Baby Steps, Secret Goals, Grammar, and the Miracle of Lists

Can I accomplish anything, anything at all, sitting in a hot car shoving a sandwich into my piehole as quickly as I can, while savoring a few moment’s peace before returning to my sweatshop-esque job? Anything? Some inspirational words strung together in a mildly pleasing manner, or even an idea to escape this job purgatory – this endless treadmill going faster and faster and faster, until my body gives out and I collapse and die, then get flung against the wall like in those YouTube fail videos?

No? Okay, then.

Well, at least I fucking tried. Because that’s what I told myself I would do: take one small step every single day to change my unsavory life and work situations, in order to ease my stress and hopefully find some happiness. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I have a sneaky feeling a magical change will not just happen upon me unless I do something, however small, to initiate it. I can’t just sit here dreaming, pretending I’m someone else, somewhere else, being all happy and fulfilled and shit. I need to take concrete steps – even baby steps, if necessary – so that maybe, just maybe, I can someday feel happy and fulfilled in my real, actual, non-imaginary life.

Like, maybe every day I should work on my resume and portfolio, just a little. (I have a degree in Graphic Design.) One day it will be complete, and then I can show it to people. Maybe, just maybe, one of them will see it and say, “It’s okay that you let your technical skills deteriorate while you worked at that sweatshop for over a decade; you have potential, so we’ll get you up to speed.” And then they’ll pay me a good salary.

Or maybe I could work every day, just a little bit, on my various writing projects. One day, eventually, I will finish some and show them to people. Then maybe someone will say, “It’s okay that you forgot most of the vocabulary words and grammar you learned in high school, and that you were too afraid to even apply to the writing college you wanted to go to back when you could actually write, so you got involved in an abusive relationship for 9 years and let your dreams wither and die.” (I’ll interrupt them right then to point out their run-on sentence. That could salvage some lost grammar points.) Then they’ll tell me I have potential, and ask to publish something I wrote. Like, for money and stuff. I’d really like to have money. In fact, my biggest desire right now is to have the lower part of my Maslow’s hierarchy of needs met. I know, it’s a tall order.

Maybe I could also write a list of everything I want in life as though I’ve already gotten it, and meditate on it every day. Several years ago I heard of a lottery winner who meditated on a certain number every night, and even slept with the number on a piece of paper under her pillow. She ended up winning that exact lottery amount. It was a lot, too. Like, over 20 million. Why couldn’t that be me? I’d have to start playing the lottery for it to work, but maybe it’s do-able.

Uh-oh. Lottery fantasies. I’m turning into my mother again. Let’s switch to a more realistic list of desires, because who’s kidding who? There’s no way I’m going to drag myself inside some gas station every week to stand in line for lottery tickets. (If not for this aversion, I could totally win, though.)

So, here’s my list of goals…

Wait…I just read an article saying that people are less likely to achieve their goals when they share them. And it was backed by actual science, I think. So maybe I shouldn’t broadcast my goals to anyone. Hmmm…

Here’s what I’ll do instead. I’ll copy down the list I made when I was acutely ill with MCS. As part of the Gupta Programme, which is responsible for my 80% recovery from MCS (roughly), I was instructed to make a list of what I’d like to see my future, healthy self doing in my future, healthy life. I made the list, though it was hard. I cried while writing, missing my healthy self, and hesitant to fantasize – however briefly – about a future I ached for more that anything, but which might not come to fruition. But as skeptical as I can be, I am also very open-minded, and willing to give almost anything a chance. So, I made the list and dove into the programme. (That’s the British spelling, BTW, otherwise I would have used my grammar skills to correct it. Or spelling skills. Is spelling an aspect of grammar? I really have forgotten everything, haven’t I?)

Guess what? The programme worked. Yes, I have thoroughly slacked on the exercises the last couple years, and really should get back to it, but at the time it was my savior. It pulled me out from the depths of hell so I could breathe again. Literally. The MCS gave me breathing trouble at times. Either that, or it made the act of breathing stressful when I inhaled chemicals which made me ill. Can you imagine what it feels like to experience stress just from the simple and vital act of breathing? I didn’t think so. But don’t feel bad like you lack empathy, or anything – most people can’t imagine such a thing. (Well, I guess people with asthma and other lung conditions can. Uh…nevermind.)

ANYWAY, many months after experiencing recovery, I ran across my old list. Guess what? Every single thing I wrote down happened – all the things that made me cry to wish for, because I thought I’d never experience them again. I was astounded. (Well, not EVERYTHING happened. I couldn’t move and paint walls or garden, for instance. But I’m certain I could have done those things and remained healthy had there been an opportunity.) I’m not saying the act of making the list was magical, but I am saying that I got to experience many things I had formerly believed were utterly impossible. That was the miracle.

