It’s a long-earned early day home from work this Friday. The weather is nice but I’ve decided to stay in and catch up on some notes and fragments I’ve collected in notebooks and across app timelines. I’ve got a window full of sunshine and Flow State Radio playing on in the background. I’ve got my timer on and a big cup of coffee from the Moka pot. I’m ready to work.
It feels good to be back in my little space, somewhere I have been away from for far too long. The reasons are all so varied it’s hard to know where to begin. Any explanation is only an excuse. Then again, an explanation isn’t really owed, is it? All I will say is so much has changed, I am changed, and I am excited to fill you in and catch you up, little by little.
For now, I simply want to celebrate a whole week of being brave. For those who don’t know, I’ve long suffered from severe driving anxiety. It has hindered my independence, limited my opportunities, and devastated my self-esteem, but this week real progress was made!
My wife and I got a second car this month, and it has been just the push I need to push myself past my fear. Every day I wake with knots in my gut. I want to cry or vomit or both every time I sit behind the wheel, but this week I drove, anyway. I drove to and from work, home for lunch, to get gas, and even to get a flu shot! I have so many more places I plan to go as I slowly, slowly, slowly venture out of my comfort zone.
This may seem a small victory to those for whom driving is nothing to fear at all, but just imagine your greatest fear—heights? spiders? snakes? germs?—and having to face it multiple times a day. This is what I am going through. I have faced it but the truth is I’m still afraid and will be for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, but there is a seed of confidence that grows each time I prove I can do it.
For now, I’m focusing on the positive alone. I am feeling capable, strong, and fully human. I feel good about myself and that turns out to be the most important change of all.
A religion may be discerned in capitalism—that is to say, capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments, and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers.”
— Walter Benjamin, “Capitalism as Religion”
Crisis after crisis, they break like waves. Some can ride them, and some get sucked under. It all depends on how you start and the skills you cultivate. It depends even more on the ones who taught you and the ones who are meant to pull you out.
The capacity to bear anxiety is important for the individual’s self-realization and for his conquest of his environment. Every person experiences continual shocks and threats to his existence; indeed, self-actualization occurs only at the price of moving ahead despite such shocks. This indicates the constructive use of anxiety.”
“How each person self-realizes will differ in its particulars, but there is a general formula that can lead us in this direction—some have said follow your bliss, others have said find a passion, Kierkegaard would say follow your anxiety.
Each step on the path to self-realization is patterned the same—envision a possibility that could further our self-creation, experience the anxiety that accompanies the prospect of moving forward into an unpredictable and open-ended future, but move forward regardless. If the possibilities we are unfolding in our life are free of the intermediate determinant of anxiety, this is not a sign of mental health, but instead suggests that we are living in a manner that betrays our potential.”
The title to this video “The School of Anxiety is the School of Greatness” is one of the most encouraging and motivating phrases I have ever read in regards to general anxiety and fear. A shift happened while watching from wanting be rid of my fears, toward a desire to embrace it. For some, for many in fact, this may be the only way to finally move forward.
Ask yourself honestly: are you looking for a steady, predictable life? Is this what you want? If so, you must realize that the world cannot offer you this. Everything in the world is in the process of change. Nothing is steady. Nothing is predictable. Nothing will give you anything other than temporary security. Thoughts come and go. Relationships begin and end. Bodies are born and pass away. This is all the world can offer you: impermanence, growth, change.”
— Paul Ferrini (via swissmiss)
What if she’s fine
It’s my mind that’s wrong
And I just let bad thoughts
Linger for far too long
What if (if!), she’s fine (fine!)
It’s my mind that’s wrong
And I just (just!) let bad thoughts (thoughts!)
Linger for far too long
Let’s go to the corner store and buy some fruit
I would do anything to get you out your room
Just take your medicine and eat some food
I would do anything to get you out your room
It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason
“Don’t always think you’re wrong when you’re right
They’ll always try to change your mind
Darling, just do whatever feels right
Your life is there to be designed”
I’m struggling to make it out on my own.
I left my mother’s house, the place of her anger and of my resentment, over a year ago, and she left the state just after. I’m not sure it’s better, but it’s different and that gives me hope. I wrestle with the blame for my situation. Was I the bad daughter who had to leave for the good of the family? Or maybe it wasn’t my fault I turned out like this? Maybe it wasn’t up to me how I turned out.
Maybe it doesn’t matter either way. I’m alone, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m alone but I always have been and at least this time I am free. I’m coming alive again and the future is an open road, a bright horizon, an unknown country. There is a place where I belong. There is someone I am supposed to be. I’m setting out to find her and when I do we can finally start making it all right. We can make something like a life, maybe?
“It’s both a blessing and a curse
To feel everything so deeply like you do girl, I know
There’s been more times that it hurts
But who said love was never easy, girl?”
I feel something new growing in me. I think it’s a kind of happiness. Maybe it’s pride? Maybe it’s potential.
I got my GED, a job, and, soon, my I’ll have my own place. I’m in love and working hard to be worthy of receiving it in return. That old pain is fading, I think. That deep sadness is lifting too, I feel. I’m starting to see the more clearly the trajectory my life has been on. I can see the cause and the effect and every time I travel back through my memories, back and back through time, to change something, to save myself from something, I see that there is nothing that could be and still come to this happiness I have found.
So much bad had to happen in order to find the good, it seems. Or maybe the universe doesn’t measure one against the other and it’s only the human mind that sees anything as simply as right and wrong. Perhaps everything happened just as it had to. No one could have changed a second of it. I was always going to be who I turned out to be, and nothing at all was earned or deserved. There is nothing to regret or be grateful for or be envious of. I am this person and I have this life and neither is so bad, really.
