Here’s what a typical morning here is like these days.
6:30 AM wake up. Look at the clock, realize it’s very early still but finally, alas, it’s light out. Decide to get up and go to the gym and get back in time to have breakfast with Andrew only to realize your phone is at 15% power and will not make it through the workout.
Turn over and try to fall asleep. Realize you’re too anxious to sleep. That suddenly there is a tidal wave of all these to do’s in your head, the fact that you don’t have any meetings or “set” work to do, that you have no idea where you next paycheck is coming from, that you just put a check in the mail for rent neither you nor your husband can afford.
Toss and turn until the cat wanders over for his morning cuddle. Cuddle with the cat for ten minutes. His purrs only moderately calm you down, but mostly, what you feel is jealousy. Jealousy that you can’t ever feel this inner calm and bliss. You think to yourself, I’d do anything to feel this way if only for a day, but you know it’s not going to happen.
Check your phone once more; no new emails, no new job offers, no new job listings. The phone is now at 14%. Scratch the cat’s chin and hear him purr. Look over to your left where you husband is sleeping. Notice how he is the world’s most peaceful-looking sleeper.
Check the Instagram feed, see what dinner/cocktail/dessert everyone’s had last night. Look at cute sleeping children photos, wonder how parents do it all. Notice the phone is now at 13%. Go to Twitter, check the feed. Find a few interesting articles, but because you hate reading them on your phone, email them to yourself. Notice the phone is now at 12%. Go to Facebook and see everyone’s updates. Realize that you’re finding Facebook to be more and more of a bore, and it’s not that you don’t care about your friends updates, but that somehow Facebook has become a virtual world you don’t really feel like inhabiting. You want, simultaneously, peace and quiet and catch up with everyone, and I mean everyone, in person.
7:30 am. The phone is now at 10% power and tells you that it’s running on reserve battery. Something about that word, reserve, gets you even more anxious, so you get out of bed, put on your bathrobe and shuffle out of the bedroom. The cat is already in the kitchen, standing on his hind legs and scratching at the cabinet doors, meowing so loudly, you’d think there’s imminent danger. But no – it’s just that he wants breakfast. And he wants it now. Scratch that – make it five minutes ago. That’s the urgency. You plug the phone in and go get him his breakfast.
8:00 am. You make coffee. Grind the beans, heat the water, pour the water into the French press, set the timer to 4 (precise) minutes. Stir the water (with wooden chopsticks; metal is bad) midway through. Prep the cups and the cream and the sugar.
Feeling virtuous and guilty about your expensive juicer (a wedding present), you juice every vegetable in your crisper. Somehow pounds and pounds of vegetables come out to barely four cups of juice. You reflect on how expensive you thought juice was at juice bars, and adjust for labor, and cost of produce – it doesn’t seem that expensive anymore. Plus, there’s no clean-up involved. Juicers, if anyone has one, have so many parts and they all need to be cleaned post use.
8:30 am. You have breakfast with your husband. The anxiety builds. You’re still in your bathrobe and jammies. Let’s not even talk about what your hair is doing because when short hair meets a pillow, it’s just not a good scene. You think about how by now, had you charged your phone ahead of time, you would have been back, sweaty and content that you’ve already accomplished something for the day. But instead of that, you are in your bathrobe and jammies, with fresh coffee and vegetable juice at your side. Nicely done, you think not without sarcasm.
You start thinking about rent, income, money, your impending tax return, that article you read about a prominent journalist being asked by a major publication (a for profit one too!) to submit a long article pro bono. Oh, and you have to stop by the cleaners and drop off shirts and get those trousers hemmed. The ones that belong to a suit you just purchased with the money you don’t really have, but heck, everyone needs a suit for an interview, right? You have a few recipes to test, but the chaos in your head is preventing you from being able to structure your recipe testing. What to focus on first? What is a priority.
You recall that conference a few weeks back when a famous and respected food writer told you to go back to your old career and be financially stable; that you cannot, anymore, make money writing cookbooks. You reflect on your last year and the income you received, and woefully agree. You recall several other prominent food writers telling the very same thing the other writer did. Your heart sinks a little and you think to yourself, this cannot possibly be the only way, it just cannot. There should be, must be, something out there besides your old career being the only way. There must be other opportunities where you can use your transferable skills, as they call them, in other areas where you feel a sense of purpose and contribution to the world. Okay, so maybe you can’t eke out a living writing just books, but can’t there be another way to do that and something else? Something you also happen to love?
You don’t like the lack of structure. You don’t like being in your bathrobe and jammies.
Your husband casually asks you what you are doing today. What he means is just that, but what you feel like he is saying is he is making you justify your existence. It’s just in your head, you say, and then you look at him and you say, absolutely nothing, I am not doing anything and I don’t know what I should be doing. He probably, at that point, regrets asking, because no one asks that questions and expects to get a panicked, semi-depressed response. The best answer that you hope for is, well, I was thinking of going to the gym and making a few calls and then probably testing a recipe or two, and see if any other job listings have been posted. You certainly, don’t expect the words absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing, besides feeling somewhat absolute, feels horrible, more horrible than the answer of I was going to add up and itemize my receipts for our tax return. That, while boring, is at least something. Nothing is exactly just that – nothing.
It’s the lack of structure, your husband says to you, it’s the fact that you don’t have any appointments during the day, it’s not permanent. You think about it logically and agree: it’s not something you were feeling yesterday when you had some calls and appointments lined up and you had momentum. Momentum is a great thing, you think, it keeps you going, it keeps you moving, it prevents you from ruminating on stupid, pointless, self-defeating thoughts where you tell yourself over and over that you will never be gainfully employed and that you will end your days in a cardboard box. You will not, you tell yourself, end up in a cardboard box, that will not happen, but that little voice inside your heads says, but what if you are and what if you have managed to pick up any transferrable skills from anywhere to anything, and you say, nonsense, of course I have transferrable skills, look at my ability to do x, y, and z, those are seriously transferable.
You think to yourself, this is absurd, you will totally be fine, just give it a little time. There’ll be books to write, there’ll be another job. You can do both. You can. You can. You can. Just give it a little time. It will happen. It must happen.
9:00 am. You clean up after breakfast, and put the dishes away. You kiss your husband goodbye and immediately change into gym clothes. You will go to the gym, you say to yourself, you will do it. It will put your anxiety at bay. And even though it’s so hard to leave the house when you are gripped in self-doubt, you know it’s all in your head, it’s all in your head, it’s all in your head.
Update: 2:15 pm. You’re still in gym clothes, but no gym as of this point. However, you’ve caught up on emails, you made a lunch of duck fat potatoes and mushrooms. It is possible that you’ve consumed your entire caloric allotment in that one meal, but potatoes have always made you feel better. As for duck fat – you’re worth it.