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Naming My Nemesis
He's the jerk on the hoverboard who keeps telling me I suck.
Over the weekend, I fell down the stairs.
It started with a missed step. I didn’t know it was going to be a missed step. I thought it was going to be a great step. A celebratory step in the direction of good feelings and general satisfaction with my day and pride in something I worked hard to create.
I was wrong.
The step sucked—hard—and I missed the mark.
I was disappointed in myself for missing the step, even though I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary when I took it, except maybe wearing slightly more slippery shoes and closing my eyes and kind of jumping off the top step with the expectation I would land on the next one without incident. Foolish of me.
The steps are hard in my house, especially the ones that lead to my basement where I do most of my writing. While I was falling (metaphorically) a few unfortunate things happened.
More unfortunate than falling down the stairs, you ask? Not really.
But because I was falling down the stairs when they happened, they felt more unfortunate. And they hurt way more than they should have.
I was told I was courting death.
I was told that no one would ever read my books. Ever.
I was told this multiple times actually, from different sources. Like a Greek chorus of “no one gives a shit.”
I was made to fear robots, like I don’t already.
I was handed an assortment of phrases, strung together in a sentence that, because my shields were already down, stung like a mother fucker.
I was reminded that I’m not special.
That I’m not making anything that’s any better than anyone else.
That I shouldn’t give a fuck about anything, because what’s the point?
That the world is on fire and we’re going to witness the end of it in our lifetime.
While a typical fall down the stairs takes a matter of seconds, this one was taking a long ass time to wrap up. Like days long.
I have lows as a writer. Moments when I feel like quitting. And those lows are a real bummer to deal with. But after my (metaphorical) fall down the stairs, those lows look more like little hiccups, lasting at most half a day.
As I write this, it’s going on two full days. Of tears and arguments and getting my back up about shit with the people who love and support me.
What the actual fuck is my problem?
This is my problem.
See … there’s this … guy.
I finally hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs. I’m going to stop referring to the fall or the stairs as metaphorical now. I thought, okay, that sucked, but I survived. No broken bones. Just a lot of bruising and a massive headache from hitting my head on the thinly carpeted, asbestos-laden tile floor that’s probably slowly giving me cancer as I toil away my days writing books that no one will ever read.
I lay there, staring at the popcorn ceiling, wondering what to do next.
Then this guy showed up. He didn’t show up, as much as whizzed by.
On a hoverboard.
“You SUCK!” he shouted as he passed my crumpled body on the floor.
It felt a little like being kicked while I was down, but I shook it off, and started to sit up. That’s when he whizzed by again.
“Books are stoopid!” He blew a cloud of Mountain Dew scented vape smoke in my face.
What the fuck was this guy’s problem?
“You haven’t been hot since college!” he mocked on his next pass.
“You weren’t even born when I was in college!” I shouted back and was glad he was already out of earshot, because that was the lamest comeback in history.
“Robots RULE!” He coughed through his own vape juice and then took a slurp of milkshake.
Enough with the damn robots, I thought.
“You’re a disappointment to your children!”
That one hurt. I covered my face and laid back down on the floor. I hadn’t vacuumed in a while, so I was laying in cat food crumbs and basement beetle carcasses. Then that hoverboard riding douchebag rolled by and dumped his milkshake on me.
“You suck.” His assault had come full circle.
He finally left me alone, disappearing through his vape portal, and I cried through a layer of milkshake and hoped he wouldn’t come back.
But here’s the kicker. That little buttface has always been with me. He’s my anti-muse. My productivity nemesis. My shame spiral inducer.
I haven’t lost my mind, guys. I didn’t really hallucinate an asshat on a hoverboard dumping a milkshake on me. And if I didn’t make this clear already, I didn’t really fall down the stairs. But I did have a crappy couple of days.
I attended a workshop once where the presenter talked about how she created a little cartoon frog named Claude or Clyde or something. When she was overwhelmed by negative talk, from herself or others, she would blame the frog. And she said that just being able to tell someone else to SHUT THE FUCK UP in moments of self-doubt helped her to not get weighed down by the negativity.
I decided to take a page out of that book and give my nemesis a name.
And a face.
Until my untimely “fall” down the stairs, this little punk had only existed as a voice in my head. A droning dipshit that had nothing nice to say and no encouragement to offer. But now, he’s manifested into something outside of my overcrowded headspace. He’s become an external force, not an internal one.
Which means … he’s vulnerable.
And I can defeat him.
Or at least bully the shit out of him until he shuts the fuck up.