At last, the minute hand moves. Sixty more ticks until it moves again. Sixty more moves until the hour hand shifts and you can leave. Time is crawling. The clock must see you glaring at it because it moves slower and slower until you’re not sure if it moves at all.
You wonder, ‘Is this hell?’
In desperation, you plot an elaborate escape for the door, one so advanced it would make the Mission Impossible plots look like child’s play by comparison. Perhaps you could crawl under the desks and make your escape. Would the other students snitch on you? Would they join?
Your eyes glaze over. The professor continues to drone about “Sixty Uses of Cardboard“.
This is hell, you’re sure. What else can this be?
Moments like these never end.
But there is an escape if you can daydream. It’s one of the benefits of being a daydreamer.
The Early Years
I’ve always been a daydreamer since my earliest memories. I used to think everyone could do it, that all humans were natural-born daydreamers. My parents wondered why I could be so calm during long car rides when my older brother could not sit still for more than the blink of an eye. They never understood that I was deep in my head.
“There’s nothing to do!” was a common complaint I heard from peers on the hour-long bus ride home from elementary school.
Our bus driver forbade us from doing homework, reading books, playing cards, or talking to anyone who wasn’t in the seat next to ours. The bus had no air conditioning and windows could only be opened a thumb’s length. In the Texas Summer we cooked in that yellow school bus. The bus driver would watch us with her rearview mirror and if we disobeyed we had to sit in the seat directly behind her. No one wanted that fate.
As my fellow peers descended into madness from prolonged boredom, I gazed out the window, watching the endless blur of farmland and trees. I found escape in my head. I think it angered the bus driver, more than a few times I saw her glaring at me.
Sometimes she’d bark at me, “Mara! What’re you doing?”
“N-nothing,” I’d reply.
“Hmph! You better not be reading,” she’d called, sure I was up to no good. She seemed to hate kids.
She seemed sure that no child my age could be so calm in such conditions. Why didn’t I look miserable like the others? I could tell my calmness bothered her. I’ll never understand why she was so strict. Was she afraid of losing control or did she enjoy our suffering?
All I remember is that every evening on my way home from school I’d escaped that tortuous bus ride by letting my mind wander far, far away. I found freedom in daydreaming. I thought everyone did that. I didn’t understand why the others were so unhappy.
No prison can hold me
Control Of Time
Daydreaming let me control my perception of time. I could make the clock go, “tick-tick-tick-tick-tick” until at last the boring moment was over. A long-winded teacher’s ramble was finished. The preacher’s sermon was done.
When I interned for the Texas government, I always volunteered for the work that no one wanted. I was the one who folded the pamphlets, xeroxed and stapled together thousands of documents, and prepared a mountain of gift bags. I would come back from lunch to find the full-time employees had left more for me with little yellow sticky notes describing how they wanted it done.
I was happy they did this. I told them to give me these jobs. My boss would pass by at times and pop her head into my cubicle, satisfied to see me being productive.
One day, during lunch with my fellow interns, I mentioned this and their reaction was horror. “Y-you asked to do that kind of work? How are you not going insane? It’s boring af. No sane person asks to do that stuff!”
Despite my attempts to explain that I really didn’t mind this kind of work, they couldn’t fathom volunteering for these tasks. They decided I had an agenda.
They called that kind of work “demeaning” and “humiliating”. They craved the big jobs, the ones that “made a difference”. The ones that brought acclaim and made them feel equal to the full-time employees.
I was puzzled at the time, confused by why they looked down on such work. The reason I enjoyed it was because I could daydream. I wasn’t stuck sitting in my cubicle trying to look busy while I hoped a big assignment came my way, I was helping the other employees who were more qualified for the big jobs anyway. I became essential to them because they could focus on the bigger stuff.
And they cried a river when I left.
Finding enjoyment in mundane work can be a bigger blessing than we realize. Someone has to do the meat and bones of a project. We can’t all be the head.
