The narrow path began to incline slowly, cutting between trees that curled up from the ground like snakes. Stately Banyans punctuated the chaos, their thick, ancient trunks stretching toward the sky before splitting into an explosion of branches which turned right around and grew back down into the ground again in an unending loop of growth.
I emerged into a massive bamboo forest. Innumerable lime green poles, spaced only inches apart, shot into the sky as far as the eye could see. As they waved in the light breeze, they formed a vertical sea of dancing, citrus-toned light. I trailed my fingers across their wooden stems. My senses savored the rhythm and the faint whistling music emanating from the open flutes above.
I had escaped into the jungle. I was escaping a lot lately. My soul needed time to breathe and space to heal. This was good space, its novelty still fresh enough to distract my mind from the same old demons.
Plied by the kind and sincerely offered religious testimonies of my friends and family, I kept trying with the church. But my rage flared up like an allergic reaction at every religious conundrum and perceived injustice. I just couldn’t reconcile that what was so right and true for those I loved, could feel so wrong for me.
In church, I was assailed by waves of panic and stress. I would sit there, watching the hours tick by and trying to fight off the overwhelming urge to run from the building. The sensations could not have been more real if the surrounding structure had actually been on fire. Yet no one else seemed to be struggling with the frustrations that I was. My generalized other, the whole entire world, got this. What was wrong with me?
My heart swung on a pendulum from one side to the other, like a wind chime in a tornado.
The church is true, just hang in there.
No it isn’t. I’ve been hanging and I’m losing circulation in my head.
Yes it is. You’re just incapable of comprehending it.
No, it’s simply incomprehensible.
You’re thinking too much. You need to stop thinking and just go with the flow.
No! That’s how you wind up giving away all your money and drinking poisoned Kool-Aid!
No one’s going to make you drink poison.
Probably not, but that’s just the worst case scenario. You don’t leave the helm of your ship and let it go with the flow. Nothing good comes of that.
Just try it.
That is stupid. This is all stupid.
Stop being so sacrilegious.
You’re a tool.
Right back at ya…
I hung, stretched between my two sides, like a dancing puppet jolting violently between the dictates of two masters. I was both fed up with this and simultaneously familiar to the point of boredom.
And I was angry.
And I was afraid.
Fear is a funny thing. It physically and emotionally cripples. It can convince you of all kinds of ridiculous realities. Fear doesn’t play favorites, either. It never does. It will infect you over something as concrete as a stampeding hemorrhoidal rhinoceros, or as vague as the mere impression of a suspicious glance from a stranger. We avoid interactions due to fear and we also charge into war because of it. Fear makes you irrational. Everyone knows this. I knew it. Yet, I couldn’t just turn it off. Attempting to do so just made me even more neurotic and anxiety ridden.
I was far too fed up to continue on. But the thought of following some un-predetermined course of my own making made me quake in my ill-equipped boots. I was panic stricken at the unknown. I was afraid of making the wrong choice. I was scared of hurting those I loved. I was terrified of damning myself by turning away from the only faith and life I had ever known.
If that wasn’t enough, I was now acutely aware, not only of my fear, but of my stark inability to quell it. I feared fear itself. The more I feared, the more afraid I became. My apprehension made the road ahead appear infinitely treacherous. I was stymied.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” And I? I screamed, kicked a tree, sat down in the dirt, curled into the fetal position and sobbed.
Hudson had been right when he said, “You obviously don’t trust your judgment. Or, you’re subconsciously choosing to override it for some reason.” The latter wasn’t subconscious anymore.
So, I did a lot of escaping.
That night I stopped at a friend’s house for dinner. I found the family patriarch out back, roasting a freshly caught fish. His spear and fins rested against a nearby tree. I asked if he worried about attracting sharks while he was hunting out there in the open ocean.
He just laughed and shook his head, “Sharks are around but they don’t give us any trouble.”
I was shocked. “Have you actually seen one?”
“We see them all the time,” he answered, adjusting the coals.
“But you’re in the water with them,” I pressed. “Don’t they go crazy over the fish blood?!”
“It’s not as big of a risk as you’d think,” he grinned.
Clearly, I had a thing or two to learn about risk.
This is the latest installment in my story. If you haven’t yet read the previous entries, click here to start at the beginning. Then continue to read each post in numerical order.