Fear of Exhaustion

This is an old one of mine. I forgot about it, and it’s oddly comforting right now… Like I’m talking to, warning/encouraging, my future self and others who feel the same. I thought like this at 21, and surprise, surprise I’m now 24, and I’m even more tired. But the nice part is I’m not as afraid anymore. So that’s new. This has no bells and whistles, but it once said what it needed to say, and it what it will say again.

Fear of Exhaustion

I’m tired. That’s about a quarter of the way to exhaustion.

I imagine exhaustion feels like those dreams — the ones in which you don’t know you are dreaming. You just know that each step you take is weighted. Each move requires more concentration, more energy, like moving through water. You can always feel that resistance working against your body, slowing it down.

Sometimes in these dreams I am running from something — a dark figure, a malicious bully, a sort of monster baring its teeth and reaching out its limbs to get me. I never understand why it is so difficult for me to run. What is stopping me? Why can’t I get away? Fucking run! I can feel a hot breath grazing my neck hairs, and fingertips prying closer at my sweaty skin.

But I can’t run anymore. My legs and arms seem to be draining, running out of power, shutting down. I can’t yell. My throat is raw and working overtime to emit a faint whisper that should have been a solid scream.

So I give up because I am so tired. Then the dream is over, and I realize I was only dreaming. I look back on my dream self’s exhaustion and dread that I will ever feel like that again… that I will ever be that tired.

In conscious life, I am only a quarter of the way there. Others are much closer. I can see it in their faces — not necessarily through crinkled foreheads and crows’ feet. It creeps in silently behind the whites of the eyes. And we try to shake it off or clench it in. Some are more successful at it than others.

What I imagine wears people the most is a lot like those dreams. They aren’t getting anywhere. Something is using force against them. It’s keeping them where they are.

It’s keeping them locked in kitchens serving chicken and green beans to kids who only open their pale little palms when it is time to get money they haven’t slaved so hard to earn — who only open their mouths to retort when they have been shorted.

It’s keeping them scraping away through Philosophy and Bio just to realize that at the end of the academic tunnel, there is no light because there are no jobs. Or at least because “be whatever you want to be” does not always apply in this godforsaken world.

It’s keeping them In greasy old grinds that manhandle their brains and muscle, and leave them preferring beer and television to family time, making them seem so far away from the people in their lives.

It’s keeping them in robotic routines or in the same monotonous relationships because they are too tired to look elsewhere. To leave abuse. To leave indifference. And then you hear things like “I’m too old for love, anyway.”

I imagine that is why some people decide to end things early. Pull the plug prematurely. They aren’t sad. They are just sick of the wear and tear bullshit. They are exhausted. Exhaustion that only eternal sleep could cure. Because in the end if there is nothing I’m sure sleep would do just dandy for many.

Death does not scare me. It is exhaustion. It is the resistance in life that intimidates me. The endless pits and circles. It is all the swimming. The seven days of treading water. The keeping your head above the surface.

At least I am aware of it. I know I am only a quarter of the way to exhaustion. It is hard to fight exhaustion, I assume. I haven’t really had to fight hard yet. But I am crouched and ready. If you are aware, I hope you are too.

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I feel like a Linkin Park song

Sometimes the noise in my head is so loud I just have to say fuck it and surrender to the tears that are pushing and shoving their way through my tear ducts. They all want a turn to star in the show. Me, me, pick me, Sarah. Cry me! I’m next in line.

Today I cried in my car parked in front of a Subway. I’ll take the 6’’ inch turkey with chips, and a cup full of snot, please. There was this guy in a dark Mustang parked next to me who looked startled, then squeamish—like he just saw a squirrel get run over, and he was trying not to stare directly into the pool of glistening guts. So warm and gooey.

Subway is long gone. I’m home alone. I reactivated, then deactivated my Facebook at least five times. I tried to change my profile picture to something less morbid, less “feel-sorry-for me.” But then again, I don’t know what face I could possibly make to convey all of what I’m trying to say. It’s known in my circle of friends, co-workers, and family that I’ve shied away from social media and why. After fumbling around on Facebook again and again and failing to speak up for myself, I went to the gym.

