A Pseudo-Madman Rings in the New Year

Leave it to your ole’ buddy the Madchronicler to write something about the new year two weeks after it started. For those of you that don’t mind my tardiness, Happy 2013! I will make for you the same wish that I made for the entirety of my Facebookverse and Twitterverse two weeks ago today: May you all have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year filled with new experiences, new opportunities and well, just new stuff. Just think, if you were my Facebook friend or my Twitter buddy you’d have gotten that greeting pre-this moment. Am I saying that you should friend me/follow me? Only if you want to. But I’d be happy to have you as a compadre on either. That said…

Believe it or not, my delay in writing about the new year–something I have proverbially done both publicly and privately for as long as I can remember–is not a result of procrastination. I was just discussing this with a friend/vendor of mine. Generally, I approach each new year as a new opportunity. But this year, I’m looking at things a bit differently, which could account for my “meh-ness” about it, too date. You know: “Meh.” As in I’m really just ‘kinda “meh” about 2013.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my own, personal “new stuff” is really cool. Por ejemplo, I’m beginning the new year for the first time as the father of two daughters and not just one. I’m ringing in the new year as a husband of eight years and am entering the twelfth year of my relationship with my wonderful wife which, once upon a time, would have seemed an outlandish boast for me of all people to make.

2013 also marks my eighth year at my current job. Those of you that have been around for a while may remember that my eighth at my former place of employment, CVStress Pharmacy, was also the year that I was promoted to Store Manager. And while I can honestly say that I don’t see a life-altering promotion in my future at my current job, and I’m still two years away from the hypothetical tenure that, per my football and politics loving boss, marks the proverbial point of employment demarcation beyond which I can never lose my job, not even if I curse him out and call him something unsavory. But considering that none of the handful of people that previously occupied my desk lasted more than a few months and I’ve been here almost eight years, I’m doing pretty well. At least I hope I am.

There are other, less monumental firsts that I could include herein but to do so would be excessive. My point? I remain the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face that I’ve been for the better part of the last decade plus, and I should be excited about 2013. I should be looking at it as a time of new opportunity and should not be “meh” about it. Why, pray tell, am I so disinterested in the days, weeks and months ahead?

The answer to that is simple, really: If I were told to describe my life in no more than two words and no less than one on this damp and dreary morning in mid-January on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence I would say “status quo.” Yep. Status quo, defined by the Free Online Dictionary as, “The existing condition or state of affairs.” That’s it. I wonder if those of you reading this are as underwhelmed as I am at that definition.

All together now: “Oooh. Aaah. Smurfy.”

Don’t get me wrong: Status quo pays the bills. It keeps us determinedly moving forward with our lives. But does it lead to sublime happiness? To the fulfillment of dreams? Generally, it does not. Generally, it leads to… well, “an existing condition or state of affairs” and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is not enough for me. It never has been. If you know me, you know that dreams are a big part of who I have always been. That said…

What to do? It’s not fair to me or the people that I care about… hell, even the people that I don’t care about to toil away as little more than a walking, talking head for the next 350 days… as little more than a curmudgeonly prophet of “meh-ness,” even if I am grinning 90% of the time. That’s not how I roll. So how can I break free of this burgeoning state of mind before it becomes all encompassing?

Brace yourselves, because this is the part of this blog entry where I start writing about what I’ve been doing/why I haven’t written a word since a few days post-Christmas. Yes, I’ve been “meh” but despite that, or maybe because of it I have been thinking. A lot. About life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, my own subjective universe and… all together now… everything. I haven’t just been playing picnic with my daughters, reading “A Memory of Light” (Book Fourteen of The Wheel of Time for those of you keeping score) or playing “Final Fantasy Tactics” on our new iPad though admittedly? I have been doing all three. I started by debating a few, potential ideas. I then cross-referenced them with things that make me feel alive. The following list, for better or for worse, is what I came up with…

DISCLAIMER: These are NOT New Year’s Resolutions though they may sound like them. I do not do New Year’s Resolutions. This list is exclusive to me, and it is a road map, potentially showing me how NOT to be a prophet of “meh-ness” in 2013: 

1. Lose Weight: It’s no secret to anybody that knows me that I’m not exactly svelte. I never have been. I’ve been fighting those dastardly, overweight demons since I was a little kid and I’ve never once managed to drop below an above average weight for my height and my age. Said aspect of me has been a point of ridicule in the distant past but lately, it has just been me, as in “he’s Frank. He just is.” Am I satisfied with that? Not entirely. A few years ago I managed to drop 40 pounds and I’ve got to tell you, it felt great (please don’t take that last statement as my auditioning to be the next pitch man for Weight Watchers or “The Biggest Loser”; it wasn’t intended as such and if you could see me right now, you’d understand why).

But in the intervening time since I’ve put the majority of that weight back on. So I could go on a diet and attempt to drop down to my ideal weight–a goal that I missed by only 10, measly pounds back in 2008. It would make my PCP happy and I might be able to get off the High Blood Sugar medicine that I’ve been taking since September of last year. It would also make me feel more alive; more vital.

