healing?

You know what’s like, incredibly ironic?

I think I heal from overwork by…doing work.

Is that absolutely insane?

The only thing that seems to cure my stress is getting rid of my stressors. Maybe this is healthy, maybe not. I should really go back to therapy.

I’ve realized I get more stressed when I don’t do things than when I do. So I’ve been keeping busy, but not biting off more than I can chew. Doing tasks I can finish after starting.

Avoiding my unfinished novel…gah, see? Even this isn’t without guilt, without stress. I’m always not doing something.

I think it’s from growing up in such a stressful environment, pertaining to grades and expectations. Maybe it’s just because I have high expectations for myself. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a realist in an optimist world. Maybe I’m a real downer most of the time.

 

 

religion

I grew up Catholic, then met a boy two years older who was smart and tall and loved me like I was his last breath. He was an atheist, but he called me his angel.

I have to give him credit, because I never questioned things before him. He made me skeptical. Later, cynical. I questioned the anxiety I felt at home, and why my family injected into my heart more fear than love. I questioned my future in “some sort of science” and realized my hands couldn’t stand to spend their energy with numbers and figures but chose art instead. I questioned even that: my writing was so frivolous and childish compared to his–his made me feel emotions I never thought about when writing my silly science fiction and high-octane adventure. Eventually, I even questioned our relationship. We broke it off after maybe half a year or so.

I was an atheist. Then an agnostic. I used science and logic above all else, and when others touted faith I labelled them as ignorant.

That lasted awhile. It’s hard to be an atheist when you’re afraid of ghosts. Not necessarily that I believe in ghosts, but long hallways and creaks in the night do frighten me more than they ever would an atheist. Perhaps an atheist would be afraid of these sounds but first think of burglars, you argue. True, I say. But I don’t think of burglars, I think of ghosts.

Spirits, maybe. Spirits would probably be more politically correct.

Thanks to that first love of mine, I also stopped performing so much of my life. I had told him it would be hard for him to meet my friends, as I acted so differently around him than I did them. I told him everything, you see. He knew me better than I did, myself. He found this confusing.

Aren’t you yourself, with me?

Yes.

Then why aren’t you yourself with them?

Again, it was something I had never questioned before.

With this loss of performance, I stopped performing atheism as well. There are mysteries in the world we can’t explain, I said to myself but never out loud. I was afraid to out myself as a faltering academic to my scientific friends. They’d say I was going off the rails. Drama kids and their yoga bullshit. They’re getting to her, they’d say. Or not. I was so worried about what they’d say.

In any case, I was a secret agnostic, hiding both from my religious family and vehemently anti-regilious friends. And I stayed that way for quite some time.

Then I graduated college.

They say God comes to you in times of need. I turned instead to Wicca. Don’t people always? I feel like Wicca wouldn’t still exist if not for college kids experiencing some sort of crisis.

I put off job applications to learn tarot cards. I swept off the top of a bookcase to make my little alter and burned candles at midnight. I meditated with crystals clutched deep in the pit of my palms.

I don’t really believe in it. But what it has been doing is calming my anxiety–ah, did you notice the tense change? I’m still in this phase of life.

The thing about Wicca is it’s kind of silly, but isn’t all religion? What’s the difference, between praying on your knees or meditating in a lotus position? Eating Jesus’s bread and body versus lighting a handful of candles? Eh. Maybe it’s because Catholicism is so pagan, honestly. So many crazy traditions ripped from local religions. Maybe it’s me getting back to my roots after all, but roots that extend deeper than just the Christian ones.

It’s silly. It’s silly, and I know it’s a phase. And I don’t believe in the gods, and the goddesses, and that the elements are blessing me, or whatever…but I do believe in the calming power of meditation. And sitting in front of a candle with some pretty stones and plants and dried roses is like sitting before a gorgeous altar in a church. It makes things feel sacred and calm. It makes things feel right.

I need some ritual in my life of turbulence. It’s been so insane. I disappeared into the mountains to teach ski lessons after graduation, then decided to teach high school English and get my masters, and now I’m in limbo waiting for someone to give ol’underqualified me a job. Of course I turn to something for certainty.

Bottom line is that I don’t know why I’m doing this, or anything else. And you, metaphorical “you” who still reads this blog: you know I only come back to this place when I’m depressed. Maybe it’s manifested itself in strange customs and rituals this time instead of slicing open my thighs with a pocket knife. So this is probably healthier.

