It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I have come past yet another self-discovery, though the revelation itself is perhaps not so strange since it has hid in the subtext of many other discoveries I have come across on my path.

Like Alice… in Wonderland.

It hit me one evening when I asked myself – for the umpteenth time – why I seem to have no life. Really. And I realized it may be because I never had a life to begin with. It has not so much to do with self-pity as it is simply an objective observation:

I have always prided myself with having an independent and original mind (obvious throughout this blog, I think), but, in reality, my independence has lived off my dependence on others, and my original personality/mind has lived off all the influences around me. (Nothing new under the sun and rather cliché. And, after all, I can never be totally without some level of uniqueness. None of us can.)

But I believe I, so far, have lived a life of a sort of parasitical child – in badly need to grow up! A child who cannot, for the life of me, express emotions maturely – hardly even objectively (I cannot seem to overcome my literal tongue-tiedness)!

In part delusional innocence and part daily-reality-phobia, I’ve fed off the experiences, feelings and stories of others – whether those people have been real-life or fictional. Thus the constant and spineless immersion in fictional narratives and music – to substitute the numb emotions within – and warding off responsibilities in real-life (mostly those to myself).

*sighs* If I indeed suffer from some sort of Peter Pan-syndrome, I’d really like to have it diagnosed for being just that. Then I have a real excuse to shed my responsibilities and go find Neverland. (Hmm. Step up from Wonderland?)… Joke aside.

I am most likely just a maladaptive dreamer.

Have I ever felt empty and aimless when the pages run out or these ‘other people’ stop talking and showing me their lives and I can no longer immerse myself in their liveliness? Yes, perhaps I have. Perhaps I repress it by immersing myself further into something else, such as my imagination (Lewis Carroll wrote it: “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”). Which again continues to supplant reality or what I cannot seem to have in my own daily reality. Something I am too cowardly to reach out and grasp fully myself.

Arrogantly, I have convinced myself that life is bigger than anything as ‘trivial’ as the daily, material matters of my own here and now. Bigger in a sense of metaphysics. I have a vast universe in my head that I need to discover and fill out with knowledge. Dealing with my own reality heads-on always seems so exhausting, transient and unreliable. I have no control there. I cannot predict the outcome in situations where my emotions feel most at stake but where they are often abandoned, even by myself, because I am no closer to understand them. So, of course, a subtle disappointment has run throughout every action, though I have not failed to see the benefit from most of them. Failures and flaws give life a color beyond compare, because they are what constitute you as a human; your unique you. I have learned from every action and that I have taken as a blessing, you could say.

But still the disappointment, the emptiness has rung hollow within; an undercurrent settling in my gut as I have become more and more aware of life; of all the things I have lived through compared to all the things I likely or may never will. The sense of excitement and curiosity of getting to know what lies ahead has slowly been quelled by every underlying disappointment connecting; a frightening numbness setting in. Tastes turned to ashes in my mouth.

And I immerse myself in all the constructed narratives and emotions to bar out, to hush the raging numbness, silence and solitude-turned-loneliness I live in and come home to every day.

Solitude. My once so trusted friend has been possessed by loneliness; become the Babadook of my mind; a ghost haunting for the purpose of terror rather than company. And I have been its very maker. It is the Frankenstein of my creation; a ‘safe’ theory of ‘companionship’ that my mind latched on to, settled for – anything compared to the real thing; of having no companionship at all. A theory that turned into a being of its own once the egg was hatched; a being that became a monstrosity because it was still unsatisfied with its existence and blamed me. Because life isn’t easy. It was never meant to be.

Maybe it is the strange, little but significant events that have occurred to me within the last couple of years (I may have mentioned some of them here and there, but I don’t imagine you’ll know what I’m talking about and I cannot go into them right now) and likely set off my depression. If indeed my depression has been lying in wait for this – or if it really is a depression and not just an odd restlessness or lazy down-spiraling of one defense mechanism succeeding another. And, as I said, burying myself in fiction and imaginative feelings helps me to deflect from my own lonely life as well as this perhaps/perhaps-not-depression. A sort of silly ‘coping escapism’ you are more likely to find in some (dark) children’s novel. And despite what I may have learned from these significant events, they have also left tiny, superficial scars in my heart; invisible to the naked eye; slowly accumulating over the years, forming a dark little cloud around it where the sun peeps in every now and then, desperate to emerge fully. I can empathize with others who go through something similar on a daily basis, yet I cannot begin to compare myself to what others feel on totally different levels and maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I’m allowed to have this, to feel this, accept it and then find a way out of the fog, somehow.

(Have I become my own therapist?)

All utter nonsense, perhaps. Or, perhaps not? How can anyone answer that but myself? And how can I when it feels like it takes several epiphanies, some life-changing experiences and a lifetime to answer that?

Again, I’m at a loss. At war in my mind. I seek immediate answers I can only gain through time. And time moves both slowly and unpredictably. And then it’s over before you know it.

