When I was in fifth grade, I was very good at routines. I took particular pleasure waking up at 6:30 am on Saturday mornings to clean my room. Not tidy my room–clean my room. This involved q-tips in the window tracks, re-organizing my closet so my clothes would be in rainbow order, sorting and doing my laundry (from start to finish), ironing, vacuuming, window washing (inside and out), the works.
Sure, there was probably a bit of the OCD about that. But, maybe not. I never felt compelled to do it against my will. I really wanted to do it, it was fun and I liked being able to see what I’d accomplished and have a clean slate for the upcoming week.
I was a person who did things.
Twenty years later I am absolutely not that person anymore. And I’m really frustrated and sad about it. I don’t feel like a person who does things anymore. I feel more like just…a person…who…just keeps living in life. Instead of thinking, “What am I going to DO today”? I end up thinking, “What am I going to not do today…again?”
And it’s not because I don’t want to do things, it’s that suddenly I feel so helpless to even try. Even the smallest things sound impossible or herculean. Go get groceries? How? Get a glass of water? Howwww? Just stand up and walk five steps? Howwwwwwww?
I’m not entirely sure what in the world is going on. Why is everything so hard? How is it possible that something can seem impossible to me, but sound so silly and, frankly, lazy/stupid/malingering/whiny when I try to explain myself to others.
“How’s that paper coming?” they can ask and all I can do is look back at them, terrified. Because what am I supposed to say? They know that technically I have about 20,000 more hours of “free time” in my day than they do. And if I told them the truth, how disappointing and how completely unreliable and selfish and mental would I seem?
“How’s that paper coming?”
Truth: ”Well, it’s not. Because, you see, I can’t even will myself to double click on the file. It takes me an hour to read one paragraph and the whole time it feels like I’m dragging 200 pounds up Everest. I scroll through those 30 pages and just keep scrolling up and down and up and down and up and down because I know that if I stop scrolling that means that I have to figure out how to do something with the words. I add one comma or change one word and then I save it and close my laptop, exhausted. It’s too much. I can’t.”
Actual: “It’s alright. I’ll have it to you soon.”
Atticus is in Australia this week. He is the only reason I can find to try and punch through this horrible metal box every day. Sometimes, when I know Atticus will be home in a few hours, I can actually do things like make food or go outside. Two times I even went jogging. Sometimes I even get dressed in the morning.
But now that Atticus isn’t here, I find myself hiding away. Random items of clothing on the floor/couch/table/chairs, eating crackers and soup, optional showers. And I realize that no one knows I’m here, really. I lock the door and stay in the quiet, convincing myself I don’t need to answer any of those old e-mails or phone calls because if I don’t, no one will remember I was supposed to in the first place. Just disappearing. Quietly. Without a fuss. Don’t want to bother people with this weirdness. Don’t want to have to answer any questions.
Thinking that maybe if I wait quietly, long enough, then everything I was supposed to do, everything piling up, will just reset one day. And I’ll giddily wake up one Saturday at 6:30 am and clean the already immaculate window tracks with a q-tip, like nothing ever happened.