An epiphany on the walk to your appointment. No, it came the night before, running into your friend Kevin while you were nursing a Skor bar in your pocket outside the Shopper’s. You eat food wilfully, as a means of making space. Space for whom or what? In either case space you didn’t need to make. In your bag: fifteen cheesecake bites and a bar of sea salt and caramel chocolate. You bring out the latter when it becomes evident that the former doesn’t interest your partner. Over the course of the next day you eat twelve. Kevin famously lost twenty or thirty pounds just by switching from Budweiser to Michelob Light. It feels wrong to wave the chocolate in the air in front of him. Like he could hex you: give you the reverse fate, chocolate dooming you to fifteen or twenty pounds gained in a week. As easily as it came off him. You’re sick and you need the calories, you tell yourself, as you also tell him you’re delirious (he doesn’t understand why you would even bring that up). It’s true that you feel better today than you did yesterday or the day before, a difference you ascribe to eating all that desert—and the next day, a milkshake, a medium fry—but which just as easily could have been the body naturally healing itself, over time (perhaps you even retarded your healing). What does the body need? You aren’t sure. And now that you’re thinking about it, the epiphany came a week or two earlier, walking to meet her, but first passing through the Metro, where you bought a pizza bun and ate it quickly in the park.
It doesn’t matter who is in the right—there’s no such thing as “right.” It’s terrifying to find yourself in that moment, yawning over a gulf that you didn’t know could exist. “I’m sorry—” “No, I’m sorry—” Unsettling to see the ground trembling distantly beneath you. Suddenly no amount of reassurance could undo this uncertainty—but perhaps there isn’t uncertainty at all. You’re waiting for a sign, an indication that nothing has changed. But if nothing changed then you’d still be stuck in that span of time before, still subject to the drop you didn’t know was on its way. And then when it came it would be devastating.
It feels like a lot has been on my mind this past week, like I’ve been shifting unsteadily between many different states… Spiritually and emotionally, I’m exhausted… I keep waiting for clarification, for rest, for ease. But it will never come. I have to find it in myself. Of course, today, the day of a big presentation, I’m sick—it makes sense, given where my mind and body have been. (There’s been no place for rest—my body is giving up just as the finish line nears.)
Where have I been? I keep running into these moments at home where I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t want to leave my apartment, but I want to go out; I don’t want to watch TV or a movie, but I want to be remade completely by the ups and downs of a dramatic visual program. I want to be moved and changed by the flux and surge of music. Most of all, I want to read—I want to bite into the piles of unread books that surround me everywhere I turn. But I must not want to read, because I barely do it.
I feel like I’m carrying something I can’t put down. But I’m not quite sure what that is. And I don’t know where to put it. And if I don’t figure that out soon, I’m worried I’ll keep the burden until I forget that I ever picked it up.
I’ve come to the end of a long journey. Tomorrow I arrive at the station. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s not a real end—there’s much more to do. But at least the train will stop long enough for me to get my bearings.
Getting deeper and deeper into something. Asking questions. “You’re quiet.” Wondering what would change, how to change, what can change. Feeling raw and trying to pay attention to that. “This feels like a very young you, in front of me right now.” What does that mean? “A confused you. An overwhelmed you.” I’d love to be able to focus on the material in front of me. I’d love not to be triggered by dealing with authority figures. I’d love to feel less contingent. You can feel precarious—existentially—even when things are going well. Even if—existentially—you’d be fine. Fine but upset. What do I mean by upset? Radical upheaval. Tectonic plates moving. Now is the time to work. But it’s also time to feel.
Viewing impulses to play The Binding of Isaac or Into the Breach for hours at a time as symptoms rather than decisions: I can’t decide when the feeling to lose myself comes over me, only how to respond. I feel “bad”—when I give in to it, but I feel “bad” before giving into it, too. I feel bad that I want to waste my life in this way, but at the same time it doesn’t quite feel like a waste. Only a kind of postponement (I have mentioned this feeling recently).
A meeting and a dinner on Monday. At the meeting people talked about volunteering with various leftist organizations… I thought, don’t I have time for that? Don’t I have time for that, and don’t I waste all of my time on compulsions? Then I went home. I was exhausted. I wanted to work on the story that I’ve been imagining myself working on, but I couldn’t. I wanted to watch television or a movie, to release something inside me and then go to sleep, but I wouldn’t let myself. (To release something inside me through writing fiction, too.)
I didn’t go to sleep until one-thirty in the morning, I exhausted myself saving the world perhaps three or four times. There were moments of perfection in that experience that I can still hang on to. Not as a kind of glory or triumph but a blankness. A pleasing blankness. But I felt worse.
Before going to sleep I asked myself: Why am I like this? Why am so depraved? Why can’t I spend my time volunteering, putting myself to good use? And I had a dream that night which seemed to directly answer the question. In it my paralysis and fear were one and the same: the dream described how I was never able to get answers. My mother shifting the blame, until she collapsed out of exhaustion. Movie monsters were shown, embodiments of my fear: tame, behind glass. I was invited to yell at them, tap knives against the screen. It was explained to me that the latter came from the former, from neglect, from violence, from lies and refusals of responsibility.
It all seemed so easy, something that could be fixed by knowing. But understanding is not the same as doing. I’ve written about this before. And perhaps I have never even understood.
The Bureau of Questions. R tells me something she learned in social psychology, that if you call someone and ask whether they are a charitable person, or support the idea of giving to charity, but without asking explicitly for money, it is difficult to get a no. Then—unrelated—you call them three days later and ask them to give money: a seven-hundred percent increase in donations. I’m not interested in money, although I’m glad to note the efficacy. A Bureau of Questions—a group that calls asks the right questions, questions that unsettle them or change minds. Questions that irritate, like grains of sand… Questions that pass so silently it’s almost as if they weren’t ever asked at all.