Thinking

I haven’t been on here in a while.

It’s been hard. I guess I moved thinking that it would magically change everything, that I’d be happy and not anxious because my family would be able to support me. While they have supported me, encouraged me, and helped me in my job search, the fact of the matter is that I’m still depressed, still anxious, and still wondering what the hell I want to do with my life.

I guess it’s hard today because it’s been cloudy and rainy all day. That always seems to put me in a sort of depressed mood. I’m so tired of feeling like crap, though. I’m tired of always feeling like I’m not being allowed to live my life to the fullest because this fucking disease is keeping me back. I’m also tired of not knowing what I want to do with my life because I got two very expensive degrees in the humanities that haven’t seemed to help me get anywhere.

Progress on my novel has completely ceased. I can’t even remember the last time I opened the file to work on it. And I can’t imagine a point in the future when I might actually want to work on it.

I’m sorry to be so depressing. I just don’t know what else to write. I know that depression lies and that I’m not really useless and won’t really be miserable for the rest of my life. But what about the now? What about the crushing anxiety I face daily?

It’s weird because I can’t tell what’s feeding what: is it the depression feeding the anxiety, or is it the anxiety feeding the depression? It’s a chicken or the egg scenario that seems to be unceasing.

I know that one day I’ll feel better and things will seem to fall into place. I just wish that day were sooner.

At Least One Decision

I made an important decision.

I’m still waiting to hear back about the interview. But, I’m going to take the rental car anyway, load up as much as I can including Bucky, and make the drive back to Chicago. I’ll come back later in the year to pick up the rest of my things.

It’s just time. It’s time for me to be back with my family, and it’s time for me to get my life better on track.

Will my problems go away when I move? No, they won’t. I’ll still have bipolar II disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I’ll still be neurotic waiting to hear back for interviews. But I’ll have my family to support me. I’ll be in a place with better social support.

Maybe an Interview?

I was contacted yesterday to set up a phone interview (for today) for a school near where my parents live.

But maybe I should back up for a bit. I decided that it would be in my best interest to move back to Chicago to be closer to my family for the emotional and social support. I’m not really thriving economically or socially in the New York area. It’s time to move on. I’m sad to leave, but I don’t regret my move here.

So, obviously, I decided that I should apply for jobs in the Chicago area and see what happens. So, I applied for this particular school district knowing that they’re in need of decent teachers.

Once I had the interview, the lady said that I would need to come in for an in-person interview, which we scheduled for Monday.

However. My teaching license for New Jersey is provisional, meaning that I need to a) be hired at a school and b) undergo extra classes in order to become fully certified. The lady said that assistant principal had questions about whether or not it was provisional. Also, “provisional” apparently means different things in different states.

I’m in limbo now waiting to hear back. I’m worried that my license won’t be sufficient, and the interview will be cancelled. But I’m also worried that I’ll have the interview anyway. It’s very rushed–I’ll interview on Monday, and if I get the job, I’ll start on Friday.

Keep in mind that I’m still in New Jersey, but the school is outside Chicago. I will, in the span of about a week, have to upend my life 730 miles away from where I’m currently living. I’m not fully packed. I won’t even be able to take all of my stuff until later this year when I can get time off to come back and load it into a van.

And it’s going to be a tough job. I know how to teach, but I don’t have lesson plans yet. I’m assuming I’ll get a curriculum, but I will have to spend many hours preparing for classes.

It’s a weird catch-22. I’m worried if I don’t get the job, and I’m worried if I do get the job.

Right now, I’m stuck waiting. I can’t make any decisions until I hear back. I have already reserved a rental car in order to make the drive to Chicago (flying would probably be messy; it’s supposed to storm in the New York area all this weekend.) But I don’t even know if I’ll need the rental car until I hear back.

Maybe I should take the rental car anyway and make the journey back to Chicago. This has been coming for some time now, and I’m anxious to get back. But maybe that would be too rushed; I can take some time to get my things packed and make a proper move. But that’ll be two weeks from now.

I know I’m being impatient, and I should let things happen more organically. But you have to understand–there’s a whole new life waiting for me in another city. Obviously I’m anxious to begin that one.

I’m not sure what I want to do at this point. I’ll have a clearer picture when I hear back from the interview lady. But what I do know is that I’m making the right decision to move back.

Meditation

I experienced something rather extraordinary last night.

I tried mindful meditation for the first time with a guided track from YouTube. Wouldn’t you know, it worked. The anxiety that I had been experiencing for the day and the past few weeks simply melted away.

I spoke to a wonderful and trusted former professor about what I had been going through lately. It helped a lot. After I asked her about it, she suggested that meditation would most certainly be useful. So, after about a week of saying something like, “I’ll get to it,” I finally tried it.

Although I woke up with a small baseline of anxiety (not nearly as bad as yesterday, however,) I meditated again this morning, and it really seemed to help. The questions I’ve had seem more clear now, and the answers more finite, even from just two sessions of meditation. Above all, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel for getting out of this anxious hole I’ve been trying to wade through for the past few weeks.

