Honesty

I write a lot about my anxiety. I do that because it helps me laugh at myself. I love to write and to make people laugh, so it’s almost like therapy to me.

Lately though, I’ve been struggling with depression. It’s surprising because I normally swing the other way on the spectrum. I’m high anxiety. Everyone hates me because of something I did, I cut my hand and will probably get MRSA, the cats are going to burn down the house, I’m pregnant from peeing on a public toilet seat, etc.

It’s been so long since I’ve had a bad bout of depression, it took me a while to identify it. I’m sure depression looks and feels different for everyone, but for me, it feels like an actual illness. Like my body is heavy and not my own. I watch my hands move a lot. I’m dizzy and foggy.

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and you just sit on the toilet for a while, staring at nothing? That’s what I do all day. I sit on the couch or bed, trying to convince myself to get up. Part of my brain is pumping me up, telling me to get up, just get up and do X. But the other part just sits there and doesn’t take it seriously.

I feel betrayed by my body and mind. I am so fortunate. I have a home, a job, friends, family. I’m not a brain surgeon or lawyer or something “worthy” of being stressed about.

I don’t want to talk to anyone, but it’s not in the way you think. When people retreat, you might picture a hermit. Like a mean old man in a basement. But that’s not quite it. It’s just that I really don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to tell anyone what’s going on because I don’t want to talk about it. I’m annoyed with it. I’m exhausted by it. I don’t feel like explaining it because it doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me, or like I’m fishing for attention and sympathy.

I don’t want to talk about it, but I don’t want to talk about anything else. It makes no sense!

I’m already better than I was yesterday. It just sucks, and it’s something I haven’t felt in a long time. I’m not a major extravert. I like being alone. So I didn’t think COVID isolation would affect me. But I guess it has.

I feel stupid writing this because I know what I look like to the outside world. I look fine. I’m still making stupid jokes and videos on social media. So I feel scared to publish this, because my brain is telling me people will think I’m faking or, again, fishing for sympathy. But damn. I am finally understanding what people mean by an “invisible illness.”

To be clear, I am okay. I know I will be okay. This is not meant to scare anyone. It’s just meant to, hopefully, relate to someone. According to my therapist, my nervous system has been fried for the last couple weeks, so I’m sure my body is just finally taking the chance to say “fuck off and chill out.” I just feel terrible for anyone else experiencing this. If you are, I’m here.

Nostalgia

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking a lot about elementary and middle school, wishing I could put in a tape, press play and rewatch the highlights.

I have a bad memory, so I don’t remember a lot from those times. It could also be that I’ve blocked a lot out, seeing as I was a puberty monster from hell. However, I’ve noticed that when I take an edible before bed (sorry, Mom), I’m able to recall memories that were previously dormant. Like my mind relaxes enough to show me stuff I was too anxious, stressed or preoccupied to remember.

Full disclosure: this could totally be placebo effect. My anxiety makes it pretty easy to trick me into believing stuff. If a stranger on the street told me I was pregnant, I’d believe him. Wouldn’t matter if I’d had sex recently (I haven’t, Mom). Or if he followed up with, “Well, you wanna be?” I’d convince myself that yes, I actually did notice some splash-back from that Whole Foods toilet, which means my pee stream must have propelled a lingering toilet sperm from watery its depths and into my unsuspecting vagina.

This is a joke, but it’s also something I’ve had to talk about in therapy. “Sperm don’t have legs, Joanna,” is an actual thing my therapist has said to me.

Don’t trust sperm, never have.

Anyways, the other night I took an edible and started remembering things from 5th to 8th grade. Here’s what I wrote down:

My first kiss with a boy I was absolutely obsessed with. We were at the movies. When I got home, I washed my mouth with soap because I was worried about germs.

Accidentally farting in class and wanting to die.

Asking my mom why I farted so much, and her telling me it’s probably because I was eating six bowls of Raisin Bran per day.

“You’ll be cute, but never hot.” Something a middle school boy once said to me during an assembly. He was holding court on the bleachers, predicting who would grow up to be hot or not. He was my Allison DuBois, and I, like Kyle Richards, asked for information I simply could not handle.

