A Note to Self: Another Complaint

What do you complain about the most?

Today is a Wednesday. This writing prompt hit me a little too hard today. A day during which I have no concrete plans or particular deadlines, no rehearsals or classes, no appointments, no calls. None of that matters. I’m overwhelmed. My to-do list is longer than I can handle and I haven’t been out in days. My self-assigned projects have become a constant reminder of my shortcomings; A reminder that even when it comes to the things I enjoy I feel too heavy, too paralyzed by perfectionism, too ambitious and still, to some, seemingly lazy to accomplish any of it.

So how can I call myself an artist when I can’t remember the last time I picked up a brush? An avid reader, when I keep losing my place on the page? I can’t claim to be particularly busy, and I can’t blame my exhaustion on work. So who is there to take the blame? My biggest complaint used to be that there aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s not the case anymore. I don’t have the right to inculpate the sun with my misuse of time, or my lack of exposure to it on the season.

The resulting situation is that when I feel I’ve been done wrong or have landed in a long-term bad environment, particularly in my work life, I let it affect my self-worth and motivation, and one bad day can easily turn into weeks if I don’t have something to physically pull me out of it, something that requires my presence, my active attention. I can continue living when this turns into anger. I can be productive when this turns into a self-inflicted insomnia. I survived the summer of 2020 this way. But now, after some months of unemployment, despite incredibly rewarding dance travels and friendships, once I’m home in the dim lighting of my apartment, and it’s too cold out to sit in the park or stay out late, I’m at the mercy of a sleep schedule that has a mind of its own and that mind keeps me prisoner under several layers of wool and fleece. Perfectly comfortable and trapped in its quiet. In short, my biggest complaint is that I get in my own way, when in my heart of hearts I know I’m capable of more.

So I’ve decided I’m slowing down in a different way, and it’s taking everything in me to not fault myself for it or for wasting so much time before finding the energy to make a change. I don’t live where it’s realistic to have vegetables grow on the balcony, or bake for my neighbors while they mend my clothes. I don’t have hours to take a walk with my partner after dinner every night. I can’t afford extended summer vacations. I don’t walk around the block to catch up with old friends. I’m too tired wake up at dawn the way I’d like to. My reality is speed walking to catch a train and leaving my desk a mess with last nights projects, that is, if I was able to begin one. It’s bills from the dentist I struggle to keep up with, a couple plants praying for survival in my living room, and feeling annoyed when conversations feel forced and full of pleasantries I don’t care for. I could be running towards a rewarding next task, or sitting somewhere with a warm drink, enjoying someone’s company more sincerely, but it’s an expensive luxury to spend the evenings over macchiatos and tiramisus, and everyone is running towards something else anyways.

The last time I really focused on functioning at a more “meaningful pace”, we were in the first wave of a global pandemic, and I had lost a job, relationship, and the last half of my graduating semester in a matter of weeks. Everything slowed down for me and all at once, so I was left with no other option other than to throw myself into activities that slowed down my racing thoughts. Filled with rage that eventually simmered into a quiet desperation to keep productive, I filled sketchbooks, learned a lot about coffee, mixed many drinks and batters, and attempted to catch up on all the sleep I procrastinated throughout my university years. I was satisfied with my output, but incredibly unhealthy otherwise. It was simply easy to ignore because the tangible evidence of my efforts were enough to validate the means.

The past few weeks have been the early stages of a hard reset, or at least as hard a reset I can manage on my own. I started a new book that encourages me artistically. My lists have become shorter and more in the system of my job to-do lists (detailed and spread out across a number of days), because I’ve found it feels better to congratulate myself on getting out of bed and eating a meal than it is to criticize another day of leaving a canvas blank, or a dance practice skipped, or a rejection email. Much slower than I’d like, but surely, pages are imperfectly inked and I’m taking myself on coffee dates that once again bring me peace. Resumes are sent out consistently, because I do have some hope of staying in my field, but most other things are now significantly less pressure. Taking advantage of all the opportunities I moved to the city for is becoming easier, and less often because I feel guilty for not doing so, instead because I want to fill my days with things that I deserve to experience. It’s exhausting to complain to myself as much as I do and worry myself into immobility. I’m still far from landing on my feet, but at least the fall is slower. And, hopefully, the impact won’t be as bad as it might have been otherwise. My mother says I only need to pray, but I think I’ve forgotten how to start without feeling embarrassed, or end without grief. It’s so terribly expensive, this life. This weekend I’ll insist on a trip to the gardens of Arles on 5th Ave for $5.50 (and an espresso if I feel like spoiling myself).