Nothing Doing, or: The Burden of Time

I find myself facing an indefinite period of unstructured time. I have resigned from my job with the plan of moving home to care for my mother during the end of her life. I have not lined up a full-time (or even a part-time) job. I was planning to enroll in an MLIS program in the fall, but that feels up in the air now with all the uncertainty in front of me.

So what the hell am I going to do?

The last idle period in my life were the two summers (or was it three?) in college when I was unemployed and paralyzed with depression. Real talk: doing nothing is scary as hell to me.

There are lists and lists of things I need to do, think about, but also – I just want to cry and listen to the saddest music imaginable (“How to Disappear Completely”, Radiohead).

On the morning train, I have stopped reading e-mail, even fiction. It is hard to concentrate on anything when it feels like the world is pressing in on you. I watch people, watch the hills of the upper peninsula peppered with colorful houses blur by. It is easiest to be exactly where you are on a moving train. The inexplicability of time makes the most sense in a place that is never still, that only pauses briefly, as people get on or off.  There is an idleness to trains that I have not experienced since my childhood, as a passenger in cars bumping down dusty country roads. Driving requires focus and intensity, but now I am just riding. I try not to miss my stop, to get on the wrong train. It doesn’t always work. I double-back, get off at the transfer point, and board another train going the opposite direction. I suppose I’ll get to where I am going eventually.

I am resisting the urge to compulsively make lists. To constantly refer back to them. A list alone is not enough to get me through this. Though perhaps at times, a list can help. I can use it to give myself permission to take time to fall apart. To rage at myself and the world and my mother. To forgive. It is not how we usually use lists. But why not?

After my father died, during that rocky period of my early adolescence, when I came out of the closet and smoked weed and fell in love and had my heart broken, I began self-harming. Well, I was a cutter. I kept track of all the horrible things I was feeling and thinking on my left arm, and a few other parts of my body. I don’t remember all of them now, because scars don’t necessarily translate across time. Maybe my lists won’t either, but I can try.

Today, I will:

– Feel nostalgic for the present, during which I have access to fresh, local produce at the San Mateo Farmer’s Market. We haven’t even been yet this spring. Think about swimming in the pool in the mountains as the sun comes up. Wish I had taken more hikes. Seen more things. Done more things that can only be done here.

– Regret that my mother only visited me once in the place where my father died.

– Breathe in the air and wonder if this will seem real in 10 years. 20 years. It’s 20 years this August since my father died.

– Vomit between two cars in the Millbrae Transit Center parking structure.

– Dream about walking into the ocean and becoming water.

– Sit in the sun and breathe.

– Remember to breathe.

It’s a start. It’s something.

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