So apparently I’m really good at getting late-night inspiration to write, and having insight into myself at the strangest times triggered by the strangest things.
Tonight, I was watching a movie called “The Hollars”, about a mixed up family. The main character is a guy who is scared to really live, to take his talents and put them to proper use, to live to the fullest. At around half-way through the movie, I recognized some troubling similarities between him and myself, and suddenly realized why I feel unfulfilled. For years, I’ve always wondered why it’s so hard for me to let go and just enjoy life. My head is a bit of a control-freak, and I’ve enjoyed excusing it as “considering the pros and cons” before doing something stupid, but I just realized 10 minutes ago that I’ve been lying to myself for years. I don’t “weigh the pros and cons”, I’m just terrified to feel alive.
Normally, I like to think of myself as a pretty confident person. Sure, I’m self conscious about my body, and I’m sometimes nervous about what people think about me as a person, but for the most part I dive at issues and situations head first. Someone tries to roadblock my trajectory in life, or thinks they can bully me into submission or to make me shut up and go away, and that just kicks me into a higher gear of obstinance and aggressive courage to stand up for myself. So in that respect, I’m a confident person. I mostly know who I am, what I want out of life, and where I want to be in 10 years. But as I said before, I’m scared of actually living.
I realized where that comes from – wow, I’m having so many revelations right now it’s making my head hurt – my family. My father is aspergers, and often the family members of aspergers people take on some similar traits, like a disconnect from personal feelings, an inability to read other people and understand how they are feeling, etc… For years I thought I was just a cold frozen fish that was mostly selfish and self-interested because I lacked empathy for other people. Over the 4 years I’ve been in college and away from that toxic influence, that frozen core I though of as “me” has melted and now I seem to have crazy empathy that makes life difficult. Now, I start crying on the phone to my mother trying to explain how native people must feel about the colonization of their lands, or thinking about how much I miss my puppy, or how I graduate from college in 4 weeks and leave the 3-5 people I call “friends” not the usual “acquaintances”. Yup, full on uncontrollable blubbering. I feel too much now after years of shutting it down because I knew that if I felt emotions, it would tear me to pieces. And now, after two decades of shutting down my emotions for my own self-preservation, I have to change that knee-jerk reaction and start thinking and feeling and functioning like a normal human being.
How does this relate to my being “scared of living”? Because I’m scared of feeling things to intensely. When I’m sad, I’m really really sad, borderline/already there depression. When I’m happy, I’m ecstatic, and I haven’t learned how to process or mitigate those extremes. After years of suppressing everything, it seems that I’m not very good at portioning out my emotions yet. And that’s scary to me. Everything I do is intense. I argue with intense ferocity. I cry like my heart is broken, I laugh wildly (that even scares me sometimes), and I’m terrified of loving someone, because I have a terrifying feeling that I’m going to do it with everything I have in me and give my heart away.
One of the reasons I love dancing is because I let go of every inhibition I have and I feel the music. I actually feel the life and energy flowing through me as I dance like a crazy person. And I love it, but at the same time it sometimes scares me. Same with cliff-jumping. I usually have a rule about not throwing myself off of dangerously high places into thin air, but occasionally I shelve that rule and fling myself into absolute nothingness. The adrenaline rush of fear and exhilaration is like nothing else… it’s almost addicting, and that’s always worried me a bit. To feel that much – all at once – worries me that I’ll get hooked and not be able to settle into normal life again. I love swimming because it’s quiet and dark beneath the water. Life slows down there to a pace where I can feel complete peace and calm. I feel so in touch with myself as long as I keep my head under the surface. It’s a different kind of “life running through my veins” type of feeling. It’s more like I can feel my own heartbeat, my lungs burning in my chest, and see the columns of light filtering through the water molecules. It’s incredibly beautiful and completely restful. For a few seconds – as long as I can hold my breath – I feel at peace with myself and the world. And then I re-enter the world of oxygen and sound and expectations and I’m once again belabored by self-doubt and worry that I’ll never feel alive the way other people seem to.
So when I am faced with a situation of “should I do this thing that might be amazing”, more often than not I choose not to. And I just realized – 30 minutes ago by now – that I do it because I’m scared of that adrenaline rush. I’m not used to feeling that kind of wild happiness, that feeling of life flowing through me. I portion off my life so that I’m never faced with too many challenges at once, too much emotion or feeling. And now that I’ve recognized that, I’m even more scared of missing out of life due to subconscious fears of “feeling too much”. Because really, would I rather never experience life and remain in my safe little bubble, secure in the knowledge that I can control my surroundings but will never be truly happy? Or should I use the incredibly cliched “grab life like a bull by the horns”, and start putting myself out there, where I could get hurt emotionally, but where I could discover something wonderful too.
So now I just have to figure out how to not be so afraid of feeling alive, of having experiences, of trusting another person with myself, my incredibly emotionally fragile and terrified self. Of ever sharing my fears and insecurities with a person and not expecting them to use those cracks in my ever present armour to hurt me, or drag me down with them.
As I said, brilliant self-insight at 1 am seems to be my thing.