Thursday, September 15, 2011

Falling

I struggled for a while trying to figure out how to tell this next story I want to tell.  My struggles became epic, and weren't limited to this blog.  In fact, for the whole months of August and September I've been dealing with a rather difficult mental block.  I thought long and hard about how to get past it, meditated on it for hours on end, and searched and searched for a way through it.  It was late last night that I finally came to that sudden realization that can only be described with the exclamation "Eureka!"  For I'd had the answer all along.  It was in fact, staring me in the face.  I simply couldn't bring myself to look at it.  If this post isn't as articulate or thought-out as others have been, I apologize, but that's sort of the point.  For after a while, the struggle to overcome the block itself had become the source of my block.  To boil it down to a single sentence, I was afraid of falling.

Not that you'll ever get me to do this.  But still, it illustrates
what I'm trying to say.
The fear of falling is nothing new to me.  I didn't fall once when I learned to walk.  That was because I didn't let go of whatever I was holding on to until I had completely mastered it.  It was a central dialectic of my childhood.  My parents impressed upon me two things above all: one, that I was flawlessly special, gifted, and had limitless potential; and two, that I was at the same time incredibly frail and fragile.  I'm sure they had their reasons, and I don't want this to go the way of so many other blog posts I've read and have this turn into a rant against my parents.  If I was mad at them for teaching me this, I wouldn't be writing this.  I don't believe in whining.  Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of these two forces has had an enormous impact on my life, one that I now feel like I understand.

The fear of falling can mean a lot of things.  It can mean a fear of drowning, a fear of embarrassment, and a fear of failure.  For if the golden boy is actually a Faberg√© egg, how is he supposed to fulfill his potential?  He'll break.  This was a central paradox of my life, one that would define how I thought and felt for decades.  I knew deep down I could do something, but I'd be so afraid of falling (or making a mistake, or just plain getting it wrong) that I wouldn't try, and even if I did try, I'd be dissuaded after only one or two setbacks and give it up, or worse, flame out.  It didn't matter where, what, or how.  If I wasn't immediately a "natural" (whatever that means), I was an abject failure at whatever I did and would never, ever succeed.  Get it right the first time, or else.  This was perhaps illustrated most directly in an episode of cowardice involving a jetty and pounding surf with my good friend Nick the Magic Unicorn. Nick wasn't afraid of falling, and so he confidently sprinted out, leaping from rock to rock between the waves to a beacon halfway out into the mouth of the bay at Fort Stark, the remains of a nearby World War II-era shoreline fortification (now a public park).  The jetty was perhaps ominous, but not impassable, and there were plenty of people who made it there and back, including Nick.  But I got about a third of the way out before I became so convinced I was going to slip, fall, and get hurt that I became paralyzed with doubt and fear, and after standing there frozen in place for a good five minutes or so, turned back, my knees wobbly and unsteady beneath me and feeling plenty humiliated.  This principle was also illustrated most dramatically during my last attempt at employment, wherein I attempted to become a Nurse Assistant and my fear of failure led me to so spectacularly flame out before I'd even completed the coursework it literally incapacitated me for a year.  That is in fact one of the reasons I wound up on disability (which in turn directly led me to where I am today, so even in my darkest hour there is always a silver lining).

What changed, then?  The greatest talent I possess--when the circumstances are right and I'm ready--is to see things as they really are.  Insight like that is as powerful as it is volatile.  To properly wield it, I've learned, requires a very demanding level of emotional awareness and discipline.  Otherwise it can be very destructive.  And for whatever the reason, that insight has always come instinctively to me.  The object lesson of the past two years for me has been, rather, not to cultivate this insight, but to learn how to tame and master my reaction to it.  This is not, either, to be boastful.  In fact, if I understand anything, it's just how much of both a blessing and a curse that kind of intuition can be.  I have for many, many years longed to be ignorant of it, as if somehow taking away that awareness would return me to some sort of state of ignorant bliss.  Clearly, that wasn't going to happen, and so the only solution was to learn how to live with it.

Now I hope you can see why I'd have a hard time blaming my parents for making me this way.  I don't really believe in black and white issues, and this to me is just another example.  But still, what to do about the original problem?  Intent matters jack shit if, when the time comes, you're still too afraid to act. Again and again, I find myself coming back to the theme of vulnerability on this blog.  But what if that vulnerability was in fact my unwillingness to admit that I might fall fail?  Now it becomes clear.  I accept the failure, I accept my vulnerability, and there's no need to admit to it, because I no longer deny it.  So the problem itself then becomes the solution.

I suppose now I also can understand and appreciate what this blog means to me.  I write about it a lot, because to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I've always understood what I was doing here and why I was doing it.  Perhaps now my intent is clear at least.  I don't know who reads this, but I hope that this somehow helps people.  A narrative without a purpose isn't a narrative at all.  This is mine, and I'm aware of it now.  I've been holding back on you, Internet.  I think it's time I stopped.

Let this be the start.

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