The Next Worst Thing

PencilsI wrote most of a blog post last week– something to do with feeling bleak and turning to hummus for comfort– but it was lost after I took a small break to play a little computer solitaire, which crashed my computer. There was something wrong with my internet connection, so the auto-save feature wasn’t functioning.

Perhaps my wi-fi was looking after me, choosing to euthanize my work like that. It was quite possibly the gloomiest and most pointless thing I’ve ever written since I was an 18 year-old scrawling incomprehensible poetry about slutty cows on my dorm room wall.

But I have been feeling out of sorts for a very long time. Chronically tired but unable to sleep. I haven’t given myself permission to writing anything amusing what with the world about to end. I learned that I’d put a bottle of bleach in the freezer only after discovering my raspberry gelato melted under the sink. My brain has been in lockdown for what seems like ages. It’s just been one crisis or tragedy after another for the past couple of years and I haven’t been coping with them as ably as I thought.

I used to feel pretty good. I thought I had interesting things to share with the world and the energy with which to share them. I was (more or less) happy. I could fit into most of my pants. Last week, I couldn’t say any of that was true and I wondered if I actually gave a Flying Wallenda about any of it.

But I’m pretty certain I do. It’s just hard to get a good view of the situation when the elephant’s ass of depression has bumped you to the ground and parked itself on your face. And, if it wasn’t clear to you already, minging air and shit-covered peanuts aren’t part of a balanced breakfast. Or things that make you feel very happy.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that I’ve crouched deeper and curled up tighter with each emotional and physical hit until my brain resembled a roly poly bug. I’ve stayed in that mental position since at least the inauguration. It’s as though I’ve just been waiting for the next worst thing to come along. And, as my friend Jay reminded me last night, “Don’t worry, that next worst thing will happen.” He then added something slightly more comforting to the effect of not letting such things get the best of you.

But I’d already come to that conclusion, if only very recently. Curling up and hiding—apart from the chiropractic issues such activity can cause—is a crushing bore and I’m trying my best to stand upright again.

I took a week off from work to clean and sleep and organize. And, after almost eight years, I forced myself back to the gym.

I’d quit the Jewish Community Center back then, deciding it was too expensive and decided to join the closer, cheaper 24-Hour Fitness. I found it loud, grimy, and depressing, so I quit. And, not long afterward, I stopped being able to fit into some of my pants.

I’d toyed with the idea of going back to the JCC, but when one of the fittest people I knew dropped dead from heart failure at his gym, I was terrified of ever setting foot in a locker room again—especially after my own heart scare. But last week, frustrated by my current lack of energy (and lack of anything else, really), I did.

It wasn’t easy. I felt like William Hurt in that scene from Altered States where he slams himself against walls to shake free from whatever the hell it was that had gotten inside of him. Except I wasn’t naked. I really need to re-watch that film again so I know what the hell I’m talking about.

My free-with-new-membership trainer asked me what I wished to accomplish. “I want to get some of my energy back, increase my flexibility, and lose a few pounds,” I confessed.

“Well, if we take care of the first two things, the third will take care of itself,” he reassured.

He showed me some stretching exercises, introduced me to planking, got me into push-up position. I flirted with weights. It was all very mellow and civilized.

And it took me three days to recover.

I thought I was sick until I remembered feeling like this when I first started working out several years ago. My arms were finally able to fully extend this past Monday. It all felt awful, but it also felt fantastic. I walked the 1.5 miles home. I looked in the mirror. There was color in my cheeks. It was weird.

BooksOn Tuesday, I went back but, thanks to the advice of my psychologist (whose office is literally around the corner from the gym), I added a new exercise to my workout routine—a brisk walk two blocks east to the Presidio public library, which is not only quiet, but marvelously small, charming, and free from any whiff of adult human urine. I found a free corner, pulled out my laptop, and started writing.

Unfortunately, my first exercice de bibliothèque may have been more douloureux than my introductory session at the JCC but, one must allow that one’s writing muscles will be just as sore from disuse as one’s arm muscles when re-introduced to barbells after too much time off. It sucked. No, it more than sucked—it felched. I mostly stared at a blank screen for several minutes until I started to write. And what I wrote was excremental. I lasted barely an hour before I gave up and got some lunch. But the thing is—I went back again the next day. It still sucked, but not as much as the first time. And I intend to go back again on Saturday.

