Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Soul Receptacle

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the concept of the soul. Two things had been revealed to me the same fall and both of them resonated. Both rattled around in my brain because they seemed appealing and moody and if not completely truthful then at least partly correct, like they were dancing around something I knew deep down in my little kid heart.

The first was that when you passed a graveyard, you were supposed to hold your breath so that lost souls couldn't fly into your body through your mouth. The thought of accidentally breathing in a lost soul was just too much for me. How horrendous! If you've done any driving through the Texas countryside, you'll know that if you plan on keeping lost souls out of your body, you have to hold your breath a lot. So I did. In an exaggerated 'cheeks puffed out as far as they'll go' sort of way. This kept me content for a while. I liked doing it. It felt mysterious and dramatic. It felt proactive. It was like I was in one of the creepy books I liked with dark gloomy illustrations instead of flying down a two-lane highway in broad daylight listening to the Grease 2 soundtrack on my Walkman.

But after a bit, it occurred to me that if a lost soul was desperate enough to fly into my body via my mouth, why wouldn't it try to get in through my ears? Or my eyes? I started squeezing my eyes tight and putting my hands over my ears when we passed tombstones. This didn't feel nearly as cool because I couldn't see when we were past the graveyard and no one else in my family was paying any attention to me whatsover so what was the point, really? No one could see me being dramatic and proactive. And, what if lost souls were already residing in my body because they'd gotten in before I even KNEW to hold my breath? If they could get breathed in while driving by, that meant they could go through the glass of the window so what was stopping them from burrowing in through my forehead? I pictured them as daredevil soul divers, darting into the car with the abandon of a cool kid on a skateboard. Maybe I was the host to tons of lost souls. Maybe I was a lost soul receptacle. Maybe that was why I was so grumpy sometimes.

Around the same time, I found out that Native Americans believed that getting their photo taken captured their souls. (I don't know if this is true to this day. Did they really think that? I'm sure there's some way I could find out. Maybe there's some kind of search engine that could possibly help me?) Anyway, this concept fascinated me. I'd had my photo taken at least 500 times before I started Kindergarten. Did I have any soul left? If it happened to some people, shouldn't it happen to me too? I'd never really warmed to the idea of having my photo taken. The older I got, the more I hated it. It always felt awkward and icky. Was that why?

And, it was all so confusing. What was my soul exactly and how did it know to stay with me, to hang out with just me and not to pop over to a smarter kid in the cafeteria at lunch? When I died, would my soul try to jump into cars driving by and burrow through the foreheads of little girls with puffed out cheeks and sea foam green legwarmers? I didn't know anything about anything but I did know that my soul would not do that! My soul would not be rude, it would be chill and polite SO THERE. That is, if I still had one after years of living with my mother and her camera.

I don't know when I stopped holding my breath while driving past graveyards but I'm still a little wigged out by photos. At brunch recently, I joked with friends about not allowing a pic of me to be posted to Instagram until it had been "filtered to shit." We discussed how sad this is and how our perception of people and of ourselves has been thwarted by social media and technology. How removed we are from the truth. Then we took a selfie of ourselves, filtered it to shit and posted it straight to Instagram.

These days I always need photos of myself. For Facebook or an author photo, for Ello. (Still no clue what I'm supposed to be doing over there.) There are very few photos of me in high school because I refused to pose for them and now I unironically take a mirror selfie just to show people my newest ironic tee. But, every time I post a photo of my face anywhere, I have a few seconds of panic. This morning I changed my Twitter avi and felt like a full on fucking creep. Which is, I know, maybe a teensy overreaction. Who cares? It's just my face. My filtered to shit face. Could a bit of the childhood fear of losing my soul still be messing with me? Do I lose a piece of my soul every time I take a selfie or post an avi? Of course not, that's ridiculous. It's superstitious bullshit. I probably just feel like a dick because it's self-involved and gross and in a way, false.

But next time I'm gonna hold my breath and puff my cheeks out while I do it just in case.