you must be joking

I wish my psyche had a benevolent dictator. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Just don’t make me sort through all the options and decide what’s important and what’s not, how to prioritize, what to say or not say, what to write and how to write it. Every choice matters, and all these choices add up to my life.

Choices might be simpler to make if not for foolish dreams. Even when Ego tries to banish them, even when more sensible choices already fill the table, my foolish dreams tap at my shoulder, pulling my gaze upward. My head lifts, my eyes shift to clouds and the sky beyond, my face relaxes. I become mesmerized by a bird, way up there, way out there, an enticing flicker in the far distance.

“You sure look stupid,” says Ego, “standing there baying at the moon.” With a smirk, Ego gives me a rude push to jolt me back to Earth and I have to look down, away from the horizon, to keep from falling to my knees in the dirt.

If I do as Ego says and ignore my foolish dreams, keep my focus only on the options right in front of me, life becomes a progressive slump into grey flatness. I go nowhere because I’m cut off from my source of fuel.

My imaginary benevolent dictator knows this. When I’m suffering from option fatigue, wearing myself out jumping back and forth between pros and cons, with no choice in sight that sings, and Ego is nattering on in the background about all the ways it’s possible to screw up a decision, at some point, before I implode, the benevolent dictator summons the Joker.

“Hey!” shouts the Joker. “You’re going nowhere fast. How about you take a break and I’ll tell you a joke.” He shoos the crowd back to make room, stands in the middle of the cleared circle of empty floor, gathers all the attention, and says …

“Geez, I’m soaked! It’s pouring outside.” He shakes his head like a dog and you can almost see the imaginary drops flying off. He takes one step to the left and becomes the person he’s having this conversation with, who says …

“I know! I just stepped in a poodle.”

Silence. Ego is stunned into immobility for a blessed moment. The benevolent dictator’s mouth twitches into a smile. My pros and cons vaporize in a breath of fresh air as the ceiling blows away to reveal a whole flock of foolish dreams in a sky that’s not, in fact, rainy and grey at all.

The Joker, taking advantage of Ego’s frozen silence, races over and pulls down Ego’s pants. I laugh, and my foolish dreams sharpen into focus.

The serious business of making The Right Decision got in the way of feeling joy. My body knows what’s important, what joy is, though my head may not. It’s not that I had too many options, only too few that resembled me. Looking away (where else am I going to look when Ego’s pants come down?) brought my whole self into perspective, foolish dreams and all. When I looked back at that table full of options, it was easy to choose.

Irreverence, changes in perspective, diverted attention, flights of fancy, joking, putting Ego in its place as a servant of benevolence, writing to let foolishness have its way, and taking a long exhaling look at the sky have a way of turning options into certainties … and articles into fables.

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