grace, scales and whirligigs

July 6, 2013

ladies and gentlemen,

I have finally finished all my assignments for this semester, and because no-one is awake for me to share this moment of jubilance with, you all get to hear about it. Instead of just one of you, like some poor auditory scapegoat, some beast of burden with a slit throat, my voice the scalpel, these words the wire, you all get to flame like the prophets of Baal. I’m. dizzy with freedom and mostly sleeplessness. dance with me.

 

it has been- a tightrope act, a highwire steel line running down my spine, live wired, twitching, and I’m sane, oh I’m sane, but it’s not my own doing and my ability to work has surprised even me. I can work, did you know that? I can write essays, I can do exegeses, I can crunch when I need to crunch and I can actually make sentences ten minutes to go-time, even if they are godawful. I have sent several emails to lecturers after submitting essays going I’m sorry about that essay, I really am. It, and you, deserved better than that, and I meant every word. Fact, I just sent one, twenty minutes ago. I really dislike disappointing my lecturers; I really dislike underperforming, I really dislike doing badly on something I enjoy, I really dislike screwing up or being mediocre on something that I know I can do well, given time. I know what I’m capable of, given time. I really dislike not reaching what I’m capable of.

It doesn’t paralyse me anymore, though. Not nearly as much, which is-

 

interesting. the shifts in my own head are beyond my comprehension. Often and often, I know I’m well, that I’m perfectly sane and sagacious, and I wonder if perhaps this whole depression-and-anxiety business is an excuse that other people are running with a little too well. Lies, all lies, and no that was me last year, or three years before, not now. I wonder if they believe I’m worse off than I actually am, if this is an excuse that has worked too well, and I wonder if I should feel guilty. I feel fine, sound, not distraught, not despairing, not grim or ripped up inside nor buzzing so hard with fear I’m sick with it and can’t concentrate. Maybe I should tell them hey, I’m not actually that bad, I should be able to- I’m taking advantage of- I’m just lazdisorgani- unwil-

careful, protective of my mental wellness, still trying to figure out how to be normal, how to be healthy; still trial-and-erroring mental systems and routines that work; easily destabilized, relatively, given the right push.

This is the problem: I forget sometimes that I have been not-so-well, that I had no reason to live until only recently, that I only started to be consistently happy this year. That I only started to consistently want to be alive this year. That I spent a long, long time trying to make myself unwell, and that most of my mental systems are set up for defensive purposes, and that most of my reactions to things are run away or hide. That I only started to consciously, independently sort through the way I think and react in the past year or so, examining faulty defense mechanisms, consciously replacing negative behaviour patterns with others (admittedly, that one’s been a constant process for years, just done less deliberately and with less clear insight).

This is the problem with subjectivity; everything is normative, everything is normalised, and moreover the only comparison you have is in your own head, to yourself. Compared to the debilitating panic, the psychosomatic sickness, the grim mental knives, the breathing, the constant grey misery, the despair, the crying, various stages of crippling agony, numbness, endless-howling-and-etcetera that I’ve logged in the past as mental meters on an Unwellness Scale from Don’t Want To Exist to a cautious Being Alive Is Actually Kind Of Okay, I’m definitely on the Being Alive Is Actually Kind of Okay And Occasionally Enjoyable side. I don’t know how this matches up to anyone else’s scale, but on mine, it’s wellness par excellence.

Another thing on the normative front. I have been feeling well for long enough, now, to forget not-feeling-well (a relatively short space of time; my memory is patchwork- I think it only takes a week or two)- and so therefore I think I am invincibly well, and I forget how short this space of wellness has been, and how slight and brief it might be. I mean, I think this approach is better than hanging carefully onto the edges of my wellness and going oh god when am I going to break next this wellness is a DECEPTION I can see right through it. Mostly because I can’t see right through it. I’m pretty sure I’m fine, and I think that’s a blessing I’ve been given, to believe and accept my wellness blithely, and if there’s a voice in my head that goes this happiness doesn’t last, it mostly gets tucked away somewhere dank and dark in the back of the brain. I’m pretty sure it’s true, but I’m beginning to believe I won’t shatter alongside happiness, when happiness does.

My head is a mess. Maybe everyone else’s heads are messes. I’m really not sure; I only have experience inside my own. (There are of course also the ones other people write, and they impose a clarity and order of their own when you finish reading them, but that only lasts so long.) I think I underestimate and overestimate the mess that is myself, both at once. It makes judgement calls difficult. I can never tell. Subjectivity, you are an awful beast.

 

I have been given so much grace, this last few weeks. Repeatedly. My lecturers, my academic registrar, probably my flatmates, the friends who drive me to school, my parents; their graciousness feels like a space opened up inside of me, like a breath. And in their grace I see the gracefulness of God, and the generosity of God, and I am humbled and grateful. I am given so much, and without needing to ask.

It makes me glad.

Seriously, my academic registrar didn’t need to give me those extensions, over and over again, pushing it right back to the end of semester and then over. She simply did. It was my bloody mismanagement, with six and then five and then three assignments crammed right up at the end of the semester, but she gave me the space for it. And when I’d decided to give up on one assignment and fail that paper, right at the absolute deadline, she came back to me with an offer for another extension till Friday, after talking to a couple of my lecturers. I hadn’t even asked for it. And another lecturer passed what is, I’m sure, one of the most abysmal essays I’ve ever written, because he ‘saw the quality of it’, even if it was ‘incomplete’. Which is an incredibly charitable way of putting it; I stand by ‘abysmal’. (I’m guessing he may have based some of this estimation of quality on previous assignments, in light of my circumstances-?) And they all did it with a quiet graciousness and a generosity of spirit that- feels like space to breathe. It opens me up with the same feeling that hope tends to open up, like a breath drawn in, a gasp.

The light and goodness of God. Sometimes I see it reflected in the people in my life, in the friends who love me, in the family who are constants, in the generosity of people who have no need to be. And oh, I am humbled, and hopeful, and grateful, and glad.

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