I Can’t Save the World

Bear with me, I’m a little messed up tonight.

I don’t spend time with many people, but I do hang out with one guy. My downstairs neighbor is a decent person who copes with problems you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. He’s middle-aged, he’s got muscular dystrophy and he ekes out an existence on government disability, because if he tried to work full-time, the insurance premiums would kill him. I like Al. Despite the bad times, he’s usually got a smile on his face and he helps me maintain perspective on my mental and emotional garbage.

Now, why this messed me up is pretty simple. Al has a nephew, Jason. Friendly kid, maybe eleven or twelve. Reminds me a lot of me before the monsters closed in. Al asks if I can help help him take Jason to the park. Getting around on that monster motorized scooter is tough for him, especially on the moss-covered concrete of Monroe Park. I popped an extra pill and said yes. I don’t like getting out but if Al can find a way to face the universe, then so can I.

Custom van to fit the wheelchair. Windows down so that Jason doesn’t get carsick. I ride in the back, getting a crash course in what it means to be disabled in America through drips and drabs of conversation. On the flip side, Jason is happy to be outside. Uncle Al can’t get around very much. Jason asks if I’ve ever seen Los Angeles. I resist the impulse to tell him stories about growing up on the Disney lot.

Al’s wheelchair forces him to remain at the perimeter of the playground, so I play zone defense while the kid goes nuts on the monkey bars. He starts telling me about his life and just like Al, I get a crash-course in what it means to live as a sheltered kid in rural Wisconsin with a bi-polar mom. Bullied at school. Teenage brother and sister beat on him for fun. No video games and no Internet. He’s the kid that gets sheltered to death because his older siblings ran wild.

He doesn’t see it, but I do. The shy smile, grateful for every nice thing anyone does for him. I remember that moment. The bright-eyed time in your life when you still believe everything will eventually be okay. Wavering showers of hope that fade when you come to the bitter conclusion that the world hates you, and then you start hating it back. I can see the this kid’s miserable childhood laid out before him like a faded Texaco roadmap. Does this happen to anyone else? I’ve never wanted to fix someone’s life for them so bad in my life. Knowing that I have no right or place or ability to do anything is killing me inside.

I know what my therapist will say about all this. He says I shouldn’t make someone else’s life about me. It’s a throwback, he’ll explain, to me being a damaged kid, and wishing that someone saved me. Now I’m older and I don’t want anyone to go through what I experienced. I know it’s an arrogant thought, making this kid’s world about me, but that’s why I’m getting it out on virtual paper, where I can look at it. Part of my journey is about me dealing with my thoughts: good, bad, or ugly.

No, I can’t save the world. All I can do is write stories for people. Hopefully those stories will find the people like me. Looking for answers, carving meaning out of misery, distilling the pain into art. Other people are, too. Maybe if we can find the answers, maybe we can make the bad things stop. Then I could sleep. I could feel like it was worth it.

But it’s not enough.

 

Something You Should Know About Me – 48 Laws of Power

Something You Should Know About Me - 48 Laws of Power

Doing some thinking lately about life, the universe and everything. Humanity is something I struggle to interface correctly with. A steady diet of humans, their games and their inconsistencies are enough to push me into depression. It’s one of the reasons I’m starting all over again.

In the spirit of self-awareness, it was recommended that I take a look at ‘The 48 Laws of Power’. I have to say, it’s an eye-opener. Not because it gives me any type of insight on who I should be as a person, but rather on who I don’t want to be, and why. 48 Laws of Power, and other ideas like it, teach you the business of manipulation. I don’t like that.

The fact is, people and their manipulation have done a lot of damage to the world, and yet you can see how humans need some type of manipulation to survive. Manipulation can be positive, as we learn when we use manners, etiquette and protocol. However, it is important to differentiate between manners to get along with people, and the Machiavellian strategies of a book like Propaganda by Edward Bernays. Manipulation to build trust is one thing, manipulation to destroy trust is something else indeed.

Something You Should Know About Me - 48 Laws of Power

When I started over, one thing I was very clear on was that I wanted to be able to trust other people, and I wanted other people to be able to trust me. As I introduce my work, and navigate the treacherous world of ‘hey, I wrote something and I want to share it with you,’ I want to do it with integrity and authenticity. Because I’m not experienced with any of this, sometimes I might come off as clumsy, but I can promise that my intentions are pure, even if my execution is not.

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know about manipulation. Further, I suspect I’m not alone as a person in the science fiction community who is rather defensive about anything that sounds like people are trying to manipulate me. Figuring out how to be an authentic person, who tells stories because that’s his hearts desire, while navigating the world of storytelling and managing his illness … this is a complex equation that will take some time for me to figure out.

I just thought it would be important for you to hear this from me.

Looking Out the Window

On a personal note, experiencing some setbacks on therapy. Sometimes I think my epitaph is going to be ‘well, at least you tried.’ Depression and social anxiety are real issues – more than two hundred thousand cases are diagnosed in America every year. For some people, it’s manageable through therapy and medication and then for people like me, it can become the house you live in.

