I’m becoming convinced that my right eye is slowly being dragged down to hell.
I’ve had issues with my vision since fatefully strolling in front of a car in 2014: trouble making my eyes work together, which in turn gives me double vision. This, however, is different. Like, nek level specific. For the most part my eyes work fine, but every once in a while my right eyeball will start to wander directly straight down. This gives the impression that an ill-equipped projectionist is running the tubes connecting my brain and my vision and, yes, possibly plummeting into the depths of Hades as he or she does.
Let’s say, for example, I’m looking at a building with two people standing in front of it. While my left eye will try valiantly to keep this image in place, the right one will ensure that the image will slowly start to warp and descend, before disappearing from view entirely, heading into pure darkness. And didn’t I read somewhere that in hell – or at least in Hades, the Greek multi-levelled mythical version of hell – one of the levels is just pure blackness? I mean, I haven’t done anything decidedly bad, just more personally morally questionable (unless the crazy Christian God is in effect, in which case, yeah, I’m heading straight to super gay, super interesting hell, and I’ll see you all there). To be fair to Satan, I suppose that I haven’t done anything empirically good either. There’s still time. Maybe.
Accordingly, with my disbelief in the fantasy world that I and many other children like me were fed, I don’t really know that I believe in like, a full-blown and hyper organised Fated Purpose For My Life. Members of my family have repeatedly told me how good it is, how lucky I am to have such an affinity for writing from such a young age. And… sure, I guess? It never really felt like much more than something I knew I had to keep doing. I knew that writing would always play a large part in my life, but at the same time, I thought there was no way – No Fucking Way – I’d ever get anything published or ever make a career out of it. (Still not sure about the career thing, but now for more governmental “Australia is a shitty country that hates the arts and the Other but loves racism and tax breaks for smarmy rich white guys” reasons.) It took me going to Monash University – in particular, their student theatre – to meet and engage with people way ahead of me who were Doing It. This was like my wake up call: they were Doing It, and I could Do It too! All I really had to do was just go ahead and actually Do It! What a world!
I don’t know if I’m tired of Doing It. I don’t think I am. I love It more than most things I do or have ever done in my life. Nearly dying has proven this, laid out my life piece by piece and gone: “THIS IS WHAT MATTERS” and “THIS IS WHAT CERTAINLY FUCKING DOESN’T”, allowing me to sweep what doesn’t matter into the bin. I’m not tired, but I also really am. Tired of the shitfight and of constantly justifying myself. Tired of endlessly jostling for attention, and tired of constantly trying to be THE ONE WHO WINS THE BIG THING even though THE BIG THING won’t really CHANGE YR LIFE no matter how much you want it to, instead it’ll just make you start wondering what THE NEXT BIG THING is.
I began a PhD in early September, and this is my version of becoming a school teacher: only, without the pre-pubescence and self-loathing. The power to recontextualise my life is a cold and welcome relief. To bring it down from a grand macro into a much tighter micro, and focus on something as insignificant as finding readings or marking assignments. I don’t think I ever realised how much pressure I was putting on myself, and to have that pressure taken away simply through financial security is incredibly relieving.
When I first started seeing Daniel, my psych, I was applying for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). After all, I reasoned, I have a disability, and I need support – why shouldn’t I get it? (As it turned out, I was deemed disabled, sure, but not disabled enough for actual monetary support. I did, however, get given a pastel pink concession card. Thanks, ‘straya.)
In order for Daniel to get a handle on my mental state for a DSP support letter, we did an exercise whereby I answered a series of questions and he snap-diagnosed me. It went a little bit like this:
HIM: So what’ve you been doing since getting back from Germany?
ME: Oh, like, heaps.
ME: I’ve written something like 7 or 8 plays. I’ve done two shows. I finished NIDA. I won a fellowship at the State Library. I’ve won and been shortlisted for a bunch of awards. Yeah. Getting stuff done. It’s… yeah. Yeah.
HIM: Oh, just – you seem pretty blaze about it. How have you celebrated?
HIM: Well, you’ve done so much – how have you celebrated your achievements?
As it turns out, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in part just screams at your brain to WORK WORK WORK NOW DO THE THING NOW RIGHT NOW NEXT THING NEXT WHAT’S NEXT KEEP WORKING. Unsurprisingly, this fucking sucks the joy and pleasure out of everything that you do. I hadn’t taken a moment to actually take stock of anything I’d done, and actually, how fucking cool it might be that I could win things in a brain injury stupor.
It’s something I’m practicing now – or trying to. I don’t meditate, but I’ve got an iPhone app called YOGA STUDIO that I use while listening to some chill music. YOGA STUDIO takes you through a series of stretches and poses, and the best part is, there are no other spandex-obsessed yoga freaks watching you try and fail, and no mirrors, unless you want them. At the moment I just do a 30 minute BASIC circuit, but I’m working the way up to INTERMEDIATE. As I stiffly assume each pose, my brain slowly but surely quiets down. Like:
BRAIN: YOU ARE WORTHLESS AND YOU’RE GONNA FUCKING DIE ALONE, PS.
ME: *assumes Downward Dog position*
BRAIN: PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE PRETTY WEIRD. AND THEY HATE YOU. ALSO. THIS MATTERS.
ME: *moves into Cobra*
BRAIN: PEOPLE… PEOPLE–
ME: *moves into Warrior I with vigour*
After the cycle’s done, my whole body comes alive, and I lie in the afterglow and think… nothing at all. A halfer of uncoordinated stretching blows the mentally ill cobwebs from my think-tank for an undisclosed amount of time, and doesn’t that feel good. There’s an aggravated authority living in my brain, and it pretty much gets off on telling me, endlessly, that I’m not enough. Yoga doesn’t tell me that I am enough, but it doesn’t tell me much of anything at all. It just allows me some room to breathe and recalibrate. And at the end of the day, theatre is… theatre. It’s very privileged, very ridiculous, and very much doesn’t matter as much as we like to think it does, sometimes.
It’s not about giving up on your dreams, but when your dreams take on the air of nightmares; injecting you with fear – of failure, of ignorance, of making shit work, of going down the wrong path, of having gone down the wrong path – maybe you should recalibrate your dreams.
My Fated Purpose, then, is to live and maybe to enjoy myself.
That’s obviously getting harder with the world in its current state, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the things you can’t have.