Reclaiming my life was not a mess to be disentangled, but an unknown journey to be lived.
For years I have secretly dreamed of becoming a creative writer, playwright or even poet. An educationalist who enjoys using stories to motivate and illuminate the movements of others.
In childhood, my shortcomings were presented to me as inexcusable actions. Never once did my elders explain my misadventures could be used as guides. If I was disrespectful, they would use verbal threats, house arrest and my ultimate favorite, washing out my mouth with soap. These scare tactics were implemented during the era of children are to be seen and not heard, which was a difficult motto for me to adhere to. As I matured, I realized this instruction was poor advice. I discovered my missteps were my story poles – a way to construct my dreams.
Early in my elementary years, my sister and I would frequently play school in our basement. She was always considerate each time I demanded to be the teacher. It was during these times of role playing that I surprised myself and began practicing my own make-believe instructions for life and learning. There was an inner representative tucked inside telling me these wrong turns and errors made would not impact my ability for success, but serve as guideposts to the aspirations I had yet to uncover.
There was certainly no talk of dreams or desires in my family. That would have been on the verge of a fantasyland where unicorns and pixie dust coexist! Nevertheless, my sister and I would carry on with our imaginary games. But reality always slipped in and stole our fantasies making our mistakes front and center again. My inside representative reminded me that my voice and feelings mattered; it was up to me to create a space for both.
During my teens, I experienced my inner representative repeatedly offering advice. Oftentimes, it would challenge my own and others’ reasoning. This instinctive feeling reminded me to confront myself. It wanted me to question the obvious and the norms presented to me. Was this inner representative a spirit telling me right from wrong? People questioned my stability and felt my strange ways needed additional correction. There was never any proof this inner representative existed, but it was such a strong feeling that it still resonates with me today.
At the time, it seemed logical to name this sensation. She felt like my inner goddess, a guiding light or, better yet, a woman warrior. I named her Rosie. She seemed to be the only person who really understood my idiosyncrasies. As the years passed, this inner representative, which could possibly be called my intuition, had plenty of things to tell me. It took an absurd amount of time for me to listen.
My internal, gutsy spirit Rosie reminded me how I had gone astray and directed me to change course many times in my life.
Living is drama, get used to it.
The realization that most things are not what they seem isn’t something you want to learn at the age of eleven. Although you knew the life and death cycle occurred around you naturally, you were abruptly awakened to this force when your thirty year old, adored father had to die. This is when your initiation into life began. Life moved you rather quickly from the fur-lined nest of what you believed to be “normal” to the jolting jungle of your new environment.
She was animated and had a way with words. This vibrant dame understood that my life experiences brought with them complex and confusing roles, and she had a deliberate process of guiding me through these times.
Rosie became a trusted friend and confidante.
Stop allowing fractured, missing pieces of bliss dim your light.
You need to fix your fragmented mess. You allowed yourself to be compromised. Find answers. Go and locate a place within yourself where you can find refuge.
Did she want me to address my pain?
Solve past problems?
How does that work?
When does one start?
Where does one locate this place of protection within?
It was an overwhelming task, and I was not ready to exert the effort and “feel” all my painful feelings in order to find inner contentment. There was too much awareness necessary to complete this task. It was far easier to submerge my past negative experiences and frustrations.
We officially lost communication.
It was in this moment of feeling alone that I began plotting my path to avoidance. My sanctuary was in clear sight. I began my escape from childhood pain and situated myself within my own inner, fictional town of refuge.
Welcome to Numbville – a place where people wind up when they give up.
Countless visitors yearly.
Hometown to many.
Feel free to come and go as you please.
I entered Numbville in hopes of finding solace from my imbalanced feelings.
Each person I encountered seemed to lack the zest for life. Many appeared bitter. Others looked sad. Many were emotionally misplaced, like me.
All occupants looked numb. Most looked victimized.
Here in front of me were numerous folks who had been abused, used and undervalued. Several were abandoned, ignored and bullied.
Countless citizens had a combination of all the above.
I felt disoriented. Why had I ignored my inner woman warrior? Do I even belong here?
“Misery loves company,” the town mayor expressed upon my arrival. He seemed like a charismatic fellow – a divorced dad of three girls. He went on to say, “Many of our long term tenants wanted to feel free and ignore the unhappiness which brought them to this secluded safe haven.” He shared with me that his wife and girls do not live here, nor do they visit. Periodically, he will visit them. However, feeling vulnerable outside this walled city he calls home is not for him.
“We stuff our former disappointments and drama into a deep, dysfunctional cistern when we arrive, and there they stay,” shared the local diner waitress who had been psychologically and physically maltreated by all the men in her life. “It is a ceremonious celebration every time we get a new resident. In fact, the local gambler constantly takes bets around town, if this newbie will be a lifer or not.”
I was speechless. The town was devised to keep you dazed and delirious.
How can they help me? Or, better yet, how can I help myself?
These questions must have agitated Rosie, I could feel her sweltering sense wanting to scream at me. She finally snapped:
These people are just going through the motions of life!
There is no meaning or understanding in their lives. What these individuals are missing is the deeper experience of it. They fell victim to their tank of troubles.
I was deeply confused and conflicted. I longed for answers.
Town gossip and recovering alcoholic Ms. Gizzie was ready to lend a hand. She indicated that, “No one really leaves once they begin to take comfort in the ordinary.” It seemed logical, since Numbville was never designed to be lively, but to help people find comfort in the discomfort.
Gizzie introduced me to the Sheriff, a diagnosed narcissist who continues to struggle with his passive aggression. He pointed out with a devious grin, “It’s the can-do, crazy ones who try to retrieve their tragedies from the cistern and leave. It can be challenging. We attempt to distract them, but the strong-willed ones bolt – never establishing permanent residency.”
I sensed Rosie was impatient with me. She found me chatting with Gizzie, who was providing a sort of nirvana from the turbulent times my outside world was doling out.
Rosie suddenly pronounced:
Being neglected emotionally and physically was not fun for you. It led you to being expressively empty and unavailable for most of your young adulthood. You were internally disordered and disenchanted with your life. This is why you drifted from me and found sanctuary in this fictional town you have generated.
It was this brief reminder along with her powerful insight about my past that told me I did not belong here. It had been years since I took her advice, and it was time to experience life again. No more submerging my past negative experiences and frustrations!
Yes, the highs and lows of my life felt overwhelming. The idea of finding a place to take shelter from the constant confusion seemed logical. The inside and outside noises around me dulled when I was in my place of refuge. No one bothered me here in Numbville. I would watch the world and all its players like a variety show. There was limited participation and it was half-hearted – like never being fully alive in my own body. I found comfort, safety, and security staying within the confines of this walled city.
As I slowly regained consciousness, Rosie demanded:
You need to revitalize me. Slowly, reshape your world back into reality.
Quickly I realized these citizens and this community were not interested in personal growth or self-reflection. Introspection was blasphemy. Evolution was a crime. My short-lived visit made me realize I needed to flee.
It was at this juncture Rosie consoled me:
You need to stop living in Numbville. Stop hiding. No more wallowing. You are not alone. There are others in the real world, like you, who have built their own imaginary towns.
Was she serious? Are there others who have built similar towns within themselves?
I need to find them. Maybe we can help each other out?
First Published at Life As A Human: http://lifeasahuman.com/2015/arts-culture/creative-non-fiction/numbville-part-i-of-ii/
© 2015 Shannon Hogan Cohen