Day Two: Kyrie Eleison

Munky is curled up my lap and refuses to get off, so I’m writing this from a Macbook propped precariously on the back of a rather fat, annoyed, and slightly under-the-weather tabby cat. You insist on the lap, you have to take the consequences. *Pauses typing to accommodate overly emphatic tail swish.*

I am emotionally worn out, and need to make this quick. My day started with a text from my dearest cousin to say I love you in the way that only we share. Soon after, I got another text from my college roommate, to say she was in labor with her second child (and is still, unless I’ve missed any memos). I walked to work, and listened to “Kyrie,” by Mr. Mister, a few times. It’s been my top song for the last few days. I read this interesting autobiography a week or so ago by an Irish musician who mentioned hearing “Kyrie Eleison” being sung in church, and I got kind of obsessed with listening to various versions of the actual song. Then one day I remembered loving this silly rock song as a kid, and surprise, surprise, now it turns out that the song is directly referencing an inner Camino. So it’s been on heavy rotation lately, helping me untangle myself. Here’s the real deal, in case you’ve never heard it:

Work happened. There were a variety of screw-ups and triumphs. I’d gotten some math wrong yesterday, and had to deal with the consequences today. A housekeeper yelled at me because she needed to yell at someone and I was the only person available. A sales person in one of our other offices was let go, and consequences rippled out from there. A guest was angry that central reservations had told her the hotel was a short walk from the convention center, when it’s actually about 20 minutes away, and expressed her displeasure to me at great length, since I was the first person she saw (there’s a pattern to my day, isn’t there?). A trio of travel agents asked for an impromptu tour of the hotel, and brought their own scorecards to rate various facets of the hotel AND my performance in showing them around. By the time I walked out of the office at 5pm, I felt bruised and battered.

Today I found out that my TripAdvisor account (necessary for work) was also linked to my Facebook account, and I couldn’t log into it without reactivating Facebook. So I had to make a whole new account, which is fine, but was a time suck, to be sure.

After work, I went back home to grab my dirty laundry and head to the laundromat. My parents had called a couple of times over the course of Mardi Gras, and I hadn’t had time to call them back yet, so while my sheets were washing, I called for what I thought would be a short call. It ended up being two hours, and being mostly nice. There was lots of wasted conversation, of course. I hate smalltalk, but it has to be done. I wish I was the kind of person who could stop someone and say, “Yes, you’ve told me that five times already!” But I can’t, because it’s not polite, end of story. You just have to suck it up and write off those ten minutes of your day, and be grateful that you still have a parent to talk to, because so-and-so’s parents are dead (possibly because so-and-so was honest about the smalltalk being boring, and her parents dropped dead instantly). Yeah, I know, I’m super mean. I’ll get what I deserve for being a terrible person. Blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, my dad asked me how I was doing, and I told him the truth, that I’m not OK, I’ve mostly been white-knuckling it lately, and am doing my best to take the steps necessary to treat my anxiety. That I’m considering bankruptcy, because I can’t figure out how to carve a path out of the debt. That I’m not going to kill myself, but that’s all I can promise. That I have a hard time leaving the house. He listened, and then for a couple of minutes, it went downhill. We were back to where I regretted being honest, because he laughs it off and turns it back to a story about how he’s had it so much worse before. Like it’s some awful contest. So I reacted in the only way I’ve learned to keep my temper in check. Don’t fight back. Don’t make it worse. Just let it go. Realize he’s not my therapist, and not capable of helping, and not trying to hurt, even if he is. I thought briefly about just hanging up. But then the weirdest thing happened. It was like he caught himself mid-stride and heard that he was hurting me. He suddenly got serious and told me that he loved me and I could always talk to him if I needed him, and he knew where I was coming from, and had faith that I was going to be OK. My mom chimed in from the background that I could always call her, anytime. It was really nice. I know they both mean it.

The boyfriend is also foregoing Facebook for Lent, and around mid-afternoon, I texted him to see how his day was going, telling him that I was just so worn out already. He reminded me that I’m used to getting many mini-doses of dopamine throughout the day. My body and mind are going to be going through withdrawals from social media for awhile yet. He mentioned feeling anger. I mostly feel sad. I’ve been crying the whole time I’ve been typing this, and am only just now realizing that the front of my shirt is soaked.

I keep remembering what it felt like a couple of months after the Camino, when I felt like someone had taken a grapefruit spoon to my inner self, and scooped all of me out. Plop. I was a husk. I just laid in bed, watching Call the Midwife for days. Just thinking of my cats made me cry. I started to see my dead friend Josh everywhere. I felt like I was already just a milky memory to anyone who had known me. I barely remembered myself. This time, the feeling has been hanging around since Monday. I don’t like to think of it, but this is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Luckily, Munky seems to be feeling better, and now I’ve got freshly laundered sheets, so that’s something. It’s time to pill the cat, clean out the litter boxes, sweep the floor, put sheets on the bed, and get some shuteye.