Will I? Probably. I generally let my post-holiday gorge (otherwise known as me, building up an extra layer of insulation for the forthcoming winter) continue through the Super Bowl and after that, I go on a crash diet. I don’t publicize it. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve even referenced dieting on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman,” version 1.0 or 2.0. I anticipate the same in 2013 but will I manage to reach the goal I fell short of last time and stay there? Only time will tell, I guess. But I’ll do it, if only to be able to keep up with Cara once Spring and Summer roll around. That said…

2. Be a Better Father: Okay, so this one is debatable. I mean, I think–I don’t know for sure, but I think–that I’m already a pretty good one. I have my moments when I doubt myself. The nights that Cara won’t eat her dinner or go to bed without a struggle? I’ll admit that I get visibly frazzled. The times when Natalie won’t stop crying? Yes, I’ve simply put her down in her bouncer, or on her play mat and walked away. That’s what we’re supposed to do as parents, right? Granted, that eminent sage of parenting wisdom Harvey Karp never said so (sarcasm fully intended) but what’s the alternative? Shaken Baby Syndrome? A child that has a complex about being yelled at by the time she turns one? No thank you. I’ll take walking away and taking a few deep breaths over a kid that despises me before she’s old enough to walk. My kids smile a lot and I like that. Smiling is > Bawling.

But still, there is room for improvement. There always is. And save for the third item that I’ll be rambling about shortly, there is nothing in the world that makes me feel more alive than spending time with my girls. So how can I be a better dad? Admittedly (and some reading this might take exception to this), I have modeled my parenting style not after what I read in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” or what Harvey Karp claims is appropriate but after the combined styles of my mother and… yes… my father, otherwise known by many reading this as “The Biological,” “The Deadbeat” and my own personal favorite, “The Sperm Donor.”

My mother is easy: Hard love and hard work; teaching my daughters about responsibility and accountability, even at an early age. She still sets that example for me and my sister too this day and I already use it to a certain extent with Cara. But my father? “The Man I Once Called Dad” as I wrote in a previous blog entry? (linkable HERE in case you’re interested)

Admittedly, he wasn’t really around long enough to have much of an impact on how I parent. “Around” meant every other other weekend for a time and, after a while, every other month, et cetera and et cetera until he became the equivalent of a non-entity in mine and my sister’s life. In truth? The time that we spent with him in the rundown shacks throughout Northern New Jersey that he called “home” in the late 1980’s the early 1990’s, eating off of hotplates and frequenting lower Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry or the subway were, in my opinion, a textbook example of how not to parent. You would never catch me dead taking either of my kids for a leisurely stroll around East Orange, New Jersey, not even on a Sunday morning. I mean no offense to any East Orange-ites reading this but unless something has drastically changed since the mid-1990s you see the truth in my words.

But despite my sometimes disdain for the man and how he eventually turned his back on his biological children–that’s not a misrepresentation, guys, he did; my sister and I turned our backs on him only after he did us–I did learn a few things about being a father from him that I can not deny. The first? Father first, friend second, but be a friend. Share your interests with your children and encourage them to do the same with you. The second? Impress upon your children the importance of and appreciation of unconventional pursuits like literature, art, et cetera and et cetera. As my now-Father in Law–a man whom I respect above most other men in this world and also, to some extent, model my fathering style after–would say, push them to do something productive with their lives that will make them financially viable and stable, but “make sure they have a hobby,” be that hobby painting, singing, reading or…

3. Write, Write, Write:  Admit it: You saw this one coming. How could you not? It’s the thing I talk about the most in these blog entries and it is, in fact, what I’m doing right now. What, you thought I was composing this via some sort of psychic, alien transmission ala “The Tommyknockers?” (holy sh*t; I think I just won the award for “Most Obscure Literary Reference of 2013”) Last year and the year previous it, I vowed to write a book. Not just any book, but the book. The one that I wrote when I was a teenager and an early adult. I successfully achieved that in both 2011 and 2012 but sadly, I was unable to achieve the addendum to it last year: Finish it and get it published. At this moment, “Endworld – A Novel” still sits completed but unpublished on my computer at home. It awaits a final edit; it awaits feedback from the people that I got copies of it too. All these things? If you’re reading this right now you know them. I’m not going to rehash them because quite frankly (no pun intended)? I’m tired of doing so.

I’ve seriously considered just doing it these last few weeks. The software is installed on my computer at home and it is ready to go. Just a drag and drop and a click on “UPLOAD” and wah-lah! “Endworld – A Novel” is self-published on Amazon.com via the Kindle Readers Lending Library.

So why wait? Why procrastinate? Because I told myself that I would not publish it until I was confident that people would be able to read it and enjoy it. Call me a perfectionist… I’ll admit that I am. But I’m not going to take the easy way out. I will not put Frank Marsh’s version of “50 Shades of Gray” where anyone can read it ’cause at this time? That’s really all that it is: An unrefined story. Input breeds refinement, and without it, my novel is no better than a “novel” written by an 18 year old, lovelorn kid that originally conceived of a formulaic cross between “The Wonder Years” and “The Terminator” starring an alt-version of himself, and the woman he pined after at the time. It doesn’t deserve to be published, yet.

