Tag Archives: anxiety

“Been Waiting for a Long, Long Time — Just To Get Off and Throw My Hands Up High!”

Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay!  This morning, I did wake up mellow and all.  I even meditated before brushing my teeth:  Staying flat on my back on a mattress notorious for having less give than my floor, I stared at the ceiling and counted my breaths.  In — hold — out:  one.  In — hold — out:  two.

Maybe I should take the hold out.  In — out:  one.  In — out… Shit!  It feels like I am about to hyperventilate.

Okay, I better hold.

Well, that didn’t work.  My breathing has been suffering from a bit of shortness this month:  Rent is due in a coupla weeks, and if you ever dwelled in LA-LA, you know that in the last weeks of August, the town goes dead and its army of freelancers and independent contractors are better off leaving town — or they go homicidal with despair.

Still in bed, I switched my tactic.  On my notoriously firm mattress, I assumed the position of an upside-down starfish and I recalled hearing a successful man point out the main recipe for his prosperity: GRATITUDE — he said last night.

Aha! I’ve suspected that much.

Gratitude is habitual for me, and this year I’ve had to practice quite a bit of it:  Somewhere in the transition to my life of a self-published writer, a self-taught blogger; to the high-wire act of a freelancer and the truly delightful experience of single-girl-dom that crashed onto my head unexpectedly, in the midst of all that, via an abrupt decision by my partner to depart — summoning my gratitude has been crucial for keeping tabs on my sanity.  ‘Cause I’m an angry little girl who’s got one hell of a spirit in her — and way too much to say!  And if not channeled toward crossing oceans and conquering fears, that wrath could easily metamorphose into a cancer.

Face down, on my notoriously firm mattress, I began making a list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful.

Well, let’s see:  There is health.  And, then…

“But:  WHY?!  Why is this child screaming at the top of her lungs?”

I noticed the shrill sound earlier this morning.  I had to:  It was the very reason for my being awake.  With intervals filled with other mellow sounds of my neighborhood — the jiggle of an ice-cream cart and the remote hum of a drill — this little girl had been screaming as if she was being exorcized, at the start of the day.

And it wasn’t really a cry of pain:  Past that I could NOT have meditated.  Instead, it was more like a holler to test the strength of her throat, to flex her lung power.  She would start out low, as if cooing; then unexpectedly wind it up, switch the registers until it would sound like a piercing shriek meant to break glass and porcelain coffee cups — or maybe even hearts!  And just as unpredictably — she would go quiet.

But back to my list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful:

Well, there is health.  And then…

And, then, there is this one hell of a spirit of mine!  I don’t really know where it comes from:  Perhaps, I’ve inherited it from all the other angry little girls that preceded me, in my family.  It has been tested by life:  Through generations, we have encountered enough shit to squash it down; to not survive, to retreat.  Instead, every angry little girl would get more fired up:  And that wrath would force us to cross oceans, to conquer fears, to make up new dreams and pick-up new adventures; to get past the unexpected changes; to shrug off our partners’ abrupt decisions to depart and to move on to the next, bettered versions of ourselves.

And we would scream.  I’ve heard my motha do it:  She would start out low; then unexpectedly wind it up, switch the registers until it would sound like a piercing shriek meant to break glass — or maybe even hearts.  And she would NOT get quiet for hours, for days.  It would be like a private exorcism, at the start of every day, by a madwoman desperately trying to keep tabs on her sanity.  And if she didn’t give that wrath a voice — it would metamorphose into a cancer of regrets and resentments.  So, she screamed.

As I also scream, nowadays, behind the wheel of my car, driving through downtown at midnight, with all the window rolled down.   

The angry little girl screamed for hours this morning.  She continued to holler, at intervals, as I finally got up from my notoriously firm mattress to do my work; then to hustle for more work in this dead town, at the end of August.  She hollered as I cleaned my place and tied up all the loose ends with the disciplined routine of my single-girl-dom.  She shrieked as I left the house for my morning run, and I could hear her for miles, until I finally switched on my iPod.

When the shortness of breath kicked in again, later in the day, I began making a list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful.  There was health, of course.  And then, there were things.

