It is 3:00am. A few hours ago, I consumed three-fourths of one bottle of wine and my victory for the day was leaving the last one-fourth (and a bit of that brick of cheese I bought to enjoy with my wine while I watched TIG… and roughly 5.2 episodes of Friends) for another day.
This month, I am a freelance director/playwright who is currently in rehearsal for three hours per day and has a script due in roughly two months (an eternity – except not really.) Let me explain what is happening in my head right now:
Good behaviors logged and catalogued in the last 24 hours:
- got a full eight hours of sleep last night
- ate a healthy breakfast (and lunch actually!)
- drank plenty of water
- spent two hours of hiking in beautiful Montana
- consumed substantive media: a podcast! The New Yorker!
- read over 100 pages to finish my second book this month (Americanah – it was gorgeous)
- spent three hours of dedicated, energized and productive time in rehearsal (the highlight of my day)
- spent one really good hour preparing for that rehearsal
Bad behaviors logged and catalogued in the last 24 hours:
- smoked one of the cigarettes I allow myself on rare occasions (I feel the need to reiterate that I go through maaaaaybe one pack a year and enjoy smoking while taking long, calming walks. Nonetheless I am convinced that if anyone finds out – they will stop friendshipping with me. And if god finds out – he will strike me down with an immediate bout of mouth/throat/lung/right-handed-fingers cancer. For those of you wondering if smoking ads are working…)
- only achieved four hours of actual work today – which is roughly 7 less than I might have achieved (Even though you haven’t reprimanded me, I feel the burning need to reiterate that I often have bouts of working 12 hour days PLUS I work at least a little bit every single day PLUS I make artist wages. For those of you wondering if my midwestern catholic school education is working…)
- checked Facebook six times today (Ugh. I cannot even pretend to be detached-in-an-eastern-religion way, wisely disinterested: grounded into a higher reality. The jig is up.)
- ate plenty of cheese today. And graham crackers… and several bites of ice cream…
- I’m up at 3:47am (thanks to the wine) instead of catching a full eight hours of sleep. (This virtually guarantees that I’ve already ruined tomorrow which means I may as well throw this week to the wolves. Wake me up when 2016 hits.)
- failed to utilize the invaluable gift of free time that the universe has gifted me to churn out genius-artist-gold.
- didn’t solve the crushing feeling that I’m going to be in this swirl forever.
To clarify: I’m being facetious, yes, but this is also what my brain actually does to myself. My brain, and the worst-case-scenario-list-maker-living-somewhere-in-my-frontal-lobe-who-is-pretty-convinced-that-I’m-nearly-always-teetering-somewhere-near-the-edge-of-doom, is daunting.
My problem lies in comparison. The things I’m doing seem pretty good but when I have an enormous amount of free time on my hands to ruminate on how other people are doing better… I was on Facebook today, so I know. I know that other people are eating better brunches than I do, that they take better care of their nails: which must mean they have better control of their finances. Other people dress better – obviously – because they are thinner and have more money to spend on clothes from all that fiduciary responsibility. Other people are in better relationships, which means they are clearly better at sex. Other directors are reading more and prepping more and posting more, other artists are following their more daring dreams, other daughters remember to call their parents more regularly, other pinners are making more of the recipes they post, other freelancers use free time to develop more business. MORE. MORE. MORE.
Of course, most importantly, other people seem better at experiencing their life rather than counting and cataloging it.
I have been here before. This is about the time that I become obsessed with developing a sense of discipline and focus. I have already ordered materials from an online-new-age-lady-diva-self-care-guru whose system I will entrust with the responsibility of finally bringing out all of the brilliance and wisdom inside, just lying in wait for me to “stop being afraid of my own power” and release it. I will work to heavily restrict my diet: no more 2-6 glasses of wine per week (gasp!) or 2-6 liters of popcorn (that’s right!) This time, unlike those other times, a steady routine of yoga and vegan cooking will release an inner peace that I have been chasing since my first to-do list from middle school. I will be responsible, healthy, I will nourish only my highest self. For awhile I will focus. My life will look like a scene from The Wedding Planner before Matthew Mc-Con-a-Hey! came long and ruined J-Lo’s fastidious, and fashionable, right angles.
And then I will devolve back to this place. This place where I eat cheese and spend too much time online. And I will feel an encroaching sense of panic at having failed to master the art of a personal overhaul, yet again.
It makes me tired just thinking about it.
As I sip on water to balance out the wine, I wonder if there is actually a problem. I know lots of people who work when they need to and relax when they needn’t. I know people who smoke, and drink, and hang out on Facebook on the regular. I know people who are aimless (or just less aimed) and happy.
But I also know that my instincts are not totally off. Writing a play, a good play, will require me to sit at my desk for long periods of time. I do feel better when I don’t eat cheese and I do sleep better when I don’t drink wine. I am working in a competitive field and joyful, thoughtful, work comes out of being prepared to play with agility and athleticism. It requires putting good stuff in, so good stuff can come out.
There’s a little voice in the back of my head and I cannot tell if it is the voice of a good witch or a bad witch. The voice tells me that there is nothing inherently wrong with me: nothing that I need to organize, fix, catalogue or reshape. The only wrong thing is this belief I’ve developed that organizing, fixing, cataloguing and reshaping are the solutions to my unrest.
Now it is 5:28am and having stared at the computer screen, however philosophically, will make it hard for me to sleep. Luckily – I’m a freelancer. A neurotic one, perhaps, but one who only scheduled three things for tomorrow.
Lazy goddamn genius.