"What are you up to? How's life?" a Gchat message pops up from an old friend in Iowa. I ignore it. Better to ignore than to start something that will potentially take more time than I feel like I have.
This is a concept I once never understood (and thought was insane). When I had a PR job in Chicago I would instant-message a friend of mine in New York asking her the exact same question: "What are you up to? How's life?" When she replied, rarely, a few hours later, she would try to explain what her life was like. "There are days when I don't go to the bathroom because of the workload."
She was being dramatic, I was sure.
Now I get it. There's something about the pace in New York (or is it media or the blog world?) that is on crack. There's a certain disposable manic energy that drives everything: seal this deal, convince this person, go to this party, keep up, keep up, keep up. Sometimes I feel like the world's biggest hypocrite. I might write an article about balance and meditation and self-help and then stay up until 3 a.m. scouring the Internet for stories that are just breaking we can cover for xoJane.
My dog looks up at me with big sad eyes, asking me to be taken out. I do. I listen to whatever Audible book I'm listening to at the time (right now it's an old Lauren Weisberger novel "Everyone Worth Knowing") or nothing at all, and I try to let the ideas germinate in my head without forcing them, my own manner of meditation or prayer.
I tried when I took a vacation a few weeks ago to have my phone off the entire time. I gave out my landline number to a few people and said if it was important to call. I wanted to be untethered by Gchat, email, text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, xoJane, the world, so I could take a break from the feeling where I was falling on my knees on the treadmill of life constantly.
But I couldn't. I forget why. I think it was a few events I had RSVPed yes to, oh, and there was a show I was performing at that I had agreed to and by the time the week was almost done, I had totally failed in my mission to disconnect and recuperate.
One of my goals during my week off was to get a hold of my money situation. I want to have a budget so that every month I can feel confident that I know where I'm at and feel more in control. I want to have a more regular schedule so that I can feel like I will give my all to certain areas (writing, assigning stories, catching up on email) during specified and allotted times but I don't go on workaholic justify-my-existence benders where I feel I have to respond to everyone and let other people's inquiries dictate how I spend my time.
Do you want to know how I spent my week off? I called my accountant to put in an extension on my taxes, I cleaned my place one day with a friend who I hired (he does cleaning part-time) and I went to work-related parties and events. Don't get me wrong. Work parties and events are fun. But they are work. I love my job. It is the best job I've ever had. But it is exhausting.
Correction: The age we live in is exhausting. The impression of constant availability is exhausting.
I still have not taken my dog to training (because in my mind I think that I need to finish my taxes and figure out my budget first), and I don't have a regular schedule so the combination leads him to act out and do things like pee on my bed. I clean off the stench, and I put the soiled clothes in a garbage bag to have the laundromat pick up, and I think I will wait until I have bagged up all of the dirty clothes I need to send off (and maybe I should check on my money situation first and maybe I should find a cheaper laundromat), and they sat in a corner for days before I did anything. Soiled inside a plastic bag, like a dead body.
My tax documents are in a pile of papers I need to sort through, and they stare at me accusingly and symbolically.
My dog nips at the finger of a friend's friend when he gets spooked, and I stay up until 2 in the morning to punish myself watching Cesar Milan figuring out the many, many things I'm doing wrong.
Exercise, Cesar says. You must drain them of energy. I take my dog out on my scooter and he pulls too fast and I fall off and skin my knee and my foot gets bloodied and I look at my disgusting toes because I haven't had a pedicure since October because I'm waiting to figure out my money situation. I shake it off, and I get back on the scooter and we successfully scoot (with my dog Samsung pulling at a more accommodating trot) until we go south enough on the Hudson River and discover a new dog park. It's big dogs and there's more tennis balls than the eye can see and Samsung literally thinks he's died and gone to heaven. This is a little victory.
On Friday I come home and fall asleep watching "This Emotional Life" on Netflix about reactive attachment disorder and I keep falling asleep and I text a friend saying I'm too exhausted to make her birthday party.
On Saturday I'm vaguely horny, and I remember a Web site that Emily sent me from a publicist about how you can make money camming with guys. I think, I need money, and maybe I can buy a long wig and no one will recognize me and I'll cam and get off and make some money.
I sign up all the way to the point where I discover you have to include a valid ID and I decide this probably isn't my jam. I've researched the wigs and everything. I have several browser windows open on my computer, one showing various wig caps and I'm excited because there is a Ricky's near me that allows dogs, and I can bring my dog there to purchase my wig cap for my secret life as a Web cam girl.
The whole driver's license portion of it turns me off to the concept, and then I Google "how do you become a phone sex operator." There. I could make money, work out my sex brain ish without having to make time to date and have more insight into men's brains and things to write about. I find one company that seems not too kill-yourself-ish, but it requires 25 hours a week. I do the math. I think about doing phone sex 3-4 hours every night and realize maybe I should just write my Kindle books as that will make me a lot more money in the long run anyway.
My very good friend Sam Lansky texts me. "I think I really might have reactive attachment disorder."
"Yep, you do. Me, too. Got a therapist?"
"Yes," he replies snippily. "You?"
Then the FaceTime request comes in from him.
I explain to him about the wig browser windows and the phone sex research and he is dying laughing at how batshit both of us can be at times in the pursuit of Internet K-hole schemes for happiness, okayness, satisfaction or as that doctor dude on "Mad Men" has said of late to Don Draper right before Don fucks his wife: People will do anything to alleviate the anxiety.
"So what's your reactive attachment disorder problem? What happened?" I ask Sam (the friend, not the dog).
"Well for the first time I decided to go on Grindr in a while because the other guy I've been seeing is clearly dropping the ball with me, and I talk to this one guy and within the span of 5 minutes all he told me was his first name and where he worked, and I've already spent hours reading everything about him on the Internet, and going deep, too, like trade publications, and everything. And so this whole time after our very brief text-message conversation, I've already constructed and built this entire life for the two of us, and then he texts and says he needs to take a raincheck. What the fuck is wrong with me?"
"That's the worst," I say. "He was your backup guy. He was the guy who was supposed to fix you through the backup fuck and you got rejected. Here, read me some of the trade publication stuff about him. Let me see if I also want to marry him."
Sam starts to read, and I stop him.
"I just came," I say. "That was amazing."
Sam chortles. "You know what's funny," he says. "I was just in Mexico, and my friend was like, 'Oh Sam is a very big deal,' and I know I've heard people say that about you, and look at the reality of our lives versus say, what our Instagrams might look like, where I'm with pop stars and you're with comedians. I'm getting blown off on Grindr and you're researching becoming a cam girl so you don't have to deal with dating and can get extra cash to buy, like, dog toys and shit."
"Yeah," I said. "Our Instagrams should have a disclaimer. Fabulousness is not as it appears."
"Oh, my Grindr guy just texted!" Sam shrieked. "What should I write back?"
"Are you crazy," I said. "Don't write back. You need to create a little fucking mystery. Take it from someone who has none."
"So what did your cam girl profile say?" Sam asked.
"I wrote, 'I'm Candy and I like to have fun winky face,'" I said. "I still might get a wig, though. Maybe it'll make doing my taxes more fun."
"I love you," Sam said.
"Love you too," I said.
Then I posted a photo to Instagram of one of my ridiculous to-do lists that included needing a new stapler and having to call a porn star for work.
I'm trying to bridge the gap. I really am.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.