But if I visualized those things, the images didn’t last.  They popped like rainbow-tinted bubbles, and each idea of gratitude was replaced by the faces of the other angry little girls in my family who have guided me with our collective one hell of a spirit.  Then, there were the faces of those I had chosen to make up into my own family:  My angry people, my unstoppable comrades, my fellow spirits.  My most valuable possession, they are — the reason and often the source of my prosperity.  And if I look at it like that:  I’m a very successful woman, already.

Still, that’s no reason to stop summoning the gratitude, at the start of every day.

And when that doesn’t work, I can always give voice to my wrath and start screaming:  to flex my strength, to hear the echos of my power, and to get to the other side of it — and to always overcome.  Otherwise, the wrath would metamorphose into a cancer of regrets and resentments.  So:

It’s better to scream.

“I’m Outta Time, And All I Got — Is Four Minutes, Four Minutes! Yeah.”

Another day spent in infinite bouncing between two self-disciplines:  hard work and running.  Because what else IS there?

Well, there is also eating, which I sometimes forget to do.  And sleep.

And then, there is the less disciplined pursuit of making a living.  It’s fine, really:  I’m one of the lucky ones, I continue reminding myself; because most of the time, I get to shuffle my schedule around as if my hours were those shiny marble pieces on a backgammon board.  And it’s an ancient game:  this pursuit of an artist’s life.  Too many have done it before me, but only some have succeeded.  I want to be one of the some; so, I’ve narrowed my days down to two infinite self-disciplines:  hard work and running.

The work has become an anti-anxiety prescription of my own invention.  I hold it up, against my griefs — with time or other people, or even against my departing loves — and I say, “What else IS there?”  But even though I’ve learned to shuffle my hours, when it comes to success — or accomplishment, at least — they still don’t move fast enough.

And I’ve heard it all:  “Impatience is a lack of self-love.”  “Impatience is just energy:  Use it!”  “Meditation!  That’s what you need!”  But when actually in the midst of the hours, with nothing but hard work in sight, these opinions fail to give me any consolation.  So, I wrap up the work — and I go running.

And that’s just another bargain:  running.  Just another bargain I had made with time, so that I can continue doing the hard work, for a little bit longer — after the success happens, or my accomplishment, at least.

And so, the infinite bouncing continues:  I work in order to stop flaunting my impatience toward time and I run — to speed it up.

And in the mean time, there is life, happening in between.  I am not idiotically blind to that.  I see it.  I chip in.  I participate:  in friendships, loves; in my tiny adventures I can afford for very short periods of time (because I always must come back to the less disciplined pursuit of making a living).  But as soon as I am alone again, the infinite bouncing resumes.  And if it weren’t for my comrades — in the midst of their own living, always somehow committed with a lot more patience than I myself can manufacture — it seems I could easily forget about all that life, happening in between.

The other night, one of them had dragged me out:

“I bet you haven’t eaten today,” he said.

“You’re crazy,” I began whining, listing all the work I still had to do.  I’m a pain in the ass:  always hoping for my loves to distract me from my stubborn disciplines; to convince me that there is way too much life, happening in between — and that it’s worth putting the breaks on my infinite bouncing.

“It’s Saturday night,” I carried on.  “Everything is already booked.”

“So, we’ll get take-out!” he said.

I considered.

“Good.  That way, I can get back to work.”

My comrade chuckled and knowingly shook his head:  What a pain in the ass!

We walked into the nearest sushi joint, already packed to the brim.

“See,” I began whining.  “Everything is booked.”

The waitress who got stuck at the host stand that evening, looked up at us, past a million fly-aways in front of her face, and said, “Did you have a reservation?”

I slid out of the way and let my comrade handle that little situation.  I, instead, began studying the floor filled to the brim with families, lovers and comrades.  There were four sushi chefs behind the packed bar, and they seemed to have figured out some sort of a time-traveling trick:  They were moving so fast, the snapping of bamboo rollers in their hands, in between each order, sounded like an orchestra of quirky percussions.  And they were all so serious, in a typical sushi chef fashion:  serious but graceful — total zen masters! — finding the time to answer endless questions from the mesmerized clientele at the bar.

My comrade came up from behind me.

