Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Three: Innocence Reborn

Chapter 63

Fantasies

September 24, 1996 One A.M.

I've been trying to fall asleep since 10:55 and nothing has worked. I tried hot cocoa, a piece of cheese, a slice of toasted raisin bred, a cup of tea, laying there with my eyes closed for an hour at a time, and nothing. There are only two things I've found to do in such situations where all else fails: sex or writing.

To continue... I think I have to get some of my new insights out of my head. I can't drift off because I'm afraid I'll forget one of them before I have a chance to document it. Well, okay, let's get on with the job...

Here's the deal: I've come to realize I like creating better than just about anything else. Big surprise! Well, it is for me, really. I've been looking for someone to fill up my life, and have been disappointed that I couldn't find the guy for the job. Truth is, my life is already full. I'd rather sit and write, or work on my music, or create a new drawing, or diddle with my web pages than spend time with anyone I know. 'Tis sad, but true.

You see, I really get off on creating. There's just something about it. Gathering together the germ of an idea; watching it take form and grow; putting on the spit and polish until it shines, then releasing it to the world - THAT excites me. It would take a pretty special person to compete with that.

I used to feel I was creating this enormous body of work to attract someone with my abilities and personality. Consciously, I was sure of it, and labored under that assumption. But of late I've come to see that what consciously drives me is not at all what moves my heart. In fact, it is the rare item that was the same in my soul as in my mind. That's a real good indicator that one's conscious has been operating with a truck-sized blind spot. And so it was with me.

Think about it: I really like sitting here alone at the computer, typing these words in the knowledge that three or four years from now they'll make it to my web site and be read by you and others than I like driving over to a friend's house for dinner or movie or sex. Yes, I like creating better than pro-creating.

Oh, don't get the idea that I DISlike people. Far from it! It's just that as long as there's an idea rattling around my head, I truly have so much fun playing with it that other people seem more of a nuisance than anything else. I'm sure if I ever ran dry, I'd be out there calling up friends and making dates like a mad woman. It's just that I haven't run out of ideas for the last third of a century or so. I often wonder what kind of social life Robin Williams or John Grisham has?

So you see, I've consciously been suffering angst that I don't have anyone in my life, all the while I've been NOT calling anyone, NOT accepting invitations, and NOT meeting anyone halfway. And if I did start approaching people, I'd be TRULY miserable - not just think I was.

When I was seeing Andy, I had the most fun of my life with another person. Heavens, falling asleep in his arms and curling up next to him made me feel more protected and content and satisfied than anything before or since. I get another taste of it every time I spend a little time with a man, cuddling and kissing - whoa, I love that feeling! But then, they want me to drive over to their place, or drop what I'm doing and join them for a spontaneous trip up the coast, or set aside a weekend to spend together. Like hell! I've got creating to do!

That's when the relationship falls apart. Think about it. Guys call me up all the time. I'm clever, witty, and sensuous on the phone. It's not an act - I really AM that way! But then, after they bring me flowers, or take me to dinner or a movie, they expect me to want to call them. FOOLS! I NEVER WILL!!!

It's not that I don't like you guys. You're great, really! It's just that you can't compete with my art. Art and I - we're lovers. My Art and me, we get it together. Art's my muse. (Why shouldn't a woman have a male muse?) He and I commune with a total immersion of souls. We stare into each others' eyes and see in them the secrets of the universe expressed with the fullness of the heart. How can some mere mortal compete with that?

Part of the issue is that I have this family, ya know. Now that I'm independently wealthy from the story software, I don't work at all - not at a job for someone else - not at what you might call "work". Instead, I throw myself into my Art, and he takes me to the far corners of human experience. Then the family comes home, and there's no time for loneliness. Mary tells me her day, and I tell her mine. There's dinner to make for the kids, who have homework, questions, and the thrill of new ideas first thought of.

