Remember Gumby

Just did a search for it but can’t find the Gumby episode in which Gumby has a dream about eating too many sweets and is forcefed candy from a conveyor belt and suffers distended bloat as a result.  Did I dream this?  Anyone with me?

It comes to mind as I’m thinking about the aperture through which I, an introvert, must filter sensory input.  The aperture narrows as I reach my capacity and when that happens I have to be around fewer people, less noise; I have to cross things off my ‘should do’ list and tend only to the musts.  If that’s not possible, I have sensory distended bloat, just like Gumby.  I get extremely irritable, and seek ways to check out.  I have read that this is why introverts can easily become alcoholics; alcohol blurs the edges of the aperture so the forcefeeding of input is tolerable.  Alcohol has always been an easy fix to a problem I didn’t understand, a way to make this quadrangle fit into the ellipse.  With age and understanding I have learned to say, “no, I don’t want to go.”  “No, I don’t want to be around that many people.  No, I just don’t like parties.  No, I already have one social engagement in a three day span, can’t do the second.  Another time.  Maybe.”

This week the prince was part of an awards ceremony.  His award was modest but unexpected, and as I sat there alone among other beaming parents I found a different sort of aperture dilating and shrinking crazily, like I couldn’t decide how to handle this.  As I listened to the band play “Call Me Maybe” badly, I vacillated between mentally composing the amusing anecdote and feeling the music, allowing the Hallmark-commercial-small-town-parade swell of pride and nostalgia and joy wash over me.  If I could have watched the whole ceremony alone with no regard to needing a public facade I would have sobbed with heart-squeezing exuberance.  As it played out, the vacillation continued: I was amused by the puppy dog lank and curve of the boys and girls, the trombone player jerkily reaching for the low notes, the self-consciously furtive eyeballs of the award winners, including my own, seeking the nods of parents– all of which helped me rally from the tears spilling.

It’s a struggle I struggle to understand.  I came across an interview with psychoanalyst Adam Phillips.  Dude is wicked smart:

“We all have self-cures for strong feeling. Then the self-cure becomes a problem, in the obvious sense that the problem of the alcoholic is not alcohol but sobriety. Drinking becomes a problem, but actually the problem is what’s being cured by the alcohol. By the time we’re adults, we’ve all become alcoholics. That’s to say, we’ve all evolved ways of deadening certain feelings and thoughts. One of the reasons we admire or like art, if we do, is that it reopens us in some sense–as Kafka wrote in a letter, art breaks the sea that’s frozen inside us. It reminds us of sensitivities that we might have lost at some cost.”

It can be easier to close that aperture to a pinprick.  Everything is easier if you experience it only shallowly– what fun, what a lark, isn’t that funny?  That’s how I operate, because it’s a way to kill the scary feelings of resentment and pity and despair, the equally scary feelings of optimism and desire and euphoria.   Sometimes it can be too much.

“Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”
Jean Racine