Dispatch From My Anxiety

July 9, 2024
Brooklyn, New York
 Airbnb Self-Portrait in Osaka

I write these big ass essays and then feel pressure to wait until I have something that feels urgent to write about, but really I just need to write more things that do not relate to the manuscript/book that I’m working on, which is currently giving me anxiety and is sitting at 70,000 words, all of which were squeezed out of like the last few drops of toothpaste stubbornly wedged at the very tip of the tube (update since I wrote this: I suddenly finished one day this week because I had previously held myself to the arbitrary number of 100,000 words, something I had read somewhere and decided was where I needed to be, based on maybe nothing. I realized via a recent Google Search that 100k is too many for a novel. The first Harry Potter was 75,000 words; I am already there).

Behind the reluctance to write about random things, about my life, I think, is the feeling that writing about anything other than war or collective liberation feels trivial. Any writing I have to offer has to meet a high bar of “This is Important”, but this self-imposed impossible expectation stifles my ability to see that sometimes, the important things can be hidden in the daily and inconsequential - like the interactions I have with people on the street, the way that things are metabolized in me even if there’s no clear output. 

Those things feel especially important now that so much feels too big to fathom, too far gone to fix. I used to date this guy who was 23 and who said to me completely sincerely, “I believe in the people’s revolution”. These days I bounce between his brand of starry eyed  hope (this morning I cried at footage of the French Left celebrating their unexpected win against Le Pen and far right fascism), and then days where all I want to do is retreat into a hole in the woods somewhere with two dogs and my boyfriend and put the whole business of hope and investment in the future to bed, to scurry back into a personal bubble of protection and ignorance.

The anxiety has permeated into my day to day - since I returned to Japan I have been feeling distinctly hermetic. I’ve been pacing my kitchen eating corn flakes by the bowl (left by my two Aussie subletters while I was gone, alongside a can of Australian Foster’s beer and a pair of Bonds underwear), my mind racing over a million different things at once: 

- Paying attention to pop music for the first time in years and finding myself deeply invested; Sabrina Carpenter, Chapell Roan, Charli XCX and the girl, so confusing lorde remix. I was stunned by Lorde’s verse, how intimate and real it felt, how much of a mirror it held up to girlhood and friendship. I love the liberated, queer, openly sexual brand of these pop queens who are expressive and emotive in ways that has felt sanitized into commercial oblivion the las few times I’ve tried to check in with pop music. It feels like a revelation; an indication that maybe culture is evolving in the right direction. But then I’m also like where are all the cool pop girls of color? There’s also a nagging sense that it is a distraction somehow, from seeing things as they really are. Does it really matter that two major female pop stars worked it out on a remix when there’s so much else that is not able to be worked out on a remix? Will I ever be able to take pleasure in basic things like pop culture without having an existential crisis? I push the thoughts down and scroll past another image of a child with their jaw blasted off, or a limb missing, and read another tweet or Instagram story take on pop culture feminism. 

- The Presidential debate and how humiliating it is to live in the United States right now. o live in the United States right now. 

- How much I love my Marni Fussbett sandals, which were my first big girl luxury purchase a few years ago, and which still remain my go-to sandals that make me feel like an elevated version of myself I can never quite seem to nail consistently in my style. AND how quickly I’m pulled into the trap that I need another pair of them because they’re such a good investment. And what a trap! To convince yourself that you should spend $400 on sandals because they’re an investment, only to be drawn in two years later to buy the same sandals in another color because they were such a good investment. 

- The general feeling that my body is decaying, from the flakes of skin I pick off it constantly, to the blood that spurts forth after I scratch off a scab, and the toe fungus infection I’m currently addressing through a three month course of anti fungal medication. Sometimes I look at other people and wonder how everyone else seems so pristine and full of vitality. 

- The sense that I need to start thinking about having a baby, but being unclear as to where I’m supposed to start. Do I want to have a family? When do I want that? Is 40 too old to have a child? Will I suddenly wake up at 34 and demand that I want a kid? Will it be too late? Will I even care? Is it enough to be the fun auntie?

