All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts,
William Shakespeare – from As You Like It 2/7
I had a rather disconcerting dream a few nights ago. I was living my life (I thought) only to discover that I was on a movie set. I tried exiting but every time I walked through another door I discovered that I was only on a much larger movie set. It was like being a player in a movie, about people making a movie, about people making a movie. There seemed to be no end to the rabbit hole.
Every encounter I had with a friend, loved one, acquaintance or stranger turned out to be part of this huge movie undertaking. It was really weird, like waking up in the middle of a reality show and you can’t find the door to get off the stage.
As dreams go this was a long one. It seemed to go on for days. At some point I gave up trying to find a way out and just went along for the ride as an observer. I pondered everything that anyone said to me, no matter how trivial it seemed thinking, “I wonder why they are saying this. Is it part of a script or is this improvisation?” Do they really think that or believe what they are saying? Or are they just going along with the script.”
As time rolled on in the dream I began to realize that of many of the statements people were making they did, in fact, think they believed what they were saying. But in “reality” they were subconsciously following a script. They were simply parroting what they heard on the news or talk radio, or a discussion they had with like-minded friends. They were caught up in a mutual admiration society of people who held views similar to their own. As a result no one challenged anything they said or did. There was no “reality check.” Everyone was comfortable in their role and held no desire to alter it in any way.
I began to wonder. “Do they realize what is going on here? Do they know that we are filming a movie? Do they think that this is reality?” And then, Oh my God, “Do I know what is going on here? Is the joke on me? That was a distressing thought.
Eventually I woke up. I’ve been wandering around the last few days thinking about it. I began to wonder how much of the time I spend on auto-pilot. I do what I do out of sheer habit. I think what I think because I already thunk it before. It is way easier than thinking or doing anything differently.
I think part of what is happening here is that my “reality” meter got reset last week in the emergency room. There’s nothing like writhing around in agony, alternating between fear that you are dying and hoping that you were dying to escape the pain, to make you look at things a bit differently.
Mr. Husband who does love me dearly in his own way, for some odd reason, chose this point in time to lecture me about the “evils of Obama-care.” I remember thinking “Dude, are you serious? I’m laying here on a bench in an ER, clutching a metal mixing bowl in case I puke again on the next wave and you pick this moment, right now to attempt to ram your political views home. My political views are directly opposite of his. He’s a republican, I’m sort of a mixture of democrat/libertarian – take it from there. We pretty much disagree on everything political.
So there I lay wishing I had enough strength to beat him over the head with my bowl, but barely enough strength to lift my arm. I’m glad that I was too weak because I don’t think assaulting my spouse in the ER would be good for our relationship.
Anyway, I’m left thinking: How much of what we think we believe even remotely resembles the truth? Maybe it’s not that much. How much of the time do we let other people do our thinking for us? We listen to some opinion broker in the media and think “Oh, that’s sounds reasonable, I think I will believe that for a while” until something else comes along that sounds more believable. I wonder…..
Well the dreaded end of the Mayan Calendar has come and gone we’re all left with the task of going on about our lives. Yep the world is still turning, the sun is shining, and it’s business as usual.
In preparation for the world’s continuance, I’ve been reading a book the last few days. The title is “Love is Never Enough” by Aaron T. Beck, MD. He is the director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Pennsylvania. The subtitle is; how couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve, conflicts, and solve relationship problems through Cognitive Therapy.
The book is giving me a ray of hope. I’m about halfway through the book, and it’s getting kind of spooky. One of the couples he counseled and refers to throughout the book so far, l will call them Ken and Barbie, are so much like the Hubman and me that I’m tempted to write the guy a letter and ask him if he’s been spying on us. Maybe we should get some of the royalties from the book sales.
But it is sooo true. Love is never enough, I have relatives that I love with all my heart, but do everything humanly possible to avoid their presence rather than risk my sanity or personal safety. One of the points Aaron makes in the book is that couples can descend into their own private bubble of neurosis and irrational behavior, while being perfectly capable of navigating through relationships with others outside of the wacko marriage bubble with ease and even finesse.
Aaron has many scenarios in the book where he relates a conversation with a couple in 3 columns; 1) The words they said, 2) What their tone of voice and body language says, and 3) what they are thinking. An example taken from our daily life is:
Wife: “Would you get your clothes out of the dryer please.” (Annoyed expression, said with a whiney tone of voice) thinking ‘your stupid clothes have been in the drying for a week and half. What am I your slave or something? I bet you expect me to get your damned clothes out of the dryer and furthermore after 10 years you still act like you’re the only one who lives in this house. You treat me like a piece of furniture. You…you….bastard!’
Husband: “OK” (said in an angry tone, rolls eyes, huffs off with annoyed expression, lips pressed together, refusing to make eye contact) thinking <Insert thought here>I have no clue because I have no idea what he’s thinking and he’s damned sure not gonna tell me or probably anyone else either. Real men don’t do that. OK, I admit that I think sarcastic thoughts when pondering the labyrinths of Hubman’s mind.
If we analyze only the words spoken here there should be no problem. The real trouble lies in the fact that so much is said with body language and tones of voice that the words are close to meaningless. So round and round we go careening from one verbal fiasco to the next.
I’m still in the defining the problems part of the book. I can’t wait to get to the solutions part. The author swears the second half of the book addresses tips on communicating what we actually think in a way that the spouses can understand and respond without immediately escalating to DefCon 1 and all out nuclear annihilation.
So there is hope. I have to think that anyway. No wait, hold that thought. I don’t have to think that. I want to think it.
Update on Christmas tree: Tree is up, ornaments are still in boxes. They may remain there. Maybe I’ll just put my Dr. Seusse-ish tree topper on it and pretend the rest of the stuff doesn’t exist. I’m very good at pretending. That’s my stock and trade. I am a writer after all.