Saturday, 6 October 2012

Give it up

It’s hard to give up all sorts of things:

chocolate, ice-cream, alcohol, drugs (if that’s your thing), sleeping-tablets (ditto), coffee, idealism, pessimism, scepticism, artistic fervour, sporting obsessions, inhibitions, messiness, tidiness, laziness, your favourite jeans or jumper, money, work, ambition, hope, friendship, sex and love.

Love is really tough to let go of, especially if you’re on the losing side, and practise rarely makes it easier. 

We have Alcoholics Anonymous, Chocaholics and Shopaholics Anonymous (notionally), and I know someone who recommended his Dad go to Newspapers Anonymous because he couldn’t let a day pass without devouring the dailies cover to cover.  I joined Cougars Anonymous when I left Italy and came to London, professing to want to find myself ‘a grown up’.  The jury is still out on whether or not that was a good move… but my point is that I’m sure there are many groups of people who share similar tendencies and addictions.

Of all the things which cripple or inhibit us, however, the biggest would have to be our fears. 

Large or small, our fears can shape our choices and behaviour, sometimes for the worse.  We don’t necessarily know these fears are operating, often we can only see or understand them after we look back.  Yet with some honest analysis the strongest as well as the weakest of us would be able to identify times when fears have led us down a path we should not have followed; led to an expression of something, or a repression of something, which was not in our best interests. 

We like to say that this or that person is “very brave”. Similarly we complain when someone is “cowardly”; or in Australian jargon that he should “grow a pair”.  We may be right. Yet at the end of the day it is self-assessment which matters.  For people’s natures and experience is so diverse, that it’s impossible to judge from the outside what is a reasonable fear to face, come to grips with, and what isn’t.  You can only know that from the inside, after careful soul-searching and reflection.

For example, people frequently tell me I’m brave for tripping off around the world on my own, chasing this and that dream.  Maybe I am?  Or maybe the person who stays in one place and faces a daily grind with insufficient change is braver than me?  What I do know is that when the earthquakes used to hit in New Zealand, as they not infrequently do, and the roof above my desk in the Opera House began to visibly shake, I was first under the desk.  And once when I was in a tiny plane with engine trouble and wheels which would not descend, I spent the long slow minutes as we turned back to Salt Lake City Airport to come in for an emergency landing working out how I could climb over the female pilot to get out the door first.  I was dating the guy in the seat by the other door so even in a crisis it seems I am loyal, but clearly also ruthless when it comes to scenarios of survival.

With respect to the latter, it’s a great shame I don’t apply the self-preservation instinct when it comes to falling in love or choosing who to trust.  For I have a habit of trusting and giving generously, whether or not the recipient is able to handle the investment.  And if the balance isn’t comfortable it can be a long way into a relationship before I realise… or, worse, discover I’ve been led on a wild goose chase or taken advantage of.  It’s my goal in the future to better identify boundaries; perhaps learn how to use the kind of filtering ‘wall’ I observe in others.  Yet it would seem, as I haven’t been very good at it, that I have some fears or blocks around ‘holding back’, being more ‘self-contained’ or 'selfish’, which perhaps need unpacking.

Happily there is an upside to being an open, ‘front-footed’ person, which is that I make friends all over the world quickly and pass time with strangers as if we were friends.  A few days ago I was walking down a laneway and found a well-dressed lady looking distressed. I asked her if she was ok and she started to cry.  Soon I was cuddling her and talking about her marriage problems, which bubbled to the surface because she’d just got out of the car after an argument with her husband.  In the way women do, we used intuitive short-hand to cut to the crux of the matter and come up with a few strategies.  She simply needed a sounding board.  Twenty minutes later Claudia walked away, having kissed me warmly on both cheeks and thanking me for my kindness. I felt good to have been there for her, because as it happened I’d had an absolutely atrocious week and there was comfort in supporting someone else to face their struggles.  It tapped the validation element of being a woman; that need to share and communicate on an emotional as well as intellectual level.   

My point is this: I have been identifying lately a few fears of my own.

I guess it’s what you do after an important relationship leaves you unexpectedly at the cross-roads.  Well that and a haircut.  It’s what you must do if the heartache is so intense that you can hardly get out of bed – because in the discovery, when I finally get there, will be liberation and new energy.  And that’s what I need if I am going to recover myself. 

I’m not going to detail a list of fears here.  A blog is not a confessional.  (There’s a blog boundary!)  But I do want to ponder them, in the hope their grip may loosen.  Some are nebulous; many no doubt subconscious.  That’s part of being human.  Other fears will be easier to identify.  The classic fears around love and belonging, rejection and broken trust. 

But I’m thinking if I look at these fears, shake them up, turn them inside and out, maybe I’ll get better acquainted with them and see they are not as scary as my heart, in its vulnerable state, seems to think.  Maybe I’ve got the spirit to challenge them, find a counter argument?  Maybe they’ll soften and fade like the midnight mist simply by bringing them into the sunlight?  Maybe I’ll just get bored with them and say “to hell with that, give me another Margarita”.  But at least I’ll be thinking about me, and less about him; less about things I can not change or control.

So that’s my mission for the coming weeks.  And where better to start giving up the why, why, why, and the far too present fear that I might never love or trust someone so deeply again… than sitting on the deck of a yacht in the Greek Islands, with wind in my hair and sun warming far more than my skin.  It’s gotta help right?  Well, it certainly can’t hurt.

And forgive me for being flippant, but if all else fails I can always quit Cougars Anonymous.  The friends I made on the London Olympics didn’t believe it anyway, a Kiwi called Simon repeatedly saying “but Julie, there is nothing Anonymous about you”… 

And right there you have a writer’s and performer’s greatest fear: the fear of being Anonymous or Average. 

So thank you for reading my blog!