I’m slowly but surely whittling out a Holy Trinity of Wellness from a little sliver of Pacific Heights. A library for the mind, a gym for the body, and a shrink for the spirit. Of course, the gym helps the spirit, as does the library. And there’s even an excellent patisserie down the street to serve as a fueling station.

I’m not all fine and dandy yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be truly fantastic feeling, but I think I’m on to something better. If you were expecting a recipe in this post, I’m sorry to disappoint—I’m still working on a halfway decent recipe for my life. But I think the best fond for anything you may want to sauce your life with may just be getting yourself out of a bad rut, however deep it might be. Mine’s felt pretty fucking fathomless lately. With oily-slick walls. I was going to write “I’m digging my way out with a spoon”, but that would be wrong, since digging would only make the rut wider or deeper. Instead, I think, I’ve tied the spoon to one of my shoes like a crampon so that I can climb out, one slippery step at a time.

If someone would kindly throw me down a second, larger spoon for my other foot, I would be very much obliged.  Just make sure it’s not a cheap plastic one– that would not be helpful.

Thanks for reading. It’s been really difficult getting this out in words and I’ve felt I couldn’t move on to anything else until I did.

I shall resume full snark very shortly. Until then, cheers.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
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60 Responses to The Next Worst Thing

  1. diane leach says:

    That about sums it up.
    All I can say is, you aren’t alone. I know that isn’t helpful. But there you are. Try grasping for that thread when you’re sitting in the library wondering why in the motherf-ck you’re even bothering. I was wondering where you’d got to, but internet politesse prevented inquiry.

    • KNOWING ONE IS NOT ALONE IS IMPORTANT.

      I seldom resort to all caps, but there you have it. I’d had a couple of ideas I was throwing around for the past few weeks, but writing them didn’t feel right. I wasn’t giving myself permission to be funny. Also, I didn’t really feel like I’ve had much of a sense of humor lately. It’s coming back. I think there just (finally, hopefully) comes a time when one says “Fuck it.” and then starts moving forward.

      Also, if I’m gone from my blog for two months, it’s okay to ask, “Where the hell are you?” I won’t mind. Actually, I’d probably appreciate it.

  2. cathy says:

    Thank you for writing this, Michael. I’m sure it was difficult, but it’s strong and it’s good and it’s what many of us are feeling now, so it’s damn important.

  3. Jane says:

    Sending all kinds of love through the ether. you are one of my favorites and have so much to give us through your words. xo

  4. giedra says:

    Sending hugs to you, and echoes of “you are not alone!” and perhaps a rudimentary spoon that others can build upon…. xoxox!

  5. Deborah Kwan says:

    Michael,
    Glad you are back and taking care of your body and spirit. To echo your other commenters, “You are not alone!” I’ve been doing some digging myself and there’s light.
    xoxo,
    Deborah

  6. Tina says:

    dear Michael, depression is a bitch, and so powerful…I appreciate your honesty and strength. I too feel better with exercise and routine, I hope you see more improvement everyday. I am sending you a strong oak serving spoon to help you dig , dig ,dig! and much love and encouragement.

  7. Oh dear dear Michael. I’m so deeply proud of you. Depression is awful. The fact that you have a psychologist, that you’ve made it to the gym and the library, and especially that you’re able to write about it, says so much. I’m deeply sorry for what you’ve been going through, and so proud of you for sharing about it. It’s always encouraging to hear we’re not alone. I’ve been on antidepressants for almost two years now. I think the hardest thing for me was when I had been doing so well on meds without a sign of depression for months, and then the tragedies all over the world brought it right back. I thought I was done dealing with it and was sure this meant I’d simply be depressed the rest of my life. Thankfully, some good safe friends helped me understand that while I may have depression the rest of my life, I can also make choices in dealing with it. It sounds like you’re making some really positive choices. I pray you are able to keep making those choices, even when it feels impossible, and have close safe friends who can help you make them when you can’t. I love you. You’re not alone.

    • I think we’re never done dealing with depression. It’s all about management, isn’t it? And it’s good to have friends about. Especially friends who get it. Thanks for getting it. And for being such a lovely human.

  8. Your words are better than any recipe I can think of.

  9. Genie says:

    ❤, friend. We have lots of spoons to share here, and are sending love and utensils your way.

