I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed.—Lloyd Dobler, “Say Anything”
Most romcoms don’t have a pandemic central to their story; they’re about someone who’s there when you need them most. I know this because I’ve been doing research, diligently power-watching whatever I can stream through my poached internet (I refuse to give Charter money—or United Airlines, for that matter). And what was supposed to have been my month of self-improvement through all of October was less a high-protein-fueled, fat-burning, fitness-building extravaganza and more a vignette of digital entertainment, hot toddies and cocooning in oversized sweaters and fuzzy blankets.
I usually rise early enough to ride dear Clod (my favorite long road climb) or get on the yoga mat but lately I just sit in the dark drinking coffee, playing PlayStation and listening to news podcasts that paint a bleak American future while dreading going to work. So much pandemic news. And the economy. And schools. And the election.
If it’s my day off, I take it up a level.
Next day it’s off to my job (a career that Lloyd Dobler would surely have avoided), come home and cycle through the sleep walk all over again. There’s really been no romance or comedy to speak of. News reports tell me that adult drinking, addiction and depression are statistically on the rise in the general population. I know I’m supposed to take solace in identifying with my fellow mankind but hearing about how incredibly average I am doesn’t help. Mediocrity, by definition, means most of the people but I always wanted to be extraordinary, not average.
I had lunch with the guy I liked. We still hang out occasionally, although it’s been less and less, as though we’re on some sort of step-down program that has strung out over more time than necessary. Between bites of grilled cheese dipped in creamy tomato soup, I not unexcitedly put it out there that I was writing a new, monthly column. He didn’t ask what the publication was. He didn’t ask what the column was about. And it struck me, for the bajillionth time, that he didn’t seem to be interested in learning more about me.
I know, I know.
But the good news is that somehow this time, after so many other times, it finally sank in. And while hurtful on one level it was quite freeing on another. It solidified what had been brewing all along anyway—what do I want? I mean, like what is it that I actually want and not what are the expectations of others? That seems like it should be such an easy question to answer but clearly I’ve been searching for motivation in all the wrong places.
What I want is to feel good. In a romcom my answer should be about wanting a love interest but I’m more interested in loving myself at this point. Logically, I know the correct steps to take (remember podcasts?). For starters, addiction and isolation go hand in hand. The best thing I can do for myself is this list:
- Even out for a while and chill with the pollutants. Any good counselor advising someone about depression would suggest they not drink or smoke. It only exacerbates the situation.
- Eat nutrient-laden foods and avoid processed garbage.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Move my body.
All such cheap, simple and actionable things that feel like climbing a mountain somehow. Okay bicycle, now it’s just you and me. You’ve always been by my side so let’s get this done before next month’s column.