The exercise routine broke down, and the credit budgeting buckled. The bike needs maintenance. The job started to apply pressure, and then the emotional crush of a particular calendar date bought unexpected pain.

I creak. I crack. I fracture.

That damnable date in the diary, two weeks into February, where commercial influence is exerted to apply the sense of guilt or of failure. It got to me, more so than usual, the ceaseless messaging: either you are in a relationship and ‘need’ to show your love with products and experiences, or you are outside of a relationship and ‘need’ to buy things to improve your outlook. Social club membership, access to exclusive dating bulletins. Access to the meat factory. It’s a merciless time, cruel in its treatment of those exposed to it, through no fault of our own.

Rationally, it can be ignored, as it means nothing: it is just a day. Rationality isn’t the point though; the marketing messages are not aimed at those of us who are rational. It’s aimed at those of use who are weaker, unthinking. It is exploitative, doing harm intentionally to encourage expenditure, disguised as love. I wonder if that makes it evil.

I struggled, all weekend, even though I knew what was going on. I felt worthless. Single, alone and undesired, these were the insults I threw at myself from inside my own headspace. At such short range, the names can’t fail to strike. I know that target practice on your own self is hardly a productive way to live, but I couldn’t stop. I stayed in the hab, my battered and drowned mood matching the storm that blustered outside. I sustained myself in this darkened, gloomy, world on a diet of sugar and carbs, stim shows and blank-faced scanning of the data feed. I couldn’t motivate myself to socialise, I couldn’t even face writing. It is bad, when I can’t make myself use a keyboard. The keys are my heartbeat. This weekend, I had none.

These past weeks , alongside the need for maintenance on my bike, the grasp of winter’s chill has limited my desire to exercise, too. I’ve taken the transit to work each day and struggled to get up every morning, feeling slowly like I’m losing the fight. Good intentions verses procrastination; it is always the same outcome. With the bulk of my exercise routine broken, the rest quickly fell to the side. I am my own enemy, often.

During the lonely crawl of long weekend hours, something did finally get through my sense of wallowing misery. I was touched by the way that several friends had tried to help me through it, my comm chiming with their stalwart messages of support. Not letting me get away with my attacks on myself, not letting me sit through the reel of lies in my head, they kept on at me – reminding me I’m better than I judge myself to be.

By Sunday morning I had decided to prepare rations for the week ahead, and at least clean up the commute-muck from my bike. This turned into a productive day, with multiple loads of clothing put through the cleaning cycle, multiple ration packs stored in cryo, and an absolutely gleaming bike locked into the storage clasp, by early evening.

I’m horribly low on credits, with eleven desperate days still to go. I’m tense. And work isn’t helping, with unpleasantly difficult tasks mounting up, triggering a sense of unease. I’ve lodged a request for some time out. Just a couple of weeks to go, then I can let off pressure for a week. I think I need it. I need my mind to reset.

The clutter of drying clothes, cleaning materials and cast-aside object fills the hab. The detritus of a depressed weekend, it now needs to be tidied up, as I regather the shards of my own mental state. I need to start exercising again, too.

That wasn’t a pleasant weekend, but at least it’s only once a year.

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