It’s impossible for me to talk about having a rough time without giving thanks first. In the scheme of things, I am NOT having a rough time. I am in a good place. As much as anyone really can be, I am safe from harm.
But, given my frame of reference…
I am having a bit of a rough time.
A few months ago, despite it being pretty out of character for me, I made the mistake of viewing myself as DESTINED FOR a particular job opportunity. I did everything I was supposed to. I envisioned myself getting what I wanted, the way folks tell you to, and I had myself believing – even if subconsciously – that I couldn’t fail. I snapped pics of the set I erected on the stage that I thought would be the gateway to my next big chapter. I did everything that makes me cringe when self-help gurus wax philosophical about it. I was ready for change, and I convinced myself change was a’coming.
Well, folks. Change did NOT come – at least not in the way I’d hoped.
And I did not deal with it well.
If I’m honest, the alterations to my status quo that DID come about merely served to add insult to injury. I rolled with them, as it is in my nature to do, never wanting to say uncle or seem high-maintenance, but privately, as each night closed in, my frame of mind was bitterly negative, at times a tad desperate. One of these nights, with the planting of a cruel suggestion-seed, the sleep anxiety-induced insomnia I briefly experienced as a child – obsessively revisiting tremulous numbers in the dark, talking myself into having to pee every half hour, and repeating doubtfully to myself as the hours peeled away that lying in the dark with one’s eyes closed was just as good as sleeping – right?! – returned three decades later with a vengeance, and took up residence. I missed work a couple of times due to extreme grogginess. Some days I managed to autopilot myself through a thick haze, emotions blunted, only able to hang suspended in time like a coat on a hook, dreading the next solitary wrestling match that nightfall and my disheveled bed would inevitably bring.
Worse, indulging in all the comfortable vices, which for a year had handily transported me each night to a state of slovenly exhaustion, ceased to have the desired effect. I’d spend myself in all the usual ways, and still the infernal second wind would bluster in, starting the infuriating cycle anew.
This past week leaves me hopeful that the insomnia has receded for good – or at least for another thirty years. Still, I find myself in a strange state. Unfamiliar aches manifest in random regions just long enough to tease age-related ruination. I can’t seem to make myself care about my appearance – my very real quarantine fifteen and the fact that I can only fit into a single pair of sweatpants, the late-thirties chin acne, the minusculeness of my unlined alopecian eyes – combating these things feels pointless given the Groundhog Day loop I’m in, and I can’t seem to muster the effort required.
Then there are the disproportionate displays of emotion, which kick up particularly when I am confronted with unique folks who at least seem to be living fully expressed, or better yet, masterfully spinning their odd authenticities into workable livelihoods.
As I write this, I am in a Zoom dance party via my smartphone. My companions are strangers located all across the country: goths at the young end of middle age, flailing about theatrically in their respective Brady Bunch boxes, dressed up for their basement entertainment-room sectionals and life partners. At this moment everyone is choked up, as the event is winding down and the DJ is playing “Rainbow Connection”. In one of the boxes is Kermit who appears to be singing it.
Hanging out here isn’t something I’d normally do, but tonight, after the couple months I’ve had, it feels vital.
A cover of “Under the Milky Way” comes next, and the “Wish I knew what you were looking for” has never hit harder than right now.
I’m confident that I’m going to snap out of this (fingers crossed that THAT instinct is more reliable than the one I had about the new job), so I can only feel so urgent about it.
But I just had to admit to you guys that, right now…
I am having a rough time.
(Hopefully that admission is the first step in reassembling myself.)