  10. Lucy says:

    The feeling is real and widely felt – sending you a silver spoon and the offer of a trip south to the beach for a writers retreat – would be lovely to see you xxx

  11. Jan Morrison says:

    Yes. Just yes. Maybe it is different causes but yes. A deep shite filled hole. Mine started around the same time as the American election (hmm…) and was deeply influenced by my very long wait for a new hip – which I will get at the end of this month. My work is tough, pain is tough – I have a great fella and friends (who mostly live quite aways away) but then I got a terrible flu over Christmas and NOTHING would make me feel anything but depressed. Now I’m a bit out of it. Knowing when the hip will get done helps. I don’t give myself any sort of hard time about my singular lack of discipline lately. I’m not meditating (long-time Buddhist), hardly drawing (but still) and my writing has been on hold too. What can I do? I can watch Friends reruns, read good books (until I feel too much pain and then I can’t do that) and focus on the returning light. That’s it. I quit facebook. That helped a lot!!! Okay. Just wanted to say thanks for being your raw wounded beautiful self.

    • Oh, the Facebook thing. I’m still on it, but not nearly as much as I used to be. Books cause you pain? I’m sorry to hear that.

      Here’s to focusing on the returning light. And to getting that damned mew hip. I wish you well, Jan.

      Michael

  12. Maggie says:

    BRAVO.

    I so relate to your pit analogy (because I use it myself), and I love the insight/brilliance of putting the spoon on your foot to crawl out. One day, buried in the pit as I’d been for months, I spontaneously, and out of nowhere, pictured a friend opening an unknown door in the wall and sitting down to join me — not because they too were in a pit themselves, but to keep me company in my isolation and despair, reminding me I didn’t have to be there (or try to get out) all alone.

    I’ll be saving this post for future reading, and I thank you for your honesty. Here’s hoping empathy will craft a second spoon for you.

    • Your pit has had carpentry work done on it? I confess to jealousy.

      I’m hoping that “the spoon of Empathy” will somehow become a commonly used term. Until that happens, here’s to not being alone.

      Michael

  13. Becky says:

    Glad you’re back! Missed you.

  14. anne says:

    Very brave of you, Michael. Congratulations on picking yourself up, and starting all over again. Keep on, please keep writing on life, which may or may not include food and recipes, with a touch of snark and a soupcon of irony.

    • I never considered it very brave of me at all, just necessary is all.

      I promise to continue writing on life. In fact, I thank you an extra amount for asking because one of the big challenges for me lately in writing a book proposal for a memoir is thinking that writing about my own life seemed a bit selfish and unimportant what with the current state of the world. But then I pick up a book and read a chapter or two by David Rakoff or another author (but, really, Rakoff was INCREDIBLE) and think I’m wrong. Sharing one’s personal stories can often be of benefit and/or entertainment to another. It’s a good thing.

      I doubly thank you.

      • anne says:

        Michael,

        All of our lives are involved in the current state of the world. If through your own, you are able to lend a bit of clarity or humor or truth, or all three, your work will be invaluable.

        Anne

  15. Jenée Libby says:

    I’ll repeat the refrain: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    I was in the deepest depression of my life in 2014. Only dug myself out with a very complicated system of checks and balances. Long story short, I try to hit six areas daily: Move (exercise at least 1/2 hour), Remove (donate one item), Muse (Write), Meditate, Work (at least 1/2 hour), Homework (things like laundry, etc. at least 1/2 hour). If I hit all six, it’s a good day. If I hit only three, that’s okay two. The important part is to keep trying. It’s simplistic plan, a bit like earning gold stars, but it helps.

    Hang in there. It’s almost Spring. The only constant is change. You WILL feel better. Promise. xo

    • Jenée Libby says:

      GAH! I meant to say, “That’s okay TOO.” Hate when the former English teacher fucks up LOL!

      • We all fuck up. I fuck up all the fucking time.

        My friend Shannon once told me that she learned somewhere (her mother, I think) to make her bed every morning because, at the end of the day if nothing else went right or nothing of any real worth got done, you can at the very least look at your tidy sleeping place and think, “Well, at least I accomplished that.”

        I do that now. Of course, I also tend to do whatever Shannon tells me to do because it’s a 40+ year habit.

  16. Mrs. McSorley says:

    Very happy you’re starting to feel better. I think you’re just wonderful. Your writing is, too.

  17. Thea says:

    To you, hugs and spoons and friends. Missed you, love having you back. Appreciate your sharing of what it means to be Adult.