We watch TV together, chase each other around the house, hug and laugh and... well, how can anyone be lonely with that? I suppose you could, but I'm not. The only thing I miss is that feeling of cuddling into a guy's arms, but I go through two or three boyfriends a year, and get enough of that to satiate the need.

It may sound like I'm covering up here, but it's the truth. Accept for the moment that creating is the most fun experience for me of any I've yet had. I enjoy it fully, it fully envelopes me, and I've never tired of it. Now, if I lived alone, there would be those in-between times when I'm all writ out with the drive satiated for the moment. It would be at those times I'd start to hear the clock ticking and the laughter next door and begin to yearn for some human companionship. Then, I'd call a girlfriend to catch a movie or have dinner, or better yet, call my boyfriend (if I had one at the time) and see if I could come over for the evening, or just talk for a while on the phone. But with a whole family here who loves me, and whom I love, and with limited time alone each day to create, there's little chance I'll ever want for much more companionship than I already have.

Every time I get email, I see it as an imposition. The only way I can bring myself to devote even minimal time to responding is to write the reply with the intention of publishing it on my web site as yet another essay. This has worked well for the past few years, but even that is growing tiresome. So, in the last couple of weeks I've taken my Email address off nearly every web page where it appeared, which has cut my mail down from forty letters a day to three or four. MUCH easier to handle. There aren't as many essays coming out these days, but I'm just thrilled not to be pulled away from my work - which really isn't work but play.

It seemed like work until recently. I really felt like I had to prove something, or achieve something, or attract someone. Now I realize that was just my stupid mind screwing up a pure and loving affair with my muse.

Lord, there was guilt when I didn't write because I was wasting my ability, and guilt when I did because I was denying myself human intercourse. Not now. These days it is like a great cloud has lifted, and suddenly I see that I have been trashing at the wind.

What got me onto this scam by the ol' mind was that I never completed anything I started. For example, the house used to be pink when we moved in. I painted it blue - all except a small patch in the back. That irregularly shaped two foot square piece of house remained as it was for four years, until I decided I didn't like the blue and decided to paint the house brown. So, two years ago, I painted the house brown - all except that little patch of pink, and the nearly identical patch of blue next to it! I couldn't seem to finish anything at all.

I was so concerned with covering as much ground as I could conceptually, I didn't have the drive to finish anything in actuality. Fantasy and Reality - what a pair! To become the woman I am, I had to believe in Fantasy for almost a decade. I had to motivate myself every day when I awoke to get up and achieve the impossible. It took forever, but I actually did it. I actually changed who I was on the outside AND the inside. In fact, I did it better than just about anybody else. But the by product of all that motivation to make the dream concrete kept needing a bigger dream to sustain itself. Even after it did the job, just like an old general who won a war, it had to find another job or be driven out of work by it's own success.

Fortunately, the story software came along right in the middle of the first Fantasy, and it filled the bill nicely. Create a whole new theory of story AND psychology that didn't grow out of anything that had come before but was a completely revolutionary paradigm unto itself that clarified everything better than all that already was? Sure! No problem! Just the cup of tea for my obsession. So off to the races we went, and a happy little screwed up mind was I.

Why did I have the bust and nose surgery? Kept the Fantasy from being completed. Why did I hate the size of my breasts after surgery so much that I cried every day for three months? Stoked that Fantasy REAL good! The job isn't over if the angst is still eating away at you. Boy those justifications just don't want to die. They have the most incredible sense of self-preservation. And devious! Man, there ain't nothing like it.

Back before puberty, I used to finish EVERYTHING I started. I was methodical about it to the point of almost being compulsive. Then that demon testosterone hit my female brain and slapped it silly. All my emotions dried up, leaving me nothing but a keen sense of reason and the inherent will-power to hunt down a solution to my suddenly meaningless life. Thus began the quest that had occupied me for a third of a century: to find meaning.

Oh, we all do it. Some of us are lucky enough to find it next door in the neighborhood of our lives. Others never find it at all. But we're all looking, unless we've found it or die. So, I figure I'm getting off lucky - out in thirty-three years with good behavior.

