It started as daydreaming. The blank look when the teacher asks a question four times before you figure out she’s talking to you. Then it escalated to distraction. Getting in trouble for looking around during a test only to find myself in the time out corner tracing flower petals on the wallpaper.
Then my siblings gave it a fun new label: turning my face off.
I wanted to be upset about it, but the description really does fit. They even took a picture once to show me what it looks like. There’s no other way to describe it.
Turns out I have a switch in my brain somewhere. It appears to activate my imagination, but it’s also directly wired to my face, and sometimes my ears. Imagination turns on, face and hearing turn off.
I’ve tried overriding this switch, rewiring it, unplugging it. Nothing seems to work. Occasionally I’m able to switch it back before whoever’s talking to me realizes it’s been activated, but those days wind up feeling weird. Like when you have to answer the door before you’ve finished pooping. You just feel constipated until you’re able to finish the job. (It’s gross, but you know it’s true!)
In this case my brain feels constipated all day until I can flip the switch back and turn my face off for a while.
On a more serious note, one of my best memories relating to this “problem” centers around a beautiful card my sister gave me for my fourteenth birthday. On the front is a picture of a gorgeous fairy surrounded by butterflies in every color, shape, and pattern. I’ve kept it in a frame by my bed ever since. Though I’d been teased, belittled, and disciplined for my little “problem,” her words written in the card that day have helped me overcome the pain all these years.
“I wonder, is this where you go when your face is blank? We laugh at that place you space off into, but don’t let that stop you from going there. That place of butterflies and breeze-song will be an oasis later. Cultivate it. Decorate it with your songs and paintings and dance, there among your memories and knick-knacks.”
She was right. This is where I go when my face turns off. So, if you’re talking to me and notice I don’t seem to be paying attention, just give me a minute. I’ll turn my face back on when my imagination is satisfied.
And to those who relate to this “problem,” you are not broken. You are not a mistake. That place you go to, whether it’s decorated with butterflies, spaceships, haunted houses, or flowers; it’s your oasis. Cultivate it. Decorate it. And above all, don’t let anyone stop you from going there, even if it means turning your face off.