Feel Better

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I forgot for a long time why I ever started writing in the first place. It wasn’t to keep the memories for longer than they would float in my head, and it wasn’t to share the writing with others. It was simple; it made me feel better. It kept me from circling the drain: it was therapist, Xanax, and best friend, all insulating me from the grating quiet of everyday life.
Somewhere it moved away from that. It became another part of my life where I needed to allocate time, another pull on the thin thread keeping things together. And then, when I’d forgotten how it feels to write frantically in a dirty notebook with ink covered hands, when I’d forgotten that it’s even an option, it finds me again. And I realize it’s the simplest siren song: I just feel better when I write.

Drunken Rat

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A while ago, for a number of situational reasons, I decided that I had had enough of living in the least communicative life I had ever occupied. It consisted mostly of me running around like a drunken rat during work hours, and letting unspoken things dominate my personal life. I became a high-functioning nervous wreck, and so the concept of vulnerability was appealing to me: put it out there, and let it go. Regardless of the outcome, at least you put it out there. What an appealing concept after years of insomnia and motor skill deterioration.

Like a drug addict that’s found religion, I’ve taken it too far. I hate this new “vulnerable” me in equal bizarro measure that I hated the old “stoic” me. I went from living on pins and needs, to sulking around with dark circles under my eyes. Vulnerability is just a one-sided conversation, which leaves me feeling embarrassed and exposed. Apparently, I’m not good at either. I should have known better, because that’s the problem with binary solutions, one way or another, they each get their pound of flesh.

A Younger Me

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Middle age comes on hard. People like to say it’s a state of mind. I don’t disagree, but there are elements that are unavoidable, regardless of your mindset.

I often times think about what I would say to a younger “me”. It’s seems like such a waste that despite all of the mistakes I’ve made, they will have to be repeated by the human race ad infinitum. A part of the life experience, I suppose. But if that were actually true, I wouldn’t be jealous of my younger self. I keep hoping that something from that old version of me rubs off on the person I’ve become.

Giving up the Ghost

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From November, 2015:

What am I missing? What am I not seeing? I’m in a club so full of smoke that I can’t distinguish things 2 feet in front of me. It’s a long time before I realize that this is strategic. Again, what am I missing?

I’m not sure how I ended up in this place. But I’m with someone that I used to love. In fact, I probably loved her more than I’ve ever loved anyone, besides my daughter. But instead of love, I feel empty. I can’t tell if it’s because we’ve drifted too far apart, or if it’s the smoke, or the drinks, or if I’ve become something unrecognizable, but I can’t get back to where I was. Yet every time I look at her, I know why I once felt that way.

What I’m left with is one constant phrase: if you love something, let it go. Perhaps one the hardest things in life, is realizing that someone you loved for so long, is a stranger.

I met her in the hallway of a bar: I was twenty, she was nineteen; she’s Czech, and I’m American. That night should have been all of it. Except that it continued for years. Except that we grew to love each other. It was my fault when it ended, but in a situation that was far from clean. That was a long time ago now. And after all this time, the only thing holding us together are those shared memories.

Hello Madrid

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I’m back in Madrid for the first time in nearly five years. It seems almost impossible that it’s been that long. I have a nervous energy that’s similar to calling an estranged friend.

“I’m sorry, I should have called sooner…” Anything to blurt out to break the ice. A guilty energy.

To my surprise I’ve missed the city. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time in Madrid, it’s that despite all of the time I spent here, I never felt like I lived here. I was too involved in my studies, in a relationship, in a bubble, to ever really feel a part of something. So it’s surprising when I feel the excitement of familiar sights. Unlike Prague, or Chicago, it doesn’t carry with it the weight of ‘what could have been’. I was never going to stay in Madrid. But as a result it’s light, and lacks the hollowing feeling that normally accompanies me to my old homes.

This is familiarity without the existential baggage, and I need that. I can’t remember if I was happy when I was living here, that was a strange time. But I’m happy now. Returning to a place without expectation is a rare and enjoyable thing.

German Sarcasm

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I watch the table in front of me bark orders at the waiter. He scrambles backwards into the kitchen. After he’s done filling their requests, he circles to my table. He bends over to clear the plate in front of me. I’ve eaten everything, there’s barely any indication that there was food on the plate.

“How was the meal?” he asks, in clear English.

“Terrible. I want my money back,” I respond jokingly, before I can realize where I am.

A look, not of horror, but resignation crosses his face. Shit. My mind goes to an Economist article that talked about the difficulty in conveying sarcasm in Germany.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” I say quickly. “I meant it as a joke because I ate everything.”

