#reverb10: Wonder

[This entry is the fourth for #reverb10, an online initiative to reflect on the year and manifest what’s next. Today’s prompt is to write about what I did to cultivate a sense of wonder in my life this year.]

Wonder is such a strange concept for me. I do not usually feel wonder in any sense that I think of the word; my idea of “wonder” is that sense you get when you are a child and you find out that something you did not know was possible is, in fact, possible.

I am amazed, I guess, by things like flying cars and new forms of life and Jupiter Jumps, but I don’t class those feelings as wonder.

Probably the closest I get to wonder is the feeling I get when I read or see something that makes me want to create. The feeling I get in those situations, whether it’s my 30th or 40th rereading of Gatsby or watching A Single Man for the first time and understanding all the little tricks that make it so heartbreaking, is dangerous, in its way. I get dreamy and distracted, thinking only about what I could be doing, how I should be better.

Given that this is, of course, me that we are talking about, this is oftentimes followed up by crushing depression brought on by the fact that I end up doing nothing with the lightning strike flash of inspiration. Many times, this is practical; if I’m two stops from getting off the train, starting would be nonsensical, and inevitably by the time I get through the door of my apartment and complete the process of settling down, the inspiration has passed.

Other times, it is less defensible. Indefensible, even. I will be at my apartment, sometimes even by myself or alone late at night (as I frequently am), and I will get that flash, but I will not follow the compulsion. I know I should, I really do; the laserlike focus that I am granted on these occasions is good for (writing-wise) a few pages that I will reread in the morning and actually enjoy. If I followed the flashes of wonder, I would write about pretty girls that smell of powder sitting in a swing strung under a tree in the fall when it’s really too cold to be outside, and she will break my heart again in exactly the same way when I read about her later as she did when I was making her.

I wish I felt wonder more often, in the childlike sense that I miss or the literary way I consider it, but I think I might have damaged my ability to feel it. Most of my teens and early 20s were spent doing everything I could to inure myself against getting hurt. I put up walls, withdrew, learned to use my charms not as aspects of my personality but as things I could deploy in the right situations, to defuse or disarm or, more literally, to charm. I thought for a long time that this would make me happy.

We think a lot of things when we are young and stupid that turn out to have absolutely no fucking bearing on reality. I have tried to open myself up more, to let go of trying to make everyone happy and protecting myself, to be the real me. The problem there is that in a lot of ways the me that I showed people was more likable than I really am, but then again, I was able to cull people who didn’t belong in my life, or maybe let them drop me, and gather friends who actually like me for me.

That is worth something, and has on occasion been wonderful. Even still, I am afraid as always to open myself up any more, to allow a sense of wonder to sneak past the cynical, knowing half-smile with which I usually greet new information. I fear getting hurt more than I am usually willing to admit.

What is it holding me back from?

You know, there is a really easy answer to this question, “what did I do to cultivate a sense of wonder?” I should have said I watched Double Rainbow, all the way.

Now THAT is wonder right there.

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