A funny thing happened when I tried to be normal


Since I was old enough to make decisions for myself I have lived my life based on Boolean logic. I suspect most use a similar conditional flow or ternary operation to govern thought and action.

If A equals B then C. If A equals Else then Else.

A = personal condition

B = action taken

C = result

Else = unexpected bullshit

If I’m unhappy with my health, I’ll eat better. Then I’ll feel better. (Magic)

If I’m dissatisfied with my job, I’ll get a better one. Then I’ll be satisfied.

It’s always worked for me. That is – until about six years ago.  Something changed.3gl_if_else

For some reason, getting out of bed in the mornings became a monumental task. Not just an “ugh I’m a non-morning person whiney-pants.” No this was a “maybe I can call in sick today and just become one with my sheets and the cats. I’ll read and write and catch up with friends on social media. I’ll be so recharged that I’ll be back to normal.”

It was weird.

So, I called on good ol’ George Boole(author of the 1854 book The Laws of Thought)– my If/Then buddy, to help me out.

If I’m feeling unmotivated, I’ll get up and do a kickass day anyway. Then I’ll feel motivated.

I got up. Drank some coffee. Read the New York Times (the whole thing). Took a shower (real hot, so long). Did the rest of my morning routine and drove to work. I sat in the parking lot of a job I liked. Where I got to do stuff I liked. And got paid well to do said stuff. I sat there for almost another hour. It took a combined effort of every cell in my body, working in unison, to make my muscles move and open the car door.

I went on in to work and had a fine time. But all day, all I could think about was not my loving wife, quirky-cool kids, great house, or my lottery-winning social situation. It was my bed – and the question, “how many hours/minutes would pass until I could get back in it?”

Something was off. This became my new normal. So, since insanity runs in my family, I kept riding the If/Then train.

If I call in sick today, then I can get a day to recharge, go to the gym and have some space to breathe. I’ll just bargain with myself every day – “just go in today, see if you feel better. If not take tomorrow off.” Sometimes I took tomorrow off. I never felt better.

I kept at it.

If I take this job at a cutting-edge tech company, I can finally feel respected in my profession.

If we plan a nice vacation, I’ll have something to look forward to.

If I buy this old car that all my friends think is cool, I can finally fit in with a group of people.

If I write a novel, I can get the demons out.

If I finish a novel, I’ll feel like I achieved something. (If writing a novel was easy, everyone would do it. Man, there are a ton of new books coming out every month. Maybe it is easy. Why is it so hard for me?)

If my writing gets chosen to be reviewed in New York by industry professionals (it did), I’ll be over the moon(I wasn’t).


If my Writing gets me to New York, I can finally be taken seriously by and fit in with a group of people.

Side note here – I finished a novel and feel like a fraud. I took it to New York and received validation that I’m not a hack and even left with two interested agents waiting on my move. Now I feel like an even bigger fraud (go figure).

If I could refocus my priorities and sell my car projects, buy a grown-up car, maybe I’ll feel more like an adult who has something to give back to the world.

If I had a strong mentor (I do), my writing could take off and really sing, man, sing like the sirens(ugh).

If I could stop eating meat, I could be more literal in my love and respect for animals

If I could get off these antidepressants my memory will get stronger and therefore my writing will improve (and maybe I wouldn’t cry at the Allstate insurance commercials – poor Allstate guy lives in someone’s attic, as a racoon, surviving on fiberglass insulation for Pete’s sake).

If I stayed off Twitter I would not be so sad for our country all the time

If I sit in the car for five more minutes and listen to the NPR piece about innovations in recycling glass, I’ll feel better about my recycling.

If I stay in bed for five more minutes, I’ll feel like getting up and taking on the day.

If I don’t open my eyes when the alarm goes off, I don’t have to get out of bed.

Nothing works.


Through this process, I’ve veered off the path of finding out who I am, what I’m into, what I care about, why I even get out of bed in the morning. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of bed. I don’t know why I’m doing it.

What’s the point? If nothing helps me feel like there’s purpose to all of this, why try? Is this what we are supposed to do? Have I conditioned myself to “like” the things I like? Is that all being happy is? Conditioned satisfaction?

When I crack my car window at stop light to listen to a finely tuned Porsche next to me, is that just muscle memory? Are the tingles on my skin a conditioned response? Do I even like cars?

When I am filled with rage and embarrassment after reading a passage from Infinite Jest, am I truly humbled by the genius of Wallace’s writing or have I been conditioned to think that is the proper way to feel? I mean if you don’t feel insignificant after reading DFW who the fuck are you anyway? Not a person that’s for sure. Maybe you are a tree. Maybe I am a tree.

A tree who has a loving wife, amazing kids, a nice house, and a stable job that I don’t hate. Nothing to be sad about. And I’m not sad. Just uninterested in life. What’s my problem?

It’s simple.

I suffer from high-functioning depression.

It’s a thing. And I won’t go so far as to say its normal, but it exists in me and I’m sure others as well.

So, if this is your normal – constant deal-making with yourself and scheming (screaming) to find a sliver of happy – you are not alone.

I don’t have the cure(obviously), but I have a plan. I’m going to be more mindful of what is happening to me and what I’m happening to. I’m going to label it. Put a pin in it and stick it on the cork board. I’m going to try meditation, yoga and maybe I can think my way out of it. Did I mention insanity runs in my family?

I’m not getting younger, but I have plenty of years left and I’ll be damned if I’m going to live them as a tree. Nothing against trees. They make nice oxygen. And shade.

3 thoughts on “A funny thing happened when I tried to be normal

  1. Maureen

    Great post, Rick. It’s heartfelt, painful, and most of all honest. Depression consumes everything and it’s that tricky bastard that lingers everywhere, draining the blue from the sky. I’m so glad you wrote this. I hope I’m some way it helps to put it all out there like you have. Keep at it. Everyday. Every minute. I’m here for you my friend. We’re all a collection of nutty writers with the family history to match.


  2. You’re depressed. I’m depressed. Maureen’s depressed. Everybody is depressed, pressed. It’s depressing. I loved the piece. I love the truth of it.

    Here’s my thing — I can’t send anything out into the world for acceptance or validation and not because I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid of my own apathy. Been apathetic for years, through success and very nearly dying a lot and still can’t muster the interest in getting interested.

    You face it here — same basic shit — with a quite wonderful piece of writing. But here’s the thing we really need to face: we don’t owe it to ourselves to finish and play out the game (run out our metaphorical ground balls), we owe it to the Craft. Not to mention all the depressed cats working at this particular scratching post.


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