dear imagination, dear limitations

 

I grew up surrounded by limitations, as most children are. Rules from parents, teachers, church leaders, siblings, friends, signs, conventions blatant enough to penetrate a child’s understanding…and I accepted it. I was a tractable kid, always wanting to please, terribly afraid of being wrong, of doing the wrong thing. I never tested the bounds. I learned to lie early to escape being found out in my sins.

As I got older, the limitations morphed, but did not disappear. I learned to make my own limitations upon myself, and added layer after layer of soul-binding straps to lock me into the path and personality I thought best suited for me.

So it’s no surprise how much I enjoyed reading. In books, I found a way beyond myself, outside of the limitations, a way to escape the bindings I and others had created. I’ve been reading a book called Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and there’s a line that really stuck out to me.

She speaks of the;

 “dependable, out-of-body sensation of being somewhere else…”

She’s talking about how much she herself loved fiction as a kid, and when I read that, I knew it described me perfectly.

I read to be in that somewhere else, and it was amazing how many somewheres I found. Even in nonfiction, as I got older, I found a life different than what I imagined. People were discovering things and sharing them, and stretching my knowledge and awareness was as exhilarating as  stepping into a fantasy world. (Yeah, I was basically a huge nerd.)

In those days, I read to escape my childishness and inability to create my own life. You can’t do much independently when you’re twelve. Now, as a fully-fledged adult, I am totally in control, yet I find myself still incapable of doing what will bring my desired life into being. So I continue to read; to fuel my passions, to encourage me in the darkest times, and to escape into lives and somewheres other than my own.

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dear blind date

I didn’t think it was too bad, at first, walking home alone at 9:45. I couldn’t pick out anything really terrible.

But later, I was angry. Later, I cried. Later, I felt totally shitty.

I asked my friends. Am I exaggerating? Am I being too picky? Too exacting? Are my standards too high? No!, they cried. He was a total douche. Douchebag McGee.

He shouldn’t have made me wait with him outside in the freezing wind while he smoked. He should have taken you to the coffee shop first and then gone out, they said. This isn’t me speaking, you understand, it’s them.

He should have noticed when I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. He shouldn’t have made us walk around the block, past all the perfectly fine cafes, to see if there was anything better. We should have gone in. He should have led the conversation more. He should have asked about me and found our common ground, rather than let me do it. He should have complimented me, like I did to him.

He should have put me in a cab home, if he wasn’t going to walk me. He should have called to make sure I got home safe after walking for fifteen minutes in the dark. He shouldn’t have gone to see his friend after and told me that’s what he would do, as if at the end, he wasn’t done with his evening but he was done with me.

And definitely, definitely, he shouldn’t have said, “Well, I have nothing else to say,” and decided we should leave.

And honestly, who shakes hands at the end of a date?

dear adventure

I look at you with such grim determination, and why? Adventure is the lifeblood of humanity, it’s what keeps us ticking forwards. You should be, by all accounts, a reason for joy and hope, an uplifted face, open and enthusiastic, so why should I meet you with such furrowed brow and heavy footsteps?

I want to seize and capture you, to hold you fast and proclaim to myself and the world that I have beaten you.

I am taken by flights of fancy to snow-peaked mountains, treacherous, forbidding, the great testers of courage and fortitude. I am taken into deserts, the hot, heady cradles of civilization, teeming with life on the surface, nothing but a brittle corpse below. To oceans deep, where the smallest and largest of life fight for their own survival, heedless of the conflicts of land-dwellers.

Where does adventure go? Where, how can I follow? I long to do Great Things, but I don’t know what, or how to begin. How do you be adventurous? Is it just a cry in the dark? What steps, if you are not Victorian English and equipped with a guide and social conventions to break?

It’s always a mistake to start reading. You start to get dangerous ideas. Ideas to burn apathy away and create longing. Longing for adventure. Longing for escape.

Yes, books are dangerous things. No wonder people burn them.

Dear person who doesn’t get fantasy

How? How do you not get it? What’s not to get? You have someone with imagination making up a world that does not exist – pretty much fiction in general, in that case. Fantasy only takes it a little farther and adds dragons. Or fairies. Or wizards. Or camels. Or all of that and then some.

So why don’t you get it? Did your parents restrict your access to good books? Or was it a status symbol of your worldly wisdom and maturity that you were above “such things?”

What made you this way? And why didn’t you get over it after thirty and appreciate the incredible capacity for fantasy to reveal deep truths about humanity? Fantasy can show us a reflection of life unlike any other medium. Although here, I also include surrealism, sci-fi, and any other form of fiction. Any work that holds a mirror on life – and does it well – can lead us to greater empathy, understanding, and insight.

So, dear person who doesn’t get fantasy, please get over it, and let me lend you my library.

dear me

Dear Me,

You are super weird, you know that? You got so freaking stressed out about moving to teach first grade. First grade. You thought you were teaching hobbits before? These punks are tiny! What the hell were you thinking, getting so worried?

And then, you stinking bipolar wreck, you got all fine and confident a few hours before bed Sunday night. And you danced in front of the mirror cause you were all like, “yo, I got this!” Which was really embarrassing, and you brought up my paranoia about hidden cameras again. Punk.

So, for crying out loud, can’t you be normal? Can’t you have normal stresses and not these huge extremes of shaking tears and obnoxious over self-confidence? I swear, I’m taking you to a counselor as soon as I find one. I’ve had just about enough.

And must you insist on watching dramas so late when you know you have to get up early? Honestly. I just…just stop. You special snowflake you.

 

dear england

Dear England,

Thank you for being what you are; dominating tantrum-throwing lump of rock. But don’t think I really don’t like you. I do. Whether it’s against my will or not is another question…

I would like to ask you to stop a few things. I guess you could call this an intervention. Please stop having amazing men with long, mournful faces, amazing accents, and mannerisms straight out of every bad bodice ripper. Please stop having such good tv shows; honestly, Doctor Who…why do you make us love each one, then take them away in the cruelest way, and so we hate the new face, but then we fall in love with them, and then they’re taken away…please just stop. And don’t even get me started on Sherlock. There’re enough hospital psych wards full of the remnants of that fandom.

Please stop with the cottages, the black rocky beaches, the rainy weather, the moors, and especially all the quaint. You’re so full of it it leaks all the way over the Pond. Maybe I should blame Agatha Christie for that one. Anyone who can make murders charming definitely has something to answer for.

And finally, please, with the queens who say “one fancies” and her corgis. Even if they did pioneer a whole new kind of wave, still. One fancies indeed.

But you can keep the different accents every two miles. I really, especially love that part. I think most people agree with me on that one, save for people in England themselves. From King’s to Bristolian, please keep it all. I do love a farmer, my love.

dear child

Dear Child,

Growing up isn’t like you thought

Even though you knew that

It still hurts

 

We are all little kids

Playing dress up

In too big shoes

Trailing sleeves

Smeared makeup

 

Adults as we thought of them

Don’t exist

I’m a child

But I wish I was a child again