The gym is one of the few routines—that and my beautiful drop of delicious sunshine a.k.a writing group—I have to my name. Zumba always makes me feel GOOD. Like I’m one sexy, strong mama with a slammin’ pair of hips. Like the flaming-bird-spirit-child I’m supposed to be. If I could stare at my ovaries in the mirror during Zumba, I would. I would ask them out on a date and get to know them.

And then the adrenaline dripped like a hose that’s just been turned off. And here I am. Alone with myself. It doesn’t help that my pits smell.

It’s 10 p.m. right now, and I’m forcing myself to write. Even though I detest writing when I start to dip this low.

The truth is I don’t want to sound like a Linkin Park song.

I’m sorry if you like Linkin Park. I like Linkin Park, too, actually. Back in the day, Meteora was my jam. But for some reason I thought I was light years away from Meteora in terms of my life. I thought I only had room for Bob Dylan, for Iron and Wine right now.

It’s not only the lyrics (Somewhere I Belong, Breaking the Habit, and Easier to Run, if you want to get all technical about it). I also feel like I’m made of Chester Bennington’s voice. I’m the hairball covered in shards of glass scraping on your tongue. I’m like swallowing a blister that explodes in the back of your throat. I guess I just want kind of want to break things. Or run.

I told everyone that I need some alone time because I truly do. I told them because I’m not one of those people who just disappears. My brother tells me, “Dude, Sarah, you sound sooooo emo right now.” One of my cousins thinks I’m pulling some bomb ass Edgar Allan Poe shit. My friends and boyfriend support me, but linger in the shadows just in case I need anything. My parents have no idea what planet we’re on, and that I live in it.

I’m not blaming my parents for this. Even though they have a lot to do with things. In fact, I have this ancient biblical-like scroll I could pull out and read to them. But I have never blamed anyone for my problems, and I’m not about to start.

My wanting quiet time is supposed to be a good thing. I set out to work on my writing, settle the racing thoughts, figure out where I want to go next. YOU ARE HERE on the map. But I’m having a rough time with it because in the silence, I’m finding yesterday’s news. It turns out I’ve been hoarding newspapers for years.

I’m reverting back to the gurgling, black pit of insecurity and helplessness that we so cherish in our adolescence. And the worst part is I’m not okay with that. The steaming bitch inside me is not onboard with letting me feel this all out. Even though “feeling this all out” is a part of the plan.

Because the same hustler, the same back patter who has been working with me, inside me, for years is also the one handing me my ass, my severed head.

Here’s what you don’t learn sitting at a desk or find staring at you in the middle of the notes you wrote in your college rule notebook: sometimes you sweat blood to get out of the dark cloud of your home life, you push yourself, you come ploughing through the other side—and you realize that it kind of feels the same. Except there’s nothing there. There is no broken home, no screaming match, no violence on the other side. The nothingness itself is what eats away at you.

You move into an apartment. You feel the wind in your hair of being on your own. You find a full-time gig, a window to your career, something to do with your time. You have someone to share it with, who understands what it’s like to be a 20 something on your own in 2014, someone who will hug you through it all. You think, I’m ready to begin my life, but wait…

And suddenly, IT is there. IT never left you. IT rings like a bell reminding you what you left behind. (Speaking of Poe) BELLS BELLS BELLS; to the rhyming and the chiming of the bells. There’s nothing touching you. You can’t feel it on your skin, taste it on your tongue. You try like it’s your religion to phrase and re-phrase it the best way you can. You try to outrun your past, and you find it here waiting for you—sleeping in your bed, sharing a cup of coffee in the morning with you. It says, “hey man, remember me?” with a nod of its head. It tells you fuck off in between red lights.