“Would you look at those guys?” I said.

“Zen masters,” he responded and stuffed me under his wing.  Suddenly, my endless bouncing seemed to let up, and I fully surrendered to the temptation to lose track of time.

“How long — is the WAIT?!”

The shrill noise came from the packed lobby.  It echoed past the bar, above the heads of the four serious, graceful sushi chefs, and onto the floor, jolting the first half of the restaurant to pay attention.

I looked back.  She was chubby, with a face full of make-up.  I bet on any other day, I would find her pretty; but the shrill noise made by her lipsticked mouth shocked the shit out of my kindness.  Her man hung back:  Tall, portly, he had crossed his arms and took on what seemed like a habitual expression of resignation.

The waitress looked up past the million fly-aways in front of her face and calmly said:  “Thirty to thirty five…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish:  The shrill noise interrupted her verdict, and jolted the other half of the restaurant to pay attention:

“I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG!”

She stared at the waitress.  The waitress stared back at her, calmly, past the million fly-aways in front of her face.  The shrill noise-maker turned on her heels and made it over to her man who by now was attempting to camouflage himself into the corner.  He’s no use, she seemed to decide, half-way across the lobby — and marched back over to the waitress, at the host stand.

“Is there another sushi restaurant here?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”  I finally uttered from underneath my comrade’s wing.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” was what the waitress’s face seemed to say as well, from underneath the million fly-aways, in front of her face.

The shrill noise-maker scoffed, turned on her heels again and, again, made it over to her man.  By this point, the camouflaged portly creature stuck in his predicament of a relationship seemed to want to vanish.  Loudly, his woman did the negotiation to which the entire restaurant was meant to pay attention.  And when she marched out, into the night, followed by her defeated man, he gently caught the door she meant to slam shut and closed it, apologetically.

“The Blues Is My Business — And Business Is Good.”

What’s this nauseating feeling looming in the pit of my stomach?  That time of the month?  Or maybe I should just lay off the coffee.

Back in Manhattan, I used to live on that shit.  Now, I limit myself to three cups a day.  On a good day.  Nights don’t count:  Nights keep their own count.

Sometimes, I forget to eat, too — a habit of my student days that hasn’t dissipated despite the new habit, of my non-student days, for daily running whenever my anxiety strikes.  Back in the student days, I could just call up a lover and get tangled up in that mess.  Not now though.  Now:  I just run, for miles.

And, oh, I could run for miles, right now!

But first:  Must have some coffee.

Or maybe I should lay off the coffee.  I hear it invokes anxiety.

Anxiety.  Ah, that.  It looms in the pit of my stomach, and it’s sickening:  this battle of mind over matter.

I lie down on the floor.  I should meditate, I think; or count some fucking sheep.  Whatever it takes to get rid of this anxiety thing, looming in the pit of my stomach.

And coffee:  I should definitely lay off that shit.

There is some drilling happening somewhere in close proximity; and because it’s been hot enough this week to sleep with all the windows slid wide open (come on in, thieves and ghosts!), the sound has awoken me, long before I was ready to get up and do my thing again.

What IS my thing, by the way?

Well, it starts — with making coffee.

Which I do.  I get up from the floor and stare at the drip.

“thinking, the courage it took to get out of bed each morning

to face the same things

over and over

was 

enormous.”

Bukowski.  That old, ugly dog was the bravest of them all, never whoring himself out to academia, yet always producing the words, despite being ridden with vices, not the least of each was the endless heartache of compassion.  And he knew a thing or two about clocking-in every day, at some maddening day job for a number of decades, then over his unpublished papers, at night.

Because nights keep their own count.  And days — are mostly spent with some nauseating anxiety looming in the pit of the stomach.

“and there is nothing

that will put a person

more in touch 

with the realities

than

an 8 hour job.”

But he would do that, until the day job was no longer necessary — and the papers were finally published.  And after that happened, did the nausea vamoose for good?  Poof!  Or did he continue drowning it in liquor, exhausting it on the tracks or in between the thighs of his lover-broads; then getting up for the grind all over again, in the morning?

