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Let’s turn doing almost nothing into something to talk about.

I’m exploring my options by doing almost nothing for once. Or at least, I’m not driving to an office and sitting in between the office walls and letting fluorescent lights beam down into my eyes every day. I’m not plagued by constant dull headaches. I’m not sitting at a desk this summer.

Instead, I’ve elected to float below the surface, not quite staying afloat but also not sinking. I’m not hiding, I’m here, I’m just peering up through the surface.

The summer has developed a soupy consistency, all days are equally hot and humid. The air is moist and clings to the skin. From above, it weighs down on our brows and sends beads of sweat dripping down the backs of our necks. This summer, we are living in a fishbowl.

There’s no air conditioning in the car, so it’s a hot and heavy and necessary death trap. To travel anywhere in this vehicle is to volunteer to smother a warm pillow over our face. When the windows are rolled down all the way, the air whips by fast enough that there is some cooling effect. But this city is a knot of traffic, and most of the time spent in the car is baking into the cloth seats, oppressive clouds of air wafting in through the windows and hanging under the roof of the car. What an amazing machine, it can take us anywhere on this continent, we certainly could find the money to feed it gas, but surely it will kill us, or burst into flames. Touching the dashboard burns our fingers. Do not touch the seatbelts

But I don’t have the car this summer during the day. So this isn’t a transportation option for me in this time frame. I live in a cave, luckily, on the top floor of an apartment building built into a hill. The apartment is small, condensed, and the large windows in the back of the main living room open up to the trees sloping upward, blocking us from the view of the other apartments on the top of the hill. In order to fight the beating, violent heat from the other large windows facing out to the bare blue sky, I covered them with a vivid green tapestry with flowers and leaves curling around all throughout the design. During the day, the sun struggles to beam through these designs, illuminating the room in a light yellowish green.

I lock the door. I slide the golden chain into place. The other apartments are empty now, the fools in the office raised rent and no one wants them, and I can hear maintenance men clopping around in the building.

Most importantly, the old air conditioner runs all day long, swathed in the green tapestry and constantly filling the small space with a nice refreshing chill and droning hum. Since I’m well-aware this is racking up the electric bill, I keep all the other lights in the apartment off and the bedroom and bathroom door shut. The dark apartment, with light beaming in through the tapestry and the air cool, make the place feel like a cave.

We are living in a cave in a fishbowl this summer.

The days are so long that even when I wake up at 5:30AM there is light in the window. I’ve been sliding out of bed and we drink coffee in the morning, sitting in the same spots every day with our mugs, blessing the universe for routine, beautiful routine, gorgeous and amazing routine. Feeling scheduled brings us together, we can drag our bodies to where we know we are meant to be and put as little effort into our existence as possible. We can both buzz side by side, aware of each other, which is all we really need.

I just can’t stay in this cave forever. I need to escape occasionally and remember the world. In the middle of July, we slung some backpacks into the death box and drove up to New York for the weekend. We drove later at night, to escape some of the heat, at least. The sun was setting and the thick air composed a vibrant purple and pink sky, clouds stretching from the horizon and reaching for the center of the sky. In New York, we slept on several couches in cool apartments swathed with curtains.

We drove to the beach, walking through the molten sand dunes, heat radiating through us from all sides. The sand was clean and glimmering gold though. We fanned out the towels and lay down on a flat stretch, playing with the rocks and piling the sand up onto our bodies. The water was a blend of cool and warm, and we bounced along the sliding sand bars until we were far into the lake and everything looked small except the consistent endless blue above us.

We rolled a joint and walked back into the woods, where there was a wide creek and dunes so tall you could sit on the peak under a tree and stare straight down into the water, a solid emerald green. The emerald was so brilliant it almost seems strange, I asked, how can the water be this green? Chugging beers and passing the joint, we stood in the cold sand under the trees, a breeze teasing through the branches and through our wet hair.

But we had to return to the cave. The cave is our home. I crawled back into the icy reaches of our little apartment at the bottom of the hill, at the bottom of the fishbowl.

I’ve been working online. Pattering away at the keyboard at record speeds, selling products and making listicles for small fees, focusing on word count for hours and hours on end, playlists looping in the background and the brilliance of day trying to reach through the tapestry.

