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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Discouragement

I've never actually used this blog as a journal before, besides a few select entries and updates. However, I feel like I need to get some feelings out about values that Pretzel Lectern represents, like my projects, emotions, and accomplishments, so I figure this is the best way. I also haven't updated nearly as often as I hoped. Which actually brings me to the reason I'm writing: I'm discouraged.

I feel like my two worst weaknesses in life since as far back as I remember are jealousy and discouragement. They both have to do with my "White" personality. I'm stubborn and dedicated, and when I feel like I'm working my hardest on a project or on anything, really, I expect to be rewarded. I'm not saying my sense of entitlement is justified. I just mean that the driving force that my soul seems to thrive on (and, conversely, cringes at a lack of) is fairness. Justice. Honesty. I feel like if I work harder than something than another person, then I should be rewarded more. I also readily accept a decrease in rewards if I slack off. To me, it's fair, which is more important than anything. Unfortunately, life is not fair.

Almost a year ago, my son Carver died. This wasn't fair in the big scheme of things. It wasn't fair to him, that he happened to have one little glitch in his DNA code that gave him a massive hole in his diaphragm, ultimately causing him death by suffocation due to having no lung tissue six hours after he was born. It wasn't fair to his mother, who carried him for nine months nourishing him and buying clothes for him and looking forward to the day when she could hold him, care for him, and help him grow. It wasn't fair for me, his father, who only wanted to protect him from every bad influence and danger this world has to offer, only to be foiled by something as abstract and intangible as circumstantially faulty genetics. It wasn't fair that our child died, when so many children are born into dysfunctional, unhealthy, dangerous, smoke-filled, ignorant, neglectful homes each day, and live. It wasn't fair.

And yet it happened. And there was nothing we could do about it. We could take grieving courses, meet with support groups, pray, and vow never to forget him, but that wouldn't bring Carver back. A strong, dedicated push one way would not cause the other side to push equally back. It was discouraging, and jealousy-inducing. It was difficult to see so many other people giving birth to healthy babies. I was jealous of them—jealous that their children would grow up and that they would get to play with them and teach them what to think was cool. I was discouraged, that I would have to wait another year to see another son born, and even then I would still have one less son to raise than I should have.

Another thing that happened a year ago was Knight Guy. I had scratched my head for years of writer's block as I wished and hoped for a solid storyline to write a book about, and many more years before that I had planned and tinkered in making webcomics, awaiting the day when I had something I knew I could dedicate myself to. Finally I took the plunge and started drawing and writing about Corlis, the armor who was thrust into adventure. I took pleasure in updating my strip once or twice every week for nearly a year. I started and began managing a writing group to serve for inspiration and feedback. I started a Facebook page and send a promotional ad to webcomic enthusiasts all over the web to like my page. I got 777 likes, and was overjoyed and motivated to not let my new fanbase down. I even got a piece of fanart drawn for me.

Soon, though, I realized that the stats were skewed. The vast majority—perhaps 99%—were foreigners. Non-English speakers that for some reason have the habit of clicking "Like" on anything. No one but my family members and one or two other friends truly "liked" Knight Guy. But even these people didn't comment. Eventually, 9 people unliked Knight Guy. But I stayed firm. I knew my story well, and I wanted to tell it, no matter who liked the page besides me. Even when my writing group fizzled out and disappeared, I stuck close to Knight Guy.

But now I'm discouraged again.

What happened to that year of enthusiasm? I thought for sure, for once in my life, I had been blessed with a golden project that would be seen through till the end—that would be a weekly habit for decades to come until the last panel was drawn, and I could go into the process of publishing the strips in hard copy form. But Knight Guy seems to have turned out just like all the others... a half-finished trophy to be set on a shelf to gather dust.

I went on here to Pretzel Lectern's Project List to update Knight Guy's "motivation" status to "discouraged," and realized that almost every project on that list has a similar setting. "Discouraged." "Low motivation." "Okay motivation." "So-so motivation." What happened to the fire of creation? Why does everything have to be so discouraging? Why do friendships that I make last one day until they move away, and why do old friendships seem to fade? Why do I spend effort eating healthy if others eat whatever they want and feel and look great anyway? Why do all those singles at work get to eat at the food trucks whenever they want, but I, who am working so hard to sustain my family, have to pass them by? Why do some people's comics have ten, fifteen, or twenty comments on each page, and mine is lucky to have any views at all, much less comments? Why does nothing sound fun anymore? Why do blog post ideas go unwritten because of laziness? Why does discouragement even have to exist?

It seems that these questions will not be answered anytime soon. I have learned in my life to always go with the flow, wherever it's going; to do my best, and when I can't run anymore, to sit down and rest; to hope for a brighter future and be grateful for the glimmers in the past. But these are easier said than done. It's tough to live in my own world, where a million adoring fans keep tabs on every one of my projects, giving enthusiastic, hopeful feedback and saying "When's the next update?" "When will you finish this?" and "Keep up the good work!" It's hard to read the Dungeons & Dragons manual or look at board games online, thinking of how fun it would be to play them, making my own versions, and ordering d20 dice online knowing that I will probably never actually get to use them with other people.

