An Attempt at Being Yourself
by Bryon Turcotte
• April 15, 2021, 8:45 PM:
We tumble around this planet like balls of lint on a mirror...caught by a light breeze.
We are really just a bizarre combination of skin, bones, hair, dirt, oil, moisture and pieces of other random disgusting things that really have no place to go. We drift over the mirrored surface of life and the awkward reflection of ourselves. I find this to be a very accurate illustration of the real human condition since most people don’t really know where their spirit is from, where they are going, or where they truly want to be. Unfortunately, we all live in degrees of fear. Fear of "The Wind" and getting blown off the mirrored surface of life even though that wind is so unpredictable. Even though we never just sit back and listen to it blow. The fact is, this wind could come at any time when we least expect it. Even the toughest among us fear it deep it their hearts. The most hearty, world weary and experienced, bravest of the brave, will struggle on the journey towards being and knowing themselves more that any challenge they have faced. It is always humorous to me when I encounter people who think they have life conquered, fear nothing, and can handle anything, as easily as they take on the average day. I truly believe that in these times even those with a super-sized portion of bravado, ignorance, narcissism, conceit, self-righteousness, and over confidence, and our culture's most outwardly robust and conservative population are no match for the unpredictable missiles of nature.
Our biggest fears stem from the mysteries of being alone, facing your thoughts, hearing reason and truth, but most of all accepting that we cannot give fully to each other until we can fully give to ourselves. Hippy dippy, leftist propaganda some may say, but this is the righteous truth I believe gets me through the day and out of the penitentiary for a capital murder charge. It has been a tough eleven months for everyone. A very tough slice of alone time, forced seclusion, mental incarceration, reverse dieting, competitive single player conversation, and zoom group bread making... BUT, I feel we are beginning to master knowing how we could survive - or not survive - on our own. I need to remind myself and everyone else that this is a chronicling of my personal observations and thoughts. Nothing earth-shattering or particularly genius here. Specifically and most accurately within this post, these are observations and thoughts I have experienced during this wild and solo health-craving sabbatical. Where would I be if I could not pontificate about these obsessive compulsive, and slightly slanted meditations? If you haven't concluded already, they are often examined and confirmed through a big, fat, overly judgmental lens.
First, if you didn't do the math already, I would not categorize myself as a "Sunday-go-to-meeting" evangelical type. No, not at all. I'm not a bible thumper, or someone who desires to preach divinely inspired words from something that I cannot clearly define or understand myself with my little human brain. What I can say with authority is that I am exposed to many different types of human beings in this world. Many that inspire me to try harder and do my best work. Many that prompt unstoppable compassion in my heart. Many that make me smile or tear up just thinking about how much I care about them and their well being. Many that make me want to live on a desert island, grow my hair and beard long, stop bathing, stop caring, make friends with a coconut, and have award winning conversations with nobody. During my 55 year life span, I have encountered these types day in and day out and even during my most socially distant stretches during the past year. I have been close to living the coconut sessions. I have yet to buy the coconut, but I've come damn close - which worries me. Being alone and away from the popular "negative meets delusional" personality type has started to grow on me - which is a good thing, right? I really don't mind since in my region, "zealots" of all shapes and sizes, are the majority. I can honestly describe my personal experience with this type in a single sentence: It is (sometimes) comforting, (most times) creepy, and (at all times) unfortunately, fucking annoying.
While having the upmost respect for those who hold their faith close to the breast, clutched with two hands, teeth embedded in its flesh, and silver plated spurs buried deep in the side of it's holiest of spirits, I always find it intriguing that most of those who claim such righteousness, are the biggest sufferers of amnesia. You know, just that old fashioned convenience of them "forgetting"- especially when it comes to the basic and real definitions of caring, compassion, forgiveness, unconditional love, trust, and selflessness. Quite often they conveniently forget the simple but universal truths that exist within a book they profess to read and know so well. Often slinging quotes from historic examples of true suffering - like the man known as Paul. We all know about him, right? Once a murderer, liar, and heartless torturer of men. A candidate for eternal damnation you would assume...but turns out, he authored the majority of the New Testament. He was like the Hemingway of Corinth. He did a lot of offensive shit, but oh..they say, what a divine honey now drips so beautifully and effortlessly from his pen. Sweet. This somewhat broken, criminally categorized sociopath of the time was inspired to write so eloquently of his god, noting that "he delights in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Seems to me to be a message wrapped in a really simple, solvable puzzle, right? A message that some modern day zealots try to complicate and distort with their own judgements, prejudices, racism, guilt, and most importantly - justifications, correct? Well, thats just more crazy talk from your old neighborhood long-haired, liberal loving, heathen. Me, myself, and coconut.
