time and burnout

I think one of the reasons I haven’t be blogging lately is that I feel like a broken record. No time, fatigue, stress, burnout, beat until frothy and place in 350 degree oven. I get tired of saying it. There are few thing in the world a hate like I hate self-pity. Those who put […]

I think one of the reasons I haven’t be blogging lately is that I feel like a broken record.

No time, fatigue, stress, burnout, beat until frothy and place in 350 degree oven.

I get tired of saying it. There are few thing in the world a hate like I hate self-pity. Those who put themselves in a situation and then bitch; those who won’t take action to solve a problem.

But when I try to write, what comes to mind first is, how completely fucked up I feel right now. To the point that in blots out all other thought.

I look back at my last year’s blogging and in between tattoo posting and links to porn, humor, music and art, I find the interconnections all have the same theme. Burnout.

So I’m trying to figure out why it is I feel that way. It’s not that I’m working that hard right now – in fact, I’m not really getting much done at all. But I feel, for the first time since I joined apple nine years ago (almost to the day), like my job is dragging me down into quicksand.

My life is organized around my greatest strengths. What I do is solve problems. I didn’t have any grand plan for a career, so I derive what my career has been only by looking back at it. And to a one, the jobs I seek, or create, or thrust into, all have that thread. I’m not a projects guy, I don’t do organization and follow-through well. What I do, though, is look at systems and see the flaws, the missing pieces, the inefficiencies. My life also seems to follow that pattern. The people to whom I’ve been most drawn are broken in some fundamental way. Not that they need help, per se, but that they have some vast physical, mental or character deficiency

The cost of all that, of course, is that I put myself into broken systems, and being that I can’t stand things that are broken, I strive fix them, often via sheer brute force. I become the link that holds the chain together, and I’m the strongest link, because I tolerate no less of myself. But to steal a line from genesis and a hundred others, we’re only as strong, As the weakest link in the chain. So no matter how strong I make my one link, the chain will always fail elsewhere.

Chaos is the default state of the universe. We impose order for a while; but only will and energy can maintain it. Living things are a system slightly more organized than the baseline chaos of an ecosystem; an ecosystem is a system slightly more organized than the universe. Only man’s mind can create and maintain a system more tightly and carefully organized than biological organisms, and only constant thought can produce the ongoing effort that maintains such systems.

Thing want to fall apart; buildings want to fall down. Computers want to fail.

Due to inherent aptitude, genetic inheritance, and the way I was raised, I feel a great compulsion to hold that line against chaos. When I think if it, it turns into an almost cartoonish vision of some Moorcockian champion of order (where’s my black fucking sword? Where’s my companion and his winged cat?). But the reality of it isn’t as much fun; I won’t have another incarnation to continue the fight; I can’t call another version of myself for help through some portal in the multiverse.

I do this alone. Not because there’s no help, but because I can’t stand help that isn’t absolutely under my control and on my terms. Help, when I ask for it, has to be exactly the help I need and no more.

The cost of this is that I put myself in situations where I’m absolutely vital, and absolutely irreplaceable. Not only at work, but everywhere in my life, I have vast lists of things that need to be done, and in ways that no one else I see around me can handle. Because solutions have to do more than solve a problem; they have to strike blow against encroaching chaos.

That battle seems to get harder each year. I don’t know if it’s simply the natural progression of the world, the inherent growth of a system over time. I don’t know if it’s that life, inevitably, grows more complex as one acquires more things, builds investments, raises children. Or if it’s the inevitable fact of age. To steal another line,as soon as we’re born we start dying. But it isn’t linear; it accelerates with time, picking up speed with each round of auld lang syne.

Whatever it is, more and more of late my mind is full of the maddening minutiae of life, the crushing weight of task lists that grow only longer. And I find, at the end of days which flash by ever faster, that I have nothing in that part of my mind that yearns to put words together in creative ways. It’s easier to reach for a beer and the remote control. Because when I reach for my computer, nothing comes out but the same worn and blacked refrain about time and burnout.

