Malfunctioning

Honestly, this is hard. It's been so long since I wrote, or even had the desire to write, that my fingers feel stiff and foreign on the keyboard. The mind like mush. I've written other things during these past five months of course - reports and articles and summaries and comments - but that urge, that trickle of thoughts needling to be expressed has shone in its absence. Even now, I've been writing this for several days, trying desperately to hold on to the train of though long enough to write it down. There's really no need to beat around the bush, now is there? 

I'm not doing so hot.

Not very hot at all. It's been a year since our house burned down and almost six months since my father died, followed in February by my grandmother. To cope, I have buried myself like a mole in piles of work, work, work. Theatre, webpages, articles, new projects, more theatre and - of course - my day job. The days and nights are filled to the brim, my mind constantly occupied. I've come to loathe those moments when I have to stop (not because I get restless or antsy anymore, the stopping is my body and mind shutting down as a way of asking me ever so kindly to back the fuck off). I hate them because when I stop, when the fatigue sets in, when I slow down - the sadness creeps in. And the sadness is crushing.

I'm quite the hypocrite you know, in a spectacular fashion. Always badgering others to go and talk to someone, to allow their feelings to be felt without judgement, to accept that sometimes life is hard and overpowering, and that that's okay, to ask for help. That you need to allow yourself to breathe. Yet, here I am, having bashfully ignored all of my own sound advice and slowly but surely reaching the end of my wits. 

Mikey Stevenson Photography

Mikey Stevenson Photography

Speaking of wits; something I've discovered, and that I'm terribly sorry for, is that grief can make you selfish and a little bit dumb. They say that no man is an island, but I feel like a lone sailor, shipwrecked and haggard, smelling of rotten things and seaweed that have dried in clumps of matted hair. Physically, it's not that bad, I still shower and brush my teeth and use deodorant - so far no complaints have been made about my olfactory emissions. But oftentimes, my mind is too scattered to be fully present. I'm battling to remain focused on what I'm doing, fighting to not suddenly veer off topic in everyday conversation and space out, to remember to ask how others are doing too. The task manager at the back of my mind, which keeps it organised and humming along nicely - the thing that reminds you to text back, to get groceries, to make sure the people around you are doing okay - have broken down. The software is crowded with bugs and syntax errors. 

I'm not functioning like I used to.

                                                                                        Photo: Steve Newman

                                                                                        Photo: Steve Newman

This is not to say that all of life is a tireless bog of misery. There are amazing days too, times when I feel normal and content - laughing and engaged. We just wrapped up Spoon River Anthology at Keyano Theatre a couple of days ago, an incredibly fascinating and challenging experience with a lot of lovely and tender moments. I was surrounded by kind and funny people doing something I love. The rehearsal process started in mid-March and consisted mostly of laughs and good times, but as the weeks went on I felt something being scraped away. When we first went on stage about three weeks ago, it got progressively harder to keep the sadness monster behind locked doors. I would arrive at the theatre full of joy and bursting with ridiculous dance moves, feeling excited and energised. But these last few months have proven that my energy is different now - where it used to be an almost endless supply of radiation from my sternum, it's now a shallow pool, quickly dissipating when the lights come on. After each performance I found myself rubbed raw, running from my dressing room just to barely make it to my car, where I could break down. To make it through each evening, I had to harness all the energy I could muster, whether I felt like dancing or not. As soon as that little reservoir of energy was gone, so was my protection from grief, guilt and despair.

Photo: Steve Newman

Photo: Steve Newman

Imagine Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but instead of focusing on human motivation, it's geared towards feelings. Instead of physiological needs, safety, esteem and such, the steps travel upward from sorrow and despair to anger, disconnection, neutrality, contentment to finish up at the top with a dazzling orb of happy, yellow energy. The middle steps work as the protective barrier between that yellow energy and engulfing despair, shielding you to an extent, and allowing you to move more slowly between the different stages, even altogether avoiding that final step. Right now, those middle stages have been seeped through by the bottom layer of grief, so as soon as that bright but small top layer is depleted, the fall is immediate, from normality and happiness to gut-wrenching sorrow. I miss my protective barriers, my other layers. Restoring them will be a long and ardours process, is my guess. And that I probably need to start working out again to get some energy back - but I'm finding it very hard to begin, as my energy is so low. The chicken and the egg, amIrite?

I know I'm not alone in feeling this way.

These aren't pretty or noble feelings, the ones where you hold your head high and soldier on with a dramatic music in the background and a sunset at the horizon. These are petty, disfigured, horrible feelings of guilt, anger, jealousy, and malcontent - not something you want to print on a piece of driftwood and hang with ribbons on your wall. In honesty, those are the feelings I need to go through, and allow myself to feel - as I always tell everyone else. The ones I'm constantly trying to discredit, ignore and push down with work and work and more work, because lets face it - they absolutely suck.

What I'm trying to say is, please forgive me when I don't have the energy to do things like I used to, when I forget to text back because I can only remember one thing at the time, when halfway through our conversation I can no longer remember what we were talking about. Bit by bit I'll replace the work I'm doing all over town and - taking a deep breath before the plunge - get back to working on myself again. 

 

I'll see you in the Birchwood.