Letting Go of Illusion

“How often, you wonder, has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? How many opportunities have you been denied–or, for that matter, awarded–because someone failed to see you properly? How many friends have you lost, how many have you gained, because they glimpsed some element of your personality that shone through for only an instant, and in circumstances you could never reproduce? An illusion of water shimmering at the far bend of a highway.” 
― Kevin Brockmeier

As a fiction writer, especially of the romantic persuasion, it’s often easy for me to get caught up in my own imagination. My writerly brain has been trained to play out scenarios and let them run wild. It’s part of the creative process and the free reign I give these thoughts allows me to write the scenes and stories that cause heart palpitations and fingers to eagerly turn to the next page.

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But sometimes, the delicate barrier between the two halves of my brain is a bit too porous. Sometimes the barrier is permeated. Sometimes, the imagination bleeds over. And it begins to skew my reality. What is actually before me can be muddled with the over-active nature of my creative process. Instead of observing at a safe distance, I scoot in closer and start to ask…”and then what if…”

It’s taken me to some interesting and inspiring side roads, but it has also led me  this to some pretty dark and hurtful places. Places like paranoia, obsession, depression, and a loosening of the bonds of my reality. It can cause a false sense of what is real and, from that place, I have made poorly founded decisions.

I have been in situations where I lived in an heightened-aware but still fuzzier, reality. Lines get blurred and harmless words and actions became life altering. Sideways glances were sure signs of betrayal. Meaningless banter, the grounds for turning my back on people I loved. I’ve spent a lot of time hurting, in tears, wondering why the path I saw ahead felt so wrong to what my brain was telling me. I was at sea. Lost and drifting with no anchor to keep me grounded.

What’s the cure? What’s the fix? What can any of us do when our brains run away from us and our behaviors follow suit?

Sometimes the consequences of those misguided actions we take, in our obsessive/paranoia state, are severe enough to shake us back into reality. That may be the only way, when we are in too deep, to regain proper perspective.

But it is also the most damaging.

Occasionally it takes someone who can see your reality outside of yourself. Who cares enough about you to point out the cloud surrounding you and who can start asking the right questions. Like snapping spiritual fingers in front of your eyes, breaking through the rosy hue of illusion.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy. It’s often a long fall and a hard landing when you come down from your illusion. It’s painful. Reality isn’t usually a fun place to live in. But walking around, shrouded in falsehood, does nothing to better our humanity and the way we interact truthfully with one another.

Take a good look at your life. Be aware of the way you react to situations, be introspective with the perspective you use and step outside yourself to see what’s really going on. Because the further you go down the rabbit hole of the world you want to live in, the worse the consequence, the higher the risk, and the deeper the damage in the world you actually live in.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to keep my mouth shut and calm the creative-brain response, until I’m sure my words and actions are justified and are coming from a place that is true. It requires that I remove myself from being the central character in a story and take a moment to look at the setting, the other characters, their perspectives, the actual thread of what is going on.

Being a good human is hard. But if we truly love, when all illusions have been stripped away, then we owe it to our fellow humans to try to live the most honest, real life we can.

“Meanwhile, the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly -the thought of the world’s concern at her situation- was found on an illusion. She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself.” 
― Thomas Hardy

Where You Hang Your Hat

This particular phrase came to me me during last week’s abbreviated post on home. I was limited on time and a bit “Chihuahua and fireworks” excited about Verseday, so I didn’t do justice to what home can mean and why its important to filling our lives with good things.

I’m from Wyoming, born and raised, with some detours along the way.

Wyoming has some pretty awesome colloquialisms (for more on that, keep in the loop about my new series set in Wyoming—very romantic-west) and “Home is Where You Hang Your Hat” is no exception. (Some other, unrelated, favorites; “wouldn’t mind if his boots were under my bed,” and “wish I had a swing like that on my back porch.”)

 

I could go into the history of hats, cowboy and otherwise, what they meant, where they came from, who wore them, the political and pop cultural significance each one carried, but you didn’t come here to listen to the historical social scientist in my back pocket, you came here for an expansion on home.

Cowboy Hat1

Hanging your hat up was something you used to do when you came in from a long day of work. I’m looking at you…slack-jawed twerker, with your suuuuper cool trucker’s hat turned sideways at the dinner table…you realize that it’s the same ‘model’ my 97 year-old grandfather would get free from NAPA (that’s the part store, not the wine country) and wear until the brim fell off… And, he wore it better but never at the table… sorry where were we?

 

Yes, gentlemen used to take off their hats inside and, in the case of coming home, would hang them on a hook or rack by the door.

 

A simple move that signified something so much more profound.

 

Hanging your hat, coming home, dropping the world at the door and breathing. Breathing in the place of your own, the space you occupy, the people who wait for you; who love you, who have seen your head without hat, your hair going gray. Coming home meant escaping the life’s demands and the outside world’s burdens and just be.

 

Why is it important, that we take off our ‘hats’ in today’s world? Why does it matter?

 

I’m glad you asked. It’s kinda why I’m here.

 

Humans these days are so connected by technology and the speed-of-light information bursts, that there’s really no such thing as a safe space anymore. Now your home has multiple outlets for this information to stream in, constant and blaring.

 

And the ‘hats’ have changed too, haven’t they? We used to wear one, maybe two. Now, we’ve got them stacked one on top of the other until they tilt in the breeze and wobble when we try to move forward. We’re doctors, and scientists, social activists and martyrs. We’re frienemies and friends, lovers and exes. We’re husbands and mothers, daughters. Victim and accuser, the pious and the demon.

Caps For Sale
Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business. Esphyr Slobodkina (how is it I never knew that was the full title?)

We’re chained to the images that we build on our pages and constantly feel the need to live up to the happy smiling selfie that the world thinks we are. It’s getting so one can’t even close the door and drop what’s not real for a few minutes.

 

And if you can’t ever drop it, how do you even know who you really are?

 

It’s no wonder we’re overmedicated, depressed, anxious and stressed. People constantly shoving hats into our hands, telling us what we should be, what we could be, showing off how beautifully they’re balancing their own stack with perfect pictures of perfect lives through perfect filters that they post fresh every day.

It can leave a person feeling that if they aren’t getting enough ‘likes’ that no one actually likes them. That the measure of being loved is dependent on some superficial and meaningless emoji.

Listen, kid, ain’t nobody that happy. Ain’t nobody that perfect.

And the brilliance of those images, I guarantee, is hiding the same nasty, visceral darkness that resides in each of us, fed on self-doubt and anger. Jealousy, dis-ease with the person in our skin, and the pressures squeezing through our walls each day.

 

I just want to go home.

 

Let’s go back to that place.

 

The place where you put your phone on the shelf by the door and kick off your shoes. Leave your meal un-Instagramed. Your run un-shared. Write down the cute thing your two-year-old said, and then tell your mom face-to-face over a cup of un-tagged, un-pinned coffee.

 

Wait for your meal in silence and anticipation. Look up something– in a book. When you feel the need, the itch to pick up that screen, or turn that television on, or otherwise disconnect from real life, don’t. Over half of our lives are spent looking at the world through our screens and its becoming a new, cold, disconnected home where we find no respite.

 

The ball is in your court, the stack of hats in your arms. Drop them all, for just a moment and pick up only the ones that satisfy your soul. Even those, hang up once in a while and sort through how they make you feel when you wear them.

 

Find your home by letting go of the things you feel you need to be. Find the home in the center of your chest, your truest self, and come back to that. Hang your hat there. That’s your home.