Stress, Melancholy, and the Deep Dark Hatboy

I’m sitting in a different carpark today, waiting in the warm until it’s time for pipe practice. I don’t want to be here.

I’m trying to tell myself that this chapter of my life – the pipe band, the practice, all of that – is over. I’m pretty sure it’s true. I don’t want to join another band now. I don’t want to go to practice every week or even every other week. I don’t want to have to learn new tunes and deal with the expectations set on me by agreeing to play turnouts and take band reeds and equipment. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m more than content being a noisy mediocre drunk pest at parties and pub crawls. I’m done. It’s too much and I have so many other things in my life now.

That brings me to stress.

At work a few weeks back, we were treated to stress meters to see how we were going. I have no idea what they measured. I took one, because although I was perfectly happy at work (an extra €200 a month would be great though), I was curious what sort of results I would get.

The results were not good.

I don’t know if I’m a naturally tense and stressed person who just bottles it up and denies it. I guess I probably am. I think everyone close to me, when I told them about this, tried as nicely as possible to tell me as much.

I work full-time in my (distant) second language. I live perpetually with a bag of shit that could peel off at any moment. Even when I sleep, I’m aware of that risk. I wake up to vent gas. I have two amazing kids, but kids are hard work. And I have a second job writing and publishing novels.

So yeah, my results were appalling. Like, if the average test result showed a balance of 50-50 on stress and recovery, my score was 98-2 on stress. Not at a single point – and this included two nights of 10+ hours of sleep – in the test period did I actually gain anything. I was in massive loss of reserves the entire time.

Of course the test results stressed me out even more. I’m sure they were skewed, but I’m also sure they were telling me something fairly accurate about the tension I live under.

This threw me into a downward spiral, but it only lasted a day or two. Most of my downward spirals do. And I have a lot of them. Today, sitting at work and thinking about how I had to go and practice with the band this evening, I almost shut down. I didn’t want to do anything. I just sat, locked, getting more and more miserable and unable to function.

In the end I snapped out of it, sort of, and here I am. But I don’t want to be.

And I’m so tired of this shit happening, whether it’s for a good reason or – which also seems to happen – for no reason. I don’t know. I’m just tired.

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21 Responses to Stress, Melancholy, and the Deep Dark Hatboy

  1. dreameling says:

    Shit, dude. I don’t know how exactly to respond to that, but let’s start with the most obvious and superficial point:

    When did you start pipe practice and why? You’re in a band now?

    • stchucky says:

      A month or so ago. We made friends at a Finnish Scottish Society bash, and I agreed to play some pieces with them at the Burns Night this coming weekend.

      That wound up meaning weekly practice sessions (entire Tuesday post-work erased, 1/7 of my whole week), and daily practice at home (which is a big dump of time and effort, every day, or else problems related to skipping practice) to get the new reed and band-standard accessories sounding right.

      The problem is, for me, playing the bagpipes is something I do for fun, a few times a year, at a pub or party for close friends. I play a mediocre set while drunk and it’s a tiny, pointless little joy in my life. And this has turned it back into a regular obligation on top of all the rest.

      The only thing I loved about playing in a band back in Australia, twenty years ago, was the casual pub gigs and the good times. The discipline and the stress is what made it easy for me to leave. And both bands are wonderful groups of folks. It’s not their fault. It’s purely about what I enjoy and what makes me no longer enjoy it.

      • dreameling says:

        Well, seems like you pretty damn definitively already answered the question of what you should do about the band, at least in the long term. And you obviously should not feel at all bad about exiting (although you probably do, because you’re a conscientious person).

        Just between being a tech writer (the work you currently have to do, livelyhood-wise) and being a fiction writer (the work you need and love to do, creatively), you have a full plate.

        You obviously already know this, but it still stands repeating: Don’t do stuff you don’t want to and don’t need to do.

  2. JonathanBloom says:

    Without pouring any obligations on you of any sort, we’re still due a Ready Player One evening. I’ll be free after Friday for the foreseeable future, and you’re always welcome here to take it easy. Even if you’re not feeling like a film, I’d be more than happy to hang out if you want to vent.

  3. brknwntr says:

    We’ve discussed in the past that the stuff I do for relaxation isn’t your cup of tea. It’s a good joke, and mostly true. But I do enjoy XC skiing, and I am ALWAYS down for a forest stroke in the summer. I can talk at the same time, but I usually enjoy silence when im out doors. So whatever floats your boat. Mrs. Brkn and I would be happy to do more child borrowing too. I desperately need an excuse to go to trampoline parks and swimming halls.

  4. aaronthepatriot says:

    Wow. Thank you for this open, honest, and devastating blog entry. I feel privileged to know so much about the real you, what’s really going on, vs. the facade people put up so often. I know, anyone can stumble on this blog, I really shouldn’t feel that special, and yet I still do. And I’m terribly sorry to see how you’ve been feeling. I completely understand. We’ve written back and forth about some of this and some that’s not in this, and if anything you’re doing spectacularly well with it all.

    I have very little advice, but some have said that it’s not really the advice people are looking for in these situations anyway, but the understanding, the empathy. And you have that, anytime you want. I stress FOR you, and don’t let that guilt you because I handle stress completely differently. Truly no worries, mate.

    But again I’m terrible with this advice, because I have someone in my life who I think works very much the same as you. I don’t want to describe and classify it because that can get insulting, but generally I mean someone who stresses about many things, and recovers not in the slightest. I have to drag them up the hill of recovery when something good happens. Often that works, but if I don’t do it, the good just passes them by.