I wrote version 1.0 of “Endworld – A Novel” for me. It was my way of coping with the indelible fact that I could not and never would be with the woman I thought, for a time, I was in love with. News flash, guys: I wasn’t. I was, as a wise man once said, “in love with the idea of being in love.” In hindsight, I see that now but then? I was young and stupid. I’d watched “Say Anything” one too many times. What I feel for my wife and my children, now, is real Love with a capital “L.” it’s spiritual. It goes deeper than anything else I’ve ever experienced… ever. What I felt then? I don’t want to say that it was a crush because despite my posturing to the contrary it was something more than that. But the real deal? Nah. No contest. Still, I fabricated a fictional reality–“Endworld”–in which I–William MacNuff–was with her–Maria Markinson. If you didn’t know that before now? Well, there you go. See? I’ve always been slightly mad, even before this blog.

All together now: “Oooh. Aaah. Smurfy.”  

But version 2.0? I wrote that for a different reason. Despite my motivations for writing version 1.0, I always believed that it had a certain something that would appeal to an audience. Something about humanity’s capacity to love, and how it set them apart from their robotic overlords. But I also saw it, even then, as a starting point for something much, much larger: My own Wheel of Time. I wrote what I wrote in 2011 and 2012 with those concepts… those ideas in mind and all indications so far point to the fact that while I’m closer to my goal than I was, I still haven’t achieved the broad appeal that I’m looking for. The “Wow Factor,” if you will. If I revisit William MacNuff’s world in 2013, I will revisit it with an eye towards that. Sadly, that’s a big “if.”

It’s not that I’ve moved on from “Endworld – A Novel.” I haven’t. It would be irresponsible of me to do so after I put so much time and effort in to it. And I love that world. Despite what some have said about it being too reflective of other fictional realities it has a little something in it that is purely me. And do I believe that I will one day publish it? Yes. I do. But I cannot allow myself to remain tied forever to one idea. I have others, you see. Other worlds that I want… that I need to tell you about. Some closer to home than others, actually.

That beginning? While it’s not the beginning it is beginning (thank you, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson). 2013, guys. The year that your ole’ buddy the Madchronicler finally wrote and completed something that wasn’t tied to William MacNuff’s story. That’s my vow. Mark your calendars ’cause I’ll revisit this resolution in a few months. If I’m no closer to writing something else? Well sh*t. Maybe I’m not as much of a writer and storyteller as I always thought myself. I don’t want to be a… cliche alert… one trick pony.

Maybe my “meh-ness” is a product of my hesitance. My incapacity to let go of one idea and embrace one of the many others that I have. Fact is? I know I need to. I wouldn’t be a very good writer if I didn’t, would I? But “Endworld – A Novel” and its subsequent sequels, formerly entitled “The Endworld Chronicle” have been the center of my creative universe for almost 20 years now. Even when I wasn’t actively working on them I was thinking about them… thinking about how I could improve them… grow them… make them more. The expansive outline that I have for Books Two and Three and potentially beyond is the product of that time. Time spent thinking. Time spent revising and re-revising in my mind. Other than my family, is there anything I have thought about as much? No. Not even close.

But there comes a point in every life where one needs to move on, whether from something simple like an idea or something larger like… well, like one’s biological children (that was not a veiled attempt at a dig but rather, a very obvious one). I’m blessed that for me, it is merely an idea. I’m pretty gul’darned happy with everything else from my job to how “A Memory of Light” ended the epic Wheel of Time to how far I’ve progressed in “Final Fantasy Tactics.” I remain as I was x-amount of paragraphs ago: A living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. I’ve been that way for the better part of the last decade plus and that smile? It is widening the more time I spend my my wife… the more time I spend playing picnic with my daughters… the further I progress in to 2013 and beyond.

Being “meh” doesn’t mean being miserable. “Meh-ness” can exist concordantly with happiness, believe it or not. Hell, I wish I’d known that 20 years ago. That said, my place is here. Not there. “Endworld – A Novel” is a product of the there despite how much it has changed. My other ideas? They are a product of the here, and I think that it is one of those ideas that I’m going to roll with in 2013. One of the smaller ones. Not the one I wrote about a few entries ago that is a cross between The Book of Genesis and Asmiov’s Foundation Series. I’ll get to that one, but I think I need to complete something a bit less ambitious, first. Maybe a couple more short stories. The last one I wrote, despite it’s being rejected for publication, gave me a new taste for short form prose that, apparently, I’d sorely missed (considering I have about five short story ideas running through my mind, currently). I don’t know, guys. It’s a bit of a mystery.

So for now, I’m still “meh” as morning segues in to afternoon here in lover-ly Royersford, Pennsylvania. I light mist has begun to fall outside though I can’t see it directly through the feux-mural of a forest that adorns the brick wall to my immediate right. I’m going to get back to the grind that I’ve been slaving away at for the last eight years. Happy New Year, all. Fare thee well until next time and remember: This is not the ending. There are no endings to the Wheel of Time. But yes, it is ending. Or maybe that should say “an…”



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