22 March 2011

Post 360: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers. ISBN: 9781594487736.

About 30 pages into this book, I said to myself, "Goddamn everyone in this woman's life has mental illness of some kind!" Her mother is the best example; she suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. I couldn't help but compare the woman to my ex-girlfriend's mother, who I had the "pleasure" of meeting one weekend around Thanksgiving.

I wouldn't go so far as to say she's paranoid schizophrenic, but she definitely has some problems. She drove us to her house up north, a trip that took twice as long as it should have because she refused to use highways. Everything was backroads, 5 MPH under the speed limit. She just seemed to be scared of everything (including me, which was kind of amusing), and it really made me pity her. What must life be like, when you're constantly holding back because of fear?

Well, it's actually really hypocritical of me to be asking that, because I've always held back because of fear, mostly fear of failure. I will tend not to do things if I don't think I can get them right the first time, or if I don't think I'll thoroughly enjoy myself. When I saw my ex's mother's driving habits, I told myself I wasn't going to be like her, but unfortunately, I am. Amy's been helping me take more chances, but when you've had a lifetime of acting a certain way, it's hard to break the habit.

And that's all a set of fear-based behaviors like that is: a habit. When your rituals keep you safe -- you haven't come to any harm in doing them, after all -- the need for doing them is reinforced. When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time worrying myself sick, because I thought that, magically, it would affect things that I really had no control over, like the weather. I have even battled bouts of my own paranoia. Most recently, I would spend hours lying awake at night, absolutely certain that every creak I could hear in the house meant that someone had broken in. I would get up and grab the sword I keep under my bed (it's never been sharpened) and stalk down the stairs very slowly, only to find that nothing had changed since I'd gone to bed. This is actually apparently something I get from my mother, who will have periods where she has to get up in the middle of the night and check to make sure the doors and windows are locked. I finally put an end to it by sleeping with a fan running, even in winter, so that I can't hear anything.

Fear is a great motivator, but like all things, it's best in moderation. It's one thing to lock your windows at night, but you cross the line when you start nailing them shut.

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed temporarily working at a bookstore. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful husband someday. 

LibsNote: Copy won from Goodreads Giveaway program.
*This post was originally written October 30, 2010 to give the regular blogger a break.Yeah, it's taking me awhile to read The Ground Beneath Her Feet.

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