I never liked Play Doh. I take no issue with the texture or the malleability of it. I don’t bristle at their assortment of accoutrements and fun-looking gadgets attached to the brand. I have nothing against the product or the delightful, primary-esque colours. Actually, I need to retract that last bit. It’s precisely because of the colours that I dislike Play Doh. Or at least, it’s part of the problem.
When I was a child, I can recall unearthing the dough from the canisters and just watching the dough rest on the table. I’d look at it one way and poke it a bit, but sort of let it be, as if I was expecting it to morph into something on it’s own. The kids around me were mashing and stretching and squashing the dough, smelling it, rubbing it on their faces, and having fun with it. I watched as they slapped and stamped the dough together and started to create all sorts of kaleidoscopic art, stunning in their brightness and fluidity as they were in the roughshod, violent and chaotic birth of the pieces. It was like a-rainbow-threw-up-on-a-deformed-ashtray kind of impressive. And mine stood alone still, barely touched. The problem was two fold:
1) I had no clue what to make. I wasn’t a visual kid. My stick figures now are just as atrocious as they were then. I didn’t have that kind of vision, where I saw a lump of purple goo and thought “Ah – duck billed platypus!” I didn’t relate to things in three dimensions. I had a hard time envisioning or creating something out of something that was already something, ya dig? I didn’t see a crown or a crescent moon or a leaf. I saw blob. It was already a blob, so why change it? I was ready for recess, lunch or detention. I am still much the same today, in many ways (which is why I am a sucker for makeover shows – people, houses, etc. I just don’t know how people can “see” something that isn’t there. Mindboggling.)
2) More importantly, I didn’t want to mix the colours. It was very crucial that red stayed with red, blue with blue and definitely yellow with yellow (yellow was the easiest to contaminate with bits and shards of other shades and hues). I abhorred the mauve mess that ensued after a rather brisk but brutal session with the ol’ PD. It felt disrespectful or something. I felt that the dough no longer served a purpose – it was defiled and no longer useful. It’s one life was lived and it was time to retire it to the rubbish bin. I am the same today with my kids. When they are playing, I am hovering, making sure that any bits squashed together into a homogenous mound are to be either salvaged, or the whole thing is tossed away when they aren’t looking. (“Gee, I don’t know why we have such little dough left, guys – maybe we should do something else for play – like who wants to do the folding laundry game? Anyone?”)
And that’s sort of how I have been feeling as of late. This sort of amorphous blob, not quite one thing, not quite the other. A splintered splotch, unmodeled clay, a big splat of so what. Undefined and undirected. Spiritually splayed and trussed up like an ancient Chinese woman’s foot. Or a turducken. Even sitting here writing this has been almost a chore, when this is something I normally spool out for God and Country. It’s like lying back and thinking of the Queen while a ruffian does his funny business down below. But that’s sort of the very thing I speak of – a slow mashup of random and unusually suspect bits of dough that are sticking and melding and just making this a big ball of bleh. Not fit for human consumption.
And part of this whole recovery thing is trying to look at things differently. Often it’s not difficult. Some days it’s harder. Some days my old ways like to visit, drop by, not wipe their feet, eat all my chili. Couchsurf when I don’t even own a chesterfield. So when I try to peel away the faded moss green, the pale azure, the crusted crimson, I find it near impossible, especially when it’s been morphed into something else. When it’s very DNA has been transformed and blended with something else. And in my life, often one thing bleeds into another and examining one thing often leads to something else, which brings me down the rabbit hole a little bit deeper.
And maybe that’s the point.
There is a wonderful expression I heard a while back, and I can’t cite the author, but it was something along the lines of “if it’s on your plate, you must have ordered it”. And that has gotten me thinking of things of late, as I navigate this conflagration on the spirit and psyche, as I try to bounce this deflated ball. What’s on my plate lately has been loneliness. I feel it when I ride my bike home from work. I sometimes listen to music. Most often I don’t. I listen to the wind as it passes by my face, I pedal by bars and patios and watch the Beautiful People do their thing, and let my mind wander. Often I escape unscathed, but sometimes the dream catcher misses the mark and I am off to the races. This loneliness is not from not having folks in my life – I mean, I have my wife and children, extended family and friends. Parents. Nice neighbours. My recovery mentors. A handful of ne’er-do-wells who allow me to help them in their recovery. I have online peeps. But there still seems something missing. I have the Creator of course. And I feel guilty that I shouldn’t feel lonely. But sometimes I do.
And perhaps this whole thing of what’s on my plate comes to roost on the rim of my dinner dish. I look at what it is I am contributing to my sense of loneliness. Am I extending myself to others? Do I upkeep friendships, or do I let them peter out? Do I make any gestures or plans to get out and have just people time, other than 12-step meetings? Do I bother to introduce myself to others? Am I allowing myself to play victim again, even after all this time of spiritual growth? Well, jeez, when you look at it like that…no wonder my phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook (follow up – do you actually answer the phone, or let it go to machine, and hope it’s a telemarketer? Ugh).
I still find myself being guarded around others. I still see myself in a way that perhaps others don’t see me. I am straightforward at work, I don’t get personal (or rarely do). I don’t get frazzled much and I don’t let them see me sweat. I am the last to know anything personal about anyone (which is a mixed blessing) and I do my thing and leave. And I find that I do this in some of my personal “relationships” too. I find I am still playing a part at times. I don’t open up parts of me to people. I still find it hard to cross bridges. I keep an emotional distance at times. I am sometimes uncomfortable in my skin. All the things that I “shouldn’t” be now that I am on a journey. So says the ego, thank you very much. And this whole thing, this whole shebang I blather on about here tonight is just that – ego kicking my ass into a dull, grey spoom.
And this is the tough part – to realize and admit that I still have old thoughts ranking me on the shins. I feel the need to tell on myself and say that this is no play time, but pay time. I need to pay attention to this, because no matter how much I tried to mothball this post, it kept standing up and slapping me on the head*. I need to pay heed to this thing of uncovering, discovering and applying or discarding. I need to pay no mind to my ego. But my ego likes to play hardball, and can strongarm me at times.
And perhaps that is one reason why I don’t like the Play Doh colours mixing up – it reminds me, at a very deep level, of the sense of compartmentalizing that I have always done in my life. Of keeping things separate. Of not mixing these things up not because I fear blending them, but because I fear that I won’t be able to separate them again. That if I mesh myself into someone else’s life, that I won’t be able to extricate myself from their spirit. I only see yellow and blue. I don’t see the shamrock or mint green that comes from mixing them. And that’s what I have to get past. And I am not sure I am there yet.
This is the takeaway for me on this – this is just what happens. This is the drab palette on the board, one of the phases that I go through in my journey, this is just one of those things to trudge through and get through onto the other side and let others know where the sticky bits are and hope that it’s worth it. Until then, who knows. I have lots of time on my bike rides to think in other hues, think of what to model myself after and yet still watch the Beautiful People do their thing, and wonder why my back tire still feels a bit flat even though I just filled it two days ago.