[“Tough to be a Dreamer” – Felix Hagan and the Family]
I am a fervent dreamer, or at least, I have been in the past. I dream of happy endings; of love, adventures, and success. But recently, my happy endings have disappeared, replaced with deeply suspicious heroines and heroes who end up being betrayed or avoiding risk in favor of comfort…
Dear reader, I am writing, after too long an absence, as one such heroine because I have found myself becoming tired of hearing my own voice. I want to help spread hope and smiles; I want to show those in a similar situation that there is a solid chance for better days; I want to hold my flag of independence high, as I, fearless and free, lead an army of the beautifully broken.
But, instead of being this emblem of hope, I am experiencing some serious existential pain both helped and hindered by the coming of 2018 and the stereotypical ruminations that this time of year inspires. Despite my fatigue with the emotional inferno burning inside of me, I have to get the words and pain out somehow. I have been hiding myself away in the hope that if I ignore the pain, it will go away. But, as my amazing father always says, “Hope is not a valid strategy.” So, here I am.
Essentially, I have been half-assing my bravery, and this just will not, cannot, stand.
Suffice it to say, overall, this has not been my year. Life has been hard. I have been having a hard time, I’ve said it before and I’ll likely say it again. Hell, I’ve said it so much that I need a new phrase. A new LANGUAGE even, just to give some *oomph* back to the tired words. These have been a confusing and draining six months and I feel less clear on my objectives than I have in the past. I am just now coming out of a period darkness and can solidly say that I have toned the sadness down to a slow, simmering struggle rather than a full on existential meltdown (#progress). To top it off, I am truly overwhelmed by the gracious and undying emotional support I have surrounding me and yet I have been trying, actively, to push it away because I am honestly tired of hearing myself. “Everyone’s got problems, no more or less pathetic than mine” as the lovely Mr. Hagan sings (with the support of the Family—see the song above). The essence of life is to survive it.
Obviously you don’t have the be a psychologist to know that I have had some emotional… Scarring… Of late. Yes, initially, there were open and grotesque wounds to actively tend, so scars are progress… But there’s still that phantom ache. There’s still the ugly memory of what happened to leave them there. The wounds were created and the scars remain because a part of me was altered forever (and unfortunately this alteration wasn’t some fun elective surgery meant to make me “hot” or even help me on my way to becoming a sideshow attraction)…
No, I wouldn’t say I am going to lose my ability to exist within healthy relationships, I just know that these scars are likely going to take more time to smooth out than the wounds took to become them.
Teller of Stories
My life exists in stories. Literally my whole life. When I get bored, I tell stories. When I get sad, I tell stories. When I am trying to fall asleep, I tell stories. When I am showering, cooking, doing my makeup (because I do that, sometimes), eating, cleaning, especially when I am driving… I tell stories. This has been my game, my solace, my life… Ever since I can remember. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up a story about something. Happy stories. Yes, I know that the world is not all sunshine and roses. It never has been and never will be. But, through my stories, I like to try to at least add a little more sunshine and roses to the world.
True, I love Neil Gaiman and Joss Wheadon because I am admittedly a masochist who fully recognizes that beauty can be found in pain, in favorite characters dying and in worlds being turned upside down. They, among many other vastly talented writers, unabashedly celebrate the struggle surrounding the human (and sometimes not so human) existence. But dammit, I write happy endings. It’s what I have always done, until recently.
Teller of Struggles
Sleep is a beautiful thing to me. The quiet, the peace, the total body relaxation… I also tend to have some wildly unusual dreams that make for some fun waking stories for those willing to listen. Sleep, though, does not always come easily to me and so I have a process to aid my way toward unconsciousness: Comfy tee shirt (usually a Listener or literary tee – definitely 3 sizes too big), the stretchiest of black leggings, NEVER socks—the room must be cool (temperature wise, I don’t give a damn about its social status), sheet and duvet pulled up and fisted under my chin with my left hand, laying on my right side, right hand secured under the pillow, left foot kicked slightly out in front of me—just enough to allow the cool air in. This is heaven. My ideal sleeping condition is to exist under my giant gray comforter as a vaguely distinguishable lump with toes and a riot of wild hair poking out at odd ends.