“I don’t even take Advil.” – A girl in my D.A.R.E. class, sucking up to the officers. I was wholly addicted to Sudafed at this point, so she became my North Star.

Putting on 8 coats of lip gloss to impress the boys at gym class, only to have said boys say, “Looks like you’ve got cum on your lips.”

Putting on 8 coats of black eye liner to look mature and edgy, only to have my crush say, “Looks like someone punched you in the face.”

Begging my mom for a dark blue Chrysler Town & Country.

Playing “the floor is lava” but replacing “lava” with “a river of sperm.” (Like I said, never trusted them.)

Watching Armageddon for the first time.

Falling hopelessly, desperately, obsessively in love with someone new every year and feeling like shit when they didn’t notice me.

Falling hopelessly, desperately, obsessively in love with Vin Diesel.

My favorite pants: denim flares from Ross with an airbrushed panda bear on the left leg.

A girl telling me, “You wore those pants yesterday.” Bitch I know they’re my favorite.

Creating three fake screen-names to stalk my crush on AIM. One of them was “FashionVictim123” which was, unintentionally, perhaps the best undercover name I could have picked:

I’m on the right, flying deep under the fashion radar.

Realizing I was one of maybe two kids in my social studies class whose family voted for Gore.

Similarly, a kid telling our science teacher they weren’t going to learn about evolution.

Faking a broken toe at soccer tryouts because I didn’t realize it would be so much running.

Stepping on a mason jar, cutting my toe 90% of the way off and going into shock while my parents weren’t home.

Fiddling with a phantom bra strap in class so boys would think I wore a bra.

Believing my cousin when he told me that croutons were made from ground up bits of hamsters.

Riding my bike around the neighborhood as fast as I could, hoping all the teenage boys would look out their windows and whisper, “Damn that girl can fly.”

Absolutely living for my friends’ bar and bat mitzvahs.

Thinking Voldemort had taken control of my feet when actually they were just asleep because I’d been sitting on them too long while reading.

Being a real asshole to everyone, especially my family. Sorry Mom, Dad and Jess. I love you.

My Issues With Popular Romance

I know my friends will read the title of this and say, “Why haven’t you contacted that therapist I sent you?” But the thing is,

I will text her tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have a bone to pick with romance writers. See, as a dog walker, I spend an inordinate about of time picking up poop and listening to audiobooks. It’s a great way to pass the time and learn new things, like how champagne houses were part of The French Resistance in WWII, and how the restaurant Long John Silver’s named itself after a pirate who cooked his own leg and fed it to his crew. (Allegedly.)

However, I’ve been devouring audiobooks at a rapid rate and, in doing so, have found I can almost always predict what’s going to happen ten minutes in:

If a single woman’s mother dies, she will inherit a curious pack of letters and/or a crumbling mansion in Europe, wherein she will discover a tangled web of family secrets guarded by a hot, complicated gardener.

If a woman is successful and lives in a city, her fiancé will cheat on her and she will seek refuge in a sleepy little ghost town, where she will inevitably fall for the neighborhood widower.

If a woman notices a man’s hair “curling over his ears,” she will sleep with him.

If a woman moves in with her grandmother, they’re both witches.

If a woman touches a rock in a foreign country, she will travel back hundreds of years in time and fall in love with a man who, against all odds, has a full set of teeth.

I am willing to accept one can travel through time, but I refuse to believe an 18th-century man would be hot and healthy without ever having laid tooth to brush.

But I digress.

These predictable plots got me thinking about the problematic relationships we’re sold over and over again in pop culture. I should caveat this post with the fact that I am single, cynical, and probably a little confused about what I want, so my opinions are not for everyone.

Mr. & Mrs. ReyLo Smith:

Girl and Boy are sworn enemies: terrible to and for each other. Girl and Boy spend years trying to kill each other. There’s a brief moment in which we wonder if Girl and Boy are related? Girl and Boy have an explosive fight on a collapsing space boat, after which Girl and Boy realize they actually love each other, or, at the very least, would have fantastic sex.

Message: Take a chance on that psycho you hate! He might be your soul mate. Or cousin, who knows! Also, violence = passion, and sex inside collapsing buildings is THE BEST.

My issue with this archetype is that I’ve never wanted to sleep with someone I’ve spent years trying to assassinate.

