I have begun to assimilate to summer in Greece. My waking time, which has been 6 or 7am, or 8 at the very latest, for years, now, has shifted to 10am. I drink frappes, daily, which are made of Nescafé, water, and a pinch of sugar, whipped into an icy froth. I eat dinner at 10pm, like a criminal.
I work, of course, but not like I have been accustomed to working. I am beginning to process the what to do now, now that I am not doing a PhD, now that I am almost done with my book. I put off responding to emails. I get Dom to respond to the urgent business ones that come with obligations I can fend off for a few more days. I don’t react immediately to the news of my brother getting engaged and migrating to the United States, like my other brother before him, like me. I do my hours at my desk (actually my bed), and then I do whatever I want, which is not corresponding with friends I love, but writing lists of chores, running empty errands, listening to audiobooks while cleaning, or while drinking wine. Being more or less idle.
I see friends, but I forget to respond to their text messages, and sometimes I don’t show up to things they have invited me to.
Dom thinks that this development means I am becoming a normal girl, a non-task-master, a ‘chiller’. I worry I am becoming someone destined for invisibility, for non-existence.
What I am describing is, I suppose, regular burnout behaviour, which is not the same as depression. It’s ordinary detachment, dissociation from reality that only empty time and idleness (and probably regular exercise) will correct.
The difference, this time, is that I am older than I used to be and therefore not surrounded by people I can share my idle hours with, and with whom I might make sense of how I got here. Just as 24-year-olds seem to be the only ones good at polyamory (who else has time for all the coffees?), burnout is better in a life that hinges on extended time with friends, sharing no goal, doing nothing in particular. I have friends, don’t worry, and I love my friends passionately, wherever they are. But like everyone else who has passed through capitalist time by accumulating roles and duties and worries, my old friendships, the ones that were based on mutual and ongoing life-narration, at some point took a backseat.
There are children now, other people’s children; there is work, and ambition; there are ailing or difficult parents. There is keeping a house in a state you’d actually like to live in, there is exercise and skincare, there is sex, there is waiting in line at the post office, are there are the bare facts of migration and travel, the old friends who live nowhere near me nor near anywhere we used to live.
It used to be that I spent all day writing letters to my best friend, then seeing her, or another one, or another one, after school, then talking on the phone with her, or him, or another friend, or someone I was in love with, for as long as I could without being cut off by other family members wanting to use the phone. I am sometimes surprised that I passed high school, that I worked and partied and had savage mood swings and also passed school, so obsessed I was with my relationships, romantic and narrative both.
Well into adulthood, this mode of friendship, this intense, ongoing interrogation of who am I, in relation to my life, and to you, this knowing the events and details of someone else biography so deeply that I could interrupt them when they forgot a key component of an earlier breakup; this was the joy of my life. Narrating the same events, but finding, this time, the undiscovered thread that would reveal the concealed meaning.
Adriana Cavarero writes about life narration and female friendship, which I think extends to queer friendship more broadly, better than I can:
we women know how the habitual side of feminine friendship consists in this reciprocal narrative exchange—continuous though interrupted, intense though diverting—of our own life stories. For female friends, the questions ‘who are you?’ And ‘who am I?’, in the absence of a plural scene of interaction where the who can exhibit itself in broad daylight, immediately finds their answer in the classic rule of storytelling.
Maybe it was just that my life was really so shitty that there was always some major drama going on, and I just needed free counselling from other underemployed, available bodies. Maybe I am more stable and don’t need that much support anymore. Maybe it was that that my life was so shitty that I just didn’t bother prioritising things like health and hygiene and employment, and I therefore had time to kill. Maybe now my life has purpose and meaning on its own. Maybe I changed, maybe I became a cynical career woman with no time for girl talk.
But I am more inclined to blame texting for this gap in my life. I blame the fact that everyone moved their hour-long phone-calls to text, and I can’t participate, because I have RSI.
(Sorry for not calling, texting, emailing, I’ll be better at it soon)