No comparison

Two things recently reminded me of the old adage, “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” One was a picnic I attended at the home of an organizer of a gay friends social group. I went with a friend who was also in the group, who is older than me and also single. He seems content with that, as am I. Still, it would be nice to be in a committed relationship for the support and companionship. But that’s not what I really want to talk about now.

The thing that kept occupying my thoughts was how much better off most of the group members were as far as careers (current or retired) and their socioeconomic status. One couple lived in NYC during the week where one of the men was an attorney for the city.  They had a home in the Lehigh Valley area where they stayed on the weekends.

The home where the picnic was held was quite nice.  Another man was involved with running a radio station. There was another who also lived in New York, but spent a lot of time in the Lehigh Valley, though I didn’t catch what he did.

There was a couple who go to my church, that I haven’t talked with much before. They had just been to Paris. I’d love to do that, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get that chance. One of those men also thought my friend and I were a couple. Maybe I should talk more about that aspect in my next post.

There were others who either had great careers or talked about their travels. Then as I was about to leave, I ran into a guy I had met at an earlier event. My friend and I talked tiohim some. It turned out he was working for Amazon as a picker in the warehouse. Not a fun job, or well paying.

I felt better after that. But should it have taken that one comparison to get me to see that all the other comparisons were just making me unhappy, and they were irrelevant?

I was embarrassed to tell classmates at a reunion a few years ago that I was an assistant manager at Family Dollar. But I shouldn’t have been. That’s where I was at, and that’s that. It was good experience.

Now, I’m microfilming newspapers for preservation. I started in the digital department at the company and have learned a lot of different skills in a few years, so I guess I’m content with that for now. Of course, I still want to be a writer. It’s good to have goals and dreams.

You just have to be patient and work toward your long term goals while you muddle through.  Most importantly, don’t make comparisons, except maybe to yourself, to gauge progress.

The art of discipline

A thought came to me years ago which still challenges me greatly.  “The disciplined artist succeeds.”

I mean artist in the broad sense of the word.  Writer, musician, painter, photographer, filmmaker, etc.  I also mean those who engage in artistic activities, not just those who make a living at it.  An artist at heart.

I think most of us tend to be indulgent sorts, sometimes overly so.  Partying, experimenting, addictions.  Artists need and want to experience things in order to reproduce some part of life in their work.  That can lead to trouble.  I just quit smoking last October, and hit the bottle pretty hard for a while about four years ago.  Of course, these things aren’t unique to artists, but they can be more damaging to a creative soul.

But even if one doesn’t wander into more serious traps, it can still be very difficult to discipline oneself to stick to something to fruition.  I know it’s tough for me to finish one thing before moving on to another.  I switch from a short story to a screenplay to poetry.

It’s also a struggle to sit down and write.  Maybe writers are the worst. “I hate writing, I love having written.”  says Dorothy Parker.   I personally can find a million things to do before writing.  It’s why my evenings after work get away from me, night after night, week after week for months and years.  I remember reading in a textbook for a writing class at community college in which the author admonished the reader that it’s possible to think of yourself as a writer your whole life and never actually achieve it.  It won’t happen to me.  That was my reaction.  A fervent and immediate reaction.  I’m 45 and it hasn’t happened yet.  Fortunately, I’ve got this discipline thing down.  Ha! I kill me. Anyway,  I’m working on it.

I’ve realized that discipline is a demanding mistress.  It doesn’t like to share.  The times that I’ve gotten the most done are when I’m on a whole life discipline kick.  I start working out, quit smoking, getting up when the alarm goes off,  being on time and writing.  It feels good and keeps you going.  If you recognize your triggers that make you slack off, nip it in the bud!  When one area slides, others will follow down that slippery slope.

Discipline gets you from inspiration to completion.

Ever have a great idea that you can’t wait to get started on, but once you get it started, you get bogged down in the details.  It’s frustrating when that spark of elation turns into, well, work.  Keep pushing through it.  It will be worth it.  I hope to see you at the finish line.  Maybe I’ll be waiting for you.  Maybe you’ll be waiting for me.  Here’s to the race.