Feeling Eli

The Grim Reaper
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When Rachel and I were first hanging out together—trying to reimagine ourselves in our ravaged city—we coined a phrase to describe the crushing depression we both experienced at times on awakening, the dread that sat on our chests proclaiming its dominance over our day before we’d even opened our eyes. We called it “feeling Eli.”

I’d adopted it from an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night in which the Josh Charles character, sensing something terrible is about to happen, keeps telling the Peter Krause character, “Eli’s coming,” a reference to the Three Dog Night song. At the end of the episode they get word their managing editor has had a massive stroke.

On bad days, either Rachel or I would wake up and text, “Feeling Eli,” and almost always the recipient would respond, “Same.” It was an acknowledgement that on that morning—whether because we’d had too much to drink the night before, or had too much uncertainty to face on the day ahead—the world seemed ominous and unnavigable.

But as bad as Eli felt, having Rachel to share it with made it less scary.

My first week on the new job has me feeling Eli. It’s opened up all the insecurities and uncertainties I’d anticipated, and despite the outpouring of affirmation I’ve received from my colleagues, I’m feeling shaky and unmoored. The learning curve is steep, and with already-scheduled reports due and requests for new ones hitting me daily, I can’t imagine how I’ll ever be able to scale it.

The lifestyle I’ve either chosen or fallen into is solitary; mostly it seems fine, but when I’m under pressure it leaves me feeling isolated and unsupported. There’s no one to talk to about how outmatched I feel about my responsibilities, how terrified I am of disappointing the people who’ve placed not only their faith but their opportunity for success in me. Right now, I’m sitting alone in my kitchen writing this, and when I close up my laptop and stumble to bed there’ll no one in it to share my restless sleep.

Feeling Eli is sad; feeling Eli alone is scary and sad.

4 thoughts on “Feeling Eli

  1. Graham – my mother in law loves to say, “We all die alone.” But we have chosen this crazy working experience because in some ways we are both loners even though we are both gregarious as hell and love the company of our friends and others, I need to be alone (a lot of times). So you may be alone when you are experiencing this, but you are not alone in the universe because everyone who starts a new job has remorse and apprehension, even me with my new job that is my old job, I have my doubts – but every day you try to focus on the thinks that are positive and you try to bury the voices that hew and cry for your failure. Every day you have to look those voices in the mouth and say FUCK OFF. And also tell Eli the same thing – FUCK YOU and the HORSE YOU RODE IN ON.

    • Everything you say is right–I’m way better with work, it’s been an awesome week so far. But M is moving in w A and out of the neighborhood, and next time L comes to nola I’ll be out of town…feel like nothing ties me here, even work which I can do anywhere. Eli keeps telling me to move to Knoxville and you’re right, I should tell him to STFU, but I keep thinking he’s right. Thanks for posting!

      • this was sadder than i thought it was going to be. i’m glad to read in your comment that you’ve had an awesome week. i guess my take is this: wouldn’t it be better to just assume you can totally do something and point to the hiring as validation thereof? you seem to go in the opposite direction on that.

        re: Eli and K-town — i know that feeling and i had it in Spades right around the time the towers fell. Eli is what made me come home. without Eli, i’d never have married C, nor would i have been A’s stepdad, or S,J,K and L’s dad. (fucking alphabet soup over here…).

        that’s not to say that you should move to K-town. but that is to say i think Eli can sometimes be a harbinger of great things to come.

  2. “Eli’s Coming” actually was a Laura Nyro song. I heard that, contrary to “Eli” being a man, it was actually Laura writing about approaching the Eli top on the NY subway. Fun facts to know and tell!
    BTW, I have always gotten — at times of no discernible predictability — that feeling of impending doom. That’s what makes us sensitive, artistic types. Right? Right? [if I say it enough, maybe I’ll eventually believe it.]

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