It's late Sunday night, and I'm listening to the "Drive" soundtrack over and over again on my headphones in my room, which is just covered in mess.
There is a running to-do-list in my brain of things that are next and must and HIGH PRIORITY. And I don't really want to do any of them. It's not even necessarily depression that I feel. It's just a feeling of absolute on-my-own-ness that is sometimes very poignant and acute. I broke my two months free of cigarettes tonight, and I smoked one, and then I bought a pack, and that was OK. Not necessarily where I want to go, but it's OK. I won't continue to smoke. I never do. Something else will happen, and then something else will happen, and then something else. That's the rhythm of my life.
Sometimes I think perhaps the only thing that I do well is write. Because here is where my intensity is acceptable. Here is where people respond to my intensity, and they understand, "This is writing. You are writing a story, and I like stories." In real life I am not everyone's cup of tea. I want to move from Point A to Point B to Point Z, and I always want to move.
Projects make me feel happy. I have emails to send. I have checklists to check off. Taking a right forward action is an excellent way to go. But the question is always what that next right forward action is meant to be.
What is my next right forward action? What will bring me to happiness in this moment? That's the question that I try to ask myself, always. And the answer, many times, is that I don't know. And that's an answer that I cannot handle. I have no patience. My reserves of it do not exist. I can fake it. And I do, but in reality, I just love to move forward as if I am in a warp-speed tunnel of progress and momentum. I want to conquer the world by noon. I want to prove to the world that I can own it. If I can't have A, then I try to fill myself up with B and C. Instead of just being with myself.
It's an uncomfortable reality. It's an uneasiness. It's a feeling that perhaps I am meant for no one. That no one is meant for me. I can reach out and feel laughter with others. That's a thing to do. That's what I used to do. Make phone calls. Say hello. Test it out. One time, I called this man that I had a crush on in college, and I said, trying to force perkiness, "Do you ever hear from anyone else from college?" And he said, "No. But you keep calling me."
I received that message.
I am not good with any semblance of rejection in any form whatsoever. So I pretend that I am OK with it. I set myself up for it. I put myself out there in large and humiliating ways to see what happens, because I don't think that any of it matters, really. Or perhaps because I think that will make none of it matter. I see the dust-to-dust thing everywhere I go, and in every encounter, and in every change. It is all dust to dust. So why not go for the things that you want? It all ends up dust anyway.
I once told a friend of mine that the problem with personalities like mine is that, in any kind of dating scenario, I take a hose, and I spray the delicate new roots, and I say, "Grow, motherfucker, grow." And then it dies. Or it changes. Or it is not as good. This is an excellent quality to have in work. You can make an entire something out of a very little nothing -- and then you are a big success, because no, you will not be swayed. You are unstoppable. You are a force.
But my need to connect, my pathological need to connect, is just that. A pathology. It's lovely when it serves me well, but many times it just leads to dead, drowned roots in the ground. But perhaps that is OK. Because then maybe the root wasn't meant to be there. Maybe the root wasn't meant to grow. Maybe there are certain forms of roots where they can withstand the force of my water temperature. Where they will respond and grow in kind.
At my core, I am made of desire and ambition and cracked, fragmented love. That's OK. That leads to things.
The constant hammering forward motion might lead to me being alone, I suppose. I will be 80 years old; maybe I've buckled yet again, and bought a new pack of cigarettes then. Maybe I've had 20 husbands. Maybe I've had none. Maybe I am looking back on my life, and I think about some of the good and the bad and the experiences that I've had. But I don't think that I will believe the decisions were wrong. I do like that even in my aloneness, I am with you. I am with the rest of the people out there who admit that they struggle, that life can sometimes be alienating and devastating and frightening and alone. And we are all struggling together. Perhaps just existing -- just being in my very existence -- is the project. Learning to sit with that.
How do you come to terms with your intensity? Or your aloneness? Or your uncomfortableness? How do you find your next forward right action? And -- can you help me decide which of these next right actions to take?
A) Start working out an hour every day no matter what.
B) Increase my antidepressant dosage.
C) Accept some recent dates I've been asked out on which I had said no to but maybe I should have said yes.
D) Stop listening to the "Drive" soundtrack on repeat.
E) Become insanely hard to get.
F) Throw away my cigarettes.
G) Change my entire personality and stop being so fucking intense about everything, or at least about dating.
H) Just exist.
I) Accept that I'm on my period. (And that, um, I might have buried the lede?)
J) Increase my antidepressant dosage, but only when I am on my period.
K) All of the above.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.