23 thoughts on “time and burnout”

  1. I’m reminded of something I read once by the Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh when he was asked about how to deal with the stress of work and daily life. He says this:

    “I think we can enjoy the red light; we can also enjoy the stop sign. Every time we see it we profit: instead of being angry at the red light, of being burned by impatience, we just practice breathing in, breathing out, smiling.That helps a lot. And when you hear the telephone ringing you can consider it to be the sound of the mindfulness bell. You practice telephone meditation. Every time you hear the telephone ringing you stay exactly where you are (laughter). You breathe in and breathe out and enjoy your breathing. Listen, listen-this wonderful sound brings you back to your true home. Then when you hear the second ring you stand up and you go to the telephone with dignity (laughter). That means in the style of walking meditation (laughter). You know that you can afford to do that, because if the other person has something really important to tell you, she will not hang up before the third ring. That is what we call telephone meditation. We use the sound as the bell of mindfulness.”

    I hope this helps you in some way. Next time you’re on your way to work, enjoy the red light. 🙂



  2. “”That battle seems to get harder each year. I don’t know if it’s simply the natural progression of the world….”

    our modern society went mad! and we are part of it… more more more, quicker, quicker and quicker, RUSHING! not a lot of time left for some peaceful hours.

    example mobile phone: dare to not answer your phone…. “where have you been?!, I called you 3 times!!””

    a little patience: negative

    best Stefan

  3. You know, jjh, I love moorcock.

    Yeah, I wish he were a better writer. Like Edgar Rice Burroughs, his gift lies in invention and story-telling. Both are/were possessed of incredibly fertile imaginations and vision about how to tell an adventure story that was decades ahead of their genres.

    Moorcock’s mind amazes me; he invented things that are now absolute archetypes of heroism and destiny, that shape the way the universe is seen by generations of readers, and by generations of sci fi writers.

    Sure, some of his books are terrible. The early Elric stories – written, he admits, in a day or so each, quickly, for a paycheck – are all but unreadable. But the value in those stories isn’t the prose, it’s the invention of a hero that defines much of goth aesthetic today, a pale and weak vampiric anti-hero.

    Not all of Moorcock’s work is bad; over the years his work improved (the Corum series is better than the early Elric, and the Hawkmoon series was better than Corum). In the last few decades, he’s produced books like ‘the War Hound and the World’s Pain’, ‘Gloriana’, the ‘Dancers at the End of Time’ series, and ‘Byzantium Endures’ that are good, or even great. They’re not Tim POwers or Guy Gavriel Kay or GRR Martin great, sure, but they tread the same territory, and they prove that time and hard work have forged a decent writer from what began as nothing but imagination and potential.

    Sure, I can’t get through the Corum books today. But without having found Moorcock when I did in my early teens, I really wouldn’t be who I am now. Along with ER Burroughs, PJ Farmer, and (yes, I admit it), Gor, they form key (if pulp) influences on me. A writer doesn’t have to be great in terms of prose to make a massive cultural and imaginative contribution.

  4. Dude, I’m totally with you. I chewed through all of his available books back in the mid-to-late 70s and they had a profound impact on my psyche. Hawkmoon and his embedded soul gem, the orthinopters, it was awesome.

    OMG, Gor! Hehe. Dirty little secret.

    I spent hours reading this stuff while listening to all kinds of Prog Rock. To this day I can’t hear some Kansas tunes without being transported to another world, scripted by Moorcock, Zelazny, and the like.

  5. Oh, my love of Gor isn’t a big secret. God knows I love slave girls. B^)

    Actually though, the first four o five Gor books are *great* pulp adventures. Vividly drawn, great characters, a rich alternate world, and of course, terrific sex and romance (as long as you’re into BDSM, you’ll see it as romance).

    It’s only in the books out past six or seven when the writer’s politics and misogyny overwhelms his storytelling, and he’s just not good enough a writer to make it work dramatically. It gets more and more painful to read, and stops being worth it.

