A few days ago my partner, Andrew, helped me set up this blog. I'd had one those nail-biting nights of inspiration: rants, stories, and poems licking-their lips like caged feigns, ready to spread out in the sunshine of a blank page. But it was four a.m. I kept thinking of that old AA adage from the few meetings I attended after my 28 day stay at "The Right Step," (almost a decade ago) a drug and alcohol rehab some 120 miles southwest of Austin. I drove there, chain smoking down the dusty back roads of Texas, the day after detoxing on the psych floor of a hospital in the city, blacked out on Ativan for three days. The rehab was located on an old farm where they'd built tiny cabins that bunked four women (or, across camp, four men). We woke at six and had a list of morning chores: clean the bathroom—every last pube, make our beds (perfect hospital corners!), everything in its right place. At the center of camp was an old stable transformed into a mess hall; I drank apple juice with a giant bowl of vanilla pudding for every meal, all of us shoving it in like starved animals, then trampling our way to the canopied picnic table to smoke before the morning meeting.
Anyway, as I said it was four am. I mentally thumbed through my Rolex of ideas, jammed the heel of my hand against my forehead and took a long, audible breath. "One Step at a Time, dude,"--some version of one of the many AA mantras--I said aloud to myself before jotting down some notes for the next day (yesterday), before popping a Valium and turning on the Sopranos (some people sleep best to a babbling brook; I preferred dozing off to sound of gun shots and profanity). Couch sleeping requires three pillows, two under head, one between my knees (my mom used to call this her "crotch pillow"). I slept in our bed from time-to-time, but beds, where so much trauma once occurred, often gave me tachycardia. I'd lie awake studying the stucco ceiling--pimples or beads of sweat casting tiny shadows, threatening to pop or drop at any second. No, sofa-sleeping much safer. I leave the stove light on, also called a "Mexican Nightlight," and feel safe.
The next day I woke at one in the afternoon, mascara and eyeliner smudged below my eyes. I looked like a drug-addled wide receiver. My hair was matted down and tangled like a mangy dog's. Turning on the shower, I stood there, stupid, taunted by the sound of running water. Steam, like smoke, made me wheeze. I twisted the nobs toward me until the water dripped and stopped. Everything hurt. Shuffling back to the living room, I flopped back down on the couch, belly first, face smashed into the pillow the way the guys I've seen in porn dig their face between fake-tits (I believe this is called "motor boating," though I never quite understood why), listening to cars swish down the slushy road. Planked and faceless, an enormous wave of psychic nausea pushed through my body. It seemed the world around me was either an illusion or somehow too real, glaring in every way that someone or something can glare, at my garbage life. I felt my heart struggle by placing my right hand beneath my left breast, like I was pledging allegiance, allegiance to the couch. I longed for my heart to slow and sputter to a stop, I imaged blood molecules traveling through my veins like freight down the freeway, pulling into a weight station and, too heavy, each and every one parking their rigs and resolutely twisting keys from ignitions. Oh, the quiet that would ensue. Suddenly I started to cry and snot into the little silk throw pillow (I'd stolen it from the billionaire heiress of Tyson Foods when I was fired from my personal assistant post), jerking my head No. This was more analogous to "motor boating"--steering left to right, the slightest wrist flick generating velocity, the motor spurting out access water (but no one wants to watch some dude ugly-cry between a girl's breasts, though I'm sure a niche for that exists too).
I have struggled with depression since I was a teen, smoking weed four, five times a day, priding myself on the ability to roll a joint by steering with my thighs on the way to school. Lucidity pained me, and to some degree or another did for a long time. After sobering up, my depression evolved into a deep indifference. Except for this day in question--that same adolescent angst and need for oblivion reared its ugly head (and no, not PMS--I'm too scrawny to bleed like a normal woman). I spent the day horizontal, burritoed in a velvet throw blanket--another self-ascribed part of my severance from the chicken lady--crying intermittently, unable to eat.
I fear my mental and/or physical ills will continue to dominate my life. For many years now, they have. I don't want simply to exist. I have an overloaded folder in my mind of things to create, relationships to forge and mend, careers to embark on, and a whole world I want to both see and to save. People are kind and quick to appease me with cliches about hope, the future. No one mentions the truism that has something to do with the past indicating future outcomes.
What's the secret? Meditation? Exercise? Positive thinking? Or am I looking down the long hall of a complete paradigm shift? Right now, I'm sticking to the aforementioned AA slogan--pretty much universal now (and also the title of a hit sitcom?): "One Day at a Time," though one day is sometimes one hour, even one millisecond. I can't let myself philosophize about time, it's nonexistence, the omnipresent "Now." It's too Robin Williams on a school desk, Carpe Diem, it's now or never, boys! That's a lot of pressure, dude. There is a past. A future, too. I need those worlds, to remember how I got here, and that there's a future-me, unrealized, ready to be born.