When everything stops, when your phone is turned off, when you’re out of things to distract you, whether that be getting coffee with your friends, walking down to the fridge, buying milk, watching your favourite TV series, listening to a record, working, jogging, chasing after your kids, your nephew, your grandmother, your father, your family, doing classes, learning things, reading, sipping, writing, booking flights, planning and so on until we list every single task, mundane or otherwise that you could possibly think of and get to the point where every distraction is seemingly out of your system. And it becomes just you and your mind. Connected. As your synapses align, your thoughts become lucid, you become nothing more than soul and body. The quiet could be overwhelming, or something you are completely comfortable with. Thoughts will bob up, some positive, some negative, others just habits trying to force their way through. Are we paying attention to what comes up? Have we trained ourselves to avoid the confusion, the distress, the excitement, the anxiety, the depression, in order to keep ourselves sane? As a coping mechanism that is a pretty successful short-term option but most of us who have attempted to block it out with distractions know that we can fool other people but we cannot fool ourselves. Ourself. Ourself.
At the heart of it, it is just us. Meaning, you. Meaning… geez, one entity, one being, one soul, one person, one individual driving us toward something or away from something. Essentially, we are alone. We have to deal with being alone eventually, whether we hate it or whether we thrive on that isolation. It’s scary for a lot of us, extremely scary. We can fall back on others for many different things. Our parents, our friends, our institutions, our system, our morals, our chip on our shoulder! Hell, it can get more and more metaphysical and mythical. We’ve trained ourselves to hope that there are things stopping us from catapulting into free fall. The number one is the deity, the guidance of a greater being(s). Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. That’s not for me to decide. What is for me to decide, is whether I can handle what I am. What my body is telling me. All these things fill me up with an emotion I can’t describe. I suppose it is overwhelming. I suppose it is something I can’t get my head around. I’m challenged by it. I’m challenged by the whole art of being alone, completely alone minus for myself and my immediate surroundings. It’s confronting. I feel my anxiety rising, I’m conscious of my heart beating slightly faster, the tension in my brow increasing and my desire to shake it off and push it to the back of my thoughts. But I won’t. I refuse to on this occasion because I want to know what my body wants. What does my mind need? What do I need?
I want to check out of this exercise. I want to check out and get back into the life of distraction where I can chase mirages and subscribe to typical paradigms and holler at folk and continue to find myself half way between being a romantic crooner and a sleazy bar fly. Why do I fear these realisations, this space with physical nothingness but a convoluted clash of everything I’ve been experiencing recently in a doorway? That probably answers itself, doesn’t it? I mean, I fear finding out how lonely I am, how much sadness I’ve been hiding. But then I truly do appreciate how grateful I am for how my life has turned out so far, how fulfilled I am, how passionate I am about the rest of my humble, short existence. God, (how immediate the impulse is to call out to the supernatural), am I scared of mentioning how limited my time is here? I think I’ve overcome a fair bit of that fear in the past couple of years but any sign of worry, of sickness and injury and I start to check out all my vitals… I have been scared to admit how sensitive and how deeply connected I am to my emotions. I can’t hide from those base fears, those salty tears and those intense standoffs I have with my preconceived ideas. These are the things that unjumble as I sit in motionless silence.
There is no single moment of realisation. No light that blurs everything else. There are images and numbers and memories streaming past. There are snippets of conversations, of quotes, of songs. And even as I feel that tension sit against my brow, I feel more relaxed than I did before. Sure, as I assess the position I see myself in there are segments of dissatisfaction, dissolving hope of former childhood dreams, but there are things that we cannot control. There are dreams that were never supposed to be. If we took on every regret, every disappointment, every single backward step, we’d crumple and die. Figuratively. Clearly… We are flawed, we all live with those fears that threaten peek out from that dark place we shove them into and we are all vulnerable, mortal and tender once we break down these protective barriers. Facing life requires all these masks, walls, barricades and all these defensive procedures to prevent us from conveying a weakness, a chink or two in the armour in case there are people out there who want to hurt us, any which way. That hurt has become more of a loss of face now than a legitimate threat to our life, yet still we remain steadfast in our wariness.
As I come out of this self-imposed cocoon where I’m intoxicated by my emotions that take on a rollercoaster of discovering my emptiness, my happiness, my fears, my dreams, my longings, my future, my misconceptions and my insecurites, I realise that I can’t stay in this faux-serious bubble any longer. My mind heads back to regularity with a grin and a giggle. I brush a couple of drying tears away, somehow portraying itself as evidence of a crime of passion and reach for my laptop. I pull it open, click a few buttons in the usual autocratic, numbed way and come to a quote. I read it. It’s interesting, possibly a little generic nowadays considering the influx of instagram pictures of fancy font and a couple of inspirational (#fitspiration) words of wisdom from some guy or girl who has faced the same struggles somewhere else, reposted by guilt-ridden attractive people, but I put aside my prejudices.
‘It may have lasted just a moment but the effects will remain eternally’. I’m not quite sure if it relates to what I’ve just done, but it does relate to how I feel. That notion of brushing away those moments of deep personal reflection as unimportant just helps me cope. All these moments add up to a meaningful exercise. One that a lot of people will never understand because they haven’t lived your life, just as you will never understand their whole story. That’s the beauty of slowing down. It makes you consider the things that you have formerly evaluated as stupid, insignificant when really, they’re the moments that make you human.