Monday, June 25, 2012

Distraction, or Illusion? You Be the Judge...

This is supposed to be good for me, I guess -- this writing, I mean.  It's certainly a distraction.

But it's not always such a pleasant endeavor.  I teeter between a self-protective discretion, and an almost willfully embarrassing self-disclosure, all the while dreading that somehow, I might commit the worst sin of all, in my private religion -- the sin of repeating myself.

Things seem strange to me, now.  John says it's because of my medication -- either the new dosages haven't yet begun to have the expected positive effect (we should wait until... Easter maybe?), or the drugs aren't working at all.  I don't really much care -- I find myself more concerned, for instance, that I usually find myself crying while I'm driving to Trader Joe's, or the gym.  My tears having nothing to do with whatever destination.  In my continuing struggle with looming death, I find myself wanting to reject how I experience my own body, and how that body in turn experiences the world.  The one you live in.

Because I'm so visual (and this may be no different from any other binocular human on the planet -- I've just never talked with anyone about it), I seem to operate in life as though "I" were a little mannikin inside my own head, sitting just behind and between my eyes, and looking out, by some kind of transubstantiation, through bone and skin, and protected by an invisible, horizontally-oriented, dome-like lens.  See: Men In Black, the scene in the morgue, when Will Smith pulls the ear of the dead jeweler, the head opens like the gull wing of a Mercedes E class, and there's a mortally wounded alien princeling inside.  Only I don't have a princeling.  Just some sort of energetic principle, with a flawed memory chip, a set of seemingly arbitrary operating rules, and no map whatsoever -- just the equivalent of a blank sheet of paper with a huge black X on it, and the understanding that this X (we all know what this represents) must somehow be avoided at all costs -- even though it's the actual, inevitable destination toward which this entire confabulation of bond and blood and tissue is heading.

No new here, is there?  Why on earth, you are probably wondering, is this person going on and on about The Thing we all have in common?  I guess it's like a bad advertizing jingle that I've got in my head, and I can't get rid of it.  I guess I'm trying, desperately, to find some way (as I've sometimes been lucky enough to do), to use the gravitational pull of this Death thing to my advantage -- the way those savvy space pilots use the Earth's mass to fling them out of danger, far better and further than their own engines could do. 

But my deeper suspicion is that, no, there's no way to work this one to my advantage.  No way to, maybe, put a millwheel in the stream, and channel the death march,, cleverly converting it into the means of creating sustenance.  

Instead, lately, what I seem to feel is a need to recede -- a wish to pull back from this fascinating perch behind my eyes, and start to find a way to see my own physical mechanism in a more detached way.  The way, perhaps, a person securely belted into a new car might look around at the uphosterly, the dashboard, the steering wheel, and feel differently about it all, in the few seconds between starting to skid, and hitting the cement buttress.  I find, also, that what I'm used to experiencing, and treating, and interacting with, as a consistent whole, a reliable array of phenomena choosing to distinguish themselves for me as: a maple tree; a rose bush; a small dog pooping in my rose bush; a paved road; another vehicle; another person; a whole crowd of other persons... all these various manifestations of life itself now start to seem more like a kind of animated wallpaper, adhered somehow to the outside of that comforting facial dome I feel I must vacate as soon as possible.  I keep expecting the illusion of solidity to rip.  In what I think is the most compassionate manner possible, I find myself looking at the man walking down the street, talking on his cell phone, and thinking 'He's going to be dead, sooner or later.  And as a matter of fact, from the looks of things, it's going to be sooner.'

I feel that, for me, it's too late already -- there's no possibility for me to complete the roster of tasks that should be properly completed, and swept up after, at least a week before anyone is shopping for my casket.  You might think that, things in general seeming so illusory, the re-ordering of all my various accumulations would be a virtual snap, since they don't really exist anyway.  But, in the Perversity of How Things Are, I seem to find that, if it's beneficial, it's evanescent (isn't that a great word?  I can almost smell it, like gingerale); if it's burdensome or difficult, it becomes leaden and resistant to change.  I drink coffee for all I'm worth -- I may as well pour it on the driveway, for all the vigor and stamina and (fleeting) energy it provides.  I fear failure.  I feel that failure is already stamped all over my body -- that I'm a living work of stitchery, and every knot has 'failure' worked into it somehow.

John says this is shame.  He may be right.  There are certainly many things of which I am ashamed -- some over which I had no control, others of which I deliberately set in motion, and still others which were inadvertent, but no less harmful to myself and others.  John says I need to forgive myself.  I wholeheartedly agree with him, but when I look for the mechanism (is there a mechanism?), I can't seem to find it, or even imagine how it would look, or what it would do, or when it would start, or how I would set it in motion.

I remember my stepmother, during one of her daily rages, screaming at my brothers and me as we were getting home from school, "You know what the trouble is with you?  You've never forgiven your father for putting you in the orphanage!" I can't know how my brothers felt, but I was dumbfounded -- first, because 'orphanage' was a word that, by some unspoken agreement, was never to be spoken in our house, and second, because quite simply, our father had never said that he felt one way or another about our stint in an institution, let alone that he was sorry.  And he never, ever did.

And this, I recognize as I write, is one huge chunk of the edifice of shame behind which I feel so trapped.  (When I'm not peeking out of my porthole, that is)  The enduring shame of have been judged worth only the least amount of tepid care, as long as that sliver of tepid caring was provided by someone else.   How do I manage to care for myself, in any meaningful way, when the model provided for me was so devastatingly frank, in telling me that I wasn't good enough, wasn't really good at all?  Sometimes defiance helps for a while, but it can be exhausting, keeping up the front.

Well, here I still sit.  The thunderstorms seem to have passed us, so I guess I'll go across the street and haul the hose reel to the back, try to find the spot where the plants and not the driveway get most of the water, and turn on the faucet.  I can be a little bit useful, from time to time.  This is something of a help.  Plus, I get to look at our house from across the street, and the row of rose bushes by the fire hydrant.  Even if they are an illusion.  

©   2012           Walter Zimmerman     

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