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  • Earle Levenstein

Be Where You Are

Cartoon sketch of an angel-like being reaching up and touching a butterfly with one finger. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.Cartoon sketch of an angel-like being reaching up and touching a butterfly with one finger. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

Sort of like telling myself to get a grip.

Lots of luck.

Fageddaboutit.

I mean, whether I'm just sitting right here, watching the news; taking a walk, on my way somewhere; peeling a tangerine; whatever; it's not and pretty much never has been, where I am.

Where I am is off somewhere inside my head, engaged by a non-stop stream of images, scenes, feelings; one after the other, over which I have zero control. An infinite production of flotsam and jetsam; fragments of this and that; unfinished conversations; even some not begun; a story heard and forgotten.

For most of my life, I've assumed it's the same for most people; maybe not as much, as frequent, as elaborate, or as fraught with meaning as the stream I've lived with night and day for my entire life. Surprised and maybe a little concerned when I realized that wasn't so; few had an attic filled to the roof with unfilled needs, creepy fears, hordes of the maybes, and anxiety-provoking what-ifs.

Almost total absence of peace, silence, and calm.

Positive? Negative? A version of reality? Total invention?

I can only say some of it feels to me more like paragraphs or pages from an unwritten book; related to me but in need of explanation, tracking, image to image, getting the message, experiencing the feelings, sorting it out; actually, on occasion, producing a creative invention I can work with.

One thing I'm sure of is that popping up not infrequently is my experience as a child: of my feelings, terrors, the unpredictable, explosive, emotionally destructive atmosphere in which I lived.

Parenthetically, I had one of those last night, emerging this morning as I watched a repeat of the testimony by Fred Rogers in his 1969 plea for funding of the wonderful Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which I often watched with my children.

As I listened to him plead for children, their feelings, their essential need for trust—absent for me—I was moved to tears.

No resolution available now; I'm living with that.

Just more for me to work with; it's part of the oceans of unsalvageable wrecks to dive for, examine, resurface, reflect, incorporate the reflections, pick up in the here and now; an ongoing challenge.

It's the "being elsewhere" part that can be unsettling; I know when it's happening and I really have to wrestle with it, adopting a logical, rational, literal persona—weird but useful—a get-a-grip version of me to lecture that other me, talking, explaining, ordering myself around. Telling me to breathe, to physically touch my surroundings, to reorient, to settle in.

The here-and-now me talking to the wanderer, back to right where we are, this place.

The remnants of anxiety continue to flutter for a while, longer than I'd like, there's no magic, but at some point the situation normalizes.

Normalizes?

Well, if I were to accept me, myself, lecturing myself with-a-get-a-grip-give-yourself-a-good-shake-and-cut-the-creepiness approach—a personality switch if I ever lived one—as normalizing, I'd have to retreat to my self-reflection tent for a long session.

I mean, my integrity's at stake.

I suspect I'd conclude that the process I use sort of works for me—note the "sort of"—and it is a little strange, but what's a body to do?

As I myself say to me myself: No sniveling here, pal. Just get a grip. Hear me? I mean it. Right now.

Hey, look: man's talking to himself. Don't stare. Just keep walking. Faster, dear.

You never know.

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