“What are you doing? Are you socializing?” the guide, a dull guy in his mid twenties, asks with a wide smile that makes his eyes almost invisible.
“Yes, we are.” we both reply almost at the same time, cringing away from his unpleasant presence.
And these loud people are making jokes and taking photos and filming videos and posting them on Facebook, tagging and commenting and checking in. And there’s something vulgar about them, a lack of real connection between them, a distance and a way of living that’s like floating on the surface of life like patches of oil on the surface of a deep, blue water, filled with numerous colorful fish and other creatures they never get to touch. Their homes are in shallow waters, the current sometimes makes them drift away and fear brings them back most of the time.
This is not where I belong, I think to myself and I panic again, taken over by the same fear that’s been tormenting me for about two months already. I am taken over by this powerful ocean wave and I cannot resist its might. I do what I can to push my head above the water from time to time and take short, lifesaving breaths. This is too difficult. A part of me is thinking of running away again. And my chest hurts. And I want to be made to stay. I want to be held tightly, so tightly that my ribs threaten to crack, shattering all traces of fear. I really want to be made to stay.
The sleepy coach taking turns, staggering and cutting through the grey evening like a long white pill being swallowed is making me dizzy, but I cannot be sure if my nausea is caused by my own panic or by the nature of the coach trip. I feel my fate being carried by this white coach filled with loud strangers with whom I have only fear in common. The blue bus is calling us, Morrison’s sweet voice sounds in my head, soothing some of the pain and making the unsoothable part even worse.
You know, Sylvia Plath, that depressed writer I did my BA paper on, wrote a book called Johnny Panic and the bible of dreams. I remembered her talking about panic and the way it rules the world, so I looked for the precise quote. Here it is:
“Maybe a mouse gets to thinking pretty early on how the whole world is run by these enormous feet. Well, from where I sit, I figure the world is run by one thing and this one thing only. Panic with a dog-face, devil-face, hag-face, whore-face, panic in capital letters with no face at all—it’s the same Johnny Panic, awake or asleep.”
And I take it she’s right. All these people so afraid of leading meaningless lives that they strive to keep up the appearance of a personal life, of having friends, the fear I see so close to me – that of losing your freedom, of not getting enough, of settling down for less that your highest possible reachable potential, that of losing control, that of leading an unhappy, mediocre life. And my own fears…
Well, Sylvia ended up head in the oven, gas turned on, kitchen door sealed with duct tape, children asleep in the other room. She did also say, in the same book, “Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” That is what I have been trying to do, this is one of my goals. It’s crazy, I know. And I don’t know if it’s a good idea to follow Sylvia’s advice, either. You know, considering…
On the other hand, who is really afraid? Which part of me feels fear? Only the ego can ever be hurt (or create the convincing impression of being hurt). The heart knows no fear. And the opposite of fear is not courage. It’s love. I finally remember the only way out of the pit is changing the focus of my attention. Maybe this is why my eyes see everything bathed in this strong light. Life is trying to remind me to look at the bright side, to focus on the positive, on the light. And what’s the worst thing that can happen? And if that happens, so what? Throughout the entire history, personal and global, the world has never really ended. The journey never ends. Every step opens new possibilities. And I am excited to explore them.
“A wise person knows that fears are always your road companions through the desert of life. But you never let go of the harness of your camel. You are in charge.” a dear friend reminds me.