Thoughts that Preyed upon Me whilst Traveling

(Things aren’t really this dark; don’t worry.)

When I was younger, I used to love the “in-between” places. Whenever I had to travel by bus, or train, or plane, or even a car that I didn’t have to drive, it was always pleasant to zone out, listening to my music, or perhaps losing myself in a book. There were no demands on my time, because I wasn’t anywhere yet. Even taking long walks were appreciated.

These days, though, I find myself uncomfortable in these in-between spaces, and annoyed by the people around me. It’s becoming harder to shut them out as I get older. People around me, chattering away, ignoring the directions and announcements of the flight crews and train crews, people’s general lack of respect for others’ personal space. Maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old fart.

And as I grow older, my distractions are fewer—I mean the things I used to be able to use to distract myself. And this gives me more time to brood. I have more reason these days to brood.

I worry about my health, I worry about my finances, I brood over all the things I’ve lost over the years, I ruminate on good fortune squandered, opportunities wasted. I think of all those family members and friends who have passed on before me, and I miss them, and yet it’s far easier to remember the bad times than the good times. I write, but who reads my books? I try to distract myself online, telling myself I’m just staying in contact with people and events back home. I had the chance to study music with the greats, but I never took those chances. I had the opportunity to study martial arts with genuine masters, but never trained as diligently as I perhaps should have done.

“I have wasted time, and now doth Time waste me….”

Too much time to think and brood. Now, in the in-between places, or in the quiet of solitude, or in the peace of the night, my brain refuses to shut off. It’s maddening. For several years now, I’ve taken to sleeping with old television shows or movies playing on my computer in the background as I try to sleep at night. So I don’t have to hear my thoughts. To drown out the voices. I often feel like Ivan Karamazov, only less optimistic about my future. He at least had a faith of sorts. A security blanket, if you will.

I need to re-learn how to be at peace with Silence. I used to love my silence and solitude.

Well, to be honest, I have been feeling a lot better since getting back to Beijing and resuming my job. Perhaps that’s the key—productive, meaningful activity. Who knows?

I’ll keep everyone posted. Stay tuned….

About Michael Butchin

I was born, according to the official records, in the Year of the Ram, under the Element of Fire, when Johnson ruled the land with a heavy heart; in the Cradle of Liberty, to a family of bohemians. I studied Chinese language and literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I spent some years in Taiwan teaching kindergarten during the day, and ESOL during the evenings. I currently work as a high school ESOL teacher, and am an unlikely martial artist. I have spent much of my life amongst actors, singers, movie stars, beautiful cultists, Taoist immortals, renegade monks, and at least one martial arts tzaddik. I currently reside in Beijing's Dongcheng district
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