Cecily spoke of how even in her decade-plus state of sobriety she still creates and craves the chaos that used to mark her addicted life: she described making herself late for things, and driving maniacally; and how her home and carpeting had disintigrated into a war zone (though not quite approaching Katrina people, so lighten up). And how she's going to work on fixing this situation stat because she simply can't live like this anymore, especially with her daughter.
And my internal air raid siren went off, and I stared slack-jawed at my screen.
I realized, I too, live in a state of chaos, mostly of my own making. Here's how it goes:
I live in two week increments.
I don't plan anything further out than two weeks, and if something goes on the calendar further out than that, I just turn the page back quickly, with a heavy sigh, knowing full well I'm going to have to move something around once I get there. 99 times out of 100, the thing that far in advance has to do with Bella.
I don't think about anything more than two weeks in my future. I don't fantasize, dream, wish, plan. If it's something that's going to have to happen more than two weeks out, I usually just stop thinking about it, or drop it altogether. (See: dentist appointment.)
Ergo, I live in a fire-drill. I wake up, and run pell-mell through my day, with my only goal being to make it to bedtime. Phew. And then I crash, wake up, and do it all over again. I'm insanely busy -- and things always interrupt my plans, and fuck up my daily schedules -- something happens with the kitchen which slams my morning, and my afternoon is already full so shopping moves to tomorrow, dinner plans get dialed back, and on.
This all started, I believe, last fall with the foot issue. I was so intent and focussed on losing the pregnancy weight, that when my schedule became consumed with physical therapy, podiatry, and orthopedic appointments, I refused to schedule anything else lest it interfere with my recovery. Any other doctor's appointment or event might just stand in the way of the shedding of 15 pounds, and hell if I'm letting that happen. So I just filled up two weeks at a time with appointments, declared my schedule full, and plowed through.
It continues to this day, even though I no longer have those appointments, and my weight shedding schedule is limited to an early morning gym trip or forest path run.
This is not to say I don't enjoy myself, but it's last minute -- Mr. ABF will ask me on Wednesday if we should call a babysitter for Saturday night, and I hem and haw, and fret that if I feel like I do now, I'll fall asleep before she arrives, and we end up going out and having a delightful time and I say something like "We should make this a standing date!" But we don't.
My house is tidy, I arrive to appointments in a timely fashion. I shower most days, and keep on top of laundry and meals and bills and house stuff. But I don't plan.
I never have those falling-asleep fantasies anymore about holidays or vacations or what my family will look like in 5-10 years, or visualizations about where Bella might go to school next year, or full-throated wonderments about renting a house in Italy for some distant December. A month or so ago, Mr. ABF and I began discussing an end-of-February vacation (we decided it's a nice bit of rope to gently pull us through the ugliness), we hopped online for a few days, and then the bottom came out of the stock market. Oddly, I wasn't that upset, but nor did I search for less expensive outings. I just folded up the mental manilla folder and filed it away, thankful to have that space in my day to do something else.
Of course, this behavior is begging the obvious: I'm also unable, totally, completely, to think about a child-bearing future. I've been told to try and visualize my future, "try a few scenarios on for size," and believe me I try. I lie in bed, nicely sated by the crossword, and consciously wonder about a sibling for Bella -- or not. A child of our making. An AIDS orphan from Africa. A tidy, efficient family of three with an enormous rambling house where everyone gets their own office.
But I can't. I try and project what it would feel like to have another set of feet in the house, but my consciousness gets stuck on that 7-letter word for 8-across. And then I realize the blinking light in my peripheral vision is a phone message. Which reminds me I never called someone back, need to do that tomorrow. Along with the application I've now put off for three days. And Cinnamon! Must remember to put that on the grocery list. Do I have stuff in the dryer? Will I have time for a load of laundry tomorrow? No, I can't call the RE. Maybe when the kitchen's done. I just don't have the time.
There are a number of reasons for this way of living:
I'm scared to death. I'm positively frozen about what terrible horrible things my future might hold. Bella might die in her teens, my husband might divorce me. We could lose our house to fire, our city could come to resemble the dystopia in "Robocop." A very typical conversation goes like this:
Me: I need a haircut.
Mr. ABF: When are you going to schedule your mammogram?
Me: (Bursts into tears, runs from room.)
But these terrible, horrible, no good very bad things will never happen in the next two weeks! Why, if I only think two weeks in advance, nothing bad will ever happen! And of course you may have a toke from my hookah eminating the florescent cartoon flowers and the sweet aromatic smell of denial!
Diminishing returns. If I only plan things two weeks in advance, and they don't happen, I don't feel so badly. Hell, if I say on Friday that I want to do something Sunday, and suddenly wake up Monday morning realizing I totally spaced out on that thing on Sunday? Eh. Oh well. Because we all know the less time we have to grow attached to an idea, the less it will hurt if it doesn't come to fruition. Right? What? Pass the bong again? Here ya go.
Time of year. This happened last fall, and I'm just noticing it in full force again now. Wonder why? Hmm. Lessee: on my horizon, starting about 7 weeks from now and going forward: Christmas. New Years. February. My 40th birthday. Now who the fuck wants to plan around that shit? I don't want to do any of it. I don't want any of it to even arrive. I want to crawl in a cave and have someone wake me up next April with a two week schedule that involves baking and travel.
My reproductive state. I'm supposed to be thinking about this. I'm supposed to be doing something before I hit the big 4-0 and my eggs mutate and my ovaries rust over. And I can't think about it, because thinking about it involves envisioning a future -- a possible pregnancy, a child of someone's creation, and concomitantly, a tragedy, and a death. If I never start, I'll never have to push out my horizon. And it's comfortable here, where nothing bad ever happens.
So what to do.
I'd actually like to change this. I'm tired of being stuck in the now. I realize I'm exhausted from functioning, from existing, but I'm not really living.
It's more than just getting brave, picking up the pen, flipping the calendar to the end of January and writing something down be it an event, an appointment, or simply a date with my husband.
It's somehow changing my mindset to once again accept the possibility of a future. And the idea that good, fun, entertaining stuff might happen there -- along with the inevitable calamity and tragedy. That my expectations will undoubtedly be dashed again, but that happens, and occasionally, something will in all probability occur as it should. That dreaming is simply that -- dreaming. No more, no less. And it's a fun exercise (or it used to be) regardless of whether I ever take action and start looking at Tuscan real estate sites. People will let me down, like clockwork, at the holidays when I'm especially low. So maybe I need to reach out there a bit, and plan an alternative activity -- buy tickets to something for the family? -- something that will cheer my husband and daughter when a relative doesn't show with presents and comfort. When relatives fail to remember why it is that we're so miserable.
I've written in many many comments that my life lacks a horizon. And I've only recently come to see how completely debilitating and depressing this is. The big question now is how do I paint one back in?
Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance
Everybody thinks it’s true
What is the point of this story
What information pertains
The thought that life could be better
Is woven indelibly
Into our hearts
And our brains
--- Paul Simon