Tea

There isn’t any coffee in the house. I have to go to the roaster’s and buy more beans, but before I can even think of going out, I need to get rid of the splitting migraine I have. The migraine is because I’m addicted to caffeine, and the only way to get rid of it is to drink coffee.

“Why didn’t you buy coffee earlier?” you say. “Coffee beans don’t spoil. You can keep spare bags around for months.” You’re not wrong, not technically. But if I were the kind of person with the foresight to buy coffee beans before they ran out and avoid this very situation, I wouldn’t be the kind of person who’d get hopelessly addicted to that morning hit of caffeine in the first place.

“Why not drink tea?” you ask. “Tea has even more caffeine than coffee.” That’s an easy one. It’s because tea tastes like boiled leaves, which is gross. Next question.

“Why not kick your caffeine habit once and for all, go cold turkey?” you ask. “It would suck at first but at least when it’s over, you won’t fall into this loop again.”

That’s a good point. But I’m not even really addicted to the caffeine. I’m addicted to the idea of needing caffeine.

I need coffee because my brain is sluggish and smeared around the edges and pickled in Vaseline. I have an innate ability to preserve energy; I don’t need to tap my fingers or jiggle my leg, I move slowly and ponderously and very much like those tortoises you see in zoos. From my mother I’ve inherited the ability to sit in once place for hours at a time, unmoving, just reading books or playing games or watching TV.

It can and does take me hours to work up the nerve to begin to do something, anything. If I have to go out shopping, first I need to get dressed, but before then I need to put away the laundry from yesterday, but before then I need to clear the bed so I’ll have space to fold the clothes, but before that I need to sweep the floor so I’ll have a clean spot to lay down the sheets and pillows, and by the time I’m done thinking about all of that, I’m completely wiped out and need to read a book or check Twitter. This is what most of my days off are like: making plans to do everything, and therefore, get nothing done.

But if I have some token action, some reason to move, I come alive. I teach English, as you know, and nobody wants to learn from a sluggish and quiet teacher who gets overwhelmed at the idea of leading a class. I am animated, I am lively, I make lesson plans and nail them out 1-2-3! When I have an event to go to, I try not to ドタキャン (suddenly cancel) and leave them in the cold. I make commitments, I stick to them, I get things done.

The only person to whom I break promises and commitments is myself.

I tell myself that if I drink this cup of coffee, I’m going to get started on my day. I don’t have any more excuses, and I’m not allowed to say that I’m still tired or sleepy or I’ll get to it in a minute. I have to act, even if this high lasts for only a few minutes, even if I only check off one item (and an easy one, at that) from my endless lists. It’s a lie I tell myself that I’m not, actually, a useless, bland, boring, lazy person.

But on days when there is no coffee, no caffeine, that’s when I’m just hit with the truth; I’m as useless and pathetic as they come. I’ll go to work tomorrow, sure, don’t worry about that, but in between I won’t buy breakfast or lunch, I won’t read a book or play a video game or enjoy the music I like. I’ll just quietly, and spending as little energy as possible, wait for the next commitment to pop up on my agenda.

Every day I am becoming just a little bit more like my mother and I cannot stand it.

Aside

Gurgle

Today was a pretty bad day. A contract for a class I was set to start teaching from next Monday got delayed into sometime in mid- to late-February, and even that’s still up in the air because they’re not sure if there will be enough students to fill the classes. I have been trying to get more info on this client and a definitive answer on their status since early December, and for it all to fall apart after so much waiting and anxiety was pretty much the worst.

Sorry everyone. Today I was supposed to use my last free day before Tokyo classes started up again to write something upbeat and light, but wasted my whole day in a black hole of depression. That’s already bad enough, but tomorrow morning I’ll be on the rush hour train going to Shinjuku.

I just want to curl up and sleep forever.

Windy

Today was a pretty dark day. It started off pretty well: I woke up before my husband left for work, we had breakfast together, I made coffee. I did most of my chores before lunch. I thought things were going really well.

It was right around mid-morning that I had my downward spiral. I remembered that work hadn’t e-mailed me yet about two contracts that I’m waiting on. I was offered both contracts in early December, and both would start in mid- and late January. I accepted both, and kept my schedule clear for them, and waited to get more information. I was told that they’d send more info before winter break started, but never got back to me. They asked me to wait until after winter break finished, and when I still didn’t hear back, they asked me to wait until after the three-day weekend (Coming of Age Day). It is now the evening of the 9th and I still haven’t heard anything back from them.

One contract is a renewal for a client that I taught last year. That was a trial run over the summer, only three months, and they sat on the idea of renewing for a full six-month course for ages. I am waiting on them to confirm that they really are going to go through with it, and the first lesson is tentatively scheduled for Jan 22nd, less than two weeks away. The other contract is a total unknown: I still don’t even know the name of the client or what level they’re at, only that they’d like to start at the end of January. That second client at least did confirm that they are going through with the course, though they have yet to send me the calendar, materials, or paperwork.

I’ve been on “vacation” since Dec 22 and will start my daytime work again from next Tuesday, Jan 16. That’s almost an entire month without classes, which means almost an entire month without pay. I do contract work, which means I don’t get paid for the time when I’m not explicitly teaching. My paycheck for next month was already going to be very thin because of all this time off, which I should note I did not request but which simply did not have any scheduled classes. On top of all that stress, now I have to worry about whether those two contracts I was promised for January will really come through.

