Waking up is the hardest. The pressure starts between your eyes, throbbing and pushing at the same time, and won’t let up. You burrow your head into your pillows to hide from the sunlight streaming out of the curtains you opened last night as one of your many efforts to help drag your limp body out of bed in the mornings.
Because you know. You know well.
You turned off the blaring alarm from your cell phone about two hours ago. Snoozing is useless and no longer exists as an option. Guilt and the high pitch tone of attracting consequences prick your mind as the clock marches onward to the third hour after your desired wake-up time, another pebble in a mountain of promises to self your never keep.
Could get fired.
WAKE UP, NOW!
Your brain fires these words and phrases at you, grabbing unto your shoulders to pull your up from the deep waters of depression. Out of your coffin. Out of your grave where you wish you could stay forever, forgotten, alone, and fortunately dead.
You open your eyes.
I have to stay alive. I have to move. I have to get through the day, you think.
With resolve coming out of thin air, you throw back the comforts of the covers and swing your legs over the edge of your bed. You reach for your cell phone and check messages, email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and the current news, none of it ever good, always explosions and people being assholes to one another.
You get lost in all of it, becoming robotic as your thumb scrolls up faster and faster. You’re not even reading anymore, just skimming and seeing how much you can cram into your skull.
Another forty minutes goes by. You curse your deplorable time management skills and put the phone face down on your bed in disgust, hating it and promising never again to start your mornings burning the surface of your eyes with the glare of its screen.
You promise to read a good book. To write instead. To exercise or meditate. Prepare a good breakfast. But tomorrow morning, you’ll do the same thing, phone in hand, making promises again.
Your morning routine happens in a blur. You check in and out of reality, in and out of your actions, with a pace both slow and fast, followed by long glances in the mirror. Your eyes pierce into that of another person who smiles, grimaces, frowns, and returns a blank face belonging to the ranks of the dead.
I don’t want to go to work today. I wish I could write instead, you think as you do your hair and face. But when you had no work, you couldn’t write like you wanted to. A paradox. Or a catch-22. Your creative process has never made sense to you. It most likely never will.
You write nonetheless because you’re the tin person and writing is your oil. Without it, you remain still and sink further back into your coffin, your grave, your deep underwater world of endless, stretching darkness.
You manage to drag yourself from the mirror and pack your bag, making sure to put your cell phone, earbuds, and wallet in there. Double-check because you’re terribly forgetful. You can’t count how many times you’ve forgotten your wallet somewhere, your phone, along with other useful items. You’ve recovered much though. For some reason you’re lucky in that area. Why can’t luck love you in the many other countless ways it can love you?
On your bike, your mind is on the music. Always on the music. It’s how you meditate, inserting yourself into the now, never the past, never the future, never anything of importance, sometimes not even your writing. Only the music.
On the train and streets, strangers see your true self, your true face. It’s a face not even your family sees. Not your friends. Not your coworkers. Not your students. No one. A face where the lines break through the surface of your skin, which droops to the ground from the weights of endless, tortuous pain. Your real self mirrors the darkness within, ugly and broken.
Maybe your loved ones and those near you have seen that face, and you only think you’ve successfully hid it behind the many masks you wear to present as a highly functioning human, adult, person, and loved one.
You have many masks. Many of which you create on the spot when the occasion rises.
They should call you a chameleon. You change your face and adjust your energy to match the frequency of those around you. Yes, you have a unique face and energy for every situation and person. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail. In an attempt to undo the conditioning of making sure those around you are well and comfortable at your expense, you work on eliminating your anxiety, but the tension escapes, oozing into the air, choking others, making them tense too, uncomfortable, stiff, unsure of how to proceed, looking for ways to vacuum the cold, rigid air your aura blows.
You can’t get closer to me. That’s what you think and believe. It’s why you prefer to be alone. You know the darkness within is too intense, sleeping with your ambitious passion to write great works, which makes you even more distant, so deeply embedded in your world and far removed from reality.
You only feel pain and love. The other emotions come to you on the surface, never penetrating the diamond barrier around your soul and heart: happiness, joy, guilt, anger, pleasure, hate, annoyance, and on and on. Even when you smile and your eyes light up, even when you’re having a good time, even when you’re so sure you’re happy and elated, the darkness, the pain, the depression, pierces behind your head, ballooning up in the space between your ears. It becomes harder to breathe, move, and think. Your actions become delayed, irrational, erratic. Everything is malfunction.
