Happy Birthday to me: an update that is probably too long and one nobody really needs to hear

I’m writing this on my birthday. I am now 31 years old, young enough to still remain active and be considered “young” by a lot of folks, but old enough that my body constantly reminds me that I am no longer invincible.

It’s been a great birthday so far. I’ve taken the day off from writing. Two fried eggs and a pourover coffee for breakfast, a mango and some leftover stir fry for lunch. Since a little before noon, I have been smoking a rack of spare ribs in my Weber kettle charcoal grill. The weather has been mostly sunny, with a few large clouds that threatened to drop but so rolled on by. The temperature has hovered around 70 degrees F. Initially, I had some difficulty in getting the grill up to temp (supposed to keep within 225-265, aiming at 250 as much as possible), but now I’m over four hours into it and for the majority I’ve been able to keep it steady in the 250s. I’ve been reading the latest issue of The Atlantic and listening to the new Miles Davis collection Dad and Mom got me for my birthday, checking the grill temperature and making adjustments every twenty minutes or so. Today, I feel relaxed and happy.

Writing has been going well the last few months, keeping close to a 1,000 word count per day, often a little more. Last week, anticipating some things that would interrupt my progress, I even scored a couple days with word counts as high as 2,000, which is not usual for me. On the days this week I had prepared for, I even hit 500, making those 2,000 word days work extra for me. I’ve at a cumulative total of around 77,000 on the novel in progress, getting close to my goal of 80,000 for this book. I believe I will either just barely make it or finish a thousand or two over. Edits will almost inevitably lower the final count, but I am happy that I have been able to write fairly well past 70,000, which was close to my previous book. I’ve always wanted to write something between 80k and 100k, and this year I think I will get it, or very close. I know many people have been too distressed lately to accomplish much creatively. I hope not to make anyone feel worse about that. I have certainly have felt that before. Last year especially was very hard for me, emotionally and in other ways, and I didn’t get nearly the amount of work done I wanted, and beating myself up about that further only made problems worse.

In some ways I feel almost guilty sharing good news like this. A lot of people are suffering, and there is serious unrest in our country. I don’t mean to dismiss or make light of any of that. I have very strong political and religious beliefs, but I try to avoid getting into any subject that does not directly relate to something I’m writing or have written. Even so, I usually try to let my stories be stories, and leave analysis to other people who enjoy that kind of thing. However, I want to be clear that I believe that for far too long, many in our country, including myself, have put our hands over our ears whenever any POC voices have tried to express a narrative that seems to contradict our own view of America. My faith compels me to listen to and try to understand these counter-narratives. I urge everyone, no matter what they believe, to venture from their usual echo-chambers and truly to listen. Even if you are very sure of yourself, other people do in fact have reasons for what they believe and feel. And if you are a Christian, as I am, it will do well for you to remember that huge portions of the Bible are harsh words of judgement for those who stand against oppressed and marginalized people, whether in open hostility or in complacency, or in ignorance. Black lives do matter, and if you think that is an exclusionary statement that needs to be corrected by, “No, ALL lives matter!” rather than an emphatic statement identifying with those who feel left out of the freedoms white America enjoys, you have problems understanding the English language that I do not know how to address. It depresses me that it seems just listening to black people has become a partisan issue in America.

To make everything worse, we’re in the midst of a historic pandemic, and nobody really knows what to do about it. I tend to be a very cautious person, and I’m suspicious of the seemingly arbitrary “phases” of economic reopening. However, the dangers of a collapsed economy are also legitimate concerns, and can be deadly or at least debilitating to many. To those friends of mine who, like me, think we should not be so quick to congregate without good reason: remember that we all need to eat, and a dead economy affects everyone, and the poorer among us exponentially so. So far, I have been blessed to be in a somewhat stable financial situation, at least for now, and I do not take that for granted.

