rachel leedom.png

The Curse of The Masochistic Reader

Not everyone here may share this disease, but for the literature lovers who find themselves relentlessly addicted to escaping out of this world and into other realities, the cruel bite of coping with our every day reality here can be a crushing weight.

Perhaps you've been a reader your entire life, or you caught the bug sometime in your adolescence or adult life, but regardless when the love affair started, it sank deep within you... nesting in your bones. This can be a wonderfully inspiring outlet to boost our mental and emotional health, finding ourselves through stories is a magical experience.

Stories nudge us to see the world and ourselves differently, as we hop from life to life, perspective to perspective, over and over again. They give us glimpses into the inner workings of other people's minds to show us really are not alone in any of our ugliness, our pain, our fear, hatred or apathy. But what about when those characters become more real and vivid to you than many of those around you in your own life?

What about when we grow feelings of love, loyalty and friendship with essences and energies not here in a physical form? What about when we suffer the losses just as sharply as our protagonists do? The betrayals and heartbreaks? Is this not a form of conscious masochism? Choosing each time we crack open the pages of a new book and immerse ourselves into its world to suffer all of the pain, the hope and disappointment saturated throughout it...

The addiction I feel to seeking out books with tragic endings, packed full with betrayal, misery, loss and violence is very bittersweet. These stories always burrow deep into my heart. They become a part of me, but that means the pain is no longer a mere fairy tale, but a vivid and heavy experience that can send me spiraling into an isolating depression for days. It can sew bitterness in my veins for the people around me who have no idea what's going on or why I feel this way, because they didn't live that out.

The depression when those stories end can be debilitating, feeling a very real need to mourn.

For those who remain more unattached, tied to this world and their sense of self, without a desire to merge into these portals to other realities, I suppose the pain is duller, the experience not so guttural. But as with everything in life, then the joy, love and transcendental qualities of bringing that world to life are dulled as well. Whenever we open ourselves up to more of the light or higher qualities on the spectrum of emotion and states of consciousness, we equally allow room for more darkness.

That's not a bad thing or a fault in the design, but merely the exact way duality and polarity were constructed to function. Perfect in their extremities.

I've found that I go through cycles where I purposefully distance myself from my imagination, from my connection to those other planes of existence that perhaps we get to glimpse into through books, movies, tv, music, poetry, and any form of art - all windows into the soul. I do this because sometimes I can't take the dissonance of having one foot in this world and one foot in that world, because every fiber of my being calls me to merge with it completely. I know I'm not alone in that.

Sometimes the loneliness it spurs is just too suffocating. It's a unique sort of lonely feeling - longing for something that resides in the intangible space of imagination and ethereal realms of belief. That loneliness can recede like water pulling back from the shore, but you still see it in the distance, it's still always there. Not everyone works this way, but I go in cycles with that urge to get lost in fantasy.

I break away at times to focus on "this life" and try my best to make it lovely and magical in its own way and worth living... but when I turn and acknowledge those shadows always lurking in my peripheral vision - stories begging to be read, absorbed or even written by me - it becomes so hard to find my footing. Any semblance of balance I had attained becomes wobbly, because that genuine love and affection for those stories is irresistible.

There is something so special about being able to live thousands of lives within this one, but that admittedly does come with a great deal of pain and turmoil. It is so, so worth it. Each time a story rips at my insides, shredding my heart and dismantling a belief I (or the character, or both) had formed, I feel both destroyed and made anew. I wouldn't change that for anything in the world.

These stories break our hearts over and over as we invest ourselves deeply into them, but that adds so much texture and color to our lives. However, I do remind myself more frequently now, that anything we do intake or absorb is conditioning us in a variety of ways. I'm discerning about which worlds and perspectives I do latch onto, as I want them to still feel authentic and resonate with my core truths.

I think it's important, for those of us who do invest / merge / attach so deeply to these characters and stories, to not lose touch with our core self - the main character we are in this life - while still allowing these others to shape and mold us.

Embrace that process wholeheartedly, take those pieces of ourselves we find in those mystical landscapes and transport them with us out into our day to day life, then allow ourselves to process those emotions as we should our own. Validate their importance so we can feel and release them as they arise, without storing them subconsciously and letting them alter us in unintentional ways we're no longer in control of.

Balance is never easy, nor does it need to be a consistently upheld state of perfection. There are few times greater when I struggle with this than balancing fictional worlds with my own life. Those emotions versus my own can become a blurry, frenzied, heavy mess if I suppress them, but also if I hold onto them too tightly for fear of losing that world based on resentment for my own.

The more we honor pain in all of its hidden, sneaky places... in all of its various shapes, sizes and colors... the more at ease we can feel with it being a natural part of our existence - but also to see it as the tool it is. One we really can use in whichever way we desire, even when we feel at its mercy instead.