just another guy on his path. But I’m older now, and I’ve faced a lot of challenges, and I’ve had a lot of wise guidance. That puts me in a position to assist you. It’s time I start taking that responsibility seriously.

So many things circle around to uncertainty and doubt. You’d think I’d move past it by now, after all the obstacles I’ve had to overcome. But no, it’s still there, and it still jumps up like a rabid squirrel to startle and scare me away from my goals.

What kind of shit brain would create an entire system meant to hold you down and keep you from accomplishing the things that matter to you? My shit brain. Your shit brain, too, for that matter. Everyone’s shit brain is out to get them.

We can’t get mad at self doubt. We CAN, but there’s no reason to. That’ll just stress you out more. Self doubt is just a safety precaution. It’s when your brain is playing out scenarios and sees something in the possible future that could cause you pain and discomfort. When it sees that, it wants to dissuade you from trying, as a means of protecting you.

Don’t be mad at your brain. Instead, just stop doing what the brain says, and start listening to the mind. Oh, is that confusing? It’s simple, really. The brain is a thing, a physical object with a series of complex chemical processes, guiding you through existence. But it’s autopilot. When you only listen to feelings, instinct, gut reaction, knee jerk impulse, you’re acting out the suggestions your brain is making through those complex chemical processes. You can’t control what the brain is doing.

Mind, on the other hand, is less tangible. It’s decision making. It’s reason /6 weed auu7 Zaw and logic. It’s calculating and measuring. It’s deeper awareness of self, and an understanding of how we have a relationship with the brain, even though the mind is housed within it.

I know, it’s fucking weird. The idea of two people, two entities existing within you. That’s really what it’s like, though, once you learn that emotional response doesn’t need to dictate actions. Our emotions have little to do with reason. In fact, they process in completely different areas of the brain and barely communicate.

Sometimes emotions disguise themselves as reason and logic. It can make it really hard to distinguish if you’re making the right decisions, or if you’re just reacting out of fear. It’s an ongoing struggle that we have to learn to recognize when we decide our course of action.

I know I’ve been dealing with it a lot lately. Check out the video below where I talk about it a little more in depth.

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