I stare at the drip as if it’s going to give me some answers.  It reminds me of sitting by the life-support machine and staring at a sack of some gooey, transparent liquid — but not transparent enough to give me some fucking answers.

The pot’s half full.  I think I’m supposed to wait for the whole thing to finish, or it ruins it.  It interrupts the process.  Fuck it.  I pour myself a cup — I interrupt — and take it back to the floor.  I lie down.

Maybe I should count some fucking sheep, I think.  Or get me some poetry.  It has put me to sleep last night, with all the windows slid wide open.  Because the fucking sheep refused to be counted, at night.

And because nights keep their own count.

I take a sip of coffee and close my eyes.  Open them:  The drilling has started up again.  I haven’t even noticed the silence.  I put down the pen, the Bukowski.   Start listening to the drill.

It reminds me of my never made dental appointment for a check-up.  A check-up?  What the hell do I need a check-up for?  Just to see how much damage life has done to my enamel — with all that coffee — the timid receptionist called Lisa quietly explains, in so many words.  She is always kind, whimpering her messages into my answering machine like a cornered-in mouse.

Goodness.  Thank goodness — for kindness.

I should meditate, I think, after all.  I take a sip, close my eyes.

Whatever happened to that girl, I wonder, remembering a colleague gloriously succeeding somewhere in this town.  I had known her for years by now, but haven’t seen her for half of those.  We began to lose touch, two of my lovers ago, after a row of coffee dates were meant to be broken.  Eventually, the colleague and I forgot whose turn it was to make plans for the next date, to choose the next coffee shop.  It must be a self-protective thing with her, I realize.  She is successful:  It’s hard for her to relate.

Oh well, I think.  I’ll just keep in touch by overhearing some good news, on her behalf; and keep drinking my coffee alone, outside of coffee shops.

But then, I bet she too gets up to the grind, every morning.  She too must feel the looming nausea in the pit of her stomach until she forces herself to meditate.

Because after years and years of getting up to do my thing, I realize that it pretty much summons success.   

Success is simply getting up again.

But then again, there must be more to it.  Certainly, there must be more to life — than getting up.

I get up, take my coffee with me.  The drilling has stopped.  I stare outside through the windows slid wide open.

“I listen and the City of the Angels

listens:  she’s had a hard row.”

I remember:  I’ve got to start the work.  Because isn’t it what I’ve gotten up for?

I pour myself another cup.  I begin.

But what’s this nausea looming in the pit of my stomach?

“the impossibility of being human

all too human

this breathing

in and out

out and in

these punks

these cowards

these champions

these mad dogs of glory

moving this little bit of light toward

us

impossibly.”

I take another sip.  I continue.

The nausea begins to vamoose, giving room to the acidity of my coffee, incorrectly brewed; interrupted.

“What You Waiting, What You Waiting, What You Waiting, What You Waiting, What You Waiting FOR?!”

Wake up early.  Do the work.

This is the only time of day when you’re allowed to lose track of time, or your phone; of your anxieties; of other people’s anxieties and their intentions or moods that you may have set off earlier — unknowingly, most of the time.  Don’t check your email.  Ignore the pile of laundry.  Don’t balance the checkbook.  Don’t return the call to your motha.  Not now!  

Do the work.

Unplug all alarm clocks; tape a post-it onto the never disoriented time panel in the corner of your laptop:  This is the only time of day when you’re allowed to lose track of time!  Measure the minutes by the number of brewed pots of coffee and your bathroom breaks (that also reek of coffee, but regurgitated). Acknowledge the arrival of noon by the jingles of the ice-cream man looping through your neighborhood.

Do the work.

Because if don‘t do the work, it will nag you like an increasing toothache, when you know damn well it’s gonna cost you a root canal when you just can’t afford health insurance.  It will slip into your encounters with others:  You’ll be edgy, impatient; and the poor suckers in random or scheduled interactions with you are going to set you off — unknowingly, most of the time.  It will nibble at your heart — this urge to do the work, now! — and you will judge yourself for having wasted so much time already, in pursuits of silly professions and unworthy loves; and the partially worthy curiosities — but then those, at least, have given you some specific stories, in the end.  You can tell yourself that, but unless you do the work — now! — every single day, it will nag you like an increasing toothache.

