Hello, 911? Samantha Irby and the Dis-Ease of Daily Life
The good folks over at Mbird.com were kind enough to share this on their blog
Samantha Irby, author, comedian, and screenwriter, has a new collection of essays titled “Wow, No Thank You,” to be published in March. For those uninitiated with the work of this midwesterner blogger-turned-author, then oofta, are you in for a treat. On her site Bitches Gotta Eat, Irby frequently writes about the pressing issues and absolute horrors of our daily lives. You know the ones: weight, age, chronic illness, shopping at Trader Joe’s, peeing your pants, sex life, race, carb-heavy recipes, and the general anxiety and despair of just being alive in this beautiful world today.
For me, no one quite gets to the core of low-anthro as well as Irby. Just this week, The New Yorker published an excerpt, entitled “Hello, 911?”, from her forthcoming book. In the essay, Sam shares reasons, from mundane to bizarre, for which she feels totally helpless and in need of help. Some goods ones —
Hello, 911? I’ve been lying awake for an hour each night for the past eight months, reliving a two-second awkward experience I had in front of a casual acquaintance three years ago.
|Samantha Irby (c) E. Jason Wambsgans|
What Irby is getting at here, especially in the dread associated with something as mundane as the Target line, seems to fall into what theologian Charles Taylor calls the “spectre of meaninglessness.” In How (Not) to Be Secular, author James K. A. Smith says that Taylor’s “spectre of meaninglessness” “is, in a sense, a dispatch from fullness. And because this won’t go away, but rather keeps pressing and pulling, it generates an ‘unease’ and ‘restlessness.'” As Irby says, she has no need to rush, so what’s causing this visceral reaction and inexplicable panic attack?
If you didn’t fully catch onto the anxiety and despair with an equal dose of unease and restlessness, then try this bit of fun on for size —
Smith writes that “tedium and ennui are demons of modernity.” Wasted hours before bed languishing over what time to get up; accounting for my desire to just sit and do nothing; critiquing my ability to impress others with my makeup — all of this certainly feels a bit too close for comfort. These demons, and their cousins, boredom and comparison, seem to be in need of my constant attention, and maybe yours, too.
Yikes. If you too feel like you’re at your limit and might need some help, you’re certainly not alone. While I generally don’t count myself as an “anxious person,” the morbid desire to just peel off my skinsuit, layer by layer, like a human-Shrek-ogre-onion-mutant, until I stop existing isn’t unknown to me.
Smith continues, “The upshot will be that Christianity can provide a better way to account for this — not necessarily a way to quell it so we can all live in the happily ever after, but a way to name it and be honest about this dis-ease.”
In their song “Tell The Truth,” the Avett Brothers sing, “Tell the truth to yourself and the rest will fall in place,” echoing many of the beliefs taught in AA: the first step to admitting we have a problem is simply naming that problem. When beholding the ugly truth of our diagnoses, we realize we have yet to solve our problems with our own power. Miraculously, as the Big Book teaches, the second step is to believe in a power greater than ourselves who can restore us to sanity.
Alternatively, the Good Book teaches that we can find sanity through the God who came down to Earth as the man Jesus, in a human skin-suit, to live with us in this messy tedium of time and space. More-so, we believe God is here with us now, in this “spectre of meaninglessness.” We are loved in our deepest moments of angst and anxiety, whether that’s in line at Target, or wide-awake in bed wrestling the demons of tedium and ennui.
Our need for help, the desire to be restored to sanity, doesn’t separate us from God, but draws him nearer to us. Emmanuel, “God with us” — the only one who can love us fully while we fumble through life, emergency to emergency. When we are stripped down to our naked and exposed selves (perhaps while sitting on our beds in a towel, post-shower, just staring off into the abyss, wishing to be anywhere or anyone else) we are met with the ugly truth — we are in no position to save ourselves. In those moments of crisis, we can get down on our knees and say:
Hello, Lord? Have mercy upon us.