Monday, August 26, 2013

Fiction is a Need

For most of my young life, I was a book-aholic.  I was always trying to get finished with my assignments so I could read some more, had bookshelves and bookshelves full of books I'd read and couldn't bear to part with, was always immersing myself in some other life via the printed word. I had a nightlight next to my bed all the way through high school- not because I was afraid of the dark but because then I could read all night long without getting caught by my parents.  When I read I would become fully immersed in the book.  A soundtrack would run through my mind.  I would BE there.  And leaving would be like ripping myself out of a new home, one I may have felt more comfortable in than my own.  Looking back in the past, I always saw that I had been using books to escape.  To run away from my own reality into something else.  Now I'm wondering if there was something else at play, too.

When I became a mother, I gave up fiction.  I actually wrote about it here.  I believed that I got too grumpy, the ripping out was too painful, and I turned into a mother that I didn't want to be when I read fiction because of how deeply I got into it.  So I just quit, and instead I read non-fiction that I could easily put down when interrupted. 

And that worked for awhile.  Last year we listened to the last couple Harry Potter books and a few other longer ones that I really got into.  And once again, I couldn't just walk away from them.  Sometimes we'd pull up to the house and sit outside for 30 more minutes just listening.  I got grumpy when my listening got interrupted.  And I, uh, accrued a sizable library fine.  So we stopped listening for awhile. 

But recently all 3 of my kids have become interested in listening to chapter books.  So at bedtime we all hang out in the girls' room and read some fiction.  First it was Frindle, and then the stories of Willy Wonka, then George and his Marvelous Medicine.  Then Ralph, the mouse with the motorcycle.  Then A Wrinkle in Time.  And now The Secret Garden

When we started A Wrinkle in Time I kinda kicked myself for picking that one, what with the really long chapters and the huge unfamiliar words.  But they were interested and listening and I figured that if anything, I was helping increase their vocabulary.  And I realized, we were reading the book for me just as much as them.  Maybe more.  Some chapters I'd feel a release in my chest that I didn't even realize I was carrying.  Words were put to the feelings I was having that I couldn't describe.  I'd read a chapter and know exactly why we'd read it that day.

And tonight we watched "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".  I wrote a little over a year ago about wanting to run away into a Harry Potter movie marathon.  Well, I never did it.  I kept holding myself back because, well, I guess because part of me is stuck in the idea that it's not REAL.  I need to stay here, in REAL life.  Not waste my time on fantasy that doesn't apply to my day in day out existence.  I think somewhere along the way I got the idea that losing myself in a book was a waste of time, too.  I still did it when I was young (but then, I was also a bit more stubborn about doing things people told me I shouldn't ;) ) but I think I had my books with a side of guilt.  That really, I shouldn't be sitting here on this beautiful day, I should be doing something worthwhile!  Reading books isn't worthwhile.  Hmm.  So for 10 years I've been avoiding this thing that will just waste my time and instead I have read things about the real world, or at least stories written by real people about their real lives.  And it has been good and stuff.  I've been staying in my real life better by refusing to escape reality through books.  But tonight, when the movie was over and I was filled with these overwhelming feelings and I was agitated and HAD to write, I realized I have been missing something vital from my life.  Something I have really and truly needed. 

I am a sensitive person.  You probably don't have to read much on this blog to catch on to that.  I often feel things that other people don't talk about, that make "no sense" given my physical daily reality.  But they are THERE.  And sometimes it feels like they are huge and insurmountable and there's nothing I can do but tolerate them being there.  They FEEL epic even though my life isn't.  Talking with other sensitive people and learning about different systems and modalities I have come to understand that what I often feel is the pulse of the collective consciousness.  Like we all have themes and feelings that are coming up to be experienced across the globe.  Like there are waves of emotions that effect is all on some level.  Some of us just notice them more than others.  It has been very helpful to learn to separate my own experience from the collective experience.  And still, it's there.  And sometimes, it's all I can do to get through my basic life without being crushed by it.

Tonight, after the movie was over, the feelings I've been experiencing lately were amplified.  They had been touched by the story.  I was perceiving them in a different way than I had been before the movie.  The story had changed them.  And in my agitation, a thought floated up kinda like the triangle in a Magic 8 ball.  What if fiction IS real.  And not real in the sense that Middle Earth is really a place or super heroes actually patrol the skies.  What if they are real in a sense that they are the tool with which we are able to work through those feelings that come up that many of us are barely aware of.  Give those feelings a voice, a purpose, a solidity that may just not be possible in our physical reality.  In a first world life with first world problems, how can we express and find solutions to the feeling that "we're not going to survive" or "our very lives are in danger" or "I am so young and inexperienced yet the responsibility to change my world lies with me"?  But at the same time, how can we NOT feel those feelings when so many of our brothers and sisters around the world lie awake at night engulfed in them?  Even though they don't match our daily life, and others don't understand and may say to just shake it off, some of us feel them, and feel them very deeply, nonetheless.  Maybe the only way I can work through some of these overwhelming feelings that don't seem to be mine, because probably they're not, is to go to that very real place where we go when immersed in a story of heroics that is not our own.  In a story of magic and wonder and fantasy and impossible becoming possible.  Maybe that's the place where those feelings reside.  Maybe every time I go there and walk alongside someone else feeling those things in huge overwhelming ways, and walk with them as they take their steps and maybe fall and take more steps, and look fear in the face and keep moving; maybe when I come to the last page and they have changed, maybe I have changed too.  And maybe I have helped those feelings to change on the only plane where I have access to them.  Maybe the twists and turns and changes that have led to courage and love and friendship and solutions that were not possible before have increased my capacity, even the world's capacity, to do the same. 

I've denied myself fantasy.  I've denied myself pretend.  But I don't think I can function to the best of my ability in the real, physical world while keeping the door to fantastic and imaginary and impossible tightly closed and barred any longer.  Somehow the two need to coexist side by side.  I have to have both to live a full, REAL life. 

I am open to all possibilities around this balance.  I'll let you know how it goes!  And any wisdom and experience surrounding this merger is absolutely welcome.  I love feeling how others create their lives.  <3