First of all, I’m actually going to do something with this post that I’ve never done before… I’m closing the comments. I wanted to put this at the top, in case you’d like to jump ship now and avoid another long read without even having a chance to respond :). Hopefully the nature of this entry will let you understand why I’m not interested in taking conversation on it, but even if it doesn’t – I don’t really care.
Secondly, I’m not schizophrenic.
So… as is illustrated by that adorable picture up there, I think of myself as having two sides. Now, we’re all people, and humans are complicated and multi-faceted – of this, I am fully aware, but go along with what I’m saying. Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be that there are two versions of myself – an old, and a new.
This year I’ve done a number of entries on my “personal examination”, trying to understand and better myself. I’ve welcomed conversation on the topics, because they’ve been subjects that I am trying to figure out for myself, but this is different. There’s no mystery here, for me, and as the year is coming to a close, I figured that this entry would be the perfect way to put an unofficial end to these long, rambling posts. In other words, I’m writing today to shut myself up for a while :).
I met Joe in my junior year of high school, Sarah in my senior, and Nick a couple of years after that. They all knew me when I was a much more emotional person. That may seem to contradict previous comments I’ve made about being unemotional, but it doesn’t. I’ve always had some sort of emotional reserve, but back then it was a little different. Oh boy, was it different. I’d fly off the handle, I’d over-romanticize relationships, I’d get angry, I’d be filled with so much joy that I’d randomly dance with a woman at the Spectrum, I’d twitch and shake in public with frustration. For those who’ve only met or really gotten to know me in the last few years, that may not sound very “Mark”. Actually, it’s not. I can’t take claim of that over-emotional reaction, because it came from my dad. Since I’ve known him, he’s had zero throttle on his emotion – whatever he feels, he says, and it’s often to an extreme.
I didn’t like that in myself. I saw, firsthand, how it affected his family, and when I discovered myself doing the same things to those closest to me (friends/girlfriend) – I did everything I could to stop it.
I succeeded a little too well.
Here’s version 2. Actually, it’s not something completely new, as I’ve actually been this way since I was a little kid – but I amplified it, in hopes of drowning out version 1 from above. So, what did I do? I started holding it in. All of it. This is actually a trait I inherited from my mom. I tried just keeping myself calm and only restraining myself from over-reactive responses, but even that didn’t work. I’d still fly off the handle, at times. The only solution was to keep ALL of it in. That wasn’t the goal, necessarily – I was simply trying to avoid these outbursts and over-emotional reactions by choking them out with logic. It took me some time, but I contained everything. It was actually quite a remarkable feat – and I was much better for it. I could have calm discussions without letting my over-zealous passion get in the way. I was able to give advice based on logic, and not on emotion. But there were other aspects to this “new” Mark that maybe weren’t as great. I no longer turn to anyone with my problems. If I’m upset or sad, my closest friends most likely won’t even hear about it until after I’m coming out of it. Why? There’s no point. They can’t help me; there’s no catharsis in sharing my problems and getting advice that I either already know or find annoying, so why bother? It doesn’t change anything. When I was a teenager, I used to take my life-frustrations out on a box. I was in control, it wasn’t a rabid outpouring of non-restraint, but I’d take cardboard box and a golf club into the yard and just beat the thing into pieces. It was a release. And how do I deal with those unhappy, angry, frustrated emotions now? I don’t.
So, over the past few years I’ve had my ups and downs. Because I’d cut off SO much emotion, I had a hard time even finding my creativity. That passed. I had a hard time with the emotional pull of the movie-making business and the logical fears that kept me from it. I’ve pretty much moved beyond that. I still have plenty of issues, but I was able to pretty much maintain fairly well. Then something happened to knock the top off it’s axis (BWAAAAAAAAA).
I met a girl.
Yeah, I know… it sounds so Hollywood-movie-cliche, but I can’t help how it happened. The first day we met, I wanted to kiss her – I’ve never felt that before. I watched her walk away with a new boyfriend, and I got teary-eyed in public. This wasn’t some dramatic build-up of something in my head… it was all genuine, and very new for me. I’d been getting emotional release from movies, as always, but this was the first time that another person had brought this up out of me. It was emotion, and the notable thing was that it was very raw – I almost had no logical control over it. Almost.
So, that old emotionally insane self started stirring about, again. He’s always been there… I just kept the parts suppressed that I hadn’t been able to fix. I started a straight read-through of the Bible, recently, and one thing that struck me as I was reading the beginning stories was the pure emotion shown. It constantly talks about people weeping, tearing their clothes, celebrating with gusto – everything is there. Unabashed emotion… even from God. But I find that I’ve painted myself into a corner, because I have no middle-ground. If I start trying to talk to friends about my problems, I’ll lose that control and out comes the madman, again.