Many may have concluded that this past year is a conspiracy, a brilliant mirror, or a very well designed distraction. All Grade-A sludge smeared across a clean picture window. Rhetoric, politics, news, bad behavior, science, opinions, social unrest, and online media. You know, a food fight of surreal truth...fatty meats we don't want to see, eat, or drink flavored from the salt of our culture. The unfortunate blurry refection of ourselves and our neighbor's selves. The little dust ball bodies that have been dragged across this mirror world blindly day after day. Just a little too much to admit as gospel truth. It's funny that those who struggle so much with sheltering safely in place and being forced to deal with themselves are the ones who have done the most complaining over the past year. Complaining about their freedom, my freedom, your freedom, their lack of freedom, ownership of the human body, rights over minds and matter, and all while pushing the non-compromising belief system that fits any mold they choose. It's all too much.
Some may asked themselves if the past year has been heavier than the slice of heaven they believe they are carrying. Is it too tempting to remain quiet, put away the crossbows, Coors Lite, and brimstone, and not do cartwheels in the isles with all this mask-wearing, election stealing, vaccine getting, protester watching, ANTIFA causing persecution going on in the great American back yard? Do the many need to confirm that they are just too special and blessed to stay home and keep others safe? Is this pandemic too un-Christian or too freedom oppressive? I know, it must be because we are all too un-American and too liberal, right? Possibly, its because you feel this country has become a bit too Chinese, LGBTQ, or riddled with how much Black Lives Matter for your generic white comfort level? Is our world getting too distant, too restrictive, too invasive, too personal for you? Has there been too much government, too much protesting, or just too much damn fake news? Do you know that God hates fake news?
My dear lord...Whats the buzz? Tell me whats happening...
Well, here is the truth: It's been too hard for the many to just be. Be self-reflective, be self-aware, be unselfish, and be truly compassionate when theres little time and so many conspiracies to proclaim, so much internet to read, a lot of incoherent screaming to do, and 8 billion people's well-being and precious lives not to consider. No wonder why I feel much better, safer, and more serene in my home sanctuary. Life has a huge menu...but some people are just so afraid to get anything but the chicken fingers and ranch dressing. Hungry for biscuits and white gravy? "Well, now little girl, all I need for you to give me is some freedom, freedom, freedom...with a side order of U - S - A."
Whats the buzz? Tell me whats happening...
Why should you want to know?
Don't you mind about the future?
Don't you try to think ahead?
Save tomorrow for tomorrow
Think about today instead...
Another reason for my year long sink into the couch of pandemic comfort, is that I have noticed that many of this type are also unrelenting plow horses of persistence and determination. Making every thing great again is fucking hard work - but they make it seem so easy. Truly, I guess its easy to focus on everyone else than focus on your core, human spirit, take time to clean your own house, be content with your own humanity, or just do your civic duty without picking apart all the inconveniences and turning them into human rights violations. Believe me, I am an authority in the art of socially awkward and avoiding confrontations with a specific brand of people that do not meet on my common ground. I truly love to be around people that gift me with positivity, kindness, humanity, and a sense of calm, but I did not always feel that it would be so easy being alone and not needing anyone. I am convinced there must be a condition called The Hermit Syndrome. I think we can all identify times of cabin fever, loneliness, or borderline alcoholic depression where you catch yourself talking to your imaginary friend and staring at yourself in the mirror everyday while constantly examining the faults of others to avoid dealing with your own self maintenance. That is my 2020 edition encyclopedic contribution - right next to a tiny picture of me in a shirt and tie with an uncomfortable smile and wandering eyebrow hair.
