Stop the Carousel- I want to get off!

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we might oft win, by fearing to attempt.” –William Shakespeare

OK, this post is about dealing with harsh realities. As you may have read, my personal life is overshadowed by an unsure future and the financial picture is harsh. Some days I have a hard time with it all, and I find ways to distract myself, or failing that, will cry it out. But recently in conversation with a friend, we touched on a subject I brought up long ago about creating an alter ego – a character, a story character, to whom one can place all the burdens of the world, or your personal cares, upon – or just write out a fantasy to live vicariously, virtually through. It’s a distraction at the very least, but a powerful tool in coping, if you apply yourself.

Recently I read of a new theory on creative genius /mental illness regarding the creative process –the latest studies suggest that the part of you that daydreams and envisions things differently (out of the box) or the ‘creative process’ they are studying, suggests  how some people are actually more than the eccentric label we often give to famous artists. They are known to turn “Nutso” - possibly because they can't go in and out of the creative mind - they get stuck in a disconnect with reality, while others can manage to go back and forth at will...and could lead to clues in mental illnesses.

My daughter Leah started a new story: “Seenteehr and Cyroth represent something special to me that even I don't quite understand. Senteehr is me in another time, and she teaches me something new every time I let her out.”
She says, “Cheers for alter egos and what they really mean to a personality. Without them, I could be nothing. With them, the future is mine. Alter egos are God-given mutant powers that give you the confidence to stand, the joy to smile....when you've crashing hard, they are your second parachute waiting to swoop in to your rescue. They are your left-behind childhood, your future wise-man and the ever strong muse to your works.
...Or maybe I'm just a schitzo...”

I like that idea, that our alter-egos, daydreaming, all that stuff, is really something God-given for a reason, like “God-given mutant powers just to endure this life”. It’s true that our day to day realities can often be too harsh to take as is. Some people turn to drugs and some to recreational activity or religion. I personally like to dream things up, and daydream, but on paper...
If our dreams at night were like really nice like alternate-lives I guess that people wouldn't want to wake up - so in God’s infinite wisdom, He gave us these other abilities.
(Leah’s dreams are so in depth she can feel the fibers of material within the dream.)

It's not story-writing, it's more an exercise in painting a scene with words.
My friend wanted to know how to go about creating this alter ego. She felt she wouldn’t be able to relate to someone who was nothing like she was...
“She would have to be carefree and all the things I am not....artistic, ethereal, graceful, clever, patient, optimistic and tender.  (I added brave, but removed it because I think for the most part, I AM brave....sometimes I believe that's all I am.  But how does one write about things one doesn't know about?  Her reactions would be foreign to me.
Perhaps if you explain to me how Illoura is different than you, but like you too....and how you are able to combine them....I don't even know where to begin.
And here was my answer:

To start writing about your alter ego, create a character you can admire, and indulge, someone who rises to the occasion when you cannot, who can take the whole grain and blow away the chaff to reveal the gem that nourishes your spirit along with their own.  
When I say alter-ego, I don't mean someone opposite you per se, just someone who might not react to everything the same way you do.

Here's how to do it:
Open up a new Word document or find a quiet place to write and get a good pen and a notebook  -and fill up the page with all the information about your alter ego/character. (Note: you don’t have to know everything about her yet... it will develop as you give her things to see, do, deal with):
Where does she reside? What is her view each morning? Is she a picky eater? What is her last thought before drifting off to sleep? What color does she wear? Do jewels dangle from her ears, adorn her hair, lay heavily or daintily around her neck? Does she interchange them as often as a newscaster? Does she smile- or is her nose always red from crying?
Now answer: Why?

In answering that "why", you create her, she begins to share your problems and you become the source of her answers- and thereby create the alternate ending for yourself or create a way out of the rut you're in, or create solutions, or whatever else you need/are looking for.
(Then you can decide what she looks like and what her name is).
And you’re on your way!

You might think of it as an exercise, a way to practice reacting differently- perhapsmore to the way you WISH you would, than what comes automatically. Of course, this is a writing exercise but it concurrently also trains your brain to stop and think before progressing with a quick reaction – and it can carry over into your own life if you allow it to.
[For instance, maybe you already practice biting your tongue against sarcastic remarks or cursing- to keep the peace, to keep the kids sheltered, to control yourself from impulse, etc... whatever your reasons are. This is the same thing, just on another level.]

You don't have to wish you were different or need to respond differently in your life for realsies – take from this what you will, what you want.
It's just like walking in someone elses shoes and seeing things from their point of view. Just for the length of a paragraph or a page. Just wonder what that would be like, in order to do this try-on of perception or of personality.
So you don't have to have different virtues or be/do different in your real life at all!  Your life is yours, but your character, this alter ego, whom you lay your troubles on (or worse), leads their life at your bidding.
However the benefit to you in getting to see their reaction and the outcome, can be useful!

