Recently, I began writing in the third-person in my journal. I felt that it would afford me a some well-needed detachment in the midst of major life transitions, which find me (temporarily) in between home and “career” and a sense of place. Besides, sometimes, it just feels so good to take a vacation away from oneself and make a made dash away from all that—in there.
At least for a while.
Well, the idea sounded perfectly healthy when it arrived via mental courier from the nether regions of my mind. (Perhaps this was the first blatant clue that it was indeed not a good idea. Surely everyone knows that the moment you begin referring to yourself in the third person, you have officially lost it.)
Where was I …?
Ah yes. Writing about myself in the third-person in my most personal possession—the dreaded journal.
Well, my thinking went something like this: Write in the third-person … you know, about you; watch yourself as if you were a character cast in the dark comedy in which you suddenly feel yourself living as you further continue playing Goldilocks with the Universe in your valiant search for that “just right” (or even “sorta/kinda just right”); attempt to more fully understand and integrate the concepts of home and place while being temporarily without a real home or place to call your own, or a creative career path that delivers a consistent stream of delicious financial resources; do all this while waking up to the reality that the middle-age YOU is living back home with your Polish mother for some weird, perverse reason that only The Universe, the Cosmic Laws of Epigenetics, the Polish refugees of the 1940s and powerful remnants of Career Burnout will ever really understand. In other words, once again, dear soul, TRUST.
Recently, I confessed to a friend—at least I thought I was confessing it, for I could have been talking to myself—that, despite all my endeavors to remain Zen with all the yoga and meditating I do, that I was simply still too young to give up OVER-REACTING, and that … “besides, I was just too good at it, anyway!
So this T-word thing and writing in the third-person seemed like yet another Tall Order. And one that did not come with artificially sweetener.
So I did it. For several days.
I noticed that I began referring to myself as “The Man.”
” … and there came a day when The Man found himself sitting in an old bedroom of his family’s home and, doing his best to keep his sense of disorientation at bay, wondered if 20 mgs of something might help. But alas, The Man did not pop a pill. He sat with things and mostly, The Man wondered how he got to where he was—on freshly-washed and dried flannel sheets that permeated a lilac scent only found in his mother’s washing regime …”
” … and then The Man realized how he ‘got there.’”
” …. The Man remembered how, after getting ‘a sign’ from The Universe, that he left everything he knew back in California 18 months ago—job, home, community—and embarked upon a journey to publish his Polish family’s haunting tale surviving Stalin in the 1940s … that all of that felt right … even though it was emotionally grueling ….and that many good blessings occurred because he listened to the Ghosts of the Past …. and The Man recalled how he returned to the Midwest in the late Fall of 2015 to finish some book events and see his Polish mother through a surgery and explore the possibility of relocating back to Chicago … only to suddenly find that he had exhausted his entire Nest Egg—for the book, for the family story, for all of that … and that he was not certain what to do next.”
You know, overbearing things like that.
And then something happened in the journal.
“…. A Saturday. The Man is out and about and receives a call from his Polish mother. ‘Would you like me to make you dinner? It’s salmon patties. Just the way you like them.’ The Man over-reacts—inside—fights a rising sense of helplessness that things should be different, that he is too ‘old’ to be living back home. He remains blind to the gift that was just offered to him and decides to sit in his dirty diapers, crying after some other arrangement, which he feels would fix things. And then … he realizes, briefly, how thoughtful it was of his Polish mother to call him.”
“… A Sunday. The Man is out and about and receives another call from his Polish mother. ‘It’s very cold,’ the mother relays in a voice mail. ‘Maybe you should come home.’ The Man feels adrift, looks up from the seat of his car as the heat blares down on his cold feet, keeping the frigid 5-degree Chicago weather outside of the vehicle. He craves his own space. He wonders about the best way to banish his burnout once and for all. He wants to ride a magic carpet again, be sent to Maui. And then he considers that perhaps his Polish mother is right—it is cold outside.“…. A Monday. Early morning. The Man is sitting on his bed writing in this very journal. On the other side of the door he overhears a conversation that his Polish mother is having with his stepfather. The topic—so simple, so normal: ‘breakfast.’ The stepfather says: ‘What would you like for breakfast, honey?’ The Polish mother is silent for a moment. ‘I dunno.How about that crazy QUEEN-WA cereal thing you and Greg like?’ The Man catches himself laughing in the bed but cannot give up being way too serious—just yet—so he sighs and thinks: ‘It is QUINOA!’ His Polish mother calls out for him. ‘Greg … would you like some QUEEN-WA cereal?’ The Man is silent, feels an uncontrollable urge to scream: ‘Get me … OUT OF THIS HOUSE! NOW! PLEASE! I INTERVIEWED CELEBRITIES ONCE AND HIGHLIGHT MY HAIR BLOND AND I DRINK SMOOTHIES AND USED TO WEAR VESACE AND APPARENTLY NOW I CAN CHANNEL DEAD ANCESTORS. SO … GET ME OUT. NOW!’
… And then, The Man declines the QUEEN-WA offer. But the Polish Mother is a Polish Mother. ‘You sure? We can put some fruit in it.’ ‘GOOD GOD! FRUIT! I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS! I WANT TO BE ALONE!’ And right there, in the split-second between another over-reaction and breathing, deep in the pit of The Man’s belly, he identifies where VULNERABILITY and DOUBT are having a luxurious picnic with GRIEF and UNCERTAINTY in THE GARDEN OF NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH MY LIFE? And The Man looks out the window—the 5-degree frigid perversity has formed beautiful ice crystals on the glass, something to which only the likes of The Universe could give birth. The Man wipes away a tear. The Man continues to write—madly, passionately—about … how remarkable it has been that his Polish Mother found love after her divorce, and how she has been with somebody who still calls her ‘honey;’ somebody who has loved her and cared for her and entertained her—and vice versa—for nearly 30 years while he was away, picking a curious amount of spiritual lint out of his navel—over and over and over again—in Northern California. The Man contemplates for a moment how his own absence may have affected his Polish Mother. The Man considers that there may be a reason why he has returned to the midwest and that is has NOTHING to do with what he may have thought is has to do with. The Man wonders if he can allow this new thought to integrate …
… And then The Man shouts back to his Polish Mother: ‘On second thought, that QUEEN-WA sounds good. Thank you. I’ll be right there. Give me a second, there’s something I need to finish first.’ And then … The Man finds where VULNERABILITY and DOUBT are conversing with GRIEF and UNCERTAINTY in THE GARDEN OF NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH MY LIFE? You know, deep in his tummy. And he takes a seat on the comfortable blanket where these intrepid souls are resting … so restlessly. Well, they sure do shoot him a look. VULNERABILITY speaks first: ‘What are you doing here?’ DOUBT chimes in. ‘We never thought you would come. I mean, we’ve been trying to get your attention, but you keep running away!’ GRIEF and UNCERTAINTY do their part—they sit there and watch very closely, a mix of delight and horror vibrating from their beings.
The Man smiles, looks at his four comrades. ‘Thank you for inviting me here. Sorry it took me so long. Thank you. And I would love to talk. So let’s.’ The Fiery Foursome seem taken aback. ‘But first …’ The Man adds, ‘I think there’s a better spread on the other side of the door.’
He extends his arm. His hand is wide open. ‘Would you care to join me?’”