I have not really known how to react to this week — a blog post featuring pictures of Nellie, because they make things better.
It got off to a poor start with a lack of sleep and an overload of work, wasn’t improved by a flu jab that made me feel pretty unwell, got worse with the election of Donald Trump, and hit rock bottom when I learned that somebody I know online committed suicide on Tuesday night. We weren’t close. I knew her primarily through Tumblr and a folk music website she ran. I would say we were acquaintances rather than friends, but even so, the news of her death shook me, left me feeling gutted and numb for a couple of days. My emotional vulnerability made it hit all the harder.
At first, I tried to react to this week with positivity. I tried to make good art, as Neil Gaiman says. I tried to art harder, as Chuck Wendig suggested. I opened my NaNoWriMo document, Happy Gay Magical Novel, and I tried to write it.
In those immediate post-election hours, it almost worked. After I heard the news about this acquaintance of mine, the words left me. That was Wednesday evening, and I haven’t written anything since.
Actually, I haven’t really done anything since. I spent Friday and Saturday in bed. I’ve achieved a completely nocturnal existence — on Saturday morning I went to bed at 6am, woke up 6pm, barely managed an hour and a half of wakefulness, then fell asleep again for the evening. Everything felt like too much effort. Existing felt like too much effort. I understand why this online friend did what she did, even though I was upset. Life is tiring. It’s hard work. I don’t blame her. She was scared and she was tired. I know how that feels.
I’m trying to reset my body clock. I stayed up all night last night; I’ve been filling myself with sugar and caffeine today to try and hold out until actual night time before I fall asleep, and so far have avoided taking any impromptu naps. My mum came to visit me today, after a late-night text on Friday night asking her to, and helped me tidy and clean my room. In my exhaustion, cleanliness is usually the first thing to go, and since I’m a naturally messy person, my room quickly devolves into a disaster. Now that it’s tidier I feel slightly less out of control, slightly more like I might be able to get things in order.
The world outside is overwhelming; I retreat into my room. I can’t let my room become overwhelming.
I have not known how to react to this week. I have not understand the world I live in. I’ve found myself questioning everything: the appropriate level of grief over the death of somebody I hardly knew; the level of danger my friends in the US are really in; whether I made the right decision when I came back to Cambridge; why I should make the effort to get out of bed today when it hardly feels worth it. I haven’t found many answers.
My NaNoWriMo novel still sits at 31k. I’m not behind on words, because I was ahead before, but I don’t know how to carry on. I know that happy stories are important right now. I know that people need to read about queer people living their lives among supportive friends. I know that if there was ever a world that needed me to write a happy, gay, magical story, it’s this one. But I’m too empty of words to do it right now.
The same way I’m too empty to work. To get out of bed. To do anything much, apart from occasionally work my way through a book or two if I can stay awake long enough. Mostly I just sleep.
I’m trying to fix it. When I was awake last night, I did some work. I also improved the ‘revolutionary’ Spotify playlist I started making in 2013, so that I have more than two hours of angry protest songs to listen to when I feel the way I do this week. It has kept me awake today. Nellie has decided she’s happy to sit on my lap now. Sometimes she even lets me cuddle her. She realises that I need her and she will put up with it. In return her, I have to let her get in the way while I’m trying to read.
I have my novel document open right now. Maybe this evening I’ll write something. Maybe I’ll go to the LGBTQ+ film night in college, just to ensure I stay awake for at least a couple more hours. Maybe I’ll figure out how to react, how to think, how to feel, how to keep moving in a world that seems more hositle than ever. In which people take their lives because they’re scared of losing their healthcare. In which the deadlines are as relentless as the mornings and both of them catch me unawares.
Things will get better, I tell myself.
I’m relatively safe, I tell myself.
All these deadlines and pressures are there because I’m receiving a top-level education, I tell myself.
It’s worth it, I tell myself.
It doesn’t make it that much better.
During the reading I did in the night last night, I came across an eighth-century Irish text that contained what I found to be a helpful affirmation. I tweeted it, if anyone saw; I’ve got a handwritten, colourful version now stuck to my wall where I’ll have to see it every day.
In the eighteen or so hours since I first read this, I must have read it to myself a dozen times, aloud or in my head. Trying to convince myself. Today, I will be strong. I think I need to repeat it a hundred or so more times before I start believing it.
Guess I should get started.