⌘ + R

I’ve written before, I’m pretty sure, about my feelings when it comes to waiting for a phone call that you know for sure is coming. It’s a particular flavor of horror — the slow dread of waiting for it to happen, while being unable to bring it to fruition any sooner, or really do anything else to distract yourself, for fear of missing the damn thing when it eventually comes around. For someone with any level of social interaction anxiety, it’s a genuine terror.

I’m currently living a different incarnation of the same problem — waiting for emails to arrive. As of writing, I have something like four or five different emails out with questions needing answering before I can move forward on any number of projects, freelance gigs, or stories that I need to write: some of them are waiting from statements from publishers, some are from editors giving me notes, or responding to pitches, some are from publicists who need to confirm or deny specific things I’ve asked before I make a story live.

The one thing connecting them all, though, is that I need a response before my next step… and, until I get that response (and ideally a response that actually responds to what I’ve asked for; I’ve had one publicist send a number of messages that promise a real response soon, but that real response is nowhere to be seen, five days later), I can’t really do anything. I’m in limbo.

The problem is, I’m really in limbo, right now — I have so many of these messages awaiting answering that I’m running out of alternate things to handle in the meantime as I wait, without overcommitting myself to things that deadlines won’t support. (As it is, at least a couple of things are running very, very close to deadline and I’m more than a little nervous.) But I can’t actually do anything… except wait. And stress about it.

Maybe if I refresh my inbox one more time, that will help.

You Say I’m Putting You On

As the weekend slowly comes over the horizon, I’m left to consider the fact that I’m tired. Not in the sense of sleepy tired, I hasten to add, although there’s a small sense of that in addition to everything else. (I suspect that I’ve been sleeping poorly the last few days purely because the weather has been so changeable; we had a heatwave last week, and now the temperature is in the low 40s at night, somehow. Portland’s summers are a strange trip every year, but this year, even more than usual.) Instead, it’s a tired that lives deep in the bones, resting quietly but firmly inside everything around me.

Part of this is that it’s been a full week in terms of work — in good ways, I hasten to add, despite a couple of drawbacks on things that I’d happily have done without — and I’m realizing relatively late in the week that I’ve been mentally “on” for so much of the time that I just, simply, need to take a break before I overheat. I’m not sure if this is something new since I stopped doing so much work for THR, or if I was just able to pace myself better when I wasn’t thinking about searching for work all the time; either way, it’s a tiring existence, and I’m ready for a weekend to put it behind me for a couple days.

There’s also just the exhaustion that comes from recovering from the past year — the past few years, really; every now and then, I pause and think about the fact that it’s been more than a year since everything went into lockdown, and that I can’t really remember the last time I went to a restaurant to eat there, or went to the movie theater. (Or even shopping for something that wasn’t groceries.) I know we’re headed toward something better now, even with the Delta Variants and everything else, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still in recovery from it all.

There are things to do this weekend: tasks to be handled, errands to be accomplished. That tires me out too, in advance. All I’m really ready for is watching Legendary and In The Heights; that is the kind of thing that’s going to take priority for the next couple days.

Ain’t Got No Skills

I had the joy recently of reconnecting with an old friend, someone whom I love dearly but had, for reasons I couldn’t even begin to explain, lost touch with to such a degree that I hadn’t even spoken to them in years. (Chloe asked me why that was the case, and I genuinely had no answer; we drifted apart, I suppose…? But it was something that happened entirely by accident, and which I’d actively regretted at multiple moments in the last few years, even as I did nothing to change it.)

What makes things odd is that this friend reappeared in my life just days after I’d been thinking of her, wondering if I should reach out, and immediately telling myself that it had been too long, that it would be awkward, and all that manner of self conscious ridiculousness. I didn’t do anything, and then, she sent a message out of nowhere. Perhaps fate or kismet was at play, or maybe this is just an odd coincidence. Who can tell?

We played phone tag for a couple days across the weekend, following up on that message, and as we did, my anxiety grew back: sure, she’d reached out and then suggested I call anytime when I said we should catch up, but what if she was just being polite? What if she didn’t really mean it? What if, when we spoke again finally, it was just going to be awkward and halting, the years of non-contact having made us unable to have a conversation?

None of that was true, of course, and when we did manage to speak, it was the cliche of talking as if we’d last spoken just the week before; our rhythms were the same, the shared sense of humor and affection still entirely present. It was a thrill, a pleasure, and a sign that all my nervousness and anxiety had been entirely misplaced. But I keep thinking about just how strong that anxiety had been, and wondering just what else that might have kept me away from, elsewhere in my life…?

Sharpened To Cut You Down

Another weekend spent watching some of Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s stunning collection of movies about the Black experience in the UK — and, really, in London — in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, and watching Mangrove got me thinking about the turbulent times I grew up in, and how much of that permeated my worldview as a kid.

