5.11 Agnes, My Bitch of a Personal Assistant

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I’m feeling good lately and this has me profoundly worried. An unfortunate amount of time has been spent in various degrees of anxiety, self-loathing and/or different levels of depression. It’s not my fault, it’s my disposition. I’ve tried everything from psychotherapy to meditation retreats to yoga to exercise to self-help books. Food is next I guess, and I’ve put a fair amount of thought into becoming a vegetarian. I hear this type of diet promotes psychological health. A lot of thought, very little action. They have me hooked on meat, damnit. For about three years, I went into self-exile. I was very good at sabotaging myself in a myriad of ways - relationships, work, friendships - but instead of acting out in a self-destructive motif and involving others, I imploded instead. Very quietly and to myself. Went to work, came home, talked with very few people and socialized even less. This wasn’t necessarily conscious, ask me at the time what I was doing, I’d probably look at you quizzically and be unable to communicate much of anything.

But you do get tired of yourself. There are only so many long walks and long drives I could go on before I came to understand that something was wrong. I got lost in the fog and my moods flattened. There was no real hitting the bottom sort of thing, I was already at the bottom. For me, the only thing worse than pain is not feeling anything at all.

I had illusions of producing work that had some kind of impact or made the world a better place. So focused on the external world, I hadn't realized that my own world unravelled and made no sense. What good was I to anyone? To make an actual difference outside of yourself, I believe there has to be a certain level of comfort with who you are on the inside. That’s a great one million dollar fucking statement right there. So, how does one get out of this position? Very slowly and with many setbacks. Once I became aware of the fog surrounding me, I was able to try and deal with it. Because that’s the danger with the fog, you don’t know it’s there.

As soon as this awareness came into play, I started arguing with myself. For real. Every time I stepped out of the fog, there was this other part of my personality that would hold me back, tell me I’m not good enough or that people didn’t want me around. I started referring to this voice as Agnes, my bitch of a personal assistant. She was wrinkly old, crinkly voiced and smelled like someone poked a hole in a catheter.

Most personal assistants are helpful, they bring you coffee and file shit and organize things. Agnes had files alright, she had a gigantic cabinet of files. These files encompassed all of my failings, low points and reasons for why I was a terrible person. Oh how she loved going through them. She actually had two cabinets, a smaller one sat beside the bigger one. This smaller one was positive things I’d done with my life. It was the size of a shoebox. When I decided to take an improv class to help get me out of my head, she was right there when I walked through the classroom door. “Here,” she said. “Check this file out: You’re not funny and nobody cares what you have to say.” To which I replied, “Jeez, thanks Agnes, now fuck off.” The problem was that she wasn’t fucking off, no matter how many times I asked her to.

Off I go to Russia and Agnes was sitting right next to me on the plane. In my contract, I was supposed to have a private room, but ended up sharing it with Agnes. She was there every step of the way. When I had to get the people I was working with on my side, she was there telling me that they didn’t respect me. Everyday was a fight with her, and with the job came quite a bit of pressure. We were producing live television, so there was no time to second guess my decisions. Agnes popped up over my shoulder, but I started ignoring her. Finally, at a key moment when shit had to get done, she was yelling in my ear. I’d had enough.

My last night in Russia, I invited Agnes to go on a long walk with me, which she was more than happy to do. She brought lots of files with her. We walked along the coast of the Black Sea and I led her to an industrial area that was void of people. I grabbed Agnes, dragged her beyond the buildings into a swamp surrounded by trees. I tied her to a tree, gagged her and dramatically announced, “Agnes, you’re fired!” It felt good. Got on the plane the next day alone. I know she’s still out there somewhere, but when she returns, I’ll be ready for her.