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Junk Drawer

By Amy Atwood

Essay

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You’ve been sitting in front of the dreaded blank screen for hours because everything you think you could write about sounds damn depressing, probably because you just returned from burying your great uncle. So instead of trying to write something lighthearted, you let Amy Winehouse’s crooning distract you and you stare at nothing.

As you stare at nothing, you begin to wonder how they embalmed the cavity of your great uncle’s body. Then you visualize this. There’s the mortician—a typical, overweight, balding white guy in a surgical coat—vertically cutting your great uncle wide open, like how Moses had his way with the Red Sea. There must be some process, some preparations taken to make him presentable for the open casket—the thought of which feels too creepy to be therapeutic.

Back to imagining this scene:

The vintage mortician removing your great uncle’s organs. One after the other. Each organ punctured like a kid impaling a Capri Sun. Horror now creeps into you. But how are the organs placed back into the empty body? Perhaps they’re replaced like a well-crafted puzzle. Or maybe just shoved back into your great uncle’s abdomen, like the contents of some kind of organ junk drawer. It’s not like anyone’s going to check. You decide to investigate, to replace the blank screen with YouTube videos on body embalming, which doesn’t help much with the lightening up of your mood.

This is why writing feels damn depressing.

So you deflect a deepening depression by reflecting on your life. You know you’ve had some really amazing times, but of course at some point during your attempt to remember them, the really shitty ones begin to bubble up. Next, rolodex through your memories. Pull out one heartache after another. Your idiotic first husband and how he accidentally left a message for her on your voicemail. You had the pleasure of hearing this message as you walked into work, listening to his sweet voice that wasn’t meant for you, his wife. He called the wrong number.

Maybe you could write about that.

Or maybe you could write about the struggling years of infertility or the excruciating suicide of your brother-in-law.

Now forget Youtube and dive deep into your treasure chest of family drama, the stuff writing’s made of, the stuff that fills the blank screen—the abusive alcoholic father with a failing liver, the willfully ignorant and avoidant mother who refuses to look reality in the eye, a sister so fundamentally religious that she truly and literally believes that the world was created in seven days and that a woman fucked everything up with one little nibble of fruit. No wonder you find it harder and harder to have any kind of relationship with her, even though you once spoke the same crazy language.

closed-casketEnough. Make your brain move on.

Struggle to make that mental shift, to re-remember that you’ve had some really beautiful, joyous occasions—the good times so good that you can’t do anything with the sappy sentimentality but rhyme.

Honesty time!

Let the Pollyanna part of your brain come through your writing right now. Your life is amazing nine times out of ten!

The Pollyanna part of your brain leads you to believe that somehow, if you are ever happy enough, your joy might rub off on all the depressed people around you. It says your happiness and positive outlook on life can somehow balance the scales of all that’s awful.

But Amy Winehouse continues to croon.

There are times, such as now, where you tell that Pollyanna part of yourself to shut the fuck up.

Pollyanna-brain shuts the fuck up.

Your thoughts go straight back to your dead great uncle and the creepy creeps back. Capri Sun.

Organ junk drawer.

Is sad better than numb?

At least you aren’t dead, which reminds you that one day you won’t be able to say that. Everything sounds so damn depressing.

After all of that YouTube watching, you can confirm that the process of embalming is really strange, if not unnecessary. You can just imagine your family crying over your freshly baby powdered corpse, their faces raw with grief. They all agree that you look peaceful while secretly wondering how the mortician was able to get your boobs to look so perky. Right now, you feel compelled to inform your loved ones of your funeral wishes—cremation, thank you very much. Organ donation, if possible. Your last act might as well be a noble one—a positive one. Perhaps not everything is damn depressing.

Pollyanna wins again.

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Amy Atwood AMY ATWOOD is a yoga teacher, truth seeker, and writer. She's been published in Psychology Today. Amy lives in Houston, TX with her husband and daughter.

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