Me In My Little Boat On An Endless Sea Sucking On Hard Tack

When I was two years old, one of my favourite games was to pretend that I was lost at sea. I don't know where I got the idea of being lost at sea and experiencing incredible and unending isolation. Maybe the movie "Papillon" had been advertised on television. Our living room was covered in this wall-to-wall deep blue and turquoise shag carpet. I would drag the tan plastic laundry basket up the basement stairs and push it into the centre of the room where it would become my own small lifeboat adrift in an endless sea. I would fill a small orange Tupperware cup with Alphabits, grab my blue blanky, and crawl into the basket.
Things were going to get cold on that open sea, so I would try to completely cover myself with my blanky for warmth, leaving only my head visible, and tucking it in around me so I could not feel cool air coming in through the moulded lattice-work of the basket. I would hold my little cup of cereal on my belly under the blanket, slowly eating one letter at a time, holding each piece on my tongue until it grew soggy enough to swallow it without chewing. My food had to be rationed out, because if I ran out, I would surely die in this game of mine. When a sugary letter fell overboard, I would mourn my loss, knowing hunger loomed ever more closely with each morsel that floated away from my boat and further out to sea.
My eyes would close as I alternately envisioned a high noon sun and the blackest night settling upon the water. In the beginning, I would usually try to keep my mind focused on my vision of mid-day. The sun's light was almost searing in its intensity, and I liked to watch the sun sparkling off rippling waves, the deep contrast between black-blue and bright yellow. If the vision of midnight crept in, I fought it for all I was worth. Where there was some kind of comfort in the sun-warmed isolation, there was none in the coldness of the night. All I could see of the ocean were moonlit crests dotted far into the distance, and suddenly the idea of the depth of the water and the fantastic monsters that swam beneath would fill me with fear. My little heart would race with thoughts of being eaten alive. Even though I knew that I was only pretending, my vision of the ocean at night was gripping, and once it had taken hold in my brain, I found it very difficult to get rid of. It was sneaky. I would be innocently enjoying my aloneness on the ocean, watching the day shift ever so slowly across the sky, not even realizing what was about to happen. I don't know if I was actually taken by surprise or if I allowed it to happen because I liked the fear, but total night would descend, and I would feel panic and fight my way back to day if I was able. Sometimes my game had to end when my imagined night fell, because it would be too difficult to overcome the strength of the vision I had created. I would force my eyes open and throw myself over, tipping the basket and cereal and me over onto the shag carpet.
Eventually, though, this fight between dark and light became the focus of the game. I would indulge the excitement that the fear gave me, like the momentary panic of throwing myself from the swing set or getting on a fast ride at the fair and feeling it begin to pick up speed. Travelling that black ocean was terrifying, but the sense of elation I would feel when I managed to overcome it with a noonday sun made the mental ordeal worth the fear. I felt I had done something. I had accomplished what I considered to be a feat. It was addictive. I would allow the image of night to overwhelm me, and then I would concentrate with all my energy on changing what I was experiencing, on feeling the warmth of the sunlight and seeing the blue and turquoise of the water and hearing the gulls. If I became overconfident, the picture would have just begun to shift into daylight, and then it would suddenly snap back as soon as I thought I had it fixed in place. I had to be absolutely sure of my victory before easing back on my effort, or I would have to begin the battle all over again.
I think that those self-imposed battles of the mind probably provided me with the first great sense of accomplishment I had ever felt. Those make-believe battles also provided me with some of my first forays into the depths of complex emotions. When I first began playing at this lost-at-sea game, I positively craved the intensity of the sense of isolation, utter aloneness, and hopelessness that it offered me. The strength of those new emotions was dazzling. Within the confines of this game, I was the only thing aside from the gulls with no one to call out to and no one to save me. No one could reach me there, and it left me to my thoughts. Somehow, that made me feel safe. Later, when I began to indulge in the excitement of fear, it became less about the feeling of isolation and more about my battle to choose the lesser of two evils and gaining a better and better ability to win over time.
The game finally began to lose its hold over me when I became adept at controlling which scenario I was in the mood to pursue. Over time, I had gotten to the point where I could easily move from one scene to another, so it became nothing more than an escape from boredom or sadness, and it lost its edge. Eventually, I abandoned it for other forms of entertainment and escape, but I have never forgotten it. I think of it occasionally when I think of the first house I remember living in that my family moved out of when I was about three or four. I have an incredible memory for my very early life, even as early as the age one-and-a-half. My memories of that time are better even than of some of the later stages of my life, and so the things that I experienced then are still with me.
How can I forget about being alone in a lone boat on the only sea on a day with unchanging, clear-skied weather? The sense of utter isolation it offered brought intense feelings of desolation and futility, but it also brought a feeling of satisfaction when I accepted my situation and a feeling of such freedom that is only afforded by no watching eyes, hearing ears, or touching hands. It was kind of like my own sensory deprivation chamber.
I know that this all sounds exceedingly complex for a child of two. It is. I never would have been able to describe my game of being lost at sea that way at the time. I know that. But I also know that the game I played helped to set a somewhat gymnastic ability for my brain that has helped me to confront difficult situations throughout my life since then. It taught me that being alone at times was good for me, it taught me how to be still and carefully think my way through a situation, and it taught me how I would feel when I overcame an obstacle. Damn good lessons, all of them. Our brains are hard-wired for learning and will create their own paths to learning even when almost nothing has been provided to urge them along. It also helped, though, that as a child, I was a little left of centre.

Didn't I mention yesterday that I was going to stop talking about this sense of isolation I live with? Well, it's still spring, so I guess I'm not done just yet. Actually, I feel like I have just barely begun exploring it. Too bad for you, my readers. I mean, really, it's just too bad.

I guess fish did not grow limbs to move to dry land but to prop themselves up under water.

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