When the cool air of the apartment dries my sinuses and makes me pace, I make a cup of tea and turn on some resonant ambient music that floods the apartment. All this time, all this down time, allows me to toss over brittle old questions, prod them from a detached and neutral point of view. Where does my depression come from? What about my anxiety? I’m neurotypical, prone to anxiety, and when I fail to control it, which happens, my stress levels rise and perhaps there’s an autoimmune response. Perhaps when I’m clinging to the floor and imagining crushing my head under a cement block, it’s symptomatic of an illness, my poor lethargic body attacked by stress and my immune system doing only what it knows best and kicking into gear so hard that it leaves me a sick dog crawling on the floor.

Maybe my brain is inflamed.

I toss this question around under the ambient sounds and the buzz of the air conditioner until my mind is blank. After hours of taking huge purposeful breaths, I become empty and whole simultaneously. I am okay. This uneventful alone time involves me sharpening my knives, to fend off bad thoughts in the future. I am equipping myself to help myself. It may appear like I am doing nothing, but my mind is never inactive.

In fact, my mind has developed its own insistent little non-sensible tune about how this city is evil. Realistically I know positive framing will do me better than giving into weird fancies, and I tell myself that just because this city is squished into the hills with blankets of heat slapped over it, and even though it takes hours to even leave the evil circumference surrounding the rivers, this city cannot be evil.

There’s really no such thing.

I am safe inside a cave inside a fishbowl. I don’t need to properly emerge until September.

fishbowl

A lot of people are writing year’s end pieces, which I probably should have done yesterday, but here I am now. Writing something on the first day of 2016. I’ve never been good at encapsulating a year, or retrospecting on my own immediate life experience because the reaction on my side is cringing and blushing and uncertain befuddlement. At least when I’ve let experience simmer for a little while, I can begin to see the true shape of the harder, baked surface. Oh, yes, I was a fool, three years ago! Or, I did a masterful job at the helm there, then, I did!

But the recent past is a hazy blur. I used to turn away from this blur of time to the future, worrying about cycling sets of things to come, ranging from pleasant to nerve-wracking. This wasn’t good for me either. The future is impossible to get a grasp on. Once you grab hold of it, it’s suddenly part of that blurry craziness of the recent past. Fuck both of these things.

I could look back and easily say things have changed quite a lot. That’s an easy description of recent time. I’ve thrown myself up into the air, yet again. Yet again! Because when I really think about, every year I look back at the previous year and everything’s been tossed up and I’ve made dodges and taken chances and changed. That big shuffling change, that’s normal, and constant. That’s not a retrospective delight, that’s expected.

So, lately, particularly last year (sticking with the theme here, I am—last year, hm) I have grown better at living in the now. So what’s happening right now with you? I’m sitting at the dining room table, which I just cleaned fastidiously after smoking a bowl, lit a few candles, there are sugar cookies cooling on the counter. The stockings are still up, but I just took the Halloween decorations down today. There’s an engagement ring on my finger, and I plan to watch an anime soon about cute high school girls who operate tanks. Great Lake Swimmers is playing on the computer, I have orange juice. My cold is breaking

 

When I was in high school my mom woke me up every morning by screaming up the stairs, in her soul-slicing maternal voice, “REBECCA, IT’S TIME TO GET UP.” She did this every school day, for an approximate total of four years. There came a morning when I jolted awake and realized that there was something to this repetitive dedication, this drive to walk to the bottom of the stairs at a specific time and holler at her daughter to start her day. She probably got tired of it, but she never stopped. And I would ignore her as much as possible. She would yell my name several times, her voice cracking. I listened to this so many times, curled up in my green blanket, my face buried into my pillow. To this day I can hear her cracking voice easily, yelling at me to get up. The same lilt to her voice every time, the same emphasis, burned into my brain forever.

This is not a microcosm for any circumstances in my overall life. I’m simply expressing two things here: my admiration of my mom’s dogged dedication to making sure I began my day, every day, and the lasting bitter, stubborn dislike of loud forces ushering me forward into the event horizon which shares such a similar feeling with that yelling. Also, the recognition that the pressure has always been on, and it’s always involved a lack of sleep and a big scary day ahead. I think to when I thought this wasn’t going to be eternal, but now I have my iPhone’s alarm clock, almost every single morning, bleeping at me to move. I groan, I force myself up on shaky arms and whack my head on a big floating slab of dread. The Daily Dread. There is always something to worry about, something in the near future that exudes unpleasantness.

