A Series of Little Leaps

Peering through window panes: I’ve been doing a lot of that, lately.

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Before there was a lot of ambiguity about what lay ahead, beyond the glass. A lot of squinting at indiscernible shapes and cloudy images. But mountaintops are coming into view. Waiting to be scaled, conquered–If I dare. And through my unsmudged aperture, the sky looks bluer than I ever dreamed it could be.

There’s a catch. (There always is, isn’t there?) The more I gaze into the distance, the more unsatisfied I become with my vantage point. With my increase in potential energy comes a painful awareness of how stationary I’ve become. Unfulfilled in my daily routines, restless–to the point where I don’t feel like myself. I feel my limbs turning to lead when all I want to do is run, climb, soar. The planner, aching to trade places with the do-er.

I feel as though I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If I indulge in a string of nothing days I tell myself I’m being unproductive; if I spend time mapping out my future I’m soon convinced that I’m missing out on the present. Guilt follows me everywhere I go. I want so badly to have it all–to be able to live happily in the here-and-now while still keeping an eye on the bigger picture. But more often than not I find that I’m engaged in a wearisome, mental tug-of-war between the two. Striking the perfect balance often feels impossible.

I think it’s difficult not to get torn, nowadays. Society loves a good paradox, and it’s easy to become the monkey in the middle between two mutually exclusive concepts. It’s easy to have the best intentions and still wind up a hypocrite. Me, for example: I bend down to smell the roses, fretting all the while that I’m missing out on something Bigger and Better happening behind my back. The end result looks a lot like neurosis and self-deprecation, I’m ashamed to say.

scarf in wind

I had a perfectly synchronized moment, a couple of weeks ago.

It was as simple as traipsing barefoot through a quiet, wide open space with my best friend. And maybe it was the scent of roses on the breeze or the easy bliss stitched into the fabric of a summer evening, but suddenly everything crystalized in my mind’s eye. I pictured my life as an arrangement of stepping stones, and all I had to do was find the ones marked with an H for Happiness.

Follow them, in a series of little leaps.

Forgive myself, for occasionally missing the mark. (Try not to cringe too much, at the resulting SPLASH. )

But also: recognize the value in staying put, sometimes.

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And later I thought to myself: Why did it take me so long, to reach such an uncomplicated conclusion?

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There are days where I’ll wake up with just the right mindset. I’ll feel light, limber. And my metaphorical window will be cracked open, wide enough for me to stick my head out, smell the fresh air, feel the sun. Almost wide enough for me to slip right through, run toward those mountains. There are days when I’m happy with the curtains drawn. There are a lot of days where I’m frantically pounding at the glass, praying for it to shatter. Frustrated, exhausted when it doesn’t.

On those days, I try to remind myself of what I know for certain. That the greatest curse (and blessing, as the optimist will remind you) of the human experience is awareness of one’s own existence, and the need to fill all empty spaces with meaning. We are all just creatures wandering the Earth in search of something more. Occasionally, when I find myself spiraling into a state of anxiety, I think about how I am nothing more than an arrangement of cells capable of self-analysis, and that my anxieties are shared by the entire human race. I laugh at the time I waste thinking about all the time I’m wasting. It seems so silly, when I spell it out like that.

The notion that we need to strike the perfect balance between the present and future is nothing more than a fallacy, one that I get lost in all too frequently. But I can forgive myself for that. I know that I belong to a flawed species, one that collectively spends a lot of time worrying about theoreticals. It’s just in our nature.

I can’t time-travel. I can’t simultaneously exist in “right now” and “down the road”. But I can still find purpose. In writing, in running, in loving. In thinking. In wistfully watching the clouds pass by. In being an imperfect, emotionally-driven, mortal being.

In existing, whatever that entails.

I just have to keep telling myself that’s enough.

My very existence is more than enough.

 

Stay nutty.

whirlysquirrel

 

 

 

 

 

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Unexpressed

Tangles of damp bronze hair strewn across pillow and face. Hands with chewed nails hiding red eyes, fringed with salty lashes.

I’m channeling all of my energy into keeping this emotional drizzle from evolving into a torrential downpour. How did I get here? I ask myself wearily, not for the first time.

balloons

Tears trace hot patterns down cold cheeks, are brushed away by tender hands. The harmonious scents of shampoo and soap linger on his fingertips. I burrow a little deeper into the warm space above his collar bone. Inhale shakily, taking in small sips of his skin. I close my eyes, appreciating the tightness with which he is holding me. The physical proximity is helping to bring my mind back to the here-and-now, to extract me from past and deposit me into present.

We are horizontal on a bed that is not my own, in a small room vibrating with the whir of an air conditioning unit. Movement feels impossible; my own inertia is overpowering. I find that I am suddenly exhausted.

I’ve been gripping onto him too tightly, as if he were a flight risk. (As if I were in danger of drowning.) I work on unclenching the hands-turned-claws, smoothing over the ten crescent-shaped marks on his back with a gentler touch. I am so grateful for his patience, his palliative presence. I love him for it.

Concentrate on breathing, I instruct myself. Back to basics.

girl on swing

I was happy-crying, at first. We were cheek to cheek and tuned in to the same frequency of I love you/I love you/I love you. But at some point the emotional current carried me into deeper, murkier waters. Under-explored territory that I generally choose to steer clear of, sail around rather than through.

The tears triggered the gnawing unhappiness, even though happiness triggered the tears. It began with I love you so much (and I do! insert 50 more exclamation points here) but it ended with Jesus, when will this ocean of psychological distress finally start to dry up? 

The past year has involved a lot of unlearning old survival tricks, ones that I’m finding I can live without these days. Trick number one: hold in tears at all costs, so to preserve the veneer of invincibility. To be honest, it’s going to take a while until I can cry without feeling a little bit embarrassed and guilty and weak. Until I can be upset about something without quickly becoming upset about everything. It’s just that, well, I’ve turned down so many chances to cry throughout my teenage years. I’ve been saving, compacting, internalizing all of the things I should have been releasing, voicing, admitting. I have years of raw, acrimonious, tangled-up hurt to sort through, and often when I’m overwhelmed with emotion on the surface I can feel the full weight of what’s beneath.

sparkly water

But hey, I am taking baby steps toward being able to own and express my emotions as they come, even if only to one person, not counting my small leather journal. And every time I allow my misery to manifest via crying, another drop of my residual sadness evaporates and is gone for good.

hot air balloons

I’m wondering when is the last time you quietly asked yourself: Am I alright?

When is the last time you held onto something heavy and harrowing, and when are you planning to let it go?

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He inquired with calm, guiding questions about my feelings that night, (and again the next morning over donuts and coffee) prompting me to put words to my woes. The best I could offer was a tiny smile and an apologetic shrug, palms turned upwards. I hadn’t fully understood what happened in that hotel room, and I still don’t. But–if I had been gifted with the ability to vocalize my thoughts as well I can scribble them down or type them out– this is what I would have said.

What I wouldn’t have left unexpressed.

 

Stay nutty.

whirlysquirrel