In Manhattan's Shadow

I have a vision of what life should be. I always have. This life that I have wanted for myself since forever. So I have striven. If the source of unhappiness is unfulfilled desire, then this it then. I don't fit in here.

I never wanted to be a scholar. I certainly never wanted to be a teacher. I could think of few things more horrific. My mother came home from school everyday with the hardness of her job all on her face and booming out of her angry voice. I hid from her.

Outside in the trees of our yard, I'd pretend to be someone else living another life. A shipwrecked pirate girl living on the cliffs by the sea in a big white house with her aunt, she had long blond hair and wore a simple white dress. All the men were in love with her, but all the men were wretched pirates not worthy of her. So she waited by the sea for someone else to come. She climbed down the rocks to sit in the sand and watch the waves, until her family would go looking for her and call her back inside to the housework. She was the first girl I can remember inventing.

Next, I lived as a gypsy woman with a small child. She tried to set up house somewhere but no one wanted her in the village, so she gave that up and joined a new caravan. She fell in love with a white man who never came back for her. But she cooked the most delicious meals and was the most beautiful woman in the gypsy group. She never betrayed her white man for another and because of that she had to live off the charity of others.

For a time I played a middle-aged woman who was very sad and bored. Finally she could fulfill her dream by opening a floral shop. She called it the Monarch Butterfly. Her teenaged children helped her build the store and worked in it with her. Her husband at home didn't understand. Then I think I went on to play the daughter. But my memory gets fuzzy. There was a girl who lived in the woods on a mountain with a nice couple who weren't her parents. I can still see the house in my mind. Different branches of our bottlebrush tree were the different rooms...I'd climb from one limb to the other as the girl lived. When one story-line got tired I'd either make up a new character or pick up an old one.

By the time I was 11 or 12 I knew I was too old to 'talk to myself under the trees' as my mother called it. So I replaced the hours I spent living inside my imagination with television. Hour after hour of useless crap just to escape them. The loud and angry family screaming around me. I wanted nothing to do with them. But I couldn't make this transformation without pounds of guilt. I knew this kind of living was wrong. My mother repeatedly told me so. I knew I was being lazy. But I couldn't stop myself. I knew I could be a good student but I chose not to be. And there the cycle began.

This picture of the J.L. that is supposed to be. Who never has been. Why am I trying to become someone else? It's not just the depression. It can't be. Or, if it is, then this is who I am. Of melancholic disposition. 18 years I've been in treatment for depression. I don't know how to be any different. I don't know how to have energy or be lively and enthusiastic. I've made this part of my identity--one that I always believed was temporary. The good girl, the successful one would come out as soon as.....as soon as.....18 years later, it's as soon as never.

In the quiet of these streets I've had to face me. I enjoyed one week of pure respite and bliss. Then the anxiety struck me down when I realized the semester soon ended and I had finished no papers, yet again. I find myself craving escape. I crave to disappear in the life of someone in a movie or a novel. I think about my work and find it dreadful. At 29 years old, maybe it's time to become me. Maybe it's time for the waiting to end. Maybe this is who I am....

Can't it just be my personality? Can't I stop calling it sickness? Maybe I really am just a solitary and anti-social person. Why does that have to mean there is something wrong with me? Can't I just be of melancholic disposition? I want to stop fighting myself now. I've been this way my whole life--I want to stop calling it a disease.

I watched "The Hours". Quite a boring and pretentious movie. But still, I find Wolf fascinating. She was mad. But she lived her dual life--that of the real world and those of the novels she wrote. I would love to stay home all day writing and imagining, I just can't imagine doing it without guilt. Perhaps I should attempt to write a book this summer. Screw my papers....well, no, I don't want to do that. I do but I don't. I should spend my mornings working and my evenings imagining. We'll see. One thing for sure, I have to stop trying to be someone else.

***It is so nasty and hot in New York right now. I have no a/c installed yet so I'm sweating as I sit at my desk. It's disgusting. I could go back to Florida if I wanted to live in the swamp. Just thought I'd share.***