- My ongoing lack of health insurance (now going on more than a year). I climb three times a week, ride my bike in New York City and generally do risky shit. I have had health insurance in the past as a freelancer, but the short of it is that there is no real good options for people who do not have full time jobs if you do not qualify for subsidized state insurance. I can pay $800 for mediocre health insurance, and there’s no real other option that is more cost effective. I could probably afford that cost, but there’s a simmering indignation of having to participate in the system where you must simply pay your way into safety. I read this recent article called Everyone Into the Grinder that essentially says if we don’t force the rich to participate in the same public-owned systems that we are all forced to contend with, they will remain unpleasant because privatization means some of us can just pay our way into comfort and basic human rights, reinforcing the status quo. 

“The degree to which we allow the rich to insulate themselves from the unpleasant reality that others are forced to experience is directly related to how long that reality is allowed to stay unpleasant. When they are left with no other option, rich people will force improvement in public systems. Their public spirit will be infinitely less urgent when they are contemplating these things from afar than when they are sitting in a hot ER waiting room for six hours themselves.”

A rainbow I saw at the gym
I have felt compelled to simply sit in my house just as Summer has begun to rear its sweaty, matted head. Social obligations have felt especially trying. My skin has been flaring up really badly, a field of psoriasis all over my legs and across my chest, so I have been hiding away and leaving the house only in long pants, which has at times felt like walking around with my legs encased in two furnaces given my normal proclivity of wearing mini skirts that show my butthole to the entire world every other summer of my life. My body has craved stillness, and I can only seem to exist in two extremes: completely alone, hiding out and doing nothing, or having so many plans that my body protests and breaks out in hives and psoriasis. It’s a constant cycle I’m always wrapped up in. 

It’s the same old tired script every time a season arrives: it’s too hot, it’s too cold to do anything. I have felt like a little sewer rat hiding in my cave, banging away at my keyboard to reach the finish line on this manuscript, trying to calm my nervous system to heal my crazy skin. At one point I went too deep on a 15 tweet thread someone posted in response to a headline that said scientists are predicting the first Billion people will die because of climate change, and that those people are going to be you and I: those of us completely divorced from the source of their food, who rely on the convenience of globalization to have things magically appear in front of us with zero effort. It’s the collapse of those systems that will get us, and I found myself at 1AM in the evening staring into a bowl of cereal I didn’t even buy or know where it came from, texting my boyfriend to see if we should start looking into buying land somewhere so I can learn to grow my own vegetables before it is too late. “You subsist entirely on imported sake, Japanese snacks and instant noodles. You’ll be fine,” he said.

This past 4th of July weekend, I had an overwhelming urge to work - to get ahead while everyone else was off and enjoying whatever they were doing. The city was eerily quiet, hot and soupy, oppressive in the direct sun. Thursday rolled into Friday which rolled into the weekend and I barely did any writing or real work, the vague sense that I needed to sitting on my thoughts like the silhouette of an apex predator staring me down. Each day, I would go to bed and remind myself that it was okay I didn’t do any work, there was always tomorrow and I deserve a break. I’m realizing that I feel deep down as though I don’t deserve a break, that I am so far behind (in what? And who decides where I should be but me?) that to pause for a brief moment is to sink into the background until I am no longer visible or important.

What did I do? I went climbing with friends multiple days, hours spent at the gym reaching for plastic holds, I ate five hot dogs and felt sick at my friends Tessa and Marshall’s BBQ, all of us attempting to blow vape bubbles (when you hit a vape and blow out the vapor into a bubble wand, which creates milky bubbles). I hung out with my friend’s baby, I saw my boyfriend and watched TV, I went to Beacon’s Closet and tried ten things on and bought nothing. I walked my dog endlessly and drank sparkling effervescent sake (Dassai 50 Blue) by myself in the cool dark cave of my apartment. 

All these things feel excessive and frivolous; and even now as I write this I write it with guilt, that it betrays how privileged and boring I am. I have effectively employed a cop of my own making in my head who is on duty 24/7 - the cop tells me that I should be thinking about how to make the world better, how my work will impact other people, that if I don’t write and read and shoot every day, if I don’t produce, then I am not worthy of considering myself an artist. I have no answers on how to get rid of this constant nagging guilt, the pervasive sense that it’s never enough, that any moment spent -god forbid- having fun, is a complete waste of time. The moment feels so urgent, and at the same time I can’t tell you or I am meant to do about it except stare at it until our brains hurt. 

Still, I go to bed and close my eyes and list three things I’m grateful for, three things that made today a good day, and hear my voice ringing out into the night reassuring myself that it’s okay to relax, that I deserve rest, too. 

Me with Ayla and Shannon