October 19, 2010

Guest Article - Janelle

Janelle is single and lives in Arlington, VA. This article was originally published in a Mother House newsletter in May 2009.
My Reality Raincheck An Intro to ANDOR The Dream Transport and other wandering thoughts:
I wrote ANDOR as a means to expose and combat escapism. In the end, ANDOR became my own escape and/or conjunction from my real world to my dreams. I’ve always wanted to write a novel, and ANDOR was it. As a child, I daydreamed of a contraption that harnessed the capability of recreating my favorite dreams. I was easily frightened by my nightmares and made prayer a nightly habit, specifically to ask that I might have good dreams. ANDOR then became a twofold mission for me—first, a childhood yearning to create a dream device, and second, a desire to wake people from what Thomas Hardy calls “Somnambulistic hallucinations.”

Escapism, the overindulgence of creating alternate realities, has always existed. However, as technological advances increase, accompanied by affluent spare time, we seem to create even more venues of escaping. Our sleepwalking hallucinations are self- induced remedies to help us alleviate present pains. In using them, we never confront the real issue at hand, but side-step it. All this side-stepping has further perpetuated our desire to run, as our “waking pains” increase. Coming back to reality is a difficult confrontation. In writing ANDOR, I hoped to show how coming back to reality can in fact be a sweet reunion, a remembering of sorts of what we never knew we always had.

I do not believe in the prescription of medication untried by the physician. So first, I shall further illustrate my own vampire (unsettling as it is to write about) and then discuss the lessons I learned and the growth I gained in attempting to destroy him.

I am an escape artist primarily in the region of romantic relationships.

August 6, 2007 “I cut my finger today. Accidentally. The blood surfaced quickly on my ring finger and oozed with each pulse. I quickly wrapped a paper towel around it—applying pressure and elevating the wound. It was deep. The sting lessened as I pressed the paper towel and held it tightly. I looked at my finger—my ring finger with no ring—and wondered if there was some significance that I caught the blade on that particular finger. The lack of a wedding band being one of my deepest cuts. Some days it feels as if I will slowly bleed to death, my confidence in myself and men so entirely sapped of life. Other days, I’m pulsing with enthusiasm.

But right now, the only ring around that finger is a band-aid. Would that there were some band aid that could fix the wounded and lonely heart. Or at least a disinfectant that could eventually help me to heal.

Writing is my avenue for venting, but it is also my expression of art. Lately I feel as if it is all second rate, impressionistic, contemporary crap. A papier-mâché blend that is put through a sieve to fall where it will and dry as it pleases, but never pleasing me—and willing me to stop.

As though I am stuck by the words, behind them and hidden—the words the art, but hiding their creator—thus my feeling never surfacing or breaking beyond the dried up remnants of paper.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. As I was bleeding, for a moment I wondered what it would look like if I had hit an artery. Much more blood I imagine. I have no death wish mind you—but my wrist, draining itself of red did surface in my mind momentarily. I have valuable blood you know. O negative. I am the universal donor. But should I ever need blood, I am selective and can only receive O negative. I wish my life were as universally valuable. My brother Devin mentioned that I have set a lot of high qualifications for my men. I'm a selective receiver and universal donor. But my sister Shauna said I shouldn't settle. And I don't intend to. In the meantime, I hope I'm not totally drained of love, waiting and looking for the right type of guy."

Part of my pickiness derives from my own form of escapism. I fall in love with fiction. I fall in love with men who are not real, not present and sometimes, not even alive. Also, I glorify previous boyfriends in my mind to such an extent that I begin to berate myself for having broken ties with some of Gods most ingenious of creations. These visions of perfected men with Herculean qualities almost entirely overshadow those brave men who might have a chance with me if I were only to give them one.

But I’m too busy critiquing their every gesture, and analyzing their every phrase, meanwhile thinking “How un-Darcy like,” “Where’s my Gilbert Blythe?” and “You may have been the inspiration behind the curse ‘Stupify.’” At the same time, I really do love people easily. It's not hard for me to make friends, to feel at home wherever my skin takes me, and to be happy with my beloved family and friendships. But as soon as a potential suitor leers in my direction, my fault-finding magnifying-glass goes up, and then, poor soul, it's only a matter of time before I discover he's not what my dreams are made of. Not even close. There is a line in the movie Sabrina that states, "Illusions are dangerous things. They have no flaws." It took a mentor, a lot of brainstorming, and some self-realization to go through the process of combating my form of escapism. And even after that, I don't have the audacity to say that it's totally gone. My writing mentor asked me one day, "So have you killed Cinderella?"

"What do you mean?" I asked her, looking up from an assignment.
"You have to kill Cinderella in order to get over your escapism, and I'm really curious to hear how you do it. When you do, write me."
"Kill Cinderella?" I asked.
"Yes," she said.

Liz often speaks symbolically and loves to point out symbolism in literature. In this case, she was referring to my waiting for a prince charming. So I wrote her the story. Killing Cinderella was rather fun, surprisingly. Most of it dealt with the fact that the prince, in all his perfection, was quite boring. Coming to terms with that made me crave the excitement of reality, with all of its unpredictable quirks. I came to discover that really falling in love with someone who is real is like tasting a wintergreen lifesaver. Cool green freshness all around. And wintergreen lifesavers spark in the dark if you bite down hard enough. And I like trying hard things.

I don't have a sure fire process of how to kill escapism. More of a guideline with proper ingredients. The doses and order can vary according to the individual. Keep in mind, escapism begins because the individual is trying to fill a void by using a counterfeit method. For example, those who lack love may seek it elsewhere in the form of food, romantic films, and NCMOs. Any addiction you can think of falls into a category, and for the most part, the void deals with a fractured or tense relationship, or else the lack of a healthy one. This has become rather verbose, so I will sum up my escapism prescription in the following five steps.

-Realize you are running (ask yourself how you evade the present)
-Get Real (desire a clear and truthful outlook, pray for assistance)
-Get it out (say what you need to say, do what you need to do)
-Get to Work (put your energies into a proactive "escape")
-Get Good (home that skill in order to share it with or help others)

An important part of this factoring is that eventually, you are improving yourself so that you can in turn share your abilities with others, or help them develop their own abilities. Escapism centers around a self-centered individual. I find it ironic that Apple products begin with "I"--I-pod, I-chat, I-phones. These toys seem to create virtual relationships. When a person is isolated, they cannot make or renew significant relationships, which perpetuates a reason to run or escape.

So what is the antidote to escapism? Love. The more I’ve studied, the more I’ve come to that same conclusion for solving life’s problems. The other answer is always drink more water. But mostly love. Think of it this way, the more you love a person, the more difficult you make it for them to desire an alternate reality. It’s that simple. And it’s easy to love. It’s just hard to love first. In all earnestness, I encourage us to be first to love and last to regret.

1 comment:

  1. Janelle, thanks for so much this honest and beautiful article. I love your writing and get something new out of this article every time I read it!