What wakes you to yourself?
Each day I try to spend some reflective time in gratitude. I bring to mind all that I am thankful for, and it fills my heart with healing and acceptance for all the things in my life that are not going as well. But this week, a few unexpected questions popped up. I was feeling grateful for all the wonderful people in my life and found myself wondering just how I ended up so… well… lucky. I have the best friends and family a person could ever hope for. But how, exactly, did that happen?
Thing is, I’m not really a “people person.” Occupational hazzard, I guess. I have always been driven to create. For every song I wrote, another came on its heels, and always, always, more ideas waited in the wings. Stories pour out of me onto the page like Niagra Falls. And for every story I write, there are 20 more vying for my attention.
For many years, starting as far back as the middle grades, all I wanted was to be left alone to write my stories and songs. I didn’t want to be around people until I had finished what I was working on, but I was always working on something, so I slowly became a functional introvert.
I have always known my purpose on earth. I came here to create. That meant growing up, I spent less time searching for purpose and meaning, and more time focused on creating things with purpose and meaning.
It took me years to learn that I also came here to love, to awaken, to evolve, and to experience all that real life has to offer; good, bad, happy, sad, fortune and misfortune.
See, for the longest time, I felt I didn’t belong here. I felt out of place in the human world, perhaps, in part, because of my extreme dyslexia, which made me literally see things differently from everyone else… that and my over-abundant imagination—I knew the world was magical, but I was surrounded by people who didn’t believe in magic. Things that were important to me just didn’t seem all that important to other people, which made me a bit of a freak. So as a child, I somehow decided it would be a good idea not to need anyone. I became pathologically self-sufficient. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I loved being alone. Still do. I had my stories to keep me engaged, and my characters to keep me company. I poured love into my creations, not into human relationships. My primary relationship was with my muse.
Being a writer has given me a life path that I have stayed true to even in my darkest times. Writing through the pain has healed me in countless ways and gotten me through even the worst of times. I can honestly say journaling and story writing has saved my life. They have been my constant companions and, in many ways, my wise counsel.
Consequently, for years I couldn’t understand why the humans around me loved and accepted me so unconditionally. I paid them little or no attention, at least not while I was possessed by a plot, submerged in a story, or working on a song. I disappeared for weeks, sometimes even months at a time to explore other realms and alternate universes… falling in love again and again with the strange beings that populate my curious worlds.
I wondered how it was that I possessed any friends at all, let alone the amazing, caring, intelligent, loving, loyal, fun, interesting, laugh-til-our-sides-hurt, cry-til-our-hearts-heal type of friends. How’s that even possible? It seems no matter how much I ignore them, they still love me and are there for me, ready to reconnect with me and always willing to listen to my songs or read my books when I emerge from my creative hibernations.
When I do finally return, it takes me a while to figure out how to interact with humans again, and I usually end up jabbering. On and on I go about the worlds I have visited, as if I’ve been to Italy and met the Pope in Rome, or taken tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. As far as I am concerned, I have dined with royalty, solved the mysteries of the universe, traveled in time, and flown on the backs of dragons.
My experiences, my memories, even my emotions all say I have been away—far, far away on a very long and wondrous journey to distant lands effervescent with magic and light, and populated with mystical creatures. I’ve marched with comrades and battled monsters, found true treasures and inner riches, shared love and laughter, tragedy and tears, faced invincible foes, unbeatable odds, and lived to tell the tale. I have danced with heroes and become one myself by association.
I consider myself one of the luckiest people I know, not because I have had it easy, quite the contrary, I have had more than my share of trials and hardships (I will tell you about them someday), but because the pain of those experiences has not robbed me of my wonder, my intuitive senses, my faith, my capacity to love, or my ability to forgive.
Where many of this world occupy their minds with worry, stress, fear, anger, problems and pitfalls, and all manner of human drama, I spend most of my brain cells on the creation of worlds, characters, creatures, minds and hearts, and all the extraordinarily strange things that emerge from the depths of my creative soul. And I often occupy my non-writing hours studying human nature and relationships to better understand not only my characters, but myself, my friends and my family as well.
But there’s no denying it. My thoughts are more occupied with the stuff of fantasy than reality, which makes me a bit too disconnected to talk politics or pop-culture at parties. I nod and smile a lot. Yep. Now, point me to a dinner party where everyone is talking philosophy, parallel dimensions, and quantum physics and I will feel right at home, but how often does that happen?
Yes, pointing my focus inward instead of outward on a daily basis and staying away from toxic substances (like people with negative attitudes and the doom and gloom of the daily news) can admittedly have unintended results. When I forget to take care of the practical things–like say, paying bills or filing taxes, trouble inevitably ensues. It also means I am absent-minded, and often clumsy and awkward in the “real world,” yet those around me not only forgive my foibles and idiosyncrasies, they also help me find my keys, pick me up when I fall, and remind me when it’s their birthday without making me feel bad that I forgot.
Being an introspective introvert does have its rewards though. When I finally cast my gaze outward, I notice more, feel more. The little details of everyday life glow brighter–the vortexual shape of a rose, the texture of an old brick wall, the scent of a cool ocean breeze, the sound of a hummingbird in flight, the curve of a stone footpath, the woody taste of cinnamon on the tongue—everything comes alive. After many decades on the planet, I still have a child-like wonder of this magnificent world. I still ponder unanswerable questions like: What’s at the end of the universe? What are our spirits made of? Is reality just an illusion? How can we transcend the boundaries of time and space? Are dreams a portal into another dimension? Could pizza be the answer to that pesky meaning of life question?
These are things that wake me to myself.
Well maybe not that last one. ツ
What wakes you to yourself?
Okay, I know, I sound a little crazy writing about this stuff, but I don’t mind. I’m sure if you asked my friends and family, they would probably say, yeah sure, she’s a few bats shy of a belfry, but she kinda has to be a little crazy to live in that wild unchecked imagination of hers. So I break the rules, and don’t live by anyone’s definition. I’d say I color outside the lines, but I usually ignore the lines altogether. In my defense I will site the famous quote from Steve Jobs:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Elayne Gineve James is the author of the adventure/fantasy coming-of-age series: The LightBridge Legacy, and the warmhearted holiday novel: The Saint of Carrington. Learn more at ELAYNEJAMES.COM