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  • Earle Levenstein

Here and There



Classic movie scene: Guy opens his eyes. "Where am I?"

He was bopped on the noggin, or drugged, kidnapped; he has no idea what happened or where he is. Can't think straight.

Off in la-la land.

In and out of consciousness.

Disoriented.

Takes a deep breath.

Remembers. "Oh, that's what this was about."

Well, with a little less drama, that guy could be me. The difference is, I wasn't drugged; it's just my daily imaginings, or, more accurately, my private scenic presentations, my not infrequent brief episodes. Physically, here. But truly not.

Or, maybe, in a different movie, another opening shot: a close up of someone—our lead character—sitting at a dining table or in a restaurant or a business meeting and then we'd pull back and reveal people talking and our character is smiling and reacting; and we cut close to him and we can hear his thoughts—foolish conversation: "The chairman's a jerk; the whole thing's a bunch of baloney"—talking to himself.

Again: me.

Another approximation of my daily experience.

My affliction: a non-stop creative imagination.

Words, ideas, improvisations, images, cartoons, all of it pours out around the clock. Overflow. Nobody asked; I just keep on drawing, writing, inventing characters, words, ideas, helter-skelter, here, there and anywhere; it's all in my head, unseen and unshared.

But not always.

Sometimes, there's a goal: a business project, a novel, a comic strip, a play. Same machinery: non-stop creative imagination, but connected, focussed, produced, the audience invited.

Satisfying, to be sure, but there are my naysayers; same imagination, but riddled with insecurities, negativity, fear of rejection, of ridicule, imagined as a personal threat.

The trembling "What if?" In a world of insecurities: "What if there's an earthquake?" "What-if that scallop I just ate was spoiled?" "What if I look stupid in these shorts?"

Imagination gone around the bend. "Possibles" converted to "probables." Not funny. My daily parade of bad stuff happening; with a near zero potential for realization. But tell that to my brain in turmoil. My anxiety-producer extraordinaire. Unwelcome, unstoppable, testing the outer limits of self-control, demanding reflection, reassurance, meditation, a lifetime of therapy.

Double-edged sword. Maybe more edges than that.

The bottom line is, fortunately, I am who I am; there's no recourse, even if I wanted to re-frame my whole self, how would I go about that? No on-off switch to throw; whole different brain to rush into surgery.

Joking of course, but really: imagination does have its ups and downs.

The upside was my inborn people-pleasing survival personality that enabled me to read my father's mind and avoid the kind of rough—I'm being charitable—treatment my brothers regularly received, but which also telegraphed me when I was three or four that I needed to be who my parents wanted me to be, not who I really was—big downside—with which I've wrestled for a lifetime.

Almost there.

All that aside—quite a load to set aside—here I am in one piece, creative imagination intact and actually drawing and writing and turning stuff out and—top of the self-congratulation list—accepting myself as who I am.

Pretty much.

Forgive the qualifiers.

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