Day 255

Suddenly you look up from your screen and it’s pitch black outside. 5pm. Already the weeks are so long and the days so similar, with less daylight this sense that life must be happening somewhere even though I’m missing it because I’m staying home has been replaced by this fear that life is no longer happening, anywhere. That the darkness has cut you off from… life, hope, whatever.

I decide (and make a big deal about telling friends about this decision) that we have to agree the darkness is happening, not just be re-angered by it every day. So: I block it off on my calendar. A walk outside every day between 4:15 and 4:45. Being outside to participate in the approaching darkness is better than just feeling oppressed by it having happened, I say. There’s something to it. The streets aroound Central Square are still pandemic quiet at that hour but I walk around, feel the dimming light, try to notice things, take pictures, breathe. Turn off my music and podcasts and listen to the silence inside my brain, maybe, a little, for once. I often end up at Graffiti Alley, a little splash of raw neon art every day, like a cup of coffee splashed into my eyes. Does it help? It doesn’t not help, how about that.

What else.

I make appointments with friends. Who has time to talk this weekend, like on the phone, like on the actual phone. No more video calls, please god. On video calls I can’t even hear, I’m just thinking about how I look, what the light is doing, look at the skin on my neck, how am I suddenly so old. On the phone I can just close my eyes and be present with you, hear you, listen, really see you. I’m with you. For once, I’m with you.

I write. I think about how I have 4 chapters left, 3 chapters left in my book and then I can move on to the next one. Always thinking ahead, never here. More time spent wondering when I’ll finish than actually finishing.

I logged out of twitter a few weeks ago and immediately stopped thinking about it.

I watch a lot of TV and movies and think about what I like and what I don’t like. What works and what doesn’t work. Meghan and I send texts back and forth, rewriting Ocean’s 12, pitching ideas for a gender-swapped reboot of the Bourne universe.

I’m sleeping a lot but I’m always a little tired and a little too awake.

I find myself taking a lot of screenshots of things people I follow on IG post to their stories. Something about the fleetingness. What if I want to see that picture again and I can’t, what if it’s gone forever in 24 hours. My phone fills with images I can’t quite place.

I have a bell on my phone that rings at random intervals throughout the day to pull me back to the present. I breathe for 10 seconds, then go back to whatever I was doing. I sit there and things happen or time passes or whatever. Low level infuriation, about everything.

We Hope This Finds You As Well As Can Be Expected

Some online friends recently ran a 40+ person zine trade that they called We Hope This Finds You As Well As Can Be Expected. Look at these beauties:

My zine was called Quarantine During a Pandemic is a Perfectly Normal Time for Your Heart to Freak Out. It’s about wearing a heart monitor, a thing I did for a few weeks a few weeks ago.

If you want to read my zine you can download and print out this PDF file here and then fold it and cut it like our friend Austin Kleon describes in this video here. Easy! The end.

Still, Look:

Woke up from a dream last night about a murder and thought: holy shit this is a perfectly wound plot. Went over the details in my mind to ensure I’d remember the basics when I woke up, which I did not. The memory of the memory is all you get sometimes. The feeling that somewhere in your brain there’s a more capable version of you, but it’s harder and harder to access.

Take as read the background radiation of the planet on fire. Black people being beaten and murdered and abducted by the police, every single day. Abolish them immediately, irrevocably. The pandemic, the voluntary shelter in place. The newfound fear of other people – their proximity, the atoms they exhale.

Last fall when I started therapy one of the big things I wanted to work on was: how do I stop living in constant fear about the planet dying. 50-75 years, give it. Forget science maybe eventually figuring out the carbon in the atmosphere thing, you can’t change the temperature of the ocean. Once the biodiversity of the coral reefs is gone, the rest of the ocean follows, and that’s (really!) pretty much it for life on this planet. Our part of it, anyway.

My therapist wanted to check in about that recently. Well, I said. It’s been a while since I had any panic attacks about the world ending in 50 years, since the timeline’s moved up. Since it’s now, instead of someday. Look at how much daily stress and panic I can absorb. Look at me, getting through the days.

Kind of.

Writing about writing is boring and I live I fear of needlessly occupying people’s attention with things that don’t matter so I’ll skip ahead. Before [gestures wildly] I had a really good routine: up early, bike downtown, coffee shop for 45 minutes before work. Day after day it added up in to a bunch of books about Kim Kardashian. Still, it got done. The last few months, I couldn’t find my way back to that other space, with nowhere to go. I always had this idea that writing required focus & attention. A form of prayer, some kind of secret language between me and the universe that required devotion, space, solitude. A stepping out of one’s everyday life, into something sacred. And then I thought: what if it doesn’t?

