Planning for what’s next

maze with walls and grass on the ground

I love to plan. There, I’ve said it. Planning is probably one of my favorite things to do, and as a matter of fact, it’s also what I do for a living. Somebody out there actually pays me to plan how stuff should happen, when it should happen, and what should result from all that activity.

Fun! … Provided people actually do what I tell them to 😉

Of course, with planning comes the need for discipline. It’s easy to get waylaid and distracted by “shiny” ideas that seem so wonderful, but aren’t actually doable. It’s easy to get pulled off course and overlook things. It’s also easy to over-reach and come up with all manner of tangential activities that don’t actually help me get where I’m going.

I’m in the midst of planning new things for myself, these days. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m pretty happy with and stoked about, and I’m planning out the steps for each. It’s a big undertaking, this master plan of mine, and there are a lot of moving parts (so to speak). So, I have to be thoughtful and deliberate about each piece of it, put it all together carefully, and not let my mind wander off into “wouldn’t it be nice? land”. I have to keep focused. I have to keep from getting sucked into the odd / various / sundry vortex that feels like fun at the time (hello… Twitter & Facebook) but ultimately takes away my most valuable resources : time and attention and energy.

Gotta keep focused. Gotta keep on track. And I have to not expend a lot of energy on things that don’t move me towards my goal, because I’ve been living too long doing other people’s bidding and not getting to fashion my life the way I want it to be fashioned.

Wouldn’t that be nice…

Actually, I’ve gotten some ideas for how I can remake my work-work situation into something more suited to me. I’ve been a huge fan of a certain business philosophy for over 12 years, now, and I’ve been talking it up at work, because it really explains our current situation well. It explains a lot of situations well. And I’d love to really dig into it and share more at work. Make some videos. Create some lectures. Introduce people to it and put together case studies that people can read and use in their day-to-day.

That’s another thing I need to keep focused about. On top of the things I do for myself. And it’s a way for me to be extra engaged — and develop a following — at work. Ha ha! Part of this is so hilarious. I’ve been detesting my job for quite some time. I’ll freely admit, I’ve been looking forward to leaving, almost since the day I started. It’s a miserable place for an Autist like me to work, and I’m constantly being asked to do things that are so painful and awkward for me. When the whole BAM (Big-Ass Merger) happened, it was even worse, because there was all kinds of churn and drama and insecurity and anxiety and whatnot, on both sides of the merged companies. And a lot of people didn’t behave nicely.

But something really interesting has happened, along the way. As it turns out, people really love me. Especially at the new company that’s the dominant one in the BAM. I’ve been making regular trips out there (just got back from one which was just incredibly painful and taxing and depleting in an Autistic sense, but was ever so productive in every other sense, so I can’t complain about every aspect of it). Over the past few years, I’ve built up a fair amount of “social capital” with some important people. Not people at the top, who are so busy fighting with each other that they barely notice my existence… but the people directly beneath them, who need good connections and alliances and know I can be of help and service to them.

I apparently also have a reputation for telling the truth (though always in a spirit of love and compassion with the common good in mind). So that sets me apart. And it makes people value my feedback, because I won’t sugar coat it. But I’m not mean-spirited about it, either. I just tell people what I think, based on many, many years of experience, as well as an eye to what actually makes sense, logically.

That’s a rare commodity, so people value it. And as a result, my “social capital” has increased. And as certain people seek me out, others follow suit. And before I know it, I’ve got friends and allies in all kinds of places. I’m a trusted advisor of sorts. And I have good “dirt” (okay, let’s just call it what it is — gossip), that helps people put their situation in context. I don’t trash people behind their backs. I don’t need to. Their behavior speaks for itself. I know how to be diplomatic and say things in ways that other people really get what miserable, vindictive bastards others are being… and I don’t need to say a thing negative about them, for that to all come across.

And the really hilarious thing is that I’ve felt little to no connection to this job for years. I’ve been looking forward to the prospect of getting laid off, in fact. Hoping for a severance package. Hoping to get a few extra dollars to float me till I can move on to what’s next. Because with me and my super-duper-Autistic “career path” (if you can call careening from one opportunity to another a “career path”), it’s always about what comes next.

‘Cause I can rarely stick around long enough in neurotypically slanted circumstances for more than 3-4 years (at most). The vast majority of my “gigs” have been under 2 years. Some of them under a year. Many of them only a few months. It’s easy to do that when you’re contracting, which is my preferred mode. Of course, over the past years, I’ve had to  provide for an increasingly physically disabled spouse whose anxiety triggers in a massive way, every time I change jobs, and makes both our lives all that much more … interesting. So, I’ve stayed put. And it looks like I’ll need to do just that for the foreseeable future.

Okay, where was I …? Oh yeah – planning.

Anyway, I’m planning out my next steps, finding ways that I can balance my own projects with my work-work projects, keeping it all fresh and interesting along the way. I’m a bit of a folk hero / rock star at work (yep, I’ll happily own it, too). And I’m gonna ride that positive wave as long as I can. There are things I absolutely positively need to do, to fulfill myself. And there are things I absolutely positively need to do, to keep my job — and keep it interesting.

