The Parallel's Parallel

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Rock n' Roll Doggie
Aug 21, 2004
The other parallel life was an ideal parallel life. From posts and discussions with others, I stole the idea for this thread. What would be your parallel life if you gave vent to behaviors and inclinations you control in real life? "To what extent does this scenario play to my most destructive weaknesses?" as someone put it. And maybe to your strengths.

I’ll go first.

In this life, I am measured, cautious. But that contols the risk taker side of me (not healthy risks, I’m terrified of some of those) but recklessness. I’m drawn to the dark underbelly of things, cities, people. Dangerous encounters. My senses come alive when I come across something primal. Broken glass in an alleyway appeals to my senses more than a bouquet of roses. That parallel me would push it beyond all safe limits just to see what it felt like. I’ve tottered on the line some, a few rare times crossed over it, but always pulled myself back, sometimes with reluctance. In my mind, I move in a dark world. The parallel me would know no balance. The real-life me knows that I would seek to have no balance, that I would seek to immerse myself completely without thought of consequence. The parallel me would give way to my attraction to the subconscious. I could see myself becoming an opium addict, just for the hallucinations. I liked hashish way too much.
It will take some courage to go to these dark places. . .

Or a measure of foolhardy recklessness, as I demonstrated in your last "parallell" thread.

Curious to see what people will say. . .what we're willing to cop to.
I'd take all kinds of risks and be so much happier. And I'd tell everyone off who pisses me off and offends me, and tell them exactly what I think of them instead of venting to others and taking it out on myself in various ways. I wouldn't let my past dictate my present or my future at all.
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FYI, for anyone who missed the thread to which this is a "sequel," it can be found here.

BonosSaint said:
The other parallel life was an ideal parallel life...What would be your parallel life if you gave vent to behaviors and inclinations you control in real life? "To what extent does this scenario play to my most destructive weaknesses?" as someone put it. And maybe to your strengths.
My "ideal" parallel life as I described it in the earlier thread was:
I live with my family (just as they are now) in a small town in a beautiful natural setting with a mild climate and forests all around. I work part-time for a therapeutic recreation organization which provides hiking, camping and other outdoors-oriented activities for children and adults with various special needs; the rest of the time, I'm a nature and rural issues writer and photographer, in the vein of folks like Rick Bass, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry or John McPhee.
The "play to my strengths" aspect of that is that it offers things I find challenging but deeply rewarding (helping others in ways that directly address immediate, palpable needs; and writing), with the added perk of immersion in a setting that never fails to make me happy (nature--preferably the kind without harsh winters). My present career already offers the former two albeit in a different way, though not the latter. I think I've probably spent enough time seriously entertaining this fantasy that it's "matured" at least somewhat, to the point of not being merely some escapist-hedonist daydream--that would probably be the close-to-nature part minus the professional responsibilities, lol. But I can certainly see where it also risks playing to some of my less healthy desires, and as such has its "shadow side." Basically that risk resides in things symbolized by the small-town, deep-in-the-forest, me-and-my-books aspects.

I grew up in a large, close-knit family but have always been quite introverted, so I have the somewhat paradoxical problem of always needing other people around and not being able to abide loneliness, yet at the same time finding extended, intensive social contact draining and alienating. I live for that last hour or two of a party, the phase where you wind up falling into an intimate, focused discussion with maybe three or four other people...but the first two hours or so, the milling-around-making-small-talk-and-hobnobbing part--something I've never been good at--that I nearly always find wearying and burdensome, not energizing and fun as an extrovert would. And if said party follows a day already filled with attending to other people's needs (which as a teacher, that would be most days)...well, then I'll probably require some wheedling and prodding from my better half to get me to haul myself out of my cave and just go. Similarly, with both the workplace settings I've known in my life--retail management and academia--I've had to tread a fine line between, on the one hand, the temptation to pare my social obligations to a minimum, keep everyone at a prudent arm's length with aloof "Will that be all then?" vibes, and retreat to my office with door closed; and on the other, the temptation to overcompensate by taking on too many social responsibilities--no one can accuse me of not doing my part if I chair three committees!--and winding up micromanaging, being a busybody about piddly stuff that's better off delegated, while meanwhile the Really Big Problems mount because I'm too overwhelmed to face them. With writing, that's a little different...I actually find it equally difficult to really build momentum there, no matter which social "extreme" I'm tending towards at the time. But I do find I'm less likely to actively self-sabotage the process when I'm striking a good balance socially--I neither linger endlessly in the information-gathering phase (as I tend to do in "withdrawn" mode), nor impulsively delete three weeks' worth of work in a fit of overblown despair at its shortcomings (as I tend to do in "overwhelmed" mode).

