Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

Happy Belated New Year and best wishes to you and yours in 2022. Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, please pardon me while I work on an attitude adjustment.

I know the title of this post doesn’t sound particularly uplifting. Basically, it indicates that no matter what someone does, they’re screwed, but I’ve already done two pieces about being extra. It’s a bit of an understatement to say I’m not feeling it right now. The last three months of 2021 didn’t go exactly as planned, due in large part to a technical issue on my laptop. It made an unwelcome appearance in October. I had no idea out-of-control cursors were a thing, because I’ve never experienced it before. Talk about aggravating. I spent 6 weeks trying to isolate the cause, while still trying to stay on my production schedule, and finally had to throw in the towel in early December. Since the drives, installed apps, and malicious attacks didn’t seem to be the problem, I eventually concluded it was most likely a hardware issue and had my suspicions about the cause. Ah pooh! (Change that to a few choice words if you’re a fan of reality.)

It’s amazing how a seemingly minor problem can snowball and force one to consider making some major decisions. These days, all businesses depend on computers. Since I own a digital production company, it’s still the most important tool in my line of work. Without a computer, I have no business. Current prices and availability of many things, including electronics, are a major issue for most people right now. Being a control freak, I’ve been dreaming about some additional equipment which will expand my merchandise options and provide even more autonomy. The purchase of a new computer will delay those plans a little bit. My laptop also had a lot of memory left in the D drive, and I hate the planned obsolescence built into electronics. The materials they contain produce some of the most toxic waste imaginable, which is difficult to reconcile with responsible stewardship. So, I found myself deciding between three options. I could sit tight for a bit and see if better prices and availability for a new computer would materialize; try repairing my current computer; or throw in the towel and call it quits.

Sure, the possibility of getting something new is exiting, except it isn’t so simple when you have an emotional attachment to something. Over five years, I used my laptop to write four blogs and two novels; designed and published those books both inside and out; created a website; and challenged myself with audio production. Besides trying to eliminate waste for as long as possible, I suspect that’s why an attempt at repair seemed like the best choice. Alas, a door closed, whether I was ready or not.

It made me feel somewhat better the manufacturer’s repair depot is located where I live. Other than that, the process did not go as smoothly as I hoped it would. I expected to have my laptop returned in working condition within two weeks. While shipping back and forth was quick, the same could not be said for the repair process. Large corporations are the opposite of efficient, especially in the communication department. Despite paying a bit extra for expedited service, I didn’t exactly receive it. Once in their possession, it seems most expedient for the repair technicians, who are actually working on a device, to contact a customer directly and discuss options. Imagine my annoyance to discover it doesn’t work that way. All communication goes through their call center in a foreign country. Ultimately, my computer was deemed end-of-life and returned without repairs.

Two years ago, I accidentally cracked the case in the upper left corner while lifting the screen. I closed it up between the seams with 2-part epoxy, but there was a part on the hinge which didn’t have enough material for decent contact. Because the screen no longer had optimal stability, my laptop was kept mostly on my desk and I rarely closed it. I did receive two more years of service from it after the incident, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much. I was a bit angry at first, that my computer wasn’t returned in the same condition in which I sent it away. I’ll be honest and admit I cried for a few minutes. The technician opened the repair I made and removed the hinge entirely. The screen was no longer attached in that corner. The accompanying letter from the repair department didn’t go into details concerning their findings; but after examining the connecting wire they pulled, which had been routed through the hinge, I discovered about half an inch of coating had been compromised. I initially suspected a short might be the source of my cursor woes, and it stayed in the back of my mind while I eliminated all other possibilities.

Would I do it again? Probably. They only charged me for the expedited shipping and device examination. The experience proved I was correct about the cause. It gave me closure, which made it much easier to let go and focus on a replacement. My husband convinced me returning to a desktop system better suited my needs anyway. I hate to admit he’s right, but I heeded his advice, largely because of accessibility to larger screens. Big monitors do have advantages when you work in a creative field, though it’s forcing a bit of reorganizing on my desk. Still, it might be worth it. My new monitor will be old people friendly. I’ll be able to enlarge documents and graphics projects at least two times bigger than my laptop allowed. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to work without glasses! Then there is the ergonomic keyboard and mouse for my overworked hands, which was a necessary splurge.

I’ve always been a big-box-of-crayons kind of gal; a tendency which reaches back to my early childhood. It definitely came back to haunt me while shopping for a new system. When you do anything graphics related, computer guts are a big deal. I purchased directly from the manufacturer because of the option to customize, though it’s not entirely the joy one might think. Computers are like many other purchases right now. Don’t get attached to something unless you plan to buy it immediately. I found one CPU tower which had at least 95% of the features I wanted. Sleeping on it for a night proved a big mistake, because it was out of stock the next day. (Insert more swear words here.) OK, what next? Granted, that model’s processing specs were probably a year old, not to mention its OS received a new version a few months ago. “Well, hello there, new model. I don’t really like the base price and you’re still a bit lacking for my needs. Hopefully, I can do something with you that’s still in my budget.”

They had plenty of options I found appealing, until I looked at the prices. I have three words for anyone who says compromise is great. I think ya’ll can guess; but damn it all, since the upgraded keyboard was non-negotiable, I didn’t have much choice. At least I can take comfort in my new baby’s ability to grow, and it’s five years newer than my dead laptop. No, I didn’t sleep on this one. I made some tweaks, put it in the cart, then prayed, “Father, forgive me, but I know what I’m doing. I hope.”

You might be asking, “Why didn’t she make it easy on herself and just choose option three?” Believe me, I’ve pondered the same thing myself. It’s another classic case where perception is everything. Had I been given another golden opportunity to quit and return to my private garden of creativity, where everything I do is strictly for my own pleasure? Or should I persevere with the expectation my efforts and hardships will eventually reap gifts I never anticipated? My three-year anniversary, when I decided to finally finish “Heart of a Star” is in April, and I’m within a few chapters of completing book three. The hero, John, will be justifiably upset with me if I don’t finish his story. Because he’s an ambitious go-getter, I wouldn’t put it past him to lecture, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” OK, let’s be honest here. No one wants to hear it when they’re in the midst of a crisis.

I guess there is one advantage to age and a stubborn personality. The longer you live, the more it’s proven, that the easy answer is often the worst choice; not to mention stubborn people hate to lose. Before making any decision, you should always assess your blessings first. When you take the time to be thankful for the things you still have, you often discover your situation isn’t as bleak as it first appears. I’m fortunate to already have backup options. My husband was nice enough to let me hijack his laptop so I could mind the store and make those decisions. Holding onto some quaint, “old school” habits isn’t such a bad thing either. I back up all my work to an external hard-drive I own, meaning all my files are still accessible, even without an internet connection. After getting the email message about the inability to repair my laptop, I doubled-checked the specs on Karl’s device. There was no excuse to waste time on self-pity. I was able to install my most-used production apps and have started to get a few projects back on track, while waiting for the new computer. That includes utilizing this website’s store to hold a market aimed at creative folks, or someone shopping for unique gifts.

My art studio (AKA The Aquamarine Cave of Creative Wonders) is overflowing, and it’s time to liquidate my stash just a bit. Hey, it happens when you’ve never met an art or craft you didn’t like. I recommend checking regularly to see what appears, since I won’t be listing everything at once. I’m starting with a few items, and when one sells, I’ll list something else. Who knows what might pop up? In some instances, it will be raw materials, kits, patterns or books. In others, they may be semi or finished items which were purchased on a whim and I enjoyed completing. For those who think this endeavor isn’t related to my website’s purpose of storytelling, I beg to differ. The treasures I plan to sell are a part of my life’s story, and some of them may even be vintage or antique. I only have so much room or time. Now, I need let them go, with the hope they make someone else happy.

It goes without saying reflection has been a major part of the past months’ decision processes. A recent conversation on social media, started by my friend, Michelle, provided a timely reminder. She suggested abandoning the tradition of eating black-eyed peas and cabbage for good luck at the beginning of a new year. Sounds like a good way to create some natural gas instead; and since I dislike black-eyed peas, I’m already on board.

I don’t entirely believe in trying to create good luck anyway, unless you want to compare it to the saying. “Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.” I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I have discovered, however, that never taking good fortune for granted is an excellent long-term strategy. As much as possible, always have a backup plan. Adversity effects everyone, and it always rears its ugly head at the worst possible moment. For the things you can’t control, please remember the following.

The yin/yang symbol has been mentioned more than once in some other things I’ve shared recently. Most frequently, it’s represented in stark black and white. Yes, real life also includes many shades of gray, where things don’t always appear so cut and dried. How we deal with them is completely dependent upon our viewpoint. The real purpose of this symbol is a reminder about the necessity of opposites to create a balance. Michelle’s suggestion, and the responses it received, reminded me that blessings and miracles wouldn’t exist without adversity. Light has no meaning without darkness.

I suppose it’s inevitable we use the beginning of a year to set new goals, including being more successful. What is true success? Most of the time, we usually associate it with things like financial wealth and fame. Sadly, they aren’t guaranteed to last after we obtain them. Achieving our goals, despite the struggles we encounter, is the very definition of success, even if others never know about them. Those experiences are the ones which never leave us, and we only fail if we allow our circumstances to defeat us. In a world which places great value on easy and instant rewards, it’s also difficult to remember patience is still a virtue. Like an epic painting, the true worth of our struggles doesn’t always become apparent, until we reach the end of our journey, when we can finally step back and view our life’s work in its entirety.