So, that’s what I’m doing today… Planning things out, making little incremental steps along the way, and actually making some progress.

Woot.

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Short-Form, Long-Shot – When the usual path to literary greatness is… cut off

Minoan bull leaping - three humans jumping over a charging bullI’m dictating this as I drive in my car, on my way to buy supper that I have to cook at 7:03 PM.

I stayed in bed too long after my afternoon nap between 4:15 and 6 o’clock, because frankly lying in bed under heavy warm covers, reading through Twitter, finding what’s there, discovering which voices are saying what about their lives, is about the most pleasurable thing in my life, these days.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty – and I say plenty – of enjoyable experiences in my day. My life is never without them. But lying in bed, idling away, my mind afire with ideas from people who think on purpose, in a warm, weighted space is about the closest thing to bliss I can imagine, these days.

And reading the words of others, I think about my own voice. I think about my people. I think about all the Autistics I know and have known, and I think about what we bring to the world. Everybody knows what we bring, but very few people know that we’re the ones who bring it. And they certainly don’t know how we do it or why we do it. There’s no point in trying to explain. They think they have this Autism business all figured out. Some assholes with influence and power have decided it for society at large, and who are any of us to question that?

And I think about this writing. “Blogging” they call it. Makes it sound so simple. Makes it sounds so trite. An exercising in ego. Just a few words barfed out on the screen, in the hope that anybody’s listening… regardless of whether anybody cares.   Ego-casting. Vanity. That’s how it’s often been seen, and sometimes we earn that reputation.

But still… it seems unfair.

The blogging medium has been mine for almost as long as it’s existed. I knew, right away, how powerful it could be. I’ve turned friends on to the practice, and some of them have become extremely successful at it, gaining followers and fans, professional connections and book contracts and staff positions as writers with publishers like Conde Nast. Pretty sweet. It’s way more than I’ve ever been able to accomplish, but I like to think my input made a difference.

Most of the time, that’s about the best I can ask for, anyway.

As for me, I just don’t have the energy to do much more than I already do. I don’t have a working partner to support me as I pursue my dreams. I don’t have a life that lets me spend hours and hours on refining my craft. And I certainly don’t have hours and hours to spend reading the words of others, as much as I’d like to. People put down the short-form reading and writing that abounds these days, but it seems to me that some of us can’t afford anything other than short-form.

We don’t have the time, we don’t have the money that makes that sort of leisure possible. You know — the stuff the people used to just take for granted – cozying up with a long book on grey, rainy day, sinking into it for hours at a time, becoming one with the material, being one with the story, feeling as though the author has crept into your cells and reconfigured them from the inside out. Who has the luxury of that, these days?

If you’re not chronically ill and trying to hold down a full-time job while you support your disabled, dependent spouse and keep your house in order, yeah, I suppose you would. If you don’t end up exhausting yourself jumping the horns of the 9-to-5 bulls in the Minoan circus ring of modern day society, yeah I suppose you might. If you don’t completely destroy any semblance of functionality in the course of just getting by on neurotypical terms, day in and day out, yeah I can see how that would be possible.

But me? Nope. That’s not the world I live in. And that’s not what’s possible.

So, I blog. I read blogs. I follow links on Twitter and I see what’s there, preferably something that’s a little bit longer than a 20 minute read, but not too much longer, because I have stuff to do. And I have to get it done, because nobody else is going to do it for me. I really don’t feel like dying.

It’s really easy to die when you’re Autistic. It’s really easy to just lose it. I lose it regularly. I usually can get it back, but it comes at a cost. It takes hours, days, weeks, sometimes months to get it back.  Yeah, I can totally right myself again. But not like other people think I can. And that like I wish I could.

It’s taken me, what — 35 years? — to figure it out. I’ll say 35 because it sounds nice and it digits out to eight, which is the signifier of eternity for me, which is what pretty much everything feels like to be, half the time. Eternity. Infinity. Endless possibilities, with no end in sight… fortunately… unfortunately.

And as I pull into the supermarket parking lot, I’m happy. Because it only took me 13 minutes to get here, there was no traffic, the light rain is keeping people off the roads but not making my life that much more difficult to navigate, and I know exactly when I’m getting when I walk in the grocery store. I wish to God I had the time and the energy to write more.

But I don’t.

So I won’t.

at last – my cup of really good, really strong coffee

overhead view of cup of coffee beside laptop keyboard on a wooden tableI spent the past four days on a visit with my parents. I didn’t spend the entire time with them, because my partner and I didn’t meet up with them till late afternoon on Friday, and then we had the weekend with them, and they drove home early yesterday morning.

So, all in all, I had about 67 hours with them, with additional time tacked on, before and after to prepare… and then decompress.