But, then again, maybe I just haven’t met the right guy.

Why does Hollywood always push women to fall in love with the men trying to kill them? This happens frequently throughout one of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whether it’s Buffy and Spike or Buffy and Angel. I will say, though, I very much appreciated the decision to have Buffy kill Angel to save the world. You go girl.

True Vampire Saga:

Virgin Girl Next Door meets Immortal Bad Boy. Boy tells girl to stay away from him, if she knows what’s good for her. Girl takes this as a light suggestion and brings him a bundt cake anyways. Boy says, “I kill people.” Girl says, “Lol it’s okay I’m weird too.” Hot, much more stable werewolf friend enters the picture. No one cares. Someone tries to kill Girl, so Boy makes Girl move into his mansion. Boy and Girl live happily ever after even though they have absolutely nothing in common and their conversations are painful to listen to.

Message: You’ll be the one to change him. Also, controlling is hot!

My issue with this is why are werewolves/shapeshifters always friend-zoned? I’d choose a werewolf over a vampire every time. For one–and I cannot stress how important this is to me–they are not dead. Second, they can do stuff during the day. Third, they eat. Fourth, they (probably) won’t eat me. And fifth, I could ride one like a horse in a pinch.

The Curmudgeon Next Door:

City Girl moves next door to Small Town Boy. Girl is chatty and addicted to work. Boy is rude and thinks Wifi is the Devil’s work. Girl complains about Boy to locals. Locals tell Girl that Boy is mean because he is sad and he is sad because he is widowed. Girl gives Boy a second chance. Girl and Boy make headway until Girl asks Boy about his dead wife, Sara. Boy blows up. Girl storms out. Boy storms after Girl and somehow they end up making out because they’re both scared of love.

Message: He’s an asshole now, but if you wear him down, he’ll come around.

This one is particularly hard for me because I have a pattern of falling for unattainable men, and never once have they caved and opened a B&B with me.

For more, see The Spirit of Christmas or Luke from Gilmore Girls.

Reluctant Childhood Sweethearts:
(Most commonly found in novels)

Girl and Boy are childhood best friends. Puberty strikes and Girl and Boy become more than best friends on Their Dock. Shit hits the fan with Girl’s family (her mom is a piece of work!) and Girl moves in with her Grandma. Girl convinces herself she’s unlovable so she says something mean to Boy. Heartbroken, Boy moves to New York.

Girl never speaks to Boy again, but she thinks about him every time she smells the sea.

Boy never speaks to Girl again, but he becomes an emotionally unavailable bachelor who sleeps with lots of models.

Years pass.

Boy inherits his father’s hotel empire, even though he swore he’d never be a Suit.

Girl takes over Grandma’s Wicca store, even though she dreams of becoming a writer.

Grandma dies.

Boy comes back for Grandma’s funeral; Girl avoids him at all costs.

Boy spends days, weeks, MONTHS convincing Girl to let him love her.

Boy yells, “I won’t let you go! Not again!”

Girl yells, “I’m scared!”

Boy kisses her anyways.

Boy and Girl are happy until something weird happens. (Girl’s mom comes back in the picture? Girl’s editor shows up unannounced when Girl isn’t home, so Boy invites her in for coffee and she tells him all about the exposé Girl agreed to write about Boy’s family before they reconnected?)

But whatever they get over it and fall deeply in love. Again.

Message: Maybe take another look at your fourth grade boyfriend. Also, you don’t really know how you feel about someone until they tell you how you should feel about them.

I don’t want a dude to tell me how I should feel about him. I also don’t want a dude to tell me he’s going to the bathroom to play with his nipples, which is why I stopped online dating.

In conclusion, I should probably start reading better stuff. But I doubt I will.

Wide Awake

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My dreams have been violent and insane. My legs have been restless to the point I wonder if I’m being punished for not believing in restless leg syndrome.

My brain simply won’t shut off at night. I lay awake googling the dumbest stuff, like “nicole kidman tom cruise wedding,” and “is dick cheney still alive.”

