Baseball and Bad Ideas

Baseball and Bad Ideas

The Cubs are in the World Series. This is a time for extraordinary feats, for crying manly tears, for breaking curses. Real life is pretty much an inspirational sports movie right about now.

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Because of this, because emotions are high, because the atmosphere in Illinois is practically sizzling with long over-due satisfaction, I am going to do the unthinkable. I am going to join the crowds outside Wrigley Field this weekend. I am going to walk long distances, stand for hours, be cold, maybe drink something stronger than a Cherry Sprite, and I am going to ride that adrenaline like it’s a mechanical bull and I am a drunk guy trying to prove myself.

About an hour after I called my dad and asked if he’d like to stand with me outside Wrigley while our favorite team in all the world played in the World Series, I started to think maybe that is a stupid idea. It was 7 pm on a day when I hadn’t done much of anything, but I was already in bed, exhausted and having a hard time focusing on an essay that I needed to write. I finally decided to put it away until the morning because I was clearly over-done. I don’t go out, I thought, even on regular nights, because it’s too exhausting and the recovery time isn’t worth it. This will be like 20 times worse.

And then I thought, to get to Chicago on Friday I will have to make the 2 hour drive home from school after my classes–that always wears me out. I’ll have to take medicine for the migraine that will form during the drive, like usual. And then I will have to get in another car to make another drive which will probably take longer, because everyone in the world will be migrating to Clark and Addison.

That thing called “post-extertional malaise“–that thing that makes me disproportionately more tired with everything I do–is real and terrifying. It’s mean. It is an old-school school teacher waiting with a wooden ruler to slap my knuckles every time I mess up. And sometimes when I don’t, just for fun. But it’s worse than that, too, because if I make it really mad, it can mess up my life. Exhaustion can start as a snowball and turn into an avalanche. But so far, I’ve bounced back well enough.

I’ve stayed up all night before. I worked an entire 10 day movie shoot from 4 pm to 6 am this summer. But I did sleep from 6 am to 4 pm…and I cheated and napped a bunch of times. And I slept a solid 48 hours afterwards. I won’t be able to sleep all day before staying up all night this weekend–I’ll have to power through. And I won’t have time to recover afterwards. I have to get right back to school and be able to function in my classes.

What shoes should I wear? This is a serious question because if my feet hurt, or if they’re slightly too heavy, or if I am in anyway noticeably uncomfortable, I’ll feel disproportionately worse and my recovery time will multiply. I need to be warm enough and light enough and comfortable enough that I only have to deal with the physical ramifications of walking too far and standing too long and staying up way too late.

Should I exercise this week? I feel better overall when I move around and stretch out, but it can make me excessively tired if I’m not in the perfect condition to handle it. So I’ll skip that for now. If I do too much or in anyway wear myself out before Friday, the snowball of exhaustion will get too big to stop and cascade down the mountain side until it crushes a sweet Swiss village with it’s icy fury. (Or something less dramatic.)

So I sat in my bed, too tired to motivate myself to change out of my jeans or take out my contacts, and worried that I was having a moment that is best described with a line from a movie–a “you think you can do these things but you just can’t, Nemo” moment. These are moments when I over-reach, when I am fully convinced that I can do something that even a little bit of thought would reveal to be absolutely beyond my capability.

But this year I have done so many things that I shouldn’t have been able to do. Like that movie shoot, for instance. That was not at all a smart decision. If I hadn’t gotten the amount of sleep I did, or if it had lasted one day longer, or if I had pushed myself to stand up more, or if the boxes I carried had been heavier, or if the wind blew a little harder–if anything had been a little more difficult, I could have jeopardized my overall health permanently.

Oddly, thankfully, I was feeling more Nemo than Marlin when I made my summer plans. Because the experience was unforgettable. I’ve never been in a World Series crowd before (for obvious reasons) but I imagine that will be pretty unforgettable, too. So I’m going to plan my clothes, and my nap times, and my activities for the rest of the week, and a hundred thousand tiny decisions around this one night.

Maybe my legs will hurt. Maybe my head will pound. Maybe I will sit down in the middle of the cold street and cry. Maybe my heart will do that thing that it does when I’ve hit my breaking point–it feels like it falls over inside my chest cavity. I don’t know what that’s about. Whatever. The point is: maybe I shouldn’t be able to do this, but maybe anything is possible. Maybe I’ll feel fine.