All I know is, it’s making me less anxious. And I’m not scared of creaks in the hallway at night any more. So. Who knows. Whatever.

writing, during all this

Writing my actual novel tends to take a backseat during times of great stress. I suppose that’s why adults have fewer hobbies than children. I remember a time when every second of my day was eaten up. Dance classes took up most of my free time after school, but I also had Brownies on Mondays, church choir on Thursdays, soccer practice on Tuesdays, cello lessons on Thursdays before choir….

Why do I feel infinitely more burned out now?

I think it’s because little girl me knew how to take a break. I never practiced cello or soccer or my dance routines–of course, I should have practiced all of them, and maybe if I had more time I would have. No, after I left that building, I was done with it for a whole week.

All my activities now are things I should be doing when I want to be relaxing. Writing a novel is something that  feel like should take up every free breath. Learning Spanish, they emphasize, needs to take place every day. Even my job as a summer school teacher is taking up my free moments, if not in work than in anxiety and nerves.

Even “relaxing,” when I manage to do it, is productive. Maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe it points to a deeper issue inside myself. I can’t just chill and watch something on television, I have to be working through a series, or reading a book, or meditating, or drawing…I have to be completing a task or creating something new at all times.

It’s exhausting. I want to be able to put it all aside and play with dolls for an hour, then move onto Playdough.

But still I write, and it is good, because I do enjoy it. It is hard, and it takes time. But I love it, I do. And I am so close to being done with this novel, and then I can send it out places and get it published and start a new one, and let the whole thing start over again.

 

sunk cost fallacy and control

I painted my nails this awful color that’s normally purple but shines green in the light. It’s mainly a sickly grey, like raw chicken or old beef, but it took ages to put on so I’m leaving it, resigned to my fate.

Sunk cost fallacy.

That’s what’s locking my friend into a relationship he’ll certainly be leaving in a month or so. It’s what locked me into college when I grew to hate it by first spring. It’s what draws me to buy thing after thing after I buy the first damn thing.

You needn’t worry about me, you metaphorical “you.” I am fine. Writing like this makes me feel better. It’s good practice, too. It’s fun to write again, not just edit in tedium. It’s so annoying to edit. I love it. I hate it. C’est la vie.

This classroom is ringed in colored curtains, shielding the class from the new building going up next door. I am bathed in pink and blue. Jackhammers buzz out the window, men shout, hammers drive. Again I wonder what the school thinks, if it could. How it would sigh if it could breathe, how it would gaze longingly at the new brick, the fresh paint. I imagine buildings as trees, often enough. The way trees likely enjoy a fresh rain and endure, dutifully, a harsh winter, so does this school, standing for three quarters of a century in the spot of its birth, sinking ever lower in the swamps of this state, housing generation after generation of accent-laced townies. How many coffees have been drunk up by this stained carpet, colored like burgundy television static? Pixelated, undistracting, unstaining.

Tonight I am hosting Dungeons and Dragons, structured play-pretend. The more things change, they say, the more they stay the same. I play several different characters while my friends play one. I am in charge. I pull the strings. It is wonderful to have control over something, even if it is just pretend. I think that’s why I liked writing so much as a child. A blank page, on which I can do whatever I want. Sullen dolls who can look as I like, say what I want, do what I command. Letters that form at my will like a magician might control cards or string. Control.

Control and power, one in the same, no? I’ve always shrunken from it, but I suppose I’ve always hungered for it.

Substitute teaching is like spying. None of the students pay me any mind, but I can’t help but overhear them. Now they are talking about first kisses, joking over one boy who hasn’t kissed anyone at sixteen. Who cares? I would have, at that age.

“At that age.” Eight years ago. Oh, how adult I like to think myself to be.

book people

I only blog when I’m depressed.

Everything seems inevitable. I feel somewhat like nothing ever surprises me. Things are unexpected, I suppose, but not shocking. I’d love to live like characters in television, always overreacting to things, gasping their way into a commercial break.

I say television so much because television people remind me of ‘normal’ people. Book people are always more relatable, sadder people. Maybe that’s just authors.

