November 2010 Archives

Hard Reset

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Like every other human being alive, my moods cycle. Sometimes they cycle more rapidly or reach more pronounced extrema, but they have usually centered somewhere around a baseline that was basically happy.

When I first moved, I was soaringly happy for days and weeks on end. I thought I had solved all my problems, moved forward toward an exciting new future, and that everything was going to be okay all the time. Things started wearing a little around the edges sometime in October, and it seems as though it all spiraled completely out of control shortly after that. I have a lot of ideas about why and how it happened, but I sunk into pretty protracted unhappiness and desolate depression for more than a month now.

This instance has been unique because it is sustained not by anxiety or exhaustion or the typical things that get me down, but by a kind of weariness and dreadfulness about going forward in time. I used to pull myself together with the exhilaration of fascination in some obsessive project (usually art or research), or I would distract myself until I cycled around again, spurned on by this belief that I could have an extraordinary future if I could just get out of my own way.

Lately, though, it seems I am unusually affected by the unchanging unkindness and selfishness of humanity at large, by the pervasive cynicism that increasingly seems to guide decision-making, by the futility in seeking meaningful connections with people, and above all, by this sense that no matter what it is I'm pursuing, I will always be disappointed and dread getting out of bed. I have internalized the negativity that used to disturb me and thought the ugliest, cruelest thoughts about myself and others effortlessly and remorselessly. I have acted like - and for all intents and purposes become - a heartless, unrecognizably cold and indifferent person.

One of the triggers for this despair is the sense of never having any free time. I'm taking too many credits this semester, and the classes I'm taking are both crammed with busywork and entirely unchallenging. I knew that undergraduate classes wouldn't be as intellectually rewarding as master's-level art history seminars, but my courses this semester are reaching new levels of tedium that make my teeth hurt. Yet I am overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work to be done and the time it consumes, leaving me sucked dry with no creative or social outlets to make it more bearable. Each day, I find myself increasingly frustrated, with uncontrollable annoyance at how much my time and resources are being wasted.

I realize that the only way to be happier with my life is to stop shuffling through the same cycles and perform a hard reset. I have put my foot down and taken on my best inner drill sergeant to declare that from now forward, I pursue happiness. This pursuit will include nailing down what is currently a poorly-defined and amorphous definition of happiness, and I'm sure it involves a number of disciplinary tasks to get my act together, but the intent is restored and with it, I think I have dislodged the sulking weight in my heart that was steadfastly refusing to move forward.

I decided not to go with my parents to visit our family in Virginia for Thanksgiving so that I can catch up on work and get my life together. I feel terribly guilty and sad to miss seeing family, but I can't keep on being miserable and stressed out anymore. My brother can't take time away from work to travel, so he and I are having Thanksgiving together in New Jersey. We're having a nontraditional meal that he's preparing, and I am catching up on laundry, visiting with the dogs, and mellowing the hell out while I'm there.

I'm taking time this week to catch up (and maybe work ahead some) so that I can be calmer and less frantically busy the rest of the semester. I'm going to be smarter about how I spend my time, and even if it means never sleeping again, I'm going to make more time for creativity, being outdoors, and connecting with friends.

More than anything, though, I'm going to be nicer to myself and open my eyes again. When I lost my sense of optimism and well-being, I lost what was probably my biggest strength. The ability to find joy and beauty in this world is what makes the difference between me living or simply surviving, and I need to cling to that more tenaciously and passionately than ever.

I love Halloween. It is without question my favorite holiday and by extension, possibly my favorite day of the year. I love dressing up, I love the briskness in the air, I love parties where the main emphasis is on people expressing themselves creatively and having fun together... man, I even love candy corn.

This year, I decided to dress as Tippi Hedren in The Birds. I love Hitchcock, and I was stoked about this costume because I have always wanted to be a Hitchcock blonde.

(I'm really bad at looking scared on demand.)

Most of my costume was easy. I borrowed a bright pink suit from my mother, and I already owned this tie-neck French Connection blouse (of course) and black kitten heels. My hair is long enough now to put in a French twist, and I have pieces that are not exactly bangs, but maybe bang-adjacent, which I could easily pin to make that classic Tippi swoop in the front. You'll have to take my word that it looked a lot better before I walked along the blustery waterfront to the ferry.

But the birds. Aye me. I had all these elaborate plans for puppetry or papier mâché, but as Halloween drew closer and I found myself with extremely limited time and funds for costuming, I had to go with what I had on hand. Which was a very large corrugated cardboard box from a birthday present and, well, not much else.

But! I had a Peterson Field Guide of Birds! And a utility knife! I made a sort of three-dimensional crow (his wings were actually joined with monofilament so they could flap), then started fretting about how these birds could attach to my mother's suit without damaging it. I had to simplify the other birds to a wader (an oversized pharalope, specifically) that could be attached by a belt to my arm and a swallow headpiece. I also made a fourth diminutive raven that was meant to poke out of my purse, but I mostly forgot about him. Realizing that my birds looked like hot buttered ass, I didn't even try to salvage them with illusionistic painting, opting instead for solid black and the general silhouettes.

Of course I ran out of paint long before bird surface area, so I had to mix some on the fly with powdered carbon black pigment and acrylic glazing medium. I rushed it, and I overloaded the pigment-to-binder ratio, so my paint was not exactly what you might call stable, rubbing off on my suit and bystanders as a consequence (it's totally removable though, just a pain in the neck). I decided this was karmic payback for all the people jostling my birds... of which there were legion.

I was tempted to scrap the birds and pretend I was going as Joan Harris née Halloway from Mad Men, but I persevered. And in the end, I liked my costume. You know, mostly.

I met up with my dear friend Daria and her boyfriend for the Village Halloween parade.

They went a little more abstract in their costumes, going for the concept of the 1930s, and in his case, with traces of Communism. They were adorable together.

It was super, super crowded and I couldn't see much of anything at the parade. I was bummed out because this is something I'd wanted to do for as long as I've lived in or around New York. We resolved that next year we would either make costumes involving stilts (Heidi Klum-style?) or march in the parade so we could actually see it.

Fortunately, we were close to Union Square and one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the city, where we had dinner and a pitcher of margaritas.

While it probably wasn't advisable to have had as significant a portion of the pitcher as I did, it was super fun catching up and giggling my ass off later on with Dasha.

I hope you had a happy Halloween and that it didn't involve anywhere near as much corrugated cardboard as mine!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2010 is the previous archive.

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