I am aware that nobody who looks at my blog ever clicks on my videos. This one, however, would be very useful if you are really going to read and engage with this essay. This self-reflection came into being as a response to watching this video. The video talks about how most people can’t stand to actually sit alone in a room with only themselves. And it has an impact. I have claimed in the past to being a devotee of the Theodore Roethke maxim, “Being, not doing, is my first love.” But how does one go about becoming truly self-aware? How does one enumerate the concept of “being”? I believe I can do it, but it requires a bit of self-examination. How do I do it?
Let me count the ways…
I find myself in both the written characters I create and the cartoon characters I draw. In Hidden Kingdom, my graphic novel, the Mouse and young Prinz Flute are both me. I can see myself both as the reluctant romantic hero and the snarky child-thing with a dangerous little bit of wisdom.
I learn to know more about my secret heart and what I truly think about the world I live in and react to by writing about what I think and the things that happen to me, both for good and ill. This blog is all about learning about myself, just as your blog is a mirror of who you really are. Consequently, I have no secrets left.
I live most of my life in my own imagination. It is a silly Willy Wonka world of images, songs, music, and dreams. It can all blow away in a moment when the sun comes out. It can also keep me in a light-obscuring cloud wrapped and safe, well away from the things I fear and the things that worry me. I came to realize I was repressing the memory of being sexually assaulted when I was ten through a dream when I was nineteen, re-living the event in a dream from which I awoke with a blinding flash of realization. I came to grips with the horror that mangled my childhood and young adulthood first by facing the fact that the nightmare had been real, and then by finding ways to overcome it. I became a teacher of young people in large part as a way to protect them and prevent such a thing from ever happening again to someone else.
I often worry that I don’t see real people as being real people. I tend to think of them from the first meeting onward as potential book characters, walking collections of details and quirks, conflicts and motivations. But I recognize too that that way of seeing with the author’s eye is not incorrect. People really are those things. There are rules and generalizations that everyone falls under at some point. It is not so much that I see real people as book characters as it is that I realize that book characters are as real as any other purportedly “real” people.
I am myself both the subject of my cartooning and fictionarooning, and the cartoon character of myself as well.
Mickey is not a real person. He is a cartoonist persona, a mask, a fake identity, and the lie I tell myself about who I actually am.
In this essay, I have attempted to explain to you who I think I am spending time with when I am alone in a room with myself. He is not such a terrible person to spend time with, this Mickey. Or else he really is truly awful, and I am lying about me and who I think I am when I am alone with me and have no other options. But probably not. I have been getting to know me for about 562 years, only exaggerating by 500, and I am not finished yet.
Writing and Netflix
Like many writers, I have a plethora of weird voices in my head, constantly criticizing me, making jokes out of me doing ordinary things like brushing my teeth with the old brush my daughter used to scrub mud off her sneakers, characters who have actually come to life in my head and are constantly telling me stories about themselves… Good golly! Maybe many writers don’t hear these voices and I am simply nearly insane.
But, this is to be expected. I am a Baby Boomer. A child of the ’50s. So, I was raised by the black-and-white television. “I Love Lucy“, “My Three Sons“, and “The Munsters” taught me morals and an ability to laugh at myself. I learned about History, Politics, and the World from Walter Cronkite, the ultimate neutral news commentator. I also learned a lot about story-telling from old movies on Saturday afternoon. Television gave me empathy, knowledge of the world, and a boost to my imagination that I wouldn’t have had if I had been a child a generation earlier. Of course, I know it would also have been very different if I had been an internet child like my own children are. There is presently such a flood of free facts available that our information-soaked little brains are often drowning.
So, why am I talking about television today?
This coming week is a week spent alone. I was left behind with the dog as the rest of my family took a trip to Florida. It was my own choice. I am not capable of sitting in a car for long enough to make the car trip from North Texas to Central Florida. And I did not want to keep them from going. Days of good health are long ago and fading from memory.
So, I am left behind with time to write and time to watch whatever I want to on Netflix.
And this is useful because… well, I am a child of good television. I can work on my two WIP projects at once with Netflix series and movies in between word-munching sessions. I can be totally immersed in the writing act. I can write naked anywhere in the house (with the windows closed) without hearing complaints or distress from my non-nudist wife and my embarrassed-by-their-parents kids. It is almost as good as being well enough to go with them.
And Netflix (as well as, soon I hope, Disney Plus) affords me a chance to select exactly what I want to watch in ways that television on three networks, the way it used to be, could not provide. It is a chance to time-travel, to explore, to reach new levels of laughter and understanding… as well as tears. And I can watch TV too.
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Filed under autobiography, being alone, commentary, humor, novel plans, TV as literature