I like that book people aren’t pretty, though that’s my imagination more than anything. I don’t see people’s faces often in my mind, just unfocused colors, like I live inside a Monet. Smudges of blonde curls for Amy March, a puffy Miss Muffet dress and blue boots. My mother is also her hair, swathes of black with artificially yellow streaks. My father is his gold-rimmed glasses, those of Gatsby’s billboard. My boyfriend, I think, is clearest, with the shape of his face and smile and kind blue eyes. Look, I’ve conflated the two again, book people and real people.

My book people—those I’m writing about—are based on real people. But, well, only in part. A professor, an aunt, a friend rolled into one Playdough mishmash with the voice of my own. I always see myself in my characters. Unfortunately, I’m not a great actor.

I’ve written three blog posts in ten minutes. I don’t want to stop my fingers. It is so freeing to write in this way, in one big long line without ever looking back.

I’m afraid to wear the kind of clothes these high school girls wear. One just complimented the amount of another’s ‘side-boob.’ Another has her shoulders bare, like those old peasant blouses worn by women stomping wine. Another has skinny white straps over the thicker bands of her bright red bra. My own bra makes my ribs ache. I feel like a ghost. They all ignore me, regarding me warily now and then.

I wish I’d chosen to stay home over these measly seventy dollars. I suppose I can’t complain, sitting here doing nothing while they talk about going to the Bahamas for senior trip. A year from now. How can kids do it, knowing they’ll be in these very seats an entire year from now?

And, if they’re me, four years from now?

“We’re all gonna be adults,” they say, talking about the island’s drinking age but meaning so much more.

suffering the heat

It’s 96? It’s supposed to be 96. Degrees. Outside.

Does that confuse people on the other system? Probably not by now. People must hate the United States, for many reasons, but mainly for its overexposure. That’s not the correct use of that word, is it? For a Word Major, I’m awful at words.

You can’t watch a movie without being reminded of the United States. You can’t watch the news, either…again, for many reasons.

I hate the news.

Sometimes I feel like people who aren’t depressed are the real crazy ones. How could you watch the news—any news—and blink and shrug and go about your day? How can you just know that there is so much suffering—

This is why I have a problem with “God,” anyway. And this is so typical, I know, such originality coming from good ol’Introvert Playground. But again, again, again, how could a God allow so much suffering?

I hate knowing that one day I will get a papercut and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Life is full of papercuts, and bee stings, and stubbed toes, and broken hearts, and funerals, and shampoo in the eyes and splinters in the thumbs and dead people taking up all the slots on TV.

Television is suffering. Even the fake stuff, the shows and movies, they’re all about suffering. Even comedy is about suffering. It’s like we know we live in the gallows but only the depressed people feel like talking about the elephant in the room. And then everyone gets mad at them for doing so.

“What can be done? Just don’t think about it.”

Okay. I won’t think about the world. But can I think about myself, and all the disappointments I can’t prevent for myself? Failures, rejections, heartbreak?

How does any girl live past thirteen? She feels the pain of a menstrual cycle for the first time and is so happy. It’s the second month that it sinks in. It is going to hurt this bad for so-and-so days every month for forty years. It’s a prison sentence.

I feel trapped by my body. It is strange and alien to me, a vessel to hold my pain.

Summer Approaches

I was here, and I am here again. Look, we are both heading into a blank summer. We will both likely be here next year, me after months of interviews and disappointments, you after sunburns and supermarket jobs and hours and hours in front of your television. My sister watched Grey’s Anatomy twice last summer, all thirteen or fourteen seasons of it.

I was unemployed in high school, thirsting for money and something to do in this boring suburb, and here I am again, four years after my graduation, complaining and lazing like Daisy Buchanan on a breezy sofa.

I’ll get lots of writing done, I say, not writing. I’ll read lots, I say, not reading.

I brush my hair at night until the brush goes through it easy as water.

I sit with my plants and candles, draped in a scarf I never wear outside. I copy symbols and recipes as if I’d ever do anything with them. I play with tarot cards and waste my time. I slice Havarti cheese and eat pickles with toothpicks, souring my breath even worse with white wine, pretending I have the budget to be blasé and aristocratic, pretending the books I do manage to read aren’t affecting me like so many pills.

I take a portion of The Bell Jar and wonder if it wouldn’t be so bad, sitting in a mental hospital and feigning growing health. I take a portion of Little Women and wonder if it would be so horrible to be a housewife, to find pleasure in a washing machine. I take a portion of Anna Karenina and the words wash over me like hot soup and I can’t focus and put it down.

It takes my eyes a long time to focus on things far away.