Less and More.
Hot waves of panic lick my diaphragm. It’s 5AM and I know it’s going to be a bad day.
I can’t afford a bad day. I owe three pieces of writing and my very full time gig starts back on Monday. But it doesn’t matter because I don’t get to choose. It’s a bad day.
Lately a lot of the days have skewed bad. Not surprising. The world is in chaos. Avenues to the things that help are barricaded by restriction. And stress makes everything worse.
Nope. I reject that reasoning. It was bad before the world was in chaos. It’s been bad a while.
Yes. And now it is worse.
I resent the implication that stress is allowed to be a factor. It provokes me. As though it somehow undermines my decades long fight to be taken seriously. Still, it stands to reason.
Stress makes everything worse. There are studies. I still don’t like to say it. My own hubris.
I don’t understand why it’s happening. The doctors don’t understand either. You’ve stumped us, they say. It’s code for go away. Find someone else who’s got more time. Is less important.
Doctors are structural engineers. They do not bother themselves with decor. No superficial issues that the foundation can withstand. I hear it in their voices. Why are we still on the phone. Why do you have more questions.
You’re still alive aren’t you? Go be alive over there.
I should be ashamed of myself, they seem to say. Why are you asking for more. Don’t you see what’s going on in the world? Hospitals are overrun. People are dying. So what if you can’t stand up straight some days. You’re standing now aren’t you? They don’t see standing now costs me later.
Quality of life is elective, they imply. And they don’t elect to continue, sending me to the next colleague and the next. Tag, you’re it. Jokes on you, new specialist.
Be grateful, the new one says. It could be much worse. I am. I am. I don’t think you are, they say. I don’t believe you. You say you can’t keep down food but I saw you eat that bagel. Post the photo of that pasta. You’re just being selfish. Their voices converge with my own. Is this them? Or me talking to myself?
I ate the pasta, your honour, I admit it. I posted it on Instagram. It just felt so normal. I needed to feel normal. But I didn’t post what happened after. The vulgarity of cause and effect? No one wants to see that.
No body no crime. So says Taylor Swift and so say we all.
I’m struggling, so I turn to my vices. I work. My best vice. Inject it directly into my veins and I am restored, even briefly. A flash of humanity in the pan.
I am contributing to something and it’s all I’ve ever wanted. To be valuable. Needed. Essential. It defines me. I don’t care if it shouldn’t. My hubris again.
Vices are a double edged sword. And the cost for mine is a choice. Hide or disclose?
A have a secret ugly closet full of creaky pain skeletons. They rattle, trying to get out. Be quiet, I tell them. Hiding is smarter!
Don’t cry out loud. So says Melissa Manchester and so say I. But only under protest.
If I disclose, will they still think I’m valuable? Still think I’m worth the risk? Did I over estimate my essential offerings in this covert analysis of cost vs gain?
The cost is hours missed for appointments. (I promise to make them up) The pain in my voice as I duck out of frame and try not to vomit (I pop right back in with a pitch.) I’m Houdini. It’s all smoke and mirrors. (I was just thinking. There was a bug on the floor. Yes I’m okay.)
I hate these lies. But when I try on the truth I hate it even more.
It’s a complicated dance and I am making up the steps. How long can I keep it up? The crowd goes wild when I get the combinations right, but won’t they cheer just as loud if I fall?
My real life and my secret sick life are at war. They jockey for brain space. Emotional space. Physical space. Fighters to your corners. Separation of church and state.
Only they aren’t separate. Magnet and metal. I feel them pull together. Resent their attempted convergence of power. How can I hide them if they team up? Has anyone even asked me to? Anyone but my brain, succumbing to fear?
A festering insidious fear that somehow this all makes me less. Less capable. Less valuable. Less essential. Hubris is the new skeleton in the closet.
I know this isn’t progressive thinking. I know it’s ableist. My brain is an ableist dick, I admit it. Admitting is the first step. The first step on a long road to nowhere. I tell my therapist. We work on it. It helps. But I keep coming back here.
New tools, same me.
All this and it’s not even dawn. Dawn on a bad day. On a terrible horrible no good very bad day. And I’m alone with it. Swimming solo in the void. Could someone turn on some music? This void is sorely lacking in ambience. I’d like to speak to the manager.
Did I leave a trail of breadcrumbs for someone to find me? If I turn un-invisble will you see me? As soon as I let them see I wish I hadn’t.
Erase it! Undo it! Start the car!
My brain whispers what they must be thinking. We are worried over here, they say. Standing worried over here with our strong bodies that work. I liked the quiet better.
Don’t worry, I tell them. They don’t hear. Their ears are working but they don’t speak sick. Just bear witness. I’ll handle the rest. Trust me.
Is it even fair to ask? Would I trust them if this was flipped? Could I hear what they were yelling, from that cold quiet pool way down in the dank soundless void? I hope I would. But I can’t be sure.
My brain is an ableist dick, challenged only by my broken body. These multitudes I contain are heavy and they’re starting to smell.
I curse Whitman. I shout his name like Kirk and Khan. WHITMAN! You did this! (He didn’t.)
The partition is cracking and the fear pulses through. Aggressive. Vulgar. Like the drunk flirt at the bar. Talking louder as if you’ll change your mind about them. You are less, it shouts, and we are worried! I smell the rank whisky on its breath. You are less. You are less. A drum beat in my head that’s against my circadian rhythms. A voice that sounds a lot like my own…
Fear is a filthy liar. A liar that lies. I know this. But I can’t feel it.
Somewhere in the quiet of the void I find the truth. The truth I already know. I am not less. I am more. All of this makes me more. More complex. More powerful. More work. More broken.
Not all the more is good. More is just more. The void has delivered me the truth, but there’s no gift receipt. I’m stuck with it now and I’m not sure if fits the decor. We have a habit of lauding the truth. It is our saviour. Our deliverance.
Fuck that. The truth is just the truth.
It is not the White Knight we wait for. The answer to an unheard prayer. Truth offers no quarter. Takes no sides. It just is. A harsh reality, like winter in the prairies. Frigid. Rude. Beautiful. You are more. Less is more. That is the truth.
…But is more also less?
The partition has atrophied. I might never get it back. It’s bad day and I didn’t choose it. Can I move through it? What choice do I have but to try.
So I try.
And like everything else in the middle of this chaos, I wonder how much it matters.