Like I suspect most people who end up writing fiction, I have what one might call (if one pins me to the wall and makes accusing eye contact) imaginary friends. This was long the Secret of My Soul, until I hit 50 and decided that a lot of stuff doesn’t really matter. I mentioned this casually at a lawn party to a delightful woman who then boldfaced shared that she wasn’t alone with her cats either, if one might put it that way. This made my summer. I wasn’t alone anymore.
I don’t make them extra cups of tea (although for a split second in a supermarket back when I was really sick I wondered if the roast were big enough) but it’s handy to have somebody to talk to (to think to?) who has the inside track and can call me on my sheep when said sheep hit the fan. Moreover, when my pals overlap with my fictional characters, I find that I can give them extra depth because I, you know, know them. (This doesn’t always happen. I’m not sure why not.)
But this essay isn’t so much about my imaginary life (the life I imagine), as it is about my imaginary life (the faculty within that births such imaginations). For the first, it centers around “I’d rather not be alone;” for the second, it’s more “Leave me the sheep alone NOW because I can’t think, thank you very much.” That is, I need to be alone with my thoughts.
I share a tiny apartment with two ferrets, two cats, two other adults, and the various toys, books, and art supplies pertaining thereto. The neighbors are . . . um . . . boisterous. Things were at a bearable status quo when my daughter, who describes herself as “surly,” hid in her room all day playing World of Warcraft on Skype with her boyfriend, but then my son moved in. It turns out that he plays World of Warcraft on Skype with his buddies. I play World of Warcraft all by myself, thank you. (OK, I’m in a guild, but all that’s probably another post for another day.)
My son is living in the living room pending our moving to a three-bedroom apartment. I hang out in the living room because I have this sort of ghetto desk out here consisting of an artist’s drawing board propped on a TV tray, because my desk (which takes up I-am-not-kidding half my miniscule bedroom) is covered with jewelry making cruft. My son and I get along very well (he isn’t surly), but when he’s not Skyping with several people at once, he shares his random thoughts with me. He has a lot of random thoughts, because I gave him the genetic gift of ADHD.
Moreover, things at work have conspired to keep me in the center and out of my office, and I’m um, stressed. I need to be alone with my thoughts, and have acquired an inner surliness of my own. My imaginary friends are cowering somewhere beneath my corpus callosum. I can get a little inner peace by working on my artwork, but my own ADHD yips when it’s more than an hour and a half of that.
However: I have a nasty sprained ankle, gotten while tripping over a bag of old clothes and other detritus that I (in an attack of pre-moving virtue) was actually chucking. And I have found that I’m lucky not to be alone.
Several years ago, I had this idea (which I only wish I could blame on an attack of mania) that fat me could perform high-impact activities like jogging and club-style dancing. I micro-tore my Achilles tendon, which I ignored until I had a lump the size of a prune–and an orthopod who ‘splained that enough was enough, and my butt was going to be on the sheeping couch for six weeks, with crutches to be used to so much as go to the bathroom. I surfed up a terrifying blog on the surgery, with pictures (not linking you because it traumatized me, and I like autopsy shows) and decided to play against character and behave myself.
I lived alone at the time. I watched all of Buffy and all of Angel on Netflix, knit myself a giant knee sock to go under the nasty chafing boot, wrote a lot, and whimpered when I made myself tea, let alone had to go to the grocery store. It sucked.
But this time here I am, with the son making me the tea and the daughter cooking without much fuss. Even the kitten curls up with me at night. And it’s pretty swell. So I’m writing this with Pandora on my headphones cranked up to a suitably isolating level, and I can at least talk to you. Stress happens, and I’m lucky to be having it in a family that loves me and shakes me away from being alone with my thoughts, which all in all is good for me.