It is an unwellness that is troubling me. I am having anxiety symptoms lying in bed at night. Is my heart racing because I’m having a tachardic episode or is this anxiety triggering my racing heart? The question itself causes anxiety. It makes for challenging nights. And I am tired.
At the recommendation of one of my favorite people, I recently watched the first episode of HBO’s “Crashing.” A show about a stand-up comedian in New York brings Senfield to mind. This is decidedly not that. The humor ranges from laugh-out-loud clever wit and dialog to, as one of the hecklers says, “it’s painful; can’t you feel it?”. During that episode, the main character is coopted into doing an impromptu live show and advised to go with where he is in the moment. The problem arises when the moment he is in is a total shit show, with his life in very fresh disarray. (Warning: spoiler alert; although the show is like four years old so there’s that.) So while he makes some reasonably funny jokes about having walked in on his wife cheating on him just a few hours earlier, the pain is too close to the surface and his set falls flat (thus the heckler’s line).
I once read somewhere that the worst time to write a love poem is when you’re in love. I would say that the inverse is also true. Writing about pain and heartbreak while the wounds are still fresh can be incredibly cathartic and essential to the healing journey. However, the material that comes out of that isn’t necessarily ready for the stage. It’s homework, a clearing of the stage, an inspiration and guide for the work that comes next. It is like dreamwork, pointing to something that is relevant and meaningful at another level.
Which brings me to a dilemma in this endeavor to think publicly. I am, decidedly, in pain and struggling right now. And part of me wants to share the writing that is coming out of this moment. It’s raw and embarrassing and a bit too emo for a 50-year-old. And yet, it is real. I’m working my way through one of the toughest situations I’ve been in over the last twenty years. And as someone who believes that story telling is a way of healing, not only for the storyteller but for the community, I can’t help but want to get on stage and see what happens. I know that this may be incredibly awkward and yes, it’s painful and yes, I feel it. But let’s try this out and see what comes of it.
Some things that I did during the pandemic that I haven’t done since returning into the world:
~ Study German every day. I hit over 100 days in a row without missing and made it five or six months of almost consistent daily practice. Haven’t done it once since returning to work in the office.
~ Do a Readwise review every day
~ Start my day by reading [partially, at any rate. That fell away a few months into the pandemic when my brain started to shut down]
Now, I work. I keep cats alive. Keep the garden alive. I try to sleep. Again and again. On weekends I try to pretend that everything is back to normal. My wife has missed the world as it was pre-pandemic. And she deserves to experience that again. So we eat out in restaurants. We go thrifting. We even went to the mall.
What I want to do is stay home. And sleep. By the end of the workday, I’m depleted. By the end of the weekend, I’m barely in my body still. I reach the point where I cannot engage any further and completely shut down. My friends have been hurt by what I’ve been told is a disappearance act. Rightly so. Yet I have nothing to offer. Not my attention, not my time, not my presence. It is all spent.
I wake up and where once I was grateful to find myself breathing into another day, I now close my eyes and try to find some small kernel of will power that will swing my body out of the bed and into action. I think “Here we go. Again.”
I knew that I not-so-secretly preferred the world as it was when I could stay home and be completely introverted. I did not fully anticipate how hard it would be to go back into the world of peopling again. It is loud and overwhelming and brutal and tears me down minute by painful minute.
If you think this sounds a lot like depression, you’re not wrong. It’s also grief at having to let go of a way of being that was built for people like me. Slower, quieter, more time spent at home. I need that. More than needing it, I cannot survive the combination of not having it and of having to be immersed in the antithesis it. There shouldn’t have to be a pandemic for introverts to be able to prioritize our own well-being and happiness.
There is another way. And now that I’ve experienced it, I’m not willing to let it go. At least not completely. Time to find a balance that works better for me. And my sanity.
Here’s the situation. The world went to fuck-all very quickly in March of 2020. What was originally stated as lasting a few weeks, even though we all knew it would be at least a month or more, turned into 14 months of the deepest isolation you’ve ever experienced. And that was both heavenly and hellish. Now the world has reopened as quickly as it closed. And it is both heavenly and hellish. Give yourself space, time, permission to navigate this shift.
You aren’t alone in this. Which is both tragic and a bit of a relief.
Just keep going. This is how it is now. It, too, will shift.
Photo by Nick Feelings at Unsplash