It is 9 am and I’m already tired.
Earlier in the quarantine, I developed a pattern of waking around 5 each morning, making coffee and an elaborate breakfast and then sitting down to work by 7am. The early rising was likely related to each night’s large dinner followed by wine, weed and Star Trek, the combined effects of which generally felled my consciousness by 9:30pm. But, too, I couldn’t help but notice a constant background worry that manifested in random mental puzzles about how one washes sheets in a bathtub or which produce to prioritize for a given meal. It was these musings that would rouse me from slumber each morning; suddenly and fully I would find myself awake and thinking through how many cans of cat food I had left.
A bit of preoccupied thought pattern is not unknown to me. I carry it regularly during heavy lifting phases of creative projects. I’ve been known to dream myself sleeping inside the sets of my plays or figure out the staging particulars of a scene during slumber. During THE END I often rose around 4 am to write, when the morning’s quiet felt like the only time I could fully spread out and map out scripts for the game. But this ankle-level anxiety is something different. It feels like walking through shallow water. An action annoyingly similar to life as I have previously known it, but just enough more effortful that I can never quite stop paying attention.
Trying to stay positive on the whole thing, I initially attempted to feel each pre-dawn as an opportunity to be productive, an unexpected bit of time for work when my mental prowess is at peak capacity. I wrote lesson plans for brand new classes I never expected to teach this semester. I blitzed through emails that continued to increase in volume as the days passed. I prepped plans for each day in detailed lists with allotted timeframes. I was hoping I could willfully organize my way through all this.
That worked for a couple days.
There is no reason, really, that I couldn’t stay on top of the deadlines I had tasked to myself before all this happened. I work remotely. I have always built my own schedule. Self-direction is my wheelhouse.
Right now it all feels emptier. It’s not that I don’t care, I do, I guess, but the drive that once felt focused and clear is now clouded with a low humming ache. It’s the same signal but static-ed and fuzzed with too much white noise. The effort it takes to continue to tune in, of pretending like it’s all going on as usual, is a work that I cannot quite seem to master, a task that leaves me both weak and worn down. It’s a particular kind of cosmic cruelty to be spending more time doing what you’ve always cared about but in a hollowed out form that makes it seem too small.
I open messages, read them, know what must be done, feel myself too wholly incapable of anything, close them, feel guilty, open them again. Eighteen times an hour I can repeat this purgatory cycle, fully seeing its futility but not able to release myself from the vision of who I want myself to be.
Perhaps this is why I keep feeling it all as an absurdity. It’s mourning the loss of someone while speaking to them. It’s reaching out to the things I care for through a fun house mirror. It’s a logic puzzle that adds up to a conclusion that cannot be but has no other answer.
Here I am some uncountable days into it all and clear on only one thing: my systems are failing. I don’t think I’m able to work myself out of this pain.
I’m not sure what happens next. I sense I will try to resist a bit longer. The part of me that needs to achieve is not quite ready to fully disappoint myself or others in the work I feel I should be doing.
But I also sense a reckoning is coming, a quieting, a shift into something other that I don’t yet know. Maybe I’ll find space to explore that here with you. Maybe I won’t. It’s hard to imagine anything quite that industrious right now.
For the moment, I wish you peace. I wish you comfort and quiet as best as you can muster.
Be well, dear ones.