I had breakfast with Chris the other day. I called him up and asked about his puppies and when I could see them. He suggested the next morning would be fine, as he was staying home to wait for repairmen. What a wonderful time we had! Why? Because I had HATED Chris AND Steve because they were trying to take what was mine. Only it wasn't really mine. Being the celebrated creator of the story software and the apple of the public's eye was part of my Fantasy. Not part of my Reality. It was just another "impossible" dream. Now by "impossible", I don't mean that I couldn't have achieved it. In fact, it still might happen. But what I mean is that it would have required as much effort as I put into transition and coming up with the story software to achieve it. And that kind of effort is NEVER justifiable. It can only come from the manic drive of someone who is so blinded and justified that he or she cannot see the true object of his or her desire.

So you keep chasing the rainbows that form beneath your tears.

God, I love that line. Just came up with it. See, THAT'S the kind of thing I'm talking about. I've been writing for about fifty minutes now, and I'm going to be dog tired tomorrow. But that line! It's worth it all. And it is certainly more fulfilling that I had been out on a stupid date talking about the weather!

There's a balance in my life I've been fighting against. "Oh, me!" I'd whine, "I'm so alone! If only I had a man." And from my pain new words would spring. And I loved the words. And my mind would say to itself, "She's happy with the words. Let us create more pain in the same image so that she can be even happier when she comes up with even more words." Rainbows and tears. What a scam. All the while that recursive loop grows stronger and stronger, feeding off the increasing angst and redoubled creativity like some silly sci-fi monster that must be vanquished with laughter.

Well laughter wasn't the solution here. Chris was. He effectively kicked me out of the company, and that's the best thing that ever happened to me. I have no idea if he did it all for him at my expense or for both of us in the vein of "tough love", and I don't care. It happened, and it broke the cycle. Took six months to do it, though. Man, I worry for all those people stuck in stable jobs who chase their tales until retirement and maybe only really "get it" when it's far to late to do them any good. Lucky, lucky, lucky!

Over this half-year, gradually, very gradually indeed, my drives have shifted. A couple of weeks ago, I began to ask myself if it was possible for great art to come from joy rather than suffering. Now I'm sure it can. It's just going to be joy-art, not suffering-art. But it is still going to be good!

I've re-organized my whole web site, taking the emphasis off me ("Look! Here I am!!!") and refocusing it on my work. ("Look! Here it is!!!") I've gone back and polished up articles I NEVER should have posted in the rough condition in which they appeared. But I had been so driven to cover so much ground - to be the best, the brightest, the most respected and most loved. I though my art was a means, not an end, so if I just pushed a little harder, a little faster....

But the art is it. Just by itself. I was never really doing it to get anything other than the fulfillment of the creative experience and the satisfaction of a job well done. Except, of course, that I was misguided by my trusted advisor, Mr. Justification, who had my ear and whispered half-truths until my straight and noble path was bent to it's own advantage.

I wanted the biggest, baddest, sparkling skyrocket of a production company and the farthest-ranging strongest-armed publication company ever to grab the balls of the creative universe. Like, what for? For Justification's sake! (The battle cry rings out, and all the hapless, wounded, trench-weary elements of my soul rise up to fix their bayonets for one more charge.) But now more. I've sent them all home with forty acres and a muse.

Here's what I'm doing these days. I get up in the morning and make Mary's and the kids' breakfasts. I make Mary's lunch. I go back to bed. I get up a couple hours later after Keith leaves for his late schedule (as he is a senior in high school now, and only has five periods.) I upload another item to the "What's New?" page on my web site, which thrills me, because right now I'm getting two hundred and twenty different people visiting my site each day, so putting something up in "What's New?" is tantamount to publishing. Just think of it! Here I am, this creativity-loving person, and I get to publish something each and every weekday! Man, if I was still trying to do it for some other unnamed reason, I'd be miserable, thinking about how many other items are still backlogged. But doing it for it's own sake, well each item published is it's own completion. So every day now begins with a sense of accomplishment, and the thrill of sharing.

