Hopeless Chest

Randy is cooking breakfast for me and I am staring at a blank WordPress page.

I have started and stopped this post with the same words so many times that Bill Murray called me to ask if I am okay.

For my brothers and sisters who deal with moderate to severe anxiety issues, are you ever afraid that you are actually skating up to your limit? I hate being here, I hate it. Randy made the most wonderful grilled breakfast sandwiches just now. I took forever to eat because my throat is tight and it’s hard to swallow. Nothing feels good. I hate this.

It’s time to break out two techniques I must employ when I live in this space.

Right now, as I typed that, my brain rudely interrupted me to remind me if I just did these things all the time, then maybe it wouldn’t be so fucking bad right now. My brain is a rude asshole. 

Anyway, I have to start sweating every day.

Randy and I can walk. I can lift weights. I can dance in the kitchen to the Ramones until I’m a heap on the floor. It doesn’t matter what I do, but I have to do something.

Sweating is the only thing that removes electricity from the surface of my skin.

Next, I have to make something.

Last winter, I glued beads to a plant stand. The project took months, but got me through a cold, harsh, and very sad winter.

I am so afraid of the coming months because they have the potential to be horrific. There is a chance that everything will go smoothly, but it’s likely it will be at least somewhat horrible. Just work stuff. But work stuff has always been one of my top triggers. I’ve been working on an issue that still isn’t resolved. I have 2 weeks to resolve it.

Here’s the thing, I have worked out something I am nearly positive will fix my issue.

But even though my brain acknowledges that, it will not release me from flight mode and it is ramping up at an alarming pace. I have to make something. I need repetitive motion for at least 60 to 90 minutes a day.

I think when I paint or glue or draw, I might be meditating, but I don’t know for sure.

Other attempts at meditating usually end in me singing Supertramp’s Logical Song in my head. Only I don’t know the words, so I just make up my own.

When I was young, I thought life was just spherical. 

Anyway, the last time we visited our mountain friends, the four of us used oil based markers to decorate a little box. It felt good to me.

A little box isn’t going to do the trick this time. I want to do the same project, but on a grander scale.

Botanical, fantastical 

I have a cedar chest that I’ve had since I was 18 years old. I dated the same boy through high school and thenhopeless chest two years after. The relationship was an extension of the relationship I had with my narcissistic father; not healthy and not good.

So, he bought me a “hope” chest for my 18th birthday. What a fucking awesome concept. A goddamn hope chest. A cedar chest for young girls to gather dish towels and tchotchkes just waiting and praying for the day a man would make her his wife, thus fulfilling her purpose in life. Her reason for being.

Or do I sound bitter?

You know what? No. I don’t. Because I am not bitter. I just feel the need to say how absurd the entire notion is. And fuck the patriarchy.

Then they send me away, teach me how to be hysterical.

I have painted this chest a number of times. The chest has always resided in the shadows, other than one brief year long stint as a coffee table. Right now, it’s filled with books and shoved in the family room closet.

I have completed painting the family room and it is bare other than a coffee table, painting supplies, and the cat’s litter boxes.

A war criminal, autobiographical.

Randy and I are leaving in a few minutes to buy primer to paint the hope chest. For the first time since I’ve owned the chest, I think it might be helpful to me and might mean something to me. Randy is going to help me with this project because he wants to. I know he feels super helpless right now and he’s worried about me, so he will sit on that cold, uncomfortable floor with me every night and we are going to color my hope chest.

They show me a world where I can be so bendable.

I’m going to paint blocks of color on the surface. I have two reasons for doing this. One, as much as I need a project to help calm my brain down, I am also extremely impatient and once I start a project, I just want it to be done so I can see it. I hate waiting. The other reason is those oil based markers aren’t cheap. I’d need a ton of them to cover the whole chest. We also have a bookcase and a table ready in case the chest project doesn’t outlast this anxiety episode.

A popsicle, stretchable.

Here is something I know for sure. I learned it from a meme.

My success rate for getting through hard times is 100%.

I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you gastrointestinal 

I care about everything I have to care about with everything I have, all of the time and it is goddamn exhausting.

Then, I remind myself I might be broken, but I’m not weak.

Semiprofessional, foldable. 

I will turn this hopeless chest into something healing.

Or, I will end up in a fetal position in the corner of the room. I hope not. I’ve never been there and I am terrified if I go, I won’t ever leave. But let’s not think about that. I’m going to assume I won’t break my streak of successfully living through every hard time.

This picture is my “before” picture. I got it primed and ready to go. I am curious and hopeful about who I will be when there is an after picture.

It occurs to me, if you are reading this and not familiar with Supertramp’s The Logical Song, then some of this post is probably nonsensical, unreadable, annoyingly incomprehensible.


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  • I’m always tempted to give you advice, but you don’t need that. You’re doing the best thing, which is to examine your history of perseverance; of coming through times that were worse, and slowly allowing yourself to see that good things in your life, things you’ve found to belly-crawl out of these valleys, are not there by accident.

