Barbed thorns wire together my shoulder blades. My comprehension is fading; I’m losing track of what people are saying. I’m losing track of more than that. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist. (It’s 8:15pm and I just remembered what day it is.) I feel ponderous like a snail.
A friend in middle school once described her typical night to me. She’d watch television until dinner, eat, finish her homework by 10pm, and then stay up until 2am on the internet. I counted the hours backwards from a 7am wake-up time. That wasn’t enough.
“How much sleep do you get?” she asked.
“8 or 9 hours. Sometimes 10.”
“No wonder you’re so pleasant,” she said, “you get more sleep than everyone else.”
Before this conversation, I didn’t think myself particularly pleasant. My inner monologue was a near-continuous stream of how incomprehensible I found human behavior to be. That was my arrogance. My irritations, however, stayed inward, and I guess I was more easygoing than my peers. I began to notice my pleasantness more and more: the way in which I was able to take disappointments in stride and challenges with a smile.
Lately, I’ve rediscovered this apparent advantage — but in reverse. Stress pins me in place, and, as if distracted by the loud thwacks of a staple gun, I can’t hear my surroundings as well as I usually expect. I wonder at my past hubris. I made so many judgements because I compared others to myself and the reserve of strength I once occupied. Now, a lot of that strength is gone.
I think of the many times I felt irritated because acquaintances seemed to impose themselves on me. Or the times that I criticized people for not being very aware. Now, I feel like the messy one. I’m supposed to be responsible for my own emotions, but they’re all I can think about, can talk about. I do my best to present my bad news to my friends in a “take it or leave it” way, but other times I am just leaking and desperate. Wow, was I ever a badass, or am I just generally ahead of the game because of those 8 or 9 (or sometimes 10) nightly hours?
The obvious lesson seems to be a call for more compassion. I think that’s right, but I don’t think my previous emphasis self-reliance is wrong either. Maybe my self-reliance includes a few well-placed vents to close friends. They’re part of who I am, after all.
I just hope that when I’m out of the chaos valley and back on top of a joy mountain, I don’t glare down my nose at people who are clearly just fucking up because they’re in crisis, themselves.
I just hope I can give myself a little more of that prescribed compassion.
I don’t mean to so hard on you, I just usually get more sleep than this.