On Wednesday, I picked up my desktop along with a backup drive full of folders full of files not named what I named them. Nothing seemed to be in any kind of order. My head was spinning. At the small computer store in East Nashville, which looks like an old pawn shop full of old monitors and various keyboards and cables strewn about, I ask Main Tech Dude to explain. He’s part geek part surfer. He’s got one phone to one ear and the other to the other. He’s clearly busy and my question is an interruption. I say, “Tech Dude, can you explain it to me cause none of this looks familiar.” He explained, in Tech Dude Talk, and it dawned on me that I’d be having to sift through this external hard-drive, open every file. Not all of what I lost would be found. I knew what was really critical, though, hidden amidst the hundreds of numerically-named files.
All of my lyrics.
All of my finances.
My son’s egg donor medical history.
Needle in a haystack.
I took the computer home in the pouring rain. Tech Dude was my first human interaction beyond my immediate family in over 7 weeks. I wore a mask. Tech Dude did not. Something about that did not make me feel superior. It made me feel like an over-reactor. I had an hour before my son would wake from his afternoon nap so I started clicking, then soon I was crying as I found one file after another corrupted. Or, one file after another was a different version of the last and I couldn’t figure out which I need to save, which was the latest version. I was confused. I called Tech Dude. Again, not a pleasant human interaction. I asked a question. Then a follow up and he impatiently talked over me. He was trying to be helpful, I’m sure, and he didn’t seem to be your everyday variety misogynist. Just a misanthrope. He wasn’t answering my question just venting about what “most people will do and you’ll lose it again and then you’ll be back in here and we’ll have to run the program again to re-find everything.” I couldn’t get a word in to say “Wait, this is irrelevant and has nothing to do with my question,” and as I heard my son’s whimpering through the wall and the drone of Tech Dude made me exasperated, I grew a pair, and said through clenched teeth, “Hey, thanks man. But listen, I gotta cut this short. My kid is waking up. I hear that what you told me to do is a, b, c. Is that correct?”
“Cool, thanks.” And I hung up in time for Huck to start wailing Mammmmaaaaaaaaaa at a high pitched scream, and it took great willpower to not lose my shit entirely, throw my hands up and scream “Uncle.”
This is leading somewhere I promise.
Overwhelm. Are you feeling it, too? In all the large and small ways. This is hard. This pandemic thing. This staying inside, this social distancing, 6 feet, mask wearing new normal. For every single person in the tamed world, with the possible exception of those dudes with AR15’s storming the Michigan capital (side question: I get the 2nd Amendment, I mean I have a slightly different interpretation, I’m sure than those guys do, but I get it. However, I’m just unclear about how the Constitution gives us the right to “bear machine gun arms into the capital in a threatening way”. I mean: isn’t that how coups start?)
Unless you’re in a land without television or radio or internet (and I’ve been to a few of those places), you’ve been cooped up for about 7 weeks. Maybe alone. Maybe with people you can barely tolerate. I’m lucky. I’ve been with my two favorite people in the world, both of them are really funny, one makes raspberries on my bare belly. But one of the adults in this house seems to be weathering this storm like a breeze while the other is ducking lightening strikes. (The half person is watching too much Nemo and eating way too many goldfish)
This week, I admit, the seams frayed and came apart. I was sad. I was mad. I was anxious. I was afraid. I’d be walking down the road, perfectly happy to be pushing my son in his bike/stroller, avoiding everyone else on the same sidewalk, and a deep fog of despair would weigh down on me. Out of nowhere. Just a deep sadness with a side order of “I’ve lost all f’s to give” kind of exhaustion. Then a few ragey episodes. I’d snap at the other adult in the house. I’ve had those through the years and I hate them but sometimes they come out of nowhere, like a tidal wave, out of nothing. I know that it’s a huge over-reaction but it takes on a life of it’s own, a costume I’ve put on, a Jekyl-Hyde moment where I’m giddy in the mania of words-I-don’t-mean spitting out of me and I’m dizzy and can’t stop and then I hear what I’m saying and pull it back and either apologize on the spot (which never goes over well in the aftermath) or I just dissolve into dark self loathing and sadness. And then lethargy kicks in and I can barely stand up so I either disassociate and check out while standing there in front of the object of my aggression or I have a desire to go to sleep. This has happened a few times during the pandemic crisis and at first I thought, of course, it’s just normal anxiety. I mean, who wouldn’t be anxious after losing their source of income, their next 6 months of work, can’t see or touch your friends or family, and choosing to medicate with Doritos and Betty Crocker Brownies. On top of that, as a fairly uncomplicated artist who likes it OG, I’m also overwhelmed with the Young Kids who know all things streaming and tech and seem to have all the time in the world to play with all the gear and all the knowledge or at least the time to zone out on Youtube videos of Eastern European or Japanese teenage boys demonstrating home streaming techniques or the best mic for your iPhoneX for your FacebookInstaYouTubeOBSStreamYard show. God bless them. I get anxious. I get jealous of their time to reinvent the wheel. I do not have that luxury. I have a 2 year old and a husband who is home trying to figure out his own tech frustrations, in his first year as a public school teacher working on a 2nd masters degree having to transition to online teaching in a school system that seems to be winging it about when or if to re-open. I can’t even connect an XLR cable without feeling like a failure.