Deactivation

Just deactivated my Facebook account, and am feeling a little ill. I took the app off of my phone this weekend, went a few hours without it, added it back, went a few hours without…etc. Finally took it off for real last night. Instagram was easier, though I did see a really funny Instagram account called @tchoupacabra that had me looking through the photos one last time this morning. I mean, who doesn’t adore a (really poorly) taxidermied raccoon in a miniature police uniform, attending various Mardi Gras events?

Anyway, I think that the first week or so is going to be pretty hard. I know that sounds lame, and weird, and like I could possibly need mental help (spoiler alert – I do). But I realized on Sunday that Facebook (well, my phone in general, but Facebook more specifically) is where I go when I’m bored, when I need validation, and when I need an update on news. OK, and it’s a great place to share kitten videos. Guess I’ll just have to share them here now.

But what makes it worse is that it’s become a community for so many, yet it is empty, so empty. It’s where a LOT of people go when they’re bored, need validation, want to get up-to-date on whatever new horrible thing is happening in the world. Somehow we’ve managed to become convinced that Facebook is the real world, a true hub for finding out all the things you need to know to be a successful and connected human being. And maybe that’s not all that bad for more extroverted folks. But along with the fleeting promise of online connection, people like me receive the gift of real-world isolation. We’re so busy being plugged in, checking on who likes our latest photos or music recommendations or snarky updates, that it’s easy to ignore the things that make us uncomfortable: everything outside the front door (well, you know, other than trees and rocks and other inanimate, outdoorsy things). It’s easy to convince yourself that online existence is more meaningful than it really is. It’s easy to ignore that there are real people out there with whom we could be making meaningful, in-person connections.

And if there’s anything I should be sure about, it’s that real friends are made in the real world. Yes, I have two friends that I’ve met online and have never spent time with in real life. It’s not impossible to get to know people over the internet – especially if you’re actually writing TO each other, and not just commenting on the same posts – that’s just having a modern day pen pal. It is, however, extremely unlikely. If anything should remind me that it takes depth of interaction for me to make true connections, I only need to look back to the Camino. I met hundreds of people over 45 days of walking in Spain. We all had at least one thing in common, and there were quite a few superficial conversations, to be sure. But out of those superficial conversations, a few deeper ones grew, and out of THOSE conversations, a tiny handful of friends were won. Good friends. Lifelong friends. People I love like sisters and brothers. However, had I not been forcefully removed from other online options, I might never have started talking.

Here’s the thing – friendships are beautiful, and I truly believe that making connections on that level can make life brighter. But making friends is HARD. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. It’s not quite as bad as having a tooth pulled, but honestly, it’s close to it, and it lasts longer. It is also fraught with pitfalls, even after you’re pretty sure the other person likes you (but DO they REALLY? What if you screw this up? What if you say something that upsets them? And do you know ALL the things that could possibly upset them? Isn’t it easier to just not make the friend you’ll inevitably piss off at some point, and just forgo that pain?). And after all that, after you overcome what feels like insurmountable fear, you press ahead, you ask the person if they’d like to hang out sometime, you become friends, it weirdly turns out that you’re complete opposites but still enjoy each other’s company…and then the other person abruptly moves back to Minneapolis and once again you’re on your own. (You know who you are, and I’ll be up to visit soon!)

As Carrie Fisher said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I’m not certain that I’ll ever be confident about anything. I’m only ever confident about traveling and trying new things that don’t necessarily involve having to interact with other people. Give me a flight plan and a suitcase, and I will go. Don’t care where it is, I will happily traipse right off to whatever foreign desert or jungle or metropolis you’ve chosen. I’ll enjoy the hell out of it, too. But ask me to attend a house party a block down the street tomorrow night and there’s a 99.9% chance that I won’t be able to force myself out the door. But maybe this is just the first step of feeling slightly more confident. Maybe this will help me start to feel less like curling up and dying whenever I get invited to a social function. And if not, well, maybe it’ll give me the extra time I need to start a new hobby, maybe learn to knit, like a proper crazy cat lady. (Actually, my bestie gave me a paper piecing kit, so that’ll be the first crafting attempt.)

