Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #9 (The Performance Anxiety Version)


So, despite the rumors you may have heard in the back alleys of Internet society, I’m a basically decent human being. (No really, I’ll take a blood test. Sign me up!) And, as such, I possess the lovely human quality of being able to get far too stressed out about things that may or may not matter in the end. (Well, some humans possess this quality. During my down time from worrying about things, I have run into some people who never worry about anything. I am envious of these people. How are you able to be this way? Do you avoid processed foods? Did it involve surgery of some kind?)

Still, many esteemed psychologists (and by “many”, I mean “I can’t really name any right now because I’m just making things up in order to move this post along”) say that you should talk about your fears in a comfortable group setting. Okay, fine. But since I generally am not comfortable in group settings involving anyone other than me, I’ll have to go to Plan B, which means redirecting my emotions into a keyboard and then clicking on a “submit” button.

In other words: Different day, same drama, same keyboard.

And here we go…

ONE. The elections that are happening in 8 days in America.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you are most likely aware of my political and social leanings. (Unless you’re one of those folks who scroll through your feed and click “like” on everything in a misguided attempt to achieve numbers instead of true interaction, never actually reading anything or even visiting the site.) There are so many things I could say about the cluster-truck that has been this election cycle, but I’ll limit it to this (admittedly recycled) bit:

I am stunned by the sheer number of Americans who are planning to vote based on hatred, racism, xenophobia, sexism, willful ignorance, and an apparent incident in your childhood that presumably eviscerated any chance of you becoming a mature and responsible adult. Maybe you should be the one taking a blood test to see if there’s a drop of humanity in you.

Okay, that felt good. And I promise that’s the last of the really-serious soapboxing in this edition, for those of you who are a bit clenched right now and just want me to get to the funny.

TWO. NaNoWriMo.

Many of you writers out there know about National Novel Writing Month, an annual event that runs throughout the month of November, a challenge wherein participants try to achieve the lofty goal of producing 50,000 words for their latest work-in-progress. (If you pause to think about it, this is a concept based in madness. That’s a hell of a lot of words, considering writer’s block, the limited number of hours in the day, convincing other family members to leave you alone, and the need for things like food and personal hygiene.)

But the whole experience is also a rush, if you can hold on for the entire ride. 50,000 words is half the length of a robust novella and a third of a decent-sized novel, so it’s thrilling to amass that much story in thirty days. As many authors will tell you, the hardest part in writing a book is getting the story far enough that it begins to feed itself. Once you hit that point, things become easier, and NaNoWriMo is one of the tools that can help you get there.

Now, there are some naysayers (and it’s valid naysaying) that forcing yourself to focus on a word count can distract you from quality. And that’s fair. But it’s really part of the process with NaNoWriMo. Abandon your anal-retentive need to get it right the first time, and just let all your random thoughts flow into the keyboard. Run with it. You will end up with a lot of crap that just has to be excised later, but you’ll also trip over a wild, promising seed that you wouldn’t have noticed if you were carefully cultivating your garden instead of letting things grow naturally.

THREE. What do people in India really think about me?

Not that you asked, but the stats for my blog reveal the following demographics about the country-of-origin for interaction: People in the USA hit me up the most. (No surprise.) People in the UK are just behind that. (Again with the no surprise.) Third place, Australia. (And here is where I should point out that gaining the trust of an Australian blogger is a good thing, because those folks can become your staunchest supporters. I don’t know what it is, but it’s great. No offense to other countries, I’ve met some wonderful people from everywhere, but Australia tickles my fancy.)

What surprises my fancy? That India is fourth on the list. In one respect, when you consider the math, this shouldn’t be a surprise. There are roughly 74 billion people in that country, and probably 73 billion bloggers. Still, I guess I naively assumed that there would be language and cultural variances that might impede a connection. (And I suppose that shows my ignorance of world dynamics.) In any case, I’m glad that this avenue has opened up, because I’ve found that the Indian bloggers I follow are, for the most part, very spiritual in nature. (And I don’t mean this from a religious perspective, although there is some of that.) The writing is just very reflective and respectful and thought-provoking, something you don’t always find with American bloggers who are sometimes so jaded that their point is lost amidst all the noise and hollering.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if my connections in India are here because they like my writing or they are just really friendly people who support everyone even if they are jaded Americans who holler.

FOUR. The rollercoaster of retirement.

