I was nervous last Sunday night.
I was nervous about waking up on Monday and having it be the same as Sunday, and Tuesday being the same as Monday, Wednesday the same as Tuesday, Thursday the same, empty, a void…
It was my first Sunday in the unknown land of unemployment. My first Sunday with a week ahead with no work and nothing to worry about, nothing except for what I brought upon myself. I didn’t realize I was scared, but I did realize I was in a mood. I was sensitive and irritable. I was frustrated about… ah. Nothing. There was nothing worth getting frustrated about. I told myself to stop being frustrated. That didn’t work.
So instead I went to bed, and then it was Monday morning. A whole day, week, year ahead of me. And I got to work.
It’s not difficult for me to fill my days. I made a daily schedule and a list of weekly goals. I wrote, wrote some more, read, ran, walked, cleaned, accidentally stumbled my way into some freelance work, edited some things, I don’t even know else at this point, I basically was in a fugue state until Tuesday night.
Tuesday night: I had to finish a proposal, then had scheduled an interview with a comedian friend of mine who just started a podcast called Campaign Season. I spent forty minutes or so preparing things to say that would be witty, enlightening, and/or brilliant; then twenty minutes telling myself to relax; and then it began. Of course, the questions he ended up asking were none of the ones I had prepared for, so I forgot about all my brilliant witticisms (they were fine), but it was a fun and fruitful conversation. We talked about my time working on climate policy during Trump-world, the dread and nihilism that can come with climate advocacy, and… the time I sorta cursed out an anti-masker. (Sorry mom.) (It’s not available to listen to just yet – I’ll share a link when it is.)
When it was over, my nerves were on fire. I’ve done a fair few public interviews over the years — on both sides of the microphone — so this wasn’t new. But still, my adrenaline was going. There is a very particular state of mind in these situations that requires laser focus: you’re zeroing in on the words coming out of your mouth, while also strategizing about what to say next to keep the conversation going. (I understand this is also how you might define hanging out with your friends, but it’s … not the same? Okay, it’s almost the same.)
Anyway, after we wrapped up, I went on a walk to shake off the adrenaline. It was nighttime, a little cold, so I pulled on my hat and plugged in a podcast. But fifteen minutes into my walk, I realized I hadn’t heard a single word of the podcast. My mind was jabbering. Loudly! My mind was yelling at me, replaying all the things I said, and all the things I wish I’d said. I had to turn it off. I had to listen to …
I was so nervous on Sunday about facing nothingness. The empty abyss of time. The days stretching into one another, passing by with no forward movement. So I filled up this open space with thing after thing after thing. Even then, after the interview, I felt like I needed to do something productive, so I picked a podcast that also served as background research for my next novel. I was so worried about letting this time go to waste that I almost drove myself crazy.
I’ve said it before, but the writing life requires a lot of waiting. Right now, three agents are reading my full novel manuscript — by which I mean my novel is one of many on their long list of novels to read. It could be months before I hear back. Then, if someone accepts it, they have to sell it to a publishing house. More waiting. After that, there can be up to two more years before publication. In the meantime, I’m trying to sell short stories, so I’m waiting and waiting and hoping for some good news.
I wanted to write ‘noticements’ because I believe every moment could be worth noticing. I still believe that… but it’s pretty overwhelming! Turns out there are, like a billion moments in any given day, and each one has potential, and if I’m missing it, what next?
My moment of mind-yelling adrenaline reminded me I need to become more comfortable with nothingness. With the abyss. With moments of rest. To turn off the podcast and float in silence.
Sometimes, moments are worth noticing… and sometimes they’re not.