I have become very interested in cleaning recently. I arrived back to New York after a year of living with very modest possessions to a small bout of horror at exactly how much I owned and the state of the DAA (Department of Apartment Affairs). But most especially to how much I own that I don't care about at all, or that I have no rubric with which to measure. As I struggled with the overwhelming possibilities of modern life as it appears to play out, outside my window, my trinkets struck a ringing chorus behind me. All my peccadillos at war with the raw material of someone who collects on emotion.
And isn't this a slice of what life feels like these days? Let's try television for example. Over the weekend I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Maria Bamford, and Stephen Falk talk about mental health in their TV comedies (Bojack Horseman, Lady Dynamite, and You're the Worst). It was a fantastic conversation regarding two of my favorite current TV shows (and one I've heard a lot about but haven't gotten around to [YTW]). I had seen two other New Yorker Festival talks, one a conversation between Jeffrey Eugenides and Zadie Smith and another with Atul Gawande about public distrust of science. But when I shared with people the exciting talks of the weekend, I decided to lead with the one I thought people would recognize. And yet when I shared the names and shows and topic, I was met with the kind of blank stares that make you want to walk away in the middle of your own story.
And how could I blame anyone for their blankness? Sometimes I am quiet when conversation would be a better salve. But I give people the benefit of the doubt. Why press when most answers are so easily understood? You haven't seen a show? OK. Is this hard to believe? No. Should I assume you will care about this show simply because I do? No. Does it soothe me to know more about why you haven't seen the show? Maybe you don't watch TV. Maybe you just don't like talking about TV. Maybe you just don't like talking to me. All acceptable versions and not usually an avenue I feel compelled to take people down.
This is why substances can be good for me, they allow me to pry and prod a bit more. I am a curious little kitty, deep down, but I'm a sensitive one as well. I don't want to take up people's time. I don't mind if they don't like me (as long as we can still be pleasant and professional if we have to work together, or we agree to respect boundaries if were socially in play together). Some of this comes from some trust issues that I have from way back. I only really feel compelled to share with people I feel safe with. This usually extends further than, you appear interested in the conversation, but it's a good place to start. I don't spend my conversation cheaply.
To stick with TV as a talking point. It's often not long into a conversation before hitting up against the talking point of, just how much there is to watch, and who really has the time? To which my immediate reaction is, "well everyone, clearly," but which is also deep down, a very good point. How do we have time for this? How do we have time to watch so many shows while also seeing movies, reading books, keeping up on trending topics, and work gossip and fashion trends and new apps, not to mention our living, breathing friends and family.
It's tricky to have a conversation about anything without feeling a bit up to your neck in it. Which is why conversation can be really hard for me. I have a lot to say about certain things. But when I pretend to have a lot to say about everything, I feel quite over-exposed. I feel petty. I feel exhausted. As if I am full of unexamined feelings that I am spouting off, when deep down I profess my need to be understood. Seen and heard. And it feels a bit of a betrayal. Not to anything high and mighty, but just to the high and mighty ideals of self. Of who I am and who I want to be.
This is what my room feels like to me currently. Everything has something to say to me, but I'm afraid by my own standards of conversation I simply can't comply. I'm afraid I have to break up with some of my possessions, and it's a real truth that I haven't done any sort of purging since I moved to New York, which is rather a hard thing to do in the city (constantly accumulate) you would think. But then I still have a gold frame wall's worth of boxes in my room.
Do you have to clean your whole world to understand who you are without your clothes on? I reckon not, but when a go-to feeling of my life is being up to my neck in people, bills, day-job shifts, to do lists, and emotions, a good rinsing off can go a long way.
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