    So, no matter what happens fetal-position wise, you do, you have DEMONSTRATED that you do, believe there’s an alternative. That may not seem like a lot when you haven’t opened a paint can yet, but it’s your lifeblood.

    It’s the reason you’re here.

    See? I’m doing it again. But in these shout outs, is energy you can’t hear, and brilliance that you can’t view like we do.

    And every time you say you wish you could feel those things that astonish us as your readers, I think, Beethoven would have loved the sound of his symphonies.

  • I’m sitting here (trying to keep my cat off of the keyboard, she has seen the packed suitcase and is clingy) looking at all of the painted furniture in my house and reassessing my reasons to paint it. My grandmother painted (and put decals) on things. She had a claw foot tub that was so many colors I’m sure it had to be sand blasted after she died. It is therapeutic and yes almost puts me in a Zen like state. I don’t have winters to escape (any longer) but having Adult AD (officially diagnosed, not self diagnosed) it helps me collect myself. Be sure to post some pictures, I have a night stand that is calling my name.

    PS. Have you ever done tissue paper decoupage? Our coffee table is painted a royal blue with torn tissue paper (pink, aqua and yellow) decoupaged on the top. You have to spray varnish the top occasionally, especially if your husband also refuses to use a coaster.

  • Love the Ramones!!!
    Please forgive me in advance for what I say. I know, this is crazy. The box. Just wondering if decorating would make you feel better about it at all? If you put loads of hours, therapeutic or otherwise into it, will you still feel deep resentment towards it? Not for me to say, but it might still be a bone of contention, personalised or not?
    I think I’m just being gastrointestinal, so ignore this if you wish!!!

    • I really didn’t mean to sound negative, honestly, because I think having creative projects is the absolute best thing. Just a box you already love or one you are neutral towards was my thinking? Anyway, I’m wrong and stand corrected. If you make it something you love, then that is transformative and truly healing. I’ve gone full circle, get where you are coming from and so ignore the other comment. Must learn to reread my posts!!

    • I get what you are saying and no..No, I need that time to force my brain to disconnect. I have no hard feelings about my plant stand, so I think we’re good. Haha. And please never feel like you can’t say what is on your mind. I get so much from reading other people’s perspectives.

  • I’ve got a pile of fabric going. Because, once when it was really bad, I made rugs, and it helped. I think maybe I meditate too–loop, knot, loop, knot–when I’m not trying so hard to “empty my mind.”

    Can’t wait to see your project!

  • Sweetie, I know you’re painting the house so you can sell and move BUT painting murals over, at this point, most of the walls in my house has helped me. This isn’t Sistine Chapel stuff – it’s Seuss fish and animals, a koi pond, doodle and more of ’em.

    I’d like to go all Jackson Pollock (but in bright colors) – I think the act of throwing, dripping and splashing the colors would be a great release. Probably better to do on a BIG canvas or paper though. 🙂

    The other thing that has been magnificent has been floating – preferably in a pool of warm water but even the pool at the Y helps. Dunno why but I get amazingly peacefully boneless while I float.

    You can totally, fucking triumph – you WILL!

  • You go, girl! Love that you write these posts. Love that you are getting meditatively creative. Love that your husband is helping. You are likely not only helping yourself but helping others by sharing this. Will look forward to continuing updates as you feel so moved.

  • An artistic creative outlet is amazing to lift the spirit and ease the stress and anxiety. Last year I started sewing and up cycling and I have to say I am one cool and clam woman. The other day I was stressed over an issue that has taken close to 18 months to resolve and I start sewing. Got my head in the sewing game and calmed down.I also like to listen to an audible book while sewing sometimes too!

  • I LOVE this: “My success rate for getting through hard times is 100%” What a powerful statement and a great reminder. Thank you.

  • Your writing is incredibly beautiful, I think, as you are. I think about my success rate too. Sometimes we forget that we people with much anxiety–it’s an honor just to be on earth.

  • Michelle, I believe our creative side is what has kept us going and kept us ‘sane’ all these years. Whether it’s writing or painting or photographing, creativity is my motivation in life. I believe yours, too. Can’t wait to see the chest when it’s finished!

  • I’m here for you Sister….Always! Keep strong and carry on! You know you have it in you to kick anxieties ass! Get out that mascara wand!

  • I like your version of the Logical Song. You, Randy, a cedar chest and Supertramp. What more could a girl need for the long winter ahead? I mean, other than Norman Reedus…

  • Believing we act either in response to our past (which holds us down) or from inspiration, I love that you and randy are celebrating you and your accomplishments (your literary endeavors) by beautifying the chest for your home together.
    Just maybe the bf gifted it in love and anticipation of the home he was planning with you; like to think he would be glad his gift now celebrates the woman who really are.
    I hope you don’t mind my positive ‘spin’ in your story. It is how I am trying to deal with my own feelings of sadness and despair. It doesn’t come natural but the energy feels better than angst.

  • I’m going to paint our fireplace soon…..mostly because I’ve never lived in a house this long other than my childhood home and I need a change. And also because it’s cheaper to paint the fireplace than it is to sell this house and start from scratch. I get the need to get your hands on a project!