My parents are cropping up in casual conversations. It’s almost how I introduce myself, how I recap my weekend. How was your weekend, Sarah? Oh you know, my mom wants to live in my living room. The usual. How do I tell people that that she calls me weekly, pleading in pain, while I’m at work? I don’t. Because that shit doesn’t fly, dat shit don’t pay rent. Sarah, please help me. Please help me, Sarah. And I feel ready to cave, to just give it all up. To move back into the cigarette-stained apartment, to suffocate again with her. All in the name of HELP.

If you read my pulse, you’d find my family there. If you listened close enough, you’d hear something bleating like a half-wounded sheep. I used to have this on lockdown. For a long time FAMILY was the one genre of honest writing that was off limits for me.

I desperately want to ebb and flow in front of my siblings. They after all lived through the same thing. But I’m too stubborn to show them, too scared to get black ink all over their clothes. My brother is a young dad now. He’s found a way to outsource his rage, through scream-o music, and my jaw drops in awe whenever I hear him scream. It’s thrilling to me—like the feeling I get on the Giant Drop. My sister has a new boyfriend she’s really pumped about. And apparently she’s what the kids call “a boss” at her job. The other one is going to school after silently digging holes into herself and straggling from house to house for years. I worry about them as often as I click on a link, as I type a sentence, as I turn a tight corner. I also well an ocean of pride for them because I know what it takes. It takes everything just to move an inch in the muddy waters of poverty, of pain you wouldn’t believe even if you lived it. Because trust me, I don’t believe my eyes.

Being the first to graduate in your family sounds like a big fucking accomplishment. It is, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something so pathetic about coming out the other side alone. There’s no one at the finish line to share this with me. I left people behind. When I come back to visit, there’s this artificiality, this distance, this need for them to understand me. I miss my people. I need my people. But I’m afraid to get close.

Let’s get back to Linkin Park, and why the bitch inside my head is not okay with me feeling the music. When I was 13, this was expected. I just let myself feel whatever I had to feel, and then moved on. Mostly, I felt angry. I felt suffocated. But as soon as I opened the sliding door, when I left the dingy, cigarette stained apartment, shit was funny again. I turned to my friends and teachers; I didn’t push them away or push the button on self-sabotage when my open life was staring me in the face.

Sometimes I wish I could just inject funny into me. I used to see directly past pain, and a lot of that had to do with my ability to open my mouth, hear the sound come crashing behind my tonsils, and laugh with my entire body. My defenses are down. I’m so good at making myself laugh, at laughing at myself. But right now my humor sounds like a radio playing muffled music, short-circuiting under water.

I try to move on, but really what I’m doing is distracting myself, over stimulating myself—with the Internet mostly. With the opinions and thoughts of everyone else, so I don’t have to be alone, truly alone. At home and at my desk, I’m living in this hyper sensory bubble. When something happens—not just to my family, to people I hardly know or don’t know at all—the bubble I’m living in zaps me. My hair stands up straight from the electricity. When a journalist is beheaded. When a comedian kills himself. When an entire population is led to an edge at gunpoint. I suddenly can feel that, too.

I feel like a dandelion that’s being plucked over and over. When did I become such a delicate, little flower?

And then there’s the whole what am I going to do with my life thing that plagues us all. I figured out a long time ago that I’m not okay with doing something that isn’t meaningful to me. What I really want to do depends on if other people think I have anything legit to say. It has to smell new, feel new. It can’t be covered in chocolatey clichés. For the love of god, I want to be a writer. A WRITER. I usually follow this with a punchline, chortle, a snort. Why of all things, does it have to be that? Why couldn’t I have picked something else to fall in love with?

I don’t even know what kind of writer I want to be. My boyfriend tells me I need a niche. Hey babe, you’re good at movie and book reviews. Hey babe, you love poetry. I know I need to narrow things down, too. The trouble is I have this professorial snob in the back of my mind who is wagging HIS (because let’s face it, most known writers are men) finger at me, telling me I’m not smart enough to be a writer. He speaks in a British accent of course. He asks me what I know. I tell him I’m not sure. And he laughs a merry laugh that only a well-esteemed, well-accomplished old, white man can.