Overwhelm. We all have it. My coping skills are keeping me up at night, clicking “BUY NOW” on things I’m going to regret in 2 months. Recording things. Comfy clothes. Pretty shirts. Tripods for my iPhone. Good ring lights. I’ve bought an amp. I’ve bought a good mic. I’m supposed to be cautious with money, but all of a sudden I feel like I have to build a home studio. It feels manic.
The other me wants to curl up and quit. The other me is shouting “It took me 15 goddamn years to hustle and learn how to do the thing I do best and now after all that you want me to figure out how to livestream my career and crosspost and make sure everything is ‘on brand’ and I’m expanding my audience beyond and not playing it small and all that shit that makes me want to throw the damn iMac at the wall and blame Tech Dude for the complete mental breakdown. Even though he has nothing to do with any of this.
It makes a glass of wine look really good.
I haven’t had one in 7 years. December 2, 2012, to be precise, but that’s not my sobriety date because I spent my first 11 months cutting corners until one or two of them knocked me down to my knees for reals and I was ready to say “uncle”.
A little over a year ago, I was feeling this same thing. This see-saw whiplash of emotions and over-reactions and went to my Ob-Gyn (who is, by the way, beautiful and smart and funny and I think we’d be BFF’s in real life) to say “Um. I want to kill and divorce my husband and I cry all the time. Is this a problem?” She laughed, in that “cool girl from school who’s the smart nice one, the cheerleader who is also on the math team” way. “Yeah. Welcome to Post Partum Depression. I threatened divorce after each of my 3 kids.” And she put me on Zoloft. It took a few weeks, but things evened out and I felt much better. Elated. Happy. Whoo hoo. I had a definition! I knew who I was! I was a Geriatric Mother with Post Partum Depression Brought On By Weaning!!!! I was “On Brand”!
I wasn’t an asshole. I was just, well, depressed.
Fast forward to now. I’m depressed. I’m angry. I’m over-reacting. I’m having panic attacks. I’m in recovery and I’m morning meetings and I’m participating in my ‘let my share be self-deprecating enough that when I admit I’m sad nobody really worries too much about me’. I’m trying to meditate. I’m of course eating all the brownies and drinking soda (not even diet) and I know how bad these things are for me. I go between overdoing it and just drinking shit tons of coffee all day long until my stomach makes funny noises and I’m running to the bathroom all day.
Then I rage. And the computer goes on the fritz. And it’s my parents, or would have been, my parents anniversary which makes me collapse in a puddle of grieving but I realize I’m grieving the Dad I wish I had not the Dad I actually had. I call my BFF Ob-Gyn. And I spill it all to her. And ask her, “Is the Zoloft not working? I’m a bit worried, because I looked all of this up online last night before the Ambien kicked in and I’m probably either Bipolar or I have a Borderline Personality Disorder and I’d really like to not have that because Marilyn Monroe and Hitler had that, or at least that’s what Wiki says.” She gave me the names of 5 shrinks to call for a psych evaluation.
I’ll cut to the chase. I’m probably not Borderline and the shrink thinks that it may be a WikiMyth about Hitler. He was cool and funny. He gets addicts and we talked for an hour and it has become increasingly clear that the “artistic temperament” that I have always had, that phrase kind of whispered by my family to excuse my large and small rage fits as I was growing up (my father made up a name for the tantrums, ‘ casting spells.’ I didn’t think it was funny). This is beyond Post Partum. It’s grief and trauma triggers and I’m an asshole sometimes. But there’s an undertow as well and it’s time to dive into the deep again.
I’ve been in therapy off and on since I was 16 and the phrases “depression” or “Bipolar II” or “anxiety disorder” have never been spoken to me. I remember my therapist in New York City in the late 90’s, his first name was Buzz. I was engaged but cheating. I was drinking to the point of blacking out and ending up in various apartments and having to lie my way back to Hoboken the next morning, having no idea what had happened. Buzz did not discourage me from getting married. Seriously. What a collosal waste of time and money.
And so here is where I get away from the narcissistic, me me me-ness of this post and back to the we-ness of it all.
This Pandemic Pause is profound. It is a long pause, a fermata of overwhelm, to abuse a musical term. It is necessary and the severity of this virus is hard to understand if you’re not living in proximity to it, but aren’t we all? Living in proximity to death? This pause has brought out the best and the worst in us. We are giddy. We are terrified. We are in denial. We are ignoring the warnings. We’ve not been able to be with our families and friends in their awful last days. We don’t have a soul we know with this disease and we think it could just be another Russian Hoax souped up by this party or that party. We are all of it. And my greatest fear is that there is a HUGE lesson in all of this and if we just go back to life as it was, we’ll miss the meaning.
My pause? I’ve gone through a bit of my own war and it feels like the curtain is lifting and the sky is clearing. There’s a chance this Pause is a clearing. More like a scraping. It ain’t pretty and it’s tragic. And people are suffering. Way more than me. But my suffering is your suffering is our suffering and that’s the goddamn song I know and I’m really good at that song and I’m not good at OBS and all the plug-in wackadoo things. I can find my light, write the hurt out and sing it alone with my guitar and hope there’s just a few people out there listening and among the few, there’s one who will say, yes, me too.
There’s the Allegro. The fast moving part of the symphony. Then there’s the Adagio. In between is Rest. Where you breathe.