Retirement is different for everyone, but many folks follow this path (at least in America): You save up enough money in your 401k, IRA and pension plans that when you walk out the door you can chunk all that capital into decent investments and then hope you can live off the base and the potential profits. The key words here are “hope” and “potential”, since your livelihood is basically tied to the financial markets. If Wall Street has enough really bad days, you can go from the prospect of a modest but viable monthly stipend to suddenly being shoved back into the work world, sobbing and rending your hair.

This situation sucks mightily. Of course, “financial planners” will tell you that you just need to ride it out, there are highs and lows but the markets always eventually trend higher. The thing is, I want that market to trend higher during the part of my life when I am still cognizant and mobile, not in my declining years when I’m in the Beaver Valley Home for the Wretched and Incontinent, confusing the one niece who still bothers to visit me with the physical therapist who annoys me with his insistence that I get out of bed every few days or so.

Something to ponder: I can remember being a wee bairn in the early 70s and garnering 5% annual interest on my tiny little savings account that I initially opened with ten dollars in quarters. (There was a promotional thing, wherein the bank gave the tykes a fold-out pig (for “piggy bank”) wherein you could insert quarters in little slots until you satiated the pig, and then you were an official banking customer, even if you couldn’t drive or otherwise make responsible decisions.)

5% annual interest. On a savings account. It’s unheard of these days. The current average is .01%. If I could still get a 5% return on my savings and accrued pension, I could live comfortably until they finally invent that magic pill that allows us to live forever. And then I could keep going.

That right there is one of the fundamental flaws in America with not just banking but the whole concept of retirement. If I have dutifully saved for decades, I should be secure in my retirement and not dependent on the whims of Wall Street. When are we going to get away from Big Business ruling everything in our lives? Oh, right, that would mean we have to start electing people who aren’t lobbyists for Big Business. Can you hear me now? Your pocketbook surely does.

FIVE. The sunset.

Since I’ve broached the subject of my eventual internment in Beaver Valley, I couldn’t help but reflect on a few things. Granted, as long as I make at least minimal attempts at living a somewhat healthy lifestyle, I should be good for a couple more decades, maybe three, if I can remember to take my daily vitamin supplements on an actual daily basis. Still, you never know, and I’d like to end this post with a few queries that we should all be asking ourselves.

Did I do the right thing more often than I didn’t?

Did I go to the places that I’ve always wanted to go?

Did I learn to not care about what other people think?

Did I seize the day?

Did I make sure that the people I love understand that I love them?




30 replies »

  1. Four is resonating with me at the moment. I’m starting to slightly hyperventilate when I think about the fact that I resigned from a perfectly good paying job in order to be mentally healthy – what was I thinking, I should have just gone crazy and kept the money!

    For me the most important being: “Did I make sure that the people I love understand that I love them?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know all about that hyperventilating. I retired for mental health as well, along with the fact that I was right at that point where I would actually starting losing money in my pension if I kept working. If I had just held on for another five or ten years I would be set and not have these worries, but I was on the verge of a breakdown after decades in a high-stress career. You have to do what’s right for you and try to make it work…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You made me laugh out loud at a few things. FINALLY…somebody explained that NaNoWriMo thing!
    I plan on sleeping (whether consciously or unconsciously) through election day. I think the worst reason I have ever heard for voting for a candidate was “because I think he’s cute.” The idiot who said that? My sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m just happy the election is finally almost here so that I can enjoy t.v. again. I was born not caring what others think. It’s hard enough figuring out what I think. Being relatively new to this whole blogging adventure, a few weeks back I looked up what NaNoWriMo meant since everyone was going on and on about it. I think it sounds like a lot of work…..to do that much work, I need to retire. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m ready for the election to be over as well. I fully understand the importance of the process, but this has been a terribly messy and insane cycle and I’m done. NaNoWriMo can be very invigorating and inspiring, but if you don’t really have the time it’s not worth the stress. Maybe someday?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. #1 & #2 – I agree with you 10,000% on those topics! Especially this part in #1:

    “I am stunned by the sheer number of Americans who are planning to vote based on hatred, racism, xenophobia, sexism, willful ignorance, and an apparent incident in your childhood that presumably eviscerated any chance of you becoming a mature and responsible adult. Maybe you should be the one taking a blood test to see if there’s a drop of humanity in you.”