If I had a list of dark prejudices, racist ideals, right-wing radicalism, and a somewhat over zealous hypocritical personality under my hat, I would definitely have picked going out, practicing mask-less shouting marathons about my freedoms, faith, and patriotism instead of staying home and doing what I felt was right for the overall safety of my neighbor and myself. No question. Again, as a somewhat intelligent but self-aware adult, I definitely understand their struggle. I can clearly see the post to which they have chained themselves. I myself have spent a year sawing away at my own personal chains, ignorances, and my post of complacency. I won some fights and lost some major conflicts in 2020. I lost my beautiful mother in the middle of the Christmas season (her favorite) to this horrible fucking virus. I questioned my sanity daily, laughed at my ridiculous fantasies, had some good legal arguments with Judge Judy, spent thousands in online shopping sprees, and conducted wonderfully insightful discussions without owning a coconut. All traumatic facts.
The past year has taught me many things. Things I should have learned earlier in life but was too focused on hanging with Mr. Miyagi and trying to catch a fly with a pair of chopsticks to really care. The past year has helped me to refocus on a few important things that were bumped out of the frame while I staggered through moments that I thought were most important and life changing. The most honest thing I could ever write is that few things are really life changing Daniel-san. If something truly changes your life, it is the equivalent of smashing and breaking your toe on the universe's cosmic coffee table. It's not a small event providing no dramatic feeling. No, not at all. Most times it is incredibly painful with a lasting, traumatic echo that changes your most elementary and habitual behaviors forever. As we all drifted further into the future without imagining a life changing event to ever happen in our future, our individual worlds were knocked off axis at the beginning of this global pandemic. Now we drift around like dust.
Until this sharp point came to pierce our social culture, most of us equated our importance and class level with the degree if of being seen, complimented, praised, and heard online convincing ourselves of the importance of celebrity and online popularity feeding the sadly average person we could never seem to upgrade. Cyber legends in our own minds. Superstars with image filters created on the stages of social media and tiny movie screens. We don't want to believe it, but this feeds into a larger problem when crisis strikes and true identities have not been exercised properly and confidently confirmed as truth. Our children are wandering because of this fact. When this begins to leak into the real world, outrageous statements made in public places by people can be hilarious and utterly shocking at the same moment in time. I can sit here and shake my head, laugh it off as ridiculous, but I cannot argue with its unique but twisted poetry. As an observational writer, I can't look away from these interactions or not want to hear them. They are honey which sweetens my stories and lifts the humor in the conversations I will sadly have with myself and (maybe) others for years to come - only to justify my twisted and blissful mantra of isolation and the avoidance of "those people".
Recently, while out in the world attending to some critical gathering of weekly groceries, prescription medication, and hard liquor, I overheard an incredibly animated young man in a heavily sweat-stained white t-shirt and backwards Cardinals cap say that they just stopped being "stuck in the house with Rona for two weeks" and that they "were gonna lose it” if it had "gone on too much longer". First, I thought he must be having some troubles at home with his wife or girlfriend named Rona - and is at his wits end dealing with her behavior. As the comments went on, and some more facts were shared, I could then confirm that this was a frustrated COVID-19 survivor that experienced minimal symptoms and who's less-than-typical experience is now being downplayed from a seriousness and significant virus to an inconvenient flu. "Here it comes", I say to myself. Just another excuse. Just another theory. Just another mouthful of knowledge with no real facts to back up the statements. Just another social media post with a brainiac image lifted from a quick search on Google involving the lying Biden's, missing election ballots, or a guy in a red hat talking China virus hoax flavored speech. All meaningless dribble.
The grumpy hermit in me immediately wanted to start an argument with this boy, but I didn't have the energy or the vision - since my mask fogs up my glasses anyway and would block a sneaky sucker punch. As the finish line of my eavesdropping quickly approached, it was punctuated so wonderfully by another brilliant statement. “I hadn’t been out to a bar in forever, he said with more sadness and pitiful despair since the final scenes in the movie Titanic. You would have thought he was clinging to a door floating in the cold North Atlantic."Hell, I haven't had a Whopper or nachos in almost a month. Shit y’all, between these stupid masks, liberals, Trump gettin' screwed, and me being Kung-flu’d, I feel like killing myself sometimes. It's not fair dude", he said in an amplified, combative drawl, loud enough for the pharmacy crowd to hear. For the love of good education, dental hygiene, and hopefully the anti-psychotic medication he was picking up that day, his performance stirred something concerning in me. That little voice of judgement and twisted fantasy deep inside my mind uttered, “Please, don’t let ME stop you from pulling the trigger”. Yup, I wished for his self-inflicted demise. There I said it. It is a well-known fact, even amongst the most painfully clueless, that we have shortages of many things in this world - but the warehouses of ignorance and stupidity are bursting at the seams. Sadly, it is the loneliness in some that feeds on what they produce to make themselves feel better, more secure, and less alone.
