At some point, preferably in the evening when the desolation of night presses down on you — cars and the implacable noises of distant strangers, leftover smells of other people’s meals, the artificial tide of faraway cars ebbing and sighing — you will look around your place or residence and realize, dimly, that you do not feel you have your shit together.
You will deduce this from a largely arbitrary assemblage of features. You have a coffee table on which the receipts touch the napkins, and you wonder why you put them there instead of throwing them away. Maybe that makes you think about how you put magazines on your bedroom dresser for decoration, or because you intended to read them or because they represent your interests and they’re still there, even though they’re ambassadors of a month beginning with ‘M’ and it’s now September.
Perhaps on the inside of your coat closet door or in some other obscure location you have a calendar that says a month beginning with ‘M.’ It’s September. You know because you are behind on something: Your deadline, your New Year’s resolution, your friend or relative’s birthday, things you were supposed to have had done by this point in September.
Your awareness of all your loose ends unravels subtly like smoke curling in the air (you were supposed to quit smoking several times over the past several years) until its tendrils touch everything — your disarranged shelves, your un-upholstered furniture, your impersonal, unpainted living room walls. It snakes over your floorboards (swept, but unwashed) into your bedroom and over your unmade bed, it notices the dust that has settled inside the bellies of your decorative candles, long-unlit.
There are the toys that you can still locate — figurines, kitsch, gag gifts, inappropriate fixtures for an adult life. Mentally inventory the child-like baskets where you keep your discount shoes, or the sloppy tray of your discount cosmetics, your drugstore toilette, whatever subtle edges of frayed disorder threaten to expose you as someone who does not have his or her shit together.
You think about your one strange habit; everybody has one strange habit. Perhaps it is that you are loath to switch from your beloved, well-worn toothbrush to a brand new, rubber-bristled and neon-studded alien of an unfamiliar thing, and so you procrastinate the transition until you feel unreasonable. Or maybe it’s how you never, never put anything in a frame. Or it’s how you leave in your apartment mail box your junk letters, or the bills you don’t want to pay, or the things that say RESIDENT. Because you don’t really want to deal with something so small as a sheaf of meaningless envelopes, or because an empty mailbox looks starkly dysfunctional, unsettling. The dishes you washed remain in the rack because, to be honest, you just don’t use them that much. You eat out a lot; the wrapped packages, the containers in your fridge you will never touch, are for show. You do not know how old they are.
You have X-Amount of debt. You are adept at putting it out of your head, but at times like this, when you’re thinking about something extreme, the X-Amount looms like a stopper in your sluice, an insurmountable clog. I know someone who is still afraid to flush the toilet in the middle of the night, scathed by a childhood experience of being scolded for being awake when she ought not to’ve been. I have never asked her if she thinks of her debt and her unwept midnight basin at the same time, in the same terms.
You make a list of things you should stop doing, that include drinking so much (alcohol, coffee), or going on dates with the sort of people that require you to nod politely, mentally checked out, your knuckles white and fingertips electric against the urge to reach for your phone and idly read your Twitter feed while they are talking. You should work out. Maybe you should make an Excel spreadsheet about your goals, and your goals are do more this and do less that. They are “write a book” or something that makes you feel reprehensible (you are considering mantra; you feel stupid).
You go to events featuring people who have written books and all most of them do is levy theatrical complaints about how hard it is to make money and get famous, and how they get writer’s block or something absurd.
Maybe they just don’t have their shit together. But, I mean, if you are a writer or an artist or an actor or something like that, are you really supposed to have your shit together? And then supposing you are a chef or an aspiring small business owner or nursing student or something like that, you can always tell yourself you’re in a competitive field with various bottlenecks unique to your chosen occupation, and that nothing is ever a straight line from point A to point B, and sometimes wanting things is not enough and all kinds of obstacles arise to dissuade you such as finances, life issues, [something else], whatever, and you are at a normal point on some imagined progression line.
Become temporarily overwhelmed by the number of variables you must act upon in order to effect change in your life sufficient enough that you would feel that you have your shit together. As you attempt to count them all up, become disoriented.
Visualize your ultimate destination as a polished, sterile location with a polished, sterile partner and you are polished and sterile.
Ultimately, you would look around your fiberglass pod of a futuristic Success Destination and figure that your sluices probably could be siphoned better or that you wish you could afford more frequent visits to the person who lifts your browline up expertly with a little suture twisted like a key in a lock, smoothing and tightening. Maybe you would work someplace really impressive but then you get home and everyone on the internet is complaining about the interface redesign measures you worked for several months to implement and you look at your robot maid and your Pod-Children and the fact that there is a single, aberrant, unopened envelope on your Culinary Module. From somewhere in your house an Interloping Bacteria Detector chimes in dissatisfaction and you feel that you do not have your shit together.
On the face of the digital newspaper device to which you subscribe in your theoretical future, a person with an even better body than yours has been abandoned by his or her significant other, even though he or she has someone to handle his or her accounting.
Your own body is silently waging a war of manifold fronts on the microscopic level against entropy. You are shuttling dead cells through your system inefficiently. You are oxidizing and platelets are becoming stuck. Somewhere on the planet’s face an insect pushes tiny granules uphill. The granules tumble, its mandibles move, it pushes them uphill again. Nobody has their shit together. You never will.