Thursday, February 26, 2009

When You Are Stuck in a Whiteout (Instructions for Teddy and Other Lost Souls)

Please humor me while I launch into a spoilt brat rant for a moment: I am stuck at my parents house because of all this g–damn snow. I drove all the way to my apartment in Uptown and could not get my car through the alley and became beached on top of mounds and mounds of snow. I turned back to the burbs from which I came and begrudgingly snailed my way back to the house where I grew up.

All day I have been affected by this storm. I became entirely engulfed in a cloud of swirling white while I was driving on Hwy 62, and I lost track of where I was. While driving along the highway, knowing where I was going, I suddenly could no longer see signs or landmarks that would normally orient me. I found myself lost in an entirely familiar place. I was driving on a road that I have oft tread, but the snow was so thick that I was forced to call someone for help in discerning where I might be.

The sensation of being stuck in a whiteout was claustrophobic. I knew there were people all around me in their own cars, but I felt like I was more lost than everyone else on the road. I knew I had been to these places before, but I no longer recognized them. Whereas I so love the quizzical experience of deja vu, the sensation of jamais vu makes me sick in my gut.

What are we to do when we become lost? Life is sailing along and things are happening, then suddenly the visibility is reduced to zero. The first instinct is to panic and tuck our heads in our hands for fear of oncoming moving objects, but the harsh reality is that we must keep moving.

The problem with this, though, is that we are too afraid to move. It is terrifying to speed up into what is unknown. Muscles tighten and teeth clench as we begrudgingly inch along to keep up with the system that is moving around us.

Once I became very sick and I lost everything: My home, my job, my friends, and my sanity. The aftermath of this left me gazing into the depths of a thick and swirling whiteout. I could turn 360 degrees and see no one, hear nothing, and feel the pin drop vibrations inside this white space that was my empty soul. Day after day, I did not rise from my bed until it was almost early evening and I quietly hibernated in that little space that I had carved for myself in the thick frosty snow and I stayed there for many months undisturbed.

Then one day, I got a phone call. I had forgotten how to speak with a smile-sound in my voice. So I faked it and I faked it until I was taking notes on these multiple mini performances. Next, I was working at a new job. Then, I picked up a new hobby, and after that, I changed my hair. I went for a walk and I noticed the smell of the air. It was the scent of unfurling grass and murky lakes with mossy rocks. Soon, I was in the arms of someone new, and began to colorfully spew forth ideas, dreams, and jokes that had been dormant for as long as I knew.

So, when you are stuck in a whiteout, here are instructions on what to do:

1) Don't panic, because panic only works when you are being chased by a bear

2) Resist the urge to stop, and force yourself to keep moving

3) Breathe deep, in and out, in and out

4) Simplify your environment, because most of what you have to do means nothing

5) Wait. Keep moving, but wait for what is next. You are not the decider of all that is to come

6) Talk. Talk to yourself, to your plants, to your barber, and to anyone else who is listening

7) Listen. Hear the sound of your voice and pretend you are well by making it sound happy

8) Play. Even if it does not seem fun, do something that the old you would have enjoyed

9) Act. Fake it, fake it, fake it till you make it because you will fool yourself along with others

10) Feel. Let yourself feel it all because feeling is what we humans do

Allow yourself to feel the whitespace because avoiding it will only make it dark. I would rather be lost in light instead of dark.

These are the things I wanted you to know. I believe they will work if you just give it a chance. "It's too much!" you say, "It is easy to write instructions when you are not the one drowning." Well of course it is too much, Silly. Life is too much and I expect you to write the instructions the next round when my head is in the Swirly Storm.

If all else fails, by all means, at least try to get laid. And I know I don't need to give you instructions for that.

Thinking of you,

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