Few things are worse than poverty. Struggling to make ends meet from week to week, month to month takes a toll on you, both mentally and physically. Stress and anxiety corrupt your mind, deprives you of sleep, destroys your appetite. Stomach pains are common with me. Sometimes excruciating pain prevents me from doing—or even wanting to do—anything. Toss bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) into the picture and you’ve got a mess on your hands. Even on Klonopin and Prozac, I’m a mess. My anxiety slices through the mellowing effects of the drugs and locks me in a sort of stasis and I fight to overcome my anxiety and live a somewhat effective life.
Poverty spikes my anxiety, especially when bills pile up and rent is due and we don’t have enough money to cover everything. The stress sometimes paralyzes me, as it does now: currently, we’re behind on rent—we were short last month, we don’t have enough to cover next month’s rent, and no way of generating that money in such a short amount of time. In addition, my car tires are in rough shape. I have to fill them every day. It’s only a matter of time before I step outside to go to work and find four flat, dead tires. (more…)
(Note: this is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here for the index to previous installments.)
My wife had two kids from a previous relationship. I helped raise them since they were toddlers. I consider them my children—I never use the word “step kids.” As far as I’m concerned, they’re mine, even though their father’s in the picture and picks them up every other weekend. They’re good kids—innocent and naïve—but a bit too obsessed with video games and YouTube, as with most kids their age. As a child, I couldn’t imagine choosing to sit indoors all day. But we live in a different time, I suppose.
They’re good kids. They don’t ask for much because they know we can’t afford much, but they do want things every now and then and it’s hard to look them in the eyes and tell them why they can’t get it. We’re broke. We can’t afford it. We’re poor. I’m a worthless bastard who’s failing you guys and your mother. Although they understand we can’t afford much, they still feel the pinch, the pain. You can see it in their eyes on occasion: disappointment—and it hurts. (more…)
The Street Kid: A Beautiful Journey
The street kid has been a prominent metaphor throughout my fiction, and there is a reason for this. In fact one could argue, I am The Street Kid. I go by Phoenix, Phoenix The Street Kid, and this is because of the way that I have attached meaning to the idea of a street kid just trying to make it in the world, expressing their innocence and resourcefulness, just trying to survive. I have a very picaresque idea of the young homeless kid, and this has no doubt influenced my perception of the homeless and my writing. Serving those experiencing homelessness has also influenced my writing and vice versa. My writing and my life would be very different if I didn’t serve the homeless population. (more…)
“My passion was dead. For years it had rolled over and submerged me[…]” –Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea
Suicides aren’t always dissatisfied with life. They’re certainly not cowards. Few people who consider themselves brave could commit the ultimate act. In the aftermath of suicide, those left behind search for answers or meaning. Sometimes they can find answers, sometimes meaning doesn’t exist, sometimes the suicide is the result of a brain wired differently and given free rein to act on its impulses.
If you reduce the physical universe to its most basic components, you’ll find most of the building blocks are comprised of empty space. When I experienced suicidal depression, I experienced the sensation of the emptiness of the physical universe. Every second of every day. Every atom contains emptiness. Since I was composed of atoms, I was mostly empty–physically and emotionally.
And that emptiness weighed on me. It strangled me. It assumed a three-dimensional form and embraced me, suffocated me, asphyxiated me. I was never more informed or aware of the emptiness of the universe than when anxiety and suicidal depression descended on me. (more…)
Pay attention, men. I’ve got something to tell you, so let’s get to it.
Honesty’s worthless if it isn’t direct, so here it is: through most of my life, up to my mid-30s, I was a misogynist. It’s not easy to broadcast such a confession. It took most of my life to realize I was a misogynist. Accepting the concept opened my eyes, yet I still experience discomfort and shame when I type those words: I was a misogynist. Now here comes the controversial part: I will not apologize for it.
If that infuriates you, it should. The Daulton writing this now is not the misogynistic Daulton, the prick who objectified women. An apology from him would have meant little because he wouldn’t have accepted the premise. Apologies are worthless if your behavior and your words diverge. From me now, an apology means less. I try to correct my way of thinking, and of the ideas I propagate, every minute of every day, instead of apologizing, I try to show that I’m different, that I’m not the prick I used to be, through my actions. I hope my behavior telegraphs my sincerest apologies.
Instead of apologizing now, instead of tossing around platitudes, I want to describe the way I used to think, my worldview, and how easy it is for us, especially you younger men out there, to fall into the trap. (more…)
Most of us have seen it: in 2013, a famous study reported that reading fiction makes people more empathetic. Many of us have even shared the article. Those of us who are readers or writers may even have felt a sense of satisfaction in learning that our hobbies and passions help us become better people.
If you search online for “reading makes people more empathetic” you’ll find countless articles based on that 2013 study, including articles only a few months old. A wealth of articles reiterating this study’s findings might even strengthen our beliefs that reading does, in fact, makes us empathetic. Although they draw on a single source, multiple articles create the impression of multiple attestations.
But there’s a problem: a subsequent experiment has failed to reproduce the results of that original experiment, which could indicate flawed methodology. Assuming the methodology isn’t flawed, we’ve also got to consider the distinction between correlation and causation. As we know, correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. (more…)