So, at the end of this post, I think I’ll copy that old list instead of my current list, which I plan on making later. That way I don’t jinx my goals. When everything on the current list comes true, or at least a significant number, I’ll post that one, too. Until then, it’s for my eyes only.

Hey, look…I actually did string some words together on my lunch break! That’s a minor accomplishment. I’m terribly late returning to work, though, so it ended up costing me $15 in wages, or approximately $2 after taxes. LOL. But that’s okay, because I took a baby step. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try to take a baby step that doesn’t cost me the money I’m trying to materialize in my life.

Also, I feel better. A little inspired, even. And I no longer have the urge to take a nap on the train tracks. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, here I come!* (I wonder if that sentence has ever been uttered in the history of language.)

*Okay, the article I linked to earlier informed me that I do not need to have my lower-rung needs met in order to be self-actualized, but god dammit, I still intend to eventually get my basic needs met before I drop dead, hopefully to avoid dropping dead prematurely due to the stress of not having my basic needs met. And fuck grammar – I’m gonna leave that possibly run-on sentence with repetitive words alone. I aced this stupid grammar test the other day. Doesn’t that count for anything?

Future Self list, from approximately 2011:

1. I am wearing makeup
(I could barely use any personal care products back then, let alone frivolous makeup.)
2. I have a nice haircut
(I couldn’t visit salons because of their ambient chemicals. My hair was a long, frizzy, stringy mop with roots growing out for 2 years.)
3. I am sitting in a coffee shop writing, reading, and drinking coffee
(None of that was possible when I was sick(er).)
4. I am painting the walls of my own new house
(I couldn’t tolerate freshly painted anything. In fact, fresh paint in my workplace contributed to my development of MCS.)
5. I am gardening
(I think I just wanted to get my hands in some dirt. I probably could have had an organic garden, if I had had my own yard and the stamina to actually grow it. Okay, maybe I couldn’t have gardened while sick with MCS.)
6. I am visiting friends
(People’s personal care and laundry products made me ill, so I stopped visiting friends.)
7. I am on an airplane
(That thought was a joke when I couldn’t grocery shop without getting sick.)
8. I am on vacation in a city
(Again, a joke. Plus, pollution.)
9. I am on vacation someplace tropical
(Travel was difficult/impossible back then. Now that I’ve traveled again, I am officially counting an East Coast beach as “someplace tropical”, because fuck it – it’s a beach. Close enough.)
10. I am visiting my family
(I couldn’t do that for years. My one attempt was disastrous healthwise.)
11. I am eating delicious food
(I ate a boring-ass diet for a couple of years due to food sensitivities. None of it was delicious.)
12. I am hiking outdoors
(I was too sick to exercise or enjoy nature back then.)
13. I am laughing
(I rarely laughed.)
14. I am happy
(I was more miserable than I ever imagined possible on a daily basis. Not that I’m the epitome of happiness now, but at least those pesky death fantasies are mostly gone.)

See? The miracle of lists. Now I’m off to make a new one, because as miraculous as it was to achieve these goals at the time, they no longer suffice. It’s time to get out of this limbo/purgatory, for fuck’s sake, already.

I have the nervous system of an electrocuted insect. Also, I like cats. And the afterlife.

I work in a cesspool of noise. I was recently informed that this cesspool of noise will soon grow exponentially because a new business is moving in next door – a business that installs audio systems into cars and makes a shit ton of noise. That’s just fucking super.

I already wear earplugs most of the day. I also wear them all night, otherwise I’m at the mercy of the late night/early morning stirrings of my upstairs neighbors – because of the hardwood floors with poor insulation combined with their incessant clomping and stomping, the clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clackclackclackclackclack-ing of their daily stampedes above my head.

Did I mention their only footwear consists of hard-soled shoes? I mean, who wears that shit first thing in the morning? My upstairs neighbors do. I guess they’ve never heard of cushy slippers. Either that, or these people are actually half-devils with cloven hooves for feet, sent to eternally disrupt my peace.

Did I also mention that I hate them for existing? This is awful, but understandable, since my degree of hatred is directly proportional to the amount of sleep deprivation their cloven hooves have recently inflicted upon me. Since sleep deprivation is a form of torture, I get a free pass for any resulting negativity.

Even this cat, who has started appearing outside my living room window, is all like: “Whoa. What’s with all the RACKET?!” And she’s hearing it from outside.

