Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Map of Your Life

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. The highlight was a 7000 mile (round trip) excursion to the Redwood Forest in California to witness the wedding of Bill Homan and Gwendolyn. As Bill has been one of my closest friends for more than 15 years, there was no way we were going to miss it. Plus, we had the opportunity to test drive a Prius, got 400 miles to the tank, saw trees that predated Charlemagne, had rocks thrown at me by the Pacific Ocean (I'm not kidding! The fucking ocean threw rocks at me!), drove through a tree (it had a tunnel cut through it) and got to witness the "Bay to Breakers" parade in San Francisco. Now, granted, half a million drunk people in and out of various costumes looked less like a parade and more like an evacuation, but it was still pretty amazing to see.

You can check out pictures of this adventure over at Amy's blog.

And this past weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day like consummate Americans: we drank heavily, consumed our collective weight in meat and fired off countless rounds of ammo (courtesy of the great Don Bumgarner's most recent additions to his arsenal, including a 12-gauge shotgun nicknamed "Thumper", two sweet little 9mm pistols and a friggin' AR-15 – not to mention Amy's .22 Henry Golden Boy rifle, which is literally the only gun I can hit anything with). We had a few people up who had never been to the house before, including our dear friendsTara and David and Splatter Movie's Aaron Bernard and Nikki McCrea. Also in attendance were the Haushalters; Sirens of Cinema's own Rhonda Baughman and her beau, Kyle; and the always-impressive make-up team of Eric and Lorena. Everyone showed up with embarrassing amounts of food and completely freaked out our trio of misfit dogs, who hadn't seen another soul save Amy and I since the beginning of the year. So they expressed their excitement by being insane. At one point, I had to lock them in our bed room with soup bones and a bowl of beer.

(Aside 1: I'm not a beer drinker. The only thing I actually like is Guinness on draft and only because of my Irish DNA. My drink of choice, aside from hard liquor, is the fruity girl malts like Mike's Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice. But we live mere minutes from West Virginia, in a county known as the "Seventh Most Inbred North of the Appalachians" (true!). So buying my beloved girly malts always elicits disdainful stares from the toothy proprietors. They with their John Deere baseball caps and Pittsburgh sports team jerseys. Still, with Mike's Hard Lemonade in hand, I needed a beer selection and wasn't sure what to get. "Need anything else?" asked the banjo playing mouth breather behind the counter. "Yeah," I said. "I need a beer recommendation."

"Okay, what do you want?"

"I don't know," I said. "What do fags drink?"

I walked out with my Mike's and a case of Yuengling. The counter guy even carried it out to the car for me. Apologies to any Yuengling drinkers out there who are offended by the above. Your beer is delicious.)

(Aside 2: Don Bumgarner is another one of my close and very respected colleagues. But he possesses a political philosophy that can be best summed up as "bizarre". He's not a liberal by any stretch, but he's not a pure conservative, either. If this were the Revolution, he'd probably be a Minuteman. And a Whig. But he's patriotic to a fault and when we called him from San Francisco to inform him where we were and what we were driving, his later voice mail asked: "Were you also wiping your ass with the Bible and spitting on soldiers?"

To which, I replied, "I wanted to, but I was too busy sodomizing members of Greenpeace.")

Now, though a great amount of fun was had and it was thoroughly one of the best days I've had in a long time (watching city folk around our horses was particularly entertaining – "Don't they have really big teeth with which to eat you better?" Rhonda asked), I was still plagued by stuff weighing me down for the past several weeks now.

I go through cycles of not-quite-depression. It's more a mixture of self-doubt, insecurity and paranoia. Beside my constant Fear of the Big White X that keeps me from enjoying good fortune of any kind, this malaise of self-worth tends to lurk just under my consciousness for long periods of time. It's usually accompanied by my old friends Insomnia and Tension Headache, which, now that I'm old, also brings on Upper and Lower Back Pain and Restless Leg Syndrome. The only thing missing for me is Dutch Elm Disease and gout.

Basically, this malaise occurs when I look back at my career and notice that, if it were a hurtling meteor, it would simply burn up entering the atmosphere and not make the tiniest impression on the culture of the Earth. I feel very much like my ten years as a professional writer and semi-professional filmmaker has made no impact. Not that, in the giant scheme of things, any of our culture really amounts to a hill of beans, but still. I long for longevity.

Add to this my almost constant struggle with agnosticism and I feel quite lost in my own skin.

It's not something I intentionally dwell on, but it does scream at me during the long, dark nights. And there's no bit of self-cheerleading I can do to get rid of it.

So Sunday night, after our ATF party (alcohol, tobacco and firearms), after an evening of Tenebre, Slither and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Amy and I collapsed into bed, pulled the dogs up to our chins and settled for a long evening's unconsciousness.

And my subconscious decided to deal with my insecurity very directly.

My dreams are usually very cinematic. I dream in cuts and bright Technicolor. There are usually guest-stars in my dreams. Generally, they're either action packed or one of two different scenarios: 1) I'm searching for something that I know is in the room somewhere and I can't locate it; 2) I'm trying desperately to get somewhere and either make wrong turns or am delayed by one thing after another. Usually, these last two are extremely frustrating, allowing me to wake up on edge and irritable for the rest of the day. The action-packed ones, I prefer.

This Sunday night dream, as I mentioned, was very direct. I don't know who I was talking to, but it was just the two of us in a hotel lobby. I was bitching to this other person about my feelings of inadequacy. "I've made no difference in the world," I say. "I haven't changed a thing or made a single lasting contribution."

And this other person, whose face I cannot for the life of me remember, so it was likely an amalgam of dream faces, replied, without irritation but also without affection: "You can't see the map of your life because you're at ground level. All you see is what's around you. You can only see what is laid out before and behind you from above, and you can't rise above your own life. Only other people can, and they can't always explain to you what they see."

The scene actually repeated, with a variation of that speech coming again, and again, a dispassionate tone, but very firm. And "the map of your life" was repeated distinctly.

Now, I know where a lot of it came from. You don't have to be Freud. I'd just seen Indy IV (and loved it, thank you) and the scene where Indy describes the Mayan pictographs carved into the ground, meant to be seen from the air, reminded me that I used to study that stuff in high school, fascinated with the idea that the Mayans were in tune to something greater than themselves. So the "map of your life" idea definitely came from there. The rest of it was just my subconscious getting frustrated with my constant phobia.

But I like that phrase, "The Map of Your Life". And since that dream, I've really relaxed – as much as I'm ever able to, that is. I'm not pre-occupied with the idea of leaving a mark on the world. Because I will never get to see "the map of my life". I won't know what impact I'm making—I may never know. And knowing that I may never know something is actually kind of liberating.

(Hey, everyone deals with their shit in different ways. It was either this literal-as-hell dream, or Don's AR-15 and a water tower. Which would you prefer?)

1 comment:

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Most people are mindless sheep. Do you need them to remember you or would you rather be fondly remembered by the people whose lives you have truly touched. Longevity comes from eating right, sleeping well and not sweating the small stuff. And, for your information, it is all small stuff.
You could always convert to Christianity, we'd be glad to have you and then you get to live forever. Really, if they'll take me they will take anyone.
Now stop stressing.
I recommend Qigong. Simple to do, takes a few minutes a day and centers you like nothing else. Very good for you.