“Not knowing is a state of grace,” my grandmother often said to me; though she’s been gone two years, I’ve been clutching on to that phrase all this time, clutching it close and protectively, like a shield, a ratty blanket, like an excuse.
I sleep well most nights, deep and long and often dreamless, so last night’s awakening only felt that much more significant. Churning mind, rapid heartbeat, raging doubts and a faint excitement all brewing and bubbling within this body I call my own, as the sky remained dark and my lover remained sweetly asleep. Even as I attempted to will myself back into unconsciousness, I also felt a strange desire to stay in that dark awake place, tinged with a hint of terror, as my grandmother’s words yet again came back to me, reassuring and pampering and strengthening all at once. I am about to leap, again, into the horizon of the unknown, this time far across the sea. My reasons are jumbled in disarray, some reinforcing, some cynical: Am I a brave soul, daring to go somewhere that until recently I wasn’t aware existed? Or am I running from myself? What have I accomplished, and what do I expect to accomplish once displaced from my birth country? Will I feel free, or afraid? Am I a worthy lover and friend? What do I love? How do I love? And then, eventually, ultimately: Why am I here?
Once my mind reaches this state of existential turmoil, I know it’s time to breathe and slow down. Purpose is a funny thing to muse over; it is a rich question, but an unanswerable one. I know I am simply taking one more step. I am on the path of discovery, of following hunger, of pursuing the mysteries of my own heart. And following where love leads. But the mind and cultural norms are powerful, and I find myself time and time again getting sucked back into the vortex of quantifying self-worth by accomplishments. And time and time again, what I often consider my own pitfalls become increasingly apparent with age– my seeming inability to vision and follow through, my hesitancy-cum-paralysis in decision making, and lack of tangible legacies to my name, however small. Fortunately, I am the only one holding myself to expectations; I feel supported from all directions, and know that my happiness, above all else, is the simple hope of those who love me. So from where, then, come these judgment calls on my Self? What am I holding myself to, and what do I hope to achieve? What do I think will make me a satisfied person? So many questions. Sometimes I feel all I excel at is questioning. To not know is one thing, but to live in a state of feeling just-slightly-inadequate is another altogether.
I chalk all of this up to fear. Everything I have learned about myself and the world continues to expose to me this immense and suffocating human condition. I know enough to know I am not special, at least not in the sense of the inconceivable lineage of humanity, and our shared and repeated experiences…. Whether it is due to a perceived threat, or baseless self-doubts perpetuated by contemporary culture and society, fear is what stops us in our tracks. It shows us the scope of possibility, of which will always include failure, or pain. We avoid it at all costs; we run from the mere thought. Fear is useful as it allows us to draw boundaries of self-protection–whether that is hiding from a predator or choosing not to interact with others who drain us of vital energy–but all too often we allow our fear to dictate our choices, even when a resounding promise of abundance or success is imminent. I have discovered that if I untangle the knots of emotion and resistance within myself, if I am able to cut through the symptoms and get to the root of my fear, most surprisingly what is left is the realization that I am afraid of what I could be: of the boundlessness of my own strength, power, and capacity to love. Afraid of my own cosmic divinity, afraid of being all that I can be, afraid of success, afraid of my own beauty. What a thing to discover.
I feel like I am standing on top of a great plateau, looking out in all directions at the vast landscape before and behind me. I can see my past, my patterning, my doubts and their origins, and, for the first time, vague shimmering hints of my future. I forgive myself for choices I regret, and love myself in every permutation. I have a full box of tools for repairing damaged parts of my Self, and make active choices to remain vulnerable and honest. Still, I sometimes feel this paralyzing fear. All I can do is continue to trust, put one toe in front of another toe, as slow as a snail if I wish, and continue to do what brings me joy. And know that I am human too.