I can put one foot in front of the other knowing that.
“Oh, it’s easier said than done
But don’t you worry about those little things and bigger
What a fine revelation
When you realise there’s no voices in your head, girl”
I’m remembering more and more that I had once forgotten.
Being the oldest daughter is hard in any family is hard but in mine it meant being a parent before I even hit puberty. I learned early how to care very much, and under the weight of responsibility my heart grew rather than crushed. My siblings were my life, and I bore the work admirably. Mixing bottles, changing diapers, getting my sister from school, cooking dinner.
The stress and the loneliness, I understand now, perhaps got to be a little too much. I tell my mom I am beginning to hear faint voices. I hear my name being called faintly when there is no one around. Her reaction makes me believe I have done something wrong and when the doctors start asking questions, I tell them the voices have gone away. They haven’t but they have changed. Now I hear my own voice, and I hear more than just my name.
I’m barely hanging on some days and life grows easier for everyone but me. The old pain and deep sadness have never gone away. They been reborn into grown up versions called anxiety and depression and grown to powerful and unwieldy inside of me. The voices become intrusive thoughts and negative and critical commentary in my head. The voices are only me and they are always with me, repeating back to me everything I’d ever been told.
“Life’s a bitch and then you die
La, la, la, la, la, la”
With hard work, things were getting better. Then, one day, I suddenly realized that eventually I would die. My mortality had never occurred, let alone mattered, to me before, but I’m happier now. I have things to lose now and that realization begins to keep me up every night, shaking and short of breath.
I count all the years I statistically have left and wonder which ailment or accident, statistically, will be the cause. I’m looking at the cause and effect of my life again and wondering which parts were my responsibility and which ones weren’t. I’m collecting regrets and resentments and grasping for gratitude.
I roll over and wake my wife from peace, the one who has loved me since I left my mother so many years ago, and without asking she knows what I need. I lay on her chest and match my breath to hers. My heart beat follows suit. I speak to her there in the dark as if I am already dead. I need her to know I love (loved) her. I need her to know I have (had) a good life with her. That I am (was) happy and if I could do it all again, I would.
I don’t tell her my hope. I hope I do get to do it all again, even all the bad stuff, even the parts I still have nightmares about, even the stuff that left me with this hole in my heart. I hope, against everything I know and (tell myself I) believe, that I will get to do it all again. I smile and drift off to sleep with the image of and my life lived again and again stretching back from infinity and forward just as far. I imagine an infinite number of Lisa’s lying in the dark with this same fear and this hope and this heartbeat.
“When the world really gets you down
Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, no
All the little things you’re worried ’bout
Ain’t really there, really there, no”
The death anxiety lasts a couple of years and fades as fast as it came on. I have other fears now, some old and some new, some small, some huge.
I’ve built a predictable life of steady routine. I’ve had the same job for over 10 years. I come in for the same hours and on the same days, week after week. I work in the same location, with the same coworkers, the same kids, year after year after year. Any deviation from this steady, beat, beat, beat, of my life triggers a visceral and primitive response. Any change in schedule or expectation signals danger. Everything unknown is to be avoided.
I used to be able to take public transportation. I left my apartment and travelled by impulse without fear. I changed jobs like people change clothes. I walked around at night. I never felt fear. I never felt anything.
Now I can’t make a phone call, send an email, I can’t drive or go places on my own, or imagine my life any different than what it has become and I still can’t sleep. I worry about my mother’s health. I worry about my siblings, my nieces and nephews. I worry about my dad. If he is sad. I worry about my grandmother, if she is alone. I worry about my wife and reach out in the dark again to feel her breathing, to feel her heart, and reassure myself she is alive. I worry and I wish. I wish everything about me was different.
I tell myself my worries are stupid and when that doesn’t work I tell myself my worries are wasting my life. That doesn’t work either.
“Been talking to yourself at night
I’ve been thinking you should take that flight
Let it go if it don’t feel right, yeah, said
So won’t you come and put your phone down?
You know you gotta leave that thing alone
You know it’s real bad for you
Take a walk outside”
Nothing’s changed, and everything has changed. I’m still that same sad girl and that same scared adult, but I’m becoming something else entirely too. My life may be simple, but the peace and warmth is more than I imagined I would ever have. Now that I’ve had had time to bask in it to relax and to know safety and stability I finally feel like I can begin to ask a little more, expect a little more, work and earn a little more.
I’ve returned to writing, starting with the journal pages written anytime of day I need, just like when I was a teenager. I’ve returned to reading too, broad and ferocious. I’m seeing new perspectives and learning more about the mind. I’m exploring childhood development and the impact of poverty, stress, trauma, and disfunction on the childhood mind. I’m learning about free will and determinism. I’m learning about boundaries, coping skills, and acceptance.
Life’s been a real bitch and I have no doubt that will ever change but I have a feeling I will go on changing all the time only from now on I want a say in how it happens. From now on I want to think about why things are the way they are and why I am the way I am. I want to decide when to change and decide what to be. I want to do things because I want something more than I’m afraid of it. From now on, I am taking back the control I never had.
From now on I won’t worry about regrets or resentments. I won’t count the days that are left or the days I never really got to live. I’m going to get on with the art of dying rather spending my nights afraid of it and spending my days paralyzed by it. It’ll take time but I have a feeling that’s the whole point.
“‘Cause life’s a bitch and then you die
And then you die
And then you die.
And then you die”
This post was written in response to the WordPress Discover Prompt, Day 3: Song