I write with the TV on now. Background noise? No: I’m on S10 of Bones and can share thoroughly-considered opinions on any aspect of the series. But I keep my laptop on my lap and Scrivener open and tuck sentences away here and there – when the scene is boring or involves that one guy I don’t like. It starts to feel more and more natural. Day after day it starts to add up into whatever it’ll add up to. Look at me, getting through it.

It’s called being hot have you ever heard of it

The definition of “hunk” has changed a lot over the years — mustaches, hairy chests, the number of inches between the knee and the hem of the shorts — but one thing that will always really turn people on is when you update your blog. People. freak. out. When people see an updated blog they are like Damn….me likey. They actually say that.

Like everyone lists Updated Blogs as one of their top interests on Tinder, but how rarely do you meet an actual person who doesn’t just talk about updating their blog, but who frequently and consistently updates their blog. Someone who can update their blog twice in a row? That’s genuine hunk shit. There’s so many people making promises about updating their blog, talking all kinds of game about how many posts they have in drafts, how thoughtfully they curate their content calendar in Google Sheets. Whispering in your ear about how they’re going to update their blog, and then push it out across social, and then come back around to retweet a reminder later. So you do all this work to get close to them and finally they let you peek in their drafts folder it’s like 1 or 2 very small, partially formed posts and no evidence of any long-range content strategy at all.

There’s just something about a freshly updated blog that puts people in the mood, that makes people think about commitment, the future, building a life. As a reader you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone who is really good at updating their blog. You see yourself waking up in the morning, crisp cotton sheets, sunlight streaming gently in. You look over and there’s your hunk, sitting up in bed, updating their blog. The whole day stretches out before you. So many ideas for you to inspire, so much content for them to create.

friends wth

For the longest time -most of my life- therapy/self-care/me-time, whatever, was just “writing”. Shut the world out, type words until I figure out how I feel about [whatever], understand enough about myself to know what I need to let go of. It worked! It was good.

But then at some point a few years ago it wasn’t enough, I needed to be doing more for my mental health, so I added running. Amazing? No ear buds, no playlists, just me and my breath and the horizon. Focus on the self and my surroundings. Be present. It felt good, positive, it worked for a few more years.

Then, last summer, that suddenly wasn’t enough either. I don’t remember the specifics but last summer was bad. It got so dark, all at once, and it was like: go to therapy or don’t be alive. The idea of the process of finding a therapist is forever exhausting so I very quickly decided it would happen online or not at all. This decision was cemented immediately by a sign from the universe in the form of [website I work with] randomly giving me a code for 3 free months of [online therapy site I was already thinking of signing up for]. So yes OK.

Initial attempts were not good, the first few therapists I reached out to were sucky and annoying, but for whatever reason I didn’t give up, I was like: I’ll try one more therapist, and it was perfect from our first interaction. Still meet once a week. I don’t have weekly goals or anything but we talk about radical acceptance, cognitive distortions, being a “curious observer” in my life and towards my decision-making. Mindfulness meditation, breathing meditation. A few times a week, at least, or at least the application of guilt if I don’t do those things.

I also quit gluten, pretty much? Not really related to therapy but two people in my family turned out to be celiac so it easily fell under the general category of Doing Things That Are Supposed to Help. This in addition to my already no dairy and no drinking. Stopped running b/c of plantar but was riding a bike to and from work every day, at least until work stopped being a thing I go to. Trying to pick up spanish again, practicing every day. Switched to deodorant and shampoo bars to get some plastic out of my life. At one point I even made my phone screen totally black & white so it would be less interesting to look at.

All this mental health stuff happening in my life before pandemic, before quarantine, before apocalypse, before my mental health really, lbr, even started getting pressure tested. I don’t know what’s helping or working anymore. It’s weird to look back at last summer as a time I could step outside myself and say “You’re mental health is bad”. What would the me then think about the me now? Weird to even think of seasons, the concept of “outside”, the idea of time passing, the sense of one day being different from the days on either side of it.

Um. I can’t remember what my point was going to be when I started writing this. Doesn’t matter! I’m literally only posting this because I haven’t posted anything here yet this calendar year and I am looking forward to saying I accomplished one thing today. I am forcing myself to do this. It’s excruciating.