  18. Steve Reidy says:

    Thanks for your honesty, Michael. It helps more than you may ever know to hear what others are experiencing. Your words really do make a difference. Here’s hoping you find yourself in a better place soon.

    • Steve,

      If one can’t write honestly (even when being funny), then one’s writing is bullshit. I like to think most smart people could spot such dishonestly from a great distance. It’s what keeps me on my toes.

      I am very glad to know that this post may have somehow benefitted you . Thanks for telling me. And hang in there, too.

  19. Avery says:

    You’re not alone; I’m in the same depressive boat. I’m a role-poly bug too. I’m trying to find a publisher for my second book and am starting my third one. Congratulations on being so proactive though I understand it works!

    • You’re starting your THIRD? Good gravy. I’m struggling with one. Granted, it’s an intensely personal one, but jeepers. I bow to you.

      And, yes, it’s slowly sinking into my think head that proactivity is a good thing.

      Here’s hoping this depressive boat we’re on has a decent buffet somewhere. Or shuffleboard. Or, at the very least, turn-down service.

  20. MaggieToo says:

    One foot in front of the other, my brother. Sometimes it’s the best we can do in troubled times.

    • MaggieToo,

      I now cannot get this song out of my head. And I’d like to think that we can do better than Mickey Rooney in troubled times. Although Keenan Wynn is always welcome.

      • MaggieToo says:

        Egad. I’m pleased to say I’d never heard/seen that song/movie before. And I had to listen to it twice because I first misheard Wynn as saying “You mean it’s only my erection?”.

        Please evict that holiday banality from your head a.s.a.p. and make room for something more anodyne.

  21. Ross says:

    Well, “it felched” made me spit take my Arnold Palmer. So there’s that little bit of joy in this world.

  22. Nikki says:

    Coming (slowly) out of a Pacific-northwest winter “funk-it-all” myself, you are not alone! Sending hugs and good juju your way, c’mon springtime!

  23. Carrie says:

    Hugs and love, Michael! You have the most clever and literate blog in cyberspace, and i’m looking forward to the return of The Snark, whenever that may be. Take your time and take care of yourself. You matter to a whole lot of people….like me!

  24. Sarah says:

    It’s awesome to see you pop up in my RSS feed again. Becuase as much as I love your snark, this is real. And I’m cheering for you. You are moving in a healthy direction.

    • Sarah,

      It’s nice to still be popping up. It’s also nice to know I have a cheerleader. Thank you. One can’t be funny all the time, right? But it’s a very good to know that my sense of humor is gradually coming back.

  25. Jeanne says:

    I have enjoyed your posts since I stumbled across your blog some years ago. I love your writing, your recipes, your humor, and your humanness. I am sorry for your dark days. I hope that Spring will shine it’s light on you, and that your inner strength prevails. Looking forward to your next installments!!

    • Jeanne,

      I think most people have found me via stumbling and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your words are very kind and they are deeply appreciated. The dark days have been very, very long this time around, but I can start to feel the warmth of the sun on my face. And yes, I promise to wear sunscreen.

      Next installment coming sooner than later.

  26. marylou says:

    be kind to yourself friend – for you are so dear to many of us! your blog is perfect and always what I need to read; a bit of tunnel vision to someone else’s passion, experiences, life, and sharp wit. hysterical and thought provoking.

    life ebbs and flows. it kicks us square in the ass sometimes. we have all have dark moments, questions, doubts, worries and the like. and sometimes the forces of evil prevail and stomp hard.

    you connected us, we are here for you, feel us hug you tight, stay strong! lean into the love. we are pulling for you!

  27. marylou says:

    P.S. Tis the season and I have been trying to find “The Corn Dogs of Easter” on your page. Can’t seem to turn it up. Did I miss the search bar?

  28. Susan says:

    Michael, I subscribe to many, many food blogs. I am really sick of the gorgeous dreamy photos of eggplants lying on wooden planks with carefully crunched linens. And then there is your blog: plain, simple, extremely well-written and far more worthy of the awards heaped on the others that portray idyllic lives and their food. You should be proud of what you have done. And I feel lucky to have found you. I wish you well. May a thousand sturdy spoons find you.

  29. Judy says:

    Thank you for writing this, and for all the writing you do, recipes and otherwise. I read for your voice and your thoughts – and am so grateful that you share them both.

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