Psychic Anesthesia

Psychologists may have a word or a phrase to describe the state of mind—perhaps ‘longing’ is more apt—but I do not know what that word or phrase might be. The longing, if that’s what it is, is a desire to leave oneself and move on to become an anonymous stranger. The “old” me would continue to exist, unaware of the “new” me and its departure. And the “new” me would be unaware it had emerged from someone unknown to it. But this set of circumstances does not translate into a dissociative disorder, in which multiple personalities exist in the same brain; instead, it more closely resembles cloning. The “new” me would have no memory of its past, though, because it would have no past earlier than its emergence; and even that moment would not imprint on my brain.

I suppose what I am describing is a wish to become two people, unknown to one another. The “new” one, though, would become the one I want to be, not the one I have been. An anonymous stranger who can’t remember his past because he doesn’t have one. But he would have to manufacture an artificial history in short order so he could answer questions about his evolution. And that obligatory life-building would shape his future; that blank slate would test his creative ability to craft a person whose behaviors and beliefs attract genuine interest and, eventually, admiration by his new network of acquaintances.

There’s so much to be done in life-building, especially on the limited timeline remaining so late in life. So many details to create and weave together into a credible mix. Place of birth. Parents and their careers. Siblings. Extended family. Schools. Education. Interests. Volunteer and work history. Marital status and history. And on and on.

But I wonder whether all that would be necessary if one chose to live a life of geographic and social seclusion? If the “new” me opted to live in the rural back country near Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island, might I find it unnecessary to have a history? Might I be able to claim permanent amnesia after being found floating, unconscious, in an unregistered boat near the shore of the village of Portapique on Cobequid Bay? That might be all I would need to tell. I would claim to be a lost American who somehow managed to find himself without a history in a tiny village; an American who then made his way north to a remote outpost where fishing and farming are among the few ways of making a living. Somehow, though, I would need a reliable income. These details need to be worked out. There’s always some intractable restraint that gets in the way of impossible fantasies, isn’t there? I can’t claim, even surreptitiously, my Social Security benefits; I left those with the “old” me. It would unconscionable to try to take them with me, leaving the “old” me penniless and destitute; I could never do that to anyone, so income remains an obstinate roadblock to achieving the impossible.

As I was roaming the map, seeking places to live out my fantasies, I came across Burnt Church Indian Nation, New Brunswick. I suspect many of the Indian Nation lands may be hostile outposts to American interlopers; that’s pure conjecture, though, and probably illuminates an unintentional bias. Ach! How does one become a citizen of the world with no innate prejudices, no superficial biases, no preconceived judgments? Perhaps a fresh “new” me would be capable of leaving those ugly flaws to wear away as the “old” me ages and allows his blemishes to dissolve into love near the end of his life.

I am fully aware that the visions I have of remote Canadian villages and uninhabited rural lands are distorted by a deep rose tint embedded in my glasses. That’s where fantasies live; in rose-colored glasses that blur the images of trash left along the roadside. They block out the view of dilapidated old houses situated on lots strewn with old cars and unkempt weeds. They hide from sight drunken unemployed husbands beating their innocent children and desperate wives. This is not to say those bleak portraits resemble remote Canadian villages any more than they represent the norm in the U.S. or anywhere else; but those ugly images exist everywhere people exist. Maybe that is why I am so drawn to desolate areas of uninhabited wilderness that stretch in all directions.

I am aware, too, that as attractive as I find desolation and isolation, I need at least some close, intimate human contact with someone with whom I share some core commonalities. The “new” me would have no real commonalities to share, having unknowingly emerged from the “old” me as a blank slate. Everywhere I turn I find impossibilities, suggesting the only viable option is to live with myself, my past, and my future. As unappealing as that sometimes is, I suppose the choice is either to live with reality or die from it; the latter would be unacceptably cruel, so that’s out of the question. These thoughts trigger the words of a song I’ve heard only recently. Coincidentally (or, perhaps, not), the singer is a Canadian, Ken Yates. The song, Surviving is Easy. Here are the words to one stanza of the song:

Who gives a damn about a broken heart?
Who gives a damn about a couple new scars?
But getting by will only get you so far
Surviving is easy
But living is hard.


This morning, work will begin (or continue, depending on perspective) on repainting my deck. I’ve hired someone to do the work, having given up on doing it myself. I might just as well have left out “doing it” from that last sentence. I hope this will be the last attempt to make the deck attractive and livable. If the contractor gets here early enough and does not need me around, I will go to the Thursday morning parking lot gathering at church. Then, I will meet my wife at her cardiologist’s office to get some direct feedback from the doctor on her condition. And, this evening, I probably will attempt to dull the edges with some wine or gin or whiskey or even beer; something modestly anesthetic.


I just got an email that, on first glance, seemed to read “Your Autopsy is scheduled for 10/26/2020.” On closer reading, it was a notice from Entergy about my electricity bill: “Your Autopay is scheduled for 10/26/2020.” It worried me for a moment.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Psychic Anesthesia

  1. Yes, Meg, HSV is a great place to be and UUVC enhances it. But the idea of emerging as a new me in PEI remains appealing.

  2. Meg Koziar says:

    Last had me Laughing out Loud! I’ve been to PEI, and if I had to live an alternate life, that would be a good place to do it. However the Village is a great place to be. Especially when you have a church community that has parking lot meetings!

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