New Meditations on the Wolf at My Back

14 Feb 2023

I stopped writing for a while. I mean, I kept writing, but I stopped writing about my life online. I still keep little journals everywhere. An overly detailed planner, a 5-Lines-A-Day meant to last 5 years. Little posts and notes and things to show that I’m still here. Who I’m showing, I don’t know.

I’ve always done this. Even before I could write I would scribble line after line in little stapled booklets my grandmother wearily made for me. Not understanding that I needed to mark my days, I needed to prove I was here. The Estella to her Havisham, I was a Rapunzel who knew all too well and from too early an age that the kind of princes who menace isolated towers were no princes at all.

I got tired of sounding like this. I got tired of making shit like this. Overly articulated rococo bullshit designed to make you cry and give you a sense of having just had a brush with a vast unknowable doom.

So fucking annoying.

Why can’t I just write something the fuck down? Why do I always have to embellish it like a zitty teenager?

Obviously my voice is underdeveloped. I thought. So I stopped using it. Which everyone knows is how all the great craftspeople developed their gifts.

I got tired of trying to create trauma bonds with my readers, and I realized that I didn’t know how else to bond with people.

I used to love my shadow. I realized that while I was standing in my kitchen this morning listening to an audiobook on anxiety. The author said that anxiety can sometimes be a good emotion. Like all the so-called negative emotions, it has its place in the technicolor spectrum of human psychological experiences, and sometimes it’s actually helping. Every time else it’s at least trying to help, and you just aren’t wielding it properly. Is what he said.

And I realized that I used to be friends with my anxiety. I used to be such good friends with all my dark and horrible pieces. All the voices who told me I wasn’t shit, all the most destructive versions of myself ran me through my early years and shot me into the vast unknown like a fucking rail gun.

And here I am. 38, standing in my kitchen listening to books about anxiety because I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know why I still hate myself so fucking much after 30 years of near-constant work to become exactly this version of this person that I am.

Emotionally stable Mable. Definitely not torturing themselves by staying up all night panic-reading business books written by generationally wealthy white liars. Definitely not fantasizing about falling asleep at the wheel and dying on the freeway anymore. Totally ate lunch and definitely haven’t worked too many hours, and definitely doing all the normal healthy-person things like investing in hobbies and staying in contact with friends and learning new skills and going to therapy and putting one foot in front of the other and absolutely not feeling dead inside or empty or like a complete waste of space. Not at all.

I’m not being facetious, I don’t do any of the completely bananas self-destructive things I used to do anymore. Instead, I fight myself on almost every thought, decision, plan, or action every single day. Constantly second guessing my motivations, constantly wondering if I’m doing too much or not enough, constantly asking what the implications of my decisions are. I’m exhausted.

There used to be a wolf at my back who drove me forward frantically, who kept me up at night and made me skip meals and demanded perfection constantly. It was my first and best friend and if it wasn’t literally killing me I would have never changed our arrangement.

Now I live with a muzzled elemental terror hound inside my frontal lobe passive-aggressively criticizing everything I do and making me feel like an idiot at best and a monster at worst. This is so much better than dying of anorexia. Again, I’m serious. It is. And also, I was told that this way of living would bring me peace.

If anything, it’s the opposite.

I was born to fight. Not just in terms of my personality, but also in terms of my positioning. There’s no way a visibly queer, fat, disabled, mexican, nonbinary truth-teller comes out of the places I come from and doesn’t love a fucking fight. I learned that in order to win, I had to be driven, I had to be relentless, stubborn, enduring, and ruthless.

And now the thing that howled inside me day and night for justice has been neutered by three meals and a snack, seven hours of sleep every night, and by innumerable other things I’m not talking about online right now but that are wonderful, life-changing, amazing dreams coming true around every fucking corner.

My reward for my success is having my outboard motor ripped from my hull and nailed to my deck. What the fuck do I do with this? I am now a human centipede of my own anxious motivations. The result is a chronically anal retentive shit balloon of poor opinions and short-sighted, unsuccessful reasoning. And procrastination.

30 years of therapy under my belt and now I know how to procrastinate. Which is an improvement from manically tasking instead of sleeping or eating. However, It does not feel like an improvement.

Which is, I guess, what I’m trying to say. It doesn’t always feel like an improvement to move from self destructive black and white thinking into something more nuanced that doesn’t have easy answers or quick fixes.

It doesn’t feel great all the time to live life as it is and not retreat into oblivion when things get difficult. It absolutely sucks to go at a human pace when you’re used to being propelled by existential terror, but all the other humans are going at a human pace. And when you stop harming yourself, you find that hanging around harmful people is no fun at all. So going at a human pace isn’t scary anymore, because people aren’t scary anymore.

After a while, one endless wolf becomes a regular old guard dog, and the issues we have with one another are tangible and manageable, and real. And I hate him. But it’s probably because we are strangers and he replaced a really good friend of mine from back home.