I know a million people around me who are feeling the flimsiness of being a 20 something in 2014. As my best friend said to me last night in between my large gulps of air, our parents, people before us, don’t know what it’s like now—to graduate from college, to write a resume, to encourage yourself, to find a job, to learn the ropes of a new one, or to be stuck in one. It’s a miracle that I still have my best friend, that I have friends to share these raw sentiments with.

In a sense, this is why I’m sharing all of this. I know I say I want alone time, but this does not mean I’m truly alone. I know you are on the other side feeling some of these things, too.

Here’s the advice that I’m telling my wide-eyed, sleep-deprived self this morning. (It’s no longer 10 p.m. I woke up. It’s 7:30. I have to be at work at 9.)

The advice I tell myself is nothing fancy. It doesn’t wear designer clothes. It’s what I tell everyone else. Here it goes: just roll with it. If you feel pain, fucking let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Girl, don’t push it down. Where do you think that shit goes? You can’t simply have a bowel movement, and out it goes. Wrapping up insecurity and pain and stamping a frilly bow on top of it all is not the way to go about things. It has never helped anyone. Hiding breeds bad adults. Plain and simple. Say something. For fuck’s sake, wake up, speak up. Turn around and look. We’re all bleeding around you.

How indifference to differences can get a little… weird

I know that this sounds like the first half of a joke, but seriously, what’s up with people not seeing things like color, gender, or weight?

Let me repeat: what’s up with people not SEEING color, gender, or weight? It’s nice to know that people are beginning to treat others equally, or at least claim such, but don’t pretend that differences aren’t there entirely. It makes you look like you’re hiding something. Or you’re just insufferably awkward.

If someone is black, someone is black. There doesn’t have to be attachments or undertones to that statement. People try to step around or gurgle “black” because acknowledging and saying the actual word “black” is supposed to be racist or something. It’s not. It’s a fact.

Stop defying sound, natural observations because you are uncomfortable for some unsaid or said reason. And it’s also not a matter of juggling political correctness. It’s a matter of being plain weird.

I have some examples. One is in real life. And another from popular culture.

So, my boyfriend and I watch the show Louie. We don’t have FX, so it’s excruciating, but worth it to buy the new episodes off Netflix. Actor Louis C.K. writes, directs, and is the star of his own show. It’s one of my favorite things I can get my grubby fingers on when it comes to television. I wish I had a t-shirt with Louis C.K.’s face on it, that’s how much I love him.

If you know anything about C.K., you know he’s a realist and tells things like they are. There is no place C.K. doesn’t go—from farts and jacking off to divorce, depressive tendencies, and class differences—nothing is truly off limits for him. Sometimes, his honesty is painful to look at or so unfortunately true, you can’t help but laugh. Even when he’s being distasteful, it’s done tastefully, which makes for a genius of a comedian.

There’s an episode off the most recent season in which Louie (Louis C.K.) goes on a date with Vanessa (played by actress Sarah Baker), a fat girl—a hilarious, charming, intelligent, and cute fat girl at that.

But she’s still a fat girl. Thus, it takes a lot of work for Vanessa to score a date with Louie, himself a round fellow who runs into rejection a lot. But she still has to court his favor because like the majority of people still stuck in the physical portion of first impression mode, Louie isn’t interested.

Louie determines that she is undateable, which is not to be confused with unfuckable. Sure Louie would fuck her, she points out, but he would have a harder time with getting to know her a on relationship level because she’s fat. And when she calls herself fat, Louie says “no, you’re not fat” because he is uncomfortable, and that’s what uncomfortable people say. That’s a lie, and she calls him out on it. She’s disappointed in him because the lie contradicts what he stands for, or what she thought to be true about him, one of the reasons she was attracted to him in the first place.

See scene for yourself. Awesome stuff.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8KiRrqrlZc

This is what makes this show brilliant, not to mention gut-bustingly funny. It calls human nature out on its bullshit when it thinks it’s being completely transparent.

