Defective Clairvoyance

Most of the time, it is the idea of things that bother me, and not the things themselves. I’m becoming more and more cognizant of the fact that there is (very often) an explicit contrast between my imagined expectations, and actual lived experience:

I wake up and it feels like someone tiptoed into my room and injected me with cortisol. I am utterly and pointlessly overwhelmed. I just lie frozen in my bed. I dread that I have to muster up the strength to get up. I’m reminded of my humanity and how I am pressured to go through the Groundhog Day motions of maintaining this ever-rotting flesh:

-pee, wash dirty face, tone pimpled face, moisturize dry, starting-to-wrinkle face, floss gross teeth, brush teeth and tongue till you gag and spit, gargle rabies foaming-at-the-mouthwash, wash greasy hair, dry wet noodley hair, straighten frizzy hair with a 400 degree flat iron, “cover” under-eye circles with beige goop, smear BB cream all over your visage, color in patchy eyebrows with brown powder, dab eyelids with “nude” glittery powder, trace eyelid-eyelash border with eyeliner,coat eyelashes in black casting, arrange an outfit that fellow humans will inevitably judge you by, actually put the subpar outfit on, figure out what to eat (among all the dizzying possibilities of food!), spoon feed self…

As I’m still lying there in bed, dream-drunken, I feel like I have insider knowledge into the life of Sisyphus because I, too, am going to have to wake up every day, for the rest of my life, and do it all over again.

I finally hurl myself out of bed and am standing in front of the bathroom sink. I notice that my body automatically starts sobering up. Something about just being vertical is galvanizing. I step into a shower. Looking up at the gentle and steady warm water falling, I find myself soaking in clarity. I smirk to myself as I think, “Why didn’t I just get up earlier? Why did I ever dread this? I wonder what it’s like for other people, who just get up. Oh well, I am up now and I feel so grateful to be experiencing this. It’s so invigorating.” I put on some fresh clothes and I appreciate the little things, like how my shoes feel perfectly snug as I wiggle them onto my feet. I take my first steps around my room as a fully-dressed, clean person. I feel so awake, so alert, and perfectly prepared to experience the day.

I’m hesitant about going out alone. When I have some very specific objective, going outside is easier because it’s a little more predictable. But today, I have no place that I really need to be. The general idea of leaving home just for the sake of getting out seems too vulnerable. Somehow or another I am going to be bothered or humiliated out in that precarious world, where all sorts of uncertainties abound.

I finally decide to challenge myself. As I’m stepping out the door, I am greeted by sunlight and celebratory birdsong. The crisp air wakes up my skin and a sense of daytime adventure leaps inside me. I feel silly for ever sequestering myself in a stuffy room, instead of being out in the wide open space of the world. I belong outside. Later on, I meet up with friends and I hypothesize to them that there is some sort of unspoken, evolutionary affinity between our biological bodies and the nuances of nature, and that communion is severed by cinderblock walls.

I become attached to said friends, but the time finally comes for them to say their goodbyes. The fact that I am about to be alone for an extended amount of time feels like being sentenced to solitary confinement. I will be alone, thrown back into the chambers of my mind. I can’t know where my busy thoughts will take me once I am alone. They could easily spin out and I’ll end up being forced to endure the tumultuous waves of Styx.

But then the person goes and I find myself actually alone. About a minute after they’ve left, I admit that it really is nothing like I expected. The silence is actually sweet. There is a sense of airy delight. My thoughts become unbridled and imaginative. I sit with myself and enjoy my own company. I assumed that being alone was going to make me feel out of control, but it’s actually the only way that I can feel most in control. I can finally recharge, gather myself, marshal goals, and make myself.

The “idea” of creating frustrates me the most. It is by far my most pernicious, most pervasive bane. When I think about the idea of possibly creating something, it feels like I am being choked and rendered immobile by a straightjacket of self-doubt.

Then I somehow end up entering the realm of creativity, that sacred space where time no longer matters and everything surges and cascades. Where dusty, stored-away experiences reappear and magically collide to form a fresh amalgam. That is when I really look back and wonder. I wonder why thinking about creating can be so intensely threatening but the act itself is one of the most profound and rewarding parts of being alive.

The moral of this mess: Next time you’re about to face the unknown, the daunting, or the assumed-to-be disagreeable, watch how you waver. Like me, you might start by making tense suppositions but end up in unexpected relief. The phantasmagoria in your mind and the actuality that follows never totally align. Reality is rarely as bad as your worries make it out to be. Forge ahead. You might start with a dreaded future, but find that time ends up unfolding into a pleasant surprise.

“We are more often frightened than hurt;

and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

-Seneca, Stoic philosopher/badass (4 BC – AD 65)