Quests Are Us
This morning I’ve been obsessively searching for a 1:6 scale Vespa toy model that’s affordable and available to buy. I have an idea that I want a vintage looking one that I can pair with a made to move Barbie because I saw an example of what I want and now nothing else will do. This is a constant brain itch of mine that never quite goes away, obsessively searching for SUPER SPECIFIC ITEMS THAT BARELY EXIST. I’ve already spent at least 16 collective hours searching for the right Vespa model and Barbie. Because I am convinced I need this in my life. It’s becoming a severe annoyance to me. It happens constantly.
I get an idea of something I need to find or figure out or buy and it’s always extremely SPECIFIC. I don’t just need to know if horses can survive gunshot wounds, I need to know if Clydesdale horses can survive gunshot wounds to their hind quarters and how would they act and how would you bandage such a wound? I viewed a lot of distressing images of gunshot wounds to humans before I found any information on horses and their ability to survive a gunshot wound and specifically how fragile Clydesdale horses can be to – well – anything, yet also strong. The amount of hours I spent going down that rabbit hole was significant.
I want to find the exact dried beans used in the Trader Joe’s canned gigante beans but gigante beans aren’t easy to find except as expensive imports and I’m convinced there must be an affordable source for exactly what I’m looking for so I spent at least 6 collective hours intensively searching the internet for dried gigante beans and also trying to find a definitive answer to the question of whether lima beans are essentially the same bean or not. I do not have the beans or the answer yet and I have not given up. The itch won’t go away. It’s a quest. Like, a real quest with an out of proportion sense of importance to me.
I’m on perpetual quests for difficult to find information and things and it takes up a lot of my time. It’s always exciting at first. I love to dig for information or search for treasure or find EXACTLY what I have in my mind. But soon it becomes an obligation. It becomes a quest that I can’t easily turn away from. And even if I turn away from it for a while it doesn’t go away. I’ll come back to it again and again. And each time I attack my quest with a tenacity that could be much better used to achieve my dreams. But even in the pursuit of my dreams this obsessive nature of mine derails me constantly. Looking for the perfect soundtrack for a single scene I’m writing in a novel can take me hours. And those are hours I’ve sat down to write but ended up trying to create the PERFECT ambiance in which to find the PERFECT words and with which to shut out the rest of the noise both in my head and outside of me.
But I want to be clear that this isn’t something I intend to do so much as I can’t help it and I can’t stop it. I have to do it. The more frustrated I am the more determined I become to never give up the quest. It’s a fucking compulsion, make no mistake about that.
I imagine that there are some people for which this tendency works wonderfully well. Or that they just aren’t bothered by it. And that’s great for them. Sometimes this quality or habit of mine serves me well, because if it never served me to behave this way I wouldn’t have developed the habit in the first place. But it overwhelms me easily. I can’t stop. And don’t suppose for a second this is just a technology problem of the modern age. I spend time going to every single store in my city looking for specific things and I’ve done that since before I could also do a deep dive online. I used to spend just as many frustrated hours scouring the shelves of libraries and card catalogs before personal computers could do the same kind of work but take you literally worldwide without having to adhere to library hours.
I’m trying to untangle this behavior into components and can’t tell whether it’s the response to another facet of my personality or if other aspects of my personality stem from this habit. Why does it matter at all? Who fucking cares? ME.