I started keeping a journal by my bed to jot things down as they come to me, in case they’re particularly poignant. So far, I have:

  • Billy Bob Thornton made it in Hollywood with the name Billy Bob.
  • The way we buy fish is really rude. We walk in, pick out the coolest/prettiest fish in each tank, totally separating them from their friends and families, and then throw them all together in strange, unfamiliar tank and expect them to get along.
  • I would like to see a fish tank reality show.
  • Peter Pan pits all the women in his life against each other.

My friend suggested I download this app that plays special musical tones to help you sleep. It’s actually really nice. 

Since it sounds like spa music, when I’m listening to it, I try to meditate by picturing myself floating through space. And it works for a while, but then my brain is like, “let’s fuck this up.”

Here’s an example: 

I’m floating through space.

I’m weightless.

I’m peaceful.

I’m naked?

No. I’m not naked. That would be stupid.

I’m floating through space. I’m weightless. I’m peaceful–

But why am I floating through space? Was there some kind of explosion? Am I like Carrie Fisher in the Last Jedi? 

I’m floating through space. I’m weightless. I’m peace–

God I hated that scene. There’s no way she would’ve survived that explosion. Or the exposure! Who approved that? Who thought that was okay?! HAS NO ONE SEEN ARMAGEDDON?!

I’m floating through space. I’m weightless. I’m peaceful, and my skin melting off and my face caving in like Owen Wilson in Armageddon.

And now I’m wide awake.

Things I’ve Done So Far While Sheltering in Place

Traded an almond cake for a copper pipe.

Washed a block of cheese with soap and water.

Set up a barber shop for cats.

Started running again.

Lowered my Hinge minimum age preference to 26.

Learned 30 seconds of my Phantom of the Opera piano book.

Built a laptop for cats.

Tried to bake.

Raised my Hinge age minimum preference back up to 30.

Made a TikTok account.

Dreamed I had a baby at a Macy’s counter.

Took pictures of my molars.

Tried to train the cats how to sit.

Shaved one leg.

Stopped running. Again. For reasons I’m not yet ready to disclose.

I have no idea how to use TikTok, which is why this is an embeded YouTube video.

Dad Doing Taxes

It’s impossible for me to do my taxes without thinking about my dad. Growing up, Tax Day was a scary time in the Clark household. My dad would lock himself in the office for hours, while my mom did her best to keep my sister and I quiet/as far away as possible.

This was hard for two reasons:

First, because my sister and I were very loud. Our favorite games were scream-singing The Lion King and The Music Man, and trying to break each others’ bones. Once, we danced so hard that Jessie threw up in my ear.

Second, because at that age, I found it nearly impossible to stay away from the office. I loved the computer. I’d spend hours up there, curating quotes for my AIM profile, playing Monkey Island, asking Jeeves for pictures of Vin Diesel, previewing ringtones for the cellphone I didn’t have, scanning photos of myself into the computer and using Microsoft Paint to give myself cleavage, etc.

I LOVED the computer. But the picture my mom painted of “Dad doing taxes” put the fear of God in me, so I stayed away.

“What are these ‘taxes,’ and what have they done to my father?!” I’d cry as I imagined him up there, grumbling, cursing, kicking my beloved scanner.

A few hours later, he’d emerge from the office, bleary-eyed and pale, mumbling incoherently about “quick books” and “that damn cat” throwing up somewhere.

I go into all of this because now, as a full-grown tax paying adult, I realize I have become my dad. I learned this as proper tax paying behavior. So when it comes time for me to file, I repeat what I have learned.

This became abundantly clear yesterday when, after growling at 1099s for two hours straight, I looked up to find Heather staring at me, eyes wide with a mix of fear and concern.

“I think you should take a walk,” she said. “You scare me when you get like this.”

Maybe she saw in me what I saw in my dad. Or maybe she wanted to Paint her cleavage in peace. Either way, I took her advice and got some fresh air.

While I blame my dad for this behavior, I’m not mad at him. He’s taught me a lot of lessons. Some – like how to change a tire or make rice – I’ve conveniently forgotten. Others, like self-sufficiency, storytelling and how to make Beer “Gatorade,” I hold dear.

My dad teaching my sister Jessie (left) and me how to fish.

An update

As most of my friends and family know, this pandemic is my worst nightmare realized.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been terrified of germs.

And sperm.

But most days: germs.

