Losing myself

A bronze sculpture of a stern-faced woman placing her hand on the shoulder of a child clutching a loaf of bread.

I finally sorted the two big bags of books I brought back from Dad’s last weekend. He loved Stephen King, and he bought lots of King’s books as first edition UK hardbacks. I don’t currently have shelf space for this many books. I don’t know how much time it would take to read this many books.

Time has become a (falsely) scarce resource. There’s no time for fun. A stern look and, no, that doesn’t get you where you want to go, and no, not that book either, nor that film. Keep looking.

Losing myself in a book feels wasteful. Enjoying a trashy film feels dangerous. If I’m not careful, I’ll never be the successful writer I always dreamed of being (which hurts because it has truth to it, even knowing that success is my flexible friend).

If I lose myself in writing though, that’s good, because it’s creating something, a piece of art that didn’t exist, a piece of me that is not me. As a child, I could lose whole afternoons between the covers of a book. That was a sign of intelligence, sensitivity, but also a defence mechanism against family arguments. My mother taught me to numb myself with fats and sugars, sweet compensation for the difficulties of love.

Is the flow towards beauty, intimacy, or towards a hole in the ground? Am I connecting or avoiding?

Writing requires a diet of nutritious literary foodstuffs. Films contain drama, and drama is part of writing, but more important than drama in written fiction is language. Sentences. Paragraphs. The internal worlds of characters that a screen can’t show. In writing, there are no cameras to move, no actors to talk with, no special effects, no budgetary constraints — it’s all language. If it can be imagined, it can be written (and then re-imagined differently by every reader).

I’m getting lost in these thoughts. Dad had a talent for losing himself. He was impossible to know deeply. He had an astounding capacity for an internal life. That frightens me as much as it attracts me. I have the ability to do the same. I can make time disappear.

That’s my greatest fear. One day there will be no more time and that will be the end. I too will disappear. There’s too much life out there for me to lose myself in here. Books are only one aspect of life. There’s much more. I can lose myself without losing myself. Where am I heading when I am not lost?