But that’s fine, isn’t it? It’s not great, but it’s who I am. Life’s messy and nobody’s perfect. Mmm, there’s the word. A great deal of my issues stem, in some way, from the ideas of perfection. Creatively, I spent years struggling not only because of my repressed passion, but because of a perfectionist outlook. I don’t turn to my friends for guidance, not because I’m incapable of opening up (though it’s not comfortable, after this long) or pure logic, but because it opens up a can of worms that can’t be solved with simple, clean, perfect results. I’ve even talked about my affection for the black-and-white, static world of the movie Pleasantville, but that’s not completely about my hating being different, it’s about an un-messy world without emotion – good and bad.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve actually been holding onto this logical containment of my former over-emotional self by a very thin thread. It’s been right there at the surface, but I’m absolutely horrified to let things out. I’ve been there. I’ve ticked off friends, I’ve suffered the up-and-downs of reacting on emotion, and all that comes with it. It’s a mess. Many of my favorite movies, and even most of my own stories, surround a man struggling with himself… and you should very well know why. But it’s not some over-dramatic movie, here. It’s not so simple as “Just be yourself and follow your heart!” I may often be seen as a cold S.O.B., but God gave us logical minds as well as emotional hearts – there is a place for both. Likewise, on the other side of the coin, the strength I have as an actor comes from the emotional side, my passion. Without it, I couldn’t really do what I do.
I just can’t find the middle ground.
And I’ve tried. I’ve been trying for over 10 years to find it. Throughout my life I have seen my dad continually blow up like a spoiled child and my mom hold in all of her emotion at the expense of her health. I’ve had no healthy frame of reference for a non-extreme lifestyle. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying. It really is like a war, because no matter which side “wins” there are going to be horrible casualties. Either way I fall, it’s not good. I hold everything in and cut my life-expectancy in half, or I let those emotions fly again… and cut my life-expectancy in half ;).
I signed up for the free 1-month trial of Netflix a few days ago, but even before that, I’ve been watching some wildly appropriate movies. I’ve seen Collateral, Heat, Leon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and now, through Netflix, About A Boy, Mary and Max, and Last Chance Harvey. Each one has covered a very relevant topic for me – making mistakes, fears, the need for relying on others no matter how messy it is, etc.. Over the years, I’ve let my held-in emotions build up until one night I collapse inside of myself and send a friend some long, rambling email about whatever. It’s not that I do it on purpose, I honestly don’t have access to those emotions until they well-up. There’s a tough shell on them that I can’t crack without the beauty of a movie or song tapping in ahead of me. So, consider this post one like one of my rambling emails – an explosion of explanation that’s found its way to the public because of my recently striking emotional oil.
You can even see it in my posts. Removing the purely humorous, there are entries that are completely logical and calm, and there are more dramatic ones that deal with passion and feelings. Ask me how I’m doing, and you’ll always hear the truth. “Okay.” “Fine.” “I’m alive.” “Great!” I just don’t go into details. Even this entry, for as little interest as you probably have, and for as long as it is, I haven’t been very specific. Because, as I said before… there’s no point in it, right?
I’ve only scratched the surface of the topic, even though I’ve written a freaking novel here (and I do think you’re a little mad if you’ve actually read this far). But, I won’t go on, because there’s no solution in this for me. As a man in a movie once said, “I’m DROWNING, here… and you’re describing the water!” I know my problems, but I don’t know the answer, and neither do any of you. I actually hate the conversations that come about by my emotional outpourings, no matter how well-intentioned they are, because they’re never satisfying for me. That’s the hilarious irony/hypocrisy of it all. I’m the one folks often turn to talk about what’s bothering them, encouraging them to tell me anything and feeling glad when they can – yet I rely on nobody else in the same way. I demand that a potential mate be perfect yet imperfect at the same time, in ways that compliment and yet are also exactly like me. Does that make any sense? Do I even know what I want or am I completely without a clue? Am I a liar who is just putting up a front or just misunderstood? Am I a heartless prick who really doesn’t care about anyone or am I bitter? Do I love too much or do I not express it enough? Yes and no. How can there be so much confusion of interest and motivation?
Welcome to the strange case of two Marks – two halves of a fella fighting each other, from the inside out. In as un-dramatic a fashion as I can say this, my life really is depending on the outcome because, operating in my current state, I am missing big chunks of myself. It’s not about needing to hear “Oh, just calm down.. it’s not such a big deal” or “Do it! Viva!” – because that’s what the two halves are already yelling at each other. I know what I need to be capable of doing, and what I need to refrain from… I’m just not sure if I can get into that gray area between the extremes.
Or maybe I’ll flip my lid and suddenly move to Oregon. No, that’d just be silly ;).
P.S. – I can’t offer you an out-of-focus image of women to guess about, but if you want a fun activity, you could always scan this post and try figuring out which version is saying what. Oodles of fun, I’m sure!
P.P.S. – I hate this entry.
P.P.P.S. – No I don’t.