Wanna play catch?

Dear Millicent,

I was just watching a white man dance to acoustic guitar (on television), and thought of the study you recently brought up about how our brains start working a kind of muscle memory just from watching an action.  Is this why it is so easy to make fun of how different groups dance–it is what we see the most?  White guys infamously close their eyes, press their lips together, and perhaps hand surf as they groove because, in large part, that is how all the adults danced at their parents’ cocktail parties?  I’m sure you can charge me with thinking too simply here, but it does quell my search for how those funny little gestures of dance seem so culturally specific.  Dave Chappelle proved this with John Mayer and ?uest Love, but perhaps neurologically, it is the same as throwing a baseball?

And, if this is the case, then how can we transplant this to our brains in times of professional angst? You and I had a conversation recently about how we find internal confidence to take on work that has the promise (whip and bludgeon) of external reward.  We spoke about how, in younger versions, we were full of aptitude, perhaps as part of an overcompensation of other maturities that we had not yet dealt with.  So, I was chewing on this, and also noted that as a bold undergraduate, very little was ultimately on the line.  I knew I hadn’t bought in with my entire life–and I knew that the fear of failure was around the corner once adulthood and the clock of my “real life” started.  Writing was perhaps easier because I was doing it in a big playpen of college, where only rewards were dangled.  Outside of the playpen, nobody cares if you know all your colors and numbers, or what you are chewing on, and what you might accidentally choke on.  And so, now that perhaps I have real fear, or responsibility, I am jammed up, and all wobbles.

But, if I could watch enough people catch the same baseball, then maybe my own muscles would help me catch the ball myself…except that everytime I see somebody catching the “ball” I turn into a piece of ear wax covered in hydrogen peroxide: furious scrubbing bubbles (of envy,  anxiety,  comparison, and worry).      

But! Can I mentally rework that feeling of no fear (or was it innocence)?  Can we get back there again? I used to wake up with a general feeling of goodwill towards my talents and exertions, before I was holding them up against the wall, shrilly yelling that they better deliver dammit, that mamma wanted her new shoes, and that everything was counting on them.     

In return to lighter times, I am watching an old episode of Cagney and Lacey, which I used to watch every day after school in fourth grade.  Watching it now, it is like a walk down the memory lane of my mother’s haircuts.  I find it wonderfully homey, even the lighting and set design.  It has offered no insights, I can’t even declare it bad or good, except that being a cop without a cell phone looks HARD.  

Back to playing catch: If mimicry is so powerful, is that the power of self narration? We shape our stories to fit those that we have witnessed before (this is where I fall in love, this is where I have the worst day ever, this is where I meet somebody famous and they disapoint/genuinely charm me)? But then, we are more than things we have witnessed…mimicry is a skill, not a fate.  The new website Hunch complicates some of this, but that just depends on if one lives by its answers (which is tempting).

Also Cagney and Lacey just warned me to never hang out by the docks, even if you wear loose clothes when you go.

Unless you’re wearing a headband bandanna…then you’re okay.