I guess I don’t really need them. I still have my daytime work in Shinjuku three days a week until early May, and my Friday evening class until the end of February. And besides, it’s not as if they’ve fallen through, at least not yet. I was very good about saving money last year so I’ve got a nice cache just in case. But it’s frustrating to think that in that entire month when I wasn’t working, I could have looked for other work, I could have fought and winning for PL students, I could have (SHOULD have, some would say) been putting my eggs in as many baskets as possible to avoid this very scenario from playing out.

But I didn’t, because I wanted to enjoy my month off. I didn’t want to think about work, or go through the soul-grinding process of hunting for students. I just wanted a month to learn how to cook, to blog more, to read more, to do some walking, to listen to more enka on YouTube. I was doing pretty well, I thought.

Then I remembered, oh yeah. I’m a fucking mess.

I made plans to make dinner tonight, which meant I had to go out grocery shopping. I decided to stop by the community center too, though I don’t really know what I was looking for. I tweeted that I was going to look for book clubs, even though I knew there’s no way in hell there’d be an English book club at my local Japanese community center. I tell people that I’d like to start one, but who the hell would even join?

This afternoon was a combination of fruitless thrashing and cold drifting. I wafted to a book store and spent too long looking at book covers, even though I don’t own that many physical books to cover up anyway. I walked past the local temple and thought about taking pictures of it with my phone, then gave up and kept walking without even stopping. Something about spending the last month relatively happy, when I should have been looking for more ways to sell my labor, flipped a switch in me. All the anxiety that I’d been trying to put off has come flooding back, with interest. I can’t sit still, but I also can’t think of what else I should be doing, but also if I don’t move I may drown.

Today was a windy Tuesday with no rain. I have two and a half days before my first class of the year.

End of 2017

Being depressed means I spend a lot more time than most people working up the nerve to start my day. I don’t mean housework, though that’s a big part of it as well, but even to do the routine work to get through my morning: brush my teeth, eat breakfast, change my clothes, and so on. If I don’t have to go to work that day, I often find myself still in my pajamas in the late afternoon, starving from not having eaten anything all day. The more I think about how I’ve gotten nothing done, the more I panic, and the less likely I’ll start actually taking care of myself. It’s actual black dread to look at the clock and see that it’s already 2pm and realize I still haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch… only to glance back at the clock to see it is now 3:30, and I still haven’t even moved.

The really annoying thing is trying to get yourself out of depression. See, sometimes I’ll be in a really high, good mood, and so I’ll make a whole list of things that I’d like to get accomplished. I’ll make daily, then weekly schedules, all in the name of getting myself focused, on track, using my days off “productively,” even if by that I just mean playing a video game or reading a book. What almost always happens though is that I go overboard with my lists and schedules and planning, get exhausted just thinking about all the work I’m gonna have to do, and then collapse before I even start. This high is almost always followed by a very long period of being down, not just because of the natural cycle of depression but also because it is heartbreaking to realize that I’m never getting out of this.

Productivity apps? I’ve tried them, I’ve tried tons of them. I was a fairly regular user of Habitica until recently. But again, I’d load up on Tasks and Habits that I just couldn’t get started on, let alone finish. I was constantly getting penalized, but instead of motivating me to work harder, that just made me give up even more, resulting in a steeper climb back up just to get back to where I was. It was a mess. I’ve tried bullet journaling. I’ve tried setting weekly and daily reminders in Google Calendar. When I am down, I’m down; and after being down for a week, I lose all motivation to pick up from where I was before, no matter how great my streak had been before losing steam.

So, where does that leave me at the end of 2017?

I’m currently one week into my three-week winter holiday (which itself is a headache into itself, but I’ll get to that another day) and have been surprisingly productive. I don’t know if it’s that I’m on a high or if I’ve just been doing better recently, but it’s been nice riding this streak. For the past week, I’ve been:

  • cooking dinner every night, and practicing simple dishes that I can make regularly
  • reading a bunch of scifi and fantasy novels that I picked up in a recent Humble Bundle
  • been writing short book reviews on Goodreads to get back into the practice of writing, even if they’re just a couple of paragraphs each
  • resubscribed to JALT and been reading through the recent TLT issue
  • getting at least some of my chores done every day, and letting go when I don’t finish instead of fixating on how little I’ve got done and panicking
  • going out at least once a day, usually to go grocery shopping, a task that I don’t normally do
  • riding my stationary bike for at least a few minutes a day, with no distance meters or timers or calorie counters to put any more pressure on me
  • reactivated my Instagram account so I can keep up with old friends with silly phone pictures

It’s not been perfect, I still find myself losing entire hours without even realizing it, but overall I feel that over the past week I’ve been more aware, more present within my own body. I also still have the rather terrible habit of opening Twitter constantly, even when Twitter is already open and in front of me. I don’t want to go cold turkey on my account because it is therapeutic to write out my thoughts there, but I also don’t want it to be where my entire life gets sucked straight out of me.

I don’t really have any goals for 2018 except to try and keep this streak going for as long as possible, and to find more and better ways of handling my myriad issues. I also would like to, as I keep saying, blog more! I have a whole document full of blog ideas, but by far the hardest thing to do is to just get started. Let’s make it happen.