  • Your project’s a lot less aggressive than mine. I suggested to my partner that we spend the dark months collecting big sticks and whittling the ends into sharp points in case I need a quick fence when the bad people come. Needless to say, I got a few laughs, but I was only half joking. You’re a hunter, not a gatherer. You’re on high alert. It sucks when there’s no big game to bring down and you are left with all the anxiety of surviving in a scary world and none of the release of a big hunt. Now you probably think I’m nuts. Maybe.

  • I inherited two cedar chest, one was my mom’s and I don’t exactly know who the other came from. I do love the smell of cedar though, neither of mine are painted but are the natural wood. Think of the painting as reclaiming it for your own purpose, regardless of what it started out as. Painting is soothing to me because you can see the transformation happen, see the change happen. Most of the time change is invisible, you can’t point to it and say “that is the change that hurt.”

    And if you don’t like it, you can repaint it-how often do we get do-overs in life?

    Hugs and hope

  • This post leaves me with incoherent thoughts because I’m a mess right now. Work was my non mess place though absurdly busy place and now so many triggers are going off right now that it’s….sigh.

    I love the memo. I have to remember it.

    Keep doing what you’re doing that works. Dance and paint and sweat and sing awesome songs.

    And write!

    May we all figure out what works-at least part of the time.

  • Always up for Ground Hog Day and SuperTramp. Can’t wait to see the revised chest. When I was 19 my boyfriend at the time assumed I would convert to Judaism for him. Yeah, that relationship limped along 3.5 years past it’s expiration date. Rooting for you.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IoO5nkxT_4

    go watch, or listen, I’ll wait. If I copy + pasted right, it’s Joey Ramone’s “what a wonderful world.” Don’t know why, but listening to that on repeat REALLY loud helps.
    Creating is a peaceful place for me too. There is no pressure for perfection, I can do it on my own schedule, and I get super meditative about it. If I really like what I have done, I can go back to that peaceful place just by looking at it.
    Monday afternoon coffee with all your awesomeness is really a good thing, too. Keep writing, I need it!
    True tales from the crypt: lately, Jack White’s entire Lazaretto album has been the go-to during the day. Loud enough my neighbor can hear it.

  • Ahhh…. the questions run so deep.
    That was my favorite part, and being called a liberal radical 😉
    It will be cathartic when your done. Maybe some deep questions answered and some old scores settled….
    A miracle.

  • You will definitely get through this. And the hope chest sounds like a great project. I never knew there was any meaning behind hope chests, but now that I do, I kind of want one. Not for the whole, “Hopefully a man will come love me,” aspect, but I want to fill it with coins and photographs and old books in the hope that I can get my shit together.

  • A beautiful and powerful thing here is it seems like you’ve already turned that hope chest into something good. You’re the one who decided what should be in it. And you’re deciding what it is on the outside too.
    Before I go on I want to say that I’m not Supertramp’s “Logical Song” but I will be about five minutes from now, although whatever the real lyrics are I don’t think they could be better than yours.
    Okay, since no one else has mentioned it let’s review the myth of Pandora’s box. Pandora was the first woman and was given a box by Zeus and told “Don’t open this!”
    So of course she opened it. Fuck the patriarchy. Fuck guys who tell women what to do. Or rather don’t fuck them because they don’t deserve it. Pandora should be seen as a hero by all of us as an example of all women who are told what they can’t do and do it anyway.
    Yeah, the story says all kinds of terrible things were released, but what people forget, or don’t know because they had shitty teachers, is that there was one thing at the bottom of the box: Hope.
    Forget the assholes who blame her for all that’s terrible in the universe. They don’t deserve Pandora’s box.
    And let’s also not forget that if Princess Leia hadn’t hidden the Death Star plans in R2-D2 we never would have had A New Hope.

  • Love what you did with the lyrics.
    Your therapy is perfect…repetitive art is super helpful, IMO.
    Great post.

  • You know what you need to do, that’s amazing. You’re actually doing it, that’s seriously impressive. I have no doubt you will get through this, you are strong and awesome.
    And you’re giving us brilliant lyrics while you’re at it! I never did like that song until now, you have improved it considerably
    I love the hope chest project. Fill it with good vibes as you work, make it a source of happy memories. They’ll act like an aura diffuser and make you smile every time you see it.

    • Thank you so much! That is my hope, that we will decorate this and it will be something that makes me smile instead of something that when I see it, I go..why haven’t I thrown that out?

  • I have bought a butt load of craft supplies, a new sewing machine and some things to straighten up my craft room. So now I know why, my winter projects! I cooked dinner for the first time in a while. It was so fun. Creativity combats the blues. I know that, why can’t I remember that. Thanks for sharing this with us. It has helped me tremendously. I can’t stand this funk. I can’t wait to see your hope chest.

  • I suspect you know ALL of the lyrics to the Logical Song (because, honestly, anyone who knows ANY of the lyrics knows them ALL), but you just enjoy pretending you have Chronic Lyricosis. I enjoyed your version.

    I have high hopes for your hopeless chest!

By Michelle


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