Discouragement. My deepest and most hated bane. The stopping and impeding force that quenches creativity, halts production, and makes me feel so profoundly alone. Jealousy. The logical result of a discouraging workload when others' affairs seem to all work out. None of it is fair, and yet it is life.

This post didn't turn out how I expected it to be. I was hoping to end with some kind of profound remark or moral to all of this, but the truth is, I'm just so discouraged with everything. It's such a hard time as far as projects go. I miss my son, and wish that he were one year older and one year closer to being able to play games with me and make projects of his own. Another son is on his way soon, but his gestation has been filled with worry for the past nine months, which has added to the overall emotional burdens.

I suppose the moral of all of this is that you're never so deep that discouragement can't bore you deeper, but the only way to float when discouragement is over, is up.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Salt Halt / Projectpalooza complete!

Well, the last month was spent avoiding salt as much as possible. I did have nachos once, and I did have some lightly salted peanuts, but besides that, I did my best! It wasn't quite as eventful as I thought it would be. I didn't feel that much different healthwise. But I did learn that you really don't need as much salt in your diet as you think.
Projectpalooza was pretty fun too. I only played computer when it was multiplayer with my brother or wife, and spent my free time working on projects. I didn't document it as well as I had hoped, but I basically did the following:
  • Edited 28 pages of Alfred and the Cavern of Time
  • Wrote 53 pages of my personal history
  • Worked ~12 hours on The Hard Lands campaign (though I mainly just finished the unit set)
As far as the Salt Halt went, this was my documentation:

DAY 1 - Not too hard, since it's the first day. Got a headache today, but that probably has no connection.
DAY 2 - Still not hard, even though I passed up movie popcorn and fries in addition to my salty work snack.
DAY 3 - Had my first impulse to salt something today, when my lunch pasta was bland. Other than that, still not a problem.
DAY 4 - I seem to be eating more sugar in compensation, or rather as the only alternative. But I fell like I'm doing well. It's pretty interesting how I just don't seem to need as many salty snacks as my habit used to dictate.
DAY 5 - Nothing too eventful today. Pretty normal day.
DAY 6 - Ate avocado without salt at Sizzler, and it wasn't too bad. I think I'm still going solid.
DAY 7 - Successfully ate roast and mashed potatoes without any salt. I craved it, but I was okay without it.
DAY 8 - Ate chicken with only lemon pepper—no seasoning salt. Still pretty good!
DAY 9 - Really wanted movie popcorn, but declined it fairly easily.
DAY 10 - I feel a lot more hungry lately without a snack to stave off the hunger. Oh well.
DAY 11 - Mixed nuts and raisins tasted really good. A viable alternative to salty snacks. Also, I made arroz and feijao without salt.
DAY 12 - Still no problems really. It's kind of interesting how you really don't need that much salt in your diet.
DAY 13 - Craved popcorn a bit, but not too bad.
DAY 14 - Wife had popcorn with movie, and I was going to have saltless popcorn, but didn't really care enough to make some.
DAY 15 - I admit I added just a sprinkle of salt in the fajitas for dinner, and I regret it... it didn't make much of a difference anyway. I need to hide the salt shaker again. Besides that though, things are good.
DAY 16 - Daughter got sick, and I was SOOO tempted to eat one of her saltines...
DAY 17 - Not too bad. Honestly, the Projectpalooza is way harder than this challenge.
DAY 18 - Pretzels look pretty good in the pretzel jar... But I'm more than half way. I can make it.
DAY 19- Going without salt is just easier than going without sugar.
DAY 20 - Went to a monthly board game night, and was really tempted to eat the chips and dip. But I figured since it's monthly, there's always next time.
DAY 21 - I sure wanted some crackers today, but I'm going strong.
DAY 22 - My hardest day yet. They had all of my favorite kinds of chips today at work. But I resisted them. I did have nachos for dinner though. So not sure which was worse.
DAY 23 - I sort of cheated. I bought some peanuts at work. I figure, I would have chosen unsalted if those were available, and it would be better to choose something healthy like peanuts over something sweet like a candy bar. So I got both.
DAY 24 - Had hash browns without salt, and they were good. With ketchup and ranch, of course. Got some more peanuts. They're not super salty.
DAY 25 - More peanuts... I'm kind of ashamed now. Oh well. Almost done anyway.
DAY 26 - Today there were chips at the work party, and I was going to just cave and eat them, but I didn't!
DAY 27 - I did it, more or less! I've learned that you really don't need to add salt to the things you think you will. For example, hash browns. If they're going to have ketchup and ranch on them anyway, what's the point in adding salt? Taco meat, on the other hand... well, anyway. That's what I learned.


I didn't feel like it went as well as it has in the past... it's hard to do Project Month when you have a full time job and a kid at home. I even ended a day earlier than I thought. However, to celebrate the end of the month, I ate pretzels and water as I stayed up late playing Hearthstone. And you know what? It actually wasn't that fulfilling. The pretzels didn't really make me that happy, and Hearthstone wasn't as fulfilling as actually working on something that required work. From now on, I'm going to only play Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the other days of the week will be spent like Projectpalooza was. And I'll probably cut down on salty snacks.

That's it for Project Month 2015!