…which is why I’m confused about something very pertinent to the show. It’s not an episode at all. It’s a casting decision.

So here’s my question: why is Louie’s ex-wife, Janet (played by Susan Kelechi Watson) on the show black? Or the reverse question: why are Louie’s children on the show not interracial? I’m not mad. I’m not pulling a racist card on Louis C.K. But on a logical level, why is this not so?

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The show is good. The writing is good. The acting is good. But still, the discrepancy is distracting. It pulls me out of the viewer/story experience, and the plausibility of a character(s) in a show that aims to be as raw real life as possible.

I’m not the first person to ask this question or its opposite. I sure as hell know everyone is thinking it, but they either don’t care or are afraid to address it, just on the off chance it’s racist, which it’s not.

Actually, the topic was publically addressed in a Jimmy Kimmel Live interview. When asked why he chose a black actress to play the mother of his white children, C.K. responded, “If the character works for the show, I don’t care about the racial.” This in my opinion is the equivalent to “I do what I want.” And that’s cool; it IS his show.

But I don’t buy that. C.K. is a keen observer, a more careful creator than that. I believe his casting choice to be a social experiment on viewers. Maybe he is daring viewers to see past color.

And this is great on a wider cultural, social level, but doesn’t add up on the basic 1+1 level. It’s weird, and it doesn’t make sense. It’s common for C.K. to be weird, but he usually somehow explains his weirdness. So… I feel like I’m missing something.

My follow-up question is: if you could use a fat girl to convey a message, why can’t you use a black woman to convey a message, too? Or an interracial family? Those would not only make more basic sense, but could be used to address real color issues THAT STILL EXIST. I feel like the show is missing out on these elements that could make it that much better.

A second example has to do with a webinar I attended for work recently. I won’t go into any specifics because I’d like to keep my job and feed my family (my boyfriend, my bird, and myself). The host of the webinar works for a company in the industry I work in and for. The topic was on attracting and retaining women in an industry that is predominately male. The people attending the webinar, keep in mind, were WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY. Also, keep in mind “Women in Industry” was in the title and description. He didn’t miss the literal memo.

So, I was confused when he spent the majority of his interview sweating to be politically correct about gender. I felt that it was distracting and defeated the whole purpose of the presentation. He continued to clarify himself after every question, which all began with something like: “What do you think women in the industry…”

Basically the host reinforced that there is no difference between male and female employees. He cleared his throat and bumbled over the actual word “women.” Over and over again. I began to feel bad for the guy.

I thought, okay… that’s great that you are at the point of acceptance, at least for rhetoric’s sake, but the reality of it is that women are asking questions on behalf of themselves and other women so they may further themselves in the workplace. They are the target audience here, so you don’t have to tiptoe around the fact that they are clearly women.

Another fact: there still is inequality between men and women in the workplace because women are still paid less and are still less likely to hold positions of power, particularly at an executive level.

If we want to promote women in the workplace we have to first simply acknowledge that they are indeed women (not men) and also accept that they need more of a boost. Being a woman in a male dominated industry should be taken as an advantage. I’m not saying we should throw a parade every time a woman gets hired in this industry, but still some acknowledgement on the strides and tangible examples of excelling professional women would be helpful in bringing more women in (the objective).

Going into deeper meaning of things: not seeing in color, gender, or weight (for example) may sound ideal, but in my humble opinion, it actually does more harm than good. It takes away from the whole uniqueness, diversity, and celebration aspect. It makes us seem like we’re all the same when we are clearly not (and that’s a good thing!).

It also says “We are now wiping our hands clean of isms or ists because, guess what, those things no longer exist. We’re good now. Everyone is on the same page about equality.” Nope, this is simply not true.

Denying differences may pave a smoother road for more passive forms of isms.  These forms are not blatantly aggressive or hurtful, but they still always stick out like a sore thumb. I just don’t think it will do us good to waltz around differences, ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist. Maybe I’m just being a pain in the ass, but I remember when it was cool to embrace our own and each other’s differences.