Sunday, June 03, 2012

Centralia Nervous System

Fifty years ago last week, an underground coal fire erupted beneath the town of Centralia, Pa. and it’s been burning ever since.

Roads have buckled and houses have collapsed in the borough that once was home to 1,400 people.

News reports say the town is virtually empty now. The Post Office has eliminated Centralia's ZIP code, but there are still a handful of people who have refused to leave and are suing to keep the state of Pennsylvania from evicting them.

When I first heard this story, I thought I was imagining things. Who in their right mind would want to live in a place that sounds an awful lot like the backdoor to hell?

But then I started looking inwardly, examining how I react to difficulties, how I lose my temper so easily, how I dredge up ugly memories, and how I constantly find the negative side of anything.

I realized I’m in no position to point fingers at anybody. I’m living in my own private Centralia. Instead of coal fires burning underground, I have rage and frustration burning in my heart.

Every time January 1 rolls around I make a resolution that I’ll get my anger under control and have a more positive attitude. And every year that promise seems to slip away from me.

I have made minor improvements here and there. I’ve had these moments when I pulled myself out of a spiraling funk or staved off a conniption fit and accomplished something. But there haven’t been enough of them.

One More Time...

I really put myself through the wringer on Saturday. I had read a news story about yet another young screenwriter who finally broke into the business.

This guy went from sleeping on a mattress in a friend’s apartment and eating bologna sandwiches on a daily basis to selling his scripts for million dollars.

As usual, I managed to use this story as an excuse to emotionally club myself into a stupor.

Why didn’t I move out to L.A. when I was in my twenties? Why didn’t I live like an animal, eat garbage and struggle at lousy jobs until I succeeded?

Of course, this is a one-in-a-million story; L.A. is full of wannabe filmmakers, and, as the old song says, “all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas.” But I just wish I had tried. If I failed, I failed, but at least I would know.

I’ve never taken any risks, never walked away from a job and took off for a new town. And yet I wanted to be in the movie business—or at least that’s what I told myself.

I’m too old to be taken seriously in Hollywood and, frankly, I don’t really enjoy a lot of the stuff coming out of the major studios. I usually prefer independent or foreign films to big budget monstrosities that are fueled by CGI explosions and bathroom humor.

I’ve rented a few clunkers from Netflix over the last few weeks and they were so awful, yet so popular, that I really wonder if Hollywood is the place for me. Maybe low-budget indies are more my style.

And to be honest, when I look back on my younger self, I realize I wasn't emotionally equipped to move across the country in hopes of nailing down a dream.

I’m sure it would have ultimately made me a better person, assuming, of course, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown along the way.

Whatever I do, I want to stop this agonizing over every single decision. Move to L.A. or not? Go to this event or stay home? Have ham or turkey for lunch? Enough already! I just want to make a decision and dispense with all the drama. Right or wrong, I’ll live with it.

Scientists say the fires in Centralia will burn for the next two hundred years. I don’t have that much time, so if I do nothing else I want to be kind to myself and enjoy life--instead of watching it go up in smoke.


Ron said...

Thank you, Rob. Thank you for sharing yourself so opening in this post.

I swear to god, often times you say things that I myself have felt or have gone through.

The what-if's, the why didn't do this back then, and the anger.

And what I've learned from this is that every choice I made, every road I went down, and everything I didn't do that I thought I SHOULD HAVE done, were the things I was SUPPOSED to do. Therefore, I've learned that there are no such things as wrong choices or what I should have done because they brought me to where I am today.

I've also learned that everything is playing out as it should, and that when the timing is right, we'll know in our hearts when to make choices. We can't force them to happen until they're ready to happen.

I think you've made wonderful progress with your writing and submitting your book. And I really admire and respect you for that because that's A LOT.

" so if I do nothing else I want to be kind to myself and enjoy life--instead of watching it go up in smoke."

That's it! Be kind to yourself and enjoy your life as it is NOW (not in the past, not in the future). And the rest will come when it's time.

Again, thank you for sharing your feelings so opening and honestly.

And have a great week, buddy!

Rob K said...

Ron, thanks so much for your support and insights. I really appreciate your belief that "there are no such things as wrong choices or what I should have done because they brought me to where I am today." That's a fabulous way of looking at life! Take care, buddy!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

I was going to say pretty much what Ron said: there are no wrong decisions, we make the best choices we can make at the time. The trouble is that for people like you (and me - you're not a Libran, are you?) the decisons are so very hard to make in the first place, so of course we second guess ourselves. All. The. Time.

Somehow, we usually find ourselves doing what we want or need to do, even if it's not what we thought we wanted or needed to do.

Something stopped you, way back, from going to Hollywood, and it's probably good that it did. You might have gone, but half-heartedly, or fearfully, and then not made a go of it. You might have gone, not made a go of it, and ended up in deep, deep trouble. You might have gone and made a success of it, but if you had, you'd probably have had more drive to start with. ;)

The point is that something inside of YOU stopped you from going. Somewhere, deep inside yourself, you didn't have enough .. something. Maturity, commitment, ambition, energy, whatever. Quite possibly you had other things to think about, but possibly you weren't really sure it was what you really wanted to do.

Someone said to me once, when I was agonising over something I wished I could do, 'If you really wanted to do it that much, you'd just do it'. And she was right. I didn't have enough .. something!

Rob K said...

Thanks for the great advice, Jay. I agonize over just about everything I do! (I'm a Gemini, btw) I know in my heart I wasn't ready to move to L.A. when I was young--immaturity, cowardice--whatever label, it doesn't matter. I stopped myself. Regretting the past only takes away the present. Time to enjoy now. Take care!

Jay said...

Librans are constantly weighing things up in the scales, Gemini are probably always arguing the toss with themselves. It amounts to the same thing: indecision!!

Rob K said...

I agree...or do I...?