And again, I haven’t dared to move and grab hold of some part of my reality and truly make it mine; claim it as mine. I have been too cowardly to do it. Perhaps because I feel, deep down, that there’s something too good about life that I do not deserve? I feel blessed and cursed at the same time, and I’m ashamed of feeling cursed; of appearing ungrateful of what I’ve been given; my inability to make better use of what I have and seize the day. I mostly just seize the day to write about life and consume others’ experiences of it, not experiencing it myself nearly as fully as I could. Imprisoned by myself or my inability to do something about it. Is that a life of a writer? I doubt it. And yet, many people imprisoned; physically, institutionally or mentally, have written all throughout history, have they not? Some of the greatest writer have been imprisoned in some way or another, perhaps not directly enabling their writing but channeling it.

Perhaps I can make do with what I have worked myself into?

My writing may be as delusional as it may be cathartic; a circle of self-serving excuses; where fear of pity and perfection mixes in a blend as sinister as the river Styx I have to pay Charon with everything precious I possess to cross.

I return time and time again to a crossroad and I wonder if there is a me in this world and another me in another world and I wonder how often they will coincide in this harsh, bright, beautiful existence I have been given. Or if one will truly emerge with the other and – in that case – which one? And I wonder how many feels the same?

I want to override the consistent self-pity and shame, knowing how silly and unproductive these feelings are, but first I must escape the gripping loneliness from within and around and it is not so easily overcome. My stubborn independence does not help. I still return to myself. I have scolded myself with every line possible and every tone of voice to see the effects, to self-motivate, and yet, it has not helped (unsurprisingly). I have written and drawn and opened up more to those around me, strangers even. Yet, I still come home to myself and myself alone; the loneliness waiting there.

How is something like that overcome? I cannot seem to allow myself to reach for twosomeness, perhaps because I am so conflicted by its very concept. Equally afraid and hopeful. My mind is always one step ahead; one foot in the positive scenario, another in the negative one. All I see is the 50/50 chances and I cannot predict my luck nor my misfortune. ‘That’s human’, ‘that’s life’; god don’t I know ‘it’s bloody life!’ and yet, it does nothing to answer what I am to do. To wait and let it run its course? Sure, I’ve done nothing else. But as Charlotte Brontë once stated: “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”

But what is life if not lonely and wild, fantastical and quiet?

Meanwhile, I’ll return to a segment of Carroll’s iconic story that speaks to something quintessential in me:

“She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!'”

*revised 23/6/17*

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Imagination is a force to be reckoned with

I don’t know about other INTPs, but I pride myself to think I have a quite good imagination. So good it has become a double-edged sword. Once again both blessed and cursed.

My imagination is sometimes so terribly vivid it scares me as much as it exhilarates me.

It is a show of force that has a life of its own – despite I wield it more or less intentionally and consciously. On top of that, my highly associative, stream-of-consciousness related thinking does nothing to comprehensively relay the inner workings of my imagination which will probably be illuminated through this very post.

I sometimes think that I’m able to live off the feelings and experiences projected from and onto the characters on screen and on paper; my idols and favorite stories, and that they somewhat substitute or make up for the lack of my own. I’m truly an escapist in every sense when it comes to that – which excites me as much as it worries and frightens me that I need to have this. This world I can escape into via my computer/the Internet (which I’m practically married to) and ‘live’ the lives of someone else or ‘together’ with them like a fly on the wall. It’s wonderful that fiction, art, movies, music and literature can enable a world of imaginative escapism, but I think it’s also dangerous to be completely absorbed by this world; of already lived or fictive lives which are theirs to live, not yours. It frightens me that I need this because it implies that I don’t have a life on my own that is enough; that I don’t experience the feelings and adventures that I apparently so desperately seek or need in real life. I find myself saying that it’s okay that I don’t experience all these things in real life because I’ve got my imagination. And it’s not like I’ve been without adventures in my life; I may just not actively seek them out either, because it is easier to retreat into your mind and conjure them yourself or through fiction. I need to be brave. And yet, as Sidney Poitier once said: “So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness”, and I agree with him. I do not throw myself into life but take what comes, take it step by step; ‘come what may’; ‘whatever will happen will happen’. It may be the poor man’s bravery but, for now, that’s what I got.

Do others feel the same? Do you also immerse yourself in the imaginary world of fiction and your mind and forget to live your life?

Personally, I can immerse myself for days, weeks, even months. I find kindred spirits in long passed authors and their characters and relive and internally debate their thoughts, feelings and observations of the world that parallel or challenge my own. I’ve grown and learned through fiction, films and tales from history as much as I have grown and learned through the present and the people around me – if not more. I have found kinship and mutual appreciation for these realms of escapism through the virtual society of the Internet as so many other (lonely) souls do. I find friends, company and understanding there that I haven’t found in my life – and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It’s better than having or doing nothing at all in my view.

I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.

— Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

In my mind I’m living another life almost simultaneously. Like in “(500) Days of Summer” where an alternative fantasy-scenario is presented alongside the real one, I have the tendency to imagine myself living the ‘dream life’ whenever I feel down or unsatisfied with reality. I mean who hasn’t? And it isn’t as if it is that hard to make it happen in real life. I’m not dreaming about unbelievable things, but simple, small things, like going for a walk, talk and laugh with another kindred spirit whomever it may be.

Is it wrong for me to say that I think I know how it feels? That I know how it feels to be in love? I’ve not tried it in real-life, but I’ve tried it through my vivid imagination and I can try it again whenever I want to. I just need to close my eyes, perhaps be in the right setting, with the right kind of music in my ears and the right mindset. With all that I’ve seen and read and with my, at times, highly empathic feelings I’m that conceited to think I know how it feels to be in love, to be completely obsessed with another person, mentally and physically, even though it is all experienced in my mind or through some actor on screen or fictional character on the pages. But who says it isn’t more true just because it happens in my mind? (to quote JK/Dumbledore). Yet, how come feeling the love the two main characters of a movie or book share is enough? Or, at least I trick myself somehow to believe it is enough… That I can somehow live on on their love and not experience my own because I’m afraid of it? Is that why I desperately seek new TV series and movies that can continue confirming that feeling when the other starts to die out and the raw reality hits? I think so. No, I know so. It is – or seems – easier to get under the skin of fictional and/or imaginary characters than real people; to know their innermost thoughts and feelings, because they are irrevocably written down or dynamically projected from your own thoughts and feelings.

But I also think that it is somehow a dangerous path I’m treading: That I’m so engrossed in living a passionately experienced life (let us call it that) through my mind and imagination that I cannot think of anything happening to me in real life without going through it in my mind, that is, only for a second, living the scenario out through my mind (as I imagine how it will unfold), and as I’m prone to afterwards, convincing myself that that was enough; that that gave me the necessary satisfaction I – for a moment – longed for in life. That is, after all, not the way to really live your life, is it? You need real experiences to have real experiences and real feelings, right? The mere thought of someone touching me remotely intimately isn’t repulsive to me; I’m not repulsed by humans or the human touch, yet I just don’t see it happening to me somehow. I’ve relived it through my mind, often in another person’s body or mind, a person with blurred identity and appearance (I guess, a mix of all characters and persons in literature and film that I’ve been attracted to, not necessarily sexually), and I feel my range of empathy is so exercised by now and that the feelings certain fictional characters feel are bestowed upon me with the ghostly electricity of a real life scenario in the same situation. Am I parasitizing these ‘false’ emotions too much and too long to live my own life? Perhaps I am. I just don’t know what to do about it. Or, well, yes, I do, but I don’t know how to break the circle of content, however pathetic that sounds. I want to be brave but I feel helpless. The truth is, I know I want permanency and reliability when real-life is anything but, and I know I can find it in fiction and imagination. I guess the comfort-zone and the good old fear of getting hurt are the usual suspects, yet I can’t help feeling that though I can have a great time with friends or even family, the feeling only exists for so long, and that some good memories – though I try to hold on to them and the people in it – slip further and further into a cloudy distance and exist almost only as past dreams where the factual events of the memory seem to cloud too. I catch myself asking: “Maybe this didn’t even happen? Maybe it was your imagination – your oh-so-talented-and-convincing imagination that tricked you again?” My only hope to restore those certain memories is to ask the people in it how they remembered it, but the problem is, the subject of the memory is often so delicate and subjective, I’m not sure I have the guts to confess how I felt or ask how they felt, if they even remembered any of it… if it was even real. Or that I’m crazy. Anyway, this doesn’t really make sense and it doesn’t really matter. Some of those people are long gone from my life despite of it all, and I don’t think I will ever see them again. Maybe they were meant to disappear so that I wouldn’t have the chance to ask them face to face. Or maybe they will return one day, but I don’t think so.

It all comes down to that imagination of mine again. But how can you cure yourself of this other than by real experience – which you cannot force!? You simply cannot force things like that to happen in my experience (ironically), but then again if you have no experience at all, you’ll have nothing at all. But does it need to be big and grand to fill your life? Apparently that’s what people seek nowadays; excitement and rushes whether it’s forced or initiated, drugs or senses, physically or mentally. I don’t know anymore. I seek something else, maybe the very thing everyone else seek though in their ways – and me.. me in my ways. Which isn’t exciting at all. I seek passively in real life, but actively in an imaginary one. I take one day at the time and soon a whole year has gone and I try to look back to remember significant felt moments, but I don’t remember any feelings except the truly unhappy ones.

Maybe that’s pretty normal; not having the whole adventure package per year/per life. There’re many forms of adventure. Life’s an adventure. Well, that depends on yourself, after all. And I don’t know what I should depend on myself (if that makes any sense). Maybe you shouldn’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t always know or expect what life brings you or what you want from it or what you can give it.

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