I stand facing the bathroom mirror, head of a fresh Venus ladies razor in hand detached from it’s body. I don’t know if this will work; I’ve never done it before. I angle it toward my neck, take a deep breath, and start cutting. Clumps of dirty blonde hair fall into the sink and onto my sheep-shaped bath mat, as my cat watches judgmentally. You’re finally losing your mind, aren’t you. His sharp green eyes dance back and forth following my every movement. “Whatever you do, don’t cut your bangs!” A meme joked, circulating social media during week one of isolation. Bitch I already DID my bangs, I’m in the big leagues now. I’m doing what I would normally pay $70 for plus an overly large guilt-tip all by myself, before I’ve had coffee, IN THE DARK. I haven’t even turned the lights on. It doesn’t matter. This isn’t about looking like Taylor Swift on the red carpet, it’s about taking charge of my own shit. I had some dangly bits I’ve been eying with distaste in all my video chats, and it was just time to deal with them. Honestly, it looks pretty good. A $35 haircut at worst.
Look, things are getting a little rough here in Casa de la Roller. I’m single, I live alone (with judgy cat), and I have a VERY small family (just my mom and her partner who live in Nova Scotia). I have nobody to share ideas and emotions with unless I pick up a phone, nobody to eat with, nobody to rub my back or give me a hug when I’m feeling anxious. Every picture a couple posts of a delicious meal they cooked together makes me wince with pain, as I eat sardines out of a can with my fingers.
Yesterday I sent a message to a group of friends on Facebook asking what their exciting Friday night plans were, joking that I’d been invited to a zoom wine party with my mom and some other 65-year old ladies but was accepting other offers. Then I left for a long walk to the park. As I walked, I started to feel off, like it was getting harder and harder to breathe. Every inhale was shallow, while every exhale could have blown all the candles out on a senior citizen’s birthday cake. I felt like I could easily faint. I realized I was about one sloppy chess move away from a panic attack. Being just a little stubborn, I stayed my path, focusing on my breath and all the sensations in my body, ready to sit down if necessary. Exercise is what I need, I told myself, having slept horribly the last few nights because of a surplus of energy and a seemingly constant stream of ambulance sirens in my neighborhood. I tell myself when I get home, I’ll meditate for real and get myself back to normal.
The moment I walk in the door however, I reach for my phone, which I’ve left on my desk as a stern reminder to actually enjoy my walk. I’m clawing for something immediate. Something quicker than meditation. I check to see if my message got any responses. Nothing. They’ve all seen it, but nobody has taken the bait. I feel like a giant dangling high-five. I’m disgusted with how much this innocent thing is affecting me, but the reality is, I have so little in terms of human connection right now, that even the tiniest snub like that can completely derail me.
The fun and games are over. Some real shit is starting to come up that I need to deal with. I sit at my kitchen table defeated, and ask myself: “Why is this bothering me so much? Why do I need friends to respond to my texts? I don’t need to take this personally, they could be doing any number of things right now… Why do I need people to like my Facebook posts? To leave supportive comments?” Why do I rely on the validation of others to feel loved? And it hits me, why I feel so shitty. I’m clinging to something that has begun to slip away. Something I’ve depended on for so long, but don’t really need. I’m losing my identity.
I’m a professional violinist. A writer. A comedian… though I don’t quite feel I’ve earned that title yet. I’m independent, creative, optimistic. Curious, wise. I have lots of friends, I’m lovable. I’ve made sure of that since struggling all throughout my childhood and adolescence, convinced nobody liked me because one of my mom’s emotionally abusive partners drilled that into my head when I was 7 years old.
Shout-out to Helene! Hey gurrrrl *catty lip smack*
I lost part of my “identity” when all my orchestral work was cancelled until July at the earliest; and then I said goodbye to some more when I realized I don’t need to be creating “content” daily for social media to prove I’m an artist . Now I’m left with just “has lots of friends/is lovable,” and I am clinging to it like a motherfucker. (Note to self work on similes) I’m going to say something harsh here, but bear with me: Facebook is not “friends.” Facebook is fragments. It takes literally seconds to like somebody’s post or comment on it, but a real friend will take the time to actually reach out, one-on-one, and ask if you’re okay. I don’t have lots of those, but I have a few. A precious few I want to start leaning on more during this. It’s scary to ask for help right now because I know everybody is dealing with their own shit, but no amount of Facebook likes can tear me out of a funk quite like a heart to heart with someone who really knows me; and I know I can give the same in return.
I think every single one of us is fighting a very specific set of demons right now. Every time I wrap myself in a blanket cocoon and feel sorry for myself, I remind myself this is a privilege. To be alone and healthy while there are sick people out there dying, and healthy people close to murdering their families.* To be given the chance to let go of what isn’t working for me anymore. If I say goodbye to my identity, what is left? What happens when I “lose my mind?”
*This is a joke. I am funny. I AM FUNNY GODDAMMIT
In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle shares that amidst the most intense suicidal depression of his life, he thought the words: “I cannot live with myself any longer.” He writes: This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly, I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
What I’m trying to say is, I think “losing your mind” is a GOOD thing. Losing your mind is quieting that part of your brain that tells you what you should be doing, and listening to the part that tells you what you want to do. It’s getting rid of that strict set of rules that determine your worth, and just allowing yourself to BE. It’s cutting your own hair, coloring for hours, making up dance routines with your cat, making a giant batch of chocolate pudding then sticking your entire face in it just because it feels good. It’s learning HOW TO BE A FUCKING KID AGAIN. Remember watching Hook when you were little and thinking “that’ll never be me?” Well we all grew up, but we’ve just been given an express ticket back to Neverland.
Let’s be honest. This fucking sucks. My inherent optimism can only get me so far during a global crisis where hundreds of thousands of people are dying alone while emergency services work themselves to the bone and the rest of us have existential crises and sob nightly at so much as an unexpected plot twist in Offspring. But these crises are breaking us down so we have a chance to rebuild in the way the universe always intended. Less judgment, more fun. Less superficial, more deep and meaningful.
Less suffering, more love.
See you all on the other side.
4 thoughts on “The Infinite Beauty of Losing your Mind”
Another well-written and sensitive post! I think a lot of us are overwhelmed with all the necessary connection time with family living far and wide. At first, I tried to call a friend every day. I just can’t keep that up, but know you’re in my thoughts! Take care of yourself Lauren >
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Wonderful post, Lauren. I think it’s important to hear your real experience, because it echos what I’m sure many people are going through. We’re lucky that Dave and I are together, but I still have some awfully bad days. You’re right on all counts, it sucks!
Thank you for a really wonderful, a profound reflection on what you’re experiencing. Sending you a big hug and love.
I love this, and adore what you do. Thanks for doing the work. xo