It’s not just that I grew up during “The Troubles,” as they were euphemistically known at the time; I remember seeing news reports about IRA attacks and the various explosions and murders that happened around the United Kingdom for the first decade-plus of my life, and feeling ill-at-ease at the idea that sometimes places could just explode and kill everyone and there was no way of knowing when and where it would happen. I also remember finding it strange and almost amusing that members of Sinn Féin, the Irish political party that supported the IRA, weren’t allowed to speak in their own voices on British television, leading to their voices always being dubbed during interviews. (To be fair, I still find that odd.)

There was more than that, though; I half-remember things like the Miners’ Strike, or the Brixton Riots; there were news reports at the time when I wasn’t really paying attention to the news and also wasn’t quite sure if the news was fictional or not. There were just scenes of people fighting and very serious heads talking at the camera and it seemed as if it couldn’t be real, and yet…

It was later, it was at a point where I’d more or less realized what was going on, but I remember the Poll Tax Riots, too; I knew what they were about, and I was angry in the sense that you can be when you’re in your mid-teens and filled with an equal mix of certainty and stupidity (or, at least, lack of knowledge) in a way that only teens can be.  It was similar to being younger and knowing the phrase “Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher,” even if the context was somewhat lost on me.

I feel as if I grew up at this important, busy, part of British history, and that I was only properly there for half of it, if not less. I wonder how I’ll feel, decades hence, about the past few years?

Once Again With Feeling

I get the idea of pop culture nostalgia overriding critical faculties, believe me; as much as I get frustrated at seeing long-running comic book series turn into a series of seemingly never-ending re-runs and repetitions of previous successes — just today, Marvel announced the new X-Men series Inferno, which just so happens to share its name with the X-Men storyline from (checks notes) thirty-two years ago — I can’t deny that there are certain things that I grew up with that I find myself drawn to, over and over, in indefinable ways that I long to return to as an adult.

In almost every example of those things, though, it’s never actually a reboot or a retelling that I find myself craving. Whether it’s G.I. Joe, Transformers, or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe — I am a child of the ’80s, and happy to be so; I feel that it’s the highpoint of a kind of toy line that crossed over into cartoons and comics in a way that was both cynical for the times and effortlessly innocent in retrospect, and endlessly charming to me as a result — I never actually want to see a recreation of whatever I loved as a kid, and it’s also not enough to re-watch old cartoons and re-read old comics even with all the nostalgia that might bring.

(The old G.I. Joe comics in particular bring a lot of the old feelings back; in contrast, I find the old cartoons so bad that I’m almost pained to know that I liked them way back when.)

Instead, what I want is for something new — whether it’s new versions of stories with those characters and concepts, or something entirely new — to make me feel the same thing as I felt back when I was a kid and discovering these thing for the very first time.  That’s an impossible ask, I know, but ultimately, that’s what I’m nostalgic for, what I’m missing: A way to feel that sense of possibility and excitement again.

Sweltering Doesn’t Cut It

The heat has arrived in Portland, and with it, the inexplicable discomfort of realizing that there is nowhere comfortable to exist once the temperature reaches a particular point.

To be clear, I’m not talking about a minor heat; because Portland weather is a wonderful cornucopia of temperature at the best of times, we’ve somehow gone from days in the high sixties and low seventies with some clouds and occasional rain to, yesterday, full sun and nearly 100 degrees, with almost no ramp-up in-between. It’s as if someone turned a dial all the way after realizing that it’s June now, and that’s basically summer.

I don’t deal well with heat. I never have; I was a kid who spent summers indoors, lying on my back reading comics, because that way I could find some shade and keep myself from turning red and sweaty. (This wasn’t a family trait; at the first rumor of sun, my dad would strip down to short shorts and pretend that he was very interested in gardening so that he could be outside, ending every day looking like a boiled lobster.) As an adult, I like to think I’ve maintained a healthy distrust of getting sunburned, to the point of knowing when to stay inside for my own good.

But the heat, though. The heat.

I do not deal well with heat. I try my hardest; I drink lots of liquids, I hang around big box fans and look for any sign of breeze whenever possible, I stick my head in the freezer at irregular intervals whenever necessary — you know, the usual stuff. None of it helps, though; no matter what I do, my body responds to high temperatures in the same way: by surrendering entirely, losing all but the barest erg of energy, and covering me with a thin film of sweat as often as possible, no matter how often I try to douse myself in cold water.

When it gets sunny and warm, there’s nowhere I can go to find relief, it feels. Everywhere is just as uncomfortable and sweaty as I fear. All I can do is hope for good AC and a swift return to sensible temperatures.

