I feel like I’m living in a tornado. Cars and animals and people’s personal belongings keep whizzing by my head, and there is always a house that has just landed on someone who has very pretty shoes. In a sense, it feels as though my life has been turned upside-down. So how do I live in this new Antipodes? I guess it comes down to choice. I think that when our lives seem like they are spiraling out of control, we forget that we still have the amazing ability to choose how we would like to step out of the whirlpool. Over time the turmoil becomes routine, and the routine becomes our own personal prison.
And there’s a sense of comfort in this prison of thought. We get to relax into the role of someone who is always working against something; someone who is armored against the bad because it’s what they’ve been expecting; someone who thinks they know what is coming. We collect mementoes from our day that prove our mask of identity right, and we re-member stories in a way that mold reality into something that fits into our fantasy. Now the pain, or anxiety, that we experience in our daily lives suddenly seems less terrifying than the unknown. Somewhere along the way the “unknown” became dark and cold and barren, and the idea that something good could come from that place became attached to the idea of waiting for the other shoe to drop, which then turned into the decision to take the waiting period out and never take the shoe off the ground.
Whether we know it or not though, there is a choice there. The “unknown” is exactly that: a space that has no identity because we haven’t experienced it, and therefore we cannot name it as anything but mystery. In choosing this place of not knowing, we are inherently choosing adventure and possibility. Perhaps this is what the thrill seekers and sojourners of life know, but what we are too stubborn to hear – that fear and possibility are comfortable bedfellows. There are unfathomable possibilities in this world, and all of them are slightly scary, and we just have to walk out the door.
For a while I made a promise to myself that I would do one thing every day that scared me, and as I stuck to this commitment I began to truly feel as though I was a part of my own life in an integral way. Some days it was something big like jumping out of an airplane, but on other days it was sitting with an uncomfortable emotion or even getting out of bed. In bringing awareness to confronting my fears I was also confronted with how full of fear my life had become. Somewhere along the way I had become afraid of the new, and by challenging that I began to take the “new” back as my own and to broaden my sense of what my life could look like, or what it might have to offer.
I went to a show tonight where I saw people in their forties performing onstage for the first time, and in that mirror I saw that somehow I had let my fear creep back in. The last time that I did something that truly terrified me was over two weeks ago. I have been walking on eggshells around myself. No wonder I feel so upside down. And it’s exhausting knowing that these old habits make their way back into our lives. In some ways it begins to challenge our own power. I guess the reminder is that life is a consistent amount of work to be our best selves. That can sound quite depressing. It can also, however, be an invitation to live in the newness and the possibility of the unknown.
And so the process begins again: make one choice towards joy and excitement, and then another, and then another. Good or bad, we are the defining creatures of our own lives. As Pema Chodrin said, “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”