And so you withdraw and stay alone. Sometimes for long periods of time. You have to. To fill up the energy lost, drained, depleted. If you don’t, they’ll all see your true self. Listless. Emotionless. Dead. Worse than an android. Not even an empty shell. Invisible. Gone. In another dimension in time and space where you think you can never be reached.
Come back to me.
Those are the words someone needs to say when you’re with them and have checked out. When you have left with your whole body and soul. Once someone says it, you slowly turn back on and look up into their eyes and smile.
Okay, I’m back now, you say.
And you return for a while, secretly wishing to be alone again even though you enjoy and need the company. But you have to turn the crank attached to your mind to keep yourself going. You want to stay longer, talk longer, laugh longer, hold on a little longer, but with time, it gets harder to spin the lever because thick chunks of hardened darkness fill the nooks of the wheel.
Mental exhaustion morphs into physical exhaustion. Your entire existence screams for a break. A pause. For silence quieter than the sound coming from a TV without signal put on mute. You need a long hard stare into space, looking through the cores of the atoms themselves. You long for a complete and total shut down. But that would mean death, wouldn’t it?
Your brain flutters awake, reminding yourself that you can’t stay like this. You snap out of your stupor, crank the wheels, and resume functioning.
You observe the smallest details with intense attention in hopes it will add accent to a bland life. From the faintest lines on a face to the curve of a fingernail. The smallest chip on a tooth often obscured by moving lips. The tiny piece of squiggly red thread on a black shirt. The individual tiny dust balls on a desk, irking you. The misplaced eyelash tucked in the folds of an eyelid or a single strand of hair sticking out from a groomed eyebrow.
You miss nothing and everything at the same time, hoping to live fully and presently, only to be swept away by your own daydreams, paddling you into the future.
Come back to me, they say.
Okay, I’m back now, you say.
And for all your darkness, pain, suffering, and occasional bursts of suicidal thoughts, you remain highly optimistic, confident, possibly borderline delusional in the attainment of your dreams. You widen your eyes, pupils dilating, heart beating, and fingers trembling, from anticipation of what’s to come, of what you’ll achieve.
You pant hungrily for the sun’s brilliance and stretch your ears for the soothing songs of ocean waves. The sea salt smell teases your nose and sand climbs in between your toes, massaging out the stress, pulling out cord after cord of curling darkness from the bottom of your heart straight out of your feet.
But inside your darkness is beauty that you let out from time to time. It’s as gentle as the rays of a setting sun. Calm like a quiet river. Resilient like tall stalks of grass getting buffeted by the wind. It’s a beauty you share freely because it comes from a deep love of others, a deep love for all who have experienced pain and suffering, for those who know what it means to be in the dark.
You can’t stay still in one location and suffer from bouncing knees eager to keep moving to the newest place with fresh faces and unfamiliar buildings and roads. You’re a butterfly perpetually returning into a caterpillar only to transform into a butterfly again and so on.
You’re a collector of brief, wondrous experiences, instantaneous connections and interactions, accidental meet-ups, and short-term relationships. Those who can stomach your erratic, capricious behavior and your longs bouts of silence for years, even after you’re gone, have your deepest gratitude and love.
In your haze of darkness, you still have faith and believe everything will be all right. And so you release your pain every day and let time heal as it can and should.
I’m not a good person, you think. And you’re right, but you strive to be, despite failing time and time again. You forget the the hard lessons from your mistakes, but your awareness of your actions become acute in the aftermath and you somehow end up learning anyway.
You’re tired of running, but you’re always running away from yourself so you think if you jump from one location to the next, you’ll get away, but you can’t. No matter how far you go, you’re always stuck with yourself. And this drives up your headaches and deepens the furrows between your forehead. You have to learn to live with your thoughts, the constant chatter in your head from sources within and the outside, good and bad, deep and shallow, powerful and weak.
At the end of the day, you don’t congratulate yourself for making it through the day, for operating in your functional depressive state. You don’t think you deserve a shiny medal because you know you’re not the only one. You’re one of millions hunkering their way through the trials and errors of this brief experiment called life.
It ain’t easy. It ain’t easy at all, but you do it anyway.
You live, anyway.
Feature image credit: “Underwater room” has been published on October 07, 2012 by Paul Mood.