I rescued Geena Davis in my dream last night. I have no idea where she came from or why she was there, but I was on a very important mission (again, a bit hazy) where I had to do a lot of running, diving under tables, and falling off roof-tops, and when I saw Geena Davis (at least 7-feet tall with red hair in my dream) I was like, “OK Geena Davis. Here we go.” And we ran and ran with something or someone (a bit of both) chasing us. It was fantastic.
I will confess I ate a Snickers before bed. I also drank a bottle of red wine. I also watched a film called Dream House that was both creepy and action-packed. So I can piece the dream-narrative together without Freud’s help on this one, but Geena Davis? No idea. I haven’t seen her in a movie since I was wearing a training bra and using hairspray to keep my bangs up.
Why am I talking about dreams? Well, I noticed in this one a pattern that keeps recurring. I’m in some violent dream where I am both the heroine and perpetrator in an oddly twisted, Pan’s Labyrinth type plot–talking dolls, Gingerroot that cries, hands with eyeballs in them, walls that turn into tunnels. But at some point I realize that I am dreaming and that I already know how the dream ends, usually not well, but I feel this persistent need to play along.
For me and Geena, the moment happened when we began running along a murky, grey river. I knew it then that I’d been along that way before and that nothing good was coming our way, and yet ran I did and pulled Geena along behind me. That girl is slow!
The idea of inevitability and recurrence seems apt on Thanksgiving, as does loneliness. I’m not from this place, so I miss home. I also can’t cook, so I am eating burgers from Wendy’s for supper. A holiday for some it has to become simply another day to many others.
So today, I think about this loneliness thing. It is increasingly evident that as Westerners we are all deeply imbedded in a paradoxical world full of lonely selves who are concerned with our single life histories, and yet scrambling to find ourselves through our relationships to other people. Just go to any self help section and you’ll see a book that tries to tell you both to find your authentic self and to also get yourself a good job, a family, a dog. There are so many such narratives in fact that there are now complete sections for Memoir, Selfhelp, Autobiography, Psychology, New-Age Spirituality. And still, strangeness is ostracized. It seems that while finding oneself is on the rise, finding that oneself is normal and surrounded by other normal people is most important.As Richard Sennett so crankily observes, “treating someone else as a ‘real person’ [. . . ] [is] like a market exchange of likenesses; they show you a card, you show them one” (10). Sounds like voting!
In a culture that delights in belonging, the fact that only certain people make it into the clubhouse remains somehow beyond reproach. Feelings of loneliness are inevitable and recurring. But before we whip out the tissues, my loneliness still doesn’t feel sad or awful. It just makes me acutely more connected to the other people. Like today, I’m hanging with the people I see wandering around the streets with no turkey or stuffing in their backpacks, and who have no tense family moments to prepare for. I shared a great second with the guy at the 711 today who offered to buy me a donut (two for one all the time!), and laughed with the cafe group I go to where I ran into non-Ontarioians who were all commiserating Air Canada strikes, or the lack of vegetarian options at the restaurant they are heading to tonight for dinner. Even the happily predictable marriage proposal from Frank (my name for him), the guy who lives on my corner who asks everyone to marry him seemed more special today. It makes me love my neighborhood and accepting of the knowledge that something does feel missing today and that’s ok.
I actually think that I am supposed to feel like something is not quite full, that there is a void inside the nether regions that could use some exploring. Okay, that sounded sexual. But isn’t that what life is all about? Searching and searching again, finding and smiling as opposed to having and having and having it all? Isn’t that what keeps people running along rivers towing Geena Davis behind them?
Leo Bersani asks: “For those of us interested in some other kind of sociality, what do we do?” It’s a damn good question. One I cannot answer alone. I think we all need to do something, but that this doing can’t simply mimic the doings that have been done. If loneliness continues to be seen as a defect, and the lonely the pariahs, the Debbie-Downers of the socially happy, can we ever really begin to reimagine how we all relate to one another?
So in this movie Dream House a guy, played by Daniel Craig, has everything. He feels full. A wife, two great kids, a job that he quits to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. But then one day he wakes up and realizes he has nothing. Without giving the plot away, the film could have easily taken us (me and the four other people in the entire theatre) to the black dog of despair. Seriously, it’s a flippin’ miracle that it didn’t. How the film saved us from that cliche; however, was not by creating a happy ending where the man retrieves everything back that he had lost, or an ending where he gives up and gives into his sadness. Instead, we get a character who actively decides that the best thing to do is to keep going. He recognizes the perils in his life, finds some irony there, questions his mental state, realizes his misfittedness is just fine, and he emerges as someone who sees the sadness in other people and finds it within himself to help in any way he can. Not to fill him up. Not to replace something he had. Not to assuage his loneliness. But to go on.