It’s a pattern. I daydream about hitting the road for an extended period to explore new places, revisit places from my long ago past, or simply to separate myself from the day-to-day routine by which I sometimes feel confined. It’s not as if my life is especially onerous or troublesome. It’s more a matter of wishing I could break out of the static constellation in which I have placed myself. A pattern within a pattern; an entrenched, routine fantasy about breaking out of an entrenched, routine experience. It is such a well-worn path, so consistently followed, that it has created a deep rut that prevents any significant deviation in any direction. That is not to say that every day is like the one it follows, but every day is so close to the one before that it feels like repetition. I find it impossible to put this sensation into words anyone outside of myself can understand. My words describe the sensation perfectly to me, but they probably would not make sense to anyone else.

The patterns—both the fantasies and the realities—are of my own making. The only things preventing me from transforming realities into fantasy and fantasy into fact are inertia and fear. Yet little risks can become enormous, explosive, irrevocable, irreversible, life-changing metamorphoses. Fear, then, feeds inertia. The little risk of sprinting across a freeway lane can become cataclysmic if one underestimates the speed of oncoming traffic; so, the boredom of sitting on the roadside, waiting for someone to stop and offer a ride, becomes tolerable.

Much of what takes place outside this house seems artificial in some way. Many of my interactions with other people—the pleasantries exchanged with people at the grocery store or at restaurants or in church or in every other place in which I find myself—seem superficial. I am playing the part of average everyday “Joe,” glad to be alive and happy to see the people in his frivolous sphere. Most of the people in that silly sphere probably are just as dull and no more cheerful than I, and they are equally as reticent to open up to strangers. The thing is, we’re all strangers. We hide behind thick canvas curtains that shield us from getting too familiar. Yet familiarity is what we’re after. Or intimacy. Dipping one’s toes into intimacy or even familiarity can be dangerous territory. We can never know until the risk has been taken whether we have misread cues or, indeed, have misinterpreted signals that were not intended as signals at all. A friendly wave, for example, does not necessarily mean a person is interested in engaging in conversation. An invitation to join a game of poker does not necessarily mean the person making the offer wants to strike up a friendship. And so on.

My daydreams about hitting the road may be about developing new relationships without worrying about navigating around existing potholes. It may be easier to repair an axle broken by driving into a new pothole than repairing a relationship damaged by misinterpreting, as cues, messages that were never sent.

It occurs to me (and it has, for years) that I may make more of minutia than it’s worth. Perhaps miscues or misreadings are not the tragedies I make them out to be in my scrambled little mind. So what if I mistake an invitation to play poker as an overture toward friendship? Once the error is understood, it should be easy to change course and be on my way. Yet it’s not always that easy, nor that superficial. Differentiating between shallow potholes and dangerous sinkholes can be a tricky undertaking. And the result of a miscalculation can be enormous. So, it may be easier to simply stay on the sidewalk.

As I re-read what I’ve written, it’s clear to me that what I’ve written is as clear as mud. I could have been clearer, but I chose to write in riddles. That’s the way it will stay. If I had wanted to be more transparent, I wouldn’t have been so opaque. I know what I wrote about, which is what’s important. One day, when I read this post again, I will know instantly what was on my mind. To anyone who has read what I’ve written and wonders what the hell I was writing about, I apologize. Chalk it up to the fact that I’m simply exercising my fingers.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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