Brief notes on the final days of January
Woke up this morning. Ate a slice of day-old banana bread. Took two Ritalin, remembered I need to find the paperwork to send to the insurance company so I can go see the psychiatrist again. I’ll do it tomorrow. Watched the last ten minutes of last night’s episode of Mad Men. Made myself so anxious I sweat through my t-shirt and had to change. Voted for Marianne Williamson. Read a short story out loud to Charles while we sat on the couch. Went for a walk for an hour, taking the back streets so I could mouth along the words to the songs I was listening to without fear of judgment from strangers. I like living in what was once East Germany, seeing the Plattenbau painted in pastels or adorned with marble farmers and factory workers, every twentieth building half-dilapidated, its exposed brick signifying the same organic decay of a semi-decomposed deer with its ribs and sinew exposed. Took the train to the department store and bought a pair of sneakers. I knew my mother would offer to pay, because she’s always telling me I need to exercise more, and I figure if I cannot emotionally benefit from her attitude towards body image, I may as well benefit financially. Came home and stared at my email inbox. (Nothing new.) Read a short story. Drank wine. Ate spaghetti. Drank wine. Fell asleep.
All my good habits—the reading, the walking—beget more good habits. When I walk I want to walk more, but also read more and write more and talk more. The bad habits do the same, compounding on each other. No matter what, sticking with the good habits gets boring after a while. Luckily, the same is true for the bad ones.
In the last week, I’ve had three dreams about former lovers. It’s always the same two subjects (one very mean, one very avian). They all follow the same formula: we run into each other, speak for the first time in years, I’m angry at first, then charmed, typically against my will and my better judgment. Things go well for an evening, or a week, or a month. And then, inevitably, they reveal what I’ve always known. They don’t care about me. In fact, they don’t really like me at all. But they hated feeling guilty about the way things ended, so they feigned warmth. But not well enough. Their ruse has an expiration date, even their guilt is of limited importance to them. And then my alarm goes off, and I try to jump back into sleep, into the dream, so I can have more time to scramble and plead for their forgiveness or adoration or just kindness, but I can never get back to bed, because the anxiety of the situation has sped my heart rate up two twice its normal pace (this may also be a side effect from the Ritalin). And then I wake up upset, and I look over and see Charles, so beautiful and kind, his thick, dark eyelashes kissing his cheeks. What else is there to feel but guilt? Why do I need an apology? Why do I need to be told that my teenage self deserved more love and respect than it got from me or anyone else?
I haven’t written anything real in a month. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. I want to respond to the world, but I don’t want to react to it, to sit around waiting for things and experiences to occur solely so I can mine them for meanings and feelings. Maybe it’s a distinction without a difference. It’s just that I’ve been so bored lately. But I know that the world is rich with images and opportunities, but that doesn’t change how bored I am, but it does produce an anxiety over my boredom wherein I know that one day I will be old (or at least older) and I will wish I had the time and energy I do now. I don’t think I have that much energy at all. But I don’t think I’ll have more energy any time in the future—the opposite is far more likely. I had no idea how young I was when I was twenty-one. Every January seems longer than the last.
Sometimes, we have to do things not for the sake of doing them, but so we stop saying “we ought to do this” to ourselves over and over. This is what I tell Charles outside of the museum as we walk back from the Edvard Munch show. I skipped an important press conference to go to the exhibition before it closed. I’m too disorganized to write things in my planner before they happen, but self-conscious enough to write them down after the fact. Just in case I leave it behind, or drop dead on the subway, I want people to know I had a healthy social calendar.
It took me a long time to pick out a pair of sneakers at the department store. They’re so ugly. And I get around fine in my boots and loafers, which look nice. I feel like sneakers draw attention to all the parts of myself that make me self-conscious—my thick ankles, my stocky legs, my big feet, which are two different shoe sizes. But I’ve been so in my head and out of my body that I feel compelled to move and sweat, and I would walk into a gym in my burgundy Chelsea boots if I wasn’t so afraid of the judgemental gazes from women with balayaged hair and two-piece polyester workout costumes. So now I own a pair of sneakers, and I resent the shoes because they mean I care what other people think about me, and I resent the shoes because I resent the shoes and I don’t want to be someone who has a tense and fraught relationship with a pair of footwear.
I’ve been gaining weight. I have a hard time discerning real weight gain from imagined weight gain, and for this and similar reasons there are very few mirrors in my home. But I can see my navel—once far more vertical, pulled taught by the skin on my abdomen—has grown rounder and deeper embedded into my stomach. I’m not supposed to care about gaining or losing weight. And I don’t care, at least not as much as I used to, but I can’t help feeling jealous of the babies who were born and then received those tall, thin, sideways-em-dash navels from their doctors, a neonatal promise of a beauty I bet they never notice. I know this is irrational. I’m insecure about the frivolity of my insecurities.
Perhaps this is just January, a series of anxieties over sneakers and belly-buttons and lost planners. Perhaps it’s just being twenty-three, or just being. I spend my days walking, going to the cinema, thinking about people who are very far away. I miss something. Or I want something. Either way, I’m not sure what it is. And it feels so silly to be so bored and yet so anxious, my ever-shortening attention span somehow always making an exception for lengthy fixations on my insecurities. I think it will be alright. I’m just waiting for daylight saving’s time to end. ❦
evil female is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support this work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A bit of housekeeping: My book, Slouching: A Field Guide to Art and (Un-)Belonging in Europe will be restocked on Friday, February 2nd at 6 p.m. Berlin time. You can find the link here. Paid subscribers can enter to win a free copy of Slouching by signing up on this site using the password provided behind the paywall. Three winners will be notified on February 2nd at noon (Berlin time).