I got sick a month ago. I thought it might be the flu. I thought it might be a cold. I heard reports of Something Going Around. My stomach hurt and I felt woozy. My face felt like the underside of an iron. I checked out of work early on a Wednesday and didn't return until the following Monday. I stayed under the covers and watched reruns of The Office and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The illness was evasive. Not only could I not figure out what it was, there were times when I felt well enough that I wondered if the whole thing was psychosomatic. I just never got to a run-for-the-toilet level of sick. Then, as soon as I finally decided "Yes, I have become a hypochondriac and am actually fine," I would do something like go to the store with my girlfriend and after about five minutes I'd be woozy again, holding onto the shopping cart or the merchandise shelves for fear of stumbling and falling.
If you are or ever were a smoker, you know that intense illnesses sometimes seem to offer you an easy way out of your addiction. If you're sick enough, you don't want to smoke. You wonder if this is an opportunity you should grab. You wonder if, should you stay smokeless once you get better, Withdrawal will just ignore you altogether.
I don't smoke anymore but for this most recent illness, in spite of the lack of intensity, I felt something similar. As I lay in bed, thankful for the Play All option on the Office DVDs, I felt like something inside was different; as if something had unclenched. I didn't feel angry or frustrated with my life. I didn't feel afraid of losing anything. I felt okay. I felt like there were things worth wanting. Whatever had unclenched, I wanted it to stay that way. I also knew it wouldn't.
The wooziness finally left me and I returned to work on Monday. On Tuesday, work was a little more taxing than usual because I had to help cover for a co-worker who was home watching the last few years of imported beer exit his face. This is only important because what it almost lead to, but didn't.
I had plans to meet friends after work to see Conviction at the local art house theater, The Spectrum. Without a car, my plan had been to walk 40 minutes to the theater's adjoining cafe and read/web-surf until others arrived. But now, indignant about the few hours of more taxing work, I felt I had a perfect reason to just jump on a bus home.
Before the plan to ditch solidified, it occurred to me that nothing I was thinking made sense. I was thinking that the slightly more taxing work day made it far too difficult to enjoy the evening I had planned. I would have to walk 40 minutes in cold weather through three equally shitty neighborhoods to wait in a cafe - a cafe I could be slaughtered in should the other patrons learn I don't actually own a beret - in order to hang out with people who, probably, didn't even really want me there; they were just being nice.
The reality was that I'd just had a harder work day, but it really wasn't a big deal. It would end with me choosing to walk 40 minutes, because I could've easily taken two crowded but quick buses, and for free since I was carrying a bus pass my girlfriend had paid for. And sure, if I walked it would be through three shitty neighborhoods, but it would be in broad daylight and I'm big enough that people don't bother me in bad neighborhoods as long as I don't scatter dollar bills on the sidewalk while singing "I am physically vulnerable and surprisingly trusting." It was cold, yeah, but I had a coat. The cafe would be filled with people who probably, sure, own more patchouli than I, but also who likely have their own lives and problems and epiphanies and bullshit and couldn't give two ounces of granola about how many Pete Seeger albums I don't own. And finally, of course the people who invited me obviously wanted me there because I'm certified for pure fucking awesome.
There was something jarring about how easily and quickly I had schooled myself. This wasn't, I realized, Standard Operating Procedure. Standard Operating Procedure was 1) I make plans to do something which I know I don't want to do because it falls under the umbrella of Doing Something. 2) Shortly before the Something takes place something perfectly normal happens which I mentally inflate into a complication important enough to possibly excuse myself from my plans. 3) I spend the better part of a day convincing myself that the complication is complicated enough that anyone reasonable would see the complication as complexly as I do. 4) I go home and avoid Doing Something.
It had, I realized, been this way for years. It was my default. In my mind, my default settings were to Go Home And Chill - play FallOut 3 on the XBox, maybe watch some TV. Surf Facebook. Read. I had seen the movie outing as an interruption. An invasion. And initially, the thought to discard it came with relief.
