Boston: E-Journal entry

Finding inspiration within the walls of your bedroom.

This entire post belongs in my composition journal, but here I am, posting it on the internet instead.

Yesterday was day 6 in quarantine. I spent the day sipping on tea while scrolling through classes for next semester. Towards the end of the day, I started flipping through the second half of a book I’ve been working on for about 2 months now. This wasn’t because it was boring or uneventful in any way, I just didn’t have the mental capacity (or the time) to sit in one place long enough to just read. Luckily for the pile of To Be Read books in the corner of my room, spending a week inside freed up a lot of time for reading. I didn’t know how many I’d get through, but I was determined to finish this one. So, I opened this book last night and didn’t stop until I sobbed my way through its final chapters. You know that cry where you have a few, cute lil tear drops on your face? Yeah, definitely not that one. More like the kind where you start questioning why glasses don’t have little windshield wipers. I knew the end would be sad, but I wasn’t expecting full body tremors. Maybe it was a mix of things? Maybe my brain was using the sadness of a book as an excuse to let out all the other emotions I avoided because I just didn’t have the mental capacity (or the time) to sit with.

Being quarantined in your bedroom for 6 days really forces you to spend quality time with yourself. Finding inspiration within the four walls of your bedroom isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. I don’t really know how to be bored. That’s a weird thing to say, especially since I often stay home whenever I’m not at work or in school. My “lazy” days are usually spent cleaning, reorganizing, aimlessly running to the shop, or diving into some unnecessary house project. All of my spare time is dedicated to improving the state of my surroundings, and its always been this way. Along with being overly sentimental, I’ve always been known to free fall into ADHD-fueled hobbies, projects, plans, etc. but the falling never comes to an end.

Finishing a task should result in a sense of fulfillment or well-deserved relaxation. My tasks end with a short-lived moment of contentment before another inescapable free-dive. Agitation immediately rolls in after considering all the other tasks I could’ve accomplished during that time. Maybe this is why some aspect of my mental health is always in danger of collapsing. Maybe I rearrange the furniture in my living room order to procrastinate tackling the cluttered chaos of my own thoughts. Maybe acknowledging that several parts of me are in desperate need of repair is too much for my own inner handywoman. Maybe this is why my default response has always been to run from any situation inspiring a heightened state of emotion, like anything involving love, anger, and sadness – the three emotions I speak about often, but always from a neutral, objective perspective.

Instead of thinking “hey, you know what? This situation makes me really _____, I need to address it!” My brain immediately intellectualizes the emotion in order to remove myself from any associated fallout. If I do get emotional over a personal situation, it only lasts until I realize “oh, I’m crying right now? I should be embarrassed.” However, this only happens when something impacts me directly because I’m still regularly brought to tears over movies, books, videos of baby animals, the death of BingBong, etc. So, when I consider all the times I’ve cried over mostly trivial circumstances (like an old man sitting at an empty chess table in Harvard Sq at 10am on a Tuesday), maybe these are all just distractions so my actual emotions can sneak out the side door.

A few weeks ago, there was a table at work playing a card game called “So…” and they invited me to play a few rounds. Obviously I couldn’t sit down for too long, so I’d answer a question or listen to their responses whenever I was checking-in and/or dropping off a beer. The first card I pulled was “when was the last time you felt truly alone?”

My answer came out immediately, almost like that story has been simmering beneath the surface for weeks. I started choking up as soon as I started speaking. This definitely would’ve been super weird if I was the only one, but luckily they were getting emotional too. This also would’ve been double-weird if I was the only one getting super deep and personal, but I definitely wasn’t. I cried over their answers too. There’s nothing like crying on the clock with strangers on a Friday night in a crowded bar.

Just another example of how much I love strangers.

Anyway, being alone in my room for 6 days put a lot of things into perspective. I’ve been able (forced) to reflect on all the silly coping mechanisms I thought I recovered from after the last shutdown. You know, when we all initially told ourselves we would never return to the “old normal” because of how unhealthy it was. The first two days were spent writing. I really enjoyed that part until I started tipping into the “need to write everyday or else” territory. Writing has always been therapeutic for me, but I can get really obsessive so sometimes I need to take a step back. I’m also overly critical of myself because I fail to remember that first drafts are supposed to be shitty. Recently, I’ve been trying to say “I’m actually pretty confident in my writing” when talking to others in an academic setting because I’m testing out this whole “fake it till you make it” thing. Imposter syndrome is a wild ride.

The third day was spent in bed binge-watching the final season of Money Heist. The other days were spent coloring, making origami, writing, stretching, and doing anything that came to mind. Honestly, all the days feel like a blur at this point, but I know that I definitely cried into a book last night.

Over the course of 6 days, I thought about all those coping mechanisms I’ve used to rationalize the impulsive decisions I’ve made recently. This was inspired by the need to sanitize every inch of space I touched outside of my bedroom. Since I’m the only one in my house with COVID, I’ve been trying to take all necessary precautions in order to not pass it on to my roommates. If I used the tea kettle, it was sanitized immediately after. I made food at record speed and cleaned/sanitized every surface, knob, switch, and so on, before eating dinner at the desk in my bedroom. Every night, I poured boiling water down the kitchen and bathroom sinks. After my morning shower, I’d open the window and bleach all the surfaces. Once I dropped my towels off in my room, I’d return to Lysol the air because I was worried about the air particles mixed into steam from the shower.

The weirdest part has been the familiarity of it all.

I understand that this behavior is necessary when trying to avoid passing on a super contagious virus that been consuming our life over the past two years. However, deliberately attempting to scourge all evidence of myself has been part of my daily routine for years. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by emotions, especially when it involves another people that I care deeply about, my automatic response has been to remove all traces of myself. In the last post, I wrote about breaking up with my ex because I realized that I actually loved him. This sounds backwards, right? Well, it is. There’s no denying that, but I never meant to hurt anyone. I just wanted to make sure he would be okay and in my mind, the only way to ensure his safety was to leave.

I’ve always felt like a virus. Instead of spraying the air with Lysol to eliminate airborne particles, I thought that removing myself was the only way to protect those I cared about. I don’t mean for this post to sound all gloom and doom, I’m getting to the positive part.

Anyway, my behavior over the past week was reasonable because of the situation. I had an actual virus that the CDC had protocol for, but this behavior would match the criteria for contamination OCD during any other time. My persistent fear of being toxic to others only caused more pain and suffering, to both myself and those that I cared about, but I also understand that these were the only tools I had. I’ve also accepted that not every person is interested in hearing my apology, especially since I am unable to promise that it won’t happen again.

This chronic feeling of toxicity has been apparent ever since I was a child. I remember drawing a map of my mother’s old apartment complex in Ridge. I saw all the problems occurring around me and assumed that I was the underlying cause. I mapped out the roads nearby and created an escape plan using colored pencils on loose leaf paper. The only other person that knew about this map was a friend that lived in the same complex because she also felt like running. I hid the map in my shoe for two weeks and only took it out to study in bed before drifting off to sleep.

I never actually used the map, but that memory is the initial spark that fueled every decision to leave. I’m an Emotional Olympian when it comes to running away, and all of them can be traced back to being a kid with a map folded into my shoe.

I don’t want to run anymore and I understand that I’ve set fires to bridges that cannot be reconstructed, but I think I’m doing a really good job at learning how to stay. I sat in my room for 6 days thinking about how removing yourself from others and disinfecting surfaces around you is only necessary during severe situations, like having a virus that resulted in a global pandemic, not when someone says “I enjoy being around you.”

Thank you for reading my E-Journal.


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