Maybe I’ll always be a more anxious person than the general population. But at least I’m finding tools to help.

What Happens?

I’ve been having an extremely difficult time lately.

The recovery process/intensive outpatient program has been long and arduous, not to mention painful and frightening lately.

There is one question that has been plaguing my consciousness and triggering buckets of anxiety: what happens after we die? I don’t mean in a clinical sense; obviously respiration ceases, heartbeat stops, cells die, and earthly consciousness terminates.

More pressing is this: Is there an afterlife? Do we even *want* there to be an afterlife? Or do we just stop–cease to be? Or, do we reincarnate?

I’ve read that death is a mostly pleasant experience. Near-death experiences suggest a calm, peaceful time, and death is not to be feared.

But I don’t want to die. If it’s between that and living forever, I’d sooner pick living forever. But I know that isn’t possible. We have to die because all biology dies (with the possible exception of the hydra, which is essentially biologically immortal.

I envy those who have a firm definitive answer. Even “when you’re gone, you’re gone” might be better than perpetual uncertainty.

When I was young, I was taught that if you were good, accepted Jesus into your heart, and repented, you would go to Heaven. If you were bad and lived “wickedly,” you went to Hell. Period, full stop. But now I’m not so sure. In some sense, the faith that people have regarding this issue is envious. I wish I had more faith in God or the universe or whatever you’d like to call it.

In any case. This has been hard. Recovery isn’t easy, and it’s excruciatingly slow.

But maybe, just maybe, I’ll find answers–or even if I don’t, I’ll be able to reconcile the fact that when it’s my time, it’s my time.

Intensive Outpatient Program

Today, I went to a private intensive outpatient program in the hopes of getting treatment for my out of control anxiety and OCD.

I’m equal parts relieved and frustrated. I’ve been assigned a higher care level than I’d hoped (one step below hospitalization,) and I’ll have to attend for longer than I thought at first (five hours a day, Monday-Friday.) I guess I can only hope that I move down the ladder to a less stringent therapy regiment.

But for now, I guess it’s okay. I was pretty upset when they told me, but then again, I’m kind of wondering if I’d be upset no matter what had happened. I guess it’s time to be a little more open-minded about treatment.

Unpacking the Pack of Dolls: Trash Literature

One of my favorite genres is gay paranormal romance.

Okay, there, I admitted it. I, Jonathan Sanford, a self-confessed scholar of literature, love what some might call “trash lit.”

But then I got to thinking. Who’s to say what is trash and what isn’t? Yes, E.L. James’ vile (and exceedingly problematic) Fifty Shades of Grey was certainly trashy (trust me, I *tried* but failed to slog through it) but it became a worldwide phenomenon. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series was painful for all but the most dedicated of fans, and yet it sold millions.

I am not going to debate whether the two aforementioned examples have any sort of literary merit. In theory they do since so many people purchased and enjoyed them, but realistically, these were never going to be the pinnacle of literature in English. Their plots are poorly executed, the writing is so-so at best, and they both bother the feminist in me deeply for a number of reasons.

But what I can at least wonder is this: does a captive audience literature make?

The pinnacle of trash lit, in my opinion, is none other than Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. Inside Susann’s captivating tale of sex, drugs, and the glamour of Old New York is actually, arguably, a novel of serious artistic and literary merit. Susann wove the story of three women’s lives expertly, cataloguing their rise and fall through the backdrop of the New York Gliteratti.

Fun Fact: Susann’s novel was the best-selling work of fiction of the entire year of 1966. It went on to sell more than 30 million copies.

Susann’s novel is, obviously, trashy because of the sex, drugs, and glamour. It’s trashy because the novel morphed into a pop culture phenomenon, skewering the broadway audition scene in its wake along with captivating millions of bored housewives into a somewhat meaningful existence with its page-turning, pill-popping addictiveness, much like the “dolls” Susann describes in the novel. (Yes, I’ve read the novel, and I can verify the contents of its juicy, unrelenting melodramatic goodness.)

Realistically, Susann was never looking to write “serious” literature. She was looking to make money, and she did a fantastic job of it. But I think after fifty years of retrospection, we can begin to understand what Susann did. She paved the way for author Jackie Collins, another producer soapy trash lit. She capitalized on tabloid culture, ripping her characters and plots straight from the headlines. In this way, Susann provided commentary on the society of post-war New York, airing out everyone’s dirty laundry.

So, is this what makes Susann’s novel “serious” literature? For me, not quite. What makes this novel “serious” literature is the aforementioned fact that Susann created a novel with an airtight plot, interesting, three-dimensional characters, and a society that chewed those characters, spit them out, and stomped on them for good measure. A captivating tale does not literature make. Yet, the world Susann created (or at least wrote about) makes Valley of the Dolls worth another look.