I wonder if my mother had experienced this consistently when she was younger. I don’t recall her working very much, she was a stay at home mom. Despite this, she woke up every day at 4AM and made herself a cup of orange pekoe tea. Mother, what drove you to this madness? She didn’t have to wake up for anything, she just did because that’s what she wanted. I used to sneak down and sit on the stairs and peek down at her to see what she was doing. She sat at the kitchen table, all by herself, staring off into nothing, drinking her tea. Imagine the scene: a little girl, sitting silent and immobile on some steps, staring down at her mother staring at the wall.

I wake up early in the morning not because I want to, but because I have an aspiration. This dream has been dragging me along for quite some time, and I’m pretty much a body in a bag, my skin getting all scraped up. But the dream keeps dragging me along, and I look up at it (or imagine it when my face is buried in my pillow), and it’s so big and shiny. I want it. Damn it.

The aspiration is sort of a foggy, obscure, blurry big shiny blob though.

Okay, and maybe I am comparing this to my mother’s compulsion to force me into activity daily with her screeching voice, so it’s like a metaphor, I guess, actually. There’s some microscopic connection that makes my brain hurt (or shrink into some corner of my skull). But I also love my mother and love this memory of being hateful and put off. Like I remember fondly how much she annoyed me.

I look back fondly at my achievements, paltry as they may be. Boring as they may be, too. That does happen.

I have yet to figure out whether dragging my exhausted body forward is a good thing. I did get all A’s in high school. However, my mother didn’t give a shit about my grades.

As far as I can tell, I am alive. I paid rent yesterday—that must mean something. I don’t think you do that when you’re dead. Unless the hole in the ground isn’t a one time payment. Somebody needs to pay for your corpse to go somewhere, and no one has done that for me yet because I definitely paid rent for an apartment with one bedroom above ground and the door not nailed shut. And my mom hasn’t had anything to say about it, so even though my breathing has been terrible I think the breaths I’m managing aren’t death rattles.

This must be limbo then. I grew up Roman Catholic, so I can totally see myself winding up in some made up shitty limbo. Can I be happy here? Can I be happy there? Can I be happy anywhere—or nowhere? The results are up in the air. So I’m sort of feeling dead, at least mentally.

I was substitute teaching today, which went really well unlike some other hellish placements I’ve had in the past that wrecked my self-confidence, and I had to talk to a bunch of twelve-year-olds about values. Someone mentioned that you needed to value love, so I said, “Yeah, I suppose if you never loved anything you might feel a little dead inside” (great thing to say to a 12 year old, Bec). This little blonde girl turned to her friends then and scoffed, saying with as much snotty stuffy brattiness that a girl her age could muster, “Even though that can’t actually happen.”

I asked her, “What? What can’t actually happen?”

She sneered: “You can’t be dead inside.”

 

 

 

 

WRONG, LITTLE GIRL. YOU ARE WRONG.

When you haven’t really been sleeping, or not sleeping well, your emotions sort of just thin out until they’re flat and they sit at the bottom of your head, completely useless. They’re like mental dandruff.

I spend a lot of time under a comforter in my fortress of a bed, pleading with myself or twirling around like a hot dog. My brain is liquid tossing around inside my skull, a mix of 5mg Melatonin, 1mg Ativan, NyQuil, chamomile tea, and brain matter. If I manage to get no sleep, then I’ll be delirious to the point of stripping naked and running down the hill (I honestly can’t take many more nights staring around for hours and hours). If I get a few hours of sleep, then the next day I will have momentary crises where I will wonder if my heart is going to explode, with a NyQuil-Melatonin-Ativan hangover.

This is my life right now, so all those nights I spent staring into purple darkness has made me question whether it’s very lifey or if I’m like a soul zombie that will scare everyone away with the bags under my eyes.

What is the secret to sleep anyway?

Anyway, besides working and staring into the horror of night, I have been doing other things that are potential evidence that I am alive. It’s October, which means I need to watch a scary movie every day if I can, and that’s a pathetic goal I can stand behind. I need to watch one today, I guess, once I’m done pouring my liquid brain out into my wireless internet. Usually I would make a list after doing extensive research, downloading the movies illegally ahead of time, but now I just…. maybe…. ugh…. I’ll crawl over to Netflix and go rando.

I also decided to waste money and buy Xenogears, because maybe a video game will peel my eyes away from everything that is scaring the shit out of me in my own pseudo-life. If I’m thinking about Fei and how he needs to just SAVE PEOPLE and stop feeling bad about accidentally vaporizing the woman he loves, then I won’t be thinking about all of the other things I could be anxious about. No, I need to focus on my Gears, and getting new characters, and saving up my money until I get to Nisan because I heard that’s where the good shit is.