When I was a child, I’d patrol the bathroom to make sure my family members washed their hands.

Also when I was young, I wouldn’t touch a quilt my great aunt made for me because I was worried she’d pricked herself while sewing it, thus leaving behind an invisible trail of disease-ridden blood.

In elementary school, I threw away a pair of Skechers because I accidentally stepped on a dead bird.

In fifth grade, I ruined our family reunion because I was convinced the 100-year-old Italian home we rented was empty because its inhabitants had died of the plague.

In middle school, I thought I had Mad Cow Disease.

In high school, I got tested for Mono at least four times. (And ended up getting it! Huzzah!)

In college, I convinced myself I was pregnant without having sex.

Ah, wait.

That’s sperm.

In college, I went to the ER because I convinced myself I’d been given a dirty flu shot needle.

A few months ago, I started feeling sick while listening to “Outlander” because Claire and Jamie kept talking about small pox.

I’ve never seen Contagion, 28 Days Later, or any of those types of movies because I know they will be my absolute undoing. (I’m ruling out Parasite, too, based on name alone. Though I hear it’s great!)

In summary, my anxiety has been training for this my entire life.

I’ve spent the last few days in a series of highs and lows. One minute, I’ll be perfectly fine. Laughing, joking, eating the myriad of treats my roommate, Heather, keeps making for us.

The next, I’ll feel like I’m about to pass out.

“Unraveling.” Captured by Heather.

I am slipping back into old habits. I’m not returning phone calls, texts or emails. I’m not listening to people when they talk to me; my face is simply there to hide the panic behind it.

My stress dreams are no joke. Here is one entry from my journal:

Tuesday, March 17

“I had a nightmare last night that I had COVID-19.

I was at an Irish pub. I started feeling really weird and hot. Someone served me a blueberry muffin with eggs on top. 

Next I was home, screaming for my mom but no sound would come out. Eventually she heard me and took me to the hospital.

I was ‘first in line.’ They gave me the test. It was a cheeseboard set up with tiny amounts of fermented food. I put each one in my mouth and drank a weird liquid. Apparently that was the test. I tested positive.

They then asked if we were going to stay at the hospital or in a hotel. I told my mom to make the decision. We picked a hotel room that had a Tasmanian Devil theme.”

I am fortunate in that I have the resources to support myself during my complete isolation. I know many people have it much worse than I do. People have lost jobs. Money. Time with loved ones. So much. And this thing is only getting started.

I have no idea what’s going to happen.

It feels like waiting for a tsunami.

I’m reading Little Women which feels like a terrible decision.

I needed to write about it because I’m feeling up to it today.

Young Love

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’m reposting some of my boy-crazy diary entries from elementary school. I shared these a few years ago on my blog and totally forgot about them until recently.

I transcribed them word for word, typos included, but I had to change the boys’ names, as I still know them and would hate to reconnect. My annotations are in italics.

January 5, 1997: Dear Diary, I like lots of boys but my friends make fun of it. (I was 8 years old in 1997)

November 1997: Today was just a day. I did go to bball practis (sigh) my life is usaly O.K. (My first love: b ball.)

“bball practis”

April 1998: I watch a T.V show called Keenan and Kel. Kel is cute!

Oct. 2, 1998: In my earlyer writing I said, “but above all, I like Leonardo Decaprio.” Well now I don’t like him I like Nick Carter off the Backstreet Boys.

December 26, 1998: Youve heard alot about Megan, but most things were complaints. (Sorry, Megan. I love you.) Well Megan and I are best buds. We used to do friendship tests. Most of them said “you and your friend are in troubled waters.” Well, we didn’t pay any attention to it but now I think its right! For Christmas she got me bath beads, witch I love. But she knows how much I love Nick Carter and gave Maddie a lifesize poster of Nick! – signed, Heartbroken.

Honestly Megan how dare you.

I am also now the Godmother of Megan’s daughter.

Just a random letter to Christina Aguilera

Sept, 26, 1999: I like Jack, so what else is new? Andy said that Jack liked me and tryed to call me. He said that Jack didn’t go to the skating party cause i didn’t. it turned out to be a lie. It turned out that Jack asked Megan for her #. It turned out that Megan was overjoyed and my heart was crushed. I called Jack and asked him if he called me. He said no. I have come to this: “When some hearts are lifted, others are dropped” – Joanna Clark. (I quoted myself and signed it.)

