It is when my brain is at its most random and counterintuitive that I know danger is imminent and if I don’t keep writing, I’m done for.
This isn’t so much déjà vu as so familiar it terrifies us one minute, and amuses me the next. So what if I stopped writing for a while? What’s the worst thing that can happen? That I lose my voice for good? Maybe it’s time for a new one anyway.
Unless you’re a style guide, your voice evolves with time because you do.
Water is stagnant, humans aren’t.
Depression detonated my life and erased five years of it but I’m still here despite a brain that keeps trying to kill me.
Right this minute, I’m very reluctantly here. If you had asked me this morning, it was worse but then there was a moment of grace around 2:45PM when life looked possible again. It defaulted right back to nope within the next two hours though.
I look at the clock sometimes yet I struggle to keep track of days.
Most weeks, Wednesday goes missing so it’s Thursday twice.
I can with absolute certainty tell you I didn’t even know that was even a word until it popped into my head.
Linguistic roulette is one of my favorite things, especially when thinking deeply about my next social media bio. Zeitgeist synthesizer? A bit of an awkward mouthful. Word processor? A bit too impersonal.
Person? Not all that obvious when you have a cat name and hiss a lot.
Mammal with a pen? So is my cat.
That would be one hell of a one-word tag line, the personal brand to end all personal brands, the hope that came from nowhere.
So depression causes you not to exist for years then you have that idea of rebuilding a life word by word? And then a pandemic happens and holy shit, your pay check makes the stimulus check look like you robbed a bank? And then the future wants a word and leaves it to you as a parting gift?
And that’s only the condensed version.
As someone once told me not very kindly at all, you’re trying so hard to live the extraordinary life.
Their perspective surprised me.
Because I would rather not be stuck in that tug-of-war between let go and hang on. On the one hand, you’re so screwed, on the other, things are finally getting interesting. But going from one extreme to the other and back several times a day is exhausting.
How can someone self-actualize while bootstrapping mental health with words?
Just because I write something doesn’t make it (come) true, does it?
Dear internet gods, I look to you for the opportunity to work among, with, and for those who still believe words matter. Dear internet gods, I look to you for the opportunity to build a future built on love, not fear. Dear internet gods, I look to you for the opportunity to embrace different.
And at this point this is the best I can hope for.
Granted, writing up a new life was always going to be a crapshoot but there’s a reason I don’t have a personal brand.
Not dead yet is it, the impermanent achievement that already takes so much work to maintain.
Um, brain, did you have to up the ante when I can barely hold the outline of an idea in my head for longer than I can hold my breath?
I can’t recall for sure when the word refused to leave me alone but it has been around for a while now. Like an insistent punch line to my extremely unoriginal pandemic setup. Because you’re not supposed to thrive in very limited conditions and yet that’s what’s I’ve been doing since the summer of 2018. I don’t thrive in dollars yet so it’s a lot harder to explain.
Then again, what if I thrive in vocabulary?
I stare at the word and wondering how it would fit. Is it the marketing woo woo equivalent of calling yourself an entrepreneur instead of a freelancer? Or is it radical journalism of the soul, pithy, punchy, and memorable?
Sometimes a word taunts you until you do something about it so I might have to explore the reasons my psyche gifted it to me out of the blue.
I’m not doing well but on balance I may be doing much better than I have been in a long time and that is discombobulating to the extreme. A bit like those folks who feel guilty for not doing enough during the pandemic.
I have no guilt, I have questions: I don’t know whether I’m losing my grip or getting better against all odds and I’m wary of misrepresenting myself.
I’m happy to break up with my diagnosis but I sense it wouldn’t be an amicable separation yet, much less a divorce. I don’t quite understand what is happening to me other than something is happening.
And in the spirit of accountability and transparency that informs my writing, this warrants some words.
Including, perhaps, a new one.
I am not a tank and tears are abundant but lockdown is doing strange things I still can’t explain; they may not be all bad. Exhaustion no longer causes me to hallucinate, it slows my thinking down until my brain crawls to a halt and reboots overnight.
I still push myself hard out of inexhaustible curiosity. I sense a disturbance in the force field of depression that lets me breathe a little easier on occasion.
But when it’s rough, it’s rough, and the feeling of your brain getting stuck on the spin cycle of the washing machine takes longer and longer to pass.
My thoughts get dizzy a lot.
And why not? What if something good came out of all this pandemic pain?
After all, we don’t know.
Dear internet gods, I look to you for the opportunity to find out but I suspect you already know me better than I know myself. Somewhere, an algorithm already has the answer I seek.
Meanwhile, I can build word bridges from here to there. We humans write to understand ourselves and one another. Maybe that’s why a random word sometimes burns a hole through the fabric of what you held to be true about yourself.
The prospect of better is always a helpful distraction.
So what if you reach for the stars instead of the light switch?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.