20 July, 2011

The following is a letter written to a close friend, a second brother. It so acutely touches not just my current state, but also the state of America that I have republished it for you, Constant Reader.

8:35 am
Alexandria, Virginia


Your last email was neither a rant nor overwhelming. Frankly, there are so many other overwhelming tasks in my life at the moment nothing else can reach the top of the heap.

Transition is a difficult pain the arse. The issues most troublesome to me are the time involved and the resurgence of adolescence. I am a person of mixed responses to waiting. When I am in the process of examining and deciding I possess Zen Buddhist patience; once decided, however, my patience bottoms out. It takes me so long to finally settle on a course of action that once the choice is made I have no tolerance for anything less than instant results. It took me thirty years to understand, assimilate, accept, and chose to act on who I am. (The struggle of “playing the game” always seemed less than the trials of being myself. Well, until this year, that is.) Now that my decision has been made, I want my instant results. The speed at which I want the results is inversely proportional to the time it took to decide. By my calculations the process should occur in a blinding flash of light that encompasses the worst pain imaginable but lasts .135 of a second. This logic seems perfectly reasonable to me and I fail to understand why the universe does not function on it.

Another issue I have, which ties into the second puberty problem though not directly, is the feeling of running away. That’s not to say I am going to run away (though that would certainly be nice; it’s just a shame Buddhist monks don’t have a medical plan) but that I am running away, or it seems like I am. It’s been so ingrained in my psyche through years of Midwest life amid the last of the wolf-men that you stoically accept everything life throws at you that I now feel like a coward for not accepting the inevitable decline and destruction guaranteed by the Parkinson’s. “It was activated twenty years prematurely? So what? Take it like a real man and accept your death sentence with some dignity. Being yourself is not as important as being what others need you to be. Self-preservation is the act of a coward.” Coward I am. I don’t want to die a slow death that gradually robs me of everything—from ambulation to the ability to wipe my own arse. I don’t want to valiantly struggle on pretending to be what I’m not for the good of society. I guess I would have made a piss poor soldier.

It’s quite easy to be down on myself though. This is the whole second puberty issue. Puberty is difficult for everyone. It’s a time of figuring out who you are mentally, discovering what you will become physically, and surviving your hormonal onslaught emotionally. The brighter you are the more self-reflective you are the greater the degree of angst tainting the process. While trying not to sound egotistical, and I am about to fail at that, I’m bleeding brilliant. I think on a level most people cannot achieve. I do my best to demonstrate humility and keep this fact to myself, but fact it is. And as a result, puberty both the original and the redux, proves to be a hellish torment riddled with over examination, hyper-critical sensitivity to myself and my failings, an intense need to self-justify, and dark bouts of deepest depressions cycled with euphoric highs that make Robin Williams look like the Beatles’ Nowhere Man. I oscillate between overbearing self-confidence (as narcissistically unrealistic almost as often as it is plainly deserved) and overwhelming self-loathing (as plainly deserved almost as often as it is narcissistically unrealistic). Add to that the traditional moodiness and growing pains (physical and psychological) associated with this period and I don’t even want to get out of bed and shuffle the six an a half feet to the computer to run agent inquires let alone cross the street amid the “normals” to go about life’s mundane and pointless routine. I am emotionally and physically spent.

Worst of all, I am bored. I am no longer “out running the rust,” as Reed would say. I want change and I want adventure, which seems a ridiculous desire given the amount of change that I am now subject to. But there it is. The simplified truth: I need to get out of here. I need to travel, to explore, and to discover myself. I feel as though I have so many anvils weighing me down that I’m beyond grounded, I’m inhumed and suffocating. I feel, if I don’t get out and lower the artificial horizon line that my stagnation has created I will go mad.

The Australian Aborigines have a rite of passage called “walkabout.” In this rite a teenaged boy goes into the wilderness for up to six months and lives in isolation, tracing the “songlines” of his ancestors and duplicating their heroic deeds. It is similar to the Native American “vision quest.” Our pop culture mirrors this essential need: shows like “Route 66,” “Quantum Leap,” “Promised Land,” “Johnny Bago,” and “Supernatural;” movies like “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” “Seven Years in Tibet,” “Due Date,” “Carnival of Souls” (the horrid 1962 version), and every damned Dean Martin and Bob Hope “Road” flick; books like “The Old Man and the Sea,” “The Lost City of Z,” “Travels With Charley,” “Sea Change,” and “Angela’s Ashes.” This demonstrates that though we have lost the tradition we have not evolved beyond its purpose and necessity.

I NEED a walkabout.


Caitlin Song
Sent from Caitlin’s iPod

“I’ll be a story in your head. That’s okay. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? ‘Cause it was, you know. It was the best. The daft old man who [got some] magic blue [pills] and ran away.”
~The Eleventh Doctor, “The Big Bang,” (Doctor Who)

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