Life as an Extreme Sport

falling apart at the seams from the pressure of overwhelming apathy

I’ve been trying to hold myself together, these past few months, with little but sheer force of will. It’s always kind of surprising to me when I discover that’s not enough, but… it hasn’t been. I have completely failed at balancing my life, at even living my life. I seem to be able to concentrate on one thing at a time – I can either focus on school, work, or life, but even a combination of two there becomes overwhelmingly too much.

An insomniac for much of my life, I have gone from one extreme to another. Where I used to be unable to fall asleep until very late at night, if at all, I now have a hard time staying awake for more than a few hours. I can be sitting at my computer, and wake up five hours later, feeling like I just closed my eyes for a moment – it is supremely disorienting. Not even my academic schedule manages to help me figure out the days now, only the calendar on my computer. Without it, I would be sunk.

I realized, several weeks ago at this point, that one of the things missing – aside from any semblance of balance – is laughter, and how much of life I structured around making sure I laughed when I lived in Seattle. It helps relieve stress and pain, and I anchored my life with it. I don’t, here. I should, but I don’t. There’s a lot I should do right now that I don’t, and I can’t figure out how to work my way out of this. I can’t even find the path back to normal – I just know I need to get there. Or at leas that I should want to get there.

Mom dying threw me for a loop bigger than I really expected. I had thought, “Jessica died. I made it through that – it sucked and was painful and I still miss her, but I did it there and can do it again.” I guess I really didn’t understand or estimate the emotional impact that losing your mother instead of your close friend has on you, but it’s been so different. And I don’t really know why – I can take stabs in the dark, guesses, but that’s all they are. Were I to take them, I’d probably lay most of it on having a support system when Jessica died, and not much of one here. Which is not to say people haven’t tried, but for better or worse, I’m not close to many people here in Albany, and the people in Seattle are simply too far away to be the sort of support system I need right now.

It doesn’t help that when I did reach out, here, to the people I did feel I could lean on, I was told in no uncertain terms it was my problem and not theirs. That’s always fun. “Hi, I’m kind of breaking right now and help?” “Your psychological problems are your own and are no excuse!” Yep. Just what someone who’s barely able to get out of bed in the morning needs to hear, definitely the best way ever to motivate. Maybe general yelling and frustration would work, too?

Or, you know, maybe not.

I’m trying, I really am. I’m going through the motions, in the hopes that the movement alone will kickstart everything – it’s been mostly unsuccessful, with a few highlights here and there. And two weeks back, I was really starting to feel like I was getting it all together again – a bit of insight, a bit of laughter, a bit of energy. But that’s all come crashing down again, for reasons unknown to me, and I’m back in this world of grey and no way out.

What’s worse is that I know I should care about getting out, and just don’t.

I’ve managed, in a short period of time, to sabotage just about everything I have here in Albany, and I’m pretty sure there’s no coming back from that. Which I am also pretty sure is contributing heavily to the apathy. No one cares that I can barely keep myself pulled together, no one cares what it’s done to me, why bother? Why not just drift away?

Neil Gaiman has a friend, someone that acts as his security and handler at conventions, or at least at ComiCon. I was reading her blog after the last ComiCon – she’s a funny writer, and had some great con stories – and I came across her anguished post at the reaction of her dear friend’s death. It was a death she knew was coming, but it still struck her in the solar plexus, knocked the wind out of her, out of her life. She wrote that all she wanted to do was drive and drive until she found the edges of the ocean and then she wanted to walk, walk into the water until the waves covered her head and swallowed her whole and the cold took her and numbed her skin to match her numb soul, that she wanted to walk until she could walk no more, off the visible earth and into the everdarkness of the wide open, the tears on her face mixing with the salt of the sea.

It sums up so neatly how I feel. I want to drive east until the fingers of the Atlantic tickle my toes and just walk, walk away until all there is is the cold relief of the ocean and the silent sea.

I should hasten to add that it’s not a wanting to die – that would be too much effort. That would be caring. That wouldn’t be grounded in overwhelming apathy. That would have colour, texture, feeling. This, this does not.

I think the most supreme irony is, after being rebuffed by the quarter I thought could help, would help, were in the position to do so, I shrugged and threw myself on official university services… only to be told I was too complicated, my case was beyond what they could handle, go see these other people. And to then have those other people never call me back.

I have turned into a walking posterchild for what happens when the system fails. The system of friends, of colleagues, of health care help. Everything, everyone, has failed me – and now what do I do? Now what do I do?

every streetlamp seems to beat a fatalistic warning

It’s 11:13pm. Thursday evening. I have a pile of work to the left of me, a pile of reading to the right, a large monster masquerading as a cat draped across my feet, and a slightly smaller cat convinced he’s a monster rather insistently trying to lay across my shoulders as I type.

I am, for lack of better phrase, in a mood. The timing is, of course, brilliant – I always hit these when I’m alone. I mean, genuinely alone, no one really around that I could just poke and chitchat with. Might not be a coincidence, then, that it’s when this mood hits.

Not, of course, that it’s any sort of consistent mood. Rather, just a mood. And tonight’s is, in large part, thanks to the most recent Torchwood episode (Adam), which has thrown me where I am. Without spoiling it for folks who won’t see it until next week, it was one of the best examples of why I like the show – it reminded me strongly of Buffy mixed with Doctor Who, this wonderful blend of high camp and sublime acting, looking at the dark elements and how we live with our lives, our selves, our memories.

And so I am stuck with memory, which has already been a running dialogue with myself. What does it mean to remember, and to forget? To remember again? I suppose it started, thinking about concerts and ones I’ve seen for some online trivia thing. But it’s hard to contain thoughts about memory, perception, seeing the world. We shape memory, something I’m so highly conscious of – we warp and rewrite our own narrative, to suit the story we tell ourselves and those around us. Subtly make ourselves look better, right, more or less victimized. Whatever our narrative is, we adjust the memory accordingly. Some people find this startling or weird to think about, but memory studies suggest this to be the case.

What memories have I rewritten? Can I say with any certainty that what I remember is what happened? Or is it just what I wished happened? Wanted to happen? It is, of course, the Rashomon problem in a nutshell. Do we just hope to reach a consensus on shared experience, or does experience become shared when we share the same memory? Is this why we don’t talk? Is this why we hide what we’re saying, thinking, feeling behind gestures and obscurity and opaque masques? I know I’m guilty of it, of not wanting to reveal, of preferring to leave a small thread of my own narrative, one that can be picked up if you see it and ignored otherwise.

Tonight, I just feel like there has been a lot of thread – and a lot of ignoring.

body has given up and decided it’s time to sleep – before I make any brilliant errors here.

Edited to add: hah, how timely… within 30 minutes, to receive an email that just emphasizes the whole thing. Some people just have exquisite timing. Someone remind me why I do this again? I loved this once, didn’t I? Sometimes I think it’s just being kicked out of me…

power & pain

Sort of funny. In the middle of a nasty wind storm here, which means the temperatures have bottomed out, and once again I don’t have steady internet access – or power. (This makes the second time in a week I’ve lost ‘net access; really wish they’d do something about that on a level above “repair lines when they go crashboom”.) The loss of power was relatively short-termed; just long enough to do a bit of light cleaning/cat maintenance in the dusk.

The real pain has been literal – the cold has caused the CRPS to act up, and I can barely flex my left thumb/forefinger, and moving my right arm is, in general, A Very Bad Idea. Besides just general stiffness, there’s a lot of pain… MSNBC has a good article on pain up right now, and living with it – or struggling with it, anyhow. Certainly hits home a lot of how I feel – I think the one thing it missed was that the constant level of high pain is exhausting, and all I want to do when it gets this bad is sleep. Thankfully, laying under the electric blanket gives some measure of relief (although it’s not terribly practical for most of the things I’ve needed to get done); not so convenient or relieving without power, granted.

The most frustrating thing about it is the little voice in the back of my head that wants to laugh and say “see, you had two really good days – you had fun, felt connected to people, and were generally just enjoying life – now you have to pay the price for that”; as though there’s something wrong with me that I don’t deserve the fun, and if I have any, something bad has to happen in payment. Then again, looking at the last 18 months of my life, it might be understandable to see how I’ve been conditioned to think this. I don’t get to have nice things, apparently. At least, that’s how it feels – something good must always be balanced out by something bad, or worse.

Maybe “strong dissociation from logic” should be another culprit to chronic pain.

Power is flickering again – should probably post this and go find the lanterns so I can at least read and have some measure of productivity.

set the machine to scan for irony

I was chitchatting with Michael earlier, and we had the following conversation. What he’s “I told you so”ing me about isn’t really important – just look at how nice the “I told you so” is! So creative, so supportive… no wonder I have the friends I do.

Michael: Well yes I could have told you you’d fail at that months ago.
Kelly: and yet you didn’t – nice of you 
Michael: … I think I did. I’d have to check
Kelly: LOL
Michael: Maybe I just thought it loudly.
Kelly: it would have been in December, when I was spitting mad
Michael: I think that was the time of, “Ok, go with Kelly’s mood and be the unconditionally supportive friend. Except if she’s being a total idiot.”

ocean of change

I’m headed to the Pacific today, which is appropriate. The ocean always makes me think of birth, rebirth, change. What better place, better day, to think those thoughts?

I’m not big on year-end retrospectives; it’s easy to be human and remember the bad, gloss over the good. One of the reasons I try to write is to capture the good, but I know I failed in that this year. I don’t want to believe that there wasn’t good, and even in the depths of bitterness and misanthropy I can see several strong, bright lights of good – things and people both. But it’s so easy to focus on how bad a year it was, and then it’s a matter of hope. Going into the new year expecting, hoping, it will be better than this last is just begging Murphy to stop by.

To say life is, and has been, out of balance, is an understatement of massive proportion. And I am one of those people – this is something I’ve known for a very long time – who does badly when not centered. A top can spin when perfectly balanced, but when tilted off center, it will wobble and sway until it spins out of control and crashes. I do a very good imitation of this, and I realize that right now I’m on the long side of the wobble.