Yesterday I met a friend. She asked me “How are you?” I thought for a moment and then said “Rattled.”
These are weird times. And I haven’t written in almost two months. It’s impossible, of course, to catch up with everything that happened. But I’ll try to get at least the milestones right.
In early May, I went on a long drive that first took me to Berlin, where I wanted to take care of a few things and see friends. While I was in Berlin, I somehow got ill, I don’t know if it had to do with problems with the water in the place I am renting there, or whether it was just some virus. But I felt physically bad, and I also felt too much pressure from dealing with Nana, and her permanently wanting to move things between us back towards a relationship, and so I finally told her that I was going to stop communicating with her via Whatsapp for a while. On Monday, I went to my home town and stayed there for two days longer than I had planned because I did indeed get ill, and had to see a doctor. Finally when I was better, I continued my trip to the west of the country where I was doing family visits, and then from there on south, to Geneva, where I stayed with Susanna (who happened to also have her cousin over for a visit, so the three of us hung out which was fun), and then I drove all the way to Barcelona.
The plan had been to spend a month in Barcelona, to chill out, and to exercise. I had booked an AirBnB place, where I was staying with a very cool Italian-Swiss host, and another guy (French-Swiss) who’s also an artist. It’s a rather remarkable apartment, with high ceilings, and built in bathrooms in the rooms, and beds up on inserted floors. And it’s in the center of the old city center. In other words: tourism central. The downside was that my room was very dark. Even during the day, you had to turn on the lights.
The main plan was to go to my friend Jorge’s gym, and work out there. I’d spent decades hunched in front of computers, and now I finally had to remind my body that it still exists. That I did, and that was the part of my trip that really worked. During the month that I was there, I went to twelve sessions with one of the guys there, as a personal trainer, and I think it was really good that I did it.
Hanging out with Jorge was fun, too. He left our company at the same time I did, and we exchanged a lot of thoughts about leaving, and about what the company meant to us, and about life. And I went to see three of his rugby games, he’s totally passionate about rugby.
Other things were less easy. Or less fun. I hoped to hang out with Linda. And maybe get “somewhere” with her. That had been part of my motivation to come. And that plan very much fell apart. Which is fine, I guess, because at the end of the day, if that had worked out, it would have made life complicated. And I think it’s not something I would have wanted to deal with, in the longer run. But still. I was disappointed.
But in order for me to even contemplate any of that, I first had to clarify my situation with Nana. And we did. A few days after my arrival, she came to Barcelona as well, joining her sister and another friend. I was worried about their visit, she was now not going to stay with me (as had been planned originally, months ago), but with the other two. But we would have to figure out what was going to happen between us now. I knew that I had to tell her that the relationship really was over. We’d had phone calls and Whatsapp messages in the past days, and it kept going back and forth now, but when she arrived (I picked her up at the bus) she made it clear immediately that she was prepared to switch to a friend mode. That we would find a way to be some kind of friends. And she maintained that position and attitude throughout the entire four days that she was there.
And I admire her for that. She’s the one who really wanted to fight for the relationship, and now she fought really hard to maintain a connection, even though most people would scream and shout things like “I never want to see you again”, and slam doors, etc. But she didn’t. I feel, too, that there is something between us that deserves a continued effort, and that I didn’t want to lose her from my life. But she had to make that call. On the first night, when I took her back to the place where she was staying, she really suprised me. At some point she just started crying when I was talking about loneliness, and about not knowing when I will meet someone again. And she wasn’t sad about herself, or our relationship, she cried for me — she was sad and told me that she did not want to know me or see me lonely. It was incredibly touching. When she left, we knew that we would carry on in some other form, not as lovers in a couple.
Other things that happened in Barcelona: I tried to play around with Tinder a little, but that App does not seem to be working for me. I get such few matches, and the few I get don’t turn anything up. And that also hasn’t changed since I switched cities and am not in Spain anymore. In one case, I went a little out of my way for a Tinder contact I had started writing with, an artist who seemed really interesting to me. I found a gallery she is working with, and then wrote her a letter. It was kind of an exciting project, but it ended up going nowhere. I am honestly not sure why Tinder got so much hype. It does absolutely nothing for me. I rode the bike around town a lot, but other than the tiny bit of tourism I did with Nana and the girls, I didn’t really do anything other than maybe sit by beach a couple of times with a book. I tried to go to the Picasso museum three times, each time it didn’t work out — twice it was closed, once there was a line that I did not care to stand in. What was really nice was that I met a couple interesting people, all artists, through my flatmates. And my car got towed one day, and it cost me over 200 EUR to get it back. Oh well. And maybe the best thing was that I started a new animation short film project, and it’s turning out really well, and I hope to be able to publish it soon.
I left Barcelona in early June, visited friends in Grasse on the way back, and then moved house, taking my stuff from Nana’s place to Berlin, and her things, too. Her things went to a storage place, mine to the little place that I am renting from Drew. I went on another drive down to Italy, visited friends in Milan, and then spent an absolutely wonderful weekend with Amos and Golda in Padua. They were there for a sabbatical, and we hung out, and even ended up visiting the Christo Installation “Floating Piers” because we happened to realize that it was on during my time there, I had the car, so we could do it. It was absolutely delightful to spend time with them. I also did two more days freelancing for me old company, which was fine. And now I am in Berlin, where I started house-hunting (which is a little annoying because prices in Berlin have skyrocketed in the past years, and that’s particularly stupid for someone like myself who has lived here for so many years and who could have bought something for so long and didn’t …), and where I am working on finishing the animation film that I started in Barcelona. And maybe the best thing is that I realized why my life in the past has never really been happy, why I have felt out of place so much: first studying and then working with a business school crowd was just not the right tribe for me. I have spent over 20 years living and working with the wrong people, talking about the wrong things, thinking the wrong thoughts. I did make some money that way, which is nice, but now I really need to — and will! — turn things around and move into the direction that brings me together with the right people.
But all in all, things are well. Objectively speaking, they are insanely good. I took care of ending my relationship and getting a new start, I moved house, I have a clean slate and all the time in the world to experiment with my life, I’ll be where all my friends are, and I am healthy.
So why am I rattled? Why am I never happy? I had the delightful weekend with Amos and Golda, and yet I was not happy that entire time. Why is that?
I talked about this with my therapist today. I see three reasons:
- I cannot deal with the mess the world is in. A few days ago, the British voted for the Brexit. Trump is making the waves he is making in America. Right-wing politics and scaremongering are becoming part of everyday political culture all around me. Mankind is unstoppable when it comes to polluting the world, the oceans, and destroying the climate. The silicon valley is on a headlong collision course with Artificial Intelligence that might eat the planet. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. And I have neither job nor family, so I am sitting in the middle of all of this, with no responsibilities and the freedom to think, and everyday my head wants to explode.
- At some point during the last three, four years the reality that my life will end has turned from a theoretical idea into a practical realization. And that pulls me down, somehow. It makes me anxious and unwell.
- I am suffering from a strange type of hypochondria. And I have for most of my adult life. When I have some type of pain and/or affliction, my mind almost immediately goes into overdrive and imagines all kinds of horrible scenarios, before I have spoken to any doctor. And in the recent past, I’ve had more pain and little problems here and there, because of stress and anxiety, and everything — all these three points feed into each other, and reinforce each other. And I cannot get out of it.
So, yeah. I am not happy. I am rattled.