Window Cat

The fucked up part of all of this? I’m a quiet, peaceful person. I love stillness. Relish it. REQUIRE it, even. And like solitude, I never fucking get it. Here I remain, stuck in a noisy job that I hate, in a noisy apartment that I also hate (mostly because of the noise), which I can’t afford to leave because I haven’t figured out an escape route from my shitty, noisy job. And now it’s going to get worse?

Hey, universe…do you stage these events to torture me? Job well done. (That’s a partial Gilmore Girls quote, BTW.)

In a future entry I’ll explain how my floxing contributed to remaining in the purgatory of my shitty job, but for now I just want to slump over exhaustedly and whine a little in my new blog.

Speaking of…I’m really hoping this blog will amount to something more than a complaint repository. However, since complaints so often seem to fuel my desire to write…who the hell knows.

I feel compelled to point out that if I could just sleep like a normal person, perhaps my neighbors would not evoke my internal wrath. At least…not as often. But since I have a such a high startle reflex, and an overly-wired nervous system, I don’t sleep like a normal person. Every once in a while I’ll get restful sleep, but for the most part I’m chronically sleep-deprived. And yes, Cipro did this to me. My sleep has much improved since the first two years – I don’t get jolted awake by brain zaps while falling asleep anymore, thank god – but my sleep is far from wonderful.

But nevermind that for now…Let’s talk about the cat who comes to visit. She has shown up twice now, and both times I sat with her on the front stoop after her manipulative cries for attention and/or food won me over. She’s sweet, and has lime green eyes. I like her.

We have some things in common:

1. She’s a little jumpy, and she constantly trips over herself just walking a few feet.
2. She seems a little scatterbrained. Today she kept going back to the windowsill to sit, then acting surprised to see me calling her from the stoop. Like she was all, “Oh, I forgot you were still out here. I was going to meow at you from outside the window again.” So she’d jump down and come play with me for a while, tripping over herself on the way, then go right back to the windowsill to stare into my empty apartment…then notice me calling her again, stumble on over, and end up back on the windowsill after a few minutes of nuzzles and head rubs.

See? She’s awkward and she’s got memory problems and a short attention span. I think we’re soulmates.

I can’t adopt her, though. For one thing, she might already be someone’s pet. For another, I’m slightly allergic to cats, and my kid is moderately allergic. Also, I can’t afford a cat. If the thing gets sick and needs vet visits, I might have to put it to sleep, or give it away, or starve myself to pay for it.

Not to mention, how will I handle issues like fleas? Chemicals and I do not get along well. Even if we did, I cannot fathom squirting insecticides onto living creatures like I did with my former pets in my former, healthy life. Why? Because they might end up poisoned. You might think I’m being paranoid, but this happens sometimes. Just like people sometimes get poisoned from chemicals (and prescription drugs). I know what it’s like to feel poisoned day in and day out, with no relief in sight. I can’t potentially inflict that on an animal. Just thinking about it aggravates my PTSD.

Anyway, that leaves the option of researching natural ways to deal with fleas, which I can only assume have low to moderate success rates. Not to mention, I’m a little burned out from researching natural treatments for my own health issues, thank you very much. I can’t start doing that for an animal, too.

Wait…why am I even talking about this? My kid and I are allergic to cats, and therefore will not be acquiring a cat. Which is a god damned shame, because I love cats. My kid even says I’m a crazy cat lady without all the cats. That’s just sad.

Sigh.

You know what some people do when life deprives them of things? They start planning their afterlife, even if they aren’t completely sure it exists. I believe I started planning mine in the depths of my Cipro-induced misery. It will consist of a healing/decompression chamber to cleanse me of this chronic illness and trauma bullshit, and a GIGANTIC, luxurious bed…maybe the kind you can balance a glass of wine on without spilling it. There will also be an ocean, gardens (both flower and vegetable), fruit trees and bushes, endless sunshine, hammocks, people to massage me whenever I like, all the food and drink I was deprived of in life, vast libraries and schools, and endless art supplies. And now cats. I intend to read, write, create art, sleep (hey, its my afterlife – I can sleep it away if I want to), swim in the ocean, bask in the sun, eat and drink anything I want, get massages, tend to plants, and pet cats. It’s going to be awesome.

And if this afterlife doesn’t happen? So what. So I wasted some time daydreaming – big deal. It’s better than wasting time playing Scrabble on my phone, or being angry at another human, or scrolling compulsively through Facebook for hours…all of which I do on a regular basis. At least daydreaming about the afterlife involves thoughts of petting cats and eating cake and sleeping – precious, elusive sleep – creating a pleasant diversion from the seemingly endless suckitude of life. What could possibly be wrong with that?