Where wild minds come to rest
Not really sure how this website works – I am kinda “old school” when it comes to tech like this. Anyway, I felt the need to share my story here. Maybe just as a way to reach out to others who would actually understand on a level that no one I have ever met in person has been able to do. I have “confessed” to a few folks over the years. No one has ever been openly judgmental or anything, but you can tell that they don’t really understand what you are talking about. I have gotten the “Walter Mitty” comments <eye roll>. And frankly, as I am typing this right now, I almost feel like I want to throw up. Such emotion at the knowledge that so many others have the same habit/affliction/gift (depending on your perspective)! I imagine we all have our unique spin on it and unique ways of dealing with it (or not dealing with it). So if you read this and you feel a connection to anything I have said, feel free to leave me a message or comment.
First, let me say that I am mostly in a good place with my daydreaming right now. I use it when I need to. It is still an every day thing, for sure, but not an every minute of every day thing. Maybe that is because I have three young children, a husband, a house and a job! There is only so much space in one’s brain. I have often thought that daydreaming is something my brain needs to decompress – like how some people compulsively read fiction. Instead, I compulsively create characters and stories and experience the emotions I need to at that particular moment. At times when “real life” gets too crazy and I don’t have enough time to daydream, I get depressed and anxious. There have also been times when my brain just goes kind of quiet -- none of my characters or stories jump to life at those times when I expect them. This has been happening more and more and I worry that it may signify that something in my brain is changing (Age? Hormones? Cancer?). Regardless of the cause, I DO NOT like it. I like the middle ground – daydreams that help me cope with the day-to-day without taking over and preventing me from living my life. That is probably what we all aspire to.
[Aside: In case you are wondering why I keep saying ‘brain’ or why I tend to relate everything to the physical, it is because I am a scientist and I can’t really help myself. I view everything from a biological perspective. So keep that in mind and don’t judge me J]
I cannot say when it started, honestly. I remember my first television inspired daydream was in the universe of the original Battlestar Galactica, so I must have been about 8 years old. So I take that is a minimum. My particular brand of daydreaming usually involves a number of separate storylines occurring in a number of separate universes. Some are a version of the current reality. Some are in fictional universes created by others (e.g., television, books, etc.), some are in fictional universes created by me. In each universe, I create a main character who I inhabit and experience that universe through their eyes. I have one character who has been with me for as long as I can remember. She has grown up with me and is probably the closest I have come to an alternate version of myself. But sometimes she gets back burner-ed for extended periods of time.
What people who don’t daydream fail to understand is the depth of emotional experience involved. My characters experience as much emotional tragedy as emotional bliss (perhaps more, even). And in the midst, I experience these emotions acutely. I have been known to cry, throw things in anger, collapse with emotion and giggle in bliss during my imaginings. Sometimes it seems that I am already in a particular mood, so I conjure a story that suits that need. Sometimes, I want to change my mood, so I conjure an appropriate scene that I know will distract me in a certain way. But sometimes, the story just moves of its own volition and I’m not sure why. Maybe my brain just needs to create something?
For most of my life, I have been able to relegate the daydreams to interstitial moments (walking to class or work, driving in the car, etc.) or other times when mental focus is unnecessary (doing the dishes, tidying, etc.). That said, I have not always been successful at this and there were times when they seriously interfered with my ability to focus on real life tasks and human interactions. I find that the more negative, stressful or boring real life is, the more the daydreams creep into “productive” time. A few years ago, during a career crisis, I found myself unable to focus for extended periods of time and I was obsessing about a particular storyline. Then I got a new job, but the daydreams continued their vice grip on my brain. I would obsess over particular scenes/interactions/plot points and every second of interstitial time was taken up (even walks to the bathroom) and it still wasn’t enough. I would just sit at my computer, my mind going a million miles a minute, while I was supposed to doing a thousand other things. At that point, I “confessed” to a close friend and she asked me to write one of the stories down so she could read it. And what do you know, but that helped A LOT. It is like, once it was written down, my brain let go of that particular scene.
So I have tried to do this regularly – turn the daydreams into written fiction. Hey, at least this makes something productive out of my obsession, right? And I can tell people that I write stories for fun and relaxation and they seem to get that more than “I’d like to go to a café and daydream for a few hours, thanks.” But in all seriousness, it has given me a measure of control over the daydreams that I didn’t have before. So for those of you currently doing battle with your alternative universe, try putting some words down. It might help. On the other hand, maybe it is just replacing one obsession with another!
I have been lucky. Although I do believe that my inability to focus has kept me far from living up to my potential (whatever that means), I also feel that the daydreams have kept me sane in times when things were pretty bleak. And they have given me perspective and empathy and a way to entertain myself for hours on a plane J I could go on and on—there is so much complexity here— but this is already too long. And I don’t want to take away anyone’s valuable dream-time! My husband thinks I am writing fiction right now. Oops.
A couple more random thoughts:
I never experienced any abuse and by all accounts, I had a very happy childhood. I was alone a lot. I always had a few close friends, but spent every summer mostly on my own with my parents who had a cottage far away from my hometown. I was a slow reader, so maybe I could just create faster mentally on my own?
I am an introvert. But is that a “chicken or egg” type scenario? Am I an introvert because I daydream or do I daydream because I am an introvert? Any extrovert daydreamers out there? I find that hard to imagine. That said, I am a social person.
Sometimes I think the unrelenting monotony of real life (especially with kids – OMG) would be unbearable without my alternate universes. The few times my brain has gone inexplicably quiet, I quickly developed a desire to run away from home.
Again, I am lucky. I made it through college (and beyond), I am married to a wonderful man, I have three fantastic children. None of which I ever thought possible, except in my imagination. Do some people think I am odd? Sure. Do I have crazy numbers of friends? No, I do not. But I have got a bunch and they are good people. So chin up, those of you who are struggling. Embrace the good. Work to gain control over the bad.
Oh, and nice to meet you all!!!
So many questions! I will save them for now.