I never thought I'd find myself locked up in a house for over a year wondering if I will ever live a normal life again. I feel like I looked out the window 1,000,000 times a day thinking "I wonder when this will be over." I'm home now just wondering if I will be able to feel normal again. All I ever wanted to do before March 17, 2020 was to do things with other people. Go see my friends, hang out, watch live music, take a trip to Ireland and Scotland. Now I'm so used to this new culture, this new normal that I am not quite sure I want to do things with people ever again. I know for sure I don't want to do things with just anyone based on my new thoughts and current observations of the crazies and overly zealous that roam the streets. The great part about the past year was that I did not need or was not forced to interact with people I really didn't like anyway. You know the ones. Your life is filled with them too. There's the woman that talks too much at work - the gossiper that just loves to talk about everyone else, who is friends with everyone and just loves to hear the sound of their own voice. Too bad they are the only one. Maybe it's your boss - the one that rides you about everything you do just to let you know that they're the boss. Poking you with a sharp stick all day so they can justify their position and keep you honest even though you have never given them a reason not to trust you. There's always somebody that you're bumping into or needing to deal with that just twists your mind the wrong way. So over the past year, the bliss of avoidance was totally unavoidable.
I am a recovering introvert with levels of high confidence, hyperactivity, and conceit depending on my audience. An egomaniac with an inferiority complex maybe? I'm sure that I am no longer a 20 year old alcoholic, but I am not arguing if that is a psychological profile of myself, a description from a future book that I will write on a character that I wish I was, but I have to say I don't fit into the mold of the average guy who doesn't want to see other people. I can go outside, talk to strangers, smile without looking like a creep, and interact with just about anyone. I'm just not sure I want to spend time with people anymore. More accurately, people that annoy me. Much more accurately, people that bug the fuck out of me. Most people bug the fuck out of me. Yes, I can get on board with that assessment doctor. I believe that is the most accurate profile I could ever write about myself. Now I just need to address the non-existent people I'm speaking with every day.
As I have revealed, I've had these long conversations with myself. No, not like the ones when you look in the mirror and say, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." No, definitely not Stewart Smalley version of pathetic. I truly feel that I have grown up to have an honest, self-aware sense of being. This is something that hasn't come easy but only over the past few years. I feel that over the past four or five years I've began to regain a large percentage of that spirit. Recovering from thousands of dollars in legal fees and divorce proceedings will do that to a person. So, living with me, myself and I for the past year was kind of a re-charging exercise of that big soul battery. It was a chance for me to spend some quality quarantine time with myself and figure out what needs to be done. What I have to do to make myself better, make myself stronger, make myself faster and gain back all those 6 million dollar man qualities.
Unfortunately, as we revisit the long conversations with myself, these were moments where I was starting to question my mental state, my loneliness, my levels of awareness, and my intelligence. All those things that we look at as adult human beings and evaluate as "being normal". So these conversations… well, they start off with me doing something stupid like dropping a screw that I really need to put this product together. Dropping it down where it gets stuck in a crack in my wood flooring. I follow this action with the word “fuck” or maybe “son…of…a…bitch”. You know know, emphasizing the son, the of, the a, and the bitch... slowly over the course of a few seconds. Maybe giving bitch a special lilt and volume. Frustrations start to amplify prompting me to say aloud in an orators voice, “Now... how am I ever going to get this fucking thing together? ...How the fuck?"
Now, I'm having those conversations, not feeling bad about these conversations, expecting that I will be having these conversations with myself - each day. Gleefully looking forward to them. It's funny because I remember spending time with my father while he would work on the car, or do a project around the house and think, "Is he talking to me?" It doesn't seem like he was talking to me because when I said, "What dad?”, he'd says back, "Damn it son, nothing, I wasn't talking to you." So maybe I inherited that gene where you ramble on aimlessly when under stress or anger or whatever. I never did this before with such fervor. Who needs people when you've got yourself to yell at...to share ideas with, to justify behaviors, or just to ask questions. It all just works out. I don't need a mirror I just need an empty room or a room with furniture to talk to. Real simple.
