I was sitting in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion watching the amazing Alvin Ailey dance troupe when it hit me. I’m not the only one. I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE, I thought. Maybe how I am is okay. Maybe who I am is okay.
I’d been wrestling with something for months. I had the epiphany a while back, because of therapy and self-reflection and meditation and looking back at my life with, you know, perspective. (Perspective is a trip, man.) I realized that everything I love is a distraction. That I, in fact, love stuff because it’s a distraction. This bothered me. My whole life, my passions: writing, books, music and theater, even my hobbies: going to concerts, yoga, reading, TV and happy hour. All of these things I love mainly because they turn my brain off. For an hour-long class. For four chapters. For two martinis. For the first act. Sure, my asshole over thinking brain comes roaring back to life as I’m rolling up my mat or putting my paperback down to get a snack or when the buzz wears off or when I’m standing in the lobby during intermission wondering if my dress is appropriate or if my hair has gone frizzy. The anxiety, the thoughts, the feelings always come back. But the things I love MAKE THEM GO AWAY even if just for a little while.
This realization bothered me. I’d always thought of myself as a lover of art, of expression. A bohemian. I thought I loved the things I loved because that’s who I was not because I wanted to avoid dealing with reality. But the truth of it was undeniable. I need to escape. Constantly. I need things to be anything but how they really are. I need the world to be viewed through a filter of good music or great vodka or -when I was younger- strong drugs. I need to concentrate on holding the asana or writing dialogue for a character who is definitely not me or else I can’t deal. I think that’s why I’ve been writing fiction lately instead of articles. I don’t want to talk about myself or what IS, I want to write about what could be or should be or never ever will be but dammit it’s fun to imagine. Anything but reality.
I was mad at myself. I thought because I loved anything that helped turn my brain off that it meant I was a failure, a bad human. I thought that if I were a tough cool perfect person, I could just deal with everything that has happened to me in my life, everything that is currently happening to me and, hell, everything that is happening to the world without blinking. I would stare it in the ugly face. Maybe I would punch it. Maybe I would punch it and say something amazing and witty that they would put on t-shirts. I would need no distractions because I would be brave and unafraid and RIGHT. By relying on these forms of self-soothing, I was weak and bad and imperfect. I was no face puncher.
But sitting there watching the dancers of Alvin Ailey, I realized that there is value and beauty in escape. More importantly, I realized that if I were to poll most people about what they love, the majority of them would list things that provide an escape from day-to-day life. Watching football, painting, video games, buying rompers at the mall, playing with the dog, even yelling at strangers in traffic, all these things are fun and interesting but mainly they make you stop thinking all the time. It was so obvious. My realization is a big old DUH to most people but to me it was profound. My fellow audience members didn’t come to see a dance performance because they were very interested in the mechanics of dance or because they thought it would help them fix their problems. I mean, maybe some did, who the hell knows, but I think most came to see something beautiful and to forget everything else. Most folks do what they do and love what they love because it provides them relief. I realized we all need distraction from reality. Some of us more than others but I think we’re united in our love of ughhh just not dealing for a fucking second, okay??
Since the election some of my loves have been invaluable. I’ve escaped into books and music and TV shows. I’ve jumped head first into bottles of wine. But other things I love have been challenged: writing, meditation, a regular yoga practice, my sense of humor. Times are tough. But just because we lean more heavily on, I don’t know, March Madness or adult coloring books or staring at that dope collection of antique wind-up owls on the shelf doesn’t mean that we’re flawed or bad or not actually dealing. It just means that we’re human.
See you at happy hour.