You’d think, this being my heaven, and with an appropriate amount of sleepiness, I would be primed to snooze. Not so, my ever active and anxious asshole of a brain will go into overdrive as soon as my head hits the pillow, most specifically it will actively attempt to find instances from the day that I should likely be mortified by and therefore go hide in a cave until I die, with only errant squirrels for company (now that I say it, the squirrels wouldn’t be that bad actually).
To counteract this propensity, for as long as I can remember, I have told myself bedtime stories. I don’t whisper them aloud, I simply tell them in my head and they wildly vary from mundane examples of how I could have handled a situation differently, to retelling or continuing my favorite movies/books, and then there are my fantastical adventures with the aforementioned squirrels (this time as their leader instead of a desperate hermit) or some typical rom-com style content. Before the total emotional travesty this year, after we kissed goodnight, I used to quietly ask Said Person to proffer a theme for the evening and he never disappointed. I miss the co-authorship.
This tradition of mine has suffered since I lost my co-author. Never one to be at a loss for a story, my bedtime process has continued but each time I reach a point where the main character finds her/himself having to trust someone, they find themselves incapable (don’t worry, I am working on it). Sucks. My stories that once were my quiet solace are betraying the emotional lengths I still have to go to to recover. Some wounds take longer than others and this one still needs some active tending before it becomes one of the other scars.
The Stereotypical New Years Ruminations
In the midst of what I termed above to be my most recent existential crisis, I realized that this year has not been a total dumpster fire. Not every story has had a bad ending. Despite the emotionally crumbling components, I have survived. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment. My worst fear came true and the world did not come to an end. Sure, parts of mine did but this blue and green marble floating in space did not, in fact, stop in its rotation (crazy, right, since all my “I” statements seem to make it seem like it revolves around me rather than the sun). The seasons went on changing, holidays were celebrated, my cat continued to be an adorable tiny turd, and, despite my eternal confusion as to why, the Kardashians continued to be a thing. The constancy of the world and the way it putters on despite any tragedy, big or small, is a sobering and bitter comfort in times such as these.
In addition, I developed this here notion of not going gently into any good night (ok fine, that SPECIFICALLY was Dylan Thomas, and I love him for it, but I am discussing the “bravery” aspect that I tend to explore here). I was initially told that it was brave to stick to my divorce guns, to actively seek a situation in which I would be appreciated. That’s the reason for the headline title, bravery really is a theory, it’s interpreted as the individual fighting for their country and the child performing in the talent show; the person speaking for their rights and the one speaking in front of their colleagues. Bravery is the thing that gets you out of your comfort zone. Everyone sees as brave what they admire but would not necessarily do themselves without some serious cajoling. My life changed this year and I have been forced to change with it. To me, it wasn’t actually bravery but necessity that got me here. This necessity though, has opened me to a world where I go on solo road trips (after literally just having gotten my license), zip-line into waterfalls, establish departmental policies at work, love unabashedly, speak my truth, and learn that I am more than a (ostensibly) mentally ill introvert who is hard to love.
So, yes, it’s tough to be a dreamer when your dreams have been shattered. It’s tough to be a storyteller, a being who thrives on imagination, when the magnum opus you were writing to have no real end (but the eventual death we’d reach together as at least octogenarians) was suddenly cut off, mid-sentence even. Someone metaphorically yet forcibly ripped the happy ending out of my book and left me to write a new one, on insufficient paper I might add. So, here are my hastily assembled scraps, some scribbled, some scratched out, written on lined and unlined paper (not to mention tissues—no small feat), some crisp, some aged and worn from constant folding and unfolding as a reminder of what I need to know and reinforce. This specific book is shorter than I imagined, and most definitely the worse for wear, but definitely not lacking in emotional depth and experience.
So now, as 2017 comes to a close, I am taping these assembled notes and various addendums together, the good with the bad, to firmly complete one book and commit myself to another. One entirely blank and uncertain book, which lends, therefore, the prospect of no real end as well. Adventure can be found in uncertainty, and the adventure I am seeking will be found along my path through and to self discovery. A lifelong story that begins and ends with me.
For me, this overarching theory of bravery, this story, will not just be from someone who has survived, but as someone with grand plans to thrive.
Happy New Year, friends. I wish you bravery and love from here to eternity.
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)
Jade Plant, Office, London