Tag Archives: anxiety

You know exactly what this is, don’t you?

Ever since he could remember, Jim always felt as if something terrible was right about to happen. And I’m not talking about a bad accident or anything like that, I mean a true sense of dread, that something really sinister was looming just beyond the periphery of his vision. It was a shapeless type of terror, so vague that his imagination had no choice but to fill in the gaps.


Like the house where he grew up, the main basement was scary enough, and sure, there was always that feeling like someone was chasing him up the stairs. But he’d heard other people have similar reactions, and so it was easy enough to write those goosebumps off as the same normal types of fears that everyone else carried around.

But what Jim had inside of him was something else. Like just next to the main basement there was this really small closet, like a much shorter door. It wouldn’t even close all the way because it had been repainted so many times over the years, and so it had to be kept shut with this old latch that had been nailed on from the outside. On the other side of the door, there was a really creepy subterranean crawlspace, something that city officials might need in case there was ever a serious problem with the block’s sewage pipes.

But there were never any problems, so the door just stayed the way it was, just barely closed, but only ninety-nine percent of the way there, it almost looked like it was really trying to pull away from that nail. And when Jim thought about that door, it was like he could see a pair of wrinkly old fingers pushing through that half-inch or so of space, blindly fumbling around in a weak attempt to unhook the latch from the other side.

And whereas the feeling of being chased up the stairs largely went away the minute he made it to the living room and shut the door behind him, he could never quite shake the feeling that there really was something behind that door, a little old man, a really nasty troll, something straight out of a scary movie, with snow white skin and a razor sharp smile that reached all the way up to his ears.

It wasn’t that he was afraid of an old man or a basement troll exactly, but it was that type of lasting horror that seemed to haunt his everyday, that feeling that he couldn’t stop feeling, like something was just out of reach, ready to pop out at any moment, even though it never did, there was that sense of inevitability, like it was just a matter of time.

As he grew up, Jim would try to rationalize his crippling anxiety, and he did a pretty good job leading a normal life considering that the fear was an ever-present companion. He’d tell himself that it was all in his head, even though inside of his head there was another voice telling him that it wasn’t. When it got really bad, he thought, well, at least I’ll see it coming. If something ever does confront me, I’ll have known it all along. But that only provided a fleeting idea of security, because when he really thought about it, what was worse? If that sniper were real, the one he fantasized about targeting him in his crosshairs from some unseen rooftop vantage point, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to live without the fear, regardless of the certain outcome?

And he tried, he really tried to ignore it, when he closed his eyes to go to sleep at night, he told himself that there weren’t a group of ghostly figures standing around the perimeter of his bed. When he walked home from the train at night, he wouldn’t let himself look down, to see if there really were any eyes peering at him from behind drainage grates leading to the sewers. He just kind of continued living his life, because he really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Whether he wanted to believe in it or not, it was irrelevant, it didn’t change the fact that even though his brain held to that steadfast idea that something evil was just about to jump out and nab him, so far, there’d been nothing. And so it was always this way, such a struggle to make it through days, which, despite his apprehensions, kept getting more and more regular.

Until one day he came home and there was a man sitting in his living room. He didn’t look particularly evil, but that’s where Jim’s mind went immediately, sizing up this smallish guy with a docile enough looking face, he felt certain that there was no other explanation as to this man’s presence besides the culmination of all of his life’s worries.

“Who are you?” Jim asked.

“You know exactly what this is, don’t you?”

“So, all of it?”

“Yeah. All of it.”

Jim sat down on the couch, wishing that he might feel a little relief knowing that it wasn’t all in his head. But there was nothing. If anything, the fear took on a new dimension, crossing a threshold that he didn’t know existed when it was all limited to the confines of his imagination. As he sank into the pillow cushions, the man stood up and slowly started walking toward him, very slowly, each step elevating that feeling of panic, exponentially, even as the space closed between them, it felt like he might not ever get there, that was no upward limit to what he was feeling, that maybe he’d never reach him, that this was it, his new eternity, one of hopelessness and despair, like one of those math curves that goes on forever, getting closer to zero, but stretching on and on without ever arriving.

Dude, what happened?

This guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, sitting on that park bench, waiting to make a move. He should have made a move like an hour ago, or even if he tried to do something like half an hour ago, maybe he could have pulled something off. But now there’s no chance. Even if he got up right this second, he’s going to be late. He’s regretting ever having gotten up and gone into the city today. Or even more than that, he’s regretting going onto craigslist looking for jobs, spending all of that time writing out his resume, taking the day off so that he could go into this interview.


And for this, it’s pathetic. He knows it, too. He got up early. No, even before that. He’s been getting up early for days, ever since he got that email from the recruiter telling him that she set up a meeting. It was one of those moments where his heart let out something that can only be described as a double beat, like one beat, but with the power of at least two, followed by a silence, a long moment where he could feel the sweat build up in his glands, that moment right before his skin would get wet, it was cool, but not in a comfortable way, like an electric way, like even though he knew it was sweat, it could have very easily been fire. And that moment stretched out forever, he wondered if his heart would ever start beating again, and right before it did, it always did, for a fraction of that infinite space, something inside just kind of wished that it wouldn’t start up again. He didn’t want to die or anything that dramatic, but going forward didn’t really seem that appealing either, and he wondered what it would be like to spend an eternity right here, right in this elongated pause in between beats.

