The Paragraph Stacker

Uncensored columns from an exiled newsmane

Photo by nikko macaspac via Unsplash.

Everything feels wrong. The pandemic. Quarantine. Economic collapse. Unemployment. Racism. Violence by police. Violence against police. Outside agitators. Vandalism. Destruction. Theft. Curfew.

Hell, even Lady Gaga’s album is only so-so.

I live with chronic depression and acute anxiety.

And, friends, I’m cracking.

This shit is getting to me.

I’ve sworn off the news. Me. A 27-year newsman. I once got beat up in a Des Moines park after hours while covering violence in the park after hours. I wasn’t trying to be ironic. It just worked out there.

That was me.

Today, in a mess of free-flowing tear gas and pepper spray?

Hard pass.

Admitting that to myself makes me feel … lesser.

I’ve no call to be there. I’m still doing my journalism, but I’m independent now.

If you’re going to get mixed up with cops, protesters and rioters, you better have a good brand name with access to lawyers.

I don’t.

So, I’m sidelined like an everyday citizen.

These distress the big chuck of me that fears missing out, that wants to be in the thick of it and wants to lead from the front.

Yet a sizable chunk of me feels relief that I’m out of the game.

Just typing that sentence forces me to choke down bile. It disgusts me that I’ve lost whatever it was that sent me running toward the fray with a police scanner on my belt and my Blackberry (yeah, I’m that old) Twitter feed open.

But now?

Now I’m just a morbidly obese unemployed guy desperately seeking jobs along with 10 million of my fellow Americans.

If I’m not a newsman, what I am?

The confusion of self-worth and employment is an ugly side effect of capitalism on personal psychology.

We all more than our jobs. Yet, we spent a lot of damn time on those jobs. What value do I have if I’m not producing anything?

If I’m not making money, then I must be a lowlife skimming off the bottom of society, getting by on government subsidies.

I want to contribute. But Wall Street told me to take a hike because after 22 years full-time, I made a salary just big enough to be too big for an industry burning to the ground before our eyes.

I struggle to sleep. More accurately, I struggle to get to sleep. Around 7 p.m., I start getting so edgy you could cut cheese on my raw nerves.

I know in a few hours the city will shut down. The quarantine gave way to the curfew.

There was a time I would be headed out to sling sentences and stack paragraphs. But I’m sidelined, probably permanently.

And that hurts.

I can’t go to the bar. It’s closed. Hell, I can’t even order a pizza.

I try to give my life some purpose. I make daily contact with my friends. I check in with my parents a couple times a week.

I’ve asked my friend Paul to call me when he leaves home for work in Memphis.

I’ll get up at the same time and start my day. I look for jobs, set up interviews for future columns and maybe write something that is less whiny than this.

Yes, I could set an alarm. But I will ignore that alarm. When my friend calls, I’ve made a commitment to another person to participate in the day despite my desperate desire just to check out.

Even with my buddy’s help, I just can’t seem to settle in. I feel like a house cat that sees some ghost on the spectral plain and then randomly sprints out of the room.

Except I don’t run and even if I did, I don’t know where I’d go.

I try escapism, my drug of choice. I put on some of the new Looney Tunes cartoons on the HBOMax streaming service last night.

They echoed the classics I watched as a kid, but they weren’t the same. They felt more frenetic and neutered at the same time.

Yosemite Sam doesn’t use guns anymore because of course not. Yet, poor Sylvester the cat was skinned and had his muscles peeled down to the bone in the kind of gross-out comedy I would expect from Ren and Stimpy.

But I will never be able to watch and enjoy new cartoons the way I did the ones I saw when I was a kid.

That’s because when I was a kid, my responsibility was to have pants and a shirt on, eat a bowl of cereal, generally be quiet in the early morning and not make a mess in the kitchen.

It was just me, my dad’s Navy cap from World War II and my Pink Panther doll, who was my very best friend.

To a 5-year-old, that’s all there is to the world: Saturday morning cartoons and peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches.

Growing up brings responsibility. Rent. Mortgages. Car payments. Insurance. Bills. Still, even with that responsibility, there’s a rhythm.

These days, everything is out of step and unpredictable.

Unpredictable, like spontaneity, is overrated. Give me consistency and calm. I am 45 and I long for slow news days.

Mostly I just worry. I worry I’m not going to make it. All these years into adulthood and I’ve never felt closer to failure.

People have been generous supporting this blog and every little bit helps.

I’ve picked up one or two freelance jobs, but not enough to make monthly expenses once my severance dries up.

Unemployment is increased at least through July. There may be more stimulus. There may be expanded unemployment.

The coronavirus may peak. The racial unrest may settle.

I remember the words of wise, old Randy Evans when I used the word “may” in a news story many years ago.

“Finney, do you know what the problem with the word ‘may’ is?” he said. “You could just as easily say ‘may not.’”

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is reader-supported media. Please consider donating at paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

7 thoughts on “America in the age of permanent unease

  1. Kathy Kahler says:

    I so enjoy your articles and am so sorry you are struggling right now. You are not alone. Keeping you in my prayers and hoping you will find other work – you are a great writer and way too young not to do what you do best! Kathy Kahler

    Like

  2. droll53 says:

    I find these YouTube videos oddly comforting. I found her on Twitter. YMMV

    I am grieved this happened to you. I don’t know else what to say. It isn’t your fault; of course you realize that. Because it feels personal.

    I’m glad for your commitment to starting each day with your friend. A lot of people who have followed your stories most likely feel the same.

    This whole thing has me upset and worried. Angry because people should have voted for the email lady. Angry because no one at the NYT or some big outlet said, “What she did is what everyone does; those who have multiple email accounts. Outlook makes it easy. She set up a secure server that was never compromised. The State Department servers were hacked and compromised.” The big outlets kept vilifying her because it made them money. And now look at our Country. So many things could have been different. Anyway, that’s my rant. Cheers Newsman1. Enjoy the feed from Ireland.

    Like

  3. Diane Kolmer says:

    You have echoed my same fears and anxiety as I was forced by illness to leave my job 23 years ago…a job I loved and was very good at…and it was a key identity to me….while I had a severe chronic progressive illness to face and ‘live’ with…it pales in comparison with today’s environment that has left you without that professional/occupational identity…and I have a small sense of your fear and anxiety around this new reality of yours. You simply have got to keep stacking paragraphs..no matter how few..or how poorly you may feel about their respective quality…keep writing…please..

    Like

  4. Jan Watson says:

    I so enjoy your writing and miss your columns in the Register. You are such a master at your craft. Hang in there. This too shall pass.

    Like

  5. Rhonda Williams says:

    Again you echo what is in my head. Mine was voluntary leaving a job, I retired, not realizing how much it would rock my world. My health was not great but now I had to search for purpose! Thanks Dan, keep stacking it will get better, life will change, maybe it will be just what you wished for!

    Like

  6. Allison Anderson says:

    Our lives and identity are so tied to our livelihood, it is a huge loss when things change. I am so glad to be able to continue to read your articles and support your work. You speak from the heart and speak for many who don’t have the skills you do with putting words together. You help me understand people. You make me ponder. I appreciate you and your work. Please keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joyce Schneider says:

    A lot happening in this crazy mixed up world!! In 15 minutes we will be in Thursday – hopefully your best day ever! Wishing you the best.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: