Paraphrasing from a recent TED talk I heard: The energy it takes to get you out of a warm bed into a cold room is the exact same energy required to change your life.
Here’s the frog to swallow. Do this now and everything else will be easier. Not easy, mind. We can’t make that assumption these days. But easier to not despair so fully. That’s the benchmark we’re reaching for…to not maintain an overfull sense of despair about things we have zero control over.
I’ve bought my airfare to go to Seattle, see some dear friends, indulge in all the Critical Role my heart can endure (this is why you need less despair, so the bucket can tip and sway under the overfill of joy) and reliably, it’s nice to have something real and immediate on the horizon to look forward to. It’s a good reminder, of course, about the Grand Plan, to get myself into a bit better shape to not get overwhelmed by those hills once again. A reminder that you can’t get there by doing what you’ve done before.
Someone posts a meme: “You deserve someone who isn’t confused about their feelings for you.” Comments ensue. His feelings – all feelings in all forms – are confused is the public statement. Well. I think. Well, I nod to myself, pulling at my dry eyes. Well. I can be snide about it. Post back something charmingly sarcastic about how little confusion he seemed to exhibit last night. Maybe all of that is a lie. Who can say? But I know that would be painful, mortifying, frustrating, and would end with me apologizing and feeling as though I’d crossed some line in the sand.
And I would have. It’s not who we are to use the forum to have actual communication, to argue publicly, argue at all. But the forum exists and these parallel streams of experience flow through its conduits, currents that split and run for miles in opposite directions before they cross into the fog of Love and War and somehow end up pooling in the same ocean. I hear what he’s thinking as a vase in a room absorbs an actor’s monologue. I just get to know it, hold it. I don’t have any option to roll myself on the floor and crack over it. I’m not the audience. I’m a piece of set dressing in the long Pinter play that is his life. An upgrade from a handful of dust, tangible, photographable, but unless you put some significance in the narrative, the gun is just a gun, the vase is just a vase, a spade…
Not entirely true. But far less false than it should be.
No word from the honorable RP’er. That is as it should be, of course. He’s passed the test, refused the ring, and away he goes with a good and happy life. Maybe. Nobody can begrudge him that.
I am moving on? Not really, but I’m enduring by building the small brand of power I claim. Another day – 3 days running – of facing the turn of terror.
A note, as a poet one must comment. Mary Oliver passed away today. You can kind of feel a chill in the air, a lacking that feels urgent, new, inexplicable. Let’s not forget the work, the way the work can make a life just where it stands.
I want to say that I’m a post-panic attack mess, but the thing about panic attacks is that when you’re over them, you’re out of the zone of panic, you’re fine. Or I am, typically. It feels ludicrous after the fact, except, there’s no way in hell you’d want to go right back and face it again. Today, however, I had multiple incidents of JUST NO GODDAMNIT.
I was fine driving to the parking garage. I parked, and looked around and realized I had driven to the opposite side of the freeway from where my bus would pick up. This meant, if I had any interest in not missing the bus, taking the walkover bridge. This, for most people, is not a thing. But my mind slipped its gear and suddenly, tunnel vision, heart racing, the usual effects. I paced about trying to not appear completely insane as people walked casually, strode earnestly across the bridge. I was feeling light-headed. The solution was right there. Eventually, the necessity of the thing somehow kicked in and I thought, I can see the buses over there. I can’t not get on the bus. The only busses I need are over there. I will do it. I will cross this evil looking unholy bridge.
And running my hand over the railing, my heart feeling as though it were a glob of coal furiously twitching out its last dying beats, walking like some sort of clomping psychopath, I crossed the bridge. And nobody knew that it felt as though I had defeated some sort of boss battle. Nobody knew how incredibly hard it was. Nobody cared as I bought my bus fare and calmly went to the downtown station and then took a lyft to the new job because I didn’t want to have to worry about finding the place on my first day.
Nobody cared as I sat quietly at my desk in our new space which is just a cubicle. There are people around, but we’re so tense, and feel, to my mind a bit like refugees trying to make our own space in this established country that it’s…well, it’s nothing like the shop. It’s sterile and claustrophobic and it’s nothing I want to experience, really, ever again, but I will. Even if I…well, eventually, it became time to go home.
And I laughed internally about what if I have some problem, wouldn’t that be awful. That joyful anxiety-based what if probe that never finds anything but blows up half my brain anyway. I shrugged it off, but then the lyft driver to the bus station was a mess once I finally got there and my initial start time to catch the bus back kept getting pushed back so that it had been nearly an hour since I left the office until I even got on the bus. Then, upon arriving at the station and getting in my car, I have this odd thought about how this place doesn’t look like any place I could ever be. My muscle memory won’t stop recalling how it felt to cross the walkover bridge even if I know I don’t have to do it.
It won’t stop cycling over and over as I leave the parking garage realizing I don’t want to be on this side, that I can’t be on this side, what road is this, it’s dark, I can see things I recognize right over the freeway, but I can’t move to get there…and then, full-blown meltdown.
I think my brain just realized that I was pushing it job change/life change/knuckle-down and bear it reaction right through and whatever calm I had before was gone. I pulled over and shook and cried and did the whole thing. Couldn’t get a hold of my sister, so I called my other sister and she was quite kind about it. Until she suggested I call my father, call uber or lyft and I was able to take a breath and manuever the car over to where I had intended to be.
And then, I sat and breathed through it and thought and twinged and flipped for about an hour in the parking lot. Stared at the cars as though they were weaponized.
Finally, FINALLY, time was time and the prospect of having anyone come and get me felt both deliriously right and tremendously wrong at the same time. Like, sure, it would in the instant relax and get rid of the panic, but then, I’d have to stave off the guilt. And if there’s anything in the world worse than panic (aside from the actual horrors of war, the actual traumas that exist), it is feeling guilty because you panic.
So, I rolled up this little ball of energy, the radio played a Paramore song. I thought I have power, I have an incredible superpower to fight through this now, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. A mantra that would brook no opposition. And suddenly, I found myself at the taco place getting tacos and gasping because, well, it was easy, of course. So close. So simple.
Hah, oh, fuck.
I can’t express how much I hated that. Or how relieved I am I get a day away from it. I don’t think I can share with you what it felt like to know you can’t go home. Or how suddenly, you could.
But, it was a day. And the fight goes on.
Would you care to be alerted that this post is going to be emotional? Rather than a summarily dry report of the days events, I feel…fucking…f…
That cry I wanted came. It has not been a torrent. It has not drowned a desert. But I have the sticky, post-tear rings settling below my eyes and the feeling that something has shifted, if only a burr becoming further embedded in my chest.
The job, the job that has caused me such infinite consternation, that was meant to be a safe haven and instead has impacted me negatively in almost every possible sphere, is moving. It is moving much further away from home along roads I do not know. It is moving next to the downtown corridor’s thick knot of highways. To take a bus from here would take 2 hours a day, each way: impossible. Stupid.
The sister says this is the time to get over this driving thing. This feels on the level of someone suggesting that I get over my gravity thing. It’s a thought. I can be fine, and then, suddenly, my body decides I am about to die and we must auto-eject. It’s not right, but it is. And I can’t make myself get up five minutes early for a cup of coffee these days. I can’t make myself put foundation on my face for fear I’ll have to look at it in the mirror. I can hardly make myself bother to brush my hair for fear that I’ll end up without any to brush.
Last night I dreamed that everyone I knew had died or was gone. This is it, I thought, this is how it is to be alone. I was wearing a dark blue sweater and I touched my arms, to be sure they were still there, that my body hadn’t slipped out with the rest of them. Okay, I said, okay.
And then I watched this: //player.cnevids.com/embedjs/52f2ad0169702d21a5080000/video/58050f7db57ac31622000036.js
Which feels keenly close to home tonight. A step behind. I find myself just waiting and waiting and waiting to say what needs to be said right now for it to be of any use.
I don’t want to do any of this anymore. Not life, of course, I always want to do life. Always intend to be the last girl standing. However, the job racket is wearing me down to the bone. This search to find some local place that will pay me decently and fairly and on-time to do work I am willing and capable of doing seems to be impossible right now. All the help in the world doesn’t pull rabbits from hats.
I want to be stable. I want to be stable. I want to be stable so I can grow. I was doing so well, but I feel like if I stop clenching I’ll let go of the side of the pool. I feel so life and death. I feel so siphoned down to the dregs. I feel. Which is good.
Two years ago, someone I’ll never meet smashed my car in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. It was irritating, frightening, made me vulnerable against my will. But it ended up being a financial boon. It ended up being positive and productive. Maybe this period of shit and head-fuckery and shame and failure is building me up for something. Maybe there’s a message. Maybe I’m a writer if only just to know that much.
I just have to vent. I have to do my five hundred words, too, so it may as well be a two birds, one stone shot at the heavens.
I am irritated because of a facebook message I just received and this is how I want to reply, but probably won’t because I am sane and want to keep things not about me and sending this screed in response will do nothing but inflame a situation.
The message was essentially to browbeat me for not coming over and seeing my mother today. The day that the sister came home from her whirlwind tour of New York and someone’s wedding in her boyfriends’ family. Apparently, I had been “paid” in her forgiving debts about our trip to Minnesota for my grandfather’s funeral by promising to spend every waking moment staring at my mother.
I didn’t do that. I did what my mother wanted and flowed in and out as much as I could. And the reason I couldn’t be sitting there watching TV next to her all the livelong day is because I am struggling as fuck right now to get my bills paid and to get myself in one piece and so I have to work six days a week, many of those on my feet, already knowing that it isn’t enough anyway. So when I turn up at my mom’s I am checking in, I am actively doing my best to turn off all of the shit I’m worrying about for me and to be present. I am asking her what is happening, I am listening as best I can and then I have to go. And after seeing her yesterday, after doing all of that, I just wanted to do these things I’ve been thinking about doing for weeks.
So this condescension that is dripping off this message…this idea that I blew off my mom and her CANCER is so goddamned frustrating. That she’s responsible for my mother’s emotions now and I am this massive jerk. All because she hadn’t been home for five minutes before she decided my mom was lonely today and I needed to feel shitty about that. Because she made slumgullion and we didn’t come over to eat it? My mom was capable of calling me to check in – we are capable of coming over tomorrow and eating it in the afternoon. I told her I wasn’t coming over! She said, oh, that’s fine! I had house stuff to do and I have been doing it, but apparently, we’re just going to disregard all of that and focus on the fact that my sister wants to control everything.
I have been there, I will be there, and I am tired. I am strong, but I just wanted one goddamned day to sleep in and fold clothes and play video games – and I had one, knowing from YESTERDAY MORNING that my mom was okay. My mom, who has always been a private person and is capable of being alone for 24 hours with her HUSBAND to look after her, was not going to die without me watching HGTV with her. I’m happy to do that. I like to do that. I have done and will do that. I didn’t do it today.
But the fact that she upended her whole life to be at home isn’t going to change one cancer cell. I’m just trying to get by right now, same as everyone else and I have devoted so much of myself to this family, to this sister and it was meaningless. It wasn’t needed or helpful. I have to look after me and the shit that is challenging and scaring me – part of that is my feelings about my mom, which are big and absorbing and overwhelming and real – but this is a long, long, long road and I can’t do it the way she insists it has to be done.
JUST STOP IT GODDAMNIT.
So I bought a bottle of Malibu and a bottle of Diet Coke and I’m gonna get through one before this night is done.
A note. I don’t have internet to distract me and hurry me to post this and get on to other things so it might go a bit long.
Today, the boss focused her wrath or her exhaustion on me. It was not the end of the world and I stood up for myself when she said she was frustrated with me and I explained exactly what I said and there was nothing in it to be irritated at. This meant that she had whipped herself into a frenzy over what I casually said to another employee and via text and email and phone message had been misconstrued and rather than just say, hey, did you say…it’s this accusation that I’m being an asshole. Then, she flips into this whole thing where she’s rude about everybody being inept and it’s clearly out of…yeah, no. No.
But, as soon as I deflated it, she apologized and apologized again when she got in the office. I backtracked and told her it was fine, fine, I understood the pressures she was under and didn’t take it personally. Then, she was totally nice, perhaps excessively so, for the rest of the day. This migt have been enough to rattle me as I try to always avoid any sort of negative energy being aimed or directed specifically my way, but then I had to take a call from a frustrated vendor who also vented her spleen at me about how shitty we all are.
Day 3 of…why the fuck do I do this? Sigh.
Then the little sister eventually arrived and we went for pizza and I explained the whole basic job not going well thing and the getting a part-time job and she took such news relatively well. She isn’t going to talk with my parents. She bought my pizza which I didn’t need her to do. It was helpful to just have someone on my side who isn’t there and doesn’t have a dog in the fight.
After all of that calmed itself down, it was time to go see the author I so admire and get my books signed. I hesitate to give the name here, for reasons, but I totally enjoyed the talk. The reading a little less so as they also had a female voice who treated the piece as rather like regional community theatre monologue and not the mysterious echoing feminine communication emanating from everywhere and no where at once. Which is how I always understood it.
Then, we get in line, we chat. My sister talked generally about wanting to read more, said encouraging things about how there were so many books, it couldn’t be so very hard to get something published. I realize I have no idea what to say to this author. No way to express all of my feelings. I haven’t even begun to process it to the point where I could elevator speech my emotional response to these books, but I’m not far back in line and it has to happen. I sort of forgot that I had any role to play in this transaction. Something has to be said about how I am a writer because of these books, they’re my favorite in the world, they’ve been a comfort and an inspiration and they’ve brought me back from brinks time and again. They’ve made me commune with the creative and made me trust myself as someone who can claim that title.
Finally, I decided I would just say that I didn’t know what to say, but these books have meant a lot to me for a long time.
My delight was, I am afraid, inevitably quashed when the author looked up, amazed and amused at how my little sister looked precisely like a girlfriend he used to have, twenty years ago. He told us her name and she sounded like some sort of Nordic muse, with slightly redder hair than the straw colored shocks my sister claimed. This startled us both. She laughed. I froze, but even in freezing marveled at how expected it was that she, who had never read these books at all, who I just handed a copy to glance at while we were listening, is the one who is remarked upon. For my part, (though I recognized I could have found a way to hold steady and assert my intended statement) I said nothing but smiled and nodded and said thank you as he signed the books and off I went.
Yeah, it matters, no, it doesn’t. Both at once. I was upset and I understood how unfair being upset at just not being in sync with strangers is. Still.
I think about how I was too stressed to put on makeup this morning and maybe somehow that mattered. But that’s not what this author is about at all, and it was just a silly moment, and nothing was happening in some conspiracy to cause me pain. Then I drove to the liquor store and whapped myself hard in the face with the power cord for my phone. These are all coincidences, unconnected, but it’s in the nature of this beast to connect these dots.
Sometimes it just feels like you try to be as good and as kind and as positive as you can be and life just pushes you into the snowbank, laughing, thoughtlessly as it rolls by.
This song is in my life today. You are in my life today and I am blessed to have you, little book, to keep my weeping and my wailing.
Work, in all its unnamed stresses decides, to name itself. It’s the S word.
We, dutiful, less dutiful, earnest, less earnest, loyal, less loyal, peons are not giving our all. Apparently. The task that was asserted a few weeks ago, we haven’t worked much on, and that task that no one has really mentioned is the hinge on which we all swing. We’ve failed and this has resulted in anger and resentment. Because things have been done to protect us, to ease the way and now, no more.
We peons suspected, but did not know this. Now we know. We can now struggle even more rapaciously to meet a new deadline struck down from the heavens, or it’s lay-off time. This means that I have to magic a universe hungry to provide enormous financial remuneration for us whom they so hardly know in eight hours on Thursday, or I suspect, find some way to do it in my off of hours as a salaried woman, despite that salary having been halved and in other ways problematic.
I…feel…of two minds. The old way and the new. The old mind wants to absorb all of the negativity presented to me and convert it into warm fuzzies and just knuckle down somehow. I was the one at the meeting who spoke and said we could try busting our asses harder. I didn’t say that, but it was presented as either/or. Try harder or the gravy train stops here. I don’t regret suggesting we should do something, but honestly, that’s as much as I meant. Something. The communication level, at this point feels…well, not good. And communication includes me, it includes all the things I might have said at all the various junctures I might have said it, and didn’t. I will take on my piece of it.
The new mind says, I am starting, albeit a completely entry-level position, a new job tomorrow. It is a job where I don’t have to try and untangle knots I didn’t make and my presence is ultimately most of it. Also, they think I’m swell and they don’t want my opinions on anything and they’re next door to a coffee shop and down the street from where you were so long ago and there is nothing to be gained by thinking of those old feelings, but there’s no longer anything to lose. And this is my day to be spent, making money to keep me fed. I cannot be in two places. And maybe I can’t have two masters, but I have to try this rather than burn myself alive trying that.
I think the crux of the thing today, the pearl of it, was watching someone hold in their troubles and for the first time getting caught in the fallout when they give up holding it. It doesn’t encourage sudden participation, all it can do is distance and discomfort. Like…don’t yell at me when I’m skipping lunch, when I’m racing and trying to help.
But if I lose the job, the what-ifs crowd in. The what-ifs coil close. I always used to wonder how I could cope with such uncertainty in my life. Now, I just sigh and carry on.
The startling thing is realizing you do not give a fuck.