Overall, I think there are going to be three major things that will suck in my social media detox process:

  1. Being comfortable in public. On Sunday morning I was supposed to meet up with a friend for brunch, and arrived early. Since I was already trying to get used to not using the phone, I started to read a paperback while waiting in line. Even though, technically, I was doing exactly the same thing that every other person who was in line and on their phone was doing – reading – I caught people giving me weird looks. Which of course took me right back to the days before phones, when I always had a book or a notebook with me, for reading or jotting down thoughts as I waited in lines or had a solo lunch. Back then I wasn’t suffering from anxiety (that I know of), just experiencing introversion, and though I felt like I was under scrutiny for my nerdiness, I let it roll of me. It’s going to be interesting trying to recapture what that felt like.
  2. Sharing music. This is probably the worst. I connect to other people through music. When I hear a song that touches my heart, I want to share it, to share a feeling that I can’t describe in words with the people that I love. On Facebook, only a few people interact with my music posts, but they’re all my favorite people. It feels good to be jamming out to a song on Spotify, hit “Share” and share on my FB wall. Now I won’t be doing that anymore. I know that when a tree falls in the forest, it still makes a sound. The song has still touched my heart; does it matter if anyone else knows? But who are we without sharing our experiences? Well, for the next 40 days, we’re confining that kind of sharing to my blog. Probably not too much music, though. It’s not as impactful if it’s not of the moment.
  3. Not creating beautiful photos via Instagram. This isn’t that bad, really, because I’m just going to get a different photo app. Instagram makes you post your picture in order to make the filter and editing last (otherwise you’re asked if you want to discard these changes, or if you want to save as a draft). I don’t want to discard or save as a draft. I want to edit my photo, then keep it. I don’t really care about sharing, or getting likes, etc. I just want to take a picture of my cat, edit it to look nice, and save it.

Today, though, my big focus is just not losing my cool and logging in to Facebook. We’ll fill the void with work until 4:30, then it’s home to check on the cats and clean the house, and after that, well, it’ll probably be time for bed, but maybe I’ll get to start a new book. Did I tell you guys that I’ve already read 13 books so far this year? I’ve almost beaten my (sad, oh so sad) record of 15 books read last year. I’ve been working on putting together a list of feminist comic books to share with my book group, but I just realized that I won’t be able to access our group Facebook page for awhile. Hmmm…

On The Sixth Day Of Detox, My Caffeine Withdrawals Gave To Me…

…a strikingly non-committal headache. This headache is so lame. It’s more like the ghost of a headache; it’s not going to do any real harm, but it will hang around and force out some weak moaning and a bit of chain rattling. It’s so lame that it’s like the headache version of Hugh Grant’s acting versatility. Let’s just leave it at this: I’m annoyed by the flimsy, yet surprisingly cloying, nature of this fucking caffeine withdrawal headache. Give me a decent migraine any day – at least then I don’t have to feel guilty about suffering debilitating pain. Now it’s just me, both bored AND annoyed by that boredom, trying to kick a headache that’s been hovering around like a little Bart Simpson, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” Ugh.

Other than that, going off of coffee, alcohol, meat, wheat, dairy, and processed crapola has been pretty easy. Weird, right? No cravings yet, unless you count having a dream about eating potato chips while shopping for the perfect po-boy earlier today. The worst bit has been managing expected cravings. You know, when you know you have a social situation coming up, and you have to run through all of the ways your resolve might be tested at said social situation? I’ve been putting myself through mental exercises for all kinds of emotional eating/drinking hazards – the feeling of needing a sandwich when I’m super stressed at work, the feeling of needing a glass of wine after a long day at the office, the feeling of needing a drink just at thinking about hanging out with more than one or two people at a time, the feeling of needing pizza/bread/fried food to be able to watch TV at the greatest level of comfort, what it’s going to be like to be sober at a bar, etc…

Today the headache kind of ruined my plans to hang out with a big group of people who were on a drinking tour of Decatur Street. Typically, I’d be first in line for a bar crawl of that magnitude, especially with those specific people, who’re amazing. But not drinking either of my two favorite classes of beverages kind of puts a damper on fun, and adds a LOT more social anxiety to the mix. I’ve been preparing myself all week for how to handle any situation that I’d come up against, and was kind of looking forward to trying out my resolve. As it turns out, the headache had other plans, and that’s probably good. I only have $20, anyway, and I’m not really sure how much club soda that would get me. And I’d need A LOT. Maybe 15 refills or so to help handle how overstimulated I’d feel in a 50+ person crowd.

So now I’m at home alone, sober and a little hungry, at 10:20 on a Saturday night. My temples are throbbing gently, keeping time to the spin cycle on the washing machine next door. Those bastards have a washing machine! I walked four miles today to get all of my laundry done. FOUR MILES! I’m not actually complaining about the walking – it’s how I work out. But seriously, a washing machine would be golden.

I guess I did forget to mention how tired I’ve been. Part of that is going off of the caffeine, part is (I’m sure) boredom, and I’m guessing that part of it is not having the right combination of nutrients yet. I’m getting in a lot of fresh vegetables, and a good amount of protein, but I’m not sure that I’ve got carbs covered as well as I should. I’m probably going to start supplementing with a daily protein shake to get my carbs and protein both up a bit more. It’s still less than a week in, too. I’m sure just learning how to live without stimulants is confusing my body. A few days ago, I smelled a cup of coffee and my arms went numb. It’s going to be awhile before my body is completely back to normal.