    It boggles my mind that so many people think that some questionable emails outweigh the issues mentioned above – and now that Anthony’s wiener has dredged up the email (non)issue YET AGAIN, I’m just done. Especially since I already voted. I’m just waiting to see what happens on the morning of the 9th.

    #5: I’m nowhere close to retirement age, but those questions are always on my mind due to near-death experiences and family members with serious health problems.

    Those questions address the things that, in a nutshell, are the most important things.
    Excellent post, yet again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m SO with you on being done with the whole mess. I’ve always been very involved with politics, donating and volunteering, and I’m sure I will continue to do so. But this particular cycle has just been surreal with its madness and, unfortunately, the can of wormy hatred that Trump has ripped open in America is going to have an impact for quite some time. We DO need a revolution in politics, but it’s not the ass-backwardness that Trump envisions.

      And yes, those final five things I listed are things I think about every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I did the Nano thing once, but cheated and wrote non-fiction instead of a novel. Did I care what people thought? No!
    Right now I could use a NaNoEdiMo — a national editing month. I have a draft that’s nagging me to do something with it. But, you know, there are blog posts to write, brownies to bake, a day to seize.
    I love seeing the various countries on my stat page as well. My big thrill was when I gained a fan in Prague. I imagine him dark and swarthy, sitting in a bar with his laptop, giving a throaty, albeit restrained chuckle over my latest post. His name is probably Jakob, or maybe Jan. No, Jakob. He rubs his stubbly chin … thinks deep, philosophical thoughts. He has a troubled soul, my Jakob does, but he is a man of great integrity and superior wit.
    Sorry, what we were talking about?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually thought of cheating this year on NaNoWriMo, by working on a book of short stories rather an actual novel. (That would sort of count, right?) But in the end (or at least as of right now) I’ve decided to fiddle with another one of my travelogues, this one involving a Caribbean cruise. That one has been languishing for too long and I need to get it in the oven before the eggs turn.

      Now, as for Jakob, I think I need to steal him away from you, or at least make some kind of time-share arrangement. I have a lack of swarthy men in my virtual life who are sitting in bars and appreciating what I can do with my fingers (on a keyboard, of course). In fact, I think I should GO to Prague, both as research for another travelogue and to let Jakob know that we are thinking of him. Hang on while a check a few things on Expedia…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a heap of Indian people following me too. I’ve often wondered if it’s just a population ratio thing. It would appear (based on zero research you understand) that blogs and blogging are a big thing there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think part of it is a mathematical issue, but it also appears to be somewhat of a cultural thing, as if they have more respect for the “social contract” of a follow/follow-back situation. If a relationship is established, it’s only proper to honor it, unlike many Americans who will only follow you to get the follow back and then you never hear from them again. My Indian friends check in regularly, and I truly appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nah, just joking. I do have a remarkably small Aussie following compared to other countries. Again, though, with a total population of 27 million you can’t expect too much I suppose (especially when you’ve self identified as someone who’s willing to choose Jersey over home for something as unpatriotic as love).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember the days of the 5% return. I just read something interesting… if I would’ve invested $200 every 6 months since 2000 and bought Nike stock with it, I would have over 30K by now. How’s that for an ass kicker! I wonder if it’s too late to start! I wonder what company is going to flourish for the next 20 years… okay, sorry, a bit of rambling. Probably didn’t contribute too much to the conversation, but maybe I can blame it on the hair dye, 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • It all goes back to the same golden rule, really: start saving as much as you can as soon as you can and just let that mess marinate over time. (Well, except for the hair dye. We shouldn’t let that marinate. Nope.)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Brian, At first I though that NaNoWriMo was something from Mork and Mindy. Thanks for straightening me out on that. John Steinbeck tried to write 3,000 words per day. Not that I would know, but being a prolific writer obviously takes a lot of diligence and dedication. Your childhood savings strategy seems to have paid off so far. It reminds me of my first passbook savings account. Remember how the bank teller would use a machine to print your deposit and new balance into your little passport-sized book?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, the little passport books. It was so exciting getting that thing updated, almost ceremonial in nature. (Now? You have to practically beg for a skimpy receipt and you’re lucky to get that.) I initially carried my passport everywhere with me, until I was gently informed that I was being an idiot waving that thing around and tempting all the neighborhood hooligans to snatch it from me… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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