One day, about four weeks into pandemic fever, we were dosed with daily droplets of fear from the news, the local gloom and doom anchor twins, and the bellowing proclamations that everyone is dying everywhere. Oh the worry, uncertainty, and humanity at Hindenburg proportions every single day. Most importantly, ignorance at every corner. The word "unprecedented" was flowing freely from every journalist’s mouth and printed on every 12-pack of toilet tissue. With all this grim paint running down the walls of the world, I decided to schedule my lawn guy to start coming to the house to mow my lawn and trim my hedges. Why not have a well-groomed lawn to impress the neighbors? Neighbors who most likely think you are a serial killer, hopelessly suffering from agoraphobia, or lying dead in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. All very possible scenarios knowing me. He would be the first person other than the mailman that would step foot on my property and be close enough for interaction or socializing.
These were the days before mask mandates and fights at the gas station about freedom and personal relationships with your lord. This was the stage when everyone was doing the six foot shuffle and and listening carefully for coughing - a sure sign of deadly contagion. I just figured that he would be out there with his crew mowing the lawn and I wouldn't even have to speak with him one time. All safe, locked in my house, without even a thought about interacting with the lawn guy. I went out to move my vehicle give him a little extra room to get in the backyard to finish his mowing. When I got out of my car, I noticed he came to an abrupt stop about 20 feet away from where I was standing. He jumped off the mower and quickly started moving towards me. I was pretty shocked. Shocked that I was so shocked. Why was I feeling this freaked out about a man that I've seen many times mowing my yard?
As he moved towards me I started moving away very, very quickly. I must've looked like somebody just dropped a grenade in front of me and I was backing away from that motherfucker before it exploded. Looking back that's exactly how I felt. I was caught by surprise. I really haven't seen anyone in weeks or interacted with another human being. All I was hearing was "contact is bad", "everyone's dying", "everyone's getting sick", "don't get near anyone", "don't get close"... blah blah blah. So, when this guy, innocent as he is, started approaching me in a very abnormal way, I got very uncomfortable. When he saw my face, my response, and my body language, he immediately caught on. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I just needed to ask you about coming next week, I need to change days. Is that OK?" My heart was racing, my mind was spinning. Over a simple interaction. He didn't have a knife, a gun, or was even threatening. He's actually a very good, cool man. A guy I would like to hang out with sometime... after we leave the bubble.
I'm not making comparisons to veteran's or traumatized individuals that have been through real challenging circumstances, but that day I felt like I got a small taste of what PTSD feels like. That was the first time when I started to really question if I would be able to adapt when everything gets back to normal. I took a long hard look at the situation. I was really starting to doubt that I would be OK. This interaction had me really concerned since I was anything but an anti-social person. Yeah, sure... I hate my share of people. Many of them are probably very nice, but I think I just don't like most people in general - more than most people I suppose. Truly, as anyone who knows me will confirm, I was pretty social in the olden days before the great plague. I was out of all the time, not afraid of physical contact, hugging embracing, showing my friends, male and female how much I care.
I am starting to understand for the first time, since the beginning of the pandemic, what the real dangerous, infectious and long term effects of this disease might be long after COVID-19 has left the building, jumped in the limo, and went off to snort coke off a groupies chest. For me and many others in the world, I know it is the old feeling of trust, closeness, intimacy, community, and warmth we had with those who with we spend our greatest days. Honestly, I will always keep those people that annoy me at a distance - more now than ever. My hope is once this painful chapter is over, the book is closed, and we have moved on to a happier story, I will be able to pull those I love closer, let them know how I really feel about them every day, and never take them for granted ever again. I'm starting to feel the soulful change and it feels good. It feels better than before. It feels solid, warm, and vintage - like an old easy chair in an antique store. Something valued without measure.
Being alone will be much better now - because I can still talk to myself, befriend a coconut if I choose, and judge my fellow man unfairly if I dare. This time I can sit closer, laugh louder, hug with more depth and vigor, and share all these alone moments together and without worry...with those who I've missed so deeply.
I listen to the song "The Wind" by Cat Stevens with a little more intimacy that I ever have before as it takes me to real places that I never understood before I experienced this life changing event.
I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul
Where I'll end up, well, I think only God really knows
I've sat upon the setting sun
But never, never, never, never
I never wanted water once
No never, never, never
I listen to my words but they fall far below
I let my music take me where my heart wants to go
I swam upon the Devil's lake
But never, never, never, never
I'll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never
Just be yourself. The attempt is worth every step. - BT