What is actually going on? None of those things. I am sitting in a comfortable office. It's a beautiful day outside. Those things in my head seem so real. They blot out the sun. When did I get so old, so hopeless, so frail?
("To the best of our knowledge, sir, you have always been this old, hopeless, and frail. All the documents point that way.")
All this Sturm und Drang in my heart, and nothing really there. Exhaustion is really here. Anxiety is really here. Florescent lights and the hum of a hundred computer fans are really here. All the rest is smoke and mirrors, fear and loathing, clutching and jealousy. It is ugly. Suffering is ugly. Selfishness is ugly.
Let's go somewhere else.
Once upon a time there was a small creature that lived in a place where the sunlight came green through the leaves. It ate blueberries, and drank pilsner which a kind Taoist brewer left in a pitcher on a stump. It built elaborate hexagonal palaces out of fir cones and woven grass, and the beetles would all come by and exclaim "very pretty!"
Which made it wriggle with pleasure. Sometimes in the long summer evenings a Portuguese girl would come to read in the dappled meadow, and she would let it climb on her arm and nap in the crook of her elbow, as warm as toast and as happy as butter.
In August it would lie half-submerged in the spring, lulled by the soft lap of the cool water, and its heart would slow so near to stopping that it could watch the sun glide noiselessly across the sky, light and shadow changing places.
And then with a spring and a shake, jewels flying off in all directions, it would scamper into night, where the stars burned with a cold exhiliration. That's where the night people would gather, talking low but intense, sometimes arguing passionately, making fine distinctions, and opening world beyond world. The little creature understood not a word, but it would creep in close, and the tallest girl, who was a watchful thing, would always pick it up, and laugh fondly when it scurried all the way up her sleeve to her shoulder, and nestle under her ear. All the eyes of the night people would glitter, when the moon rose.
And then when the east went pale, and the night people slipped away in their twos and threes, The birds would begin to sing. The little creature understood this, at least. All the joy and desire rose up in a swirling net, and the little creature's heart did not quite break, but it almost did.
And then it would forget, and run, run, run to the fresh pitcher left on the dew-damp stump.