But then it beat and he couldn’t go to sleep that night. The closest thing he got to rest were these sort of sleep-like states where, even though he was aware that he was in his bed trying to not be awake, the dreams came at him anyway, dreams of showing up to the interview, trying to blow on his hands to evaporate some of the sweat from his palms, trying to figure out what he’d say to the secretary when he walked in the building. And then he’d have dreams in the other direction, where everything would go almost ridiculously according to plan, if he had a plan. But they’d hire him and right away he’d be the boss and he’d accumulate so much vacation time that he’d be on vacation almost instantly, a tropical island getaway, one of those seaside resorts where he wouldn’t even have to raise his hand to order another drink, no, the hotel staff would be so accommodating, they’d have it all timed out, so that exactly as he took his last sip, the empty glass would be replaced by a new one.

This was like three days of non-sleep, all the while the pressure of figuring out what to say, when to show up, how many copies of his resume to print out, what subway he’d take to the office, what kind of tie would he wear, should he wear a full suit or just a jacket and tie, did he need to get a haircut or would that look too eager? And he got there like three hours early, just in case, just in case the subway broke down, or it started raining and the tunnels got flooded, or if he lost his MetroCard and all of the machines at the station stopped working, so he’d have to walk to the next stop just to be able to pay for his ride, or if he got to the building on time but couldn’t find the right entrance, so many variables.

And in his rush to get out the door in the morning, he was starving, but he didn’t eat anything, and he usually drank like three or four cups of coffee, but not today, nothing, and so he couldn’t go to the bathroom when he woke up, because he was so nervous and he didn’t have the coffee in his system, and everything just felt off, hungry and full at the same time. He figured he’d get something to eat, get a cup of coffee. But not now, not just yet, maybe in an hour, just so that he’d get that nice after-lunch buzz, just one cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine to really make him stand out, to bring out his inner go-getter.

In an hour or two. But for right now, he might as well just sit on this park bench and try to calm down, to cool off. And he sat there and watched everybody else coming and going to their jobs. He looked at his messenger bag, which really wasn’t necessary, he only had one folder inside, five copies of his resume printed on not-too-fancy cardstock inside of that. Did the bag look as hollow on him as it felt carrying it around? Could you tell from looking at him that gravity was having a hard time keeping this empty bag fastened to his shoulder?

And he couldn’t get off of it. The sweat came back but this time it did feel like burning. And even though the minutes ticked by in what seemed like an exponentially decreasing speed, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should’ve gotten something to eat a while ago, that now he wouldn’t have time to walk around the block and find a deli, to eat something without making it obvious that he’d just eaten, that he should’ve gotten up ten minutes ago and started walking toward the building, that his phone’s ringing in his pocket and he should at least answer it, say something about being right outside, that he should really at a minimum take his phone out of his pocket to see if it was the recruiter or the employer trying to figure out what happened, why he didn’t show.

And what’s it going to feel like on the train ride back? Just because you look like a commuter coming back from a job doesn’t mean everyone can’t tell that it’s all bullshit, that you’re the only pretending, just for one day. What are you going to say to your cat when you walk back inside the apartment later on in the evening, when he’s looking up at you, asking without asking, how did it go? How are you going to just sit back down on that couch like nothing happened? What did you do today, dude, what happened to your day? Are you going to have to get this shirt dry-cleaned again? What about the slightly more expensive resume paper, are you just going to add that to the list of money spent on almost making it to a job interview? And what’s the point of trying again? What are they going to say if you ask for another day off? How is next time going to be any easier?

Thoughts on the new iPhone

Are they going keep naming new iPhones based on the numerical order in which they’re released? Right now everything’s fine because we’re only up to iPhone 5. But what about years from now? Are consumers really going to be as excited for the iPhone 36? Hopefully I’m still alive by then. Also, hopefully scientists will have figured out a way to keep everyone looking young and healthy indefinitely, kind of like in that movie In Time with Justin Timberlake, just minus all of the massive inequality and social injustice, not to mention the terrible storytelling and horribly overdone time puns, “Time’s up,” stuff like that.


What am I talking about? Nobody saw that movie. But back to the iPhone. We’re all ignoring the fact that it went right from iPhone to iPhone 3G. What happened to the iPhone 2? And then after that it was 4 and then 4G and then 5 and now 5G and 5C. Talk about a horrible naming strategy. I’ve heard all sorts of theories, how the C is supposed to be for China, because they’re trying to get Chinese people to not only manufacture iPhones, but to buy them as well. But when I hear 5C, all I think of is the word cheap.

Like, “Oh, I see you bought the cheap one.” Why would you want a plastic phone? Why would you want a neon pink iPhone? Although, that’s a pretty stupid thing to say on my part. I shouldn’t be in the business of judging people’s preference in colors. I am a little disappointed by the fact that there really isn’t much of a selection. Not that I’m interested in buying the cheapo model anyway. It’s just that, what if you’re not into really bright colors? I guess for me it never really mattered anyway, seeing as how I never take it out of its plastic protective case.

