Notes From the Lost Generation:
Rules of the Game
“We others are not like you. We are more prickly, more jittery, more restless, more secretive, more desperate, more cowardly, more bold. We live at the edges of ourselves, not in the middle places. We leave that to you.”―Steven Millhauser, We Others: New and Selected Stories
I seem to have misplaced my guidebook. My travel guide, instruction booklet. The handy, small piece of paper that comes included with board games to enlighten us all as to the proper rules of the given amusement. For life is but a game, no? Passing “Go” time and time again. Luck of the draw. Roll of the dice. Crapshoot. The myriad of other metaphors we constantly use, subconsciously identifying the way things are.
You really can’t convince me that it’s not: Life as merely an elaborate game. Or that pure chance, at the very least, does not play a larger role in our lives and our directions than we would all like to comfortably admit. For this means less control. This means uncertainty. This leaves room for basic luck – that fickle lady.
But then I might never have had it. This guidebook, I mean. That’s the distinct possibility. That I have been fumbling along these thirty-plus years just making it all up as I go. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It has led me to some fabulously interesting places. Fabulous experiences. Never winding up where I expected, because I wasn’t expecting to wind up anywhere much at all. Not in a realistic sense. I have my fantasies, my blurry projections. My idealized visions. My goals and dreams and hopes that keep me moving forward. Well, that keep me moving. We all have these I should hope. But did the me at five years of age see me here, now, at thirty-three? Not in the least. Makes for an interesting existence, I suppose.
But then there are times when I look about and take stock. A brief appraisal of my life and think: “Is this right? Am I doing things right?” I get restless. I feel rather stuck in the middle. The middle of something – a something I can’t define. I don’t want to just accept chance. I don’t want to wager my life on luck. On kismet alone.
These reflections are not pursued out of unhappiness or discontent. Not always. Just the vague curiosity, the vague notion, that perhaps I really should be going about things in quite a different fashion. That I’ve got it all wrong. That everyone else was handed an instruction manual while they were still quite young and I was off playing in the sandbox, happily oblivious. And now I’m paying the price for a wandering, distracted mind, engaged in play. That sandbox did me in.
There is another part of me, however, that doesn’t believe this either. That looks around at adults, as an adult, and thinks: No one knows what the hell they are doing! No one has a clue and it’s not just me. That moment when one is grown and the realization comes that no one is running the show. There isn’t a single adult that truly knows what the hell is going on. Not really.
It’s a three-ring circus, folks, and the ringmaster is out smoking cigarettes.
That everyone else is also fumbling, stumbling and scrounging in the morass of life. Faking it, shaping it somewhat at times. But nonetheless just engaged in playing the game, or a game, with all its elements of surprise and uncontrollability. All engaged in a ruse of pretend and charades.
This is both a very comforting and a very distressing thought. With regards to the latter, there is something to be said for the childlike belief that adults know what the hell they are doing. That they are in control, or someone is; or at the very least a select few know what is going on. That there is the distinct possibility that when you grow up you will just know what you are meant to do. Meant to be doing. And then, one day, you find out this is not the case. Not the case at all.
As for comforting, this idea that we are all in our own ways lost – well, it eases the burden (both socially and self-imposed) doesn’t it? That one is not alone in their searching and wandering and confusion. That this predicament infects us all. It’s just that some people play the game better than others. The standard game. The one most people agree upon. And some people are better at faking a knowledge of the rules. Internalizing the structured, fabricated order of things.
My difficulty? I’m not sure I want to play. Not this standard game. Not as it’s normally done. In fact, I know I don’t. That things, that life, might all be much harder this way, but that if I make it up, my own set of realities, I will nonetheless remain more true somehow to myself, whoever that is. Otherwise one is just joining the chain gang. Or at least that’s how I see it.
Emerson wrote: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. I think the man had a valid point. Which is a gross understatement to make when speaking of a man like Emerson. But you get the idea.
So where does this leave me and others like me?
I’m not sure yet. I haven’t figured it all out. But I do know there are options. We can adopt other realities. We can view our world as we choose, and guidebook or not we are capable of finding fabulously creative ways to get on. To get by.
It’s not rewriting the rules, per se. It’s agreeing to and accepting a life without any.
There is no set way to do anything. There is no right and no wrong. There just is. Whatever one creates for themselves, however one chooses to go about the day-to-day. It just is. First, do no harm. Perhaps second – just be.
We can fashion our own validity. Write our own guidebooks and then roll the dice. Learning to live quite well at the edges of ourselves. And learning to be more.
© StephiaMadelyne ~ 18th May 2013
excerpt from Notes From the Lost Generation: A Manifesto by Stephia Madelyne Kascher