Nine hundred words, but just one topic this time.
I was meant to go to Coney Island today.
One of my favorite people is celebrating her birthday, and I very much wanted to be there. But I just… physically cannot. And it sucks.
I sat down to write my three mini-posts, because I figured that if I was stuck at home, feeling ill, at least I could catch up on the creative work I’d been procrastinating. I do this a lot; I feel like if I don’t go out, I should at least get something done while staying in. As if I’m buying my absence with makeup work. But I sat staring at an empty document for a long time, thinking that it didn’t matter what I had to say on much of anything. Why write at all?
I know this thought pattern well. It tends to go hand-in-hand with my physical low periods, and it’s been turning up like the proverbial bad penny since I was about 12. I’m so ready to be understanding with the people I love. I’m so ready to tear my own motivations to shreds.
Sometimes I wonder what I could accomplish if I was even at the baseline of “normal.” Or if I had just a few more days a month where I had the sort of energy that I can tap on my best days. Rationally, I know that people who aren’t ill also struggle to do their creative work, to keep up with their chores, to juggle their responsibilities. But I’ve missed so many parties and dinners and shows in my life because I couldn’t physically push myself that hard. I’ve had so many days where getting through work and feeding myself three times is the outer limit of what I can accomplish.
It’s something I don’t talk about much, because I don’t want to complain. After all, I’m so much more well than many people I know, and I so often try to focus on the many ways I am privileged and the many advantages I have. There are a lot of both things.
But sometimes it sucks. It just does.
Part of the courage to write even this much comes from the fact I’ve found it helpful and comforting to read about other people’s experiences with chronic health issues. Kelly Davio’s series “The Waiting Room,” which appears on The Butter, is always outstanding. Esmé Weijun Wang’s recent post about productivity in the face of illness was really helpful to me. Jen Brea and Eva Hagberg have talked about what it’s like to be sick a long time before getting a real diagnosis. Ashley Ford has written frankly about her frustrations with running up against her physical limitations on multiple occasions. And there are a lot of people writing powerfully on Tumblr about what it’s like to be sick without the immediate prospect of ever being otherwise.
So without drawing a direct line from these writers to me, I like to think that writing and speaking frankly about this topic may help someone else. And maybe I’ll work on something a bit longer and a bit more polished one day, but if I save all my feelings about this only for something neatly packaged and ready for consumption, I’ll give myself an excuse to go on staying quiet forever. And I think that it’s more important for me to, on this topic, say something than say nothing waiting for the perfectly composed words.
What I wanted for today was to accept my friend’s invitation and enjoy her company and show her how much I love spending time with her. It was to leave you a lovely post about Hamilton and summer and ice cream. (Next time, possibly.) It was to have a good, low-key Sunday in late June before going back to work tomorrow.
I’m not owed that day. But it feels like I could have that day if only I tried a little harder, pushed myself a little more. Maybe I could. It’s a hard notion to dispute, really, which I think is why it’s so insidious.
When I was 12, I missed 42 days of seventh grade and nothing was visibly wrong with me. I sat on the couch and watched shitty TV and did my homework when I felt up to it. My family’s dog lay on the floor beside me all day long, more or less every day. I felt like a fraud, even though (invaluably) my parents believed me when I said something wasn’t right. I pushed myself and still ended up on the high honor roll and didn’t have to repeat a grade, and even then I wondered if the doctors who said I was obviously just trying to get out of school were right.
Maybe I just don’t like fun, I tell myself sometimes. Maybe I’m just a bad friend.
And I that’s the part I hate most. If I could be tired and achey but know, for sure, that I wasn’t exaggerating – that it was really bad enough I shouldn’t feel guilty canceling my plans and not trying to write and taking care of myself – maybe. It might still be awful, but I can’t help wondering if it would help.
Today, though, it’s time to log off and curl up and watch some TV. At least now there’s Netflix.