Do you experience existential despair? Are you unsure? Staring is the first sign. Do you start your morning staring at nothing only to move on to another nothing? My morning stare routine begins with the bedside table or the lamp, then on to the ceiling. The seam where the wall meets the ceiling is a good spot, but feel free to experiment with other bits of the ceiling. Thoughts will try to articulate themselves now, but don’t be too quick to let them surface. Give the ceiling its due. The first thought during the first stare will establish whether today is garden-variety gloom or existential despair.
“Why get out of bed today?” (Garden-variety gloom.)
“Do I really need to shower?” (Garden-variety gloom.)
“What was I doing five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago and where was I? Oh, Christ, I was X years old, in bed with Y and I was doing or making plans to do Z with the rest of my life. (Existential despair.)
And now you look ahead. What do the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years of life look like? This will get you out of bed quickly because you cannot face it and you think that physical movement and not staring at the ceiling will send this feeling packing. Nice try, not a bad effort on your part, but wrong. Your stare is transferred to another part of the hut – bathroom tile, sink, closet. If you need to keep up appearances, stare into the closet and pretend you are trying to decide what to wear. This will give you seven or nine minutes of quality stare time.
While you are staring, if you are unlucky, and you are, thinking will creep up on you.
Yes, perhaps I have little progress to show for the last however many years of my life. Before that, I was on a tear: went through puberty, learned how to drive and roll joints, memorized all of the words to Mannequin without even trying, became a surgeon, etc. That’s something, isn’t it? It’s exhausting to be an American. The endless push to make progress and get things done and run marathons, raise money for charity, go to your job, be nice to your family and children and neighbors and strangers – and be happy! – and still somehow think of yourself as an iconoclast because Americans who are utterly dull like to fancy themselves as freaks when they don’t know what a freak really is and if they found out what a freak you really are, they would squash you like a bug.
Spaniards don’t begin their morning like this.
That will eat up six minutes. Wrap up the staring into the closet thing because you need to call upon this gag tomorrow morning.
It’s time to groom yourself and catalogue the ways your body failed or betrayed you. You were supposed to be taller. Everyone told you when you were twelve that you would be tall and you stopped growing at twelve and a half. Your hair has always been a mess, so give it points for consistency. Be fair. Now face your face. Stand as far away from the mirror to do whatever you do to your face in the morning and do it quickly. On no account should you pick up that magnifying hand mirror. Oh, you couldn’t resist, could you? Fine. Look at your gums. Yes, they are receding, along with your will to live. Get out of the bathroom immediately.
You eye the liquor on your way to the samovar, and ponder that you could get drunk at 7:00 a.m., but what would be the point. Yes, existential despair is that bad. It affects everything you love. Perhaps you have a fever but you can’t take your temperature because the thermometer is in the bathroom. Don’t go back in there. There is nothing good for you in there. Get your hot cup of stimulant and try not to think and try not to stare at the wall or the sink or your shoes. Turn on the television. It will erase all cogent thoughts. If you are lucky, and you aren’t, perhaps there is a nice revolution happening somewhere.
A woman with defined triceps and a spray on tan is discussing work-life balance with a UN ambassadress, a fashion model, a food writer and a Republican. You don’t know what work-life balance is and you don’t care what they have to say about it and that’s fine because they are talking rubbish. Every person on this show is wearing an outfit that costs more than your car and you imagine a sweatshop in the center of the earth churning out dull, overpriced, sleeveless dresses. The ambassadress talks about family dinners and the food writer talks about family vacations and the Republican says he admires his wife for everything that she does and Spray On chimes in that yes, she is a very super lady and the kids are super sweet, too, now moving on to body acceptance. You don’t know what that is either, but it smacks of Cartesian dualism and you are curious to hear what the model has to say about it. She speaks, sort of, and you wonder why we use impoverished towering eastern European girls to model clothes that will likely be worn by rich tiny Asian women. The food writer is thinner than the model. How is that possible? What does she review? Sponges? The model announces bravely that she loves pizza. The ambassadress and food writer swoon about cupcakes and Spray On says that it is important to teach young girls that it’s okay to like pizza and cupcakes. The discussion is the most body dysmorphic thing you have heard from a group of females since eighth grade and why the hell do people need to be told such things? What else are people too stupid to work out on their own? Fire burns. Water is wet. God is dead.
Despair teeters on Disbelief, but Despair draws you into his chilly embrace. According to SMOPAS (Standard Model of Progress and Success) that you were measuring yourself against thirty minutes ago, these people represent a high level of success and they are as dumb as a box of rocks. On normal days, this thought cheers you up, but not today. Today they are Exhibit B that life is meaningless. It’s time to leave for work. You are going to miss your train. You have missed your train.
And then you remember. You are on vacation this week. You have a week of nihilism to look forward to; you are going to wear out that ceiling with your stare. Change the channel. The ads are making you homicidal and the show is making you suicidal. There is meaning to life and by god you are going to find it on television because you pay $130 a month for this bullshit. Flip through the guide. Is it a mirage? Is it possible? Oh, sweet Jesus, it is!
A Golden Girls all day marathon.