Lately I have been feeling as if I were a small beanbag trapped inside of a pinball machine. Each morning I am catapulted out of the relatively cozy tunnel of my dreams and onto life's wildly uneven playing field, into a world stroboscopically lit and surrounded by cacophonous chaos, with me getting hit from all angles over and over again; thumped painfully from everywhere to nowhere, detachedly absorbing the impacts and changing shape slightly to accommodate the cumulative blows but offering little real resistance, all attention focused on a desperate attempt not to disappear into the dark hole waiting at the bottom of things.
Not that everything has been uniformly bad, just a bit fast, jarring and tilted. Stressful with Extra Balls.
Stress can hurt you. Last week my right arm started having muscle spasms that literally knocked me to the floor in blinding agony. I almost went to the ER once I was able to stand up but the pain soon settled down into a steady, constant ache and I decided to wait. In the morning I saw my doctor and he gave me a shot and some pills, including some steroids for inflammation and Valium to help take the edge off the steroid-induced mood-swings.
In hindsight, I don't think that was a very good idea, the steroids wreaked havoc with me emotionally; the Valium worked long enough for me to run a few errands and do my radio show, but by mid-afternoon a black and roiling cloud of uncomfortable misery had enveloped me and I spent the rest of the evening in a flummoxed, fumbling state of near-uselessness. I was torn between the despair of irrevocable loneliness and the deep, dark fear that if I did have human companionship, I'd break down, collapse and suffocate them with the sheer urgency of my need to not be alone.
At other times I'd feel OK for a few minutes and put on my shoes, maybe open the door. I think I walked around the block once or twice just to prove that I could, but it is possible that I simply imagined doing so.
Due to some server issues, I couldn't even get my podcast to upload, which shouldn't have been enough to break me down, but was. My radio show is hard work and sometimes it feels like it is the only good thing I have to share with anyone and now some distant computer malfunction was going to cut the last pound of good flesh I had left- at that moment I felt that the collective malevolence of the Universe was funneled into a firehose and blasted straight into my face. Everything that exists, exists to torment me. Of course, in my head I knew that is utter rubbish-but when the miserables kick in, the intellect checks out.
That was a terrible feeling; it reminded me of how I used to feel when I drank. I'd often feel a desperate need to be with someone, to belong somewhere, but I didn't have anyone to be with or anywhere to go...well, that isn't entirely true. There were people who would have been glad to see me if I could have managed to sober up, but I always wound up turning my back on them and seeking the false comfort of familiar-strange drunks in familiar-strange bars. Underneath it all, I knew that I was too fucked-up to be around my real friends, but I didn't have the strength or dignity to care about what a mess I'd made of myself, so I’d usually choose the rather mercenary company of drinking partners over that of real friends-the kind of friends who might be concerned if they saw me in such a wasted state.
By Sunday I felt so horrible that I could barely function, every simple task seemed huge and complex and my short, comfortless naps never seemed to last long enough. I'd turn the computer on, hoping for...I don't know...something, anything that would help connect me with another person, cause or concept, but simultaneously dreading the overwhelming responsibility of communication. I had no words to write and no songs to play, yet I wanted a reader, an audience, a duet partner, a shrink -someone, anyone.
Anything I said could and would be used against me, so what to say?
What to do?
Instead of counting sheep, I started reviewing every word I'd ever uttered and devising new and horrific ways to use them against myself.
I lay on my back all night doing this, eyes open, staring at nothing until it was time to get up and get dressed. I lingered under the hot water, it felt really good on my aching bicep and the relief that came with it almost lulled me into thinking that it might be a good day after all.
But as soon as I got to work, my boss really pissed me off by screwing up my paycheck and I was so strung-out on pills and no-sleep that I nearly went into a blind, terminal rage over it. I wrote him a pissy email explaining that money is the only reason that I have a job; remove it and I have no incentive to stay at work. Boss replied that it was too late to fix this payroll, but he’d make it up to me later.
Fuck that. Fuck you with a Universal Funnel, you fat officious prick.
So I powered down my computer, turned off the lights in my cube and went home for the day. I didn't quit or say anything to anyone, I just left. Eventually my boss called and left a voicemail for me to call him "first thing in the morning".
My experience tells me that taking a principled stand at work is effectively the same thing as quitting, but my current job has been the exception. Our client loves me and if I'm gone a huge account gets placed at-risk, plus I'm the only employee who can understand the client's database, so firing me at this time probably wouldn't work very well. But I'm no longer satisfied at work and that bothers me, since I have to spend so much time there on account of not being naturally-born rich.
Next: Fortune, Glorious Fortune