I’m not going to say much more on my blog or on social media about stuff like this. Unfortunately, I shy away from posting about broad current events, especially on social media (and I link to all my blog posts on social media). This is not because I do not have opinions or care deeply about issues. It’s because I just don’t have the emotional resources for sustained arguments on these topics, and attempted conversation seems to almost always devolve to hostility when we are divided by our screens. We become different people when we are not face to face, without nonverbal cues and instinctive social/psychological restraints. And stuff on the internet NEVER seems to go away when you need to be done with it.

Really, at least regarding this website, I’m really just here to talk about writing, entertainment, books, the horror genre, Appalachian literature—you get the gist. You might notice I rarely post about any of these things, either. I’m not a very faithful blogger.

I also tend to be resistant to virtue signaling—more often than not, I believe proclamations of our ideas on social media and the like have more to do with self-righteousness than actually trying to create dialogue. Maybe I’m somewhat guilty of that here. I already said that I’m unwilling/unable to engage in debate online anymore due to the amount of stress it causes me. But I am a different, hopefully better, person today because of people I loved who said things that made me consider something in a way I hadn’t before. And besides, despite all my inclinations to the contrary, sometimes I just need to get some things off my chest. I’m sure we can all understand that feeling. I usually regret doing so, because it seems hardly anyone is willing to respectfully consider contradicting opinions (and there is a diverse array of people who see what I post, so no matter what I think about any given thing, it’s going against the beliefs of somebody I know).

Finally, and briefly, there are many more people saying things I agree with much better than I ever could, and I despise shouting uselessly and ineloquently into my own echo chamber.

I also happen to be writing this because it gives me something to do between checking the temperature on those ribs. Boy, do they smell good. Heck, boy does my shirt smell good… So this is an exceptionally personal post, that I almost hope people ignore—part of me thinks nobody really cares what I think, and I’m just filling space. It is true that I’ve needed to write some sort of update for those interested for quite some time. I just didn’t expect that I would indulgently unburden myself of non-writing related ramblings vaguely touching on politics and current events. Well, here we are.

For those of you who are here for the writing—Yep. I’m still doing it. I have a new book coming in February from Bloodshot Books, some new short fiction getting published later this year, a novella that I am currently trying to figure out what to do with, and, as mentioned, a pretty cool novel nearing the end of its first draft.

Time to go check on those ribs. Happy birthday to me.

Edited to add: The ribs were amazing. And as soon as I finished dinner, the storm rolled in.

One thought on “Happy Birthday to me: an update that is probably too long and one nobody really needs to hear

  1. Happy Birthday my friend! Sometimes simple celebrations are best and leave room to breathe. Thanks for sharing your personal reflections about life and the many scary things going on. I agree in not spending a lot of time expounding one’s views on social media. Being that this is a very angry time in the world, there seem to be many people who enjoy starting fights while hiding behind their laptops. This is progressive for zero people and just seems to birth bad will. So, like yourself, I’m sticking to the plan of staying on the original journey of writing and encouraging others. The pandemic alone has led to a lot more violent behavior than I would have expected. Ignoring or denying reality doesn’t seem to be working well for folks in Texas and Florida. Racial issues have always been a problem in America and recent events have amplified it thousand fold making the situation world wide visible. I don’t know the solution to either problem, but opening dialog is a great place to start. Dr. King made a lot of progress using positive methods and it’s obvious the government did not like it at all, or else he might still be alive today. It’s much easier to be violent and destroy things, but the end result is negative. The majority of government in this country is corrupted by people who just want more and more money. In Endicott, a Korean company has been allowed to build a lithium battery incinerator right next to homes and a baseball field. Our new mayor rushed everything through during virtual town meetings and we are not allowed in the municipal buildings because of the pandemic. There was obviously a large amount of kickback cash because suddenly they are repaving the parking lot and there are some really sweet rides parked there now. Meanwhile public streets are still terrible and the main drag looks like a ghost town. It’s definite they don’t care about the “little people” Wishing you another hundred thousand miles that are mostly trouble free and solid progress with your new “epic”

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