    And maybe that’s a first step. It seems trite, but maybe you have to make sure the good doesn’t pass you by. Things are shit, or look like shit, most of the time. That’s all the more reason when something goes right, like your book completion or whatever else, you need to lock on to that and hold it in your head for as long as you can. I hear 10 minutes is a minimum recommendation but I suggest trying to buoy an entire day off of one good thing.

    And don’t minimize the magnitude of the good thing. Good is good. A pleasant report from school, a nice evening with the missus, anything because it’s important to just start this. Most of us tend to focus on the negative, but that is indeed a choice. The truth is, you only have to focus on a negative when there’s something you can DO about it right at that moment. You don’t need to figure it all out at once, ahead of time. Just do NOT think about it until then. If it rears up, smack it down.

    At least, that’s what I do. This is in my next email to you but I’ll just illustrate a positive moment, actually 2, that happened for me. One was the AOC dance twitterstorm. That shit kept me smiling for an entire weekend, and bad shit was happening (always is here, right?) in the country and at home with the sick girl. Another is I saw a Tim Minchin performance on Netflix, and again I was grinning, and singing, and quipping, ALL fucking weekend.

    I know. We can’t all work like that. But we all should try. Think about this world if we all tried to be happy instead of depressed, or hateful and angry like certain groups are. Again I know this is trite and oh-so-easy for me to say. One day I’m going to really think about how I got here from where I was about 10 years ago, and maybe I can produce something of value.

    Because I was drinking every day, and even threatened suicide once because the fucking delivery dinner I ordered wasn’t correct. When my parents were there. That’s a story I didn’t tell you. I have a dark side too. It’s just shoved down so far now that it doesn’t even come out when I’m wasted. As for medical issues, you know I have some over here, and not just 1. I think I’ve told you about the other. There’s news there, too. Can’t believe I haven’t been blabbing about it.

    As for the pipe club, drop that shit like it’s on fire. I was singing FOR MONEY and decided I didn’t have time for that crap, felt very much the same about it as you described. I quit something that was very good pay (we’re talking $50 an hour, almost what I make at my job. Well not almost, but near enough to it to be excellent), because it didn’t appeal to me anymore. I wanted my thursday nights and sunday mornings back, my freedom to plan visits to my parents and vacations back, etc.

    Last thing, it’s great to see all the local friends you have. To you guys, you are awesome. Hatboy is the best man I know, or certainly one of them, and I thank each and every one of you for being there for him. If they don’t read this, please let them know I said it, Hatboy. My only wish is I could be there in person for you, too. After the growing pains I think we’d have some great times. I might even learn to watch corny movies again, as I used to.

    OK that’s enough, I think. Cheers!

    I didn’t reread or edit, this is stream of consciousness. Too much emotion to go back, hope I didn’t err.

    • stchucky says:

      Thank you, once again you absolutely nailed it and I really appreciate this. And I agree, the immediate and massive support I got across platforms and across the globe is … humbling.

      As a follow-up, I am doing much better. Had a good meltdown with Mrs. Hatboy last night, then tonight when I tried to practice my pipes I found they actually have a hole in them! Not only does that mean my miserable failure to get a proper sound out of them with the band wasn’t entirely my fault, but it means I don’t even need to feel bad about missing the gig on Saturday. I’ll do what I can to help out, and will of course get them fixed … but after that, it’s back to lone piping for the fun of it.

      Thanks again, man. Feels good.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Glad to hear it! And yeah, sometimes a meltdown can be useful. Seems to release the bad mojo into the ether or something. Sometimes I feel better after we’ve hashed out an issue and, usually, she’s read me the riot act about my views in some way or other, than I did before. I would say when I turn out to be right that feels good, but I never do. So I don’t expect it. LOL

      • stchucky says:

        But you find out how you were wrong, so that’s important!

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Usually I was “overthinking”. -.-

      • stchucky says:

        You? Sir, you surprise me.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        “You? Sir, you surprise me.”

        You motherfucker. Don’t make me burn this Greyblade I just got 5 minutes ago. It’s cold, there are a lot of pages, and I am an American after all.

      • stchucky says:

        That was fast! I ordered my cover artist’s copy as soon as the link published and I’m still not getting it until Friday!

        Glad it arrived in one piece, even if my smarmy smarmy ways have put it in jeopardy.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Nanny nanny boo boo!

        Oh and Marta says the cover art is AWESOME. Thought I’d share. The 3-D look, the imagery, all of it.

      • stchucky says:

        I really liked it (obviously). I’m very fortunate to have such a talented artist on my poor excuse for a payroll, and if I ever go Goodkind on him I expect those same friends who saved me over the past couple of days to rally around and take turns smacking me upside the head.

      • stchucky says:

        So yes, for the record, you’re the first person in the world (that I know of) to actually hold the finished paperback in your hands. Aside from a couple of dudes in Amazon printing and shipping I guess.

  5. aaronthepatriot says:

    I guess I forgot to explain that I KNOW I’m terrible at this advice because it doesn’t seem to work for that person in my life who is like this. I try and try and can never get them to work differently. Left that out.

    • stchucky says:

      Well, in a lot of cases I guess it’s just a fact of brain chemistry and no amount of pep talking or positive thinking or anything else will really help on a permanent basis.

      But it helped me here and now.

  6. stchucky says:

    At work a few weeks back, we were treated to stress meters to see how we were going. I have no idea what they measured. I took one, because although I was perfectly happy at work (an extra €200 a month would be great though), I was curious what sort of results I would get.

    In a pleasant twist, my small incremental pay-increase-to-match-inflation (which they stopped giving us at Lionbridge around 2008) somehow seems to have wound up being around €200 after tax. Which was really all I wanted.

    For now.

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