Magical Thinking

I grew up in a large home where everything was nothing like the real world. There was not a spot on the white rugs nor do I ever remember seeing a bug in the house. When I came home from school my room was cleaned, the bathroom scrubbed and everything in the house seemed to be in its right place. Everything was white except the art on the walls and outside the windows were beautiful oak trees, japanese gardens, a large pool and acres of landscaped grounds. It was a kind of veritable paradise that I grew up in, but as a child I was never able to see it for what it was. Instead I saw ghosts when I looked out the windows. I was afraid to walk down the long dark hallways at night and during the days I carried around a bundle of anxiety because I knew that I would get into trouble if I got a stain on the carpet or knocked anything out from its rightful place. My house was a kind of childhood prison- a prison that forced me to develop magical thinking in order to survive.

Growing up I do not remember my father being a happy man. He was always working and when home he was exhausted by the amount of time he had to spend at work. I remember him always being angry at someone and the someone was usually me. My father could not understand why his son would have deep conversations with his stuffed animals, spend hours in his room pretending to be a rock star while playing air guitar with a tennis racquet or run naked around the yard trying to catch the sun in the palm of my hands. I constructed forts in my room (which I refused to come out from), built a cockpit in my bathroom and pretended that the house was a ship and I was its pilot. I gave myself blow jobs using a hair dryer. When I was forced outside I would often avoid playing with other kids and spend hours pretending that I was flying around on a magic carpet through the landscaped back yard. As the years passed- my father became more concerned about the make-believe world that I seemed to be immersed in. He took me from one psychologist to another until a heavy-set therapist with a sculpted smile on his face told my father what he needed to hear. “It is a form of harmless denial, otherwise known as magical thinking,” the therapist told my father. “Your son is using magical thinking to deal with the stressors of childhood,” he said. My father was concerned that this behavior would follow me into adulthood. “If the defense mechanism survives beyond childhood it could become a serious problem, but I think your  son will out grow his magical thinking.” My dad took a relived deep breath but I think he knew then that something was seriously wrong.

My wife tells me that it is wrong that I spend so much time in the “make believe.” I often defend my magical thinking by telling her that there is no difference between the dream world and the real world. We are all playing a part and most of us just decide to play a similar part that everyone else plays. She is disturbed that I still often like to dress up in my Micheal Jackson and walk around downtown; that I like to spend my days pretending that I am someone else. She is not as concerned when I build forts in the back yard and pretend that I am camping out in the Himalayan mountains but it worries her that I still use my hair dryer for sexual gratification. “You are a grown man who acts like a seven years old child,” I often hear. She tells me that I am “escaping from my real world problems….. that I am not ready to accept the responsibilities of being an adult.” Maybe she is right, but all I can say in my defense is that I have been enjoying the fantastical pleasures of magical thinking since I was a child and it feels all right to me. My wife just shakes her head in frustration and walks away.

The Desk Chair

It is two in the morning and I am not yet ready to go to sleep. I am feeling some anxiety that has been floating around in my head all day like an alarm clock that will not stop going off. But I am not up because of my anxiety- I am up because of my desk chair. I bought my desk chair this afternoon and after an hour spent assembling it I have been sitting in it without getting up. My wife served me dinner in my desk chair, we watched a movie together (I was in my desk chair and she was on the couch) and I even shaved while sitting in my desk chair. I am not sure if my anxiety has anything to do with the purchase of the desk chair, but I do know that this is one of the few places that I feel comfortable and safe at the moment. I am not intending to get up and go to bed any time soon.

It must happen to every man at some point in his life- a desk chair that is. For some men desk chairs come earlier in life. There’s not all the stigmas and negative feelings about what desk chairs represent for these men. They instead see the desk chair as a kind of throne, a seat of upward mobility- a vehicle in which to attain status and success. I on the other hand had a different relationship to desk chairs. I saw them as vehicles for mediocrity- a symbol of the corporate beast that devours men’s souls. I ran from desk chairs in the same way someone would run from a rock that was falling from the sky. I studied, wrote and did my reading on couches, park benches, kitchen tables. Any place but in a desk chair. I believed that if I sat in a desk chair it would not be too long before I had a tie wrapped around my neck and a brief case by my side.

I realize that my feelings about desk chairs may have been slightly delusional and/or extreme- but I was on a mission. I wanted to be a great painter, an important writer, a poet and a beatnik. The world was breathing down my back to conform and I needed to do what I could to keep the world from making me into one of “them.” But as I have grown older I have felt the desk chair pulling me in more and more as the days have flashed by. I have felt my back become less limber from the years spent sitting in uncomfortable wood chairs with rigid backs. Ideology wears away just like paint and last week when I saw a particular desk chair for sale in a store- I tried to convince myself that I did not need it.

There are several people who I know who spend their days and nights in their desk chair. Through experiencing many different kinds of desk chairs they found the one that fits- and once they found the one that fit, the chair and the man were a match. I always thought that these particular men had traded in their youth filled dreams for a desk chair. After years and years of struggling to make their dreams into a tangible reality they reached a point in their mid thirties where they realized the path they were on was no longer worth the sacrifices they had to make. They became humble, quieted their egos and found a well-fitting desk chair. Some of these men went back to school for a graduate degree. Some found a professional job. All of these men spend at least eight hours a day in their desk chair.

I have been in my desk chair for well over ten hours so far. Like I said- I feel safe and comforted here. There is something meditative and calming about sitting in this desk chair. But then there is also my anxiety- an anxiety that seems to be resisting the desk chair. Maybe I am anxious because the desk chair represents the next stage of my life- a stage of adulthood and responsibility that never really entered my plans until about six months ago. Or maybe my anxiety is the inner young man in me throwing tantrums at the fact that I have purchased an executive desk chair. Whatever the case may be I am comfortable here. The September wind is blowing outside my open window and the neighborhood in which I live is sound asleep. My desk chair and I could sit here together all night like two lovers getting acquainted before they begin the next stage of their life inextricably linked together. It happens to the best of us.