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" Sunshine and the Storm Cloud | 2008 | Left Behind "

07.16.08 4:39 p.m.

Pinocchio is now a boy who wants to turn back into a toy.  

-Rufus Wainwright



Daily, billions of your cells silently die for no other reason that that they were not given any specific instructions. For want of something to do, they will remove their individual components through a process called apoptosis, programmed cell death. As Bill Bryson puts it in A Short History of Nearly Everything, cells need a lot of reassurance. This is rather a good thing, as it snuffs out almost all cancers immediately. The energy and nutrients that would be given to that purposeless cell, as well as the components of the cell itself, are then given to ones that actually have a plan.

In this month and a half on my own, with no teaching to force my schedule nor anyone living with me whom could influence my day, I have witnessed aspects of my psyche eroding because they were not given anything else to do. I am not used to the concept of free time, so conditioned to bells ringing or my beeping PDA alerting me of an appointment or obligation. I could sleep all day, if I so chose. I could do nothing but read and eat pancakes. One day, I biked to Connecticut for the bragging rights of saying I'd done it, then raced the sun home. I haven't been so unhurried since I was in high school, and it was driving me perfectly crazy.

I have to give myself tasks, because I would otherwise find myself manic, darting around to make up for a wasted day, or depressive, as I reflect on mistakes I've made - some professional, most personal. I considered therapy for a little while, but I seemed to get over the bipolarity and wrote it off as a mental cold. If a psychological issue can be defeated with a bike ride and a crack shattering my writer's block, it is nothing in which I need to involve professionals. My internal diagnostic suggests that this is about the absolute craziest I get, which is reassuring.

I've acknowledged that crying at poignant things (Common Ties, an article about boy dying of leukemia who "wed" his eight-year-old friend before dying, Scrubs) isn't pathological. I suggested that I sought out pain because I missed it, because I was so used to it without realizing. But that isn't it. For the longest time when I was a teenager, I didn't feel I had appropriate emotional reactions, as though I were wholly fictional. I didn't feel anything but observational for the longest time, then I would choose one aspect of my life and a torrent of emotion would gush out of my eyes. Now, I feel like my emotion is constantly trickling out and it is much, much harder. I have authentic emotions and I am honest about them, but the emotions are often things like anxiety, fear, and existential angst. I seek out confessions because they provoke these emotions in me that I lacked in my adolescence.

(It isn't always the tragic stories that get me. I can shrug off a girl near suicidal about a rape, but my tears become insistent when I read about a girl last feeling beautiful when she was made love to in a wild orchard and the petals rained down on her.)

As open and loving as I am, I still have a few issues which I expect will degrade organically if I don't rip them to shreds and toss them to the bottom of the compost heap to speed the process. I wish I were more complicated than this, but I do think some of my issues will vanish to a dot the moment I am more certain about what I am doing in September. They will still be issues I am dealing with, but I feel that I am trying to sculpt atop a wobbly platform. Polishing and sanding is much easier when I can jump around while doing it.

We all have our baggage and I regret that vestiges of this still have Emily's luggage tags. In a seven year relationship, there will still be occasional issues that present themselves seven months in. It does not help that my family reminds me of my prior blindness, but I suppose it is how they best do their impression of Jiminy Cricket. I get waves of insecurity about Melanie, which she always washes away with a word or a smile (webcams are amazing). Every time she does, the next wave is that much weaker, but they still come. Having lost two serious girlfriends to other men and two to wanting to lead lives that didn't involve me as their partner (I consider Emily the overlap), I am still building trust in my future with Melanie because it is what I most want.

It is an unsteady time for me, uncertain new jobs and new friends replacing the old and worn out. It does help to know that it is not a matter of if I get a job, but when and where. I am popular in the educational world of late. The terror of a moratorium, a stint at my parents' while I subbed or did low level work, was causing me to fidget inwardly. I've promised myself rewards when I sign a contract, the least of which will be a new apartment that will facilitate the kind of future I want.

As I've said, I am no longer letting decisions be made for me. I did that too long. For the most part, I am taking actions that please me and make me proud. I am acting with forethought and compassion, doing what I need to do to live without regret. It does not always turn out perfect or even well, but even these mistakes are mine and I am certain that these turned out better than when I let situations more or less happen. I am a more active participant in my life. I was not doing myself any favors by only being the expected iterations of who I should be, variations on the theme of actuality.

I've been this disgustingly - if silently - judgmental person when it came to other people because I was insecure. I can credit a thousand excuses for why I did this, but none are worth a damn. Someone who looked or acted differently than I did was not inferior, despite the growling of this vicious imp who lives in my chest. Just because someone wasn't a beautiful person in a way I could digest, it didn't mean they weren't a lot happier than I was, trapped in my head analyzing everything to death rather than living. I had fallen back on ideas for who I should be, facile stereotypes. I was wasting my life doing it. It is hard to be yourself and be internally consistent. It is so much easier and more fashionable to nitpick everything to deflect people from noticing how inadequate you feel. I realize more and more how fictional I've been. I don't want to be a fictional character dancing, I want to be me dancing. I want to be me.

If my soft fictions have to be disassembled for the real me to pour through in tears and laughter, I am eager for their destruction. They once served a purpose to make me braver, but now they hinder growth. They were too close to malignancy, too long fostered by my complacency and willingness to watch my life travel by.

Soon in Xenology: Interviews. Fireworks.

last watched: Sunshine
reading: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
listening: Highly Evolved

" Sunshine and the Storm Cloud | 2008 | Left Behind "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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