Wishing the world would just fuck off and leave me alone.
I was illustrating the notion of exaggeration to Boy this morning. Wishing the world would just fuck off and leave me alone is not how I chose to illustrate it to him, though I’m pretty sure he’d understand my point perfectly well. There’s a lot I’d miss about the world, actually, if it just fucked off without so much as a backward glance – trees, apple pie, The Grapes of Wrath…
Not the Steinbeck novel, though literary history would certainly be poorer without it. The band. Just one album actually. My original cassette got chewed up soon after its release. Through over-kill. I never came across a second copy. One surely must have existed. Somewhere. It did. Does. I found it on ebay.
Don’t tell me all the things I wasn’t could have made this big a difference to all the things you are.
Gratuitous gloom with a country twang. “I” is not necessarily ‘I’ in this lyric. And “you” could be me or any other you. It’s about blame and responsibility, familial relationships, guilt, time, place and misunderstanding every fucking little thing. It had a more melancholy sound to me twenty-odd years ago. It doesn’t exactly sound marvellously upbeat now but I’ve listened to some really fucking depressing sh!t since then. And everything’s relative.
In a previous incarnation of myself, the fiercely independent version of me would start to look a little less convincing on a day like today. I would have phoned in sick in the middle of the night and left a message. Or else just not turned up. Two weeks from now the GP would be asking me which words would cause me the least amount of distress on a sick note. A semantic dilemma I hadn’t even considered until he brought the shame to my attention. It strikes me that pharmaceutical companies disproportionately favour the use of the letter z.
Gingerbread for breakfast. Late breakfast. Daytime telly. Those two words tell you everything you need to know about a person’s desire to face the day. Should the V&A display Maggie frocks? There’s a phone-in after the ads. Feminism vs fashion. Handbags at dawn. Riveting stuff. Politics segue into modern culture. Has the X Factor lost its mojo? Did it ever even have a mojo? More to the point, where’s mine? Maybe I left it in the kitchen, in the random junk bowl with the unaccounted for ball bearing and the conker. The dog gazes longingly out to the street. The curtains are open. That’s something at least. I too look to the grey of the day for inspiration because I just can’t take any more TV.
I’ve been trying to motivate myself to take a shower. I’ve been trying since Saturday actually. It’s just not happening. Neither the form filling-in. Nor the dishes. I’m still not depressed. Not really. Not yet anyway. But I am in shutdown. There is no denying that. The fog is here. Thicker within than without and it has been closing in on me for some time. It’s not oppressive in the way you might suspect. It has no mass and hides no demons. It just is. Like a moat around a crumbling castle, rising up to reach the rains. It levitates on liquid string, dissociated like electrons in a benzene ring.
That feeling of falling short of oneself. Being stuck in a loop. I spent years in the same recurring dream when I was younger. Everything was white. Empty like sky. No up, no down, no surfaces to orientate any of the elements against. The ballerina whirled and whirred, borrowed from my real world wind-up musical box where I kept my worthless trinkets. She span faster as the whine pitched higher and louder until she could spin no more and the nerve-searing scream pierced itself a headache. The giant’s boot thundered through it all and everything turned black. And then it began again as quickly as it had all ended and replayed itself over and over, each time exactly as before. It terrified me almost nightly for years, mostly in anticipation because I knew it would come in the dark and there was nothing I could do to stop it. One night it suddenly stopped playing. It never played again. It doesn’t scare the adult me, though I remember it vividly.
The world is full of white noise. The relentless hum of just trying to understand whatever is most immediate and a pragmatic filtering out of the meaninglessness of it all. Sometimes it’s all just too much. The fog gathers as a mental and physical shield against all that is bearing down on me and being tightened against me as if my thinking were in a vice. It smothers the pounding pulse in my head and locks down my thoughts and frustrations, held still, somewhere towards the base of my skull; the way out as heavily guarded as the way in.
I tried to have an open mind that kept becoming clouded by reality.
Time and space, alone, are the only way to recalibrate. It sounds simple enough. Except the exact amount of time and space required is difficult to determine. I tried the respite thing – and it was certainly quiet – but it also involved planning, preparation, packing, driving and dealing with another person long enough to both collect and return a set of keys. It was a nice environment but it wasn’t my environment and those few days away left me with that peculiar and uneasy feeling of needing a holiday to get over the holiday. Home, actually, is the only place in which I can successfully recalibrate but the frequency with which the planets align to free up the family home along with time and space, alone, is about the same as the frequency of the Summer and Winter solstices, only the alignment doesn’t last anywhere near as long.
So when I do reach the point of shutdown, the fog comes thick and fast. Turning away from everyone is like turning on the oxygen supply. In the past, I’ve concocted what I thought were reasonable cover stories for extended shutdowns because I just didn’t know how to explain them to anyone else. Nor did I want to. Because it was no one’s business but my own and, if I handled it appallingly, I hurt no one but myself. That line of reasoning lost all validity when I became a parent. It’s not ok to routinely put my fingers down my throat anymore. I didn’t do that because I had an eating disorder. I was never bulimic. It was to justify my social absences, as much to myself as anyone else. No one questions: “I’ve been sick.”
I haven’t had to do that for years. It’s perfectly acceptable as a parent to just admit that you’re absolutely fucked and every other parent immediately gets it. Throw in a childhood neurological diagnosis or two or three and you’re home and dry. No explanations necessary!
Oxygen. I think I mentioned it already. Several hours have passed since I started this post. Boy came home from school (not that any of us call it school – the set up being so far removed from anything I and most other people experienced or currently experience as school) and Dave came home from work. I shut myself in the bathroom for an hour and finally took that shower whilst the whole of Now and Again played out (quietly) from my Kindle, atop the sound of water hitting the tub.
Love, you said to me, is like being struck by lightning. I wonder if it ever will – answer all your prayers or scar you for a lifetime – but then again I guess you’d never tell.
Our kitchen is long. It lends itself nicely to the vision of an imaginary air hostess by the sink signalling with her hands to the exits – the playroom to her left and the living room to her right. She’s miming to me the importance of fitting my own oxygen mask first – because if I can’t breathe, I can’t support anyone who depends on me.