I am what is known in the vernacular as a free agent. No, I didn’t play out my option in professional sports. Rather, I have no real attachments and no real responsibilities. I was never married, never had any children, and haven’t had pets in 19 years. I currently don’t have a job, have no romantic involvements or anything you’d call a real friend, and have no time commitments I can’t postpone or outright cancel. Sure, I have to make sure my room and board are financially covered, I keep my room clean, I do my own laundry, and I buy and make all of the coffee for the household (mostly because the other people here are incompetent at everything to do with coffee). I have a doctor’s appointment every three months and might, in September, blow a few saved-up bucks on a one-off appointment with a chiropractor. Those things, however, are it. For the most part I have no commitments or demands on my time, and am free to do anything I want all day as long as my poverty permits me to afford it.
I do, however, have a small number of highly significant problems, and this diary entry is really about those problems. They are the main things that prevents me from enjoying life fully. Below is a brief account of them.
1. Brain Fog. This is my personal term for a state I enter several times a day on a completely irregular and unpredictable basis. I lose concentration and passively stare off into space, lost in the ugly movies playing in my head. These episodes are unpreventable, occur totally at random, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. They can interrupt any activity in which I’m engaged, no matter what it happens to be. They sometimes prevent me from going outside because of the risk of walking into an intersection on a red light. My brain fog has proven intractable and untreatable, and is the number one reason why I can’t hold down a regular job. But on only one occasion has having had it happen seven times on the same day made me want literally to jump out of my skin. For the most part, I accept it as just part of my life and of who I am.
2. Avolition. This is actually a defined medical term that I’ve been accused of not completely understanding. As far as I know, it means looking and acting lazy when you’re not. It’s a common “negative symptom” of major mental, one of those annoying things that isn’t flashy and obvious like hallucinations and severe paranoia, but is equally debilitating. There are times when I find myself with ten different things I could be doing and can’t find the motivation to do any of them. On some of those occasions when I am not able to do anything, I also don’t want to do nothing, creating an experience that I call “feeling out of sorts”–a kind of undirected restlessness that won’t let me stay still or move around, leaving me with no solutions. My biggest avolition issue is bathing, as, for whatever reason, my bones melt nearly any time I try to drag myself into the shower. Meanwhile, I have no problem cutting my hair, trimming my nails, or shaving when those things need to be done. The result is that I follow a practice that author Ian Fleming ascribed to Russian men in one of his James Bond novels. Those men wore perfume in order to cover up body odor from not bathing. I use aftershave instead, even if I haven’t shaved. And I do change clothes and bedding on a regular basis even though my body remains dirty. For some reason, avolition doesn’t affect me when it comes to those things.
3. Sack-of-Shititis. That’s my term for general physical inadequacy. It was actually a football player classmate back when I was in high school who referred to me as “a sack of shit.” I was offended at the time, but I’ve come to realize that he was right. For a whole half-century I’ve been dumpy and soft because my strongest avolition is to exercise. Part of the problem is intellectual. It has been my firm belief for some time that our bodies are evolved for the hard-to-find and poorly-nourishing food that was available to our species 200,000 years ago, and today’s food is extremely overabundant and extremely, excessively rich. We are fat because our bodies haven’t adjusted to the easy availability, abundance and richness of our food. I am 5’7″ and weighed 189 lbs this morning. People who exercise first consume far too much nourishment and then deliberately waste energy on bicycles and eliptical machines in order to burn off the excess nourishment. That belief, more than anything, makes me almost totally unable to do any exercise. The result is that I’m pretty much useless physically and not the kind of guy you want to ask to help you move furniture.
4. Poverty. You were wondering when i’d get around to this one, weren’t you? Let me make it simple. A person here in Toronto who has a full-time, minimum-wage job makes about $20,000 a year. Lucky him, because the poverty line here is about $17,000 a year. My disability check is about $9,000 a year. I am so far below the poverty line that, every time the poverty line has a bowel movement, the scat lands right in my hair. This means that I can’t afford most things even minimum-wage earners take for granted. Which is not something I’m complaining about, because I realize that I don’t lift a finger in exchange for my disability check, and don’t have the right to demand anything more than society freely chooses to give me. But it does help explain why I spend 15 hours a day at my desk, using the internet that’s included in my room and board payment. A burger and fries at McDonalds is a major expenditure I have to think hard about, and it’s very difficult to go anywhere and do anything in a city of two million people without having it cost you money.
Which brings me to the title of this post, which is “The Life of a Free Agent.” Contrary to what happens in sports, my kind of free agency is not the brief interlude before you land that fat, multi-year contract that makes you set for life. My kind of free agency is a permanent state of no responsibilities but almost no choices. To quote the immortal song Me and Bobby McGee, “Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, it ain’t free.”