Not If You Were The

We’ve been watching The Last Man on Earth lately. I can’t remember why we started; it wasn’t a show I thought about often, although I certainly enjoyed what I’d seen of it the first time through. (Turns out, I dropped off somewhere in the middle of the second season; the show ran four years, all told.) I remembered it being a light, silly, occasionally cruel show in the vein of Red Dwarf, of all things — another post-apocalypse sitcom from days of yore — but, on rewatch, I realized that it’s actually the best, worst show to watch in this COVID world we’re in.

The key is what killed everyone off. It’s a topic more or less ignored at first, for obvious reasons. (Why does it matter? Everyone’s still dead.) Before too long, it’s revealed that it was a virus… that showed up around 2019 or 2020 or so. Which, I’ll be honest, was somewhat unsettling to watch from today’s perspective. Even more unsettling were the comments about how it originally just seemed like a bad cold, with people coughing a lot and being unravel to breathe, before dying.

And then there’s an episode in the middle of the third season — a season that is surprisingly dark, breathtakingly so in many respects, with the regular cast seeming to fall apart through trauma, mental illness and just plain bad luck — where everything flashes back to show how a previously unseen character played by Kristen Wiig dealt with the outbreak and its aftermath, and it’s genuinely disturbing when viewed today: her upset at seeing streets filled with everyone wearing masks, her paranoia about the origins of the virus, her loneliness when she’s forced to self-isolate and essentially go into lockdown.

It hit hard, watching that episode; it captures (and, of course, heightens) what it’s felt like since February 2020, and feels like a show made about the last year or so — but it was made back in 2017. I don’t know what I really expected when we started watching the series again, but this has been something more intense, and maybe more rewarding.

Hit Me With Your Best Two Shots

I’ve hit my two weeks post-vaccination mark, which is at once a significant milestone and enough of a meaningless moment as to make me wonder why I feel quite so accomplished to have made it this far.

After all, getting to this point really doesn’t mean anything beyond the fact that I… haven’t died in the last two weeks…? Which, sure, is not a thing that I’m not grateful for, considering the alternative, but at the same time, it was far from something that required any active movement on my part. I literally just kept going about my business, and ended up here nonetheless.

The hard part, the bit that required effort on my part — and even then, not that much effort, considering — came a fortnight ago, when I actually got my second shot. (Calling it an effort on my part feels more than a little self-serving, given that I just sat there and grimaced as the lab tech did everything, but still.) At the time, though, I felt as if any self-congratulating was premature; there was the possibility of side-effects and any other complications ahead, so I allowed myself a couple of minutes of gratitude and moved on to more important matters. What this really means, though, is that I haven’t really allowed myself to feel good about this whole vaccination experience.

Maybe that’s for the good. I mean, I’m not sure what it really means, on a practical level — I still wear a mask in public around other people, and to be honest, I don’t feel like that’s going to change anytime soon…? (Sorry, CDC guidelines; the combination of my anxiety and not wanting to make others nervous wins out, instead.)

I understand that I am, at least in theory, unlikely to contract COVID again, and that this means I’m more likely to be able to see people in person again, but beyond that vague promise, I’m left wondering quite why two weeks out feels like quite the thing that it somehow does. Congratulations to me, I guess.

Afterglow Of Your

There’s something to be said for the aftereffects of good news.

I got the go-ahead for a work thing last week that I… wasn’t really expecting? That might not be entirely accurate, but it was one of those things that you pitch half-convinced that it’ll never happen, and then the response was so fast and so enthusiastic that the first reaction is to think, wow, I don’t think I could have imagined that going any better.

What made this such a positive experience wasn’t just that I got a paid gig out of it — nor that it’s a paid gig at a new outlet, although that’s lovely in and of itself — but that the entire experience left me feeling as if I should try and repeat it elsewhere, and pitch to more outlets that I’ve never written for, just in case history repeats in some magical, unlikely way.

It took a day or so for that to sink in, admittedly, and it did so in a slow manner; there wasn’t an instant of clarity that I really could pitch anywhere just to see what happened. (If nothing else, if that had happened, I’m sure I would have immediately thought, well, obviously, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.) Instead, it was this deliberate, glacial reveal of, “well, if that worked even though you thought it wasn’t going to… then… what if…?”

The upshot of this is that I’ve already sent off a pitch that is almost certainly going to be either rejected or ignored — while I’m certainly feeling more confident about such things, I’m also not entirely unrealistic about them, and pessimism runs deep in my bones when it comes to this topic — while also applying to a job that a couple of people had quietly suggested I should throw my hat into the ring for.

It’s possible that none of these things will work out, but there’s a happiness in at least believing for a second that they might not be entirely outside the realm of possibility after all.