I used to think Jazz Handz were stupid until I realized I’m one giant Jazz Handz away from becoming a black hole of schmaltz
I kind of suspect that this habit and my obsession with attempting to limit myself to “essentials lists” is because my spirit is too big for itself like it’s always on the verge of exploding. Yeah, way bigger than my body and right now my body is obese. My spirit? IS JAZZ-HANDS-Y LOUD-ASSED SUPER EXCITED ABOUT EVERYTHING AND NEEDS TO CONSUME EVERYTHING AND DO EVERYTHING AND GO EVERYWHERE AND DO NOTHING BY HALVES AND BE AN EXPERT AT ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING AND GET OUT OF MY WAY YOU TIRED AND LIFELESS AUTOMATONS AND CYNICS BECAUSE I HAVE MACRAME TO LEARN, SLINKIES TO COLLECT, MINIATURES TO MAKE, ANIMALS TO BECOME FRIENDS WITH, MUSIC TO LEARN TO PLAY, NEW CRAFTS TO EXPLORE, NATURE TO IDENTIFY, EVERYTHING TO DOODLE, EVERY RECIPE IN THE WORLD TO MAKE, ALL THE FOOD TO PRESERVE – LIKE – I NEED TO PUT UP ENOUGH FOOD THAT IF NO ONE GROWS EGGPLANTS AGAIN FOR A FEW YEARS WE’LL HAVE RATATOUILLE FOREVER, AND WHERE THREE CHICKENS ARE ENOUGH FOR MOST CITY PEOPLE I MUST HAVE THE MAXIMUM NUMBER ALLOWED ME, AND WHY ON EARTH SHOULD I HAVE TWO ROSE BUSHES IF I CAN HAVE THIRTY AND EVERY DAMN FLOWERING FRUITING PERENNIAL MUST BE MINE, PLUS I MUST READ EVERYTHING, KNOW EVERYTHING….
There is no time for what my spirit wants to hold. There’s not enough time in a single life for everything I want to do and know. There’s a part of my brain that literally holds up that level of noise at that level of ALL-CAPS urgency 24 hours a day. When I’m giving voice to this part of myself, people get overwhelmed by my lack of volume control. When I say this out loud, most people deny it “I don’t get overwhelmed by you!”. But I KNOW it’s true because my whole life people have put their hands up between me and them in a defensive way as though their hand can diffuse some of my loud energy when I’m telling them excitedly every single thing I’m thinking. Or they tell me to simmer down or pipe down or cry mercy “I get it, sheesh! No need to shout!”.
So there’s this other thing I do that is as futile as trying to water a parched garden with spit. I am constantly trying to edit myself, my interests, my urge to collect things, my activities. I like to decide on “bare essentials” of things. If I can only plant ten herbs, what would they be? What are the ten roses I can’t live without? I decide that that’s all I’ll plant. I’ll keep things simple. If I have the ten best roses on earth I never need to buy another rose which means I don’t have to spend a hundred hours searching for a specific rose I used to have, or that I heard about, or found in a garden I visited.
Right now I’m culling my dried herb and potions shelves because I need to reduce what I keep on hand so it all fits in one single cabinet. I keep thinking about what I absolutely HAVE to have on hand. What herbs can’t I live without having a supply of in my house? I’ve done this before. And before that. And also before. But inevitably, at some point, I get really excited about trying some new potions and I hate to buy a small very expensive bag of meadowsweet when I can buy a half a pound at the fraction of the price. But then I also buy twenty other bags of herbs and roots and sometimes I run out of energy to do anything with them because I only had the time and energy to work on one herbal project. I bite off more than I can chew. I waste money buying more than I need. I hate this. This time I’m sending all my extra stuff to a dear friend and that’s great.
But meanwhile I want to can all the foods. I can’t make a small batch of anything to save my life. I intend to but it feels wrong. In theory I don’t need to be canning at all. Or making my own herbal potions. Or growing my own flowers or roses or herbs or fruits. I don’t have to sew anything just because I know how to do it. I want to do everything BIG. I make giant batches of soup. I make enough tortillas to last three dinners but gotta hope I get the extra put away properly before they go bad because when I run out of steam, I fully RUN OUT OF ALL STEAM.
The biggest mythos around me is that I have tons of energy. My mom says it all the time. Friends say it too. I do a lot so I must have endless energy. But my time is divided severely between periods of activity and looooooong periods of downtime.
Here are some lists trying to make order and limitations in a limitlessly messy and noisy brain driving a life that is always trying to be more do more find more grow more.
Pocket Wardrobe (if I can limit my wardrobe to these simple pieces I’ll never have to worry about clothes again, blah blah blah):
- 6 skirts with shorts sewn in, all in black
- 10 inexpensive black Target t-shirts
- 1,000 pairs of socks but all in 95% cotton 5% spandex
- 20 pairs of underwear all in old lady style 100% cotton prints
Boom! Done. No more trying to find clothes that fit and get stained and ruined. Just make six of the skirts I always make for myself and everything in black. Done. Simple.