So:  Do the fucking work.

And if you happened to wake up in the bed of another, slip out before he wakes.

You normally don’t sleep over anyway, unless he’s kind — and so boyishly lovely — he turns your ovaries into raisins.  Most of the time it’s pretty clear though:  Sex is sex, and you both know it.  It’s clearcut and cannot be confused for affection.  After it’s done, you may get up, clean up.  Watch him get up, do that bathroom thing they all do; and if he’s a sweetheart — he’ll bring you a glass of water, to bed.  You may linger for a while, to talk — and maybe even to cuddle, if you’re already friends enough — just so that neither of you is left feeling guilty or used.  But you’ve gotta be a moron to assume he is not already thinking about the game he’s prerecorded that afternoon, in order to have you over; or the cold slice of pizza he’s dying to devour, once you’re gone.  And you:  You are tripping out on having to get the fuck out, just so that you don’t come off needy or, god forbid, in love.  And even if you’ve got nothing waiting for you at home, still, you’ll feel better once inside your car, speeding.

Because it’s the sleeping over that fucks with a girl.  When you start sleeping over — you start giving a damn.  Soon enough, your pillow talks will cross boundaries into the topics of mutual failed affairs, regretted lovers, permanent heartbreaks, and anecdotes from lousy sex.  (If you’re a smart girl:  Whatever you do — do NOT talk shit about your exes.  But you will, giving him the ammunition to judge you later, when your own story runs out its course.  And when that happens, if he’s a smart boy, he won’t use it against you, in your last fights.  But he will.  And then, he’ll talk shit about you.)  During this intimate learning of his sleeping patterns and sounds — that’s where a girl starts slipping.  And in the shared waking — when neither is armed with vanity or fear — that’s where she falls.

And it is only biological, really:  But sooner or later, while you are listening to his breathing change while he falls asleep, with his heavy arm resting across your breasts, holding you down in obedience to his calm gravity — you’ll dream of your firstborn.  And when you do — shake him awake, and say:

“The game’s just changed its rules on you, buddy!”

Or:  Slip out, before he wakes.  Like a ghost, stumble your nakedness through the dark, collecting your things that he’s peeled off you two hours prior.  Remember:  Did you show up wearing a bra that night?  or stockings, for his pleasure?  And your earrings:  Don’t forget those fucking earrings!  You always do!

Don’t leave anything behind:  It’s better that way.  Don’t look back.  Don’t linger.  Confront your secret desires head on:  That maybe, he’ll wake and ask you to stay; that maybe, he is — like you — god forbid, in love.  And if you catch yourself studying the profile of your firstborn on his pillow, tousled with the locks of hair you wish you could cut off and store in a locket, shake him awake:

“The game’s just changed its rules on us, buddy!”

Get yourself home, speeding through the town that rarely knows such absence of traffic.  Zoom past all the other girls, slipping out of their boys’ beds, like ghosts, in various degrees of disarray:  Like you, they got dressed in the dark, lingering above the profiles of their firstborns and forgetting about those fucking earrings. They always do!  Drive past the closed diners and dives, and even though you know better, scavenge for a late night cup of coffee.

And it will make you miss New York, where such deeds are less noticeable in the crowds of those in the habit of getting to bed by dawn and those that wake up early — and do their fucking work.  There, humanity is constantly changing the guard.  Between the insomniacs and the insane — and those who are contently unsettled by their unworthy loves — you feel less pathetic or criminal; and you somehow avoid confronting your secret desires head on.

Get home, wash off — sleep off! — the budding infatuation with the boy (unless he’s kind or boyishly lovely).  Rest up.  And once you wake again:

Do the fucking work.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being — Doesn’t Happen at 28

Hung-over from a 22-hour work day, with my feet pounding as if their every bone was broken by a road roller, this morning I was awoken—way too fucking early!—by the sounds of sex penetrating the thin walls of my bedroom from the apartment next door.

