Last week was one of the toughest I’ve had in a while. I had to take a mental break from everything I’m doing and just do nothing at all, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Having bipolar, I’m used to trying to rise above the overwhelming pull of depression or making sure I don’t teeter over the edge when I’m manic. I go from one end to the other, the tension of the opposites, and it’s a landscape I am familiar with. But to sit and do nothing, and just clear my mind—no mind—I’m still trying to learn to master that.
This pandemic has been weighing down on all of us, and I try my best to take care of myself without having to rely too much on other people—though I really, really want to sometimes (like I said before, I can be a little needy, heh). What makes things even more difficult, I suppose, is when life continues to pummel us with hardship after hardship while in self-isolation. It’s like the universe barging in through the door, punching me in the gut, then still kicking me while I’m down. Yeah.
A conversation between my friend M. and I went on like this this morning:
M: “This is why I know you can overcome anything. This is how resilient you’ve become and it builds on itself…you’re out of that toxic, dangerous environment that smothered every bit of your efforts. You’ve always been this strong. Now you get to see it.”18 May 2020
T: “I just hope it’s enough. I guess the fear is that it’s not enough to push forward.”
M: “Why would you think that when it’s already been more than enough? It’s what got you out of that [unsafe situation] with no emotional support…you’ve already done so much, why you think that was it? There are always going to be insane obstacles that terrify you but your win-loss record is outstanding!”
T: “I guess because it feels like every time I’m knocked down it gets harder and harder for me to get back up maybe. Or perhaps longer…”
M: “But it’s been the opposite. You’re recovering faster and stronger. It’s actually the opposite. And we all get knocked down. All of us. It’s the getting up.”
T: “I guess [since surviving abuse]…I naively thought it’s now time for me to get settled and actually enjoy and be happy and make things out of things—I didn’t expect to have mental/emotional obstacles like the one I’m in now. Then again I think to myself maybe this is the adult life indeed, worrying about these things. That I am getting to know it just now because for the longest time all I had to worry was how to survive.”
M: “You simply WOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED THERE. And yes, this is you being independent. It’s the small things that bring joy. And most important…not sacrificing yourself for others’ safety…You have literally sacrificed everything emotionally and financially for the first three decades of your life. This is good. This is fine. These are all investments in yourself and you are most worthy of it. You went through that and will never have to think you didn’t do “enough.”
T: “…it was freeing that it was okay for me to do that.”
M: “…try to start looking at people’s energy and how it impacts you as just as bad as physical violence. Or more benignly as junk food. It doesn’t provide nutrition and it can harm you and you need to limit it as much as possible…”
So what helped me while doing nothing? Music.
I grew up making mixtapes for every little occasion, and so it’s natural that I transitioned to making playlists as technology changed. I could probably say that they’re a multi-volume soundtrack to my life.
Last weekend, this mix was on repeat: You May Yet Be Saved, which I made as a tiny reminder to myself to keep hanging in there.
Here are some songs from that playlist:
1. The Story I Heard by The Blind Pilots
And the measures you take
Just to wrestle your lord
Are the measures you fake
Whether you’re dead or just still
Will He measure your time?
Will He measure your will?
2. Lover of the Light by Mumford & Sons
Stretch out my life and pick the seams out
Take what you like, but close my ears and eyes
Watch me stumble over and over
3. Blood by The Middle East
Sit on your porch
And pluck your strings
Oh, and you’ll find somebody you can blame
And you’ll find a creek that runs out into the sea
4. Float On by Modest Mouse
Bad news comes, don’t you worry even when it lands
Good news will work it way to all them plans
We both got fired on, exactly, the same day
Well, we’ll float on, good news is on the way
5. Elation by Isbells
This is right,
This is good:
Expressions of elation,
A state of mind of which I’ll try
To re-echo from the start.
6. Hold On by Alabama Shakes
So, bless my heart and bless my mind
I got so much to do, I ain’t got much time
So, must be someone up above saying,
Come on, girl! Yeah, you got to get back up!
You got to hold on
When I make a mixtape, my intentions vary. Sometimes I choose songs that have the same mood or beat, that same feel or texture. Sometimes it’s purely for the genre. Sometimes it’s the lyrics. Maybe for this one it’s a combination of all three.
I have a complicated relationship with myself—self-loathing and self-recrimination are constant companions, but I have also designated myself as my own cheerleader, that one voice that tells myself to get back up, dammit. Music helps me confront my delirium, and puts me on a state of mind.
This soundtrack gets taken out and dusted off when I need to kick myself in the ass, I guess. That’s how you’ll find me last Saturday, swaying by myself in the afternoon light, my eyes closed, my hands over my head, palms up, a supplication to the forces of my life, praying, nay chanting, I can do this I can do this I can do this.
This was written in collaboration with