Step by Step

I felt overwhelmed today.  There are work issues, family issues, and urgent business that needs to be taken care of.  Our finances, as of those of most people in Greece, are in a tailspin.  To top it all off, it’s mid-January and freezing, bitter cold; the cold makes me ache, especially my fingers and toes, and it seems impossible to ever get warm unless standing right in front of a radiator.

But the worst thing, as usual, concerns the writing.  Just last week I pledged I would write a paltry 250 words a day five days a week.  It’s a pittance, really.  Though I have had little time even to do that I have tried to keep it up, but in my opinion those few hundred words I have managed to squeeze out suck.  They are crap.  I could be wrong, of course, and I often am.  I sometimes go back to stories I had set aside after writing convinced they had no value and realized they were just fine and I had simply got too close to the material.

Anyway, all these things put together were like a crushing weight upon my mind and spirit, until I decided to just slow down, relax, take one step at a time, and make each step a creative step.  That’s the key, really, the creativity.  Life can seem monotonous, a drudgery, something you’re stuck in like a prisoner and don’t know how to escape from – but the thing is, that can happen anywhere under any circumstances.  We all, I think, desire something better for ourselves, and have the delusion that if we had that thing everything would be easier.  For some it might be a lover, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife.  For a lot of us it’s money:  if I just had more cash, if I could just pay my bills, buy what I wanted, do what I wanted, life would be easy street.  I often fall for that one, though by this time I should know better.  For some it’s a dream job; for some it’s no job, a life of lethargic torpor watching TV or playing video games or whatever.  We all have fantasies of what would make life better.

But you know what?  It’s all bullshit.  It’s all an illusion.  Life is now, not later or earlier.  Oh, we can plan for the future to a certain extent, but suddenly something can happen that throws us a double-whammy, knocks us for a loop – often, in fact.  Sure, we can plan, we can dream, we can wish.  But life is now.

What do I do then?  collapse under the weight of the load?  Give in to the feeling of despair and start drinking or doing drugs or fly off the handle and take off for parts unknown?  The truth is, sometimes a change is what is needed.  But many of us are not able to instantly change our physical circumstances.  We can work towards that goal, sure, but usually all we can change instantly is what goes on inside.

Let’s change that, then.  Maybe we can’t change the world.  I know that I sure as hell can’t change the disastrous train wreck of the Greek economy.  I can’t take off and hit the road, hitchhike around the world like I did once upon a time.  But I can change my attitude, and when I do the whole world changes.  I can apply my creativity to every facet of my being, even the leaks in the roof and our diminishing pocketbooks and disagreements with progeny.  And when you look at something creatively you are an artist.

This may all sound too schmaltzy or simplistic to you, and if so you are welcome to emotional convolutions and complexities, but things around me are so complex I need a simple approach to cope with it all, and I will apply whatever works.

Postscript:  The last couple of days this was all put to the test.  It was grueling in terms of what had to be done.  Shortly after I wrote the above I was off to my first afternoon lesson, teaching English Proficiency to a teen who has been spoiled by one of the many inefficient, indeed inept, language schools around here.  He had been studying advanced English for a year and a half and learned practically nothing, hiding in the back of the fairly large class, and no one had bothered to catch him up on it.  I was recommended by a former student and hired to get him back on track, but it isn’t easy.  He’s way behind and has to work really hard to catch up, and a lot of my work is motivating him to want to after so long a period of turpitude.  In addition, we have the class in his room at his desk, and the room smells of stale athletic socks.  Whew.  Not easy.  But I got through that, went on to one of the schools where I teach and made it through two more classes.  The next morning I had to go to a government tax office to do paperwork – something, at least here in Greece, sure to strike terror, or at least extreme reluctance, into the heart of any foreigner who has a tough time with the language.  But I got through that miraculously easily too.  Then work around the house, then more classes, and on and on.  Now here I am exhausted but I made it.  And I made it step by step without that feeling of despair.

Now if I could only summon up the energy to write.  That’s the ongoing rub.  But sometimes I just need to bide my time, and be ready when the opportunity presents itself.  In the meantime I regard it all, every bit of it, as a work in progress…

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