So, I suppose the "nightmare" version of that ideal parallel life would look something like this: I wind up first cutting back my hours, then quitting altogether on the therapeutic career, because it's just too draining and stressful dealing with coworkers' idiosyncrasies and clients' neverending needs. The nature books and articles never wind up getting written, because I can't muster up the decisiveness to settle on a direction for them, and half the time even when I've got something good going I wind up destroying it, because it's not living up to the impossible ideal. Finally I wind up getting divorced (or more likely, being served with divorce papers, because I've just become too withdrawn and self-defeating to live with). At that point my beautiful environs lose their ability to bring joy too, because then I have no one who really knows me well to share them with. And I think for me that would pretty much be rock-bottom...there would be nowhere left to go but slowly and painfully back up, or checking out altogether.

All of which seems thoroughly un-juicy and un-captivating, compared to BonosSaint's and maycocksean's decidely more intriguing and edgy-sounding "shadow selves". Probably why they're creative writers whereas if you want to see a great idea for a tale ruined, ask me to tell it. (I did marry a poet, though...perhaps I can wrangle a few vicarious creative redemption points out of that? :wink: )

Anyhow, that's the essence of my anything-but-seductive shadow side, as far as I've experienced it.
I could see myself becoming an opium addict, just for the hallucinations. I liked hashish way too much.
Never tried opium, but my rather small number of experiences with the various derivatives of the cannabis plant have all been...not "bad," but definitely not particularly pleasant either. The altered perception aspect was interesting in a clinical sort of way, but the "mellowed out" part, that to me was like having an elephant sitting on my brain, and not enjoyable at all. But, on the "bright" side, at least that meant I never had to worry about getting psychologically dependent on it, as some of my friends in college and grad school certainly were. Meth, on the other hand, now that was something I would never try, because to me that false promise of feeling euphoric and ultra-hopped-up and supremely self-confident sounded far too seductive.
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I'd probably take more chances with women. I'm not shy or awkward, but women never seem to notice me. I'd go for it all more and more. I'd probably end up making mistakes and making some women uncomfortable. But I'd love to try to make up for all my stalemating in high school.
Re: yolland's post

I found your post compelling and I could feel the spiraling descent of it.

I think many creative writers are often off being somebody else. I think sometimes too, we see ourselves as just another character. You move into that other world without moral judgment when you write. You become a sniper, maybe. In real life, I might fear and abhor that sniper. But as that sniper, I aim that gun and watch my victim coldly, remorselessly and I move into that world of a killer. And I see what of the killer is in me.
A self-censorship doesn't let you get into the body of that killer. Once you impose your own moral judgment, that killer stops breathing. I've found very few writers who pitted good against evil as a theme gifted enough to create anything other than stock characters on either side. And it becomes interesting for yourself to let go of all your moral judgments. What would I be if I wasn't restrained/constrained? You start stripping away layers.

Once you start down the path, it makes you curious about other aspects of yourself. But you need to trust yourself in your own balance and your ability to pull yourself back. I think many writers straddle that line successfully.

It makes me a little uncomfortable when I think I see a writer crossing that line. I loved early Stephen King, but I was never as scared of his novels as I was during the period in his real life after he was hit by that car and the obsessiveness in his later writing about that man who hit him. He started becoming startling close to his own characters. Now whether that was deliberate or not, I don't know. But there was something unbalanced about it that made me rethink staying too long in that dark place.

I think I liked hashish because it slows my mind down. Physically, I'm about as lazy as you can get. But my mind is always on, restless. Not necessarily productive, but on. The hashish was seductive because of the slowing, the sense of unreality. Nothing could touch me because I wasn't there.

Besides, you've got to love an opium poet like Coleridge.
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Now that I think about it my parallel would actually be artisically creative and capable of doing things like writing music and elaborate wordplay; I already know that being a good conversationalist is socially useful (lucky for me ;) ), I bet that being able to play music would be even better.

I could go on about how my double would be ambitious and drug fuelled; but then that wouldn't really be an opposite. Hallucinogens are fascinating - but any drugs hat have long term negative effects on the brain are definitely off the table.
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