.journal 2013.11.30

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.org.13: And a Wound that will Never Heal

Now listening to: David Darling, Cello Blue
Now reading: Allison Amend, Things That Pass for Love
Now playing: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

I don’t think I’ve ever had to force myself so hard to write one of these anniversary .journal entries before. It’s not so much that the past year was so unkind to me (although there were definitely some high points), but I’m having to write this, as the clock ticks down to the end of November, in the wake of kind of a personal collapse earlier this week, something that I’m still recovering from here. Still, I’ve always found a way to sneak this anniversary entry in before the end of November, so I’ve got an orange creamsicle milkshake and some green tea here to keep me going as I pound this entry out.

Let’s start with the big piece of good news from earlier this year, the fact that I made the quarterfinals of this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon, putting yet another feather in its cap. That got me a bit more press, but, unfortunately, it has yet to get me representation. I seem to be stuck in the same position I was in after being shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize last year: With a broad consensus that my novel is high-quality, but still without the agent who thinks it can be a big seller. I’ve written about the whole quality vs. marketability angle far too many times already, and I’m not in the mood to rehash that problem again. Let’s just say that I’m continuing to do what I can to get representation so I can take the novel to big-time publishers and get it out there for you all to read, including continuing to tweak the manuscript so each of its 100,000-plus words sings. I haven’t stopped learning how to write better, and I hope to take the lessons I’m learning about writing and apply them to all my writing endeavours.

Finding time for this has been difficult, though, especially as I continue to work at growing my teaching career. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a number of really wonderful students this past year, and I’m in the best environment I’ve ever had when it comes to teaching. In the event that none of my writing ever takes off — I try to be optimistic about my writing career, but I have to temper that optimism with a strong sense of realism — it will help if I have a strong teaching career to fall back on. Balancing my teaching with my writing has been a real struggle, though, and that’s something I will likely continue to  deal with in the months ahead.

That struggle has been one of the most defining characteristics of this past year for me, and I was hoping that I’d be able to use this five-day vacation to catch up on some things and push ahead with others, and get myself in a position where I could throw my attention to teaching for the rest of the term, then go crazy with my writing during the long winter break. That was the plan, anyway. The reality was that this past Tuesday evening, after I’d gotten through my last class before break, things kind of fell apart for me. My lack of productivity these past few days isn’t the main concern for me right now, though, because as I’ve tried to figure out what caused things to go so wrong for me earlier, I’ve come to realize that I’m still trying to deal with some incredibly heavy problems from my recent past.

There will come a time when I can explain in greater detail what started to happen a few years ago, when every sign pointed to tremendous danger coming up in my life and all my escape attempts failed spectacularly. That time isn’t now, but to repeat the gist of it all, I put my trust in the wrong person and got burned badly, not just emotionally and psychologically, but professionally as well. The sixteen months of utter hell I subsequently went through left a lot of wounds that I’m still recovering from, some of which are more tangible than others.

Earlier this month, though, I began to realize that I hadn’t really recovered from some of the intangible effects of that time in my life and what led to it. I’d been invited to a late Halloween party at a friend’s house, the kind of party I hadn’t been to since before my trust got shattered. I was really looking forward to going, but then, at the last minute, I became paralyzed with fear, and I mean that literally. I was sitting on the edge of my bed, thinking about the trust issues I’d been put through when everything went wrong for me a couple of years ago, and I could not make myself stand up. It was one of the scarier experiences I’ve been through lately, and although it’s over now, I just don’t see myself being social again for quite some time, at least not like I’d been hoping to that eveing.

I feel really bad about that, because even though I’ve made friends who have given me no reason to distrust them, I’m still experiencing aftershocks from that really bad period. It doesn’t help that so much of what went wrong there has never been resolved, but I can’t really say more about that, at least for now. Still,  it’s become clear this past month that these unresolved problems are creating a huge block for me, and as a result, I’m not giving my friends the trust that I should, which just makes me feel even worse about this whole thing because I know I’m not being fair to my friends.

Every year, as I’m writing this anniversary journal entry, I remember the circumstances under which I left my previous websites and started the .org, and the stupid decisions I made back then and the people I hurt because of my actions. Thirteen years later, some have forgiven me, but some haven’t been able to. (All this time later, I still get hate mail about that time of my life.) Forgiveness is a noble ideal, but for some people it is, sadly, impractical to expect. I’ve tried to seek forgiveness for the mistakes I’ve made in my past, but where that hasn’t been possible, I’ve tried to move on. Likewise, when I’ve been wronged, I try to put it behind me as best as I can and get on with my life. Between my teaching and my writing, I’ve certainly got enough stuff to handle without dwelling on the past.

In this case, though, I haven’t been able to move on. Having that manifest in my inability to trust my friends would be bad enough on its own, but as I’ve tried to work things out this past month, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t moved on from all the bad stuff that happened two to three years ago. It doesn’t help that I’m still recovering from the damage that was done to my life then, and that I’ve been mostly unable to talk about what happened, even with close friends, because of extenuating circumstances.

Basically, all those thoughts, combined with working so hard (likely too hard) on my writing these past couple of months, kind of caught up with me on Tuesday night. It isn’t that I haven’t been productive these past four days, but I certainly haven’t been as productive as I would have liked, and now I’m having to rush to get this .journal entry up by midnight to keep up with tradition. Needless to say, getting this posted by my self-imposed deadline is among the least of my immediate problems.

I’ve reached out to my friends to see if some of them can help me, but right now — especially right now — I’m feeling kind of tender, and finding the right person, with whom I can spill all the details that I can’t share with anyone else, is going to be difficult. Looking back, this is probably something I should have handled several months ago. I can’t change the past, though, just like I can’t go back and undo all the stupid things I’ve done in my life. What I need right now is to find the right friend to help me through this bad patch, then get back on my feet and get back to bring productive. I’ll try to keep working in the meantime, but that hasn’t been so easy these past few days.

Maybe next year I’ll have happier news to report. Right now, all I want to do is get this up and try to get back to all that other stuff I was hoping to accomplish over my long weekend. As difficult as it is, I have to keep working.

Everyone take care and be well. I will see you all soon.

— Sean

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