It’s a lot to take in. My parents are very much on the Autism Spectrum, and that means they’re alternately delightful and exasperating when it comes to interacting with them from my corner of the Spectrum. They have their ways of doing things, which are (of course, to them) the Only Right Way To Do Things. And everyone who doesn’t do things that way — especially if it’s us kids — is Wrong and Must Be Corrected.

So, I spend a lot of time around my parents on the defensive, never sure what I can or cannot say, because they’re so enthusiastic about promoting and defending their Proper Way Of Doing Things — and punishing everyone who doesn’t comply.

Ugh, it’s exhausting. I love my parents, and we’re getting along better than we ever have in my 52-year relationship with them, but it takes so much out of me.

Plus, when I’m around them, I can’t do my regular routine. They’re so locked into their way of doing things, they have to constantly hijack me to get me on their schedule. And their pace is grueling and break-neck — always going at top speed, always with the brain dumps about their special interests, always talking, talking, talking… which is utterly exhausting when I’m tired and non-verbal. The more tired I am, the more non-verbal I become, so you get the idea…

Now that’s over. My parents went home yesterday morning, and my partner and I had the day to decompress yesterday. The weather was amazing. I actually got to walk the beach and explore at my own pace. And there was no pressure to stick with my parents’ schedule, because their anxiety won’t let them do anything different.

We got to decompress. I got to relax. I had to do a conference call for work, yesterday afternoon, but that was fine, because it was familiar and got me out of my head.

And today, I woke up in my own bed, I got to have my exercise — first thing — I’ve had my breakfast… and now I get to drink my half mug of extremely strong coffee.

Everything’s getting back on track, and that’s a very good thing, indeed.

 

Or, I could just do what I’ve always wanted to do

open book with fairy dust on a messy backgroundAs it turns out, it really doesn’t make sense for me to go back to school, at this point. I looked at the numbers for how much it’s going to cost me, and I checked around to see what other people’s experience has been like with the program I chose. Reports are mixed. Some people love it, some hate it. Being totally realistic, when I think about my time commitments, my money situation, and the general trajectory of my life, if this is gonna be expensive and time-consuming, going back to school is definitely not at the top of the list.

I tend to think about restructuring my life on a semi-regular basis, especially when I am tired and overworked. I end up charting a whole new big course for my life, forgetting about the things I already have happening. And I lose the plot of my life. I’ve been feeling like that’s been happening a lot, lately. Losing the plot, forgetting what my priorities really are, overlooking the things that I love and that mean so much to me, and just getting caught up in distractions.

So, while I like the idea of having a degree, finally, unless it is absolutely, positively critical for me, and it’s fast-tracked and not expensive, it doesn’t make sense for me to sink the time, energy, and money into that whole endeavor.

So, back to my original programming. Focus on my writing, focus on my day-to-day life, my responsibilities, my obligations, and do my best by them, instead of getting wrapped up in a change that I’m somehow convinced is going to dramatically alter the course of my life.

I really have to stay fluid with this. Everything feels like it’s shifting and changing around me, and I need to not lose the plot on my writing. I’ve become increasingly concerned with the end-game I’m caught up in right now. Getting a degree for the sake of professional advancement doesn’t necessarily make sense, if I’m going to age out of the 9-to-5 workforce in 10-20 years. My age is a factor where I work, and people my age are usually shown the door before too long. Early retirement… I’ll be eligible in less than 5 years, which seems just so bizarre to me. If that happens – and I sincerely hope it will – that means I’ll get severance pay, and that’ll be a bit of a buffer to float me. It probably won’t cover me for long, but it will be something. And that is what I am holding out for.

So, yeah… end-game. Not in terms of the end of my life, but in terms of the end of my standard-issue mainstreamed life. I own a house with a mortgage that will be paid off in less than 12 years. After that, my need to make boucoup bucks will decrease dramatically. I’m also setting myself up for greater self-sufficiency — getting a plot in a community garden, setting up my own home for greater energy efficiency, streamlining just about everything I can manage, buying big-ticket items now, while I can still afford them, and generally cutting down on my dependency on whatever I can — especially the expensive shit.

As for income, ideally, I’ll be self-supporting via my writing, in another 12 years. It may sound like a stretch, but I need to get my act together with this, do the work I need to do in order to write the best work I can and really contribute. For all my complaining about the need to promote myself, that’s just a part of the whole for anyone who wants to be self-sustaining. I just need to find the proper tools to get myself some exposure and connect with people who actually want to read my work.

Get my Patreon refined. Actually make that a thing.

And put my energy into that, rather than getting a degree which I may or may not need, in the grand scheme of things.

If I need it, and it’s easy and doesn’t wreck my life, I’ll go for that degree. But quite frankly, I’ve been dancing around getting my writing out there for quite some time. Fits and starts. Fits and starts. And it’s getting a little old.

So, time to turn my prodigious focus to the task of figuring out this writing business, figuring out how I can get some income coming in about it. There are a lot of micropayment options out there, and if I build up enough of a following, that could sustain me, most likely. It’s just a matter of connecting with people who can and will contribute — complete the circle of creation, to keep it going.

Well, we’ll see how it turns out. Always an adventure.