Ten years ago:
I spent several days trying to figure out what to do with myself. I felt inspired, but disconnected from everything. I called the kids and the girls in New York. I went over to my brother's house several times, sitting around and talking. I covered my kitchen with frantic notes to myself. I smoked so much that my lungs ached. I went and walked around the neighborhood, stopping in little stores I had never noticed. I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom with bleach and windex, windows thrown open despite the freezing temperature outside. I rooted through a box of unlabeled tapes and played them one at a time, finding secrets and college radio shows and old music. I grabbed the things that I could control and I ran with them until I was exhausted.
Work was a blur between throwing the gate and leaving under the afternoon sun. My boss had come back to perfect numbers and an impressed district manager, despite the sudden shift my personal life had taken in that period of time. There was talk of giving my my own store some time in the next few months, which further lifted my spirits. I poured this new enthusiasm for my employer right back into the store, hired and mentored a new part-timer, and reveled in the clockwork-like efficiency that flowed through the place when I was there.
I spent my off hours writing, both online and in a notebook. My topics ranged so wide that it is hard to figure out what I was trying to accomplish. Parts of my writing were trying to identify core values within myself, since I was suddenly so unsure of what I was. But I was also trying to tell stories, and these are mind-boggling and embarrassing to look back on now. I lost that notebook many years ago, probably when shifting things around at the apartment in Syracuse. I am afraid that it will resurface now, confronting me with my true emotional state at the time.
When I would get under the covers late at night, the facade would crumble and I would emotionally crash. It would take me hours to get to sleep, laying there staring out the window at the stars. I would worry myself to sleep eventually, the thoughts would running erratic and finally snapping off in a fit of exhaustion.
I was crazy. I may have known it then, but it is clear to me now. I was trying to burn myself up, so I could sift through the ashes and figure out what I had left. But I didn't know where to start so I tried to tackle it all at once. It took quite a while for me to come back down.
The entry that I posted on my web journal talking about the events of the 20th resulted in a bunch of emails. Some were from people I had talked to before and others were from folks that I had no idea existed until they popped up in my mailbox, strange and alien and supportive. I think it was the first time that I had written something that other people responded to, and it was new and interesting idea to deal with.
One was from a woman who lived in London. Her email is long gone now, but I remember that she said that she felt the need to keep her thoughts in other people as some kind of external backup. I had been thinking about how much of ourselves actually is inside of our own head, and I wanted to respond but wasn't sure how I should. Eventually I wrote what I thought was a pretty crap response, but it started a conversation. We were both going through a lot of upheaval in our lives, and it was a comfort to us to be able to talk in these terms with the other. We talked on ICQ for a few days, and she gave me her phone number. I called her nervously, anxious over my first international phone call as well as this connection that I thought was happening between us. And, as things sometimes are, the phone call was weird and full of odd pauses. We still sent emails and chatted, but I was embarrassed and nervous of her thoughts about me.
Additionally, the girls in New York had been reading the journal as well, and they called me after a few days, very concerned about my current mental state. At the time, I thought that they were overly-concerned, but I can see where they were coming from now. I wasn't acting normally after a period where they knew I was depressed. I tried to talk them out of trying to talk me down from a ledge that I didn't feel I was actually on, but a conversation based on that premise isn't going to go particularly well. In the end they made me promise that I would call them if I felt like I was in trouble, and I rolled my eyes and agreed.
Secretly, I was glad that they called. I was happy that I had somehow scared the crap out of them because it meant that they were still thinking about me in one way or another. It is weird and needful to think that way about people, but I wasn't catching that at the time.
Allie and I started getting back to normal, even though we never talked about her sister. We militantly didn't say anything about it and moved on instead. It took about a week to find our new dynamic, but then we were back to a steady place in our friendship. We went grocery shopping together again, and occasionally went out for a drink when we were both leaving the mall at the same time. But I was never completely comfortable with her after that. I felt like I still had my defenses halfway up whenever she was around, just in case we decided to drag it out into the open once and for all.
There is a part of me that wishes that I had just confronted her about it. I'll never really know what she was thinking at the time. Chances are that she wasn't hostile about things at all, and she merely perceived it as a bit of a fucked up conversation. Maybe she was worried that I was too fragile about it, and that talking about it would have brought a hostile reaction out of me. Maybe I was giving off some kind of vibe that told her not to bring it up. I really don't know, and I probably never will. I am sad that it changed things the way that it did.
Notes on a life in exile: A retrospective
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