I can’t remember when this started happening. I’m walking about in everyday life reacting to nothing, feeling nothing, and it’s happening now when I’m on the job, running a meeting with 20 people around a table. This is not the self-control I developed as a kid, the bottling up of intense feeling out of a refusal to show it to anyone directly, unfiltered. No, this is empty shell time. Things I felt so intensely about yesterday are like nothing to me now. What was that thing I was so hoping to do, or that I dreaded? I can’t even remember. I’m floating in a gray cloud, nothing clear, nothing vivid. I'm not even worried about not knowing where I am or which way is up. It doesn’t matter.
I am supposed to be running this meeting, and all I am wondering is whether I can hide behind this person or that flipchart or just walk out for a while and sit in the hall. Maybe I can excuse myself, turn the job over to my helpers and drive away, or just leave without a word of explanation. I am not really there. Everyone else in the room seems so much bigger than I am, exuding energy and power. And I am retreating, disappearing. I am not in this room. I’m watching from a distance as these people argue with each other around the big table, talking the same words I’ve heard before, heading into the same traps of crossed purposes. But I’m watching only, aware in each moment of what to do to keep the meeting going toward a useful conclusion, but I am not doing it. People are glancing in my direction. This is long past my cue for action. Is there a me in here anymore?
It’s as if the consciousness of being who I am had detachable parts. Every now and then, I might lose one.
It makes me think of the anesthetic, versed. This strange drug is something you take, or are given, as lead-up to deep anesthesia prior to going into the operating room for surgery. While it’s working, your consciousness is shut down, and your mind is aware of nothing, just as if you were sound asleep. But strangely, the rest of you (what is that other part?) is apparently awake and responsive. Nurses and doctors ask you to turn or lift or raise an arm and you comply, with your eyes open and your mouth talking to them. But you’re not aware of being there or anywhere. You’re responding, talking, doing what they ask you to do, but you have lost the ability to form memories of what’s happening. Some precious part of your mind has been shut down completely.
It’s different when I’m drifting and disappearing, but there is again a separation of different parts of my consciousness. A critical part is missing, sleeping it off somewhere else, but the rest of me is stumbling about trying to assemble the details of what’s happening before my eyes into a coherent experience. There is a part of me that disappears, and others in the room become aware that I’m not fully present, not responding the way I’m expected to, the way I’m paid to.
I watch what’s going on, step in from time to time but usually too late to make a difference (timing is everything in running a meeting). I lose the ability to act on what my mind is telling me to do. All that I see is happening to them out there, as if on a screen. I become an onlooker. That willing, acting part of me is gone. And gone with it is the part that cares, that wants.
I keep searching for a way to break this paralysis. It’s destroying my work life. I try to break into the mental drift when I first sense myself wandering away, but often it takes over so completely that I even lose that desire to stop it. I am just in that cloud of undoing, as if under the influence of a drug that has neutralized a vital function.