There’s no light of realization that crosses his eyes. It seems to still be lost. I try again.

“It was really good. Thank you.”

“It’s the house specialty,” he says quickly as he clears the plate. He leaves in a hurry, which doesn’t seem sheepish, but an escape from the conversation.

I can’t blame him. Despite my best efforts, I’m probably as much work for him as the table that’s been snapping their fingers at him all night.

That Taste in the Morning

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I haven’t listened to any music for over a week. I can’t remember the last time I went a day without filling every quiet moment with background noise. But now it’s silent and I can’t bring myself to listen again. Lyrics from different songs continue to run through my head: “Black eyed angels swam with me”; “I think the thing you said was true, I’m going to die alone and sad.” But the thought of listening to music makes my head split at the temple. Melancholia. How cliché, I’ve hated most of the things I used to love lately. Except for the things I used to fear, now they seem manageable.

I’ve always thought of myself as an anxious person. Not “depressed”, just anxious. Big distinction: different medication, different symptoms. And up until now that would have been true. Or close enough that it wasn’t lying to tell myself that. But whatever has come back, the insomnia that has gripped me at night is one of rage and frustration. I used to scribble furiously in notebooks in the middle of the night, and now, instead, I want to scream and tear down the walls.

Melancholia. It hasn’t fully taken hold. The music will come back. I’ve already started to retreat into many of the things that I know well: novels, work, family, video games, and relentless activity that borders on a fear of repose. I’m still feeling hunger. That’s a good sign. But I have a taste for melancholia now, and it has a literal taste: the muddy paste that forms in your month while you sleep, that you can actually taste for a few moments once clarity returns, but before you can chase it away with water. That taste stays with me now.

I don’t know whether to lean in, in the hopes of pushing through to the other side. Or to ignore it, and starve it to death from a lack of attention that it desperately wants.

Codependence No More

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There’s a young girl in the bookstore’s coffee shop that sits down in front of me. I don’t notice that she’s young at first, instead I notice her small hips, tight fitting gray hoodie, and thick wavy blonde hair. She’s small, cute and casual- if I had a type, that would be my type. Shit, that type hasn’t served me well.

She turns to talk to me, to ask me a question about the wifi, and I see that she has large brown eyes. She looks slightly annoyed, maybe angry. Not with me, just in general, with life. Red flag. But when have I ever let something like that stop me. I read off the wifi password. She types it in, and I glance down at the spine of her book- Codependence No More. For a moment I think about commenting on it. Something stupid like, “How’s the book”, or “I probably need to read that too.”

“Thanks,” she says, and pauses before turning back around. But codependence is too large a red flag. I would have ignored it when I was younger, but I’m too exhausted and sleep-deprived to ignore those things anymore. I play out the scenario, and nothing good comes of it: just a lot of disappointment and painful conversations. She’s my type, but I need a new type.

“No problem,” I say, smiling lightly.

Can’t Tell the Difference

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“Being with you, is like being with someone who is in love with someone else.”

She said it casually, as if she had just realized it were true. And it is true.

“And now I think I’m right,” she finished.

I had been talking about the other person for nearly 20 minutes without realizing it. The girl should have left. She realized who I am, and she should have ended it right there. Ended it a long time ago when the thought first came to her. But she didn’t leave. She probably felt bad for me. Maybe she thought it was justifiable because it’s parental love. How do you hold it against someone for loving their daughter? But there’s still only so much love that you can give. And being away from her is like heartbreak. It feels, and behaves, just the same as having your heart broken. Your mind can’t tell the difference when someone you love leaves your life.

Daytime Downtown

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One of the things about getting older is that I don’t have as much time as I used to. But the loss of time doesn’t seem to bother me. I never truly appreciated it anyway. I always had a tendency to flow to the lowest common denominator. And what I know now is you only enjoy wasting time when you have little time to waste.

Instead, I take quick walks around the office, squaring the streets of Downtown Denver. Moving through bookstores like an aberration, touching the spines of paperbacks and the covers of magazines. My hope being that just knowing their existence is enough to keep me attached to a world I’ve lost. When do I have time to read anymore? Ok, the insomnia helps in that. But when do I have time to sit in a bookstore?

There’s a depression that hangs in the streets of any downtown during the day. The people that would be there are locked in the surrounding skyscrapers. And instead I wander through a crowd that’s desperate and stumbling. And the only thing they have is time. And the thing I don’t have is time. And we eye each other, silently jealous of what the other one takes for granted.