Don't Be Scared, It's Just My Brain

I have wanderlust. Don’t know why and can’t say for how long. That’s the amazing thing about following your moods – they don’t offer advance warning of their shifts. There’s no ‘I’m gonna feel really up and perky in an hour and fifteen minutes, but right now, kind of mopey, ya know?’ We don’t so much follow our moods as get dragged with them wherever they go like an unrelenting tour guide who really isn’t interested in what we want to see.

Mood sits beside me in my passenger seat, looking out the window like a dog who loves a car ride. I drive until Mood tells me to pull over. And then I brake and breathe deliberately. Sun hits me through the windshield, and I put down the window to release the stifling stagnation of the greenhouse effect.

Sounds differ depending upon where you park. In LA you seldom escape the Doppler effect of a passing car or a helicopter overhead. Motors create our white noise, and if the atmosphere grows still we imagine ourselves inside a Twilight Zone episode. I pity the next generation where the Twilight Zone will cease to be a reference point. That shorthand phrase unifies my generation with concise clarity.

I consider my scenery. To see a driver in LA without a cellphone pressed to his head or a Bluetooth device encircling his ear draws my attention. The absence of an electronic distraction makes the driver look unoccupied. To confirm this, I look left and see two drivers pass not speaking on cellphones. They look occupied in thought, so I immediately peg myself a liar.

As the drivers pull away, I notice my dashboard covered in white, hairy dust that insists on reappearing within six hours of carwashing. Studying the furry coating, I picture the inside of my lungs. I’m certain they never breathe air without texture. Another driver passes by not speaking on a phone, and I realize that today’s experience differs from my LA driver generalization because I’m not moving at rush hour but am parked on a residential block off a main drag during an unexceptional hour of the day. No one passing is hurried. If they were, they’d avoid this street with a stop sign every one hundred yards, a measure I arrive at after going to my brain archives and recalling two years of fall and winter Saturdays spent on football field sidelines with a long-lensed camera pressed to my eye striving to capture football moments that when frozen in still frames mimic ballet. The side benefit of my job was that the length of the field became etched into my mind as a handy measuring tool. Unfortunately, saying ‘the length of a football field’ to my foreign-born husband didn’t work, which added to our communication challenges, but I never blamed the divorce on that.

At this point I don’t blame the divorce on anything but bad judgment and misplaced idealism. Our system mandates marriage licenses, yet doesn’t insist on any test other than one of our blood, as if suggesting that driving a car is more difficult than driving a relationship. A few pre-marriage questions would serve us, I figure, and the test could simply be Pass/Fail with the opportunity to retake as many times as necessary until the participants pass or recognize they shouldn't be together. For ease of creation, questions from The Newlywed Game could serve as a launching point with creative modifications offered up by unemployed writers or marriage counselors. I would apply for that job.

Pulling away from the curb, I ask my mood which way to go, but get no response. I am on my own, required to be my own motivator and support system. I picture living in cavepeople times when questions of career were occupied by ‘You hunt, I’ll cook.’ I like the idea of stirring food over open fires, sharing stories about animal behavior and elusive berries. Fantasy is a drug like any other, only free and legal.

I consider what life would look like if we were handed a map upon birth with directions and designated destination. Detours would be permitted if you promise to return to the redlined highway within a reasonable amount of time, for the blue lines are known to vanish suddenly and lead the unsuspecting over a cliff. Some would say that that removes choice, but let me ask, do you really believe we have free will? How can we know since we can only make each choice once and will never know if we were capable or choosing otherwise?


Slim said...

This post was timely, as I spent a better part of the morning in bed, undecided about what to do. My mood refused to tell me whether to get up and be active, or stay tucked beneath the quilt, hiding from the world. Several times, when I was sure I had decided one way or the other, my mood whispered how nice the alternative would be.

I absolutely believe in free will. I can't live my life with the thought that my every move is pre-ordained. That would make each step less exciting, and less filled with expectation. And I would put much less thought into every decision.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to the intriguing concept in your last line, I do think we get the chance to make some choices over and over again. When you re-examine your marriage while you're driving your car, you divorce your husband again. When I choose to ignore my husband's annoying habits and swallow sharp words, I'm choosing to marry him, again.

Sometimes the faces and relationships change (partners, lovers, colleagues, children, neighbors, friends) but the choices? The choices are always there and we decide what we'll do or not do over and over again.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't like the road map with my life etched for all to see. Even if there's some reason that we're not doing anything by choice, I like not knowing and believing that my choices are my own.

It's obvious you are pursuing your dreams D, it's showing in your words. Lately your posts have been luscious and I'm always eager for something new.

thailandchani said...

I think we have a road map and we find it along the way. It doesn't imply predestination but I do believe we come to this plane to learn a set of lessons. Whether we leave ourselves open to learning them is what constitutes "free will".

There is no absolute free will unless one lives in a secluded environment where our actions would effect no one but ourselves.



QT said...

I do not think things are predetermined by any means, but I do think that situations are presented to us as tests of our souls and spirits, the lessons are ones we failed to learn somewhere along the path, and they are repackaged and presented to us in a different way - perhaps this time around we will choose differently. The individuals and the surroundings may be different, but the concepts often are not.

I also hold the view that life on this planet, with its seemingly unending list of cruelties, large and small, is actually hell. Our job while here is to nourish our spirit and find the good, the beautiful, and the just things that we can. In the end, I believe our soul is rewarded by not having to come back here and live amongst suffering. I think it is my classics major showing through...damn those Greeks.

littlepurplecow said...

Yes, I do believe we have free will... the opportunity to make choices (itty-bitty and grande-size) a bazillion times each day. The choice to pick up the phone, to smile to a stranger, to have a child, to ask the tough questions, to change your mind... The sum of your choices defines your path.

There are times when I'd like to have a more defined destination or the ability to consult a map, but it's sort of exciting to follow the curve of the open road, despite the occasional speed bump.

Such a thoughtful post you have here.

Emily said...

I really like your ending...and it's such a good point. How would we ever know differently. I just heard a beautiful story on This American Life (my favorite radio show) about a man who tried to make a time machine to return to his father. What if all our choices, we had the opportunity to revisit?

Girlplustwo said...

terrific post (and comments) i tend to think of it at choices, and then choices within those choices, and each one is a bend in the road.

and how I wish you'd come bring your wanderlust to El Sal with me and we'd sit and drink beers late into the night and figure it all out.

deezee said...

I am so intrigued by the comments. No one worries about the white dust I am inhaling daily?

Okay. I play with you, but I think I am one of the few who feels less certain that my choices are so flexible. While they feel like my own as I make them, I am wired as I am, and thus on some level at the mercy of that wiring.

And even if we face the 'same' choice again, I think new times and new circumstances define that the choice is somehow different, for we are different at that moment in time.

Again, I am intrigued by each one of your perspectives here.

But, really, the post was about that dust.