Daydreaming could let me tune out things I didn’t like.
I’m absorbing the information, I swear.
Superpower Of A Daydreamer
“When you’re head is full of dreams, there is no room for hate.“
When I think back to those kids on my old school bus who stewed in their misery, I realize they could not escape the moment. The bus driver won. All they could feel was their despair. The negative feelings suffocated them. That past and present are forever with them.
In the movie “Eternal Sunshine in the Spotted Mind”, people escape their painful memories by erasing them. Of course, this came at the cost of the happy memories as well. Good and bad had to go.
What if you could keep the memories without the hurt and anger? What if you could remember the lesson without the trauma?
Without emotions to fuel them, memories disappear anyway. Or that’s been my experience. Once I resolved my anger and hurt against someone, that person faded until I hardly remembered them at all.
I think taking away only the strong negative feelings of a memory would result in the same ending of Eternal Sunshine In The Spotless Mind. You might remember that you once dated and loved this person, but you wouldn’t remember why. The memories would dissolve without the feelings to keep them alive in our heads. They simply die without emotion to let them burn bright.
In other words, the emotions of those events are the real memories. You remember what you felt more than what actually happened.
And dark emotional memories can trap us in a cycle of rage and hurt that never goes away. They keep the fire going and we can’t breathe.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.
When I daydream, I take a break entirely from the negative feelings. My hurt, my anger, and my pain leave my head, forced out by a blissful daydream of a story I read or a story I want to write. I’ve noticed that by going into this self-induced trance-like state, I give my brain a break from hate and hurt. When those bad memories return, the emotions become less and less vivid until I can analyze what happened honestly. Eventually, I resolve the feelings and they go away entirely.
Daydreaming helps me let go of people and events. I’m not entirely sure why it works. None of the people who hurt me, or even the most traumatic events in my life (see HERE) left lasting damage. They are only events to me.
Daydreams can free the mind from an endless cycle of bad feelings. They can let you take a break in a way that distracting yourself with friends and fun activities can’t. You can distract your body, but your mind is still feeling that negativity.
My mother will never let go of her hurt at all the people who betrayed her. They remain forever in her. She can’t shut them out.
Misery follows, if you let it. It needs you, and it won’t let go. These memories/ feelings haunt you, remind you of your regrets. Misery never lets go once it gets a hold.
Letting go, doesn’t mean forgetting what happened.
Cindy and others have tried to inflict misery on me. They wanted me to feel the pain and rage likely tormenting them. After all, misery loves company. They assumed no one could get over it since they certainly couldn’t.
And this is the ultimate power of daydreaming, of sending your mind into a blissful state, almost a self-induced trance, in that you can get a respite from a miserable situation or a painful memory. Daydreamers are happy warriors. The suffering of the world isn’t scary because we can escape it and cleanse it from our hearts. It doesn’t invade us and take root like a cancer.
A couple times I’ve met the people who hurt or tried to hurt me. I barely remembered them. They seemed upset by this. I realize now that they had intended to devastate me and were furious that their efforts failed. They were like that bus driver who seemed to want all her passengers to be miserable. Seeing someone who they could not leave lasting harm was frustrating for them. As if we were out of their control.
I used to scoff at the notion of someone deliberately hurting someone. That was the stuff of fairy tales. Now I realize that many do enjoy the hurt and misery in others. Most are not like this, but these villains do exist in more than just stories. I overlooked a lot of their dark side because in many ways daydreaming left me innocent.
I would get suspicious and troubled, but forget those feelings when I daydreamed. I would let go of things one should never let go of. It’s not without a downside. Now I’ve learned not to let go of any bad feeling. Sometimes we need to remember both the feeling and the memory, even if we are to learn the lesson.
But I am still grateful I could escape the rage that haunts my mother to this day.
Daydreamers can escape into a place that no evil can reach, and in that place we can clear our hearts.
The Ultimate Escape Artists.