When it Just Doesn’t Work
The Scratchpad №74
It was completely mysterious from the start and remains a question to be entered, not answered.
It comes and goes without warning and just the other day it came.
The thoughts were moving so fast that nothing had enough time to take form. “Where has all the common sense gone?” This is the question that lingers just above the forehead like a carrot on a stick when nervous inquietude sinks into the mind.
Since youth, I’ve leaned towards the reclusive life. Being alone does not scare me. I grow taller in solitude and magically, my batteries are full-charged after a stretch of distance from the 100% pretending that goes on in the mainstream life.
But on this day, causal peace wasn’t going to be enough. This was a fresh, full-blown attack that leaves you absent of your own will. Normally, I take delight in the small delicacies of a day — letting my cell phone die intentionally, taking a nap at 3 P.M., or preparing arroz caldo while sipping a blanc instead of working, or whatever.
These things were tempting, but lacked horsepower. I imagined myself attempting these remedies only to quit midway through.
Then, a boyhood inspiration entered my thinking and I remembered that I had saved a four-pack from the store for such a moment. For as long as I can remember, pulling on a crisp white T-shirt has always renewed me. There was prep work to this routine, however. A fresh shave and clean socks were in order. Indigo jeans and eight-year Chuck Taylor’s would complete the outfit.
When it was time, I pulled a fresh one out from the pack, unrolled it, then snapped it like a blanket to rid of the wrinkles. I pulled the T-shirt over my head and got a whiff of the factory and then tugged at the bottom to secure the look. I looked in the mirror and the reflection was perfect except it only showed the surface.
It felt like I was 100% pretending.
The plan didn’t work so I sat at the kitchen table planning on what to do next. A behavior economics teacher had taught me that writing down what you know for sure is a way to cope with the mental circus days — it’s a way to “plant your feet on the ground” she said.
I tried it and drugged on coffee with a headache and blurred vision I looked down at a “to-do” list that was as long as my arm. The breathing became uneven and foreign bolts of pain entered through the chest. Many of the tasks, projects and commitments on the list felt forced and unnatural.
The exercise did not feel like it helped me plant my feet on the ground. It felt more like I had tied a dumbbell around my neck and jumped off a cliff.
It was small but significant when I looked to my left and spotted leftovers on my son’s highchair. Earlier that morning I watched him trying to eat that piece of toast that was too big for his mouth. He tried once, then again, and for good measure a third time. It was a playful failure and when he realized it wasn’t going to work, he moved on and forgot about the toast.
Here was the common sense that seemed so far from my thinking in that moment.
My best diagnosis of my own anxiety was perhaps due to the fact that I was trying to do too much. And unlike my son who can prune himself away after realizing something doesn’t work, I employ my American spirit and attempt to bulldoze the situation when met with tension.
The feeling was still lingering, but it was enough wisdom to let my phone die intentionally, crawl into bed for an afternoon nap to wake up to see if we had ingredients to make arroz caldo.
Last week → Scars
As expected, the submissions for this prompt did not disappoint. There’s a variety of takes presented and all great reads for Mental Health Awareness Month. Pick a couple and show some love to our contributors.
This week → Reach the deep
This week’s prompt comes to us from The Book of Five Rings. This is the last prompt for the month of May, then we will take a short break before picking it back up in June. If you’ve been thinking about participating, this is your chance.
Fallen moonlight faint and broke, the silver and the sun provide Draping conscious in a cloak, floating like a…
Austin Graydon Lack killed it with this whole piece. Top to bottom phenomenal.
One of the best reads this week easily goes to Swathi Parasuraman’s response to the Scars prompt. Laced with emotion and all too real internal dialogue.
Odds & Ends
A few non-linear pieces to chew on:
With love from California,