Turns out I’m very knowable

Jan 24

Struggling to measure your momentum as a 21st-century human being? Confused by the frequency and casual viciousness with which your friends tease you for being an emotional Dumpster fire? Find out how you stack up against me, the king of all calamities, in this fun and easy test!

You’ll be assessed on a 100-point scale, starting at 0 (emotionally inert), plummeting past -50 (clinically disabled) and cratering, finally, at -100 (full bird).

Everyone ready? Hang on to your butts, zeroes, because here. We. Go!

- If you’ve listened to “Transatlanticism” more than a dozen times since you woke up today (that works out to about 95 minutes), subtract five points.

- If you rented “Black Ops 2” from a Redbox and returned it 15 days later, having never played it once, subtract ten points.

- If you briefly became overcome with emotion during “The Hobbit” because Thorin gives Bilbo a really terrific hug but you know what’s coming in the Battle of Five Armies, subtract 20 points.

- If you bought your weekly bounty of organic beef, turkey, chicken and tilapia but left it to rot in your fridge because what’s the fucking point, subtract 20 points.

- If you silenced your phone and intentionally hid it in a desk drawer anytime in the last week, for fear of the texts you might not get, only to pound half a bag of cough drops because they were right there, subtract 20 points.

- If you quit smoking again and sucked down more than five of a friend’s cigarettes one night because you really wanted to “feel” your gums bleed as you flossed the next morning, subtract 25 points.

- If you bought the “Dragonborn” DLC for the Xbox even though you don’t own the 360 version of “Skyrim” … fuck it. Just subtract all of the fucking points.

Annnnnnnnnnd time! Great job, guys! How did you do?

I’ve not allowed myself to publish anything of substance in the last six months. As soon as I’d put fingers to keyboard, I’d type something like “the merit of emotional exhibitionism,” dot dot dot. Then Fortune would stay my hand (or erase a podcast, as was the case the last time Patrick and I tried to record something), and I would do something else.

It’s not that I was grappling with feelings the whole time, though there was some of that.

No, the most savage brush I’ve cut through since has been largely academic. I’ve wondered:

Is it comforting or humiliating to know that your grief is not unique? That, despite the gravity of your base, familiar anguish, other people are suffering from and have conquered the same problems? That these ghosts have been haunting mankind for hundreds or thousands of years? That you are not alone in your melancholy, even if you’d like to be, thank you very much?

Great! You’re common. There are common cures for your common complaints.

You are knowable.

So why can’t you summon the gumption to do something constructive about … well, anything? Other folks seem to manage.

Where once paragraphs upon paragraphs couldn’t capture my exquisite disquiet, I now can summarize my season of torment in a single compound sentence: A ruthlessly sexy guy dumped me, and I spent the next four months breaking other dudes’ hearts to get back at the universe.

That scandalously petty episode has ended, as has my leave of absence. And though I’m no wiser than I was in September, I’m a good deal more durable. I can, for instance, sustain needless, unsolicited provocation from said ex, who’s taken to flagging me down in Lancaster bars, suggesting we hang out and, to tie it all together, blowing me off the day of. Emotional terrorism? Sure, but it isn’t anything I can’t digest (with the help of some neurochemical Drano) in 2013.

I’ve learned some lessons. When you’re miserable:

1) Your friends can offer you shoulders to lean on, but they’re also founts of breathtakingly bad advice. “Sack up” is not helpful. “S/he sucks; think about something else” definitely is not helpful. Insist that these people shut their holes and let you rage and maybe help you cry or some shit. That’s their fucking job.

2) During those especially dark moments of the soul, go for a walk. Go for a run. Seriously, just go the fuck outside. It’s the last thing you’ll want to do, but it’s really the best thing for you. When you’re wheezing daggers after 45 minutes in 16-degree weather, there won’t be enough room in your head for the mean things you’ve been thinking about yourself.

3) Don’t expect the best. Not because you don’t deserve the best, but because, in your present state of mind, you have no idea what “best” looks like. Just be, ya turkey. Pet a dog. Touch your toes. Set comically small goals, accomplish them, and move forward. Is eating breakfast difficult? It can be! But you ought to do it, and you should pat yourself on the back once you have done.

4) Don’t be ashamed of the things you enjoy doing, but don’t make yourself do them, either. So you like to rewatch “Battlestar Galactica” and level-grind in JRPGs? That’s great! But by the time you’ve started hating yourself, all of that stuff is going to make you feel even sillier. So keep your goofier hobbies on the backburner until you put enough temporal distance between yourself and the things that have been needling you. In the meantime, try out some inarguably constructive stuff — read, play an instrument, exercise.

5) Do watch funny stuff! The first six seasons of “30 Rock” are on Netflix, you dumb-dumb! You don’t need to laugh, but the creators of that show desperately want you to do so. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

6) Celebrate the fact that you aren’t dead inside. You have a heart and a brain and the capacity to be brought low by unkindness. You care, and sometimes caring means charting the bottom of the wobbly sine wave of human experience. A shocking amount of people are too cruel and too absent to know what that feels like, and it’s their loss. By knowing sadness and by making room for it, you’ve become the more complete person.

3 comments

  1. Hey Pete, I cried when Thorin gives Bilbo a hug, too. But I was already crying and I didn’t exactly know why. Also, I have no idea what the Battle of Five Armies is, having not read the books.

    I’ve got one more podcast of the Jurassic Hour to finish. I’ll probably do that on my ride home tonight from Harrisburg to Red Lion. I tell you this because I’ve spent a lot of time listening to you. And as weird and one-sided as our friendship is (if you can even call it that), I’ve enjoyed listening to you (and Pat).

    Your skill in describing things is transcendent and necessary. So, I’m glad to see this post – because it explains why I’ve been robbed of podcasts and/or write-ups from you lately.

    So when you’re up for it, get back on the podcast horse, please. I want more Jurrassic Hours.

    And I concur with point number six! Definitely celebrate that you’re not dead inside!

  2. YOU FORGOT COLD SHOWERS

  3. “Definitely celebrate that you’re not dead inside” — or the outside, FWIW. :)

    Josh — We’ll have more podcasts! Someday! MAYBE SOON. But maybe not.

    Also: GO TO BED EARLY YA DOOFUS, CUZ WHEN YOU SLEEP THERE’S NO LONELINESS, JUST DREAMS!!

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