I’m sitting here not knowing what to write. My mind feels blank, empty. I’ve been in this place before, many, many times. I have always come up with something, and most of the time I was satisfied with what I had written. That doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pull it off today, of course.
It’s a very familiar feeling. There is a pane of glass between me and the world, and whatever is “me” has stepped back, several steps behind the glass. Quiet, unengaged, just looking outwards toward the world. No judgment, no reaction, no words, no thoughts.
It’s dissociation, of course. At this time, for whatever reason, I am more dissociated than usual. If I fight it and scold myself for being so unengaged, so uncaring, it is unpleasant. I start brooding on what might be wrong with me, and why I haven’t fixed it once and for all after all these years. This leads to a fair amount of self-hatred.
If I just experience it without all that useless self-improvement chatter, it isn’t all that unpleasant. It’s nothing – no pain, no anxiety, no pleasure. Isn’t this what you are supposed to achieve when you empty your mind during meditation? Just observe the thoughts as they float by, don’t try and catch them and remember them, just observe without judgment, and then let them go. When the thoughts have gone, isn’t this what is left? Probably not, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what being dissociated feels like to me.
Dissociation, of course, takes many forms. It simply means that things that were once together have gotten separated. One’s self can be split into separate parts, each holding a part of the original self. A memory may be split, and parts stored separately so that only a smell is recalled. Or an image, like a still photograph. Or the emotion that was felt at the time the memory was formed.
We all learned to dissociate as very little kids. It was the only way we could survive what was done to us. We learned how to ”leave our bodies;” that is, we separated our bodies and our minds so that we could be unaware of the pain and the threat to our very lives. We floated up to the treetops and looked at the stars, or floated into an angel’s arms, or became a little bird perching on a branch, ready to fly away at any moment. Or, like me, we became nothing.
Thanksgiving has always been difficult for me. I think that is why I am so disengaged. I am re-experiencing the state I was in during those childhood Thanksgivings.
It’s interesting – I only have one memory of a Thanksgiving up until my twenties. A little glass bowl was filled with celery stalks and olives. I have memories of Christmas, Easter, and my birthday, all difficult days for me throughout adulthood. But Thanksgiving remains a blank. The celery and olives have no meaning, as far as I can tell. They are neutral, neither liked nor disliked, with no attached symbolism. Probably that is why they are remembered. I focused on something banal to protect myself from whatever was happening around me or to me. As neutral as leaves on a tree.
Today, despite feeling totally detached, I am making a point to see that the plants are watered. The cat will be fed every day this week, and the litter box will be cleaned. I will pet him every time he asks for attention. I may feel that I don’t care about the plants and the cat, but the plants won’t notice, and the cat probably won’t either. I will try to get a few things done, just not as much as usual.
And I will try and accept this eerie, quiet feeling. Not accept as in, “fuck it, it’s here, so I shall put up with it until lit goes away.” More like, “Gee, this has some advantages. The little voice that says, ‘hurry, things need to be done, important things. Stop daydreaming!’ is quiet. It feels sort of nice to float along, not caring or worrying so much.”
Thursday will come and go, and I will come out of this stasis and start feeling again. Meanwhile, I have ordered 120 bulbs on sale for my spring garden, cooked four artichokes, and eaten one. I made my bed and my laundry is done. I have actually been taking care of myself without thinking about it. Friday, I will feel good about the things I did while I was sleepwalking. Today, it is enough to just notice them.