I’ve also been decoupaging. Living human beings have hobbies, right? Yes. I believe so. Perhaps. Decoupaging is, like, a hobby. So I bought a cheap skull for a dollar at the Family Dollar and I’ve been gluing shit to it in an attempt to make it look cool. I also did this to a magnet. If anyone can think of another hobby besides drinking and gluing paper to shit (and writing horrible…. blogs… and tweets) then maybe tell me.

I walk down a hill every morning, tripping on stones, in this new place that sorta sucks like the last place. Weird people have witnessed my presence. Is this enough to convince you I’m alive and not caught in some never-ending wakeful dream? Where I lay down and my brain moves through darkness and then into a false reality? I’m totally real and alive. A little bit.

If you could not be on the verge of panic for a little while, wouldn’t that be nice? But it’s never quite that easy. It’s always been something like, a lack of sleep, and seeking a solution for this problem, going on the Prozac which makes you sleepy all the time, covered in life’s slime, then to Wellbutrin, which gives you energy but whispers in your ear that your life is ending. It’s always—some nagging issue, some faulty treatment, eternal discontent.

When you have sleep mastered for a while, you get up and face all those little problems you can’t manage to fucking solve. You walk down the halls at work and the pies are just smashing you in the face. You feel like a joke, but you’re actually just doing your job and being a good contributing member to society. But your brain isn’t convinced. If things were okay, then, well, wouldn’t you be gushing with serenity and happiness like, you know, those—those people? Wouldn’t you know?

You try to force your mind into a Zen state, then you remember that you can’t be forceful with Zen and your mind should be settling down like a leaf falling to the ground or some shit. Not forced into observant appreciation. Then there’s some shit with breathing. You ask about how to dissolve your anxiety, and the doctor gives you a little machine that hooks up to your finger and tells you about your heart rate.

YOUR HEART RATE IS TOO FAST. SLOW DOWN. COME ON. DO IT. DO IT NOW. RELAX. INHALE, EXHALE, FUCK!

Shouldn’t that be easy? Breathing?

You call your mom, because you want to have this amazing relationship with her where you appreciate her for the role she’s played in your life, and love her unconditionally which you somehow need to do because your soul is just making you. She is tired. You haven’t talked to her in two weeks but she asks you what’s new like she’d rather be doing something else. She tells you to just call her every now and then to update her. This isn’t the close relationship you were looking for, but it’s something and you should appreciate that but you only want to share everything with her. Some point in your life you probably screwed this dynamic up, back when you were a teenager and despised her for the way she thought, and your early 20s where you just ignored her.

Damn it. This is going to become never-ending regret.

You go to work and several people there decide to sit across from you and talk about how young you look. You look so young, your eyes are all big and bright even though you’re terrified, you’re probably dressing wrong or something. Their eyes look you up and down and you can see them actively judging you in your presence and you don’t even care enough to look at them closely and judge them back. They’re not even interesting people. They like the same sports teams as everyone else and town, like the same shows, go to the same stores, talk about the same memories. This is harsh of you, but they are looking at your stomach to see how much you weigh.

You can see where their eyes are pointing.

You try to go home, and someone swoops down on you and demands to know what your life choices have been thus far. What is your job? What is your job? WHAT IS YOUR MOTHERFUCKING LINE OF WORK? Then they try to empathize with this line of work, give their opinion on it, they’ll ask where you’re from and you’ll say it, for the thousandth fucking time—

Sports teams? Sports teams? Sports teams?

Then out of nowhere this person will make fun of the things you care about the most in the world, making jokes, bad jokes. You’ll be fumbling to find the right key, but they all look sort of the same. You just need to stick a key in the doorknob and go home but this person wants to tell you exactly what they think about everything and zero in on choice details in your life to try to turn into jokes. This person thinks they’re great. They’re fun to be around! You all need to hang out.

You’re worried about sleep. All those interactions stuck little needles in your brain, marking where the insecurities and neuroses are. You try to ignore those points, nope, not looking at them, you are looking away, you are listening to this—humming of the fan! Crickets outside! But then you’re back to those needles again, pulling them out of your brain and sticking them back in.

You’re worried about sleep. Sleep will make everything better, yes, that’s the solution. Then it’s dawn and you spent the whole night running laps around that thought.

You’re working things out. Slowly. When this is all resolved, you’ll know

                                                     Hope Gangloff

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