There’s a pressure in my head. In conversation I call it “my inner ear thing,” some complicated arrangement of fluids in my sinus cavity and their inability to drain properly, and it means sometimes (and more and more lately) I feel a gentle squeeze inside my head, and I can’t hear you very well, and you might notice me hang my head down below my knees because that momentarily clears my ears and relieves the pressure, and I can hear you again—at least until I stand up.

There’s a pressure in my head. It starts more or less the moment I wake up, as I imagine the day and how I want it to play out — as I imagine the list of things I hope to accomplish. The pressure doesn’t come from this list of things, exactly; rather, it comes from the list of things I have not accomplished, the endless, ever-growing list that I can only address one day at a time, the list which, no matter how I whittle away at it, only seems to grow longer — a list that corresponds, not coincidentally, with the piling-on of student loan interest and the piling-on of years. There’s a new list, too, or rather a list of which I’ve only recently become aware: the list of things I will never accomplish. At half my current age, I didn’t even believe in the existence of such a list, and now this list occupies a fair amount of my thoughts.

There’s a pressure in my head, a ubiquitous sense that feels as if I have a heightened sense of gravity, an awareness of everything pushing down. Are there people who don’t feel this, this constant downward pressure? Is it possible somehow the force of gravity is stronger here, around me, than elsewhere? Some days it pushes down so strong that it’s hard to breathe; it’s as if I’m standing on Saturn. The feeling is literally saturnine. Some days it feels as though the air is made of liquid, and on days like this, all I can do is be grateful I’m still drawing breath at all. At least the air isn’t solid, I think.

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