For the past month I’ve let my life catch up on me. It just seemed I didn’t have the speed, didn’t have the stamina, didn’t have the lung capacity to keep going, so I just slowed down, stopped running, it became more of a speed walk, then a saunter, then leisurely, like nothing really mattered, and then, before I caught on, nothing really mattered.
It has nothing to do with anything specific. It wasn’t the conversation my ex-girlfriend and I had a week ago, that was actually the thing that made me realize I’d gone numb, which can be worse than being depressed. When you’re depressed, you might go numb, but you’re aware of the lack of pain. And things can well and ebb and crush and pinch; you walk around with pin pricks under your skin. You want to shout or cut yourself, you just can muster the energy. This wasn’t a lack of energy; this was a loss of motivation.
Like a company that just doesn’t care anymore—lost all motivation, everything can go. I had hit quicksand, and I was just standing there, looking around, not even aware I was in it.
When I spoke to my ex last week, when everything hit me as it did, it was new to me. Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry’s girlfriend breaks up with him, and for the first time ever it gets to him. He’s upset, mopey and begins to cry. Midway through he dabs his eyes with a finger and licks at the tears. “What is this salty discharge?,” he asks. I’m not going to bother explain the joke; you either watched the show and get it, or you didn’t, and so you don’t. But that’s what it felt like.
Now you’re probably sitting there thinking that my ex threw me for a loop. She didn’t. It was simply the thing that allowed me to shake myself a bit, to start to wake up. That was what it took for me to realize where I stood, there, in the quicksand, just moving along and not being effected by things, which is the exact opposite of who I am and how I function.
You can’t work the hours I’ve worked over the past 6 months and not have it build up. And it started slowly with me. It manifest itself in the little things I saw around my apartment, in the little patterns I’ve gotten myself into. I picked up my laundry last Tuesday, and it’s still sitting on my floor, folded, and wrapped in my laundry bag. The shirts still folded in their box. There was a collection of dishes in the sink, piled up, the water filming thin at the top. I was low on toilet paper, low on paper towels, my turtles tank water had evaporated down to the blue and brown rocks at the bottom of the tank. I had a stack of books on the foot stool in my living room, things I’d started to read over the past two weeks and couldn’t climb into. The stories engaged me as much, it seems, as my own life had been engaging me.
Even when we’re not closing an issue I’m working 12 to 13 hour days, so part of this is my fault. I'm addicted to the things I do. In fact, I won't do them if they aren't all encompassing, because it means I'm not passionate about them, and I don't function without that passion, sense of purpose. But when it's geared towards just thing, as it has the past few months, it burns me down into ash. I’ve frequently stopped by on weekends, just for an hour or so I’ll tell myself, but it easily extends to 3 or 4. Part of it comes from being short staffed, part of it comes from new responsibilities I’d been asked to take on a few months ago, while I continued to carry the burdens of my old positions. And come to think of it, my desk has begun to mirror my apartment, in the tiny little mountains of disorganization.
From time to time I think of leaving New York, of getting the hell out of here. I cannot imagine a better city to live in, I cannot imagine a more alive place. But at the same time how do I know?
I took the weekend off. I went to drinks with a few friends on Friday after work, I got the number of the bartender, and was home by about midnight. Just as I have for the past week and a half, I stayed up till 4, not able to sleep, not really wanting or caring. Just sitting on the couch.
Every now and then it’s easy to lose perspective, especially when 90 – 95% of my time and energy goes toward my job. I know it’s the period of life I’m in. We all, me and my friends, I’m sure you as well, work an exorbitant amount of hours. And part of the issue, for me at least, is monetary, because if I made more, if I had just that extra bit of freedom that having your finances under control allows you, well, I don’t think I’d be here right now. Not in this city, and not in this job.
And it’s easy to lose that perspective, too, stay focused on the things that are yours, within your grasp, and within your control. Like the runs I usually go for in the mornings when I’m not in some stasis. The runs that, over the past month, have decreased to once a week, if I even go at all. In fact, aside from skydiving and that phone call with my ex, I’ve just been sitting here stuck, which is pathetic.
I did nothing Saturday. I did nothing today. Finally tonight I got off my ass, cleaned up the dishes in the sink and started putting things where they should be. Tomorrow I’ll get up and go for a run, I’m going to force myself, I’m always a bit better when I’m active, moving forwards, not letting my life nip and my heels and finally overtake me. On my way home from work tomorrow I’ll head to the pharmacy. When I get home I’ll tidy up the place, unpack my clothes. I’ll clean it the next day.
I’m taking this upcoming Friday off, heading out of town. And I need it. But standing there, not doing anything? It happens from time to time, and you have to allow it, I guess we all get burned from running our head through walls for months at a time. The truth is I’m kind of an obsessive person. Any job I have is going to envelop me, but when I don’t have one or two things in my personal life diverting my attention and my energy, I end up where I have stood for the past few weeks. So last Friday I put memo in to my boss. I told him that still had all my days off left, 1 less after this upcoming Friday, and I want to use them in December.
Whether it’s studying for the GRE for grad school, seeing what else is out there, dating or whatever it is—the blue skies as you step out of a plane, a pack strapped to your back—I need things that balance. Because when I’m just working, when that’s the only thing I have, I end up wearing myself down into a nub.
So it’s time to get moving.