Next is my creative time. I let my heart wander. I might play with my synthesizer to come up with a new tune, orchestrate an old one, write some lyrics, or record some multi-track harmony. I might jot down an entry just like this one, or write another essay by way of my email. I might draw a picture, by hand or computer, or create or edit some video, and audio track, or work on a CD ROM.

When the kids come home, I feel great about knocking off work now. I've gotten the muse temporarily out of my system, and I enjoy the company of my children, telling me about their days, sharing their experiences. Then it's time for some chores - dishes, laundry, watering the lawn, trip to the bank, and so on. A few minutes off to relax, then time to make dinner.

After dinner, we turn on the TV. I used to hate to watch because I could be creating. I tried to put the time to good use by reading at the same time, but I screwed up both activities that way. Now, I enjoy sharing the programs with my kids, while Mindi does her homework, and I sit at the computer doing technical, non-thinking work - like creating HTML pages, or adjusting links.

That is such a great system. I used to HATE doing the HTML stuff ("I should be creating...") But now that I'm not trying to work toward some unspoken goal, I'm much more interested in getting the things I have created properly "framed", "mounted", and ready for presentation. I'm actually taking pride in my workmanship, rather than just throwing it out there as fuel for the mad-dash to the endless horizon.

On weekends, I often don't even turn on my computer at all. This is a time to balance having fun with the family with getting some work done around the house and yard - things like trimming the bushes and filling in those two damned patches of mis-matched paint on the back of the house.

This weekend, for example, Mary, Mindi, and I went to the L.A. County Fair. I've gone every year since 1962. (Actually, I think I missed one in there a few years back, but I liked having that unbroken record so I forgot if I did or not, and can't remember.) Keith stayed home (after all, he's seventeen!) Normally, his absence would have ruined the trip for me, "I've got to get as many family memories built up as possible before he leave to go to college and get married". But I'm not thinking like that anymore. I'm not doing ANYTHING for the future. I'm enjoying the experience now.

So, I was really happy that he got to make the choice to go or not, depending solely on what would make HIM the happiest. And, I had a wonderful time at the fair. Instead of running all around trying to see EVERYTHING (like I usually do) and messing it up for everyone including myself, I just didn't have that kind of drive. Instead, I wanted to take whatever we saw in it's own time, not to become obsessed with it, but simply to enjoy it until the desire came to move on. Mary, Mindi and I decided together what we would see next. And, rather than arriving at ten A.M. and leaving at 1 A.M. like I used to, we got there about three P.M. and left at nine!

Mary wasn't aware I was consciously making changes in my feelings about things, and commented to me at the time that I seemed more relaxed and as if I were having a better time than any other trip to the fair in the last ten years. She was right, of course, and I know why. I was always looking off into the distance for what was right under my nose.

The next day, I got unexpected Email from a guy I've only written to once on-line. He invited me to a concert. Completely out of character for me, I accepted. So, Sunday night, we met for the first time over dinner at a local coffee house, then drove off in his car to the Universal Amphitheater to see a concert by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and Jethro Tull. This was only the second concert I've ever been to, and it was wonderful. It turns out my date had comp tickets because he hosted a cable TV show on entertainment. Our seats were only ten rows back from the stage!

If I had still been driven as before, I never would have accepted. I would have been at my computer, churning out more material, or cowering in my room feeling guilty that I wasn't.

So, what can I tell all you loyal readers, many of whom have followed my writings for over eight years? I've worked my way down from absolute single-minded, obsessive, dedication to the Fantasy - achieved what I set out to achieve - and then disbanded the army. And rather than losing the creative force, I've simply retooled to a peace-time economy of spirit, where heart and mind co-operate, rather than do battle.

