May 20, 2014

on fear and stillness.

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me an email full of questions, mostly about love and relationships. And then, at the very end, she asked me this: What are you in-your-bones afraid of? After a while, I responded to say that I'm most afraid of loss. Loss and stillness.

Loss, of course, is the easy answer. It's what we're all afraid of, isn't it? There's nothing more terrifying, nothing more gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking than losing something or someone we love. I gave her that answer without an explanation, but stillness, that deserved more thought.

I grew up in a busy, bustling house. As the youngest of five, all of us athletes, we were always on the go. For a long time, my weeks were a blur of practices and games and pick-up scrimmages in the park before more practices, more games. There was soccer and basketball and volleyball and swim team. There was cheerleading, dance class, and choir, plus lessons for piano and golf and tennis. Schedules were packed, days were filled, and the idea of boredom was laughable.

Then, in the wake of an injury, there was a pause. Without practices and games and lesson after lesson, my world quickly turned quiet. There was an eerie, unfamiliar silence, and the sudden stillness knocked the wind out of me. I'd just turned fifteen, and as days turned into weeks turned into months, I found myself tugging at the loose threads of my life until I was left emotionally undone. For the first time I felt disoriented, dizzy with decision. My days lacked energy and my spirit lost its spark until finally, fortunately, I learned a very simple, significant lesson: Sometimes, life slows down, and when the stillness starts to feel more crushing than calm, you have to create your own momentum.

There's something to be said for bouts of quiet, of course, but in my experience, life is at its fullest when there's movement. When I look back on all the times that I've disappointed myself in a deep, surprising way, I can see in hindsight that more often than not, I was flailing about, restless in a chapter with too much reflection and not enough of a plot. As a writer and the wildly sensitive child of two wildly sensitive parents, I have a tendency to sometimes step back and wait when I should be racing forward, and it's taken me years to learn when and why and how I need to put one foot in front of the other.

For the past few years — the past decade, really — I've felt as though I was being thrust forward year after year, propelled from dash to dash on the timeline of my life. There was a lot of momentum, a lot of movement, and while much of that had to do with all the inevitabilities of being in your teens and twenties, at different points, I had to choose to move. I had to create momentum. Waiting for some sort of force to nudge you ahead is the easy route, but waiting is lost time. What's really exhilarating is to be the force that's pushing you forward, to choose very consciously to thrust yourself toward your future even when you have no clue what that future looks like. And eventually, hopefully, you can find peace in the stillness that settles into the tiny spaces between all the wonderful life you're busy living.

3 comments:

Sam | ashore said... [Reply to comment]

this resonated with me in the best, deepest, truest way: "When I look back on all the times that I've disappointed myself in a deep, surprising way, I can see in hindsight that more often than not, I was flailing about, restless in a chapter with too much reflection and not enough of a plot."

Sabrina Katherine said... [Reply to comment]

Stillness used to be such an escape for me when I was younger. It's amazing how much damage I see looking back now, especially as an adult and being with someone who never stops moving.

Thank you for the reminder that we need to make our own momentum sometimes. Love you.

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