    The lifestyle goreans mystify me (even though I have quite a number of them as friends), but I’ll stand up for the first few books with no shame whatsoever.

    Now, Zelazny is a different case. Though some of his work has a pulpy feel, he’s not at all pulp. Nine Princes is one of my all time favorite books.

  6. What if there is no chaos?

    You say in this entry you’ve been doing the same pattern for most of your conscious life. Fixing things to stave off chaos. Bringing ever more people and more jobs into your life who create more chaos for you to fix.

    And then you wonder why your tired?

    And given you’ve been doing the same thing for most of your life, assuming a particular result, I wonder.

    Can you be sure that if you stopped fixing that chaos is actually what will happen?

    Letting go and facing the void can be an interesting experiment.

  7. What if there is no chaos?

    You say in this entry you’ve been doing the same pattern for most of your conscious life. Fixing things to stave off chaos. Bringing ever more people and more jobs into your life who create more chaos for you to fix.

    And then you wonder why you’re tired?

    And given you’ve been doing the same thing for most of your life, assuming a particular result, I wonder.

    Can you be sure that if you stopped fixing that chaos is actually what will happen?

    Letting go and facing the void can be an interesting experiment.

  8. Dea-

    “What if there is no chaos”?

    Chaos is the default state of the universe. There’s not a state of being where chaos isn’t the rule.

    Life exists as a battle against it because an organized systems is biologically necessary to sustain life. An organized structure (a building, a car) is a temporarily organized systems of parts, which will always wear to the point of collapse.

    So to say ‘what if there’s no chaos’ is like saying, what if there was no gravity. Sure, the idea of being able to fly is nice, but the reality is that with no gravity, there’s no planet, no orbit, no life.

    So the question is a bit facile, even if offered in a philosophical sense.

  9. That’s like me…I’m ALL about blogging at first, like 5 posts a day for a while, and then, bam! What to say?!?

  10. I wasn’t arguing the existence of chaos as a scientific fact. I was talking about the chaos you’ve said you envision you’re staving off in your life in particular. I was suggesting that perhaps if you let go and stopped trying to keep control of or fix all things/people, chaos might actually not be what lies at the end of it for you. That’s what I found happened for me when I stopped. Chaos wasn’t there. Peace was.

  11. I’m talking about physical chaos, ie, home repair, paying bills, doing laundry. There’s the problem, when you stop paying bills they tend to come take your car away, and when you stop watering the garden the plants tend to die.

    You’re projecting, baby! B^)

  12. Yeah Karl, but I think that something new will eventually happen and then you’ll get that “go” again…It’s horrible writing about the same thing over and over again. Not only is it boring but you run out of things to say, and fast!

  13. ACK. Days pass and I can’t get my brain wrapped around what I really want to say here. Too damn busy fighting and living in my own chaos at the moment.

    Thoughts that mingle between finding some of your really damn good writing, alternate with wanting to kick you ass for some vague reasons, and “Atlas Shrugged” and other works by Anne Rand.

    Then there are the ramblings of Gor novels again, and slave girls. Surely they must have kept them in harnesses too.

    I think I’m just plain distracted. That’s why “MY WRITING” is in blog comments – not my own blog write now!

  14. DBD, that first paragraph is pretty exactly my dilemma.

    I’m no fan of ms rand (despite being a rush fan, I don’t hold with rand’s crackpotism). Gor, on the other hand – well, I also don’t hold with John Norman/John Lange’s philosophies in a pure sense, but dammit, I sure like his world in a sexual fantasy sense (god DAMN I could use a couple of slave girls!)

  15. this is a day when every fucking thing has gone wrong, so I’m gonna keep it short and simple: I hear you.

    More presently. Hopefully.

  16. I think you will. Shortly after writing my last comment, my personal shitstorm started finally to resolve and fade (and after a mere six months! I think I’m getting better at this) and yesterday I was astonished to notice that life has become enjoyable again, at least in patches.

