I should stop daydreaming so much.
When I was a child, I did all the stuff that kids do – run around in the guise of heroic cartoon characters, bullying the girls, and wrestling with my mates at the back of the class to annoy the teachers. And then there were revelatory moments of insight that quite frankly, left me prostrating and trembling with fear at one of corner of the bathroom. Cold perspiration would be running down my brow as I entertained those thoughts.
I must be around 8 or 9 years old and the thought of being a mere mortal just hit me like a ton of bricks. Like I could die and that was it. As I thought about it, I began to vomit. And fall to the ground as I lose control of myself and slip. A painful wake-up call to the realities of life.
And then there was this thought that kept coming back to me. That I’m actually… alive. No, not the fact that human beings like us can exist in this world. I wouldn’t find that strange. But the fact that I’m actually me… someone who have actual controls of my limbs and body. This me could feel a certain way and and think certain thoughts. And I have powers over “myself” to a certain extent. Actually more than I would have preferred.
You see, it would be much easier for me to handle the fact that I’m a mere observer to the happenings within the human race. There would be this glass panel from which I could see what’s going on from my safety pod up in space. And I would be wondering, “Hey, what a strange bunch of creatures we have here. Doing the things they do everyday – making love, betraying each other, giving birth, fighting over trivial stuff, dreaming big ambitions.”
But here am I. Alive and kicking. Moving my fingers according to my.. will. I could do things and there will be an effect. This is real stuff. In fact, this is dangerous stuff. I could actually alter my surroundings. And if I’m brave enough, I could actually change the world. It’s like how Don Miller describes it, “it felt like I was in a movie and had two cameras for eyes, and I’d swivel my head around as though I were moving my cameras atop a tripod.” We were “spirit bound by flesh, held up by bone and trapped in time.”
I really wondered as I looked around, why nobody else realized what a crazy experience we were all having. To me, life is staggering. And the wonder of it, I guess, is robbed as we grew older with poison-tipped arrows like cynicism and apathy dulling our imaginations. The glory of life becomes a blur.
It dawned upon me. Nobody thinks these thoughts. At least, not those around me. (I found a friend in Don Miller but he’s far away in Portland) And I think it’s because everyone is busy doing something. Everyone is living out something. I was the one daydreaming. And still is.
So here comes another thought after 30 years of existence on this planet which I didn’t want to inhabit if I have my way at the beginning: My life is boring. That’s because I live in fantasies. I live terrific lives in my head. I invent stories about my life everyday. Most people, when you talk about daydreaming to them, they would find it odd. Cos when they do daydream, it’s about nothing. Why? Cos they’re living in the now and work with whatever that was really happening.
And here am I, typing this with nothing happening around me. There is laundry to be done, dishes to be washed and perhaps I’ll fill my stomach later. But nothing is really happening.
I can’t deal with reality. I realized that I’m boring.
While I was off flying in the clouds somewhere, people around me are off doing their thing. My dad is working his ass off to make sure everyone in the family are well-fed. Mum was on a lottery-winning streak which made her a self-made millionaire. Sis had always been immersing herself in the beauty of Asian music and had taken steps to improve her vocal abilities.
And there were friends. The Determined One always knew what he wanted and stuck by it. He had worked hard to climb the ladder and got married early simply because he knew he had found the perfect one. And he definitely did. A child will arrive in a few month’s time and I expect that to change his life forever. The Faithful Supporter found someone worth pursuing and is fighting tooth and nail to stay in his job. The Adventist plunged himself into the world of creative selling and made even greater strides to fulfill his childhood dream of being a kickass actor.
These stories are real. And they are better than mine simply because they are happening. My family and friends are doing things with real people while I’d be typing words into a computer.
When I moved into my new home, it didn’t feel warm or homely at all. Because the props that I’ve bought to fill the stage seemed to set it up for a fake story in my life rather than an actual narrative.
Again, Don Miller puts it best. “It’s an odd feeling to be awakened from a life of fantasy. You stand there looking at a bare mantel and the house gets an eerie feel, as though it were haunted by a kind of nothingness, an absence of something that could have been, an absence of people who could have been living there, interacting with me, forcing me out of my daydreams. I stood for a while and heard the voices of children who didn’t exist and felt the tender touch of a wife who wanted me to listen to her. I felt, at once, the absent glory of a life that could have been.”
The absent glory of a life that could have been.
It’s almost like I’m this traveler who decided he had enough of his perceived safe existence at home and decided to go out to the world in search of true meaning and significance. And he packed all the Time he had into a suitcase and left. In search of the perfect life. And whenever he comes to a scenario that is somewhat close to what he had envision, he would reject it and move on. Because it wasn’t perfect enough for him. Until he goes on full circle and return to the home where his loved ones were. And they had been living out their time in a variety of meaningful ways. While they are tellling their stories, the traveler comes to a realization, as he unpacks his suitcase, that he had used up nearly all his Time and now have no interesting tales to tell.
So here am I. The person who always thought he was interesting is actually in fact, boring. Because he has been keeping his time in his suitcase, in search of the perfect life.
I don’t want to live the perfect life anymore. I want to live the better Story.
