Marathon dreams last night. If that happened every night, I’d be someone else.
One after another—interrupted by my habitual fits of waking every two or three hours; common occurrence for depressives—the dreams flowed, more vivid than usual, and remained fresh when I woke. If they were films, the hybrid directing style would have shown the heavy hand of Cecil B. DeMille, the visceral brutality of Sam Peckinpah, and the Wachowskis’ layered nuance. At the risk of abusing the movie analogy, I’ll stretch it a bit farther.
The dreams put me in familiar places, doing normal things, but in each case I behaved uncharacteristically: I did the right, proper and entirely appropriate thing. I was the person I ought to have been; not the one I was. If we are the producer-director of our own lives, I saw that I had been living a script written by someone else; meeting the expectations of others; pursuing goals and objectives chosen by someone else. For their duration, I watched myself not be the person I had allowed (invited?) others to make me. I have apparently outsourced my life.
Epic insight is rare for me; perhaps that’s what seven years on Dr Bob’s leather couch has enabled. And high time, too.
Seventy, they say, is the new fifty. And while I’m not preoccupied with the end of life, it crosses my mind more often than it did when I was half these many years. Introspection is closer to the point.
I entered this life as a reasonably blank slate; born into its opening scene with a cast who shaped my sense of self, not all of it for the better. Roy and Marge played their parts; Clara stepped in when Marge took a better role. It’s taken me years—decades—to appreciate that. Last night’s dreams taught me something else, about my dependence on others, but also about my resilience. So, at this other end of life, the blank slate I was is the blank slate I will become. In these remaining measured years of clarity, as I may drift into the comforting amniotic sea of tranquility that is senility, am I permitted to craft my final scenes? I do not anticipate an afterlife. Heaven and Hell are right here, right now; I get to choose. And so I choose to be an active participant in making what time remains as heavenly as possible. Wish me well.
There are a couple people through the years who I have invited to edit and even re-write my script; I lived life that passively. What a waste! That insight came to me a few years ago, and I’ve since made corrections: they are gone from that role and I am happier and more productive for relieving them of a responsibility they took on with far too much zeal. It seems to me now that there are people who seek out such a place; it is who they are. But I am no one’s posse.
I have no interest in drifting into death, while maintaining the status quo. The time has come for change; dramatic change and a plot twist to relieve the irresolution and set things right. So what follows is somewhere between an invitation and a challenge (forgive the bulleted list):
- If I have done you harm, damaged, offended or incensed you in any measurable way, the time has come for karma. Tell me what I have done, in ignorance or arrogance, that has become a barrier between you and me. Allow me time to consider your perspective and respond appropriately. I promise to not default to a defensive position. If an apology is due, it will be forthcoming; if a counterpoint is warranted, I will present it honestly, with as much compassion as I am able. What saddens me is that many of my acquaintances in this category have already written me off; they will not read this invitation nor take this opportunity. [Genuine heavy sigh]
- From those I have done good service, no comment is necessary. If we were engaged in an equitable transaction, as teacher-student, colleague or friend (or some combination thereof), I hope to have fulfilled my part of the bargain. If you paid for it through tuition, I genuinely hope you got good value and have paid it forward in some way. Know that your friendship and good will are sufficient and need never be spoken; I would be humbled by your remarks anyway and obligated to diminish or deny them in some “Midwest Nice” sort of way.
- To those remarkably few people who have done me harm (through what I presume to have been no fault of my own, until shown otherwise), I regret that you chose to treat me thus. While I am not completely over those hurts, I’m working toward it. In hindsight—which is primarily what I’m equipped with these days, it seems—this list is remarkably short and consists of no more than four or five people whose understanding of human decency, on a negative scale of one to ten, is off the charts by a factor of light years, but whose self-awareness of their behavior is so negligible as to require Ångstrom units of measurement. I am, in spite of that, glad for the opportunity of their acquaintance so that I can have identified a type I hope never to encounter again, and should the occasion arise I shall be better prepared.
I suspect that life will go on with me until it goes on without me. [Here I insert an advert for James P. Carse’s book Finite and Infinite Games, among the best books I have read and one which I heartily recommend to you.] Know that I am grateful in varying degrees for having met you. If our paths should diverge for some reason, please travel well and safely. But if we should share the journey for a little while yet, your company is appreciated and affords me comfort and satisfaction—outright joy being outside my capability.
UPDATE (2016/10/11): FaceBook has its assets and liabilities. Among the former is the daily reminder to re-post a memory from one, two, or more years ago. “Marathon Dreams” appeared yesterday as a recommendation, but before simply hitting the “share” button I chose to re-read the original (and tweek some of its infelicities of language; I am a shitty writer) and refresh my memory. What the re-read made clear is my dereliction, because another bulleted point should be inserted between the second and third on this list.
Friendships are neither symmetrical nor balanced. But analogizing them to a “joint account” in eternal flux, where deposits are made by one or the other of us and checks are drawn on the balance, reduces friendship to a ledger, a “bottom line.” And the assessment of those numbers reduces me a CPA. Friendship is organic and its imbalances are best treated biologically, like eating when you’re hungry, shivering when you’re cold, or sweating when too warm. I find that there is some shivering in my future for balance to be restored. “Forgiveness” is too strong a word.