I’m on the cusp of something golden here.
You could say I’m phobic of the fall, and that is not merely reserved for the breeze-wobbled stairs up to the water slide. I shrink away from the railings on the second floor of the mall. I hugged the inner walls, eyes clamped tight, and counted my breathing while visiting the Eiffel Tower. I’ve had nightmares of falling forever into the Grand Canyon. And there are times when the cliffs are invisible, and my soul knows not how many more steps until the plunge; that moment of heart in throat, floating in nowhere, a flash of eternity before your bones become dust on the distant floor.
This can sometimes be my inevitable life. My air of confidence is only that, a pocket of surrounding air, hiding myself in plain sight. The bubble always bursts eventually, and I am at the edge, eyes fixed on the abyss below. A clench of the stomach, hands dig deep into the folds of my shirt, I am chiseled marble, the salt silhouette of fear and doubt. But as I scan the void, I recognize something, subtle and pure, waiting there among the dark.
It is me.
I see myself, waving up, a smile of encouragement shining stronger as I fix my gaze. It is the me I yearn for; the me of contentment, solidarity, and confidence; the me that isn’t embarrassed or ashamed to lean on someone when she needs them; the me that I know is real; the me I truly love.
Seeing her grinning up at me, I have a few typical reactions. Longing, the want to reach forth to her while I am still frozen in place. Despair, the distance and the darkness spanning it make her so much farther away, so less tangible. Anger, for it should not be so hard to bring a simple rope to throw down to her, haul her up to me, and bring us together. Fear, the looming fate that we will never truly meet, truly touch, that I will never know what she could make me, who I could really be.
…but she is me…
Today, this image flashed before me once again, as it has since I first began to know what dreams were. I was enjoying a few stories from The Book of Chuang Tzu, a collection of ancient Taoist principles and teachings I’ve been leafing through lately. I’ve been bouncing between that and the Dhammapada, a very short set of poetic teachings of the Gautama Buddha, for the sake of rounding out my understanding of the Taoist and Buddhist philosophies. I also have a copy of The Analects by Confucius in my collection of religious texts now, but I’ve found his teachings quite uninteresting for some reason. Perhaps it is that he lacks poetry while using a very poetic form to illustrate his points. Whatever the reason, I have gravitated toward Chuang Tzu.
In that moment, that flash of emptiness where my optimal-self lay engulfed, yet always optimistically looking to the skies, I had a new reaction. For the first time, I actually felt relaxed. I took a smooth breath, the ache of strained muscles loosed and my hands fell open at my sides. No more clenching jaw, no tightened brow or tensed stance. There was still a sense of hesitance as I stared kindly at myself so far below. But I did not long for her, my head did not hang in despair, there was no anger in my heart, and no fear of what might or might not come next. I think that there was even a hint of falling, a falling that I was running to meet.
And for just that moment, the void was no more, and in its place beneath my feet, there was no distance. Only a reflection. Only me.
I’ve come to the edge, and for once in my life I don’t want to back away. I’m looking out across a lake of sliver glass, and it’s time to jump. It may be a few more days, or weeks, or even years, but I know where I am now. I can feel the lip under my curling toes, and I’m no longer afraid. Before I can embrace the world, I must embrace myself. Before I can embrace myself, I need to come to myself. Before I come to myself, I need to find myself. Well, today I found myself, or at least the general direction in which to get closer to myself, and that’s certainly a start.