The Meaningless Meaning Of An Outbreak Monkey

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

“Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” ― Henry Miller

I’ve been stuck in a time loop for a few weeks so maybe this is coming from a place of madness, loneliness, or too much alone time with my demons. Isolated in my eight hundred square foot apartment with my dog, a geriatric cat with poor bladder control, and the relentless chatter of an overactive mind. Fun times. Plenty of laughs. Words dripping with sarcasm.

In case you missed my last post, here’s a short recap of something that sounds so dramatic but, in reality, has become an awful bother. COVID, that bitch in a black cloak, paid me a visit and then overstayed her welcome. I’ve been sick for…Wait, what day is it? I can’t keep track anymore. It’s Monday, right? Yeah, okay, I guess it’s been almost three weeks since my symptoms popped off and I retreated to my very own fortress of solitude.

I’m getting better! It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It was nothing like the flu. Whoever made that comparison is either a compulsive liar or had the flu and diagnosed themselves on a popular search engine. Or, I’m being a little snippy. I feel snippy. I’ve been alone, stranded on this island, with a volleyball named…No, wait, that was a movie. A movie. Not my life. Wow, I can’t even tell the difference anymore.

Then again, I think Wilson was a cool dude. You know, for a ball. As far as ball-shaped companions go, he seemed all right. He really knew how to listen, and that’s a dying art. If only people could be more ball-like, but I’m letting the current sweep me into the shipping lane.

Paddle harder Wilson. Wilson? No, Wilson!

Ah, but as I was saying, I’m getting better. I’m out of the proverbial woods and onto a makeshift raft. I’m just waiting for the rest of my symptoms to vanish, so I can reenter society plague free. Oo, now I need a shirt that says, “I survived the plague.” Yeah that would be cool because I, quite literally, survived the plague. That deserves a t-shirt! Guess who’s going to spend some quality time with a popular search engine this evening? And I’m not looking up random symptoms or other questionable content.

I will be spending that quality time alone because I have to stay in isolation until my symptoms are gone. Did I say that already? It’s so hard to keep track of time and space and the words coming out of my mouth. It’s like I got stuck on a merry-go-round for several hours and the verbal vomit is splattering in every direction. It’s a blurry concoction of neon food dye that’s ten-part slime and ninety parts WTF is going on. I don’t even know anymore. It’s been so long since I saw other people.

I think I might be going loopy.

Usually, I like to find loopholes in my doctors’ orders. If they don’t specifically say that I shouldn’t do something then they didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it. It’s not my fault they didn’t list every possible scenario that exists in all of the temporal multiverses. Find the hole, make it a little bit bigger, and then plead ignorance. I’m not a doctor! How could I know that climbing a mountain four weeks after having my leg surgically realigned was a bad thing?

Yeah, that happened, and I wondered why it took me so long to heal. Geez, forehead slap!

Alas, this time I’m playing by the rules that were both expressed and left to interpretation. If there’s any chance that I’m still contagious, no matter how infinitesimal it may be, then I’m not going to be the outbreak monkey in my community. You don’t want to get sick. I don’t want you to get sick. So, here I stand, I can go no further.

Actually, here I sit is more accurate but it’s way less dramatic.

My usual dramatic sigh may sound a little wheezier than normal but it’s out in full force. I’m not usually one to go for the whole, “Woe is me” way of thinking. It’s not productive and it’s kind of a downer. Usually. That’s the keyword because right now I’m feeling a little woe is me. No, I’m not asking for pity or sympathy. Though I appreciate the latter. You’re very kind. Thank you.

I’m just saying that my life, my future outlook on my corporeal existence, is feeling rather bleak. Oh yes, I know, I’ve said it before; feelings aren’t facts and I need to repeat that little mantra from time to time. It just helps me keep myself in check. I’m saying it now because the feelings are feeling a little too solid.

The culprit is obvious, and it’s not the butler in the library with a candlestick. I don’t have a butler, a library, or a candlestick. Hell, I don’t even have a library card. Even if I did, I couldn’t wander down the aisles, running my fingers across the spines of literary masterpieces, and huff the scent of slowly decaying paper. I love the smell of old books. If they bottled that smell I’d buy the perfume.