What amazed me is that I detected all of this as if I were another person, shaking his head condescendingly over another poor bastard's dumb choices. I saw what I was doing, saw it for its stupidity, and I rejected it. I went to the movies.
I think I really was sick a month ago, but it wasn't a flu or a cold. It wasn't a stomach bug or Captain Trips or Something Going Around. I think I made myself sick. I think it was change. That's all. It was the physical manifestation of a painful but necessary transition from Mick-Who-Existed-On-Wednesday to Mick-Who-Existed-The-Following-Monday. I cannot point to any single triggering event - spiritual, mental, or otherwise - or even really any confluence of triggering events. I don't know why it happened when it happened.
All I know for certain is that I feel as if I woke up. A month ago life felt like a prison, it felt that way for a very long time, and now that's over. I don't get angry or frustrated at work. Well, bullshit, sure I do, but not as much. I don't blame all of my co-workers for my problems. I don't let myself get so bitter or envious or jealous that it rules my world. Every night after work I decide what I'm going to do, not what I'm going to avoid.
How/why/when did I get like this? Why was there anything from which to wake up in the first place? I don't know. I have theories and they're all good, undeveloped, amateurish theories. Working nights for three years killed my social skills. Spending five years with a manipulative, possessive woman isolated me from the other important things in my life. Certain experiences in college wrecked what was an inflated, but fragile, confidence. Maybe I should analyze what happened more thoroughly, but right now the only thing I care about is that I feel more driven, excited, and confident about what I want to do than I have in years. Really, I haven't felt this good about things since before I left Tampa over ten years ago. Things just feel possible. I feel ready.
Superheroes, etc. is going to be a big part of this re-awakening. I'm taking this blog, and my writing in general, more seriously. As such, for the foreseeable future, I will be providing content for Superheroes, etc. 5 days a week. I may post some stuff on the weekend too, but all I'll commit to is Monday - Friday.
Up until now, my online writing presence has revolved around comic books and superheroes. There's still going to be plenty of that content here, but I also plan to take that "etc" in the title more seriously. I'll be writing more about movies, fiction, non-fiction and video games. I want to include a lot more autobiographical material as well.
Tuesdays will feature what I'm tentatively calling "The Whole Story". In "The Whole Story", I'll be looking at completed/canceled series. In most cases, I'll be talking about comics. For some years now I've been intrigued by the seemingly endless nature of comic book narratives, and I feel like canceled comics offer a unique opportunity. You get to see exactly how writers handle the ends of stories that weren't necessarily meant to end. But I will also occasionally look at television shows. Tomorrow, for the first installment of The Whole Story, I'll look at the canceled Wildstorm series Sleeper.
For Wednesdays, I'll have movie reviews. In fact, the scheduling of this particular feature is due to the movie outings I mentioned earlier in the post. My friend and co-worker Sarah has a Tuesday night Movie Club. It's usually at The Spectrum because it's the best theater in town, Sarah picks the movie, and we sometimes meet beforehand in the adjoining Ultraviolet Cafe. Me and my girlfriend Maryann are the newest members of Movie Club, and I may, by mentioning it, actually be breaking the first and second rules of the clandestine organization.
Fridays will bring a regular column dealing with one very specific subject. I prefer to not announce what that subject is right away. Don't worry, it isn't anything dirty, I just think it would be a little more fun if it's a surprise. That said, for those of you who know me in real life, and even for those of you who just know me from my online presence, it's probably not going to be a huge shock.
I'm leaving Mondays and Thursdays open. Graphic novel reviews, book reviews, music reviews, video game reviews, more autobiographical stuff, whatever. I may even do Top 10 lists again along the lines of the lists on my old blog List SMASH! I like the idea of creating structure with regular features, but I know if I have a theme-specific feature for every single day, I'll feel constricted and even resentful about it.
Things may change. I may decide to do fewer subject-specific columns, I may decide to do more, or I may decide to do the same but pick different subjects. What will not change is that there will be content on Superheroes, etc. for 5 days a week. I hope you stop by every now and then.