My neighbor is of Indian descent—a pretty girl, slightly nerdy, whose appeal from day one was her quirkiness and stubborn independence.  Years ago, as I allowed an army of roommates invade my living space and irritate me enough to move in with my guy (and what a premature and idiotic move that was!), she insisted on living alone.  Now, years—and her new BMW—later, the girl is still making enough dollars to dictate her own rules:  An occasional hour of the night, her apartment emits a not-so-faint scent of weed while she holds a gathering of similarly quirky and smart working professionals of Hollywood—who are NOT actors.

Her bedroom noises seem to follow a routine:  They start with a rhythmical squeaking of her bedsprings.  The pounding then increases in speed, yet I hear no sounds of her man’s voice.  Her moans, however, will start after about five minutes, and I must admit—she actually sounds quite enticing.  She moans from her chest, in a natural pitch.  The whimpers never turn into grunts (as happens with me—when I’m inspired); neither do they sound mechanical or faked.  As the squeaking pauses (do I hear a position change?), the lovers don’t speak.  Only in the last stretch of the 10-to-15 minute shag session, does his voice come through.  A couple of his groans—and mazel tov!

This morning, I’ve managed to sleep past the squeaking, waking only to the crescendo of her moans intertwined with a couple of words he released simultaneously with his orgasm.  Then, her laughter began, in response to some routine of his; and at the sound of it, every hint of my annoyance at the untimely waking hour melted away immediately.  My girl neighbor sounded light and full of joy.  She sounded young and deserving of being fallen in love with.  She had obviously suffered enough—a woman of East Indian heritage has plenty of negotiation to do in life—yet, ended up on the other side of it, still lovely and light-footed.  I, myself, felt love-struck, if not with the girl herself, but the inspiration for a life lacking darkness and depression and self-loathing—and all the other wasteful colors I’ve witnessed in the biographies of my artistic friends.

Which made me recall the young faces I encountered last night.  To them, I dedicate these words:

To the girl, tipsy in her cheep, sparkly shoes, who pouted in the fashion of Marilyn Monroe pictures she collected as a young teen and last night sloppily slid and ground against some undeserving youngster’s leg on the dance floor—

To the anxious young man, painfully uncomfortable in his chubby frame, discombobulated by every tall girl in the joint; who worked up his courage by repeatedly pulling up his shirt sleeves, high-fiving his equally short friends and looking for solutions at the bottom of his rocks glass—

To the Persian kitten, clad in black, studying her petite toes peaking through the patent leather sandals, who swayed next to a man on the verge of passing out; and when he lashed out at me for asking if she was fine, I yanked her out of his clasp and walked her to a cab (but before her head separated from my bosom, she whispered:  “I love you.”  “Of course, you do,” I responded and caressed her jet-black hair.)—

To the beautiful model-esque male creature leaning against a pole, with his eyes, fingers and attention on his Blackberry, who was so obviously in the way of the traffic yet completely oblivious, and who ended up muttering, “Bitch!” after I’ve finally asked him to move—

To the blonde with smeared make-up and breath reeking of stomach acid, who trampled over my feet and dry-humped my hip for finding her misplaced work phone; yet reached for her wine glass as soon as I untangled myself from her long, naked arms—

To the gay kid who decided to amuse his friends by placing a glass of ice against my naked back; and when I yelped and turned around, he luckily stumbled out of the radar of my swinging arm, took on the “I just shat my pants” expression; then grinned and muttered, “Love you?”—

To the gorgeous, tall black goddess in a red dress strategically painted onto her body, with erect nipples the size of cherries confronting every lucky bystander; yet who still found her own beauty insufficient and retracted to the bathroom mirror every seven minutes—

And to all the rest of the restless souls, uncomfortable in solitude, looking for love in all the wrong places:

It shall all get easier, darling children of humanity! With time, the anxiety gets tamed by habit.  The broken heart heals; and after you work out the pattern with mama and papa, hopefully you’ll give a chance to the right person finally worthy of you.  Sex will remain fun and humiliating; but it will get better once you stop apologizing for the non-existent imperfections of your body:  you are indeed beautiful, in health and esteem.  Yes:  There will be more genuine joy, in little things, which won’t be induced by substances or money!  And yes:  It will take work, but peace will soon settle in, I promise.  Just don’t forget to ask for goodness from others—but mostly from yourself—and you shall be glorious!  You.  Are.  Enough.