Oh, I'll continue my entries (how can I resist the temptation!) But I suspect the focus will be more on the adventure, and less on the Tse-Tse flies. Oh, and what about that dream that always made me cry of waking up in bed next to my husband in our house with my kids playing on a Sunday morning? Hey, its a great dream! But that is exactly what it is. To make it real, I'd have to give up my family, have more plastic surgery to get the wrinkles out of my face, adopt a couple of kids, and not the least trouble - find a man whom I truly loved who thought the world of me and shared the same dream.

Now I'm not going to say it CAN'T happen, but c'mon! The chances of that happening are really small, even if I threw everything I had into it. That's what Fantasies are: great dreams that are just too risky, or too unlikely. Enjoy them! Revel in them! But don't live in them. (Especially after you already achieve a couple of beauts like transition and the theory/software.)

It's the luck of the draw. When going after the real and the tangible, you can watch your progress and have a reasonable hope of success, assuming you don't get hit by a car. But when chasing after a Fantasy, you have none of that. You just put yourself out there and flail away like a loose hose with a pressure nozzle, hoping you'll put out a fire that hasn't started yet.

You wanna be a star? A billionaire? A woman? Sure, it happens. And if you're lucky, you make it. And if you're luckier, you know when to quit. You get the brass ring and then get off the damned carousel before you fall off.

I've been lucky. I only wanted four things: to be a damned good looking woman, to become financially secure, to be hailed as a genius, and to live with the man who loves me. I got the first three. I'm not even going to try for the fourth.

Now, I may get unbelievably lucky and get number four too. But it's not going to happen by design like the first three. I don't want to channel all my attention and focus all my strength of will to that degree again. If I did, my kids would be up and grown and gone, my youth would not even be a memory, and all the success and good fortune I've already achieved would not be enjoyed - as if it never happened - and all because I went back to shedding tears and chasing rainbows.

So this time... This time I'm simply going to look at that as a Fantasy. I'll dream about it on quiet days, or when I'm sleeping alone at night. I'll cuddle up to my pillow and pretend it's Mister Wonderful. And every once in a while, I'll shed a tear as I watch the years go by and think of all the time I might have spent in someone's arms. But every morning I'll wake up to my loving family, express my most personal and creative feelings in my work, watch my little company grow and prosper, and build up a lifetime of memories, even while I am experiencing the reality of it as it happens. Unless, of course, I get hit by a car.

Three A.M. - In closing...

Okay, I finished off that last thought because it seemed like the place to end things artistically. But there is still one more thing I want to say for me. Just because I'm not out hunting Mr. Right doesn't mean I'm closing the door on relationships - not at all! I'm neither allowing it to become so one-sided an obsession that I can't see the rest of my life, nor am I ignoring the reality of that aspect of my life as if it didn't exist. I'm striking a balance. That's the big difference between the "now me" and the "then me".

I used to be black and white, now I want to float on my own desires. So, as the currents of my life ebb and flow, I may, at times, put myself in situations where I might meet a new lover. At other times, I may withdraw. But unless the way I truly feel changes in ways that have ALWAYS remained constant since my childhood, any relationship will have to take second place to my creative efforts, because I simply love them more.

So a guy who wants to be with me can easily gain some of my time. And I will enjoy being with him, as long as it is on the weekends, and still allowing me time to work in the yard and be with my family. But I don't suspect I'll be calling him up, or driving to his place. I'd rather entertain my muse.

Some day, in the future, my situation may change. Once Keith has gone, how will I feel then? I do not know. When Mindi leaves, what will my feelings be? If some tragedy should strike and then heal, what would that do to my outlook? Worrying about these things, or even wondering about them would be simply the same old Fantasy justification in a different guise. Instead of becoming obsessed with what I wanted and didn't have, I would become consumed with building bulwarks against the unknown forces that might take what I already have away. It's just the same compulsion inside out.

So I'm going to keep floating. I'll let my heart be my guide and my head the scorekeeper.

Can I go to bed now?

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