Life can be trying at the best of times. With all that people must endure on a daily basis, it can be difficult to see a way through it all. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol as an escape. Some people throw themselves into their job or their lifestyle as a means to handle whatever may come. Sometimes there is nothing one can do to be free from it, so people try to ride out the storm, deluged by the wind and the thunder and all the rain. A few people, more than I would care to acknowledge, give it all up and surrender to doom. We all consider that option but only a few ever use it as the ultimate escape. Whether relying on social media or merging with your television screen, we all deal with things differently. Each of us suffers but how one reacts to the suffering is more instinct than conditioning. The way you handle life seems to be determined more by who you are than by what you experience. The latter may nurture the inevitable but I just assume it is a pre-existing condition that determines how we will react to the environment within which we exist. People like to think we all are different but at base, we really are more the same. Our reactions may be dissimilar but that catalyst always comes from the same place. We uniquely experience life but all our feelings are the same.
When we love someone, there are always special and commanding moments. We share in each other and relish the time we spend together. Some of the time. When we love someone, there are always dark and depressing moments. We ridicule each other, striking out through all the pain and bewilderment. Most of the time. Each person must face the challenge or sacrifice themselves to hopelessness. When someone loves, the very substance of what we feel is common among everyone. When we fear, we all feel the same fear. When we doubt, we all feel the same sense of anguish. There are a myriad of possibilities human beings experience on a daily basis, but every feeling we have is the same as anyone else would have. We may hate someone for different reasons. We may despise them and avoid ever speaking to them again. This is simply how we respond. Inside, we are on fire with rage, just like any other person would be. Our jealousy, our rancour, all our internal expressions are exactly the same as every other person on the planet. We all love different but it always feels the same. We all suffer differently but pain always feels the same. The more we seek to separate ourselves through our reactions to the crap life gives us, the more we can see that all those differences have a common ground, a unifying presence that we all share. We all sound very different but we all howl the same.
If there is one component we all rely on during trying times, it is our imagination. It is the greatest coping skill that any of us possess. We all have an “outside” place that we can evade life just by visiting. Every person’s Otherland is unique unto themselves but the foundation it is built on is primarily the same. The destination may appear to be different, but the essence of this place is exactly the same in every one of us. We all escape for the very same reasons. Some may entertain silence as a form of circumventing the constant drone of it all. Some may manifest great fantasy as a means of eluding the ups and downs. Some replay the past, over and over, in order to strive for peace and some are inclined towards thoughts of the future, a hope we tell ourselves is true. Each person, every mind, has that inner voice, that refuge from the storm. It is the same ether for each of us. We simply fill it with our own perspective. It all looks otherwise but it’s all the same. It is true that we all suffer, to one degree or another. It’s true that life is unfair and brings great chaos into our midst. Sometimes we don’t need life to punish us as we do it well enough to ourselves. Regardless, in trying times we all flee to our “happy place”. We evade so as to find our sanity. We rely on it to calm the storm. Under most circumstances, we find ourselves running to a good place in order to avoid the experience we are going through. Every person’s sanctuary is essentially the same safe harbour but all the boats are different in the bay. We all have the same place within us even though it appears to be decorated differently. We all have an Otherland and it lies over the Rainbow.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to Dream,
Really do come true.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
High above the chimney tops,
That’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?”
(Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Judy Garland 1939)
She laid in that hospital bed for months. Despite her confinement, she somehow managed to fit in a daily round of golf. She would close her eyes, pick up a club and play on. She knew it wasn’t real but she went there anyway. She found some form of contentment, even if it was all in her head. This was her happy place and it was a lovely spot to visit. She would stay there if she could. It brought her much needed relief.
He sat in the same cell, day after day, all alone, so all alone. Haunted by guilt and regret, he took any opportunity to flee. The only real option he had was to find a better place in his mind. He was okay there. His mistakes had all been erased there. He would find his bed, fall upon it and then he would take to flight. He would fly away. Some birds are not bound to be caged. In his mind’s eye, he could actually soar. He often took to the skies to be free. His happy place brought much needed release.
He had been going there for so long that it now seemed second nature. He bent down unto the freshly mowed grass and placed the flowers before him, just barely touching the stone and her epitaph. When he was here, he was never really here. The weight of this world was heavy upon him but he felt such peace kneeling beside her and the marker bearing her name. It was another place and time that he would meet with her. Together they would walk and talk and spend much needed time together. He knew it wasn’t her. He knew it was all in his head. He went there anyway. It was the only way he got through it, and the only thing on which he could rely.
When he was home he brought with him fresh hell. For a 10 year old girl, it meant the smell of him and the weight of him. Her tears had long ago turned to stone. When he was not home, she went to a magical place. At school she would plan an escape but it was her home time, without him there, that was the best time of her day. She would sit with her Barbies and all her stuffed animals, and she would pour from a pot of tea for each and every one. In her castle, she was the princess. There are no monsters or masters with whom she must contend. It was her only refuge.
This life has been unkind to him. He should be haunted by things from his past and he should fear what lies waiting for him in the future. He rarely thinks about them.
They are there but he is not. He rarely stops, no pause, like there is nothing at all to think about. In the strongest sense, he is free. When he lays down each night, his mind is not filled with sorrow and regret. He just goes someplace else. A world of superheroes and their mighty acts fills his senses as he drifts into sleep. He is free there, free to rest.
From the day she was born, life was a challenge. By the time she was 7 years old, she couldn’t walk, couldn’t feed herself or go to the washroom alone. It was really nothing but a waiting game. Eventually, all the child had left was within her. Unable to communicate and interact with other people, her entire world was all inside. She was happy there. She could fly there. She could dance there. It was really all she had. As she aged, she visited the moon and drank wine off the coast of
Sicily. She was beautiful on her side of the rainbow. She was almost free and every day, she would run.
“Some Men Dream of fame
And some of fortune
Some men dream about
Time gone by
All men dream of someone
They’d like to become
Cause without dreams inside us
Yeah, without dreams
How could we all get by?”
(The Dream Never Dies, the Cooper Brothers 1978)