While I’m on numbers, isn’t anybody else going to point out the obvious incompatibilities with model number and operating system? I’m talking about how when they released the 5S/C, they simultaneously made available the new operating system, IOS 7. Can’t the boys in marketing figure out a way to synchronize the numbers? I’m being petty here.

I just get annoyed whenever a new product comes out and everybody starts gushing over it, the media, everyone at work, people on the subway. And then like a week after it comes out, I start to see them everywhere, new iPhones, shiny new colors, slightly different ringtones and message alert sounds. I took out my phone the other day, and a coworker was like, “You didn’t upgrade to IOS 7 yet?” looking at me like I had just contracted leprosy.

And so I went right home and downloaded IOS 7. And it took like an hour and a half out of my day, plugging it in, waiting for it to download and install, laying on my bed going through all of the menus and settings, discovering which marginal changes had been made to my phone’s user interface. The whole thing left me very underwhelmed, and now I was holding my same old iPhone 4, only it felt less comfortable, my old bright wallpaper was no longer compatible with the white numbers used to tell me the time, but of course Apple wouldn’t give you an option to change the color of the home-screen text.

Or let you decide if you like the old interface better. And I know it’s such a tired argument, that Apple doesn’t really let you customize anything. It does bother me, like the old operating system looked a certain way, and then all of the sudden Apple decides that they’d like mine, and everybody else’s phone, to look a different way. That would be like living in an apartment and the landlord busting in every year deciding to paint all the walls an entirely different color.

But it doesn’t matter. I have this fear that the minute you stop upgrading operating systems is the moment that you decide to get left behind in terms of technology. Sure, skipping one update won’t really get in the way of how you use a phone, but there are subtle changes with every release. You let those changes pile up, and before you realize it, you’re an old man that puts his hands on the newest model only to find that he doesn’t know how to use anything, he’s too set in his old ways.

This is crazy. It’s a fucking iPhone. I can’t believe I just spent all of this time actually writing this down. Sorry if you’ve made it all the way down here. New cell phone releases cause me an unnecessary amount of anxiety.

I always get anxiety when I think about summer being over

Summer went by way too fast. It always does. This is what summer feels like, like it’s over, like it never really had a chance to get going. When I’m freezing my ass off in February or early March, I imagine what May is going to feel like, those first full days of warm weather. And then I blink and it’s late August, it’s September, it’s right now.

I was standing around talking to someone about the weather, about the change of seasons. Lately I’ve been seeing all of the school buses out during midday, I guess doing their practice runs or whatever they do to ensure a smooth first day of classes. And even though I don’t go to school anymore, I still have those sense memories, like something is ending and something else is right around the corner.

“I can’t believe summer’s over already,” I say it and I’m already tired of saying it. It’s unoriginal. There’s nothing that I’m adding to any conversation. It’s kind of like I’m just throwing these words at people, hoping that someone might make something with them that I can’t. Before I even give the other person a chance to respond, I’m already spitting out more, “But I love the fall. I just love the fall. Yep. Fall. What a great season.”

This one guy said to me, “Yeah, I guess fall’s OK. But I always have such anxiety about the summer actually being over.” And that was already better articulated than anything I could have hoped to have said. I keep having to remind myself that we still nice weather, summer weather, and yet I’m already writing it off as if it doesn’t exist. I don’t want to see the summer go, so I pretend like it’s already gone, like what I’m actually wanting is to be somewhere else.

But I heard this other person tell me about his reservations, and it cut through whatever it was that I was telling myself to make me feel better about the passing of time, the changing of the seasons, the inevitable drop in temperature followed by holidays followed by a long winter followed by, what, another August?

And while, yes, there is something real to the seasons, a lot of what we’ve constructed as these four periods of equal time is artificial, just another way that we try with varying degrees of success to force the natural world to fit into our preconceived notions of how things should be. Maybe it’ll be hot until November. It’s not totally out of the question to have a really warm stretch of weather lasting all the way until the beginning of winter.

I can’t talk about the weather anymore. But I do have a definite anxiety about the end of summer. Once it’s fall, once I have my feet firmly planted in September, October, or November, I know that I’ll be OK. With summer in the rearview mirror, I’ll be free to really enjoy the colder weather, and when that weather gets to be too much, once that winter chill finally works its way deep into my bones, I’ll be able to start longing for the warmer temperatures of spring.

But whenever I think about the summer, whenever I try to take stock of my existence in any of these seasons, it’s never June or July, it’s always late August. The good months fly by without so much as a blip on my consciousness, but the final weeks stretch out forever, all characterized by that anxiety, the stress of losing something that’s not really there in the first place. Because what is an ideal summer day? Is it really just the temperature or my own physical comfort? Or am I longing for something else, being together with friends and family, maybe just slowing down a good moment for a while, delaying the inevitable end. In constantly skipping ahead, I’m losing track of what I’m enjoying right now. I’ve got to stop prematurely mourning what I haven’t yet lost.