Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for a defunct blog named I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read.
In My Head
I love the name of this blog—I just wanna sit here and read. I couldn’t say it better if I tried. Anyone who loves reading understands the desire. Those who don’t simply find it baffling.
While we’re on the subject of reading, I’d like to share some of my deepest fears: I’m going to die one day (big surprise, I know) … and when I do, I’ll leave behind mountains of book I never got to read. I’ll never be able to reread my favorite books. And what about the great books to come after I’m gone?
It’s quite depressing, if I think about it too much.
So, I try not to think about it, but—and this may come as no surprise—I spend a lot of time in my head. Enough time to drive me kinda crazy sometimes. It’s a relatively small space, and although it’s usually pretty empty, it is subject to overcrowding, since it’s my playroom, my office, my private spot, my safe place, my hurt locker, my creative corner, my wishing well, and my impenetrable vault, all rolled into one convenient package (complete with carrying case).
So, yeah, I spend a lot of time in there. Not just when I think or read or write or daydream or listen to music or watch a movie or any of the thousand things we do in which it’s perfectly understandable to retreat inside and shut off the world around us—I have a tendency to retreat into my head in the middle of meetings, conversations, or other interactions in which it’s far less acceptable to do so.
It’s also just as likely to happen when there isn’t enough stimulation as when there is too much. I can plead self-defense in either case, so I give myself a pass. The good thing is that many people don’t care to realize when my attention has vacated the premises. Of course, it helps that I’m a true virtuoso at non-verbal communication. I maintain eye contact. I smile, nod, raise my eyebrows, and/or look shocked in the appropriate places. I even inject the occasional “No!” or “Really” into conversations at strategic points. I’ve streamlined “fake-it-til-you-make-it” into “fake it,” period.
Here’s the bottom line: as long as I listen—or people think I’m listening—all parties remain happy.
And it’s hard to pull myself out of my head once I’m in there. It takes a real mental effort to drag my attention from the internal to the external world. If you’ve ever pushed a stalled car—not as part of a group, but by yourself or perhaps with one other person—you have an idea of how it feels to force my attention out of my head. And that’s on the best of days. On the worst of them (ironically, when the ideas are coming and the words are flowing) it’s like trying to push a car that stalled in mud. The ground has dried and the tires are sitting in ruts a few inches deep. You push the car, rocking it back and forth and trying to build enough momentum to propel it up over the edge … but even as you make progress, the car moving slowly and reluctantly, you can feel the darned thing fighting against you, just waiting for your attention to waver and your efforts to lag, so it can slide back to the bottom of the ruts.
Still, I’ve never failed to come back out, so I can’t complain too much.
Let me assure you that I’m not a jerk. It’s not that I dislike or distrust people. I’m not afraid of my fellow human beings. I don’t believe people are inherently evil. I’m very polite. I treat every person with dignity and respect. I’m just more comfortable with me. I’m a serious introvert.
I’m also not shy. In the corporate world I’m a professional presenter. I am quite skilled at grabbing an audience’s attention, engaging it, humoring it, and filling it with whatever I need to share. Nevertheless, I am very modest and I am very private. I can easily deliver a day-long presentation to an auditorium full of strangers, but making small talk with one person—particularly, someone I don’t know well—is daunting and draining.
Heck, even social media is tough, and that’s bereft of face-to-face interaction. Blogging, tweeting, posting, pinning—it’s like having a nameless, faceless entity following me around all day, putting silent, constant pressure on me to reach out … share … interact ... otherwise give myself up, as Johnny Cash sang, “One piece at a time.”
Perhaps that’s why I write about vampires. If the irrational fear of something craving your lifeblood doesn’t provide inspiration for vampire fiction, then I don’t know what will.
On the other hand, my writing is the one thing that allows people into my world—albeit little by little, word by word, and page by page. There is no rushing it and there is no unrestricted access. You will be allowed in via a carefully coordinated and controlled process—kind of like a seasoned tour guide who knows enough to only take his/her charges down certain paths and into certain areas.
It’s for my protection as well as yours.
Because once you’re in my head, it’s hard to get out. And if I’m creating—if the words and the ideas are flooding inside so much that they’re leaking out and pooling on the flat surfaces around me (which might seem claustrophobic, but isn’t)—you won’t want to get out. Trust me on this.
I see that we’re back to talking about being in my head. And now it begins to feel as if I’m talking in circles, although perhaps I should say I’ve taken the conversation full circle. The former implies I’m not the master of my destiny, while the latter demonstrates that I am.
I’ll stop there, as an internal voice warns me that I’m approaching roads that lead to madness. I’m not quite ready for that leap yet, but I’ll reference an old Far Side cartoon in bringing this to a close.
In the cartoon, two cowboys are beside a covered wagon. One has been shot with an arrow, while the other kneels next to him. The wounded cowboy states, “Sure it hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt.”
Sure, spending time in my head drives me kinda crazy, but it’s a good kinda crazy.
And now I think it’s time for a little reading …