I used to say all the time that I feel like I got kicked in the ribs. It is my way of explaining a strained feeling that I get in my chest sometimes. I don’t even know what causes it and it seems to pass fairly quickly, so I never worry about it. But sometimes, life has a way of kicking you in the ribs. That happened to me a couple months ago.
The first week in November, I found out that I wasn’t going to be kept on at my job at UNL-Housing Burr/Fedde Facilities. I was stoic that last week because I knew it had to happen someday, I mean they call my position temporary for just that reason. The last few days of work, I said good-bye to a lot of good co-workers, not that I haven’t seen them since I stopped working there, but you get the idea. The social committee threw a party for me the last day as a send-off and I went home with a ton of cake. Monday morning, I was already missing it.
That Friday evening, I had a very unsettled feeling. I call it being ‘restless’, but it was worse than I’ve ever felt it before. (I get that ‘restless’ feeling all the time.) I walked around outside for four hours unable to focus on anything. Finally, as usually happens in this situation, sheer exhaustion put an end to my evening and I slept fitfully that whole weekend. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. Something that I really enjoyed doing, the first job I had that wasn’t just a job for me, had been suddenly ripped from me and I was sent reeling.
I slept in until noon and stayed awake until 4 am or later. I spent one day working on my story, but quickly ran into a block, because the next part I was supposed to describe was tragic loss. The story plot was mirroring my own life all too much and I couldn’t take it, so I didn’t even think about it. I listened to a lot of music and began to really dig into the meaning of the lyrics I was hearing. On November 13th (or actually November 14th, since it was after midnight), I had a jumble of words stuck in my head, which I promptly unscrambled in writing them down. You see them as the finished product in my post “Lyrical Turns”. It was a fun exercise while it lasted, but it was over abruptly.
I buried myself in Netflix movies for fourteen hours everyday. There are and were some movies that I watched during this time that I really liked and those that know me well know that the movies that I like the most are ones that have a very articulate moral or a story that I identify with very well. One of the Netflix titles that was recommended to me was the TV show One Tree Hill. I had caught one or two episodes of it on TV many years ago and was curious about it. I know it has been categorized as a high school drama, but I always seem to find a way to look past the superficial drama nonsense and find something more substantial. So I started watching episodes. At first, I was drawn to the basketball aspect of the show, intrigued by coaching methods, as I had been with another TV drama that I had watched before, but then I began to see myself in some of the characters.
One day, I drank copious amounts of caffeinated coffee, so much that I was shaking all over, twitchy and so jittery I couldn’t focus on anything. It was similar to the ‘restless’ feeling, but not induced by racing thoughts as is usually the case. That night, at 4am actually, I decided to try to go to sleep, but I couldn’t. I ended up writing about it instead of laying in my bed wide awake.
‘It’s 4am as I lay my head on my pillow, twitching off the effects of another bad decision. The throbbing I feel is my heart [pounding] in rhythm with my head, but they’re both surreal. I blink with jitters as my whole being shakes. I’m left with not but to wait. This Thanksgiving, I take stock of my life. I am alone as always with the darkness that I’ve chosen. I stand at a precipice, waiting when I should just jump. Paralyzed by fear, fear of failing, fear of being inadequate, fear of freezing, but I’m doing what I fear. I make no move. I’m sorry I kept you waiting, nameless beauty. I sat down and fell asleep when I should have jumped. I made excuses as to why I didn’t deserve you, why I wasn’t good enough for you. How can I not deserve you if I don’t know you? Wait for me til I find you.’
I posted two-thirds of it on Facebook and a few nights later I mulled over it again. I was really discontent with how my life was and I wasn’t doing anything about it. I read my status from Facebook over and over again. My mind went in a different direction than the closing sentences, which I didn’t actually post. I thought ‘wait for what?’ Wait for life to happen? I have always likened myself to my book characters, like it’s this tension between who I am and who I want to be, but in reality the person I style as the person that I want to be like falls short of my aspirations, and the character I liken myself to most often isn’t like me really either. One runs to adventure and life and makes tragic errors along the way, and the other runs from adventure and from tragedy. I realized that I neither run to nor from adventure, life and tragedy. I merely wait, which is neither a life nor an adventure, [both things that I say I want] and that’s tragic.
One of the characters in One Tree Hill that I identified with was a brooding artist, being as I was an unemployed writer suffering from chronic writer’s block. Those weeks were actually very dark for me, never to be confused as depression but just dark. Looking back, I think the best way to describe it is to think of a catepillar when it develops a cocoon. I was in the middle of a month long period inside a cocoon. I had moments of interaction with the outside world, mostly church and youth group activities, but I was always detached from it, either by my own efforts or otherwise.
One such incident was a impromptu dinner at Valentino’s with my mom and younger brother and sister. I spent the entire evening in the restuarant thinking about other stuff. Always the observer anyway, I noticed a party seated next to us and how they emptied their pockets of their wallets and cellphones and set them on the table as they sat down to eat. I thought ‘what a leash, that we have these devices that grant us immediate access to anyone we know and we keep these devices closeby at all times.’ I hardly get or make phone calls and my phone is more like a $40 a month alarm clock, with all the use I get out of it. But other folks get their money’s worth. It’s sad really, the chains we bind ourselves with. Oddly, that statement reeks of Dr. Fleinhardt of the FBI TV show, Numb3rs, so I can’t take full responsibility for it.
Late that night, I posted this on Facebook: ‘In the TV drama of my life, I am the quintessential brooding artist/writer. I play my part well. I neither run to nor from life, adventure, and tragedy, I merely wait and that is neither a life or an adventure and that is tragic. It’s sad the strange chains we bind ourselves with.’ Also that night and unknownst to me at the time, I got a text about an audition for the play ’12 Angry Men’, nudging me to try it. When I read it at 12:30am, three hours after it had been sent, I knew I was made. How could I write publicly about discontentment with my life for a week and then reject outright a chance to start something new and adventurous? So I decided to audition.
And I, for one, am glad you decided to audition–and that you’re emerging from the cocoon.
It’s scary, all this. Making a life, taking the life that has been given to us. Stepping out into adventure, living out the full tragedy. Engaging instead of merely observing.
Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.