Dark Neighborhood: Watching Your Life Play Out On Screen While Sitting in the Audience?
Ever feel like that? As if you’re just an observer in your own life? As if you’re not really engaged in the actual living?
I was outside power-washing the driveway today (I’m a lousy power-washer; lots of streaks etc. but hey, most of the dirt is gone) but my mind was all over the place and all over time — forward and back.
There are variations. Being the person on screen, but feeling like your real self is out there in the audience. Of course, there’s being both people at the same time, but let’s not go there now.
Some of it has to do with being able to be in the here and now. I have a hard time with that. My brain seems to jump around a lot. I remember being a kid in the Bronx and I used to just get on my Stingray bike with the purple banana seat and just go out riding around. Nowadays I imagine that would be frowned upon, but times were different then.
I’d bike all over the Bronx. But my mind would travel much further afield in space and time. I also spent a lot of time in the library. So much so that I felt like I’d exhausted the closest one and had to go further afield to another branch. Books were my world. BTW, there I am next to one of the two lions in front of the main branch of the NYPL in Manhattan. Did you know they have names? Patience and Fortitude. That one is Fortitude, when I probably could use more Patience.
One of the coolest moments was finding this hardcover with this weird image on the cover: the Hobbit! (anyone remember the cover to the left?) And then seeing three more books by the same dude! Of course, I didn’t know then that Tolkien had compressed 3 movies into that first book; such arrogance. And left out the elf-dwarf love story! That awareness would come later.
But back to watching life play out and not being engaged. It bothers me. Sometimes I really wish my brain wasn’t broken because it seems like people without broken brains are happier, but that could just be bluer grass. On the flip side, it has its plusses. I have no doubt that it’s an asset for being a writer. And really, what a cool job!
It helped in the military. I could do really hard things and it wasn’t that hard to me. I always found it weird when others would collapse or give up and just not be able to handle it. To me Special Forces was the norm, not special. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane at night off the ramp at 500 feet AGL, wearing over 150 pounds of gear? Sure. Why not? I wouldn’t do it for fun. But for pay and mission? Sure. Move through a blizzard at 12,000 feet altitude carrying a lot of gear with the temp well below zero? Sure, because part of me wasn’t really there. I was watching this other guy do it.
But engagement is hard. To be in the here and now. The brain in tune with the body and in tune with the environment.
There are things that are broken and there are things that are learned. The line between the two isn’t clear cut, because they intermingle as we grow up. So now, it’s focusing on what can be relearned. Or unlearned and relearned.
So that’s the Dark Neighborhood for this weekend.
Originally published at writeitforward.com on February 25, 2017.