I woke from my dream. My heart beat started to slow down. All was back to normal. I was Jackie Chan, and a massive explosion had not really, just ripped through the heart of my favorite city.
It was time to get going, resume my undercover role. Put my ‘face’ on and proceed to wind up this case.
The dream had shaken me. The desolation of the explosion in my city rocked me.
I reminded myself that it was just a dream.
[6 hours later]
The memory of my dream last night included the vision of the desolation. This memory flashed before my eyes now as I held the shoulder fired SAM aimed at the high railed train carrying explosives heading to the heart of my city.
These were not suicide bombers. The explosives were cover for their getaway. They held a device that could destroy the world.
My choice was impossible. I could let them get away and control the world or destroy the world
I could fire now, destroy the device, destroy them, and take out blocks and blocks of my city.
I was looking at the same area of the city that I had witnessed in my dream, before the desolation my dream showed.
Realization washed through me.
I was the destroyer of my city in my dream & now maybe in reality.
I wish I had grown up to be an actor instead of a counter terrorism police officer.
I didn’t want this choice.
What would I do now in real life????
If you are wondering what choice Jackie Chan made, you’ll have to wait a bit. This is a cliff hanger, a cliff hanger from my own dream of being Jackie Chan in a different world, a different time, a different place, maybe a different universe.
I’ve never met the Jackie Chan of this world or universe.
I do love his movies. I just watched a tragic epic starring Jackie and John Cusack last week.
But I had dreamed myself as Jackie, who was dreaming and then living a night mare. A night mare choice.
The result was a cliff hanger.
True Blooded Stress in Life
Last evening my girlfriend Sharon and I had a conversation about True Blood. We both really love and enjoy the show. Yet, Sharon had made the conscious decision to stop watching. She is an empath.
The show was eliciting too many parallels in her own life.
She had not encountered real vampires and werewolves and fairies and were-panthers and sex fiends and drug addicts and religiously intolerant people in real life.
Yet, in real life the analogies of those hyper fictional characters were starting to express themselves. She could see parallels.
She chose to stop watching almost at the end of the 3rd or 4th season.
I’m not judging this choice one way or another. I’ve seen all the shows and read all the books.
I have in my life cut out ‘stress inducing’, ‘anxiety inducing’ media. I did it to survive quite literally. There was a time after my separation where my psyche simply couldn’t handle movies, tv, music or news.
I went cold turkey.
It was an easy decision. I did it to save my own skin. It was as easy a decision as throwing a bottle of poison in the trash knowing its immediate danger. It did not stick forever.
Sharon’s decision was different. I think. I’m witnessing and I’m not speaking for her.
It felt as if she were not making a life or death decision. It felt like she was making a path choice.
Along one path led a happy enough life where she could escape into the fiction of a tv show and relax at night.
Along a different path she could live with less anxiety and stress and with fewer parallels drawn to the extreme swings of drama mirrored in a fictional show that would then express itself in real life.
Neither path would be the end of her. One path could lead to a better her.
again, my witness of what I feel I observed, not a judgment…
Witnessing is tricky sometimes.
She shared something this morning on Facebook as she witnessed my children eating left over mac n cheese for breakfast. It’s a thursday morning. It has been a hectic week getting the kids to their various schools and after school functions.
My girls are very physically healthy. My oldest daughter came in second at a local cross country meet Tuesday, before going to a 2.5 hour band rehearsal where she is in the color guard.
Our package of strawberries had molded over while we slept and breakfast options were limited as we made our choices with 10 minutes to spare before we made it out the door.
They chose mac n cheese.
That was a stark contrast for Sharon and helped her see some parallels to stress and anxiety and health problems she has witnessed in others of various ages.
Surround yourself with _____ People
- Want to be smart, surround yourself with smart people.
- Want to be happy, surround yourself with happy people.
- Want to eat healthy, surround yourself with people that eat healthy.
- Want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.
- Want to avoid being toxic, dump the toxic people from your life.
note the super negative aspect of this last one, breaks the formula a bit doesn’t it!
Why am I writing all of this?
So here’s the rub.
I love to write fiction. I love to write in general. I like to learn from what I read. I love to go on a journey when I read. I want to write things that I would love to read.
When we follow a hero on a journey in a fictional story, drama is the stuff that helps us connect and relate and empathetically connect with the character. Via our soul, we delve into the scenarios of ‘what would I do in this situation?’
Now sometimes the hero of the story makes choices and decisions that we would never make and they get into a complicated tangle of a life situation.
Again, via our soul, we delve into the scenarios of ‘What would I do in this situation now?’
Horror movies are often the worst (imho) for this type of thing, because the characters often make decisions that a true living person would never make.
- Life in a horror movie happens because every possible thing that could go wrong, goes wrong in a horrific way.
- In comedies, everything that could happen, happens in a comedic way.
- In action movies, everything that could happen, happens in a high intensity, action packed way.
