I think I od’d on candy crush. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrible game, it practically plays itself. It’s like the endorphin rushing floating disk game Riker gets on Risa that takes over the Enterprise, leaving it vulnerable to take over. It takes an extraordinarily plebeian skill set to conquer level after level, for no apparent reward. The game board is endless, and takes an unreasonably circuitous route to get from beginning to end. Plus my guess is, at the end, you have the glorious chance to buy new levels. Or, as is the case between levels, you can play a series of quest boards, one every 24 hours, at the conclusion of which you will be gloriously transported to the next mindless level, complete with more bright colors and singing sounds, with even more euphoria.
That said, I play this game more than my intellectual snobbery would like to admit. A recent fb post from a gamer alerted me to the fact that, instead of playing the between-level-quests 24 hours apart, or earning points by hassling your friends to play, you can just reset the clock on your iPhone. Then, of course, you turn it back to normal time as not to miss all your crucial appointments (I don’t really have any crucial appointments). “Who would do that?” I thought, “what kind of ass hat would be so hard up to play Candy Crush?”
As it turns out, I am that ass hat.
As of right now there are 5,119 minutes and 58 seconds until, according to the normal laws I time and space, I will be permitted to play Candy Crush again.
In the very middle of the night last night, when I found myself playing Candy Crush while watching reruns of shows that were popular on Fox in the early oughts, I took a moment to consider why it is that I spend so much time trying to shut down my mental functions.
Because that’s what it is, playing mindless games, watching comforting television, eating spaghetti. I’m trying to shut down, to shut it off, to push all the boiling back under the surface. It’s boiling in there, and I don’t want to get burned.
Last year when I sat down to write Radio Mara Mara, I was writing because I was afraid. The Archivist in the play has lost her son. He was only three years old, and he died in her arms. She spends most of the play trying to bury that agony, by engaging in the mindless activity of transferring all the station’s archives from analog to digital. But what she hears on the transfers has hidden relevance, and like pin pricks that prick again at a black curtain, eventually all the pain rushes through like the harshness of day. The play is about what to do with all that mess.
I wrote the play to try to overcome my fear of C dying. This fear is a fear of the future fear, because we’re all gonna die, eventually. And I know that, I know we’re all gonna die. I know it for real. That’s why I’m scared. Anything horrible could happen at any time. That harsh daylight could turn life to ashes in a second. Life is so fleeting and fragile and it’s a wonder than anyone gets out of bed in the morning ever.
I wasn’t just afraid of the unmitigated horribleness of mortality, I was afraid that this fear would serve as a barrier between me and my artistic self. I’d seen friends, truly talented friends, take up motherhood and put down art, or instead just start making art about being a mom. I thought it was inferior art, I thought motherhood was something they had to get past in order to start creating the real good shit again. I sound like a lady writer hater, but we’ve seen it happen. If it’s not that the work becomes about motherhood, motherhood usurps the art.
There are good reasons for this. Motherhood is fucking hard, and it takes all your intellectual (yes, intellectual) and emotional powers to do it even remotely successfully. The exact same thing is true for art. And neither are very effective means of getting bills paid. Motherhood and Art are expensive undertakings.
I was freaked out. I was worried that my writing would just be bad. So I wrote Radio Mara Mara to tackle that. But here I am a year after beginning the play, two months after we finished our FringeNYC mini run. I thought I’d worked it out. I thought I was completely terrified anymore. I thought I was going about my life in a well-adjusted state. I thought I could handle both. And I find myself playing Candy Crush to extremes while watching Angel, because I ran out of Buffy, in the middle of the night.
I’m reminded of an anecdote I read in Sisterhood is Powerful, a feminist anthology I stole from my mom’s well-stocked feminist shelves. There’s this woman, and she’s a sculptor, and she’s with this guy, who’s a poet or something. They get together and have a few kids, and because it’s the 1960’s, or some time other than now, the deal is she stays home with the kids. It’s not a choice (although it’s a choice I well fucking respect, today or ever), it’s just the thing she has to do. She can’t get a nanny and go to the studio all day, even if she could afford that, which, let’s face it, she’s married to a poet. She gets the kids their dinner, gets them to bed, sits down at the kitchen table with a hunk of clay, and the next thing she knows, the poet shows up with all his buddies, expecting her to get them some supper. She clears the table. She gets them their supper.
She’s a mother, she’s an artist, she’s a wife. And she doesn’t get to pick the order of priority each of those takes up on any given day.
I put C to bed. I eat a meal with my husband. But somehow, when I face the evening recently, and want to work, to keep writing Radio, which is not done, to work on this new script, which has barely begun, I find myself picking up my phone, and turning on this, or some other crushingly mindless game. I think, I’ll just play for a second, I’ll just take a breather, then I’ll get down to it.
And an hour will pass. I’ll look at the real time. I’ll say “you don’t have time now, not to really get into it, not to listen to your characters prattle on.” So I’ll turn it off, my creative self. I tell her we’ll try again tomorrow. I’ll play another game and try to pass out, not wanting to risk a second wind, where find myself writing all night, words that dig deep, that make me suffer in a way that makes me know I’m truly alive.