Do you ever get that feeling, as though you have allowed your life to run away from you?  Where once, you were organized and in control, and now you live in chaos?  Because that is my life.  And, over the last six months in particular, the chaos of my life has come perilously close to engulfing me on numerous occasions.  This is, of course, my way of explaining why I have done such a poor job at updating my blog. Yes, I know blogs are passe.  And I know that the cool kids are using Tumblr (or whatever.)  I have officially hit that age where I have stopped caring about whatever the coolest new platform is. I’ve been blogging for nigh unto 10 years, dammit. And I may take an extended break, but I’ll always come back.

Rather than do a bunch of blog posts about my life over the last several months, I figured I would try to do a quick overview to get caught up. Enjoy.

If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, you may have noticed that I developed a rather unique hobby about six months ago: fountain pens. In the intervening months, I have expended most of my writing energies on keeping a journal and writing letters to friends and family. I would say that it is a cheap form of therapy, but if you know anything about me, you know that when it comes to my hobbies, I don’t do anything half way. My initial collection of a few hand-turned wooden fountain pens has ballooned into a large collection of pens in a whole variety of price ranges.  I have, as of this last weekend, 48 different inks in stock. I use specialty papers specifically intended for fountain pens that are made in France. So really, this little hobby, while thoroughly engaging for me, has become a rather expensive form of therapy.  That being said, I still love it.  I even started a new blog and YouTube channel at http://penhabit.com

The previous two months have also been plagued by an ongoing health concern.  In early May, I discovered that I had a 5mm kidney stone lodged firmly in my ureter.  The pain from this stone, which was more excruciating than I could possibly put into words, would come and go at random intervals—often leaving me completely unable to function.  The health care experience that resulted from it was a tragedy of errors: misdiagnoses by doctors who spent less than 3 minutes examining me, late night trips to urgent care, urologists who charged me $80 for an office visit to inform me that there was “nothing they could do,” and of course, a health insurance deductible and out-of-pocket maximum that will completely eviscerate my past (and future) savings of the last year.  On the positive side of things, I had a Lithotripsy performed yesterday (Monday the 8th), and three hours afterwards, I finally passed the stones that had been tormenting me for months.  I feel much better now. At least until I get the bill for it.

In June, Andrew and I decided it was time to shut down Open Book Audio…in a manner of speaking.  We stopped accepting outside books for production and distribution. However, while we stopped taking outside projects, we had a pretty substantial backlog of projects that still need to be completed.  So, despite having “shut down” the business, I find that I am still spending a great portion of my evenings working on Open Book Audio.  I have three more books that I have to complete, and a couple more books I have to process for distribution. Then I need to take a month-long break from any Open Book Audio work, because I am so burned out I could weep. Unfortunately, this work isn’t even something I can pass off to someone else. So, while most of the other folks working for OBA finally got to wind down, I’m still going. And going. And going.

I am doing my annual garden at Marymoor Park again this year.  This go around, I decided that I was going to spend a little money and purchase several cubic yards of high-quality compost for my garden.  It was a wise decision.  The extra nutrients in the soil, combined with an early, sunny summer, has caused my garden to simply explode.  Despite having over-planted the plot, I am hauling rather insane amounts of produce out of my garden.  (I, for instance, took 23 zucchini to work for my co-workers today…all of which had been harvested in less than one week’s time.)  As much work as the garden is, I’m glad I do it.  It’s the one thing that I have in my life that lets me get away from my thoughts, my computer screen, and my responsibilities.  I can turn on an audiobook and turn off my brain while I sit in the dirt and pull weeds.  Again, not cheap. But it is good therapy.

Luke the Dog™ has been struggling the last several months.  First, he got a case of mange that caused his fur to fall out on his muzzle.  Once that was resolved, he started exhibiting signs of elbow problems on his front legs.  I could tell he was in a great deal of pain.  The vet had to put him on painkillers and Rimadyl, and that appeared to help quite a bit.  Then, he got another case of his usual summer skin allergies, which caused him to get very itchy and start pulling out large chunks of fur, chew on his skin, develop staph infections, and be all-around miserable.  I had to put him back on a steroid/anti-biotic, and that seems to be winding down a bit.  But because of all of his issues, he hasn’t been able to go swimming very much this summer, which I find to be tragic.  He loves being in the water so much, and I wish he was in better health so he could enjoy the summer before it is over.  (Frankly, I wish that for myself as well.)

Aside from that, my family seems to have been struck by a string of unpleasant / scary / unfortunate events. My brother’s car died. My sister had to put her dog to sleep even though the dog was only 4 years old. My father had to have neck surgery, having two of his vertebrae removed and replaced with cadaver bone and a metal plate (which, I will add, he did five days after running a half marathon.  I’m pretty proud of my papa.)  My mother has acquired a virus (we think) in her ear canal which has caused her to lose most of her hearing in one ear. I had kidney stones. My grandmother is having continuing health problems. My uncle and his wife had their house burn down due to faulty electrical wiring.   All in all, I’m feeling a little emotionally beat up by the last six months.

I turned 35 years old two days ago. It was a low key birthday.  I took myself to a movie (White House Down), and got some yummy food, including some Red Velvet Bread Pudding.  Then I bought myself a new pen and several bottles of ink with my birthday money.  I think my co-workers are planning on taking me out to lunch for a belated birthday lunch later this week.  And I talked to my family on the phone. But that’s about it for the celebrations.

My recent birthday has, as many milestones do, caused me to take stock of my life and evaluate where I am versus where I want to be.  In many ways, I am closer to the life I want to lead than I have ever been.  I have a stable home. I have a good job, working with people I like. I have a great dog, a garden, and neighbors I enjoy. I live in a beautiful place, and I am able to enjoy some of the nicer things in life.  In many respects, I am pretty lucky. But I also find that there are a few aspects of my life that are still sorely out of whack…areas which I need to work on, and will probably need some help to do so. I need some help with spending money. I am still eating in a way that is not sustainable for my health or well-being. And I am still very much alone in the romance/relationship department. 

A month ago, I had a long conversation on the phone with my father.  My dad is one of those people who is just naturally a happy person.  He’s not saccharine or oblivious to the hardship in the world.  He is not simple-minded or obtuse.  He is simply able to look at the world and emphasize the positive while still recognizing, and often overcoming, the negative. Even when things are bad, he is honestly able to answer the question of “How are you doing” with a cheerful “Better than I deserve!” 

I have never been like that. I view the world as a series of problems that need to be solved.  I always have. I look at a situation, and see all the areas where there is work to be done, issues to resolve, and improvement to make.  I examine everything around me with an eagle eye, and I am drawn toward those aspects of my life which need fixing.  In many ways, this way of looking at the world has enabled me to accomplish some pretty spectacular things.  But it has also, I believe, prevented me from ever having been truly happy.  I am, and always have been, a mildly unhappy person. 

I would like to turn this around. I would like to wake up each morning, anxious to greet the day.  I would like to be able to greet my co-workers cheerfully and not feel like I’m putting on an act.  I would like to smile more naturally, laugh more freely, and simply derive more enjoyment from the act of living.  I think that many of the things about myself I don’t like—my money habits, my weight/eating, my loneliness, my lack of a partner—are all things that are being informed heavily by my outlook. Nobody wants to spend time with an Eeyore.  Hell, even I don’t like spending time with people who are always moping about feeling as though the world has done them wrong.

So, I am trying to start a journey to determine how to fundamentally change the makeup of my character, and hopefully, in so doing, find happiness in the life I have while still being driven to improve.

And if you’ve figured out how to do that, let me know…