While at work last night I let my mind wander as much as I could. There is a question posed in Covey’s books which has often stopped me in my tracks without an answer. If you could do one thing that would have a dramatic impact on your personal and professional life, what would it be? I’ve wrestled with the question lots of times and have come up with blanks, or if I did get an answer it was different than a previous thought and thus cancelling themselves out. Last night while on the edge bander, catching boards and stacking them up I ran over a list of things to do the next day. I blocked the time in my mind, when to get up, go to the gym, catch the bus to a restaurant and apply for a job, back home and cook food for the night, and when I had went over the day several times in my mind I said to myself “okay… now just do it!” Then it struck me that this was the answer to my question. The one thing that I could do that would have a dramatic impact on my personal and professional life was to do the tasks that I had set in advance. It is easy for me to forget to check my list of things to do in the morning and when the day is over I remember and utter a Homer Simpson type “doh!”. A couple years ago I was talking to my dad about the difficulty of working nights and going to school during the day. He said that nights were tough because they tended to steal your days from you. This is true. You get home at very late hours (varying from night to night) and sometimes you are too wound up to sleep and you need to “come down” a bit before going to bed. And so your usual bedtime doesn’t get settled, and before you know it you start sleeping later in the day to try and get a decent night’s sleep. When you do this you sacrifice the day. It is easy for people who work nights to have no life other than work, sleep, and some time sitting at home waiting to either wake up or get sleepy.
Holding true to form, today was no exception. I had planned on getting up at 10 am. That would have given me six hours of sleep. Yet the time that I had planned on getting into bed was the time that we were almost finished cleaning up our work area. I was later than usual in getting home. I pushed the alarm back a bit, I had no desire to work on four hours sleep. Up and out the door in 20 minutes I was off to the gym. I checked in and realized that I had forgotten my workout towel. I didn’t have $3 for another one so I walked back home to get it. When I was at home it was a powerful force keeping here. The day was grey and begged for reading, I had already started the day late, and I had to come all the way back home anyway. Chalk it up to fate and brew some coffee! This is what was running through my mind. But I just kept my feet moving, didn’t bother to stop and give myself time to consider it. Before I knew it I was back outside, halfway to the gym.
At the gym I noticed that they had installed several new machines. I was greatly disheartened by the loss of muscle strength. Checking my poundages against past poundages I note that I’ve regressed quite a lot. The final heavy set to failure on the chest press was not much more than my warm-up back in the spring. Now I really felt like going home. I felt a range of emotions to frustration, embarrassment, disbelief, and the troops were close to retreating. Okay, time to rally them to the flag. I sounded the horns and raised the banner on a hill and all the troops circled it. I concentrated on form, on feeling the muscles, on doing things the right way. The only thing that changed was muscle mass and strength, afterall. I did a light workout, because it is my first in months and my protein intake has been very poor and isn’t likely to increase by much anytime soon.
Last night at work the guy I work with made a comment to me. There is an emergency switch which kills the machine and the cart I was loading boards on hit the switch. When explaining what happened to the line supervisor (who was in a good mood) he made the comment “numb nuts over there hit the kill switch”. My temper flared instantly. I had a whole flash of things come to mind but I held them all in check. He is young and has an odd personality, and he’s undergoing some stress in home/financial matters as well. I said that it wasn’t me, it was the cart, that with the guard on the switch it was a freak accident. The rest of the night I was in a very foul mood. I wanted to rip into him so much it was consuming me. I am a jolly person most everywhere I go. I sing songs, do little tap dances, tell jokes and am generally happy. The effect of this is that sometimes people mistake this for the behavior of someone who takes shit from people. I don’t take shit. In the Marines this was a big obstacle for me to overcome (because I hadn’t learned other leadership traits as well) and so to compensate for this I thought that if I showed another side of me, a dangerous and angry side, that the notion of me being a happy go lucky pushover would die out. I threw some big tantrums! Once while plugging up to a jet I noticed that the comm didn’t work. It was the headset, we were always having to work on them and get odd combinations of wires for the headset to work with the pilot’s headset. The notion of seriousness, respectablity, competence, were so intwined with a show of anger that I ripped off my headset, turned, and threw it against a nearby bomb-blast wall (it was in Thailand and walls were constructed between jets incase one was bombed maybe others would survive). At that instant I realized the stupidity of my actions. Later I went to the pilot and apologized to him for my conduct. Anyone who has worked on jets knows the supreme importance given to FOD (Foreign Object Damage, any small object which can enter the intake and totally ruin an engine). Want to mess up a jet? Throw a handful of pennies into the intake. Done. I had in my ignorance and rashness jeopardized an expensive engine. The rashness in me wanted to put the fear of god into my co-worker last night. But I decided not to. At the end of the night when it came time to go home, he asked if he was giving me a ride home. He’s been giving me a ride home every night now. I said that I was walking tonight. I told him that I might stop by a friend’s house because he seemed not angry, but like I called him a name. I had two reasons for not getting a ride. The first was that I didn’t want any sort of feeling of me owing him anything to continue to develop in his mind and more outbursts like the one he did occur again. I don’t know if I could control my temper too many more times. But another, and actually bigger reason was the story.
The night before I had been tempted to walk home but I decided against it. Then walking to work afterward I had more ideas. So I wanted to walk home in the dark and in the quiet to give myself time to calm down from work and to think a bit. I wanted to think about the story. The story is a fantasy story, true, but for me it is only the setting for exploration of various themes. When I first started on the story I had in the back of my mind the notion of an ecological theme. But the idea of the typical elves are in harmony with the earth and save the forest from the dragon, while it might be a nice little fairy tale, to me seems utterly useless as a novel. I wanted to explore some of the human elements in the story. I wanted personalities, struggle, contradiction, complexity. I want my villains to stop for a moment to enjoy “the smell of napalm in the morning” and heroes to feel angry. I am not interested in the world of gods, each with his/her own sphere of influence, where Hades hordes the dead and Aphrodite is the goddess of love. I want to add each of the gods to each character, a little of them all. There are just so many magic swords or towers and dragons and magicians one can write about in fantasy after all. But I didn’t have my direction for my theme. And the book was taking off in different directions and I needed something to tie it all together (or begin to) and I still thought that it might be an ecological theme. Yet how? But while walking home last night… it came to me. It didn’t come fully and all worked out… but I got a notion of a direction and it seems wickedly fun and interesting! If I could write this out as it is in my mind it would definitely be unique among fantasy novels (and possibly other genres also).
I remembered Beethoven while walking home. It was inspirational. In 9th grade my English class had creative writing where we’d write anything for the first ten minutes of class. Lots of students wrote letters, gossip, journals, poetry. I wrote a story. It was Miami Mice, a take on the series Miami Vice (which I loved) but everyone was an animal. The teacher told me I had a good imagination. Funny, my mom (biological) always told me this as a kid. When I was in college at UAM taking a freshman comp class we had creative writing exercises. My prof told me that I had a good imagination. My friend from childhood, an english major, told me that I had good style. I think that I’ve lost a lot of that earlier natural style. But at the time I thought that I was severely lacking in depth.
While walking home I remembered Beethoven and his struggles and pains and the supreme beauty he reflected in his music. I needed my experiences to help me gain depth.