January 4, 2018
Day 4 (I am not posting what I wrote for day 3 for a variety of reasons, mostly that the things that emerged need more time to season before I decide if they’re public or not – we don’t have to be resolution/intention purists! Skip your day 3 if you need to! I got you).
Lately I have been interrupting myself a lot in the middle of my morning routine.
Like, interrupting myself out loud.
In the second person.
As in, saying, out loud, alone in my studio apartment, “What do I want for breakfast?” and then answering, “Well, you had eggs last night so that’s probably not what your’e in the mood for, and…” AND THE DIALOGUE CONTINUES.
Which is all fine and good, living alone is one of my great pleasures much of the time, I like befriending myself, talking to myself in the second person, being my own partner and bestie, it’s great a lot of the time. And I’m right, I did have eggs last night, and I’m not in the mood for that!
Even more, speaking to myself in the “you” (a habit often treated as culturally strange or dangerous enough that I get nervous when I think my neighbors can hear me) turns out to actually be extremely healing.
Why? Because unlike a lot of people I’ve talked to about inner stories and conversations, the self-critical narratives and voices in my mind don’t speak in the “you.” They speak in the I. As in, “I have completely ruined this friendship” (a thought I had today that was wildly inaccurate), or “I should have done way better at that text I sent I need to be more conscious of how I might impact other people” (news flash: this is also inaccurate). Some people’s self-critics speak in the “you.” Mine doesn’t, which makes it slippery and wily and extremely hard to catch red-handed.
But in a strange flip, speaking to myself in the “you” means that I mostly only associate the second person voice with kind or funny things I’ve said to myself. It’s easier to be compassionate sometimes from this position, because there’s a little more breathing room between all the concentric circles of self. Like when you do a lovingkindenss meditation, and picture a younger version of yourself: a slightly different person, a slightly different reference point, with a little breathing room from but still a lot of overlap with your center.
So that’s all great and healing and everything, but meanwhile it’s 7:23 and it’s time to get up, and a different thing is happening, which is that I’m lying sideways on my bed having a second-person “you” conversation with someone entirely separate from me, like maybe a friend or family member or estranged co-worker, and the conversation is going full force deep into heavy territory. And I’ve been having this conversation for, oh, about 23 minutes, since my alarm went off at 7. Sometimes, it’s a funny or sweet or exciting imagined interaction, but most of the time, it’s dramatic, intense, charged, sad, fearful, painful- all that fun stuff. It’s almost always with a “real” person (imagined version but they actually exist somewhere), I do both sides of the conversation (Why yes I did act in high school thank you for asking! Flowers? For me? Oh you’re too kind), and we dig in to something heavy. And I completely lose track of time.
I started doing this when I was in middle school, completely unintentionally, and for a long time, I hid it because I thought something was really wrong with me. Like, something dangerous was happening to my brain. It turns out, it’s not totally unheard of for people with wildly energetic imaginations, intense sensitivity, but also a high desire for intense experiences/ sensations, to do stuff like this.
It’s not unheard of, but I still feel a little exasperated and weirded out every time I realize I’ve been standing ready to crack an egg for half an hour, and haven’t cracked it yet, because I was busy telling a friend (who isn’t there) about my experiences as a depressed 15-year-old. Sometimes, inner critic jumps in – “I am so ridiculous what is wrong with me” – and sometimes self-friend jumps in – “Oh you did that again you sweetie! Let’s make breakfast now” – but I can lose large swathes of the morning this way. It’s particularly likely to happen on days when I’m in an emotional or physical funk that would, ironically, be particularly helped by going through my carefully crafted, extensive morning routine right away and as attentively as possible (Morning routine (NO SCREENS): kettle boils while I get dressed, bed made while tea steeps, make breakfast, play guitar in the kitchen while eating breakfast and drinking tea, write 3 morning pages at desk, light candles/ small ritual time, water garden, plan day and get ready to work out, work out). It can become hard not to get frustrated with myself in that context.
To be clear, I never, ever actually think there is another person there with me, except in the way that you do when you’re watching a play, or a movie- suspension of disbelief, but not actual replacement belief. The part that is disorienting is how deep I can go into it- it’s like writing or dancing or making art, in that I completely lose track of time, something I hardly ever do in any other context.
What I’m starting to wonder, in my fits of self-criticism about sliding from talking to myself into talking to others, is: am I doing some sort of healing work that I don’t understand here? Sometimes, I’m trying to work through a conversation I’ve been too scared to have, while other times I’m off-gassing a conversation I’m not going to have, either because the person is dead, or not in my life anymore, or I need to have an imaginary conversation that gets me to a place where I can have a more concise or different actual conversation.
And sometimes, often, actually, it’s just me figuring myself out. I have learned recently that I often have no idea what I’m feeling, what has impacted me from the past, what I feel in the present, what I’m longing for in the future, until I have the chance to lay it all out in some way. Especially in a way that leads to (but doesn’t necessarily start with) words. Particularly, words verbalized, with sound, embodied language in my mouth and throat and hands and gut, and even more particularly, words verbalized to another person. Even if that other person is imaginary and I’m filling in all their lines.
When I think about it, I’m not sure this is so different from a lucid dream state.
The past few years, I have been reorienting my relationship to the word “surrender.” It has to do with not understanding all of something, and still being willing to be in flow with it. I am a stubborn, stubborn human, and I often fight tooth and knuckle against surrender. And I also need it. Consensually, on my own terms often, but I need it.
Maybe whatever this thing is that I do, that is biting huge chunks out of my morning routine, is something needed, is time that’s worth it (cue inner critic disagreeing and pulling receipts on how hours in the day are spent and what’s actually most efficiently healing). Maybe there’s something in it to trust.
And also, if I’m late for brunch, now you know who to blame/thank: all those friends of mine who would not stop talking to me while I was trying to get out the door in the morning!
Cross posted at gatecitygardener.wordpress.com and patreon.com/racheleconomy