I want to have something to say to God one day, as He is showing me around heaven, about what I did in my life. Even though He already knows it. He’s loving like that. A million miles away, probably outside of the time-space continuum, as we are chatting and having a cuppa on the front porch of a lovely cottage overlooking the most beautiful hills, I hope we could re-live the tales of conquest over my sin, the forgiveness of my father, the unrelenting fight for freedom and justice in my country, the expedition of a bunch of friends on a spiritual journey and the triumph over the evil of the world with good. And we would laugh and perhaps even cry? together with joy talking about those amazing adventures.
I want to be a character in a Good Story. The one who changes for the better. The one who believes. And trust. Because to be a believer is to change.
The Voice, the Writer is trying to make a better Story out of my life. A more meaningful series of experiences I could live through. It hasn’t always been that way because of my resistance, trying to live out the story my own way. Add a bit of sexual fun here, putting a person down just to feel better about myself or simply trying to make my surroundings more comfortable and familiar. I’m not sure that’s what the Writer wants.
I don’t even think that what the Writer wants me to do now is all that big and difficult. It’s more of what I perceived that is expected of me that is making me think it’s too hard and too huge. I should stop being too hard on myself. Cos it’s paralysing me into doing nothing.
There is a Writer whispering a better story into our consciousness.
So this is why I must get out and live it out. Go and smell the roses again. Or perhaps onions sizzling on a frying pan. Yes, that definitely has a better aroma. Who smells roses these days anyway? Okay back to earth, Greg. Now I must stop being comfortable with cropping myself in my self-sufficient apartment. A friend of mine who finds it hard to be alone, says the key is to solving loneliness is to have many groups of friends that you can count on anytime. I told him that I used to try to do that and got tired of it as I grew older. One must be skilled in being alone like it’s a kungfu to be learnt. Mind you, I hate being alone. But I’ve gotten used to it right now. Call me the Grandmaster of Loneliness. You know with an abode like mine, it shouldn’t be too hard.
I’ve gotten so good at it that there are moments nowadays that I refused to get out even though I felt I had to. The outside world is perilous. You invite sorrow, pain and drama when you are engaged with reality. You meet this girl, didn’t think much of her at first and then suddenly falls in love with her. But it doesn’t work out for all those good intentions. You are talking among friends and suddenly blurts out something that you shouldn’t have said. Your friend then chastise you for it, saying “You just can’t stop doing it, eh? Just don’t talk about it.” And there you go, “Seriously I didn’t mean it. I tried to save the situation but it backfired in the end.”
And then the part where my insecurities start killing me. Where people around the table at lunch have stories to tell each other about their exploits and adventures and there was I, nothing to say cos I’ve been stuck within the four walls of my house.
“So what have you been doing?”
“So what do you have planned?”
“Have you been applying for any work?”
And everyone would be exchanging their tales of glory while I have nothing to offer. Absolutely nothing. Let me tell you this. It is the suckiest feeling in the world TO HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER. Everyone is thinking that this boy is having the time of his life not working and bumming because he is laid back like that. It’s funny because I always felt that a laid-back person would not have the slightest worry in the world and enjoys being in the state of just being. I can’t say I’m that person because I worry sick as hell everyday and if ever something arrives at my doorstep that even close to snippet to what I’ve been seeking all these while, I would grab it with both hands and work myself to death on it.
It came to a point where everytime I go out, it felt like a risk. A chance that I take where I could be misunderstood, be depressed and come home wishing my life would just cease. Or that I would be transported somewhere else.
But the Writer is plotting my story even as I feel those things.
If only I trust Him. If only I follow through with the narrative He is writing with me.
Last year, I took a step to making the story more interesting. I took things out of my life that was toxic and made me feel empty. I took the leap so to speak. I expected things to happen in the “but seek first the kingdom and all these things would be added onto you” kinda way. Sincerely, I felt I did the right thing. I felt I did His thing. It was clear as a whistle.
But here comes the tough part.
When nothing happens. When all these things that would be added onto you, well, didn’t. Where you are the guy with nothing to offer. And everyone thinks you’re just bumming around, lost and enjoy in being useless. It feels like you jumped into a lake and left to drown on your own in the ocean of your fantasies.
They don’t know that I’ve been crying… seeking… praying. On my knees. Prostrating in anguish like I was during my childhood, while reflecting on my mortality.
I’ve asked all the questions. “Why?” “Where?” “How?” “WHAT?”
A one-sided wrestling match where the Contender defeated me by just holding His tongue. Darkness in the sky. No sound from the lips of heavens. It’s like He failed to hold His end of the bargain. I could have been on the happy trail to fulfill my hedonistic human desires – money, sex and power. But I took His bait and now am left hanging.
The Writer is still watching me as I live this story.
Maybe His intention has been to bring me to this point – a blank canvas. To write into the nothingness of my life. Only when I had relinquish it all, then can I embrace the everything that He has to offer.
The point of a story is the character arc, the change.
A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story.
Alright, Author and Finisher of my Faith. Help me find what I want and let us bloody finish this story with lots of adrenaline-charged sky-diving, passionate love-making and kaleidoscopic fireworks.