Escape Velocity

We passed upon the stair. We spoke of was and when.
Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend.
Which came as some surprise. I spoke into his eyes,
“I thought you died alone, a long long time ago.”

The heavy malaise that settled itself over me at the beginning of the holiday season has slowly grown, alongside the snow weighing down tree branches outside my office window. My friends keep suggesting that it is seasonal, but I am skeptical. The symptoms are noticeably proportional to how productive I am, and both quality and quantity of sleep I am getting. My sleep has been poor for many months due to a combination of external factors. In a nutshell, inadequate art and creative time combined with sleep deprivation makes Jen literally feel like dying. The needs of managing the equivalent of two full-time jobs continue to edge out room for anything else, gradually turning me into a goal-fueled meat robot unable to focus on anything but milestones and To Do lists. To further remove anything resembling joy from my life, on January 6th I began a strict ketogenic diet to lose the last 25 lbs that I stalled out on back in 2016. I have not imbibed a drop of alcohol since late July, and now I have almost completely cut carbs and added/refined sugars. I feel very clean.

Oh no, not me, I never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

The new diet, along with a schedule of self-selected supplements (ketogenic-specific multivitamin, collagen, biotin, potassium, and vitamin D), has had an incredible effect on my mental focus and energy levels. Please note that I am not a doctor, nor am I recommending that anyone follow down the path of my insanity. My understanding is that the blood sugar levels are maintained with more stability as the body breaks down fat in place of carbohydrates, which prevents both highs and crashes. I am able to fast for hours or even a day if needed with little negative effect or feelings of hunger. I have lost over 10 lbs so far, and expect to hit my ultimate goal by the middle or end of April. I know that at almost forty years old, I am going to have to remain forever-diligent about my diet to stay the size I desire to be. I do plan on re-introducing good carbs like whole grains, but kicking sugar has been life-changing for me. The days of stuffing my face with donuts to avoid emotional problems are over.

The depression is another matter. It is a simple task to update my website or crank out Sharpie artworks while moderately distracted, but my schedule and environment are just not conducive to the periods of quiet and solitude that I need to work on a 20-24 hour per page long-form comic project. One of my colleagues and friends suggested that I go a simpler route, but that is not compatible with my vision, and I do not believe I would be happier with that than doing nothing at all. Something, however, has to give soon and I do not know for certain what that will look like. I am being nudged toward the edge of a cliff where, at some point, I have to have enough faith in myself to make the final leap. Right now, I am sewing up the parachute to soften my landing. The sooner that I am able to step down to part-time work, the less toll there will be on my mental health. As I stated on a recent podcast, I will torch the rest of my life to the ground, if that is what it takes, to reach my goals.

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home.
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed.
I gazed a gazeless stare at all the millions here —
We must have died alone, a long long time ago.

Not the familiar and well-trod numbness of depression, but acute feelings of grief and sadness linger like ghosts in my heart — in spite of everything — for both personal reasons, and the general state of the world. Grieving things that have happened? Grieving things that have yet to happen? David Bowie appeared to me in a dream last year and spoke, and I still have to illustrate that. Perhaps my greatest accomplishment of the last three years has been not the disassembly and reassembly of myself, or resurrection of my career, but gaining the ability to smile and continue dancing through pain, loss, and the things that would have utterly destroyed me not so long ago.

Who knows? Not me. We never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

Right now my focus is on Instagram and my Facebook page, so please follow me there if you are not already. I received some lovely artwork from friends and readers for my birthday this month. There is a Happy Rats colouring book planned for release in April, T-shirt pre-order in March for the second printing of Stop Fuckin’ Around and the Queen of Assholes playing card logo, possibly a Dollar Late mini-comic by May? Lots of good stuff. Stay tuned.

David Bowie, “The Man Who Sold the World”
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