First published June 3, 2013
The other day, overwhelmed by melancholy, and completely discouraged at my lack of progress in the area of emotional sobriety, I found myself contemplating cutting my hair short and moving to Berlin to ride a bicycle across the countryside, buying only the freshest organic produce from the cutest and humblest of markets.
Something about the recklessness of such daydreams screamed freedom to me. Of course, in my reverie, my face shape was utterly flattered by short hair, Berlin welcomed me with year round sunshine and I rode my bike with all of the unruffled sophistication of a true blue alternative kid.
The truth of the matter is that my face is far too square to be able to pull off an Anne Hathaway; I'd probably get a puncture and fall off my bike while the bitter winds of winter blew ice over my quadrangle face. My organic apple most likely housing a friendly worm named Walt. The truth hurts doesn't it? And more than that, sometimes, it is entirely inconvenient. What is it that they say, the grass is always greener?
It ain't me babe...
I have spent most of my life in avoidance. Carefully scooting around the distasteful, narrowly evading the awkward and strategically circumventing responsibility, I have been incredibly impervious in this mindset and it has guarded me well. I remember my old soul surveying life at the age of about 12 and resolving that independence and self sufficiency were superior to reliance and dependency. Fast-forward 13 years, insert a deep longing for community and the realisation that when it comes to relationships, self-sufficiency puts the self in selfish.
The awkward thing about doing life alongside of others and being truly known is the intolerance that that has to avoidance. It is nearly impossible to evade the disorder and mayhem that comes from suffering beside others and it is ridiculously confronting when all that's needed saying has been said and still there is no resolution. That's when I scream "Berlin Baby", flip the bird and wildly ride off on my bike into the wilderness.
Except, I don't. I continually find myself at a cross roads, holding on for dear life to autonomy, self-determination and control, all the while trying to acquire companionship, interdependence and the joy that comes from being known. It doesn't take me long to realise that I can't have both and that in order to gain, I must first be prepared to lose.
My love don't cost a thing—yeah right
That is the terrifying thing about loving others, it seems to cost us something and for some of us, it is more than we can afford. We have spent our lives watching and now we are weary from the weakness we've witnessed and apprehensive of the apathy we've observed. These watered down examples of love make us painfully aware of how vulnerable it can be to put yourself in the way of someone else's choices.
So we don't, we choose self preservation over self awareness, we opt for safety over possibility, we make our beds on self referential conclusions and snuggle down tight, ready to let the darkness envelope us. And we can't win this way. So let's try something new and lose.
Nobody enjoys losing, trust me, I am as competitive as they come, I proudly petition that the politically correct cushioned world of 'we're all winners' is a joke and if I could, I would have no hesitations in stealing your ribbon on Calf Club Day. But despite what we've seen, despite our basic instincts to push our own agendas in order to be found victorious, I am learning that perhaps the greatest win of all, is to be prepared to lose so that the people around us can prevail.
And I do believe it is pretty difficult. To lose old habits and unhelpful tendencies that once were allies in assisting in keeping us safe is going to hurt. To lose the frivolous battles that exist only to stroke pride and furnish a perception of power is going to feel like an injustice. To lose the protection of predictability and the safety in self reliance is going to evoke a sense of powerlessness; anxiety will be rife.
Livin' on a Prayer
I am desperately afraid of abandonment. I am worried that regardless of what I do or how hard I work, I am always going to get it wrong. It would be easy for me to start stocking up on cat food now and resign myself to life as a recluse. That way, I would never need anyone, and in never needing anyone, I would never be disappointed. But here is the thing; I don't believe that safety is found in isolation.
Some of the most well rounded, genuinely beautiful people are those that have stayed present enough to find meaning in their suffering and it is they, who inspire me. Loving others will always present with risks. Sometimes we will be broken, but we must remember that disappointment does not need to send us to desolation row.
We must learn to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that harass us, to turn them over and examine them until we are familiar with them. If we continue to run in avoidance, we continue to rip ourselves off of truly meaningful connections that have the potential to move us towards something greater than ourselves. Although tempting to hide away, life is always more significant when spent in community with others. We find life when we stop fearing death.
Shed a little light
Perhaps, in being known in all of our insufficiencies, in being recognised as broken, in being found absurd and still be accepted by the ones we love, is where the real magic happens, where the weaving together of broken people restores and redeems us from the wounds and the messages of our past. Perhaps, to make a conscious effort to stay present in the face of fear is where the real richness of relationship is cultivated, where creativity is inspired, where new stories are written.
And how do we get there? As appealing as bike riding in Berlin is, as preferable as winning is to losing, as satisfying as pride is to authenticity, it is by nurturing the courage in ourselves to be vulnerable, the strength to risk losing and accepting the possibility of getting it wrong.
Let us not live just to grow old and instead live to love.
Gemma Taylor despite constant scorn and painful jokes is proudly from the Waikato; although she is presently living in Auckland with her fingers in many pies. She is inspired by truth, creativity and connection. Gemma writes for buoyancy and hopes to one day live wholly by the ideas that she writes of.
Gemma Taylor previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/gemma-taylor.html