I used to have visions. Strange and often disturbing images would suddenly arise in my mind. The summer after I graduated high school I would be driving along and be overtaken by the mental picture of my car wrapped around a tree, my body smashed between the car's metallic side panel and the bark. I could almost feel the scraping sensation.
Another recurring image was of my naked body hanging in a black space. My wrists were bound, the binding hung on a giant metal hook suspended from a chain. The space around my pale white body was blank, and my imagination never bothered to dream up what the chain was hanging from or where I might fall if the binding should break. It wasn't hell. It was a void. The point of the image seemed to be the feeling of being stretched to the limit, being acted upon by the opposing forces of the hook and gravity. It didn't seem to matter where I would fall. Falling wasn't the fear.
The image would just come at the oddest moments. Being plagued by the sudden onslaught of disturbing images that one cannot then let go is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have no other symptoms, but I wondered for years if I had it because the number and strength of the images was so great. I could be walking down a flight of stairs and have a flash of myself falling face first, the impact pushing my teeth up into my head. Some images were like that--describing a possible catastrophic experience that might occur while going about the mundane. Others were like the hanging--elaborate, jarring and symbolic dreams.
I have had occasion recently to visit a ghost. Actually, the only occasion I've had for such a thing was pure nosiness which I like to dress up as curiosity. It's the ghost of myself when I was in my early 20's. That's what got me thinking about all of these visions I used to have. The vision of my car wrapped around a tree was a recurring theme that specific summer because at the time I wanted to die. The image of me hanging from a hook? It's tied to a time in my life when I felt conflicted. Not mildly conflicted about which major to choose or which boy to date, but seriously conflicted about whether I wanted to follow the self-destruction all the way down or pull myself back up. Ultimately I chose to do the work--the work everyone does when they grow up, but with a little extra credit because I'd fallen so far behind on my studies. I was born with the handicap of an extra appendage of crazy. Maturing is a natural process, and most people do it almost effortlessly. They experience a few hard lessons and learn them because humans have a natural inclination to save themselves. But some people are born with a nagging feeling that they're not quite sure they're worth the saving. Some people are born with the knowledge that they probably are, but they can't escape the feeling that they might be wrong.
I don't even know what it's like to be that way anymore. While visiting the ghost, I'm struck by two very disparate emotions. I'm grateful I've gotten past all of that. I'm glad that my default setting is no longer emotional turmoil. But I also miss it. The wildness of it. The sheer exhilaration of feeling something over every single event, a single sentence uttered by another person capable of sending me into flights of rage, fancy or depression. But I suppose the biggest difference between me now and me then is that now I can miss something and know that I don't want it back. Quite a bit of my insanity was due to a need to reconcile everything. If I had a feeling, I had to act on it until the outcome was satisfactory, shove it in someone else's face until they worked it out for me, or labor over it until I exhausted myself and became paralyzed with doubt or regret. It's a hard way to live. Now nothing has a box, and everything is neater. Cleanup is simpler. Messes just don't even get made half the time. And that which I cannot reconcile in an instant I simply leave alone. Things that would've become overwhelming dramas in the past are minor skirmishes at best now. My mind went from a fist clenched tight to unfurled and occasionally half curled.
The other day I was telling my boyfriend that I'm actually kind of sad that I will soon be leaving waitressing behind. I got my dream job. This should be the last thing to lament. But after getting so many things on track, waitressing feels like the last link to my old self. An old self I purposefully changed into a new self. I feel like I want to have a funeral or something. A funeral where the eulogies would contain remembrances like, "She always ended up with her dress over her head," or, "She was always drunkenly crying at parties." I haven't done that in a long time, but waitressing represented my former life as a complete fuck up. It has represented the part of me that never wanted to take on responsibilities because I never thought I was deserving of them. No commitments. I could quit at any time. Guilt-free.
In letting go of so many made-up meanings, life means more now than it ever did. Old visions have been replaced by a new reality. And as I let her go, at least I know where I can find her if I ever want to go visit.
Book Notes - Patrick Nathan "Some Hell"
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