Saturday, January 9, 2016

Wherever you go, there you are

I've been thinking a lot about fear and survival lately. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of change. And this is probably the biggest one. Fear of trying something I am afraid of and ending up disappointed. I've been thinking a lot about where I have come from and where I am now. People have called me fearless. I'm not. I have a lot of fear. But much bigger than that has always been my desire. My desires have always been greater than my fears. I never desired to jump out of a plane but I did desire to jump on a stage and in a way that was just as large a fear as jumping out of a plane. And I always begin with "I am terrified but I am going to do it anyway." And yes, regrets. But mostly not. When I was a kid, my parents had an agenda that I am pretty sure was not ever about me. My mom wanted to go and live in England for a year, so we went with her. I know she liked showing me stuff. Castles, museums, cemeteries, plays, cool moats and bodies of water but I am sure at this point we went mostly because she wanted to go there. Along the way if I enjoyed myself or tolerated what we were doing or if I hated it, it was incidental. This is not to suggest that I did not get a whole lot out of these experiences. I totally did. This is not to say that she did not take me specifically to places I asked to go. When we were in New York, she took me to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building because I asked to go. She had been there, done that, she just wanted to go to the Opera. But now in this reflection, I realize that the situations she put me in gave me lots of survival skills. At least part of every calendar year, we went to live somewhere else for two or three months. Pack up and go. It was never the same location in England, always a different rental location. So, there I was. I had to navigate a completely new place and completely new people. Sometimes I never made a single friend and spent the summer reading books, writing stories and playing by myself. I thank her for the gift of solitude. It made me crave books and stories. And I had choices. I could complain and be miserable or I could find something about the place that I liked. I could usually tolerate a great deal for a period of time. Being lonely was hard sometimes but it was not the end of the world. Once in a while, I would make a friend for the entire summer only to have to leave the friendship and face the reality that I may never see that friend again. That was hard. But it taught me to value and cherish friendship and not take it for granted. I was always in a new place and sometimes got lost, so I learned to search for a stranger's friendly face to help me if things became hopelessly confusing. But before that I learned to watch for landmarks and look at street signs to find my way. When I had a child, for the first time in my life, I felt truly caged in. I couldn't run away from this and it became a lot to navigate. I had never felt quite so helpless. There were a lot of people telling me what I should do and I found that I was not able to just ignore them all and do what I thought I should. This did not feel like a temporary thing I had to survive for a little while. Even though, weirdly, in a way, it was. Perhaps I had always thought that my dreams lived somewhere else and in the pursuit of getting there, that future that I dreamt of would happen. And my fear of that not happening or my fear of making those choices for someone else kept me from going anywhere permanently. Funny thing about that, though, wherever you go, there you are, even if you stay right here. There was no better version of me waiting somewhere else. There have been plenty of somewhere elses that I have been over the years. Plenty of those places I adored. And I return to them again and again. But I realize now that my happiness is not ever going to be rooted in the destination that I am going to arrive next. My happiness is actually right here with me. I create it wherever I am. I create it in what I am doing. I create-- yes, I create--- and it makes me happy. My happiness is not dependent upon a person or a place but more I choose to be happy in different places. I'm going to make a conscious choice to find something awesome about where I am or what I am doing and find the joy in discovering that I can choose to be happy where I am by what I create. Not even necessarily tangibly but in each moment, I have made the decision to find something. I have chosen to not be miserable and to allow something to be opened up to me, and inside me. Yes, wherever you go, there you are. It is the one thing that time and place and circumstance cannot escape.


BowlingTrophyWife said...

Mea Culpa. Amen. Hallelujah! Isn't it funny how people can see only the exterior at times and believe a person is 'fearless'. I'm pathologically shy and don't do very well in social situations - but - I love the theatre and after twenty years away I went back in 2013. I hear, "But you can't be shy! You act!" Yes, that's true but interacting/reacting with others based on a pre-determined script, blocking and direction has nothing to do with social anxiety. Oh, at times I've wished - if only my life came with a script, blocking and a director I could 'hide' behind. That's the fear factor for me - being my own director, navigator and captain of my own ship, HMS Incontinent. Until about twenty years ago I was clueless. Our parents were gone for long periods of time - years, in fact during which time we were left with extended family or 'help'. Day to day we never knew what to expect, who was going to feed, dress, get us to school or tuck us in. When Mom was home, she wasn't really 'there' except for periodic forays into realizing she had children and domestication, which were short lived. Dad was in Europe for most of our childhood, so Mike and I were pretty much on our own. For a long, long time, I thought it was totally cool that we never had bedtimes, schedules and could stuff our faces with as much soda and garbage as we wished - and no one cared. We also lived in Italy for several years and afterwards, our parents moved four times within three years. Dad was gone all week long, coming home only on weekends and Mom is a vague presence in my memory. In the two and a half years we lived in Patrica, I've only a few brief memories of spending time with her - there was always something 'more important' for her to be involved with and we moved three times during our stay there. I don't know what caused the behavior but afterward, when I married in 1980, I began 'moving' as well- I've moved thirty seven times in thirty six years. Some of those were employment related, some financially related and quite a few were 'relationship' related - either running from or to and I accumulated enough emotional baggage to open a Samsonite outlet store. When Mike and I both faced our addictions - he at 28, me at 35, it was hard to realize that those "freedoms" and the concept of running away had come with a steep price: an utter ignorance of the importance of responsibility, integrity and self discipline, especially with regard to 'running away' - be it from residences, relationships, expectations et al. Having had no 'foundation' on which to live my life, no real example, I had to learn those character traits on my own - and it was a formidable task and I still struggle mightily with the self-discipline. I'm at a place now where several projects and aspects of my life are also on the brink of change and they have the potential to be enormous. People believe in me and I'm scared both witless and shitless of failing them - and myself. Judi Hollis, the motivational speaker and author of "Fat is a Family Affair" and "Hot and Heavy" stated, "A fat buffoon threatens no one" - especially when life has been one great unfulfilled potential achievement after another. I'm not crying 'victim' either - yes, I was a victim as a child and as a young woman - but I'm learning that I don't have to live up to my past - only my future. Thank you so much for sharing - especially regarding achievement and fear.


Leon Gottfried said...

Wonderful essay/meditation, full of truth. My life has been full of moves--at 4 from home town to another city, at 9 to another (huge) city, at 16 off to college, at 18 to the Navy which included stays in California, the Philippines, and Australia, and after all that--well, there was a great deal more. Somewhere along the way, I made a simple discovery quite similar to yours, although yours was deeper because it was turned inward. My discovery was this: every place is a place. Sounds dumb, no? And yet, to me, it said much about travel, moving, making and leaving friends, etc., etc. Anyway, Vanessa, congratulations on a life being well and truly lived.