I’d have liked to write today—I wanted to write today. And yesterday. And, in some sense, I suppose I’ve done so, inasmuch as my diary is fourteen pages longer today than it was on Monday morning. Much of what I put there may, in the fullness of time, flower into something here, and I hope that it does—put another way, I hope I’m up to it. But no number of pages in my diary adds up to meeting the goal I set for myself back at the start of May; for that to happen, the words have to be published, and these aren’t ready for that yet.
That said, the last couple days have handled me with unusual roughness—not a complaint; they’ve been good days, just that they’ve also been ones that required more of me than most, and that’s affected among other things my ability to sleep well and sufficiently. In short, I’m tired.
I could, if I so chose, fight through that and write 500 words tonight—I certainly could do that. But, if I did, I’d need to go on and make it a deliberately sleepless night, in order to have any hope of getting back onto something like a normal schedule. The trouble there is, I’m no longer young enough to do that and not be totally useless the next day, and I have as much to do tomorrow as I did today, and for that matter almost as much as Monday. Maybe exactly as much, depending. In any case, a lot.
So I’m not going to put myself through that tonight; I’m going to go to bed in a little while, and sleep a full night, and start putting back together what the last couple of days have to some extent shaken apart—including, as a matter of equal importance with all the other tasks I have in hand, my daily writing practice.
I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to do that, you understand. I want to go make coffee, and drink it, and start writing from those fourteen pages of notes right now. I want to spend all night at it, and all tomorrow besides. And I’m glad I want that! It has been a long damn time since I felt this way, and feeling this way again is in large part the entire point of what I’m doing here. Now that I’m finally starting to get that itch again, in the tips of my fingers and the back of my brain, the last thing I want to do is to wait till tomorrow morning to start scratching it again. But I know I’ll regret it if I don’t.
For the recommendation this time…no, I need to talk about it a little first. Bear with me.
I started reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation recently, and found I very soon had to stop again, because reading that book felt to me like I imagine it must to orbit a black hole. Stable as your trajectory may be, however clear of hazards from the accretion disc, and however good your radiation shielding—the end of all things is always present, and you can see it any time you like, right out that window over there.
There’s an attraction for me in that, because I understand what Wurtzel talks about and how she feels; the place she’s describing is a place where I’ve been. It has a repulsion for me, too, because I have long since left that place, and with the very best of reasons. Hence the stability of the orbit—those are always a balance of forces, the vector sum of to and from, and that balance is always changing. No orbit is ever truly, permanently stable; even the Moon is falling, ever so slowly, away from Earth, and some day she will leave us. The best you ever dare hope of an orbit is that it take a very long time to decay.
I still don’t know quite how I left that place, and confide I may never really. The fear of becoming homeless, as I very nearly did, I think must have had some effect, but it can’t have been all there was. Looking back, I feel as if I simply looked around, saw what had become of my life as it was reflected in what’d become of the place where I then lived, and thought “well, then, that’s about enough.” Then I started filling and hauling out garbage bags. It took days to be done with even that much, and there was much work waiting for me beyond that, and I did it all, without help because I was far too ashamed to dream of ever asking. And I still for the life of me couldn’t tell you how.
By the time I was finished dragging myself out of that hole, you’d never know to look at my place—or at me—that things ever got really bad at all. The hole is still there, though. I don’t think about it most days; I don’t have to think about it most days. What I learned in the course of climbing out of it has done me a world of good, in helping me stay out of it, and so far I have. But it never really goes away, either. I’ve found a stable orbit, I know how and when and where to thrust to keep it safely circular—but I am still in orbit. The end of all things is always present, and I can see it any time I like, right out that window over there.
And the thing about all that is, as bad as it sounds—hell, as bad as it was—I was still incredibly lucky, just the same. Oh, you can say I ‘hit rock bottom’ if you like, whatever that means. But that’s bullshit. Plenty of folks hit hard enough to splash, or to plow right on through into the bedrock. I didn’t, and I don’t know why, and Prozac Nation reminded me that I’ll never quite stop being afraid that some day I’ll fall back in and this time I won’t make it out again. That’s why I had to stop reading it, and why I don’t know if I’ll be able to start again. But Prozac Nation is not what I’m here to recommend, either, although it is entirely worthy. Instead, I’m going to point you at Freddie deBoer’s obituary for its author, Elizabeth Wurtzel, who died last year.
If I’m honest, I’m not wholly sure why I’m recommending this work in particular. Certainly you can say what you like about deBoer, and I know there’s no shortage of people out there who will. Say what you like, though, you can’t deny he knows what he’s talking about here. He’s been through it, too, same as me. Worse. You can tell by the way he talks about it. It’s taught him some of the same things it did me, and one of those is that it never goes away. But we all play the hands we’ve been dealt, don’t we? And the way he talks about how he plays his, and how she played hers—
You will not be saved by trying to maintain the requisite ironic distance from your own life, to act like some 21st century Twitter power user who deadens their experience of life with jokes and memes and cleverness. She chose to do the opposite, and being a writer, she did it with words: she wrote down what it means to be depressed, and what it mean to be a brilliant beautiful Gen X degenerate, and she did it as good as any and better than most.
And that’s why I hope someday I’ll be able to start reading Prozac Nation again. I wouldn’t ever have started in the first place, if not for Freddie’s obituary. It was worth my time to read. I think it’ll be worth yours, too.
…well, would you look at that? I managed to do it today, after all. Goodnight!