introspective periscope : peeking inside since Y2K


a series of walls

set them up - 29th january 2o21

"i live in two different worlds / simultaneously/ the one i seem to live in / and the one that lives in me / and one is full of violence / oppression and disrespect / and one is full of longing / to breathe and to connect"~ani difranco

each morning, for months piling upon months, i have started, as i do every morning: in the quiet cold darkness with only the stove light on. my damp purple hair tied up in a hair wrap, barefooted on the colorful rag rug on the cold kitchen floor, fixing my double espresso like a professional, and listening to npr quietly from the speaker of my phone. i go to the living room where i'll perch on the giant silver exercise ball that is now my work chair in front of all the screens that made my kid think i do way more important work than i do. it is early, the sun is barely showing and that little boy is sleeping soundly in his bunk bed...and here i am, just like every morning, half wishing he would wake up and come and hug me and half hoping i don't wake him up any earlier than he needs to so i can get as much work in before the task becomes two-fold---parenting and somehow managing to take calls and stay productive at my job. we are lucky, probably, that we have managed to not accidentally burn down the place yet. i remind myself: it is a privilege to work from home and to have a job at all and to have hours with my son who i would otherwise not get to spend so much time...none of it is lost on me.

each morning, i have ten minutes of prep time before i put on my headset. it is the only block of time in the day that i have allowed to be my time, i am already prepared to start the day. i take the ten minutes as a meditation. to set my head for the day. no work, no child, no place to be but READY. every morning, for more than a few weeks, i have sobbed into my coffee just before 8am when some songwriter, poet, someone...nails this feeling in my guts that i have not been able to catch in a jar long enough to even give a name to it. a word, a chord, a single note hits it but still doesn't name just pokes a little at the exact tender spot i have been exhausting myself trying to protect. it comes and goes in waves. sometimes, it manifests in a headache, other times, my body feels impossible to move at all even though the inside is exploding with energy i am unable to direct usefully. mostly, though, it is a caged scared animal in my chest that has figured out how to tunnel and who is now tearing and digging wildly through my belly freely, burrowed there. anxiety. the most drawn out grief i've ever known. the most heavy aching loneliness a person who has come to thrive on being alone could ever shoulder. and yes, i know it isn't just me. it's all of us. every single tuned-in person i know has a different way to describe their journey to the same place.

we walked in the woods the other day--on a trail where we comfortably let our masks down, a comfort to find such a desolate few spots of our own--and he asked me what are five of my favorite things? i didn't know what he meant and when i clarified, he said,

'just tell me five things you like. any five things.'

'well, you, of course...'

and those were all the words i had for some time. he waited quietly and we picked through the mud together with wet squishes and puffs of breath in the air. i named the things that came to mind. our walks. the occasional ordered pizza. i said things but you know, i don't know if they are were five of my favorite things. i think they were just...things. aside from him. sometimes...many times...he is the only thing. but that isn't something he can understand. so yeah,

'i also enjoy pokemon and snuggling with you.'

he is satisfied with this but i am reeling. i have no idea what i like anymore. my brain can only handle audiobooks this year. i cannot stop to read a book. a short poem that i can digest all day, maybe? i don't play video games. pokemon? i only like it when we're doing it together. life has turned into an endless cycle of cooking and working and cooking and cleaning and walking and working and cooking and cleaning and working and sleeping. on repeat.

i have had so many feelings i stopped cataloging months ago. i have had so many dark thoughts that are really just my brains way of making comedy of the things that scare me brain has jokes i never see coming and which i cannot share with another soul. it is the stay at home equivalent of laughing in a church in the middle of a funeral service.

this morning, i let down my hair from the wrap and pinned it up again to dry. i finished frothing the milk and poured the warm velvet into the dark espresso. my computer was set up for the day, the programs and applications open and loaded and ready to start the day. i sipped the coffee. i spilled the tears. the animal in the cage in my chest rattled and banged and so i put in the codes, logged off the machine, and, the beast subdued by the promise of the entire day off quieted slightly. is it my job? is it me growing less capable of managing my mental health? is it just the way it is for everyone now?

whatever the wall i'm hitting is echoing and rippling through the texts and handfuls of video chats i manage these days. we are all cages for creatures that have HAD ENOUGH.

last wednesday, i was able to schedule an appointment for a vaccination shot. i spent the week struggling with the fact that white people are getting vaccinated in higher numbers than people of color. that there are probably people who need this more than me, despite the fact that getting it means i could be a better caregiver and help with my father who is still recovering from one invasive surgery and scheduling the next. when is it appropriate? i felt a lot of guilt for even getting on a list. this wednesday, they called to tell me that there weren't actually enough vaccinations really and the there was an error and i shouldn't have been allowed to schedule. it was a glimmer of hopefulness, however guilty and complex, extinguished.

for months, i have felt called to do something different. it was in january of last year that i remember sitting in my car with the then-littler one asleep in his seat in the back. i'd detoured for a stop the observatory overlooking pittsburgh from the highest point in the county on a wet cold foggy night. the cityscape glowed vaguely, consumed in clouds stained with muted bright pink and blue and green lights of the skyscrapers. our days then were so different. my two shots of espresso in the morning today was 4 times that a year ago. i didn't leave the house without 4 shots already gone and 2 loaded for the car and a tiny thermos with 2 more for later in the afternoon. i don't remember ever getting more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. i would start the day before dawn to get ready for a shift that didn't start until noon--but a commute from the city north to the suburb where my son went to preschool to make it work on time and still see him in the morning was a tight schedule with little room for variance. at night, i'd walk out to the end of the parking lot with my friend and talk--often my only adult conversation for the day that wasn't about work or my son's care--and then reverse the drive back to the north to my folks to collect a usually already sleeping boy-child and then back to the city to sleep for the night in our birds nest. i sat in the car and, sure he was asleep, i cried. something had to change. i was barely seeing him. i spent most of my hours in a car. i had a coffee problem that was gonna make my heart explode, probably. something had to give. weeks later, i was working in my living room. i didn't ask for this specifically. i didn't ask for covid to consume us but in some other ways, i can't help feeling like i begged for it. i begged the universe for change and daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang, okay i didn't mean this but this. this is what we have. what am i doing with this shake up? was this enough? or was this just the catalyst?

we are all locked away in our homes coming up on a year...banished to live with ourselves (and maybe others) for better or worse. the alternative is catchy and growing moreso by the day with each mutation. so we stay inside for the most part. we miss our haunts--the library, the museums, the zoo, our bagel spot, our wings spot, the adventures we were always finding. the status quo feels heavier every day. for the first time in my life, i cannot deny that i am being called to do work that feels important, useful, helpful, meaningful. i spend the hours before bed researching, considering, planning.

something has to change. change is coming. my heart is sad and lonely, its true...but this time has forced me to hear myself, to give myself a chance to really listen. i took the day off. this could mean a whole lot of life change, a change in industry, work to do. the path i've taken over and over always leads to the same place. this uneasy anxiety. i cried until i felt lighter. not long after, i made a second coffee and sat down. i haven't written a thing in so long. i'm surprised i have gotten this far....there have been so many things i have wanted to write down and maybe i will. it always helped before.

i hope you cry until you feel lighter. i hope you really do feel lighter, even for a moment or two. i hope you are safe. if i know you, believe me, you are loved. if i don't....well....i send you some of this love, too.



.what came before. - .what happened next.

a series of walls - 29th january 2o21
ear-worms live on memories you preserve in your brain - 14 july 2019
606 days - 18 june 2019
a diamond at the bottom of the drain - 20 october 2017
baseball season to football season, abbreviated - 25 september 2017

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