The fact is, at this moment, I may very well be the outbreak monkey of tales and lore. As such, I must stay alone in my cell. Stare through the bars and ponder the meaning of life as I once knew it. Or, perhaps, what I imagine it could be when I’m once again free to wander the earth. Freedom? I dare not shout that word too loudly. I fear I might jinx my progress.

Too dramatic? You’re right, I hear ya, I’ll tone it down. Sort of… Just a little…Who am I kidding? I can’t help myself. Free the outbreak monkey!

I’m an introvert with moderate social anxiety, so you would think that this solitude would be a gift. After all, isn’t it the very thing I’ve spent a lifetime craving? The moment when I have to seal myself off from society and the human rat race. Lock me up. Hideaway. Keep myself company. Talk to the air and revel in the fact that it can’t talk back. If it did talk back? Well, I’m not an expert in primate psychology but even I know that’s not a good sign.

Then again, when I ask a question and I’m met with silence, I can’t help but wonder if that, in itself, is an answer to the most primordial question of our species. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? In my case, I often ask why I’m still here because, by all rights, I shouldn’t be alive, but I am. Why? Is ‘why’ the singular question that dominates our time on earth or is it just me?

I send out these questions on a whispered breath and in return…Silence. The air I breathe doesn’t answer. The God I pray to doesn’t reply. I ask. I seek. I search and still I’m met with stillness.

There are times when this muteness is disheartening and there are moments when I find it oddly comforting. If there’s no answer to this ageless question then, what does that mean for me? I would love something solid to stand on. A path with an arrow pointing me in the right direction. A map. A compass. Preferably a GPS with voice command because I mix up my right, left, north, and south too easily.

Sometimes my GPS get’s so frustrated, it yells at me, “No, not that way you idiot! The other left!”

I’m more comfortable with certainties and exactitudes. Finding the meaning of life, my life, seems to be so far removed from either of those things. In that, amidst the frustration, lies an ounce of solace because my meaning isn’t set or preprogrammed. I’m not at the mercy of some powerful force that will overrule my deepest desires, needs, or dreams to keep me on its chosen path. I have a say, some control, or maybe it simply means I have a fool’s hope of changing the meaning of my life.

Or, I’m going about this all wrong. I’m looking at the meaning of life like it’s an entity all its own. A creature with its own identity, desires, hopes, and dreams. It’s something that I need to assimilate or coerce, by force if need be, into cooperation. Wrangling it in, tying it down, and forcing it to submit to my will. A will that can’t be fully known or understood without the meaning of life. 

It’s a vicious circle. A no-win scenario. I can’t tame this specter without knowing it intimately but to do that? Around and around it goes until exhaustion sets the being free. 

But what if I changed my approach? Instead of viewing it as something to vanquish or homogenize; I need to look at it like a painter and their tools. Life is a blank canvas set up on an easel. Meaning is the paint that comes in a wide array of colours and brushes that come in a variety of shapes. I am the artist and it’s up to me to bring it all together. If I can do that then I can create my own sense of meaning in my own life.

There’s one small problem. I, uh, don’t know how to draw. My stick figures look like inebriated squiggles and my circles defy the accepted norms. Calling it a circle is laughable, at best, but it’s the only descriptor that comes close to identifying the shape. If you can call it that. It’s almost, kind of, sort of shapely if you squint really hard.

Well, it’s no wonder my life feels sort of shapeless and like it’s a hodgepodge of random colours. Then again, I suppose I haven’t found my style of expression yet. I’ve been trying to mimic the greats and, given my limited range of skills, that’s never going to work for me. I need to find my own brush strokes and define my own genre. Maybe then I’ll be able to create a meaning to a life that, at the moment, feels meaningless.

Or, I just need to get out of my tiny apartment and look people in the eyes again. Yeah, I need out. I just said I was hungry, and I think the air said, “Me too.” The air is talking back. Don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Oh for the love of all that is precious in this world; free the outbreak monkey!

Way to keep your cool there.

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