I try to have perspective about it. I was reading a story about a teacher with young boy for a student with brittle-bone disease. He was confined to a wheelchair and one day during recess, he told his teacher that ‘he just wanted to be a normal boy, to run and play like the other boys.‘ If that doesn’t break your heart, then you have no soul. So I’m not saying that my disorder is the worst thing in the world, I’m also not saying it’s nothing. One day I might be able to say that it’s behind me. Until then, I’m just trying to say ‘I have a condition, but my condition doesn’t have me.’

Oregon Chicken Soup

Oregon Chicken SoupI was talking to a sick friend about chicken soup and his comment was:

‘East Coast chicken soup > West Coast chicken soup.’

I couldn’t let that slide, and inquired politely how many squirrels and raccoons he used in his Southern Chicken Soup. Before we devolved into the Nerd Blue Collar Comedy Tour, I offered him my Oregon Chicken Soup recipe. He loved it, and I’m passing it along for anyone else who wants to cook like a real Oregonian:

Oregon Chicken Soup

  • Bake chicken in pans at 350 degrees F for 20 min or until cooked
  • Attend yoga class; achieve downward dog position while growing man bun Continue reading

Choice

Something very sad happened to me today. One of my professional colleagues surprised me by telling me of a decision. Because of my recent pivot to this new role as Jackson Allen the Author, he didn’t feel he and I could be friends anymore. I’m shocked and saddened, but of course I respect his decision.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about what happened. I decided that I wanted to blog some thoughts out and share this with you. Blogging gives me a platform for ideas that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Maybe this is something you’ve already experienced and you have an answer for what I haven’t figured out yet.

As I said in the beginning, this is … like … the third act of my career. My real name isn’t Jackson, I’ve got some baggage and I’m just moving forward with my life now that the previously-planned ‘happily ever after’ became ‘not a hope in Hades.’ There’s some stigma attached to that decision and it sucks. As I travel that path, and circumstances change, all I can really hope to do is roll with the punches while remaining true to the goal.

I want to tell stories that people enjoy and hopefully get paid for it. It’s that simple, but circumstances dictate that I find my own way. Because I’m innovating, I have to be okay with being misunderstood. That’s the thing nobody tells you about the creative life: there are moments of genuine heartbreak. It’s bad enough that the public at large doesn’t understand what you’re doing. But when a fellow creative who is also traveling your path rejects you well, part of you dies. After that conversation, I had to take a few circuits around the block and try to clear my head. Continue reading

Broken Authors Make Beautiful Stories

Broken Authors Make Beautiful StoriesI was driving in the car today, listening to an old Oasis B-side called ‘Acquiesce.’ Some songs make me see movies in my head and Acquiesce is one of them. Since the song is supposed to be about friendship and brotherhood, I always see the beginning of a movie, where the credits roll over a montage of pictures that show two brothers growing up together.

But then I got a little depressed and I started thinking to myself, “what do you even know about that? You’ve never had that experience.” It’s intimidating to realize that I’m attempting to put into words a story I’ve never lived … what business do I have telling that story or any other? That’s when an interesting epiphany hit me and so I’m sharing it with you: Continue reading

Thank You, Corey Feldman

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I know I tell sci-fi stories but I think I want to take today’s blog post to talk about something else. Watching Corey Feldman on the Today Show, I can think of no better reason as to why I have no interest in being famous for writing. Some folks have told me that I have to ‘get my name out there,’ in order to make a career out of writing.

“Corey’s got his name out there,” I say. “How’s that working for him?”

I feel bad for the guy. Corey Feldman is building his life all over again. If you’ve never had to pivot your entire life before, it’s hard to understand what a confusing and dehumanizing process that can be. Worse, yet … he’s doing it in the public eye. All of his false starts, faux pas and stumbles are there for public consumption. To be honest, I fear for the guy’s safety, success and sobriety.

Whenever you see a story like: ‘Corey Feldman is BACK with another bizarre Today Show performance,‘ you should know that you aren’t looking at a performance piece. As is common for other abuse survivors, Corey’s struggling with his baggage and embodies one of the painful truths about overcoming your past. Don’t understand what I mean? Let me explain:

Continue reading

The Trap of Fame

One of the things that’s really bugging me about the idea of writing is the idea of being famous for writing. Telling stories is great, being famous is not. There’s a short story by Louis L’Amour called ‘The Trap of Gold.’ I think about a lot as I contemplate writing and whatever might follow.

The Trap of FameHave you read the short story? Give it a whirl, it still holds up. In it, a prospector locates a rich vein of gold in rough country, miles from anywhere. The vein sits at the base of a 3oo-foot-tall granite rock that might collapse on him at any moment. What does he risk if he approaches it? What does he risk by walking away? The story builds to an unbelievable amount of tension before its resolution. Even now, fifty or sixty years later, you can understand why L’Amour was such a successful writer.

Enter Jackson Allen.

I have a lot of thoughts and opinions about fame and they come from hard and bitter experience. In fact, they remind me of the massive rock this prospector must navigate to secure his fortune. The given wisdom is that:

  • I cannot write unless I can sell books.
  • I cannot sell books unless I am famous
  • I cannot pursue notoriety without jeopardizing whatever gains I’ve made in rebuilding my life

This is a three-way tug-of-war. I want to save my life without selling my soul. I don’t have an answer for any of this yet. Perhaps we’ll find them together.