- In Zen movies, nothing happens, people just sit around and grow more peaceful.
This explains why no one in Game of Thrones meditates or practices yoga!
Brandon Stark being the possible exception and no one understands him at all!
Envision Your Future, Be your future
“Be the ball. Be your future Danny” ~ Chevy Chase character in Caddy Shacks
There are lots of great talks and examples:
- the power of envisioning our future,
- practicing sports plays in our heads before playing,
- running chess strategies through our minds before and as we play, and
- preparing in general for the things that will come in our future.
The mental exercise prepares us to make the decisions we’ll need to make in the heat of the moment and physically do the things that those decisions require. It gives us each just a little more preparation to react quickly enough to achieve the outcome we desire.
- When we practice envisioning with too much fiction, we run through the mental exercise of running from the monster and tripping in the woods and getting caught, even though we haven’t tripped while running in the woods for ages.
- We practice saying all the absolute wrong things to the client, the boss, the parents of the person we love, and being taken ridiculously out of context like a comedy.
- We practice driving like a maniac to escape the ‘bad guys’ and then jump into a panic and drive like crazy to escape highway troopers when we simply should have pulled over to get a ticket.
Is a Cliff hanger lifestyle for me?
So this morning, I’m asking myself this question.
Do I want to envision these fictions designed to emotionally connect with me?
Do I want to practice ramping up my dopamine levels watching a roller coaster of a tv show?
Do I want to live with the anxiety tonight while I’m trying to sleep of what will happen in the next episode after the cliff hanger?
When I was a kid, the Jumping the Shark concept was witnessed by Americans and anyone that had access to American TV.
We watched Happy Days walk us through episode after episode of our heroes experiencing micro challenges and solving them before the show ended.
Then one day, the mold was broken. Fonzie went to Hawaii and was dared into water skiing over a ramp and jumping over a shark in a underwater fenced in pen.
He literally ‘jumped the shark’ hence the term.
But we did not get to see him land. Not that season. Not the next day.
We lived with the anxiety of whether or not Fonzie survived or became leather jacketed shark chum.
Happy Days Spoiler Alert!
He survived. Maybe the title of the show ‘happy days’ gave it away. 🙂
We had to wait months to find out.
These days, tv producers make viral series to keep people binge watching shows. True Blood fits this mold and tends to run through a cycle of about 3 shows. Every three shows the anxiety ramps up and up and then is dispelled just a bit. Over the course of a season a bigger plot does the same.
Every show almost has a bit of a cliff hanger. Every season ends on a cliff hanger.
It works. It is entertaining as hell!
Now, I’m an atheist, but I stand by that last phrases, ‘entertaining as hell!’
Because the concept of hell is based on the premise of an endless torment. In cliff hanger fiction, the hero’s torment never abates. It always escalates to new and more ridiculous heights.
Our Parameters for what is ‘Possible to Endure’ escalate too
We stretch and twist and become more amenable to the possibility that we might be able to endure what the hero we watched endured. After all, we’ve mentally gone through the exercise of envisioning it in our minds. It is akin to a memory. In some minor, minimal ways, we endured it too.
So when we are suddenly confronted with a choice or a life twist, we have this expansive amount of experience to draw on from cliff hanger fiction.
We turn in the direction of ‘interesting lives’ and follow paths our ‘heroes’ followed on TV.
We rarely find solace or happiness or comfort or love or companionship or success or anything in these choices.
We do find stress and anxiety and the real world problems from such scenarios manifested in real life.
Is a Cliff hanger lifestyle right for me right now?
This is the question I’m contemplating myself. Do I need to fill up on anxiety and stress in my relaxing hours? When I’m recharging for the next round of work and no days off, do I need to mentally experience a heroes hell?
Some days the answer might be yes. We can learn from these scenarios. Humans are wonderfully adept at finding wisdom and solutions when confronted with a truth wrapped up in a banana peel. Sometimes we need to have our blinders shaken off so that we can really see.
Some days the answer might be no. Our cup might be too full of dopamine already. We might not need to live our lives through the context, through the lens of Sookie Stackhouse and her relationship with a vampire sucking her life blood and fairy energy. We might have our own real flesh and blood living loved ones fighting for their lives. Wondering if they will land outside the shark pen might be more important than worrying about Fonzie with his hair flying in the breeze.
Maybe we can enjoy the cliff, see its beauty. We can know that life will deal us our own cliff hangers and sometimes life will deal us the love and serenity of safely experiencing the cliff and the heights that they offer.
I have no answers. I have no wisdom. I am only asking questions as I consider my own path.
Maybe you have made similar choices.
- How did they work?
- How did they not work?
- How might they work now?
- How might they work later?
What perspective am I missing?
I’m sure there is more than one. I suspect someone out there might even have a vital clue that will help me find a better path this time or next…
Maybe it will help us all!