At first it was a bit like a drop of water from a leak that registers just below consciousness. Discomfort, annoyance, anxiety. Creeping in drop by drop until the puddle on the floor is too big to ignore.
The sense of well-being, contentment, and joy I've enjoyed these last months being disturbed by some unseen and uninvited source.
The first drips of awareness were connected to an all too familiar stretched connection in my marriage. The warmth and growing closeness born from our new dependence upon one another had become the tight, false smile of a desperate clinging to illusion. Attempts to communicate were met with stone walls which were in turn walked away from in defeated silence. Familiar, frustrating, infuriating.
A one-word commentary from a friend on a piece of writing became the drop of water that made it impossible for me to ignore the puddle. "Nice." Such a neutral word and yet I feel slashed by it. And I want to be angry about it. And I know the only power it has is the power I'm giving it.
Yesterday's yoga class had me drowning in the puddle. I've been practicing for almost four months. My body was so tight I kept falling out of poses, couldn't get fully into poses that I've been doing with ease for weeks, and for most of the session the moisture dripping from my face was more tears than sweat.
And finally the puddle was big enough for me to name. Fear.
Fear of never being able to accomplish my dream of weaving a whole life from the silk threads of marriage, career, health, love, adventure. Fear that I'm not good enough, loving enough, young enough, smart enough, strong enough, willing enough, spiritual enough, open enough, trusting enough. Given enough voice, fear will tell me I'm not enough of anything that matters to me and too much of everything that does not.
My habit has been to believe that the absence of fear means I'm doing well, and the presence of fear means I'm doing something wrong. One of my best survival skills was to reject fear in favor of anger or one of her cousins: indignation, rage, indifference. But I'm not living in survival anymore. I live a thriving life whose purpose is to heal and help others heal. I no longer believe in either/or, black/white, right/wrong.
So what do I do with this fear that will not leave me alone? That waits in ambush like the Indians lined up along the walls of a box canyon in the old Westerns. That nibbles away at my peace and equanimity like the mice hiding in our attic, unnoticed until something precious is ruined. That encases me in concrete so that I feel alone, unreachable and immutable.
The first step is to not reject or ignore her, my companion fear. At this point she's only water. Rejecting, trying to mop up without seeking the source, means there will be another puddle all too soon. Ignoring would mean that she could eventually soak into and destroy whatever she touches. And so I sit with her, try to see my face on her surface, caress her lightly. I crawl into the attic seeking the source - what unhealed and untended wound invited the safety and security she offers?
The attention seems to soothe her for now. I have some patching to do in the attic that will reduce the need for her presence. I consider for one of the first times how many others there are who feel this same pain. Instead of refusing to acknowledge our common bond (as has been my habit) because that feels like weakness, I embrace the humanity of us all and offer love and forgiveness as balm to myself and to my fellow travelers.
photo from Flickr