I was recently summarizing the last year of my life (and hypothesizing about the next) with a friend, and I realized that everything in it has been transient and either all-in or all-out: relationships, city, job, goals, sobriety, growth. I would describe the last few months as a colorful mad rush. For the first time in a long time, I've been decisive and self-assured. My friend asked me how I could be so confident about all of the new people and dynamics entering and leaving my life. Good question.
Both the unknown and change are scary, especially when you can fit your life in three totes and a couple duffel bags. Since the catalyst last May, when I drove to Utah in a van, people have been 1) asking me if I get scared and 2) encouraging me to be safe. I always promise I will, but truthfully I never know what I'm really promising. What do you mean, "be safe"? Life inherently is not safe, especially not if you are trying new things or exploring.
But it also doesn't scare me. Let me explain. Fundamentally I know that whatever happens in your life, soul wins out as long -- as long it refuses to quit. There is an irrefrangible piece in all of our cores. Trust me on that one.
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
―When Things Fall Apart
If things in life aren't working, change will happen. If things are working, change will happen. You can never assign the rest of your life to ______. That would be shortsighted. Nothing is absolute. No one is absolute. Whatever you think or plan, I will wager all the totes and bags I own that somehow it will not happen that way. I was supposed to live in Colorado and hike the PCT all summer, and instead a worldwide pandemic started invading cities. All my plans for 2020 got stuffed down the garbage disposal and I lost my job.
I write this part with some trepidation; I can say that my life wasn't annihilated by change and make it sound as easy as pinning a cute idea in a stylish font on a Pinterest board. Get a slender gold bracelet that says "Fearless" and that will make you bold. That's really not the kind of bravery I'm talking about. Last week I learned that a young co-worker, loved by friends and family, committed suicide.
The indestructible piece of us is actually very destructible; fragile, even. I think it's important to acknowledge that respectfully. I have been close to self-destructing in former versions of myself. The truth about that, in my experience and opinion, is that no one else has the power to extinguish that most precious part except ourselves. I might not be right about that, but I have to believe it. Believing it gives me hope.
Not being afraid of life does not make you invincible. I would suggest, however, that when it is all said and done, your endurance rests within your control. So jump, fearlessly, because the landing won't destroy you. You aren't "safe" even if you evade change. Pull the anchor and move on if you aren't where you need to be.
I don't really care how much it scares you.
I don't really care how much it scares me.
It's the principle of the thing.
I'm reading a couple books right now, one of which is Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I love it. Witty memoirs are one of my favorite genres. I dogeared and starred this passage about the two things she's learned about pain:
First: I can feel everything and survive.
What I thought would kill me, didn't. Every time I said to myself: I can't take this anymore--I was wrong. The truth was that I could and did take it all--and I kept surviving. Surviving again and again made me less afraid of myself, of other people, of life. I learned that I'd never be free from pain but I could be free from the fear of pain, and that was enough. I finally stopped avoiding fires long enough to let myself burn, and what I learned was that I am like that burning bush: The fire of pain won't consume me. I can burn and burn and live. I can live on fire. I am fireproof.
Second: I can use pain to become.
I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever. To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution. Whether I like it or not, pain is the fuel of revolution. Everything I need to become the woman I am meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. Life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. I will continue to become only if I resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. If I can sit in the fire of my own feelings, I will keep becoming.
When I drove west, I was afraid. Of loneliness? Getting hurt? Losing my friends? Finances? Unhappiness? These are not unsolvable problems. These fears are not worth stopping your becoming over. Being free from the fear of pain means that you don't have to be afraid of what will happen next in life, and it means doing it even if you are afraid.
It's a lot like ultrarunning, actually. We expose ourselves over and over to the hardest efforts of perseverance and endurance to catch a glimpse of our golden core. We annihilate pretense, ego, and facade to cut open the meat of our souls. Our bravery isn't daintily displayed in shining letters; it manifests in our sweat and our tears.
It's the principle of the thing.
Go farther so you can go further.
-Wicked Trail Running