Saturday, April 26, 2014


It isn't exactly a conscious thing, this trying to pass. If truth be told, it's probably something you've always done, a something that parents/teachers/camp counselors drummed into your head, their words playing a staccato rhythm against your brain.

Not that they were alone in their drumming. After all, an argument can be made that we all start out as squawking, uncivilized little beasts who require modeling and shaping in order to fit in with the teeming, well-mannered majority. Looked at in this way, could it be true that we all learn to "pass", at least at first?

And so, like your fellow little wild things, you learned by rote that please and thank you were the magic words and that brushing your teeth, washing your hands, saying your prayers, finishing your chores, and doing your homework were activities that needed to be done because that's just what people do

Were such pedagogic lessons such a far cry from the less common admonishments you also received on a regular basis, such as the necessity of lowering your voice, calming down, and at least trying to be less impulsive/dramatic/hysterical/theatrical/maudlin?

All of this instruction was important, all of this was necessary, to help beat the wildness out of you (as if you were a dusty rug hung up on the line).

For many of your once uncivilized peers, such didactics worked wonders. But alas, for you (yes, you), some wildness remained, albeit hidden beneath a carefully stitched veneer of appropriate social behaviour.

Put simply, you eventually learned to pass.

So now.

So now, without even needing time to blink, you understand the importance of slowing down your speech in front of others so that your words don't come tumbling out, one on top of the other, as if your thoughts were permanently locked in a washing machine's spin cycle.

So now, if ever asked, you can explain without hesitation why sobbing in the corners of lavatory stalls is not considered de rigueur ("Back in a minute! I just need to go freshen up!"), and why the proper response to "How are you?" is not a blank-eyed, slack-jawed stare, but rather some chirpy version of Hail Fellow, Well Met.

Further, thanks to all the molding and the drumming and the shaping, your wild-beast-self now knows why staying up until 4 am each night for a week at a time is considered abnormal (bad word, bad word), why food is meant to be eaten, and why oxygen is meant to be breathed. All of this (and so much more) you understand.

Let it be said that memorization comes easily for you. Let it be said that mimicry comes even easier.


But there's also an insistent, less socially acceptable truth you've learned across the decades, a truth that crawls up into your ear just before sleep steals you away, to whisper what you've always known:

Passing is not the same as living.

For you, living is too messy to be written within the lines of an etiquette book, too mucky to place on your grandparents' spotless living room couch, where you were expected to sit (ankles crossed), for what seemed like an eternity.


For you, living is akin to flying one day, dive-bombing the next. Living is like leaping into a mud pit and either tossing the muck around with glee, or hoping it will pull you down for a time, into its viscous darkness. Living, for you, may be hour after hour of twirling with abandon across a wet grass, the moon your spotlight, or rocking beneath the covers, head on bony knees.

Living, for you, is a process filled with emotions that have their volume turned up, with colours that can hurt the eyes, and with thoughts that can hurt the soul.

Living is an exhausting, fulfilling, leaden, feather-light, terrifying, joyful, and transcendent mess that is diametrically opposed to passing.

And yet.

And yet, such living does not fit into your loved ones' definitions of living, which tend toward a more acceptable, balanced, civilized, gentle experience of life.

And so.

And so you take them. You take those nine pills (spread out in appropriate intervals across the day, of course). You take those nine damn pills that bring you down from the clouds or up from the mud pit and you pass.

You pass not only because that is what was drummed into you since babyhood, but because you know that at its core, your type of living, no matter how mystical or alluring, no matter how real or authentic, is a life that can only include one. And that, for you, is ultimately not living at all.

And so you pass. Each day, with sticky pill residue still stuck in your throat, you pass.

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