I knew that I wouldn’t get out of bed when my alarm went off at 5am this morning, but it was worth a try. Even in the process of going to bed—somewhere between double and triple checking the alarm and giving Lola her bedtime snack—I knew that waking before the sun was a lofty and ambitious goal, especially for a Monday, but I had to at least try. I don’t naturally get up with the sun; if left undisturbed and in room dark enough, I can easily sleep until the Price is Right. As much as I’d like to be a morning person, the type who springs from bed like wheat bread from the greased springs of a toaster, I’m lacking the proper genes or life exuberance to make that happen consistently. The only times I ever exit bed with alertness is the days that I wake up hours before the alarm with the extreme paranoia of missing a flight or an important meeting. For months now, I wake up with three layers of regret, the first from staying up two hours too late, the second from hitting snooze for thirty minutes longer than I should have, and the third knowing that I went to bed without finishing all of my projects.
There is a delicate line between depression and exhaustion; I’ve bounced like a pinball between them this year; lately it’s been impossible to distinguish between the days when I am frustrated and the ones where I’m satisfied, but my muscles are too fatigued to form a smile. I recognize the days when I’m stressed, those are punctuated by time spent behind locked doors crying, hoping that no one can hear. The tired days happen with great frequency, four cups of coffee turn into six and I still drift on conference calls and pinch myself to stay awake in the ninth inning. There have been plenty of days of joy this summer, involving time by the lake, out with dear friends, or agenda-less with reading material, but for the better part of seven months it’s been a grind of counting the hours until it’s all over, all while watching them zip by, unable to reclaim any sort of routine or memory beyond the moment.
Judging by the number of people who feel like life is passing them by, I’d guess it’s probably normal. “I’m just too busy,” their lips uttering endless platitudes lamenting that there, “just aren’t enough hours in the day,” and that, “they don’t sleep!” because they’ve been, “burning the candle at both ends,” since, “time just flies by, yanno?” Maybe we’re all exhausted from one thing or another; perhaps we’re destined to live stages of our lives in a fugue state fogged-and- bogged by anything and everything. But I’ve been exhausted before, and this exhaustion, all mine and all consuming, feels different than it has in the past.
The 5am alarm was to get to the 9-5, which is actually a 7-6 if I’m lucky or a 6-9 if I’m not. The extra time was to guarantee that I finished cleaning from the party I had the night before, a chance to take the empties to the dumpster before anyone would see me in my tattered Louisville sweatshirt and shorts that reveal more leg than strangers should see. Getting up early would also mean that I’d get the full shower instead of the abridged one, and that the entire makeup routine— layers and layers from four different brushes—would be satisfied instead of the smoky eyes and concealer on rushed days. I feel better on days when my belt goes with my shoes, but damned if I don’t choose sleep over perfection even on days when I’m not physically tired, leaving me feeling frumpy and unfinished, inferior to the bodies and couture of a Type-A office.
And at least three nights a week, when the day should be winding down, part of mine is just beginning. In the evening hours I’m tethered to the laptop and television, messing around with Play Index, writing drafts, and calling editors. I swap time at the gym and well-balanced meals for radio hits and podcasts, fulfilling a seemingly foolish dream of entertaining and enlightening. Most days the words are there. Others though, the exhaustion—or the depression—take hold before I’ve even slipped into my pajamas and house shoes, and I get so worked up about deadlines that I suffer epic tantrums somewhere between topic choose and stat searching. Writing for a paycheck is different than doing it for yourself. It’s frustrating and time-consuming, all while punching someone else’s clock, not to mention the unfriendly and often misogynistic audience has partially broken my spirits on numerous occasions. But even on days when my sex-life is up for public discussion by strangers, or more innocently when I mix up David and Daniel Murphy in my first and final drafts, I work through it, often with laughter. The truth with writing is, that even on the worst days, I recognize that I’m fortunate enough to actuate a pipedream and collect a paycheck in the process.
But the exhaustion, depression, and general apathy have made both jobs impossible for me to do well. I know I am valued, and perhaps integral at times, but I’d never fool myself into thinking that the buildings won’t get built if I’m not there to crunch the numbers, or that the world would be any different if I weren’t around saying something about Adam Dunn. But part of the exhaustion is expectation; we have to do something with our lives, and Development and Writing are what I’ve chosen to do with mine. Part of it is certainly financial related, but in the process of creating a life for myself, I’ve pushed myself to work constantly not with career advancement as the motivator, and not because I had any misconceptions about the imprint that I leave on projects.
I’ve been doing it because without it, I didn’t feel like I had anything else.
I’ve been working on changing that, learning to work because it pays the bills and because it’s rewarding to be accomplished instead of using it as an escape from the voids. It doesn’t matter if I work until 4pm or 11pm; the apartment is still empty when I get there. And accepting extra assignments can’t distract from having a sick parent, even if it makes me forget about it for a little while. And the hours spent writing? For awhile, they weren’t about a love of baseball or the craft of writing, but more about avoiding the fact that I didn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to see. It’s easiest to be busy—no one questions anything but your sanity when you’re working hard. It’s much easier to spew platitudes and keep your hands busy than it is to sit idly and wonder where the hell some things went wrong.
It’s been trial and error, but I’ve mostly found the balance that has been missing. I brought back the things that I abandoned, and packed my week with activities that didn’t stress or complicate things. I painted for seventeen hours, dancing through the kitchen with paintbrushes as microphones, stomping carefully as not to disturb the makeshift easel that held the canvas. I pulled out a camera I haven’t used in five years and shot roll after roll of film, manually adjusting apertures and minding the rule of thirds while I explored my neighborhood. I ate lunch and didn’t count a single calorie, indulging in old favorites and new beers, and even sang along with the bartender and the Beach Boys. I read a book on a train, in a coffee shop, on a park bench, in bed until four in the morning listening to the rain fall, knowing I didn’t have to force myself from bed for any purpose other than breakfast.
I also remembered, for a brief moment, what it felt like to be completely engulfed by someone else, stepping outside of myself in the pursuit of being consistently good to another instead of focusing so strongly on my own needs. And I started writing again—not because I had to, not because someone was paying me, but because I missed the intimate hours alone with a moleskine and a keyboard writing things that I’d probably never show anyone.
I went to the ballpark on Friday, and arrived just as the gates open. I sat in the Bleacher Bar, just beyond the right field fence drinking cheap beer, watching the Kansas City Royals take batting practice. I admired the pristine field, and embraced the way that the air feels just as the sun is going down on the Southside. We drank, we swore, and we pontificated on a team that lost 99 games this season. It felt good to be among people; it felt better to keep score and watch a game without a deadline. It’s a shame that I allowed myself to go months without experiencing baseball like that, especially since the season is now over.
And still free from the pressure of work and deadlines, I made the best out of an evening of canceled plans by making cookies that I decorated like baseballs. I hung the ticket-stub shadowbox and some pictures in my office, and festooned the apartment with vintage baseball cards, an egg hunt of earned run averages and runs batted in for those who stopped by for my housewarming to find.
These two weeks have felt normal, the closest to complete and satisfied I’ve been as an adult. I laughed and smiled at strangers; I sang along with Roy Orbison in a parking lot with the car windows down, not caring who heard me. I gave hugs and at moments talked the loudest instead of meekly deferring to everyone else. Some days it’s still going to be hard to get out of bed—but I’m going to be working less. If the past two weeks have proven anything, it’s that I have some serious catching up to do.