I love the word ennui. It sounds the way it feels. I don’t love the way it feels.
I’m reading “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham, and it is filling me with despair. A journey without ending, a life without meaning, without brilliant success or everlasting love. It is just a life, punctuated by the odd good conversation and minor triumph.
This is what I believe life is. Just a chance melding of bits of DNA and the trick of self-awareness to make it seem personal. But just because it is what I believe, doesn’t mean I want it rubbed in my face.
The main character reminds me of several young boys – other people’s children – I’ve encountered who’ve developed this sense of the ‘futility of it all’ at a very young age. It is off-putting and sad, and makes me feel like there ought to be more red meat in their diets. More scrappy fisticuffs in dust filled playgrounds. These boys seem to have all the ‘boy‘ ripped out of their souls. Where are all the snails and puppy dog tails?
At a party this past weekend (Doctor Who!!!) I hit the wall early. Exhaustion settled into my bones before I finished the first conversation. I found a quote by Shirley Manson (Garbage), “I’ve got a lot of stamina and I enjoy people, so having lots of people around doesn’t freak me out.” This is the opposite of how I feel. I have no stamina for strangers. I can’t smile and listen and put my odd thoughts into sensible words all while trying to maintain eye-contact. It is just too much work.
In a past life, I would solve this problem with flirting. Find the most likely man in the room and save my moments of eye-contact for him. I’d make the party into a game, a conquest, a story, one worth telling later to my diary. (But not worth retelling – the stories are just creepy now.)
Will not, should not, can not, would not ever behave that way again. And so, the problem remains, I find myself in a corner, a fake smile plastered on my face, a half-empty (full?) glass of something in my hand. I have also used alcohol to solve the problem in the past, but alas, the pain of a future hangover is no longer worth the false sense of enjoyment alcohol brings. And I don’t seem to get drunk the way I used to anyhow. That black haze of ‘anything goes’ has softened into a gray cloud that only reminds me of rain and does nothing for my inhibitions.
Ennui is a part of me. (I like the way that sounds too) A part of being born with poorly functioning lungs. A part of growing up without a lot of physical activity, and with my head stuck in a lot of books. But there was one time…
‘Jill 2000’ they called me. (In 1999, it was the thing to call everything new something 2000) They, my friends(?), confused by my transformation into a living Energizer Bunny, needed a temporary label to explain away the stranger I’d become. Nine months earlier, a co-worker dragged me with her to a kickboxing class. It was the right time, the right place, the right music, the right group of people. Something clicked. I started going once a week, then twice, then thrice, then, uh, four times a week. (arg – that was a crappy sentence) I would have gone every day if they offered the class more often. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, I was in really good shape.
But that’s not the point. The point of that story and of this whole essay is Stamina (or, how to conquer my ennui). The side effect of all that muscle I gained from those forty-five minute long dance parties four times a week was stamina. Lots of it. More than I could ever imagine. I could out walk, out talk, out think everyone. I turned into the person I thought everyone always wanted me to be, but all I did was frighten them. (but don’t worry – I got really sick, and after a week in bed – I was back to my old, listless self.)
So here I am, flopping down on the couch, the back of my hand to my forehead, sighing at the futility of even getting dressed.
Or writing an essay.
But then…. COFFEE! yay!