The Cubs just won the pennant, so I’ve got to try.

(If my dad decides he doesn’t want to go, please disregard all inspirational feelings. Thank you.)

About Today

Sometimes I wake up with pain in my face and forehead like my skull is contracting. The running joke in my family is that an alien life-form in gestating in my brain and I’m experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. It’ll pass. (Until the day the infant alien bursts forth.) Anyway, I woke up to false alien baby labor this morning.

The best thing to do on days like this is to stay in bed and watch some tv. Maybe take a shower or a bath at some point, since water always feels good. But no pressure. Just take it easy. Give my poor head a break because it’s clearly going through something.

I don’t do what is best, though, because I am determined. I force myself out of bed. I make to do lists–multiple lists of things I have to get done today–or else. Never mind that I can barely get through writing the list. I stare into space trying to think of the word for those little sticks with the soft ends that clean your ears…what are those things? I know I know this. What’s the….?

When I look down at my phone it’s been fifteen minutes, I’ve written three items, and I have no idea what those stupid cardboard fluffy sticks are called but I know I need to buy some of them. The two other items on my list are read everything on each syllabus for my classes and write every paper due this semester. Not really, but it might as well be that unnecessarily ambitious.

Going to the store like this is a bad idea. I’ve done it before. I survived. But it’s not a pleasant experience. I am Dory and I can’t remember that important thing. I make a plan in my head; go to toiletries, then grocery, then leave. But I forget it as soon as I’m in amongst the people and noise and choices. So many choices. Why are there four different kinds of sticks with cottony stuff? That’s too many. And my skull starts to constrict in a wave of pain and I don’t care about Q-tips. Ah, Q-tips! They’re called Q-tips. Anyway, I don’t want Q-tips. I don’t want to be in the store. I want to go home and climb into bed. Why am I out of bed anyway? Whose idiotic idea was this?

“Do you need any help?” a shelf stocker asks me, which is unusual because the staff in this store are not particularly helpful generally. But the stocker seems amused by me. That’s when I realize I have been in this aisle for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes looking at Q-tips. So I left the store without buying anything.

My bookbag in the front seat reminds me that I’m supposed to get stuff done today, but it’s not going to happen. I know that now. My determination is broken. So I drive home mad. I’m mad at myself for not being able to pick between four kinds of Q-tips. Or finish a simple to-do list. Or work on an actually important assignment. Or write a blog post about having a chronic illness.

I’m mad at myself for not being able to manage better, even though this is the only one day and I’ve gone a couple weeks without wasting an entire day in bed. I’m mad that any day is wasted. I’m trying to make up time here! I have to use every day. I have to finish to-do lists.

But by the time I get into bed, I’m too exhausted and my pillows are too comfy for me to be mad anymore. I’m pretty sure the alien baby has changed positions because now my skull is threatening to split open at my temple. So I can’t think about a paper or write a post or remember to eat today.

Tomorrow I won’t be mad at myself for today. I’ll be a little frustrated by the additional work I have to do. And embarrassed about that whole Q-tip fiasco. But I won’t be mad. Because a bad day is a bad day. I’ve been through bad weeks and bad months and bad years. I came out the other side of a bad decade.

Bad days are days I don’t get back. That’s true and it sucks. Nothing gets done (except parts of this blog post). I don’t see my friends or make new connections. Occasionally I miss deadlines and the type A side of me dies a thousand deaths in agony. But mostly the world goes round and I binge an entire series on Netflix (only actually watching some of the episodes because the light from laptop screens is refracted evil). And right now, in a moment of rational clarity, I know bad days are not my fault. I can’t control them. I avoid my triggers, but they’ll happen anyway. So what’s the point of being mad at me? It’s just mean. I’m trying my best here.

I know I won’t remember this revelation the next time I wake up feeling like my cranium is being squeezed from the outside while stretching on the inside. I’ll worry I’m going to waste a whole day again. I’ll convince myself that everything needs to be done and it has to be done today. So next time, all I have to do is read this post, try not to roll my eyes–which will hurt like hell–and surrender. It’s just one day.