The Essential (only) dried medicinal herbs to keep on hand:
- Comfrey (leaf and root)
- Myrrh because what if I need to embalm a body?!
- Orris root because it smells interesting and one day might cure the obscure disease I don’t know I have yet.
- Obviously must have gentian root for reasons you’ll never guess
- Sage, because it tastes like it fixes sore throats
Or how about the one my brain is working on right now?
Canned goods my family won’t forgive me for not making us:
- Tomato sauce
- Marinated artichoke hearts
- Pickled beets
- Do they really need or deserve dill pickles since they haven’t finished what I made last year?
- For fuck’s sake, I rarely eat jam, so why the hell did I make 14 jars of plum jam when I still have a billion jars of pomegranate jelly I never ate from last year? Most of that pom jelly (second ginormous batch) doesn’t taste that great anyway and how many hours did I dedicate to making it?!)
- Roasted tomato salsa because we’ve nearly finished it all and everyone LOVES it.
- Basically stop there and you might have time to write a book and shit. Cheesus!
While re-reading what I’ve written so far I hear voices suggesting that I sound manic. Perhaps I’m bipolar because I go on sprees of buying all the herbs. It’s typical of people with bipolar disorder to go on great shopping sprees. But I don’t really do that. And what reads as manic energy might actually BE manic but then it’s important to recognize that
- My over-excitement and obsessiveness isn’t a mood that comes and goes. It isn’t cyclical. That’s who I AM at my core. It’s the genuine undiluted Angelina.
- I don’t shop to feel better. I don’t even like shopping at all. I like knowing I have everything I need to DO things with. Shopping is something I tend to dislike. But owning the “perfect” socks is an essential for me because I can’t wear most socks without being filled with rage at sag-attacks or weird textures on my skin.
Two fairly important distinctions, I think.
I’m tired. I get tired of the part of myself that never really sleeps, never quiets down, never stops. Only five things have EVER been effective at really slowing my brain down to a level that offers significant relief: reading, writing, drinking alcohol, smoking, and watching television.
I’ve read at least a thousand books in my life so far. But in the last ten years or more my reading is sporadic at best. I find it almost impossible to get lost in a book anymore. I can’t shut the rest of the world out of books the way I used to. But also, I’ve come to a point where I find a lot of books incredibly tedious. Too much sex, too intellectual, too action-y, too depressing, too boring, too ambiguous, too much like real life, etc. I basically want Mary Stewart to posthumously write a hundred more of her suspense/mystery novels. That’s what I want to read.
I can’t smoke any more. I haven’t smoked in 15 years. I’m really happy to not be smoking any more and I don’t miss it. But I don’t miss it because I’m still drinking and watching endless television. I keep working on removing drinking from the list because I know it’s so unhealthy at the level at which I drink. And yet it’s so deeply comforting and it makes my brain shut the fuck up and simmer the fuck down. Same with endless television. I re-watch the same shows all day and all night long. Nothing new. Nothing to tax my brain. I can’t sleep without the tv being on.
Writing. Sigh. Writing is hard for me to get lost in anymore. I don’t give up. Never give up. I’m working on a few projects and I’m excited about them but am incapable of getting lost in writing the way I did when I was writing the first Cricket and Grey. I miss that. I want that ability back. Music really fueled that novel but music has become very problematic to me.
I’m excited all the time but also tired all the time. This is just business as usual living in this meat-cage of mine. Being a constant contradiction within myself is how I am and dialectical behavioral therapy has shown me that we can be and believe two apparently opposing things at the same time. What about a hundred?
I want to do all the things and also nothing at all.
I think my dreams last night wore me out, as they often do. Distressing and just as busy as my waking life.
I’m going to get my shoes on now and go down to happy hour to try to write a little fiction. Then I’ll go to the store, then come home and do all the things I meant to be doing while I wrote this post instead. But at least I’ll be able to say I spent most of my day writing and not canning more jam I don’t need.