And if they handle things worse than you would, then you are all the same purging your emotion within their reaction. It gives you a safe place to land, to vent, to examine. If they handle things better, then you have worked out the kinks for yourself- figured out a way to deal with it, cope, handle the challenge in your own life.
It’s a way of expressing what you think or feel, of laying it all out there on the table to examine, then processing it and taking from it what you want or need.

But however you see it, I stand by the process as a way of dealing better with hard things that happen, the harsh realities that you need time to process in order to avert those feelings of depression or despair, or fear, or whatever you're tired of suffering from... and coming away stronger and more able, more confident in trying and ready for taking the first step.

Instead of jumping from the carousel while it's moving... why not take the opportunity to grasp for that brass ring you keep passing by?

As for my own ‘alter egos’... they are the main characters of two stories I’m writing.

One is a Western Romance, that takes place in the 1880’s...
I like Mattie because she lives in solitude a lot of the time and its hard to be so lonely, and she has persistent frustrations in the areas of love and her dreams of a better life, (who hasn't felt that) and she works in the dirt and sweats a lot. She's been abandoned in ways I haven't, but ways I can still relate to. I admire her and I can relate to her.  That, to me, is what an alter ego is... someone we can take notes from as they go thru something we fear, or that make us insecure, or that make us question our ability to cope. Our alter ego can ‘try it on for size’!
If I see that she can scratch a living out of that dirt, then I don't feel so afraid of my own insecure future. "She did it, so can I" kind of thing. And her situation will always be worse than anything I will have to endure!

One is of modern survival and coming of age, a Mainstream story...
I like Illoura because she lives out one of my dreams to fruition (yes, I’m cheating!) and in the process she makes the connections she seeks in life. She lives a really interesting life all over the place, and she picks up values that she wants to keep and recognizes those she wants to run away from... she grows.
When she’s at the end of her rope in coping, she finds that reaching out to others who might need her more than she needs them, actually helps herself. That opening up allows her to heal from past harsh realities, to find strength and renewed purpose, and eventually brings others to healing too – but only because she takes the hard knocks in life and turns them so that she gets a value from them – like rubbing coal to get a diamond.
Nothing overtly obvious, but in that they made her stronger and more open and willing to wait, to give time to give chances, to not judge, to expect nothing and that way not be disappointed... and to recognize that lots of things in life other than the seasons are circular... things come round again!

Both of these characters add to my arsenal of self-preservation, if not improvement: I can retreat into their lives and flesh out the solution, the best solution to my own problems in some way.
It's the same reason I get so much from The Lord of the Rings... they didn't quit (or lay down and die), they kept going even when their hope was gone.
"Don't you let go!"
Ok I won't!

But it's a lot of fun if you can dress your character in your favorite color, and choose whether she cheats on her diet or not, and if the rain pours down on her at the most inopportune time, or the sunshine makes her cry... (take that!)

To do this? Hmm, perhaps you could meet her on the virtual balcony  (pretend to send / receive emails from her that like a secret diary where you get the inside her head, yet you look down from your cloud and see every detail her day). This might be because you are the real Fairy God Mother... or, rather, since you have the power to orchestrate her life, turning what was evil into a good outcome for this story-  her life - for the purposes of her world, you are God.
(I guess it’s like reading the Bible or about Bible characters- there is a story that illustrates their virtue or their lesson.)

From Larry Brooks on (re: Story Architecture, on a post called “Story Structure Series: Epilogue… the Fine Print” , by LARRY on Aug 11, 2009 ):
“.......If you can see the shore, then keep paddling, you’ll get there.  And if you don’t, well, you keep stroking, too.
Because to tread water is to eventually drown.  Moving forward is your only hope of survival.  Unless, of course, you get a kick out of treading water.
Just don’t kid yourself in the process.  Treading water can feel like swimming, like moving forward, but it’s not.  It’s only wearing you out.  And if you happen to get the aforementioned kick out of it, well, at least you’ll go down happy.
The only life raft coming your way in this sea of choices is one of your own construction.  Or should I say, choosing.”

If you can’t choose what to do for yourself just yet, try it out on your alter ego/character!
Write it up as if it is THEIR problem, their story. What does your alter ego do with the problem? What are the results? How do you feel about them now? What would you try differently? Well, then try it on them!

And you know, if life really sucks today and you don’t want to think about whatever is going wrong, then give your character a beautiful day and a walk in the park, or a picnic on the beach or a yurt in an apple orchard, or a prince riding up on a white horse...
TAKE A BREAK FROM REALITY AND ENJOY A LITTLE FANTASY! Relax a while. It’s cheaper than wine and no hangover!

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