There aren’t many words in the song “Eat The Elephant,” but there are enough to cover the essential occurrences in the past month or year. Maynard sings about a looming omnipresence, but I have to define omnipresence in my own terms (without wanting to be solipsistic). It’s the presence of everybody else but you; it’s whatever seeks your attention because it needs you. It could be work, it could be household chores, it could be a fight, or it could be a friend committing suicide in silence.
Surprisingly, the last one didn’t hit me as much as it should have, not yet. When you have a busy unhealthy routine that thoroughly consumes you, barely anything that happens around you will seem like it matters. This routine becomes a vicious cycle, but you try so hard to make a change. Then, this routine turns into years that you can’t get back, as though you gambled them away for nothing.
And then you get sick. Weak. Old. Every symptom you look up says it’s related to aging. Breaking nails, thinning hair,… I’ve not been good to my biological clock, if anything, I’ve fucked it up in recent years while still trying to maintain it, but it wasn’t enough. When trying to build a semi-healthy routine, there just isn’t any consistency, not a happy one, not a healthy enough one. There is still work, chores, and other things.
I snapped hard the other week, and when my stress level rises, I make myself vulnerable (extremely vulnerable) to sickness. I caught some kind of infection that lasted for a week, and I’m still carrying around some lingering symptoms. I never went to the doctors, and I think I really should, so they can properly diagnose it. I’m not sure how much I’m really recovering or whether it’s something else almost entirely. I’m too chicken to find out. I know myself well enough to say that I need mental and physical stability, and fitness is the first step to getting there, but nobody understands it. It’s the only time I can walk a straight line without falling. Suppose I’m happiest when I’m physically active. Who wouldn’t be?
I’m overdue for checking whether I’m still at risk of getting old people’s sicknesses and other conditions while still in my 30s. Maynard talks about an ominous and daunting task. I approach all tasks (work or not work) with a huge level of anxiety, but I do my best not to freeze. There used to be a period (many of them) where I would simply step in and just do it, read in front of people, lead a group, socialise properly. But now, I want to say No more than ever.
I don’t want much in life, never did, though I did set foolish goals that got me nowhere. Now even the littlest things I want seem so unattainable. But the truth is I’m merely tied to a chair, and I tell myself I can’t untie the knot. Either that, or I’m asking myself, “Who the fuck is going to pay me for untying the knot?”
I expressed that to my friend before they killed themselves. I told them they were young, smart, and had a huge loyal heart, and it’s their goddamn heart they need to tame. You can’t waste it on one single person. I told them they must, at their age, put themselves first before it’s too late.
A few weeks later, their father told me they had just “stepped out of life,” as though life were a game you can choose to no longer participate in (which is true). But ‘depression pain’ and ‘sickness pain’ hurt on a similar level; you’ve been there, done that. You want to sleep it off and not think about tomorrow, yet it will always be there. And each time, you have to take that foot out of bed. And I hear Maynard say that this is a crippling undertaking, but you still do it. Work, household chores, fights, getting sick. You won’t heal any faster when you get older, especially when you don’t take care of yourself.
I’m surrounded by air leaks, creaking, popping walls, dysfunctional rain gutters, and insufficient insulation in this goddamn old house, and I’m in sync with it. I feel that the foundation is suffering and will eventually fail. But when this piece of shit collapses, I don’t want to be here.
I’m still figuring my life out as I did at 16. Poor choices take you to bad places, and if you don’t get out, you’ll succumb to anxiety. It helps to learn to say No more often. Aggressively. Everyone has ulterior motives, even you, for saying yes so often. The only time you do anything for free is when you really care.
Staying strong is tough; telling yourself that how you feel is who you are is even tougher. How you feel will only ever matter to you and no one else; it’s also the only thing you have, whether you share it or not. But when I’m affected by the decisions you make, I will very well tell you how I feel, even if it takes me a year to gather the words.
One year ago, I left a job post (or was let go), and only this month, I left them an average to not-so-good review, expressing how I’d truly felt working under their wing, Though I only lasted three months; they took that review personally and even struck back. But the truth was I’d never felt more useless at any other job. They accused me of “constantly refusing” to follow their instructions, which wasn’t true. I was just too dumb to understand their software. In reality, I felt silenced; I felt the superior tried to tamper with my voice rather than help me. I get on with a lot of people, but this was probably the biggest personality clash I’d experienced. My identity was suffering, and I knew I couldn’t stay. I even hated myself for trying. Soon after their reply, they got some current employee to write a positive review. It’s a clear sign they were pissed at me, and I even felt guilty for a whole week and wondered whether I should’ve just left it be. Then I thought about how they’d offered to stay in touch and send me referrals on my last day there. In fact, they removed/deleted me immediately, so all that was just fake gesturing and bullshitting, which I hate the most. So what’s wrong when I think about it a year later and decide to express how I feel?
I wish mum and dad had always resolved conflicts with me when I was a child. Then, I wouldn’t wait six months to 20 years to confront my demons. But nobody gets it. I’m trying. There are ways to make it worse for me, and people have done that many times before for reasons that are inexplicable to me. When someone is trying to swim one lap at a time, you don’t throw three tidal waves at her. When she steps out of the water, barely breathing, she’ll still find the strength to kill you.
Nobody has the right to judge you for the decisions you make, but they can have a say when you tell them about it and even ask for their advice. Asking friends for advice is the worst because half the time, they side with you, but you don’t want them to take any side. And don’t they realise that they only know your side of the story? But even your most neutral friend will one day turn their back on you because you didn’t follow their advice. Why do you have to follow anyone’s advice when you just need a non-judgemental listener?
Isn’t it sometimes easier to just eat the elephant in the room? It makes nobody a hero simply by addressing it. The heroic part of it would be to take action. The elephant isn’t dumb; it’s full of love, loyalty, and memories but also full of pain that no one cares to acknowledge. So it chooses to take action. Can you blame it for stepping out of the game?