Friday, June 29, 2012

My overactive imagination

Being creative has gotten me through a lot of tough and trying situations in life. When I have trouble finishing a task, my imagination makes me resourceful. When I'm bored, it makes me insightful. When I'm listening to someone speak, it makes me inquisitive.

When I have expectations and they aren't met, it makes me absolutely crazy.

I'm blessed with many lovely traits (clearly I'm not feeling very humble right now; it must be a productive of my lethargy). Chief among them is my mind. I may not be terrifically smart (there's that self-critical side kicking in) and spout off knowledge about world events or political news at a moment's notice. But I use my brain for something that is complex in itself.

I quite fancy myself an artist. And even though most of my work is through the written word, I consider everything I compose inherently creative because it comes organically from the internal monologues (and sometimes dialogues) going through my head.

As a kid I had a lot of weird traits that somehow, surprisingly enough, never turned me into a serial murderer or socially-awkward loner. You know those memories that we have that make sense in theory, but when we apply them to real life we can't imagine how we ever got through life acting so strangely?

I have a lot of those.

In my head I used to come up with chants and rituals. When I was bored, I'd recite things in my head to keep me preoccupied. I'd play games by myself, sometimes literally and sometimes just by making up stories in my head.

Making up stories in my head. It's the only skill that keeps me living. Without it I'd never have gone to college, I'd never have studied journalism, I'd never have started this blog. And what would my life be without this blog (and those other things)?

But creating narratives in your head doesn't always prove a good use of time. It can also be the food that keeps your paranoia alive.

I've learned this the hard way over the years.

By the time I was 11, I only had one parent. Anyone who's gone through this knows how it feels to lose something. And, unless circumstances were incredibly unfair, anyone who's gone through this knows how it feels to have one remaining factor to ease the pain of loss.

My innocence was lost. My dad remained.

And, somewhat unluckily, my imagination remained too.

Before my mom was gone, I rarely contemplated on death. I'd never had a close relative pass away, never even dealt with anyone in my immediate family entering the hospital. Why should I worry if I have no precedent for it?

Once you've lost a parent though, it can be almost emotionally imperative to latch onto the other parent. The comfort of a still-remaining loving adult figure is a comfort when you're faced head-on with the issue of mortality.

Not long after, though, many of us (I, specifically) start to notice changes in how we perceive daily life. Not only are we holding on even more tightly to the family we still have, but we're finding ourselves dwelling much too heavily on unlikelihood that we might lose what we now desperately want to keep around.

I haven't gone a single day of college without calling my dad. Some people think this is weird. In fat, I'm sure many people do. Who has the time or even the interest in talking with their parent every day?

If I must bring some perspective into the equation, consider how you would feel if you went a week without calling and then phoned up to find out you'd missed your final opportunity to talk with a parent.

It's morbid, I know. But it's how I think sometimes. Because once you've been faced with the death of a loved one, you can't help but think about the eventual demise of the rest. And of course the toll on yourself that the inevitable loss will hold.

Then you become your own worst enemy. By calling up relatives every day, you become dependent on that contact. In doing so, you get closer to them and your expectations for daily interaction can be crippling if they're not met.

I've been known to call my dad multiple times if he doesn't pick up. Today, when I was driving home from work, I called him as per our routine conversation as I exit work and head out on the unreliable southern California freeways. When his cell phone went straight to voicemail and he didn't pick up our house phone, I started freaking out. I turned off the music in the car and drove with eyes glazed over as my mind wandered.

I was ruminating on anything that could possibly go wrong. He could've been in a car crash. But wouldn't someone have used his phone to call my sister or me? Maybe he had a sudden health issue. But he could call from the doctor's if he needed to. Any theory could be presented and debunked, but the persistence of negativity is what really destroyed me.

The experience reminded me of the paralyzing fear I felt in the couple of years following my mom's stroke when I would eagerly await my dad's return home from work in the evenings and he would fail to notify me that he'd be arriving back 30 minutes late or so.

It makes me feel like a parent. My overactive mind cooks up every possible blunder in the book. It then magnifies them and removes all logic from the equation. Then it turns me into a psychological cripple.

I like to think that I have no emotional issues following certain traumatic life experiences I've had, mostly because I've never felt that my personality changed during any of the sad transition time of my preteenhood. But when I really think about it, though nothing changed on the surface, a lot changed on the inside.

As my sensitivity and emotions developed, so did my creativity. While these traits seem like generally positive characteristics, in the wrong situation they can make for the worst life - one of fear.

Because I rejoice in my own imagination - that which gives me the ability to write or even sing, draw, paint, knit and sew to some extent - I can't quite complain over what I have. But what comes with the happiness of creativity are the demons of a too-introspective mind. I may not have wound up as a hermit in the mountains or a social pariah, but my fate isn't so great either.

There really is good and bad to everything.

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