Lol. Calling a boy to ask if he called me. Strong choice. Feels on-brand though, tbh.

Feb 2, 2000: I really wanted a boyfriend for the sock hop and valentines day. Sam asked me out. I said no. Then I told Kelly to tell Jake i liked him. She did. Before that, Andy told me that Jake was going to ask out Mallory (ugg). Then Andy said Jake liked someone else. Then Andy called me and said

“Will you go out with Jake?”

“Can i call u back?”

I called Lonna but Kelly was at dance (this makes no logical sense). Lonna told him i said yes, so now i have a sweatheart. Oh yeah? The funny thing is i said “yes” today which just HAPPENS to be groundhogs day AND my dads bday. Pretty cool, huh?

Yes. Very cool.

This has to be The Haircut.

No date, but 5th grade for sure: Dear Diary, I got my hair cut! (See above.) Anyways, i am soooo afraid that Jack likes Chelsea. I luve Jack sooo much. then again, i dont know what luve is so i like Jack sooo encredibly much! he is so hot, sweet. he is PHAT. I wish he would put his arm around me soooo much.

PHAT

I think we’ll end on PHAT.

Second date

I’ve never been on a second date. Not since I moved to Chicago. Or started using dating apps.

Usually, we just never speak again.

Getting this guy out was like pulling teeth. Can’t tell if he’s into me anymore, but I guess that’s what we’ll find out. 

I need to chill. 

I look like Joe Pesci. 

I couldn’t find my traveling hand lotion so I went elbows deep in Aquaphor on the way out of the house. I hope it lasts. 

I have arrived.

I am the only person in this bar.

The bartender was reading a book.

It is dead silent.

My beer arrives as my date informs me he will not be coming. 

Cool.

I can hear the bartender microwaving his dinner; he can hear me breathing. 

His dinner is ready. 

Lest you think I’m exaggerating about the ghost bar. I was so shook up I filmed this vertically.

He came out to talk to me. 

I’m trying to figure out how to close my tab without making it obvious I’ve been stood up.

We talk about jury duty. 

He’s nice. 

I’m sad. 

I’m leaving. 

I take a Lyft line home and I’m the only passenger. 

There is a God. 

At home, I am fucking fuming. I realize there’s humor in this situation, and that I will be perfectly fine tomorrow, but for the moment, I am pissed. My time is precious. My free nights are everything to me. I don’t make time for dating because I’d rather do just about anything else. But the first date was great, which never happens. So I agreed to a second. 

I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel mad for myself. 

I missed going to see a movie with friends for this! Now I’ll never know what happened in 1917!

I cried for a while, which felt good.

I had some wine and biscotti, which felt better.

I watched Real Housewives of New Jersey and am now cured.

I’ve still never been on a second date. 

It’s Not a Bunion

For the last few weeks, I’ve been telling everyone I know (and some I don’t) about my bunion. Friends, coworkers, potential sexual partners…I even listed it on my 2019 accomplishments.

“Bunion” has to be one of the most disgusting words in the english language, so I was doing my part to normalize it. To raise awareness on behalf of my bunion brethren.

“I am bunion. Hear me roar.”

Etc., etc.

But I recently got some news that turned my world on its head. And now, I feel compelled to issue a correction. To call everyone I’ve come in contact with and let them know I’ve gotten some news:

It’s not a bunion.

It is Hallux limitus.

My right big toe has been “traumatized” beyond the point of repair. So it no longer moves.

The irony is that I do everything to protect my feet. After nearly losing my right index toe (an unrelated toe trauma) back in 1999, I never go barefoot. I do NOT get pedicures. I buy new running shoes regularly and I flat out refuse to sleep with anyone whose feet may brush mine in the night.

Delicate Feet

Delicate feet in marine environments.

I take my foot protection very seriously. And yet, here I am, doomed to walk on a stale baguette for all eternity.

Am I in pain? Yes.

Will I need surgery? It’s likely.

Will I ever stop talking about this? Absolutely not.

Thank you for listening.

Good night, and God bless.