    I’m seeing lots and lots of pixels in my very near future. I’m seeing a possible transfer of memes, in both trivial (facebook) and less trivial (blog entry?) forms. Some kind of ambitious cross continental alcohol exchange involving men in serious looking suits with flag-like objects on their lapels and stiff professional looking hats used for freight aircraft is unlikely but not out of the question. Meaning that it’s on my mind. Actually, what’s on my mind is Niki Belucci in serious looking suits because I have a bit of a uniform fetish, but you get the idea.

    As for you, I hope things improve. I’m keeping fingers crossed.

  17. Someone is distracting me with talk of fetish. Especially uniform fetish. You know, I need to find some evil, evil soul that wants to put on a soldier uniform and tell me that I’m his prisoner. Now if they had a military crewcut like I grew up around all my life. Well… Let’s just say “I’m a prisoner.”

  18. See that?? I stopped by to read what’s new in the world of Karl and whammo – I see comments about John Norman/Moorcock/Burroughs and all sorts of stuff I haven’t “talked” about in years. From Burroughs’ John Carter to Howards’ Conan (not the new crap) to GRR Martin – I’ve read them all…I stopped with Norman after book 8 or so (with the one where Tarl goes to the plains to find the egg being my favorite). And yes, they too shaped my teen years! Hell, the Frazetta covers for the Conan series alone made me try drawing as a pastime. In fact, I’ve been trying to convince my wife that our back hallway is perfect for a Frazetta master print – She thinks I’m nuts….
    I hear you Karl, life can get tedious at times. I wrote earlier in December that I was “shifted” in my job. Without getting into the details I packed up my classroom (where I’ve been for 15 years) to go teach at an entirely different level/subject/school (where I bumped one of their members). As I was packing my stuff today, another teacher was moving in. Ha! You just have to laugh sometimes. I realized I was completely replaceable. And you know what? I could care less….I’ll go on…I’ll survive. My life is at home with my family…and come the fall, I’ll make my mark on the new school. Ten years ago I would have been in a dark place – not now. As for your situation….I just wanted you to know that even though you feel your writing is becoming repetitive and smacks of burnout – I find it thought-provoking. I can’t even remember the last time I discussed the above authors with another person….so thanks for the flashbacks and here’s to your life getting back to an even keel. Have some tequila on me – although the weather here begs for G & T’s (that Rangpur stuff goes down easy…).

    I see that you drink beer – ever try Fraoch Heather Ale? Check it out…it comes in a castle!

  19. Matt –

    Heh – yep, “Nomads of Gor” (the foruth book) was the best of the series. He hit a pulp high there, with his best female character (Vella, upon whom I had a considerable slave-girl crush), his best side kick (Kamchak of the Tuchuks), and some of his best action scenes. After that one he loses the essential burroughsness of the piece and starts to focus on philosophy; he’s not a good enough writer to make that work.

    The thing about those writers – and yeah, they were pulp writers – is that they could tell good stories. Several of our greatest noir crime novelists came from a pulp tradition as well, so it’s not that pulp writers are bad. But pulps are story books. And all of those guys can tell a great story (few are better at this than Edgar Rice Burroughs, whatever else was lacking in his work).

    If you’re a Burroughs fan, pick up PJ Farmer’s “Hadon of Ancient Opar”; without question the best Burroughs pastiche ever. It’s not only Farmer’s second best series (after Riverworld), but it’s also exactly like Burroughs if Burroughs had been a better writer, in effect fusing the two to produce something better than either. It’s great. I wish, though, that I could go back and love those the way I did; I’m too well educated now – and too good a writer myself – to tolerate even simple workmanlike prose. I want to edit and re-write and get distracted.

    As to work – I actually wrote a whole followup to this post all about the headaches of work, the irritations, the little shit that makes it that much harder to get through a work day; I didn’t post it, it was one of those whine-fests I hate. In a world where people are killing and dying over insane politics, in which people are losing homes because of a broken economic system, it seems trivial to bitch about how I hate the building I work in.

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