Thomm Quackenbush, author

7 Ways to Have a "Good" Life

"Good" in this context means other than utter, soul-crushing madness.

For what it is worth from a novelist you probably do not know personally, here is my advice:

  1. Partner well. Yes, I'm sure that fellow in the biker jacket, slamming beer cans against his head and yelling racial epithets at children, has a certain rustic charm. You are not stupid. You know you cannot change him and glare when reminded. You know it isn't romantic to think you can, however much media conflates love with suffering. However much you pretend you believe there cannot be affection without torture to earn it. I find it honestly regrettable that you find your stable friend - the one with a job, the one who doesn't beat you and insult you in front of his family - a bit dull. However, given that you hope to turn the "rebel" into the milquetoast through the power of your infatuation, perhaps we could call it even and you could spare yourself some time and much trouble? There are people out there with whom you will be better matched, even if you try to delude yourself that you prefer the challenge. I have been on both sides of this and know how agonizing it is when matched badly. And those relationships do end and almost always in the sort of explosion that leaves a crater and the flaming wreckage of your corpse. More seriously, I have to point out that relationships, even the best of them, require maturity, responsibility, and work. This work can either be the kind that you drag your ass to every day, griping the whole way (on which more soon) or the kind where you feel purposeful and fulfilled. This will require compromise. Yes, compromise on your part as well. Ideally, actually employ some logic to begin with and accept that you are not the exception to the rule. I'm sure it is a great lot of fun seducing people into cheating with you, but anyone who is willing to cheat with you is undoubtedly willing to cheat on you. Find someone you have no trouble speaking with, someone who doesn't bore you after you are done orgasming. If you can truly believe that this relationship can survive with its pants on, by all means, pursue longer lasting pantslessness. But please to not shag a succession of immature losers or put yourself in impossible and painful situations (which means, yes, you have to stop tupping married men because you "know they are capable of commitment" - yes, I have heard this) and expect this is ever going to result in happiness. Your full happiness won't ever be found in the arms and bedsheets of another person, but particularly not a person too busy loving someone else (either themselves, Superman, or their spouses) to ever love you.
  2. Get a job you do not despise that pays you enough to live. This absolutely does not mean working a ninety hour a week job so you can have enough money to support your trophy wife (No! You skipped past the first point! Reread immediately!) and your seventh Rolls Royce. If you are working a job you hate solely for the bragging rights, I'm not impressed and you are not happy. No, the world cannot support nothing but buskers and painters, but there is a niche out there for you. Not everyone needs to be happy, so let them work themselves into an early grave to give their children (well, one is biologically theirs. The rest belong to the mailman, the pool boy, and the Jehovah's Witness) an inheritance that does not quite overshine their resentment. Your job will be one of those facets of your life that you have to face several days a week for the majority of your life. It is too important to let yourself vomit each morning because you are so disgusted with what you do.
  3. Believe in something greater than yourself. I don't mean find Jesus behind the couch, necessarily. Just want something greater than your own happiness. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, tutor inner-city kids. You will be surprised how fulfilling not being a self-centered ass can be. If you are so miserable with your life that anything I am writing is striking home, you desperately need a distraction. Discovering a purpose to your life while thinking about anything other than the friend-with-benefits who gets all the benefits with none of the friendship or the third fast food job you've gotten yourself fired from this year can only make your life brighter. Just don't pretend you are a writer of supernatural fiction. That's my thing...
  4. Have a creative outlet you allow yourself to indulge in as needed. Okay, fine, you can write. Expressing yourself, creating something lasting, carving out beauty from your pain, allows you to feel that you are being heard. It is the toiling in anonymity, feeling invisibly filed away in Section 8 housing, that invites despair. You will feel so much less alone, you will have another legitimate avenue to feed your self esteem, you will allow yourself to become more fully yourself. Seriously. I promise to read your blog or attend any open mic nights at which you are performing.
  5. Cast off detritus to travel lightly. Yes, your breakup was horrible and your parents were bastards. Learn from it and move on. Do not make your life the altar of your revenge. You can't hurt them as much as they hurt you and any attempt to means you lost, that you are letting them cut you every day even though they have moved on. Stop losing, start living your life. Let go of hurt, let go of things you no longer need, your primordial identities that haven't really been you since the 90's. Stop attacking people because they are a friend of someone who hurt someone you know. This isn't middle school any longer.
  6. Take time to be by yourself. You are the only person in your life that you cannot get rid of. Find out how to like yourself. Do things on your own with no expectations of company. Do things because you want to. This will teach you who you actually are and who you want to be without the magnetism of other people's mental impositions.
  7. Drop the guilt/low self-esteem/etc. (I know how hard this is because I've faced it.) You weren't given a life so you could spend it hating your mother for calling you ugly. It sucks, I acknowledge it fully. I work with children who were underestimated and neglected and it cripples them. Now that we have both put our finger on the issue, get the hell over it. Seek therapy if you need to, but stop living you life feeling horrible. You aren't going to get another chance and you are wasting your time. The amount of energy you expend feeling like crap is considerably more than it would take to feel like a glorious member of the human race. So why do it? It isn't true. If you have the insight to feel terrible, you obviously have the mental faculties to realize the truth.

Xen likes listing various things in sevens. He might actually be obsessive compulsive in this way. We try not to mention it to him.
Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

7 Deadly
Deadly Sins

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush


Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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