I feel like I only ever come here to talk when things are a little, mm, iffy on the scale of humanity. That makes me feel quite guilty, also, as though I’m contributing to the myth of my own hysteria and encouraging the same in others. But I’ve forgotten to be normal, if I ever was; and I find it increasingly difficult to believe I ever was normal. I told my therapist last week, just before Russia invaded Ukraine, that I knew I was going to crash and burn at some point. Entirely pedestrian:
As a teenager, watching the Arab Spring unfold: helpless, hand-wringing, feeling as though I had nothing to offer and so I would languish in solidarity.
As a (slightly older) teenager, watching Israel raze Gaza to the ground (over and over and over), with nothing more than Ramadan to soften my frayed edges.
Throughout my life, I have felt the least in control of my own context, my own country, and I have rocked on the balls of my feet at Pakistan. I am too tired to rock myself for Pakistan. (What hubris is that?)
I had hoped, then, that adulthood would bring it with it some semblance of control. I would have a list of things to do, a list that would never be exhausted, and if it ever was exhausted, it would exhaust, too, the inhumanity. It was a nice thought, but it hasn’t borne out. And so the helplessness is somehow more acute as an adult, because I have words to put to it, and that is ridiculous. I don’t want to have to comprehend my hysteria – it’s bad enough to feel it! That I can rationalize it feels even more of an insult.
I think a lot about the ethics of being a global bystander. Social media has made survivors of us all, guilty by proximity, traumatized vicariously. But there is comfort in the barrage – because even being undone is doing something, right? So I doomscroll because it makes me feel like I am in community with others on the edge when the to-do list has been exhausted. I doomscroll because I owe it to a disastrous world to be a disastrous unto myself. I doomscroll because it feels more moral, somehow, than just existing. And somehow, while I’m doomscrolling, I’m checking off the other items on my to-do list, the mundane ones that somehow make me feel more and less tethered to my skin at the same time:
- Read for property
- Work on outline
- Meeting with [x]
- Pay therapist
- Summer funding application
Stromae just dropped a new album. And it’s extremely good. I can’t work in silence, so I listen to Mon amour and sway in my seat, at my corner-desk, with my property outline on one monitor and Twitter on the other. I feel like dancing. This is not a day to dance. Seeing few such days on the horizon, I wonder if I should dance anyway. What is the moral blameworthiness of dancing in my little apartment, while the kitten begs for my attention, as experts scramble? The to-do list is exhausted. There are nine new tweets. There will be more once I wake from sleep. And I will still have to answer to my God, at the end of it all. I wonder, will I be satisfied with my answer? Will He?
My therapist said if I know I’m going to have a breakdown at some point, because I always do when this stuff happens, I should have a plan for it. It was an excellent idea at the time. Then Russia invaded Ukraine. And I have no plan.