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  • Writer's pictureJessica Abrams

Some Darkness

I called one of my best friends this morning: "I'm feeling like a complete loser and I want you to talk me out of it."

It wasn't even eight o'clock, but the gray skies I could see out the window seemed to press against the walls of my small bungalow like a vice. For once no leaf blowers or weed cutters rattled my brain, and it was quiet. Too quiet. All I could do was think.

Some mornings are like this: no positivity mantras manage to lift me out of the morass of my own malaise, a malaise whose loop wears grooves into my brain and leaves me with a terrible headache. It goes something like this:

What have I done with my life? Why doesn't the world see my brilliance? Surely there must be something I'm not doing, but I don't know what it is, and because I don't know what it is, I feel like a complete failure, because I should absolutely know what this thing is that I don't know, at least not now, when I'm feeling shitty. Would things have been different if I had kissed up to that showrunner back in '06? Perhaps that would have taken my life in a different direction -- if I had just played the game better, if I'd been less hellbent on parading my individuality around like I was a fucking baton twirler. That's it -- I'm flawed, deeply flawed and I need to change now, but I can't because I feel like shit and it's gray outside and I want to go back to bed.

And it only goes downhill from there.

On days like this, I want to receive that phone call that tells me I booked the acting job or that someone wants to make my pilot (starring, of course, ME). I want my life to change on a dime and jolt me into happiness. But that never happens. It's like the Person upstairs knows that today is not the day, that whatever great stuff is in store would be wasted on a person looking for the emotional sugar rush to save them from themselves. I know this. I know all that stuff, in fact: I know that when you feel good you become a vibrational match for good things to come your way. I know you can decide to feel good, you will. I know that no decision, big or small, should be made when you're in the throes of believing you're a worthless piece of shit that barely deserves to live.

And yet the feeling is hard to shake. Often it starts with peering into someone else's life the night before -- by stalking them on social media or reading about them online. Suddenly this person's success seems to indicate your very lack of it. How did that happen? Well, you were vulnerable to it. Maybe there was already a gentle sliding into melancholia that had taken place -- a phone call you didn't get or a job you have yet to hear about which you deem is as good as gone just because, well, you're feeling like hell so it must be. A movie that was meant to entertain providing a window into a world you feel zillions of miles away from. And before you know it, you're digging deeper into whatever triggered you in the first place. If it's a person, you hate them and are obsessed with them at the same time. Look, they own a home. Look, they have a handsome husband and a cute dog and there are lots of photos of cocktails and sunsets. You may have witnessed a sunset and had a cocktail (separately or together) just the other night, but suddenly your cocktail and sunset pales in comparison to theirs. You do not own a home, have a dog, a husband, a secure job. Life has passed you by. You missed your chance because you hid. Remember when you worked down the hall from the casting people? It was your first job in Los Angeles. And yet you spent all your time at your desk working on your fucking screenplay rather than getting to know them? You are an idiot. You are nothing.

It goes downhill from there.

By morning your head is brimming over with bad feelings. You are not ready for the day but lying in bed just thinking is not the answer either. You steel yourself away from the phone, that agent of doom, and take a seat on the floor. You take a few deep breaths. Damn -- you haven't done that in a while. It feels good. Something washes over you -- it's relief. Not on a mental level but an emotional one. It doesn't mean you don't still question every life choice you've ever made (why didn't I say yes to that date with the really nice guy back in '98?); it just means the volley of self-interrogation has slowed down. Where there were thirty self-recriminating questions every fifteen seconds, now there are ten, then seven, then five. You can't think your way out of this, but you can breathe your way into a less malignant state of being.

It goes uphill from there.

Nearby, your neighbor coaxes her cat inside. It reminds you where you are and how you got here and so what if you turned down the fabulous duplex your friends moved out of back in '98; you were meant to be here. The place has grown up with you. A shoulder relaxes, then another. Carlos, the gardener outside talks on the phone. You feel weighted to the ground -- a ground built on success and glamour and "making it", yes -- but ground is ground and it connects you to something deeper, something beyond the mental static to a life force that has no ties to time or place.

The headache miraculously disappears. A cloud moves aside to let some sun shine through. You call your friend.

And all is well. At least for now.

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