Monday, February 7, 2000

Waking Up in Your Own Dream

"Got white skin, got assassins eyes/I'm looking up into the sapphire tempered skies/I'm well dressed, waiting on the last train/Standin' on the gallows with my head in a noose/Any minute now I'm expecting all hell to break loose..."

The other day early in the morning when I was at the state of trying to figure if it was worth getting out of bed again or not, Max the cat strolled into the room and plopped himself down on my chest. His fourteen pound frame emphasized that gravity seems to be cheating a little these days, pushing down harder on me than most.

As Max stood up and kneaded the covers covering my torso his body language and deep purring seemed to communicate to me that he really didn't want me to leave and he was going to do all he could to pin me down. It was Groundhog's Day after all and we all remember the message passed along by Mr. Groundhog a few years back. It isn't only his shadow that Max is increasingly afraid of, it's the ever confusing rapidly changing world outside. Mr. Groundhog warned us to forever play it safe and stay down in the safety of our hole altogether. I get home that night and Max either had changed the locks or my key no longer worked. (A squirt of W-40 took care of that incident.) You can't spell challenge without the change after all.

"I've been walkin' forty miles of bad road/If the Bible is right the world will explode/I'm trying to get as far away from myself as I can..."

The last straw? The state's school system often fairly criticized, took a cheap shot last week. The brouhaha began when some questioned whether it was appropriate for a standardized essay question to ask 10th graders to demonstrate their writing ability by identifying the one thing they would change about themselves. Apparently the question was too personal for some peoples' tastes.

Whether or not this is truly the case I don't know. I question the premise of the concern in the first place. What does it mean to be too personal? Why don't we encourage more courageous contemplative navel gazing? And why do we make people feel ashamed when they do so? Isn't one of the most important skills the ability to look at oneself critically, acknowledge our weaknesses at the same time we identify our strengths? Isn't there something admirable about being able to reveal what's inside knowing how painful a rejected heart can be? Because once it's out, much as you come to regret it, you can't take it back. The simplest connection can be the most powerful and therefore the most painful to lose.

"My heart it's aching, I just don't show it/You can hurt someone and not even know it/The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity..."

So I'll play. If I could change one thing about myself? Off the top of my head several things actually come to mind. First of all I wish I could come home every day and smell bacon. I think that would be really nice. Second I wish I could change my shoe size. Can you even begin to understand how painful it is to walk into a shoe store, find a pair of shoes I like only to be told they don't come in 5 1/2's? And then to add insult to injury have the snooty clerk tell me I have to go to the boys section? A guy can get awfully self conscious about the size of his feet by golly. And it doesn't help one's professional appearance to have to wear kids shoes to work.

"I'm in love with a woman that don't even appeal to me/Mr. Jinks and Miss Lucy they jumped in a lake/I'm not that eager to make a mistake."

Indeed change is a strange bird. Often what we want most to hold on to disappears and what we hope we can change remains as static as what we desperately want to evolve which doesn't go quite as we had hoped.

Therefore if forced to pick one thing I'd ultimately change I'd say I'd change the day I actually lost my grip on reality. Some people use Ben Gay for what ails them. Some use Mineral Ice to numb the pain. I use bad metaphors. You hang so tightly to the edge, knowing that you don't have the strength (nor perhaps the will) to pull yourself back up to safety. Maybe you call out for help and maybe you don't. And suddenly it doesn't matter anymore so you let go. Part of you prays that the bottom will be soon and near and another part out of, and in sheer terror hopes you never hit the bottom because you wonder if you can absorb the impact. It's both a long fall and a short trip into solipsism. There isn't a map to tell you how you ever reach a place where time is as sharp as chards of glass, where shrapnel of memory fragments make you unbearably sad and despite the jagged edges they aren't something you can just let go.

They reassure me by telling me there is nothing so resilient as the human spirit. Just sometimes your heart is revived for all the wrong reasons. It's not necessarily a good thing to fall for the face of a wunnerful ghost. Not all gray hairs are caused by old age. Some go beyond the roots. So one last time- this one's different, it's cute how her forehead crinkles and wrinkles when she's deep in thought.

"People are crazy and times are strange/I'm locked in tight, I'm outta range/I used to care but things have changed..."

No comments: