Eventually, there comes a point where the noise from the neighbours subsides, and then, there it is: almost silence. A pigeon warbling on a rooftop; breeze rustling through summer leaves; a car passing down a nearby street; but no sounds of anyone speaking, talking, even existing at all. Except you know that you are existing: you are there, part of it, but silent, as silent as everything around you, just now part of the silence, rather than part of activity, or noise. You are doing nothing. You are doing nothing, because you have nothing to do.
That's not completely true, of course. There are lists of things to do. There are things that could be done, if you could do them; if you could bring yourself to stop doing nothing, and do something, anything at all. There are ways of starting the day, and getting into a pattern of doing something, even if something is anything, even if the anything doesn't matter: there are ways of making it seem as if you're moving along, when really you're just running on the spot, or treading water.
I don't need advice. I'm not looking for help. And I don't feel sorry for myself. All of this is perfectly fine and ordinary; and I realise that I am, in all probability, much better off than many, many other people. And I don't miss that awful fish hook of work, tying me down, trapping me in a particular place, at a particular time. I have no special desire to go back there, except I know that I have to, at some point; and I will go back to that experience, sooner or later, and everything will be all right again, or as all right again as things can be. I find myself strangely bereft of self-pity or depression: there's an absence of all kind of emotion, including those negative ones; there is an absence of feeling anything, a kind of ordinariness, a dailiness, a numbness. One day passes and another arrives. Everything changes very slightly, and the same actors move around in slightly different positions; but, apart from that, this could be any day, any time, anywhere, and I could be anyone, doing anything. Only the warmth of the sun, the buzz of a fly, reminds me what time of year it is. Curtains brush gently against the wallpaper because of the open windows.
All around, everywhere, there are people silently getting on with things. I read this blogpost today and it reminded me of me. I'm only a few more days further along the line, and I can recognise the same feelings, the same sense of things starting again. Yes yes, of course, it's an opportunity, and a start, rather than a cul-de-sac, an ending; you tell yourself the same 'be positive!' mantras over and over, in the hope that you might start to believe it, or you might start to think it might be possible to believe it, anyway. You start wondering how many other people are just getting on with things, lost in the silence, lost in the place they live, where their loved ones try to tell them it will all be all right, but they don't know for sure whether it really will or not. You wonder how many other people cope, and if they cope; and you hope they do, because it means that you can, or could.
When you have no time, when you're busy commuting and working, you wish you had spare time, days off, and then you'd get everything done, everything you wanted to get done: it would all happen, if it weren't for work. And then, when you have spare time, and days off, oceans of time to do anything you want with, you realise that you didn't need time at all, that you could have done what you thought you ought to have done back when you told yourself you had no time to do it; that you were just procrastinating and using the excuse of having no time; that you aren't any more likely to do the things you really think you should be doing now that you have time. You may even be less likely. All that time, stretching away, into the distance. All those empty, silent hours.
Days off. I don't want days off. I want days on. I want that sense that there's too much to do and not enough time to do it in. I want an ordinary, boring life. A job, an ordinary job, and a 9-5 routine maybe, and just being able to go somewhere, and come back, and feel like I'm doing something, rather than doing nothing; even if the work is pointless, it's work, and people, I think, if they're anything like me at least, like to work, in a lot of ways.
But now there are forms and paperwork; things to aspire to. Person specifications for you to want to be like, so you can do something. Job descriptions to look at and imagine yourself doing. And there will be glimpses into other people's working lives, and firm handshakes, and then emails telling you that it was a very strong shortlist, and that you really did well to be told you weren't good enough on this occasion, and that somehow this will make you feel better for your efforts. Not for you, not this time. Not for you. And you will smile and carry on with it, because that's what you do, because you feel the world might be all right, and that there will be something for you, somewhere; there has been before, so there will be now, won't there...?
Aspire to this; aspire to that. Daytime television: here's someone with a massive house who wants to buy another house; here's someone with so many things, worth so much money, they want to get rid of them; here are poor people shouting at each other and fucking each other and having DNA tests. Look up to them; look down on them. Keep aspiring, keep ticking the boxes and filling in the application forms, and you can be one of them; stay where you are, and stagnate, and you'll become one of them instead. Aspire, and fear.
I don't want days off any more. There will be a time when I look back, and think "Why didn't I do so much with all that time, all the time I had?" and I will have forgotten how it feels, how desolate it all is. Not painful, not unpleasant, not hurtful, and so there are reasons to be thankful, and to acknowledge that this situation is not as bad as that faced by others, by a very, very long way. Keep it in perspective at all times. But still, there is an emptiness, a silence, an inertia, a torpor, a glue that binds you to the places you are - a feeling that you can't get away, and won't ever get away from the choices you made and the things you did, all the things that led you to here. Remember that, when you hate work. Remember that, when you feel you don't want to get out of bed. Mock it all out of your mind. Remember this.
Things will change.